Saturday, January 30, 2010
So, about a week ago, I was watching T.V. with the kids playing in the next room. I was actually channel surfing during the commercials of the NFL playoffs. Well, some show was making copious use of the "beep" in the place of profanity. . . so Sam comes running in. . . "What is that beeping!!" (when I say copious use. . . . I mean. . . copious)
And, in what will go down as one of the great fatherhood answers of all time, I come up with this gem: "That's a noise that people make on t.v." (which isn't a complete lie. . I'll get to this later). ouch.
Provi from the next room: "Dad, do you want me to tell him?" (Provi has yet to grasp that there are things that she knows because she's 9 and not 5).
So, I told Sam it meant that the people weren't talking nice and were using bad words. (hmmm. . might have been a good first answer).
Sam now is intrigued by the "beep". . he came running in yesterday "Are those guys not talking right??" no, Sam. . no they aren't.
I'm against the "beep". They're starting to use the beep as a point of dialogue in shows now. If you don't believe me. . watch Comedy Central. Comedians are using the "beep" to make stuff funny. Some of them wouldn't have jobs if we went back to the "mute/silence" for profanity on T.V. Trust me. . . way, way less funny. The Daily Show has actually used the "beep" so good that they've turned it into an art form.
Anyway. . down with the beep. . .let's hear the mute, then we'll see how funny and creative we really are!!??
A letter written by Eden at School this week:
Dear Hady, (Haiti)
Hi! How are you. I Hrd on the nos(news) that thar whus a rthcwick (earthquake).
Is ivre thing oca? I hop yis (yes).
Needless to say, I'm keeping that one. What a sweetheart. I haven't had the heart to tell her that everything is not okay. But, we've been praying for Haiti.
It's the ups and downs, you know? I love being a dad.
Friday, January 22, 2010
a) various state fetal homicide laws (you know. . .the laws that make Roe vs. Wade look ridiculous. . . which it is)
b) the exodus of workers from the abortion industry (inside Rev. DeYoung's article is a link to the entire article from The Weekly Standard. . . . .it's heartbreaking, but really good. . . .it's worth a read.)
Lord, I pray that we would reject insanity, inane laws, judicial inconsistency, and barbarism and do what is right as a country. Though I don't expect the USA to become a Christian nation, nor would that please You, . . .I ask that we could make right what has gone very wrong on this issue, even step by step as Dr. Forsythe so wisely says. I pray for all Americans to see Abortion as a non-political, non-medical issue, but as a moral issue so that we can see clearly our error. And Lord, for those that have had abortions or who have participated in the abortion industry, may you pursue them with Your grace, Your healing, and Your truth. Amen.
A reminder to all of us: Abortion is not a political issue. Politicians of different stripes have things to say and opinions to contribute. But, let me just say, if you're offended by the mention of a magazine or the affiliations of certain folks offering opinions. . . and are ignoring the merits of the argument based on that. . . . than you need to think a little deeper about Abortion and all of the implications of the most horrendous decision in the history of the Supreme Court (judicially, morally, practically and otherwise).
but I digress. . . .
Here's a great interview Justin Taylor did with Clarke Forsythe. Mr. Forsythe is wicked smart. . . this is worth a careful, non-distracted reading.
It's hard for me to get excited about some of the things he says because he's honest about how deep the rabbit hole goes on Roe vs. Wade. But, he speaks the truth about our government, and even if we don't like it, we'd probably do good to heed this man's advice.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
It's important to remember as we gather to worship that we need,. . . and have. . . .a mediator: Jesus Christ. Jesus has accomplished redemption for us, He bore our sin on the Cross, He tore the curtain in two, and made a way to the Father through us.
If you go to many church services (my own,. . .too often unfortunately) you can forget that you need a mediator. We can kind of "run" into God's presence without remembering what Jesus did so that we can sing and encounter the Holy God. I don't think this necessarily means that we need confession as the first act of every service, or that we have to start with slow songs, etc. . . . . . But, in some way, we need to remember that we need a mediator, and that we have the perfect one, in Jesus.
Now, more troubling, is that we can misplace who or what the mediator is. You can get the impression, through lengthy instrumental solos, constant background music, meaningless lyrics, etc. . . that music mediates the presence of God. In fact, folks will often exclaim to the worship leader or worship team "That music really brought me into God's presence this morning". This is a well-meaning comment. . . but patently wrong. Music is a tool that God created to enable our words and our emotions to lift up and exalt Him. Music is a tool in the hands of skillful artists that can be used as an act of worship to exalt God. But, music is not our mediator, Jesus is. If folks think they "need" music to enter into God's presence, or that they can't pray, sing, really connect to God, etc. . without music,. . . . that's a problem. There's no greater presence of God that happens because of music.
I don't doubt that making intricate, beautiful, instrumental music is an act of worship. (Beethoven, Bach, anyone?). But, as the gathered people of God, in corporate worship, we have something to say to God. . .we have something to say to each other, we have words that are important. Contrary to popular church practice and literature, you cannot communicate the gospel without words.
As stated earlier, you can praise God with your instruments alone (no words). . . the Psalms command us to do that. In corporate worship, however. . .I think these times need to always be purposeful, defined, and pastorally led. The substance of our worship, when we're together, are words, text, attributes of God, etc. .
I've seen a few examples, in current worship music (again, I'm defining this narrowly. . .as songs that are written for us to sing together as God's people, at church) of folks trying to mediate the presence of God with music (at least, it seems so. .. ). It seems like they're divining the Holy Spirit to come and speak, or bringing down God's presence with dramatic musical background.
Let me be clear. . I"m not anti- background music (I use it all the time), or anti-silence, etc. . . . .
Here's what I want to say: when you write a worship song (see definition above) the lyrics aren't just important. The lyrics actually make your song usable or non-usable in church. It's not a pop-music preference like "I like the music" or "I like the lyrics". Songs for the church are all about the lyrics; set effectively to music, yes, but not just cool music that says "Holy" 50 times. I laughed out loud when at the end of a VH1 Divas concert they closed with a "gospel" number which consisted of Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin and Celine Dion singing the word "Jesus" with various melismas about 200 times. Setting aside how non-gospel and non-heavenly such a sound was. . :) . it wasn't really that "gospel" or "worshipful" either. (not their intent, I know)
The emotions that music can conjure up are wonderful, and need to be appropriate to (you guessed it) what the lyrics say. Rich Mullins famously rebuffed a fan who said she felt the Holy Spirit come during a song: "no, I think that was the kick drum". This is an important distinction.
Jesus is our mediator. Let's write lyrics that focus people on Him, and music that gives emotion to lyrics of gratitude, awe, worship, and wonder of who He is.
Friday, January 15, 2010
An upside to all of this is some of the best insult/burn comedy that's ever been on T.V. I give you this multi-clip link to enjoy. Especially the 2nd clip with Jimmy Kimmel and the 3rd clip of Conan's monologue. This, unfortunately :) is my kind of humor, I love insult comedy. There are some off-color jokes here, so apologies for that. . . . . fair warning. Enjoy.
Update: the 2nd Conan clip is gross. . . I'm sorry it's part of this link. The intro/insults jokes of each clip are the best. : )
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Pat Robertson spoke out, saying that Haiti was "cursed" by a "pact with the devil". This was in the context of a comment about Haiti needing to turn to Christ and that we should help with the suffering and relief.
This infuriated many, (me too) including Donald Miller who had a response. Don Miller's response was basically to show love to the Haitian folk, and to talk about how Pat R. is a "controlling personality".
I think both responses miss the point a bit,. . . in times like these, I feel like the Word of God has some direction for us in Luke 13.
Luke 13:2-5 (New International Version)
2Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish."
When natural disasters happen, we should pray and repent for our sins. Natural disasters are warnings TO ALL OF US, each time they happen. I went around this on the blog a bit during the John Piper controversy following the Tornado in downtown Minneapolis.
So, Pat R. is wrong to draw a straight line from Haiti's voodoo past to this calamity, and Don M. is wrong to dismiss out of hand that God is warning them (and us) to repent and that God could have a purpose in suffering.
To be sure, timing is important here,. . . and perhaps someone like Don M. has deeper thoughts that he is wise to save until later when needed help arrives, things settle down, and we can think clearer about everything. But, others I know are quick to dismiss any theological takeaways from an event like this. It's almost like you're not ever supposed to draw any conclusions in this way.
Jesus wasn't afraid to do that, as we see in Luke 13.
Let's all let this horrible thing have it's intended purpose in our lives. . .to sober us, so we'll repent. Let's pray that the Haitians are sobered and will repent as well, for their sins. And, let's help in that process by showing them the love of Christ and helping them in an unspeakable tragedy.
Here's a site where there are 11 reputable organizations for you to donate money to. Please prayerfully consider this. . . . .
Monday, January 11, 2010
With poetry and lyrics, it is profitable to mine what the author is saying and to try and determine meaning, but the nature of the genre itself leads to different emphases and greater/lesser degrees of importance based on symbols and metaphor.
(I know everything I just said should have about 14 blogs worth of material. . but just go with me on this)
So, when you write a song it is important to note what is being emphasized in your lyric, and what, by way of musical build, emotion, placement, etc. . . . is "standing out" in your song.
As worship leaders, when we choose and write music, it's important to choose songs that are communicating orthodox biblical truth. But, it's equally as important to note what the emphasis of the song is, and what folks will be humming to themselves as they leave on Sunday.
Let me give some examples.
Friend of God by Israel Houghton. This is a very popular worship song, it communicates a biblical truth, that God has called us friends (James 2:23; John 15:15). I think the music is great. The concern is that the song would connote an "over-familiarity" with God because of the repetitious "I am a friend of God" through all the choruses. Songwriters would, in fact, call that line, the "hook" of that song. Israel addressed this concern and even said that's why he wrote the bridge "God Almighty, Lord of Glory, You have called me Friend". This bridge speaks of God's transcendence and excellence, and less of his nearness.
I appreciate the effort to balance the song out a bit. Unfortunately, everyone "leaves" that song with "I am a friend of God" going over and over in their head. It's the hook, it's the most emphasized part of the song. So, for that reason. . I choose to not use that song at church. Because of an over-familiarity with God in our culture, and a less than exalted view of Jesus among many folks. . . I don't want to make a point about God's nearness in that way. . with that emphasis.
(again, I"m not blackballing this song, or telling you, you shouldn't sing it. . .just fleshing some things out).
Breathe by Marie Barnett. We went around this song last time, so, not to pile on, . . but again, the line you walk away humming from that song is "I'm desperate for You" with the qualifier "I'm lost without You" which seems to mean that God isn't here (even though, as said last time, you can understand that song in a much better way). I lead this song from time to time, but don't use a steady diet of it, for those reasons.
Cannons by Phil Whickam. I love this song. The verses are pretty squishy and don't say alot of deep truth. It's basically a riff on Psalm 19 "the heaven's declare the Glory of God, day after day they pour forth speech, night after night they display knowledge". Phil says in the song:
"it's falling from the clouds a strange and lovely sound I hear it in the thunder and the rain
It's ringing in the skies like cannons in the night, the music of the universe plays".
meh. . . it's ok. I think it "disney-fies" Psalm 19 a bit with strange and lovely sounds coming from the clouds. . but, here's the key:
The line you walk away humming from that song, . . the hook if you will. . . is "I'm so unworthy, but still you love me, forever my heart, will sing of how great you are"
That is a truth that I want to emphasize and "shine a light" on as we sing. So, if the whole song was like the verse, I probably wouldn't lead it. The gospel truth in the chorus is great.
That's enough for now. . . a few closing thoughts.
One way around these pitfalls is to write verbatim from scripture (which everyone tries to do at times), or to try and write modern "hymns" with layer after layer of theological truth. I'm trying to get better at this. . the Getty's are the modern forerunners in this area, I use their music alot, and appreciate what they write. Check out gettymusic.com. It's great stuff, though the music is not always as contemporary as I'd like. (I just re-arrange it).
The knock on modern worship music being theologically light, is unfortunately, correct sometimes. We need to proclaim deep, Gospel, God exalting truths in a clear way when we write for God's people to sing together. That's my heart as I choose and reject songs. I want to pastor people and help them to see God as He is, High and lifted up, and nearer than your next breath.
I'll look at some more songs next time, perhaps in a more positive light. . . please don't hear me knocking on these songs. All of these folks are better songwriters than I am. I'm just taking you through my thought process as I choose what our church will sing together. . . a task that unfortunately gets little attention sometimes. And, many times, the wrong emphases or criteria are used in said task. More to come. . .
Friday, January 8, 2010
A wise man once said. . . dogs and kids can smell fear.
Okay, I made that up, but I think it's true. One thing I've learned with 4 small kids (but still mess up all the time) is to make your kids feel comfortable with the situation. If your kids are nervous, they will either start to act out, or go into a shell depending upon their personality and what has happened in the past in those situations.
Here's some things you can do to help your kids not be nervous.
1) Let them know what is going on.
This includes not keeping the truth from them just because you don't want to talk about it, or you don't think you have time or are up to it. If kids don't know what is happening, or what a certain issue is that you're talking about. . . they get nervous. Sure, you might need to give the "4 year old" version of a topic. But, silence or lying breeds nervousness.
2) Don't fight ugly in front of them
I think it's healthy for kids to see their parents disagree and "fight" a bit. But, when your marital spats get loud and ugly. . you should probably push the pause button if the kids are around. I know this first hand from my parents' divorce. But, even in my own life. . . one time Jody and I were having one of those fights and I saw Providence walk off and kind of hide herself. I said "I'm sorry mom and I were fighting like that. . . we're just working something out. . . . how does that make you feel". And, she flat out told me. . "Dad, that makes me nervous". That was one of my worst days as a Dad.
3) If you're talking about dying, moving, or something important to them. . . sit down and look them in the eye.
Once we were talking about the fact that we might have to move, (the girls were excited and jumping around). . .Sam closed up. After a few minutes he said "Enough with all of this moving stuff" (exact words). "Why", I asked. "It makes me nervous" says Sam. 'nuff said. Moving is stressful on kids. Figure out what other things cause your kids stress and try to be really close, quiet, and reassuring to them in those moments.
4) Teach them the sovereignty and love of God
After Sam's moment, I told him "I don't want you to be scared about moving to another house because God's in charge of everything, and I"ll be here and we'll all be together". I think that helped, it looked like it did.
Let your kids know that God isn't Santa Claus in a robe (don't get me started on Santa), Grandfather woos-boy, or anything else. . . . Tell them that God is in charge of the universe and that they don't need to be afraid.
Especially after you discipline your kids, (which is a must, and if your kids don't have boundaries, that's making them nervous). Give them a hug quickly, and restore the relationship. Show them what Grace is after you show them what obedience is.
5) Give your kids boundaries and schedules
You can take this one overboard and get crazy. In fact I think parents get more stressed out than the kids sometimes when the schedule gets off. Oh yeah, by the way. . . that makes kids stress out when you're stressing all over them. Dad's, this is on you. Man up and define what is and is not a crisis. If it isn't a crisis, give everyone a hug and tell them it's going to be ok. Set the tone in those moments. Having lunch an hour late is not reason to freak out, get in a marital fight and feel guilt over ruining the day's schedule.
Having said that, if your kids are running over you and everyone else, and aren't getting proper sleep or nutrition. . .guess what. . . they're going to get stressed out. You know, like YOU do when you don't get enough sleep, eat poorly, and run yourself ragged. Let your kids know how it's going to go down, in a quiet way, . .and then hold to it.
None of this is an excuse for sin from your kids. They need to be disciplined when they're acting out, and need to be shown how to act and react properly even in weird situations.
But, as parents we can set an environment that helps kids react well, and helps give them confidence in us and in God.
#1 "We're desperate for You,. . .we need your presence more than anything. . . Won't you come and fill this place. . . " (all real worship music lyrics from recent songs)
I"ll call this one the "Omni-present error", as in, God is Omni-present, and we're singing to Him, right?
Here's some verses that show how God is omni-present (present everywhere at the same time because He exists inside and outside of time and in some way, everywhere all the time).
2 Chronicles 6:17-19
17Now therefore, O LORD, God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you have spoken to your servant David.
18"But will God indeed dwell with man on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built! 19Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O LORD my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you,
from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth,
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
11If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,"
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
I know this is a hard thing to get our heads around. My kids have alot of trouble understanding that they can pray to God all the time, not just when we're reading the bible at night. I think we all forget that God is always there from time to time.
Now, It is good and right for usk to ask God to "come" in a certain way or for a certain purpose. Such as "come in your power" if you're in the middle of a difficult situation, or "come in truth" if we need to be shown what is right on an issue. So, I guess I wish more songs would ask for those things instead of just asking for the presence of God, which we have.
As a side note: I think we do often (I know I do) neglect to mention and remind folks that "God is here" when we meet together. We could go a whole Sunday without realizing that if we're not careful. That's probably why some of the songs mentioned at the top were written. But, we can do a better job. . the old worship orders and liturgies do that. . . . we can also write better songs today that explain what we mean in a clearer way.
ps. I know "Breathe" is one of the most popular worship songs of the last 20 years, and I know that you can understand "I'm desperate for You" in many different ways. But, it seems like the demeanor I see that song led in. . . is one of being desperate for God's presence. . . . which we definitely aren't. That's like being desperate for skin on my body.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Sports wrap up.
1) College Football: The PAC 10 stinks. I think the Big 10 stinks too, but they have had some favorable matchups in the bowls that they've been able to win. You can't judge much on a non-title bowl game. . .it's kind of a gift to the players and program for the season. Some teams don't take it seriously.
And oh yeah. . .someone give me one reason why the Big East gets a BCS bid and not the WAC? Cincinnati did not represent themselves well. I remember a few years ago when a mediocre (at best) Nebraska team beat Pitt. in the non-conference. Pitt lost 3 or 4 games that year, and didn't really do anything of note. They were the "automatic" Big East bid for a BCS game. :) It was a travesty, and this year was no different. The Big East is a basketball conference. . .that's it.
2) The NBA. Well the Nuggets fell off a bit with injuries and inconsistent play. I think this is a good thing. I think we will peak at the right time in late March and go on another run this year.
This has been a funny year. . . everyone is anointing the Lakers as the champs already and I don't think they look that good. When Denver is at full strength we beat down the Lakers and the Blazers. Let them all pound away on each other in January, we'll see where the chips fall.
Boston, if healthy is still the favorite in the East. That's a big "if", though. . . . They are mentally dominant over Orlando. . . Orlando wants nothing to do with them. Cleveland isn't scared and will beat the Celtics if any of Boston's key guys are injured. We'll see how the East goes, that will be interesting.
3) The NFL.
Again, this is what they wanted. . . . parity. It's a toss-up every year, and there's no dominant teams or risky owners. Congratulations, NFL. I think their product is suffering. But, it's the best sport to watch on T.V. so they'll always have that.
And, let me say. . . . . they have one of the worst fan experiences in sports. I went to the Broncos game 2 weeks ago and it is hardly worth 50 dollars(much less 300). Cold weather, long, long T.V. timeouts. . . terrible parking. . . .no thank you. I'll watch it on T.V.
Go Colts.. . Peyton deserves another ring.
1) I'm not just hoping for better circumstances in 2010. Better circumstances would be great, but they don't make or break your happiness. The truth of the matter is. . . circumstances reveal character. This is true in all of life. When things go bad. . . what kind of person are you? After most things went bad last year, I didn't like who I saw. So, that's a "me" problem, not a circumstances problem.
It's right and good to pray for circumstances to change. . .I have and will. . . . but that's not the end game. I want to thrive no matter what happens this year. And, I will undoubtedly have a better year than this man.