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Steven S. Billings

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Monday, September 8, 2008

MARRIED LIFE, MUSIC AND MINISTRY
It's been awhile since I posted some personal stuff, so I thought I'd write a "quick" blog with that in mind.

In keeping with the order in the title, married life - we'll be married nine months on Tuesday - is more fun, more rewarding, more satisfying, than I ever imagined it could be. Nothing is perfect, and there are times when we experience our periods of adjustment, but I still can't believe I get to wake up every day next to this beautiful person - beautiful woman, yes, but a beautiful person with a beautiful heart. She makes me laugh, she makes me grin, she makes me smile from head to toe! She fills my heart and I feel like I have finally found my home. I am honored, delighted, and completed to be her husband.

We're soon to come to our 1st year anniversary of meeting in person for the first time. The smell of autumn in the air reminds me of the day we fell in love kissing by the jousting ring at the Michigan Renaissance Festival. I tell you truly: I have never been this happy as a grown-up. To find a time in my life when I was this content, I have to go back to my childhood. God has truly blessed me!

Now, about the music.

It's been a frustrating year. The conceiving, writing, recording, and producing of the CD - that was the easy part. Marketing - that's the bain of my music career. Major radio stations don't have any interest in you unless you're with a major label. Major labels have no interest in you unless they think they can make a ton of money off you in a short period of time. Yes, sad to say, even the "Christian" labels are all about the bottom line, which is just as well.

Major labels - even the "Christian" ones - have no interest in helping you promote your music; they want to squeeze you into the mould they think will make them the most money. And the "Christian" radio stations won't play you unless their listeners can go to Borders and buy your CDs. The whole thing has left a very sour taste in my mouth.

And people who say they will help you won't. Unless they can make a buck off you they simply don't give two hoots about you. Even the Indie "support" groups want to charge you a monthly fee for their "help." Fact of life. Oh well.

I took advantage of two opportunities this summer to see what chances I would have to crack the door open a bit into the industry. I went to a "showcase," which was purported to be hosted by "the leading Christian independent A&R firm in the world," (they have 1 band which has had 1 hit!) which was supposed to be held at "Rocketown" in Nashville. (Rocketown, as you may know, is a major Christian label in Nashville.) Well, it was held at a place called "Rocketown," but it wasn't the Rocketown. (Of course, they didn't mention that!) We were told we would be critiqued by three "industry professional." (Who they were and what credentials they had, who knows?) Their "critiques" included remarks about how I played my instruments (I didn't play any) and how to interract with my other band mates (I was alone on stage). Idiots. Plus, their "professional" sound man didn't have a CD for his sound board (I told them in advance that I would be singing to tracks, and they said that would be fine), and the laptop he borrowed from a friend distorted my tracks and made them sound disgusting. Thanks, Band with a Mission, for a complete waste of time, you incompetent amateurs!

The other dip in the water was to include a song on a promotional CD by CRW (Christian Radio Weekly). I paid them $300 bucks to include my song "Spirit in You" on their promo disc for June. It garnered play on 7 radio stations, most of which were Internet based, and some of which I had already gotten play on myself without their "help."

So, I guess those are examples of getting the door slammed in my face. I'm not sure how many more times my nose can take the beating.

I sang publicly for the first time in August at an outdoor event sponsored by my church. About 500 people came through. Maybe half a dozen or so stopped by to listen. I sold exactly ZERO CDs. It was fun, and I learned that my voice can handle the extended performance time, which was good, but still, it's disappointing. Apparently, there's a lot I have to learn yet about this business, and I'm not sure at almost 49 years of age if I have time to learn enough.

I'd like to perform more, but I don't know how to go about it. I don't really have the time to sit down and start calling churches or writing to them and promote myself that way. I'd like to have a band to perform with, but I haven't the foggiest idea of how to run a band, and who has time to rehearse?

I know how to write. I know how to record. I don't know how to promote, and without that it seems the whole thing amounts to a very expensive hobby.

I am still writing. I just finished a new demo. I think it sounds great, but who knows at this point if it will ever be recorded, and if it is, if anyone will ever hear it. Of the 1000 CDs I had to order of my first album, I have about 800 left, and I've given many away to radio stations and record labels, trying to get noticed.

I guess the bottom line right now is that God has other things for me to do, which brings me to the last item for this blog post.

I was recently installed as the pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Menasha, Wisconsin. It's a joy to be working with the faithful Chrstians there. I sense that God has some very important work for me to do with them.

It is challenging work at times. There are some very long days - 12 hour days are not uncommon, and often they occur several days in a row. There are some hurting people who need pastoral care - a lot of them! And with 1,200 people on the books, it can get a bit overwhelming at times.

We had an ice cream social last week at the school, and as I milled around through the crowd of kids and their families, it struck me that there is no way I can get to know everyone. I'm not used to that. I'm used to serving smaller churches where the pastor gets to know everyone. There are going to be people here that I will never know beyond a fleeting "God bless your week" as they exit the church. I sit sometimes with the pictoral directory and try to put names to faces - which helps a lot - but this is going to be a different kind of ministry than I've had before, and that's going to take some time to get accustomed to.

Ultimately, it's where I belong for now, and I'm glad to have a place to hang my robes. My office is beautiful and spacious and the people I work with are talented and dedicated. It's not what I thought I'd be doing at this point in my life, and it's going to be a challenge in many respects, but I thank God He has opened this door and given me a place to serve Him. I know He will give me the strength to meet the challenges, but I hope my music doesn't get so far buried under the workload that I lose it again.

Anyways, that's kind-of where I'm at these days. If you've made it all the way to the end of this post, thanks so much for "listening." I value your friendship and thank you for your prayers.

God's peace,

Steve
4:57 am edt

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For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
(Philippians 1:21)

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