The Pallet Post

12 07 2013

One day before high school mission trip…All of the paperwork was filled out, all of the programming was written, and all of the supplies had been bought. (Hallelujah!!)

But instead of taking a rest, Luke (my summer intern) and I went on an adventure around town to create a Pinterest-inspired worship background. First, we had to find a free pallet. (Shreveport folks, if you need a free pallet, I can connect you!) Then, we printed and cut out giant letter stencils. Next, we experimented with white spray paint that we found in a closet before moving on to our more effective acrylic paint. We ended up staying up at the church until well into the evening!

Each night of the trip, we explored one of the “One Another” verses in the Bible. Some of our girls took responsibility for adding a new word each night, and then on the last night, we had each participant sign the board using a paint pen.

Love, love, love the result!!! Here’s the evolution of our pallet:

Photo07012109

Photo07022148

Photo07040643

Photo07050925

Photo07060005





This is the Song that Doesn’t End…

3 11 2009

Jordan and I attended a mini-lecture tonight at Emory University given by Ed Phillips, associate professor of worship and liturgical theology at Candler School of Theology.  He focused on a familiar passage from the United Methodist Communion Prayer:

“And so, with  your people on earth and all the company of heaven we praise your name and join their unending hymnHolyholyholy Lord, God of power and might, Heaven and earth are full of your glory…”

This “unending hymn” is described in the book of Isaiah and then again in the Revelation of John.  Apparently all the company of heaven is continuously singing of the holiness of the Lord God.  And when we sing that familiar hymn, we  are literally singing along with them.  This liturgy in particular, and corporate worship in general, connects us with something deep and wonderful: with our brothers and sisters from all Christian denominations around the globe; with the history of the church and the most ancient written liturgies; with the original writers of the Bible, through their visions; with the saints and angels in heaven; and with God Himself.

Dr. Phillips’ talk really brought us into a new understanding of corporate worship; not as something we create, or do; but as something that we join.  We add our voices into the history and tradition of the church universal, lifting our songs to heaven.  In that sense, worship can never truly be an individual thing.

For us as musicians, this is an important and humbling concept: one that reaches into the heart and true purpose of worship.  We talk a lot about how church services should not be a performance, but in striving for excellence in artistry and musicianship, it is sometimes difficult to draw the line between worship and performance.  But this idea of “joining in the unending hymn” means that you have to acknowledge that the church is bigger than your church walls, and that your particular service is only one small piece of the bigger song, which will continue forever, with or without you.  Then you start to realize that this God thing is bigger than you could ever imagine and you definitely want to be a part of it, giving your all to the God of power and might, who was and is and is to come.





Getting into the Praise Habit

1 11 2009

I love the book of Leviticus!

Sometimes when I tell people this, they sort of smile and nod, and back away slowly.

I get it.  Leviticus isn’t necessarily the most “fun” book to read, or the most approachable.  It’s filled with laws, instructions for sacrifices, prescriptions for punishment, cleanliness standards.  (and a few great one-liners).  It gets up close and personal (and just plain gross) with details about bodily discharges, scabby sores, and mildew.  It’s easy to write off the entire book as archaic, or worse, irrelevant.

I love it anyway.

In the beginning of the book, God devotes a whole seven chapters to the Israelite’s system of sacrifice.  In true Levitical form, He goes into great detail: what kind of animals to sacrifice, how to choose the animals for sacrifice, what parts to sacrifice, what parts to give to the priest.  Apparently, this is important stuff.  And if God thinks it’s important, then we certainly should be paying attention.

But later in the Bible, God starts telling his people, “I hate your sacrifices and burnt offerings.”

That’s not so shocking to us today.  After all, we don’t go around sacrificing goats and bulls; yet we manage to worship God just fine.  It seems self-evident that God doesn’t need burnt offerings.

In the Israelite culture, however, these sort of statements were a big deal.  It would be like God coming down and saying, “I really hate the music that you play in church on Sunday morning.”

Our first reaction might be defensive — “What’s wrong with the music?  Our musicians are really talented, and they practice for the service to make sure they get all of the notes right.”

But in Psalm 50, God makes clear that they weren’t doing anything wrong:

This is God, your God,
speaking to you.
I don’t find fault with your acts of worship,
the frequent burnt sacrifices you offer.

But why should I want your blue-ribbon bull,
or more and more goats from your herds?
Every creature in the forest is mine,
the wild animals on all the mountains.
I know every mountain bird by name;
the scampering field mice are my friends.
If I get hungry, do you think I’d tell you?
All creation and its bounty are mine.
Do you think I feast on venison?
or drink draughts of goats’ blood?
Spread for me a banquet of praise,
serve High God a feast of kept promises,
And call for help when you’re in trouble—
I’ll help you, and you’ll honor me.”

David Crowder reflects on the psalm as follows:
“I would be so bold as to say eating barbecue and wearing the sauce on your fingers and face and a grin as big as Texas with the knowledge that Caps Lock GOD is at the center of this can be truer praise than belting this ‘song ritual’ that we have elevated to dangerous heights…We, like, the Israelites, often find rescue in the burnt offering and not in the GOD who is the source of all.  We find comfort in the song and not in the Comforter.  It is a subtle but necessary shift.  It is more difficult to find the Creator in a barbecue sandwich than in your favorite Sunday-morning song, but when you do, when you begin to find Him in all the stuff of life, everything starts singing.  Every moment breaks into song.  Every breath becomes sacrifice, and the songs become sweetness.  This is living praise.”

(Praise Habit, page 82)





Dance Upon Injustice!

13 09 2009

The church we attended today is nestled in a small, historic building, right in the midst of Midtown.  They keep the door open throughout the service for anyone passing by, and the walls are thin enough (or perhaps the music was loud enough) that we could hear the first verse of “Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble?” as we we were walking in.  After we settled into the pews, the words really sank in for me, in a new way:

“Open up the doors and let the music play.
Let the streets resound with singing.
Songs that bring Your hope, and songs that bring Your joy,
Dancers who dance upon injustice.”

With the door behind us flung wide open, I suddenly had this vision of the church spilling open onto the streets, with the sounds of our worship resounding all around us.  This is exactly what “creative theology” is all about: an idea, a vision, for the kingdom lived out through music and dance (among other things).  Dancing upon injustice.

Sometimes the music and dancing is literally just that: music and dancing.  And sometimes, it’s the songs of our lives, our ministries, our stories, all coming together in kingdom-work onto the streets and into the city and into the world:

Do you feel the darkness tremble?
When all the saints join in one song
And all the streams flow as one river
To wash away our brokenness

And we can see that
God You’re moving
A mighty river through the nations
And young and old will turn to Jesus
Fling wide you heavenly gates
Prepare the way of the risen Lord





By Your Grace

22 08 2009

A song I’ve been playing around with for a while. It has no tune yet (I think because it’s so wordy), but I’m working on that. Just wanted to share:

You know what we desire before we kneel to pray
We cannot add to what you are by anything we say
Everything we give, Lord, we first received from You
So I wonder what our offerings are for…

Still we come to Your altar, bringing what You require
That through our worship, we might know You more.

By Your grace, You accept our offering of praise
You accept our lives as a humble sacrifice
You give us reason to be holy, and then You make the way
In all these things, O Lord, we thank You for Your grace.

We pray that You’ll be with us, though You’re already here
We fail to see Your glory whenever You appear
In Your steadfast love, Lord, forgive us when we falter
We long to know Your truth and be renewed.

So we come to Your altar, with our hands held high
Imperfect though we are, we worship You.

By Your grace, You accept our offering of praise
You accept our lives as a humble sacrifice
You give us reason to be holy, and then You make the way
In all these things, O Lord, we thank You for Your grace.





The Lunatic Gospel: Genesis 3 & 4

19 07 2009

Click here to read Genesis 3 & 4.

The Fall of Man, by Titian

The Fall of Man, by Titian

In church yesterday we talked about the interconnectedness of worship and obedience. It is possible to have one without the other, but in order to truly glorify God and achieve our purpose, we must do both: simultaneously and continuously.

The Israelites knew a lot about worship and obedience. They had entire books of legal codes, both civil and religious. There was a law to cover every situation, and corollaries that explained what to do if the law was disobeyed. Even worship was regulated by strict protocol–there were definite “dos” and “don’ts” about how to approach God with your sacrifices.

By such standards, the first humans had it easy. They only had one direct commandment from God, and everything else was fair game. Adam and Eve had come face-to-face with their Creator, and the natural response would be to respect his only wish and provide an example of obedient worship for generations to come. Right?

Wrong. They failed. Miserably, and with such notoriety that this chapter has become known as the Fall of Man. And it only gets worse from there.

a more modern representation of the Biblical story, from www.funnypix.ca

a more modern representation of the Biblical story, from http://www.funnypix.ca

We’re never told exactly what was wrong with Cain’s sacrifice. Maybe he didn’t give God the best of what he had to offer, maybe he offered it up grudgingly, or maybe his offering just wasn’t holy. In any case, God reasons with him and offers him the chance to try again.

But here’s the problem. At the heart of it all, Cain is not willing to worship God rightly. He’d rather bring an unworthy sacrifice, and he’d even rather murder his own brother, than worship God rightly.

Rob Bell wrote in Velvet Elvis that the real question about the Fall of Man is not whether or not the story happened, but whether and how it is happening today. Over and over again, we fail to obey, and thus we choose not to worship God. Just when we think we can’t go any lower, we fall again. And each time, it is as much a tragedy as it was back then.

(originally posted 5/26/08 at http://thelunaticgospel.blogspot.com)