It's that time of the year where I go through all of the albums I've listened to and loved over the past year and try to narrow it down to my TOP 5. So, without further adieu, here's my top 5 albums of 2011 in order of their importance.
This time of year (maybe more than any other) we should be A-political.
Luther wrote, "The birth of Christ took place exactly when the Emperor Augustus sent out a decree that all the world should be taxed. This was no accident...At the very first moment of his life, Christ and his parents had to give evidence of obedience, not to God, but to the heathen emperor, the enemy of the Jews. This is the strongest proof that Christ's Kingdom is to be distinguished from that of the world. Christ did not erect a kingdom like an earthly king, but wished to be subject to a heathen government."
So here we are 2011-ish years later, once again subject to a heathen government. And what I propose this Christmas, is that we recognize the heathen government(s) we are subject to, and to remain A-political.
If you've read my blog for very long, you might read that I view politics as a big joke. Politics give us pizza as vegetables, allows abusive churches (Catholic) to lobby for shortened Statute of Limitations (New York), and can be "pro-life" while being pro-capital punishment and war.
It's a joke.
And I propose that this Christmas we remain separate from this heathen joke-of-a-government, and truly distinguish ourselves from the world.
She and Cora were listening to the radio and Little Drummer Boy started playing. Cora asked if it was me. It wasn't. Then she went through all of my musician friends...was it "Jeremy Larson, Andre, Harry, Brendan?"
Its a great story, because I know that my girls are immersed with music and musicians.
But that got me thinking a little more. I tend to listen to lots and lots of music, different artists and bands, and don't repeat very often. I wonder if that change is a good or bad thing for my girls? Would it be better to listen to a season of Beatles, a season of Radiohead, and a season of Sting, etc, or is it better for the constant rotation?
Several months ago, I had the amazing opportunity to play violin for a LIVE DVD shoot, with Jeremy Larson, Darren King (MuteMath), and Stacy DuPree (Eisley). And after some time in the editing booth, the DVD is nearly here! Until then, here's a preview...
I get a nice close up at 2:09...also, the song gets quite intense around the 4:25 mark.
In light of BLACK FRIDAY and CYBER-MONDAY, I thought it would be appropriate to share an excerpt from my book in progress, Outsourcing God. How does consumerism effect the church?
---------------------------------- (c) 2011 Ross Christopher Donaldson - Outsourcing God.
What is it about the weekly encounter we label “worship,” that causes such a stirring, such life change, or conversely nothing at all?
I believe that in our consumer-driven, materialistic society, we fall prey to the habitual re-creation of an entertainment encounter. And just because I use the term “entertainment,” doesn’t mean I’m referring to a particular style of encounter; contemporary, progressive, traditional, post-modern, blended, etc. Rather I’m referring to the fact that we try and dish out what gives “our people” what they want.
We spend an amazing amount of time calculating what will drive the numbers up and try and meet those expectations unequivocally. If that’s a rock band or pipe organ, we’ll do what brings in the numbers. After a season of positive encounters, we say that things are going well, budgets are in the right place, staffing is secure, and things are generally healthy. However, when these encounters leave us uneasy, we quickly blame the ministry staff, begin questioning the church’s stewardship, and eventually go down the road of, “oh, remember how things used to be…”
It’s a natural place to go. This line of thinking is very normal. However, the fact that we got there in the first place illuminates the real failure. The fact that we can, (in one week and one worship encounter), determine the encounter’s success by the ministry staff’s hard work, excellence and spiritual maturity, and the next week call it a failure, without any hesitation that just perhaps the encounter has something to do with how we arrive, the preparedness of our hearts, and the willingness of ourselves to be challenged, moved, and disrupted, shows how far the church has gone and how we’ve allowed the gods of culture to infiltrate.
Yesterday kicked off Advent, and I'm super excited for all that is entailed in celebrating the season with the family!
Last year, Kate and I decided to SLOW THINGS DOWN from the norm of pre-Christmas behavior, so that we might not rush through the meaning of the season, and potentially miss some really great family time.
This year, we'll light the Advent candle(s) each night, talk about the meaning of this season, and will try and engage in some kind of festive activity.
Here's just a few of the things we'll do over the next few weeks. If you're in St. Louis, you should take advantage of some of the local awesomeness!
I'm typing this from home in St. Louis. So, we officially made the long haul back from Breckenridge...13 wretched hours of nothing-ness (Kansas), and kid movie soundtracks to serenade me the entire route.
Along the way we made a couple mandatory stops:
biscuits & gravy (nourishment for the soul) Loveland Pass (the view was incredible & the girls loved it!)
Last night we left St. Louis around 7:30PM and rolled into Breckenridge, CO this morning around 8:30AM. It was a long haul, but we made great time (and that's even counting the time I got pulled over in Eastern Kansas).
We're out here enjoying a few days in the snow while I'm playing a show at the University of Colorado on Wednesday. I must say that I LOVE being a touring musician; getting to make these fun trips across the country! So thank you to everyone that's ever come out to a show, bought a CD, or helped me out in any way, shape, or form!
We devoured a hearty breakfast at a diner in Dillon this morning then decided to take a trip on the Breckenridge Peak 8 gondola.
This weekend, I sat 20 feet above the ground in a tree, and exhaled. I swayed with the wind, watched the forest come to life around me at daybreak, and watched it all fade away at sundown.
From my vantage point (and without distractions) I was able to do lots of thinking and brainstorming. I focused on several themes (each separate - sort of) and will be writing on them in the near future.
Light / Shadows / Economy
p.s. the blog will be mostly pics this week as I'll be in Colorado performing at The University of Colorado
So hopefully you took THIS ENNEAGRAM TEST yesterday. It was very self-revealing to me. This was quite possibly the most revealing personality test i've ever taken.
I scored Type #4.
Fours are unique and create their own distinct culture. They experience the highs and lows of life intensely. They take great pride in their aesthetic tastes...
It's a great descriptor of the creative artist.
What was revealing though, was not the "creating their own distinct culture" part, but the "experiencing the highs and lows with intensity" part.
This is completely me!
This answers my ULCER questions...I'm either WAY up, or WAY down.
I could call this a curse, but instead i'll explain my take...
I hate plateau. I have no interest in status quo. If you look at my music catalogue (the stuff I write, or the stuff I listen to), there's very little mid-tempo, mid-intensity, music in the playlist(s). I either like stuff that's in your face and over the top, or stuff that's extremely minimalist and subdued. I listen to progressive stuff, risky stuff, that people either love or hate.
As I tackle leadership, momentum, change, pace, etc, I try to stay in the poles - either really high, or really low. Let me explain.
Some risks end in failure (the low). Some risks end in home runs (the high). I'm ok with both of those places. I just love to try new things - to risk new things.
What I'm not ok with, is maintaining. I see plateau as slow death. Right, wrong, or indifferent, that's how I operate.
I cringe at the phrase, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."
On a cultural level, you'll never hear me say, "those were the days..." But even more distasteful, is the attitude of trying to be in the current fad. Fads fade. Fads are temporal. And if you focus on the current, you waste a lot of creative time on what might just be a fly-by-night trend.
I'm much more interested in creating future culture (even if that means I misread trends and context, and what I create is discarded and forgotten). At least, I'm looking ahead and working creatively to create newness, richness, and hope. Because nothing in the future-minded creative process is lost. It all sharpens and refines.
I hope you'll take the test if you haven't already, and that it's as meaningful to you, in connecting the dots, as it has been for me.
A few weeks back I had the amazing opportunity to work with a great organization, iEmpathize. (They brought me in to provide an artistic experience and musicical backdrop for a local St. Louis event) They're a group bringing awareness to the sex trade around the globe. They're fighting it on many fronts, and I'm proud to be an advocate for them and their cause!
Over the weekend they called and asked that I come out to the University of Colorado to provide a musicical backdrop for their big event. Needless to say, I am stoked and am looking forward to a continued future relationship with iEmpathize.
Check out this video that tells a bit more of the story:
About a year and a half ago, I was in the ER with the worst stomach pain I'd ever felt. It turned out to be 4 severe ulcers. The Dr. prescribed some meds and all was well, until about 3 months ago. This time however, the ulcers were in my throat. It felt like swallowing razor blades. The Dr. put me on steroids for a week and the ulcers went away. Welp, today I was back at the Dr. with what I thought was strep, but the ulcers are back - and bad. My whole throat is covered with them. Its pretty nast.
Anyway, I must say goodbye to all of the spicy foods that I adore!
Yesterday I found myself in a conversation/debate about leadership styles. I argued that a true and healthy leader does not provide 100, 80, even 50% of the answers for those following, but that we must push back with more questions to create a desire and make the vision that of the person questioning (so as to not live out the other man's faith). My friend argued that we must present our position with certainty and confidence; that anything short of it is un-true, and does no good to the one asking. I could go on and on, but I thought that this section of my book spoke to the subject:
(c) 2010 Ross Christopher Donaldson
To those of us that currently call ourselves leaders…here’s permission to not always having the answer. If you don’t feel permission to leave things a bit unhinged and untidy, I’m sorry. It’s the nature of the beast – plus it feels good when we/I have all of the (right) answers. I quickly gain public persona and become the _________ answer man (you fill in the blank).
I tend to believe however, that Christ came to demonstrate a new type of leadership. His new leadership is completely counter-cultural that it leads people to scoff terms like radical, crazy, otherworldly, revolutionary, and un-realistic. But what we know of Christ is that he rarely did things in the assumed way.
When He should have ridden a stallion, He rides the colt of a donkey. When He can raise a legion of furious militant angels, He turns His cheek and remains silent. When He has the power to assemble the most just and righteous government known to man, He instead compels young fisherman to take up His cause. Jesus does little in the likeness of your standard leadership self-help books and gurus, but Jesus taught a better and holy way.
Jesus, our model leader, was asked a slew of questions throughout his three-year ministry, and from the four gospels, he responded over 50 times with questions – not answers. Jesus spoke often through the use of parables: quick, pithy, succinct questions or stories that strengthened the community by fostering deeper thought and conversation. Perhaps our response should be similar...
...It seems like in a world where people gravitate to either black or white; Jesus poses a question to blend the two. We all know our friends that see the world in total black and white. There’s no middle ground. It escapes nothing. Not politics. Not sports. Not foods. Not entertainment. Not religion. And in this world that is painted in stark contrast, Jesus is leading out of the gray. For it's in the fog of gray that we truly search for our way(s) and discover truth.