Archives For excellence

Wow. This one is close to home. This one has actually set up shop in my living room and is enjoying a sandwich on my couch while wearing my slippers.  That close to home.

The truth is… church music is terrible.  And that’s not to say that it isn’t sometimes incredibly moving, effective, and inspiring.  But often… it’s kinda… bad.  Thankfully the work of the spirit and the sacrifice of worship does not require great music.  It requires an honest heart before God, and grateful submission to a personal Savior.  These are spiritual concerns, independent to some degree of the quality of the art in our local church.  Great music in church simply is not required for deeply personal worship.

But great music might help.

As a worship leader for the past 17+ years, I’ve been a part of some powerful high-level artistic experiences, and several musical expressions that should not be labeled art at all.  I’ve led with far better musicians than myself as well as rookies in the field.  Sometimes we have produced beautifully crafted art.  Sometimes we have produced something not so beautiful.  I want to keep the bar high – to either obliterate or redeem the phrase “good enough for church.”  I try to lead the MUSIC as best I can, but our focus remains primarily on the heart of the lead worshipers on our team.  I am far more interested in leading artists who are in an honest, growing love relationship with Jesus than in signing up the best local rock star.

And yet my ears are tired.

I remember reading a post not too long ago from a blogger who generates broad discussion amongst the worship leader community.  He asked us what songs were really “connecting” right now in our churches.  I read through the 100+ responses, realizing that for many of us, our playlists were almost interchangeable.

Crowder, Tomlin, Hillsong, Passion, Sovereign Grace, Maher, Brown, McMillan, Hughes, Redman, Gateway…

It was interesting.  And kind of sad.  I wondered what God must be experiencing as he hears our worship team singing “Mighty to Save” again.  I realized that at the exact same time there are probably 400 other churches in America singing that song.  I still wonder that today.  And I realize when I hear other churches leaders crank up their rhythm sections… my ears are tired.

Are God’s ears tired?

This post isn’t meant to address worship style, per se.  I just hunger for something fresh in church music  that moves my heart and inspires greater love of God. It isn’t about needing “new” songs all the time.  And it isn’t just about the technical aptitude of the players, either.  Christian radio, playing studio-polished recordings of passionate and gifted artists often has the same effect on me.  Unease. There may be some new things happening in me, or maybe a discontentment growing for what feels too familiar and too easy.  It made me think… What is about “church music” that is so… so… uninspiring sometimes?

I found a possible answer in Psalm 33:3

“Sing to Him a new song. Play skillfully on the strings with loud shouts.”

I see three important elements here.  Freshness.  Skill.  And Fervor.

Do you know when music in church is most effective for me – when it inspires God thoughts in me that lead to worship?  If you thought I was going to say, “When the music is presented with fresh language, or when it is skillfully played or led, or maybe music that is passionately honest about the truth of God…”  You’d be almost right.

Replace “or” in the statement above with “AND.” Psalm 33:3 is a command.  God wrote it.  He did not say, “Sing a new song… or play skillfully… or at least make it passionate.”

He said (my paraphrase), “Don’t just repeat the songs you like to sing because they ‘work,’ make sure you include songs that inspire people with new and surprising poetry and beautiful melodies and harmonies that reflect my creativity and my beauty.”

But God asks for more. The whole Bible is full of exhortations to bring our BEST lamb as a sacrifice, to offer the FIRST and the BEST to God, and for artists to “play skillfully, sing skillfully, craft skillfully” when our art is in service to the King.  God asks for a new song, but he doesn’t want us to bring something half-baked.  He wants us to play skillfully.  When a Worship Team plays instruments that are out of tune, or when singers miss entrances, or when the organist plays a wrong chord, our attention is on the Team, not on the Lord we are singing to or about.  Artistic skill doesn’t need to be “showy.”  In fact, the most skilled and Spirit-led musicians sweep us into the presence of God and practically disappear… our focus on the Audience of One.  Humbly wielded, artistic skill in the service of the King is a powerful tool for use by the Spirit.

And yet God asks for more. YES, we must create and present NEW songs to the Church and to the Lord.  YES, we are commanded to play skillfully – to bring our BEST lamb as an offering out of love for God.  But we are also exhorted to shout.  LOUDLY.  Of course, there is a place for quiet reverence, as well.  But I think this has more to do with our fervor than it does with volume. How often have we as Worship Leaders phoned it in?  How often have we just moved the church through our songlist, hearts disconnected from our faith?  God hates vain repetition, but looks to strongly support those whose hearts are fully devoted to him.  As artists and leaders in the church, we must have a transparent, contagious, firey love relationship with God.

Freshness.  Skill.  Fervor.

The problem with most “church music,” in my view, is that I rarely see all three of these qualities present at the same time.

I have seen passion on display without much skill, and it can be painful.  I’ve seen skillful players who seem to be more interested in their music than their Lord, and it can be distracting.  And so often Worship Teams are slow to create, slow to adopt new expressions, slow to use their imaginations.  Skill and passion can only go so far the 94th time your church sings “Open the Eyes of My Heart.”

Freshness, Skill, AND Fervor.  Three elements that would go a long way in making our artistic leadership more effective. They are not suggestions, as if two out of three are good enough. They are commands.  Remember… God wrote Psalm 33:3. Often I see one of these elements, or two at a time, but to see all three at the same time is rare.  And that’s part of why “church music” often leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  Can you relate?

If artists in the Kingdom of God would commit to bring fresh artistic creative juice to their art, to work hard at their craft and bring their BEST offering to the Lord and His church, AND to sing and play with passion, “church music” might have an entirely different connotation.

But there is something even more important to me, more soul-stirring in me, something that is a non-negotiable if art in the Church is going to move me to worship with freedom and gratitude.  Something beyond a new song played well by a passionate artist.

It is a artist who knows the Lord intimately and reflects that love relationship in their art.

The trump card.  The non-negotiable.  The single greatest factor that will help artists in their local church break hearts and usher in space for the Spirit to interact with the souls of the congregation. It is the power of a life truly devoted to Jesus.  And although many, many church musicians profess a personal faith in Jesus, it is rare to experience true depth of personal devotion to Jesus IN THEIR ART.

I’ll end this with a story.

One afternoon several years ago an elderly gent from our congregation asked if he could sing a song for the church.  He admitted he didn’t have much musical ability, and that he’d be more comfortable without an accompanist so he didn’t need to stay in one key.  Out of concern for him and for our church, I asked if I could hear him first – before we had him sing for a service.

Stan agreed, but he admitted that even just singing in front of me made his knees knock.  How would he feel in front of 300 more?  Yet he felt that he should to do this – to express his love for Jesus.  One hurdle at a time, I told him.  Stan and I wandered into the big, empty sanctuary. And I took a seat about 5 rows from the front.  We prayed together.  And Stan sang.

With a cracking voice he started in on the first line, eyes closed, hands trebling.  “I come to the garden alone…”

My heart broke. For the next three minutes tears flowed freely down my cheeks and dripped onto my collar.  It was maybe the most moving piece of church music I can remember.  Stan sang an old song badly.  But it was so honest, and so deeply rooted in his love for Jesus, it catapulted my heart before the throne, and I worshipped.

Stan played the trump card. Jesus meant everything. More than polish.  More than art.

So, artists in churches all over the world, I exhort you with the authority if the Word of God, to bring NEW expressions of worship to your congregations.  I exhort you to NEVER settle for “good enough for church” mentality, unless that means your bar is set very, very high. And I encourage you to let your music be full-throated and played with zeal.

But above all, express an honest and deeply rooted love of Jesus.  Some of you may need to stop producing art for church until your heart is overflowing.  Then, out of the over flow… Sing a new song to the Lord; Bring your BEST offering… and make it loud.

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“church music is terrible :: how to make it better” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

I just saw a bumper sticker on a Ford F-150 that read, “YES this is my truck. NO, I won’t help you move.”

That’s how it is, right?  Those of you hybrid-driving, eco-friendly, foreign-car-owning suburbanite friends of mine.  You know EXACTLY what I’m talking about.  It’s getting to be that time.  Almost moving day, and what do you start to think about?  That’s right…  “Who do I know with a TRUCK?”  Let’s face it.  Fahrvergnügen can’t help you move the sofa.

So a couple of years ago I found myself the proud owner of a nice three bedroom rambler in suburban Minneapolis.  One of the reasons we loved the house was the wrap-around deck in the back.  But we had lived in the house for several years, and the deck was showing its age.  A few cracked boards, and a little too much bounce in the corner revealed that some of the frame had been built with untreated wood, and that wood was starting to crumble.  It was one of those projects that I thought would begin and end on a Friday morning with one well-planned run to Home Depot.  Not so much.  As I began to pull out the soft wood, the more problems were revealed, and suddenly I had several pieces of the frame, a set of steps, half a dozen planks, about a third of the railing frame , and almost all of the railing spindles to replace.

At the time I owned a hammer, a worn out drill, one rechargeable electric screwdriver with no working battery, and a jar of miscellaneous small screws and finishing nails.  I was like the anti-Bob Villa.  I mean, don’t get me wrong…  Other than the meager tool set, lack of a modeling career, the international acclaim, and any measurable skill in carpentry, Ty Pennington and I have a lot in common.

Let’s just say I needed back-up.  So I have this friend Brandon.  He’s got a pick up AND an air compressor.  And nail guns.  That’s right.  Plural.  And a sawzall.  And talent.  All things I didn’t have.

So Brandon was the guy to call.  Also significant… he’s one of the greatest guys on the planet.  For roughly the cost of lunch at Arby’s (maybe EXACTLY for the cost of lunch at Arby’s), Brandon basically spent one good Saturday – sun-up to sun-down – tearing apart, re-planning, and reconstructing our deck.  He and I were able to do in one 12 hour period what would have taken me…  I still wouldn’t be done with it.  If it were up to me alone with my hammer and half-baked power drill, circa 1983, my poor family would still be coming in and out the front door, avoiding the sad half-torn-apart reminder of my few non-Ty Pennington-esque qualities that used to be our deck.

Come to think of it, I probably owe Brandon another Medium Roast Beef.  WITH the curly fries this time.

Smash cut to me this morning at 5:04 AM.  I find myself literally groaning out load as I roll out of bed.  I’ve got 2 hours and 56 minutes until my Chapter 20 Greek Quiz.  My nemesis.  My kryptonite.  My poke in the eye.  My bad dream.

Studying Greek at 5:04 in the morning is like whacking yourself in the knee repeatedly with a mallet.  It’s hard.  It hurts.  At least for me.  A couple of the boys in our Sem class seem to feed on Greek like a Sumo wrestler at a sushi bar.  Like well trained athletes, the pain of the process is part of the joy of it for them.  Personally, I have to put my trust in the delayed gratification – the joy set before me, if you will – of being able to wield my Greek knowledge like a Dragon Warrior some day.  But for now, I’m just a lowly inexperienced noodle-serving Panda with a dream, and Greek is my Tai Lung.  It’s pounding on my brain cells.

So why do I do this?  Why get up at the crack of early and take up my knee-whacking mallet and endure the pain of self-inflicted Future Active Indicative Greek Verb Paradigms?

Same reason I bought Brandon a sandwich.  He owns two nail guns, and I do not.

On our first day of class this Fall, Pastor Moan stood in front of our Seminary classroom and spoke about the marathon ahead of us as Greek students.  I remember some of it.  I remember the part about when you’re so tired you can’t see straight, and you want to quit, bang your head against the wall and get back to work.  I remember the part about “if you want to learn Greek, you need to SWEAT.”  I remember, “Building endurance.  Discipline.  Discouragement. Carrying on when you hit the wall.”  And my favorite Pastor  Moan quote from the first day…  “We’ve had a few casualties.  I’ll admit it.”  Nice.

The thing is, when I step out of my last Seminary class and into my life’s calling, I’m not going to be building a deck.  Lord willing, I will be a pastor.  I’m going to be shepherding souls.  It will be my high calling to rightly handle the Word of God, and preach the truth with clarity and in the power of God.  Who am I  to do this?  I’m just a panda with a hammer and a lousy drill.

A Panda who is learning Greek.

Martin Luther said, “In the measure that we love the Gospel, so let us place a strong emphasis on the languages.  For it was not without reason that God wrote the Scriptures in two languages…  Keep hard at the languages, for language is the sheath in which the Sword of the Spirit rests.”

The REASON we do this hard work is that it is a tool for ministry.  And ministry is the goal.  If I want to build a great deck in one day instead of a lousy deck over the course of… years, most likely, I need a decent saw, an air compressor, and a nail gun.  Or two nail guns.  Even better.

If I want to really dig into the Word of God, understand it deeply, and prepare to teach with due diligence, I need to learn Greek.  And then I’ll pray like crazy and trust God can use a clumsy panda like me to preach His Word with the boldness of a Dragon Warrior.  Souls are on the line.

“The modern preacher in his study is a man with his tools.  The man with the best tools, all other things being equal, does the best work.”  -A. T. Robertson

Greek language, look me in the eye.  You are going down.  Ska-Doosh!

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“exploiting that one guy with the pick-up and air comnpressor :: of pandas, powertools, and studying greek” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

This album reminds me what art can do.

It can surprise, and make you feel, and reflect beauty, and shout about God’s genius.

My good friend Mark Edwards (aka Original Mark Edwards aka OME) is releasing his new album (“Tired Birds”) this Friday, January 14, here in the Twin Cities.  See details above.  If you want to know more about (OME), click here.  Get “Tired Birds” on iTunes here.  If you want advanced tickets to the Friday night CD release party, click here.

And if you want a taste, here you go…

“The worship was great today! Awesome job.”

As a Worship Pastor, when I hear that, I feel two things simultaneously… a sudden urge to give someone a hug, and a sudden urge to throw up in my mouth a little bit.

I know… people are out to encourage the worship guy. And they probably did have a genuinely inspiring time connecting with God. I get it. As the encouragee, that’s the part of me that wants to embrace my encourager with an “I love you, man” back slap.

Truth is, I get a little bit uncomfortable rating worship on a scale of “horrible” to “awesome sauce.”  Truth be told, if we are “rating” our worship experience, we don’t really understand worship, right?  Now, I’m not an idiot. (Some of you may want to chime in here, but we’re moving on…) I do understand that this may be a matter of semantics to some degree.

But words matter.

Precise language matters. Sometimes you can accidentally communicate all kinds of things you never meant to say, simply with careless word choices. So, as a Worship Pastor, I’m careful about this stuff.

Worship doesn’t = music.  You probably came to that conclusion years ago.  But what is it again exactly? Worship is our response to God for who He is, for what He has said, for what He has done, and for what He is going to do.  We love God because He loved us.  Worship at it’s core is a response of love and gratitude expressed to God because of the gospel.  Music works great to help that happen, when a whole group of people are in the same space for the purpose of worshipping God.  That’s why churches use it.  Music helps focus many individual hearts on some aspect of God, so that we might respond with love… or examine our hearts and humbly confess our need for God… our brokenness. Our sin. But the response – whatever God prompts – that response is the worship.

If we keep that in mind, how strange to rate our worship experience on a quality scale, right?  But we do.

At Living Hope Church, I love it when people talk to me about the music AND their worship experience – as two separate thoughts. It shows me that they get it… The quality of their WORSHIP response to God has much more to do with their view of GOD then it does with the quality of the MUSIC we lead.

This stuff has been rattling around in my brain these last few days since a friend of mine posted a thought on Facebook about excellence in church production…

AMEN.  As a long-standing and vocal promoter of excellence in church art, music, design, programming, production, etc. I think this bears repeating often.  My ultimate standard in measuring “excellence” in ministry production is this…  Is it effective?

I don’t mean “effective” as in just “good enough for church.”  I’ll even take “inspiring.”  Good times.  But my ministry PURPOSE must help clarify my methods.  As a worship leader and service planner, my purpose is to help clearly communicate the hard truth that we are all depraved sinners, dead in our sin, needing rescue and resuscitation… and the AMAZING true love story that Jesus Christ died on a cross and rose from the dead for us, to restore us to life and meaning and joy again.  Our purpose is to provide space and opportunity for people to respond to that truth week after week.  That’s it.  The heart of it.

Therefore, if our music and lighting and production becomes SO “excellent” that it begins to draw attention to itself… then it is no longer “excellent.”  Because it is no longer effective.  Because then the production is drawing attention AWAY from the Lord.  In fact, that’s not just a little bit of a focus problem… that is the polar opposite of the ministry purpose.

So, can BAD musicianship / drama / art / lighting / production hinder worship?  Absolutely.  And can AMAZING musicianship / art / drama / lighting / production hinder worship.  Absolutely.  Non-distracting + inspiring + authentic + humble = thumbs up.  Amazing showmanship with extra flash sauce = thumbs down.

So if you’re in the habit of giving your worship leader at church a high five after a particularly rippin’ guitar solo and telling him “The worship was AWESOME today!” you might want to take a step back…  Ask yourself if you gave yourself to Jesus again today, fully surrendered, as a walking THANK YOU to God for who He is and what He’s done in your life.  If so, worship WAS awesome today.  Even if the Praise Team played with the sensitivity and musical agility of a pregnant yak.  Doesn’t matter.  What matters is what was going on in your heart, and how you responded to God’s love today.

If you’re a worship leader who is in the habit of rating your church’s worship experience based on the quality of the music you produce, you are giving yourself too much credit.  Worship isn’t “better” if you sing like Tomlin, play like Brewster, and your light system looks like a Pink Floyd retrospective.  Remember that the music, the art, the production is the TOOL.

Worship is the goal.

 

 

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“supressing my gag reflex :: worship leading with excellence… but not too much excellence” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

I have a friend whom I love.  He is a mirror.  When he creates art, it’s like he’s holding up a big mirror toward heaven at just the right angle, so when I look at his art, I just see God loving me in the reflecting part.

Jeremy Erickson  ::  Dakota Skies

To know Jeremy more deeply, visit JeremyErickson.com.  And you do want to know Jeremy more deeply.  His life/art/story/faith/God will make your life more beautiful.

Thanks Jer, for letting me post this here.  The honor is mine, brother.

    

 

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“dakota skies :: jeremy erickson, art, and mirrors” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

My smartphone is practically a Transformer.  Freaks me out.  If I program it correctly, it will get up before I do, put on a pot of coffee, and whip me up a nice plate of Eggs Bene (with scrambled eggs… poached eggs are gross) and a side of Hash Browns.
 
But with all that my phone can do, and all of it’s multi-media functionality, I still hold on to my trusty 3rd Gen clickwheel iPod to listen to music.
 
Why?  Because Apple flat out dominates the market when it comes to well-designed, high quality, easy to use, techno-magical user interface driven music players.  My Smartphone can play music.  It could crank out U2’s “Beautiful Day” as it gently browned my morning potatoes if it wanted to.  But it does so many other things that it is a little clumsy to use as a music player. For music, my iPod is magic.  It does exactly what it is designed to do very well.
 
Today the long awaited new Kindle from Amazon is slated to be released.  When specs for this next generation of the Kindle were released last month, technofiles watched closely for signs of video capabilities and a flashier, more interactive e-book experience.  In an online article from engadget.com, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos responded, “For the vast majority of books, adding video and animation is not going to be helpful. It is distracting rather than enhancing. You are not going to improve Hemingway by adding video snippets,” adding later, “there are going to be 100 companies making LCD [screen] tablets… why would we want to be 101? I like building a purpose-built reading device. I think that is where we can make a real contribution.”
 
I love that.  A clear, focused purpose.  A device designed to fulfill a specific mission.  We don’t need more bells and whistles.  We want to produce the best electronic device for reading e-books.  Ever.  That’s it.  There is no “cook me breakfast” app.  Streaming video, shmeaming video.  But if you want to read an e-book, let me tell you why this baby is the cat’s pajamas.
 
(As a side note, what does that MEAN?  Cat’s pajamas?)
 
But this post isn’t really about e-readers or music players.  It is about church.  It is about the value of a clear, focused purpose.
 
I think most churches would say they agree on WHAT we are called to do as a local church… and it probably sounds something like “Helping build a community of people who used to be far from God and now are growing into fully devoted disciples of Jesus.”  Basically, local churches look at the “big ones” from Jesus about our mission here on earth in Matthew 22 (“Love God. Love people.”) and Matthew 28 (“Go and make disciples…”), and try to word it in a unique way that fits on a t-shirt.
 
But God has uniquely wired your church, and my church, to reach specific people… in a specific way.  If you go to church, and your church family and leaders love Jesus, we probably agree on 99% of the WHAT.  But your church and my church NEED to listen to God on the SPECIFIC mission we are called to, in the community we are placed, with the specific mix of personalities and gifts that God unites in our congregation.
 
Without a clear, specific, focused purpose, many churches simply rely on what has been done before.  Others are innovation junkies, trying to stay just a step ahead of the Church of the Joneses across the street.  Others think the best way to accomplish the WHAT of Matthew 22 and Matthew 28 is to do more and offer more and be more…  They run the risk of becoming a “menu-of-ministries” church, driven either by the felt needs of the community, the whims of the crowd, or the personality of the pastor.  There’s nothing wrong, per se, with offering a long list of ministries, groups, events, etc… But when a local church UNITES around a common, God-given vision for accomplishing the big WHAT, there is energy in our synergy, there is clarity in our purpose, there is intention in our action, and there is a deep sense of community in the process.
 
When Jeff Bezos was asked about whether the new Kindle would offer more bells and whistles, he said no.
 
Does your church or ministry have a clear, focused purpose?  It will help you decide what God-stuff to embrace, and what good-stuff to say “no” to.
 
[For much more on this general theme, I highly recommend the book Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Grieger.  You could read it on your Kindle…]
 
white space here

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“new kindle launches today :: yeah, but can it cook me breakfast?” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Once in awhile I run into a performance that reminds me again why great art is important.  It causes me to worship the Great Creator of all artists, the Root of all beauty.  This performance is one of those.

Theresa Andersson is harnessing technology to redefine the “one-woman-band” motif.  Not focussed on the craziness of the technological dance itself (which is quite impressive all on its own), she simply uses looped recording technology seamlessly to create lush, complete soundscapes.  I’m a fan.  Dig this vibe…

When Katherine Bigelow got her second chance at the mic last night, shortly after winning “Best Picture” for “The Hurt Locker,” my wife and I were more than a little worried.

“Oh boy… oh, she’s… she’s in trouble.  She’s going over… Oh boy.  She’s in shock.”

She looked ill.  And unsteady on her feet.  Maybe it was the thrill of beating her ex-husband’s 3D box-office rain maker.  Maybe it was the backstage champagne kicking in.  But you can’t tell me she actually planned ahead of time to dedicate the Best Picture Oscar for 2010 to… um… “anyone who wears a uniform… guys in Hazmat suits… uh… firemen…”

That was funny.  Albeit a little freaky to watch in real time.  I was concerned that she was losing consciousness.  Or her mind.  But it was a nice gesture, even so.  Those hazmat suit guys never get enough love.  Am I right?

Katherine’s unsteady dedication speech parallels my wavering, uncertain appreciation for “The Hurt Locker.”  Although I’m actually not suggesting it shouldn’t have won.  Technically, it was an excellent film in many ways.  Well written, well acted, innovative camera work and awesome sound production.  I can appreciate the excellence of the craft – but does a “well-made” movie’s (well-arranged song, well-painted picture, etc.) technical prowess make it “good art.”

I got to the end of the film and… *spoiler alert*

I got to the end of the film and thought, “You know, this just wasn’t worth it.”  Where was the redemption in any of these characters we have just spent 2 hours getting to know?  There was plenty of gut-wrenching violence, alcohol abuse, sleazy talk and foul language.  Good acting, yes.  Good story-telling, yes.  But morally ambiguous “heroes” in a story with what, exactly, to say?  Where was the life-affirming message?  Or the elevating philosophical underpinning that lifts the viewer?  Go ahead, film critics – color me unsophisticated, but I do like my movies to have something true to say.  I like a smattering of redemption mixed with beauty to trump the chaos and heartbreak and bad choices our protagonists make on the road to somehwere better.

I like a story with a moral.

Not a very high-brow meter for judging art, huh?  I know.  That’s fine with me.  I’m not a film critic for a reason.  But I do have an internal “redemption meter” that is applied to every movie, song, play, or story I experience.  Bottom line for me?  If art reflects the best facets of life – relationships that matter, personal growth, redemption, love, beauty, and passion – it most likely will inspire thanksgiving in me.  Thanks to God, both for His blessings in my life and that He is a God of Redemption.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”  (Philippians 4:8)

At the end of the day, I want to spend my time carefully.  I don’t have a problem watching movies to unwind and escape for 90 minutes.  But I do want to be careful to “think about such things” that are beautiful, elevating, redeeming.  “The Hurt Locker” may be a masterful piece of art.  But it doesn’t elevate the soul.

I’d much rather settle in with my bride and a big bowl of popcorn to watch “UP!” again, and have my thoughts and spirit lifted higher…

How do you judge the value of art?  Where do you set the bar for what’s worth watching… and what can stay on the shelf at Blockbuster?

 

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“the hurt locker, the oscars, and redemption :: hazmat suits… and firemen?” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at www.jskogerboe.com.

Our gravitational pull is toward numb.  It is just not possible to sustain gut-wrenching emotion.  So when suffering outlasts our natural capacity for compassion, we need to intentionally remind ourselves.  Feel it again.

It has been over a month since the earthquake. Conditions on the ground are worse, not better, in many cases.  As time slips by, I have had my eyes open for a couple of tangible ways people can help.  Here are two that are inspiring to me:

A Home in Haiti

This organization is meeting the immediate needs of homeless families by providing waterproof tents as shelter from the sun and the coming rainy season.  The rainy season officially begins in 4 days.  Many families have no shelter – or are trying to huddle under sheets held up by sticks.  If you want to make a life-changing difference in somebody’s RIGHT NOW reality, buy a tent.  Donate money.  200,000 tents are needed to erradicate homelessness in Haiti right now.

Click here to learn more and to help.

Help Haiti Live

A February 27th concert sponsored by Compassion International, streaming live, raising money and awareness of the brokeness and the need in Haiti.  To learn more about this event, click here to visit the Help Haiti Live website.  I have a part of my heart reserved for Compassion International.  We sponsor a boy in Tanzania through Compassion.  They have done so much good in Jesus’ name for the least and the marginalized and the small… it boggles the mind.  I trust Compassion International – their track record is impeccable for fiscal responsibility and minimization of administrative costs.  If you want to help in a long-term, bricks and mortar kind of way, give generously to this fundraising effort by Compassion.

As an artist I have been moved by the beautiful work and art of the designers, musicians, and technicians working in symbiosis to help us feel.  Brad Ruggles design on the Help Haiti Live site is gorgeous.  The music from Provident Label Group above gave me goosebumps.  The video work is outstanding.  But it isn’t about the art.  It is about FEELING.  Artists help the Church feel what is important.  And feeling motivates action.  At the end of the day, it is easiest to block out the suffering of people we will never meet, in a place we may never go.  But Jesus love is global.  And we are the Church.  So we must love.  And love without action can hardly be  love at all.

Creative Commons License
“when the shock turns numb :: haiti now” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Sometimes I post philosophically challenging rants about theology and church methodology.  Sometimes I write about my personal growth as a father and husband.  And sometimes, I just want to get down with my bad self.  Enjoy…

Mmmmm…  As a drummer, I’m awed by the tightness of the groove.  Like a machine, but not machine-like.  Wowza.  I don’t hate that at all.

Thanks much to Kyle Reed, a 20-something church/media up-and-comer I follow and appreciate.  I found this clip on his blog today > here.  Kyle  just hooked up with the 8Bit network (ChurchCrunch, ChurchIT, ChurchCreate, ChurchDrop), a nuclear blast of awesome resources and information about the convergence of Church and Tech.  Click the links and LEARN STUFF.