Tag Archives: music

Music, Art, and Speakers for Peace, Justice, and Hope

The fourth Lion and Lamb Festival is coming back to the Quad Cities on September 17, 2016. Musicians, artists, and speakers are coming together for a full day of inspiration. From its inception, the Lion and Lamb Festival has endeavored to bring people together to talk, learn, sing, and grow together. Its purpose is to create community, and to encourage people to put their faith into action. At its foundation is a love of Christ, and a belief that faith should matter to people. Faith in a God of love, justice, and mercy should inspire people to take action. We are called to do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with God.

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I’ve been to every Lion and Lamb Festival, and without exception, what I remember most is friendships. At each one, I met extraordinary people. I met authors, musicians, parents, and people of faith who are growing. I met people who wanted to experience the world, and make a difference. I’ve created lasting friendships with people I met at Lion and Lamb Festival, and that is why its happening again this year. We want to create a place where people can come together and connect to each other and to God’s higher purpose on all of our lives.

In September, we will gather at Camp Milan Retreat Center for the second time. Camp Milan is a part of the Quad Cities, only a few miles from Moline and Rock Island. There will be a full day of concerts on an outdoor stage. A large grassy area is shaded by huge oaks. There is a small playground for kids and volunteers will lead kids activities inside, too. There’s even a basketball court to blow off a little energy. Local food trucks will be invited to provide great meals and sweet treats. Inside  the retreat center, speakers will share their stories. They will talk about their work, their service, and their ministry. Artists will be given a chance to talk about their inspiration and sell their work.

The Lion and Lamb Festival is named for a part of Scripture where Isaiah describes a time when peace will transcend even the natural laws. There will be a day when swords will be beaten into plows, and even mortal enemies will lie down together. The Lion and Lamb Festival looks forward to this promise knowing that the arts are our best way to get there. The arts are a way for people to be connected, and to imagine a future of peace. Creators, dreams, and those who believe that music and art can change the world, you are invited to come and be a part of something. It’s not something big – at least not yet – but it can be something great.

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The Open Table

Click on the picture to see a part of Amy's house concert.

Click on the picture to see a part of Amy’s house concert.

It was a nearly perfect night.  Ever since, I’ve been thinking, “Can we do that again?”

We gathered in at our home.  It was the first cool night of autumn, and we started the night with some chili and hot apple cider around a fire pit.  Then we came inside.  There were 15 friends sitting in couches and chairs around our living room.  Amy Cox, a talented singer-songwriter with a heart for Jesus and a passion for justice, brought her guitar, a mic, and a small speaker.

She sang.  She told stories.  The kids came and went as they pleased.  The older ones stayed upstairs, listened to the music and whispered to each other in their own little world. The younger ones came and went, going from the floor to the basement to play when they felt like being more rambunctious.  The littlest ones stayed in laps and arms – not necessarily the laps and arms of their own parents.  At one point I looked around at this group of people, all of whom I care for deeply, and my heart was warmed.

“This,” I thought, “is church.”

It was a holy moment, one which I want to re-create.  My wife and I have talked since.  “Do you think we could do that again?”  And time and again our answer is, “I don’t know if we can, but we need to try.”  Unfortunately, Amy Cox isn’t available.  She’s busy planting a church in Virginia, and I wish her success.  She was able to come through the Quad Cities on a cross-country trip to San Diego, and I’m so glad she was able share a night with us.

Luckily, I have some friends with some musical talent, and I’m hoping we can create something together.  Picture this:

It’s a Thursday night.  People come to our house at 6:30.  Hopefully everybody’s had dinner, but we’ll have some small snacks, wine, coffee, and we’ll just chat for a little while as everyone arrives.  Eventually, we’ll write down something for which we would like prayer, and throw it in a basket.  All are invited to share if they’d like, but don’t have to.  We share a brief time of prayer and silence.  Someone with a guitar leads sings a couple of songs.  Some sing along.  Some of the kids stick around for the music.  Some have gone down to the basement to play.  Someone reads a passage of Scripture.  I talk about it for ten minutes or so.  It’s not really a sermon – more like a guided discussion.  We wrap up the discussion, then we talk about a mission or ministry – local or global – and take an offering for it.  Sometimes instead of an offering, we might put do some kind of hands-on mission.  Then I get a nice loaf of bread and grape juice, and we share in Communion.  We sing another song or two, and go home.  Before we leave, everyone takes one of the prayers that was written down at the beginning of the night and we promise to be in prayer for whatever we draw over the course of the week.

This is my vision.  It is kind of scary to put it out there like this, but I do so because I wonder, does anyone out there have a similar experience?  What kind of worship have you experienced outside of church walls?  What is the value of gathering in homes?  What are the pitfalls?  I’d love to hear from you.

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One piano sounds like a string symphony playing Christmas Classic

Every time I watch the Piano Guys, I find myself doubting.  They cannot possibly be doing this with just one piano.  This is truly remarkable.  I could write more about being inspired to use old tools in creative ways, or the power of team work, or the discipline it must take to perfect this kind of performance.  Instead, I’m just going to take it for what it is – a beautiful piece of music that should be savored.

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Live from #LionLamb13

At some point tonight, I’m going to go to sleep.  When I do, I will sleep well.  Not yet though.  First, I have to stop my head from spinning.  I’m not sure how to explain all that happened today at the Lion and Lamb Festival.  I think the only way I can tell you about it is by telling you a story about my little girls.

Within minutes of arriving at Praise Park in Fort Wayne, Indiana, we were greeted by two little girls.  Age six and five, they were delighted to see my two daughters, age six and three.  The four of them became friends immediately, achieving immediate intimacy in a relationship in a way that only children can.  The four spent most of the day together.  “I’m in first grade too!”  They worked on crafts together.  “I like to color too!”  They ran and danced and played together.  “I like soccer too!”  They relished in learning about each other, and sharing the things they loved in an unbridled and unpretentious way.  For a six-year-old, there is no such thing as idle small talk.  There is only genuine discovery.

As a cool breeze slowly transformed the sweltering day into a perfectly pleasant evening, the girls paused for a snack.  They sat on a bed sheet in the field as Amy Cox played on the stage.  I discovered Amy on the Lion and Lamb’s youtube channel.  She was one of many musicians I had been looking forward to hearing.  As she played, I watched as the group of four girls started to grow.  The little community they created expanded.  Soon there were two more girls, and now there were two boys.  They were coloring.  They were looking at the Star Wars books we brought.  They were sharing cookies and apples.  They were dancing.  At this little group of children sat in a circle too perfect to have been planned by any parent.  They each had an apple, and all were dancing as Amy played.

While Amy was playing her beautiful song, “The Table,” which I included in a video below, one of the girls noticed something out of place.  There was another little girl just a few feet away.  She left the circle, tapped the girl on the shoulder and asked her to come play too.

In this moment, the Table was not a table at all.  It was a bed sheet spread on the ground.  There was no bread and wine.  There were apples, and grapes, and pretzels, and there was more than enough to share.  There were soccer balls, and a big field in which to run.  There was music in the air, and a Spirit calling the children to dance.

Lion and Lamb is not an event.  It is a community.  It is a community of people, spreading out a bed sheet, trying to figure out how to invite people to come, have an apple, and play.

It is Erica, a poet who spit her rhymes with a rawness that made me at one moment cringe, at one moment laugh, and at another moment make me bask God’s melody of creation.  She challenged me to step out to use art to proclaim peace and justice, and taught me a new word: artivism.  She inspired me to sit and try to write a poem.  I was shocked, and a little afraid, at what came flowing out of my pen.

It is Bruce, an author, an Asian man, a father, and a grandson of a woman who did not know where to sit in a bus in Little Rock Arkansas because she was not black, but did not see herself as white either.  He taught me another new word, microaggression.

It is Lorelei, who is training women to empower themselves and their communities in business.

It is Richard, a musician who is looking for songs that express a deeper understanding of God, and urges worship leaders to move beyond cliche and rote expressions of religiosity.

It is Rachel, a blogger and author who I admire and encouraged me to find my own voice by listening.  In her talk she challenged “preachers who want to be the next Rob Bell, and writers who want to be the next…” and didn’t fill in the blank, ONLY TWO DAYS AFTER I WROTE THIS: “Can I be the next Rachel Held Evans? Do I even want to be?

Tomorrow I am going to step into the speakers tent, and I am going to offer my voice.  I have already been changed by this community.  The plans I had for the talk I will give have changed too.  Right now I have no idea what I am going to say.  All I am going to do is throw open a sheet, take out a bag of apples, and share Christ’s love with anyone willing to play.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ll6a0caW5LU

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Lion and Lamb Festival

lion lambHeatherlyn, Amy Cox, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan, Andrew Peterson.  These are not household names, but I’ve spent the last few weeks listening to them on the Lion and Lamb Festival Youtube and Facebook pages.

They are wonderful, original artists, and I am looking forward to spending two days with them, and with the rest of the Lion and Lamb Festival community.  For two days over Labor Day Weekend, I will be in Fort Wayne, Indiana at the Lion and Lamb Festival.  I am one of a group of speakers, artists, and musicians that are coming together for worship, conversation, and community.

The mission of the Lion and Lamb Festival is to build a “community of hope gathering to share gifts, inspire authentic conversation, and passionately follow God in the world.”  As I read through the list of speakers, I am humbled by my own inclusion.  The gathering speakers are people doing the hard work of justice in the world.  They are an inspiring group of people, and I feel so honored to be a part of it all.

Rachel_Held_Evans_t580The keynote speaker of the event is Rachel Held Evans, whose writing I admire greatly.  She is speaking three times at the festival.  On Saturday she is a part of a “Conversation on Millenials and the Church.”  Later that evening she is a part of the main gathering.  On Sunday she is sitting down for a Q and A about her book “A Year of Biblical Womanhood.”  This is a remarkable book, which I blogged about once.  One of the highlights of my blogging career was when she started following me on Twitter, and retweeted the link to my post.  Imagine then, my excitement to find out that my time slot on Sunday comes on the same stage, immediately after her.  

I am looking forward to this festival for so many reasons.  It is going to include some of my favorite things in this world.  I will be there with my family, camping away from home for first time.  We will listen to inspiring live music.  We will soak up the energy of powerful leaders.  I will have a chance to tell my story to a new audience.  Above all, we will build community.  We will create relationships.

It is going to be an exciting two days.  And I want you to come along.  I have two free passes to the Festival.  If you want to go, let me know in the comments section or on my Facebook page.  Every name that comments (with a valid email address on this page, or on the Facebook page) before Monday, August 19 will be put into a hat.  I’ll draw the winning name on Monday, and post it with a new blog post.

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Worst video ever: What’s up with you?

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
― Albert Einstein

I don’t think Albert Einstein knew Eddie Murphy, but when I see this quote, I think of the video below:

Eddie Murphy is one of the all-time kings of comedy.  He was at times profane and vulgar, but he was (as his second video claimed) raw.  He was a little bit angry.  He was a little bit dangerous because he had something to say about American culture.  He was young and brash and black and brilliant.  He was Chris Rock before Chris Rock. I remember watching his first, far superior, video “Delirious” in my friend’s basement.  We knew we were doing something very wrong, and I didn’t get a lot of the jokes, but I knew it was funny.

Most young people now only know Eddie Murphy as Donkey or Dr. Doolittle.  There is very little dangerous about him.  But I remember Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood, Gumby, Buckwheat, and his duet with Joe Piscopo as Frank Sinatra doing “Ebony and Ivory.”  I am black and you are white.  You are blind as a bat and I have sight.  Yet it seemed like Eddie Murphy always wished he was a singer.  And when he sang as a part of his comedy routines, he was funny, and a pretty good singer.

The problem arose when he tried to sing as a singer.  Michael Jackson and Eddie Murphy could easily be described as geniuses, but if they were judged solely on “What’s Up With You,” I don’t think the word genius would appear.  The song, I think, is supposed to be about the environment and how we are supposed to treat the earth.  Beyond repeating “Whazzup wit you” about 45 times, he doesn’t really say much.  Although I’m pretty sure he says something like “Let’s Jackie Chan each other.”

The vocals are “good for a comedian” but not food for a singer.  This video is just weird.  I’d love to describe it for you, but let’s just say it includes Murphy in an undershirt, Jackson in his pretend-army uniform, a bunch of kids that went to school with Carlton and Will skipping and dancing around, some animated hearts, birds and musical notes, some shifts from black and white to color, and some half-hearted dancing which includes Murphy doing some of Jackson’s moves and a lot of exaggerated head nodding.

Like I said, worst video ever.  And further proof that Einstein knew what he was talking about.  Do what you’re good at, or you might just look stupid.

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Doug Rees – Musician

Tonight was date night, so yesterday I googled “Live folk music Quad Cities.”  We love listening to live music.  It is one of our favorite things to do together.  I love to sit in bar or a coffee shop with a mug of a strong-tasting brew (hot or cold) and just lose myself in music.  I can close my eyes, tap my fingers and be made new.

Tonight we were not disappointed.  We found a place called Mojo’s, which is a sort of songwriter’s academy.  We found some comfy chairs, ordered two decaffs, and sat back and listened to some amazing music.  We were treated to the music and storytelling of Doug Rees.  We not only met a great artist, but we made a couple of friends.  It was a wonderful evening.

I’m not a music critic, so I’m not going to try and describe Doug’s music.  Instead, I posted one of his songs.  It was a song that touched me.  It reminded me of the many towns that I call home.  It reminded me of the unifying spirit of people in community.  Many of his songs had this spirit flowing through them – the spirit of friendship, love and roots that run deep.

I hope you take the time to listen to some of his music.  He played a few of his new songs, which will be released soon.  I’d love to hear “Nature Boy” again.

Doug, if you read this, I want to say thank you.  Thank you for a wonderful night.  Thank you for your stories.  Thank you for your songs.  Thank you for making the trip up from Cape Girardeau to sing to a few folks in a coffee shop in Davenport.  It might not have been the bright lights of an arena, but I will remember your concert forever.  Above all, thank you for your sincerity and joy.  It was a pleasure to spend a little while with you.  My only regret is that we couldn’t stay longer.  I’m looking forward to the next CD, and eagerly anticipate your next trip to the Quad Cities.

To hear more of Doug, and a few other great artists, check out the Music link.

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Blue Ribbon Jug Band

I just found this myspace page for the Blue Ribbon Jug Band.  There are five songs to listen to – they are really good.  They have an O Brother, Where Out Thou? kind of sound.  Give them a listen. You have to love a band that uses a kazoo.  If you like it, look them up on facebook and become a friend of the band – they do shows in the Chicago area.

http://www.myspace.com/blueribbonjugband

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