10 Questions with ... Casey Darnell
November 4, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
2013 Casey Darnell - Capitol Christian
1. Brief history/synopsis
Born in Lynchburg VA, and lived there till I was 3 while my dad finished his degree at Liberty University.
I went to a private school where my dad was a teacher - Shiloh Hills Christian School - He raised 3 kids (me, my brother and sister) on less then 17k a year for many years.
I went to school at Shiloh from kindergarten till graduation from high school, and thought I'd play basketball, but ended up at Kennesaw St. University, studying childhood education and communications.
I held many jobs in those days; after school care, camp counselor, summer camp director at YMCA, to delivering flowers and working at chick-fil-a.
2. How'd you get your start in ministry?
I sang in high school to accompaniment tracks at chapel and some in "big" church.
My first summer after graduation, I was a leader at a summer camp for underprivileged children in south GA. This experience changed my life.
I didn't want to just work a job, make a living and exist. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to see God move in ways beyond what I could dream and i wanted to be used however He could use me.
I worked at this camp for four years, got a summer youth ministry job, then began working in Kennesaw GA as a worship assistant and eventual high school director (youth pastor) at North Star Church.
That lasted three years until I got married and we moved to Florida for a youth ministry position, all the while singing and starting to uncover a knack for songwriting.
For the next several years I helped numerous church plants and was a worship pastor at a couple of churches until I finally became a full time, "faith based" ministry as a worship leader, singer/songwriter.
I began traveling and leading all over the country and in some other countries as opportunities arose.
3. What's the song that you just can't get out of your head right now?
The music that is stuck in my head is currently whatever my daughter wants me to play while taking her to school. It's our special bonding time together.
So right now, she is on this kick of songs I grew up hearing when I was her age, which happens to be Steven Curtis Chapman, Michael W Smith, etc.
And she loves the song Hiding Place, which is why I did an acoustic cover of it for the presale of my new record.
That's the first thing that comes to mind. Otherwise, we love the song "Gold" by Brit Nicole. It's a message I want my daughter to have deep insider her soul as she grows older.
4. What's it like to be best friends with Andy Stanley? :) Seriously, how has being on staff at North Point/Atlanta impacted you personally and professionally?
Andy & I actually go way back to before I was born. My dad was basketball coach for Andy and Louie Giglio when they were 18.
Andy has told me he remembers a coach but it was a brief season a long time ago. My dad, however, still has the plaque on his wall that Andy presented him from First Baptist Atlanta's church league. :)
My dad says if he'd have known how they'd turn out when they were just punk teenagers he would have kept up with them more. Haha!
I'm actually not on staff at North Point. It's where I serve as a worship leader, but though I'm contracted to be there, it's my family's home base church so to speak. We love it and are over the top grateful for the children's ministries that our daughters are growing up in. It's far more than what we had growing up.
I am on our label 'North Point Music' and that has been a joy to have them come alongside the ministry I already had going and help me further it, without sacrificing my family to do so.
So North Point is a large church, but Andy's passion for small groups has made for a small group system that brings REAL community and makes the church be more about circles then rows as we tell people often. This makes all the difference, doing life with others and being the church, not just preaching it.
This takes work though when you are at a large church, it's easy to hide or take things for granted. As one of our leaders, I have to be VERY intentional about making it more than just my influence on stage and as a leader. I am there to serve and model that to our kids. We are there to be the hands and feet, not just sing about it and talk about it.
The reality is, God has blessed and is blessing North Point in a way that seems only possible due to the humility of the leadership with Andy Stanley and others. He realizes, as he said recently, "who it's from and who it's for."
The "it" being the influence and attention and applause of others.
I consider him a friend but mostly someone who I'm honored to serve alongside in our mission to lead others into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.
And my role is awesome and humbling and always leaves me grateful above all else.
5. What's the biggest God moment you've ever experienced, personally or professionally?
There's actually been a few moments where God has shown himself in a strong way, but one sticks out that happened last Christmas eve. It's a LONG story, but the short of it as best I can explain is that I felt an intense push to go for a run late on Christmas eve.
We had all our family in town (15 total people) and I had been leading at one of our church's the entire weekend. However that same day a close friend of mine lost their 5 day old baby and I was so broken for them I was really struggling with how God works.
All weekend we had celebrated people's stories and here my friend was grieving and I frankly was tired of it all. So i wrestled with this urge to run that kicked in around 9:45pm or so. I told my wife and she of course thought I was crazy. But I just couldn't shake it. I needed to get alone with God and just pour my heart out and I wanted to go run down our street, which was a downtown area outside of Atlanta.
I knew it was crazy. I hadn't been home in days and here all my family was gathered together and I wanted to go RUN!? What?!
So I finally went up stairs, changed and came down in all my official Nike running gear. Black outfit with reflective stuff everywhere. I said "honey, I feel like if I don't get out of here, I'll suffocate. I need to go talk to God. I'm broken and I need to hear from Him." She gave me permission and off I went.
I ran four miles total that night. But one mile into it I passed a house with a truck outside that had the door open and the light on. I thought, "kinda late to be out", and kept running.
While I ran I was praying a lot, crying out lots of hurts to God and how I just wanted to hear Him speak to me. Like the prayers I used to pray when I was 15 years old. Show me you hear me God. Speak to me. Are you listening to me? Why do things happen like this and when will you fix what's broken here! I need my own story with you God, I'm tired and my heart hurts.
So fast forward a few miles and I'm back at that house I saw earlier with the truck. And the door is still open? I thought, alright God, I'll do a Christmas good deed and go close their door and save their battery. Merry Christmas! Then I thought, it's like 11pm and I'm wearing all black clothes, what if they think I'm robbing them and shoot me?
Suddenly I realize I'm headed for the truck, and as I near it I think, "I better go tell them what I'm doing so they don't shoot me".
So I ran towards the front door and nearly tripped over an elderly lady laying at the base of the stairs. She was holding on to the bottom of the railing with all she had.
She was terrified and so was I. Seeing each other scared both of us. She cried out, "How did you know I was here?", over and over again. I told her that I didn't know, but saw the light on and figured I'd help save her battery.
I began to pick her up and realized there was a walker turned over beside her. She had arthritis and was unable to move after she had fallen.
Her husband was inside and had no idea she was out there alone. I began asking her why she was out so late, and she said she had gotten home from grocery shopping around 9:45pm and fell on her way to the front door. The exact SAME time I was a mile down the road wrestling with going for a random late night run.
The temperature was in the teens and she was only wearing a t-shirt and pajama pants. She could have frozen out there that night.
God heard my cry of wanting to see Him and He showed up in the form of an elderly lady on the side of the road. He made it quite clear He was listening and did what only He could. He literally used me to save a woman's life that night.
As I picked her up and carried her inside, she kept telling me how she had been laying there praying for someone to find her and kept asking me how was it that I had found her.
I told her God had heard her prayers, and that on this Christmas eve night, He wanted her to know He loved her. And then I said, "Merry Christmas".
I ran home with tears flooding my eyes the entire way. I still to this day can hardly believe the REAL LIFE chicken soup for the soul story that God gave to me.
As he says in Chronicles 16:9, He showed Himself "strong on my behalf." And it left me changed forever.
*That's about as short as I can tell this story ;)
6. What's the last book you read?
David & Goliath by Malcom Gladwell - incredible book helping us have a new perspective on who the underdog really is, and it's NOT the one with the Lord on His side.
A reminder of where real strength comes from and how we get it wrong so much... we WAY underestimate what God is capable of in our lives.
Also.. "Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters" by Meg Meeker - amazing, eye opening book that is a must read for any dad with daughters. I'm a better dad because of this book.
It inspired numerous songs I've been writing about my little girls no doubt.
7. Tell us about your work & experience with Lighthouse Family Retreat.
I began serving Lighthouse Family Retreat 6 years ago and my family and I will never be the same. Serving these families as they face the unimaginable is so heartbreaking but fills us with purpose that I believe God created us for at the core of who we are... to love each other!
I've sang duets during talent shows with little girls who are now in Heaven as well as lead tough Dads to the Lord as they loosen the grip on their children, realizing they could be in their last days with them, but how desperately they need a Savior and want to lead their family well through these challenging times.
Truth is it scares me to death, but as I humbly tell the families each week, I'm choosing to RUN to Jesus with my fears and doubts instead of running from Him. And every time He brings comfort and peace I didn't know would fill those spaces.
Watching my little girls play with other children and serve them and put them first... is a lesson I can't imagine them learning better anywhere else. It's massively important for us to expose them to this early on and for them to grow up knowing the world is temporary and while we are on it, we are to love each other with all we got.
Helping families laugh and dream again as well as finding hope in God.... nothing compares to it and it's something I want everyone to experience. I have dreams of getting other bands and artists I know to serve at LFR for a week with their family before hitting the bus's and greenrooms on their tours.
I believe God is just getting started with his plan to restore families through Lighthouse and I'm honored to be a part of it.
8. Take us through 2-3 songs on your self-titled project.
Psalms 145:13-14 "The LORD is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made. The LORD upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down."
- I was riding bikes with my 6 year old daughter recently (who is new to no training wheels) and was just in front of her when I heard her scream out from behind me.
She had hit a sandy spot and wrecked and skinned her knees real good.
In her loud crying all I could understand was "I can't walk daddy, carry me"
It's amazing how strong we can be in these moments, as I carried her nearly a mile back to the house.
However, one thing I keep revisiting in every season of life, is my inability to be strong enough.
I feel the pressures of being daddy and a husband, and a provider and a protector...
Whether it's a roach my wife wants me to squash or carrying Ava a mile from falling, most of the time if I'm honest I need to be carried myself!
When this song started surfacing, I didn't have to wrestle with it much and found it easier to write when I got gut honest about my weakness... the reality of my desperate need for saving.
Good news for us is found in 2 Corin 12:9 " 'My grace is all you need. My strength works best in weakness.' So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That's why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
Also, I love the reminder in Numbers 23:19 "God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?" I love how boldly this is stated and I wanted that to translate in this song... that in the end, He makes promises and He keeps them!
"Over and Over" - Job 9:(8) - Psalm 29
- In this song we referenced a lot of stories in scripture where God is just showing off how awesome He is and His unquestionable ability to bring us through ANYTHING we may be up against.
"At the edge of the water, with my back to the sea"
Ever felt that way? Truth is, if you are obeying God like the Israelites did when they were released out of Egypt to follow Moses, you could find yourself facing a dead end! God does allow us to hit a dead end sometimes, and often it is us getting what we requested.
But when we are at the end of ourselves, at the end of all natural help, that's where the strength and power of God is just beginning. For at the end of the natural is the supernatural and where God just shows off.
Job says "he alone stretches out the heavens and sits enthroned over the waves"
David says in Psalms 29 "The Lord sits enthroned over the flood, his voice thunders over the water"
How awesome a picture is that?
Think about Peter in Matthew 14, terrified but full of faith to jump out of a boat onto water!
What separated Peter and Jesus? Not just water... but a miracle.
Peter asks Jesus to tell him to come... and Jesus responds, cool... Come on!
He purposefully brings us to the end of the natural to see the supernatural begin... where He has always been reigning over what made us afraid.
"When I'm thrown in the fire and I barely can breath"
In Daniel 3 we read yet another story where God is paying close attention to detail all for the purpose of showing His glory! After throwing Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fire, they came out untouched, "They gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them."
They didn't smell like smoke and all that burned up in the fire, was what had bound them!
How did that happen? He was with them. They weren't there alone.
We can trust Him and know with full confidence that He is right there with us and He will always come through... over and over again.
"All the World" - John 13:34-45 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 "Love is patient, love is kind..."
- I was leading worship at an even a couple years ago and the pastor asked if I knew any songs that supported the message from Jesus about loving one another and this being the greatest tool He gave us to let others know who we love and what we believe in. I couldn't think of anything.
There are lots of songs about His love for us or our love for Him, but nothing that encouraged our love towards each other that inspires unity and supports this verse in John.
Having a song like this and it also being one you could lead seemed even more challenging to find.
So on the way home, this chorus took shape and I got excited! We started leading it soon after, however the verses took multiple re-writes over the last 2 years to find their home.
Since then we've seen thousands of students across the country embracing this command that Jesus left us with and the response has been incredible. I get fired up hoping students might grab hold of this concept and get inspired to make a difference in their "world."
Not in the big glamorous ways we often get caught up chasing after, but in the simple day to day opportunities, like forgiving someone, being kind, putting someone first, serving and showing.... love!
9. What other interests/hobbies do you have?
I thought Basketball was going to be my life since i was in 2nd grade. But then I graduated and I realized I was 5'9" and that was going to be a tough road.
Nowadays it's just fun story telling about my MVP days in high school. My family and I run and ride bikes a few times a week together - it's the BEST!
My wife decorates and is in numerous magazines and even won a TV show on HGTV - which means I'm also Mr. Mom a lot. So when I'm not rocking a guitar, I'm rocking a dirty diaper!!
I love mentoring younger worship leaders and investing in our community relationships as a church and our family.
Here is my mission statement: "Inspire others to have a greater vision for their lives & what their families CAN be, by living a life of integrity & passion, telling stories through song while using all platforms to share the message of God's love."
10. Person you'd most like to have a discussion with, living or dead? (Deities are excused from this question)
I met Steven Curtis Chapman at momentum week this past year. Have to say... that's been a dream/hope of mine since I was a teenager.
I wanted to thank him for how he's lived his life out loud in such a way that a kid like me could look up to! And I got to do just that. After which I walked out the door and called my wife and cried. Haha!
His songs were anchors for me in my younger years. I believed what He said and I let it shape my early decisions with following Jesus and trusting Him.
He's inspired so much in my life as well as my family's, so telling him thank you and sharing with him how I'm covering a song of his was a HUGE joyful moment for me.
Another person not in the CCM world would be: Walt Disney, seeing how I allocate so much of my savings to his legacy ;)
(you may have enough bonus above for a lifetime with me)
1. Favorite Bible verse or life verse?
- 2 Chron. 16:9 For the eyes of the Lord are searching to and fro throughout the earth to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are loyal to Him!
This one explains itself pretty well. We are people of weakness full of fear and doubt, but that's not how we were created or meant to be. And in a moment of weakness, His strength can flood in. He shows us that what we thought impossible, we just have to trust, obey and follow.
2. Most embarrassing moment?
Recently I was at a mall with my family at the store anthropology. I decided to head to the apple store (duh!). So, upon leaving the apple store, I told the lady at the front, "bye", and she said, "thanks for coming in", distracting me just enough that I walked right into the glass wall, which I thought was the huge space where the door was... I almost blacked out... and was so embarrassed I just ran out of the store.
Similarly embarrassing I was telling a congregation to "sit down and take out a sheet to fill out" and accidentally combined those 2 statements to say "if you would, take a shiiiiiiii.... take a shiiiiii.... a shiiiiiii...." and everything in my brain tried to make me say a very inappropriate word, but fortunately the "ohhhhhh!" of over 800 people helped me escape the moment and we all had a great laugh later. I didn't live that down for a LONG time.
3. What artist or pastor has had the greatest impact on you, and why?
I described my admiration for SCC above so that might suffice, and of course my pastor Andy Stanley has said things that have directly affected my family for the better in a way I can't fully express the full debt and blessing of.
Another pastor that is a HUGE reason for me doing what I am is a guy named Ike Reighard. He bought me my first guitar and basically shoved me into the giftings he saw in me that I was not pursuing fully myself. He believed in me and showed it in huge ways.
I'm always grateful when I look back on those days and the investments made in me by SO many. I wouldn't be here on my own, couldn't do anything good worth caring about by myself.
I stand on the shoulders of many others and recognize how blessed I am to have had these influences early on.