Battle for the High Places (The Story: Ch. 14: Post 1)

Chapter 14 of The Story (with this chapter occurring approx. 930-848 BC) involves kings fighting for supremacy and kings using geographical high places for their own ambition.  The words “high places” occur 5 times in this chapter.  In one instance, after King Jeroboam built two golden calves he built shrines for them on “high places”.  Later, idols were also made of metal, “Asherah poles” were made to worship the deity Asherah (2X), sacred stones were set up “on every high hill and under every spreading tree”, and an altar and temple were later made to worship the deity Baal.  (Artistically, other items listed in this chapter included “treasures of the temple of the Lord and the treasures of the royal place”, gold shields, bronze shields, gold [4X], silver [3X], stones, and timber).  In contrast to his predecessors, King Asa “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as his father David had done” and got rid of the male shrine prostitutes and the idols that had been made.  He even demoted his grandmother Maakah from her position as queen mother due to her creating a “repulsive image” for the purpose of worshipping Asherah.  King Asa cleared the land of Judah of all its idols.  However, King Asa did not remove the high places.  King Asa had it right.  Proper perspective involves looking upwards – towards God as the Creator – rather than for a person to elevate themself – and create with the intention of elevating themselves and accomplish their self-centred and ambitious objectives and to ‘be worshiped’.

The Shortest Lesson I Teach

I sometimes lead in to teaching on ‘How to Receive a Compliment’ by saying that it’s the shortest lesson that I teach. That’s because all that a person needs in responding to hearing praise are two simple words – “Thank you.” However, it’s often difficult for people to accept adulation for at least two reasons. First, and unfortunately, many people are more accustomed to hearing destructive criticism than positive feedback. Second, it is natural for a person to want to clarify and justify any perceived shortcomings in herself or himself – why something was not A+, 100%, and so forth, and basically – perfect. In this way, the principle consists of two words and not the three of “Thank you but…”. As artists we can be extremely self-critical and hard on ourselves. We can almost always (quickly) point out how we could have done things better. However, we need to practice resisting this urge. It’s important to find our worth in who we are and not what we do or create.  It’s also important to do our best and to be able to leave it at.  The maturity of a person, and an artist, includes developing the skill of receiving a compliment with the two words above, and not three or more.

© Kev W Wood 2014

How Long Does It Take?

My post last week, ‘The Marinating of Art’, was regarding how created art needs to have time to ‘marinate’. This week I will address the question, ‘How long does it take for art to marinate?’ The answer is that it depends since different types of art require varying amounts of ‘lead time’ for preparation, and possibly creation also. A worship leader leading a song which both she and the congregation are familiar vs. a musician creating a new arrangement. Actors preparing execution of an existing work vs. a script being written and then performed. I encourage church service design teams to plan as far ahead as possible to allow for as many creative options as possible with different ideas and artistic disciplines needing different amounts of preparation time. How nice it was once to be booked at the beginning of September to minister in a Sunday morning worship service at the beginning of December with the pastor being able to tell me not only his topic and text but his main points as well. The advance notice and information helped me to prepare very well. In contrast, some excellent and creative ideas are conceived when it is too late to implement them, or to execute them with excellence. On this note, respecting volunteers (or even compensated artists) includes inviting them to be involved with sufficient notice. As I wrote last week – a commitment to excellence may result in an artist turning down an invitation to serve when there is not enough time to prepare well.  We perform for an Audience of One. As we prepare a feast of artistic worship for him, may we take the time, effort and care to ensure that it is as seasoned as possible.

© Kev W Wood 2014

The Marinating of Art

The creation of any type of art is much like the marinating of a steak. The famous mime Marcel Marceau was known to have told students that their new choreography was excellent and did not need to be changed. However, he would sometimes qualify, it needed to ‘marinate’ before it was ready for the stage. His feedback alludes to an excellent principle that is not only applicable to the arts but life overall. Rather than to simply meet deadlines, an approach that allows for greater excellence is to schedule completion of the creation of performance, literary or other art sufficiently in advance of the deadline or booking so that appropriate changes and revisions can be made. For example, a dancer will finalize choreography significantly sooner than the day when a new piece is presented. This is assuming that an artist is booked or engaged far enough in advance to allow for such planning. However, practice of this ideal may require an artist to turn down an invitation when a person would be rushed to prepare and there is not time for proper ‘marinating’. As the saying goes, ‘Failure to plan on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on mine.’ If we expect our art to be anointed we need to allow for God’s timeline and not expect him to bless our ‘cramming’. Even the most talented and gifted chefs can’t rush marinating without compromising. The question asked by many cooks, ‘How long does it take to marinate?’ will be answered in next week’s post.

© Kev W Wood 2014

To Play the Right Notes

It goes without saying that one of the goals of a member of a church worship team is to sing or play the right notes. For somebody to miss this objective is distracting and affects a worshipper’s experience. In defining who constitutes a worship team most people think of those who play instruments and sing (even though the leading of worship can include spoken and other mediums also). In referring to the singers and musicians I believe that it’s more appropriate to use the term music team. I believe that a worship team, in any given setting, is everybody involved in the leading of worship – on and off the platform, both visible and behind the scenes. What good is it if the singers sing the correct notes and the musicians are in the right key if an audio operator overlooks turning on a microphone when needed? An actor forgets her lines? A computer operator advances a song slide prematurely? A dancer doesn’t become familiar with the stage beforehand? A lighting operator changes a cue at the wrong time? A stage hand doesn’t put the podium in place? And so on. By each person involved in the carrying out of a service plan being proficient in his or her area of responsibility and committed to striving for excellence (but not expecting perfection of one’s self) worshippers present will be able to focus on worshipping. May we each seek to consistently play the right notes in our respective roles of service.  May leadership expect excellence in each area of ministry.

© Kev W Wood 2014