Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Eric Metaxas & Bonheoffer on Good vs. Evil at Socrates in the City

Socrates in the City host Eric Metaxas will interview, um . . . Eric Metaxas, New York Times best-selling author of "Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery" and "Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy -- A Righteous Gentile vs. the Third Reich" (due out next week) on the topic "How Good Confronts Evil: Lessons from the Life and Death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer"

The event will be held Friday, April 9 at the University Club, 1 West 54th St. at Fifth Avenue. A wine and cheese reception will be held from 6:30 till 6:55 pm. Speaking will begin at 7 pm sharp. Metaxas will sign copies of his books at 8:30 pm.

Tickets before April 2 are $35. Registration on or after April 2 and before April 8th is $50. Registration on or after April 8 or at the door is $75. Register for this event by clicking here to pay online or by calling 646-201-3375.

In addition, there will be an hors d'oeuvres and wine VIP Reception with Metaxas from 6:15pm until 6:55pm. Attendance at this reception (and which includes the event immediately following with Metaxas) is $75 before April 2, or $100 and $125 at the subsequent dates. Space for this reception is limited. A SITC Patron's Dinner with Metaxas and special guests immediately following the event (approx. 9 pm is open to any persons making a tax-deductible donation to Socrates in the City of $500 or more.
Metaxas grew up in Connecticut and graduated from Yale University in 1984. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Atlantic Monthly and he has appeared as a cultural commentator on CNN and FoxNews. For a recent feature on him here at Christian Performers, click here.

Bonhoeffer gives witness to one man’s extraordinary faith and to the tortured fate of the nation he sought to deliver from the curse of Nazism. It brings the reader face to face with a man determined to do the will of God radically, courageously, and joyfully—even to the point of death. Bonhoeffer is the story of a life framed by a passion for truth and a commitment to justice on behalf of those who face implacable evil.

Worship Together Conference

The Worship Together Conference earlybird deadline is Wednesday. Go to http://sn138w.snt138.mail.live.com/default.aspx?n=366102079 to register and for more information.

The conference will be held April 12-14 at Westside Family Church in Lenexa, KS. Join the WorshipTogether team, along with worship artists Leeland, Christy Nockels, Matt Maher, Phil Wickham, Brenton Brown and Audrey Assad, for three days of inspiring worship, insightful teaching and practical training.

Festival of Faith & Writing

Registration for the Festival of Faith and Writing April 15-17 at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI closes on Wednesday, March 31. Online registration is available at http://ffwreg.calvin.edu/.

Questions about anything Festival-related can be emailed to ffw@calvin.edu.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Back from Vacation

We're back....
Check here regularly for the latest daily news and reviews for Christian artists. Does your organization have news or events to share? Send us an email at masterworkproductions@yahoo.com.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Eason's '40 Days' Kick Off Episcopal Actors' Guild Award Series

The Episcopal Actors Guild will kick off the 2010 Thomas Barbour Memorial Playwright's Award with a reading of 40 Days by Laura Eason presented in association with NYC's Women's Project 7 pm Thursday, March 18 in Guild Hall, 1 E. 29th St. NYC.

40 Days is a highly visual, physical, metaphoric ensemble piece about facing crisis - real and imagined, personal and communal - represented by a flood coming to an unnamed American town.

There is a suggested donation of $10. Wine and Refreshments will follow. RSVP to matt@actorsguild.org or call 212-685-2927.

The remaining plays, Le Fou by Bekah Brunstetter and Apple Cove by Lynn Rosen will be staged on March 21st and 25.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Feature: Eric Metaxas

Eclectic Might be the Best Word to Describe Eric Metaxas
By Lauren Yarger
Eclectic might be the best word to describe Eric Metaxas, though best-selling author, children’s writer, speaker, storyteller, humorist, husband, father, emcee, thinker, historian and devoted Christian also would do nicely.

Metaxas is all of those things, and he does them all well. He’s written numerous children’s books including “The Birthday ABC,” chosen as a 1995 “Pick of the List” by the American Bookseller’s Association and “Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving,” awarded an Amazon.com “Number One Bestseller” Award in 1999. His latest, “It’s Time to Sleep, My Love,” illustrated by Nancy Tillman, had a first printing of 175,000 copies and debuted in the top 100 books at Barnes&Noble.com. It has been called the “‘Goodnight Moon’ for the 21st century” and Sally Taylor, daughter of James Taylor and Carly Simon, wrote a lullaby to Eric’s words and sings it on the book’s audio CD.

Metaxas’ achievements don’t stop there, however. He’s written for Veggie Tales, was editorial director and head writer for NPR’s Rabbit Ears Productions and was a writer and editor for Chuck Colson’s radio program Breakpoint. His biography “Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery” was a NY Times bestseller and is the official companion book to the feature film “Amazing Grace.”

His most recent book is the third in the “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God (but were afraid to ask)" series. This one’s the Jesus Edition (see the review here). Next month, his much anticipated biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer will hit the book stores.

But that’s not all. In demand as a speaker around the country, he has appeared as a cultural commentator on CNN and the Fox News and when he’s back home in New York City, he hosts the monthly series “Socrates in the City: Conversations on the Examined Life” featuring discussions by prominent personalities on thought-provoking and controversial topics.

So how does a guy like this answer the question, “So what do you do for a living?”

“It depends who’s asking,” he quips.

Metaxas grew up on Danbury, CT where he attended an orthodox church. His religious views drifted into “whateverism” while he was a student at Yale University where he won awards for his writing and dreamed of being a fiction writer.

After graduation, however, he was frustrated when that dream didn’t come true right away. While working as a proofreader, he met a believer who was open to answering the many questions Metaxas had about God. From this Q &A conversation, the “Everything You Always Wanted to Know” series eventually was born.

Metaxas found the answers he needed, became a Christian in 1988, and has “never looked back.” When he moved to New York, he became active with the Times Square Church, where he met his wife, and then Redeemer Presbyterian. Its Senior Pastor, Tim Keller, writes the forward for the Bonhoeffer biography.

The story of the Lutheran pastor and theologian who resisted the Nazi regime and was hanged for his part in a plot to assassinate Hitler intrigued Metaxas much in the same way Wilberforce’s crusade against slavery had. Neither man had planned to take up a cause. They simply put faith into action to oppose great wrongs accepted as right by society. He hopes the 600-page book. “Bonhoeffer: A Biography,” due out April 20 from Thomas Nelson and the first major biography about the man in more than 40 years, will cause a “fundamental reassessment” of what he believed.

“Liberals have hijacked him,” Metaxas said, often finding that much of what Bonhoeffer said and did has been taken out of context. He was biblical and theologically opposite of liberal, he said. “There’s a conservative side of him that hasn’t been discussed much.”

Metaxas was inspired by Bonhoeffer’s ability to separate ethnicity from religion in a way that allowed Jews to embrace the Messiah without losing their Jewish identity. Bonhoeffer’s personal relationship with God moved Metaxas profoundly too.

“He was as ‘sold out’ to God as anyone … but ‘sold out’ doesn’t adequately define it,” he said. “He was obedient in every part of him.”

He’s hoping Bonhoeffer’s intellect will appeal to skeptics who find it hard to believe that anyone who is very smart also can believe there is a god. Making that kind of difference in people’s lives is what motivates Metaxas in everything he does. All of the degrees, accolades and awards are “dung,” he says unless they are used for Christ.

So what’s next for Metaxas? He’d like to host a television talk show one day.

With this amazing guy, it probably will happen. To find out more about Eric and his work, visit http://www.ericmetaxas.com/. For a review by Chuck Colson of the new Jesus Edition, click here.

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God (but were afraid to ask): The Jesus Edition by Eric Metaxas

Ever wanted to ask questions about God and religion, especially about that guy named Jesus, but were afraid you might sound dumb, or worst, get preached at by the person you ask?

Now there’s a non-threatening way to find the answers you’re looking for – and someone will even ask the questions for you. He’s Eric Metaxas, who also provides the answers in his latest book, “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God (but were afraid to ask): The Jesus Edition” (Regal 2010).

In a conversational and humor-filled format, “Q” asks question after question from the perspective of someone who doesn’t know who this Jesus guy is or what the bible has to say about Him or why anyone would want to follow Him, while “A” provides the answers.

The third in the “Everything You Always Wanted to Know” series by Metaxas (the first two were "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God" and "Everything Else You Always Wanted to Know About God (but were afraid to ask)," the Jesus edition is jam packed with information that will help Christians and non-believers alike grow in their understanding.

Just about any question you might have about Jesus can be found here from “was Christ his last name?” and “how do we know he really existed?” to “was he really God?” The witty format doesn’t prevent Metaxas from tackling the really difficult questions, either. Here are some that are discussed:
• Are street preachers doing the will of God?
• Is abortion a sin?
• Can someone like serial killer David Berkowitz really go to heaven?
• Did God create evil?
• If we don’t believe in Jesus, are we condemned?

For devout atheists, the sections dealing with the historical proof for Jesus and judging whether he was a lunatic, liar or lord will be of most interest. The bulk of the book, however, relies on the bible as a source of information and will be most helpful to those with an open mind about the existence of God and that the bible is His word, or to Christians wanting to better understand their faith.

Beyond the basics, Metaxas offers some insights that will make you see Jesus and some of the things he did while on earth in a whole new light no matter where you are in your spiritual journey.

You can find out more about Metaxas and the book by visiting http://www.ericmetaxas.com/.
-- Lauren Yarger

A free reviewer's copy of this book was provided by Pure Publicity.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Artists Featured in Worship Magazine

Masterwork Productions' Torry Martin and Lauren Yarger are featured in articles in the newest issue of "Front Yard Worship" magazine. To read them, along with tons of inspiring and helpful articles by and for those in the worship arts. click here.

Meanwhile, Torry is writing a regular blog for Cloud Ten Pictures, as well. Read his latest entry, a hilarious story about an outing with his faithful dog Sam who gave another pup an unwelcome swimming lesson, here.
And look for him and Erica Lane at the Gideon Media Arts Conference and Film Festival this June in North Carolina. For information and to register, click here.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Book Review: Hear No Evil by Matthew Paul Turner

By Lauren Yarger
I picked up Matthew Paul Turner’s memoir with trepidation, hoping it wouldn’t be another offering by a clueless Christian musician who thinks he is God’s answer to secular music or by yet another Christian musician who rebels against the confines of religion and writes about why being of the world really is OK with Jesus…..

Thankfully, “Hear No Evil: My Story of Innocence, Music, and the Holy Ghost” (Waterbrook Press, 2010) is neither, and through a lens of humor, turns out to be a very readable, honest look at both of those types of Christian musicians and much more (ironically, Turner once imagined himself as Christian music’s answer to Michael Jackson).

Raised in a very strict, fundamental Baptist home where singers like Sandi Patti and Amy Grant were considered too risqué, Turner would not have seemed destined to become an authority in the world of contemporary Christian music. Through a series of circumstances driven by an innate love and ability for music, however, the church soloist-turned-Christian-band-singer, turned Christian coffee house manager finds himself covering the beat (and later serving as editor of CCM Magazine).

Turner’s journey through the music world and with Christ is a thoughtful, honest and extremely humorous one. He had me laughing out loud with stories evoking the style of one of my favorite authors, Bill Bryson, who captures the humor of real-life moments. Turner’s account of popping aspirin before enduring the physical pain of listening to the audition of a Christian singer whose “voice once in a while accidentally fell on key” caused me some embarrassment while reading on a commuter train where my constant, loud laughter was not welcome.

While Turner elicits laughs at the expense of those whom he meets along the way, he never adopts a mocking tone. Most of the anecdotes include the lesson Turner himself learned from the experience and real insight into what God thought about it.

Likewise, though he’s scathingly critical of his fundamental upbringing, a love and his respect for his parents comes through very clearly. It would have been nice, though, to have a disclaimer somewhere explaining that not all Christians, or even Baptists, are like the ones described in the book or that breaking away from legalistic fundamentalism doesn’t mean that you have to disregard the bible.

Though the focus of “Hear No Evil” is on Turner’s experiences in the music world, the book will be of interest to those not in the industry as well. His recollections about life at Belmont University, for example, can be enjoyed by anyone who has been to a Christian college. He has an uncanny ability to see everything as a learning experience that can be applied at any stage of the Christian walk. In fact, non Christians and skeptics will find the book engaging and non-threatening as well.

The next time I have some free time for reading, I might just pick up Turner’s earlier works, “Churched: One Kid’s Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess” and “The Christian Culture Survival Guide.” Or, if the fundamental part of my faith will allow me a guilty pleasure, I just might laugh out loud all the way through “Hear No Evil” again.

"Hear No Evil: My Story of Innocence, Music, and the Holy Ghost" is available by visitiing http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9781400074723

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

Book Review: Primal by Mark Batterson

By Lauren Yarger
Mark Batterson's latest book, "Primal" (Multnomah, 2009), seeks to bring believers back to the point where they were one with God, to a simpler essence of faith before complicated elements of world and religion mask the "lost soul" of Christianity.

The lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC writes an informative book with many interesting points, but it doesn't really motivate. In fact, it's not all that different from a lot of helpful books being churned out by popular pastors, except this one could use some editing.

Besides taking a rather academic tone, the writing feels redundant. You've heard these points, or ones like them, in other books or sermons by other pastors. The stories seem predictable: interesting illustrations leading to obvious lessons. That's not to say the points have no value; they do. Ironically, they just fail to engage the reader on a more "primal" level.

Some of this might come from the fact that if you don't spend every day experiencing the kind of epiphanies Batterson apparently does, you might not be able to relate to some of the stories, or end up feeling your faith is inadequate.

The book is formatted in four parts: The Heart of Christianity, The Soul of Christianity, The Mind of Christianity and The Strength of Christianity. I just couldn't get excited about some of the more profound conclusions drawn throughout the book like these:

-- "The less you know God, the less you love Him. And the more you know God, the more you love him."

-- "If we are going to have an eternal impact on our culture, we just can't criticize it or copy it. We've got to create it."

-- "God ideas are like melting snowflakes. They are delicate things of beauty, but they have short shelf lives. If you don't capture them, they disappear forever. And the cost of lost opportunities is incalculable."

Instead having "ah hah" moments, I experienced more, "Well, duh..." moments. Perhaps I was expecting too much, given the book's title and was unfairly expecting the writing to ignite a flame in my soul. There is a lot of talk about that, but talking about it (or reading about it, apparently) doesn't make it happen. The part I related to the most was a section making the case that the church should be the most creative place on earth. I related, that is until Batterson asked, "When was the last time you thanked God for your metacognitive ability?"

Well, there I was feeling inadequate again. I never had thanked God for that because I didn't even know what it was. Thankfully a definition (it's your ability to think about how you think) is provided immediately, but it left me thinking that an editor should have suggested he just say that in the first place when apparently I should have been thinking about how I came up with that thought and then thanking God for it.

"Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity" is available by visiting http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9781400074723.

A free reviewer's copy of this book was provided by the WaterBrook Multnomah 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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