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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The music is in my head

I've had a few songs running around in my head lately. Maybe it's the ringing in my ears...

It's rare that I like live versions of songs that have really grabbed me from a studio release. Many bands seem to think that we all crave the improvisational stylings they sometimes bring to popular tunes when performed live. I have a word of advice for any famous musicians/bands/singers that might stop by The Stream: don't.

As with any rule, there is always an exception. And in this case - two. I first heard Shaker Song when I listened to the debut Spyro Gyra album: Spyro Gyra. Did I mention I typically don't like remakes either?

A few years later I happened to catch another of my favorite bands, Manhattan Transfer, singing - you guessed it - Shaker Song. After getting over my initial umbrage (old habits can be hard to break), I decided I loved it! Here's a live version of Shaker Song performed in Japan circa 1986...(takes a moment to load, please e patient)

Visitors to The Stream might recognize Janice Siegel, the Manhattan Transfer vocalist singing lead on Shaker Song, from a post I did months ago regarding a song from the movie Swing Kids entitled Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen. That lady can really sing...

Anyway, back to Shaker Song. For those who don't remember the original version from Spyro Gyra, here's a chance to listen - no flashy video - just great music...

This is just a small example, from the seemingly infinite jazz universe that we live in, of tremendous music. Enjoy - and happy new year!


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Should we turn to culture?

Culture [Kuhl-cher] - noun 1. The quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent in arts, letters, manners, scholarly pursuits, etc.

School days. Ah. Fond memories of hanging with my friends, playing sports, pranks, girlfriends, getting good grades without studying too hard. My first concert, the thrill of doing things I wasn't supposed to, jumping off the second floor balcony of the Bilmar Hotel in 11th grade to avoid hotel security. No need to say why they were knocking on our door.

I keenly remember standing in assembly, the Catholic priest who was our school chaplain intoning...something. I'm a little embarrassed to admit the extent that my friends and I made fun of him and the hymns we were supposed to be singing. If God wasn't so forgiving, I'd be doomed for sure.

I'd gone to Sunday school and church as a kid growing up - back in the day, when we had to wear a suit and tie. But that was a lifetime away from military school and peer pressure and, well, fun.

Thirty years later, I'm a Sunday school teacher. I could dwell on the irony of that but I have a more important point to ponder: Why are kids leaving the church today?

More specifically, young men and women in their mid-to-late teens and even early twenties are departing the church in droves. In fact, Over 60% of children who grow up in the church will leave it as young adults according to Already Gone, a startling book by Ken Ham and Brit Beemer. The cause?

Sunday school syndrome.

Ham and Beemer are finding through extensive research that instead of strengthening the faith of young people by solidifying the Bible's historical authority, Sunday school is teaching that the Bible is more about inspiration and morality than authenticity and reality.

How much time to young people spend in church? How much time do they spend in school? How much time do they spend in front of the television or with ear buds firmly implanted in their heads, listening to music? How much time do they spend on social networking sites or otherwise surfing the Internet?

I would hazard a guess that the time spent in church, or in church-related activity is far less than the rest. In fact, I believe that, similarly to the premise of Already Gone, church plays a part in the disconnect of young people from God. And I readily admit that I've been an enabler.

How many times have you invited someone to church? Did that suffice for your outreach duty? According to Matthew 28, Jesus didn't ask us to go and invite people to church - He asked us to go and make disciples. Big difference. In college and professional sports, recruiters go and scout out talent, inviting them to come and play at a particular school or for a particular team. It's up to the coaches to take that talent and mold it into a winning team. I have a sneaking suspicion that most Christians - evangelical or not - are more recruiter than disciple-maker.

But if each of us fails to take our personal knowledge of God - gained through regular study of God's message to humanity and how it (and He) has changed our own lives - and share it with someone, helping them mold that knowledge into their daily life, we are blowing it - big time. I even found a video for a church that admitted church was boring - except for theirs.

At the end of the day, what are we up against? We're up against our culture. We live in the age of reality shows and instant gratification. Oh yeah, I hear that our youth today are the most giving generation of all time - and I've met some young people that awesomely fit that bill. But I also heard a report on NPR this morning that highlighted the emergence of charity for profit. Everything from the pink ribbons to the timing of donations to take full advantage of our tax laws. The new charity is I'll long as I get the best return from it.

So what's the answer? How do we fulfill Jesus' command to us in Matthew 28? Do we turn to culture? Do we make ourselves the anti-church?

I wrestle with how worldly we should be in reaching out to young people. Faith in God is a serious thing. That doesn't mean we can't have fun - heck, the knowledge that I will have eternal life and spend that time in the most amazing place in the universe is pretty exciting, if hard to conceptualize in our culture. One example of - at the risk of...something - a godly secular song is U2's 40

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.

He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.

Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.

How do we get them back?


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

He'll be back...

This article on MSNBC opines that Tiger Woods will never recover from the marital infidelity scandal he is currently embroiled in.

I am disappointed in Tiger - no doubt about it - but to say that he will never recover is naive. The media-consuming public has a notoriously short memory. The article mentions Kobe...what about Ted Kennedy? Holy cow, he was responsible for the death of a woman and he came out of that to serve forever on the Senate, with distinction. Listening to the endless eulogies after his death, I wouldn't be surprised to hear that Mr. Kennedy is going to be put forward as a candidate for sainthood. But we're not talking about the honorable senator from the great state of Massachusetts.

We all get mad when our idols let us down. That is more an indictment on us than on the object of our misplaced idol-worship. Tiger will be back - he is too good of a golfer and too strong mentally. Will he be as loved? Probably not. But within a year, maybe two at most - he will be tearing it up again.

Either that or your looking at the next Howard Hughes...I could be wrong - I'm not perfect either.

What do you think?


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Now that's funny...

When I was younger, I used to watch Saturday Night Live. Of course, that was back in the days of John Belushi, Dan Akroyd, Garrett Morris, Bill Murray, Steve Martin, Laraine Newman, Gilda Radner and many others. Heck I even watched it during the tenure of Dana Carvey - who can forget the classic Church Lady line, "Could it be...SATAN?"

I also enjoyed Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood as Eddie Murphy took an icon and turned him into a deadbeat tenant.

Saturday Night Live has made fun of just about everything, from Chevy Chase mugging on Gerald Ford to Dan Akroyd tearing down Jane Curtin during the news, to Phil Hartman's "The Real Reagan" skit.

What I'm trying to say is that nothing was sacred when it came to SNL writing and performing parodies and skits. But now, even Hollywood is making noises about SNL going too far. What heinous tear-down could have elicited such a reaction?

First of all, let me apologize for the poor quality of this video - and for the film crew cackling in the background - even they thought a skit about Tiger getting his comeuppance at the hands of his wife was funny.

As the article notes, what seems to have flipped everyone out is that Rihanna was the musical guest on the SNL this week. You may remember that Rihanna suffered a domestic violence issue with her then-boyfriend Chris Brown. I'm conflicted here. As I've gotten older, I've thought that a lot of what SNL does is distasteful and offensive. So what's the difference now?

I think this is sadly ironic...What do you think?


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Simple but Powerful

A friend of mine sent me a link yesterday to a site hosted by Xerox Corporation. Of course, I thought, any company whose name begins with X can't be bad, right?

Our men and women have been deployed overseas - in harm's way - for many years and it's crucial that they understand just how much each and every one of us appreciates their service. From the cooks in the mess tent to the nurses in the hospital facilities to the mechanics in the motor pool to the ones ducking as bullets ricochet all around, we owe our heartfelt and eternal gratitude.

Go to Let's Say Thanks, pick out an original post card design, select a short message or create one of your own, and let a soldier, sailor, airman , marine or guardian know that you appreciate their service. If the link above doesn't work for you, copy and paste the one below into the address bar of your browser:

Politics doesn't matter. Whether you agree with our past, present, or future foreign policy or not is irrelevant. Take a moment and let our troops know you support THEM.

God bless all of them and bring them home safely.