Tag: Christian

Don’t let noise distract you from God’s love

Don’t let noise distract you from God’s love

BY DANIEL GRISWOLD

danielgriswold@gmail.com

Originally Published in the Bluffton Ed. of The Island Packet, on February 18, 2014 

20111216 No talker

Thomas Merton, a somewhat mystical Catholic monk I’ve been prone to read, has impressed me with his strong commitment to silence. In an age of action and commotion, is this a call worth heeding? Can we be quiet in the storms of life?

Like nervous electrons, we like to keep moving in constant circles, only thinking of our being in terms of action and what we have been doing recently. This constant motion and outside analysis cannot bring peace with one’s self, and we become distanced from what we truly are (whatever that might be). I love this quote in a book of his essential writings: “When we are quiet, not just for a few minutes, but for an hour or several hours, we may become uneasily aware of the presence within us of a disturbing stranger, the self that is both ‘I’ and someone else.” Merton’s concept of the stranger is an eerie ghost to most of us who have taken too little time to seek inward, into the center of our being, where silence is the only communication and the key to self-discovery.

This silence is not easy for a generation that has put action and outer self-satisfaction above all else. We prize our rewards for hard work as our homes fill with items of our conquests here and there. We’re not used to quiet stillness. It is scary, like a horror movie, we might accidentally reflect, accidentally be silent for a minute, and we become disturbed by the stirrings of what is within us, perhaps lying dormant until that time when we’re listening and processing what it might be.

I’ve been reminded by Merton that the actions we must take before we help the world are the actions that are, as he says, “non-actions” and “the quiet of worship, the reverent peace of prayer, the adoration in which the entire ego-self silences and abases itself in the presence of the Invisible God,” this way we would receive “his one word of love.” And if we lived without this “one word,” we would be cursed to live within a life of illusion, like the electron, the ever-spinning slave promoting the goals of a world that is hell-bent on action, instead of the heavenward non-actions of contemplation and prayer.

So, as the world spins (and it does not stop for anyone), when will we make time to disengage and hear what heaven is really calling out to us? There is a real danger that even the best and most righteous follower of God, whose entire life has been devoted to doing good works, and whose energy has been poured outward, may find that the superhuman effort didn’t bring the rewards they’d hoped for — something was missing. If we just take the time listening, whispering, contemplating the word of God, and seeking the will of our creator, we may find ourselves rejuvenated and more alive.

Don’t let busyness take hold of you. Say “no” to some good things, say “no” to all evil things, and say “yes” to being enveloped by God’s love. Be continually transformed by the moments of grace and appreciate that God is everywhere; you are never alone. This moment is your moment: Close your eyes, be still, listen and know, “You are loved.”

Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog atwww.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.


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Music: Mind Blown by former DC Talk singers integrating into Two top Bands

The Story: So a while back, one of my top three Christian bands, DC Talk, broke up.  It was devastating.  The other two bands were Newsboys and Audio Adrenaline, both of which continued to tour.  The three guys in DC Talk went their own ways.  Toby Mac (the rap/hip hop guy) went on to promote a lot of other great groups and his solo work has blown up (top of the Billboard a few weeks ago).  The other two work on solo projects that were received more in niche markets.  But lately, something big has happened.  Peter Furler, the lead singer for the Newsboys, must have gotten pretty busy with his producing and solo projects, so Micheal Tait (the smooth rock voice of DC Talk) became the lead singer of Newsboys, and the single “Gods Not Dead” and the album associated was amazing. Then, Kevin Max, the high art rock voice of DC Talk, recently took over for the lead singer of Audio Adrenaline.  He had some non-profit work and his voice had some physical issues.  So they released a song Kings and Queens! – and it is amazing.  Seriously – for a 90’s kid listening to Christian rock, then going through DC Talk’s demise – this is such a great moment.

Three Favorite Videos from former DC Talk Guys from Kevin Max, to Micheal Tait, to Toby Mac:

Toby Mac “Tonight”

Newsboys “God’s Not Dead” – Micheal Tait

New Audio Adrenaline Kings and Queens – Kevin Max

Music, Youth Group, and Theology: The Development of My Adolescent Theology

I have a confession to make, and it delves into my former self.  When I first became a Christian (a personal decision at age 15), my understandings of God were primordial.  If theology is the study of God, I did not have any, at least not intentionally.  Despite the prodding of my parents, Sunday School teachers, when I became a teen, the only book of the Bible I had read was “Daniel” – because that is my name.  I read it a few times actually, but I’d never read through a Gospel.

Why didn’t I have a theology, or even conceive of a need for God in my life at that time?  To answer that you really need to look at what was important to me around the time I was going from childhood to the teen years.

I was primarily concerned with (1) Making a few good friends, (2) becoming an artist/graphic designer/cartoonist, and (3) finding some good music that I could listen to that expressed how I felt (usually punk and various forms of rock ranging from hardcore to classic).  

It is interesting too, how my goals intertwined.  Music helped me find friends.  Art was usually accompanied by good music.  Friends introduced me to new music.

It was also my desire to make new friends (and peer pressure) that got me involved in our church’s youth group.  I remember the worship, I remember standing on the edge of pre-made friend circles hoping stand side by side in the circle rather than squeezing a small spot to listen to the conversation.  It was through some of my new youth group friends that I ended up going to a huge youth conference in MA (Acquire the Fire), that I saw Christian music that appealed to me for the first time in music video form.  It was POD, SuperChick and a few others.  I was soon led to the local Christian bookstore, where I began listening to the hundreds of cd’s there in a database and deciding that there were Christians who made amazing music…music I could share with my friends in youth group and at school.

It was at that point that my adolescent theology actually began to develop.  In the music, they often pulled from the words of scripture.  At youth group I was hearing scripture, but didn’t have enough unction to actually look them up.  With the music in my head, I suddenly felt the desire to fill in gaps.  Because of bands like DC Talk, Newsboys, and Audio Adrenaline – I was trying to understand God.  A general awaken in my heart simultaneously occurred at a Youth Retreat at a small chapel in New Hampshire and I accepted Christ as Lord.  That blew me away.  I still remember the congratulations afterward from some of the older kids in youth group.  Things were rolling in my faith, and the music drove me on the highway of faith, and I began to see Christ through the art, the words, the people who made the music as they gave testimonies.

A big boon to my early theology was the “Inside Out Soul” Festival in New Hampshire, where I went with my good friends from youth group and we had free reign to listen to about 100 Christian bands who came to play.  We started going to concerts and our youth leaders seemed to be excited that we wanted to do these events (though they often didn’t like getting anywhere near the stage – or mosh pit).

As I continue to grow in faith today, there is often a song or a band that is in accompaniment.  I’ve continued through college and seminary, and now through the ordination process, and having good music playing that speaks theology (though often simple) is important to me.  In fact, when I hear a song on Christian radio (here in the South) that has theology that doesn’t make sense, I get angry – because the words on the medium of music have power.  Music is important to faith development. That is why we sing.

To conclude, here is a list of some of the most influential bands in my early theological development that I felt helped grow me as a disciple.  Perhaps you are looking for some good music yourself, or are just starting out on a quest, or want to share some good music with someone who is searching.  I hope this helps.

Rock/Pop

DC TALK – Their albums Supernatural and Jesus Freak instilled a passion for Christ while dealing with the issues of the world/culture boldly.  Great writing, and three voices that melded well.  All three are now in other bands.  Toby Mac (rapper), Kevin Max (poetry/art rock), Micheal Tate (now lead singer for Newsboys).

NEWSBOYS – Step Up to The Microphone and Take Me To Your Leader are some of the best albums I’ve heard.  Entertaining Angels was absolutely beautiful, and the australian sound got me thinking differently.  They’re still releasing great music today.

JARS OF CLAY – Much Afraid is so beautifully written it is almost like poetry.  The music (and the concerts) are heart wrenching and so well done, it is hard not to enjoy and be transported.  “Crazy Times” music video was probably one of the first Christian music videos I ever related to.

THIRD DAY – All these southern rockers make is good.  Their worship albums are some of the only ones I can listen to and actually worship.  The rock albums are challenging and light a fire of faith in the heart, and the concerts are so tight. Great band.

AUDIO ADRENALINE – These guys were fun, and had lots of energy.  I had all their albums, and each one was different to me.  Bloom helped me appreciate clean rock.  Some Kind of Zombie was more electric and twinged the ear and talked about eternal life.  Underdog seemed more evangelistic and missions oriented.  They’re still around today, though much of the band has changed up.

Heavier Rock

P.O.D. “Payable on Death” – When I heard POD for the first time, I felt something inside me (perhaps some holy anger) come forward, and I felt a different element of God.  It was about survival and thankfulness to God for life every day you are alive.  “SouthTown” is still one of the best albums I have ever heard, and their newer album “Testify” is well crafted.  These guys are solid and their concerts (though I can’t keep up in the mosh pit anymore) are some of the best experiences of my youth.

PROJECT 86 – These guys know how to rock, and their lead singer has the heaviest most constant vocals I’ve ever heard.  Those who like battle music would do well with Project.  Their heavy sound blows you away, and their main themes seem to be about Angst and fighting deception.  Definitely good for those teens who are struggling and want to get pumped up.

SPOKEN – The Echoes of the Spirit Still Dwell is an album with both reverence and awe for God, written with the sounds and stories of Scripture, and had some of the best screams/heavy sound that I was looking for while I was continuing to grow as a young Christian.  Their new self-titled album has matured them quite a bit, and I highly recommend to those who like Screamo, though it is more than that.  Their concerts are amazing and they have a good fanbase.  I hope they don’t go away.  This is a favorite of mine right now.

SKILLET – This band started as a four piece standard rock set, and now they are one of the primiere power bands, with hits like “Hero” being used by the NFL, and having album after album of heavy hitting electro-rock.  The lead singer is also a pastor, and they have never compromised their message.  Well worth the listen.

SWITCHFOOT – This California band isn’t as heavy as the others, but their impact is.  Their song “Meant to Live” is one I show at youth group from time to time because it is a reminder that we are meant to live far beyond how we are currently living.  Their music is sonically pleasing, but challenges your heart and mind.  The lead vocal is unique and they are still touring popularly.  Great music.

THRICE – This band has a song, “Image of the Invisible” which blew my mind in college.  It is on the Imago Dei, or image of God, and reminded me of the impetus of Social Justice in the Bible.  God’s saving grace that leads towards a revolution of dignity for captives, prisoners, and those in darkness.  The struggle comes through the heavy sound in this very tight band.

Ska/Punk:

FIVE IRON FRENZY – My friend Mark loved FIF and I held off for a while, but slowly warmed to them as extremely talented musicians.  Their sense of humor is something that lightens the load of the listener, but the Christian message of growth through struggle, resonated, especially in the post-Columbine age.  They broke up for a time but have reunited and will start touring soon.  They are primarily a ska band with lots of brass, but stand on their own on rock tours.

SUPERTONES – These guys wrote ska that we could dance to and listen to to grow as disciples.  Their writing was almost rapping, and their themes were about Orange Country discipleship.  Having no exposure to California culture, these guys made us move and they were like sunshine in a dark arena.  Uplifting and unique through and through.  They aren’t together, but their albums are solid.

RELIENT K – These guys are still very popular, and had a silly sense of humor, but could get serious as well.  I find that they talk about relationships more than faith much of the time, but I found that ok.  Their stories were about just trying to make it through teen life despite the embarrassments, and to do it with a good laugh.  Their music was tight, and their irony often taught me about the Christian life and pop culture as well.  I recommend their first album highly.

THE DINGEES – This punk/ska band had an album “The Crucial Conspiracy”, that turned me upside down.  Their music was different, but had a way of lifting the spiritual world to your eyes, sometimes without even saying a word.  Their songs about “Latchkey kids” and about the end of things unnerved me, but I found myself soothed as well.  Hard to explain these guys, because they went from Punk to Ska to Reggae pretty fast.  Check it out.

Other/Older:

KEITH GREEN – I read Keith’s wife’s Biography of his life “No Compromise” and my life was changed forever.  His call to go and do the work of God without wasting a moment of life or a moment of your capacity to give to others inspired me and my ministry.  I doubt that he would be seen as current or cool these days, and I actually resisted my mom who gave me his albums, but after reading that book, I cannot get enough of his music.  His work is pure scripture, and he hung out with Bob Dylan, c’mon.  Well worth a try, even if just to listen to spirit of God in the music.

That’s a start, perhaps I’ll return again with some more.  This is just the tip of the iceberg.  By the time I left college I had 300 cds.  Funny, since I now have most of it on my iphone now.  So glad we don’t have to carry around our media like that.  What is nice, is that we can worship through music and appreciate the art of music and theology anytime.  I appreciate that, and I hope folks take advantage of it.  Peace.

Holy Conferencing – UMC Ministers Speaking on Holding Ourselves to a High Standard as Christians in Debate

The United Methodist Church is gathering in Tampa, Florida (which is done once every four years in different locations) to talk about the issues that challenge or encourage the church.  Below is a video, in which ministers speak on what Holy Conferencing will mean in 2012 as hot topics such as Human Sexuality and Church Organization and Restructuring come up.  One thing that impresses me is the commitment of Methodists to “Holy Conferencing,” which basically boils down to recognizing the headship of Jesus Christ, and seeing other Christians as worthy of learning and exchanging perspectives from.  It allows the heart to temper the head in debate, and I believe helps people see all points on a perspective.  This scripture, from a pdf on Guidelines for Holy Conferencing, says a lot:

Colossians 3:12-16a,17
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion,
kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has
a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so
you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything
together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which
indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ
dwell in you richly…And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the
name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

The video is over an hour, which may be long, but the first 25 minutes are worth it.  Check it out:

Pray for the UMC during this season of General Conferencing.  To learn more, click here.

If you are a interested in Church Governance like me, visit and see more videos of General Conference here at their Youtube Channel.

Christian? – “Y You No Meme?” Translation – I’ve Been Searching For Wholesome Christian Memes – Found Some

I don’t know if Christians are aware of a conversation taking place on the internet.  The conversation is primarily visual, involves lots of laughter, is challenging and often evokes gut reactions, and is often denigrating to believers of Christ.  I did notice, however that these conversations are full of misunderstandings and misconceptions, and if there are no Christians involved in the conversation, and providing a voice of love and compassion in this world, there will be no gains or healing.  This conversation is done in the form of MEMES.

Memes are humor based one or two liners that are associated with an image that grabs attention.  Our culture is becoming incredibly visual in the internet age.  The person who said an image is worth a thousand words is probably understating their importance today.  The visual is the message in these cases.  They evoke an emotion or a feeling or a familiarity associated with pop culture.  The consumer reads the image and wants to learn more, so they read the words – placed in often unattractive yet attention grabbing white fonts.

If you still don’t know what a meme is, check out the lolcat memes at http://icanhascheezburger.com/. That is a generally inoffensive meme place, where people share funny photos of cats saying funny things.  There really is no point but entertainment there.

My point comes into play at the philosophical level, where young people, adept at using computers, are using their time to make arguments using memes – and these memes spread on social media sites, or are googled, etc.  They go viral, and people nod their heads in laugh, but they’re only seeing one side of the argument.  In fact, I’ve found that in their mini-debates, fallacy in argument seems to be the rule.  If you build up a “straw man” enemy (the weakest argument by your weakest opponent), and tear it down easily, you win.

I do wonder, if there were more intelligent (yet humorous) Christian memes out there, speaking truth in clever ways, would the dialogue change towards (1) Honest Dialogue (2) More Truth Seeking (3) A Spirit of Charity (4) Less Vulgarity on the interwebs?  I wonder.  Though I’m not holding my breath, and I have found it hard to sit down myself and think through appropriate yet insightful memes, I have found some interesting ones that talk to the Christian Experience, or communicate old messages in new ways (in the gallery below – feel free to click through).  I have found them all through the net and many of them have no attributions, so I apologize for not linking.  They have been passed around quite a bit.

In my thoughts I have struggled with the question, “Why don’t Christian’s Laugh?”  – as much, especially when it comes to our own failures in faith.  I understand that our walks are serious, and as Christians we have a huge amount of responsibility (in which we have often failed), but in all honesty, God made us as humans ‘like’ God, not as gods.  We err, and for some reason, laughter is a form of healing which we need, and often breaks the ice for more serious discussion and growth.

It is a hard subject though, because pop images and modern assumptions are not evenly spread in the minds of people.  Not everyone gets a reference to emo glasses used in images, or of Indiana Jones or Chuck Norris quotes being used as propellants for a hidden truth.  There is the possibility of offense, so I do walk lightly here.  The intention of all this is not to offend, but to get people thinking about what is already going on.

I do not recommend just googling “Christian Meme” without you realizing that most memes out there are people who have obviously taken a strong anti-Christian stance and often communicate it in vile and venomous ways.  It is a wild west kind of culture, and there are literally no rules right now.  That is because it comes out of the “trolling” anonymity of the internet.

But that is why I believe that good, well written and made Christian memes could add a new dimension, and perhaps one day eclipse the ridiculousness of the culture. Speak truth in love,  in a way that others will understand, and perhaps you will see God move in the hearts of people.  And you may see discipleship start with a few chuckles, as long as we point to the depth of understanding and wisdom that a life devoted truly to Christ can offer.

Here are some that I’ve found.  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.