Advent simplicity that we don’t know.
The advent season reminds, restarts, and renews. As we remember and celebrate the arrival of Jesus Christ, the light of the world, everything literally stops and holds. The focus is on the star, the child, the light.
All of our worldly “lights” dim in comparison in respect and deference to the source. Don’t get me wrong, I love the candles, and the bells, with choirs and songs and stunning experiences envisioned and executed by men old and new but the simplicity of the child is unparalleled in its message and personal connection to my heart mind and soul.
For too long, I’ve focused on the buildings, the smells, sounds, and the singing. What matters is the smiles and the eyes of the hearts as they open and understand. The advent of the true king is a spectacle beyond the imagination of men. The best we can do is focus on a child and fall on our knees. We humble ourselves at the manger with its ugly, loud, decidedly unchurchy vision. The ox and the ass bow along with the sheep. The angels and the shepherds give honor and praise.
The king is here in this moment. He was, is, and will always be. Emmanuel, God with us, reminds us of HIS amazing love. He reminds us that OUR work is only just beginning. Advent is indeed the end of the beginning. The story we find ourselves in is not written nor is it complete even as it is fully known. It just isn’t known by you and me and that is alright.
I remember the first time I sang the Messiah solos of Comfort ye and Every Valley. It was in the chapel at Princeton Seminary for a wedding. I wonder how good I was as a 19 year old. Today, I heard my son sing his first pass at the Messiah solos at Ardmore Baptist in Winston Salem. He was so much better than I was at his age. Style, composure, artistic message, command, and fine, elegant singing. Tenors are a funny stressed bunch of souls. Singing comfort ye is not comforting normally. Today, I was calm and comforted for lots of reasons.
The artistry of the the PrillaKids is well known to most but today it feels like the first time I’m comfortable that the coming valleys will indeed be straight. I’ve sung that line hundreds of times, but clearly I need to listen more than talk more often. They have got this.
First time I’m comfortable saying that I’ve turned the page. Every day is a chance to step back and see that all we like sheep have gone astray and yet Hallelujah and amens still happen in spite of us. Our masks are ripped off and the face is there for all to see.
A brilliant light has left this world. The world remains blessed because of his execution and legacy.
“Having just the vision's no solution, everything depends on execution.”
- Stephen Sondheim
“Bit by bit, putting it together...
Piece by piece, only way to make a work of art.
Every moment makes a contribution,
Every little detail plays a part.
Having just the vision's no solution,
Everything depends on execution,
Putting it together, that's what counts.”
- Stephen Sondheim
“It's not so much do what you like as it is that you like what you do.”
- Stephen Sondheim
“Anything you do, let it come from you. Then it will be new. Give us more to see...”
- Stephen Sondheim
“I chose and my world was shaken, so what? The choice may have been mistaken, the choosing was not.”
- Stephen Sondheim
All from Sunday in the Park with George
It can only be truly defined by the artist. Art is A creative construct which exceeds and connects perspectives. Across time, culture and status.
If the things I think and say shock you, you don’t know me.
Musing Monday on my day off for me. Tenors set the tone. Power and lines. Nail the high notes and minimize the low. Never be afraid of the bombastic. Embrace the sublime.
Mixing, matching, making… manahmanah. Doo do ba doo doo manahmanah.
Art (for me music) does not need a reason to exist. It is born of a divine spark. The artist is simply a conductor for the energy. Singing in church, on a stage, in any venue is a blessing but it isn’t required.
Sunday am thinking. I led in a local baptist church during the 2020 Covid crisis. TBH it cured me, of any desire to continue in leadership in that church into 2021. The overt willingness to do “nothing” except take care of self and institution coupled with submission to the govt authority in virtually all things, especially singing was deplorable and I could not do anything significant about it. Did i fail? Maybe. I don’t think so. For sure, I clarified the environment where we am best suited to work in vocational ministry. And it is not in a play a track, no real choir, pseudo praise team situation. I require respect for live,
elegant, structured and formed presentation. It is how I’m wired.
Will I ever seek out another minister of music and worship position? I honestly don’t know. I’m interested and passionate about the fellowship of believers, not the institutional legacy. Period. #ChoirIsLife
A church is a fellowship of people loving living and DOING life together. Not a place or a building, but those things are helpful.
For me. Doing life requires an attitude and practice of high quality music. I enjoy pop music for a bit, but the form structure and content are critical for me to be able to relate. I am an expert at blended worship music and design.
Including everyone (or at least most) in a giving (not getting) experience is opportunity of a worship service. Singing and praying are the collective activities that matter. Sitting and listening are NOT that important. Being entertained is a problem, not a benefit.
I go to a worship experience to submit and feel the fellowship. There is no desire for recognition. There is only the reality of mutual love respect and service through the creation of great music.
As a highly trained classical musician, performer, and choral champion I don’t fit in most fellowships in my area.
The events of 2020 exposed the worshiptainment culture. They exposed the overt desire of most churches to comply with secular governing authority above their own fellowship. They exposed the fear and lack of practical faith disease which is crippling Christians in America.
I’m seeking a “church”, a fellowship that will appreciate my contributions and allow me to serve as the musician and leader that I am. I pray that God will provide this fellowship for me locally. I have it virtually but my “doing life” model is not a part time thing. It isn’t just virtual. This is a challenge.
If you have this challenge too, reach out.
Doing life together and finding common ground to SING (unmasked) and serve with bold reckless abandon as God leads rather than “how we’ve always done it” is the goal.
Yes we should have a pipe organ.
Yes we should have a drum set.
Yes we should have a guitar and bass.
Yes we should have a great choir.
Yes we should have great congregational singing. Hymns and choruses and even chanting.
Yes we should welcome anyone anytime.
Yes we should have a beautiful facility.
Yes yes yes. These provide a ring of resources which blesses and binds with the power of faith hope and love.
Above all, it is the fellowship of the ring that matter most. It is precious and worthy but only in service to Jesus Christ not ourselves.
Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love. The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above. Amen.
If another chooses to share with you. JUST Listen and be with them. Do NOT equivocate and do NOT share how much you know because of YOUR pain. They wish to heal and seek the light not wallow in the morass of self pity. Beware dragging them into your story. Be with them In theirs. Resist the urge to solve. Seek solutions with them not for them. Period. And only if they ask. Above all be with them. Be. Love. Serve. Repeat. Does NOT mean to turn the issues and topics to you. True friends can do this as hard as it is.
There should be more songs about this.
Inspired by the fellowship of the ring.
The inner turmoil of an unfulfilled artist is impossible to quantify. The art sets fire to its creator with both its presence and its absence. The spark burns brightly but it is the discipline and community which sustain the artist and the creator and protects against the cold and the explosions. Sparks can only be managed and channeled. The brighter and more powerful sparks require extraordinary communities and discipline to avoid disaster.
The establishment empire is too often viewed as the enemy in the scripts we read. The change agents’ motives are not so pure as they pretend. That is reality. Each of us has a role in the epics we find ourselves in.
What stage are we playing?
If you think that making music is primarily about the right notes and right rhythms, you and I on different planets. Right notes and rhythms are maybe 25% of the experience. Maybe less. Sharing the soul of the performer, and the composer with form, style, choice and color across time and place is everything. Notes and rhythms are like bricks and boards. They are necessary to build a house, but useless to actually live in until they are assembled. #ChoirIsLife
Artists and their art do not fit in. They inspire and spark the soul. The popularity premise of our world today is rubbish. Light and Salt are not optional for living.
Singing in a safe space is a way forward. We need to start somewhere in society. The local church and musicians are a critical step.
We as individual must step up and be the light. #JustSing
It is difficult if not impossible to find oxygen to breathe elegance, beauty, integrity, excellence and love in a room filled with the fires of hatred, discord, disgust, and demagoguery. As artists, we have a role to play. We must use emotions to influence but not inflame. Fire burns and consumes. It destroys its creator and becomes a living but dead thing. We must extinguish the flames, and then we can begin the process to build. We can make our world great. Will we?
Virtue flows from a focus on higher things. We must stand and be counted but we must stand on a foundation that is solid rather than molten. We as a society have elevated virtue signaling above virtue, and as a result, everything is burning. That is a real challenge that burns in my mind over and over. #Inspiredbyfriend
You choose whether you focus on what you can do... or what you can't do. Words have power. Are you so tired, so sore, or so sleepy... or are you focused on how you can be less tired, less sore... less sleepy. Be better. Don't seek affirmation for failing in others. Be inspired by achievements of others. Be more than you are. Choose what you tell yourself and others.
The choir and collective singing is in the heart of worship. It is powerful, indicting, and comforting, but not always comfortable. Your congregation is essentially a choir. The recent pandemic crisis has restricted almost all communal singing due to the numbers, aerosol science speculations, fear, and the reality that Covid is a serious and dangerous disease for many choral singers due to age, comorbidity and a whole series of issues and complications born out of congregating together.
Is worship suffering? Yes it is.
Are churches growing in the midst of this crisis? Not in nickels and noses that I can see. but maybe in other ways.
My premise is that the absence of congregational and choral singing has reminded us all of how important worship is to our wellbeing. It also exposes a critical gap in many churches engagement models. Fellowship, Sunday School for kids and adults, Bible Study, and Service projects are the lifeblood of our churches.. Worship is a reflection of service.. in a service. It is the lens, the metric, to evaluate our health. When we are faithful and submit to serve and love others… Worship will showcase our hearts.
We must sing together and share songs. This is about more than physical singing. It is about example. Singing is uncomfortable for many because it is an outward and public sharing of heart. This exposes us, and makes us vulnerable. We are so lucky that God covers us.
Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you.
Intersection of principles and practices...