I'm a schmuck for the uber-creative. I love this short video's use of time, texture, sound, and light.
PIN from Elise Fachon on Vimeo.
Thursday, June 28, 2012
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Monday, June 25, 2012
Creativity births more creativity. It offers hope, regeneration, and future. But what happens when we lose our ability to be creative?
Allow me to connect some dots…
The administration's failure in their recent Fast and Furious program exemplifies a hopeless and shallow creativity. The DEA allowed guns to be smuggled into Mexican cartels, with the hopes that we could follow the trail to the drug lords. Guns bring death - an easy (and very final) end to the problems surrounding drugs and violence. But like all creativity, it breeds future. And a future of death is no future at all.
But instead of new ideas, of long-term, difficult, ideas, the DEA opted for the immediate gratification of bullets to brains.
The same Taliban fighters we're fighting in Afghanistan today, we equipped and trained in the 80's. The short-sighted and shallow creativity bred a future of violence.
Guns have been done before.
Tanks have been done before.
Arms trading is old hat.
Imagine a world where our creativity is truly creative. In this world we might combat regions of war with plowshares rather than weapons of war. But we must be willing to dream of futures that we've yet to experience. We must risk it all on creativity. We must risk it all on hope.
Thursday, June 21, 2012
I knew the questions would come. But I didn't know they would come from Cora at 4 years old, on a drive to my favorite Mexican restaurant. Here's how the conversation went down...
C - Dad, is Santa real?
R - Well...what do you think Cora?
C - Hmm, I don't think he is...
R - Why?
C - Well, because he wears a costume...
R - Hmm, well, I didn't think about that.
(at this point, I'm kinda sad I could be missing out on all of the Santa fun this next year. I'm not going to lie to Cora to preserve this myth, so I figured I would just answer with questions)
...and now she makes the theological leap that I didn't expect from my 4 year old!
C - So is Jesus real?
R - Yes he is...
C - But how did he die and come back to life?
R - Well, because he's part God and part man, and God is more powerful than death...
C - But doesn't God not want to hurt anyone?
...and depending on your theology, the answers here will vary.
R - God did this because He loved the world so much!
C - But why did God want to hurt Jesus?
...yes, God killed His son...heck, He killed Himself...how do I answer in truth for a 4 year old and not tame away the implications of the cross?
R - Well, God had to die for us. But God knew that He couldn't stay dead, because he's more powerful than death...and in His life, He gave the whole world life.
C - Hmmm...So, is Santa real?
Cora was onto some crazy-awesome questions. She's my kid for sure!
She proved my notion that the myth of Santa confuses kids with the truth of God and Jesus.
Which one is all seeing, knowing, etc? And when the Santa myth disappears, does God also crumble?
I'm looking forward to lots of long, fun, interesting conversations with Cora and Olive.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Yesterday I turned 31. I'm old. At least it's beginning to sound old. And to celebrate my oldness, my girlies took me out to Fritanga (an AMAZING Nicaraguan restaurant in St. Louis), the Tower Grove Creamery for some delicious Central Dairy ice cream, and bought me a fun and creative sketch book! It was a fantastic night with the fam.
Last week, Kate surprise me with a date to Nico (on the loop), Moonrise Kingdom (at the Tivoli), Abbey Road (on vinyl), and tickets to see Glen Hansard (at the Pageant). I'm a loved and lucky man!
Peace & thanks for all of the birthday wishes!
Monday, June 18, 2012
I'm frequently asked if I'm working hard to get signed to a record label, if that's my ultimate goal in music. They're really asking if I see a record label as a means to millions of dollars. Trust me when I say that I've read so many record label horror stories, that it is not my ultimate goal. Making a living playing music, writing music, leading music, recording and producing music are making that goal a reality. So rather than direct you to numerous articles, books, etc., here's a very telling infographic of how much BIG record label artists make...
Saturday, June 16, 2012
To positively move forward, we must create new normals. We must shift our ways of thinking, seeing, and doing. We must embrace the world around us and become part of its story. We must tell new stories.
First, expect beauty. Move from a place where beauty is only captured in art museums, ocean side vacations, or photoshopped models. Instead, start noticing color, texture, depth, creation, conversation, uniqueness, and love. When we do that, everything begins to change. We can expect to be surrounded by fragments of beauty each and every day.
Second, revel in it. When we see beauty, capture it, breathe it, draw it, etc. We must do whatever we can to experience the beauty we've found ourselves in.
Third, make it our story. The story of beauty needs telling, and retelling, and retelling again. Because in the story of beauty, is a story of creation, creativity, humanity, and love. When we experience beauty, we must be confident in the promise that, "It is good." And in the goodness of this new found beauty, may we make it our own stories to tell.
Friday, June 15, 2012
Contemplative prayer is a powerful tool that leads to a lifestyle of stability and interruption that are vital to our lives as followers of Christ. Contemplative prayer exposes our selfish wants and desires, and moves us toward an understanding that simply being with God is more than enough. Contemplative prayer is antithetical to the ways of our culture: hyper-creation, productivity, entertainment, and consumerism. Contemplative prayer solidifies our identities to Christ, and makes everything spiritual, holy, and potentially good.
As we continue our journeys, I hope that we will make this a priority. I hope that you have been encouraged by the truths of scripture, the example of Jesus and the early Church, and the hope of an aligned future with our Creator. Please strive to live life “in the river.” God is doing incredible things in this world and we must have hope to reclaim the essence of being with and seeing God face to face, through contemplative prayer.
Thanks so very much for reading this series. I hope its provided some insights and will help you in your journey.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Saying that “we do not find our own center; it finds us…we do not think ourselves into new ways of living. We live ourselves into new ways of thinking” is one thing (Rohr 2003, 19). But getting to a place were we both believe and actively practice it is difficult. It requires a departure from the thinking of culture, from Plato, from Aristotle, even the Church at times. To become stable in our interruptions and to live lives of contemplative prayer takes time, effort, and change in perspective.
To enter into contemplative prayer in 2012, several practices help to create the necessary stability, interruption, and change to reorient how we see and perceive things. First, it is important to practice silence and solitude. Both are difficult. They are contrary to the hyper-paced world of consumerism and productivity, but are vital components to the contemplative prayer life. Thibodeaux argues that “I can have silence without solitude, but I cannot have solitude without being silent” (Thibodeaux 2001, 41). Slowing down and ridding oneself of distraction take practice, time, and dedication.
To aid the practice of silence and solitude, “ready-made prayers” become increasingly helpful (Thibodeaux 2001, 55). To repetitively pray, “God’s will be done,” or The Lord’s Prayer, the individual can begin to focus on God more intimately and escape the to-do lists and other tasks and thoughts that distract from silence and solitude. Over time, these prayers seep into all thoughts, leaving the individual with a practice that allows a more continued silence, solitude, and prayer, which is now part of the natural flow of one’s day. God is on our lips and in our minds, and becomes the filter for which life is now lived.
Another effective prayer is, “I am God’s subject…what does my King expect of me? What do I expect of my King? How far will I go in service to Him? How loyal am I? How loyal do I want to be?” (Thibodeaux 2001, 56). This is another centering prayer that, over time and practice, becomes the filter to how all of life is lived. We enter into relationships seeking what God’s will, would be. We complete our mundane tasks in light of them being a service to God. This truly changes everything. There is no longer a segment of life with God, and a segment with the world. This prayer relishes the scriptural truth that “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,” and that everything we say and do, have Kingdom implications. The contemplative prayer is now a regular piece that connects everything.
Finally, to practice a contemplative prayer life that provides stability and interruption, leads us to Thibodeaux’s conclusion, that “When I finally painfully turn my eyes away from my own reflection and look upon the face of God, I am so struck by God’s beauty that I never look upon myself again” (Thibodeaux 2001, 145). Left to our own devices, we feel the need to justify time and efforts spent with God in contemplative prayer. Our culture tells us that in all things there is a return on investment, and that through this time of contemplation we should gain an actionable plan or an awareness that betters us in such a way that validates the time and effort put out. However, as we practice contemplative prayer, we understand that God’s purposes are not necessarily the world’s purposes, and that being with Him is sufficient enough. God is more than enough. The contemplative prayer shows us that over and over again.
p.s. tomorrow will be the final PART to this series!
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
StabilityOne way in which we can begin to move toward a healthy understanding of contemplative prayer (and life) that the scriptures points us towards, is to practice stability. Jonathon Hartgrove writes, “the practice of stability is the means by which God’s house becomes our home…the ground of stability is always God’s grace. But the stability God invites us into is a practice that entails a way of life. To dwell in the house of God is to be transformed into people who know the ways and means of God” (Hartgrove 2010, 17).
Stability is not economic provision, secure health care, and properly functioning cars. Stability deals much more closely with the notion that “we are suspended between heaven and earth on a ladder that promises communion with God but is also planted firmly on the ground…it is a commitment to trust God not in an ideal world, but in the battered and bruised world we know” (Hartgrove 2010, 24). Stability cannot overlook community. It is attached to community because it’s in the house of God that we create a home, a foundation for our faith, and we ultimately put our trust in God to sustain us in that community.
The individual that seeks a contemplative prayer life must practice interruption. He/she must become aware that out of a contemplative prayer life, transformation happens, reorients, creates new realities, and challenges assumptions. This might sound the opposite of stability, but instead is a foundation for stability and contemplative prayer. As Christians, we are participating in a faith that at its genesis is about transformation, change, restoration, and renewal.
Interruption then works hand-in-hand with stability, because at our root of stability is the yearning for change and transformation. This becomes our goal. We are seeking the face of the God that transforms and doesn’t leave His children unaffected. As we participate in contemplative prayer, we notice God in each situation and scenario as moving its participants in a direction. Contemplative prayer enables us to holistically interrupt status quo and participate more fully in His kingdom, by knowing the heart of God.
This is not an easy task. We often enjoy uninterrupted stability in our jobs, our homes, and relationships. But in Christ, we cannot stand still. Part of culture’s lie is that our identities are tied to the ladders we climb. How high we can get tells our story and defines us. However, in contemplative prayer we are satisfied that our identities are in Christ alone, that we proclaim a new metric for whatever “success” may be, and that being with God is more important than becoming one.
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
If contemplative prayer is such a counter-cultural spiritual discipline, how does one begin the practice? Richard Rohr explains that we must begin living lives of contemplative prayer by “living and fully accepting our reality” (Rohr 2003, 18). He continues to explain that “we do not find our own center; it finds us…we do not think ourselves into new ways of living. We live ourselves into new ways of thinking” (Rohr 2003, 19). Our lives circling the circumference cannot be escaped – they are our stories. But the path around the circumference can indeed lead us to the core reality, “where we meet both our truest self and our truest God” (Rohr 2003, 19). It is true that we do not know what it means to be human, unless we know God, because we are created in His image. Thus, we cannot know God unless we know our own brokenness and suffering.
The notion that Plato and Aristotle posited of knowledge leading to our ability in controlling nature, we have reworked our societies to prosper in this way. We have even turned our spirituality into a results-based-faith. The lie is that successful churches are mega-churches, and that the same economies of the world echo God’s economies. But “spirituality is about seeing. It’s not about earning or achieving. Its about relationship rather than results or requirements” (Rohr 2003, 33).
You don’t need to push the river, because you are in it. The life is lived within us, and we learn how to say yes to that life. If we exist on a level where we can see how everything belongs, we can trust the flow and trust the life, the life so large and deep and spacious that it even includes its opposite, death. We must do this, because it is the only life available to us, as Paul wrote to the Colossians, “You have died [the small ego self], and the life you new have is hidden with Christ in God [the Godself]. When Christ is revealed – and he is your life – you too will be revealed in all your glory with him” (Col. 3:3-4) (Rohr 2003, 34-35).
So if we are to truly believe that we are in Christ, we must assume that the totality of life’s experiences is contained in contemplative prayer. We must work to align our hearts and minds to this truth. We must accept that every moment is spiritual, that all ground is holy, and that every interaction has eternal significance.
Monday, June 11, 2012
(for today's post, I'm gonna sidestep the 9 part series...back at it tomorrow)
This past weekend I played the Sunflower Music & Arts Festival in Guymon, OK. It was an 11 hour drive with 2 turns, through Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma, and dropped me 20 minutes from the Texas border. Apparently Kansas likes its corn and wheat...who knew?
Thanks to everyone in Oklahoma that came out to the show! You guys were a wonderful crowd. I hope to see ya'll again soon!
Sunday, June 10, 2012
We live in a culture of hyper-creation, productivity, entertainment, and consumerism. Our identities are directly tied to how much, how fast, and how good we can make things. Rather than seeking muses, we seek amusement. Our technologies lull us into a rapid-paced rat race of multi-tasking and create an input/output-culture. All of this can easily become antithetical to the contemplative prayer-life we discover throughout scripture and the early church. And 2,000 years after Jesus uttered His contemplative prayers, we read them from the edges, and often lack even the most basic understanding of how to begin to attain this vital spiritual discipline.
But if we are to reclaim a thriving relationship with our Creator as described in John 15, we must break the habitual cycle of production, entertainment, and consumerism. We must learn to seek His face, even if it means returning to ancient practices. We must be salt and light in a culture that follows an altogether different metric for measuring economy, love, relationship, creation, and identity. As we embrace a life of contemplative prayer, we will surely become a people set apart, made in the image of our Creator that intimately knows the heart of God, by seeking His face.
Thursday, June 7, 2012
The scriptures are riddled with instances of people seeking God with all of their beings. They often removed themselves from the hecticness of their daily grind, their tribe, and their work, to seek God’s face, God’s will, and to understand God more intimately. In the Old Testament we are introduced to the practice of Sabbath rest or Shabbot. This word literally means, “to stop.” God set in motion a day for us to re-center, to stop, to be still, and to listen – and it was good!
The Old Testament uses the words hāgâ, which means to sigh or murmur, but also to meditate, and sîḥâ, which means to muse, or rehearse in one's mind. We see throughout the Psalms (specifically Psalm 1, 4, 5, 7, 19, 32, 39, 42, 43, 46, 49, 63, 130, 137, and 139) this contemplative-meditation taking place. The book of Joshua also reminds us the importance of contemplative prayer (Joshua 1:8). God’s people are seeking Him in contemplative prayer, and God is showing them His way. Nations and tribes are thus transformed into the people of God. They become His exemplary to the entirety of humanity. And surely their participation in contemplative prayer plays a vital role in this unfolding.
In the New Testament we can simply look to Jesus as our clearest example of one who embraces the practice of contemplative prayer to become one with His Father. Jesus is often found in the garden alone praying. Before his capture and execution, Jesus is recorded to have spent time alone in the garden of Gethsemane in stillness and prayer. He advocates a practice that leads toward Trinity.
I will not leave you alone; I am coming back to you. In a little while the world will see me no longer, but you will see me; because I live you too will live. When that day comes you will know that I am in my Father and you in me and I in you. (John 14: 18-20)
I have told you these things while I am still with you; but the advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name; will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have told you. (John 14: 25-26)
We find in Jesus, a contemplative prayer life that brings Him closer to the Father through the Holy Spirit, and he couples it with a promise that as we too seek the Father in contemplation, that “the advocate” will join us. Finally Jesus tells us that, “Anyone who dwells in me, as I dwell in him, bears much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4). If I am to bear fruit, I must dwell with my Creator.
The practice of contemplative prayer continued to flourish throughout the early church. But nearing the time of Descartes, in the seventeenth century, it began to wane. Once the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle propped up the belief that “knowledge became an instrument for controlling nature in order to produce the effects we want,” it gradually disappeared (Allen 1997, 104). This change led to a theoretical and technological belief that nature was controllable, manipulative, and that through hard work, study, and understanding, man was in complete control of all areas of humanity (Allen 1997, 104-105).
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
“We are a circumference people, with little access to the center. We live on the boundaries of our own lives in the widening gyre, confusing edges with essence, too quickly claiming the superficial as substance” (Rohr 2003, 13). Rohr paints an accurate picture of humanity and culture. He supposes that our lack of centering, keeps us distracted, and nearly satisfied by life’s superficial offerings. But there is hope to become centered. There is a path to reclaim the essence of being with and seeing God face to face. That path is contemplative prayer.
Contemplative prayer does not have a prescribed definition, but includes many facets of spiritual discipline and life. Perhaps its more appropriate to first outline what contemplative prayer is not. Contemplative prayer is not “about leaving this world. It is not an otherworldly experience…Contemplative prayer is not exclusively for monks and nuns…it is not necessarily easy” (Thibodeaux 2001, 2). Contemplative prayer involves talking at God, talking to God, listening to God, and most importantly being with God (Thibodeaux 2001, 17-30). Allen writes that, “in the contemplative life, we become like God through knowing God’s wisdom, which increases our love for God and in turn our love for our neighbor” (Allen 1997, 97).
*this is PART 1 of 9
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Here's a quick snippet of a documentary called, The Ordinary Radicals. Its a call to Christ followers to actually live, practice, and embrace the model of Jesus. Its fantastic, and you can watch it FREE now on the Roku channel, ADC.
Saturday, June 2, 2012
Here's a new piece I've been working on this evening...
Lost At Sea
(c)2012 Ross Christopher.
it seems like I've been left and lost at sea / with water welling up inside of me / it fills my lungs with stinging tastes / of lonely waves crushing dreams / and breaks silent cries of apathy / not sure how I got here / I woke in drowning slumber / forced to swim and tread and breathe