Posts Tagged 'Worship'

Anguish and Grace: I Interview Kevin Prosch

From my mid-teens on, I grew up on the music of Kevin Prosch. I discovered him during that odd time of my life when I was attending a Presbyterian church but dating a Vineyard gal and avidly reading the Morninstar Journal out of Charlotte; it was as though I was trying to preserve the ecstatic fruit of my Assemblies of God past amid my rationalist Reformed church-going. Kevin’s music helped keep me sane – or was it insane with a visceral longing for friendship with God and real-world emotional vulnerability? Either way, I kept listening to Kevin even after I outgrew certain aspects of charismatic Christian culture, even as I departed the PCA.

Then…Kevin disappeared from the scene, amid rumors of scandal. Years later, as suddenly as he had dissappeared, he was back! It looked like he began a new life, one of transparency, integrity, and grace. To top it off, he’d cut one of the most moving albums of his artistic career to that point, Palanquin. Listen to this song from that album:

The words are worth meditating on in their entirety:

There’s a harp in my heart,
and only you can play it
There’s a song in my broken soul,
and only you can sing it
You’re so unpredictable, God,
just like the rhythm, the rhythm of weeping
And my life is so upside down
But you keep on coming, coming around
You keep on loving, I still let you down

There’s a harp in my heart,
and only you can play it
There’s a song in my broken soul,
and only you can sing it
I hear those curfew bells are ringing,
but I just can’t stop my singing
I’ve got to tell just one more person,
Never give up, keep on dreaming
Quieter than rain, He knows all your pain

There’s a cry I have had
that I could love my brother
And not look at that race,
That religion or That color
You love those Presbyterians, God
you love the gays and the lesbians
You love the Buddhists and the prostitutes
You’re not like us, we always change
You see through our sin, and You love us anyway

Oh, I wish you would put those words in my mouth, God
To tell the world what you’re realy like
Not some dead God who lives in some building
But a Father of kindness, a son of forgiveness,
a Spirit who helps me
Yeah that who you are

After all these years of enjoying Kevin’s music, we were finally introduced via a mutual friend, Don Milam. Thanks to Don, I was able to connect with Kevin via phone to interview him for the mega-esteemed Homebrewed Christianity podcast! Ohh yeah. We talked; it’s an absolutely riveting hour as Kevin pours out his heart and soul.

As they wrote on the Homebrewed hub,

His story is incredibly fascinating — from his troubled relationship with his abusive father as a child, to stockpiling arms and being held captive by gold miners — with music being an important source of comfort throughout his early life. His conversion to Christian faith and involvement in the early Vineyard movement led to his career as a musician, both in recording Christian worship albums, and in the mainstream with his band The Black Peppercorns. But later he sold all of his equipment, feeling too broken and unworthy to continue, only to reemerge later restored to ministry at More Church in Amarillo, Texas, and visionary of the Music Coope Festival (June 9-11), where artists are coming together to create music in the context of community.

So there you have it! Listen here. You’ll be glad you did.

And be sure to check out the Music Coope artists’ collective, their upcoming Festival, and More Church in Amarillo.

Ancient-Future Worship: The Odes Project

I’m no musician, but I think a lot about worship-in-song. As I’ve commented some before, I want to see worship become increasingly wise and transformative, with everything from lyrics to tone aiding in the development and formation of the worshiper. (More about this in a post soon – probably something about ‘integral worship.’) This doesn’t always mean aping the past (as Kevin Beck so succinctly argues), but I am a ‘conservative’ in that I think the past offers us many rich treasures, treasures that can provide a welcome relief, at times, from the cacophony of the present. It is with this in mind that I approached The Odes Project, a double-album of contemporary worship arrangements based on “the oldest Christian hymnal,” the second-century Odes of Solomon.

The Odes Project bills itself as an adaptation of

…the Odes of Solomon for use in worship today, bringing the past to the present. It is hoped that by doing so, a greater understanding of the nature and function of Christian hymns will be understood by Christian artists who are learning the principles and practices of Christian worship.

Two Christian Music pioneers, Dr. Chuck Fromm and John Andrew Schreiner joined together to create this project, sharing a calling to serve Christian worship communities with “new song.” Both are lifelong students of worship and music, and as they joined their talents together, they resolved to make these ancient songs of faith accessible in the present tense. Fromm is a visionary and publisher in the service of worship. He connected with the Odes of Solomon while studying the worship of the early 1970′s worship music and preparing to write his dissertation. The worship history scholar Hughes Oliphant Old, a regular columnist in Worship Leader magazine, pointed out the connection between the Odes and the wisdom doxology of praise. Fromm related the singing and teaching to his own experience of the Jesus Movement of the early 70s. John Schreiner is a noted musician, composer and worship leader/pastor and has dedicated his life to the service of the Word through music.

The album is very easy to listen to – it’s a tasteful arrangement of 32 of the 42 Odes. I could see singing many of these in a congregation; the lyrics are great – as you can imagine, they’re very theocentric. Take this song, adapted from Ode 12, for instance:

He filled me with his truth
So I sing of His beauty
He came to dwell with me
So that I reflect His light
He poured out his love on me
So I can show mercy
He gave me the truth of his Word
So I share his love

Come and Flow living waters
Flow through me
That I might serve You
Flow living waters
Flow through me
That I might serve you
Overflowing, overflowing to those who thirst.

Inexpressible
Before the dawning of His light
His eternal Word
His mind and his thought
Unsearchable
Yet your Word dwells with me
And Your truth is love, One to another
I will sing of Your beauty, Your glory, Your purpose, Your ways

Blessed are they who know him
Blessed are they who love
Blessed are they who know him
Blessed are they who love

One to another, One to another, One to another

The only thing I’d change, musically, for congregational singing is that I might arrange the music to sound a little more ancient, ambient, and/or a capella. As they stand now, they’re rather ‘Maranatha‘ in style, which isn’t exactly my bag – but it makes sense, seeing as that is the background of the composer.

One last word: I’ve corresponded some with the creators and really appreciate their vision to bring the Odes of Solomon to life. But it’s ironic to me that this very evangelical crew is helping popularize a work that many scholars consider Gnostic in origin. As its Wikipedia entry notes, the Odes

perhaps originated from a heretical or gnostic group. This can be seen in the extensive use of the word ‘knowledge’ (Syr. ܝܕܥܬܐ īḏa‘tâ; Gk. γνωσις gnōsis), the slight suggestion that the Saviour needed saving in Ode 8:21c (ܘܦ̈ܖܝܩܐ ܒܗܘ ܕܐܬܦܪܩ wafrîqê ḇ-haw d’eṯpreq — ‘and the saved (are) in him who was saved’) and the image of the Father having breasts that are milked by the Holy Spirit to bring about the incarnation of Christ.

It’s quick to note, however, that

In the case of ‘knowledge’, it is always a reference to God’s gift of his self-revelation, and, as the Odes are replete with enjoyment in God’s good creation, they seem at odds with the gnostic concept of knowledge providing the means of release from the imperfect world. A number of scholars, considering the links with gnosticism have been overworked, now see the Odes as gnosistic at most.

You know, like the Gospel of John. At most, this might be the reason why some Odes were rendered for this project and some were not.

There are other things that are intriguing to me about the Odes, including its prototypical Trinitarian doxology in Ode 23, which the composers render explicit throughout the album; I wish they would have done the same with the rich feminine and nursing imagery of God – but perhaps this is something Isaac Everett or the liturgists at St Gregory’s in San Francisco can take on?

All in all, I’d recommend The Odes Project. It’s an excellent model of what good ancient-future worship can look like.

Guzzling Some Godka – Altered States & Permanent Traits of Spiritual Consciousness

GodkaIntegral musician, actor and all-around hilarious guy Stuart Davis has just filmed a short commercial hawking the latest in potable ancient-future altered states of (higher) consciousness – Godka, or psilocybin-infused vodka.

!!!

StuartAbsinthe what?

I wonder if he’s met our pals John Crowder and Benjamin Dunn – or John Scotland and Emerge Wales and Red Letters crew, for that matter?

Have you missed John since my interview with him last year? He’s YouTubing up a storm…here’s one of the latest, on ‘spiritual exercises’…

In a perfect world, John Crowder and Stuart Davis would get along like gangbusters. Stuart does for sex – on his bleeding-edge Sex, God, and Rock & Roll – what John does for drug culture. Crowder Baby Jesus Toke

If you missed it last year, here’s my six-parter looking at the Pentecostal/charismatic avant-garde, kicking off with Charismatic Chaos or (Holy) Spirited Deconstruction?

…and leading into a five-parter dialogue with Mr. John Crowder himself:

Part I Crowder Blue

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Good times.

What do you think of spirituality and altered states of consciousness? What I’m thinking these days is inspired by and summed up nicely in a piece entitled Mystical Experience or Unitive Seeing? by integral Christian contemplative Cynthia Bourgeault, in Richard Rohr‘s Radical Grace magazine. Money quote (though I could easily take the highlighter of my life and highest aspirations to the entire article):

The word “mystical” is almost always immediately coupled with the word “experience,” and a mystical experience becomes something that you have—or want to have, anyway. It becomes a sign of God’s special favor—a kind of spiritual “peak experience”—and circumstances promising to deliver that experience are eagerly sought after: from sacred chanting and Eucharistic devotion to Sufi whirling, solitude in the desert, or peyote. In the usual way of looking at things, it is an altered state of consciousness, ecstatic, something that takes you far beyond your usual self, a straight shot into divine consciousness.

What’s so bad about that?

Well, nothing, really. [Mike's note: And I'd want to emphasize that I agree 100% - there's nothing wrong with ecstasy and spiritual peak experiences! In fact, I could really use one right now...John, if you're reading this, could you email me a toke of the Holy Ghost? I'd like Jesus on the mainline, please!] But from the point of view of real spiritual growth, it’s an immature state— a “state” rather than a “stage,” in the helpful language of Ken Wilber. A state is a place you go to; a stage is a place you come from: integrated and mature spiritual experience. It’s true that a mystical experience can indeed be a sneak preview of how the universe looks from the point of view of non-dual consciousness. And it’s true that this consciousness does indeed operate at a higher level of vibrational intensity, which at first can overwhelm our normal cognitve systems. But the point is not to squander this infusion of energy on bliss trips, but to learn to contain it within a quiet and spacious consciousness and allow it to permanently bring about a shift in our operating system, so that unitive (or non-dual) perception becomes our ordinary, and completely normal mode of perception.

Amen and amen. I’ll drink to that.

Devotion, Ethics, & the Tree of Life

treeoflifeiiIn a few days I’ll be speaking at the Transmillennial 2009 conference in Little Rock. I’ll be sharing on The Incredible, Edible God: You Are What You Eat. (or, How Faith & Food go together like Peas & Carrots) – Love feasts! Home gardening! Farmers’ markets! The Tree of Life! What on heaven & earth do all these things have in common? Join Mike Morrell in an interactive conversation on spirituality, hospitality,  culinary pleasure and the coming deep economy.

The Tree of Life has always fascinated me – as a symbol, and icon, a pointer to a deeper reality of divine fellowship and a new way to live. When I heard that Frank Viola was doing a mega-blog-circuit for his latest (and quite possibly greatest) From Eternity to Here today, I just had to ask him about his take on the Tree of Life, which he discusses in Chapter 19, God’s Building Site.

Here’s the interview:

1.) Can you give us a practical example of what it might mean for an individual or fellowship to partake of Christ? Is this a way of describing all spiritual activity a person or church does (ie, worship, prayer, thanksgiving), or do you mean something more particular?

Worship through song, prayer, and any other “spiritual disciplines” or activities can certainly be the vehicle through which a person partakes of Christ. However, an individual can do all of those things without partaking of Him. So it depends on whether or not their inner being is engaged and they are connecting with the Lord through it. For example, in Ephesians 5, Paul exhorts the Asian believers to be filled with the Spirit by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Now, one can sing a song and their heart (mind, will, emotions, and conscience) not be engaged at all. In such cases, there will be no “filling.” Or they can sing the same song and be turning to Christ and receiving from the Lord’s Spirit through it, i.e., eating and drinking of His life. It’s the same with reading Scripture. One can read the Scripture in such a way wherein there’s no spiritual transaction at all. Or they can read it as a means of spiritual communion with the living Christ. That said, I think of various spiritual activities simply as utensils. But those utensils are designed to carry food into one’s body. It’s possible to put an empty fork or spoon into one’s mouth. We wouldn’t call that eating.

2.) You outline the superiority of living by eating from the Tree of Life rather than the Tree of Knowledge; you rightly point out that, biblically speaking, the Tree of Knowledge contains knowledge of good as well as knowledge of evil and that the only one who is innate Goodness is the Father. Can you share with us an example of an individual or fellowship who was partaking of the Tree of Life in a way that might have appeared ‘evil’ in the short term but was later vindicated as the highest Good (or Life) in the long-term? I’d love to hear a story from history or your personal experience.

I’m not sure if I can think of a case in my own life where something I did was considered “evil” in the eyes of others, yet I felt it was the Lord. Perhaps writing the book Pagan Christianity falls into that category ;-)

Nonetheless, I can think of many cases where a certain action wasn’t understood or thought to have been wrong by others and the Lord’s vindication came later. (At the same time, I can think of times where I completely mistook what the Lord was putting on my heart and interpreted it wrong. Or where I expected Him to do something, and He didn’t.)

I’ll just share one case that comes close to what you’re asking. Once an individual came into our fellowship. For purposes of clarity, we’ll call this person “Pat.” Pat was frustrated because they felt I wasn’t spending enough time with them. Pat then began to sow seeds of discord between myself and a friend of mine. It got so bad that Pat and my friend visited me unannounced and began to rebuke me for all sorts of vague things that Pat had “sensed.” I didn’t say a word. The silence was deafening. I was then rebuked for being silent and not responding to the charges. In a private conversation with my friend sometime afterwards, my friend pressed me about what I really thought of Pat. Feeling forced to give an answer, I said that Pat was not being honest with us about who they were. I perceived that Pat came into our lives under false pretenses and was sowing seeds of discord. My friend defended Pat and asked for concrete evidence. I had none. I just perceived it, and I was certain enough to say it. Not long afterwards, it came out to everyone that Pat had lied about who they were and where they had come from. The story shocked everyone who knew Pat because the details weren’t pretty at all. As soon as we all found out, Pat disappeared.

As to your specific question about something appearing “evil,” some would offer Bonheoffer’s decision to support the plot to kill Hitler as a case in point. Bonheoffer felt it was God who led him to do this, even though he was seriously conflicted over God’s will in doing it.

So there you have it! What do you think, dear readers?

Mine is just one of 50+ blogs asking Frank questions and reviewing his CBA-bestselling From Eternity to Here today. Find out more about the book & join the Facebook group here; see a full list of the blogging participants after the jump.

PS: Do you Twitter? Let’s follow each other! I’m @zoecarnate

Continue reading ‘Devotion, Ethics, & the Tree of Life’

Saturday Morning Praize

Good morning! I wanted to share with you three great (if you’ll pardon the term) praise & worship videos friends of mine posted on YouTube.

This one from Brittian Bullock is a nice atmospheric riff on faith & ambiguity

Seth Irby‘s anthemic offering expresses unabashed praise toward a good God

Brian McLaren‘s song here is infectious – it’s what would happen if Michael Dowd wrote Messianic Jewish music

Coming soon to a congregation near you?

Falling Forward – Sensual Jesus

Get it while it’s hot – you can say you heard it when

by Brittian Bullock

A Merry Sufjan Christmas, 2008

No, this isn’t new, alas – but a goodie.

Meantime, those wanting to get their 2008 Sufjan-esque fix should check out the Stevens-produced Welcome to the Welcome Wagon, a collection of “hymns, spirituals and ramshackle originals.” (As my friend Todd Fadel puts it) Find out more about the Welcome Wagon at Love Is Concrete.

PS: Song leader types, Todd can get you chord charts from this album for group singing!)

Worship for an Emerging Church – Part 1 – Zehnder

Last year I blogged (here, here and here) about a need for worship songs that I could sing with integrity. Adam Walker Cleaveland blogged about this very same thing years and years ago, and then again more recently – inciting some controversy as to one of his choices. Let’s revisit some of Adam’s practical suggestions for composing fresh emerging church worship music:

http://www.effervescence.co.uk/gallery2/emergence_636x424.jpg

  • gender-inclusive language (esp. in our language for God)
  • a shift from a I-YOU-me & God focus, and a refocusing on the community
  • a passion for the biblical themes of social justice, peace and a desire to speak for the oppressed
  • maybe just some more songs straight from scripture (or from saints and desert fathers), letting God’s work speak for itself, instead of pressing our own interpretation onto it, and onto the congregation that will sing the song

Jonny Baker is always blogging faithfully about alternatives to the “Contemporary Christian Music” worship scene on the one hand and inflexible traditionalism on the other – as does Dan Wilt. And a few years ago Brian McLaren penned on Open Letter to Worship Songwriters. You should read the whole thing, but I’m going to distill some of Brian’s practical suggestions, starting with biblical themes he’d like to see (re-) emphasized:

  • Eschatological themes in their purest sense; focusing on God’s world-remaking work, wooing us poetically to see God’s New Covenant World through new eyes
  • Songs of Mission, telling the story of Good News for the poor & broken
  • Mining lyrical treasure from Church history, “from the Patristic period to the Celtic period to the Puritan period.”
  • Songs celebrating God’s character and God’s role as Creator
  • Songs of lament
  • Mixing it up to have not just ‘songs’ at all, but “poetry, historic prayers, silence, meditative reading, etc.”

With this in mind, over the next few days I’m going to highlight worship artists who are producing quality worship for the Church in emergence. I’m not going to really be ‘reviewing’ the albums with the cool, dispassionate ear of someone seeking to evaluate a passive recorded-listening experience. Rather, I’ll be overviewing them for their lyrical content, ethos, and congregational ‘singability’ – how they might actually enrich our worshipping life together.That said, our first artist spotlight will be…

Zehnder: Going Up

Site logo

No, silly heresy-hunters, ‘Zehnder’ is not some new emerging church meditation practice, it’s a last name – belonging to twins Tim and Tom Zehnder. Called “musicians, disciples and theologians – all in one” by their senior pastor at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles, Zehnder produce original worship music on a regular basis for groups as varied as their local church, Yale’s Faith as a Way of Life program, and Bread for the World – I met the brothers Zehnder at a Hunger Justice Leaders training by Bread this summer in DC.

Zehnder’s sound is upbeat, pure Los Angeles – strings and harmony and multicultural instrumentation. Clearly it’s a couple of white guys, and yet they manage to incorporate Latin, Reggae and Soul sounds honestly. They sound impressive, and yet – I think this is a testimony to their humility and desire to produce music for the whole Church – it’s not intimidating. When listening, you think “My church could sing that.” Both in the technical sense (“We could pull that off”) and in the desire sense (“I’d like to sing that.”)

Zehnder draws from Scripture, African spirituals, traditional hymnody, and their real-life experiences. Some lyrical examples:

“And oh the grief, to say goodbye,
Sing out waiting thorugh labored sigh.
Swing white-hot fury to black despair,
Dare you to find your God in there!

I believe, help my unbelief. I believe, help my unbelief.”

- from I Believe, written in the aftermath of their father’s death in 2006.

goingup
“Blow through me, Wind, breathe on me, Breath, make Spirit born,
All of my soul, make Spirit born, Spirit born.

The Nicodemus in me can’t believe how
The Nicodemus in me is too long in religious categories
The Nicodemus in me still runs to the rebel rabbi
In the middle of the night…”

- from Spirit Born, available as a free MP3 download here.

You can find out more info about Going Up here. Here’s a music video for Song of Peace, from one of their previous albums:


Calling emerging worship artists!

Do you have a CD that you’d like me to take a listen to for this series? (This means you, COTA, Solomon’s Porch, and Proost!) If so, leave a comment below and I’ll give you my snail-mail address.

No US Post-Charismatic? Say It Aint’ So! And, Bentley Sadness

So Rob McAlpine pens this (from my early web-readings) thoughtful book, Post-Charismatic, and I’ve been waiting for a couple of years now to read it in book form in the U.S. I thought my friends at David C Cook USA were gonna pick it up, but apparently they’re not. Do me a favor: If you want to see this book in the US of A, go to Robby Mac’s post and comment up a storm, all of you. Then I’m going to go to Cook with that post and show them the demand of folks who’d like to buy a US version. Personally, I think the charismatic movement is hot, with friends and foes alike looking for substantial writing about it. Rob paints a balanced portrait of this stream, giving an accessible history and credible way forward.

Speaking of the volatility of our Spirit-filled brethren, Boston Vineyard pastor Dave Schmelzer provides a balanced take on the Lakeland revival, and Brother Maynard gives us a good (though difficult) account of the it and the Bentley’s marital separation. Let’s pray for the Bentleys, Lakeland Florida, the unity of the Church, and for all God’s people to cultivate a healthy appreciation for the beautifully subversive and transformative nature of both God’s power and God’s ideas (teaching, Scripture, doctrine…however you want to put it).

Revival in an Internet Age – Lakeland Links Roundup

http://jc4jc.files.wordpress.com/2007/05/revival.jpg?w=500When the Brownsville Florida revival broke out nearly 15 years ago the Internet was barely a glimmer in most people’s eyes. Even then it had some effect on getting the word out about – and critiquing – the happening. Well, lightning has apparently struck twice in Florida – there has been a veritable bit-torrent written about the “Lakeland Outpouring” expressing both unqualified support and what sounds to me like witch-hunting (knocking the guy for getting tattoos? C’mon.) Amid all of this din, I’ve found a handful of pretty insightful pieces on it from across the spectrum. Here they are.

Lakeland, Florida, Barack Obama & Burma: A Call to Respond to The Signs of the Times by Pete Grieg

Rumours of Revival by Billy Kennedy

(Another) Rumours of Revival by David Derbyshire

The Lakeland Outpouring and Todd Bentley By Robert Holmes and Brian Medway in Storm Harvest (Australia)

Leaders Commission Todd Bentley at ‘Lakeland Outpouring’ – from Charisma Magazine

Biblical Reasons To Receive God’s Glory and Give It Away in Power Evangelism by Dr. Gary S. Greig

Rick Joyner on Lakeland (and Question/Response)

Chuck Pierce and C. Peter Wagner on Lakeland

Leaving Lakeland in TheOoze: Part One, Part Two, and Part Three

Lifting Jesus High! Bringing Biblical Light to Your Questions about the Lakeland Outpouring & Todd Bentley by Todd Bentley – the Man Himself speaks out!

So what do I think? I wouldn’t venture to say unless I go to Lakeland. I’ll be in Florida this next week, but alas: here rather than here. But I’ll continue to pray that God’s good dreams find hands, feet, and ecosystem to manifest, in as much diversity as God so delights in. Until next time, friends…


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  • Friend of Emergent Village

    My Writings: Varied and Sundry Pieces Online

    Illumination and Darkness: An Anne Rice Feature from Burnside Writer's Collective
    Shadows & Light: An Anne Rice Interview in MP3 format from Relevant Magazine
    God's Ultimate Passion: A Trinity of Frank Viola interview on Next Wave: Part I, Part II, Part III
    Review: Furious Pursuit by Tim King, from The Ooze
    Church Planting Chat from Next-Wave
    Review: Untold Story of the New Testament Church by Frank Viola, from Next-Wave

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