Month: February 2012

Ten Things I’m Thankful For Tuesday

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1. Coke and grenadine. Otherwise known as a cherry coke, Coca Cola with cherry flavoring added is all I need from a bartender.

2. The final three little waffle fries waiting at the bottom of one’s Chik-Fil-A to-go order bag.

3. My winter coat. One of best investments of my adulthood.

4. A lesson learned. I’m gaining a greater understanding of my everyday need for Christ. If you followed me around all day, you would hear how often I have to call out to Him, knowing He’s the only one who can help me.

5. Family resemblance. I simply get a kick out of it when I see it in people.

6. “Little Wing” by Stevie Ray Vaughan.

7. Girl Scout Cookies. Most of all Tagalongs and Thin Mints. As soon as I see their table set up outside the grocery store, those little 8 year old girls own me – they don’t even have to say a word.

8. Private moments spent praising God. Like the Bible says, to praise Him is fitting and pleasant. I love that focusing and zooming in on Him has a way of making everything else seem small — it corrects our perspective.

9. The goofy satisfaction that comes during the process of and after cleaning the house.

10. Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookie Sandwich with Vanilla Ice Cream. Please go find one of these today.


Edwin Imer Santiago discusses music, faith, and fatherhood

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The last twelve months have been filled with great personal and professional success for Edwin Imer Santiago. In the span of one year, he has become a husband, church ministry leader, and father to a newborn son. On top of that, he has been recognized by local media and by the Nashville Symphony for his outstanding work as a musician and music teacher. With so much going on, I’m glad he found the time to do an interview with me.

When we sat down together, we did some basic catching up and talked about our favorite college sports teams. Then, the conversation turned to questions from me – three questions about his life as a musician, Christian, and new father.

Living the life of a musician – what has it taught you about yourself and about the world?

I credit music with helping me gain greater self-confidence. When I was in elementary school, I had a few more pounds on me, and I didn’t think of myself as a good-looking dude. Girls didn’t pay attention to me, and I wasn’t popular or athletic. So, it wasn’t until the end of my freshman year that I started seeing aptitude in myself and realizing that when I put my hand to the plow and practiced as a trumpet player, I did well.

Tenth grade is when it really opened up. I became one of the top trumpet players in the school, and I was starting to improvise on the trumpet and get solos in the jazz band. I remember feeling better about myself. And all of a sudden, I had friends and respect of people that I didn’t have before.

And then, you know, I started getting different haircuts and dressing a little bit differently. I got eye contacts. For a while, I would only wear contacts, but it’s weird that in the last few years, I’ve gone back to wearing almost exclusively glasses.

But all those things just helped me feel better about myself – how I looked and what I could do. So, I think music has helped me…it’s been part of the journey that helped me realize that who I am now didn’t have to be about music. What I mean is, I realized I had the ability to do whatever I wanted to do, whether it was going to medical school, becoming a lawyer, or whatever.

Also, I’ve met a lot of people. I’ve been able to travel the world without really having to pay. I’ve been to Europe four times and Brazil twice. And the majority of those trips, I’ve not had to pay, or I’ve paid very little, because I was with an organization that was going there to play, so they covered the expenses. And that’s not even counting travel within the U.S., or Canada, or Mexico.

So I think being able to travel has been neat, because you meet people from different cultures. Something I wish – and this is getting off on a tangent – but I wish we Americans did more traveling or befriended folks from other countries more often. When you do those things, you get to realize that as positive as the U.S. is about itself, a lot of people outside the U.S. don’t have that same opinion about us. They may think of us as arrogant, cocky, foolish, unwise, wasteful, heathens… And I think sometimes we do deserve some of those names.

But I think traveling around the world, you get to meet people, and it’s humbling. Or sometimes, you go to another country – like when I’ve traveled with Salvador – and you go to Sweden, and people are just loving your music. You’re saying to yourself, “Wow – this is amazing that I’m in another country for a few days, and they’re accepting this gift of music that I’m presenting to them.” Those are God moments, I think. So, I’m grateful for that.

You and your wife just welcomed your first child into the world the other month. I was thinking about the two of you and the baby, and there was a question in my head: if you could guarantee that your son would inherit one thing from you and one thing from your wife, what would those two things be?

Wow. Only one thing from each of us? Well, let me start with her. I’ll tell you a few of the things I like about her, and maybe that will help me pick one. I love her smile. It’s the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen. I like that she’s very organized. She’s good with finances. Knowing how to stick to a budget…I think those kinds of things are important for a household, because a household is basically a business. You don’t want the business to go under.

But on my side, I love the fact that I’m very social. I love to meet people. It’s very rare that I meet people I have to put up barriers with for any reason. I love the fact that I’m social. I like to joke around. I can be serious, definitely, but I like to joke around. And I love my passion for the arts…for music.

So from my end, it would be great if my son were an artist or musician, but I think overall, I’d want him to be a person who can enjoy life and knows how to relax. Life has its share of moments that are evil or difficult, and you have to be able to laugh. So I would want my son to have that, whether he decides to be a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, a musician, or whatever.

And then from his mother’s end, I would say just being responsible, and wise, and able to make good decisions. It’s a great question.

El Movimiento - bandmates Giovanni Rodriguez, Edwin Imer Santiago, and Rahsaan Barber

Some people feel that Christians who are musicians should only play Christian music. The issue has been debated for ages – what’s your opinion?

My background was very conservative, and I guess my opinion has changed over the years. Where I’m at currently is, God is the most inspiring, most creative author or artist. You’ve got to think – no two human beings are exactly the same. The DNA is different, even with twins. And that’s the work of God. So to me, all creativity stems from him, whether you’re rapping, writing a poem, or creating a visual piece of art.

So, I think the question is not ‘Should Christians play only Christian music,’ the question is why do you create your art? What’s the purpose? I could be in church playing Christian music and have the wrong heart.

It’s not a matter of what type of music you play. It’s a matter of your heart. And I think I can be as effective in a secular environment, showing up not getting drunk, not chasing after women, being a person of integrity, arriving on time, playing the gig, killing it, and having people respect me for what I do. Some of that is missional: you can’t do that in a church. You can go play trumpet at church and have people say, “Oh praise God, he’s blessing the Lord with his horn.” And that’s a beautiful thing. But sometimes the impact is greater in the darkness, because you are that light shining out there.

But I don’t have a problem playing secular music. There are beautiful songs out there that are meant to be sung romantically or to express life, and they’re not going to be on a church set list on a Sunday morning. But they’re beautiful, and they touch me. Art is to be enjoyed, and I think if a person who is not a Christian creates a great song, whether he knew it or not, that creativity came from his Maker. You can’t create it without having been inspired by something that’s related to God. Even with a song inspired by the sunlight outside – who created the sun?

That is my opinion. But I wasn’t like that always. I was a lot more conservative fifteen or twenty years ago because of my upbringing. But today, the thing I would tell any believer is you’ve got to make sure that you’re at peace with God in any musical setting you step into.

Raising My Kids

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Last week’s Financial Peace University class got me thinking about the future as it relates to something other than money. Surprisingly, I found myself face to face with the fact that someone will need to be designated as the guardian for my children in case something should happen to my wife and me.

Now it’s true I don’t even have a wife and children yet. It is also true that I’m not the type to ignore considerations about the future, since so much can be gained from a bit of preliminary research and preparation. I guess it’s like they say: Life favors those who are prepared.

The point of all this is to say I had never thought about the choice of who would raise my kids if they were left without either parent. It was interesting to experience all the questions that went through my mind as I wondered.
Of all the people I’m close to, who would be best? Maybe it should be someone not much older than me, since they would be tasked with raising children? Who would give my kids the best opportunity to be trained up in a manner consistent with what I think they need – a manner that enables them to live life skillfully as spiritual beings residing on earth temporarily?

And of course, all kinds of other factors surround the issue – things I won’t even begin to mention here. Suffice it to say I found the whole quandary to be very interesting.

A Glimpse of Eternity

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If you have an hour to kill someday, check out this guy’s testimony about his near-death experience and conversion to Christian faith. He says he went to heaven for a bit.


Create Something For People To Eat

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I liked a lot of what Shauna Niequist said in her article for Relevant Magazine – an article entitled “11 Things to Know at 25(ish)”. I’ll include one of her tips below for a couple of reasons:

1. Because it captured my imagination today after I tried preparing a new dish on the old stove top.
2. Because it reminded me of the generous hospitality of several friends who do just the sort of thing the article encourages.

Now as a guy finally learning some things about culinary artistry, it’s true I’m pretty much in day one of cooking kindergarten…but I will be good enough for Food Network someday!

Feed Yourself and the People You Love

If you can master these things, you’re off to a really great start: eggs, soup, a fantastic sandwich or burger, guacamole and some killer cookies. A few hints: The secret to great eggs is really low heat, and the trick to guacamole is lime juice—loads of it. Almost every soup starts the same way: onion, garlic, carrot, celery, stock.

People used to know how to make this list and more, but for all sorts of reasons, sometime in the last 60 or so years, convenience became more important than cooking and people began resorting to fake food (ever had GU?), fast food and frozen food. I literally had to call my mom from my first apartment because I didn’t know if you baked a potato for five minutes or two hours.

The act of feeding oneself is a skill every person can benefit from, and some of the most sacred moments in life happen when we gather around the table. The time we spend around the table, sharing meals and sharing stories, is significant, transforming time.

Learn to cook. Invite new and old friends to dinner. Practice hospitality and generosity. No one cares if they have to sit on lawn furniture, bring their own forks or drink out of a Mayor McCheese glass from 1982. What people want is to be heard and fed and nourished, physically and otherwise—to stop for just a little bit and have someone look them in the eye and listen to their stories and dreams. Make time for the table, and you’ll find it to be more than worth it every time.

For the rest of the article, go here.

Ten Things I’m Thankful For Tuesday

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1. The 2009 Crimson Tide Football Season DVD Collection. This was just given to me as a gift, and it will surely help when I start going through withdrawals during the long off season.

2. Relationship. I believe the enduring things in life happen in the context of relationships with the people we know. For this reason, my great appreciation for relationship has become even deeper in recent years.

3. Taco Mamacita. Craving this food now; will probably indulge this weekend.

4. Ella Fitzgerald. It seems silly to even make a comment here about how amazing she was. But I will say she blew me away with her Cole Porter Songbook and Best of Gershwin Songbook recordings. As a songwriter, I can’t even imagine what it’s like to hear what such a singer does with a melody and lyric you wrote.


5. A random text message from Shannon Earle. My colleague and friend texted me randomly from North Carolina yesterday just to bring a smile to me. Her timing was perfect.

6. Hot water in a coffee cup. You may have seen me order this at restaurants (to the confusion of many servers) and wrap my hands around it for the heat. I adopted this practice in college because my hands are always cold.

7. Car repair. I had the mechanic work on my car, and as an inexpensive bonus, he wound up fixing something I assumed would’ve cost me a fortune.

8. Pay Day. It has been too long since the last one.

9. Moves that bring friends close. I seem to be having a run of good luck whereby friends move away due to job opportunities but wind up moving back!

10. Handwritten notes – I’m glad to be able to write them to offer encouragement or to say thank you.

World’s Greatest “Save The Date” Idea

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He played football at UGA; she had the idea to have custom jerseys made and incorporated in their Save The Date photo. Go Dawgs!