Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Whosoevers

Annoying Things About Worship Leaders

So here's a post by Jeremy Moore from Cleveland, TN - whom I just started following on Twitter. I know EXACTLY what he's saying and resonate with it. It gave me a laugh that I needed at the beginning of my day, in my office on my own, somewhere in the middle of Ireland. Thanks Jeremy!

Things that annoy me about Worship Leaders

I was inspired to create this after reading a recent post by Chico...

I chuckled as I read the list because it was all so true, but then it also made me think of the things that have annoyed or frustrated me with various worship leaders over the years. I get the chance to sit in a lot of services of various style, but here are a few that have stood out to me...

--The Diva, you know the one, they go off on tangents of vocal drama that leave everyone watching in disbelief at what's happening...not in a good way

--The Rockstar, this guy usually shows up with a hangover...ya he's cool, but not THAT cool

--The Employee, it's obvious to everyone in the building that they're only here for the paycheck.

--The Choir Director, do we really need you to turn your back to us to direct the choir... really?

--The Teacher, I appreciate you helping me out by telling me the words before we repeat them in song, but they are on the screens and I can read...

Finish the last three . . .

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Truth, Beauty, Goodness~ Art Focus

So, here are few select articles / events that have captured my attention as of late if you're interested in being a redemptive catalyst in society through the arts. Enjoy!

Serve the Music: my Generation, and Yours

Q & A with Andi Ashworth, Art House America
by Cardus

My wife and I have been on a journey of discovery the past ten years or so. I've had a growing sense of God's calling to serve creatives by helping facilitate their journey into becoming the people God dreams they can become. A retreat and training centre has always been a part of that long term dream. A space where people can come,
rest, be refreshed, renewed and inspired. I had a chance to visit the Art House on Charlie Peacock's invitation back in the mid-nineties. I didn't know then what I had stumbled upon, nor that it would somehow inspire me along the path God has laid for our family.

The work I do with Art House America is about hospitality, art, and Christian studies. My husband and I live in a special place, a renovated, country church in Nashville, Tennessee that was built in 1912. Our home is called the Art House and it includes a recording studio and offices. Since moving in many years ago, we've worked to make this place a home for our family, but also a gathering place for other people—mainly artists, musicians, and songwriters who need nurture in some way. In all these years we've been working to create a place where good can happen. That might be good music, good conversation over a meal, or the good that comes from hearing an author or a teacher speak about a topic they understand because of their life experience and study. We do a lot of mentoring, encouraging younger people to develop curious and imaginative minds and apply the teachings of Jesus to every part of life. My husband, Charlie, helps young folks develop as artists and people of faith, always with the hope that God's musical people will become vital, active participants in the music of our culture."

Altars to Unknown Gods: A Christian Approach to Contemporary Art
by Daniel A. Siedell

This is a refreshing and much needed synthesis of a heart for God and a heart for the arts which gives voice to some of the more polarizing trends in the Christian community shaping it's stance towards the arts. Change is needed!

"Dostoyevsky once said that beauty would save the world. Most Christian writing on the visual arts, however, is a betrayal of the depth and profundity of the Christian tradition that Dostoyevsky represents. It reflects the negativity and superficiality of contemporary cultural discourse rather than the living tradition of the church as Christ’s presence in the world."

Michael Card & Francis Schaeffer-Art, a Response to Beauty
from the Faith & Culture devotional

What a progressive venture . . combining voices that seek to source the convergence of Christian faith with a deeply rooted respect for the created order and the creations inspired by that order. I think I need one!

This is how I too want to be known—as a broken man whose work reveals hope and grace—grace from a loving God who himself has been broken. My belief is that Christians would not feel marginalized in the art world if we were to adopt this stance—of the exile, of the broken, rather that of the triumphalist."

Tight Times Loosen Creativity
by Robin Pogrebin

How encouraging it is to see creatives freed to be guided by inspiration rather than provision. Who would have expected that lean times economically / financially would have helped artists find their voice, their calling, their '
telos'? The time for hearty growth seems to be in a sparse landscape!

"I don’t have the ability to make everything I would like, nor do I have the ability to create works as complex as I might want due to financial constraints. However this time gives me the chance to refine my practice. I apply for grants, exhibitions and public arts programming, and I’m happy to wait. Nothing worth having doesn’t take hard work and time to attain.”

Exit Concerts
by ???

Hmmmm, this is interesting. There is something emerging on the ridge. What could it be?? Wait, hold on here . . it's some of the most respected talent in their genre within the music industry hosting mass scale gigs for the masses . . for FREE!

Free Book and a Review

Well heeeellllooo there. I've not been as prolific in writing or making posts as I'd like to have been the past month or so. I guess I do have to give myself a bit of a break since my wife and I did just increase our family size by one more child six weeks ago. (Keely Hope's in the hiz-zouse!)

I was meant to do this a year ago. I failed. I was offered an opportunity to review a book and post some of my thoughts here by the book's launch date, but I didn't. I bet the author is glad I wasn't asked to give an endorsement! I did get through the book, but because of other activities / commitments during the end of last summer, the deadline was not met and then it faded into the recesses of my mind . . only to reappear on occasions like an abscess in your gums - just wanting it to go away. Well . . I wouldn't let it. I said I would do this and I am. If you stick through this brief review, and answer (correctly) the contest question at the end of the review, you'll get a *FREE* copy of the book sent to you (yes, anywhere in the world). Let's go!


The book in question is called 'Wild Goose Chase - Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God' and it's by Mark Batterson (the same author of 'In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day').

Firstly, this book came at just the right time for Christy and I. I had been struggling to believe God for the 'impossible' - or the seemingly out-of-reach. I was making general requests in my conversations with God - not trusting Him for the God-sized requests I wanted to ask Him for. Then came Wild Goose Chase . . I was suitably challenged and inspired!

I had never read Mark's other book mentioned above and had only recently heard about him. If you'd like more info on Mark and where he pastors in Washington D.C. go here. What caught my imagination at the start was the title of the book. Wild Goose Chase is a play on a phrase. The most obvious is the popular meaning of a wild goose chase being, "a foolish and hopeless pursuit of something unattainable". Mark was playing the phrase from a different angle. He was borrowing from a theme in ancient Celtic Christian lore that saw the wild goose as an illustration of the Holy Spirit - contextualised to the experience of people living in this island at the time. There were some aspects of the wild goose which reminded t hese early Christians of the characteristics of the Holy Spirit and it's activity their lives.

The other aspect of Mark's book that I really enjoyed was his stance / attitude to living courageously - 'recklessly abandoning himself to God'. This was a HUGE area of resonance with me. I have always likened being in relationship with God as being on an adventure of a lifetime where you don't know what He'll do in, through or around you at any given time. It's this understanding that has predicated the past twenty plus years of life in the love of God, it's what set the stage for Christy and I to work at Willow Creek Community Church in the late nineties, to move to N. Ireland to work with young people and to relocate to the Republic of Ireland three plus years ago in an effort to live missionally among the people God has called us to serve. Adventure and 'risk' runs R-E-D in my blood and in Mark Batterson's - if I read him rightly.

There were, at times, aspects of his style of writing that I didn't really track with. Some of it is no doubt the strong 'Americanisms' which have become somewhat foreign to me. If you're an American who's been living outside the States for any length of time, or a non-American, you'll know what I mean. The other thing that grated on me just a bit was Mark's tendency to state regularly throughout his writing a phrase which, to me, connotated an aire of 'know-it-all'. More than once he employed a variation of the phrase, ". . this is a little something I like to call . . .". I'm in no way saying that he actually thinks that way or means to give that aire. That was simply my experience of it - and it was minor to my reading of him.

Some aspects of the book well illustrated the overall theme of Mark's writing such as the chapter titles:
  • Yawning Angels
  • Goose Bumps
  • Dictatorship of the Ordinary
  • Eight-foot Ceilings
  • A Rooster's Crow
  • Sometimes it Takes a Shipwreck
  • Good Old-Fashioned Guts
  • Madonna of the Future

The following selection of quotes were also indicative of the flavor of Wild Goose Chase:

". . in my experience, intellectual analysis usually results in spiritual paralysis." [pg. 2]

"I wonder if churches do to people what zoos do to animals." [pg. 5]

". . the cage opens when we realize that Jesus didn't die on the cross to to keep us safe. Jesus died to make us dangerous." [pg. 6]

"You cannot simultaneously live by faith and be bored. Faith and boredom are antithetical." [pg. 7]

"I am determined to pursue God-ordained passions until the day I die. Life is too precious to settle for anything less." [pg. 16]

"Here is the mistake that so many of us make: we start out pursuing a passion and end up settling for a paycheck. So instead of making a life, all we do is make a living." [pg. 17]

With many more exhortations, insights, stories and illustrations Mark was used by the Wild Goose (Holy Spirit) to move, inspire, challenge and encourage me to, as St. Ignatius said, 'whole-heartedly surrender myself into the loving care of God' (paraphrase).
Now, if you are suitably intrigued and are experiencing a growing desire to read, reflect and act on Mark Batterson's challenge to us in Wild Goose Chase, answer the following question and I'll mail / post a copy of the book out to you - anywhere in the world!

In the opening pages, Mark mistakingly translates the Irish phrase, "An Geadh-Glas" as 'Wild Goose'. What is the literal translation of this phrase?

The firs t person to correctly answer this question in it's entirety - wins! Go!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hero Worship

Could this be my next new read? I bought 'Hero Worship' by Thomas Carlyle (published 1872) a couple of years back at a shop in Oxford, England just down from the Eagle and Child pub. It's where C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and others used to meet as 'The Inklings' for conversation and to evaluate each others' work. The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia emerged out of those sessions together! We went down and had lunch in their very spot afterwards. Talk about awe-inspiring! The table of contents of this book looks so interesting. I remember a statement attributed to Lewis where he said, ' . . For every contemporary book you read- read two ancient ones' (over 100 yrs old). So, 'Hero Worship' fits the bill my friends!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A New Man for a New Era

I recently spotted these around the city during my new ad campaign. Not bad, eh?

Community Dance-Off!

This made my heart smile (and consequently my face too)!

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Compelling (Rhythm of) Life: Four

Here's the fourth section for those of you following this progressive revelation of a 'Rhythm of Life'. We're nearing the end now. This section follows on from the first, second and third posts (read first) . . . and give me some feedback please. Either no one is interested, makes the time to comment or cares at all. Anyone who has any thoughts on this stuff I'd welcome your insights, questions, experiences. Thanks!


Dreamer Values
After some time exploring and reflecting on what it means to live out the vocation of a Dreamer - no matter our specific calling - a few trends began to emerge which were then translated into Values describing our modus operandi (or ‘way of operating’). As with nearly all that we are offering here in the Dreamers Rhythm of Life, these are up for discussion and revision as more people opt into becoming a member of the community and begin living into this Rhythm. The over-arching vocation of the Dreamer is the title in bold italics, the Values are in bold and each Values’ m.o., or how the Value is worked out, is stated below them in italics. The Values appear in no particular order.

Being Redemptive Agents in Culture

Investing in Others
  • Facilitating God’s Dream for the Individual
    • What is it for Each Person?
    • Moving in the Direction of God’s Invitation to Relationship and Partnership

Celebrating Creativity

  • Partnering in Collaborative Ventures
  • Blessing and Participating in the Good, True and Beautiful
  • Releasing / Encouraging Others

Respecting the Image of God in Creation

  • Giving Voice to / Addressing the Needs of Others
  • Preserving / Cultivating our Home Planet
    • Human Relationships
    • Animal life
    • Plant life

Living a Life of Integrity

  • Living in Community as we follow Jesus’ example
    • Authenticity (Generosity)
    • Transparency (Self-Control)
    • Intentionality (Service)

Striving for Excellence

  • Doing the Best We Can With What We Have
    • Giving Our Lives in Response to God Giving His to Us
    • Living Out of Those Places God has Put a Fire In Our Souls

Defacing Superficiality

  • Creating Space for Depth
    • Engendering Conversation
    • Welcoming Questions and Doubts
    • Embracing the Uncomfortable for the Sake of Growth

We believe that the practice of reflecting upon and writing down the Values we live out of enables us to be more intentional in our efforts, more passionate in our prayer and less frenzied in our daily routines. Through the practice of writing out those things we value, we are inviting each other into the deliberate activity of continually revising how we are investing ourselves in life as the Spirit of God leads. The Dreamer Values are those things that inform our practice and pursuit day to day. We are visible signs to one another of how our Values are lived out, just as in the case of the Classic Principles and Distinctive Practices. The Community is a safe place to experiment and practice living life in the Way of Jesus and in the Rhythm of a Dreamer.

"Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire; you will what you imagine; and at last you create what you will."

- George Bernard Shaw; Irish poet & playwright

Dreamer Objectives
Finally, after a period of conversation and introspection, a number of Objectives have arisen which the Community would like to continually work toward. Some Objectives are long-term, others medium-term and a couple are continual. They are, as are most things in this Rhythm of Life, up for discussion and revision. We would like to keep the Objectives to a maximum of five in order to concentrate our efforts and sharpen our focus. When those Objectives that are time-bound or task related have been accomplished, new Objectives may be added to replace them. The accomplishment of agreed upon Objectives encourages the Community to mature, builds into our collective history and offers us opportunity to directly influence culture-at-large. The following Objectives are listed below in no particular order.

  • The provision of a retreat facility in Ireland to facilitate creative enterprises and personal growth
  • To facilitate networking between people engaged in creative practice
  • To facilitate the training and education of individuals and groups for creative practice
  • The provision of counseling services, care services, soul friendship and other support services for persons requiring them for the advancement of their holistic well-being
  • To promote and support the creativity of communities, groups and individuals within the island of Ireland and beyond

“The reason we are not able to see God is the faintness of our desire.”

- Meister Eckhart; Christian Mystic

Christianity, Contemporary Art and Beauty

This is a partial post from friend Ben Edson which I highly resonate with. Read on:

'I have come to the conclusion that if Christian critics and intellectuals can’t find Christ in the contemporary art world then all I can suggest is that they have not looked closely enough. And looking closely is what an art critic as well as a Christian is supposed to do. For it is in looking closely at the world, including art, that we can open ourselves up to the presence of Christ. And that is risky business, indeed; perhaps too risky for many who serve as the cultural gatekeepers of our souls'.

This is from a fascinating article by
Daniel Siedell on exploring a Christian approach to contemporary art. He also talks about the importance of beauty, something that resonates with me missiologically . . ."

Finish the brief post =>

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Pastoral Care in the DigITal World

The Church of Ireland Working Group of the Social Justice and Theology Committee (Republic of Ireland) of Church in Society has recently released a small booklet in print and PDF format. Launched in March 2009 in Church House, Dublin, Ireland, it seeks to highlight pastoral opportunities along with dangers and risks which are offered by easy communication and access to information in the web-world of today. It's really a simple cursory look at some current and emerging issues which all clergy, care-givers, parents and youth workers should invest some thought into how to guide and optimize opportunities in today's western society.

You can download a PDF version HERE.

Any thoughts which may arise from it would be very welcome.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

The Eternal City Is Aflame!

One week ago I returned from Rome. I don’t mean to play into all the hype, but I’m still buzzing. It was more than memorable - it’s already calling me back.

I was there on a four day trip through my work. I know, I can hear some of you already mockingly saying, “Work?!” - yes, work - although truthfully it wasn’t much like it. One of my colleagues coordinated a trip to the city and surrounding countryside as a mini retreat for about twenty of our youth leaders within the Church of Ireland. It wasn’t free, just heavily subsidized. We had only two days and a bit there - one at a retreat centre in the hills south of Rome and the other in the city itself. Words fail in this brief article.

While descending over Rome, an amber sun was setting over the Mediterranean. We soon gathered our belongings and in the growing darkness made our way into the foothills at the base of an extinct volcano. You could make out some of the topography of the landscape from the lights of homes which were stacked upon one another on the rugged hills. It was magic. We soon arrived at our destination- a former monastic site on the edge of Lake Albano which had been built over the site of a former Roman Consul’s villa, which was, in turn, built near to the site of the first capital of the Latini’s - the very people who later founded the Eternal City.

When we awoke in the morning my soul was saturated in the natural beauty of the area. It was something out of a travel agent’s office or a real estate episode on Mediterranean properties. I was in awe. I would open the bathroom window and see before me a seven hundred foot drop of cascading green trees, standing like sentinels around the edges of the volcanic lake. Across the other side of the lake was Castle Gandolfo, the summer residence of the Pope for many centuries, and behind it was the shining Mediterranean. Can you say idyllic? I could have left my second Italian experience with just this soul satisfying encounter, but Rome was waiting.

We were overly ambitious to attempt such a magnificent city in one day. It’s boastful to do so, but a day is all we had. So with the gusto (Italian derivative!) that only a bunch of youth workers can muster, we began our sunny tour of the City of Seven Hills. As our bus entered the actual city some megalithic structures came into view such as remains of an aqueduct, one of the Vatican’s four churches around Rome and a statue of St. Francis of Assisi - Italy’s patron saint - with real birds mounting his outstretched hands. Seems like St. Francis’s moniker (the patron saint of animals) holds true with the animals to this day. Our day continued with a visit to the Coliseum, Vatican, Spanish Steps, Forum and my favorite - the Trevi Fountain. I think the Pantheon could have held first place had we been early enough to get inside - although the simple exterior at night even commanded attention and respect.

While walking through these storied and unique architectural remnants of a vast former world power, my mind began to draw together recorded human history in a single glance. I thought of other empires that had left legacies - the Sumerians, the Assyrians, the Egyptians, the Greeks and the British - all whom at one time enjoyed (abused?) the role of being known as the world’s ‘super power’. Casting my eye across the broken statues, crumbling temples and disintegrating seats of power, I was reminded about the brevity of life and the pitiful self-absorption of humankind manifested in governmental regimes. It’s not that coordinated efforts for a healthier, happier life are in themselves bad, it’s the assumptions that almost every historic ‘empire’ has made about it’s own efficacy, dominance and influence. Possibly not until the tell-tale signs of the end - the inward collapse of those societies - did their citizens ever imagine the possibility of their position of power ceasing to be what it was.

There is something in this for us, as Americans, to consider as the purported ‘super power’ of the world. One day America will cease to hold that position on the world’s stage. It will transfer to another people of another place whom at this time we might never imagine it could. Our century or so of seemingly limitless plenitude in every sphere of this young civilization will one day recede from where it now enjoys relative safety. This current recession has reminded us of our humanity . . and the brokenness that defines it. It has been a reality check for those of us who fall all too easily into trusting our impotent efforts to ‘control’ life and manage our fear of the unknown. Could it be that some future tourist will traverse the remains of one of our biggest cities and entertain similar thoughts as I did in Rome? Time will, most definitely, tell.

I’ve lived outside my home country for ten years now and the experience of those ten years has made me more grateful for America - even more patriotic in a different sort of way. I have a deep love for the land of my people and of my birth, but the experience of Rome has brought home the all too uncomfortable reminder that we dare not place too much trust in ourselves or the society to which we belong. We have One in which our trust is never misplaced because He changes not. The lesson of history bears this out, that those who trust ultimately in themselves or the merits of their civilization always end up with the short end of the stick. Yes, work for the good of your neighbors (local and global), your town or city and the country in which God has planted you, but do not release yourself to rest in the comforts it now provides for you.

Timeless words from the book of Psalms, chapter twenty remind us of where our real rest can be found, “See those people polishing their chariots, and those others grooming their horses? But we're making garlands for God our God. The chariots will rust, those horses pull up lame— and we'll be on our feet, standing tall.” [vs. 7-8, The Message]. A blip down the corridor of history later, we’re reminded of the same truth in first Peter chapter one, via the prophet Isaiah, “Now that you've cleaned up your lives by following the truth, love one another as if your lives depended on it. Your new life is not like your old life. Your old birth came from mortal sperm; your new birth comes from God's living Word. Just think: a life conceived by God himself! That's why the prophet said, ‘The old life is a grass life, its beauty as short-lived as wildflowers; Grass dries up, flowers droop, God's Word goes on and on forever.’ This is the Word that conceived the new life in you.” [vs. 22-25, The Message].

Live it and really live.

Friday, May 01, 2009

The Kids Will Love This!

Creativity Out Of Nothing

As a fledgling writer I recognise the need to keep reading as well as being around other creatives who encourage, inspire and with whom I may collaborate. One thing that God has been recently impressing upon me is the need to engage in times of silence and solitude so that my soul (and therefore my creativity) can be preserved, renewed and inspired. It's akin to one of the oldest stories we know, "In the beginning God created . . ." He did so 'ex nihilo' or out of nothing. I think I am beginning to realise that He calls us to do the same. It's in those spaces of silence and solitude that He is continually - perpetually - making something in me out of that nothingness. In silence and solitude all of my honours, medals, accolades - whatever - is stripped from me and I only bring myself. It's there that I accumulate the gravitas of becoming that person God dreams I can become rather than my feeble attempts to add value to my life by those things I seek to amass (oftentimes by comparison with others). Creativity is born from the change within me - that work that only the Creator can do - in my moments of releasing it all before He Who Is.