MidCities Chamber Singers Concert April 29

DJ_Logo (RD)For the last 9 months, I have been blessed to found and lead a wonderful new semi-professional choral ensemble in the heart of DFW, the MidCities Chamber Singers. What a ride this has been for me, personally, to start an ensemble, go through all the necessary paperwork to create a new 501(c)3 organization, recruit singers, promote and market the group, plan artistic and musical activities, all while doing my full-time role at Riverside and working on my PhD. Yes, I’m a glutton for punishment. But it has been so incredibly rewarding. (If you would like to see some clips of our year, you can subscribe to our YouTube Channel)

We Sing of Peace promoA week from this coming Saturday, we will have our Season Finale Concert, entitled “We Sing of Peace.” When I chose this theme several months ago, who could have possibly guessed it would come on the heels of the tragedy in Syria and what seem to be indications of global conflict in Afghanistan, China, and in the Korean Peninsula. While I wouldn’t wish for these conflicts in any way, we have an opportunity to sing into this incredible tumult with incredible music of peace, shalom, the brotherhood of humankind, and love.

DickinsonWe will premiere a brand new piece by our composer-in-residence, Christopher Teichler, of an Emily Dickinson poem, “If I Could Stop One Heart from Breaking.” Her poem reads,

“If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.” (Source)

If our music can do just what this poem speaks of, then our work as an ensemble will continue to have a purpose. And this noble purpose, to speak with music into the troubled, peaceless, hurting corners of our world with a language that transcends the barriers that separate us needlessly, is at the heart of what this ensemble is all about.

Among other pieces by Aaron Copland, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Morten Lauridsen, Durufle, Palestrina, and many others, we will sing the incredible poem found inscribed on the wall of a Cologne, Germany Nazi Concentration camp, and beautifully set by Randall Stroope, Inscription of Hope.

“I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining
And I believe in love,
even when there’s no one there.
And I believe in God,
even when he is silent.

I believe through any trial,
there is always a way
But sometimes in this suffering
and hopeless despair
My heart cries for shelter,
to know someone’s there
But a voice rises within me, saying hold on
my child, I’ll give you strength,
I’ll give you hope. Just stay a little while.

I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining
And I believe in love
even when there’s no one there
But I believe in God
even when he is silent
I believe through any trial
there is always a way.

May there someday be sunshine
May there someday be happiness
May there someday be love
May there someday be peace….”

Join us and walk away truly moved and blessed by this wonderful evening of beautiful singing.

Worship & Spiritual Maturity

mr-bean_
Last week, I presented a session at ACU on Worship & Spiritual Maturity called “I Shall Not Be Moved…”
There’s so much important material on this subject…the importance of participation as it relates to spiritual formation & maturity…how singing shapes and forms us not only spiritually, but physically…the witness of that singing to the world.  Maybe I’ll have more on this later, but just to tease those who will actually read this, here’s a critical reminder: only when we fully invest in worship as participants/performers, can we expect to fully mature and be formed in worship. (Maybe that’s why we have so much immaturity in the Church? Folks just come hoping to get something out of it or check their religious box instead of giving heart, soul, mind and strength back to God?)
Here are a few excerpts…maybe more to come.
We are commanded to sing…it’s not a suggestion. No, God Doesn’t care about whether or not your tenor is perfect or if you know the alto line or not…or really whether or not you can match pitch. But he wants to know your heart wants to praise him. People are watching you when you worship or when you don’t. #dontbeaspectator #getinvolved
Far too often, we’ve bred a culture of worshippers who view worship as a spectator sport; and that’s an unfortunate comparison, because we’ve seen them “spectate” at their favorite sports team games and they’re far more into that game than they are into the “game,” (if you’ll allow the metaphor) of worship. It’s time for us to remember we’re not called to be worship spectators. God is the spectator…the audience. We are the performers, seeking to honor and offer something to God-the ultimate audience. #DontBeASpectator #getinvolved #worshipquips

Build Your Kingdom Here

I posted a few days ago about the theology of the songs we sing about Heaven…I also talk about the upward trend we’re seeing in worship music to include a broader, kingdom theme.  One  of those groups that are giving voice to kingdom songs are the great Northern Irish “family” band called Rend Collective Experiment.

One of the many songs that the church around the world has taken into its musical vocabulary from Rend is their wonderful modern hymn “Build Your Kingdom Here.”  I was swapping messages with another US church leader just this morning about this wonderful song and how its such a dichotomy from the old heaven tunes…with their poor theology of Kingdom & Heaven…This songs empowers the church to realize God has placed us in an incredible position to be his ambassadors…”his hope…” on the front lines of his kingdom building, making life on earth as it is in heaven.  I hope this song blesses you as much as it’s blessed me and the churches I’ve served over the last few years.

Build Your Kingdom Here
Rend Collective Experiment, © 2011 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

Come set Your rule and reign
In our hearts again
Increase in us we pray
Unveil why we’re made
Come set our hearts ablaze with hope
Like wildfire in our very souls
Holy Spirit come invade us now
We are Your Church
And we need Your power
In us

We seek Your kingdom first
We hunger and we thirst
Refuse to waste our lives
For You’re our joy and prize
To see the captive hearts released
The hurt, the sick, the poor at peace
We lay down our lives for Heaven’s cause
We are Your church
And we pray revive
This earth (We’re prayin’ for revival)

Build Your kingdom here
Let the darkness fear
Show Your mighty hand
Heal our streets and land
Set Your church on fire
Win this nation back
Change the atmosphere
Build Your kingdom here
We pray (Change the atmosphere)

Unleash Your kingdom’s power
Reaching the near and far
No force of hell can stop
Your beauty changing hearts
You made us for much more than this
Awake the kingdom seed in us
Fill us with the strength and love of Christ
We are Your church
Oh, and we are the hope
On earth

Build Your Kingdom Here
Let the darkness fear
Show Your mighty hand
Heal our streets and land
Set Your church on fire
Win this nation back
Change the atmosphere
Build Your kingdom here
We pray

“Law of Love and Gospel of Peace”

Last Christmas, I wrote this post amidst a sea of unrest, politically and otherwise.  In light of recent tragic events, especially in Orlando, I’m reposting it here today.

There has been a lot of swirling conversation going on around me, both physically and virtually, about what has gone on in the world around us these last few weeks…Syria, San Bernardino, Jerry Falwell…and on and on.  It was so much that today, I’d had enough and I needed a moment to just sit, be, listen and be quiet…in the quiet, I was overcome by the lyrics of one of the world’s most beloved Christmas Carols…and I had to write a bit about it.  I’ll come back to the other verses and the backstory of this wonderful Adolphe Adam carol, Cantique de Noel, on another day.

[And I will return to my series of posts on “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” later this week.  But for a moment today, amidst the hatred, vitriolic speech, harsh judgment and language found in my Facebook feed and in other social and news media, I paused today just to breathe in and claim the lyrics of a Christmas Carol that so many love…but I’m afraid have sung too glibly over the years.]

The third verse of “Oh Holy Night” speaks of a world in which those who claim to follow Jesus are living out he calls all of his followers to in his subversive Gospel.

That Gospel is deeply rooted in Love of God and Love of Others…and so many claim the first part of that Call…the part about loving God.  But the back half…well, I’m afraid some have given Christ a bad name in how we’ve lived that out in recent days, weeks and months…that love of “others” is not one we can or should place provisions or privileges on…it’s an unconditional love for all of our brothers and sisters…Cantique-002

 

“Truly He taught us
to love one another;
His law is Love
and His gospel is Peace;
Chains shall he break,
for the slave is our brother,
And in his name
all oppression shall cease,
Sweet hymns of joy
in grateful Chorus raise we;
Let all within us praise
his Holy name!”

 

Come, Lord Jesus!