Jim Mathis

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Genesis 4:21 mentions a man named Jubal. He was the son a Lamech and Adah. The Bible describes him as the father of all who play the harp and flute. It is hard to tell if he was the first to invent musical instruments, the first to play professionally, or just a key figure in the history of music. What we do know is that he was the first person mentioned in ancient history with some sort of a passion for music.

Genesis 4 also mentions his brother, Jabal, as the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock, and another brother, Tubal-Cain, as the father of those who work with bronze and iron. It would not take much interpretation to say that rancher, metal worker, and musician are the first three professions clearly spelled out in the Bible. A few verses later the scripture says that “at that time men began to call on the name of the Lord.” Worship of God was closely associated with music from the beginning.

It also appears that these three professions provide for some clearly basic needs of people. The rancher raises food, the metal worker makes tools, equipment, and decorative ideas for pleasure; while the musician connects with our emotions and provides the pleasure needed after working cattle, providing food, and working with tools all day.

In Genesis 31, when Jacob was fleeing Laban, his father-in-law (and uncle.) Laban caught up with him and scolded him saying, “Why did you run off secretly and deceive me? Why didn't you tell me, so I could send you away with joy and singing to the music of tambourines and harps?” Hey, if knew he was leaving he would have hired a band.

The point is music dates back to the earliest days of mankind. It has been used to worship God, celebrate special occasions, heal wounds, bring down walls, and lift spirits. In I Samuel 16, King Saul falls into a depression and he calls for his counselors to find him a good harp player to cheer him up. David is summoned and plays so beautifully that the King’s spirits are restored. It turns out that even ancient Kings liked to hear some blues and David becomes a permanent fixture in the Kings court. David goes on the write the definitive hymn book called the Book of Psalms.

In the New Testament, Paul consistently challenges us to worship God with “psalm, hymns, and spiritual songs.” Rather than defining each style, let’s just say that we should play and sing all kinds of music to God and all kinds of music to each other.

It is clear from the book of Genesis on, that God made everybody to be different. Cain raised crops and Abel tended flocks. God made some of us to be work with animals, other to work with numbers, some to work with pictures, and some with sounds. Every person is different and designed for a purpose by our Creator.

We may call these differences a calling, a gift, a talent, a knack, or just an inclination, but clearly God had something in mind when he made us. For some of us the desire to make music is so strong that it extends throughout our entire lives and affects everything we do. I would call that “The Gift of Music.” (Some might call it a curse, but I wouldn’t.) I don’t think it is a spiritual gift of the type mentioned in I Corinthians 12. Music is so important that if were a spiritual gift such as healing, prophecy, teaching, mercy, etc. Paul would have put music in the list with capital letters. Instead, it is not mentioned in this passage. I think, rather, music should be listed among the great passions and pursuits of life.

For one thing, the Spirit doesn’t just come over us and one day we can play. It takes practice and work to become proficient, even for the most naturally gifted.

One concern is young people who show tremendous musical skills and promise, but stop playing and singing after college, as they become distracted by the routine of a job, mortgage, and the daily pressures of life. Our society is not at all kind to artists of any kind.

But some don’t get distracted. A very few make a living playing music, but a few more continue their passion as a hobby, part-time job, or church musician. These are the heroes. The people who keep practicing, keep playing, and keep singing because God gave them a desire to do so. They know the chances of having a hit record are slim to none, but they keep bringing joy to those fortunate enough to hear them at a coffeehouse, at a church dinner, or pick-up their CD in the narthex of the church after a Sunday evening concert.

The tradition goes back to “our father” Jabal. We are an old and noble tribe.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Time to hang it up?

MSN’s music web site today carried an article titled “Ten performers who should stop singing.” The implication was that music is for young people and people like The Rolling Stones, Carly Simon, The Who, or Elton John should hang it up.

I hope I don’t have to tell you how I feel about this subject. I presume the article was written by somebody under 30. It is possible that when I was thirty I thought Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra should have retired, but hopefully I am smarter than that now.

The music industry is full of people who were put out to pasture at the peak of their abilities and experience. Some such as Johnny Cash or Al Green were able to find a new audience. Others just keep on doing their thing because they love what they do and will keep playing as long as someone will listen. These people are my heroes.

See my web site: www.ThePassionNeverFades.com

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Voice lessons

I take voice lessons. My teacher/coach is Ronni Ward (www.ronniward.com). I take lessons for the simple reason that I want to be a better singer. I want to see continued improvement in everything I do. I try to practice regularly and have some sort of disciplined approach to the things that are important to me.

I have kind of a running joke with Ronni that I could refer a lot of people to her, but I feel funny walking up to singers saying, “Hey, you need to take some singing lessons!” I would think that they would already know that.

I am continually amazed hearing people sing or play an instrument, who could improve dramatically with a little coaching or instruction, but instead struggle along for years, never improving, always thinking they know everything.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I'm Still Here

As most of you know, I am no longer affiliated with Homer's Coffee House. Glenn Winkler is the new manager and is in charge of booking the performers. Glenn's criteria will probably be similar to mine with a few adjustments for taste and him being less than half my age. He will still want people who put on a professional show, can play 2 hours of interesting music, help people see Christ more clearly, don't insult the audience, are easy to get along with - things like that.

Surprisingly, these things are less common than you would expect. I am going to continue to be involved with music since that is one of my passions. I am still going to send out tips from time to time as I think of stuff. In fact, I have opened a new blog at: www.JimMathisMusic.com where you can check out my latest thoughts on Christian music, musicians, and music in general.

I am energetically promoting my photography business to the performing arts community, so feel free to pass my name on to anyone needing photographs for promotion, CD covers, posters, etc.

Please stay in touch.