Friday, July 28, 2006

Interview with David Wells

David Wells, author of Above All Earthly Powr's: Christ in a Postmodern World is represented in a fascinating interview on his publisher's website.

Here's an intriguing, insightful and convicting excerpt concerning directives for the local church:

The issue is far less what we do (do we have drums and PowerPoint or organs and robes?) than in who we are. In our church, we need to be articulating a worldview that has the triune God at the center, which has truth as its directive and sustenance, and which is fleshed out in a joyously countercultural life wherever a moral and intellectual over-againstness is called for. What this means is that in this church we will remain sinners and never become consumers, we will recover a moral view of life in place of the therapeutic view which our postmodern culture palms off on us, we will devote ourselves to what is enduringly right and will reject all forms of relativism, and we will be asking, not what the church can do for us, but what we can do for Christ in the church and in our broken world. It is all about substance, not style; all about who we are as people who are owned by Christ, not so much about what it looks and sounds like. It is about turning our backs on the superficial and trendy and turning our lives toward him who is eternal and enduring.

The situation today is that if you really want to see what is superficial and trendy, go and find a successful evangelical church. If you want to see the most artful, pandering practitioners of the therapeutic (what Christina Hoff Summers had in mind in her book, ‘One Nation Under Therapy: How the Helping Culture is Eroding Self-Reliance’) go and find an evangelical church, almost any one, and you will find it, all out in the front, all quite shameless, as if this is what the apostles had in mind when they thought about the meaning of Christian faith! These things should not be.

Evangelical churches should be the places where we find an alternative way to thinking about our world and living in it, one which in its profundity is a reflection of the God who is incomparable, not a threadbare mimicry of the culture. We should find an understanding of life that is on the same scale, morally and spiritually, as the life we encounter in the workplace and hear about in the evening news. Today, evangelical churches are more often like little pygmies who are living in a land of giants, always trying to get into their game, pretending that they, too, are giants. They are not. The time for pretense is over; reality is now at hand.

(emphasis mine)

Fine Art Friday


This painting should really be seen in person-- it takes up an entire wall. From the Birmingham Museum of Art, where admission is always free unless there's a special collection. Sadly, the High Museum is not free. Sigh.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Crosswalk

During my morning commute, traffic was stopped due to a turtle crossing the four-lane street. I think that's a first for me (I have been stopped by geese before). I think the little guy made it safely to the other side. (Perhaps to join the chicken?)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Magic City Music

An excellent and complimentary recent article in the Washington Post describes the current Birmingham music scene.

Back when I was in college, you could always find a variety of performances, and there were quite a few out-of-the-way coffee bars and clubs that brought in some great acts, like the Moonlight Music Cafe, frequented by none other than the indomitable Eric Peters.

For some up-and-coming B'ham rock, you might want to check out newly signed Moses Mayfield -- Matt Taylor (with the amazing afro) was a friend of mine at BSC. Besides being their keyboardist, he also loves jazz and is one accomplished sax man!

HT to keelthepot for the article link.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Fine Art Friday

Claybank Creek, watercolor
Jack Deloney

Though I'm not sure if he exactly qualifies as "fine art," Jack Deloney's works have been featured in museums across the country, though he is mostly known as a regional artist. Deloney's prints are so popular in south Alabama you'd be hard-pressed to find a home without one. My parents have a 1970's wildlife original. His paintings were the first time I realized I could recognize a distinctive artist's "style." Most of his scenes depict idealized Southern life: cotton pickin' landscapes, wildlife portraits, and historical landmaks. Some might say it borders on kitsch. Still, I would put Deloney in a different category from Kinkade, that infamous "painter of light," who makes his buildings shine like something that has spent too much time at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. At least Deloney's paintings are realistic. I'll praise him as well for making art accessible to those who otherwise might not have the opportunity to appreciate it. The southeastern Alabama "Wiregrass" area is not the most artist friendly place, but it is beautiful, and I commend him for recognizing it and making it his subject.

A copy of "Claybank Creek" actually hangs above our sofa. I was given one as a sixteenth birthday present because I admired this scene, which looks exactly like one of my favorite spots along Carter Mill Creek, the small waterway that runs behind my parents' house where I spent many happy childhood hours playing along its banks. I post this today in honor of those memories and in light of my recent visit there. The creek was dry when I arrived on Monday, but a rare rain filled it up so that it sparkled with all the delicateness and color depicted here. Watercolor is difficult (I should know, I dabbled in it in college), yet he captured a replica of my old log bridge beautifully. For that accomplishment alone, I post a Jack Deloney print here for all to see.

Square Peg Overload

Team Redd loves good music, and the fine folks of the Square Peg Alliance definitely provide copious amounts of it. In fact, we've been privileged to see over a third of them in concert within the last week. Here's a brief summary:

Last Friday Derek Webb and Sandra McCracken played at Rockdale Community Church in nearby Conyers. This church always lines up quality acts for their summer concert series. Derek and Sandra provided a wonderful evening of music to the beyond-capacity crowd (probably 300+). We were at the church when the doors opened (thirty minutes before showtime), and the place filled to ~70% capacity within fifteen minutes. Extra chairs arrived from other rooms, but a good number of folks still were relegated to standing along the walls and in the back.

Derek and Sandra sounded fantastic (despite a few amplifier issues), energized by the large and enthusiastic audience. Sandra played a great opening set, accompanied by Derek on most of the songs, and after a brief intermission, Mr. Webb played an assortment of songs spanning his entire repertoire (both Caedmon's and solo). I especially appreciate how Derek connects the socially-themed content of Mockingbird, his latest album, with the unabashed Gospel message of his previous works. Derek also discussed his plans to make Mockingbird available for free download for three months, which is very cool. One humorous moment (of several): At the end of the show, Derek was introducing Sandra's song "Awake My Soul," and he related how he initially mistook the song for an old hymn the first time he heard Sandra singing it (since Sandra has done a lot of great work in writing new tunes for lesser known hymn texts). But it really is a McCracken original that only sounds like it could be an old hymn. Not two breaths later, Derek stated that the song was "a hymn text from the 1700s that Sandra had written a chorus for." After a few awkward seconds, she piped up and caused Derek to do a double-take and realize what he had just said. "See, the song is that good, it still fools me!" He then made a comment about how good Sandra looked for being 300 years old. Funny, funny.

(One other cool thing: we were able to snag a copy of Sandra's new disc Gravity | Love, which wasn't supposed to be available until late August. Yet they were on sale at the concert. Good stuff!)

On Tuesday Matthew Perryman Jones played at Eddie's Attic here in the Atlanta area. Eddie's is a cool but small venue, and MPJ definitely packed the place, especially with some of his hometown connections. I've seen him play at Eddie's before, but this time he was supported by a band, including the ubiquitous Cason Cooley (keys and vocals), Justin Orton (drums) and a bass player whose name was also Matthew. MPJ is currently touring with Faith Gilmore, a fellow Nashville singer-songwriter, and he and the band played during her opening set. I had never heard of her before Tuesday, but I thought she was fairly decent. MPJ sounds really great with a full band, although not as much rock was had as he originally intended: he commented that he had originally planned to play most of his set on electric guitar, but the fickle instrument was proving problematic. Regardless, he still sounded wonderful, and it was definitely an "on" night. In addition to his own material (including several cuts from his new highly-endorsed-by-Team-Redd album, Throwing Punches in the Dark), he treated us to a couple of great covers by Paul Simon ("American Tune") and U2 ("Like A Song"). Also, I think the hometown crowd really energized him, because he was much more light-hearted and banter-prone than usual ("not as dark and brooding," as he put it).

One funny thing: Because of the relatively large crowd and Eddies' small capacity, the musicians really couldn't get too far from the stage after each set. So they just sort of hung out in the back corner where we were sitting (I was with a group of about 15) until it was time to play, with only a velvet rope demarcating the slim corridor leading up to the stage. They basically got to take about five steps off stage, wait, and then turn back around.

The only downer for this show was that Allison was out of town visiting her parents. But she wasn't completely deprived of music, because ...

On Wednesday Andrew Peterson played in Opelika, AL, and Allison and her mom were able to enjoy the concert (without me, sadly). Andrew's right-hand man Ben Shive was absent, since his wife just delivered their new son, but fellow Square Pegger (and fellow Andy) Andy Gullahorn was present to provide guitar skillz. It's notoriously difficult to write a review of a concert one hasn't attended, so I'll leave the floor open for Allison to provide additional details. From what I hear, though, it was a great show, with a new song from each Andy, as well as plenty of old favorites, comical banter, and even some cover tunes.

So to recap: one week (6 days, actually), three concerts, five Pegs. Not too shabby!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Look! Lichens!

 I am on assignment. Well, actually, I'm in my hometown-- Geneva, Alabama-- and I'm working on a project for my parents. I am creating a website for their business, which allows me the opportunity to experiment with our new digital camera. I think this photo turned out to be one of the best of the evening. What do you think?

Pop Quiz: Can you guess what type of business it is just from this picture? No answering if you already know (Gaines, Ron, Mary, etc.)!

P.S. I'm having trouble getting Picasa beta to load albums to the web. Anyone else testing this software out? What do you use? Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 14, 2006

Fine Art Friday

Sacrificial Grace by Makoto Fujimura, 1997
Original Size: 90"x66"

[Saturday, 6:41 p.m.] I've been pondering this choice all week, but somehow, the fact that it was Friday slipped my mind yesterday. I'm back-posting it for you to enjoy the alliterative quality of the blog series' title. For more information on the artist and his organization, click on the attached links.

International Arts Movement

Maybe It's Not A Joke In This Town

Police: 911 is not a dating service

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Free Derek Webb!



No, he's not in prison. But on September 1, Derek Webb will be making his Mockingbird album available for download, in its entirety, for free.

Says the little bald man:
one of the things that excites me most about the future of our business is how easy it is becoming to deliver music to people who want to hear it. i heard a story once about keith green caring so much that people were able to hear and engage with his music that he gave it away for free, which was a very difficult and expensive thing to do at that time. it’s actually never been as simple as it is today to connect music with music fans. and i want people to have a chance to listen to mockingbird and engage in the conversation.

so this is why, on september 1st, we’re launching freederekwebb.com, a place where anyone can go online and not just hear but actually download, keep, and share ‘mockingbird’ completely for free. In addition, freederekwebb.com will give you an opportunity to invite your friends to download ‘mockingbird’ in order to get them in on the conversation as well.


Pretty cool.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Vacation Re-Cap

We spent most of last week at the annual conference for the Jonathan Edwards Institute, in Annapolis, MD. Our friends Peter and Victoria, whose pastor is also the director of the JEI, invited us last summer, and we had such a great time that we had to return this year. Annapolis is a neat city, with roots stretching back into colonial America. Our hotel/conference venue was within walking distance of the historic district near the city harbor. There were plenty of unique dining options available during our meal breaks, including the quite-enjoyable Fordham Brewing Company. Plus, the city docks provide a great vantage point for watching Annapolis' impressive July 4th fireworks display. We did have a few days of stormy weather, unfortunately, but the rainy afternoons provided good reading time for when we weren't in the JEI sessions.

The conference itself was Monday through Wednesday. I really appreciate what the JEI does, because they truly desire to encourage Christians in loving the LORD with all the heart, soul, mind and strength. This means intense intellectual grappling with the Scriptures is never divorced from deep-seated passion for knowing and serving God. And the end goal is never a mere academic exercise, but rather the true engagement of every sphere of life with the light of the Gospel. The theme of this year's conference was "Citizens of Heaven, Sojourners on Earth: Civic Life in Gospel Perspective," and the speakers addressed a broad range of topics related to how Christians interact with the surrounding world:
  • Os Guinness delivered a plenary address on the rising human challenges posed by globalization. We also attended both of his seminar sessions, which focused more specifically on the American system of government, including its historical moorings and the current issues faced by Christians in the public arena. Guinness was definitely the most polished of the five speakers, and each of his sessions was highly enjoyable.
  • Ken Myers (of Mars Hill Audio) gave a plenary lecture arguing for "A Deeper Disestablishment: Why the Separation of Church and Culture is Even More Important than the Separation of Church and State," in which he discussed the need for Christians to realize the depth to which pagan cultural norms have entrenched themselves in American churches, most specifically in the Modernist notion of religion as private spirituality. In the seminar session we attended, Myers stressed the importance of the church as both a corporate and public entity, slamming the church-less Christianity touted by George Barna's recent book Revolution and commending Peter Leithart's Against Christianity as a needed corrective. Of all the speakers, I think I enjoyed Myers the most, largely due to his combination of intellect and humor.
  • Ron Sider spoke on the development of a Biblical framework for politics. Of the speakers, Sider was definitely the most "controversial," although his actual remarks were pretty good. He emphasized the importance of a Scriptural foundation for public policy, and he briefly sketched the process by which those core values should be applied to specific political issues.
  • Frank Young, a physician with an impressive list of credentials (including Assistant Surgeon General, Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, and Vice President of Reformed Theological Seminary -Washington), discussed issues related to our secular scientific society and the ethics of medical/technological advancements.
  • Keith Pavlischek, currently a colonel in the U.S. Marines and formerly director of a Christian public policy organization, discussed the Just War tradition in Christian theological history, particularly in light of the rise of global terrorism.
  • There was also a panel discussion on Tuesday afternoon (July the 4th), featuring all speakers except Os Guinness. (Ken Myers joked that Guinness, an Englishman, was at home mourning the loss of the Colonies.)

    As the conference worship leader quipped, there really aren't many hymn selections that directly address the topics of public policy and worldview discussions. But I definitely appreciated the approach he took in structuring the times of worship during the sessions, as we progressed thematically from Creation to Incarnation to Christ's Death and Resurrection to Pentecost. "The whole church year in just three days!" The song selections and readings were great, and the musical arrangements were well-done yet simple, with just a guitarist, pianist and a guy who alternated between mandolin, bouzouki and dobro.

    Allison already mentioned the conference bookstore, who are quite a class-act and danger to bank accounts everywhere.

    Our homeward journey on Thursday was fairly uneventful. We spent Friday and Saturday running errands and organizing at home.

    Friday night, we went to see the Indelible Grace touring band perform in nearby Conyers, GA. Matthew Smith led the band, accompanied by Cason Cooley and a couple of other talented guys. (We missed the first couple of songs -- cursed ATL traffic! -- and, presumably, any bandmember introductions.) It was a great evening of music, with selections pulled from the four IG albums and Matthew's solo release. The band sounded great, but I especially enjoyed the fact that they projected all the lyrics onto the wall. For me, the re-worked hymn texts carry even more weight when you can read them while listening. Plus, having the words encouraged more of the 100+ folks to sing along, which was very cool. And to top it off, the same church will be bringing Derek Webb and Sandra McCracken in concert next week!

    But alas, Monday signaled an end to vacation and back to work for me. Appropriately enough, the sermon this Sunday was on the value and sanctity of work. Apt words, indeed.
  • Monday, July 10, 2006

    CT on The Morning

    Christianity Today has a glowing review of The Morning, Andy Osenga's latest release.

    (Courtesy of SPA.net)

    Flannery O'Connor: Dark Grace

    From Douglas Jones' opening article "Who's Afraid of Flannery O'Connor?" in the most recent Credenda/Agenda:

    Don't be afraid of Flannery. Let her mess with your head. Let her disturb you. As she observed, "all human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful." She's not the first or the last word, but she has an amazing grasp of Christian drama, and it's hard to see how contemporary Christian culture can mature without having her stories or others like them very deep in its bones. Let her show you how surprising grace is, how dark and healthy it can be, what a gift it is.
    Since I received her Complete Stories as a birthday present, I've been attempting to read a little Flannery every day. Her stories are fascinatingly rich, disturbing sometimes, yet they stick to your ribs like a good Georgia barbeque, tangy and sweet with just enough kick.

    I encourage you to read the entire article, even the entire issue, and pick up a collection of Flanery O'Connor from your local library. Don't know where to start? Try A Good Man is Hard to Find. It was my first introduction to her writing, and I fell in love with the grace-infused stories of this Georgia gal. If you want to know how to write fiction steeped in God's grace, first read Flannery O'Connor.

    HT to Travis who put me on the lookout for this weeks ago. I just remembered today.

    Happy Birthday, John Calvin.

    George Grant posts today in honor of the 498th anniversary of the Reformer's birth. Good stuff.

    Sunday, July 09, 2006

    Hearts and Minds Special Offer

    Books are my biggest weakness. I collect them like some people still obsess over those tiny stuffed bean-bag bears. But, I also read them. Multiple times. My wishlist has more titles on it than I could hope to read in a year, and it just keeps growing.

    Now that is has become an almost-tradition with Team Redd each July, one of the highlights of attending the JEI conference (more on the conference in general forthcoming) is that Hearts and Minds Bookstore loads up boxes of books and brings them to display in the hotel lobby. Looking down on the spread of literature and theology and culture and poetry and history and Biblical studies from the fourth-floor balcony almost makes me drool. (But I don't, of course-- that would ruin the books!)

    And so, my greatest temptation is to be confronted with the wonder and glory that is the Hearts and Minds Bookstore, run by the inimitable Byron and Beth Borger, who between them have read almost every book in the shop. You can ask them for recommendations of books that will inspire, inform, challenge, encourage, delight and even books that might make you a little angry. I think this is a good thing.

    It is also a good thing that I don't live any closer to Dallastown, Pennsylvania, because our wallets would be empty. As it is, the fact that you can buy online just barely keeps me away. If you cannot tell already, I highly recommend that you buy from their website.

    In fact, in honor of two of their favorite JEI conference speakers, Hearts and Minds is offering both Os Guinness' The Call and Ron Sider's Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger for only $20! Go directly to Hearts and Minds, do not pass Go, do not collect $200, and get them both now at this low, low price while you still can!

    Saturday, July 08, 2006

    Friday, July 07, 2006

    Fine Art Friday



    Rain, Steam and Speed
    by Joseph Turner
    1844; Oil on canvas; National Gallery, London