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Carl Cartee, Worship Leader Mentoring

David’s Psalms are among the first known worship songs. Reading through them, they ran the gamut of emotions and states, from joy, adoration and thankfulness to despair, questioning and searching. Since the events of his life are laid out in the books of Samuel, it is clear that these songs were drawn directly from his wrestling with his faith and his relationship with God.
For Carl Cartee, the songs on his newest release, Here I Go, were drawn from his own wrestling with his faith amid difficult circumstances. Produced by Nathan Nockels and Matt Stanfield, the result is a deep and honest expression of worship that seeks to spur the listener to put feet to their own faith—because Carl believes that worship is meant to extend beyond that specific act. From the anthemic “The Glorious Impossible” and the title track “Here I Go”, to the pulsing rhythm of “The Sound” to the contemplative “First” and “Trust In You,” Carl’s songs plumb the mysteries and the certainties of the Christian faith.
As he explains, “Worship music that doesn’t produce both spiritual and tangible fruit is one dimensional, and that can’t be. If we don’t say things and produce music and think about things that both exalt God and inspire action in people’s lives, I don’t know of how much value it is, because I think the Gospel is both.”
This belief was solidified by events in his life over the past year. Carl began 2007 with the humbling realization that he was falling apart spiritually, emotionally and relationally. Carl and his wife Heather found out that their infant son, Oak, lacked the soft spots that allow a baby’s skull to grow as his brain develops. The resulting surgery that sectioned his skull was successful, but the whole incident threw Carl into a tailspin.
“That experience exposed a bunch of cracks in my life,” Carl says. “For the first time in my life, a legit trial tested my faith and I experienced overwhelming fear. Up until now, no one in my family has ever died, nobody had ever been seriously sick. I mean, I had lived a charmed life. It’s undeserved, but that’s how it has played out.
“When Oak got sick…we just, in a lot of ways, especially beneath the surface, started falling apart. And unfortunately, my response to that test was opposite of what it should have been. I just shut down; I didn’t pray, I didn’t go to a refuge, I just tried to make one myself.”
As Carl grappled with this realization, “I said ‘God, please help me. Redeem the time that I’ve wasted.’ I’d let my spiritual life, in particular, fall apart, and every other healthy thing in your life flows from that. Realigning my life took 6 months. In the process, I learned I’m hopeless--flat-out hopeless--without really keeping my eyes properly focused on Christ and having a realistic perspective of what my expectations should be. My vision should be fixed on things so much greater than my temporary circumstances. And I feel like through this testing, the Lord is scraping away the parts of me that needed to get out, so that the other ideas and dreams could move in.”
--MORE--Two of the songs on Here I Go, “Let The World See” and “Here I Go,” were written from the conviction that Carl has about worship music being more than just an expression of praise. “That’s what I’ve been thinking a lot about, so a lot of songs on the record are rooted in that idea of engaging the emotions and the intellect. In John 4, when Jesus talks to the woman at the well, he says the Father seeks worship in spirit and in truth, I think the “spirit” component of that statement is the emotional, spiritual, intangible expression accompanied by the truth side, where you express truth in action by loving people, by giving them a drink of water, and telling them about Jesus.”
Although Carl wrote “Honestly” with Anadara Arnold and Elias Dummer prior to the experience with Oak’s diagnosis and surgery, the spare arrangement matches the song’s theme of stripping everything away and the need to be broken before God, which resonates even more now. “First” is a song he wrote seven years ago, but one he felt belonged on this project. “It’s one of the first times that I’ve gone back in the song catalog and dragged out some old material,” he says, “but I’ve always loved the idea of the song, and it says to God ‘You will be first, you will be all, you will be everything.’ I felt like, having gone through what we just waded through over this past year, my perspective really needed to be refreshed by the ideas in that song and to bring it back to my mind. God has always used songs that I write to teach me lessons.”
As a staff writer for Brentwood –Benson Music Publishing and a part of the worship leader staff of Fellowship Bible Church, equipping other worship leaders has always been a component of Carl’s ministry, but in the past that has generally taken the form of one-on-one mentoring. Now he and his wife Heather feel called to create a new method of equipping and have created their first worship conference, called Inspire. Part of his goal is to encourage worship leaders and songwriters to dig deep with their art.
“That’s why I think that emphasizing personal devotion and inspiring and encouraging the idea of ‘Why do you read books? Why do you play Halo? Why is one better than the other?’--those kinds of things are what the conference is about,” he continues. “And I’m so excited about the opportunity to put something on. I don’t think I could know less about what I’m doing; I think I am more ill-equipped for this than I ever have been for any other thing in my life, with the exception of really knowing that mentoring and encouraging people and bringing along people and helping them has always been a component of my calling.”
2007 may have been a difficult year for Carl Cartee, but Here I Go proves that God does work all things together for the good of those who worship him.

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