I’ve Counted Up the Cost

Rend Collective Experiment

Several weeks back I was sitting down with a relatively new friend. Over a BLT and an IPA we exchanged some war stories about previous experiences in the church. She is a pastor, and I am a pastor, and we both have gone through the ringer (as virtually every pastor has… or will…).

If you know me, or have followed my journey, then you know a bit about what I went through a couple years ago. So I was telling her that story, coupled with a few other tidbits here and there, and eventually she looked at me, tilted her head slightly to the side, furrowed her brow just ever so slightly, and said,

Colby, you have been through a lot. You have been beaten and bruised by the church. Both the people and the institution. And yet here you are, sitting across from me, still saying that there’s nothing else you’d rather be doing. Why is that?

Great question.

Another friend of mine, back when I was first exploring the possibility of moving to San Diego to join Missiongathering, expressed a similar query. Because he knew what had happened in my previous church, and he couldn’t for the life of him figure out why I would willingly go back in to the Lion’s Den.

Fair enough.

I recall one of my professors in college, during a class on ministry-something-or-other, emphasizing to us would-be-ministers the following truth:

If you can do anything else… then do it.

In other words, if anything else gets you excited, or floats your boat, or resonates deep within your soul, or energizes you, or suits your passions and your dreams…. if there is any other vocational possibility out there for you, then you should do THAT, and not be a pastor. I don’t think he was trying to talk us out of becoming pastors. I think he was trying to give proper weight to the road that lay ahead of us, should we decide to follow the call to shepherd the people of God.

And now, 12 years after my prof uttered those words, I am firmly resolved that there is nothing else I want to do.

No matter how messy the church can get, I love her.
No matter how damaged I may get, or my family may get, I am committed to her.
No matter how difficult it can be or how impossible it may feel at times, I am in it.

I still believe that the church can be:

  • the mechanism by which hope is sprinkled in this world,
  • the avenue by which lost people can be found,
  • the place where misfits and dreamers can discover purpose,
  • the organism by which life, true life, abundant-life-found-only-in-Jesus, can be experienced,
  • my home. your home. our home.

So yes, I know it doesn’t make sense to a lot of people. And that’s okay. I get that.

But to quote one of my new favorite bands, Rend Collective Experiment, from their song “The Cost”:

I’ll walk the narrow road
’cause it leads me to You
I’ll fall but grace
Will pick me up again

I’ve counted up the cost
Oh I’ve counted up the cost
Yes I’ve counted up the cost
And You are worth it

I do not need safety
As much as I need You
You’re dangerous
But Lord You’re beautiful

I’ll chase You through the pain
I’ll carry my cross
’cause real love
Is not afraid to bleed

Yes, I have counted the cost.
I’ve fallen.
I’ve bled.
I’ll fall again.
I’ll bleed again.

But Lord, you are worth it.
And so is your Bride.

(Check out the song. It’s marvelous.)

Also, I just read this from Rachel Held Evans, after writing up this post.
Her post is called “The Cost,” and it’s more awesome than this one. So go read that, too.

Super Lucky, or Spirit Led?

Shattering Misconceptions

I’m about to share a secret with you.

A secret about us Worship Leaders that, once shared, might ban me from the ICOPWLWAS*

But here it goes: sometimes, when I plan worship, I have zero idea what the preacher will be talking about.

(cue the *glass shattering sound effect* as people’s conceptions about the Worship Leader are broken)

Yes, I know. It’s shocking.
Most of you probably assume that us Worship Leaders spend hours together in collaboration with the preacher to flesh out the intricacies of the sermon and decide how best to build a flow of music/scripture/prayer that builds on, or complements, or sets up, or contributes in some way to the message of the sermon.

And this collaboration session, of course, comes only after hours spent in prayer and fasting (by the worship leader) as he/she seeks direction for the upcoming worship set. Then, when the teaching pastor and the worship leader come together with their ideas for the weekend, it’s just a spiritual explosion of blossoming brilliance that pushes back against the powers of darkness and emerges victorious with a light-bending, soul-lifting, mind-blowing plan for a worship service guaranteed to convert the great Deceiver himself!

More or less, that’s generally how it goes.

However, getting back to the secret I let you in on, Continue reading

A Liturgy of Doubt

Stage setup for REVAL: Doubt

Last night at REVEAL: A Night for Worship (hosted here at Missiongathering) we spent some time engaging with the idea of a Liturgy of Doubt. Inspired by this segment of a talk from Peter Rollins, wherein he posits that the church could potentially be the place for people not to come and express their belief, but come to express their doubts, we sought out to create such a space.

Here’s a bit of what took place last night in what is being called, “the best church service I’ve ever been to.” -Kate Martin (Yes, she’s my wife… so what!? ;) )

Open in Song

We kicked the night off with “All Creatures of Our God and King.” Great midtempo song. Good way to start off a more meditative/reflective night of worship. Not a ton of energy (which would be counter-productive), but not overly sleepy (which sets a difficult tone). Plus, it’s a great Call to Worship song…

All creatures of our God and King / Lift up your voice, and with us sing.

C’mon everybody, time to get yer praise on!

Call to Worship: Setting the Theme for the Night

After the opening song I took a few moments to explain what our time together was (hopefully) going to look like. I explained how we were going to look at the idea of Doubt and create a safe space to express those doubts. How Doubt is completely normal and natural for people who live by faith. You can’t have one without the other, regardless what Joel Osteen tries to say.

I also lamented about how difficult it was to find music for this particular theme. There are not many (g0od) congregational worship songs that give voice to our doubts. Part of this is possibly because we’ve been trained in the church, by the church, that to Doubt is a negative thing. It is to be avoided, and shame on you for not having faith. So why would we want or need songs that would lead us to say/sing things that aren’t empirically true, or don’t lift us up to a more secure place of trust and hope?

So I said that several songs we were singing tonight I actually changed the lyrics to, so that they would better give voice to our struggles and our doubts. And other songs, songs that may have been written to give voice to our doubts, unfortunately all tend to resolve by Verse 3 or the Bridge. So that, by time the song is over, you’ve come out of your place of Doubt and are expressing an attitude of faith and trust. But life doesn’t resolve so quickly… why then should our liturgy?

Worship through Song

We then sang “40” by U2. A great song inspired by the Psalm of lament found in chapter 40.

I’ve waited patiently for the Lord / He inclined and heard my cry // How long, to sing this song?

Prayer

Invited everyone to pause and to center themselves, and invite God to open our hearts a bit further to the reality that God is a secure Being. So secure, in fact, that God is not offended by our doubts. God does not get frustrated at us when we get frustrated at God. We need to let go of the destructive theology that views God as having low self esteem and gets all bent out of shape when we go through seasons of Doubt. And we would do well to live in to the reality that God actually might be inviting us to express our Doubts.

Worship through Song

When the Tears Fall,” by Tim Hughes, is a really cool song. Some strong lyrics that really fit the night well, but still opting for a blend of doubt and faith. So that we cannot fully sing about our questions and our struggles and our pain without covering it on a higher plane with a bigger umbrella of trust and hope that trumps everything else. For instance, Verse 1:

I’ve had questions, without answers

I’ve known sorrow, I have known pain

Love it. But then:

But there’s one thing, that I’ll cling to

You are faithful, Jesus you’re true

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great verse. And I believe it. But the problem is that there have been times in my life where I haven’t believed it. Where I haven’t clung to Jesus as being faithful or true. My life demonstrated just the opposite. And I’ll bet YOU have been there, too. So singing this just feels disingenuous sometimes. But, other times it’s not. Other times it’s GREAT to declare our sense of trust and hope in the midst of life’s storms. I’m all for that. That doesn’t mean, though, that we aren’t also in need of songs that just give us a chance to voice our despair and doubt.

Anyways, I chose to alter the lyrics of Verse 3 so that we could at least END the song in existential despair… ha!

When confusion, is all around me

And the darkness is my closest friend

When the laughter fails to comfort

When my heart aches, Lord are you there? (the original lyrics: Lord, you are there)

Video Clips: Peter Rollins on Doubt

Then we watched two short video clips of Peter Rollins talking about Doubt. The first video he throws out the idea of God doubting God. That Jesus, while on the cross, cries out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” as a demonstration of despair and doubt. So he suggests that when we lean in to our doubts, and embrace our dark nights of the soul, that we are then standing in the very sight of Christ.

As a way to complement this, I set up three canvases on the right part of the stage. And throughout the evening I invited and artist to write the words “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” on these three canvases. First lightly in pencil, then gradually heavier and darker with a black pen, a black sharpie, and finally with black paint. So it was cool having her off on the side expressing this sentiment over and over again, getting bigger, darker and bolder.

The second video, as I mentioned above, was when Peter challenged faith communities to consider a Liturgy of Doubt.

Interactive Element

I think it’s important to provide interactive elements in our corporate worship so that it’s not all just passive/observational experiences. So I had signs printed up that were from a poem called, “An Approach to God – Losing My Religion” and posted these all around the sanctuary in groups of two. One sign would be a positive expression of faith in God. The other sign would be a negative expression, a statement of doubt.

Statement of Faith

Statement of Doubt

I also had small cards printed up and put on everyone’s chair before they got there that read “Sometimes I doubt __________________.”

So during this part of the gathering I invited people to take some time and interact with their own doubts. I invited them to get up from their chair, walk around the room, and read all seven stations. And if, while reading one of the signs, you find yourself resonating with the idea on the sign, then just sign your own name on the paper. As a way of saying, “yup, I can relate.” Then, take your card and write out three things that sometimes you doubt. It could be doubts you have now, it could be things you’ve doubted in the past, it could be things you always struggle with.

Sometimes I doubt ________

A few of the Stations of Faith/Doubt Statements

Can I just say, this part of the gathering blew me away.

I got off the stage and took part in the seven stations around the room, and it was incredibly powerful to stand there and watch people willingly and publicly sign their own names on some pretty heavy expressions of doubt.

And everybody was doing it!

Everyone was be honest and saying, “yup… I’ve had that thought before about God.” Or, “yep, I’ve doubted God in that area.” It was so powerful to be a part of this expression of both faith AND doubt on a corporate level.

Worship Through Song

The old Hymn, “Come Ye Sinners,” but without the slightly cheesy chorus that was added to the original hymn by someone else at a later time. It goes like this:

I will arise and go to Jesus / He will embrace me in his arms

And in the arms of my dear Jesus / Oh there are, 10,000 charms

What the?! Why would an armful of charms be appealing to me? Anyways… the verses to this song are golden. Especially when you go back to the original version of it and add in the few lines at the end of each verse that the “chorus” writer took off.

Scripture Reading – Psalm 44

Original Song: How Long

About 6 weeks ago I was frustrated by the lack of songs that express Doubt, so I chose to just write one. I had read Psalm 44 and was struck by how the Psalm started on a positive note (God, you’ve done all these great things for us and for our fathers…) but then takes a sharp turn at the end (But where the heck are you now? Are you sleeping? Wake up! If you really love us, then help us!”).

It’s called “How Long,” and you can hear the live performance of it here, if you’d like.
How Long (Live)

Interactive Element Cont’d

Then I invited everyone to turn their chairs and get in to groups of 3-5 people. Once in their groups, they were to go around and each share what they wrote on their “Sometimes I doubt _____________” cards. But I told them they could only read them. They could not set it up, or put it in context, or tell a bigger story. Or say, “sometimes I doubt_________, but not right now! Right now I’m good!”

Nope. Just read your doubts. Outloud. To others.

And then we put a phone number on the screens and invited people to text in some of their doubts.

Special Music

After several minutes passed, and people shared their doubts with one another, I sang the song “Silence of God,” a real gem by Andrew Peterson. Seriously, pause now and go listen to it!

During this song we put on our screens some of the doubts that had been text in.

It was a really, really cool moment.

As I’m singing this amazing song about the silence of God people are looking up and reading all these different types of Doubts. And they are discovering this: You are not alone.

You are not the only one who doubts.

You are not the only one with THIS SPECIFIC doubt.

Very cool moment.

Reading from “How (Not) to Speak of God”, by Peter Rollins

A buddy then got up and read a parable from this book. The parable imagined a small community of people who, right after Jesus was crucified, left the city and started a small faith community in a remote village. This faith community continued on and lived out the teachings and the values and principles of the Way of Christ, never knowing about any resurrection or ascension. But they viewed the Love of Jesus and the Way of Jesus as having inherent and intrinsic value that, even though it ended in death for Jesus and would end in death for them, they were committed to that way of love and peace. And then, after about 300 years, a small group of missionaries found this remote village and preached to them about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The community was elated and ecstatic and celebrated throughout the night, but no one could find the village elder. Finally, one of the missionaries found the elder alone at the outskirt of the village, clearly saddened. The missionary wondered why he wasn’t joining in the celebration, for Jesus is not dead but alive! The elder slowly got to his feet and looked the missionary compassionately in the face:

Each day we have forsaken our very lives for him because we judge him wholly worthy of the sacrifice, wholly worthy of our being. But now I am concerned that my children and my children’s children may follow him not because of the implicit value he has, but because of the value that he posses for them.’

I’m not sure why I chose to end the night with this parable, but it just seemed fitting.

What if, in a life full of sorrow and pain and suffering, we were not assured of any resolution from our doubts? What if all we had to look forward to was death?

Would we still follow Jesus? Would we still live in his love, and live out his love?

Is he worthy of our allegiance because of what he can do for us? Or because of who. He. Is.

Close in Song

And, though I partially didn’t want to, we closed the evening with “It is Well With My Soul.” It’s just such a great song, even though it semi-sort-of worked against the point of the evening. Ha!

It really was a phenomenal exercise in practicing a Liturgy of Doubt. Something I think the Church would do well to embrace, embody, and invite people to engage in.

Thanks to those of you who came out and went there with me. I hope you found it as meaningful as I did.

We’ll see you at the next REVEAL on Sunday night, November 4th at 7pm.

______________

p.s. I did a talk a few months back wherein I explored more about what it might look like to Lean in to Your Doubts. You can check that out here.

Where’s the “Progressive-Leaning” Worship Music?

Worship Music Has Gotten Better, Yes

So I’ve been leading worship in the Evangelical Church world for 13 years now, and during that span I’ve seen quite the growth in the world of “worship music.”

In the days of youth group worship, we regularly parodied old rock songs and made them about Jesus, such as:

(Sweet home up in Heaven / where the skies are so blue / sweet home up in heaven / Lord, I’m coming home to you)  -Sweet Home Alabama

(I feel like praisin’ you… / I feel like praisin’ you… / I feel like giving praise to you!)  -I Feel Like Making Love #wtf

(And then I saw God’s grace / now I’m a believer / without a trace / of doubt in my mind / I’ve been loved / oooooo.. I’m a believer, I couldn’t leave him, if I tried)  -I’m a Believer

Then, thankfully, the Vineyard movement hit and that gave us some simple choruses that we could easily repeat over and over and over for eight minutes straight, and really whip people up in to the spirit.

Chris Tomlin hit the scene and started to write accesible pop music tunes that were easy to sing, easy to play, and spread like wildfire.

Then the “rock” scene within Christendom got wind of how much money could be made, ahem, sorry, excuse me, er, um, how much WORSHIP of GOD could be facilitated by giving and “edge” to the worship music. Thanks to bands like Sonicflood, Delirious, Skillet, Hillsong United and Kutless, we discovered that Jesus loves a good distortion pedal.

More recently, like in the past 3-5 years, I think we have FINALLY begun to see some really GOOD music being made for corporate worship. Music that is not just attempts to recreate what the “secular” world is doing. Music that is interesting, engaging, and challenging. I’m thinking of artists like Gungor, Jesus Culture, John Mark McMillan, Mike Crawford and All Sons and Daughters. Maybe to a lesser extant, but still in this category, you could add David Crowder Band and Leeland.

(sidenote: wow, after typing all that out, I notice an EXTREME lack of female artists. Is that just ME and my lack of exposure? Are we not hearing from our female musicians? Ugh… I need to figure that out. Waaaay to much masculinity going on here.)

So all this to say, “worship music” has come a long way, and I for one am grateful.

But What About Us Progressive Peeps?

But here’s my question: Where is the music being written for corporate worship that has a more progressive theological bent?

I, and many others like me, are moving away from a type of conservative, evangelical, western Christianity. But it is within that framework that virtually ALL of our worship music has been written. All the themes, language, and theology of the songs are, for the most part, indicative of a very narrow brand of Christianity. And I, and others like me, have been forced to sort of sing some of these songs with a bit of cringe. A sort of, “okay, well, I’ll SING this, but I won’t really like it.”

Sometimes I end up changing a word here, a line there.
Other times I just won’t do a song that every other church in the country is doing, because I just don’t want my people singing THAT. Getting THAT idea stuck in their head all week.

And it’s frustrating.
It’s hard enough to find music that is qualitatively GOOD and artistic and interesting, but now to also try and find ones that have the type of theological thrust to it that fits more within our faith community? Pfsh… good luck.

And furthermore, consider how LONG it took for the music scene to get from “crappy cover songs where we put in the word JESUS,” to “wow, that’s actually some really good music.” Probably like 40 years!

So if we are JUST now starting to move in a New Kind of Christianity type of direction, following Christ in to newly discovered (read: always been there, just not been realized) ways of being in the Kingdom, then do we have to wait another 40 years for really good church music, too?

I did a Google search yesterday on “progressive Christian worship music,” and sure, there is stuff out there. There are people writing songs with great lyrics and theology, but, um, it’s really not very good music. Just being honest. They sound like the campy folk songs of the 70’s and 80’s.

For instance, here’s a website dedicated to gathering resources for progressive christian artists. Really? PCAN is what you want to be called? #underwhelming

Here’s a guy who’s done some great philosophical writing on what exactly IS progressive worship music, but check out his website. And listen to some of the music. #underwhelming

Check out this video of one artist who’s name shows up a lot in lists of “progressive worship music” people. #sigh

Guh.

See what I mean?

Speaking of ‘mean,’ I’m not trying to be. Really. I genuinely want people to use their gifts, to make art, to DO the hard work of writing music.

And I’m sure the above people/resources are exactly what many people want and need. I’m just looking for something more. Something different.

Something like a Gungor, or Jesus Culture, or Civil Wars, or even Crowder, but with theology and lyrics that I can sing with full conviction and honesty and truth.

If you’re reading this and you’re similar to me (more bent towards a progressive type of theology) and you’ve stumbled across some artists that are making really good music with really good lyrics, can you please direct me?

An Apology and a Recant

Well, it happens to the best of us.

I was wrong.

And I owe a couple of apologies.

Last week I gave my review of the Grammy performances. In it, I said the following:

Bruce Springsteen can still rock it, of that there is no doubt. He looks good and sounds good (although when you sing a song with only a four note range, it’s kind of hard NOT to). My issue was with the song, “We Take Care of Our Own.” Call it my aversion-to-USA-thinking-they’re-better-than-anyone-else syndrome, fine. But I just don’t resonate with the message “wherever our flag is flown / we take care of our own.”

And also:

For the first time ever, I enjoyed  a live performance of Taylor Swift! The song is great, but she finally put together a live performance worth remembering. I loved the set and costumes, and how cool that Taylor rocked out on a banjo?! All around a great little number.

As it turns out, I was wrong on both accounts. Springsteen’s song is NOT a “we-are-better-than-everyone-else” anthem, and Swift was  NOT playing a banjo.

So, I offer my apologies to Bruce and Taylor.

Bruce, I didn’t give you ENOUGH credit.

Taylor, I gave you TOO MUCH.

Sorry.

Thanks to my buddy Matt Morris for setting me straight on the purpose of “We Take Care of our Own.” Turns out it functions as the exact opposite of what I thought. He is actually critiquing the lack of taking care of people. I would still say, however, that he kinda brought this criticism on himself in a way. When your verses are so gravelly and hard to understand, but your chorus (the HOOK) comes through loud and clear, it’s kind of hard NOT to think what I originally thought. Nonetheless, I will be the first to argue the importance of context. And when you rip a chorus out of context from the surrounding verses you can end up with entirely different meanings.

And thanks to my brother, Logan Martin, for pointing out the fact that the “banjo” Taylor was playing had, in fact, all six strings. Whereas a real banjo has only four. She tricked me. She tricked us all.

See. I’m not above admitting when I’m wrong!

2012 Grammy Wrap-up

Last year I gave my HIGHS, LOWS, and DISAPPOINTMENTS from the 2011 Grammy’s. Not one to walk away from an obvious tradition, I again offer you my assessment of last night’s Biggest Night in Music.

I’d like to reiterate my appreciation for how the Grammy’s have evolved: more performances and more action, with only the “biggest and awesomest” awards being handed out live (I’m talking to YOU, Short-Film Animated, Short-Film Live, Documentary Short, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. #oscars).

Breaking the night up in to 3 Acts, with a Postlude, here’s my awards for the 2012 Grammy Performances.

Act I

“Worst Song to be Performed Well by an Old Timer”
Bruce Springsteen can still rock it, of that there is no doubt. He looks good and sounds good (although when you sing a song with only a four note range, it’s kind of hard NOT to). My issue was with the song, “We Take Care of Our Own.” Call it my aversion-to-USA-thinking-they’re-better-than-anyone-else syndrome, fine. But I just don’t resonate with the message “wherever our flag is flown / we take care of our own.”

“Best Collaboration Between Newbie and Old Timer”
Last night gave us quite a few of these mashups, but I thought that Alica Keyes and Bonnie Raitt’s, who was the first collaboration of the evening, was also the best. I loved the simple guitar/keys combo, and their tribute to Etta James was simply beautiful. They blended perfectly.

“Best Tribute to Classic 80’s Toys”
Did anyone else think Chris Brown’s bland and uninteresting performance of “Turn up the Music/Beautiful People” looked like he was a failed Cirque du Soleil auditioner who was prancing around on a giant Rubik’s Cube in an eerily similar way to that classic NES game, Bubble Bobble? Well, if not, then you probably do now.

“Still Doesn’t Work, Award”
Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson tried this duet last year on American Idol, and it just doesn’t work for them. Their chemistry is awkward and their blending is bad. The best part? When Jason’s mic went out and it was just Kelly.

“Most Underwhelming”
Sorry, I just could not get in to the Foo Fighter’s “Walk.” It sounded like the B-side track to almost any given garage band in the Pacific Northwest. I’m just not tracking with they hype on that one.

“Best Performance by a Mile”
Without question, Bruno Mars’ “Runaway Baby” was hands down the best performance of the first hour. And would eventually prove to be (in my opinion) the clear winner for Best Performance of the Night. Last year, if you recall, his performance was uber-cool, but his vocals (which are normally pitch perfect) were a bit harsh. But last night he absolutely killed it! It was fun, it was engaging, it was interesting… but more importantly, it was GOOD. And where did he find such talented Doo-Wop horn players who could also dance? I’m a big Bruno fan, and so I was thrilled that although he didn’t walk away with any hardware, he DID walk away knowing that he easily had the best performance at the 2012 Grammy’s. Harder to put on a mantle, but more fun to show your friends at your next Cranium party.

Act II

“Biggest Surprise”
For the first time ever, I enjoyed  a live performance of Taylor Swift! The song is great, but she finally put together a live performance worth remembering. I loved the set and costumes, and how cool that Taylor rocked out on a banjo?! All around a great little number.

“Best Reminder that Not all Great Singers Can Sing (or OUGHT Sing) Other Styles”
Adam Levine has an incredible voice. I love it. But there was nothing incredible about his cover of the Beach Boys’ “Surfer Girl.” It was kind of embarrassing. Foster the People did a slightly better cover when it was their turn. Ultimately, the moment was saved when the real, live (barely) Beach Boys took the stage! They might not be able to move anymore, but they can still harmonize nicely.

“Lamest Song of the Night”
Really? Please, don’t argue. There’s no grounds to say that Sir Paul McCartney’s song, “My Valentine,” was anything other than lame. Okay, it was also boring.

“Most Disappointing”
The idea of Rihanna and Coldplay sharing the stage sounds really good on paper. And it SHOULD have rocked. But, it didn’t. Neither one seemed to know what the other was supposed to be singing. They were unison at times when they probably were supposed to be harmonizing, but neither seemed confident to go off melody. It looked as awkward as it sounded, too. Their individual performances were unimpressive, too. As my wife said, “I’ve never NOT enjoyed hearing Coldplay live before. Weird.”

“The Mumford and Sons Moment of 2012″
Remember last year when Mumford and Sons, relative unknowns for most of the populace, took the stage and blew everyone away? Well, Civil Wars came awfully close to accomplishing the same feat last night. They showed a couple things: 1) In light of all the terrible vocal blending happening all night long, Civil Wars showed you how it OUGHT to sound. And it was amazing. 2) In light of all the over-the-top performances, Civil Wars showed you how the “music” is still the most important aspect. 3) They showed that people who follow Jesus DON’T HAVE TO MAKE JESUS-Y TYPE SONGS ALL THE TIME! For heaven’s sake, sometimes just focus on making GOOD music, and don’t get bogged down with whether or not it’s GOD music. Civil Wars possibly stole the show last night.

“Best Use of Blue”
Katy Perry, bravely offering a new song, looked good. That counts for something. Can’t say I dug the song (anyone else thinking, “ouch, sucks to be Russell!”). And the bait-and-switch trickery at the beginning was unfulfilling.  I like Katy, but last night didn’t impress.

ACT III

“Best Old Timer of the Night”
Of all the oldie’s that took the stage, I think the overall best performance was Glen Campbell, featuring The Band Perry and Blake Shelton. Glen still has range (unlike Bruce), can still move around (unlike Beach Boys) and sang a good song (unlike Sir Paul). And The Band Perry and Shelton didn’t screw it up (unlike Maroon 5). All around enjoyable moment, especially when at the end Glen closed with “and rhinestone cow-GIRLS.” #adaptingtothetimes

The “That Was Nice” Moment
Tony Bennett and Carrie Underwood? That was nice.

“Biggest Sigh of Relief”
Phew… everybody can breath again. Adele still has pipes! The artists who single-handedly elevated and carried the music industry in 2011, and then went and got everyone FREAKED out with vocal chord surgery, came back last night and threw down her mega-hit, “Rolling in the Deep.” Now, it wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t the Live-Adele that we’re accustomed to. She missed some notes and pushed others. But I expected that, seeing as how this was her first moment back and all. Nonetheless, she proved once again why she was oh-so-deserving of completely sweeping the statues last night. Well done, Adele!

“Best Tribute (and also), Best Cover”
Jennifer Hudson, thank you for doing justice to Whitney Houston’s “I WIll Always Love You.” Although you probably would have been loved and hailed no matter how you sang it, simply because of the moment of it all, you actually earned the standing ovation (yes, I’m sure they stood for Whitney… but jHud made the moment that much better). The music industry lost a Great over the weekend, and from LL’s opening prayer to Jennifer’s moving ballad, it was a great night of celebrating Whitney Houston that didn’t also lose the fact that it is, still, the Grammys.

“Worst Re-Appearance”
I wish the producers would have allowed people to text in, throughout the show, to vote on who got to come back and perform again. Because certainly it would not have been Chris Brown or the Foo Fighters. But, alas, we had to sit through them again. This time they were accompanied by DJ’s David Guetta and Deadmau5. And during the whole “wait, is this really what’s so exciting?” performance by Deadmau5, I couldn’t help but wonder: “how do we know that he’s not just doing the DJ equivalent of lip-synching? What if he just pushed PLAY on his iPod up there on that giant cube, and is now just dancing, flailing his right arm, and lighting up his high-as-a-kite techno Mickey head?” I’m not convinced otherwise…

“Best Excuse to Own a DVR”
Nicki Minaj. Don’t get it. Don’t want to get it. The word that kept coming to mind during her “performance” (I use that term lightly) was: unfortunate. It’s unfortunate we had to watch that. It’s unfortunate we had to listen to that. It’s unfortunate that the Grammys semi-ended with that. It’s unfortunate that some people call that “music.” Like my buddy Zach Lind from Jimmy Eat World tweeted, “Congrats to this Nikki Minaj person. She’s reached a point where no one will tell her “no.” That’s not easy.” #unfortunate

_________________________

So there you have it.

The best moments of the night:
Act I – Bruno Mars
Act II – Civil Wars
Act III – Adele

Do you think I got something wrong?

Did you love something that I dismissed?

Did you loath something that I praised?

What were your favorite moments (or most cringe-worthy) from last night?

I welcome your comments.

Tri-Awesomeness

Andrew Peterson

Harry Potter Books

Fresco of Jesus

Like my wife says, “Three of my favorite things converge together: Andrew Peterson, Harry Potter, and Jesus.”

If you like any of those three I invite you to read this fantastic blog by singer-songwriter/author Andrew Peterson, and his thoughts on the Harry Potter series.

Among other awesome things he says, he writes this pretend letter to Potter author, J.K. Rowling and says:

By the way, I’m a follower of Christ, and I see him in your story. I don’t know if that’s intentional or not, but you should know that he’s in there. In fact, it wouldn’t be a huge stretch to say that reading your books has helped me to praise him even more for his courage, his sacrifice, and his strength to conquer the hosts of hell to save us.

To which I offer a resounding AMEN!

I have fallen in love with the Potter series over the past 10 years, and ardently defend it against those who would believe it is somehow evil or inherently wrong for Christians to read. These sorts of statements merely come out of ignorance, so I try not to get too worked up. Nonetheless, they are beautiful books, an amazing story, like Peterson says, Jesus is in those stories.