For a long while it’s bugged me that the apostle Thomas’ name has gone the way of a byword. “Don’t be a Doubting Thomas,” some wryly throw about. It’s like what has happened to Albert Einstein – for such an intelligent man, we only use his name as a sarcastic insult directed at “stupid” people. Today, I think Thomas is the apostle we should most aspire to be like. And I’ll tell you why. Continue reading “Let’s All Be Like Thomas”
Some of you may have seen the recent articles that came out yesterday and today, of SocalityBarbie and the lampooning of all things deemed pretentious, fake, and hipster. I reckon you’re probably not thrilled to have your name tacked right on the front. There seems to be a lot of bashing on desiring to “live authentic” and appreciate your surroundings, to enjoy well-made things, and to actually follow Jesus as a young person. The things that do well eventually are mocked – it’s the envy of human nature. But I’ve seen other Christians making fun of you, claiming that you’re promoting a cheapened form of “cultural Christianity” and mocking the things you enjoy and like. Maybe it’s to seem cool. Maybe it’s a legitimate theological beef. Regardless, I want to leave you a brief note of encouragement. Continue reading “An Encouragement for #Socality”
In my last post, I talked a little bit about the merits of criticism and judgment. Reading comments that others have shared and just taking some time to meditate on this over the course of the day, I feel like I have a little more to talk about with this one.
Like I said before, I think that it’s a bit naive to say that there isn’t wrong in the world, in the same way that, feeling ill, it would be naive to say “I don’t have pneumonia” until one is bedridden and debilitated. Sometimes something is genuinely wrong, and it needs to be addressed. I think the crux of the matter of criticism lies in the motive.
Here’s one of the big questions, in my personal opinion.
How productive is flaw-finding?
I’m not one to minimize flaws and make flippant the pain of sin. Anything that detracts from real peace is clearly an extremely negative thing. I run from it like a man runs from a ravening lion or a lumbering behemoth in the woods, leaping over underbrush and branches, feeling the nettles and horsetails and settler’s bedstraw clawing for my elbows and ankles. Frequently I run right into it, though, in my attempt to escape sin. Thank God that God isn’t disinterested in my struggle, and strives towards a permanent and perfect disentanglement.
“For the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good … it’s trying to be good, it has ambition, but it’s not quite that good.
In the article I posted last night, Lions, I discussed why we shouldn’t base our sense of security on the condition of our country. I wrote that “those who remember the past are condemned to watch others repeat it,” and compared human government to a car with a known, explosive design flaw. I advised you to place your foundation squarely on God through Jesus Christ, because in Him lies the only stable thing.
You know lower standards will lower the culture. The Roman Empire was destroyed because of lower standards and moral decay. You know they fed each other to lions for entertainment – humans, when left to their on devices, seem to be hopelessly selfish and bent on their own destruction. It seems that unless a power greater than us captures our hearts, nothing will change that trajectory – wealth, knowledge, success – seems to only feed the beast.”
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” – John 1:5
On the precipice of New Years Day, in the first hours of the year of our Lord, 2014 as fireworks lit up the sky and neon lit up the streets, one last assembly line inside one last factory stopped. It was a 19th century innovation that changed the world with a little glass and a little metal. A twisted thread around a translucent globe, containing one fine wire filament – an invention that first brought controlled, lasting light to the earth – the light bulb.
“How sweet the Gospel sounds to ears like mine, well acquainted with pain and strained relationships. Friendships that suffer from long distances or even worse they get severed from something more severe. And He still hasn’t wiped away all of my tears yet; my cheeks get wet every now and then, even when I give my best.”
You can download their album for free here.
I have a troubled relationship with hymns. Growing up outside of the church, I never really had a positive perspective of what I perceived to be the church culture.
According to me, of course, church culture was defined by very few experiences with a very traditional, ‘stand up, sit down, kneel on the fold out knee rest, solemnly proceed to the front to receive your wine and cracker even if you have no idea who Jesus is or why you’re eating his blood and body’ type church.
This isn’t to say that the Spirit of God isn’t present in that kind of church, but to me, as an outsider, I certainly didn’t feel it or perceive it at all.
There would be a lot of songs interspersed throughout the service, which usually required us to stand. We always would have to stand for much longer than was comfortable – a threshold that was probably determined by me not caring much about what we were doing – and solemnly sing along with the two women in the balcony belting the hymns in a very unique key signature. It was, unfortunately, very rote and very lifeless. I understood nothing, and it didn’t lead me to any understanding.
In High School, the choir I was a member of would sing Christmas songs during the month of December (something that, in our society, mildly surprises me now that I know the meaning of the songs). Usually we did the Christmas classics, like Gloria In Excelsis Deo, Silent Night, and Angels We Have Heard On High. The fact that we were singing the songs with all the emphasis on the inflection, the dynamics, and the shape of our vowels, and no focus whatsoever on the meaning of the lyrics (whether they were in Latin or English) left the songs as a mechanical vocal display of skill.
That’s not the point of worship. But I suppose this wasn’t worship.
Hence, even when I hear “modern” renditions of classic Christmas songs and hymns, I hearken back to those memories. Most times it feels as though someone has taken that same uninspired performance of what was once a beautiful and meaningful song and added an electric guitar and some drums. I really don’t like it.
That is the exact reason why I fell in love with Page CXVI.
Tifah Phillips of Page CXVI talks in the video below about how members of an older congregation responded to their reinventions of classic hymns.
“What was really lovely was that these people at this church just came up to us and said how excited they were that the songs had been changed in a way that made them see them in a different light, or sing them in a different way, maybe got them to look at the lyrics in a new way.”
Our society likes to sing “Christmas Songs” out of cultural obligation, if we sing them at all. I remember seeing the Disney Sing Along Christmas Carols video as a child. I specifically remember the scene for Joy To The World, in which a bunch of dandelion-seed-looking things and a fairy go about adding ice to everything and then skating on it.
I literally did not understand that Joy To The World was about Jesus until this morning, when we sang it at church. I always remember the part about rocks, hills, and plains and thought it was about how the cold weather and the ice are really joyous because it’s pretty and snowy outside, and for some reason everyone is really happy about it.
We can sing the hymns all we want, but if we don’t actually explain to our children what they mean, you might find that a son or daughter thinks Silent Night is about sleeping in bed waiting for Santa to come. I am thankful for Page CXVI for intentionally and meaningfully approaching the hymns to make them into beautiful new creations, while thoughtfully pondering the words behind them.
Tifah Philips offers another perspective on hymns that I really enjoyed hearing.
Check out Page CXVI’s album Hymns on Spotify below.
Thanks for reading, and Merry Christmas!