Performance vs. Worship: When Keeping It Real Is Wrong [4/5]

[Word count: 635. Approximate read time: 3-4 minutes]
Wrong1

“Here we are now. Entertain us.” —Kurt Cobain

In music ministry, we’re instructed that our worship should be extensions of our authentic relationship with God. However, your authentic expression may be to fall to your knees and cry uncontrollably for 15 minutes at a time. When on stage in front of people, this becomes unacceptable.

As I understand it, worship is about genuinely loving your god and expressing that love in song, dance or whatever. But… there is an element of performance to it. God requires sincerity, but if the presentation isn’t right, people will turn their noses up.

ideal (adj)
1. conceived as constituting a standard of perfection or excellence.
2. existing only in the imagination; not real or actual.

We set an ideal example so people will join in. We are cheerleaders. And we are actors. Our worship on-stage is not unlike a TV dramatization. What’s being portrayed actually happened, but we only want to show the best scenes. Wait. I thought it was supposed to be authentic though? Continue reading

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Gifts Robin Gave Me, Part 1

[Word count: 654. Approximate read time: 3-4 minutes]

Robin Hill and I in 2003

“When you’re little, you adopt survival mechanisms. But then they last too long. They last beyond their usable time and they become impediments to growth.” —Jane Fonda

I used to be horrible at taking compliments. Too often they’d be a bait-and-switch for devastating insults. So I became a ninja at self-deprecation. If I tore myself down sufficiently, no one else could take anything from me. It made me feel safer. I didn’t realize I wouldn’t be able to stop… for decades.

At age 50, my friend Robin Hill was fighting brain cancer. I was fighting a kind of disease too. Mine was that I’d want people to like me. And then they would. I just wouldn’t believe them. Both maladies kill very slowly. Ultimately Robin didn’t survive hers, but she left something to make sure I survived mine. Continue reading

REVIEW: Tye Tribbett’s “Greater Than” Lives Up To Its Name

TyeTribbettFinalCDCoverApril20131

[Word count: 592. Approximate read time: 2-3 minutes]

People are so dramatic. We love to see our stars make sweeping, meteoric rises. And then we love to see them fall hard from that height and leave a meteoric crater. If you pay any attention to gospel music, Tye Tribbett has given you both in the last 5 years. It looks like we’re about to get the former again with his new album Greater Than.

I need to give this caveat. I still don’t like gospel music. There’s usually so much yelling, emotional manipulation, and pomp and circumstance that it becomes a circus of entertainment. Too often when it boils down, it’s no different than secular music, vying for the same popularity, market share, and control as any mainstream artist. So I’m not taken in by its cloying sentiment. What I look for is truth. And I found a lot here. Continue reading

By Your Side: A Devotional

[Word count: 879. Approximate read time: 3-4 minutes]

Sade’s “By Your Side” is my ideal love song.

Even while writing God and the Silent Treatment, I remembered its lyrics are one answer to the forlorn, abandoned questions posed in Jars of Clay’s “Silence.” Often when romance is exaggerated in love songs, it becomes something men and women are incapable of giving. However, the faithful love described in “By Your Side” is very godlike. It doesn’t take a great leap to relate it to scripture.

Sade sidles a dancing elderly couple: "You think I'd leave your side, baby? You know me better than that."

“You think I’d leave your side, baby? You know me better than that.”

Doubting God may be engrained in my analytical nature. I almost always need God to mock my unbelief and cite our history. “Do you really think I’d abandon you? C’mon. You may be unsure about many things, but you know that you at least know that.”

I’m like one of those kids who goes into histrionics whenever a parent leaves their sight. Mom or dad has to come back and calm the kid down: “Have I ever left you? Don’t I always come back? Don’t you know how much I love you?”

Continue reading

Love at First Sight, but Not Second

[Word count: 408. Approximate read time: 2 minutes]

While trolling through a clearance CD rack, I flipped past an album I’d always been interested in. Not so much because of its music reviews, but because the album cover was absolutely beautiful to me. The purpose of good art is to attract attention to good artists, and everything about the packaging just got me excited! Soft, warm fleshy browns contrasted with icy pale turquoise under white minimalist type. I opened up the jewel case to find a classy, translucent frosted disc adorned with a cute, flirty icon to match the front. Flipping through the booklet, there’s only page after page of eye-pleasing photos of the beautiful woman on the cover. I fell in love with that alone.

Biding until the perfect moment to see what the music sounded like, I just popped the disc in today. The first track wasn’t too bad, so I kept listening. The second track was so-so, until the end. I couldn’t identify with the lyrics and then the vamp really started grating on me. The third track was mostly forgettable. The fourth whiny and angry. Midway through, I rolled my eyes and skipped it. The fifth sounded like it was going in a nice direction, but turned out to be just a spoken interlude. The next few tracks used some great samples, but after not too long, it was hard to ignore the singer’s drifting pitch.

By the second half of the album, I went from listening to full songs, to listening to half-songs, to scanning each for a minute. As each song seemed to compound the previous one’s disappointment, my attention span got shorter and shorter. Ultimately, there were a few pleasant surprises, but overall, it really fell flat. It doesn’t even look as good now that I’ve listened to it.

I sat for a moment in silence pondering how such a beautiful cover could be wrapped around such lackluster work. They couldn’t have spent some of that packaging money on improving the actual content? Better producers, writers, or even a talented engineer to AutoTune it all could’ve helped dramatically. Talk about the epitome of anticlimactic.

I couldn’t believe something that looked so good could disappoint so badly. I spent money getting this. I spent time listening to it looking for something of value. It was kind of a waste, except for one thing. In a moment of clarity, I thought: “I really need to stop picking my women this way.”