Where is the song, story-teller in the church? In our main services and gatherings? By song, story-teller I mean the writer who tells a personal story, a glimpse, or snapshot of a moment in his, or her, faith journey.
In an effort to have only audience participation in worship have we laid aside the story-telling voice of the story telling artist of song? Have we thrown the baby out with the bath-water?
If we are in the age of story-telling, where are the song-writer, artist story-tellers? I realize they exist (Andrew Petersen, Jason Grey, Steven Curtis Chapman, etc.), but many churches in our "worship-only church culture" avoid story-telling songs like a plague, and certainly would not encourage any of its resident composer artists to write or perform such a personal offering. That would be drawing attention to one's self, rather than God.
Because of past, and understandable, abuse a prevalence or preference has emerged that all music in our corporate services, worthy of consideration, needs to be audience participation. By audience participation, I mean the desire for everyone to be simultaneously singing, clapping, or dancing, and etc.
We've made worship one thing and one thing only: full on participation as expressed through one or more externally defined, vertically focused, demonstrative action.
Even that gets complicated in some of our churches where style preferences cause us with a critical spirit to evaluate the worth of an artist, or worship set, by the vertical focus of a song and whether or not it has the right balance of free form so there can be "true" intimacy with God. God is the God of form (look at creation) and freedom (feel the wind blow). For example, by in large, engineers love form and artists love freedom. Both are needed in our culture, the church and our world. Both are of God, so cut the criticism!
For sure, a focused definition of worship is ascribing homage, honor, or worth to God. But there is a larger Biblical and historical view of worship that includes not only the vertical, or upward, focus of worship but the horizontal man to man expression of worship, praise, acts of service, and evangelism.
Perhaps being still and knowing God, means listening—listening to a story in song—coming to know God in a more intimate way because of someone's experience, or faith journey. In the process we have our grace, mercy, love vista broaden beyond its current boundaries. One of the wonderful ways to break the barrier between performer and audience is the use of a story-telling song that resonates with the hearer. This kind of musical offering opens the imagination of the heart to the stealth actions of the Spirit.
As my pastor, Dale Oquist, says, "Hearing an artist share their story through song is an act of worship, both for the performer and the audience." It is about what God has done.
Next, let me introduce you to a trio of "church" artists sharing some of their stories lyrically in song, as well as encouragement to help your young artists start telling their stories.
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Replenishing the Creative Soul
THIS IS A RE-POST FROM LAST YEAR, BUT I NEEDED TO READ IT TODAY, AFTER A GOOD FRIEND AND STAFF MEMBER LOOKED ME IN THE EYE AND SAID, "DON'T MAKE ANY LIFE CHANGING DECISIONS IN THE NEXT FEW DAYS!" WE HAVE JUST FINISHED PRODUCING THREE MAJOR EVENTS: MAUNDY THURSDAY SERVICE WITH A SEDER MEAL IN A BOX; THE WAY OF THE CROSS (STATIONS OF THE CROSS)—AN EIGHT HOUR EVENT STAGED AROUND AND IN OUR CAMPUS; PLUS FOUR EASTER CELEBRATIONS GATHERINGS AND ALL OF THE NECESSARY REHEARSALS. FIVE OF THE TEN SONGS USED FROM THURSDAY AND SUNDAY WERE ORIGINALS! I'VE BEEN RICHLY BLESSED! HOWEVER, MY INCREDIBLE STAFF AND I ARE DEAD! SO HERE'S PREACHING TO ME:
It's the week after Easter and after working several weeks, going non-stop, with deadlines looming and a great expenditure of energy I am facing what I have to know as the post-production letdown, blues and even the blahs.
Following a prolonged expenditure of creative energy, the body is like an empty bank account with nothing more to spend. A positive balance must be regained. Reserves must be rebuilt. Experience tells me this requires time and intentionality. The same is true following a season of spiritual victories or highs. The human body can't keep going at the same pace—energy has to come from somewhere. When reserves are spent, they are spent.
Constant spiritual highs are unrealistic, giving a distorted view of our life in Christ, and put us at risk of being arrogant because of our supposed superior or favored position with God.
The greatest challenge for us is the wall we hit, or the pier we fall off of, following a season of heightened creative activity. We have all been there and done that. If we are not careful one or several things can happen: we succumb to temptations having lasting impact on our lives and those around us; we burnout; we make wrong decisions; we make unnecessary career changes; we suffer personality changes, becoming people we do not like or are not liked by others, etc., etc., etc.
Being emotionally and even spiritually fatigued following a creative season goes with being a follower of Christ. Even Jesus had to get away to the mountains to pray and rejuvenate following moments of intense ministry. God rested on the seventh day of creation. HINT TO SELF: Don't try to be different than them!
Learn something else from God: He created Adam and empowered Adam to assign names to the animals. LESSON: Ease the creative fatigue by empowering others to be a part of the creative process.
After a production, be careful of succumbing to an idle mind for it will be the devil's playground. Following spiritual victories, emotional highs or a busy season, the enemy enjoys tempting me with thoughts that are far from pure or realistic. Over time I've learned to be on guard for them and even take measures to head them off.
Never make long-term life-changing decisions, no matter how appealing, when emotionally or spiritually exhilarated or fatigued. You will most likely make a wrong decision.
Slow down! For a period of time I want to keep on going full-steam-ahead. GoingfromoneeventtoanotherwithoutanythoughtofstoppinguntilIcrash.
So here are my thoughts, ideas, and suggestions for getting out of the post-production doldrums:
Don't forsake prayer and reading The Word (His Word I hide in my heart so as not to sin against Him.)
Journal your thoughts and return to them often. Listen to what God is saying to you during this time as there may be a chance He is speaking to you because of your heightened awareness of His presence.
Check your eating habits. During production times people are bringing in wonderfully rich food, including desserts. And fast food becomes a way to survive. I can go months without eating a potato chip, but at production time if you put one of those puppies in front of me, I’ll fight you for the bag. I use both hands to stuff them in my mouth! By the end of the production my eating habits can be totally out of control. Getting this area of life back in order is one of the most important things to do.
Exercise. Go to the gym, walk, hike, bike, just do something to get the blood flowing and pumping.
Indulge in a hobby, okay at least indulge in some free time—you deserve it. Sometimes I go fly fishing, cook, read, drive for hours, listen to music, or watch TV with my wife.
Go to movies (be careful in the selection, for they can become a source of temptation); go to a concert and enjoy the moment without becoming caught up in the technical part of it. (Applaud someone else's creativity, since you are probably one of only a few who appreciate what it takes to make it happen creatively and technically.)
Read a good novel—not a book on leadership.
Find a good book of prayers. Try ancient writers or those from denominations completely different than yours. Their insight is rich and refreshing.
Memorize a Psalm, or verses from several Psalms.
Throw away an old leadership book I'm not joking—you're far too creative for one of those books. Chances are you will only beat yourself up for not being more left brain, and I believe that to be a sin, since God created you with right brain tendencies. Embrace His creation here.
If you determine anything during this it should be that you would be a more devoted follower of Jesus. The world needs more followers of Jesus than leaders!
Sleep. Rest. Relax. Take a deep breath and slowly release it. Breathe in.... Breathe out…. Do it twelve times and go back to sleep.
Go for a ride. When our fourth Easter gathering was over, my wife Carol and I, along with her mother, took a ride to Yosemite National Park, stopping along the way to view the California poppies in full bloom, breathing in fresh mountain air and enjoying a relaxing dinner in the bistro café at the Ahwahnee Hotel. The drive home was exhilarating and I slept all night!
Intentionally create space and margin: you have probably been running your life six columns wide, in landscape view with less than a .25" margin. Going back to a single column life in portrait view with 1.5" left, right, top and bottom margins plus headers and footers is tough, but do it anyway! Everyone, but you, knows you're not divine, so slow down the machine!!! (Sorry for the mixed metaphor!)
Spend time with family. Tuesday evening following Easter, we celebrated Easter as a Holck family. It was fun as six grandchildren hunted for Easter eggs. By the end of the evening our emotional tanks were full.
Take a Sabbath from social networking—you won't miss a thing and if you do miss something important it will be re-tweeted enough times to pick it up anyway.
Enjoy time with your spouse, who has probably missed having time with you.
Write thank you notes to those who have helped you—they may be going through the same thing! By sunset of the fourth day following Easter I had written more than 40 thank you notes.
Guard your attitude; it is an indicator of exactly how fatigued you are.
Mind the gap between what your brain or heart wants to commit to and what your emotional reserve or nerves tell you is possible.
Other than your spouse, be careful of over familiarity with the opposite sex. Right now you cannot judge the emotional stability of a mustard seed. So please watch yourself here, I'm not kidding.
Be careful of the over inflated ego! Yes, the response to what happened was great but it's not about you. Remember: God gave you the creativity, the creative ideas and the creative team! If there were spiritual victories it was because of the Holy Spirit—not you! You were just a conduit. Conduits are usually buried below ground and out of site, so keep the right perspective. Be humble because pride will only trip you up.
Try not to say anything you'll later regret. Words are like toothpaste out of the tube, once said they can't be taken back.
Do not debrief while emotionally and physically fatigued, because more than likely you will violate the previous suggestion. It is too easy to get going on what went wrong. Make what notes you need to make and come back to them later when you’ve returned to the human race. Your team will be happy with you.
If you're uncharacteristically out of sorts, angry, or on edge, you are probably emotionally fatigued, and maybe even close to burnout. If you need to get some help or take some time off, do it.
Learn to savor the moment. Be thankful for it. Thank God for it. Thank your people for it. Thank your spouse for their support. Acknowledge those who have helped you—remember some of them are probably going through what you're going through. Give them a break! Give them some space. Find ways to build into their lives with notes, words of encouragement, and "appropriate" hugs, and tell them you love them. It will fill your tank in doing it.
This is not a complete list of ideas for replenishing the creative soul, but a start and I’m sure you have your own list. I would love to hear from you!