Last night was a big night forFUN. at the Grammys…
I’ve heard their music but never really thought that much of them until they were featured last night in performance on the GRAMMYS and winning several awards.
The night featured new musicians at it always does and I realized just how much music gets to the core of things. It sparks numb areas of the brain and sweeps you into some greater rhythm. Maybe a unifying rhythm with the rest of humanity….or maybe I’m being grandiose.
The songs FUN. did reminded me of something. Not just a period of idealistic youth, but the role that anthems play in our lives. FUN. does well with anthems….those songs that shout a bit, the ones that let you know that something needs to be said, a deeper cry of the heart is ebbing up and pouring forth….maybe like a rain storm on stage.
I just loved this video (from Christine Sine) and I hope it can serve you too as a tool for a renewed and refreshed awareness of God’s holy presence. Give yourself 5 full minutes to listen, enjoy, and worship.
In this concise digital book I share how I began remembering, controlling, and even waking up within my dreams (lucid dreams).
The techniques require some diligence, but anyone can learn how to do it–sometimes in just a few days or weeks. Even if you don’t think you dream at all!
Being able to control or become conscious in your dreams supercharges your creativity, helps you problem solve, upgrades your concentration, relieves anxiety (including liberation from nightmare or unpleasant reoccurring dreams), offers empowerment that translates into waking life, and allows you to experience things that would otherwise be impossible or unlikely.
I admit, flying is my favorite activity when I lucid dream. It’s hyper realistic and utterly exhilarating.
I’m so excited to share this with you, and I can’t wait to hear how it helps you!
(Check back frequently on this site’s most fluid Main Page for the latest articles.)
Lisa – Great work! It isn’t often that a writer can encourage the creative spirit, facilitate engagement with the Holy Spirit, and bitch-slap a mogul of the Christian writing industry all in one book!
-Dr. Doug Jackson
Well, my reader friends, that’s quite a synopsis.
See if you can best that one!
I’ve saved the best volumes for last. If you liked the others, you’ll be the happiest May 10th. If you haven’t read the others, you’re in for a treat, and soon.
Here’s more about Volumes 4 & 5:
VOLUME 4: Slumps, Burnouts, and Frustration
This details the instigators, root causes, and symptoms of our 3 big foes as Creators and Communicators. Some symptoms are so insidious or camouflaged that you haven’t noticed them. You’ll be surprised. An audible gasp is a distinct possibility.
You’ll be challenged. You’ll be shown how to take a special kind of inventory that’ll take the teeth out of these monsters that stand like obstacles to our calling and abundant life.
Beyond that, we’ll cover jump start action steps to keep you encouraged and progressing. It’s like sucking down pure Oxygen. mmm!
VOLUME 5: God’s Grand Story
This is the piéce de résistance for Creators and Communicators.
Risking some scorn among zealous Donald Miller’s devotees, I ask readers to look beyond our individual micro-stories.
We’ll uncover the Meta-Narrative of God’s Grand Story witnessed in the whole council of God, the stories therein, and within our unique life experiences. Here God, not us, is the Star….and in every scene.
(Note: I too loved Blue Like Jazz and other non Religious Christian Spirituality stuff Don’s written, just like everyone else. But I’ve sense a change with Miller’s approach. I’m not convinced that life-mapping strategies, tracking software, and yearlong Storyline memberships get to the marrow of what it is to be human.)
Absorbing the 4 themes explained in Volume 5 gives much-needed perspective, comfort, encouragement, and hope to meet our needs better than formulas ever can.
Note that the 4 adjectives in bold harken to the 4 themes, but do not yet reveal them! A blatant gambit to arouse you. Please, I have to let this thirst build, okay? Listen to me. You’ll love this volume.
The Launch Pad of Vol. 5:
To those of you who’ve combed 500+ page theological tomes, it follows the canonical-liguistic theological approach with one crucial amendment.
To those of you who have not trudged through the tedious works of scholar theologians…most of you…I unpack some heady academic treatise material into snappy language and keen usability that even Sarah Palin could understand and apply, before she shoots her morning Elk. You bet ‘cha!
Any questions? What are you curious about? Let me know.
Buy it at AMAZON for KINDLE. (There will be some days that you can get it for free. Nov 12&13 are the first days for that)
Sometimes you find your niche. Sometimes a niche presents itself. And sometimes you get a bit of both and it feels like Paris in Springtime, which smells great and involves kissing (and I’ll just save that bit for some other post, or my dairy).
Finding one’s niche includes a merging of ingredients:
You put it all together and you make it with an “m” (for mission)
And you get patty cake instead of hokey pokey.
My niche is now helping and encouraging Creators and Communicators.
People who feel put on the planet to create things or communicate important things.
Have you found your niche yet?
Or would you like some encouragement or direction?
I’ve creating new resources for just that thing.
Tell us what you like to focus on or Leave a link so we can find your niche.
It’s been many months since I covered this topic, and for a long time things stayed very much the same with my now 12 year old autistic son being a very firm atheist for over a year.
I was committed to see through Nathan’s spiritual journey without pressuring him to believe what I wanted him to. Because I personally have spent so much of my life dedicated to learning about and loving God, this took iron patience and a new kind of faith. Respecting Nathan’s feelings about God and giving him time to wrestle with the concepts lead to a surprising outcome.
For some needed background, I recommend these two previous posts that set the stage for where we are as I have covered this fascinating journey:
(A few more can be found by clicking the Sudden Onset Juvenile Atheism category, or doing a search with those words.)
Now onto the update.
Progress was encouraged by an unlikely source. Many people believe that God (Yahweh) has been erased from public school. This is true in many ways. My son’s social studies textbooks, for instance, never use a capital “G” when using the word God, or any deity. For instance, “People called the Pilgrims came to the New World to worship their god.” [Yes. We live it pluralistic times.]
The truth is, though we may erect boundaries, God has no boundaries. God works in ways we don’t expect, whenever it pleases him to. Sometimes we have to resist the urge to “hold God’s hand” as he works things out. Who then, I wonder, has a problem with faith? The questioning atheist or the anxious Christian?
It was my hope and prayer that God would reveal himself to Nathan and draw Nathan to himself. Then I just had to wait, encourage the searching, and remain peaceful about the rest.
It all started with Social Studies. As Nathan studied world civilizations, he noticed that these were the same people groups spoken of in the Bible. The Egyptians, the Hebrews, the Babylonians, the Assyrians–each one of these groups is recorded in the narratives of the Bible. He learned how all the groups were poly-theistic, and the Hebrews were mono-theistic. In his autistic support class he watched the Dreamworks animated movie The Prince of Egypt (which is rather loose with it’s historicity, I realize). Suddenly the story clicked. What he heard only at church, he also heard at school. This vetted the story for him as actual, rather than “a made up fairy tale and untrue story” as he had previously thought.
Since this realization, Nathan has been more receptive to going to church, listening and sometimes answering questions in Sunday School (we have kept him with us in an adult level class), and singing. He doesn’t lash out in anger when we speak of things of God at home. He’s willing to be content as we pray at meals. His attitude has shifted. People at our church have reached out to Nathan and showed him great kindness and grace. Those relationships have been a boon.
Nathan loves the music at church, and hearing his sweet, pitchy little voice is a precious thing. It’s reminder that his story, and my story are not over. God with us is a work in progress.
Recently, when I thought he was ready to talk about it, I said, “Nathan, I noticed you are singing in church. How do you feel about God now?”
Softly, he said, “Well, I think it’s true. I believe in God now.”
“Did you learn about the Hebrews in school, like you did at church?” I asked.
“Yes. The Egyptians were real, and they had slaves,” he told me.
The story isn’t over. I don’t feel like Nathan has arrived somehow, but now his journey has new hope and new possibilities. He still needs to be nurtured spiritually. Don’t we all? He needs us to model God ways to him, the Fruit of the Spirit. He has never wanted to pray, and my hope is that he finds the comfort that comes with talking to God.
The invisible, but real, is a challenging concept for many of us, and Nathan’s very concrete ways of understanding the world–because of his autism–make it all the more important to be Jesus to him so that the reality of God is experience and learned in regular life. He’s not so different after all.
Photo of "corporate worship" (not a person in a bar waving "hello"...I think.)
By way of followup to the previous post, it’s probably wise to broach the topic of corporate and individual worship more thoroughly. Please note that the earnestness of this post topic is best served (here, in this venue, anyway) when swathed in a modicum of levity.
This time around, I’d like to discuss this, not just post my thoughts. I see a great benefit in conversation here; and saw it already and especially over at Stand Firm in the Faith: Anglicanism in America. There, Matt Kennedy covered my recent article (On Being Embarrassed When Worship Songs Seem Sexual). I appreciated reading the several dozen responses, and found most of them helpful. You can also read them here. After you reflect on this topic, whether you read the other responses or not, I hope you too will respond with your own thoughts or insights on the matter.
As I mentioned in the last post, personal worship and devotional practices, such as involvement in literature (biblical or otherwise), poetry, songs, and psalms may have a decidedly personal angle (or perspective) as relating to God. Also, it’s not just a contemporary convention that worship “songs” (most of which are prayer-like in structure and form) focus on the individual rather than, or at the expense of, the corporate church assembly.
The Romantic period gave us plenty of examples of this phenomena in art and literature. Even earlier, John Donne offered up intimate imagery within various genres. One example is his Holy Sonnet 14.
John Donne (1572-1631)
Holy Sonnet XIV:
Batter my heart, three-person’d God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
It seems, this sonnet, and countless other early examples of a similar sort, were not meant for corporate participation. This stands in contrast to the worship songs sung within church groups these days. Nevertheless, these works provide vehicles for deeper communion with God. They may easily benefit our spiritual formation.
This offers an excellent point to consider. I’ve heard many minters tell their audience that church is about worship (not performances, decor, fellowship, good preaching, etc.). Haven’t you? We may quickly assume, though, that church should be about our worship experience. Instead it is centered on the Church–the people Christ has saved–offering adoration to the Creator and Savior, whether we are conscious of it, or not.
Incidentally, worship happens with Christians past, present, and future, which is another reality we miss with regularity. So, it’s a Christian worldview, not merely a reduction of that. Worship mustn’t be viewed chiefly as an opportunity of personal expression to God, Jesus…and Spirit. Therefore, if worship is selfish, it’s not worship (of God) at all.
The Christian mystics throughout Christian history may have seen this sort of intimacy differently. This will take some research for me to know for sure, but if any of you have insights here, please share them. I would deeply appreciate it.
A crucial question to ask ourselves, or to those we minister: Is corporate worship intimate to compensate for a lack of intimate personal devotional practices, and a deepening relationship with God?
What about you: Are your times of personal devotions usually more or less intimate than your corporate worship times?
I’ve been both a victim and a participant in the American cultural norm…Scope out opportunities to rejoin comments with, “That’s what she said.”
(To be sure, the phrase was around long before the TV show “The Office”, but a certain Michael Scott character seemed to usher the phrase into a broad and sweeping cultural vernacular. Am I right?)
So now, it seems thousands of words and phrases are hijacked, and church gatherings are not immune to it either. Or, maybe it’s just me. It can be hilarious, dreadful, or just plain embarrassing. Recently, a few worship songs have sort of had their way with me on this, so to speak.
"Bride of Christ" by Marion Coltman (I thought it was entitled: "Jesus, keep your hands where we can see 'em") ...and it's all just a bit too much for me.
I didn’t want to think it at the time, but the Casting Crowns song “Your Love is Extravagant” sounded just a little too much like a “friends with benefits” song. Golly, all you have to do is take the “t” off Christ, and you have a fine mess (in my head):
Your Love is Extravagant
Your love is extravagant
Your friendship, it is intimate
I feel like moving to the rhythm of Your grace
Your fragrance is intoxicating in our secret place
Your love is extravagant
Spread wide in the arms of Christ is the love that covers sin
No greater love have I ever known You considered me a friend
Capture my heart again
Spread wide in the arms of Christ is the love that covers sin
No greater love have I ever known; You considered me a friend
Capture my heart again
Your love is extravagant
Your friendship, it is intimate
Don’t get me wrong, Casting Crowns does so many great worship songs I really enjoy. This may be one your favorites, which is fine. I hope it creates a worshipful experience for you, and for everyone, but I get derailed.
Basically, if a worship song talks about touching, my mind wanders. Such as Kari Jobe song:
I wanna sit at your feet.
Drink from the cup in your hand.
Lay back against you and breathe, here your heart beat
This love is so deep, it’s more than I can stand.
I melt in your peace, it’s overwhelming.
In his blog, Jon Acuff posted recently: How to make an entire audience deaf. It’s a funny and accurate article about how words can ruin an audience’s concentration. So many comments from readers that followed were of amusing and uproarious stories of double entendre and language malfunctions.
The fact is love is risky. God is risky…Obviously risky and risqué has sort of been a fine line in songwriting. But, to be honest, I realize that love can often feel awkward as it gets emotionally deeper. When it starts to change and effect us–and affect us. The awkwardness is part of the path to greater spiritual maturity. (In this case, I’ll let you know for sure when I get there.)
Admittedly, the psalms that King David wrote got quite amatory, and for some it feels embarrassing. I can handle David getting up close and personal with God. I’m fine with Song of Solomon’s sexy talk, and David’s passionate poem songs, but maybe in singing those things corporately, we confront those issues of intimacy differently than we do in our times of personal devotions, songs, or prayers. What do you think about it?
I think the challenge, for me, is a renewing of my mind a bit more, and praying for better ears to hear. Thank you for your patience with me, Lord.
Lastly, for all you songwriters out there, if you’re writing something sweet to sing for Jesus, please–for me–don’t put the words “intimate,” “secret place,” and “rhythm” too close together. (It can be a “worship hijack” for some of us, okay, for me.)
When was the last time you felt embarrassed/awkward at the worst time?
My mom read Pilgrim’s Progress (in updated language) to us as kids. I liked it. It captivated me. Some of John Bunyan’s Christian devotional classic has also brought me spiritual comfort in recent times, as well.
But, each time I read it, I can’t help but thinking Mr Bunyan is beating me out of my senses with such heavy-handed allegory. Like the Liberace of Christian standards, Bunyan’s book says, “Helllllllooooooooooooo! I’m AN ALLEGORYYYYYYYY! I’m TELLING YOU SOMETHING!”"
Do you feel this way about Pilgrim’s Progress?
If you haven’t, read it, or listen to it here for free, and tell me what you like or don’t like about it.
Several times I have covered Lady Gaga on this blog. She is a complicated person, and now she’s openly speaking of spiritual things. So, this is my tuff (area of expertise and education), and I want to weigh in. You can too.
It’s the habit of most who comment about Gaga to past judgement on her, but that is not the point of this post, or my other posts. While I welcome your comments, I ask that you attempt to be thoughtful and intelligent in your responses. You don’t have to like her to comment, but if you want to bash her, find a different blog to barf on.
It seems she’s the archetype of a person who is (seemingly) easy to pigeon hole. But this mega star, and so many like her (who are not in the limelight) are just people who are trying to find their way in the world. You may think differently, but maybe you should watch the footage below, first.
I provide this engagement on the topic of the person who is the singer and performer Stefani Germanotta because so many are watching her and following her.
When she asks people to do things, millions respond. This strikes me as important to note for Christians, as we interact with those God loves, and enact the messge of the gospel of God’s grace poured out on us, in Jesus Christ.
Also, I think it helps (as Christians) to engage the struggles of many people, all while questioning our motives and the hidden influencers of our interactions with people that sound, look, dress, and act differently than we prefer. I’d say it takes to task our enactments of grace and love toward God, ourselves, and others. I hope it will challenge this in you.
Besides, it’s really a gawker vortex, seriously, no?
So, here is the topic de jour. Let’s talk about this. I found this recent video footage quite curious:
The scoop: Unlike many stars, Lady Gaga prays before concerts (to God, not herself as some might first assume or expect).
This prayer footage (from her upcoming HBO special) begins at the 2:40 marker. (The first part of the video is somewhat of a breakdown in her confidence. Quite a bit of crying, part pep talk, some non sequitur stuff, and some emotional hysteria. But, to me, it also seems to be, at least in part, some genuine footage of the acute struggle this 25 year old has performing and living life larger than life in front of millions of fans and foes.)
Will her public prayers to God encourage others to rely on him too? Perhaps. What do you think?
And, yes, in case you’re wondering…I could speak to what seems like a bit of flawed theology, but I’m waiting for her to phone me, so we can talk it over.
Actually, I think many would be good to follow her lead in seeking God’s help, as she does here.
Yes, I question her use of the word “worship” when speaking about her fans. It strikes me as overdone, misguided, and/or unhealthy, unless she is actually referencing serving and loving them selflessly. And, yes, it could all be just a stunt, as pop stars are given to do. I’m not naive.
Nevertheless it provokes a deeper look at the spiritual.
Let’s face it, how many super stars pray, and ask for God’s help before a show, let alone allow the world to see them do it? Don’t say “Amy Grant”. That doesn’t count.
Remember this also, her core fans aren’t Christians, or praying types, in particular. What does it behove her to be so “old fashioned”? Isn’t it much cooler to be “over Christianity” and be Buddhist or wear a red string Kabbalah bracelet?
Sign up to continue the conversation/see future posts.
NOTE: If you watch the first part, or the very end after, marker 3:46, be aware that there is some cussing. You have been warned.
I think many people will be surprised at how much [lady gaga's] new album, coming May 23th, will have religious references, and inspire spiritual thought and discussion.
Also strange is that she’ll communicate using this type of God language to an audience that is, unlike her… as a child, *alien* to church (institutional or otherwise), biblical stories and references to God from scripture. This may revive these topics making far easier to engage her and her fans. Hopefully on a common starting ground (not like was done in [the fundie] example.)
Be assured, God will use Gaga as *he* wishes. Believe it.
It is his spirit that draws us to him. Why is she interested in these topics no ones cares about these days? Maybe because Gaga may be starting the conversation that God will use for mighty things. I will pray toward that.
UPDATE: APRIL 15th.
I wonder if this song (Judas) and the others from her album will prompt listeners to read the gospels to better decipher her message. Being raised as a Fundie, I know my Bible pretty well, and now having heard the Gaga lyrics, to “Judas”, it even makes me want to check out the several stories she refers to, to see what’s up. She brings up Peter’s betrayal, the anointing at Bethany (think wiping her tears with her hair), Judas’ betrayal, among some of her lyrics.
I find the references jumbled and confusing. Maybe she’ll decode them in the future. You can read them all here.
Here is the lyrics to the Bridge of her song JUDAS:
In the most Biblical sense,
I am beyond repentance
Fame hooker, prostitute wench, vomits her mind
But in the cultural sense
I just speak in future tense
Judas kiss me if offenced,
Or wear an ear condom next time
I wanna love you,
But something’s pulling me away from you
Jesus is my virtue,
Judas is the demon I cling to
I cling to
I TRIED to clip down this gagavision 41 video to focus on a perfect example of how not to create encounters with pop stars. But I couldn’t. (I’m not the techie I hoped I could be.)
There are parts that could offend some of you, my readers. If Lady Gaga offends you, you are certainly not alone and I respect your perspective. In that case, I urge you to not watch this video–at all. The parts I refer to happen at minute 2:20 – 4:00, and are suitable for audiences over age 10. My advice is to skip the other parts, primarily because they do not refer to this post.
The scoop: It appears a Christian Fundementalist gave Lady Gaga a card/tract that said, “Get Out of Hell Free.”
In a far friendlier tone than I can image approaching hostile protesters, she said, “Hi, I’m Lady Gaga.” and they said, “What do I care?”
What I find so interesting is that she bothered to talk to them, and tell them she did believed in God, and that she had Christian influences in her formative years. It was like she was trying to find common ground. A novel concept for approaching those you disagree with, huh?
They were more concerned with showing their opposition, and contempt for her. From her comments, it seems to me, that their actions, got to her, at least for a little bit. They bothered her. She said that she didn’t want her fans to have to see that, but it seemed to bother her on a personal level, as well. (But, sadly, NOT in a way that would likely bring her to a closer fellowship with followers of Jesus.) I would really like to hope that Gaga would not lump these loonies with authentic followers of Jesus. I hope it wouldn’t sour her on the whole bit.
Maybe these people just couldn’t find a Koran to burn that night, or something.
At best, the whole encounter would be confusing, or hurtful to her, or anyone. Hurtful? To a super star, really? Yeah, that’s my guess. Because, I think she’s mostly a regular 25 year old young woman. Like almost all of us, she wants to be liked and not be disparaged and maligned.
It’s easy to hear the condescending tone from the protester speaking, and his smug uses of the word “darling”. In snide fashion he tells her that the book “with the black cover, and the gold pages, and the ribbon down the middle” will show her she has “pervert ways”. It seems he’s piecing it all together for her, in case she’s not aware of the visual image of a Bible. Really, a sweetheart…um. NOT!
Ya know, these are not endearing traits of Christians. They are shameful ways to act. (I should put that word Christians in quotes, because I think they had their own agenda, and their “Good News” …sucked.)
Perhaps Get out of Hell Free signs, tracts, and cards, helped these protesters turn from sin and come to God. But, in most cases, relationships (read: legit friendships) are far more helpful. Their demonstration and literature was probably are more of a confusing message.
So, now we know how to not show God’s love and redeeming grace, right?
IT BEGS THE QUESTION:
What if there had been loving dialogue? What if the people who think they are doing God’s work, acted like Jesus, and started interacting with Stefani Germanotta on common ground, instead of peacocking self-righteousness on what they deem to be enemy lines.
Maybe you’re a Gaga monster, paws up, and everything. Or maybe you don’t care for Lady Gaga’s music or showmanship techniques, but will you share your take on Christianity / evangelism, and music stars?
If you’re here to get your Wednesday funny fix, because Jon Acuff is serious on Wednesdays, thank you for stopping by. Everybody else, I think you’re pretty great too.
hint. I’m now plugging shame-free for this entire paragraph. If you click the Alluring Button (on the top left) you won’t miss anything funny on Wednesday–when you need it most. No funny from Jon on Wednesdays threw me into early onset seasonal depression this year. You too? I feel your pain. So, these Wednesday posts are really just my way to survive. Enjoy.
3. Prophetic sense of bowling shirt fashion (as seen below with Lavern and Shirley). (Also could be hairdressing attire. Your guess?).
Lavern and Shirley, behind the times in fashion, compared with the Faith Tones
4. Subtle use of colorful, patterned or floral fashion, 60s hip blouses (under the matching uniform shirt) that says to the cool kids, “We know how to have fun…the way Jesus wants us to.”
5. Good vintage example of how you could be a Christian singer and still have crooked or subpar teeth. (Seriously. I defy you to spot a Christian album cover with an unattractive or crooked-toothed girl on it now, or for the last 20 years.)
6. Almost daring use of the album title, “Jesus Use Me,” and maybe just a hint of double entendré to spice it up for the Christian male audience. The 1960s were a time of sexual experimentation. Not so much in the Christian sphere, but a “clever” or edgy title couldn’t hurt sales. (Remember Stryper, “To Hell with the Devil”?) What do you think, was it purposeful, or just piety shinning through?
7. Girls use high tech (for the time) Stereo enhancement for our listening pleasure. Rock it, out, ladies.
8. The middle girl looks like she knows how to party. Whoot.
9. A vintage reminder that Aqua Net (not flower children) is what held the 1960s together.
BEEHIVE IT, BABY!
10. This shows us that 50 years ago, much like today, music ministry tries too hard, but–sometimes–in a lovable sort of way.
Do you dig this photo? ANYBODY have audio sample of the faith tones? Please, please, hook me up!
I’d like to hear them.
Golly, I sense some boss three-part harmony a-comin’!
I invited Shane to post here, chiefly because I feel a kinship to Shane. The artist and the spiritual formation learner I am jives so nicely with Shane’s outlook, and what he does as his life’s work. Writers, artist, thinkers, creatives, musicians, and so forth bring vital perspective to Christian Spirituality, and walking with God. Shane tends to this group, which is not an easy task.
Who is SHANE TUCKER?
Shane lived in Ireland for eleven years with his wife, two daughters and son. Now, he serves as Creative Director for ‘Dreamers of the Day‘ [www.dreamtoday.org] – a network utilizing the arts, spiritual disciplines, evocative messengers, and symposiums to engage people in their journey with Christ. He is passionate about seeing people live into their purpose in life, and he finds applications for that as a ‘soul friend’ (spiritual director) via Soul Friend (www.ArtistSoulFriend.com). He can be reached via either website or at shane dot tucker at gmail dot com.
Please enjoy Shane’s post, and feel free to offer your insights, comments, or questions.
Aesthetic Spirituality by Shane Tucker
“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” -ThomasMerton
We have an innate quality to notice beauty at every turn. To know that something is ugly or unattractive we must, of course, know that true beauty exists . . and in some way, to have experienced it. We resonate most strongly with that which seems to offer wholeness or a sense of completeness to our lives. That resonance may also be experienced as a deep hunger. Seldom do we know ourselves well enough to be able to express those yearnings in a coherent fashion. Itʼs in those times we need a bridge – something enabling us to connect, to integrate disparate elements into a whole. . . into a sense of being whole.
Art – any method or medium of creativity – can often serve as this necessary bridge, this connection, between what we know and what we long or yearn to know. Art gives us the tools, the words, the motion to live into what we sense is already there, but as of yet remains unseen. In this sense, art itself is a means by which we find ourselves by moving beyond ourselves. Through art (the highest sort) we are transported into places and spaces where we can lose ourselves. Itʼs a gift to be fully present to, and fully absorbed into, a situation or individual where weʼve forgotten to be concerned with our own desires or even aware of our image before others. Iʼve had a few experiences like this directly and by extension.
One of those experiences occurred three summers ago while I was attending a festival of creativity in middle England. I sought out a band I wanted to become acquainted with and unexpectedly, during their set I was in continual awe. Through their skillful use of music and visual elements, I was caught up in the moment and I forgot myself. Classic. Iʼve had similar experiences standing on green, broad, bald hilltops around Ireland as I drank in the arresting landscape around me. Another example are Christmas mornings since my three children arrived on the scene. Experiencing the uninhibited enthusiasm and joy demonstrated by these little people as they open gifts and share their excitement with the family – these are moments of pure bliss.
In times such as these we are given the gift of losing ourselves . . more specifically, concern for ourselves. The end, however, is not the experience of forgetting oneself in beauty, wonder, and awe; or even that of knowing a deep resonance which affords us the equivalent of tonal tonic through lifeʼs journey. Itʼs knowing Him. I hear, see, touch, taste and feel the Creator in this God-saturated existence called life. Heʼs made Himself ever- present in the created order and ever-accessible. He has, in fact, painted Himself into the portrait, written Himself into the narrative and sung Himself into our lives – even into existence, in Jesus Christ. When we recognize His overtures of love, our moment is to respond whole-heartedly, in trust, recklessly abandoned. In His hands, we then become the artwork by which He invites others to lose and find themselves in Love.
“Those who want to save their lives will lose them. But those who lose their lives for me will find them.” – Jesus, Matthew 16:25
Click the link at the bottom to hear the classic 1938 version, sung by Kate Smith.
The song “God Bless America” was written as a (sung) prayer. Enjoy the July 4th holiday, and let this song help us to be a little more grateful for all the privileges of living in a free country!
Irving Berlin, 1918; revised 1938
Spoken Introduction: While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free,
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.
God bless America, land that I love
Stand beside her and guide her
Through the night with the light from above
From the mountains To the prairies,
To the ocean white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.
The unofficial national anthem of the United States was composed by an immigrant who left his home in Siberia for the USA when he was only five years old. The original version of “God Bless America” was written by Irving Berlin (1888-1989) during the summer of 1918 at Camp Upton, located in Yaphank, Long Island, for his Ziegfeld-style revue, Yip, Yip, Yaphank. “Make her victorious on land and foam, God Bless America…” ran the original lyrics. However, Irving decided that the solemn tone of “God Bless America” was somewhat out of keeping with the more comedic elements of the show, so the song was laid aside.
In the fall of 1938, as war was again threatening Europe, he decided to write a “peace” song. He recalled his lyrics of “God Bless America” from twenty years earlier, then made some alterations to reflect the different state of the world. Singer Kate Smith introduced the revised “God Bless America” during her radio broadcast on Armistice Day, 1938. The song was an immediate sensation; the sheet music was in great demand.
Berlin’s file of manuscripts & lyric sheets for this quintessentially American song includes manuscripts in the hand of his longtime musical secretary, Helmy Kresa (he himself did not read and write music), as well as lyric sheets, and corrected proof copies for the sheet music.
These materials document not only the speed with which this song was revised, but also its author’s attention to detail. The first proof copy is dated October 31, 1938; the earliest “final” version of the song is a manuscript dated November 2; and Kate Smith’s historic broadcast took place on November 11. So, documents show the song’s step-by-step evolution from the original version of 1918 to the tune we now know.
The manuscripts mentioned above are part of the Irving Berlin Collection, a remarkable collection that includes his personal papers as well as the records of the Irving Berlin Music Corp. It was presented to the Library of Congress in 1992, by his three daughters, Mary Ellin Barrett, Linda Louise Emmet, and Elizabeth Irving Peters.
What an amazing song! Isn’t it wonderful that we have been so lucky to be connected with people who are able to put to words our deepest thoughts and emotions? Irving Berlin was truly inspired. Close your eyes and listen to his message. Does it not touch your soul? Can’t you just see crashing waves- the majesty of the mountains? All of the beautiful people working every day, alive and free because of the dream of our beloved Founding Fathers?
As this song is being broadcasted through out the world on various occasions, there is this incredible overwhelming desire to jump up and sing with all the energy of the soul!
My church’s youth drama club did this performance on Sunday. What a special youth group we have. . .Such a blessing. I watched it with a big lump in my throat. The journey may be hard, but Jesus and his love prevail.