Tuesday, February 26, 2008

How High Do You Set Your Bar?

Needing to fill an arts requirement for her college curriculum, my daughter, Sarah, excitedly selected an "Intro to Ballet" class. She had loved ballet as a young girl and always had hoped to return to it. Her excitement turned to angst, however, when on the first day she found herself the only one in the class who hadn't been seriously studying ballet for at least ten years.

Why would these talented and experienced dancers be in a class she had hoped would be relatively unchallenging and fun? The answer: an easy A. Those with that hope had it quickly dashed, however, when the instructor let them know she was on to their motive and "Intro to Ballet" suddenly became "Advanced Bolshoi Techniques."

What followed were phone calls with me literally rolling on the floor laughing at her attempts to keep up and avoid causing bodily harm to her classmates, who, inspired by her determination, conspired to help her. They formed human walls to block her from sight of the instructor. When it was Sarah's turn to perform a series of moves across the floor, someone would distract the instructor, who when she resumed observing, would see Sarah at the other end of the floor in a perfect ballet pose as if just having completed the intricate series of moves (but which in reality had been a mad running dash to the finish point.)

"Excellent, Sarah, excellent" she'd say, because Sarah has the physique of a dancer and looks pretty impressive when striking a pose. "If only I didn't have to move," she finished telling her mother who was writhing on the floor in laughter....

This continued for about a week an a half before Sarah had to admit that there was no way she was going to keep up. She went to the instructor, confessed that she was struggling and feared that she might have to drop the class. The instructor offered to meet with her privately and help her master the individual moves so that she could execute them with the class. Sarah enthusiastically agreed. She probably ended up spending more time on ballet that semester than she did on any of her difficult academic classes because the bar, quite literally, had been set high and she was striving to meet it.

The end of her story is that she received an A in the class-- I don't know whether the other students, who had signed up for what they hoped would be a very low bar, were rewarded. I think probably not, as the instructor was holding them to something higher.

The whole experience made me think about the way we do Drama Teams in so many churches. People join them thinking they'll be a fun thing to do. Maybe the participants were in a performance once in high school and enjoyed it. Maybe theater is something they've always wanted to try. But then the reality sets in. To do drama well, you need to commit to some basics, like memorizing your lines, practicing them, taking direction and showing up for regular rehearsals. Suddenly people find the bar higher than they'd like and one of three things happens: they quit, they convince the drama ministry director to lower the bar (and he or she often does fearing they won't be able to find people for dramas if they require too much) or they resolve to do what it takes to meet the bar. It's only the third option that results in excellence being offered in service to the Lord.

If you're a drama team participant, I encourage you to do what it takes to do your best and help to raise the bar for your team. If you're a drama team leader, encourage your team to strive for excellence. Lowering the bar to accommodate people who are looking for an easy ministry A is a disservice to your team and to your church. Be like Sarah's instructor. Keep the bar high and help your team to meet it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

How Criticism Affects the Worship Team

Recently Pastor Scott Mansfield of Community Alliance Church in Hinesburg, VT interviewed Worship Leader Bill Cooper about how criticism, even constructive criticism, can negatively affect members of the worship team. Bill says that people from the congregation can build him up best by offering encouragement and by praying for him and the team while they are leading worship. We all are imperfect, but trying our best to serve where God has called us, he said. We should stand by each other, offer encouragement and ask God to bless our brothers and sisters in Christ as they offer their gifts, Bill added. The video is of "Servants By Your Grace," the song Bill was inspired to write as a response to his thoughts on the subject. He's accompanied by Dan Marcy on piano. For sheet music, contact masterworkproductions@yahoo.com.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Being "Steadfast" is Part of Your Job Description

It's difficult being a Christian these days. Our culture is moving toward a climate where standing up for Jesus, for the bible and for God makes us "judgmental" and "intolerant." After all, it's not politically correct these days to suggest that your way of doing anything is better than anyone else's or that someone else's opinion isn't just as valid as yours, especially when it comes to religion.
It's interesting, but I don't recall Jesus' promising us that following him would be easy and make us popular all the time. What he did say, however, was that he was the only way, the only truth and the only life -- not exactly a politically correct statement for his contemporaries, either.
Many churches today are making compromises when preaching about the truths of Christianity to make the message a little friendlier, a little more tolerant, a little less judgmental sounding in the hopes of attracting and keeping large numbers in their services. I believe, however, that the only way to true fellowship and worship in our church services is for the leaders to remain steadfast.
Should we make our services interesting and non-threatening to attract those who otherwise wouldn't attend church? Yes! Should we make them creative and visually stimulating to attract youth? Yes! Should sermon series be based on things important in contemporary culture to entice regular attendees to invite their friends, neighbors and family members? Yes! But should any part of God's message be altered or omitted to accomplish those goals? No, never. In fact, in the psalms, we see a promise that remaining steadfast will result in the bursting forth of worship. Don't compromise. Stand unwavering in the truth of Jesus and his word because if you are involved in leading worship at your church, part of your job description is to be steadfast.
"My heart is steadfast, O God,
My heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music.
Awake, my soul!
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.
I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples."
(Psalm 57:7-9 NIV)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Road to Nowhere

Ever feel like you're headed nowhere? It's very frustrating, especially if you're involved in a creative endeavor.

Maybe you're stuck trying to write a song. The notes just won't come, or you just can't arrange the notes that already are there. Maybe it's when you're writing a sketch and can't get it to make the leap from your brain to the computer screen. After you hit delete for the tenth time, you think, "I'm going nowhere fast."

Maybe you find yourself on this frustrating road when trying to lead a worship or drama team. You can't seem to get everyone to a rehearsal, or to get them there on time and/or prepared. Or perhaps you and the pastor drive past each other on this road as you can't seem to find an intersection for your ideas and goals when trying to use the arts in worship.

There is a way to find the "Road to Somewhere," however. You just need to be willing to stop and ask for directions and follow the right signs.

"Barricade the road that goes Nowhere;
grace me with your clear revelation.
I choose the true road to Somewhere,
I post your road signs at every curve and corner." (Psalm 119:29-30 THE MESSAGE) Copyright 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Daily Inspiration

The Blind Side

Read about the real life mom from "The Blind Side."

Lifeway: http://www.lifeway.com/article/?id=169816

Guideposts: http://www.guideposts.com/story/sandra-bullock-blind-side-football?page=0,1

Read Matt Mungle's review of the movie at http://www.buddyhollywood.com/.

Lauren Yarger, Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

In 2008 she was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater with a Christian perspective for Reflections in the Light (http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/) and is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection. She also is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com

She also reviews books for Publisher's Weekly and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She formerly was Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp, a national theater web site bsed in New York and a reviewer for American Theater Web.

She also served as Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. and worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.

She is a freelance writer and member of the Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and The CT Critics Circle.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger lives with her husband in West Granby, CT and has two adult children.

Copyright Notice

All contents copyright © Lauren Yarger 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, contact masterworkproductions@yahoo.com.

Scripture from THE MESSAGE Copyright 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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