FoxFaith is a new movie distribution company that was recently launched by Fox for those whose who want movies that reflect their worldview: “Whatever is trite, whatever paints a false picture of life, whatever ignores evil, etc., think only on these things”. They offer “movies you can believe in”, like Strawberry Shortcake: Adventures On Ice Cream and Garfield: The Movie.

I plan on writing more about it later, but for now I’ll point you to Jeffrey Overstreet’s blog post here.

He starts his post by saying this:

Why my faith is not “FoxFaith,” and great art is not necessarily “Christian art”

When I saw a promotional video for the arrival of FoxFaith, a special library of movies that “Christians and families can enjoy,” I had a flashback.

As I perused the titles of films being included in that label, I felt the walls closing in, trapping me in a familiar world of art that consisted of:
A) Nice, gentle, comfortable entertainment
B) American nostalgia
C) Bible stories.

About ten years ago, I decided that I couldn’t take living in such a small world anymore.

and further on is this paragraph:

I could no longer buy the idea that, when it comes to art, Christians should only pay attention to:

whatever is clean;
whatever is free of anything that could possibly offend;
whatever is cute;
whatever portrays America as blameless;
whatever assures us that the good guys always win;
whatever is safe for six-year-olds and simplistic enough for them to understand;
and whatever openly proclaims the name of Jesus.

For me, these qualifications confined me to a sort of wish-fulfillment art. It limited me to a particular corner of Christian culture in which we dreamed about what we wanted the world to look like… a sort of Thomas Kincaid vision of the world… not art that challenged me to grapple with the dark, complicated world I live in, where answers don’t come easy. It was art designed to make me comfortable, not art designed to challenge my mind and test me.

Read his full post here.

Check these out…

I downloaded 3 songs from iTunes this week that I’ve been enjoying. The first is No More from Bob Seger’s new self-produced album Face the Promise. I did the music prep. for this song and was at the studio for the string session. The string arrangement is very cool (they are featured in the interlude between verses), the lyrics are great (the second verse starts out “Tomorrow is the price for yesterday”), and it’s an all around solid song.

The second song that I’ve been hitting repeat on over and over is Crossing the Briney from the new Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder CD, Instrumentals. It’s a 7:00 contagious Irish jig featuring Ricky’s bluegrass band with a great orchestral arrangement for strings, horns, and percussion by Jim Gray. I hung out at the orchestra session for this back in April at Jim’s invitation, and was looking forward to hearing the final version. It’s every bit as good as I remembered it being.

Thankful, by Jonny Lang and featuring Michael McDonald with a gospel choir accompanying them, is the third song I downloaded. It’s from Lang’s new album Turn around. I bought it because I wanted to hear Lang’s collaboration with one of my favorite vocalists, Michael McDonald. While I’ve been enjoying it, I still prefer the Jonny Lang / Joss Stone duet on the U2 song When Loves Comes to Town from Herbie Hancock’s Possibilities. So if you’re not familiar with Jonny Lang, check that one out first.

In the spirit of the first day of creation…

Quote of the week:

Musicians do not learn from the creation in quite the same way visual artists do. There are no fugues or twelve-bar blues “out there” for us to use as models or to re-present. Even so, the principle suggested in the difference between the first day and all other days pertains to musical practice as well. In music, there are two poles: the strange and the familiar, somewhat analogous to the difference between the abstract and the representational in art. Radically different music may be just as difficult to accept as abstract art, when its harmonic practices, textures, structures, and colors are completely separated from what we have grown used to. This kind of music is best received in the spirit of the first day of creation. We must learn to live in the wonder – even shock – of that day, no matter how disturbed, stretched, or even threatened we might be. Creative musicians have every right to thrive within the spirit of that day and to produce musical works that honor God by following hard after his originating ways.

But this is not all. Many musical days have followed the first day. These are the days of innovative conservatism, nuanced repetition, paraphrase, and variation. While the first day of creation is absolutely essential to the practice of music, so are all the other days. And the most balanced artistic communities – and these must surely include the Christian ones – are those that seek both the avant-garde and the conservative; the new, the disturbing, and the most inventively familiar.

Dr. Harold M. Best
Music Through the Eyes of Faith

The Wittenburg Door

I’ve been reading the online version of the Wittenburg Door for a while but had not read their print magazine until this past weekend. For those unfamiliar with it, they bill themselves as “The World’s Pretty Much Only Religious Satire Magazine”.

If you pick up a copy, I recommend not reading it in a public place. At least, not if you don’t want people looking at you strange. Among the funnier pieces is an article about the new “One Second Bible” for those who don’t have time for the “One Minute Bible”. One paragraph cheerfully notes that “in just over a week “practically anybody” can read through the entire verse of John 3:16.” Which is, the VP of marketing stressed, “all a Christian really needs to know anyway”.
“According to the book’s reading timetable, the more industrious reader can complete Paul’s epistle to the Romans in just under twelve years. (Which is just about the same amount of time it takes the average Presbyterian minister to preach through it.)

Here’s another excerpt:

Good News for CBA 2007
By Darrin Rittenhouse

The slump in sales suffered by Christian Bookstore Association members in 2006 can be attributed to two factors. First, the ferocious attempt by Wal-Mart to corner the market by illegally undercutting Christian publishers. Second, the dearth of even marginally original new books by the world’s best-known religious authors, most of whom have been long since reduced to recycling their earlier work.

Fortunately, a new trend is sweeping among evangelical authors – blending! Why should one author struggle to stretch a marginal idea over 180 pages? Instead, top authors are working together to create a whole new wave of powerful, prophetic, groundbreaking, relatively original books. Here’s a sneak preview up upcoming titles in 2007:

Your Best Purpose-Driven Life Now by Joel Osteen and Rick Warren

Cure for the Common Life You’ve Always Wanted by Max Lucado and John Ortberg

So You Want to be Wild at Heart by John Eldredge and Charles Swindoll

So You Want to be Like, You Know, Wild at Heart (for teens) by Eldredge and Swindoll

The Case for Approval Addiction by Joyce Meyer and Lee Strobel

I Kissed the Bad Girls of the Bible by Joshua Harris and Liz Curtis Higgs

What’s So Amazing about Bruce Wilkinson by Philip and Jabez Yancey

What Every Man Wants… Twelve Extraordinary Women by John Hagee and John MacArthur

You can read more from this issue at http://www.wittenburgdoor.com/current_issue.html.

6 Months

Today marks 6 months since I moved to Nashville. Since I’ve been here, I’ve been involved in some way (mostly music prep.) working on projects for artists as diverse as Nanci Griffith, Bob Seger, Ronan Tynan, the Nashville Symphony, Vince Ambrosetti, J.C. Chasez, Rick Trevino and Josh Turner, producers such as Brown Bannister and Peter Collins, and a number of other projects (Disney’s High School Musical, for one). I’ve also done a lot of song transcriptions, working on everything from on a Hebrew songbook to an Evangelical church’s youth choir musical to a musical based on the book of Tobit (from the Apocrypha), besides some arranging, composing, and web design on the side.

I’m looking forward to the next 6 months.

On Being Needy

Randall Goodgame, songwriter extraordinaire and worship leader at my church, wrote this on his blog yesterday:

On Being Needy

You can call me nasty, or hateful, or dorky, or slick, or lame, or irresponsible, or a show off, or stuck up, or a coward, or a fake, or a drunk, or a druggy, or a philanderer, or any other horrible thing you can think of, but please, just don’t call me needy.

Whoa, that guy is needy, STAY AWAY.

The more I thought about this recently, the more profound it became. There is almost nothing as repulsive to our human spirit as someone that is obviously needy. A girl dates a guy and likes him until she gets a needy vibe, then she’s gone like the chocolate covered doughnuts in an assorted dozen. And if a girl seems needy, the guy is beating Carl Lewis to the door. We hate needy. I hate needy! What’s up with that?

Could it be that we are all so good at hiding our own neediness that when we see it right out in front of us it is too repulsive, like walking in on someone taking a dump? You can’t get away fast enough!

Read the rest of his post here.

The longing that makes us believe…

I just came from seeing Sandra McCracken in concert for the second time this week. Her new CD, Gravity | Love, came out on Tuesday, and I went with some friends to her release concert at Mercy Lounge. Kate York and Matthew Perryman Jones opened for her, and then she played for just over an hour with a full band. Tonight she played an acoustic set with her husband Derek Webb accompanying her as a part of a preview series for the Americana Folk Festival that she is playing next month along with artists like Mindy Smith and Patty Griffin.

Sandra McCracken - Gravity | Love

I’ve heard Sandra sing several of the songs from her new record at the Square Peg Alliance in-the-round concerts at Radio Café recently, and I enjoyed getting to hear them again both with a band and acoustically in the same week.

Her new record was produced by Peter Collins, who has produced records for Jewel, Nanci Griffith, Bon Jovi, the Indigo Girls, Beth Nielsen Chapman, and many others. The song I was looking forward to hearing most is Portadown Station, which features a string arrangement by Kris Wilkinson with Sandra playing piano. I heard about this song about five months ago when I was working with Kris on a Nanci Griffith project, and it is one of my favorites on the CD.

Another one I was waiting to hear the studio version of is Chattanooga, a song I first heard her play about a year ago. In the chorus she sings // Can I drive you to Chattanooga / Where the city in October looks like fire / Changing lanes on this restless highway / Between this living and desire //.

The song that is my favorite lyrically at the moment is Shelter. The lyric that jumped out at me when she sang it Tuesday was about “the longing that makes me believe”.

Here are the full lyrics:

In the arms of a good Father
You can go to the deep water
Where the questions, we have left unspoken
Come out in the open
We will find shelter here

So I lay down, what I cannot hold in my hands
Every sorrow and hope spinning out of control
And here I find sweet resolution comes in letting go
And we will find shelter here

When I look back I can see,
And when I am old I’ll remember these things
Like a mountain of stone
And the longing that makes me believe…

There is a tree by the blue river
Where the shade stretches wide over
In this breaking we are hand and glove
Come with me my love
We will find shelter here
We will find shelter here…

Derek Webb made his last CD Mockingbird available as a free download at freederekwebb.com two weeks ago, and so far it has been downloaded over 35,000 times. Sandra mentioned Tuesday that she may be doing a similar thing with some of her music in December. I’ll post about it here when I hear something.

She and Derek are getting ready for another tour starting next week, and they’ll be on the road for a couple weeks. Check out www.sandramccracken.com or www.derekwebb.com to find out where they’ll be playing.

Indelible Grace

“Our Grandparents bought it, our parents threw it out, and now we’re buying it back.” So says RUF pastor Kevin Twit when explaining why many young adults are turning back to hymns and away from praise choruses. The Indelible Grace mission statement says “Our hope is to help the church recover the tradition of putting old hymns to new music for each generation, and to enrich our worship with a huge view of God and His indelible grace.”.

As a part of this effort, I have been working on helping to write out piano accompaniments to the songs on the Indelible Grace CDs to make it easier for them to be used by others. So far, I’ve finished “O Come and Mourn”, “Jesus, Cast a Look on Me”, “Jesus, I Come”, “Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder”, and “Praise My Soul, the King of Heaven”. You can download this music for free at their website. Their CD’s are also available for purchase from their website, www.igracemusic.com, featuring singers like Matthew Perryman Jones, Andrew Osenga, Derek Webb, Sandra McCracken, and Dan Haseltine.

From the IG website:

Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) is proud to be able to share with the church at large, some of the rich music that has developed within our various chapters over the last 25 years. We desire to teach our students about the songs of the church and to value the wonderful heritage we have in the hymns. But we also want to encourage our students to build on the tradition. We have been thrilled to see a movement gaining momentum – a movement to help the church recover the tradition of putting old hymns to new music for each generation, and to enrich our worship with a huge view of God and His indelible grace. We have found through years of ministering to college students that there is a real hunger to connect with something real and solid, something that is ancient, yet full of passion. Putting old hymns to new music allows us to hear afresh the rich theology and emotion that fill these hymns.

Proof-Text Potpourri

Christianity Today just published an article titled The Problem with Prophets by Paul Marshall. It can be summarized by this quote: “Currently, evangelical activism hampers responsible political engagement by casually proof-texting the Bible and claiming the authority of Old Testament prophets.”

He then goes on to say the following:

When arguing their viewpoint on topics like economics or the nature of the family, evangelicals tend to move quickly from the biblical text to contemporary political prescriptions. They hardly address the entirety of the biblical story, and often ignore 2,000 years of Christian reflection on moral and political issues.

Also, if we consider Israel’s life normative for economics, then why not also for other issues? Israel allowed little religious freedom. When we talk with Muslims about punitive passages in the Qur’an, we should remember the Bible commands Israel to stone followers of Molech (Lev. 20:2). And should we imitate Joshua’s call for war in the name of God? Should we follow another Levitical law and kill adulterers? If not, then we need to justify obeying the Jubilee but not other laws. Not to mention, we must show hermeneutically how to move from Israel’s covenanted, land-based, tribal society to a multi-religious, service-based, federal, and otherwise diverse polity such as modern America.

And here’s a paragraph that really caught my eye (emphasis added):

Consider eschatological speculation that tries to match biblical texts with current events, such as attacks on Israel or wars in Iraq, which fortuitously contains ancient Babylon. Prophetic proponents outline the latest eschatological scenario and sometimes lend their support to U.S. or Israeli policies, believing such policies might fulfill prophecy. Even apart from problematic interpretation, however, this approach gives no guide to action. For example, the fact that Isaiah says God delivered Israel into the Babylonians’ hands (Is. 47:6) would give no reason to support the Mesopotamians as they enslaved Israel or destroyed the temple. Predictions about the future provide no guidance, political or otherwise, on what God calls us to do today.

Read the full article here: The Problem with Prophets

The necessity of naming yourself will fade…

Quote of the week:

I’ve decided my work is to step into the Story with intentionality and live a life framed and filled with God-thoughts about reality – what Jesus has said life is really about. My goal is not to be a born-again Christian, a good Christian, a religious fanatic, a do-gooder, a spiritual person, a nice guy, an American evangelical, or a good Catholic. My hope is that others will name me as an honest-to-God student follower of Jesus, someone with a heart full of His brightness, following in the new way. It’s not wise to name yourself as a Christian unless you are actually embodying the way of Messiah Jesus. If you are embodying the way, it will be as obvious as Jesus was obvious. If it is obvious, the necessity of naming yourself will fade. Others will do it for you. Questions may arise, and if so, you answer them. If people want to know why you head in one direction and not another, tell them who you’re following.

If those who would critique my life choices don’t see in those choices the distinctive teachings and visible kingdom ways of Jesus – what He’s for and against – they will never name me as His follower. They’ll call me something else, and I don’t want to be called anything else. I want people to ask, “What’s the deal with him?”
Answer: “Him? Oh he’s with Jesus.”

Charlie Peacock
A New Way to Be Human –
A Provocative Look at What It Means to Follow Jesus