Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Book Review: Choosing Your Faith by Mark Mittelberg

Which Path of Faith Will You Follow?
By Lauren Yarger
We make choices every day, all of them involving some degree of faith. The direction we take to arrive at the place of faith may vary, but inevitably, we end up choosing which path to follow.

So is the premise for Mark Mittelberg’s thought-provoking book "Choosing Your Faith" (in a World of Spiritual Options) (Tyndale 2008). In language that isn’t condescending or preachy, Mittelberg explores the various options and asks the reader to question each one to get to the bottom of why we believe what we believe. Mittelberg points out how we use logic and faith in every day situations and then asks us to apply the techniques when considering God. It makes good sense.

He points out the various paths we can choose to follow when approaching faith:
• This is my truth—you find your own
• I’ve always believed what I believe
• You’d better believe it!
• I just feel that it’s true
• God told me it’s true
• I’ve got to see it to believe it

Those paths, while offering some understanding, don’t necessarily lead to the faith that will result in salvation. Using practical applications and examples, Mittelberg points out that “feel” doesn’t equal “real,” and sometimes “real” doesn’t equal “good.” The book includes some in-depth analysis of faiths such as Islam, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, Baha’i, Scientism as well as new age movements and popular culture sensations like the book “The Secret.,” all which claim to be the way. Many of these paths fail to reach the promised end when they don’t pass their own or other recognized tests for authenticity.

The author, skilled in apologetics, doesn’t let Christianity off the hook either. He explores its claims and applies the same scrutiny to it as the other faiths. While he does approach the topic from a Christian point of view that non-Christians might find a little unbiased, Mittelberg does challenge the reader to conduct his or her own exploration and to find the core of belief.

"Choosing Your Faith" is an informative read, especially the parts examining other faiths. Find out what path you’re on and possibly how to take a fork in the road.

To purchase this book, click here.

Book Review: Christianity Today Study Series: Faith and Pop Culture

Where is God in Entertainment?
By Lauren Yarger
Being in the world, but not of it. Christians have tried to balance the two existences for centuries and technology throws more balls up in the air than ever for today’s Christians. Christianity Today’s Study Series offers some help: Faith and Pop Culture (Thomas Nelson 2005).

This eight-week small group study offers a host of contributing writers in articles from Christianity Today at the beginning of the lessons focusing on different popular art forms (television, film, sports, literature) and challenges participants to look beyond the culture to find the creative God of scripture through discussion questions, activities and projects. The format is flexible and doesn’t feature a lot of “homework” (in fact, one assignment is to watch a movie).

How do Christians enjoy entertainment without compromising values on things like nudity, violence and other questionable content? How do we make the right choices and even influence society? Shouldn’t God be enough entertainment himself? The study urges discussion on such topics and would be appropriate not only as a church bible study, but as a small group study in a neighborhood or other setting that includes seekers and non-Christians.

While the study delves into some areas of pop culture, others are missing, most notably the theater, music and the internet, the last two being so complex on their own, that they probably would require their own study guides. Other books in the study series are Engaging the Culture, Islam, Politics, Faith and work, The Bible, The Future of the Church and Creation Care.
For more about the book, click here.

Monday, June 29, 2009

'Lights Are Bright on Broadway' Award Presented at Irena's Vow

Brad Coolidge photo.
Tovah Fledshuh, left, star of Broadway's Irena's Vow, accepts "The Lights Are Bright on Broadway" Award from Executive Director Lauren Yarger following the matinee performance Saturday at the Walter Kerr Theater. Ms. Felshuh accepted the award on behalf of playwright Dan Gordon, who received the award from Masterwork Productions, Inc for his insightful and moving play about the extraordinary life of Irena Gut Opdyke and the hope and endurance of the human spirit. The play "honors God and is an inspirational portrait of faith," the award read.
Thomas Ryan, right, who plays Major Rugemer, looks on. For a review of the play, which closed its Broadway run last weekend, click here.

The second recipient of a 2009 "The Lights Are Bright on Broadway" Award is Cheryl Cutlip, founder of Project Dance. Ms. Cutlip will receive her award at an upcoming New York event to be announced.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dan Gordon, Project Dance Receive 'Lights are Bright on Broadway' Awards

Dan Gordon, author of Broadway’s Irena’s Vow and Radio City Rockette Cheryl Cutlip, founder of Project Dance, will receive 2009 “The Lights are Bright on Broadway” awards presented by Masterwork Productions, Inc. to individuals and organizations making a difference in the Broadway community through faith.

Irena’s Vow (http://irenasvow.com/) is a play based on real life Irena Gut Opdyke, a Polish Catholic who singlehandedly saved 12 Jews from death in the Nazi camps during World War II. Irena’s vow to God not to stand by and helplessly watch as Jews are slaughtered and the faith on which she relies drive Mr. Gordon’s story.

“I am deeply honored by this award,” Mr. Gordon said. “In honoring the play of course you are honoring Irena Gut Opdyke's courage, moral rectitude and unshakable faith in her Creator, her rock and her salvation. Absent that faith she said many times she would never have been able to do all that she did. In the last conversation we had the day before she died her sole concern was "Who will tell the children when I'm gone?" My answer was "you will." That was the reason the play was written and it is my fervent hope that it will continue to tell Irena's story of faith and courage to ever wider audiences. On behalf of her family, the producers, the director, the cast and entire company of Irena's Vow thank you.”

Mr. Gordon’s award will be presented to him and the company at the conclusion of the Broadway performance this Saturday, June 27 at the Walter Kerr Theatre by Masterworks Executive Director and Broadway reviewer Lauren Yarger. (Read the review of Irena's Vow here.

Thomas Ryan as ‘Major Rugemer,’ Tovah Feldshuh as ‘Irena Gut Opdyke,’
and John Stanisci ‘Sturmbannfuhrer Rokita’ in Irena’s Vow.Review: Irena’s Vow(Photo by CAROL ROSEGG)

Cheryl Cutlip, following a call to “make a difference in the artistic fiber of our nation,” founded Project Dance (http://www.projectdance.com/), which has produced performance events in Times Square, Los Angeles', Hollywood and Australia's. Dance Spirit magazine has named the New York event as one of the top ten dance events in New York City. The Project Dance Studio located in Times Square trains dancers in excellence and integrity.

“Project Dance is thrilled and honored to receive this unique award,” Ms. Cutlip said. “I never imagined a day when the work of believing artists in the NYC community would be recognized in the public square. Our only hope has been to encourage dancers toward their highest potential and offer performance and training opportunities worldwide where dancers are able to express their faith in God through the gift of dance. Whether it's been a Bible study in the rehearsal halls at Radio City or a circle of prayer before a Broadway Underground show, Project Dance desires to honor God will every success within the performing arts community. Thank you for acknowledging such work and encouraging this vision and mission of Project Dance.”

Project Dance’s award will be presented at an upcoming New York event to be announced.
Masterwork Productions, Inc. is a Christian, non-profit organization which helps Christians and churches reach out through the performing arts by producing shows and events, booking artists, providing Broadway and theater reviews and training at workshops and conferences. For more information, visit http://www.masterworkproductions.org/.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Books for Father's Day

Check out these books for Father's Day (summaries provided by the publisher, Random House):

The Disappearance of God by Dr. R. Albert Mohler
More faulty information about God swirls around us today than ever before. No wonder so many followers of Christ are unsure of what they really believe in the face of the new spiritual openness attempting to alter unchanging truth.

For centuries the church has taught and guarded the core Christian beliefs that make up the essential foundations of the faith. But in our postmodern age, sloppy teaching and outright lies create rampant confusion, and many Christians are free-falling for “feel-good” theology.

We need to know the truth to save ourselves from errors that will derail our faith.

As biblical scholar, author, and president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Albert Mohler, writes, “The entire structure of Christian truth is now under attack.” With wit and wisdom he tackles the most important aspects of these modern issues:
Is God changing His mind about sin?
Why is hell off limits for many pastors?
What’s good or bad about the “dangerous” emergent movement?
Have Christians stopped seeing God as God?
Is the social justice movement misguided?
Could the role of beauty be critical to our theology?
Is liberal faith any less destructive than atheism?
Are churches pandering to their members to survive?

In the age-old battle to preserve the foundations of faith, it's up to a new generation to confront and disarm the contemporary shams and fight for the truth. Dr. Mohler provides the scriptural answers to show you how.

Eyes Wide Open
by Jud Wilhite
I had it all backwards. The main thing was not my love for God, but his love for me. And from that love I respond to God as one deeply flawed, yet loved. I’m not looking to prove my worth. I’m not searching for acceptance. I’m living out of the worth God already declares I have. I’m embracing his view of me and in the process discovering the person he created me to be.

In "Eyes Wide Open," Jud Wilhite invites you to discover the real you. Not the you who pretends to be perfect to satisfy everyone’s expectations. Not the you who always feels guilty before God. Not the you who secretly feels God forgives everyone else but only tolerates you. Not the you who looks in the mirror and sees a failure. The real you, loved and forgiven by God, living out of your identity in Christ.

A travel guide through real spirituality from one incomplete person to another, "Eyes Wide Open" is a book of stories about following God in the messes of life, about broken pasts and our lifelong need for grace. It is a book about seeing ourselves and God with new eyes–eyes wide open to a God of love.

Sir Dalton and the Shadow Heart by Chuck Black
Sir Dalton, a knight in training, seems to have everything going for him. Young, well-liked, and a natural leader, he has earned the respect and admiration of his fellow knights, and especially the beautiful Lady Brynn.

But something is amiss at the training camp. Their new trainer is popular but lacks the passion to inspire them to true service to the King and the Prince. Besides this, the knights are too busy enjoying a season of good times to be concerned with a disturbing report that many of their fellow Knights have mysteriously vanished.

When Sir Dalton is sent on a mission, he encounters strange attacks, especially when he is alone. As his commitment wanes, the attacks grow in intensity until he is captured by Lord Drox, a massive Shadow Warrior. Bruised and beaten, Dalton refuses to submit to evil and initiates a daring escape with only one of two outcomes–life or death. But what will become of the hundreds of knights he’ll leave behind? In a kingdom of peril, Dalton thinks he is on his own, but two faithful friends have not abandoned him, and neither has a strange old hermit who seems to know much about the Prince. But can Dalton face the evil Shadow Warrior again and survive?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Broadway Underground Dances

Broadway Underground, a dance event produced by Project Dance founder Cheryl Cutlip, will present a new show featuring co-producer and dance phenomenon Jared Grimes 8 pm Wednesday, July 18 at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, 237 W. 42 St.(between Broadway and 8th Avenue).

The show will feature DeWitt Fleming, Jr., The BU Band, T.A.D.A.H., Drumatics, The BU Session and many special guests.

For more information, visit http://www.blogger.com/www.broadwayunderground.org.

Redeemer Summer Workshops Slated

This summer, Redeemer Presbyterian's Arts Ministry will present two Professional and Personal Development workshops where Christians can use the slower-moving time of the year to think more deeply about their callings, careers and lives.

Professional Development Workshop - June 26-27

Artists will think together about the "calling" of the artist, casting a vision and strategy for an arts career, marketing, managing finances and legal issues artists face. This event will be held 7 to 9:30pm in the Redeemer offices, 1359 Broadway Suite 400, NYC.

The Healthy Artist - July 17-18

Focus on spiritual, emotional, physical, relational, and financial health, with guest experts from the Redeemer community. This event will be from 10 am to 4pm in the offices.

For more information or to register, click here.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Take Time to Reflect on What God Has Done

If you are involved in some sort of worship, drama or other arts ministry, June is usually wrap -up time. Summer programming kicks in and teams kick back for a much needed vacation, or at least quieter time, over the summer.

As you head into a period of rest, get excited about what God has accomplished during the past season and about what He has in store. Sometimes it is easy to slip into a mode of focusing on which programs were launched or expanded, how many people attended services or events, or even on the need for a break from it all. Don't lose sight of the fact that all that you are, all that your team has accomplished, and all that will take place in the future are because of God.

It is because of His love, His desire to reach out to His Children, His graciousness in gifting us with talents that any ministry takes place and prospers. Set aside some time this week to reflect and give thanks and praise.

Good people, cheer God! Right-living people sound best when praising.
Use guitars to reinforce your Hallelujahs!
Play his praise on a grand piano!
Invent your own new song to him;
give him a trumpet fanfare.

For God's Word is solid to the core;
everything he makes is sound inside and out.
He loves it when everything fits,
when his world is in plumb-line true.
Earth is drenched in God's affectionate satisfaction.

(Psalm 33: 1-5 The MESSAGE)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Writers' Market Guide Has Special Offer

Sally Stuart has some special discounted offers available for her yearly Christian Writers' Market Guide.

Check out the options and her informative blog at

Sight & Sound to Close Living Waters Theater

Sight & Sound Theaters in Pennsylvania has announced it will close its 643-seat Living Waters Theater in Lancaster, PA after the 2010 season. Declining ticket sales are sited. The nearby 2,000-seat Millennium Theater and the company's Branson, MO theaters will continue operations.

Abraham and Sarah: A Journey of Love currently is playing at the Living Waters through Sept.19. Voices of Christmas will follow beginning Oct. 30. In the Beginning currently is playing at the Millennium, where a new show, Joseph, will premiere in March 2010. Noah the Musical is playing in Branson.

For more information about the theaters, visit http://www.sight-sound.com/WebSiteSS/

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Theater Year in Review

On the way to a show.

God's the Dramatic One....
By Lauren Yarger
No, this isn't a rehash of the shows making up the 2008-2009 Broadway season. It's a reflection of what God has done and what I have learned by reviewing those shows.

To say this has been an amazing year is an understatement. If in April 2008 you would have told me that a year from then, I would be a member of the Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle and the American Theater Critics Association, I would have laughed at the absurdity of the thought.

God always has bigger plans for me than I can imagine, however, and He has been opening doors that might otherwise have been shut the whole journey. I find that through the experience, I have had a wonderful opportunity to be a witness for Him and to meet many terrific people who work in the theater industry. God really cares about them and He uses theater and all of the arts amazingly to spark conversation, get people thinking and to reach out with his love.

The theater encourages people and gives artists a chance to use the gifts God has bestowed on them to bring people together, care for each other and show people that they are a part of His extended family. He always seems to find ways to communicate His truths.

I’ve learned, or had confirmed, a lot of other things along the way too and I thought you might enjoy reading them here.

1. New Yorkers are friendly people. Nationwide, they suffer from a reputation that casts them as uncaring, rich snobs, but honestly, everyone I have met in the city has been terrific. If anyone ever needs help, New Yorkers are right there to lend a hand, whether it’s directing tourists to landmarks or to the right subway or helping someone who has tripped and fallen get back up on their feet to resume walking in the busy streets.

2. Broadway’s theaters are beautiful. Each one is different with wonderful architectural details inside and out. They really are treasures.

3. There are a lot of good shows on Broadway and off. Broadway produced more than 40 shows in the 2008-2009 season grossing $943.3 million. Off and Off-off-Broadway shows offered hundreds of more opportunities to see theater. Of the many shows I reviewed (I lost count), most I liked.

4. Press agents are very hard-working people. They seem to work all around the clock and somehow manage to get us all to the right seats at the right show on the right day, most of the time, showing up in person to do it. Amazing.

5. I drove into the city and lived to tell about it. I always have taken mass transit into the city. I’ll drive in any other city (except Washington, DC) but don’t ask me to drive into Manhattan. There’s just something about it that, well, makes me fear for my life. I did have to drive in twice this season and I survived, much to my surprise. But that doesn’t mean I want to do it again. Ever.

6. I can take the subway and not end up in Brooklyn. Prior to this season, I was a cab person for any trips within the city that are too far to walk. The Fringe Festival last summer converted me, very quickly, as it is almost impossible to make it from one venue to the next in time for shows without hopping on the subway. I didn’t end up in Brooklyn, like I had feared I would, even when on a Brooklyn-bound train. I’m now pretty adept at train hopping, and the website HopStop.com has become my best friend, though I still enjoy walking whenever it’s possible.

7. The number 10:22 makes me very happy. This means I have made the early train from Grand Central after a show and will get home at 1:30 am instead of 2:30 am. I love matinees, 90-minute shows with no intermission and Tuesday shows that start at 7.

8. There aren’t enough cheap places to eat in the Broadway district or enough places to sit.

9. The Nederlander Theater has the BEST women’s rest rooms.

10. Mentors are very important. I am blessed to have two: Retta Blaney and Andy Propst, for whom I give thanks daily and without whom, this past year would not have been possible.

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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