a new world

Here is fantastic quote from Seth Godin’s latest blog entry, “The forever recession (and the coming revolution).”  To read the full thing go to his site.

Job creation is a false idol. The future is about gigs and assets and art and an ever-shifting series of partnerships and projects. It will change the fabric of our society along the way. No one is demanding that we like the change, but the sooner we see it and set out to become an irreplaceable linchpin, the faster the pain will fade, as we get down to the work that needs to be (and now can be) done.

This quote exemplifies why I continue to read Godin’s blog: he gives me hope.  Not the sort of hope you get from knowing where you are going after you die, but the kind of hope that says, “There are as many possibilities as you can imagine; go for it.”  My future does not need to fit a description in some cosmic job manual; my future job can be just about whatever I want it to be.  In the new age of jobs, imagination and creativity rule, not conformity and replication.

The Week Before

Last week I wanted to encourage some of our worship leaders.  Here is what I shared with them.

God is able to prepare you in unique ways to lead the songs you choose.  Look for little clues during the week about how you can make the morning personal.  When you lead on Sunday you want to be able to share a small piece of yourself with the congregation so that they can see how God is working the message of the songs/morning out in your own life.

The most important thing you can do after reading, meditating on, and praying through the text, is to sit down with no distractions and listen/sing completely through each song in order and see what your heart and mind tell you about how you should transition to the next song.  Sometimes you will feel like you need to go immediately into the next song, and other times unique lyrical connections between the songs will present themselves to you.

This is the practical voice of God.  As we “work out” our leadership, God “works through” us to communicate what he wants to communicate.  When I fail as a worship leader, it usually is because I have not spent enough time on this step and I am just leading songs.

The greatest misnomer in worship leadership is calling the person up front the “song leader.”  You are not a song leader; you are a worship leader.  The parallel Hebrew term is “cantor,” which means “leader of prayer.”

Have a prayerful attitude throughout the week and keep the songs in your mind and you will do well.  Then just have fun.  In the end, however, God interacts with us like the famous film Chariots of Fire communicates, where the runner says,

“When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.”

As you use your gift with a heart to please him you will feel his pleasure, and there is no greater feeling.

In what other ways do you prepare to lead worship?

an apology

I must apologize for dropping off the face of the blogging world the past week or so. I am in the middle of a permanent move from north to south United States and have barely the time to catch my breath. I promise to join you shortly.
I won’t be gone long . . .

mysterious God

Ever met anyone who had it all figured out?  Did their attitude bug you?  How about the used-to-be-friend who went to see a movie you have been waiting anxiously to see and then told you the ending to the movie before you could stop them?

What do these things have in common?  The mystery is gone.  Life is nothing without a little mystery, movies lose much of their interest (at least for me) if we know the details of the ending, and the same goes true for God.  The moment you decide you know everything about God he has ceased to be God.  You never know how deep the rabbit hole will go, they say.  The same is true with God.  You will never get to the bottom of who he is.  If you bring him down to your level then he is, well, not up there where he is supposed to be in your view of him.  ( I know, very profound.  That statement will end up in some systematic theology somewhere).

If you ever hear someone say that they have finally figured God out, turn and run.  Aside from the absolutes of the holiness of God, the deity of Christ and the good news, we have many points of belief which we will never really understand until we reach heaven.  Even then, God never promised to explain everything to us.

Cultivate a humble attitude towards the knowledge of God, and everything else, for that matter.  You don’t know it all, and life is more beautiful with a little mystery.

P.S. Bonus for the rest of us: You are a lot less annoying if you do not act like a know-it-all.

ivory towers

The other day it occurred to me that being a purist often leads to a solitary existence. In a utopia where no one gets a big head and where perfection is possible we can talk about purism, but here on earth purism leads to isolation and arrogance.

Since life is about people and few things in life are worth dying for outside of faith, family and freedom, we have scant space in our lives for purism; our lives will always be “contaminated” at some level. Which leads me to this decision:

You can have your high minded purism in it’s lonely company with itself and a few other high minded individuals; I will enjoy my lowly art surrounded by friends and the knowledge that what I do is impacting lives for the better.

ridiculous church

Do you ever go through the motions spiritually at church?  The fact is we probably all do at some time.  We’re human, so that is not so much of a surprise.  The problem is what we do when we realize what we are doing.

We can a) keep the facade up so that everyone thinks we’re spiritual, or b) confess that sin (yes, that is what it is) to God and try again.  I have to do go through this cycle almost daily, and probably every Sunday.  I’ve been going to church since I was a kid, so I KNOW how to go through the motions.  I found a link to this Youtube video on Michael Hyatt’s site.  See if it rings true at all . . . . .

What Arcade Fire Can Teach Us About Text Painting

This weekend at Lakeshore Community Church we are performing Modern Man by Arcade Fire. Initially I chose this song for the service because the text so clearly depicts a generation struggling to find purpose and direction (check out the review of their album Suburbs, which includes Modern Man, in Relevant Magazine), and the service has to do with commitment and maturity and the link between them.

Here are some of the lyrics:

So I wait in line, I’m a modern man
And the people behind me, they don’t understand
Makes me feel like
Something don’t feel right

Like a record that’s skipping, I’m a modern man
And the clock keeps ticking, I’m a modern man
Makes me feel like
Makes me feel like

And later in the song:

If it’s so right
Then how come you can’t sleep at night
In line for a number but you don’t understand
Like a modern man

Arcade Fire paints a picture of a world where we are going through the motions without knowing why, a world where a generation is lining up behind the previous generation in lock step without any real purpose. Here “modern” becomes more than just a moniker for today; “modern” also defines the current generation – modernity – and the upcoming generation – postmodernity. Everyone in the “postmodern” culture is in danger of simply walking in the footsteps of the “modern” culture without a thought as to why. Every generation through the ages has been in danger of simply doing things “the way they have always been done” without properly questioning and, ultimately, owning ways of life as their own.

Beyond the brilliant poetry, however, is something which only the music can tell. Listening to the song for the first few times I was puzzled by the changes in meter until I started seeing the music itself through one particular line in the song:

Like a record that’s skipping

The entire song is a skipping record. Truly genius. Most of the public will never catch on, I am sure, because it is subtle. The vibe of the music itself, without this consideration, already paints a picture of a grayscale world going through the motions. With this detail, however, Arcade Fire puts themeselves into a higher level of songwriter, employing the time tested technique of text-painting.

During the Renaissance text painting most referred to madrigals, defined as part songs for several voices without instrumental accompaniment, especially English and Italian songs of the late 16th and early 17th centuries “in a free style strongly influenced by the text.” [Thank you, Mac dictionary.] Text painting in this context was blatant: trills for birds, ascending melodies for climbing images, “fa-la-la” sections for fun and “indescribable situations,” etc. Here is a link to the King’s Singers performing Now Is the Month of Maying, by Thomas Morley. Please forgive the atrocious outfits; these guys are the best. Great lyrics:

Each with his bonnie lass
Upon the greeney grass

Hmmmmm. Wonder what that is all about. Probably exactly what you’re thinking. Those salacious songwriters . . .

We digress. Arcade Fire is somewhat more subtle and turns text painting to a higher task of describing the transition from one generation to the next.

Enjoy. You just had a music history lesson. Hopefully you didn’t fall asleep.