I appreciate how many of you have asked about the missing blogs over the last couple of weeks. I have had some of our other gifted worship leaders participating in leading the services these last two Sundays but I will be back in the saddle again this Sunday.
With that being said, I am excited to be a part of the services this weekend because the subject of the message series is near to my heart. It involves how we as artists live out our calling in ways that glorify God regardless of the specific genre or medium. Furthermore, we will explore the notion that all of us are made in the creative image of God and therefore, have a certain artist calling. There is a great film clip with Brandon Addison as he interviews one of our members, actor Chris Murphy. Click on the homepage of this site or check out the E-News letter and click on it there.
I am an artist. There! I said it!
I’m still not completely comfortable calling myself an artist because it can resonate with such grandiosity if it is taken in the wrong context but,... I am. I see things a little differently. I experience things very differently. I create moments or try to capture them. I give people experiences with music and words. Sometimes by simply playing my instrument skillfully. Sometimes by marrying the right lyric to the right melody. Sometimes by playing for someone to sing their truth and taking people on a journey that they didn’t expect. Regardless of the mode, I’m an artist and thus, a communicator. It took me a while to connect those two roles as well. Artist and communicator.
I have devoted nearly my entire life to mastering music - a process that is lifelong, I believe. I spent hours figuring out why certain tones worked well together and how to make other tones that didn’t come together eventually. I spent hours every week simply playing scales and finger exercises so that my hands could accomplish what my mind heard. I spent hours unlocking melodies and chord progressions which had never been played before stored away deep in my psyche. Rhythms, melodies, dynamic levels, nuance, listening to people who had mastered their instruments, and observing life in general were all a part of simply “being” for me. It was like knowing that there was something in me that was trying to get out and introduce itself to the world but would need much fine tuning before it would be ready to make its debut.
I used to sneak in and listen to college students practicing when I was just a grade schooler attending University of Evansville’s Preparatory School of Music from my fourth grade year until I graduated high school. I was fascinated at the way the advanced students filled the halls with roaring and rolling melodic cascades and the level at which they could create emotions out of music. Even the cacophony of different instruments being played at once from different rooms all coming together in the clamorous canals of the music building hallways was beauty to me.
I attended the local philharmonic concerts. My piano teacher took me to featured performance artists and to artistic functions. For me, being with these people was like finding the mother ship. Some of these folks might have been considered a bit left of center or “out there” by a lot of conventional standards but even then I still related to their uniqueness. These people were all about "being" artists and not just "doing" art.
Artists experience life and we set those experiences into motion with music, painting, dance, film, and any number of other mediums. We observe something, find the nugget of truth in it and then hold it up for the rest of the world to experience, enjoy, or evaluate in the form of artistic expression. We not only experience beauty but we are the stewards of beauty as well. An artist can find the beauty in things that others may walk right past or never observe the same way. When we as artists experience that glimmer, we have to capture it and comment on it whether it be in song, story or slideshow. It is who we are. It is our way of saying, “Did you see that? Did you feel that? Did you notice him or her? Are you getting this?” The mark of a great artist is that they can evoke a response or reaction from others simply by demonstrating the way they experience life and the world through their respective art form.
The lifestyle of an artist is one where art and life are always intersecting. There is no distinguishing the two - art and life. There is no distinction between sacred and secular. There is no real life and other life. Life simply is and we observe it from a very quiet corner and report on it in ways that defy explanation at times.
As a person of faith I have been called to live out something greater than simply being an artist. My art or my craft is the way God has given me to communicate truth just as he has a school teacher, a person who studies medicine, or someone who stays home raising their children in community with other families. What used to be all about the art for me, now includes asking myself what a surrendered life looks like and how I communicate that to the culture. Learning to surrender my will, my ideal scenarios, my addictions, my imposed standards, etc. are now part of what gets woven into the fabric of what I want to communicate with my gifts.
Art is what God gave me as the means by which I can cry out to him. It is my window of sanity. It is the vehicle by which others get to hear my story. It is what draws people into my story. My art and my story are tightly intertwined strands and to observe one is to experience the other.
The culture wants to hear our experiences and share in our stories - not merely be invited into a place where they hear what their lives ought to look like. They want a point of connection that shares with them what the truth looks like in all the gory details and then offers them the opportunity for redemption once they’ve resonated with it. I believe the way we express our art is what gives other people the courage and permission to tell their stories, to embrace their own truth, and to walk out from under the huge secrets of their lives. Art can paint a horizon of hope like nothing else.
An honest artist willing to be vulnerable offers those around her the opportunity to experience the dance of freedom that comes from experiencing our story by experiencing our art. We realize it when we hear the thunderous applause at the end of a concert which is really the audience giving up their collective, “Yes! We get it! We went there with you!” That is when it all comes together for the artist. I sincerely believe that most artists receive applause not as flattery but as the collective “yes” that means so much more to them.
Artists come from a place of “being”. We live in a culture today that is bored and has lost faith in the DOING and want to be about the BEING. The exciting thing about the arts to me is that we have a tremendous opportunity to speak into that place of purpose and BEING. We can offer great points of connection and dialogue.
Let me add before the “doers” misunderstand me too much - we need implementation of the dreams and vision. No doubt there is always a time for “doing”. I’m speaking more about a way of thinking and living out truth. An example would be the way we think of the various vocations we have. “I’m ‘just’ a stay at home mom. I ‘just’ work at Publix. I’m ‘just’ a drummer.” Instead, I believe the way of "being" would say, “I am invested in seeing my kids grow into people who are emotionally and spiritually equipped to face the world. I’m invested in looking for the opportunities God brings across my path while I’m stocking bananas in the produce section. I’m putting myself in a mainstream pop music arena because those are the opportunities God has placed in front of me so that I might speak hope and invest myself in the lives of people.” That may sound unrealistic and smack of all kinds of pompous posturing but I really don’t believe it is. I think that is how Christ modeled life for us. A life of being.
As we interview two members of our congregation in Sunday’s message (both working out their respective passions and roles as creative people from a Christ-centered world view), we will hear some great stories about how they are “being” salt and light and not just “doing” their jobs. The opportunities and examples they will share will challenge us and confront our own respective ideas of “being”. Where are we called to “be”? Who are we called to “be”?
Our gathering song will be from the Christ Community CD project, “Re:Newal/The Art of Community” released on the first Sunday in our present building, September 9, 2001. This Sunday marks nine years that we have been in this current facility. The song, You Are Still God was written by Scott Krippayne and performed on the CD by Scott K and Denise Jones (Point of Grace). It is a song that speaks of God the Creator who is also the one who holds the brokenness of our own hearts. The Re:Newal CD will be on sale Sunday and proceeds will go toward the building fund. Many of our newer members may not be aware of the CD resources that CCC has created over the years.
We will call ourselves to worship God with the passage from Psalm 150:1-6 (NIV)
1 Praise the LORD.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
2 Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
4 praise him with tambourine and dancing,
praise him with the strings and flute,
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD.
Our worship in song time will begin with the Laura Story song, Indescribable. It is a great worship tune about a great, creative, Creator God. We will move into the traditional hymn, Fairest Lord Jesus which paints a picture of a Christ who rules over creation and nations. We will segue to a song by Fernando Ortega, Our Great God. It also paints the beauty of a creative God whose creation is praising him. It echos the sentiment of the passage from Psalm 150 which was our call to worship of the day.
As we approach the subject of how our lives are finding, communicating, and creating beauty these songs of creation point us to the One who first created us and all things beautiful.
Part one of the message will be delivered by Brandon Addison. He will be making a great point of how our lives parallel art and what the real “art” of living looks like. We will follow that segment of the message with the offertory which is a great Sara Groves song entitled, Why It Matters. It speaks of telling the story of beauty and creating and “why it matters”.
From there we will move into the second half of our message time with a conversation between Scott Roley and two artists from our church family, Charlie Peacock and Dan Haseltine. Both are known as musicians, songwriters, and authors and yet both are equally known for their work in social justice, wells for clean water in Africa, speaking for organizations which exist to end human trafficking, and thier work with the under-served in our world. This will be a great exclamation point to Brandon’s message on what a surrendered life looks like.
One footnote about the artistic theme of the day is that you will notice we have several new pieces of artwork in our worship center. This art is from various artists in our community and the fruits of the Arts Guild of Franklin. There is more information about the artists and links to various artists web sites in the bulletin. We appreciate very much the work of Holly Chapman, Coordinator for the Arts Guild of Franklin, and all the diligent effort that went toward acquiring these pieces for us. Also, a special thanks to our AV tech, Randy Gardner and some of our facilities crew as they hung and created the new lighting for these pieces. These paintings definitely represent the “art of community”.
Our final song of response will be, As It Is In Heaven - the Matt Maher song that we have been singing over these past several months. It is a song based on the “Lord’s Prayer” that focuses our hearts and minds on the kingdom now and to come.
As our lives are surrendered lives of “being” we will see the kingdom lived out. I hope, lest all this artsy banter has obscured my point too much, that my heart’s message is clear. My prayer would be that we look more for ways to “be” than things to “do”.