Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving to All of Our Readers

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thess 5:18)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Song DISCovery Plans One-Day Songwriting Conferences

Worship Leader will host two Song DISCovery in the Round: One-Day Songwriting Conferences next year. The first will be in San Antonio, TX, at Community Bible Church Jan. 28 and the second will be in Nashville at Grace Chapel on April 22.

These one-day events will consist of workshops, song panels, networking opportunities, hands on training, critiquing from industry pros and well-know songwriters and will conclude with a night of worship (which will include four songs from conference attendees). San Antonio’s outstanding stable of teachers and worship leaders consists of Tommy Walker, Laura Story, Glen Packiam, Randy Phillips, Jennie Riddle, and Lenny LeBlanc.

For more information, click here.

Barbour Schedules Holiday Concerts in NY, LA

Broadway star James Barbour (Tale of Two Cities) will repeat last season’s sold-out holiday engagement at Sardi's with Holiday Concert 2009 in both New York and Los Angeles.

The New York concerts will begin on Friday, Dec. 11 at Bill’s 1890 Restaurant & Café, 57 E. 54th Street, between Park and Madison, and will continue through Saturday, Dec. 19 with musical direction by opera’s revered Constantine Kitsopoulos.

The evening will feature a musically inspired reading of Clement Clarke Moore’s famous poem “The Night Before Christmas” which the scholar/philanthropist wrote for his nine children in 1822 while they lived at 57 East 54th St., the building which now houses the café.

New York tickets may be purchased at a http://www.smarttix.com/ or by calling 212-868-4444. Evening performances are at 7:30 with a matinee at 3 pm on Saturday, Dec. 19.

The Los Angeles schedule will offer one concert only on Monday, Dec. 21
7 pm at The Colony Theatre, 555 N. 3rd St., Burbank, CA with musical direction by multiple Grammy Award nominated composer, producer, songwriter, arranger and rock impresario Peter Wolf.

LA tickets may be purchased at www.ColonyTheatre.org or by calling 818-558-7000 (Ext. 15)

Both concerts are being produced by Treehouse Entertainment Inc. and
Roberta Nusim for TMA (Theatrical Marketing Associates) and will feature special guest appearances by Broadway and Hollywood luminaries to be announced in the coming weeks.

For a review of Barbour's 2008 holiday concert at Sardi's in New York, click here.

Redeemer Arts News

Monday, November 30, 7:00PM
Ripley-Grier Studios, 520 Eighth Ave. (at 36th St.)
Studio 17A

Bring a monologue, scene, audition piece, or work in progress to workshop or show at the Novemmber gathering of Redeemer presbyterian's actors' group 7 pm Monday, Nov. 30 at Ripley-Grier Studios, 520 Eighth Ave. (at 36th St.)
Studio 17A .

Enjoy fellowship and fun with other actors as we explore the meaning of our work. Dinner will be provided. RSVP to actors@redeemer.com. Questions? Contact Kenyon Adams at kenyon@redeemer.com or(212) 808-4460 x1344

Also, save the date for an InterArts Advent celebration 7 pm Friday, Dec. 11 at the Redeemer offices, 1359 Broadway, 4th Floor (at 36th St.)

The Actors, Dancers and Filmmakers Groups will fellowship together. The evening will include special music, art, reflections, food, and fellowship in celebration of our Savior's birth. No RSVP required.

Questions? Contact Kenyon Adams at kenyon@redeemer.com or (212) 808-4460 x1344

Friday, November 20, 2009

Book Review: ‘Touched by a Vampire’ by Beth Felker Jones

A Helpful Guide through the 'Twilight' Series
By Lauren Yarger
Beth Felker-Jones’ guide through the ‘Twilight’ series, "Touched by a Vampire: Discovering the Hidden Messages in the Twilight Saga" (Multnomah Books ,October 2009) is just that: a great guide.

Jones is a knowledgeable source for those who want to know more about the books without having to read them, and a facilitator for fans who want to read the novels with a biblical context. It comes just in time, too, as the blockbuster movie sequel “New Moon” opens in theaters this weekend.

Jones, an assistant professor of theology at Wheaton College, takes an even-handed look at the novels by Stephenie Meyer in the run-away best seller Twilight Saga series for young adults. Telling the story of the romance between human teenager Bella and vampire Edward, the four books, “Twilight,” “New Moon,” Eclipse,” and “Breaking Dawn” have been a source of controversy for Christians. One the one hand, some Christian mothers have given thumbs up to the books because Meyer (a Mormon) has the characters refrain from having sex before they are married. On the other hand, they are stories about vampires and the occult.

Jones, in a non-preachy way, gives us all the information we need to know to make an informed choice about whether this is something we want our kids reading or not, and how to address some of the issues and circumstances in the Twilight world from a biblical reference. I would have loved a book like this for the Harry Potter series which was all the range when my kids were still young enough to have their mother involved in the book-selection process.

Besides giving an excellent overview of what the series is about and the main points of interest and themes, the book includes chapters on the specific topics that come up in the series, each concluded with questions to prompt thought about what Christians should and shouldn’t embrace in the story. In addition, a book-by-book discussion series is included for each novel in the series and an online leader’s guide allows easy use in a bible study or book discussion group.

Jones also includes come information on the Mormon themes present in the books. I found it to be one of the most thorough, thoughtful and helpful guidebooks of this type I have read.

Buy it here.

--Lauren Yarger
A free reviewer's copy of this book was provided by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Book Notes: ‘Thirsty’ by Tracey Bateman

Family struggles and everyday hardships aren’t usually topics that many (especially me) want to spend their free time reading about, but Tracey Bateman’s novel “Thirsty,” (WaterBrook Press, October 2009) is interesting as it brings to light struggles that so many families face.

Alcoholism plays a huge part in this story and the reader soon finds out that “thirsty” has a much greater meaning.

For Nina Parker, the steps toward recovery from her addiction are smaller than those she must take as she faces her ex-husband, Hunt, with little hope of making amends, and tries to rebuild a relationship with her angry teenage daughter, Meagan. In the process, she returns to her hometown in Missouri where she catches the attention of someone–or something dark and menacing.

Bateman crafts her characters very well and you can feel the turmoil evolve as their different personalities clash throughout the book. It’s a slow read at first but the further you get, the richer the story becomes. You learn of the Parkers’ past and seeing how Nina has matured has the reader rooting for a comeback.

For anyone who has struggled or is struggling with an addiction of any kind, this story brings to light that it really isn’t a walk in the park to change your life. It takes hard work and determination, and doing things you really don’t want to do.

“Thirsty” was not the story I was expecting, namely some sort of Christian alternative to the “Twilight” series books. Instead, this story is a breath of fresh air. Other then the previously mentioned slow start, the story is heartfelt and entertaining for readers.

Buy the book here.

--Brian Yarger

Brian Yarger is a freelance artist living outside of Hartford, CT. His favorite genre of book is fiction with a supernatural twist. A free reviewer's copy of this book was provided by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Entries Sought for Short Film Contest

The HOSFU Short Film Contest is now open for entries. Short Film Contest prizes will be awarded at the 2010 Gideon Media Arts Conference & Film Festival banquet, held at the LifeWay conference center in Ridgecrest, NC on June 7, 2010.

Short films which are 5-30 minutes in length, including credits, will be accepted through April 1, 2010. Ten semifinalists for each award category will be announced on May 1, 2010.

There will be four prize packages awarded for Best Short Film, Runner Up Short Film, Best Actor and Best Actress. All prize packages include the following:

1) A cash award (up to $400, depending on the category)
2) Free tuition to the Gideon Media Arts Conference & Film Festival 2011 ($315.00 value)
3) A one-on-one meal with a Gideon faculty member of choice, at the 2011 conference (priceless)

To receive any award, the entrant must be registered for the 2010 Gideon Media Arts Conference & Film Festival as a full access student, by May 15, 2010. For details on the prize packages, please click here.

The contest is sponsored by HOSFU, (an acronym which stands for "His Only Son For Us"), a company dedicated to promoting Christ through the film industry. “HOSFU is blessed to be sponsoring this year’s Short Film Contest at the Gideon 2010,” says HOSFU CEO Eric Highland. “The Gideon, sponsored by LifeWay, is one of the top Christian media events of the year and is truly a don’t-miss event. We fully anticipate a high level of quality submissions from independent filmmakers, to make this year’s Short Film Contest the best that the Gideon has ever seen.”

For complete Rules and Regulations, judging criteria, details on prize packages and the entry form, visit http://hosfu.com/.

Registration Open for Festival of Faith and Writing

Online registration for the 2010 Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College is open.

The festival, on the Grand Rapids, MI campus, will be held April 15-17 and allows participants to discuss, celebrate and explore the ways in which faith is represented in literature and how it plays out in our world today.

Among the authors scheduled to be at the conference are playwright Arlene Hutton, screenwriter Barbara Nicolosi and journalist Tim Stafford. Novelist Wally Lamb will be the featured speaker at the festival's evening plenary session April 15.

To register, click here. Information is provided through frequently asked questions here. For additional information, contact ffw@calvin.edu.

Attendees have the opportunity to submit a manuscript for review by editors attending the conference. They may be submitted online beginning in January.

Enjoy an Evening of Song with Larry Woodard

The Episcopal Actors' Guild presents an Evening of Song with acclaimed voice and musical performer Larry Woodard 7 pm Thursday, Nov. 19 at Guild Hall, the Little Church, 1 E. 29th St., NYC.

Woodard has played at the White House, at the United Nations and to audiences across the globe.

A suggested donation of $10 will benefit the guild's Emergency Aid & Relief Program.
Wine and refreshments will be served. Space is very limited. RSVP to matt@actorsguild.org or 212-685-2927.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Book Review: 'Finding the Groove' by Robert Gelinas

By Jerry Starks
“Finding the Groove” by Robert Gelinas (Zondervan, 2009) is a deep and multi-faceted exploration of the Christian life and jazz. The subtitle entices you with another clue about where Gelinas is heading: “composing a jazz-shaped faith.”

This intrigued me on two levels, because I had assumed that jazz wasn’t really composed– it was more improvised. That also seems to be many people’s style of life– improvisation more than planning. As I read further, I became very engrossed in his thoughtful observations about jazz and Christianity.

Gelinas is not a musician; he is a pastor and a jazz theologian. He explains that jazz is bigger than just music: it can be an entire lifestyle (not just the improvisational aspect), and a very Christian lifestyle at that. “Christian” not just by putting different labels on things but by using patterns and behaviors developed in jazz music when we interact with God and with our fellow humans. Even the history and development of jazz should ring with familiarity in Christian ears. Jazz was developed by African-Americans: people not free living in a free land—just as we were all born slaves of sin living in a fallen world. Yet even in the midst of deep segregation, jazz became a meeting ground where races could actually enjoy the same thing at the same time in the same place—just as in Jesus there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor slave.

Three cornerstones of jazz form a framework for Gelinas’ exploration. They are syncopation, improvisation, and call-and-response. He explains how each works in jazz music, then gives examples of how they can work outside of music, often giving examples from Scripture.

This would have been encouraging and enlightening by itself, but Gelinas keeps on going. He discusses jazz greats in many areas of life, such as John Coltrane, a saxophonist, Langston Hughes, a poet, Ralph Ellison, a novelist, Martin Luther King, Jr., a preacher. Each of them was influenced by jazz, and each made significant contributions to America. The depth and scope of Gelinas’ understanding of jazz and American culture is deeply satisfying.

Chapter headings include “Creative Tension,” “Life in Concert,” “Finding Your Voice,” and “Developing Your Ear.” All of them have a musical basis, but all of them go far beyond that art form the just like jazz cannot be restricted to a concert hall: it gets into all of life. In the same way, insists Gelinas, the love of Jesus should break out of our familiar constructs and pulse with life, causing others to stop and listen. One way of doing that is to compose and live a jazz-shaped faith.

You can purchase this book here.

Jerry Starks is associate director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. and has numerous acting and directing credits in both secular and Christian productions. He resides in Essex Junction, VT where he is active in the arts ministry at his church.

Book Notes: God's Cycle of Music by Mark Paulson

There are many ways to look at God’s amazing relationship with humans: people with different talents, interests, and backgrounds see different aspects of God more clearly. It enriches us when we try to see from another person’s perspective. “God’s Cycle of Music: A Musician’s Explanation of God’s Purpose and Meaning for Our Lives” (Hope Publishing House, 2009) is a look at God’s redemption from the viewpoint of Mark Paulson, a professional pianist and piano teacher in New Jersey..

Some of Paulson’s analogies are expected: it’s almost automatic to cast God as the Composer of the music of life. Yet several of his analogies delightfully caught me off guard. I had never thought of the Holy Spirit as a Conductor, or Jesus as an Agent. In a compact style, Paulson brings up images for several aspects of the Christian experience; then allows us to expand and develop those images, creating our own variations on .the theme. For example, he suggests comparing spiritual disciplines like prayer and fasting to practicing scales and etudes. He spins off a list of nine disciplines, gives a paragraph or two on each one for a starter, then encourages your imagination to expand and apply the idea.

Occasionally an analogy gets weak and seems overshadowed by more familiar, non-musical expressions. Any metaphor can only be stretched so far before breaks down, but before that point the metaphor enriches and expands the mind and the heart that considers it. “God’s Cycle of Music” is well worth reading and then building upon. You can purchase the book here.
-- Jerry Starks

Redeemer's November Gathering for Actors Set

Actors can gather for the monthly meeting at Redeemer Prsbyterian in New York 7pm Monday, Nov. 30 at Ripley-Grier Studios, 520 8th Ave. (at 36th Street), Studio 17A

Bring a monologue, scene, audition piece, or work in progress to workshop or show. No judgment! Come enjoy fellowship and fun with other actors as we explore the meaning of our work. Dinner is provided.

RSVP to actors@redeemer.com. Questions? Contact Kenyon Adams at kenyon@redeemer.com or (212) 808-4460 x1344.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Kiss That Worships

This week we bring you a guest blog post on worship from Jerry D. Scott, senior pastor of Washington Assembly of God Church in Washington, NJ. Read more of Pastor Scott's messages on his blog, "Coffeebreak with the Word" at http://jerryscott.blogspot.com.

The Kiss That Worships
By Jerry D. Scott
A Christian for my entire life, I have attended a lot of church services! Some have included worship, many have not! Sometimes the obvious focus is to entertain the audience, with a circus-like atmosphere of performing acts. Sometimes the service is more like a family reunion, the focus being on meeting the people who are present. Sometimes I’m puzzled why anyone shows up since the whole thing is pointless, wandering through a ritual that goes nowhere. And, sometimes worship really happens. The people gathered are purposefully focused on the Person and Presence of Almighty God, challenged by His Word, and left in awe. Now, that’s church!

This Fall, I am leading a Bible Study group through the book of the Revelation. Chapters 4 and 5 are John’s vision of the Throne Room. While the language is sometimes strange to my mind, the overall message is about worship. While meditating on those chapters, I have found myself in tears repeatedly – partially from awe, partially from longing for a more consistently authentic worship in my life. Read an excerpt.

"The Lamb (Jesus Christ) stepped forward and took the scroll from the right hand of the one sitting on the throne. And when he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.

And they sang a new song with these words: “You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it. For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. … And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang: “Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever.” And the four living beings said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped the Lamb." (Revelation 5:6-9, 13-16, NLT)

Modern worship is frequently evaluated only by the experience of the worshipper.

• Was the band good?
• Did they sing songs I liked?
• Did I feel ‘blessed’?
• Were warm and fuzzy emotions stirred?

Those are all fine things, but they are not what worship is about. Authentic worship must have an upward focus. It focused on offering to Jesus the same adoration that is shown to Him in heaven! Imagine the Elders of that scene getting up from their faces and high-fiving one another saying, “I feel so blessed right now!” No way. They were not even thinking of themselves. They desired only to pour out their love to the Lamb, to give Him praise because He is worthy!

Worship is about creating awareness, but not self awareness. It is always about being more aware of God’s Presence, and as we are awed by Him, increasingly submitted to His will. If worship does not do that, it is misfocused at best, a profanity at worst! Jesus taught, "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24, NIV) The word that is translated as ‘worship’ is “proskuneo.” {pros•koo•neh•o} which means “to kiss the hand in token of reverence.” (Strong’s)

Disciple, have you leaned forward in worship to kiss the hand of God?
Have you taken your eyes off yourself, your circumstances, your needs to come to Him, just to offer up the adoration of your worship?
Remember, worship is first an attitude, then an action. An unsubmitted, self-willed Christian will not ‘worship in spirit and truth’ even though she may sing the right words and go through the motions of ‘worship.’ The heart must bow first, the will be submitted, and then worship will become worthy of its focus.

Lord, teach us to be worshippers, not just singers.
Bend our wills to Yours, draw our minds and hearts to You.
Our days are frequently a mad rush during which we forget
You and Your majesty, consumed by the things of ‘now.’
Forgive us for loving our lives so much that we fail to ‘kiss Your hand.’

Now, Lord, I join with all Creation to say:
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever!”


To bow and to kiss,
To pour forth our love,
The perfume of our adoration.
To wash with our tears
The feet that were bruised,
To bless and to serve and to gaze on.

To bow and to kiss,
To pour forth our love,
The perfume of our adoration.
To press to our lips,
The hands that were pierced,
To bless and to serve and to gaze on.

To bow and to kiss,
To pour forth our love,
The perfume of our adoration.
To reach up and touch,
The brow that was torn,
To bless and to serve and to gaze on.

Jesus, my Savior!
My life and my love!
You are my treasure,
My gift from above!

To Bow And To Kiss
© 2002 Life Unto Life Music
Andrea C. Hunter
Jeremy Michael Riddle

CCLI License No. 810055

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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