Tag Archives: Bible

Review: The Names of God Bible

1 Dec

I never read J.B. Phillips classic book, Your God Is Too Small, but I’ve always liked the title.  Using the illustration of “putting God in a box,” Phillips says that we as humans try to limit an infinite God with our finite minds.  One of the ways we “limit” God is by failing to understand that He had a rich and complex personality.  God has many names including Father, Lord, I Am, God Most High, and so on, yet Bible translators have simply been content to refer to the Almighty as simply “God” or “LORD” (Yahweh/ “I Am”).  Truly, we have made the Bible far too simple and God far too small.

Instead of using a handful of names for God, The Names of God Bible contains almost 50 different names of God, which add insight and color to the God I thought I knew.  Perusing the Old Testament with this Bible adds so much insight to God’s relationship with Israel and His continuing relationship with us!  The Names of God Bible is presented in the God’s Word Translation (GW), which I found to be very readable yet scholarly.  The preface of the Bible explains the history of the GW as well as the translation process.  I read from various versions of the Bible when studying, and have found GW to be among my new favorites.  It’s not just a modern take on the Bible; GW also preserves its literary integrity.

The Names of God Bible contains a pronunciation guide for each name of God, as well as an alphabetical listing for each name. I can look up a an English translation like “Son of David” or Hebrew name like “Yahweh Roi” (The Lord is My Shepherd) to find a two page write-up on the specific name, what it means, and where it is referenced throughout the Bible.  Each chapter of the Bible includes a well-written introduction.

Besides being a great study tool, The Names of God Bible is also visually appealing.  Each page has faint hint of brown giving the Bible an ancient, antiqued feel.  The font is quite small, though very clear (though this is the case with many Bibles.)  One of my favorite cosmetic features of this Bible is the pages themselves—they are not tissue-paper thin, but REAL pages!  I can turn a page in The Names of God Bible without accidentally tearing it!  Of course, that does make the Bible heavier, but this probably isn’t a Bible you will take to church, unless you’re teaching Sunday school. (Half the people at my church read Scripture from their smart phones or on the overhead anyway.) 

Usually when I first meet someone, I generally introduce myself and ask the other person his or her name.  How can we know about God’s richness when we don’t even know His names? (Being as He’s God, He can have as many names as He wants.)  If you want to know God, if you want to call out His name, and if you are serious about studying your Bible, then The Names of God Bible with the GW translation is just what you need.

*With thanks to Revell, a subsidiary of Baker Publishing Group for my review copy of this book.*

Does this sound like a Bible you might try?  Are you familiar with the God’s Word Translation?  What is your favorite name of God?  How could this Bible help you with your own study of Scripture?

The Women of the Resurrection

7 Apr

In this pic, Jesus looks like He’s playing hide-and-seek with the women.

I wanted to prepare this blog post sooner, but time is not on my side lately.  My family could definitely use your prayer.  Gosh, I could use your prayers.  However, better late than never, here’s the follow up to “The Women of the Cross“.

But I thought both my male and female readers might like a peek at the lesson, which I’m adapting into a post. If you would like a copy of the short study for personal or group use, just hit me up at amy@backseatwriter.com

The Women of the Resurrection

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a crucial cornerstone of the Christian faith, and also what separates Christianity from other major religions that follow His teachings.  Jesus’ resurrection proves that He was not only the Son of God, but the victor over death.  And who were the first to encounter the Risen Lord?  The women who followed Jesus!

The accounts of Jesus’ resurrection can be found in Matthew 28: 1-10; Mark 16: 1-11; Luke 24: 1-12; and John 20: 1-18.

Who are the women of the resurrection?

Interestingly, many of the women present at Jesus’ crucifixion were also the women who awoke early Sunday morning after Sabbath had passed to care for Jesus’ body.  According to Old Testament law, if someone touched a dead body, then he or she was considered unclean, so care of bodies was considered a woman’s work (of course).

However, these women did not care about clean or unclean.  They simply wanted to show their love for this man, who had treated them with respect and kindness, who had allowed them to sit at His feet—they had never met a man like Jesus.

Each Gospel has a different account of what women were present, what happened, and what was said.  It is important to note that ancient scribes were not obsessed with details like we are today.  They were more concerned with telling the story, so we definitely have to approach Scripture with our eyes on the culture.   Here’s a rundown of each Gospel.

Matthew: Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” find empty tomb and angel, also Jesus appears to these women.

Mark: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Salome encounter an angel and Mary Magdalene first sees Jesus.

Luke: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and others see angels and report to disciples.

John: Mary Magdalene (and possibly other women because she says “we”).  But in this gospel, Mary Magdalene is the first to encounter the risen Jesus.

If you read The Women of the Cross, then you’ve already “met” most of these women.  But just in case you haven’t had the chance to read that incredibly compelling post, let me introduce you to the women of the resurrection.  Meet Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus’ most devoted followers after He drove seven demons from her body.  And, no, they were not married or sexually involved.  That’s just gross.

Curiously, Mary mother of Jesus isn’t mention in any of these accounts…or is she?  Out of respect, Mary was probably referred to as “Mary mother of James” (Note:  It was this James, Jesus’ half-brother, who went on to write the book of James in the New Testament).  It was a cultural practice not to indicate Mary as Jesus’ mother due to His crucifixion.  Remember that at the cross, she is called “Mary Mother of James and Joses” and only directly addressed in John.  Also, since the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) mention Mary mother of James or “the other Mary,” it is assumed that both refer to Mary mother of Jesus.  She was His earthly mother—how could she stay away?

Mark mentions Salome, who was the mother of disciples James and John while Luke also adds Joanna, a woman who worked to financially support and care for Jesus and the gang while they traveled.  Since it was early the day after Sabbath and Jews were not permitted to work or travel on Sabbath, we can assume that Joanna was in town for the crucifixion, and I’m fairly certain she was one of the “other women” who witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion.   If so, then all the women of the resurrection were also all women who witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion.  They were a devoted lot.

Mary Magdalene Sees Him First

Each Gospel says that Mary Magdalene was the first to see the risen Savior.  Why, out of all the people who followed Jesus, did she see Him first?  Really, we can only guess.  Perhaps she was the one who needed Him most.  When she learned Jesus’ body was missing, she was ready to go to the ends of the earth to retrieve it.  She was distraught and crying when she encounters Jesus, who she mistakes for the gardener.

“They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they have put Him,” she weeps.  But when that “gardener” says her name, she immediately knows it is Jesus (John 20:16).

“Rabboni!” Mary exclaims, which is a very personal greeting meaning “my teacher.”  Most people would have nothing to do with a former demoniac, much less teach one.  But Jesus changed Mary’s life, and now He had changed her eternity.

Why did Jesus appear to women first?

The simple and obvious explanation is this—because they were there. But didn’t Peter and John also run out to the empty tomb?  Why didn’t Jesus appear to them?  Hmm…interesting.

My theory (and this is my theory) is that Jesus is making good on God’s promise all the way back in Genesis 3:15.  After Adam and Eve do the Big No-No, God pronounces judgment on them.  Yet in His judgment, there’s a promise of salvation.  In Genesis 3:15 God says to the serpent, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”  On Calvary, the ancient serpent that is Satan struck Christ’s heel, but in the resurrection (and the yet-to-come Battle of Armageddon), Jesus will crush that serpent’s head.

So, with that information, it would seem that Jesus is “redeeming Eve.”  It’s as if He is saying, “Remember that promise in Genesis?  Well, here I am!  You are redeemed, daughter of Eve, you are redeemed because of Me.”  Since Eve was the first to partake of the apple, perhaps in a subtle way, her daughters are first to know of the redemption.

Then again, there’s the small problem that the disciples who say the empty tomb didn’t believe…but the women did.  Before you go off and tell me it’s because they saw Jesus, let me point you to Mark 24:7-8.  The women remembered His words and believe!  However, the disciples don’t believe their stories (Mark 16:11, Luke 24:11).

Still, in the end, everyone believes and the Gospel message goes forward.  And those women, well, as first witnesses their testimony wouldn’t really matter in a court of law.  Unless there were three women, which is interesting, because the Mark and Luke mention at least three women in their Gospels, making the women viable first witnesses to the resurrection.

These women never met a man like Jesus, who tore the veil, so their shame would be lifted.  Finally, Eve’s sin no longer held them captive, though they still faced the consequences of her choice.  But now they could find wholeness and redemption through God’s promise of Jesus Christ.

I love comments, so here are some questions you can answer–why do you think Jesus first appeared to women?  Why didn’t the men believe but the women did?

Book Review:: The Expanded Bible: New Testament

13 Oct

As a Bible study leader and avid student of the Word, I am always looking for resources that will enhance my understanding of Scripture—The Expanded Bible: New Testament (Thomas Nelson) is definitely one of those resources.  Using a modified New Century Version (NCV) translation of the Bible, scholars Dr. Tremper Longman, Dr. Mark L. Strauss, and Dr. Daniel Taylor have put together a Bible that allows readers to learn as they study the Bible.  The goal, according to the introduction in the Bible, is to show readers that the Bible is rich, multi-layered, and profound.

Here’s how The Expanded Bible: New Testament works.  The basic NCV text is in bold text and accompanied by a series of markers, which include—Expansion (other possibilities for translations), Alternate (a translations that puts a completely different spin on the “base text”), Literal (a more “literal rendering of the original text”) Traditional (how the text has been understood in older translations), Comment (historical, cultural, or theological information pertaining to the text).  These markers can aid in word studies, Bible study preparation, and satisfy language buffs who want to know what the original text actually says.

While I have few complaints about The Expanded Bible, some readers may find the NCV translation a bit too conversational and the markers hard to use.  While I wouldn’t use this Bible as my main study Bible or tote it to church with me, it is a useful tool, especially for individuals who want to dig deeply into the Word of God.

All that’s really left to say is this—Thomas Nelson, where’s my Old Testament version of The Expanded Bible?

*This review is part of the Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers Program.*

Take 5 with Jon Acuff of Stuff Christians Like

15 Jul

Stuff Christians Like (SCL) is a fast-growing site that takes a satirical and honest view of Christian pop culture.  Started in March 2008, site founder Jon Acuff decided to put an evangelical twist on the wildly popular blog, Stuff White People Like.  Writing with wit and sensitivity, Acuff has engaged readers with over 500 (almost 600) insightful posts on what Christians like such as Rob Bell, comparing Braveheart to Christianity, metrosexual worship leaders, and counting swears in movies.  SCL works because not only is Acuff young enough to be relevant and relevant enough to know what it means to be relevant, but also because his posts are saturated with sincerity and humility.  And because he’s a super guy, Jon Acuff agreed to Take 5 with Backseat Writer when he could be writing about how Christians like to write blog posts about other Christians (or hanging out with his wife and daughters).

*You wrote that you started Stuff Christians Like to take a look at the misconceptions, preconceptions, and conceptions in general about the church.  Why do you think it’s important to clear the air about Christianity using the SCL as a forum?

To tell you the truth, I didn’t initially think it was important. I have about 40 different URLs registered, ranging from bad ideas to even worse ideas. And when I started stuffchristianslike.net I thought it would be another idea I wrote about for a few weeks and then quit. But when people started reading it, a complete surprise to me, I felt like I was not alone in wanting to explore faith and the culture we’ve created around it with humor and honesty.

*By using humor, you offer a softer approach to topics that are generally off-limits.  Not only that, but your commentary about the Church is constructive in nature.  Plus, you even use the Bible, something that I don’t see a lot of satirists doing.  How has this approach been helpful for those who have been hurt by the Church?

Part of the approach has been learning from my mistakes. Early on I made the mistake of writing about individuals instead of issues or ideas. After a few posts where I felt like I unfairly and without a whole lot of love picked on people I started to realize that it’s hard to write a blog without following Christ’s command that we love other people. There are too many Christian Jerk blogs out there and I decided that even though I had blown it a few times I wanted to be hyper deliberate about not being a jerk. So I think a big part of the approach is that the only person I try to point a finger at is me. Ways I’ve been wrong about God or the church or faith and then exploring those in hopefully a funny way. I try to never mock. The Bible is chock full of verses about how much God wants to drop the elbow of death on mockers, so I try to avoid that. Although I still make mistakes with what I write.

*I imagine when writing some of your posts, you know that you’re going to push buttons.  What makes you hit “post” anyway?

There are some posts that I’m really terrified about posting but in some ways I hope I never get numb to that. I don’t think it’s easy being honest, especially when the stakes are higher and there’s a part of you that worries about people you know seeing what you wrote. But the biggest criteria I use when picking topics is, “Is this true of my own life?” If it’s not, if it’s not something I struggle with or think is funny in my own life I don’t write about it. So that makes it easier to say things that might be hard to share. If that’s what is going on in my life then I’m not presenting some crazy idea, I’m sharing my life.

*I know there’s a book a’coming in March 2010.  How did the book deal come about?

When people started reading the site I contacted a literary agent that a number of people suggested named Chip MacGregor. I had a conversation with him and sent him my blog traffic numbers. We put together a proposal and he shopped it around to a few different publishers. Zondervan seemed like a great fit and when they offered a chance to publish Stuff Christians Like I was really honored by the opportunity.

*Sometimes I think it’s harder for women who write satire/humor to find success, especially in Christian circles.  Do you think this is true?  Why or why not?

I think that’s probably true regardless of the gender when it comes to creating Christian satire. I think it’s a hard thing to do because I’m not sure if the church embraces satire and laughter as vehicles of honesty and insight, which is a shame because I think God loves laughter. The verse that kind of drives the site is Psalm 126: 1-2:

“1 When the LORD brought back the captives to Zion,
we were like men who dreamed.

2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”

I love that when the other nations saw the laughter, when they noticed the laughter they couldn’t help but say, “The Lord has done great things for them.” That’s why I try to get people to laugh.

WHAT?! Hitler’s Meim Kampf for Inspiration & Jimi Hendrix a Child’s Role Model?!

11 May

This is ridiculous!  First, business student in India are buying  Adolf Hitler’s autobiography for inspiration and now educators in San Francisco are hailing Jimi Hendrix as a great role model.  Is it me or has the world gone completely mad?

To the students in India, Meim Kampf is not a book on business organization strategies, but rather a hate-filled memoir of insanity.  In Meim Kampf, Hitler lays out his anti-semitism and his plans to eradicate the Jews and others who he feels are “inferior.”  This is not good business.  In fact, it didn’t even work because bigger “businesses” ended his nefarious practices.

To the educators in San Francisco, I know you do things a little differently in San Francisco.  But just because Jimi Hendrix was arguably one of the best guitar players that ever lived doesn’t make him a good role model…for the education system.  Hendrix never graduated from high school, was known for his drug use, and died choking on his own vomit after a drug binge.  This isn’t “hip,” it’s crazy.  Not only that, but it’s a waste of the taxpayers money.

Travel with me to a place called it’s-never-gonna-happen and imagine that students in India bought the Bible and studied the book of Proverbs for insight on business and the educators hailed a Jewish teacher named Jesus as a role model for students.  Of course, that would be completely ridiculous, right?  Especially the Jesus part, since he is a religious figure and all.  I would have to argue that the Son of God has been a pretty good role model for me and that the Bible has helped me through all sorts of decisions, including ones that break the heart and wound the spirit.

It’s sad to live in a world that hails Hitler’s manifesto as good literature and Jimi Hendrix as a childhood hero.  Yet it’s a world longing for inspiration and heroism—something we Christians have to offer through the gospel, in our lives and dealings with others, and our study of Scripture.  Never has it been clearer to me than now.

Offer the world the hope you have and give them a reason to ask you about that faith you have.  Be visible.  Be active.  And do it now.  The world is dying to know Truth.

Why do gay people need to be married?

20 Nov

I’m serious; that is the question.  See, I can understand two homosexuals wanting to be united to show their love and commitment to one another through a ceremony of sorts.  I acknowledge that same-sex couples want a legal union that allows one’s partner to visit his or her beloved in the hospital, allows a partner access to his or her partner’s health care, and all the other stuff that comes to a married couple.  But why on earth gay people need to be married?  Why do they insist that their unions be defined as marriage?

Prop 8, a ban on same-sex marriage in California, was recently voted on by the people of California, which is arguably one of the most liberal states in the nation.  Yet even here the voters reversed a decision to allow gay marriage.  Except for Massachusetts and Connecticut, the other 48 states still define marriage as a legal (and sometimes spiritual) union between a man and a woman.  And only a handful of other states recognize the civil unions of same-sex couples.  However, we’re not talking about that.  We’re talking about marriage.

Marriage.  Judging by our high divorce rate in this country, to many it’s just a word, but to many who uphold traditional values, it means a lot.  Throughout human history, marriage has been defined and understood as a legal and in later centuries, emotional, union between a man and a woman.  The Bible’s first recorded human relationship–that between Adam and Eve–was a marriage!  Granted, not everyone cares what the Bible says or believes it is the Word of God.  But I do.

My argument isn’t a religious one (though my religious beliefs do oppose gay marriage and the practice of homosexuality).  Rather, I am looking at this from a logical perspective.  It seems from articles I’ve read, news programs I’ve watched, and conversations I’ve had, that all same-sex couples really want are the same rights given to married couples.  I know many people who have no problem with this, but still believe that the institution of marriage needs to be kept as it is.

Why, then, do gay couples, who are seeking to be accepted by the population-at-large, need to use the word “marriage”?  Can’t the heterosexuals keep that one?  It seems that gay rights advocates would do more for their cause if they abandoned the use of the word “marriage” and came up with another term or simply used the term “civil union”.  Plus, anyone who opposes same-sex marriage or the practice of homosexuality is automatically labelled “intolerant.”  Now how tolerant is it to force people who don’t agree with your position to give up a tradition that they hold dear?

Then there’s the problem of pastors and other religious leaders who are against gay marriage (and/or homosexuality) being accused of “hate speech” should they speak their opinions from the pulpit.  Similarly, churches would be forced to perform gay marriages or risk being charged with “hate crimes”.  Sound a bit radical?  I doubt most homosexuals would care what pastors say about them and wouldn’t want to get married in a church that doesn’t really want to marry them anyway.  But there are always radicals who like to push the issue (you know, like the ones who have protested in California assaulting an elderly woman as well as stomping on her cross [story] and bopping a missionary on the head with a Bible [video]).  It’s these folks who will defiantly seek to “make the most” of the laws of the land and in turn, become intolerant of those who they label “intolerant”.

My argument isn’t just logical; it’s personal.  I’m no fool.  I know that the United States is not a Christian nation and we’re sliding towards a secular progressive worldview.  As societies change and evolve, Christians are constantly trying to determine what it means to live for God and follow Christ in this world.  So we hold to what we believe is not a cultural or social or secular institution, but a very decree for creation–we hold fast to marriage, which we believe is a spiritual, sexual, emotional, physical, and even legal, union between one man and one woman.  There’s a beautiful mystery as “two flesh become one” and there’s a tie-in in how the God is the bridegroom and the Church is His bride.

For me and for many others, marriage is not a word or even an ideal; it is the very definition of not only a husband and wife, but a God and His people.  We will stand up and we will protect traditional marriage, even if our pastors are accused of hate speech and our churches are closed due to hate crimes.  Some things rock the core of faith, even though they seem silly.

This all seems terribly dramatic, doesn’t it?   I mean, why not just make another concession and allow gays to be “married”?  Or wait, why can’t same-sex couples just drop it and find a new way to define their relationships in a secular progressive society?

Scribbles :: Yet We Believe

8 Aug

Originally, I wrote this post for my personal blog, but for some reason, it seemed to “fit” on Backseat Writer. It may still show up over on my personal soapbox; we shall see.

By Amy Sondova I was going to read Psalm 46, my steadfast passage where I turn where I don’t know where else to go. But the pages in my Bible stuck together so I ended up on Psalm 42 (read here), which starts out, “As the deer pants for the water…” If you’ve ever been to youth group, Bible camp, or a exceptionally touching bonfire, you’ve heard the song. It’s such a happy little tune, you know? You can even sing it as a round.

Yet Psalm 42 is far from a cheery church song; it’s a passionate plea for help. It starts out pleasant enough stating, “As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after You.” That is, until you realize animals pant when they’re REALLY thirsty. Have you ever seen a goat or cow or horse pant? Dogs pant all the time; they look happy, but other animals tend to pant when they’re VERY thirsty.

The soul in this passage is practically dehydrated for God.

Reading down to verse 3 it’s easy to understand why the psalmist’s soul was so parched. It reads, “My tears have been my food day and night…” There were several dark times in my life where I was in this place. I would cry myself to sleep, wake up with swollen eyes and cry again, and then I’d hobble through the day trying to make sense of my life between tears. If you’ve been there, you know how absolutely exhausting this type of extreme mourning can be–and how you may only stop crying because you have no more liquid left in your tear ducts.

The verse then continues, “…while men say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?'” As if things weren’t bad enough, now you’ve got “the liars” questioning your very real emotions because obviously those who trust God don’t have problems or feelings or anything, right? (The term “the liars” comes from Amy Courts’ song “The Liars,” which you can listen to on her MySpace page. Part of the song goes, “But now the liars say that you’ve deceived me/ And I can’t hear your voice above the crowd/ So can you speak a little louder”).

The passage seems to hit a crisis of belief on verse 5 which starts out with writer addressing his own soul, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” I can’t even begin to tell you how many of my prayers to God are just questions. And then the writer shifts focus with this line, “Put your hope in God…” It seems like he (it’s probably a “he”, sorry girls!) is actually telling himself to put his hope in God, like positive self talk.

Then the psalmist finishes the statement with this assertion, “…for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

Let’s recap and put this all together. The psalmist soul is dehydrated for God and he is crying day and night (literally and/or figuratively). While he’s in his state of misery, he is mocked (much like Job was mocked by his wife) by “the liars”. Where is your God now? Where indeed? It seems like the writer asks himself that very question and then says, “But, wait, why am I so depressed? I’ve no idea, but YET I will trust God. I will believe in Him no matter what the liars say or how things appear to be.” The rest of the psalm repeats this pattern, but the writer also reminds himself that God has always been faithful to Him.

The most powerful word in this whole passage to me is small and seems almost insignificant. In fact, it’s so short it only has three letters. The word is “yet”. This psalm doesn’t deny that human tragedies, depression, emotions, and horrible experiences or times when faith cannot be found, when God seems distant, and we just want to give up. Instead of denying emotion and feeling, this psalm embraces it and then flips it on its head with a simple “yet”.

Yes, this sucks, yet I will trust God.

It’s in the “yet’s” of life where we truly find the stuff of faith. We hold on to what seems foolish to a dying world, gasping for air, as the liars look on and laugh, “Where is your God now?” Yet we believe, even as we struggle with doubt. Yet we believe.

Print copy of Scribble.

Off to the Lonely Places

18 Jul

Today was a rough.

I feel cranky, weary, and unsocialable.

So blogging in such a “chipper” mood makes perfect sense.

Or maybe it doesn’t.

I’ve been impressed by Jesus’ need to go off to “lonely places” to pray and spend time with God when the crowds overwhelmed Him; that’s exactly what I’m going to do right now.

I’m definitely running on empty tonight.


15 Jul

Today I was thinking that I sometimes say and write the stupidest things.  If my live was a movie, I could just yell, “Cut!” and play the scene over.  However, it’s more like reality television and the cameras just keep on rolling.

I’d like to think my screw-ups are amusing, and at times, they’re, well, embarrassing.  I know we’re all impossibly imperfect, but did you ever think you mess up more than the average human being?  I talk and write a lot so the chances of me saying or doing the wrong thing increase with each line I type or word I say.   It’s enough to make an anxious person downright paranoid.

Growing up in church didn’t help much either because there are a ton of verses about the tongue and talking and saying the wrong things and how we’ll be “damned by our words” or something like that.  And don’t we always say that Peter the disciple’s big problem was that he spoke first and thought later?  Am I destined to just go around talking nonsense the rest of my life and reaping judgment onto myself?  I’m thinking that maybe I should just shut up.

Then again, if I shut up, I would carefully measure each and every word.  I probably wouldn’t say the things I should say in an effort to be pithy in speech.  Plus, let’s face it, I probably wouldn’t even make it through the first half hour of a silent retreat, what are the chances of me shutting up?  Not very good.


I try to temper my speech with prayer, compassion, concern, and encouragement, but I do have a slight sarcastic edge and a biting wit that can wound.  Generally, I’m even careful about that and fretting about saying “mean things” when really the other person wasn’t offended at all.  Proverbs says that a wound from a friend can be trusted, but I just hate to cause people unnecessary (or even necessary) pain.

If I’m really honest (and vulnerable) about it, I’m afraid of saying (or doing) the wrong thing because that’s what makes people leave.  I’m still that middle school girl who won’t talk because she feels she has nothing of value to say, but now I just keep talking until something good or humorous or clever spills forth.  I talk and tease and banter because I don’t want to be alone, misunderstood, or unimportant.  I want to matter not only to God, but to those around me.  I want to be noticed…with words and with speech.

I don’t think it’s egotistical to admit that.  We all want to be noticed for a job well done, a speech well presented, or an album well recorded.  Perhaps this post is merely musing out loud or a lame attempt to offer an apology (or explanation) for all the stupid things I’ve said and will say in the future.  Maybe I just want you to understand so when I do say the wrong thing, you won’t leave.  It could be that I said too much already.  Or not enough.  Here we go again!

Chris Taylor: Take Me Anywhere

10 Jun

By Amy Sondova Take Me Anywhere is more than the title of Chris Taylor’s debut album; it’s the motto of his life, which has been anything but typical. He surrendered his life to God in a car, not at an altar. He went to England to become a great worship leader and came back a man who wondered if he should sing at all. Once he stopped seeking fame, Chris Taylor became an artist that was found.

“I’ve got no problem telling people that I was one of those kids singing worship songs over and over because I thought it was cool,” he admits. A year after he got saved, Chris, who has been playing guitar since he was 13, started leading worship as his youth group never hearing artists like Steven Curtis Chapman, DC Talk, or Newsboys. But as time went on, Chris says he continued leading worship, not because he had a heart for it, but because it made him popular.

After high school, Chris earned a music degree and then decided to travel to England to intern at Soul Survivor, a now-international church started in England most known for their music festivals and their famous worship leader, Matt Redman. “I went there for all the wrong reasons—to get a pat on the back and have people tell me that I was really good at leading worship, which was really stupid looking back on it” shares Chris. “I came home humbled by what it means to lead people in worship.”

“God saved me from that mess. I got to see Matt Redman’s heart. For him, it has nothing to do with fame or fortune or the fact that his songs are unbelievable. He’s just a real Christian,” says Chris, who was amazed to learn about Redman’s difficult past. “Matt was abused for a couple of years by his stepfather when he was a teenager, which left him completely broken, beyond repair. Somehow God lifted him up to write songs that only he could write.”

Upon returning from England, Chris began to pen new songs, “When I sat in my room and wrote these songs, I know that God was doing something in my life. There were times I questioned it. God was teaching me to shut up, listen, be humbled, and to not covet other songwriter’s songs because I had no idea what God’s done in them.” Chris also had no idea these songs would lead to a record deal with BEC Recordings or his debut album, Take Me Anywhere, which was released in April. He describes the album as “kind of rock, folksy, kind of poppy,” inspired by the music of Sting and Radiohead, among others.

Most importantly, Chris’ main inspiration is from his study of the Bible and from reading theology books. Personal spiritual edification and spending time with God are the keys to Chris’ song writing, “We’re all called to do something real and great, which transcends the record. The record serves a purpose for sure, but it should come out of who I am.” Take Me Anywhere’s songs range from the very personal to the very worshipful, with plenty of material in-between.

The album’s title track is climbing up radio charts and is even available as a ring tone (check Chris Taylor’s MySpace for details). But Chris takes the song’s success in stride laughing, “I’ve always wanted a ring tone, and now I have one.” The song was written about two men who encounter Jesus after His resurrection as they travel to the town of Emmaus (see video explanation above).

Perhaps this is most beautifully orchestrated in “Symphony,” which lyrically implores God, who holds the “melody of creation” to “teach the harmony to all [He] loves”. “Melody is the chief movement of the song, whether instrumental or vocal,” explains Chris. “The harmony is any register that’s above or below. It adds to the melody, especially when you stack a few parts above or below it.” The song conjures up the image from C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia—one of the lion Aslan, singing the world of Narnia into creation though melody, and having the created echo back the harmony.

One of the most personal songs on the album, “Come Around,” was written one afternoon after Chris had an argument with his older brother. “I sat down and wrote this song straight through—no pen or paper,” says Chris. The brothers, four years apart in age, never had a close relationship. As they grew into adults their fighting seemed silly, especially after Chris’s big brother was diagnosed with an illness that limits the blood flow to certain areas of his body causing these areas to weaken. Only 30 years old, Chris’ brother has already had one hip replacement and may soon undergo a procedure on his other hip.

Tenderly speaking, Chris then says, “It’s about getting closer after something that’s ridiculously horrible. The part that says, ‘You’re my bone, my blood’—I can’t sing that without thinking about his bones failing.” Though horrible, the illness has caused the brothers to reconcile their differences and come around to a renewed relationship with one another.

Other songs on the album include “Made for You” a vertical song that’s a hybrid between a song for his wife and a song for God, “Speak to Me in Mysteries” erupts into a chorus praising God, and Chris’ favorite song on the album, “Atmosphere.” “It’s about God’s expansive wonder in creating everything, but He’s not bound to creation. He can step through space and time and those boundaries that we have and communicates not only with us as people, but as individuals,” he shares, and then adds, “Actually, the whole record is a conversation about me talking to God and having Him reveal Himself to me.”

The interesting thing about Chris is that he’s almost more excited to talk about God and His work, than his album. Getting to know others, especially to his audience, is a crucial part of Chris’ life as a musician. “I really enjoy connecting with people and trying to be more vulnerable. I definitely don’t want to be the kind of artist that sits backstage and isn’t accessible,” he says. On his recent tour with Kutless, Chris would often befriend audience members and enjoy the concert by sitting with them.

He also loves to respond to people who leave comments on his MySpace page. Yet he’s stricken by the disclaimer that often comes at the beginning of many of his messages and e-mails, “Here’s how people write to me, ‘I know you’re not going to read this but…’ and then they wrote two pages about what’s happening in their lives. It’s sad because they have no one to talk to.” Seeing these as sacred moments of vulnerability and ministry, Chris prays that God allows him to draft a worthy response.

Dismayed that other artists don’t take time to get to know their audience, Chris laments, “There’s no connection between the people and the artists, but it shouldn’t be that way. Before I’m an artist, I’m a Christian. There should be a level of accountability. Christian musicians are different than secular artists. We’re ministering and encouraging others in God, and it’s a model that that world doesn’t know.” He adds that artists are afraid to be accountable to their fans and each other, “Artists can’t afford not to be accountable. We see what happens when they aren’t.”

Accountability is important to this 27 year-old husband and father, who planned to take two year-old Clara swimming at the conclusion of the interview. “I’m still trying to figure out how to do what I love without the expense of losing my family,” he shares. “I’m convinced you don’t have to choose one over the other and that God works it out.”

Chris Taylor’s life and his album, Take Me Anywhere are proof that God works it out, in spite of our own desires. “I’m fascinated daily with the idea that God started a dialogue in my life when I was completely without Him,” he shares with wonder. “You learn how to wander and actually be found.”

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