Sunday, December 7, 2008

New song

In our Essentials Red Course, we had a creative project, and I chose to write a song, because that is the direction that my heart has been calling me for years, but I have been neglecting it.

This course taught me so much, and I am very thankful to have taken it. The song I wrote, simply called "Make You Glad" and it was written out of Psalm 45. This Psalm has always been on my heart and I love the rich phrasing such as, "My tongue is the pen of a ready writer." I feel that this song calls out to the prophetic voice inside of us. If we are truly connected to Him, the music should be overflowing out of us.

I began to think of the many ways we can please our God, but mainly the two ways that much of the church fears doing in their own way, which is singing and dancing. I have found that the most rich prayer I have ever had has been the prayers that I have SUNG. No rhyme, no real thought put into a chord structure...just singing prayers. I think we need to find a new freedom in our music and our prayer and how we show Him our adoration. He is the King of all, the Uncreated One! How can we just stand when we are in His presence?

One of the things I struggled with was writing from scripture. I have a lot of thoughts in my brain of who Jesus is and how He loves me, and the foundation is biblical, but I usually like to write out of my brain, rather than try and fit a scripture to a song. I don't know why I have always struggled wtih that, but I definitely have. So this time, I decided, since I loved Psalm 45 so much, I wanted to try and put my twist on it and make it a worship song. I'm not so sure how well I did, adding my own lyrics in and keeping the theme. I felt like a lot of this was related with the "bridal paradigm" of Jesus (the kimg) and the Church (the beautiful daugher).

I plan on doing this during our corporate worship times at my local church where I lead. Here are the lyrics (click the title for the MP3, on our church's myspace page):

Make You Glad (Psalm 45)

My heart overflows with a pleasing theme
I address my song to the one and only king
Receive my heart, Oh Lord, Receive my song
As the fragrance leaves my lips and rises up to you

My spirit is quickening
The air is thickening

May my music make You glad
As I enter Your throne room
Be pleased with my beauty
As I dance for You
I will usher You in
As You gird Your sword on Your side

Clothed in splendor and majesty
And You will ride out victoriously
With Your heart full of humility
You will display awesome deeds

I wanna dance for you
And a song I will sing
I wanna please you
With a beautiful theme
You are calling out
To Your beautiful bride
And I’m responding
With a song of love

Monday, December 1, 2008

Changing the Atmosphere Through Light and Sound

For: The Institute of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Red Online Worship History Course with Dan Wilt

“All too easily it is assumed that theology can only be done in universities and colleges, and only by those highly expert in certain disciplines – such as modern European philosophy for example…Artistic practices (and reflection on them) have their own distinctive and indispensable role to play in what we might call the ‘ecology’ of theology – the whole gamut of ways in which the wisdom of God comes to be learned and articulated.” [1]

What a fantastic quote! I relate with that so well, because I feel as if I am one of those who is not an expert in many areas. But that is the beauty of the Christian faith; it doesn't matter! He showers his gifts on all mankind, they all just look a little different in their own way.

The visual arts have such power behind them in relaying emotions and bringing past events, current ideas, thought patterns, and so much more to life. I liked the example of Pieta by Michelangelo. There is so much said in that piece of art than any words could ever say. The emotions that Mary must have been feeling in that moment rise up to your throat as you begin to replay the entire crucifixion scene in your mind, seeing Mary at the foot of the cross and seeing her son and her savior be killed before her eyes.

One of the reasons that visual arts are so important is because there is so much in Christianity that is "unseen," yet our minds process everything through images. We don't see God, faith, the Holy Spirit, anointing, etc. Many foundational things in our faith are unseen, which gives artists a blank canvas to place their perceptions of the unseen. I happen to be a person who is very visual, yet not very creative in the visual arts, so when I see a piece of art that speaks to something of the unseen, I hold on to that image and it takes me to a different place in reality.

Now, my favorite form of worship is the art of sound. Instruments, vocals, percussion...MUSIC. Sounds and lyrics can bring a person to a visual place in their mind, giving them what some call "throne room experiences." I think of times when I listen to a worship song and think, "Wow, that is some great revelation. I wish I wrote that!" The particular thought or idea is conveyed in a particular way to bring deep emotions and thoughts to the surface.

When one thinks back on all of the music that has ever been created, we see a pattern of learning and achieving new sounds and themes. I hold the belief that this should be no different in the music of the church. Over the history of Christianity, the musical side of worship has definitely been transformed over and over again.

The thing I notice is there is a recurring theme of the music of the church following the music in the secular world. It has consistently borrowed the popular ideas to help make the music in the church more relevant. Though I'm sure this wasn't always the case, I notice it more today than ever before.

I am longing to see the church tap into the creative thought process that the Lord has gifted us with and write music that points to the very nature of God. In my music, I want to be a carbon-copy of Him, not a carbon copy of the world. The world has no real revelation to offer us, but the Lord has an abundance of things he wants our eyes, ears, minds, and hearts to be open to.

So, all in all, the church needs to be open to the creative process. At Goshen House, all of us feel the tug in our spirits towards creativity in our worship. We know this is a part of our calling, and I'm sure this is why I am so passionate about it.

[1] Jeremy Begbie, Beholding the Glory (London: Dalton, Longman and Todd Ltd., 2000) x.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Eucharist and Baptism

For: The Institute of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Red Online Worship History Course with Dan Wilt

Learning about the way the Sacraments were implemented throughout Christian history was very enlightening. I had never put much importance on symbolic acts, and many times thought they were silly. Then, I read this quote of Augustine: "A Sacrament is the visible form of an invisible grace." Such a beautiful statement. My mind had always viewed Sacraments as a visible act, and nothing more. I took them for their face value and never looked beyond the visual and into the spiritual (unless it was Baptism or Communion).

I loved the comments made in the book James White's book about how the power of a sacrament is not dependent on the character or moral value of the person performing it, but on God alone, and that he uses these symbolic acts to bring about his purposes [1]. It's all about grace, and the wonderful blessings He pours out on us through our obedience.

This being said, we have always put a lot of emphasis on communion and Baptism, but I can see how we don't focus on these sacraments nearly enough. I would be interested in incorporating communion at every service, but not only that, restoring the act through dining together in community. I also want to be able to do as the White mentions in his book: Being able "to communicate in human terms what God is doing [2]." He makes a good point on how this correlates with the responsibility of those leading worship. What are we showing people through our actions? What are we communicating? There truly is a high level of responsibility our my part as a worship leader to be able to communicate what the Lord is doing through my words and actions. I just had never related that with the symbolic acts of the sacraments.

Relating to the Lord in a tangible way is one of the most important things we can do in our lives. He cannot just be mere deity that we blindly follow through empty words an actions. I want to see the reality of God to be exposed in our midst, and now I have learned yet another unexpected way for our eyes to be opened.

James F. White, Introduction to Christian Worship, Third Edition, Revised and Expanded (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2000), Page 183
[2] James F. White, Introduction to Christian Worship, Third Edition, Revised and Expanded (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2000), Page 194

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Language of Worship and Prayer (Essentials Red Fall 08)

For: The Institute of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Red Online Worship History Course with Dan Wilt

This week, we have been looking into the languages of prayer and the reading of scripture and how they have been used throughout time in the setting of worship.

In our church setting, both of these are used frequently during our times of worship. There is always a floor mic open for people to come up and read scripture and pray what is on their hearts. I am thankful that this is not a new idea to us, because the fruit has been very good.

Nonetheless, I am going to switch gears a bit on some of the reading we were assigned this week out of the book, "Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality through the Christian Year" by Robert E. Webber. Being in a charismatic and non-denominational church, we do not observe much out of the Christian Year, other than the obvious: Christmas, Easter and Pentecost.

The idea of observing the Christian Year in it's entirety seems very "religious" and based solely on tradition, not spirituality. Although, when I started reading Webber's book, I was realizing how shallow my view really was. I had not looked at the meaning behind each of these specific observances. Webber writes: "Through Christian-year spirituality we are enabled to experience the biblical mandate of conforming to Christ. The Christian year orders our formation with Christ incarnate in his ministry, death, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, and Pentecost. In Christian-year spirituality we are spiritually formed by recalling and entereing into his great saving events." [1]

This is fascinating to me! I had never thought about it in that way, but it makes complete sense. This is not about being "traditional" and following rules. It's about keeping the acts of Christ in the forefront of our consciousness. This is going to be an enlightening course for me, because I am so clueless about the Christian calendar.

I can see how incorporating scripture reading with the observance of the Christian year would bring us into thought processes that we normally would not have of the ways Christ lived out his life when he was on the earth. This would also allow the prayers that are prayed to be more on-purpose and in tune with the heart of Christ.

[1] Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality through the Christian Year (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004), p. 22

Friday, November 7, 2008

Studies in "Christian Worship" (Essentials Red Fall 08)

For: The Institute of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Red Online Worship History Course with Dan Wilt

Hi everyone! This is Blog #1! :)

My name is Rachel Byrnes, and I am the worship leader for Goshen House. I am going to be the one doing all of the "blogging" on this site, starting with some assignments from a class I have started taking called "Essentials Red." I am also going through two other courses, "Essentials Blue" and "Essentials Green." They are all courses on deepening one's level of knowledge on worship, what it means, what it's origins are, practical uses, etc. I am very excited to see what I learn from this class.

“Worship, in all its grades and kinds, is the response of the creature to the Eternal.”

This course is already beginning to challenge my thinking and my paradigms. I have always been fascinated with the word "Worship" and what connotations we give it. I have to say, that the above quote is the best I have found on worship, and yet so simple. What this speaks to me is that I need to be in a constant place of conciousness of my actions and their relationship to God. It's so far beyond the arts, beyond anything our mind can box it into. Our thoughts, actions, motives, emotions, words should ALL be for the Glory of God.

In this course, we are learning about how worship has been interpreted and implemented all throughout the last 2000 years of Christianity. To be perfectly honest, I have never enjoyed history, and I didn't see this as something I would want to learn about, but I am realizing the importance of understanding our past and not forgetting the trailblazers who went before us.

I have always been a worship leader seeking the "new." The "old" wasn't necessarily bad, in fact, I love the old Hymns. There is a just something in me that wants to have a uniqueness in my worship. I have a very strong desire to create "indigenous" music as a worship leader. As much as there is a lot of great music currently and from the past, the message doesn't usually resound exactly with the things our church community is experiencing. But, I am seeing how learning from history, on how others have created their own indigenous worship, I will see how I can relate to my current situations and relationship with the Lord through music.

The book, "Introduction to Christian Worship" by James White (our assigned reading) briefly mentions "spontaneity" as one of the things worship is based on, although, this is something that our church and myself definitely focus on. We are very open to letting the Spirit lead and being creative by removing a bit of the tight structure. It creates a time of worship that becomes SO personal and SO engaging. Of course, it has to have a good amount of balance.

Now, on to the discussion about the language of space. For me, a worship space has never been confined to four walls. I grew up having church in my parents basement. It was amazing and my faith roots grew deep in a place that most would call very non-traditional. I think this has very much helped with my view of worshiping the Lord being something that can happen ANYWHERE. For the first time since I was a child, we have finally bought property to put a building on for our church, and we will for the first time have an actual, solid, separate and permanent location! So for me, I have seemed to have a harder time understanding needing a building to have "church." When I go into those large, beautiful cathedrals, I'm dumbfounded. It's very hard for me to grasp, because my worship experiences have never included anything so grandiose. I love the experiences I had when I would listen to my dad play guitar while he sang with my mom and the others there. It was just so amazing to see it so stripped down and bare but SINCERE.

So, I have a lot of pondering to do. I am excited to learn about things that are outside of my own box.