I’ve been a fan of Mark Hall & the rest of the Casting Crowns gang since their first release, and I have to say I like their recent release, Lifesong, even more. Nothing revolutionary here; their music has a familiar quality to it, I guess the “easy listening” of contemporary Christian. Likeable, singable, relateable… Real stuff about real life.
Mark is a youth pastor, and although Casting Crowns has a touring schedule, they’re home every week to lead their youth group…those kids are their first priority (that’s the kind of thing that impresses me, not numbers). From what I can tell it seems success in the music industry was by accident, not by intent. Maybe they got hooked on the Jabez phenomenom and prayed to enlarge their territory, I dunno. In concert they look like they’re having a blast…playing like kids although most of the band members are pretty “grown up”.
I guess the reason Lifesong reeled me in was several of the songs spoke to where I am in life…to situations or circumstances close to me…to conversations I’ve had recently. Stained Glass Masquerade is one of ’em…I absolutely love these lyrics:

Is there anyone that fails / Is there anyone that falls /
Am I the only one in church today, feelin’ so small?

‘Cause when I take a look around / Everybody seems so strong /
I know they’ll soon discover / That I don’t belong
So I tuck it all away, like everything’s okay /
If I make them all believe it, maybe I’ll believe it too /
So with a painted grin, I play the part again /
So everyone will see me the way that I see them
Are we happy plastic people / Under shiny plastic steeples /
With walls around our weakness /
And smiles to hide our pain / But if the invitation’s open /
To every heart that has been broken /
Maybe then we close the curtain on our stained glass masquerade
Is there anyone who’s been there / Are there any hands to raise /
Am I the only one who’s traded / In the altar for a stage?
The performance is convincing / And we know every line by heart /
Only when no one is watching / Can we really fall apart
But would it set me free / If I dared to let you see /
The truth behind the person / You imagine me to be /
Would your eyes be opened / Or would you walk away /
Would the love of Jesus / Be enough to make you stay?
“Transparency”…some people don’t get it and I think these lyrics explain it (or the opposite) rather well. One of my friends doesn’t like the word. She said her first thought is flimsy, not substantial, not a whole lot to ’em, when she thinks of transparency relative to people. I’ve heard others equate it simply to “publicly bearing your soul”. I don’t see it either way.

Jesus tells us over and over that we’re supposed to be like Him. The good thing is He doesn’t expect us to be like Him and then refuse to let us know Him. He lets us in…He invites us in…He loves us into His life. Through His own Word and words He reveals His struggles, temptations, grief, prayers, anger, knowledge, joy, humility, power, empathy…He’s one of us (yet hardly one of us). By becoming fully man, He modeled life as He intends for us to live it…but for some reason, we often only want to show our strength. He must be amused by our best efforts at flexing a little muscle; I’m thinking here of when my sons would hold up their skinny little boy arms and say with a proud and semi-toothless grin, “Hey, mom, look at my muscle…feel it!” and I’d comply by squeezing that little bicep-in-the-making, and grin inwardly at what they thought they had to show. Are we any different?
I’ve seen God move powerfully in my own life and relationships when I’m willing to reveal my inadequacies…struggles…sinfulness…pain, and share how God has worked in those times. Truth evokes a response from people no matter how it’s packaged. I’m not talkin’ Jerry Springer tell-alls, but you already know that. I’m talking investing in lives by sharing your own–not by presenting a perfect facade, but by letting others in, inviting them in, loving them in to your imperfect world…your real world. We all have our own versions of a “stained glass masquerade”. Personally, I’d love for mine to be shattered….a much-more beautiful work of art just might emerge.

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