7 Things You May Not Know About Me…

I love Facebook.  I really, really do!  It is my one constant social addiction.  I discover so much about people and about myself through it!

Recently, I noticed numerous Facebook status updates from my friends in my news feed beginning with the words “Things you may not know about me” and containing a list of things regarding mysterious or little-known information about the poster.  I read nearly all the lists that I could find, but was unaware of how numbers for these list were being assigned.  After reading one of these particular posts from a close friend, I clicked “like”.  Within seconds, I received a message from this particular that stated, “Your number is 7.  You  must list 7 things that people may not know about you as your Facebook status”.  Apparently, if you “like” any of these lists, you get a number assigned to you that you then must use to create your own list.

Jason Lanier North Worship Choir
Jason Lanier
North Worship Choir

My initial response was “not gonna do it, sorry!”.  There is plenty of information that people do not know about me and it’s with good reason that they don’t! LOL!  But my friend reminded me that I am rather anal-retentive when it comes to following the rules of any game.

So…

My number is 7.  Here are 7 things you may know about me…
1. For a competition, I dressed up, with a friend, as WHAM in 5th grade and lip-sang sang “Jitter Bug”.
2. I did not plan or choose to be a worship leader.
3. I won a few writing competitions in middle and high school.
4. Throughout high school, I wanted to be a veterinarian or a lawyer.
5. I failed the entrance exam for the school of music at Appalachian State University.
6. I get extremely nervous when I lead worship or perform.
7. I used to weigh 245 pounds until I watched the movie, “Cider House Rules”  After watching that movie, something clicked inside of me and I began to educate myself about nutrition and weight loss…weird, I know.

I Bowed on My Knees and Cried Holy

Wanderings & Meanderings

In all the years that I have sung, professional and unprofessional, in and out of church, there has never been another song that I’ve been asked to sing as often as, “I Bowed on My Knees and Cried Holy”. This particular video of my performance is from a day of celebration and commemoration for an anointed minister, Rev. Wiley Martin. I have so many memories attached to singing this song and this is one of my favorites.

I also have powerful memories related to my first time hearing “I Bowed on My Knees and Cried Holy”. The first time that I heard this song, I was about 12 years old, living in Bolivia, NC on “Mud Road” (seriously!), and had never attended a large-scale music concert. One particular evening, my grandparents had arranged to take me to a Bill Gaither Concert somewhere north of Wilmington.

I  remember:

1) riding…

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Some quick thoughts on Art, Pleasure, and Purpose

This entry was originally posted in July 2011. While re-reading it recently, I decided to “meander” a little more and added some additional and clarifying thoughts.

Wanderings & Meanderings

I’m, by a nature, an outdoors person.  Whether I’m walking, running, kayaking, hiking, canoeing, or SITTING, I love communing with my mind, my God, and my heart within the sanctuary of nature.  It is not so much an escape as it is a cleansing and filtering of the day; conscious and subconscious.
While walking the nature preserve next to my neighborhood, enjoying its vibrant and teeming ecosystem, my mind wandered to the subject of art, pleasure, and purpose.  So, as I am prone to do…I meandered.

Please note, these thoughts address the arts from a Christian perspective.  They are the opinions of an individual who serves his Christian community with and through artists and the arts.

Art, generally speaking, provides an emotional and/or reflective experience for an observer because it is typically birthed from a bed of emotion and/or thought within the creator.  The work of creating an artistic expression…

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From Our Heart to His; A Worshipper’s Preparations for and Reflections Upon Corporate Worship

“The Forsaken One”Forsaken(18)
Psalm 22, Mark 15:34-35
Week One

For many years, I have loved times of reflection upon the crucifixion of Christ more than I have loved times of celebrating the resurrection. Don’t read me wrong, I am forever grateful for the resurrection! That single act affirms everything Christ said, did, and will do. Hallelujah!

However…

Being invited, with others, to corporately reflect upon the death of an Innocent….how can I not be moved? Being asked to admit, with others, that the death of this Innocent, was all because of and for us…how can we not be emotionally stirred and thoughtfully reflective?

My pastor, Rev. Chris Justice, will be preaching a series of messages throughout March regarding Christ’s moments of physical, mental, and emotional anguish as He experiences tragedy, mortality, and the consequence of sin. He has entitled the series, “The Forsaken One”; a direct reference to Christ’s declarative recitation of Psalm 22. You can listen to Pastor Chris’ sermons by clicking here.

Today in worship, we offered:

“Crown Him (Majesty)”, Chris Tomlin
Listen here

The mind/heart/soul connection for me:

“Awake my soul and sing of Him Who died for me.” The heady lyrics of this song pummel any mind that cares to focus on each word as the lips form and expel them for the purpose of audible declarations of truth. It struck me that this particular line was an attempt by the composer to say to the person singing, “Soul! Wake up! Do not be lethargic in this moment. Someone died for your peace. Engage with Him! Sing!” Personally, when I see worshippers attending worship service, leaning on chairs with posture that is anything but engaged, or sitting with an obvious look of disconnectedness while the congregation sings of the death of God’s child, it causes angst in my spirit. “Awaken soul! Engage with the One who made you for His engagement!”

“O the Blood”, Gateway Worship
Listen here

The mind/heart/soul connection for me:

“The blood, it is my victory.” I know what my life would look like had Christ not offered Himself for me and had I not accepted this offer and pledged my allegiance and loyalty to Him. Nothing in me, that is good, is because of me. It is all because of the blood of Christ and my baptism in His Spirit. It is not humiliating for me to admit that I am nothing outside of Him. Because I know Him, this admission gives me an extreme amount of comfort that is indiscernible by this world.

“Oh what love, no greater love, grace how can it be, that in my sin, yes even then, He shed His blood for me.” When our pastor’s wife, Becky Justice, sang these words with the choir, I was reminded that I know who I am and that I am in the ongoing process of knowing Him. When I consider the One who fully knows Himself AND fully knew me before I ever was…man, I smile when I sing these words. Amazing love! When I was an unabashed sinner, saying, doing, and thinking horrible things, Christ, knowing these things, intentionally laid Himself upon an instrument of fatal tragedy. Why would He do that? Because He wants to own me forever. I want Him to own me.

“Speaking Out of Turn”, Max Lucado, Donna Rodgers
Dramatic monologue

The mind/heart/soul connection for me:

Excerpt from the script – ““To take away the sins…” I’d never thought about those words. I’d read them but never thought about them. I thought You just, I don’t know, sent sin away. Banished it. Just like You did to the demons…just like You did to the hypocrites in the temple. I just thought You commanded the evil out. I never noticed that You took it out. It never occurred to me You actually touched it–or worse still, that it touched You.

That must have been a horrible moment.. I know what it’s like to be touched by sin. I know what it’s like to smell the stench of that stuff. You remember, don’t You? You were the one who found me. I was lonely, I was afraid. Remember? I felt so confused, so desolate. Sin will do that to you. Sin leaves you shipwrecked, orphaned, adrift. Sin leaves you abandoned…”

I reflected during this moment of the script, “Is that how I think about my own sin? Do I think of it as a stink? Am I so aware of sin that I can feel it when it “touches” me? Or am I so accustomed to my sin that it feels like my own skin and I’m completely unaware of it. When is the last time I REPENTED of a sin rather than pout over the effects of someone else’s sin?”

“Day of Darkness”, David Hamilton, Deborah Craig-Claar
Listen here

The mind/heart/soul connection for me:

This song is a beautiful poem dressed with a beautifully haunting melody. The poem, curiously, leaves Christ in the tomb. It leaves the listener (meaning, someone actually listening; someone wrestling their inner thoughts should they be at war with the Spirit and His moment, even while seated in worship) to reflect upon the despair of that day…that specific moment in time when Christ was taken from the cross and laid in the tomb. This song does not resurrect Christ as most of the songs in our worship tradition do. It leaves us with the imagery of His body in the tomb, a lonely hill punctured with an empty cross, and a dreary raw Creation. I admit, I am guilty of romanticizing Bible stories like this one. I need songs like this that help me to engage cerebrally and emotionally. I have a vantage point as a current day Christian that those first Christians did not have. I can look back upon Easter as one with a complete, printed, and leather-bound Bible accompanied by years’ worth of Sunday morning messages, Sunday School lessons, Easter suits, and large congregations declaring exuberantly, “He is risen! He is risen indeed!” But what must it have been like to stand there that day, not having these things, and looking upon a bloody cross, a drained and mutilated body, and having experienced the raging of the earth and sky?

Oh what a Savior…

Where Have All the Choirs Gone? (Part I)

traditional choirFor as far back as I can recall, I have sung in choirs; more specifically, church choirs.  From childhood to today, I have many distinct and pleasant memories of my participation in these structured musical communities organized around some form of transcendent purpose within the framework of Christian corporate worship or community enlightenment.  I would go as far as to say that in many ways, it was through these experiences with choirs and  church choirs that I formed my paradigm of worship, ministry, and choral conductorship today.

As a child attending Bolivia Baptist Church, I clearly remember standing before a gathering of adults, singing with other children and pantomiming the words, “If I were a fuzzy wuzzy bear, I’d thank You, Lord, for my fuzzy wuzzy hair.  But I just thank You, Father, for making me…me!”.  I loved it!  Thank you, Mrs. Sandra Johnson, for teaching and directing us so that we could have that opportunity!  It is one of the few memories that I have from my days at Bolivia Baptist.

children choirAs a youth attending Faith Baptist Church, a split from Bolivia Baptist (gotta love my Baptist roots!), I remember enjoying a variety of musical styles and relationships while singing in both the youth and adult choirs.  Thankfully, I had received an exception from the adult choir director, Rev. L.V. Walton, that allowed me to participate in the adult choir in spite of my age.  (I was about 14 years of age and most members in that choir were probably 40+ years old.  To this day, I will occasionally make the very same exception for other young singers simply because of the exception that I received.)  After being granted the exception, I began attending Wednesday evening service at Faith Baptist simply for the pleasure of attending the adult choir rehearsal that followed it each evening at 8PM.  Thank you, L.V., for providing light to a dark season of my life!  I can still remember singing on the back row between Mr. Willetts and Henry Crisco.  I also still remember Mrs. Margaret pulling me to the side in one of the small rooms just off the stage (that always smelled like old sheet music and hymnals) to share with me her secret for singing when sick:  suck on a lemon wedge.  She had one with her that morning, already cut, and wrapped in a paper towel.

When visiting my grandparents’ church, Town Creek Christian Church, I was allowed to sing in their choir on the rare occasion that they would have one.  The church was Pentecostal and their visible and verbal expressions of worship were always so exhilarating.  I loved singing the song, african choir“Get all excited, go tell everybody that, “Jesus Christ is King!””, while seeing and feeling the congregation’s and choir’s combined excitement.  And when the tambourine came off the shelf inside the pulpit where the preacher, my Uncle, stored it…watch out!  That was a sure sign that we were on the cusp of a Holy Spirit inspired frenzy! 🙂

Throughout my days in college, and serving at Howard’s Creek Baptist, Christ Community Church, Hickory Grove Baptist Church, and Lee Park Church, I have participated in, developed, and maintained strong choral ensembles.  They transcended style and/or demographic and always enriched any non-church event or corporate worship experience.

So, where have all the church choirs gone?  Why do they seem to be disappearing from our church culture, a culture that once found them plentiful and prominent?  As in most searches for answers to problems, there is probably not a singular reason.  In fact, the disappearance of church choirs may not even be the actual problem or, for some of you reading this, an actual problem at all.  What if this shift is simply a symptom of the problem rather than the problem.

What if the question is posed this way:

What has occurred within our understanding and practice of corporate worship services that has contributed to a general diminishing or absence of a once prominent element of participative congregational worship?

What!?!  You’d rather answer “Where have all the choirs gone?” 🙂  Stay tuned for “Where Have All the Choirs Gone? (Part II)”.