Friday, May 15, 2009

The Prophets - Back Issue #1

For years I kept pseudo-blog on my old website, under the "news" section.  When launching my "new and improved" website, I decided to bite the bullet and transfer these journal type writings to a proper blog.  Below is a sort of reissue of a three part series I had written over the span of about a year and a half, concerning the artist as a prophet.  I'll be posting more of these older writings in the future.

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*The Prophets: Part One
I was talking with a friend last night while packing up after a show, and eventually the subject of "the prophet and the artist" arose between us. We both agreed that within the arts there is the amazing potential to shake souls and move mass culture, either toward further degradation or further restoration. When this power is placed in an artists hands, his/her selfcentered-greed or selfless-service toward fellow man will become evident. I use the word "potential" because many who call themselves artists (creators) do not in fact hold the key (authority/privilage) to enter into peoples hearts and souls with the work they create. Such work is mediocre and impotent due to its formulaic unoriginality. There is spirit and mystery in powerful work, and this moves beyond expensive and time-consuming technical training. Then there are the others who have actually been given the key, yet fear to use it, because the voice that has been placed within them is unlike anything they hear or see around themselves. The parameters of an established society of thought and image have no place for this new unknown entity, so the small voice is hushed and the interior dream abandoned. The few who end up using the key must then choose what to do with it; to control or to liberate our brothers and sisters. Build or destroy....
A.W Tozer writes, "Another kind of leader must arise from among us. He must be the old prophet type, a man who has seen visions of God and has heard a voice from the throne. When he comes (and I pray God there will be many) he will stand in flat contradiction to everything our smirking, smooth civilization holds dear. He will contradict, denounce and protest in the name of God and will earn the hatred and opposition of a large segment of Christendom. Such a man is likely to be lean, rugged, blunt-spoken and a little bit angry with the world. He will love Christ and the souls of men to the point of willingness to die for the glory of the one and the salvation of the other. But he will fear nothing that breaths with mortal breath." I can only hope to become one of these men.

*The Prophets: Part 2
If we are created to create, we must confront the impatience within our own souls, and then say "No" to a society that tells us to rush ourselves and bypass the process. Over and over again I meet young and old aspiring artists and musicians who are living in extreme anxiety. Hearts buckling under the pressure of a few heavy questions. "Is life as an artist feasable? Is it practical? Could I provide for myself with this work? Could I support a wife and a newborn child?". These are realistic questions, but if one doesn't stay on gaurd, unneeded fear and anxiety can worm their way into the decision making process of day to day living. One temptation is to disengage from actively taking risks with our time and our art. When this happens, money and comfort have taken priority over the inner desire to create and explore. All too often the art then becomes a hobby or a pastime activity that is relegated to an evening here and a free saturday morning there. For most, these focused moments of creation can be life-giving, but for the one who has been called to the work and has a fire in their bones to create, this will not be enough. They will not be able to shake the feeling of unfulfillment, for they are not only cheating themselves, but those who would be positively affected by their work. The next temptation is to rush, and bypass the process of growth and revelation, in order to reach what is seen as the end destination....right NOW. Compromise your values, integrity, and your work in order to receive the whole cake immediately. Then, you won't have to worry about money, respect, or whether or not you're really "worth it" in the end. Everyone will love you, and you'll have a huge platform to broadcast your work that is obviously so important it must be heard. Right? If you choose this path of compromise you will cut the legs out from underneath yourself and your work, rendering yourself impotent and crippled. You will be swayed by your newfound "audience" and bend to their will, and you will abandon that small powerful voice that was placed within you. Your first love will be lost, but maybe you'll be media idol to some distant faceless person who has believed your lie. Unfulfillment will find you on this end of the spectrum also, as you've deceived yourself of your true voice and true calling. We must engage in the full process, no matter how slow, tedious, unknown, or joyful. The fullness of time. True art will come from a true life lived, not from a fearful retreat from life and risk. Be courageous. Stand up. Have faith to live the impossible. While in the desert fasting for 40 days Christ was tempted Satan (the god of this world). Satan said, "Bow down to me and I will give you all the kingdoms of this world." Compromise, and I'll give you what you know is destined to be yours anyway. If Christ had bowed down, his life would have been rendered impotent, and he would not have tread the long road of suffering that led to the cross. He knew his path, his identity, his high calling, and he lived it out day by day in power without compromising. In the end he was exalted to the highest place of honor, and given authority to grant eternal life to all who call on his name. He owns the earth and the heavens, and broke Satan's power. I share this because we, too, must walk this same road of trust and conviction. If you do, you will be given authority and revelation that is not of yourself, and you will overcome the vain powers that are trying to intimidate you into a life of impotent formulaic mediocrity. Follow the most holy spirit to freedom and new creation.

*The Prophets: Part 3
What compels us onward in our most heartfelt pursuits? Is it the recognition & applaud of our family, friends, fans or critics? If our work is contingent upon the acceptance or rejection of our fickle fellow men, we are doomed to the slow degradation of compromise, and eventually impotence. You cannot truly love anyone who holds power over your life: your decisions, work, identity & destiny. You will hate them yet serve them out of fear, as the pagan bows down to an idol that makes his life miserable & un-free. If the idol is appeased it may grant its worshipper some small fleeting reward; if it is angered it is feared for its power to hurt & destroy. The house that is built upon the sand will be washed away when the storm comes crashing down, and its fall will be great. Our lives, our words & art--these are not meant to be swept away by the power of men or idols, but they?re meant to stand fast, like a strong refuge amidst the beating torrent, offering shelter & blessing to mankind. The wise man built his house upon the rock. We must perch ourselves upon the unmovable rock, like a lighthouse on the edge of a raging sea, issuing forth a flame of hope and warning. The solitude and resolve of this rock dwelling station may seem laughable & outdated in a world of ever-changing opinions & seasons. Yet, when the tempest of the dark night rains down with fury, & homes are washed away, & ships are lost at sea, many will see & thankfully understand why the house of flame rests upon the rock. So it must be with the prophet/artist, & the fire that has been placed in his bones. He must speak true things, continually, regardless of external pressures, criticism, or even opposition. He must live, create, & speak out of deep conviction & sincere love for mankind, calling hearts to hope and to warning, all the while knowing that his work may be misunderstood, rejected, & scoffed at by his fellow men. The acceptance or rejection of his work does not move him from his work, for his work is founded in love. A prophet toils in freedom & in love because no man has control or power over him. Alas, like a mystery revealed, many will see and joyously understand his words & deeds, perhaps long after he?s gone, & in this revelation many will find blessing and shelter from a shifting & unforgiving world.

11 comments:

Blanca said...

man josh your insight on "the prophets" is right on point. thank you for sharing this w/the body-it is very much needed.

Keith said...

Thank you so much for these words Josh. As I sit here holding my guitar, every sentence rings true within me. The pure emotion and meaning you put into your art is easily recognizable, and a breath of fresh air compared to the over-produced sound waves that most popular radio stations are emitting. I would love to read more of these thoughtful posts, please keep it up.

SpillingHeart said...

I can hardly begin to articulate how much I appreciated this post... You are a deep well. Thank you for having the courage to bring the music you've given. I know that any kind of music God gives that truly touches a persons spirit and life must come through a measure of sacrifice and obedience. Thanks for paying the price to make the sound you've made. It would be such an honor to play with you someday.

dandan85 said...

I've had this underlying feeling that my life has been headed toward what you call "impotent formulaic mediocrity." And it seems as though I have failed to realize the state of my own condition. I believe that the reason I have done this is because, as you mentioned, I have been too busy worrying about money, timing, acceptance, and the rationality of it all. It has stifled the Holy Spirit and I feel distant. I don't know where this path set before me leads, but I do know that He was with me when I was obedient enough to be on it. Consequently I am talking about something that has nothing to do with being a musician. Nonetheless, thanks for sharing Josh!

dontwaitforme said...

Josh,
I am really excited about getting the new EP in the mail soon.
I don't know if you remember a show you did in Wilmington, NC, Spring of 2006, but that was the only show I've been able to make it to of yours. I was one of the guys staying at the house with you and Hardy Buck (we slept in hammocks in the yard actually).
Anyway, I am about to head to the DR Congo for 2 years, and I know your new EP will be a blessing, just like all the other albums have been.
Thanks for allowing the Spirit to use your talents so effectively to help spread the gospel to all nations.
If you ever want to visit the Congo, you're welcome to crash at my place, haha. My email is alan.dennis1@gmail.com if you want to get updates.

Luke Mundy said...

Wow. Challenging thoughts. A friend turned me on to Over Oceans this weekend and I'm glad for it!

Thanks for making beautiful music and challenging me as an artist!

Brian said...

Josh,

Thanks so much for sharing this... I'm encouraged and inspired by the truth present in these words.

I was recently given "Jacaranda" by my friend and have been really enjoying it the past while. It's been really great music to travel along with (my friend and I are doing a month of house concerts for friends and family around the country)...

Stephanie said...

thanks for your wisdom, words that desperately resonated.

I was encouraged after recently moving to NYC to pursue painting as a way to change culture, wanting the process to come too quickly...

truth is indeed too important to rush sloppily


thanks and love,

Stephanie Lindquist

Jehoseph said...

This so encourages me. Blessings lover of the One in Three.

terry40sumthing said...

I believe the Lord just spoke to me through this. Revelation, man!! Thank you for being willing to speak the truth as God gives it to you, brother. Many blessings on you and your family.

Kaylee said...

Wow. Exactly what I've been needing to read! 5 years late to the party, but wow.