Thinking Out Loud

December 18, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Church Stage Design Ideas - Harvest Chapel Christian Fellowship

One week to the big day, here is a mix of both seasonal and regular links. It’s exciting to think how many people get saved each week just reading these story teasers.Click anything below to read the list at Out of Ur, a blog of Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal

Upper Photo: From the blog Church Stage Design Ideas, a picture of Harvest Chapel Christian Fellowship in Bradenton, Florida. Click here for more.

Lower Photo: Unnamed church at a related website, VisualWorshiper.com uses a technique called Environmental Projection. Click here for more.

Environmental Projection from VisualWorshiper dot com

December 16, 2013

Christian Radio Stations and the True Meaning of Christmas

Christmas Banner 2

Because I spend part of my week in a Christian retail environment, I hear a lot from customers about their frustration trying to buy Christmas cards that contain anything even remotely resembling the Biblical Christmas story, and as I mentioned here a few days ago, the birth narrative from Matthew or Luke is just the beginning of what we, as Christ-followers, would want to convey.  Fortunately, the Christian bookstores — and their online equivalents — are able to offer products that aren’t about Rudolph, or Frosty, or one-horse open sleighs.

So now that we’re into the final countdown to Christmas, I’m at a total loss to understand how it is that the customers who so decry the secularization of Christmas can handle what Christian radio is offering during the final weeks of December. Biblical narrative? Idea that Jesus came to save us? Concept of God incarnate? Some songs, yes; but in many others that are sucking up valuable Christian radio airtime, it’s just not there to be heard.

Now let me say at the outset there are two realities present here.

The first is that successful Christian music artists either feel compelled or are compelled contractually to make a Christmas album. This provides them with extra visibility, extra radio airplay and extra revenue. And I’m sure that these artists really do have deep personal memories of song of these songs from their own childhood years.

Secondly, I realize that for Christian radio stations, they are most likely to attract new listeners at this time of year with a playlist that is more recognizable to the average listener. Maybe some of those new listeners will stick around in January, and hear the Good News in a way they’ve never heard it before. One of my favorite radio ministries is 96five in Brisbane, Australia. They play a mix of Christian and secular family-friendly songs that has earned them top ratings in their market.

Despite both of these realities, I believe there is an expectancy on the part of regular listeners, who are also in many cases financial supporters that the station will take the opportunity to communicate the message of the Gospel at this time of year. Furthermore, I think the broader community feels that in many ways they own lyrics like “Joy to the world, the Lord is come” in a way that they don’t relate to “How great is our God,” and are therefore quite content to stop tuning across the radio spectrum and allow their car radios to stop at any station that’s playing the traditional carol.

I’ve deliberately avoided mentioning names of artists or song titles here, but the one which grates on me (and others) most this year is a recording of a new song called “Merry Christmas, Baby.” Sorry, but there are so many better uses for that three minutes. I realize the song goes into what we might call vertical ‘worship-inclined’ lyrics — lyrics that can be taken two ways — but that isn’t clear to listeners in the context — and title — of the larger song.

There is also an argument for the radio formula where only one song in three is a Christmas song, and listeners traveling to the mall or to family events get to hear the kind of Christian radio that is broadcast the rest of the year, instead of re-branded “Christmas” format that disappears on December 26th. That strategy, is something my Christmas card customers would support. Right now they’re just bewildered.

What’s your relationship to the whole Christian Christmas-album genre?

December 12, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Ketzel The Cat Menorah
Happy 12-12-12

  • Ketzel The Cat Menorah can be ordered here and was discovered, with lots of other Hanukkah kitsch here. If you don’t know the story behind this symbol, read this.
  • Speaking of kitsch, I never thought the introduction this fall of Theologian Trading Cards — yes this really happened — would lead to people wanting to collect cards that have been autographed.
  • He seems a bit young, but someone has already written a Rob Bell biography.  Here’s another review of Rob Bell and a New American Christianity.
  • Mark Driscoll’s home state, Washington, recently legalized small-quantity possession of marijuana. He reflects on this, noting, “people tend to stop maturing when they start self-medicating.”
  • Di Jameikan Nyuu Testiment (the Jamaican New Testament) represents four years research work and US$350,000; funded by was the American Bible Society, Wycliffe Group of Companies, British and Foreign Bible Society, and Spring Harvest through the Bible Society of The West Indies. Read more about the Jiizas Buk here and here.
  • Jen Wilkin writes a must-read for parents on guarding Sabbath-rest for your children.
  • Maybe it’s just me, but the idea of someone buried in a glass-sided coffin especially here in North America just creeps me out; even if the guy was/is a saint.
  • Here’s a skillfully-written list by Rachel Held Evans of five things you don’t have to walk away from if you leave conservative fundamentalism.
  • If you show up on Wednesdays looking for pictures to use on your blog, you might want to get to know Catholic Memes (Facebook page) or Catholic Memes (website).
  • “In an irony of history, the time of spiritual preparation and silent waiting has become the busiest, most frenetic season of the year.” Read more from Philip Clayton.
  • Here’s an article I wrote a year ago about what was then the top news story for at least month, concerning a popular college football coach and his inappropriate relationships with kids too young to attend the college in question. It’s interesting to read this now that we know how the story ended.
  • And from exactly a year ago, Steven Furtick bats it out of the park at a Liberty Convocation. I am really enjoying this series.
  • A Jewish music preservation group sets out to make the definitive Hanukkah compilation and ends up with an album dripping with Christmas cheer.
  • And speaking of music, I don’t know who wrote this song, or who is singing, but it gets my award for most costume changes in a four-minute praise video. This had ‘zero views’ when I discovered it.

 

We Do Family

December 5, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Wednesday List Lynx

Wednesday List Lynx

Not only these, but there was a link list on Saturday as well. *UPDATE* 8:00 PM — Yes, I know about the PSY parody. We might run it here Friday. Click to watch Farmer Style. *END UPDATE*

Religiously Confusing Sign

  • The lynx is not alone this time: We end today with some book covers which appeared here in a 2008 post dealing with whether or not Fluffy and Fido will be in heaven. These are real books that were available for purchase when the post was written. First we took the Chuck Colson position that argues against animals in the afterlife. Then, four months later, in August, 2008; I was persuaded by the Randy Alcorn position which argues for furry friends, though not resurrected ones. Trust me, you could split a church over this topic…

Animals in the Afterlife

December 18, 2011

An Original Christmas Song

With a busy pre-Christmas schedule eating away at our time, the best I can offer this morning is a feeble attempt to boost the YouTube stats on our modest Christmas song video.

As I wrote last year, “It’s not the musical quality, or the recording quality; it’s just my wife and I with some extra time… and a desire to share with my blog audience a song I’ve been singing somewhere every Christmas for a rather long number of years.

“There’s something about the idea of  being home for Christmas; something about the fact the pace of life slows down for a day or two. No wonder that it’s so difficult for people who are alone on December 25th; being with friends or family seems to define the day.Which is why people where I live have revived the annual “Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day” for people who don’t have close family, or can’t afford all the trimmings of the season; people who don’t have a home to go home to.

“We didn’t have time to do this up as professionally as we might have, but I hope you’ll kick back and enjoy the song and its ideas. Most of the technical work was that of my wife, Ruth; who, on some of this, was learning on the fly. If we could ever cut loose from our individual projects, we could be the Christian version of Pomplamouse!

“Most important, I hope you’ll reconnect with the thought that the familiar birth of Christ narrative in Luke is the start of much, much longer story. One that continues into eternity.”

December 14, 2010

Hallelujah Chorus: Should Audiences Still Stand?

Filed under: Christmas, music — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:51 pm

We live in a world where many formal traditions are dying out.   I was thinking a few days ago how the mug has replaced the cup and saucer.   How a generation of North American men don’t know how to tie a tie.   How the courtesy of a reply to a letter has gone the way of the dinosaur.

Wikipedia tells us the origin of the tradition under consideration here:

In many parts of the world, it is the accepted practice for the audience to stand for this section of the performance. The tradition is said to have originated with the first London performance of Messiah, which was attended by King George II. As the first notes of the triumphant Hallelujah Chorus rang out, the king rose to his feet and remained standing until the end of the chorus. Royal protocol has always dictated that when the monarch stands, everyone in their presence is also required to stand. Thus, the entire audience and orchestra stood when the king stood during the performance, initiating a tradition that has lasted more than two centuries.   It is lost to history the exact reason why the King stood at that point, but the most popular explanations include:

  • He was so moved by the performance that he rose to his feet.
  • Out of tribute to the composer.
  • As was and is the custom, one stands in the presence of royalty as a sign of respect. The Hallelujah chorus clearly places Christ as the King of Kings. In standing, King George II accepts that he too is subject to the Lord of Lords.
  • He had been dozing and woke with a start.

But it could be argued that, “that was then and this is now.”   I mean, if historians can’t agree as to the why, it really leaves us with a tradition that is somewhat empty.

So, with Handel’s Messiah being performed frequently at this time of the year, should audiences continue the tradition of standing for the Hallelujah Chorus? Be sure to read the comments and take a moment to add yours.

December 10, 2010

Enjoying Christmas Without Missing the Point

Regular readers here at Thinking Out Loud will notice something different today.   One of this blog’s distinctives has been not relying on video embeds for daily post content.   But the one I’m embedding today is somewhat special.

It’s not the musical quality, or the recording quality; it’s just my wife and I with some extra time on Wednesday, and a desire to share with my blog audience a song I’ve been singing somewhere every Christmas for a rather long number of years.

There’s something about being “home for Christmas;” something about the fact the pace of life slows down for a day or two.   No wonder that it’s so difficult for people who are alone on December 25th; being with friends or family seems to define the day.    (Which is why people where I live are reviving the annual “Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day” for people who don’t have close family, or can’t afford all the trimmings of the season.)

We didn’t have time to do this up as professionally as we might have, but I hope you’ll kick back and enjoy the song and its ideas.   Most of the technical work was that of my wife, Ruth; who, on some of this, was learning on the fly.   If we could ever cut loose from our individual projects, we could be the Christian version of Pomplamouse!

Most important, I hope you’ll reconnect with the thought that the familiar “birth of Christ” narrative in Luke is the start of much, much longer story.   One that continues into eternity.

Canadian readers:  Don’t forget you can still contribute to our Salvation Army iKettle.   Donations stay with your community.   More details here; or go direct to our iKettle.

December 3, 2010

I’m Dreaming of a White Hanukkah

Well, in view of yesterday’s post (and comments) here’s another stab at equal-opportunity blogging.

While Christians are focused on the fact Christmas Eve is now just  three weeks away, this is also the season of Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights.   But for most Jewish people, the question has always been, ‘Why should the Christians have all the good seasonal music?’

Enter this CNN Belief Blog story:

Now, making its viral video and international debut, we have the Maccabeats.

Out of New York’s Yeshiva University, this 14-member a cappella group introduced just this week, “Candlelight,” a music video that parodies Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite,” and specifically Mike Tompkins’ rendition of the song.

The song educates listeners about the story of Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, an eight-day holiday which started Wednesday night. Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after the Maccabean Revolt and the menorah (candelabrum) that stayed aglow for eight days, despite a lack of oil.

But the song’s chorus also invokes some of the symbols and customs associated with the holiday, including the traditional potato pancake (latke) Jews eat during Hanukkah and that spinning top, the dreidel – again, not made out of clay.

…More than 815,000 YouTube viewers , as of early Friday morning, have tuned into the video since it posted. TV shows are calling. Emails are filling the group’s inbox. Requests for appearances are coming in from across the country, including California, Florida and Ohio. People want to know what the Maccabeats’ performance rates are.

…By releasing this song and video, which took four days to shoot and three weeks to edit, the Maccabeats hope to give Jews a new Hanukkah tune and attitude.

Read the entire story from CNN here.

Or to just watch the video, click the comment section of this very post.  [RSS readers link to blog for this one.]

December 23, 2009

Link Letter

Art Linkletter was famous for doing something on TV, but I can't remember what

You’ll never know unless you click on these links, right Art?

  • I never thought the day would come when I’d link to John MacArthur’s blog, but he does a good job of separating out the nuances between “Word-Faith” doctrine and “Prosperity Gospel;” perhaps as only a non-Pentecostal can do.   All this follows the passing last week of Oral Roberts, and is a rebuttal to a (linked) Christianity Today article by Ted Olsen.   Check it out at Grace to You.
  • Speaking of Prosperity Gospel, and how it raises lifestyle expectations, The Atlantic magazine asks the question in a lengthy, in-depth article, “Did Christianity Cause The Crash?”

    Demographically, the growth of the prosperity gospel tracks fairly closely to the pattern of foreclosure hot spots. Both spread in two particular kinds of communities—the exurban middle class and the urban poor. Many newer prosperity churches popped up around fringe suburban developments built in the 1990s and 2000s,…precisely the kinds of neighborhoods that have been decimated by foreclosures… Zooming out a bit,…most new prosperity-gospel churches were built along the Sun Belt, particularly in California, Florida, and Arizona—all areas that were hard-hit by the mortgage crisis. … “financial empowerment” seminars that are common at prosperity churches…pay lip service to “sound financial practices,” but overall they would send the opposite message: posters advertising the seminars featured big houses in the background, and the parking spots closest to the church were reserved for luxury cars.

    Read the whole article here.

  • New Blog of the week:  Redeem the Time by David Mercier.
  • Rob Bell item of the week:  “Christians Shouldn’t Fear Controversy Over Doctrine” by Drew Nichter at Associated Baptist Press.
  • Quote of the week: “Good preaching is like a belly button, every person has their own idea of just what it should look like.”  – One of several observations by Clint Cozier, who marks the occasion of the end of his Presbyterian pastorate in Grand Rapids by starting a blog.
  • YouTube video of the week:  “O Come All Ye Faithful” by the online sensation, Pomplamoose Music.   The music’s great; the video itself is excellent.    If you like it, which you will, you can check out “Always in the Season” at this link which is a combo music video and World Vision fundraiser.  (It means “grapefruit” in French.)
  • Speaking of Christmas, why are the genealogies of Jesus in Luke and Matthew so different?   Grant Osborne answers that one in “Who Was Jesus’ Grandfather?” at Christianity Today.
  • Wanna see if you could make the cut for your church’s handbell choir?   Handbell Hero is the liturgical version of Guitar Hero.  Okay, look at the first four keys of center row of your keyboard:  A, S, D, F.   Those are your bells.   Ready?  Click here.
  • YouTube runner up:  The Amazing Grace House. The display has 50,000 lights and is computer controlled by 180 channels.  (I think this was done last year, too; but this is a new video.)
  • Congratulations to Stephy at the blog, Stuff Christian Culture Likes which is now part of Beliefnet.
  • By the way, just to update you — especially our Canadian readers — our iKettle got a couple of direct donations yesterday that bypassed the site, and were picked up by the Salvation Army yesterday.  They totaled $250, which brings us to $380, but still $620 short of our $1,000 goal.   You can still donate (securely) here.
  • Some of the blogs with larger readership are ‘monetized,’ that is to say, they make money because they accept advertising.    The key to this has been the Beacon Ad Network, and your organization or business can reach 450,000 blog readers (guaranteed!) by clicking here.

HT: Pomplamoose at Zach’s.

Today’s cartoon is another from Jon Birch at ASBO Jesus.  Click the image to link the site.

December 22, 2009

Creativity and Christmas Worship

I think it was last year, or maybe the year before, there was a lot of debate among worship leaders online concerning “the carols.”  (Quotation marks intentional.)   Some worship leaders were caught up in doing the “latest hot worship song” and didn’t want to interrupt that just because December 25th was looming large on the calendar.

But this year, the church Mrs. W. and I attended for Christmas Sunday did nothing but the classics.   A rhythmic change here.   An extra bridge there.   But there was something missing.   It just didn’t show any imagination when it came to selecting the actual worship material.  It left my heart longing for more.

So at 11:30 that night, I found myself heading over to Fred McKinnon’s blog and clicking whatever it is you click on there to actually open the Sunday Setlist link options and see what others had experienced that day.  (Since that page has the links, you can catch them all there, or this will take me forever to post.)

Turned out a lot of worship leaders were fairly worn out after a long and busy day, and at first not many had posted their weekly list.  But a few had posted some things worthy of mention:

  • First, one I expected to see much more was “Offering” by Paul Baloche; in particular the verse that isn’t normally sung:  Over the town of Bethlehem appeared a star, while angels came to lowly shepherds… (Sometimes called “Christmas Offering”)
  • Mike Ymo suggests that “O Praise Him” by David Crowder has always reminded him of the angels visiting the shepherds
  • Kim Bontrager used “Hallelujah (Light Has Come)” by Barlow Girl
  • Harold Forbis used “Born That We Might Have Life” one of many songs from the number one Christmas album of 2009 by Chris Tomlin
  • David Goodwin, from down under, had access to “His Glory Appears,” from Hillsongs, which as far as I can tell, hasn’t been released here yet
  • Ronnie Burgess (Mando Ron) listed “God With Us” by MercyMe (good choice) but was also in the middle of a U2-theme where they used “Pride (In the Name of Love)” which, when you think about it…
  • Doug Thorsvik listed “Celtic Christmas Blessing” by Keith and Krystin Getty, writers of “In Christ Alone;” though I couldn’t find an audio sample for this one when I wanted to check it out
  • Dennis Arriaga listed some other songs I’d like to try to track down, but also included the ever-popular “How Great Is Our God;” which again, when you think about it…
  • Jim Drake listed “Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground)” by Chris Tomlin
  • Bobby Giles lists a Sojourn Music composition, “Glory Be” with a lyric sample that makes me really want to hear the whole song: 
  • Hallelujah! The Lord of life has come
    to reconcile the nations to our God
    Hallelujah! He’s coming back again
    to finish what began in Bethlehem …

  • Gary Durbin lists a couple of songs from Third Day’s Christmas album
  • Barry Westman lists “Glory to God Forever” by Steve Fee Band
  • H. L. McConnel mentions “Joy Has Dawned Across The Earth” by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend.  Is this the same one Margaret Becker recorded on New Irish Hymns? Or is it the one Bethany Dillon recorded on In Christ Alone?
  • No one listed this, but Brits and Canadians are very prone to use “Meekness and Majesty” by Graham Kendrick at Christmas

I didn’t list everything posted on Sunday Setlists, and there were probably some great songs done the week before (December 13) as there will be the week after Christmas (December 27); but I hope you can see that there’s a lot of creativity out there, and there are many songs to choose from which will cause people to lift up their hearts in an attitude of worship.

The classic carols are great, but sometimes are heart longs to sing a new song.  (Isaiah 42:10)

Check out the Sunday setlists weekly at Fred McKinnon.com and this week in particular at this link.

BONUS ITEM:

Every once in awhile you run across a blog whose title makes a statement. This is Doug Thorsvik's. Click on the image to link.

PHOTO
The image at the top of the page is from the East Wall of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in West Bend, Wisconsin, USA

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