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In an interview with Lenny Smith over here, I mentioned that I would post Lenny’s response to the question “What do you think of modern worship music?” Here is a brief description he sent along to the 2009 Festival of Faith and Music organizers about a workshop he’ll be doing entitled “Worshiping Worship and Self.” It challenged my attitude toward worship, so rather than just pulling out a few quotes, I wanted to put the whole thing up. Enjoy.
Somehow we have slipped away from worshiping God, in many of our worship services. We now often are worshiping worship and,thus, are worshiping ourselves.
The idea that God is an Audience of One (or Three, for that matter) exemplifies pretty well the problem. If God is the Audience, watching us as we sing, dance, shout, and celebrate before Him, then that puts God is a passive role, sitting on His throne, I suppose, responding to us and the intentions of our hearts and the activities that reflect those intentions. It looks o.k. at first glance, but upon further consideration, I find that it is exactly the opposite of the truth. God is not the audience, He is the Actor… WE are the audience. God is on stage and we are in the audience, listening and watching Him perform His works. He is always doing his stuff, day and night (“My father works and I work,” is what Jesus said). He causes the four seasons to come and go, the stars by the billions to shine, the sun and moon to turn, nations to rise and fall, babies to be conceived and be born, the rain to fall and clean the air, the birds to sing such lovely melodies, the young man to find his lady, the whales to find their way to the mating places, the geese to fly in V’s, the bear to hybernate, the dolphins to be able to dive so deep and hold their breath so long. HE is the DOER. Our hearts are not beating automatically….God is keeping them beating. Of course, HE is the BE-er (I AM), but we can not learn anything about His Being except by observing His Doings. HE is the one on stage! WE are the audience!
If we get to see His works and hear of His genius, power, and loveliness, we will rise to our feet like any audience and spontaneously applaud and shout our approval and appreciation. It will not be self-conscious and rehearsed, but spontaneous and real and authentic. We will be beside ourselves (or outside of ourselves) and in awe of what we are seeing and hearing. We won’t even be aware of ourselves, but pre-occupied with His works and His genius and His wonders.
Many people, driving home after church, talk about the worship service and evaluate it and the leader and pastor. An audience doesn’t go home after seeing a great play or movie or game and talk all about the way they applauded and shouted and how well or poorly the cheerleaders did! No! They talk about the teams, the actors, the ones on the stage!
We often are trying to worship and at the same time watching ourselves worship and evaluating our worship while we are doing it. We are seldom “taken away” by the object of our worship, because we have not been drawn away from looking at ourselves to looking at the Other. A young man, totally head-over-heels in love with a young lady, is hardly aware of himself. He only has eyes for her! He doesn’t even know or care that his mouth is open and that he is starring at her. He is just beside himself.
Solutions? Yes, there are some.
1. Song Selection: Songs to God about God. Not songs to God about us. Not songs to us about God. Not songs to us about us. AND not some of each! To turn a ship around one has to turn it hard.
2. Introductory prayers should be to God about God. The leader must set the direction for the minds of the people. In order to do that, the leader has to have his/her own mind on God and not on leading the people. He/she needs to address God and mentally stay on God and not be concerned if anyone else is having their mind on God. Leaders don’t lead, they just do it right… followers follow, if they want to.
I suppose I could write-out all my thoughts on this, but this should give you enough…
To go along with his thoughts on worship, I thought you’d enjoy a few of Lenny’s original worship songs:
Note: All MP3s will be removed after one week
Last week (back here), I posted about musician / worship leader Lenny Smith. Today, I’d like to let you hear from him yourself, with an interview he was kind enough to give over e-mail.
The Blah Blah: Who are you, in as many words and descriptives as you’d like to use?
Lenny Smith: I AM the object of my Father’s love. I AM the light of the world. I AM the salt of the earth. I AM fulfilling all my destiny. I AM the king’s delight. (I could go on and on!)
TBB: Describe your music, for those who’ve never heard it?
LS: I do folk, soft rock, and the like. I try to write melodies, those things they had back in the 50’s. I like lyrics about things, like swaying trees, singing birds, and running streams. I don’t like to write about “Christian” concepts like: salvation, judgement, punishment, redemption. Concepts should be in theology books, not songs. Poetry should be in songs.
TBB: So you’re the father of the Danielson Famile. Explain yourself. No, really, you must have some interesting stories about the kids growing up. Any memories in particular come to mind?
LS: I remember once Daniel, as a very young boy, getting off the bus in front of our house and coming in the front door with his eyes popping out of his head. He looked terrified and was pointing to his throat. He had swallowed a gob-stopper! We all thought it was stuck in his throat and we took him to the emergency room. It turned out that it had passed on down his throat during the ride there. We were much relieved.
Not too long ago, my three sons, Daniel, David, and Andrew, and I went kayaking down the Mullica River in the Pine Barrens in South Jersey. We had a blast! We had dinner at a restaurant right on the river (I had trout). We got back in the river and had to negotiate under a fallen tree. Andrew said he would go first, being courageous, as he is. The flow of the water was fast, so he had to be careful. His kayak shot under the tree, but a branch caught his jacket and pulled him right out of the kayak and dropped him in the stream, with the kayak flying down the river. Andrew’s face turned red, but it could have happened to anyone. I bought him a coffee later.
TBB: About your kids… which one is your favorite? Just kidding. What I meant was, what do you like about each of them?
LS: My wife and I feel we accomplished being even-handed with our kids. I’ve never felt that they think one or the other is our favorite. I like Daniel’s creativity, Rachel’s boldness of expressing herself, Megan’s gracefulness, David’s courage, and Andrew’s wisdom. I also like that they visit us and seem to enjoy us and don’t hate us.
TBB: As a father of 2 (and soon 3) myself, I’m always looking for wise advice from parents who’ve been through it all already. What piece of wisdom would you give to a young father?
LS: The job of husband and father is an impossible job but we have some hope of doing it right. My advice: EVERY morning, get up early and read your scriptures for 30 mins. and play your guitar and sing songs to the Lord. Do it even on Sunday, because it might not happen well at church. Your wife and kids will do well under the branches of that tree.
TBB: In an e-mail, when I asked if you wouldn’t mind doing an interview, you mentioned that you were getting a reputation for being “somewhere out there.” What’s that all about?
LS: Since I was about 14 I have studied the Bible and spiritual matters. God, over the years, has shown me some things. Some of these things people (leaders) do not want to hear. Rather than engage in discussion and debate, church leaders often become threatened and go on the attack. I have strong opinions about the “christian” music industry, about the “rapture,” about the “second coming,” about worshiping the Father, rather than worshiping Jesus, about many traditional interpretations of Scriptures, and about the fact the Jesus was not even a Christian, but a Jew. Often, discussions and considerations can advance our understanding of things. Jesus said the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth. I think He will.
TBB: How did you start doing music?
LS: At about 10 years old, I had a period of depression. I had a stack of about 10 singles and I used to play them on the record player, over and over. That was the beginning of my love of music and songs. During high school in the late 50’s I went to dances twice a week. Bill Haley and the Comets, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Dion And the Belmonts, Connie Francis and others fired us up and, really, I would have to say we were smitten by these records. In 1960, I entered the seminary to study for the priesthood. I left my girlfriend behind and went off. I was so lonely I picked up a guitar and a fellow seminarian taught me to play. We used to play through a 12″ stack of sheet music from the 50’s almost every night after dinner. Later, I wrote my first folk-mass song: “The New Jerusalem.” Then I wrote another 40 songs before God gave me “Our God Reigns.” I’ve written another 100 since then.
TBB: Are you still leading worship at churches?
LS: No. I sing in coffee houses and clubs. Churches don’t call on me to sing.
TBB: To be honest, I’m pretty bored with most modern worship music. As a guy who’s written a zillion worship songs, what’s your opinion? What’s good? What needs to be changed?
LS: See the attached for this one. (Editor’s Note: we’ll post this later this week. It was too good to chop out a few phrases.)
TBB: Describe your process of writing songs. Where do most of your lyrics come from?
LS: For most of my songs I was inspired by some phrase in Scripture and I would then expand from there. But, lately, I AM starting from nuggets of ideas and phrases I just hear.
TBB: Which one of your songs is your favorite? Why?
LS: Whichever song I AM writing is my favorite, for some reason. My current favorite is “Welcome To The End Of The World.”
TBB: I assume you consider yourself to be a Christian. Can you describe the process God used to bring you to Himself?
LS: I had a real spiritual experience of some kind at about 10, sitting in a Sunday school class with about 20 kids. The teacher was talking about Jesus and the Father’s love for us and I just had this thing where my heart got all full and I was crying and was just so happy. Later, in 1969, I was baptized in the Holy Spirit. I couldn’t walk for about an hour. I saw a bright light for about 15 minutes and later that night I got woken-up by the sound of a choir of millions, which I heard for about 5 minutes, until I asked it to go away. (Ed: OK, I want that. My own experience wasn’t quite as dynamic.)
TBB: If you could have any one of your songs heard throughout the world, which would you pick?
LS: Right now I would say: “Welcome To The End Of The World.”
TBB: I’m not sure exactly what to think of the whole “Christian music” thing. As a man who’s been around the scene in one form or another for years, what do you make of the whole thing?
LS: I don’t believe there is such a thing as a Christian music scene. There probably are musicians who are Christians, but, for sure, they are earthlings first. I think they should stop huddling together for support and get out into the marketplace, the coffee houses and the clubs. They should stop being so afraid of the sinners. They are sinners too. Stop being so afraid of hearing cursing and seeing people drink beer. They should stop singing about Jesus and just try to become more like him. Even Jesus was not about Jesus.
TBB: You probably run into a lot of new Christian artists, between New Jerusalem Music and your kids – who are some we should check out?
LS: I would say to check out : I Was A King, Cryptacize, Dan Zimmerman, Serena-Manish, Wovenhand, Espers, Canadian Invasion, John Francis, My Brightest Diamond, to name a few.
TBB: Any final thoughts?
LS: I would love to see the young musicians study literature and poetry to help them learn how to write inspired lyrics. I would love to see them learn how to write melodies with one finger on the piano and THEN go after the chords, rather than press melodies into chord patterns. I would love to see the young artists go forth… into the coffee houses and bookstores and clubs and get into the action. Sure they are going to get hurt and disappointed and have some rejection and some fans and some bad experiences and some good ones. Join the club! We are not here to huddle together and wait for someone to come and save us. We are here to get in the game, the real game, not make our own game that just imitates the real game. The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it! The people who told us that Adam gave Satan the world are dead wrong. We are supposed to go and take back what is God’s… and it’s all His: the fashion world, the dance world, the music world, the financial world, the world of creative writing, politics, energy, you name it. How did we become such cowards? We should be afraid of nothing! With what we have in us we can do anything at all! Well, I have tired of my own voice.
… All I have to say is: Preach it, Lenny Smith! Thank you for the awesome interview. I love hearing people with some fire in their bones, and I couldn’t agree more with what he said. Enough playing for Christian audiences who already know God – we’ve gotta get out there and bring light to the darkness!
If you’ve ever listened to The Danielson Famile or Daniel Smith and thought to yourself, “Surely this music must have sprung up from the earth itself,” you would be wrong. There are two people who can claim more credit than any others on earth for creating The Danielson Famile – Lenny and Marian Smith, their parents.
Yes it’s true. Despite what you may have thought, they’re humans like the rest of us.
Danielson is one of my favorite bands. If you don’t know why, rent or buy Danielson: a Family Movie. The short of it is that, in the midst of a zillion copycat bands, they’re doing things completely differently. Their music is totally weird and faithful to the artsy, indie side of things. But they also are very open and up-front about being Christians who love God. I love it. I wish more bands would be so bold to experiment with the music and talk about their beliefs (Christian or otherwise).
Here it is – the highly-anticipated second summer mix CD at The Blah Blah: Baby, You Can Drive My Car. Pop this bad boy into your CD player and drive until your butt cramps up and your bladder’s about to explode.
Man, I love road trips. Nothing clears my head like driving for 10 or 12 hours straight, getting away from everything you’re used to. Road trips are therapeutic for me. I don’t even need to be going anywhere amazing. Just the fact that I’m leaving wherever I am and doing nothing but driving is enough sometimes.
Given the choice between flying and driving, I’d always rather choose driving, as long as the cost is the same and I can get enough time off to do the drive. Flying always leaves me a little discombobulated feeling, like I just went through some intense time travel or warped to a different planet. I get off the plan and feel disoriented for a while, like I shouldn’t have gotten to California from Wisconsin in under 5 hours. Driving leaves me time to clear my head, see the country, and adjust to the fact that I’m going somewhere. By the time I get there, I’m ready for it.
One time, I found out my friend Greg had never been west of Minnesota (we live in Wisconsin), so I convinced him to drive with me to Wyoming and back in under a day and a half. We cranked high speed and got there in about 13 hours. It was about 3 am so I pulled off the highway and napped for a couple hours before we drove to Devil’s Tower, snapped some photos, then headed home. We stopped at Mount Rushmore for maybe an hour, cruised into the Badlands, shopped at Wall Drug, and got home in time for a late dinner the next day. I was short on funds for the trip, and Greg couldn’t get more than a day off of work, which made it a challenge, but a memorable one. My lack of funds meant we ate nothing but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches the whole time. At the end of the trip, exhausted and delirious, we stopped for the best McDonald’s meal I’ve ever had.
I made this CD with road-tripping in mind. Some songs are actually about road trips. Others just have an “I’m driving a car for a really long time” feel to them. Hope you enjoy it.
1. Robbie Seay Band – Better Days (Download or Stream)
2. The Listening – The Factory (Download or Stream)
3. Justin Fox – When You Drive (Download or Stream)
4. Destroy Nate Allen – Arizona (Download or Stream)
5. Sufjan Stevens – Chicago (Download or Stream)
6. Havalina Railroad Company – Tundra (Download or Stream)
7. Jason Harwell – California (Download or Stream)
8. Rosie Thomas – Much Farther to Go (Download or Stream)
9. Jeremy Enigk – River to Sea (Download or Stream)
10. Jeff Caylor – The Egypt Vibe (Download or Stream)
11. The Innocence Mission – Lakes of Canada (Download or Stream)
12. The Cold Comfort Band – A Heart Unseen (Download or Stream)
13. Don Chaffer – Motel Rooms (Download or Stream)
14. Daniel Smith and Sufjan Stevens – Worried Shoes (Download or Stream)
15. Starflyer 59 – No New Kinda Story (Download or Stream)
16. mewithoutYou – A Glass Can Only Spill What It Contains (Download or Stream)
17. Brave Saint Saturn – Gloria (Download or Stream)
Enjoy the CD! To download the album art, just save the image above.
Note: all MP3s will be removed after one week.
I found Destroy Nate Allen one day a while back while looking for new bands at the website for Tomfest, that Christian indie festival out in Washington. If you’re in the area of Camas, check out their 2008 festival next August. It’s sure to be awesome.
Anyway, so I found Destroy Nate Allen and when I went to his website I saw this notice: “Welcome to my new and improved website. I spent the last 6 months on the road. I am finally home and ready to relax. To celebrate the return to a day job for the winter, and the three year anniversary of playing solo, I have decided to put up most of my recorded history for your downloading pleasure.”
You heard that right. All of his 10 solo albums and 2 punk band albums are there for your downloading pleasure. Nobody does that.
I found Ben + Vesper a while ago searching for new music. I decided to check out Sounds Familyre Records, the recording label run by Daniel Smith of The Danielson Famile, and there they were. He was dressed in a fuzzy leopard print bathrobe and she was dressed like some sort of diva, so I said to myself, “I’ll download their music but I probably won’t like it. This looks even too weird for me.” To see the picture yourself, click here. So I downloaded it, and I didn’t like it at first. I just kept seeing the two of them singing in their odd, art school outfits. But after time, the music’s grown on me and I can see beyond the leopard print bath robe.
Sounds like a good modern proverb, doesn’t it? Let me tell you, son, in life, you’ve got to see beyond the leopard print bath robe if you really want to make it. Moving on…
Aah… Danielson. You either love ’em or hate ’em, but there’s no denying that they’re doing important things for Christian music, especially Christian indie music, that will probably stick around for a while. Whether you’d call them artistic geniuses or bizarre eccentrics, musical innovators or noise makers, Danielson is bringing in much-needed creativity to the Christian music world.
Danielson is Daniel Smith and various numbers of his siblings and friends. In 1995, Daniel Smith convinced his 4 siblings to help him with his senior thesis in art school by joining with him in creating a band that would blend faith, art, and pop music together in a creative new way. So they rehearsed and rehearsed and then performed for the school’s art show. The family was a surprise hit, especially among indie fans, and from there, the band has gone on to tour the nation and produce albums for Tooth & Nail, Secretly Canadian, and their own label Sounds Familyre Records. When the whole family performs together, they’re known as the Danielson Famile, otherwise it’s Brother Danielson for solo stuff.