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leadership

Returning Talents

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Organ interludes preceding gospel groups, multi-lingual prayers of the people, and the Word of God presented by a “hip hop liturgist”? These are only a few examples of the kinds of worship I’ve been able to experience and offer to God in my time at JBU.

God allows us to experience him in different and creative ways. 

Worship is meant to be creative. Gary Thomas, author of the Worship Arts textbook Sacred Pathways, writes: “Biblical figures of the Old and New Testaments confirmed to me that within the Christian faith there are many different and acceptable ways of demonstrating our love for God…. In fact, by worshiping God according to the way he made us, we are affirming his work as Creator.”

In this outpouring of praise, we meet with a multi-faceted God who does not lock himself in the cathedral or demand to be praised in the key of A major. Though in corporate worship we gather together as one unified body of Christ, he allows us to express truth and praise through our unique talents, interests, and contexts.

Over time as a Worship Arts major, I’ve learned that different people connect with God in different ways- whether that happens through joyful celebration, traditional liturgy, silent retreat, or thoughtful study. No one of these is better than another- God has created us uniquely. This is something to be celebrated!

May we find joy in our own unique encounters with God, as well as coming to value the ways our brothers and sisters seek God. Let us pray to continually appreciate variation and bless God through our special gifts.

-Rebekah

A Call to the Lionhearted

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BeBrave

A blank page is a beautiful thing, don’t you think?

It’s fresh, opportunistic, and challenging. It’s a space that’s capable of becoming anything.

Okay, maybe a blank page doesn’t always seem so exciting–at least, not to me. But, it’s my suspicion that I’m not alone in ever having felt intimidated by a blank page.

Does a blank page, with its blinking cursor or its empty blue lines, look overwhelming to you?

Does it look like the song that you’ve held in your mind for years but never transcribed? Does it look like the paper that you have to write by tomorrow, but feel incapable of finishing? Does the intimidating blankness look like all the things you’ve wanted to write and accomplish, but have never felt capable enough to complete, or even start?

No ability. No talent. Mediocre.

Perhaps your self-criticism swirls endlessly in your mind, and all the while that cursor blinks at you–no words on its left side, no ideas on its right side.

Blink. Blink. Blink.

Perhaps you echo it with words confirming your self-doubt.

“I can’t.” “I can’t.” “I can’t.”

And perhaps, by simply looking at that blank page, you become increasingly aware that you’re not good enough.

You’re not capable enough.

You are worthless. 

And, isn’t it that continual rejection that we fear? We fear seeing our own inadequacies on paper, in black and white. We sit in that fear, marinate in it, and do anything to escape it, including sliding the mouse to the “X” at the top corner of the page, shutting down the computer program, crumpling up the paper, and avoiding the notion to write anything at all.

Do you want to know something strange? Every successful songwriter, novelist, playwright, or poet that I have ever studied has had trouble writing. But, the more I think about it, the more I realize that it really doesn’t seem strange at all that most writers struggle with writing.

You see, I’ve found that writing is more about courage than ability. You might think that you are incapable of writing that song, lyric, script, or novel.

But I think you’re wrong.

It is my sincere conviction that you do, in fact, have the ability to write–and not just write, but create–beautiful things.

William Wordsworth once said, “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”

Allow your heart to overflow onto the words of your blank page. They don’t have to be well-constructed words; they must only be authentic words. 

You see, we all have very important stories, memories, and experiences to share–stories that come so naturally to our minds and hearts that they feel as simple as breathing. And this, dear friend, is where you must begin–have the courage to breathe in and breathe out the things of your heart.

One of my favorite moments in the children’s novel The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is when Aslan, the mighty and gentle ruler of Narnia says to Susan, “You have listened to fears, child. Come, let me breathe on you. Forget them. Are you brave again?”

You have listened to fears, child.

Be unafraid. Be vulnerable enough to expose yourself to failure and rejection in the exchange of speaking things that simply must be heard.

And may the things that we speak be uttered in praise to the Lord.

It is time to inhale the breath He has given to you, and let it make you brave, once more.

It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
Pour out our praise to You, only

Pick up your guitar.
Place your fingers on the keys.
Put your pen to the paper.

Breathe in, and be brave.

 

– Chelsea

“Great Are You Lord” – All Sons and Daughters
© 2012 Integrity’s Alleluia! Music

Franky Ross

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I’m thoroughly convinced that everyone should know Franky Ross. One might say that he is a cog, for lack of a better term. Now, I’m not trying to denigrate the name or status of Franky by calling him a cog. In fact, I’m applauding him for it.

What is a cog? Well, Webster defines it as “a subordinate but integral person or part.” In a world and culture swollen with folks determined–nay, resigned–to be the only person noticed in a crowd, the only person at the forefront, or the only person entitled to anything at all, cogs are hard to come by. But without the people backstage opening the curtain, how can the show go on?

So, Franky Ross. What makes this guy cool? Franky is a behind-the-scenes man to the core, in all the best possible ways. Although I’ve never seen him speak publicly, he was the life-blood of the First Baptist Church of Locust Grove. Every Saturday evening he would drive up to the church, set the air conditioning to a comfortable temperature, make sure the sanctuary was cleaned up, and deal with any of the various loose ends that might have needed mending. No one asked him. Not many knew he did it. He was always the first to church on Sunday morning, and always the last to leave in the afternoon. The man was a saint.

Now, someone might wonder why Franky’s acts of service are important. I would have to agree that the acts themselves aren’t very important, nor are they unique to Christianity. The key difference between Mr. Ross and the other cogs of the world is this: while he toiled away at the unglamorous jobs, he was worshipping the Almighty God. As Harold Best explains in his book, Unceasing Worship, it was Franky’s “worship as witness.” Although he wasn’t pastoring a flock or digging a well in Africa, Franky Ross was witnessing and serving the Body of Christ through his worship in the mundane. He was worshipping Christ while setting a thermostat. He was worshipping The Lord while setting up chairs. And he was content.

How then, can we worship God in the mundane? Rather than complain and whine about our homework, practice, and recital attendance (Music Majors, listen up!), should we not choose to praise the name of God in all situations? Should we not radiate joy as we practice and work and perform?

I was fashioned after a God who is excellent in all he does.  And that God sent his son, Jesus Christ, to die for me that I might, by faith and grace, receive eternal life.  This is reason enough to be thankful, finding contentment and opportunities to worship in all things.

I want to be like Franky Ross.

~Connor

Connor is a sophomore, majoring in Worship Arts.  Connor sings in the Cathedral Choir and plays the bass guitar in a Chapel Band.

Blind To Darkness

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I just walked back from the Chapel Preaching Team meeting that happens at the beginning of each semester. On any given Tuesday during chapel, you will find a faculty or staff member preaching, lecturing or sharing a testimony focused on a certain book of the Bible or theological topic. We do this in an effort to “introduce” a variety of faculty and staff members to the larger JBU student body and to demonstrate an integration of faith and learning, encouraging the faculty and staff to teach and share through the lens of his or her specific discipline or job. Every semester, I make it clear to these speakers that a student worship leader will be contacting them to hear more about the scriptural themes in the specific service and to discuss how music can be a part of presenting the Word of God that day. These points of contact are generally brief, with a few emails exchanged and perhaps a couple of songs suggested. While this process works quite well and closely mirrors the conversations commonly found in a local church context, it’s always exciting as an educator, pastor and artist when students decided, on their own accord, to dig in a little deeper.

In the Fall of 2013, Clint O’Kelley and Seth Kaye were scheduled to lead worship for Dr. Ted Junseok Song, a member of the Engineering faculty at JBU. They sent the initial email to ask about themes and song suggestions, and Dr. Seong asked to meet with them in person.

“He shared with us his heart for JBU to remember that, yes we are saved by grace, but we cannot forget that the Lord is holy and just and our sin is not something to be treated flippantly. Seth and I left that meeting being blessed by the Spirit’s presence in a meeting with a professor that neither of us had met before.”

And so they started the process of planning…

“We went round in circles trying to find a song that would make people slow down and realize that while we do have grace and restoration in Jesus Christ, our sin is something that can’t be overlooked or brushed aside.”

And when they came up empty, instead of landing on a generic song that “would work,” they decided to take a risk. They decided to write.

“The next week, we spent almost every night locked in the same practice room. These nights usually looked like the two of us trading off at the piano playing over chord progressions while the other was singing out melody lines or lyrics. We would make a big chunk of progress and then hit a wall in our writing.”

And they didn’t give up…

“Some nights, we would leave the practice room frustrated because we just knew we were on the brink of creating the next portion of the song, but our minds wouldn’t let us go any further. I recall many times throughout that week lying in bed and texting lyrics to Seth to pray over and think about, and he would do the same with me. One of my favorite parts of this whole process was how collaborative it was. Seth and I both had such a genuine desire to create something that was not only of good quality musically, but that also had a greater purpose than just being a good song.”

And, so, “Blind to Darkness” was born. Dr. Song’s chapel was one of the most memorable chapels of that semester, and the song continues to be sung and led at various chapels, churches, and retreats all over Northwest Arkansas.

“It has been almost a year since then, and we are still completely humbled and blown away by the response to this song. It never fails that tears roll down my cheek when I am in chapel and I hear the voices inside the Cathedral singing out those lyrics that were crafted in that small practice room.”

Many students and community members have asked where they can buy this song. It is my privilege to announce the official release of “Blind to Darkness,” written by Seth Kaye and Clint O’Kelley, performed by The Red Steps. You can find it on iTunes here.

It’s a song written by the Church, for the Church. May Glory be to God the Father, to His Son, Jesus Christ, and to the Holy Ghost. Now, and forevermore. Amen.


 

 “Worthy is the Lord our God.  He is pure and holy.

Sinners come before the throne to be reconciled.

Demanding that blood be shed, Death would take you only.

Redeeming your righteous Bride that you made out of wretched sinners,

blind to darkness, sanctified by Jesus’ blood.”

~Seth Kaye & Clint O’Kelley


Choosing To Be Known

By | Music, Theatre | One Comment

I discover a lot of life when I listen and watch from the background. Given a choice, I grab a quiet spot on the perimeter of a room and just observe.

I get a front-row seat to every story in the room—a guy delivers a pick-up line that falls flat; a little girl sneaks cookie after cookie into her little purse while her mom talks intently with a friend.

Occasionally, I’ll even catch eyes with another person like me. We’ll exchange quiet nods, and never need to say a word.  We understand each other.

Wallflowers like myself can be hard to know. Sure, it’s great to avoid the risks of being noticed.  Nobody laughs when I stumble over a rug on my way to the drink table, and nobody comments on my pitch when I’m singing in the shower.  Nobody can judge the person they don’t see or hear.

But if I’m really honest, there are days when I look back and wish I’d mustered the courage to be seen.

I’m proud of our department’s outstanding people and excellent academic record. Much like me, JBU MT (Music & Theatre) has flown under the radar—not many people know what we do, how we do it, and why.  And while we may have avoided the judgement that comes with the spotlight, we have also missed out on the beauty of being known.

Today, we choose to step forward and be seen.  Today, we choose to be known.

On these pages you’ll find reflections, discoveries, and stories from students, faculty and alumni.  In everything, you’ll find evidence of our passions for music, theatre, worship, liberal arts, and the Kingdom of God.  You’ll also find a lot of honesty, some laughs and maybe even a few tears.

So, join us.  Ask questions.  Walk a day in our shoes.

And we can choose to be known together.

~ Jen Edwards

Jen Edwards is the Head of the Department of Music & Theatre at John Brown University.