25.12.12

Remember...

The Dance of Praise...worshipers giving thanks and praise to God accompanied by a dance of praise and thanksgiving...sacred movement as a form of spiritual applause offered to God our Father in gratitude for all of the blessings we experience in our lives...often misunderstood in liturgy...sacred movement offers another range of forms...of profound expression of praise and thanks before our God ~ Los Angeles Religious Education Conference 2010
`
     Remember...the first time you ever danced before the Lord, before you even understood what it really meant, before you ever attended a conference or were part of a group... before there were politics and problems...before it mattered who you knew or where you came from...before there were expensive garments, cliques, auditions and competitions...

     Remember...when you enjoyed reading God's Word, attending prayer and going to worship just because you wanted to, and not because it was a chore or an obligation, or part of a contingency plan on someone else's agenda...when it was just about God and learning to follow His ways...

     Remember...when there was a real difference between church and the world, and people really had respect for the House of Worship, each other, and God...when it wasn't always about how much money you gave or didn't give, a position, or a title...

     Remember...and don't forget.

     Thank you to everyone who has been following my blog, for the 37 members which includes 12 new followers this year! I hope that I will continue to inspire and encourage you in 2013. Blessings!

13.12.12

Speak Easy Pt. 6 - The Open Mic!

     Open mic venues can be very exciting to attend, and even more exciting when you are slated to perform. There are many different places where open mics are held, and as with the online shows, it's always best to do your research to find out exactly what type of event you will be attending. Each show has a different following and will draw certain types of performers and audiences. Venues range from family-friendly to adults-only themes, with everything in between. Many shows are for general audiences before a certain time, with no restrictions afterwards. If you have never attended an open mic before, it's best to go and watch the show, to find out if you would like to participate. You can always bring a poem or two with you even if you didn't sign up on the list, just in case you are invited to share something with the audience, which often happens in smaller venues.

     When going to perform at an open mic, find out what time the list is posted, so you can be sure to sign up early. The number of spots on the list can vary from 10 to 30, and many times those numbers can change at the discretion of the hosts. Performances may include music, rap, dance, and comedy, as well as poetry, and performers may be called onstage in the order that they sign up on the list, or randomly...so be ready! Please be aware that occasionally at some of the more popular venues, performers who are signed up may not be called on, either because the list was cut off after a certain number, or in some instances, performers who are unknown are "bumped" from the list in favor of others who are known to the hosts. Sometimes what is advertised as an "open mic" is actually closed prior to the start of the show.  It's an unfair reality in the poetry community, but it happens. If you ever encounter this, you can choose to sign up again if it's at a venue where you really would like to perform, or to choose another venue altogether.

      Please observe and respect all restrictions of the house, such as time limits and content. To allow everyone on the list the opportunity to perform, most venues limit performers to 3 - 5 minutes unless they are a featured guest. If anyone exceeds their time limit, it can be very embarrassing! Hosts will always announce the rules of the venue when the show starts. If you have a piece that is longer that you want to present, be sure to cut it to fit the time frame. There can be some very embarrassing consequences for performers who exceed their time limits!  If the host specifically states that only family friendly material is allowed, please take it seriously. Some venues post their restrictions, such as: No profanity, no explicit material, no depictions of violence. Again, observe their rules, because it's their show.

     During the show, the host will usually perform some of his or her own material to set the tone for the evening, but feel free to share whatever you do best. Performers are called onstage individually or at larger venues in "sets" of three at a time, to move the show along quickly. In this case, you must be ready to go up right after the preceding performer. Sometimes the host will use the term "on deck", which is a stage cue to let you know that it's getting close to your time to go up. As soon as the person ahead of you leaves the stage, go up right away. Never leave an empty stage, because it slows down the pace of the show and causes the audience to lose interest in the performers. It's extremely difficult to regain the interest of a lost audience, and you want their full attention!

     When you reach the stage, you can adjust the mic to suit your needs, or someone will assist you. Take a few seconds to center yourself. Relax...breathe...and share your piece. People want to hear what you have to say, so don't give them an excuse not to listen to you by saying any of the following:
  • I'm nervous...(most people are)
  • I wasn't expecting to perform...(then why go onstage?)
  • Bear with me...(why should they?)
     Unless you are a great cold-reader, you should always practice your piece at home before reading it in public. It's great to have your poetry memorized, but if there is the slightest chance of you going blank onstage, there is nothing wrong with having your book, paper, or phone with you. Yes...some poets read from their phones. If you do read your piece, make sure to connect with your audience by making eye contact with them from time to time. Don't get locked in to your paper. When you really know your material, it won't be hard to do. Stay focused on the message you want to convey, so you won't get distracted by things that go on in the audience such as people talking, moving around and ambient or background noises. If you make a mistake, keep going! Don't stop, or apologize in the middle of your piece for any reason. Remember that other than yourself, no one knows what you have written. Make sure that you really believe in your work, and command the attention of the audience. It's your message that you're  choosing to share with the world, and someone needs to hear it, so pay attention to all of the dynamics of what you have written. Reach your audience with all of the emotion that you have put into your piece so that they can feel it also, because one of the quickest ways to lose the attention of an audience is to read a poem like you are reading the newspaper. A great Christian spoken word artist, Janett...icz says it best: "Don't be the poet that people leave to go to the bathroom on".

     These are a few pointers to help you get started in poetry and spoken word. If you really want to grow in the art of poetry and spoken word presentation, it takes practice, patience, and time...just like any other genre of performance. It's impossible to put everything in just a few paragraphs of a blog. Start where you are, and keep going. Watch videos of other artists, go to workshops, and do everything that you can to become the best that you can be!

    Enjoy this dynamic presentation by Janett...icz:
    

6.12.12

"Non-traditional" Tradition!

This is a repost from December 2010:

There are many ways to creatively share the Good News while maintaining the integrity of God's Word and communicating a clear message. There is nothing entitled "The Christmas Story" in the Bible, although the birth of Christ is clearly stated and can be told at any time of the year. Because of this, we have an unlimited number of frameworks from which to write plays, poetry, cantatas, do choreography or create artworks that have the birth of Christ as their central theme. Gone are the days when we are limited to basic recitations for Children's Church or re-enacting the Nativity as a period piece. These are wonderful starting points, but with the blessing of leadership and much prayer, research and collaboration, recitations can have a fresh approach and the Nativity can be brought into the modern day---remembering to maintain the truth of God's Word.

I once attended a Christmas production where stations were placed at different locations on the church grounds, and the audience could interactively experience different aspects of the Christian walk. At the end of the journey, participants gathered to sing carols and enjoy all kinds of Christmas treats. There was something for everyone, young and old. One of the most innovative Christmas productions I have ever been in was centered around a giant chess game with a spiritual warfare theme. The possibilities are endless! Even if we use traditional musical selections, we can choose contemporary arrangements. The important thing in this case is to always make sure that the artist and genre of music selected are appropriate for a worship setting. When in doubt, collaborate with the Minister of Music and of course the Pastor so that no one is offended.

With some extra planning and prayer, you can creatively present the Good News in a way that will challenge today's complex thinkers (and stay well within your ministry budget). It's time to think outside the box and get into Non-Traditional Tradition!

Please enjoy this unique Christmas presentation of music, drama and dance:


16.11.12

Speak Easy! Pt. 5 - Live on the Air!

    
    Before you read your poem at a poetry venue or radio program, remember that there are two types of people who participate in open mics: Those who just want to share their words with others; and those want to seriously pursue poetry and spoken word as a profession or a ministry. Regardless of your motivation for stepping up to the mic, it's always best to be fully prepared if you want to get and maintain your audience's attention.

     If you are calling in to read poetry on an Internet radio program, be sure that you know ahead of time the exact time zone of the start of the program if it's different to yours, and type of show you are participating in. It may also be a good idea to just listen in to the show at first, to hear the content. A caveat: Remember that each poetry show has its own set of rules ...and caters to different audiences! If you decide to read a poem on a particular show, make sure to follow the voice prompts that will put you in the line-up to go on the air, otherwise the host will not know that you want to read. Callers go on in the order that their hands "go up", meaning, that if you call in at 8 PM, but don't decide to notify the host that you want to read (by pressing a number on your phone's keypad) until 9:00 PM, everyone who put their hands up between 8:00 and 9:00 will read ahead of you. Some shows will have automated systems that will inform you that you are in line to read, "in queue"; others will not. Most shows have online chatrooms where callers can communicate with one another and also see where they are in the line-up, so you can watch the chatroom activity while listening to the show, or you can turn the volume down on your computer while watching and listening by speakerphone.

     When your turn comes up, the host will call out your prefix and say something like: "Area code 347 is on the air," or if there is more than one person on the call with the same area code, they will say the area code and first 3 digits of the number you are calling from.  Be ready with your paper, phone or document screen open and ready to go when you are called on.When the line is opened for you, don't be shy! Turn the volume down on your computer if it's up to prevent interference, speak out, introduce yourself, and tell the host the title of your poem. If they want to share small talk, feel free to communicate with them, and let them know it's your first time calling in. That helps them to gauge where their audiences are from. The rules for a radio show are a little more relaxed than for a poetry venue, and hosts are very friendly towards newcomers. Read your poem clearly, take your time and don't rush through it.The most important thing to do is to choose a poem that you feel comfortable reading to others, and read it with confidence and feeling. Make sure it's no longer than 2 to 2 1/2 minutes in length, although shorter poems are OK, too. Remember that you are sharing your truth with the world, and people need to hear what you have to say, so command their attention! Don't try to sound like other poets or spoken word artists you have heard or admire, find your own style and do what feels and sounds most natural to you. If you make a mistake, keep on going. It's always a good idea to read your poem over a few times by yourself before going on the air, just in case you get anxious, but don't  ever apologize for being nervous, or for making a mistake. Relax and have fun! remember, that the hosts want and need people to call in, so that they will have a show.  When you are finished, it's good to take a short pause and say: "End poem", some poets say: "That's that piece" to let the host know that they are done.  The host will usually ask you where people can find more of your work. Again, don't say much more than that, or break the flow of your poem in any way that will distract the listeners. If you have a blog or social media page and would like for others to find you, that's the time to let them know. 

     If you register for a free account on the website where the radio show is being hosted, you can also drop a link to your website where others in the chatroom can see it. Most shows are recorded and archived, so you can always go back and listen to them later.

    In Part 6 we will talk about live open mics and poetry venues...so until then, keep writing and sharing your truth!

    *Note: If you're not sure of where to start looking for online poetry shows, there are several that you can choose from on: www.blogtalkradio.com, and www.talkshoe.com.
 

6.11.12

Speak Easy! Pt. 4 - Getting Ready

     Well...you've finally found an open mic venue, radio show or been invited to read poetry at your church, that was was the easy part. Now, the real work begins. So, exactly how do you prepare to read or present your work? First, make sure you know the type of audience you will be performing your poetry for. If it's going to be done at a church or family-oriented program, try to find out the theme of the event so that your poem will be appropriate for the atmosphere. Many church audiences are not familiar with poetry and spoken word, so be discerning about what you present to them and make sure the timing is right for what you want to offer. If you have written a piece that contains profanity or anything that could be interpreted as questionable, you can always modify the language for the event without losing the integrity and strength of the poem. Use an online dictionary or thesaurus to find alternate words to convey your thought. Many poets have two versions of their work to suit different audiences or have learned how to change language on the spot, to avoid offending their listeners. This doesn't mean that you cannot write or speak on certain topics, but the timing and presentation has to be right, in order for your words to be received.  The last thing any poet wants is to lose their audience in the middle of a poem. There is no guarantee that some won't be offended, but let the offence come from their own interpretation of what you say, not from your presentation.

     In Part 5, we will talk about etiquette, and some do's and dont's for poetry and spoken word presentation.

4.11.12

Speak Easy Pt. 3 - Sharing Your Voice

     So...you have all of these wonderful poems written in yor journal, stored in your phone, iPad (TM) or computer and want to share them, right? Where do you go to read your poems? How do you find poetry venues?

     If you use social media such as Facebook or Google plus, you can always look up poetry groups for your area by typing in "poetry" "spoken word" or "open mic" in the taskbar, where several names will come up. There, you can read the posts and see if anything interests you. Once you find an event that you want to attend, you can go and listen for a few times if you are shy, but bring along a few of your favorite poems just in case you want to read. As you continue to go out, you'll meet people and find out about more events. There are also churches who have poetry nights, so you can always ask about those and get in touch with the sponsors. Be aware that there are different types of venues for different tastes, so pay attention to the information on flyers or posts before attending any event. If you want to read at an open mic, get there early enough to sign up on the list, for the best chance at a turn. Depending on the venue, you may have to go back several times before you even get a turn, but don't let that stop you. Keep going to different places and start with smaller crowds, until you get comfortable with larger audiences.

    There are also many open mic poetry shows on the internet where anyone can call in and read their work. This is very good for building confidence in sharing your poetry, because you can read from the comfort of your own surroundings. You can find these shows on Talkshoe.com, Blogtalkradio.com, and others.  Just call in and listen, or follow the prompts to go on the air!

    A word about open mic events: An open mic show is exactly what it is...a space where anyone with something to say can get up and say, sing, or otherwise communicate whatever is on their mind. Some people are of the opinion that Christians should not participate in open mics because the mic is open to every spirit, but I feel that it's a real opportunity to be salt and light in a place that may need what God has given me to offer the world.  I don't write my poetry specifically for the church, I write from my heart, as I'm inspired to write; and my prayer is that through my writing, God will reveal His light to someone who needs to see, in a way that they haven't seen Him before. So, know why you write, be convinced of your poetic voice, and never allow anyone to discourage you in your craft or tell you what you can or cannot write about.  Of course, some topics may be more appropriate for certain audiences or venues than others...more on that later.
.
     In Part 4 of Speak Easy, we will talk about some technical aspects of reading and presenting what you write. In the meantime, keep being inspired!

     Enjoy The Number Poem by Poetri the Poet:

   

23.10.12

Light vs. Darkness

...and don’t participate in the unfruitful actions of darkness. Instead, you should reveal the truth about them.~Eph. 5:11 (CEB)
 
 
     This is the season where we are seeing preparations for what has become one of the biggest celebrations of the year...Halloween. The store aisles are filled with all kinds of decorations in orange, black, purple and green, where houses, jobs and even some churches can transform their entire worlds into haunted works of architechture designed to shock and frighten those who dare to enter. Over time, Halloween costumes have become increasingly violent and bizarre, from simple cartoon characters to mass murderers.
 
     Where did the tradition of Halloween come from? Is is just a harmless celebration with plenty of candy and treats, or there a more sinister origin? As worshipers, can we participate in these activities and still lead others to Christ?

     Do your own research and learn about the real origins of anything you do before getting involved with it, even if it goes on in a church building. We are living in a time when it's important to know, discern, and understand that everything we do impacts our lives...and the lives of those around us.
 
     Selah...

16.10.12

Speak Easy! Pt. 2 - Styles of Poetry


Poetry...A medium for telling the truth with utmost precision in the use of words incorporating distilled language and high speech with minimal word use and maximum impact.
~Anansi Workshop

 
     In continuing our discussion in learning about different types and styles of poetry, let's begin by stating that there are over 50 classifications of poems with new ones always being created! Some of the most popular types include:

· Acrostic poetry -poetry in which certain letters, usually the first in each line form a word or message when read in a sequence. Many of the Psalms and Proverbs are acrostic Hebrew poems.

· Haiku - Japanese poetry composed of three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables, usually containing a season word. Americanized Haiku can be about any subject, but still has the same structure as Japanese Haiku.

· Lyric Poetry - Poetry that expresses the thoughts and feelings of the poet. Many songs are written using this type of writing.


· Rhyme Poetry - Poetry that has the repetition of the same or similar sounds of two or more words, often at the end of the line.


· Narrative Poetry - Poetry that tells a story.


· Free Verse Poetry – Poetry that does not rhyme, but flows freely. Spoken Word Poetry is usually done in Lyrical, Narrative, or Free Verse styles.

     Of all the above styles, Lyric, Rhyme, Narrative and Free Verse poems are the types that are most often written, read or spoken in poetry venues and churches because they are the among easiest to understand. Also, within these styles of poetry, there are several variations among them all!

     So, what if you feel that God is leading you to write poetry? How do you get started? One way to start writing poetry is to keep a journal and "free write" for five minutes about whatever you are feeling at that moment. Even if it doesn't make sense, you may get the beginnings of a poem from what you have written. Another way of getting started is to write what is called an "I Am" poem, which is a series of statements and declarations about yourself to get in touch with what inspires or motivates you to write. Remember to write out complete thoughts, and remember not to judge anything that you write, especially while you are in the midst of writing! It's best to write and put your journal away, and read it later from an objective standpoint. Never discard anything that you write, because several weeks, months or years from the time you wrote, you may find something of value that you didn't see at first!

     Now that you know how to get started, what are you waiting for? Set aside a time when you can concentrate, and write from your heart. In our next blog, we will learn more about how and where to present your poems.

   Please enjoy this narrative poem by Jackie Hill of P4CM Poets...

________________________________________________________________
               
                       2 http://ettcweb.lr.k12.nj.us/forms/iampoem.htm
               
             

30.9.12

Speak Easy! Pt. 1 - Poetry

 
 
 
Poetry and Spoken Word are gaining increased popularity in churches, as did the resugence of dance in the 80's and 90's. But, what exactly, is poetry, and why is it being done in church?

Poetry is:
·           An art form that uses words in rhythm and verse to show emotions or tell a story

·        Poetry is a way of telling about life through words

·        Poetry can be about any subject

·        Poetry does not have to rhyme

·        Poetry puts things into words that are hard to say

·        Poetry expresses thoughts, feelings, opinions and dreams

·        Poetry can come from anywhere

·        Poetry is something everyone can create

·        Poetry makes the reader or hearer visualize something or feel a certain way
Poetry is a wonderful way of conveying thoughts and observations about life, using minimal words. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn't have to rhyme. In fact, some of the most interesting poems are written in free verse, meaning that the words just flow naturally, without rhyming. Poetry can explore opinions and alternative views of subjects that may be controversial, because the poetic form allows the writer to creatively express his or her message with a variety of words and dynamics that couldn't be accomplished in a regular speech or editorial. One of the reasons that Poetry and Spoken Word are becoming more popular in churches, is that it allows the Good News to be shared in a way that grabs the attention of those who might not otherwise hear what is being said in a traditional sermon, but that same content expressed poetically will probably not be hard to forget. 
 
 In our next blog, we will talk about some of the different styles of poetry, and share some tips on how to get started with writing and presenting your poems. In the meantime, please enjoy this poem by Poetri the Poet:
 
 
 


31.8.12

What if God is Speaking?

The Lord is in his holy temple;
let all the earth be silent before him. ~ Habakkuk 2:20
 

     I went to a church service recently and the minister in charge was seated in front of the altar singing and praying to the Lord during the sound check, and I was immediately drawn into the worship.  Meanwhile, people were in and around the sanctuary, talking and socializing with one another. It was as if two worlds were in one place, but the more they talked, the more he continued to sing and pray in the spirit as if it were just he and the Lord. I wondered if anyone really understood what was going on, that they were being invited by God Himself to put aside their mundane conversations and join in the worship, or if they were just there, waiting for the program to start, so that they could 'get their praise on'! I wondered if they realized that worship begins long before a church service starts, that we are to come into the sanctuary with a heart of worship. No matter what is going on, our focus is to be on God, to give thanks and praise, to pray, cry out, and do whatever we need to do, to get into His presence. It's not up to the worship leaders to bring us into God's presence. Their role is to lead and inspire the way into worship, and then we then decide to follow them, as they follow Christ.
 
     When we come into the sancturary, it's not the time to have long conversations or greetings during praise and worship. There is nothing more important than the communication that we have with The Most High. Cell phones should be turned off and not answered, bluetooths need to be put away. It is a shame for us to be texting and posting to Facebook and Twitter when worship is going on. How focused are we on God, if we have time to check-in and let everyone know that we are basking in His presence? Do we understand that if we have an divine encounter with God, sending a text or a post would be the last thing we would be doing, or have we become so familiar with Christian jargon and the need to impress others that we need to say something that sounds spiritual but is devoid of  meaning?
 
     We take so much for granted when it comes to the presence of God. But, there are so many things going on around us that we can't afford to take the worship of God lightly. People are suffering with all kinds of illnesses, tragedies, finacial lack, family challenges, spiritual and emotional distress and discouragement. One of the benefits of worship is hearing The Holy Spirit speak to our hearts so that we can receive guidance and help from God, to be a blessing to those around us. We don't come into the sancturary for own benefit and blessings alone, or to  entertained or amused,   God wants to speak to us... about our lives, about other's lives, and to give us revelation about who He is. Are we listening?

~~~
God is speaking... 
so come into the sanctuary
and quiet yourself
remove your spirit from the cares and busyness
will you be still and listen for God’s voice in the secret place of reverence and respect
separate from the inner and outer noise of constant chaos
or continue to block out the sound of His words
speaking life to your soul?
you are invited
to come from the weariness and receive peace
and receive water from the well
that will never run dry
come and drink
and be filled
and take the waters of  life to the world
God is speaking...
 

 

25.7.12

These Things...Ought Not to Be!

...Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. ~ James 3:10 (NKJV)

     Liturgical arts have come a long way in the past few years. Ministries and groups are becoming more well-versed in technique and becoming more innovative, even edgy with their presentations. Multi-media platforms and creative risk-taking are all commonplace in church services, conferences, and concert settings. But...some of us are forgetting that our focus is still communicating The Good News of Christ, which is that Christ was born, was crucified, died, was buried, and is now alive so that we can be free, if we turn away from our sins, believe with all of our hearts, and personally confess that this is true, and start living for God and not ourselves. This means that whatever we do has to: (1) Be inspired of God; (2) Be based on His Word, the Bible, and (3) Reveal God to people. It is not to entertain, amuse, or placate the audience, and although there is a performance aspect involved, in the context of worship, that is not our purpose. We are simply there in front of the audience to offer out of our relationship with God, a visual representation of His Word, ways, and nature, possibly in a way that hasn't been revealed to them before.

There were some Greeks in town who had come up to worship at the Feast. They approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee: "Sir, we want to see Jesus. Can you help us?"
~ John 12:21 (MSG)

     Having studied Theatre and Dance for many years, I am always interested in seeing different types of presentations in church, but this latest video should concern most of us. In a church service, Thriller, yes that one...was danced to after a message about Ezekiel 37, the story of The Valley of Dry Bones in which God asked the prophet: "Son of Man, can these bones live?" Please let me say that as an artist, I have no problem with the artform of Thriller as a music video, and I have enjoyed Michael Jackson's music as much as anyone else, BUT, Thriller is a song and video about Halloween, zombies, and fear. The dancers in the original video were second to none, and the dancers in this new video did a good job with their modified version of Michael Jackson's and Michael Peters' choreography. However, they should have found different music and let God inspire them to do completely different choreography for their ministry, simply because people will automatically hear that song, see the dance and will either compare it with the original, miss the entire point completely because they are totally caught up what they have already seen and heard before , or simply be entertained by an exciting performance. In other words, it's inappropriate for a house of worship! Why? because, what aspect of God's Word are they presenting with a music track that was composed for a song about the powers of darkness? And, other than the fact that their performance was well done, what aspect of God was revealed to the people, some of whom may never hear The Good News again? There are many others, but these are the first ones that come to mind.

But truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord,
And of justice and might,
To declare to Jacob his transgression
And to Israel his sin.
~ Micah 3:8 (NKJV)


...And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams.

And on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days;
And they shall prophesy.

~ Acts 2: 16-18 (NKJV)

    I rarely post about ministry presentations that are controversial, and certainly am not writing about this for the sake of controversy; but we need to have intelligent, non-judgemental dialogue about what is going on around us, as well being sure that we keep the worship arts focused on Christ, and not become a second-rate copy of what the secular arena has already done. Truly there is a problem here, and the solutions are not in condemning those who are promoting these activities, but in directing them towards God's Word.  All of the creativity and style that we need, come from Him, the original Creator.  Most importantly, we must have a real, born-again relationship with God, and not just blindly follow the latest trend that comes around. There are so many up-and-coming artists in the church with phenomenal talent, but they must always remain true to their own voice, and not simply become a copy of someone else's past glory. Watch...and be prayerful.
                                             

18.7.12

Checkpoint!




If you wanted to build a building, you would first sit down and decide how much it would cost. You must see if you have enough money to finish the job. If you don’t do that, you might begin the work, but you would not be able to finish. And if you could not finish it, everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘This man began to build, but he was not able to finish'. ~ Luke 14:28-30 (ERV)

     It's July...and we're now at a checkpoint in the year. So, it's time to ask ourselves some questions about the things we are doing, what we have done well, and what we can improve upon. So, get a pen and a piece of paper, and divide it into three sections; then take some time to think about how your worship ministry has changed in the past year:
  • what is different, and why?
  • what are your personal ministry goals for the next 6 months?
  • how will you make this happen?
     Write those things down, and pray over them. Ask God for guidance on how to carry out those goals to fulfill His plan for your life and service to Him. It may mean letting go of some projects, moving in another direction, taking on new responsibilities or even saying no to others. But, whatever answer you receive, it will always point to what is best!

      Carry on...

5.7.12

House on Fire...




I know what you have done, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or hot. But since you are lukewarm and not hot or cold, I’m going to spit you out of my mouth.  You say, ‘I’m rich. I’m wealthy. I don’t need anything.’ Yet, you do not realize that you are miserable, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.  I advise you: Buy gold purified in fire from me so that you may be rich. Buy white clothes from me. Wear them so that you may keep your shameful, naked body from showing. Buy ointment to put on your eyes so that you may see.  I correct and discipline everyone I love. Take this seriously, and change the way you think and act.  Look, I’m standing at the door and knocking. If anyone listens to my voice and opens the door, I’ll come in and we’ll eat together. ~ Rev. 3:15-20 (GW)

 a house is on fire
and its foundation is burning to the ground
its frame engulfed by flames...
like Ichabod the glory has departed from its inner chambers
and its honor is long gone
respect has been destroyed

its faith has fallen out of context with reality
souls are dying inside of well -dressed bodies on display
with camera ready smiles on cue
but who is watching TV when the TV is really watching you?
people are tired of the games, the show and fakery
money changing hands like dozens at the bakery
going through the routine with nothing ever changing
except for the scenery
God is judging his people
from the pulpit to the walls
His spirit is grieved for us
because we fail to recognize and follow His way
we make mockery of His words and use them for unjust gain
mega ministers backslidden and living in sin behind closed doors
trying to decide which side of the fence to play on
being blindly followed by those who only shout and say "Amen"
with no real respect for holy things or love for others
titles have taken the place for real power
the hungry are expected to feed themselves
and blamed for their own demise
spirituality is just a game we play to get by
while the children are lost and forgotten
you have been commanded to care for the sheep
and devour them instead
a house is on fire
it’s just a social institution
a meeting place
a breakfast with no prayer at a table with no meal
a gathering with no oil
no real word
and a place to wander in and out of freely with no purpose
but remember that time is running out and this world will pass away
eternity waits at the end…
and where will you be then?

selah

1.7.12

In The Vineyard...

The Sovereign Lord has taught me what to say, so that I can strengthen the weary. Every morning He makes me eager to hear what He is going to teach me. - Isaiah 50:4 (GNT)


      In the past few years, many churches have become increasingly "seeker sensitive" instead of Holy Spirit sensitive, and there is no real word from God. So, the seekers are going elsewhere to get their life questions answered. Some churches have become more interested in attracting large crowds and getting large offerings than speaking to people's concerns, and hurting people are coming into the church, hopeless, oppressed, discouraged, depressed, confused, and going out the same way. Why? Because the God is not allowed to be in charge of His own house. The Lord knows everyone by name, He knows exactly where they are in life, what they need, and how to speak to them. He has called us to be avaiable to communicate His Good News to them, speak life to them, show them love, and show them a better way to live through His Word.


“The Lord’s Spirit has come to me, because he has chosen me to tell the Good News to the poor. The Lord has sent me to announce freedom for prisoners, to give sight to the blind, to free everyone who suffers, and to say: 'This is the year the Lord has chosen'" ~ Luke 4:18-19 (CEV)

~~~~~

It shall come to pass in that day
That his burden will be taken away from your shoulder,
And his yoke from your neck,
And the yoke will be destroyed because of the anointing oil.~ Isaiah 10:27 (NKJV)

     What does that mean for us as worship leaders? That means that we have to take the time to find out what song or music God wants to speak through, and not just choose the song that will move the crowd because it's popular, or because it's our favorite. If we have a choice of music, then we must take time to ask God what the appropriate song will be to meet the needs of those who are present. That may mean that we may have to listen to several songs and do some research before making a decision, but true ministry is always about serving others, not ourselves. People come into churches with all kinds of spiritual, mental, and physical conditions that they can't share with anyone. God may reveal some things, but it is impossible for us to know what is going on with each individual. If we allow God to lead us, He will give us a message that will speak to the audience at large, in many different ways. That may mean that we won't be able to do our favorite choreography, jump, grand jete or freestyle move, if He wants to speak through a simple gesture that will destroy a yoke of bondage from somebody's life that will enable them to receive God's word in a way that they had never seen it before!

"[...art often bypasses the intellect and speaks to the heart rather then the head, leaving the viewer to discover their own meanings and interpretations." ~ Brian Giberson, Visual Artist*

     We have to be more concerned for what God wants than with our need to be seen, heard, recognized or applauded. Remember... we are not here for ourselves, we are here because God thought enough of us to invite us to work with Him, and He is in charge of His vineyard.

____________________________

Notes: *Art Philosophy, Brian Giberson: http://www.indigolights.com/art/artist-biography.html

26.6.12

The Ministry of Ministry

If we are to assume our position in the kingdom as sacred dancers, we must embrace the reality that we are called to bring healing, salvation, prophetic revelation and joy to the world through the sacred use of our bodies.~Author Unknown
 
     I was recently in a popular budget dancewear store, and overheard the following conversation between a young lady and an older woman who were rummaging through the piles of dance clothes:

YL: "...But I don't want to give her my skirt!"
OW: "You can't fit it anymore, and I already cut it so what are you going to do with it?"
YL: (no response, rolls her eyes, arms folded)
OW: "Well, if you aren't going to help me look, you need to go get back into the car. This is for you"
YL: "I don't want to!"

    You can probably see where this was going. Not wanting to get in the middle of their conflict, I waited to see if the Lord would lead me to say anything or to simply be quiet and keep looking for what I wanted. After a long period of silence and an increasingly growing pile of dance clothes, I asked the older woman if I could switch places with her and continue to look for my items. Then the Lord led me to speak to the young lady, and ask her where she danced, etc. and the older woman said that she was the choreographer at her church. I felt so sad for her, because she was so angry and wouldn't even look me in the eye or talk to me when I was speaking to her. The young lady was still standing there with her arms folded, and rolling her eyes at the older woman when I left.

A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. ~ 2 Tim. 2:24-25 (NLT)

    Without knowing the back story of what was going on, it's not fair for me to make a judgement about the situation, but I came away from there with the understanding  that there is so much more to the dance ministry than just the dance. Everything that we do is connected to it, even those things that we feel are a waste of our time. From sorting through clothing, finding music, and to the ways in which we respond to other people around us, is all part of ministry. The truth is, we could find anyone from the street, teach them a dance, dress them up to present a piece somewhere and they would probably do a wonderful job, but unless God was in it, it wouldn't matter. We often spend so much time on externals, and our hearts are not right. We're so busy looking for just the right garments, the right song, and the right steps to move the crowd that we have forgotten about The One in whom we live, move, and have our existence. Some of us are rude, bitter, competitive, abusive, and jealous of anyone we think wants our position. Some of us operate in fear of man, and will think nothing of sacrificing those around us to keep or gain their approval. Many others are so determined to get recognition in the dance ministry circuit that we form all kinds of pseudo-alliances and run behind whomever is the most popular, saying "Amen" to their every social network post, just to say that we are friends with them, when they don't even know our names...really?

No one from the east or the west
or from the desert can exalt themselves.
 It is God who judges:
He brings one down, he exalts another. ~ Psalms 75:6-7 (NIV)


     Worshipers, no matter how young or how old we are, there is no ministry if we only see what we do as an activity, a hobby, or a job. Just because we call something a ministry, doesn't mean that God says the same thing. Doing an activity in a church building does not qualify what we do as ministry. Anyone can dance, or even teach others to dance, but once we bring it into the sanctuary as an offering to God, everything changes. Let's start examining our lifestyles, our habits, and our attitudes. Do they agree with God's Word? Are we concerned about the children and teenagers enough to encourage them in the right ways, or do we just want to keep them busy in church? Are we showing them good examples of Godly behavior at all times, or do we act one way at the church, and another way when we leave? Children know, see, recall and imitate whatever is shown to them. And remember, that once we answer the call of the Lord, everything that we do is connected with our ministry, which is our service to Him and to humanity.

These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. ~ Rev. 3: 7-8 (NIV)


     I don't know whatever happened with that young lady, but I often think of her and wonder how she is doing,  and pray that she and others will one day understand the true meaning of ministry.

Selah...


     *If anyone knows of author of that profound quotation, please comment so that they can be given the proper credit here.

9.6.12

Just Like David!









...When the men carrying the Ark of the Lord had walked six steps, David sacrificed a bull and a fat calf. Then David danced with all his might before the Lord. He had on a holy linen vest. David and all the Israelites shouted with joy and blew the trumpets as they brought the Ark of the Lord to the city.~ 2 Samuel 6: 13-15 (NCV)

There are many Godly men dancing for Christ, as quiet as it's kept. Although we always see the women giving thanks and praise, the men aren't always noticed. But when we do see them, they dance with all their might, just like David did. Many churches who still only view dance as an activity and not a ministry of worship to God are not sure about allowing men to dance, because they still associate it with being feminine or frivolous. But if we read the Word, we see that David was a worshiper who rejoiced and gave praise to the Lord, because of the ark that carried the presence of the Lord was being brought into the city.  David didn't dance to entertain the people, he danced from a greatful heart and also gave burnt offerings to the Lord and blessed the people with food.

David put up a tent for the Ark of the Lord, and then the Israelites put it in its place inside the tent. David offered whole burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the Lord. When David finished offering the whole burnt offerings and the fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord All-Powerful. David gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates, and a cake of raisins to every Israelite, both men and women.  Then all the people went home.~ 2 Samuel 6: 17-19 (NCV)

There is something very powerful about seeing a man dance for God! It has nothing to do with him experimenting with his feminine side, but has everything to do with him being free to praise the Lord with his entire being. So...let the men dance, just like David did!

Enjoy the dance ministry from the men of Caanan Baptist Church of Christ, in NY:





8.6.12

Don't Give Up!

"...Yet I will preserve 7,000 others in Israel who have never bowed down to Baal or kissed him!”
~ 1 Kings 19:18 (NLT)

Have you ever felt like giving up, or walking away and never looking back from the worship arts ministry due to all of the competition, compromise, and other ungodly behavior that you have witnessed?  Do you feel that participating in dance, drama or music ministries is just not worth it anymore because of being mistreated, taken for granted, disrespected, or intimidated?  What about being:
  • persecuted
  • ostracized
  • criticized
  • exploited
  • lied on
  • talked about
  • excluded
  • humiliated
  • threatened
  • etc...
Guess what...you're in good company! Elijah the prophet was on a mission from God. He challenged the prophets of Baal to see who the true and Living God was, and destroyed them and their altars. When Ahab's wife, Queen Jezebel learned of this, she threatened him with death...and Elijah went on the run. Queen Jezebel's goal was to overthrow the worship of God, and would destroy anyone who got in her way:

When Ahab got home, he told Jezebel everything Elijah had done, including the way he had killed all the prophets of Baal.  So Jezebel sent this message to Elijah: “May the gods strike me and even kill me if by this time tomorrow I have not killed you just as you killed them.”
 Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there.  Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.” 1 Kings 19: 1-4 (NLT)

Imagine for a moment, what Elisha must have been feeling. He had done everything that God commanded, and was now running from Jezebel's threats. He knew that she was very capable of making good on them, and went to find shelter in a cave. But look at God's response:

[...And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
 He replied again, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”
 Then the Lord told him, “Go back the same way you came, and travel to the wilderness of Damascus. When you arrive there, anoint Hazael to be king of Aram.  Then anoint Jehu grandson of Nimshi to be king of Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from the town of Abel-meholah to replace you as my prophet.  Anyone who escapes from Hazael will be killed by Jehu, and those who escape Jehu will be killed by Elisha!  Yet I will preserve 7,000 others in Israel who have never bowed down to Baal or kissed him!"~ 1 Kings 19: 13-18 (NLT)

20.4.12

Stand for Something!


Therefore, pick up the full armor of God so that you can stand your ground on the evil day and after you have done everything possible to still stand.
~ Eph. 6:13 (CEB)

"If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything".  How many times did we hear that statement, growing up? We first had to learn what we believed was right, and then stick by it when we faced the pull of gravity from peer pressure, cultural mores, personal dilemmas and even religious standards. Sometimes, we were able to resist, sometimes we gave in. So, how do we now stand?


Follow my advice, my son; always treasure my commands.~ Proverbs 7:1 (NLT)

We are living in a time when values are being tested on a daily basis, many times having to choose between standing up for our beliefs, and holding onto something that we have worked hard to achieve. We often say: "I'll never do that..." but reality always checks us when whenever we are faced with a situation that requires us to either speak up or speak out from our heart with no one to support us, even if they are standing by, witnessing the attack that has been waged against us. It is then that we learn not only what we really believe, but who our real comrades in the faith are.

...Jesus asked them, “Am I some dangerous revolutionary, that you come with swords and clubs to arrest me?  Why didn’t you arrest me in the Temple? I was there among you teaching every day. But these things are happening to fulfill what the Scriptures say about me.”  Then all his disciples deserted him and ran away.
~ Mark 14: 48-50 (NLT)

When you stand up for what you believe is right, you may not get what you want. In fact, you may lose everything, and be left standing alone. It's why wars have been fought, lives have been lost, nations have been formed and destroyed, and laws have been changed or abolished. Standing up for your beliefs takes courage, because the outcome may be uncertain. But whatever the cost, it's worth having principles strong enough to stand on.  So...Stand!