Creative Christian Moments Special Event: The Studio Spring Coffeehouse 2014
“If God is the Creator of us and we are created in His image, must we not create?” – Stan Sinasohn, host of The Studio Art’s Group.
Every spring and fall, The Studio Arts Group of Mill Creek Foursquare Church hosts a collaborative Christian artist event celebrating the Holy Spirit’s influence of artists in the area. The night is filled with the best baked goods prepared by local foodies, melodious music, poetry readings, and displays of poignant paintings and photography. As I write such articles for event coverage, I often reflect on what God wants to relay to me and the viewers of my blog. The rhetorical question asked by The Studio Arts Group that best sums up this evening was stated by host Stan Sinasohn, “If God is the Creator of us and we are created in His image, must we not create?”
In the depths of every Christian artist’s soul, this simple question consumes our thoughts. Christian artists are provoked to create their crafts of artwork, music, dance, and whatever other medium is categorized as art because the mission is one of perdurable significance. To spread the Gospel by whatever means we have been gifted with; we must create, because this is the nature by which the Christian artist has been designed. It is a notion common to those who are considered born again and as natural as the breathing of air. As a statement of digression, I would also like to state that during this performance many of my cameras failed on me so the last few performances have been recorded via smartphone.
The first artist of the evening was a musician named Douglas Judy who performed free playing acoustic music. Before his performance, Judy explained that his style of play is to allow his instincts and subconscious to feel the music organically. Judy is not the only musician who adopted this approach tonight and sometimes the best worship is just to listen to the sound of instruments in the background. When a musician is allowed the freedom to worship through their instruments, the Holy Spirit is able to lead like a conductor would in an orchestra. The musician becomes the very instrument of God echoing His eternal Truths while avoiding humanity’s fallen tendencies to overcompensate on accuracy, conformity, and rigid rules of structure.
Sinasohn compared our next musician to a Christian version of Mumford and Son. His name is Nathaniel Chapman and he has serenaded spiritual shockwaves through Christian music in Washington state. Before he performed his music, Chapman discussed the origins of his song with the audience. “There is an attribute about God that I think we tend forget; that oversees His love, His mercy, His grace, His compassion towards us,” states Chapman. This attribute is the holiness of God and I find this topic is so seldom preached about in the majority of American Christianity. Love is the most popular attribute preached about but to solely preach on this one attribute is to skew the perception of what God says about Himself. Above all else, it is God’s holiness that governs the other attributes.
Sinasohn read a poetry piece he had written about the mind’s process of sifting through the trials and tribulations of life that often leave one with emotional baggage of redundancy. “I’m not asking for the nations,” he states, “I’m just tired of slaving” and oh how many times can I personally relate to this season of life. Everyone of us eventually endures a period or periods of spiritual redundancy and Sinasohn’s poetic piece is an illustration of the human condition’s struggle with this season while trying to focus on God. It is in these periods of the dark night of the soul that we cry as Sinasohn has for God to “be thou my vision.”
“If you know me, you know I like to write worship music,” states our next musician Dustin Miller. Miller described the inspiration for his song as wanting to know God more. As a worship leader, Miller described that the more he progresses in his walk with God, the more he wants to understand God in greater capacities. Miller finds these opportunities in worship music and singing praises to God with this point reiterated constantly in his sentences.
Makena Bigelow leads worship in Mill Creek’s children’s church and followed the performance of Miller. She chose to do perform a common worship song she uses in children’s church by Kari Jobe entitled “Love Came Down.” What I appreciate about Bigelow’s music is the maturity conveyed to the audience. Her piano skills and vocals suggest a music prodigy well older than what she appears. I look forward to the doors God will open for her in the Christian music scene.
The next musician of the evening was Buzz Smith. Smith reminds me of fusion of country music with the deep vocals exhibited by the late Johnny Cash. The focus of Smith’s song was about how we run from God throughout our lives often to our detriment. Smith reiterated that the inspiration for this song came from multiple conversations with a friend of his who is constantly seeking God but has not made the decision to commit to a relationship with Him. “The one thing that keeps us from God is ourselves,” states Smith. In our post-modern philosophical society that celebrates pantheism, this action is quite common and illustrates the proverbial fenced position by which the majority of humanity sits in making a decision to believe the Gospel message. Sitting on the fence in decision making is the same as saying no to the Gospel message.
Steve Sprague can be considered a regular when it comes to performances and associations with The Studio Arts Group. In the past few months, I learned that Sprague was able to open for many shows of local artists in similar events. I was overjoyed by this news and Sprague’s life reflects, like many others in this blog, that age is irrelevant when it comes to pursuing your talent. God honors those who simply use the gifts He has given them. Sprague performed a song called “Average Joe” that night and discussed that sometimes artists can only complete what seems like so little because that is the best they can offer in their current circumstances. He stated throughout the song that he would not trade the experiences of his own personal trials and tribulations for how they produced a deeper walk with God.
Author Dan McKinnon was the next artist of the night and shared a story from his recently published book Breadcrumbs entitled “Soldier”. McKinnon’s story is a personal narrative about his experience with working with his church in disaster relief for Hurricane Katrina victims in the early 2000s. While assisting in repairing the damage, McKinnon and a group of his congregation came upon a dog they named Soldier who had been abandoned during the event. As they continued their service in helping clean up one of the many disaster areas, McKinnon dwelt upon Soldier’s origins which led to him dwelling upon philosophical thoughts about how God views us. At the end of his presentation, McKinnon ended with the words of John 3:16.
Rachel Kearns was one of our younger musicians and shared an inspirational song about teenage girls’ personal self-respect in selecting honorable teenage boys for romance. Having a daughter of my own, Kearns’ song reminded me of the innocence girls embody and as parents we must guard their hearts from the toxic messages society preaches as virtues. Kearns’ song reminds me that as I raise my own daughter to be independent and confident, character, intelligence, virtue of morals, and righteous actions are what define true beauty. If society is to truly embrace this change, more songs like Kearns are needed to saturate the culture.
Newcomer, Travis Setzer was the next musician to perform and was the only guitarist to play a twelve string guitar. In describing his style of music, Setzer stated that “the Lord’s given me music to Scripture.” Setzer displayed an amazing ability to sing common Bible passages to the sound of his acoustic guitar. What I admire about Setzer’s ability to do this is it helps one memorize Scripture as the human brain has been documented to best remember memories by using music. When one reads through Psalms, these Scriptures were hymns themselves so it’s great to see this in action in our present day.
Like the first performance by Judy, Matthew Knowles chose to perform a freestyle play of worship through guitar. Knowles appeared a bit nervous but mustered up the courage to play for the audience. What I admire about Knowles is his humility and he is also a gifted painter. Hopefully, in a future post my readers will be able to partake of his painting skills.
“God does not create cookie cutter carbon copy Christians,” stated Jeff Quill, quoting a statement his wife told him when they were discussing his performance before the coffeehouse event. Quill struck me as a man who speaks his mind about his faith and he performed an acoustic song about how each person is a treasured and unique creation by God.
There is a saying that “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” and I can see this in Alesia McNeal. She is the daughter of musician Jessi McNeal and has the same talent her mother possesses in music. McNeal shared a song about a crush she had on a boy and the song reminded me of something familiar from a dramatic television show. McNeal, like many of the other musicians embodies a gifted maturity in her music and I constantly lament as to why the music industry does not attend such events like these. McNeal, like many of the others, could be the next musician that speaks to society in a powerful way. I thank God that He has allowed me to document such performances and look forward to who He raises up.
Kyle Bigelow was our next musician that night and is also the father of Makena Bigelow. Bigelow shared that his inspiration for worship music came from volunteering with the Everett Gospel Mission. Weekly, Bigelow and a group of men volunteer at the shelter and play worship music for the homeless. Bigelow enjoys doing this because he can truly see the real Gospel message in action and has also met “some of the finest people” down at the mission in character, morals, and virtue. The song he performed was a assimilation of stories about these individuals and the redemption Christ grants for everyone.
The last performance of the night came from musician Jessi McNeal. Having released her first album Pen to Paper in 2013, McNeal informed the audience that she has been working on her second album and chose to perform one of her new songs. McNeal has had the opportunity of touring the local Seattle circuit and I am exstatic to see her musical dreams blossom into reality. I cannot wait for her next album to be published and I will write another blog review when it occurs.
What can we walk away with from the performances tonight? Christian artists are compelled to create because our Creator, God Almighty, has placed this ability in His creation. Part of the Christian artist’s struggle lies with identifying our artistic gifts and honoring Him with them. Many of the artists identified have invested their own resources and talents into pursuit of these gifts; furthermore, what many will probably seldom hear about is the struggles many of these individuals have endured in their families, finances, physical, and emotional health just to present their gifts tonight. But the joy of the Christian artist lies not just within these circumstances but the truth that persevering to honor God has its own reward of knowing Him more in this life and the next.
Mill Creek Foursquare Church: http://www.mc4s.org/
The Studio Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/thestudio.mc4s
Nathaniel Chapman: https://fandalism.com/salvationsinger
Matthew Knowles: https://www.facebook.com/matthew.knowles.925?fref=ts
Dustin Miller: https://www.facebook.com/dustinmillermusic
Dan McKinnon: http://www.xulonpress.com/bookstore/bookdetail.php?PB_ISBN=9781628718669
Jessi McNeal: https://www.facebook.com/JessiMcNeal
Steve Sprague: https://www.facebook.com/stevespraguemusic?filter=1
Kari Jobe, “Love Came Down”, Sparrow records, 2012. MP3.
Spring Coffeehouse. By Mill Creek Foursquare Church. Directed by The Studio. Building B, Lynnwood, WA, May 10, 2014.
The Studio. “About.” Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/thestudio.mc4s/info (accessed May 29, 2014)
The Studio. Logo. Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=601286313246005&set=a.160899973951310.28220.160898427284798&type=1&theater (accessed May 29, 2014)
The Studio Spring Coffeehouse 2014, YouTube, 1:16:11, posted by Barry Brophy, May 31, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fJ1Lp1yVrs (accessed May 31, 2014)