Alternate Arts

blogging the hell out of art

September 15, 2017
by jimwall
6 Comments

Matthew Smith and Emotionally Honest Worship

Music in worship. For many churches, it’s a struggle between traditional and contemporary. Is there perhaps another way which honors people’s feelings, glorifies God, and displays unity to a broken world?

Matthew Smith uses hymns to help churches guide their people into emotionally honest worship.

Matthew is a Nashville-based singer-songwriter who writes new melodies to centuries-old hymn texts. He is a founding member of the Indelible Grace community, whose work has drawn acclaim across denominational lines and is used in churches around the world. I once saw Indelible Grace perform only after walking up and down a line of people outside a sold-out concert of theirs until someone sold me a ticket. I was deeply touched by the music, words and performance.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Indelible Grace’s reimagined hymns have found wide acceptance both among college students and the church at large, joining people who desire to honor tradition with those who want a modern musical approach.

On the cusp of his upcoming tour, Matthew offered some thoughts on being a fully alive worshipper, his new album and video, and what drives him.

Alternate Arts: Why the use of the word “emotionally” in emotionally honest worship?

Smith: I think “emotionally” and “honest” go together. Sentimentality – which some mistake for emotion – is not honest. Truth and theology are seen by some as being honest, but not emotional. With Emotionally Honest Worship, I’m trying to show people how in the best songs for worship, going all the way back to the Psalms, emotions and honesty can come together into something beautiful that pleases God.

Alternate Arts: What does it mean to become a fully alive worshipper?

Smith: It starts with not lying to ourselves or to God. We can get the mistaken impression that God only wants us to express praise, adoration, and “positive” aspects of our lives. But He created us as whole people, and wants us to bring all that we are and all that we are going through to Him in worship. When we do, He speaks to us through His word in a way that we won’t receive if we are holding back. And only when we He speaks to us can we become fully alive, worshiping God with our whole heart.

Alternate Arts: What is it about old hymns that draws you to them?

Smith: I sometimes call them “songs for real life.” They are just so raw and can be sung in whatever circumstances we are going through. The women and men who wrote them weren’t trying to write to a demographic; they were pouring out their hearts, processing their lives before God, and that resonates with me.

Alternate Arts: How do you find old hymns?

Smith: I have some old hymnals and re-prints of old hymnals, but Google has scanned in hundreds of hymnals from libraries around the world, so they are much easier to find now than they were when I first started doing this.

Alternate Arts: Are you a songwriter, a teacher, or a shaper of culture?

Smith: I’m just a guy trying to take whatever I’ve been given and be a faithful steward of it.

Alternate Arts: You’re covering all the bases with speaking, writing, performing, and even providing chord charts. What drives you?

Smith: I don’t have a grand mission or plan – I simply need to sing these hymns to keep myself sane. They bring me back to the truth of who Jesus is, over and over again. If others are affected the same way through my music or speaking, that is an amazing blessing as well.

Alternate Arts: You recently released a new album, QuietHymns, along with a video of a song from the album, “God Himself.” Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the album and video?

Smith: QuietHymns comes from Isaiah 30:15: “This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.”‘ I too often reject the rest and quiet that God offers me, and this album is me dealing with that part of myself that would rather be in control over my life instead of submitting to God.

The video for “God Himself” came as I was thinking of my friend Eric Brown’s photography, and how well he captures the Imago Dei – image of God – in the people he photographs. He doesn’t really do video, but he agreed to do this one for me, after I explained it would be like his portrait photography come to life. The people in the video are my friends and family, and I hope the viewer can see my intention behind it – for us to view the image of God in these faces, the struggles we all go through, and that God Himself will dry our tears.

Alternate Arts: Your upcoming tour starts September 16. What can people expect from your concert events?

Smith: I love playing these hymns live. I try to weave together a cohesive storyline throughout the evening, through the hymns I choose and the things I say in between. Ultimately, I want people to leave seeing Jesus as more beautiful and more trustworthy than they did before they came.

September 9, 2017
by jimwall
0 comments

Marlene Griggs and Ulysses’ Diaries

Marlene Griggs was born on the 4th of July, 1957, along with her twin sister Darlene. She’s a native of Pittsburgh, PA, and still lives there.

Marlene has five sisters and says, “There was never a time where I felt alone. It was fun growing up, always being able to engage our imaginations by staging a play or a film (musical) down in our basement.”

Marlene dedicated her life to the Lord as a teenager. Since then, she’s had a heart towards ministering to the Lord and his people. Ulysses’ Diaries, her first published work, continues that mission.

As historical fiction, Ulysses’ Diaries tells the story of three African-American women who find reconciliation with one another and Jesus. The story is told from the point of view of Esther, a journalist, who finds diaries of her mother and great, great grandmother (who was one of Thomas Jefferson’s slaves.)

More information about Marlene Griggs and Ulysses’ Diaries can be found at Marlene’s website.

Alternate Arts: How much of you is in Esther, the journalist who shares the story of her mother and great, great grandmother?

Griggs: Esther really did not know her purpose until finding the diaries. And as a twin I did not know my purpose until the writing of this book.

Alternate Arts: Your book feels more like it’s passing a story down verbally from person to person, as compared to a dry, dusty historical document. How focused on oral story-telling tradition were you as you wrote this book?

Griggs: My parents told us stories all the time. Sometimes using household items or music for sound effects. I remember one time my mother drew a story board while the song “Band On The Run” was playing.

Alternate Arts: How difficult was it bringing Ulysses’ Diaries to life?

 Griggs: I think the most difficult step in bringing this book to life was the financial part My retirement funds were used and family contributions.

Alternate Arts: What emotion hit you strongest as you wrote Ulysses’ Diaries?

 Griggs: There were many, but the strongest was excitement!

Alternate Arts: Were there any surprises along the way, as you wrote this book?

Griggs: I believe the surprises started when the Lord told me the title of the book and what the book was going to be about.

Alternate Arts: What is your hope for Ulysses’ Diaries?

Griggs: The journey of each of the women in Ulysses’ Diaries is a simple one, a rewarding one, and a healing one. I want everyone who reads this story, especially African-American children, to find reconciliation with the God of all gods, and to know his gift to us, his love for us through Jesus Christ.

Alternate Arts: What encouragement would you offer to someone who has a story to share?

Griggs: To those who love the Lord, I would say the first and foremost objective is to lift up the name of Jesus, then with Him write it. In the Word of God it says, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages , world without end. Amen.” (Ephesians 3: 20-21)

September 2, 2017
by jimwall
2 Comments

Claire Underwood Hertzler and The High Sheriff of Greene

Claire Underwood Hertzler recently released her first book, The High Sheriff of Greene, based on the life of a legendary Georgia sheriff.

Claire’s writings include these published articles:  “Travel Insurance Tips,” Transitions Abroad Magazine; “Encounter With God,” Church Recreation Magazine; and “Easter at Flat Rock,” Georgia Magazine, also about Greene County, Georgia.  She has two articles in The Pens in the Piedmont, an anthology released July, 2017 by the East Metro Atlanta Christian Writers.

In addition to writing, Claire was one of the first activists fighting human trafficking in Atlanta. She is active in Atlanta’s North Avenue Presbyterian Church.

More information about Claire can be found at Deeds Publishing, Amazon, and her blog: Just Clairefying.

Alternate Arts: This is your first published book. What prompted you to write this story as your first?

Hertzler: I had been considering writing a book set in Greene County, Georgia, because I grew up there. I knew Sheriff Wyatt by sight – “there go Wyatt and Taylor”; however, I never expected to write a book about a sheriff! So it’s been a surprise to me.  It’s like L.L. Wyatt’s name came to me from outside myself and the more doors the opened to me, the more I felt called to write his story.  

Alternate Arts: Can you give us some highlights of the The High Sheriff of Greene?

Hertzler: It’s the true story of legendary sheriff, L.L. Wyatt, who was recruited to Greene County, GA, at age 21 to break up a thriving moonshine industry during prohibition; the largest operation was over on Carey’s Station Rd. Wyatt’s battles with the bootleggers soon made him a larger than life figure, sweeping everyone up into the lore of L.L. Wyatt. After making the county one of the most crime-free in Georgia, Wyatt was elected sheriff. He was a sheriff and a gentleman, treating the most heinous criminal, black or white, with respect and kindness, while not sparing the law. At 70 years of age, Wyatt gained national recognition and the attention of Hollywood when he put his own life at risk to stop the car of two armed bank robbers and freed their hostages. This little slice of Georgia history pictures a lawman of the deep South, revered by “his people” (as he called them) for 52 years, whose life speaks to readers today of courage, honesty, fairness, right dealings, and the utmost respect for the law. It also speaks to young adults today who are seeking a calling for their lives; Wyatt felt kind of a divine calling and protection which made him fearless.

Alternate Arts: The High Sheriff of Greene contains many stories about the main character, L.L. Wyatt. How did you get these stories?

Hertzler: I started with the Sheriff’s son, Sonny, who had retired and moved with his wife, Madeleine, to Reynolds Plantation, Greensboro. Once I gained their confidence, they began to give me referrals to folks who knew the Sheriff. In Greensboro, I dropped in to see Carey Williams at the Herald Journal and Joel McCray, County Historian, at Greensboro Florist and Steve McCommons at McCommons Funeral Services. And then I followed up every lead anyone gave me – about 30 in all.  The interviews were the fun part – my re-connecting with my home town – and just the surprising ways interviews came about. I am now collecting stories for an expanded edition in the future. 

Alternate Arts: How do you go about the process of writing, particularly book-length writing?

Hertzler: At first, I would come home from Greensboro so full of wonderful stories and praises to God about how well things went. After a few months, I realized this book would not get written if I did not structure some blocks of time. Since I do have another busy life, I set aside Tuesdays and Thursdays as my writing days and the afternoons of the other days as much as I could. As I neared the finish line, I had to forego my three mornings at the gym; my only exercise became sitting at the computer! My first interview with the Wyatt family was in January, 2015 and I sent the manuscript to the publisher on June 2, 2016 – one and a half years in the making.

Alternate Arts: What has surprised you the most about becoming an author?

Hertzler: It was hard work at times, especially the need for accuracy, but it was always a joy as I was bringing Wyatt back to life for those who knew him and for those who would wish they had. It has been an unexpected journey which I feel God orchestrated and which I am totally enjoying.

August 31, 2017
by jimwall
2 Comments

Trespass in Space

This short story was in response to a challenge to write a script that would a) run for 10 minutes of movie time and b) be limited to four characters.

I couldn’t help but sneak in that God has made the universe in such a way that exploration and discovery are not only possible, but encouraged…

TRESPASS IN SPACE
FADE IN:
A SPACESHIP DECK – DAY
THE YEAR IS 2068. CREW IN THE MIDST OF A DISCUSSION.

RIA

You don’t want to go down there.

BRINK

I do.

RIA

You don’t. Here’s why. You’ve been down there twice already, and the last time you were nearly killed. What makes you think the third time’s a charm?

BRINK

I know where we were when things went wrong. I know how to avoid it this time.

RIA

Think this through Brink. You almost died, and Amy never came back. She died trying to get through. I don’t want that to happen to you. We need you here. We’ll figure out how to get back into orbit, and after that we’ll go home.

BRINK

(Waiting. Thinking.) After the crash, we burned up nearly all our fuel trying to get into orbit. You know that this rock we’re on has plenty of what we came here for. An energy source to make us rich, and the same fuel to take us back.

CARL

You owe us at least that much Brink. You insisted on taking my wife with you the second time you went, because she was the mineral expert. Amy would still be alive if you hadn’t taken her.

BRINK

I didn’t see it coming. I didn’t know.

GUY

Brink, tell us again what you remember.

BRINK

Amy and I suited up and went into the tunnels. There were so many of them that we’d have gotten lost without nav equipment. We walked for 20 minutes, a half hour. It all looked the same. Tunnels large enough to walk through, nearly smooth walls, no light aside from ours. The only thing that stood out was markings on the walls whenever one tunnel intersected another.

RIA

Describe the markings again.

BRINK

They looked like signs with clean and precise symbols, but we had no idea what they meant. There was a large sign at one of the intersections. The symbols were bolder and deeply colored, so they really stood out. You couldn’t miss it. Amy suggested we go into that tunnel. She got a few feet in front of me and walked in. Then… she disappeared. Right there, right in front of me. I stopped. I called her name over and over, but she was gone.

CARL

And you left her there. 

EVERYONE GROWS QUIET

GUY

None of us could have seen this coming. In space, one hit can put you down. Fortunately, we crashed on the planet we were trying to get to. It’s amazing we’re not dead already.

RIA

I’m sure there’s another way to do this. Some way to leave that’s less risky. We just have to figure it out.

SILENCE AGAIN. 

GUY

Let’s take a look at the markings on those signs.

SLIGHTLY LATER. CREW GATHERED AROUND A MONITOR.

BRINK

(Pointing to monitor) This was the first sign we came across. Relatively small. There were a bunch of these all over the place. We couldn’t understand any of them.

RIA

They’re obviously alien. We’re the first humans here, and there’s no indication that there’s life currently on this planet.

BRINK

These markings don’t look like any earth languages. Although the symbols look abstract, there’s definitely a pattern to them.

GUY

All of these signs were placed at the same height.

CARL

By who?… Why?… When?

GUY

Something capable of space travel. Something that wanted to be here. They could have been here 10,000 years ago. They could have been here yesterday. There’s no way of knowing yet.

BRINK

Amy and I didn’t see any evidence of that. No supplies. No trash. Just empty tunnels for miles.

CARL

There is something here… something that stole Amy.

SAME SETTING, BUT LATER WHEN EVERYONE’S ASLEEP. LIGHTS ON DECK ARE DIMMED. RIA WALKS TO THE MONITOR AND LOOKS AT THE SAME IMAGES THE CREW HAD LOOKED AT BEFORE. SHE STUDIES THE IMAGES FOR A WHILE. A LOOK OF RECOGNITION CROSSES HER FACE. SHE BEGINS TO WRITE THINGS DOWN, LOOKING AT THE MONITOR ON OCCASION TO CONFIRM WHAT SHE’S THINKING, AND THEN FILLING IN GAPS ON HER SHEET. SHE WALKS AWAY FROM THE MONITOR WHEN SHE’S DONE, NOTEPAD IN HAND. SHE LIES DOWN TO SLEEP, HER MIND RACING AS SHE STARES AT THE CEILING.

FADE TO BLACK.

NEXT MORNING. CREW GATHERED AROUND MONITOR AGAIN. RIA HAS THE NOTEPAD AND IS LOOKING AT IT AS SHE STARTS TALKING.

 

RIA

I couldn’t decipher everything, but there are some things that are universal, literally across the universe. See these small symbols off to the side?  (points to monitor) They represent atoms, which are the same everywhere. Hydrogen will always have one proton, and one electron. Carbon has 6 protons, 6 neutrons, 6 electrons, etc. Each of these markers, these signs, shows certain specific atomic structures of various elements, mainly minerals. For complex minerals, they show combined elements. A lot of the signs have similar markings, some are different.

BRINK

The signs tell you which mineral can be found in which tunnel?

RIA

Yes, it was their way of letting each other know where to find what they wanted. If they needed to mine a specific mineral, they would travel down that tunnel.

GUY

Do you have enough of the signs interpreted, so that Brink can go back in?

RIA

I do, and the energy source we came here for is well marked on one of them. It’s on the large sign where Amy disappeared.

BRINK

That settles it. I have to go back. We need that fuel.

GUY

I’ll go with you.

BRINK

No. I won’t have your death on my hands too.

CARL

Go by yourself then, Brink.

GUY

You never wanted to come out here, did you Carl?

CARL

What do you mean?

GUY

You liked the idea of getting rich, but the real reason you came is you wanted to follow your wife. You’ve hated being on this ship, and now with Amy gone, you’d just as soon die on it.

CARL

I didn’t strand us here, and I didn’t get Amy killed. All that’s on Brink.

GUY

No, it’s on all of us, including you. And before you die, you’re going to have to learn to live with it.

RIA

Wait a minute! I think I know what the rest of the large sign means. I’ve been feeding what we know of these symbols into the computer. There’s something coming on-screen now. It looks like a warning.

CREW LOOKS AT THE MONITOR AND SEES THE FOLLOWING TEXT…

DANGER! THE RARE MINERALS IN THIS TUNNEL ARE PROTECTED. ALL WHO ENTER WITHOUT PERMISSION WILL BE TRANSPORTED TO SUB-TUNNEL A, SECTION 14. REPEATED ATTEMPTS AT ENTRY WILL RESULT IN DEATH.

GUY

It was probably a group just like us, although from another planet and possibly another time.

BRINK

I bet they were here for the same reason we are. To dig up rocks and take them home. The fuel they found had the same incredibly high value to them as it does to us, so they put it under lock and key, with a warning.

RIA

I don’t think they wanted to kill anyone.

CARL

Amy could still be alive!

BRINK

Guy, you and I are going to find sub-tunnel A, section 14.

DAYS LATER. ON THE BRIDGE, CREW IS SEATED AS AMY WALKS IN AND STANDS NEXT TO CARL.

AMY

(to everyone) I still can’t believe you found me.

RIA

We used the markings to decipher tunnel names and sections.

BRINK

I can’t tell you how happy we were to find you.

CARL

We thought you were gone forever. What was it like, being transported?

AMY

Like stepping into a cold shower. You feel it all over, but it stops almost as soon as it starts.

GUY

It might take us a while to access the fuel we need. But we have you back. And we understand the signs now. It’s only a matter of time.