Saturday, January 22, 2011

What's the point in blogging?

Read with brevity or just go “Bloggoff”

Blogs are not “articles” or written, re-written, edited and polished pieces of literature… They are hopefully, streams of thought that are honestly spoken from questioning and thinking bloggers. They are typed, posted and then "NOT" edited. Snippets of time. Like an ink journal you are sharing with others to hopefully and sometimes cathartic-ally learn about life from another perspective. I enjoy reading them from people I want to get more of life from. Those who I think I can glean something interesting or from. I think possibly we used to read daily editorials like this except they were and are edited and re-edited for time and content and syntax.

Articles and books sit in formulas of (filling space within set boundries till editors get them). I love the blog concept because I feel people are more honest, no one’s getting paid, mass employers are not “yet” hiring and firing from them like is happening in the FB world of S. Networking. I guess the honesty in blogging will end soon and some other virtual underground “Ap” will allow transparency to continue without fear or taxation.

Over the last few years there have been those who’ve contacted me and told me I should not be so transparent on issues and things in my blogs while working in the church movement. I think that’s exactly what the church needs.

I love the contact from others who are inspired and motivated and moved to desire to seek and be real in Christ, are the ones I want to care about. Bring me the prodigal not the Presbyterian. Unfortunately I’ll relate to one better than the other. I wonder who Jesus would rather hang around, to love on…

Do you find yourself skimming a lot of self-help books and thinking “geeze” did they have to take 200 pages to say – re-say – re-phrase and re-tool something over and over, that they could have taught and explained in 20 pages?

Now there are those that will look up and realize I’ve not quoted a scripture yet and therefore disregard this all as tripe. So sad…

I shared Christ to a young man the other night at 1AM on Facebook IM.

Someone I met years ago and watched grow up. Who hated parents, loved to fight and party and get high and smoke. I used to invite him to my backyard firepit cigar nights and we’d talk “real” about life and if possible – and if it went that direction- we’d talk about faith as well. He knew who I was. He knew my kids.

Many would say I was a bad influence on him. I would never offer him an adult beverage, but he on occasion would show up with one of his own like a badge of pride and I’d just smile and let him know where to throw a can.

Well, the other night out of nowhere I get a Facebook message from him. He lives in another state and is going for a dbl major in a college. And what do you think he contacts me to discuss? Cigars? Heck no. LIFE and how to navigate it.

Faith and how do I live it in an environment that is totally contrary to faith. How to navigate anti God people without turning them away from faith but sowing seeds of faith into them while they hate you? What denominations are good and why? Girls? Sex? Forgiveness, Lust, Rules, Commandments, Legalism, and Condemnation….

Well my fingers were burning, and you know what I realized very quickly?

My vocabulary for this young man (as hip as I might think I am) is so immersed in Christian speak that I had to erase and re-think many of my pat religious answers to simple and complex questions.

Hmmm. There it is.

When my day to day answers begin to have Greek, Hebrew, Aramic, mulit-sylabic Christian catch word foundations to my answers… I’ve become good for no one but my friends and fellow scholars. (OK forget it – I’m not a scholar, I take that back).

(this is a blog not a book – we are thinking and typing – remember J )

So somewhere after 2AM I said goodnight to my young friend. Jane was sleeping next to me with a light rumble and I lay there with HD cable on in the background as I prayed for this friend. Thanking God that He had trusted me enough to get close and real with him, so that later on he’d feel free to talk to me when he was ready to start a life dialogue. I have friends I’ve been waiting for these conversations with now for decades.

Much of this reminds me of being 15 again. I had just accepted Christ as my Savior alone in my room. I then baptized myself in a lake while fishing and prayed for the infilling of the Holy Spirit in my room. I wanted it all --- every gift of God from the Holy Spirit. I read the bible all day and night like a sponge. I was at odds with the trad. Church for not sharing “salvation” to me but just my neighborhood local church denominational “religion” and it’s set do’s and don’ts.

I was a radical. Abrasive and abusive. BUT. I did do it all in LOVE not judgment because I hadn’t learned that yet from the church. I just wanted people born again because I was so changed and happy and “found not lost” . I wanted people to experience that. Not because of a small group class or a book or a sermon series but because MY LIFE WAS CHANGED. Dear God I so still want that to be the only reason I share you with the world…

So back to my being 15.. Then I met this really cool priest at a Catholic Church.

Not being Catholic, he was a departure for me but I figured with his youth, passion and schooling, I could be honest with him about my frustrations of a lost world in need of Jesus.

What did he do for me that I still think about to this day? Not what you’d think and no priest jokes are necessary here…

We’d go play tennis and I’d rant about the church and how it’s not doing it’s job to share Christ as Savior and on and on. And I’d quote scripture at him about baptism and transliteration and the gift of tongues and and and… And what would he do. Over and over he’s hit the ball across the net or serve and say. “Craig F—kin lighten up would you. “ This priest would just say the craziest things about life and balancing life. Never heard him curse otherwise, just on the tennis court when he was trying to get me to “lighten up and relax” about my passion for the lost. Now I’m not suggesting any of us begin that method. It is not a word in use in my vocabulary, however His being “real” to me and honest and 0pen as a minister had a profound effect on me over the rest of the clergy I was surrounded with who seemed aloof, afar, untouchable, unreachable, over educated and over fed and I couldn’t get an hour of their time. I was only 15 and I could see the difference.

So is that what I’ve become? Do I relate to only those close to me, those in my narrow world? Do I without knowing, push all others away by my looks and speech and relate only to that 15 years older/younger window that Barna speaks of?

So here we are 2011, social networking is taking over all forms of communication in less than 300 characters. We’ve learned from media to speak in soundbytes.

Conventional books are going away. Newspapers already have. It’s monetary driven…78’s, 33’s, LP’s , Cassettes, CD’s, Dats, .wav, .aiff , mp3’s.. What goes by the wayside next in art and communication? Moving backgrounds on broadcasts have so rapidly taken over that even a static 100k HD camera shot looks boring after 10 seconds. How does this affect how we share a living faith to a world of God’s children looking to find and re-connect to Him.

Blogs, what about blogs? Will people still find ways to communicate without all the visual or aural stimulation? Will it be only phones to text and communicate from. Will Tweets be as intimate as we go. Will video compressed video blogs be next. It will be 3D for a while I’m sure. In all of it, are we remaining approachable and relatable and is the fruit of a life of faith actually coming out of us to the world around us or only to those we think matter or might judge us?

What if I actually blogged all the negative and or dark thoughts from a bad day or encounter. Exposed all the sins I’m aware of that no one talks about… What would you do. Dis-respect me. Run away. Post it all online and say “Craig really is not who he says he is”. Would that make you feel better about your own issues? Well don’t worry, I have no big issues… I’m just like everyone elseJ

Ask my mom.. perfect in every way.

Read my blog and you’ll see me in soundbytes about love, arts , nature and how it relates to faith. You just might see you here too…

Friday, January 21, 2011

Choice = Abortion or Calvinism

Wow, I can hardly believe I said that.

Famous picture of a surgeon doing surgery on a fetus midterm to correct a permanent disease. Incredible isn't it. I read that after the corrective surgery and before he sewed the Uterus up and re-installed it.. that the baby stuck it's hand through that hole and grabbed the surgeons finger. Ouch. Think about that one. Teacher Lantazan Franklin had a message a few years back called " is there a king in you". I still go back and listen to it regularly because it's SO uplifiting. One thing he said the last time I listened (last week) was "how many cures for diseases have not been found because we've "by our sinful choices" aborted the future generations of doctors who might have found those cures. Wow. I'd never thought of it quite that way. Maybe the best artist and or singer and or dancer and or Scientist or ..... never made it to 'breath' and life due to our choices.
Maybe the worst persons ever as well didn't arrive due to our choices.
Oh the mysteries of God, and how we will never-- ever understand them in the most nano levels. Oh, but we try, oh we try. We try to wrap our brains around how God could or couldn't do or create or choose or love or punish or give or take or sacrifice. All based around our human understandings and from our finite viewpoints. Dear God Please Dumb It Down For Us...

As a father and parent raising children, I've learned to relate much of my faith and understanding of the living Word by balancing it against my relationship with my children. I've learned that when I balance how God feels about me through His word, I filter it through how I feel and how I relate to my children and the ones I love. How my parents loved me fits in there as well.

So, for me, If I could, I'd like to save my children from everything bad and push them to everything good. I'd like to correct them on everything they say wrong and steer them into everything I know to be right. I'd like the power to make them do as I know best for their betterment and relationship with me. I'd like them to follow the rules I set and if they don't I'd like them to know they are treading on thin ice with me. I'd like them to know they really do not have a choice in any of this. I'm their dad, I created them and I know best. I raise them, give them a home and clothes and food and will through my efforts keep them close to me forever.

Well, we all grow up and leave our houses and we begin to have the choices to come home and see the folks or not. To moment by moment and day by day, live out what they taught us, or to go make choices that the world does or does not see. (we all do both).

For those in the world who are dogged by a parent or sibling or grandparent or friend from birth to seeming death who advises you everyday in life and what and how to do it correctly:) you generally learn to really dislike those people on many fronts, not love them more....

Love? Is that love, imposing your will and choices onto someone who want's to make their own.
Learning how to make good and bad choices every day is part of the incredible journey.

Boy Did David or Solomon "ever" stop making bad choices, to then write about dealing with it in repentance and then write of the joy and peace in God's mercy and grace.

On and on and over and over the Grace and mercy of God is poured out on us as we repent after we sin and make bad choices day in and day out. Little or big, God's interested in character not comfort for us. Sound like a parent to you?

So with that said. I think about "CHOICE". Do we really have it or is it a figment of our imagination. If I had the capacity to have a billion or more children of my own, what are the odds a certain percentage will make different life choices than I would desire for them. Could you or I love any of them any less. Gosh, i could cry thinking of the thought that a parent could choose one child over another based upon anything. The story of the prodical son is so powerful. God demonstrated (to me anyway) that in the natural we would think that He would love a conforming child over an exploring child.... Both are sinners, both loved the same in His eyes, but because one made more obvious bad choices that the "world" could see, well..... they will go and be destroyed. I love that God doesn't change. His love for EVERYONE remains the same. He want's us all to make the choice to come home. The Holy Spirit in a believer is "the FORCE" in you but you do have "choice" to be or not to be. To follow or not to follow. Day by day, minute by minute we make that choice. God our MOST loving father watches and waits on the sidelines during the game. COME ON SON, there is no one covering you across the middle--- make the shot, turn and catch.... awwwhhhhh. he didn't see it this time. maybe next time..... Gosh I love my kid!!!!

That's my dad, that's my father. Now on earth i don't remember my real father doing that much when I was young. Maybe I wasn't looking? hmmmm. I do know when I got to know him later in life, i realized how he always was watching and hoping i would make good choices. Rarely telling me what i should do and never telling me or forcing his will upon me. THAT would have caused problems of love and trust for sure.

I say choice again. Abortion. The catch word is "choice". Like any sin, it is choice. How many millions of women elect abortions because of fear and judgement. How many loving Christian women do this for the same reasons. Wikipedia says 45 million lives aborted since '73. Those are only the legal numbers. Do I understand why women have them? yes. Can I empathize? yes.
Did God know the millions of Christian women getting them would get them before they were in their own mothers wombs? Did He divinely stop only the ones he chose to keep for His own some day and some generation?

There I struggle.. no, actually I don't struggle. God gives us choices. to live or die. To make life in the act and to take life in the act. His lives....
To run away or to come home. To live connected as His child with His blessings, or to run and never experience them. Either way "He never stops loving us or calling us to come home and choose "Zoe" life with Him.

He loves me. He made a way for me to come back to Him and to live within His structure that creates an abundant life of peace and joy amidst the pain and struggle of life.
Jesus. What a sacrifice, what a gift to choose. He made the way, I must make the choice.
No mandatory enforcement here. No I choose you Craig but not your siblings. Rules still stay in effect while I'm living in the house. But He never will stop loving me and wanting me home if i run away. That's my Dad. He chose to create me and make a way for me to always come home. cause He loves with a love that I'll never fully understand.

Well, I look into the hurting eyes of my own children in a crisis, and there are moments when i think i begin to understand Agape. And in the same way as the Father, I pray my kids will choose to come home and tell me they love me and want me so I can show them my blessings.

We do have a choice. Choose life and life more abundantly.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Oooh The Times, They Are a Changing

I re-read and then listened to Dylan's '64 recording of "Times they are a changing" again this morning.
off key vocal, bangin 6/8 acoustic quarter notes, harmonica that filled a void for 3 bars between verses and that's about it. BUT, prophetic and glorious in all that nakedness and form it was:)

Like the raw quality of that classic song, Nashville always had a thing about the guitar/vocal demo that bugged me. Writer/Producer Chips Momen used to say to me that if you cant' sell a great lyric and melody with a guitar and a dry voice, then it would never be worth cutting for anyone else. For those like me who LOVE production AND songwriting, that was a pretty deep cut into our musical ideology, but he was pretty spot on and I can still struggle with covering sloppy with synth layers in my basement demos. hmmmm. bad confession. (more cowbell).

The ebb and flow of business and how it gets done from year to year infects and dis-infects all the creative people it has to touch to get the dollar moved from one pile to the other.
Modern Church and Worship have been hit hard in this flow the last decade.
Owners of Publishers, Record Labels, and all lic. groups have one purpose: To make profits for their private or public shareholders or owners. Well,when it comes to ministry, we don't want to look behind that massive curtain, nor do they want us to.

It would appear to be best if we on the creative side would just go about our creative business, seeking God's face, asking for divine inspiration and revelation for new songs, lyrics and melodies to lead the body of Christ into His presence, and let God deal with those at the top of the food chain who take the creative to the masses and who's intentions are really dollar driven.
It's a two edge sword. Kind of like the artist,athlete,actor,pop-culture figure who lives their life in the bubble, hoping that their management doesn't spend all their money and they wake up penny less in a million dollar lifestyle one day. They remain happy so long as there is money in an account, but don't want to wreck their personal life party to look at numbers and evaluate systems and reality. We in the creative side of things have sure screwed ourselves into the table of a commodity not a producer.

We must, in worship, be diligent, look at the systems, be aware of the trends and traps and to what God calls us to do with eyes wide open, or the pot holes will run us off the road without solutions and send us into the junk yard of broken dysfunctional worshipers looking for another job and not wanting to go back to church as we knew it. And in that wake we leave 10's of thousands of worship volunteers broken and looking for leaders with vision and new churches with vision. Short term win for our adversary. Ministry leaders do not need this stuff to get get broken, sin, fall or get chewed up and spit out. We can do that just fine by ourselves without any help from church, but church structure or lack of it compounds the issues immensely.

I currently believe today that much of corporate worship is running 60 mph in a car not designed for the roads with drivers not equipped to keep it together and a pit crew that knows what the buttons and dials mean but cant hardly change a tire if something breaks.

How did this happen so quickly in 10 or so years and who's fault is it?
Much blame to pass around everywhere, but all of us in our human nature want to pass the buck. So, with one of my titles being a worship pastor/director/leader, I'd say I fail miserably in
1) teaching those lateral and above me in this position, that worship is not to be used and treated as pop-culture for the churches gratification.
2) not finding (in and outside the church) and mentoring/developing enough young leaders to learn their musical and technical skills and equip them in all the necessary styles and areas needed to help them succeed with what the church will do to them between Sunday morning and Sunday morning in modern worship. How many worship leaders know how to wire or repair an unbalanced or balanced cable? (buy a new one... that's the answer). Or handle set up of a sound system from scratch and set up a band with multiple monitor mixes or inears with powered or unpowered monitors and in ears, or run a sound check, drum check, mic check, properly. or change an EQ setting or compression setting on an analog board set up. THESE ARE BASIC 101 THINGS, and the church has no idea that someone actually as a volunteer is supposed to know all of these areas to BEGIN to make worship work in a modern setting.
I put volunteers in place and try to help them learn, but in reality, if it's not their passion and they do not have the desire to really learn on their own, I'm setting them up for failure, because this modern system is not really designed for volunteers with low levels of musical/technical understanding, and they will fail and it's my fault for letting it happen.... I'm sorry to all the volunteers who's served under me and felt like they failed. There should have been a professional alongside you always, teaching and mentoring you along this path so you could succeed when and if you were ready to go it alone and become the teacher..

3) Not teaching the church body through dialogue what worship really is and how to enter it and adapt to the changing styles and find ways to enter in regardless of form and function.
4) Not fighting hard enough with corporate leadership that if you want modern worship, and worship arts, you will have to pay for it. And the cost will be large in dollars. LARGE.... And it will not end. It will ever be changing and upgrading. And you must make that commitment or you will fade away slowly thinking you are with the times, while losing worship leader after worship leader who cant race at Indy in 2011 with a beautiful 1990's version Indy car and a volunteer crew (but it looks and runs just fine, they say. Just needs a few cheap tweaks and upgrades)....

How did much of this happen in the last 10 years?

I think radio changed much of it all with the advent of modern worship recordings taking over CCM Radio beginning with Smittys "2001 Worship" live record in Louisville Kentucky after the GMA's that year.

CCM Radio used to be Artist Driven till then, and the only thing from it that your church would do would be a cool offertory or special or new Easter / Christmas tune you might hear and learn from an artist that released an artist tune that crossed over from Artist to Corporate worship. (pretty rare till 10 years ago).

Remember when just a few years ago, if you didn't use Denomination Books or Celebration Hymnals, you used overhead projectors and you went to the Holy Spirit Conference or to large venues or Festivals to hear a new worship songs that seemed to work, that you could incorporate into your "book" of worship tunes and hymns on overhead sheets. And that was about the only thing on local FM radio around the country that you could use in a worship service; were good solid "artist tunes" for an offertory or a "special". You perused the "worship" section of Vineyard and then Hillsong and Integrity... looking for a new tune at your local book store hoping to find a "gem" now and then.

Overseer, Elder Boards, Sr. Staff and congregations were not interested in the latest or greatest songs, but what ministry happened during worship time. Who got prayed for, who got healed and set free, who's needs got met in the very presence of the Holy Spirit.

Well, Worship leaders have become rock stars to keep a failing record industry from sinking further in their bottom line sales and yada yada yada. All the artists become worship artists now.
It's no longer CCM artists in bold letters " Amy, Phelps, Sandi, White Heart, Chapman, MWS,
it's become "TOMLIN, REDMOND, BELOCHE, WALKER, JOBI, HILLSONG UNITED, GATEWAY WORSHIP, CROWDER and on and on. Is it the worshiper writers making themselves larger than life. Of Course Not..... It's the nature of business.

Well now (contemporary Worship Music) CWM. on the radio seems to have moved back to (Contemporary Christian Music) CCM artist driven music and the church and a generation of young ill equipped worship leaders are in a major quandry. (Where do we find songs now - they are not on the radio... How do we pick a good song for content? What is a good song and song form and melody and key for corporate singing?) How do I write one of those songs?

Church got used to having all their new songs spoon fed to them on the radio for 10 years to the point that when W.Leaders would introduce a new song, the congregation would have already known it for 6 months from the radio, and the natural learning curve for a church body on a new song was taken away.
This has made it even harder now to introduce anything new to the church that is original or from a non radio driven source. If we don't know it, or haven't heard it on the radio, it makes us uncomfortable and we cant "worship"....

I think also the artist writers are a new generation of non-schooled writers who are ardent worshipers but don't under stand musical form and function. With new media forms pushing songs on personal networks, we have a whole new group of worship music being written with melodies that change from vs to vs. and ch. to ch.and they are done in artist keys not worship keys, so the church can't learn the songs forms and melodies or sing them in the dbl octave forms now being written so often. Sssssoooo, mainstream worshipers call the music bad, they push against the worship dept's through the church back doors of structure, asking them to do more hymns and older songs that they know and can sing with. (I smell yeast)...
I keep telling the kids I mentor to just find the great worship chorus in these songs and scrap doing the vs's in many cases because the body just struggles to much to learn them since they are not on the radio 50 times a day anymore to teach it to them....

Wonderfully, the advent of guitar lead worship has come back and there are so many good leaders out there, but again the U2 driven tunes are developing young worship players with shallow musical skills so that if a real chart is put in front of them they are totally lost on how to arrange a song between instruments and make anything musical not just worshipful.

Yes, the top 40 worship charts hamster wheel is wobbling and the church in it's efforts to stabilize it's numbers continues to under fund and under staff worship while asking for the latest and greatest in styles, music and technology to be accomplished by wonderful volunteer church members.

The burn out of gifted and passionate worship leaders is going to be larger than ever before, and hopefully those leading young groups today will equip them and not placate them as they prep for leadership in music ministry..

All of us with hearts of worship who desire the secret places found there, and know what happens when a group can enter that place and space, are and are becoming broken 45's on the road called (Sunday Morning Worship Jukebox). Kick it if it skips on ya or doesn't have "it's all about me"located at button i16.

As a very mortal and broken worship writer, writing within the demons of his own failings wrote" Through it all, I've learned to trust in Jesus, I've learned to trust in God".

And there it is. After all is said and done. God will inhabit the praises of his Children, if they will just open up and mean it when they worship Him. All the rest we do and don't do to try to make it happen for His names sake becomes meaningless when He hears a heart cry " I love you lord and I lift my voice to worship you my God and King".....