The Christian entertainment Dilemma

Each year I create a “top 10” list of that year’s albums and songs. The process (because it’d be too simple just to choose albums without using a scientific method) involves taking over a 100 albums and judging how catchy they are, how many songs are on the album, the music, how original the album is, the lyrical content (not necessarily the message, more so how a message is conveyed), things such as album artwork or sales (sorry Taylor Swift) aren’t taken into account. Each year there are albums that surprise me, both in a negative way and a positive way and each year it amazes me how many christian albums end up in the “Ehhh” or “Wow it took months and this is what they chose to release?” category. It’s not that these albums sneak in drug references or anything un-christian, the albums are obviously about God, but the way in which they are produced is done in a horrible way. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve listened to a secular band up against a christian band and thought “Wow the secular band sold drugs, sex, and fame, better than the christians sold Jesus!”. Why is this? Are drugs, sex, and fame really king? Is Jesus or the idea of a God just ignorant to begin with? Of course not! But then, why is the opposite being found in the artistry?

If you’ve ever had a discussion with me about music or entertainment, chances are when we got to the christian genre, I had some harsh things to say. My reasoning is: if you’re creating something to reflect the most creative Being to ever live, why not make something of substance? Whether it’s film, music, or literature, christians have a bad habit of producing subpar stuff. Movies that have horrible writing, music that is filled with words, yet says nothing, books that take 300 pages to convey a message that could be said and explained in a sentence. All of these things are frustrating, but how do we combat it? That is where I come to a crossroads. The three ways I’ve come to combat it are: Saying sarcastic things about the works, trying to create my own works, and lastly, just accepting it. The problem is, all three have drawbacks. I can say every sarcastic and negative thing I want about the christian entertainment culture, but at the end where does it get me? Sure it gets laughs, but chances are no one is going to take time to hear out the guy who’s just bashing their products. Creating my own is fun, until I look around at the obstacles. The three writers who shaped my style of writing the most are: Tim Skipper, John Reuben, and Aaron Weiss, all three are fantastic and embody what honest and passionate lyrics should be and I look at their works and think “if people that talented cannot overcome the obstacles, how can the random guy from Neeses, overcome em’?”. And just accepting it is all fine until one day, you realize you’re just lying to yourself and that’s a feeling that is hard to keep bearing. When I stand back and look at the solutions it’s kind of obvious that there is not just one simple solution and I think that’s the point.

I think at the end it’s not just looking at fixing the problem with just one tool to momentarily fix the problem, but rather, using multiple tools to correctly fix the problem. I think sharing opinions, when done right, can really help. I believe that doing our part to produce an alternative style can help. I believe that meeting artists half way can help as well. When it comes down to it the point isn’t the music or film, it’s about God and the Son He sent for us and we cannot make it all about the music, but at the same time though why would want to bring a cheap offering to Him?

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“I’m Tired” (Song)

“I’m Tired” is basically a song written out of honesty. Whether we want to admit it or not, I think all christians struggle with their faith at times. The speaker in the song is contemplating his faith and at first he questions if God really has kept His promises and admits that he’s struggling, but then he realizes that perhaps his perception is wrong. Slowly he starts to realize he’s sitting their questioning God, but what has he himself done to be the hands and feet of God? Then the bridge is basically him admitting to and letting go of all the laziness, lies, shortcomings, and complacency that he’s held onto for years.

 

Where’s the hope? Where’s the love? Has it bid bon voyage?

Oh God, Your promises, were they just mirages?

I’m strugglin’, worryin’, everyday

but then, in a whisper, I hear You say

 

chorus-I love you more than you can imagine

My plans for you, are better than you can fathom

I am with you, do not fear

please follow the direction I steer

 

could it be, happiness, is not a guarantee

but rather, happiness, is actually a journey

and the change, I’m looking for, starts with I

instead of just, looking to, looking to the other guy

 

chorus-I love you more than you can imagine

My plans for you, are better than you can fathom

I am with you, do not fear

please follow the direction I steer

 

I’m tired of just waiting

for things to get better

I’m tired of just haiting

my fellow sinner

I’m tired of just saying

that I’m alright

I’m tired of delaying

walking in Your light

I’m aware of my misses

but I’m trustin’ Your promises

as I start and end my day

I wanna hear You say

 

chorus-

I love you more than you can imagine

My plans for you, are better than you can fathom

I am with you, do not fear

please follow the direction I steer

If you’ve ever wanted to contribute to a kickstarter campaign, this is the one to! A sad reality today is that soo much of the christian music industry has been watered down. People either want a great beat with limited God, or they want music that is sooo cliche and artificially injected with God that it ends up being horrible. And the same goes for the artists. But Jenny Simmons does not fit into either of those categories. From her days with Addison Road to now, she’s always been an artist who believes in craftsmanship, honesty and genuineness, and faith. Through her life, she’s seen and been a part of many instances where God was doing something miraculous, whether it was clear or not, and now she’s putting a book together of those stories. So if you’re looking for another cheesy christian book, or one that vaguely touches on faith, this isn’t for you, but if you’re looking for a great, honest, and faith filled book, here it is!

“Why are you afraid of the Dark?”

is the 9th track off of Children 18:3’s 2012 release On the Run. It’s a song that really spoke to me at a point in my life when I was facing a lot of uncertainty and had to make a decision that one way or another would change my life. The song basically asks the listener the question “Why are you afraid?”, which is a simple question yet one that believers struggle to answer everyday. Why? Simply put, many of us never really give our lives to God. Because in a world where we’re told to follow the definite path, faith in God and trusting in Him when life gets tough just doesn’t have a place. In my own life I’ve witnessed time and time again ,people who would preach and preach the Gospel and who always would talk about the many times in the Bible when God always came through, but when push came to shove would tell me to stick with the “norm”. These people in a roundabout way were telling me “hey, look these stories are nice but God doesn’t work this way anymore”. Which makes me wonder, when did God stop working miraculously? The answer to that is NEVER. A further look into the subject however does reveal a difference between that time and now, not in God’s approach, but in human’s approach. It’s the quality of faith that’s put into God. A great example is the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. As you’ll recall King Nebuchadnezzar had built a huge statue of himself and ordered everyone to bow down to it when the trumpets were sounded and to worship it. When the trumpets sounded everyone bowed except for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. When word got back to Nebuchadnezzar , about this, he wasn’t too happy. Nebuchadnezzar then called Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to come before him and he explained to them that if they didn’t bow down and worship the statue that he would throw them into the flaming furnace (needless to say he was very to the point). So now the choice was Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s to make and without hesitation this is the response they gave “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if He does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” We all know the rest of the story, they were thrown into the furnace, they didn’t burn, and a fourth figure (many have argued it was God himself) appeared in the furnace. However the ending is not what makes Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego fearless, it’s the fact that they realized they could just as easily been burned alive yet still they weren’t going to back down.

So the question you have to ask yourself is, “Why are you afraid?”. If you really believe in an almighty God, who’s never made a mistake, is there really any reason to fear the unknown?

Happy, Happy, Happy

That’s the quote from Mr. Duck Commander himself, Phil Robertson. When Phil was asked what the catchphrase meant he responded “Before I got converted to Christianity there wasn’t too much happiness around, but then after I got saved I looked around and realized the joy I had and the only way I could explain it was ‘Happy, Happy, Happy’”. As I thought about the quote, it started to make more and more sense, especially when you realize just how blessed we are to have a Savior and how much He blesses us. I could post paragraph after paragraph about the happiness that has came from blessings God has given me, but personally I don’t think the good times are where true joy is shown. It’s the smile in the middle of devastation, it’s the laugh you let out when everything, all day has gone wrong, it’s the happiness you still have when the closest person to you stabs you in the back.

In a Christian’s life, we are plagued by many bad things. It’s pretty safe to say that everyone will go through at least one bad relationship, one bad job, one betrayal from a friend, one health ailment, one disagreement with a government official (it might be safe to say “10”), one moment when we look in the mirror and think “Gahhhh why couldn’t I have been born with a different ____?!?!”. Bad times are going to come, just like good times are, it’s just a fact of life, but there’s no reason to freak out and assume our world is crashing down. James 1:2-4 says “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James is literally telling us to be joyful when disaster strikes (note there isn’t any mention of spamming facebook with “woe is me” posts) and that we should be aware that through these trials, we will be bettered because of them. 1 Peter 1:4 says “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed” this speaks volumes , to me, on two accounts. First it reminds us that Christ Himself suffered, whether it was His best friends deserting Him or being putting to death for literally doing nothing wrong, Christ had it pretty rough, secondly it shows that there is purpose for the trial. Now we may figure out the point right off the bat, or we may go our whole life without knowing the purpose, but there is a purpose nonetheless!

In a world where there are many uncertainties, we can be certain that these uncertainties are best faced with a trust in God and a happiness in our heart.

If a Tree Falls in the Woods…

and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? It’s an age old debate, with great points on both sides. The main argument boils down to “How can it make a noise if no one is there to hear it?”. It’s a pretty sound argument at first, think about it, there’s not people paying attention, word of the tree falling probably wont reach many people and even if it does, it will probably take a good while to reach those who do hear about it. However once you take time to truly consider it, you realize the answer is not hard. It doesn’t matter if there’s  people around or not, the tree fell AND made a noise. The fact that no one heard it, doesn’t take away the fact that it did happen.

 

This mindset parallels Christian living very well. Time and time again the Bible tells us we’re called to help others, the message of serving others literally came out of Jesus’ lips multiple times! But how often do we follow through? If we’re honest, we miss out on opportunities daily. Why? Personally I think a huge reason is because we want actions that cause a huge ripple affect and yield results immediately instead of small random acts .We see great acts of serving, such as a mission trip to a third world country or donating $10,000 to a charity as awesome things (which they are) but then we see other actions and write them off as worthless. We pass up complimenting our waiter/waitress when they look sad, we see a donation box and walk by it because we think the $5 in our pocket wont do them any real good. We lose the simple truth that it’s the pure heart acting to be the hands and feet of Christ that matters, not how grand the scale of what we did is. It doesn’t matter if you change the world or change someone’s world, if a million people see or no one sees, don’t pass up an opportunity to make a difference, even the smallest act, can change a life forever.

My High School Experience

May 22, 2013 marked the closing chapter of a book called Livingston Christian Academy. After fifteen years of offering Christian based education the doors closed for good. As the first and only graduate of the school I had a first hand experience of the school, from the good to the bad, the days that I came home proud to be an LCA Knight, and the days I came home hoping, wishing I was at another school. At the end of the day though, the bad memories don’t hold a candle to the good times. Because of the school I reached new heights as a person, student, as a Christian, and as a friend. As I reflect on LCA a few things pop into my mind.

First are the people I met. LCA directly led me to meet some incredible people, Mrs Ronda my principal, Mrs Elizabeth Bennett my mentor and former teacher, Logan Bennett her husband and my mentor, and so many more faculty and teachers I had the pleasure of meeting throughout the years. As far as friends I got to meet some of the coolest people ever, including the always bubbly Kara Peele, the always mysterious Sarah-Marie, the enigma Zenas, the very cool Meghan Gleaton and a host of others. Indirectly I was led to my current church, Providence Baptist Church which led me to AMAZING people, Keith, Ashby, Matt, Sami, Elizabeth, Hailey, Caleb, Tyler, Tyson, Justin, and so many more. I honestly could spend pages naming the amazing people I’ve met for the sake of this blog staying interesting, I will move on.

For those who hear my story of High School they are always taken back. We didn’t have a football, baseball or any sports team, our school consisted of trailers in a field, we didn’t own a single state championship in anything, we barely had a swing set. We didn’t have a prom, didn’t have a May day, didn’t have a tri-q. People hear this and tell me I missed out, that I’m not going to have High School stories to tell my kids, but to be honest I don’t think I’m the one that missed out. I went to a school that gave me a platform for my faith. In this world Christians and atheists alike look at God and say “Well those stories in the Bible are cool, but lets be reasonable” as a young Christian I’m taught to trust God, unless the situation is true or important, then I need to go with the safe or proven way. I don’t know about you, but doesn’t it seem very stupid to believe in a God that’s not all powerful? If you truly don’t believe in His power then why put on a show? See for me I KNOW how powerful He is. I saw days when the school was a week from closing due to insufficient funds only to receive a check from a stranger in Michigan for $6,000. I saw a true life fairytale with Liz and Logan (too incredible of a story to explain mid-blog, hopefully I can post it one day), and finally the last story that came out of LCA. A year ago Mrs. Ronda was faced with a tough decision, she was $10,000 in debt and needed to pay it off, she had $8,000 owed to her by parents of students past and present from the school, but that was where the tough decision was. Through prayer she had been told to forgive the debt, she questioned it night and day though, asking “why would You do this? The money is there” but after more prayer she finally gave in and forgave all of the debt. A year later she has paid off all but $1,000 of the debt through random donations and good management of funds.

Although LCA is no longer in business, it is by no means dead. The friendships made there will still live, the memories made will last a lifetime, the testimonies will always remain. The lives touched will always be a reminder of the mission LCA had. What mission was that? To mold a different kind of generation, one with faith, hope, ambition, and love. Faith to trust God in sunshine and storm. Hope, that no matter how bad life gets us down, we have a Savior Who is behind us and there for us. Ambition, that the sky is not the limit, but only the beginning, that there’s no excuse for us to not change the world and follow our dreams. And Love, love for our God, but also a love that sees the good in humans, that cares for them, that wants the best for them. Basically a generation that is so bizarre, so crazy that people see a difference in us, that difference being God.