LeAnne Martin
Christians in the Arts

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Les Miserables

Even though it was my third time, it moved me again as before. Maybe more so. After all, I'm older now, and wiser, I hope, and a mother, too, which has changed how I view just about everything. But I think that if I were to see Les Miserables a dozen times, I would still be moved by this story of grace, forgiveness, redemption, sacrifice, love, courage, compassion, loyalty, and more. I found myself marveling that this classic that deals so obviously with important spiritual questions should be so popular, still bringing in crowds after years of touring the country.

The first two times I saw it, I was in my early 20s. I identified with Cosette's and Eponine's feelings of love for Marius as well as the students' idealism. But yesterday, I ached for Fantine and her motherless child. And Javert seemed so much more human to me--still obsessed with Valjean and the law but truly baffled by Valjean's act of mercy toward him. 

Even more, though, I found myself caught up in Jean Valjean--a sinner given a second chance to make a life for himself beyond his circumstances. To be honest and honorable, even when it cost him dearly. To live the life of a man and not a number. Would I have been so brave and true? I hope so.

This cast had strong, powerful voices that soared with the music one moment, then faded to exquisite harmonies the next. If the words were in another language and I could not understand them, I would still be moved to tears--and cheers. 

Les Miserables has given me much to consider and remember. That's what good theater does. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Michael Card, Part 2: Creativity and Community

Today I'm concluding my interview with Michael Card. In a career that spans 25 years, Card has recorded over 20 albums, authored or co-authored over 14 books, hosted two radio programs, and written for a wide range of magazines. Through all of these means, his love of teaching the Bible and his focus on the importance of biblical community shine through. 

LeAnne: In your book, Scribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creativity, you talk about listening. Why is listening important for artists? What (or who) should we be listening to?

Michael: Listening represents that state of openness in the artist that really is the basic expression of love. The best way to show someone you love them is to listen to them. We should be listening to everything but always listening for God in the process, realizing all along that He loves by listening to us as well.

LM: Why is community important for Christians in the arts?

MC: Because creativity, true biblical creativity, always happens in the context of community. This is not to say that artists don't create alone, but that they derive a purposefulness in creating that only comes from listening to the needs, hurts, or joys of the community. I think the reason so many artists despair is that they are disconnected from community.

LM: What are you working on right now?

MC: I am currently trying to finish a book on the topic of slavery in the New Testament. I was discipled in the context of two African American churches and heard Jesus referred to as "Master" in both. I had never heard Him called by that name in the white church and so I started investigating why. That journey led to this book and I hope eventually a record.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Michael Card, Part 1: The Imagination

In a career that spans 25 years, Michael Card has recorded over 20 albums, authored or co-authored over 14 books, hosted two radio programs, and written for a wide range of magazines. While he has penned such favorites as "El Shaddai," "Love Crucified Arose," and "Emmanuel," he never imagined selling more than 4 million albums or writing over 19 #1 hits. The popularity of his work seemed a stark contrast to his goal in life--to simply and quietly teach the Bible. 

In addition to teaching, performing, and writing, Card hosts a radio show, In the Studio with Michael Card, which is broadcast on many radio outlets across the US, including Moody Radio stations and affiliates. Each show features Bible commentary, a look at the creative process, and demonstrations of faith lived out in community.

Whether it's through his writing, concerts, teaching or his radio program, the core of what binds these seemingly diverse endeavors together is biblical community. It is at the heart of everything Michael Card does.

LeAnne: You write in your book, Scribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creativity, that we hunger for beauty. Why is that?

Michael: I believe our interior hunger for beauty is a reflection or perhaps a vestige of our being created by the God who is beauty. Most of our behavior connects back at some point to this fact.

LM: What is the call to create and where does it come from?

MC: The call to create is universal and goes back to our having been created by a creative God. It is part of His fingerprint on us. It comes from Him I suppose but you might also say it is imprinted on our souls. It comes out through various creative drives we all have.

LM: Why is it important for Christians in the arts to understand the imagination? Where can we go to learn more about it?

MC: Christians need to understand the function of the imagination in order to communicate truth and beauty more biblically to a world that hungers for them both. The imagination is a God-created bridge or connection between our hearts and minds. It allows art to speak to them both. It allows us to communicate to a more fully-integrated person. I think we go to the Bible to learn more, as we seek to interact at the level of the imagination with the text. That is the best place to see how it "works."

More from Michael Card on Thursday.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Seeing Your Soul

While I'm working on the new features, I've been enjoying pulling quotations and passages together for my posts. Here is a group of wonderful quotations I found in The Christian Imagination, edited by Leland Ryken, a book I recommend. 

"The poet's job is not to tell you what happened, but what happens: not what did take place, but the kind of thing that always does take place." Northrop Frye, The Educated Imagination

"The primary job that any writer faces is to tell you a story of human experience--I mean by that, universal mutual experience, the anguishes and troubles and gifts of the human heart, which is universal, without regard to race or time or condition." William Faulkner, Faulkner at West Point

"My assumption is that the story of any one of us is in some measure the story of us all." Frederick Buechner, Listening to Your Life

"The poet is not a man who asks me to look at him; he is a man who says 'look at that' and points." C. S. Lewis, The Personal Heresy

"It is the function of all art to give us some perception of an order in life, by imposing an order upon it." T. S. Eliot, On Poetry and Poets

"You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul." George Bernard Shaw, Back to Methuselah

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Eric Moore: The Gift of Song

Singer and actor Eric Moore started singing in church at an early age. His first professional acting job was in 1995 with Tom Key in Cotton Patch Gospel at the Alliance Theater in Atlanta. He has since appeared in many shows in Atlanta and regionally and has some film credits too. 

We have had the privilege of seeing him in several shows at Theatrical Outfit. One of my favorite moments from last season's Godspell was Eric's performance of "All Good Gifts." He had the audience in tears--with many nodding in agreement and thanking the Lord right along with him.

This weekend, we saw him at Theatrical Outfit as Jim in Big River, a musical based on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It was an excellent show by a cast of strong performers, powerful moments of poignancy, and of course, the humor of Twain. Eric, with a voice that's rich and full, makes you believe he's experiencing what he's singing for the first time and you are invited along on the journey with him.

"Singing has always been a part of my life," Eric says. "I feel the ability to sing is a gift from God."

Eric says he tries to make sure the work he does is a good representation of his Christian life. "Everything that I have done and everywhere that I have been is due to the gift of song that God has given me." 

We are thankful, too, for that gift. Keep singing, Eric!

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Today is 9/11. Let's remember the lives lost and the lives changed forever that morning.

Flannery on Learning to See

A few more words from the brilliant fiction writer Flannery O'Connor. This passage is from "Writing Short Stories" in the book Mystery and Manners. 

"Fiction operates through the senses, and I think one reason that people find it so difficult to write stories is that they forget how much time and patience is required to convince through the senses. No reader who doesn't actually experience, who isn't made to feel, the story is going to believe anything the fiction writer merely tells him. The first and most obvious characteristic of fiction is that it deals with reality through what can be seen, heard, smelt, tasted, and touched."

"Now learning to see is the basis for learning all the arts except music. I know a good many fiction writers who paint, not because they're any good at painting, but because it helps their writing. It forces them to look at things. Fiction writing is very seldom a matter of saying things; it is a matter of showing things."

I'm so excited about all the new features I have lined up for the next couple of months. Stay tuned!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Flannery on Fiction

Today's post is taken from Flannery O'Connor's excellent essay, "The Nature and Aim of Fiction", which appears in a collection of her writing called Mystery and Manners. As with most of the quotations I share on this blog, even though they are about writing fiction, the points O'Connor makes apply to other types of art as well. Enjoy.

"Very few people who are supposedly interested in writing are interested in writing well. They are interested in publishing something, and if possible in making a 'killing'. They are interested in being a writer, not in writing."

"Art is a word that immediately scares people off, as being a little too grand. But all I mean by art is writing something that is valuable in itself and that works in itself. The basis of art is truth, both in matter and in mode. The person who aims after art in his work aims after truth, in an imaginative sense, no more and no less."

"The beginning of human knowledge is through the senses, and the fiction writer begins where human perception begins. He appeals through the senses, and you cannot appeal to the senses with abstractions."

"The fact is that the materials of the fiction writer are the humblest. Fiction is about everything human and we are made out of dust, and if you scorn getting yourself dusty, then you shouldn't try to write fiction. It's not a grand enough job for you."

Coming soon: new features with a novelist, a poet, a photographer, an actor, and more 

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Randall Flinn, Part 2

This week I'm featuring Randall Flinn, Founder and Director of Dance Ad Deum.

LeAnne: Have you faced challenges from the world because of your faith?

Randall: Surely at times, but that is to be expected and rejoiced over. For the most part I have found that when we are true and comfortable and "real" in our own skin as Believers working in the arts, and when we have something significant to contribute that is not propaganda for our cause, we then gain many listening ears and hearts. And the applause ain't bad either!

LM: Have you faced challenges from the church because of your art?

RF: Would you be shocked if I told you sometimes this is the greatest warfare of all--where we strain at gnats and swallow camels? Praise God for those churches and pastors and Christian leaders who "get it" when it comes to the arts as good gifts of God to be celebrated and stewarded and offered not only to the "holy house" but also to those in the outer court.

LM: What would you say to encourage other artists who are trying to live their faith and their art in the world?

RF: Don't stop. Pray, weep, persevere. He who began a good work is faithful to complete it!

And network--not for vanity or self-promotion but for the life-giving fellowship of other Believers who are wired just the way you are! The Lord still needs His Joseph in Egypt and His Esther in Persia and all the Daniels in Babylon He can get. No, it's not the church or missions organization--it's the world, but you can still be God's priest and servant and wash many feet in that very place.

Remember, there is a mighty spirit and He dances with us and over us. Here is my offering on that truth.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Randall Flinn: Dance Ad Deum

Randall Flinn is founder and director of Dance Ad Deum. Flinn began his dance training in Houston over 25 years ago with Glenn Hunsucker, Camille Long Hill, Dina Vail, and Patsy Swayze. His most recent modern dance influences have come from studies with The Limon Company and Steve Rooks, former principal dancer with Martha Graham. He has taught and choreographed locally as a guest artist for the Houston Ballet Academy, The Episcopal High School, Houston Met Dance Company, Joan Karff Dance Company, The High School for Performing Arts and North Harris Performing Arts Dance Company. He was selected as a guest choreographer for Houston's Dance Salad 1999, Dance Houston 2006, and Texas Weekend of Contemporary Dance 2007. Nationally, he has served as guest faculty and choreographers for Cirque Du Soleil--Alegria, Ballet Magnificat, Belhaven College, Friends University, Project Dance NYC, LA, and Sydney, Australia, Hillsong, Australia, and Dance Revolution Conventions. Having lived throughout Europe and Asia for ten years, Mr. Flinn has also been a guest artist for Hong Kong Ballet, City Contemporary--Hong Kong, Guanzhou Modern Dance Company--China, Xaris Danz Europe and Youth With a Mission International Schools of the Arts.

LeAnne: What is Dance Ad Deum? Where did the name come from?

Randall: Ad Deum means "unto God" in Latin. Ad Deum is a professional contemporary (modern, neo classic) dance company based in Houston, Texas. The company began in January 2000, birthed by an ongoing passion for some years to establish a professional dance work where dance artists of Christian faith could fully integrate and pursue their vocational calling with excellence in an environment where their faith could also freely be expressed. Dancers have moved here to Texas from all around the globe to pursue their passion for their faith and their dancing. I still stand amazed!

Not that long ago, professional dance and Christian faith did not fare well among the Christian community nor within the mainstream community of the arts. The church (well, parts of it) was open to liturgical or praise dance offerings by well meaning worshippers. However professional presentations of dance by highly skilled dance artists who truly were seeking to honor God and bless mankind were rare to find.

Well, a new day has dawned and a multitude of very high-caliber and Christ-centered dancers have come into the Kingdom for such a time as this. They are out there all over the world engaging, influencing and impacting the church and the mainstream culture. To this I say, "Praise God--finally!"

LM: What is Dance Ad Deum working on now?

RF: More than I care to think about--that is what we are working on now! Next big performance is Texas Weekend of Contemporary Dance in Houston at the Miller Theatre on September 12/13. We are premiering a new work by Mr. Steve Rooks, former ten-year Principal Dancer with Martha Graham. Steve is a fellow believer-artist who is also working as the Lord's Daniel in the midst of Babylon, so to speak. His life and work as a follower of Christ is that of a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. [Note: To read LeAnne's interview with Steve Rooks last year, click here and here.] 

Ad Deum has a full touring season both nationally and internationally. In November, we make the long journey to Malaysia to work with both the church and the mainstream dance culture.

LM: How has your faith affected or impacted your passion for dance?

RF: I believe my faith and a true understanding of a biblical worldview of the arts opens my life to the limitless possibilities of the glorious freedom of the children of God. I have come to understand a relevant and redemptive revelation of a New Testament priestly-artist--one that seeks to bless the Lord and serves the culture around him as the Lord's servant. No need to be religious here in this position and calling. The freedom comes in resting in the relationship and calling and understanding the cultural mandate and claiming the truth that God's artists can take up their towels and basins and wash the feet of this world with art that resonates with glory and honor.

On Thursday, the conclusion of my interview with Randall Flinn.

The Work of My Hands

On this Labor Day, I'm thankful for the work of my hands. I'm praying that God will:

--help me pour out my gifts with abandon, joy, and courage,
--show me how to squeeze every bit of juice out of the time I'm given to write, 
--be glorified no matter what I write or for whom (whether a blog post, article, story, essay or email)
--use my blogs and my other writing to bless and encourage others.

Today as I glance at the overcast sky outside my office window, I'm also praying for those, some of whom are family and friends, who will be affected by Hurricane Gustav.

Because of the holiday, I'm going to do something a little different and post three times this week. I have a fresh new feature I'm excited to share with you starting tomorrow. Check it out!


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