gail song bantum

blog on identity, leadership, discipleship

Archive for the month “August, 2009”

my life is not my own

just thought i’d share a song with you that has been on my top playlist, especially over the past few months. for me, times of transition and uprooting are always hard and i am constantly reminded that nothing in this world is ours to own -whether it’s the accomplishments, the battles, and yes, even the very air we breathe….it all belongs to god.

so, whatever your desert, trial, fear or pain is that you’re going through right now, as you hear this song, may you be reminded that god has not forsaken you. be encouraged and strengthened in your faith this day.

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since when was worship a competition?

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having had the privilege of worshipping with so many different folks over the years -traditional/contemporary, liturgical/charismatic and so forth- the one thing i hear most often (usually as an intellectual critique) is the idea that the hymns written and sung in more contemporary contexts are too “me” focused and not communal, too much jesus language lacking trinitarian inclusiveness and the lyrics are trite and too repetitive. OUCH!!

now let me start by saying, yes, i know that there are some sorry excuses for songs out there in EVERY genre. as many poorly written p&w (praise &worship) songs that there are, we cannot deny that over half of those hymns in the hymnals are unknown and unsung for a reason….

i believe our worship must engage the whole of our being not merely the space between the brain and the lips. is the “me” not important in my worship of the one who created my being? i think even the most famous hymn writers of the past saw the need for our own vulnerability and confession toward god -“then sings my soul, my saviour god to thee,” “be thou my vision, o lord of my heart,” “great is thy faithfulness, lord unto me.” i believe that the me centered-ness has less to do with who i think i am but it is who i know god to be. it is a recognition that i am in need of this god that i worship. like guests we welcome into our home for the first time, the conversation usually remains surface-y and factual. however, as relationships grow and flourish it is only through intimacy that we learn to love….conversations move beyond the weather and what i think to how i feel about this or that -my fears, joys, hopes, and needs. this is what i LOVE about the psalms and david’s intimate relationship with god told through hymns and songs -these are prayers evident of relationship!

great leaders, artists, musicians, spouses, parents and friends know that repetition is not only the key to memory, increased communication and productivity but carries incredible weight in any relationship. i know for me, as one who grew up in a family where the words “i love you” were never spoken, i love, need, and thrive every time those words are uttered to me. repetition is good. i know when i was leading a large team of musicians and artists, it was imperative that i repeated the vision, expectations and encouragements over and over again for cohesiveness and morale. repetition is good. in this way, my words and songs of worship and adoration, repetitive as it may be, carries such weight. this repetition is not from an insufficient vocabulary or lack of intellectual fervor but it is that i find the words to hold prophetic and profound meaning, even in the simplest of phrases. no, it may not ring with the proclamation of what i believe doctrinally such as when we sing the creeds but my song is the story of redemption, thanksgiving and transformation.

too jesus centered…. perhaps? however, when we speak of one, are we not implying the relationship within the triune godhead? according to john, for to know christ, is to also know the father who sent him. the son, as the giver of the spirit to the hearts of god’s people, enables our participation within the triune life of god. in other words, the spirit allows within us the ability to know god and see the good that has been freely given to us from god. so, as we profess god in the person of christ, the spirit then shines a light or mediates knowledge of our own humanity. it is this recognition that brings forth raw and desperate worship, calling on the name of jesus, while the spirit participates in our uttering.

let us not rush too quickly in silencing the diverse voices of worship. god dwells in the praises of god’s people, whether arising from the great hymns of the early church or the fresh songs of the now. it is not only about what we do but about the relationship between what we do and the transformation that flows out of it. may our worship, our lives, be as incense -pleasing and acceptable to god.

homogenous or diverse? that is the question

i am wondering to what extent should the church be deliberate in its attempts to be non-homogenous. could it be a detriment to one’s worship life to be in such homogenized communities? how would this affect one’s choices and uses of artistic elements within communal worship? if church community is the place where, sociologically proven, one’s tendency is to flock to what is familiar and comfortable, then involvement in worship communities are nothing more than an outward expression of who we understand ourselves to be, e.g., socio-economically, ethnically, culturally, etc. what is at stake in this claim?

what’s at stake is the reality that most people have a hard time imagining sharing moments of intimacy with those who are strange to them. if worship is to be, according to paul, that which draws us closer to god, then it is indeed an intimate moment that we must share with those we worship with. it has to be a life of transparency if we are to believe that transformation is at work in our worship. if worship is the very life that we live out as a declaration and proclamation of god’s grace and love, then those whom we declare with ought to reflect all of the beauty that god engenders. what does this mean? when looking at the life of christ as the one whom we emulate, christ was and is reconciliation. christ embraced the possibility of being scorned as he sat with the samaritan woman and the lepers. what would it look like to have the rich worship with the poor, not just offering money to “help” them but to sit in the same pew and ask for prayer from them? what would it look like for the white to worship with the immigrant who doesn’t speak much english? instead of teaching them english in order that they can better communicate with us, we learn their language in order to better communicate with them. what would it look like to have the highly educated worshipping with the high school dropout? is this not what the kingdom of god ought to look like? perhaps many of our “worship wars” derive and function out of our need for satisfaction over and above our desire to see god manifest in the lives of others? what a truly difficult and convicting question to ponder…..

lust vs. love – my search for community

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for those who are in transition, have ever been in transition, or will soon be in transition, we perhaps share a common story of that dreaded duty of finding a new church home. as one who is not bound or committed to one particular denomination or organization of churches, my journey tends to be quite complicated.

of course, i want to recognize that not everyone’s journey will or should share the same experiences. but similar to some folks that i’ve encountered recently, i’ve found that there are numerous factors that must be accounted for when searching for the “right” community to call home. since i had been employed by several churches and in seminary for the past three years doing required field placements, my children have not had the luxury of participating in the decisions of where our family would worship. given that, our children were the top priority in this particular endeavor. intimately woven within that, as a multi-racial family, we firmly believe that homogeneity is not an option for us…..which, unfortunately narrowed the options quite a bit.

why the title of lust vs. love for this blog you ask? well, we have been attending a local church here called quest church. as a worship and creative arts person who has also grown up in mega-churches, i tend to be easily influenced by first impressions – aesthetics, potential, organization, influence, size, etc… quest church, however, was not the sexy provocative first impression that i was hoping for. no flashy lights, no pre-service donuts;), no one aggressively tried to stake a claim on us….just not a lot of hype. honestly at first, i was a bit disappointed because it actually has a lot going for it (multi-ethnic/cultural/generational, multiple women pastors, great children’s ministry, communion EVERY week) ….but instead, my initial impression was kind of like that guy in college that i would’ve considered more like a “friend” than someone i would date. unfortunately, that’s NOT what i wanted in a church. i wanted that hot-love-at-first-sight kind of experience! i wanted the church to wow me toward membership. for some reason though, we’ve felt drawn to continue going there over the past several weeks while also attending some other churches in the evenings. meanwhile, my children LOVE going to quest and have made it known to us many times.

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and then there was today!

i had one of those moments when i looked around during worship…. the moment when you realize a friendship could be turning into something deeper. it’s definitely not lust. so then, what is it? i think about some of the people that i’ve met at the church and i see myself becoming bound to them. i’ve also felt the need to start getting involved in the life of the church as opposed to being an anonymous onlooker…. and the biggie – when i try to juggle other churches with quest, thinking i can be a professional visitor at more than one church, i’m beginning to feel like an adulterer! could this be love?

through this process, i have come to be reminded that friendships are beautiful but that they also take time to grow. at quest, i’ve been given an offer of friendship that is not flashy or overwhelming but that i am now sure i do not want to be without. the things i love about quest church is their heart for the people….not just their own congregants (which is important) but to the larger community in which they find themselves apart of, locally and globally – an incarnational presence. quest is not about glitz and glamour. rather, its desire is in doing life together. it’s an earnest desire. imperfect? perhaps in some areas, but a place that resembles my imperfections. a place that i hope i can one day call home.

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