Dear Hallmark: Moms are people, too.

Today is a slightly different topic than the usual…

A few days ago while shopping at Target, I walked past the aisles of cards and realized my mom’s birthday wasn’t too far away, and I should probably pick up a card while I was there.

I headed to the “birthday cards for mom” section, and started reading through cards to see my options. If you’re anything like me, this process usually takes some time, because I want to be sure to find one that says just the right thing for my totally awesome mom.

This time, though, I quickly ruled out card… after card… after card. With each one I put back, I became more and more dismayed. There was nothing wrong with them, exactly, but they were so exactly not right.

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Come running.

There’s a song by Sidewalk Prophets, a 2015 release, that’s been popular on Christian radio the past 6 months or so. It’s called “Come Running Like a Prodigal,” and the major message it has is pretty great:

Wherever you are, whatever you did,
it’s a page in your book, but it isn’t the end.
Your Father will meet you with arms open wide;
this is where your heart belongs.

But their connection of this important concept- that our mistakes don’t define our worth– with the story of the Prodigal Son has got me thinking. Well, first: so they distort the parable a bit to make it support this message that they started with (which isn’t cool, guys). But we’re going to leave all that aside for today. What’s got me thinking is that if you read the story closely, it wasn’t the son who ran, it was the father. Check it out:

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Choosing music for worship, the sequel

Yesterday I wrote extensively about the preparations for choosing music for worship, along with many of the resources I use for finding hymns and discovering new ones. So much of the legwork that goes into choosing music happens before you even pick up a hymnal, and if that’s done well, choosing the hymns and songs themselves don’t take long at all.

It’s these fundamentals of scriptural study and resource exploration that the Spirit uses to guide our worship planning and music selection.

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How can music help us witness?

In the lectionary readings for this Sunday, we are called to continue to witness to the resurrected Christ. In Luke 24:47, Jesus commands the disciples: “a change of heart and life for the forgiveness of sins must be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” Paul affirms this in Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.” We witness so that the world can come to faith through knowledge of the risen Christ, and as church musicians, we can encourage congregational witness through the use of music in worship.

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From Palms to Passion

One of the hands-down coolest things to do in Richmond, Virginia in the summer is the reenactment of the Second Virginia Convention at the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church, during which Patrick Henry delivered the famous line, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” These guys are essentially trying to decide whether assembling a militia among the colonists to protect themselves from the occupying British soldiers would be considered treason. Patrick Henry and his supporters point out that England had already betrayed its responsibilities as a governing power, and forming a militia would be a reasonable response to their actions, but the loyalists in the crowd demur, saying, “we should play it safe, we shouldn’t do anything more to anger them, we don’t want to start something, and besides, their occupation isn’t really that bad.”

Three weeks later, the first shots of the Revolution are fired, and history changes forever.

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The third alternative

One of the strengths of John Wesley’s theology is something described by Albert Outler as “third alternative theologizing,” which is how Outler described and understood Wesley’s refusal to accept a binary oppositional choice as his only options. Rather than arriving at a compromise, where no one wins and everyone is left unsatisfied, this is a way of encouraging all parties to look at a conflict in a new way such that a new solution arises: the third alternative.

This makes a lot of sense in context, and one of Wesley’s own theological tenets serves as a great example. In the time of the Oxford Methodist movement, there was a doctrinal dispute between the Calvinists and others. At that time doctrine, rather than the faith of the people or the movements of the church, where what mattered among the educated classes in England, and so this doctrinal dispute was a major division within the church at large. The question soon faced the Methodists: where would they stand on this issue?

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How do we use, and understand, instrumental music in worship?

Last night, I had the opportunity to present my graduate research to the campus and the Nashville community through a lecture recital. I feel so blessed by the support of family and friends, and the ministries with which I’m involved, and I loved being able to share what I’ve been studying. I wanted to share a summary of my research here, because I have several friends and church families that aren’t in Nashville and couldn’t be there. Through this research process, I’ve come to a broader understanding of the role of music in worship, its ability to connect the spirit to the theological truths of the church, and its power to facilitate a more profound experience of the fundamental tenets of Christian faith.

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So, what exactly is “Christian” music?

Today, I want to explore two related questions about Christian music:

For the Christian, what is the difference between “christian” music and everything else, and should it have any bearing on what we listen to?

My parents had a favorite saying when I was growing up, you’ve probably heard it before: “Garbage in, garbage out.” What you fill yourself with shapes what comes out. It’s a colloquial version of Philippians 4:8:

From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise.

Okay, you might be saying to yourself. Then clearly, I should be listening to Christian radio and absorbing only Christian media, because that’s what’s holy, just, and pure in our culture today.

Ah, not so fast.

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