Monday, September 29, 2014

Rend Collective Concert Recap

Chicago traffic added more than an hour to our trip. There was no restaurant within a 10-minute radius from the church venue, so we grabbed some snacks at a lonely Walgreens nearby. Due to our lateness, we had to sit on the far side of the balcony. But it was a landmark refreshing experience, both spiritually and musically.

Rend Collective (formerly known as Rend Collective Experiment) is a family of songwriters and worship leaders from Ireland who've been around for a few years but are starting to get some deserved international attention. My wife bought me their album Handmade Worship by Homemade People last Christmas, which shows impressive versatility. In this album, they matched the skills and creativity of any professional worship band, as well as Sarah MacLachlan and Mumford, and they involved the banjo, cello, dulcimer, mallet percussion and brass, just to name a few instruments. Their latest album, The Art of Celebration, was released this past St. Patrick's Day and focuses on Celtic folk very well. Their currently on their Art of Celebration Tour.

Rend Collective's lyrics and approach are very mature and biblical. They refuse to list band member names on their albums and say there are no rockstars here, just servants. "Collective" refers to the fact that we are all the Body of Christ. One member took time to tell us about Compassion International, while another told us about the devotional theme of the album.

"I don't know about you Americans," he said, "but us Irish are really grumpy. Don't believe the Lucky Charms. This is why it's called 'the art of celebration,' not 'the natural inclination to celebration.'" Through the lyrics of the songs, we were all well-encouraged to celebrate our freedom from condemnation and the power and love of God, and to choose joy.

Rend Collective is a creative, mature and much-needed addition to the playlist of Christian worshippers today. Again, their live worship leadership was a very refreshing and encouraging experience. If you're not familiar with Rend Collective's work, I'd encourage you to visit their website and YouTube page. Below is their video about the story of their most recent album.


Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday Fun: KLM's Lost & Found

As someone who has flown KLM in and out of Amsterdam, I think this is creative and innovative customer service.

But what about the people who are horribly allergic to dogs? And if someone left homework, would the dog eat it instead of returning it?

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Novel Christian Worshippers Should Read

TGC's Justin Taylor is finishing a blog series (with guest writers) on what novels Christians should read. After some thought, I thought I'd add one to the list. When I studied philosophy of the arts, I was required to read through My Name is Asher Lev, a fictional story about a painting prodigy named Asher Lev, born into a Hasidic Jewish family in 1950's Brooklyn. It's still on my shelf.

The story will strike a chord for many. It portrays the tension between uninhibited artistic genius (similar to what we say in Forman's Amadeus) and religious tradition. My Name is Asher Lev will can raise many questions about the purpose of art, especially in religious contexts, and what religious traditions can mean to the artistic community.

You can read about and order the book here. I would have loved to see it become a movie, and may have to buy the sequel.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Must Art Be Evangelistic to Be Christian?

HT: Alex Medina

Out of our zeal we have only given merit and value to things that are evangelistic or seeking to communicate Christian doctrine. Only then have we labeled it to be "Christian" when in reality Christianity is "not just involved with 'salvation' but with the total man in the total world," as Francis Schaeffer would say.

You can read the rest here.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Christianity in Iraq is Finished

Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters
An important read from The Washington Post:

In the part of his Sept. 10 speech on confronting the Islamic State that probably drew the least attention, President Obama mentioned the need to help Christians and other minorities, expelled from cities and villages in northern Iraq, return from where they came. “We cannot allow these communities to be driven from their ancient homeland,” he said.
Obama got that wrong. Christians, of whom around 120,000 have taken refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan, will not be going home even if their tormentors suddenly disappear.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Why I Stopped Hating Christian Music

Beatrice Murch/Flickr
Some provocative thoughts from a new blogger at ChristianityToday.

My beef is that even though the music has such high production values and is performed by such high caliber musicians, it often lacks realness and authenticity. Amazingly, it manages to sound shallow even when talking about ideas of incredible depth. The lyrics are prosaic and affected, and the themes that it covers are shockingly narrow. There are the "I'm a bad person but you love me anyway" songs, the "Teach me to love like you songs", and the "Don't give up" songs. Aaaand, that's about it. Of course, I'm being facetious and stupid, which comes as no surprise to those of you who read this blog regularly.
But in mid-tooth grit this week, I realized something that made me have a lot more respect and compassion for people who are in the Christian music industry: they are in a ridiculously impossible position.
You can read the rest here.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday Fun: Worship Leader In-Ear Monitors

HT: Jon Acuff and Gabriel Lytle

It's becoming more common that wireless in-ear monitors (complete with customized-fit molds) will be worn, unused, by worship leaders and other musicians between (and maybe before and after) church services. I guess they're a bit more comfortable than headset wireless mics and not enough people are saying, "Your in-ears are showing/dangling." Will this become a new inadvertent fashion?

You can read one meditation on the subject here.

Have a good weekend everyone!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Culture, Kingdom and Worship

Some inspirational words here.

The best kept secret in the Christian life is that everything we do matters to God. Some Christians have the idea that pastors and missionaries are doing “kingdom work,” but the rest of us are not. In this post, I’d like to show how every dimension of human life and culture—work and leisure, art and science, politics and economics, sports and competition, homemaking and education—is ripe with potential to honor God the King. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

From Bono to Billy Graham

Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
Bono, U2's frontman, wrote a very appreciative poem to Billy Graham. I must admit I don't recall seeing this on display in Charlotte 3 years ago. Perhaps it's a more recent addition or I missed it. The Huffington Post, most likely because of U2's new (free) album, recently wrote about Bono's friendship with Billy Graham, including photos of the poem and other media regarding Bono's appreciation for Graham and his ministry.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

"The Great Divorce" On Stage

Aside from The Chronicles of Narnia, my favorite story from C.S. Lewis is likely The Great Divorce. I read it as a teenager, and I still remember some of its poignant portrayals of Scriptural truth. I dreamed that one day it would become a movie.

Well, it seems my dream is coming (partially) true.

Max McLean, who has recorded audio versions of the Bible and has given us a theatrical portrayal of C.S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters, has now put together The Great Divorce as a touring play. Hoping it comes to more cities in the Midwest soon!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Questioning My Football Fan-hood

Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
It's been a rough weekend for me as a football fan. The Iowa Hawkeyes lost to their in-state rival, the Iowa State Cyclones, and the Minnesota Vikings got slaughtered by the New England Patriots. But, worst of all, Adrian Peterson, the all-star running back for the Minnesota Vikings, got indicted for felony child abuse.

Vikings fans, myself included, are blindsided. Impressive football statistics aside, this is the same Adrian Peterson who helps selflessly set up and tore down equipment before and after practice, produces countless charities, humbly attributed his miraculous recovery and comeback year (2012) to God and Twittered from the book of Romans. He was the face of the franchise with his athletic ability, impressive stats, and moral and charitable character. So yeah, this is a big deal.

Here are a couple of striking paragraphs from a popular Vikings fan blogger, reacting to the allegations against Adrian Peterson:

Look, I quit being the moral arbiter of what players do sometime after the Love Boat fiasco in 2005. I came to the conclusion that if a team can put up with the irresponsible actions of their players, I can cheer for them for three hours on Sunday, and not give them a second thought the other six days and 21 hours. Still, I've been a fan of this team for over 40 years, and this is the most dumbfounded I've ever been.

Think about that for a second. For ALL the gross buffoonery we've had to deal with, and that's really saying something for this franchise, this one makes me the sickest of all of them and really makes me question why I cheer for this team.  

The unfortunate thing is, of course, that it's not just the Vikings. There's Ray Rice, Ben Roethlisberger, Michael Vick and the Saints' "Bountygate," just to name a few, that all seem to show the "moral vacancy" of the NFL. Add that to the plethora of permanent damage to mind and body that we see in retired players, and the Washington Post is asking NFL fans to quit

I like football. I really do. I was never really a player, but the pep/marching band trombonist in high school. Football is one of the things I like about the fall, when you can enjoy the crisp air and colorful leaves and celebrate regional community and pride. As a sport, in my opinion, football stands out to fans as a game of fascinating strategy with the right level of watchable intensity. 

But has the gold mine (or Steinbeck's pearl) of college and professional football reduced it to a game of barbarism and permanent injury? It certainly seems that way, and that's why I'm seriously questioning my fan-hood.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday Fun: Clever Onion Article

I can't agree with some of its content, but every once in a while The Onion takes a random clever thought and turns it into a short funny article that makes me chuckle. And they've done it again. Today's headline: 

Person Standing Far Away From Burial Must Have Deep, Dark Secret About Deceased

Heh. Look what movies and TV make us think.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Prayer for This 9/11 Anniversary

     Dear Lord Jesus, it’s the day on our calendar that now has its own dark branding, “9/11.” There have been many days in history that stand out as graphic reminders of the pervasive brokenness of the world; but in my lifetime, no day in American history tells that story more clearly than September 11, 2001.
     I’ll never forget how it felt watching the twin towers of the World Trade Center crumble to the earth. It was chilling, frightful, and surreal. But as I remember that day of extreme terror and trauma, I also choose to remember you, Lord Jesus. Otherwise I would stew in despair, give into fear, or be driven to rage.
     Lord Jesus, you are the Prince of Peace—the archetypal Peacemaker. You are the one who has come to make all things new, to restore broken things, and to bring new creation delight from old creation decay.
     Your death on the cross was the ultimate sowing of peace. As you died, taking the judgment we deserve, you were planted as the very “seed” which has secured an eternal harvest of righteousness. Your death was the death of death itself, and the promise of eternal shalom.
     Because of you, terror is terrified, and trauma is traumatized. Indeed, because of you, one Day there will be no terror, trauma or tears. There will be no more brokenness or barrenness; no more heartaches or heartburn; no more human trafficking or human tooth decay; no more war or irritation; no more evil or envy; no more poverty, pouting or pettiness.
     Our labors in you, King Jesus, are not in vain. Because of you we can, and must, live as peacemakers—sowing the peace of the gospel of the kingdom, with theabsolute assurance, that a harvest of righteousness is being raised and will be reaped.
     We praise you that your name is Redeemer, Reconciler, and Restorer. We cry aloud, “Maranatha!” Come, Lord Jesus, come! Until that Day, give us all the mercy, grace, and peace we need for this day. So very Amen we pray, with great joy and living hope.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ray Rice and Domestic Abuse

Keith Allison/Flickr
In light of Baltimore Raven Ray Rice's virtual termination from the NFL (since the release of a video of him beating his then-fiancee in an elevator), social media has been replete with the topic of domestic abuse. Here's a good and informed piece on domestic abuse as well as a call to action for Christians.

HT: Justin and Lindsey Holcomb

Monday, September 8, 2014

Gungor, Dan Haseltine and Doubt

As someone who grew up on Jars of Clay's music and has been impressed with Gungor's artistic creativity and ministerial heart, I appreciate Trevin Wax's mediative analysis.

The left’s response to Gungor and Jars of Clay was to celebrate an artist’s willingness to boldly “ask questions,” to be “authentic,” and to reformulate Christianity in ways that take into consideration our contemporary setting. The conservative response was to decry these artists as defectors from the faith and to write them and their questions off.
My Facebook feed was filled with both responses – those who praised the courage and creativity of Gungor, and those who condemned their unorthodox views. Both attitudes left me unsatisfied.
You can read the rest here.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Seven Foundational Bible Verses on Praise and Worship

Here are a pastor/author's favorite 7 verses on praise and worship.

1. Psalm 150:1-6
2. Ephesians 5:19
3. John 4:23
4. Hebrews 13:15
5. Psalm 22:3
6. Colossians 3:16
7. Psalm 95:6

Click here for the explanations.

HT: Jack Wellman

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

"Sing Over Me" Trailer

Yesterday was my daughter's first day of kindergarten at a Christian school. My wife and I were asked to attend the school's opening chapel service. My daughter, being the brave lover of music she is, quickly answered the call to go up on the stage and help every sing "You Are My All in All." She was the only one who knew the motions. I remember how much I enjoyed the song's simple-yet-powerful lyrics and musical canon possibilities when I was in junior high.

Little did I know that there's an upcoming documentary on the life of this song's writer, Dennis Jernigan. You can read more info about it, view its trailer (and even learn about a possible free viewing!) here.