Review: Pictures of Silver Moves Me to Sing

In the interest of full disclosure; Picture of Silver’s Ryan Taylor gave me a copy of their debut album Moves Me to Sing several days ago for review purposes.  In the interest of complete and total honesty, I was planning to buy it anyway.

I’ve been following Pictures of Silver since they arrived on the local music scene a couple of years ago, and every time they take the stage they improve.  This is a talented collection of musicians, who enjoy making music, but not for the chief purpose of entertaining.  Simply put, these guys are anointed.

As a self-styled Indy Rock Worship ensemble, Pictures of Silver’s debut brings a lot to the table.  It is a guitar driven festival of voluminous melodies, building choruses, and thoughtfully worshipful lyrics—sure to fit into any worship playlist.  Nearly every song on the album is an upbeat display of riffing guitar work and happy harmonies, not a small feat considering it tops out at eleven tracks.

Krystal Manning delivers an anointed vocal performance on nine of the eleven tracks, whereas band mates Ryan Taylor and Lance Shingleur take the vocal forefront on tracks Speak and Never Thirst Again.  Never Thirst Again, The Stand, and We Were Made for You all feature beautiful melodies performed by pianist Shingleur.  Rain Down, We Were Made For You, and Holy really stood apart to me for their rich sound and endearingly reverent lyrics.

Pictures of Silver’s Moves Me to Sing is a great album that will undoubtedly move any worship enthusiast to open their heart, turn up their headphones, and join the band.

For more Pictures of Silver info check out these links:
facebook, ReverbNation, Noise Trade, Amazon

You can also search Rhapsody and iTunes for Pictures of Silver.

3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16

The first time I memorized those words I was the lead in my church’s Christmas play, and I was just a little kid. It was a fun play. I was really young, but I enjoyed my role. I never forgot those words, but it was only during my teenage years (when the infamous wrestler Steve Austin coined his trademark Austin 3:16) that I realized how well known this verse was. And then a couple of years ago Tim Tebow put the reference in his face paint during the NCAA National Football Championship game. Google reported 92 million searches for John 3:16 during and immeditely following the game.

My point is that this is an incredibly familiar passage. One that has made its way into our culture in a variety of ways over the years. For me, it’s a verse that I have read, quoted, written, and heard probably thousands of time in my thirty-plus years, but it wasn’t until recently that I actually understood it at all. I mean, people have been telling me for years what it is supposed to mean. I have even told others what it is supposed to mean. I’ve blogged about it, preached about it, designed t-shirts utilizing it, and broadcast it–but; even though I’ve been a Christian for over half of my life, it’s never really been much more than some evangelical mantra we like to bandy about as we proselytize those around us. It is so much more than that.

I had a good family life growing up, and consider that actuality an incredible blessing knowing that to be more the exception than the rule these days. Because of my home life, grasping the notion of being a son of God, like the Bible teaches, was never much of a stretch for me. It was an easy part of the faith for me to comprehend, believe, and communicate. It’s only within the last month, and to a lesser extent the previous nine, that I began to be able understand the Gospel from a Father’s perspective.

And that brings me back to John 3:16. This verse we’ve probably all heard so much. As familiar as it is, it is incredibly challenging, confusing, and wonderful. God loved you and I so much that He gave away His only son. I can tell you right now, I could never do that. It doesn’t matter who we are talking about: my best friend, my wife, my mom, brother, students, anyone…everyone. If given a choice to save them and yet condemn my child there is no real choice. My child gets first priority every time.

But God, being infinitely sovereign and immeasurably wise, contrived a means by which He could give up His own son to excruciating torture, so that He might open the way to redemption and restoration for all of His sons…and not only did the one die to save the rest, but the firstborn of all creation rose again through the power of the Father.

I’m going to do the best I can in this life to be the best father that I can be, but only God the Father can give and save at the same time. Incredible.

10 Things God is Not

Life usually doesn’t fit into nice neat little lists, but that doesn’t keep me from trying. Welcome to my Tuesday 10, where I try to fit the messiness of life into a list of ten.

Better late than never, here is my incredibly short and almost altogether inscrutable list of things that God is not.

1. A magic trick

2. Santa Claus

3. An angry bully

4. A scorekeeper

5. A political party

6. A man made idol

7. Dumb

8. American

9. A crutch for the weak

10. Inactive, dead, or distant

Slacktivism and Christianity

Have you ever heard the term “slacktivism”? Perhaps not, but it is essentially a mash-up of slacker and activism. It is the common practice of taking a stance on a somewhat controversial issue or throwing your digital weight behind a cause via your social media accounts. In principle it is the notion of investing in a cause with little to no risk to yourself.

We see this kind of thing crop up regularly in our fast paced social media driven culture. Already this year we’ve witnessed Kony 2012, No Shoes Day, and with the 2012 Presidential race under way, we will no doubt be subjected to at least a few dozen more before the ballots are cast in November.

In my opinion slacktivism is mostly harmless, it’s silly, but it’s pretty harmless. But the principle at work behind it is why I’m writing tonight.

I can’t even begin to count how many times in a day my social media feeds are clogged with this same kind of feeble carbon copy content regurgitated into the world wide web by purported Christians. “Jesus Memes” are the worst. They take some kind of important theological truth, simplify it to the point of silliness, and blast it onto the wall of every well-meaning believer that is not quite up to par with their social media etiquette.

Who are we trying so very hard to convince with all that wanton posting of flowers, lambs, and Jewish caricatures? Its cheap, it cost us nothing. What’s worse, it’s so poorly contrived and pitifully rendered that it reinforces every ugly stereotype that exists involving the inherent inadequacy of “Christian art”.

How about instead of just rehashing someone else’s goofy pic, or groan inducing creed, we spend a few moments in quiet reflection and actually do something that will draw us closer to the Father. If we really love God so much maybe He deserves a little more out of us than a placeholder pic on our timeline or to be “liked” on Facebook.

The Christian faith is much more than a passing activist cause. It requires, and offers, more than a temporary connection for allegiance. It’s price, is a paradox of worth, deserving of our undivided allegiance, and total investment.

10 Keys to Doing Something Well

Life usually doesn’t fit into nice neat little lists, but that doesn’t keep me from trying. Welcome to my Tuesday 10, where I try to fit the messiness of life into a list of ten.

This is definitely not an all inclusive list, but if you’re looking to improve at something, here are ten tips to get you moving in the right direction–and if you’re not looking to improve at something then please stop doing it.

1. Want to do it well.

2. Find someone that already does it well, and learn as much as you can from them.

3. Self-evaluate

4. Be honest with yourself.

5. Submit your work to others for critiquing.

6. Know the difference between positive and negative criticism.

7. Acquire tools that will help you succeed.

8. Practice

9. Understand that practice makes permanent. In other words, if you continually practice something a certain way…then you will keep doing it the same way.

10. Accept that there is always room for improvement, perfection is rarely attainable.

The Missing: Sacrifice

What have I done lately for someone that actually put me out in some significant way? Nothing. I like to think of myself as a servant. I mean my chief responsibility is serving college students right? Yes, it is; and I’m fairly sure that there are several that are benefiting from my influence in their life. But when was the last time I really had to sacrifice to make a difference? Those times are rare. My life is pretty much amazing. I face almost no conflict or adversity. Hmmmmmm. (Read that like Yoda says it. Go ahead go back and try it. No, not the whole paragraph, just that last word before this nearly pointless parenthetical derailment.)

For a group of people who rally behind the sacrifice of someone (Jesus) as a historical, miraculous, cosmically, and eternally influential event; we do precious little sacrificing of our own. Going to church is not a sacrifice, no matter how boring your pastor is, that’s not what I’m talking about. When is the last time following after Christ actually cost you something? Apathy, ignorance, and indifference are the norms today because we are a generation of spoiled and lazy infants who expect people to fight our battles, pay our way, and make us feel good about it; while we moan about how terrible everything is from the safety of our smartphone. I’m convinced that Christianity was meant to be different than this. I feel as though we have sorely missed the mark, and are now so confused about where the mark is that we have traded the pursuit of truth for the calloused whispers of the devil’s deceptive mirage.

Writing this has cost me nothing. My prayer tonight is that our hearts would become fertile ground for the seeds of selfless sacrifice to take root–that the Church of Jesus Christ would again become selfless. That I would be both willing and able to love bigger, and try harder to shine the Light of Christ on those who need it most, even if it costs me everything.

He is no fool, who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose. – Jim Elliot