Friday, September 28, 2012

Who is REALLY Narrow Minded?

It is unfortunate and tragic that the unbelieving world tends to look at Christ-followers as “narrow minded.” Ironically, in my conversations with atheists and agnostics, as well as with others who follow other religions, I’ve found that non-Christians can be very close-minded. However, believers are not beyond the temptation to close our minds to other perspectives either. One of the elements of the song, “Dream Within Your Dreams” on Michael Flayhart’s debut album to be released on Tuesday, October 2 (see, is that he challenges narrow mindedness…and I love the creative way he does so. He is dialoguing with Edgar Allen Poe, who “had a lot of bad days,” and asks the question: if our life is not what it seems, could it be our perspective that needs to be challenged? The song contains these lines: “If life’s not what is seems, you might/Be looking at it from an angle/That’s got no degrees.” An angle with no degrees. Hmmm. Quite a picture, huh. In other words, “Broaden your horizon…open your mind to other possibilities.” One of our most stubborn faults as fallen humanity is that we tend to despair “when our hope is lost” and fail to believe that we “can catch it crossing” our path again. We can begin to look at life from an angle that’s go no degrees. How is your life not what you think it should be today? How might it be the case that your angle of perspective is closed…that there are no degrees of consideration in your perspective?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Come on, Church, Get Real!

I’m Blogging on the eighth track of Michael’s soon to be released cd, Sound Manifesto, a song called “Dream Within Your Dreams,” a song that is a response to Edgar Allen Poe’s poem, “A Dream Within a Dream.” As Michael moves from empathy at the start of the song, to meaningful response, he writes: “We’ve all walked a path ahead/Of where we knew its passage led/When our hope is lost./It’s hard to find/But you can catch it crossing.” One key element of redemptive living and redemptive lyrics is being authentic. This is indeed a broken, fallen world. We are, as CS Lewis once wrote, “glorious ruins.” It will do no good to pretend that pain and heartache and suffering and loss are worldly experiences that Christ-followers somehow magically escape. We ALL walk paths where are our hope seems lost. We ALL face seasons where hope is hard to find. But living with redemptive hope means living in the hope of hope rediscovered. If we truly are gripped by the Gospel, we are able to face hardship without falling into ultimate despair. Michael captures this hope of hope in the line: “It’s hard to find, but you can catch it crossing.” As we continue to walk the path God has for us, as we continue to live by faith, hope will once again cross our path. This is not only important for us to “preach” to ourselves; we must preach it to others…not in a “preachy” way, but in a way that truly offers them hope and strength…even as Michael presents hope to Poe. Unfortunately, many believers do more harm than good by being quick to dish out spiritually-sounding platitudes to fix people, without taking seriously the pain of hope lost and the frustration of hope difficult to find. Christ-followers also do harm to the Kingdom when we try to give the impression that we never struggle with walking paths where hope seems lost. Redemptive lives are authentically honest about the brokenness of life. We acknowledge the struggle to hope in seasons of loss and pain. If the Church would be more authentic, more real, more honest…perhaps the world would find more hope as well.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Singing about Jesus without Singing about Jesus

Can you write a song that is redemptive without mentioning Jesus? Well, actually you can. Our youngest son releases his debut album, Sound Manifesto, on October 2 (available for download on iTunes or available on CD through Amazon…I know, a shameless plug). I personally love every song on the album (shocker there, right?!). But there are a couple songs that are particularly redemptive...without even mentioning Jesus. One of those songs flowed out of a literature assignment from The Westminster School at Oak Mountain, where Michael was classically educated before heading to Belmont. Edgar Allen Poe published a poem in 1849 called “A Dream Within a Dream.” The theme of the poem focuses on the insignificance and brevity of an individual’s life and experiences, especially when considered in light of the continuum of time. In particular, Poe seems to be somewhat despairing that neither his life, nor any of his experiences or “dreams” have any ultimate meaning whatsoever. In the eighth track on his upcoming album, Michael redemptively tackles the question raised by Poe: “O God! Can I not save/One [dream/experience] from the pitiless wave?/Is all that we see or seem/But a dream within a dream?” Before he tackles the question, however, the song begins with Michael addressing Mr. Poe: “Hello Mr. Poe/I’d like to know/Where were you goin/When you wrote that poem?/The one that says life’s just a dream/Well, your despair is bursting at the seams./You seemed to have a lot of bad days./So now I have some things that I would like to say." The song is redemptive right from the start. How? Because Michael makes clear he is taking Mr. Poe seriously, man-to-man, image-bearer to image-bearer, whether Poe acknowledges a Creator or not. Michael affords Mr. Poe the dignity of knowing he has been heard by another. His lyrics say to Poe: “I care about what you wrote. I want to understand you. I hear your despair.” There are few postures we can take before our fellow man that treat them with more respect and honor…and love. Then, in a line that shows incredible empathy and understanding, Michael writes: “You seemed to have a lot of bad days.” Sometimes the greatest act of love toward another is to identify with their pain and suffering. I am often guilty of trying to “fix” people instead of simply acknowledging their “hard days” and empathizing with them. See, you really can write a song that is redemptive without mentioning Jesus…reflecting Him and representing Him will do just fine.