Looking Back And Looking Ahead

Steve ChilaxinEvery year, about this time, I start getting reflective and slightly misty-eyed about the previous year. And  it was a bit of a nutty yea with my own adult children coming and going, relentless touring, dramatic shifts in business, a new blog-based website, home renovations, preparing for a new grandchild (Dec.15th), the death of a dear friend, physical maladies, renewed vision, new songs, new learning opportunities and a bit of exotic travel (Egypt, Sinai and Israel).  Oi!

Somehow I thought life was supposed to slow down in the ‘advancing’ years (I just turned 49 – hardly advancing I suppose.) I dare not complain though. Life has been rich and meaningful and I am most certainly an eager and willing participant.

This last year saw the release of my latest CD Devotion, which has been very well received and seems to have had significant impact.  The material itself is … well … devotional,  and the project is the closest I’ve come to putting out a worship album even though my music, in general, tends to lean to the worship side anyway.

Last fall and winter, I put a band together with the likes of Jon Buller, Mike Janzen, and Roy Salmond and toured the major Canadian cities. This fall I’ve been back on a stool by myself performing the material in more rural centers.  I’m not sure what I like better. I love the excitement and camaraderie of a band and the bigger halls. But there is something deeply satisfying about the more intimate and spontaneous solo stage. And now, as I write this, I am doing laundry and preparing to go out tomorrow for the last swing of concerts of the season; three concerts with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra and one final solo concert in Regina (with special guest Don Amero.)  I am so blessed to be able to do such varied work.

Sinai Desert

By way of report – I did take a trip last spring with Professor Rikk Watts (Regent College) to the Middle East. It was a profound learning trip for me as Rikk and I drove from Cairo, through the Sinai Desert to Israel where we traveled the length and breadth of the country. As dramatic as the travel was, the opportunity to have  focused time with one who has done such deep historical/theological reflection as Rikk, was for me the opportunity of a lifetime.  I imagine I’ll be unpacking those days in song for many years to come. (see travel blog)

steve-bell-comfort-my-people-cover-1989This last year has also been significant for me in that it was the 20th anniversary of my first solo project Comfort My People. It was back in 1989 when I first recorded that album. I boldly produced 200 cassette copies and hoped I could somehow find a way to get rid of ’em.  That was 15 albums and 1500 concerts ago.  Honestly, I could never have envisioned how God would lead me.  And I suppose it is vain to imagine what the next 20 might look like.  But I’ll give it a try:

1. After several dry years, I’m songwriting again.  Yay!  I think there is enough complete and on the table to be fairly confident I’ll be recording a new album of original songs beginning in the early New Year.  Something has shifted in my songwriting – hard to articulate – but I look forward to the birth of the first album of new original material in several years.

2. For years I have been encouraged by several publishing companies to write a book. I’ve resisted the challenge up to now but suddenly it feels like it is time.  So once this touring season is over, I will start to pursue writing with some diligence.  The working title is Each Rare Moment and it will be a loose collection of stories and reflections based on life so far.  I think this will be a valuable exercise for me (at least) as I live out the last year of my forties and prepare for the next half (?) of life 🙂 .

3. One thing I covet your prayers for is the challenge and potential of the symphony work I’ve been doing in the last years.  It is simply remarkable how the symphony concert has impacted so many in such a short time. I’ve now performed 23 such concerts across Canada and the US with 3 more coming in the next days.  Currently there are several opportunities on the table for symphony concerts in the States (Chicago and California regions) and I get quite excited about these concerts as my experience is that they can be a unique  witness to God’s grandeur and abiding goodness in the secular* concert halls of our nations. And we’re now developing an Easter symphonic concert that has already been booked by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra for 2011. Already there are indications of eager reception for this concert in other cities as well.

Of course all these things cost so much more money than can be raised commercially, so I do appreciate your patronage/partnership as I move forward on the path in front of me.  Indeed, the last 20 years of output would not have been possible without the support of so many. My current situation is that recent retail closures, loss of access to relied-upon grants and general recession fallout has left me with considerably less resources to pursue this work. And yet, while project funding has become more difficult to access, I have these wonderful opportunities before me. So… fund-raising, although not my first love, is something I need to pay particular attention to for the next few months.

As we approach the end of the year, and as some of you are considering where you might allocate extra giving dollars, please prayerfully consider if you might give an extra gift toward this ministry.** If this is something you can consider, please visit the SUPPORT page indicated on the menu bar of this website.  Or,   To Donate, Simply Click HERE All gifts are will be receipted for tax purposes.

I am, of course, deeply grateful for the remarkable support I have enjoyed in the past and hope to return it, with interest,  in a currency that bears the mark of the kingdom of God;  songs and stories that ignite and animate faith in the Christ whose birth we anticipate, celebrate and proclaim.

Peace to you this season!

-Steve Bell


*btw – I typically don’t like using the word “secular” as I think it gives the wrong impression –  that is:  a condescending term for a presumably negative space that is godless, or faithless.  But a friend once pointed out to me that the arena of the secular is not a realm absent of faith – because there is no such realm – but rather of competing faiths.  It is simply the democratic public square in which, in a pluralistic society, everyone needs to respectfully and authentically participate. In this sense, I don’t mind the use of the word at all.

** I try equally hard not to use the term “ministry” loosely as it is most definitely an in-house term that, for some, is not positive. However, it is a good word.  Some of us have been given gifts of grace to administer in a way that hopefully reflects the One who thought up things like poetry and melody in the first place.  Most artists I know, whether they affirm a particular faith or not, seem to know that beauty and grace comes from outside them; that they conduit gift.  At our best, we know we’re not the source.

8 thoughts on “Looking Back And Looking Ahead

  1. Twenty years! Congrats. Quite a journey so far.

    re: secular – I appreciate your care with words. I don’t care for “insider” words that we Christians are so prone to use because they tend to separate us from the reality of the world around us. As I understand the New Testament the “Us” vs. “Them” stuff from the OT has been removed – God is unrestrained! (a growth in our understanding, not God’s nature ;-)…

    I tend to think of concert halls, coffee bars, etc. as Public space where the Christian message is just as welcome as any other WHEN presented with authenticity and respect. In the public open mic night at the main coffee house in my town, Christians who are singing what they believe (as opposed to telling others what they should believe) are welcomed and encouraged according to their musical ability and enthusiasm – like anyone else. I’m happy to let The Message speak for itself in the competing marketplace of ideas.

    Which is why I am so charged by your Symphony Concerts! Most excellent!

  2. Hello and congratulations on the 20 years of Comfort My People. Your music comforts us.
    We enjoyed the Kitchener Symphony concert very much! We were sitting high in the balcony, what a view. It was the first time we had ever been to the square, a beautiful place.
    The turnout was excellent, apparently you had more people than the night before when the Messiah was on. I would say that’s pretty cool. I was hoping to get a couple albums signed for Christmas, but that’s o.k. we know you’re a busy guy. It was nice to see you had your family there. Have a good break and enjoy your family and friends and grandchildren.. God is good!
    Merry Christmas to you all!

  3. Steve, looking forward enormously to seeing and hearing you with your Band and the Symphony in Saskatoon on Saturday evening. We are bringing a large ‘Van load’ of our folk from The Salvation Army up here in Meadow Lake. We are all very excited and grateful to be able to see and hear you again. We will be in prayer for journeying mercies as well as God’s abundant strength and grace for the demands of these busy days !! The Lord’s richest blessings on you, Nanci, and your family – as well as on your wonderful support team ( both in the Office and on the Road !! ).

  4. What a wonderfully varied year! You say you are blessed–that is because you bless others so richly.
    I remember that first recording and the hesitancy of the CBA people to listen to you at their convention. What they would have missed.
    Glad you are working on a book. Need any editing/proofreading help? I would love to help in that.

  5. Comfort My People still stands up very well after twenty years! I go back to it often. In fact that’s one of the most impressive things about your music and your recordings. They have a classic qualty that transend musical styles and trends.

  6. I am very excited about the possibility of a book – you have SO many stories to tell! I was kind of waiting for this time to come. Also encouraged to hear about the new songwriting. We’ll pray for God’s direction regarding the symphoy concerts – they are so wonderful.

  7. Congratulations on 20 years, Steve! It seems hard to believe – my husband and I have been following you since 1996 and have enjoyed every concert we have been privileged to attend. The symphony concert in Kitchener lrecently was absolutely outstanding. Thank you for sharing all you have been given so openly and honestly – it brings me so much hope and peace.

  8. Hi ! This is en ex Jesuit from India. I was Fr. Van”s Novice at Kurseong, ( Darjeeling). This is just personal note to say to your wife and daughter Sara. Jenny, and your son. I wish you Merry Christmas and Happy New year.
    If It is possible send me your personal address.

    Mahesh Parmar

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