Thursday, June 19, 2008


We're on vacation next week, so the next update of this blog will be on Tuesday, July 1.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Cornucopia of Talent in Christian Arts

God has blessed so many Christians in the arts and I just had the pleasure of fellowshipping with many of them at the Christians in Theatre Arts Conference in Los Angeles. We were moved, challenged, equipped and blessed as we spent three days exploring how to "Take Theatre to the Next Level."
Singer Marcia Whitehead and filmmaker Lauralee Farrer shared Marcia's inspiring journey as an opera singer. We were all moved by her perseverance and the message that "sometimes just pursuing the dream is enough." Find out more at
Keynote speaker Robert Smyth, producing artistic director for the Lamb's Players in San Diego, offered four deceptively simple "secrets" to taking theater to the next level:
• eat well
• exercise regularly
• get out more often
• slow down
In fleshing out the spiritual meaning behind those points, Robert's challenge was to have vision, be bold and to be willing to step out into the darkness, guided by the knowledge and light of what God has done in the past. Check out the Lamb's at
Also inspiring was a screening of the film "Purple State of Mind" featuring the ongoing friendship and religious discussions between Craig Detweiler and John Marks. The divide between "red" and "blue" state perspectives is examined with humor and passion. Find more at
Among numerous other presentations, I was impressed with sketches from writer Michael Leathers. Check out his new website at
Next year's CITA conference is in Orlando, FL. See you there!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Try a Little Jazz Accordion This Week

I'm at the Christians in Theatre Arts (CITA) Conference in California and am looking forward to telling you next week about the great training, fellowship and performances offered there.

Meanwhile, for those of you in the Nashville area, don't miss the accordion event of the year this Friday, June 13. Yes, I said accordion. As part of ATG's Annual International Accordion Festival, international accordion champion (and Masterwork Productions pianist) Jeff Lisenby will perform tunes from his first solo jazz album A Spy In Tortuga with a full band. The NashVegas Jazz features some of Nashville's A-list session players including Chris Brown, Andy Reiss (of The Time Jumpers), John Vogt, Todd London, Matt Davich and special guest vocalists Jaclyn Brown and
Abby Burke.

The event, beginning at 7:00 is open to the public at the Hotel Preston, 733 Briley Parkway, Nashville. If you can't make it to the show, buy the CD here:

In other news, Jeff was recently filmed playing the accordion by Mark
Burnett Productions as part of the first episode of CBS's new reality
show "Jingles". Episode will air in late August 2008.

"A Spy In Tortuga" is Jeff's first independent jazz accordion
album, and features several brand-new original compositions by
Jeff, as well as several reinvented jazz standards. The
instrumentation is traditional jazz quartet: bass, drums, guitar...
and accordion. The additional sax, vocalist, keyboards, or
percussion here and there enhance the album well.

"The accordion has been stereotyped for a long time," Jeff said.
"I want people to hear this CD, enjoy it for its diversity, and hear
the accordion as another fine musical instrument, which can be used
in any type of music."

Jeff can be heard on numerous country and Christian recordings and was music director for the Broadway musical "Ring Of Fire". He also was a pianist with Masterwork Productions' touring show "Early One Morning."

Why a jazz album?

"I grew up in Kansas City, MO, where there is a jazz commission, as part of the city government," Jeff said. "Because of that, I grew up hearing many of the great national jazz figures who came to town to play for us -- Count Basie, Monty Alexander, Maynard Fergusson, Bill Evans, Chick Corea. So I've been loving and playing jazz for a long time. I like the freedom to play whatever I want in the improvised sections, and I like the sound of a big band all playing in ensemble."

"There aren't a lot of jazz accordionists around, but accordion is slowly coming back into style in the United States. We're hearing it on more and more pop albums."

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

It's Time to Take Summer Stock

School's out, or at least it will be soon as summer vacation begins for teachers and students across the nation. Churches often see some sort of vacation schedule in the summer as well and the worship service takes on a different look and feel. Perhaps the choir takes the summer off, the number of services is decreased, the service switches to outside location or guest speakers and artists fill the pulpit while the pastor is on vacation.
A period of rest is good, but use the down time to do summer stock, that is, to take stock of what you're doing and why. When looking at any programming, whether it's a full scale production or the regular Sunday services, the question that has to be answered over and over is "why." Why are we doing this event? Why is this particular song or dramatic element included. Any of the following answers is unacceptable:
• Because that’s what we’ve always done
• Because we ran out of time to plan something else
• Because the same people always are involved
• Because we want to be cool and hip
• Because that’s what all the other churches we want to be like are doing
• Because I like that song
• Because our soloist sounds good singing that song
• Because the musicians didn’t have time to rehearse a new song
Those answers are unacceptable because the only answers that are acceptable are
•Because the Spirit’s leading has chosen this
•Because this will further God’s message
•Because this will allow us to express our love and worship of God
Take some stock this summer and give yourself a report card on the programming you're involved with at church. Ask yourself some questions:
• What are we measuring ourselves against? -- other churches or scripture?
• Are our goals realistic? -- Does video broadcasting to a second "campus" really make sense if you could just hold a second service at the same location?
• Are we learning from our mistakes? -- Are you holding post-event/ post-service evaluations and including input from your congregation?
• Are we actively pursuing knowledge? -- Is your team attending conferences? Are you bringing in people for workshops and retreats to stretch your people to the best of their potential?
• Are we spending time praying and planning according to His purpose? -- Or do you do what’s easiest regardless of relevance or quality?
When you prayerfully take stock, even if your "grade" isn't what you'd like it to be, you'll come away determined and excited for what God has in store for the new season that will begin in September. And remember, the grade you're striving for isn't an A or some other letter to reflect how you're doing. It's a "W" which gives all the glory and honor to Him. Worship.

Daily Inspiration

The Blind Side

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



Read Matt Mungle's review of the movie at

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 ( and is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection. She also is a contributing editor for

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

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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