Thinking Out Loud

July 6, 2018

The Problem with Christian Music

While I don’t want this to be a defining feature of this blog, we have recently discussed some of the problems with Christian radio and the related problems with modern Church worship music. And now we’re doing it again.

A few notes: The video is 14-minutes long. I don’t know the creator. It was posted just over a year ago and was sent to me by a friend. I’m not endorsing every sentence in the video script, but I think this deserves a growing audience.

 

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May 27, 2016

What You Blog When No One’s Looking*

Filed under: blogging, Christianity, writing — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:08 am

*with apologies to John Ortberg’s Who You Are When No One’s Looking

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With a 74% U.S. readership, the idea of writing something in-depth on the day most of my readers are packing up for a Memorial Day Weekend activity makes me think it would be a good time to just post something simple — a cartoon, for example — and let it go.

That said, on this site’s worst day it draws more readers than those belonging to the many people who faithfully post their thoughts without consideration of numbers. These are like the original “web log-ers” (from which we got the word blog in the first place). They write for the sake of writing and don’t frequent their stats page. For those who post daily, it’s about faithfulness and consistency.

I am reminded of the original goal of Christianity 201. I decided to something that was just for me and whoever else wanted to tag along for the ride. I was managing eight different blogs back then, and it took a year for C201 to arrive at an established format or concept. I would just post something I thought was more spiritual than the topical issue of the day on Thinking Out Loud. I needed balance. I needed to do it regardless of who was looking.

As I pulled all these thoughts together, I was reminded of a trip Ruth and I took to the northeastern states a few years ago. I’ll let her tell it:

Boston was one of our most recent expeditions. Really interesting city, American history machine aside. Cool architecture, good subway, Chinatown, really easy to get lost, terrible maps, good food. Perfect. Some historic churches. Mostly for “freedom” reasons, of one kind or another.

We chanced upon one that really struck me. Not as old as some of the others, probably. No “Paul Revere slept through the sermon here” plaques. But a lovely red brick building, tucked away in one of the more serpentine neighborhoods. We climbed a few steps to a back door and found it unlocked, so we went in. Found ourselves in a foyer of sorts, creaky floored and unlit. There was another door in front of us, so we pulled that one open. Creak. Stepped to the threshold. Creak. Peeked through the door. Creak.

It was beautiful inside. Warm and hushed and soaring. Stained glass windows, old dark pews, draperies and candles. It smelled of polished wood and wax and flame and time and prayer. But we didn’t go in any further. We closed the door and left. Creaking all the way…

…You see, the reason why we left without really going in is that when we opened that inner door, we heard something.

Someone speaking. One voice.

One voice echoing through the room, over the pews, off the windows. The pews that were completely empty, the windows that were telling their stories to no one.

One voice, chanting in what might have been Latin. Reciting a text that no one would hear. Except the speaker and God himself. Because they were the only ones in the room.

As we left, we looked at the sign on the fence outside. “5:00 pm. Mass”. It was 5 pm. So the Mass was being said. Whether anyone was there to hear it or not. It had to be said.

Why? I have no clue. But it had to be said. If only to the antique pews and the priceless glass and the glowing candles and absolutely not a living soul. Haunted and driven by tradition. Disregarded by life and humanity…

In the end, it’s not always about the audience, or the feedback, or the recognition. Sometimes you just do what you do.


 

 

October 4, 2013

Creativity Block

Filed under: blogging — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:28 am

One of the four summers I worked at a Christian summer camp there was a management team that was considered by many staff to be particularly oppressive. People coped with them in different ways, but generally there was much dissatisfaction and unrest.

CreativityWhen it came time to leave after ten weeks, I got in my car for the two hour drive home and instead of turning on the radio or CD player — back then it would have been a cassette deck — I started singing. Some of the songs that came were things I was making up on the spot, and by the time I arrived in Toronto two hours later, I had written and memorized three complete songs, which I quickly wrote down as soon as I could find pen and paper.

As I later explained this to a friend, he told me that all that creativity had been locked inside while working at the camp, and as soon as I was physically free of the place, the creative juices started flowing like a river…

…I mention all this because over the last few days I have felt a creative block where Thinking Out Loud is concerned, but I realized later that this is only because I have been trying to write more original articles at Christianity 201, instead of harvesting them from other sites.

You can only be creative on so many fronts at a time.

Thinking Out Loud started shortly after I finished a two-year stint of leading worship every Sunday — solo — in a local church. I worked hard on those weekly worship sets, including stringing together medleys of songs from a variety of musical influences in order to give worship opportunity to a broad mix of generations.  Some Sundays the song list incorporated fragments of up to 17 songs.

I could not have done that and done this at the same time. The creative energy to create Thinking Out Loud only happened when I stopped being creative on another front…

…Years ago I heard a story about a man who had never written an original song in his life, but then he became a regular on a Christian television show that was broadcast regionally in Canada. He discovered that while radio stations play royalty based on a partial sample of station playlists, television is (or was at the time) done so that royalties are based on a 100% audit of music used. The money turned out to be significant.

So he started writing songs. While I can’t applaud the motivation, and I doubt that any of those songs had the staying power to be used anywhere today, the point is that the creative resources were resident within him, but had been untapped.

So what’s your creative gift or talent that you’re not using to fullest? What abilities lie untapped for whatever reason? I encourage you to put yourself in a position to find out.

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