Posts Tagged ‘faith’
Full marks for this iteration go to the networks of Radio U, that little radio station that saved my life in grad school and that became a lot more than that, which I still check every now and again just so that I can know Where Music Is Going.
See, musical waypoints were always very easy to find when I was young. I spent almost the entirety of the ages between childhood and 21 hearing new things; going from my parents’ taste in music (on albums, on 8-track, and on the old, old reel-to-reel) to discovering country radio to discovering pop radio to discovering all the possible different formats in between to wondering why I never heard any of the songs that Donnie Simpson played on Video Soul on the radio to discovering this little thing called “college rock” or “alternative” to going to college and being immersed in that to a pair of albums that changed how I thought not just about music, but about life.
Musical waypoints became much more difficult to find after I left college. In fact, for the first few years after I landed in Columbus and I wasn’t around many people with similar musical tastes initially, I found a little bit of static in my listening. Old friends kept up with electronically helped (hooray, rec.music.christian!) and new friends found…electronically helped (hooray, rec.music.christian!). There’s something of a gap in my library between 1993 and 1996, when on a fateful February morning, Radio U came on the air.
Radio U was exactly the radio this not-entirely-mature-but-entirely-too-earnest doctoral student needed in 1996. I loved the rock, and I did listen to CD 101 and 99.7 The Blitz as I moved, but I was still a very young Jesus-seekin’ Christian and I wasn’t getting to Cornerstone Festival after ’93 and I wanted more of that kind of music in my life. Radio U delivered it, and then some.
I’m going to spare you all the waypoints that intervened, except to say that there were more than a few earnest Christian kids in Columbus, Ohio in 1996 who, twenty years on, probably still get a bit emotional when they hear the guitars that open Stavesacre’s “At The Moment”. But I’m always grateful to that station that became this Christian-broadcasting multimedia thing that gave me confidence that Christians weren’t merely interested in making shiny happy music for the masses, but actual art.
Twenty years later, without even thinking that the radio station was twenty years old, while I was figuring out how to make a Roku box work on a TV, I installed a Radio U Roku app.
And I figured I could watch and see what was Most Wanted.
I have no clue what the first song I listened to was. It was kinda pounding and kinda Klingon and I just can’t get behind that sound no matter how much I give it a chance.
Now, the second song…well.
See, there’s a formulaic Christian song structure that I get used to, even in rock styles. That track resists every template. It resists it sonically, and it resists it lyrically. Every time I think I know what I’m about to hear, the song turns left and does something just a TINY bit different.
I enjoy that.
That sticks around for a couple of days and then I can’t get the track out of my mind and in 2016 when you can’t get a track out of your mind you take to the YouTubes.
Now, there IS a traditional music video for this song, and you should listen to it and watch it and stuff. But that lyric video is unlike anything I have ever seen. And it implants words into my head.
I wrote a short thing about Jimmy Eat World’s “I Will Steal You Back” and the fight of the last two-plus years – losing an institution, regaining status (for whatever that status means), and vocalizing what is lost. That song spoke to motivation, and to ambition – perhaps a dumb motivation, perhaps a foolhardy ambition, but the hope that I could contribute to change, and that change will be for the better.
So, of course, the very first song on this album has the refrain “Things don’t seem to change; they move in place, they stay the same.” And “People never change; they move in place, they stay the same.” You make the commitment, you take action, and then…nothing.
And then, as the first song dissolves into the second, the finger goes from pointing to other people to pointing at the self.
I was always out in front of it
Waging war against the storms when I felt overwhelmed and withheld
You and I were like a pair of thieves
Stealing from rich and giving to whoever we saw fit
Now you’re over it
I’ve been wrong a thousand different times
But I don’t know, I don’t know this time
You were there through every single lie and crime
What do you think of your son now?
The title of the song is “Birds Will Never Fly”, and the resignation behind the words is VERY heavy. And the doubt.
These are the left turns I hear in the words. Who is he singing to? God? His father on earth? The next lyric is “Wait a minute, I was here for you/Now you’re sick, you’re sick/I’m sick of it too” which frustrates me as much as ANY lyric I’ve heard in forever. I suppose it works both ways; disgust in the human relationship, projecting exasperation in the heavenly relationship. I really don’t know – except the frustration mirrors my own frustration at my own ineptitude.
Frustration isn’t good. It’s a result of not living in the world that isn’t what it can be. But frustration is good in that we have that picture of a better world, and we’re not content, and we’re motivated towards greater things.
The songs that open Move In Place put voice to frustration as beautifully as I have EVER heard from popular music.
And I feel that frustration more and more pointedly by the day. I know I have purpose here (and I have moments where I get, ahem, “clarity” regarding that purpose). But I also know intellectually how hard it is to make the world better, how to encourage people to cooperate. And even with knowing that intellectually, the emotions that surround that reality are heavy.
In the time between when I started writing this and now, I started a new job, learned a new city, moved into a new house (a full month and change after starting the job), and flailed in a new laboratory with experiments that worked sometimes (and they were experiments of my own design so it’s mostly my fault; in fact I’m finishing this while I’m trying to figure out how to salvage one of ’em). It’s felt like nothing’s gone right this fall, and often.
I have needed the first half of Move In Place. A lot. And I have a series of songs that are now waypoints to me, in same way I’ve gotten waypoints for other times in my life.
It’s reassuring, y’know? I’m nearly 45 years old. I’m in all likelihood over halfway through my life. And I can still find rock songs that speak to my season and that revitalize me.
And I need that song that laments how people never change to transition itself – into a song that speaks to a thing that remains the same.
Thanks to the men of Come Wind for the soundtrack to a new era in my life.
I completed a full year of Songs for Sunday Morning back in March, and I think I only missed one Sunday early on in the process. If you want to check up on me, you can see that archive of links for yourself.
I’ve kept up the discipline without updating the link archive, so I’ll actually transition this to a new page. The rules remain the same: the target is a reflective song appropriate for the day, regardless of whether it’s modern music, old-school CCM or Jesus Music, or a pop song that I’ve coopted for spiritual purposes. The post will be made on Facebook and Twitter every Sunday morning, with the #forSundaymorning hashtag (so you can search for ’em too!), and links to the songs will be stored here.
I expect you’ll find in this list hints of my year of transition in what I’ve selected, too.
November 16, 2014: Big Head Todd and the Monsters – “Resignation Superman”
November 9, 2014: Randy Stonehill – “Keep Me Runnin'”
November 2, 2014: Anberlin – “Breathe”
October 26, 2014: Phil Wickham – “This Is Amazing Grace”
October 19, 2014: Stavesacre – “At The Moment”
October 12, 2014: Andrew Osenga – “No Heart Beats Alone”
October 5, 2014: Charlie Peacock – “How The Work Gets Done”
September 28, 2014: Rich Mullins – “While The Nations Rage”
September 21, 2014: The Choir – “Mercy Will Prevail”
September 14, 2014: Josh Garrels – “The Resistance”
September 7, 2014: Rosanne Cash – “What We Really Want”
August 31, 2014: Hillsong UNITED – “From The Inside Out”
August 24, 2014: Idle Cure – “So Many Faces”
August 17, 2014: Propaganda – “Excellent”
August 10, 2014: The Hooters – “All You Zombies”
August 3, 2014: Rick Elias – “Stripped”
July 27, 2014: (total collapse, deliberate disappearance and hiding, forgot to seed the buffer)
July 20, 2014: Michael Card – “Who Can Abide?”
July 13, 2014: Mr. Mister – “Healing Waters”
July 6, 2014: Rich Mullins – “Land of My Sojourn”
June 29, 2014: Christy Nockels – “Into The Glorious”
June 22, 2014: Daniel Amos – “If You Want To”
June 15, 2014: Christy Nockels – “Sing Along”
June 8, 2014: Rich Mullins – “Brother’s Keeper”
June 1, 2014: Five Iron Frenzy – “Every New Day”
May 25, 2014: Ralph Stanley featuring Judy and David Marshall – “When I Wake Up To Sleep No More”
May 18, 2014: Steven Curtis Chapman – “The Great Adventure”
May 11, 2014: Sixpence None The Richer – “Sister, Mother”
May 4, 2014: John Farnham – “You’re The Voice”
April 27, 2014: Vigilantes of Love – “Resplendent”
April 20, 2014: Matthew Ward – “Easter Song”
April 18, 2014 (Good Friday): Marty McCall – “Why Have You Forsaken Me?”
April 13, 2014: The Choir – “Merciful Eyes”
April 6, 2014: Andrew Osenga – “Until You Provide”
Others’ songs, with link to relevant tweet:
As I have gotten the Buffer set up for my social media, one of the things that I’ve started trying to make a habit is a song post every Sunday morning that is reflective. It might be a modern worship song, it might be an old Jesus-music piece, or it might come out of God-haunted left field. But it’s something I’m going to try to make work.
Social media is lousy at archiving, though, so I will try to keep an archive around here.
March 30, 2014: Jesus Culture – “You Won’t Relent”
March 23, 2014: The Echoing Green – “The Story Of Our Lives”
March 16, 2014: Kate Campbell – “10,000 Lures”
March 9, 2014: Michael Card – “Know You In The Know”/”Could It Be”
March 2, 2014: The Prayer Chain – “Some Love”
February 23, 2014: Jars of Clay – “Worlds Apart”
February 16, 2014: Mark Heard – “Satellite Sky”
February 9, 2014: Charlie Hall – “King of Heaven (Isaiah 61)”
February 2, 2014: The Violet Burning – “Rise Like the Lion”
January 26, 2014: All Sons and Daughters – “Wake Up”
January 19, 2014: The Classic Crime – “Salt In The Snow”
January 12, 2014: Rich Mullins – “Peace (A Communion Blessing from St. Joseph’s Square)”
January 5, 2014: Somethin’ Else – “We Three Kings”
December 29, 2013: Lincoln Brewster – “Everlasting God”
December 22, 2013: Florence Baptist Temple Little Gospel Quartet – “Christmas Carols”
December 15, 2013: Rich Mullins – comments on Christianity
December 8, 2013: U2 – “Magnificent”
December 1, 2013: Hillsong Chapel – “Hosanna”
November 24, 2013: Lacey Sturm – “Mercy Tree”
November 17, 2013: Hillsong United – “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)”
November 10, 2013: Charlie Peacock – “Psalm 51”
November 3, 2013: The Violet Burning – “There Is Nowhere Else”
October 27, 2013: Whiteheart – “Unchain”
October 20, 2013: Christy Nockels – “Healing Is In Your Hands”
October 13, 2013: Michael Card – “Come To The Table”
October 6, 2013: Stavesacre – “Keep Waiting”
September 29, 2013: Michael W. Smith – “Restless Heart”
September 22, 2013: Mark Heard – “Tip Of My Tongue”
September 15, 2013: Rich Mullins – “Hold Me Jesus”
September 8, 2013: Phil Keaggy/Glass Harp – “Do Lord”
September 1, 2013: Kim Walker-Smith/Jesus Culture – “Rooftops”
August 25, 2013: Richard Page – “Kyrie”
August 18, 2013: Katrina Barclay – “New” (no link currently live)
August 11, 2013: Hillsong – “With Everything”
August 4, 2013: Randy Stonehill – “Your Love Broke Through”
July 28, 2013: Jon Foreman – “Equally Skilled”
July 21, 2013: Sixpence None The Richer – “Melody of You”
July 14, 2013: Vineyard Music – “Dwell”
July 7, 2013: Kim Walker-Smith/Jesus Culture – “Walk With Me”
June 30, 2013: Resurrection Band – “Every Time It Rains”
June 23, 2013: Rich Mullins – “Save Me”
June 16, 2013: Extreme – “Our Father”
May 26, 2013: Julie Miller, David Mullen, and Gene Eugene – “Forgive Us”
May 19, 2013: Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant – “Lead Me On”
May 12, 2013: All Sons and Daughters – “Brokenness Aside”
May 5, 2013: Chris Tomlin – “God Of This City”
April 28, 2013: Christy Nockels – “Waiting Here For You”
April 21, 2013: Rich Mullins – “I See You / Step By Step”
April 7, 2013: Chris Quilala/Jesus Culture – “Your Love Never Fails”
March 31, 2013: Rich Mullins – “52:10”
March 29, 2013 (Good Friday): Marty McCall – “Why Have You Forsaken Me?”
On Friday, I heard a commencement address at the old place. It was a very standard address for a Southern Baptist institution, a very standard exposition of the Gospel from that point of view, but it was surprisingly hopeless. The thing I’ve heard repeatedly, after the fact, was how much it was focused on how hopeless the world was, how dangerous the days ahead were, how miserable of shape that we are in without Jesus. There was just a bad taste on the day as a result.
All of the above might be true, but it feels like an incredibly incomplete story.
Last night, I heard a baccalaureate address at the new place. It was a call to reconciliation, with the parable of the prodigal son as the text. It was a picture of God, standing before us with arms outstretched, waiting to receive us as the father was waiting without judgement for his long-lost son. It was a pitch-perfect reflection as we await today’s sending out of graduates into the world.
If we have anything to offer as Christians, it is the hope of this resurrection of Christ – the ultimate triumph of life over death – as power to “grant us wisdom, grant us courage for the living of these days”, as Harry Fosdick once wrote. The resurrection isn’t merely “fire insurance” to get Christians out of hell – or the hell they’re currently living in. It’s actual power for the here and now, through the Holy Spirit, to cast out darkness around us and allow light to shine in.
I simply can’t abide any longer people telling me a situation is hopeless – whether that situation is in my yard, in my vocation, in my country, or in the world. If Jesus Christ is who he said he was, no situation is ever hopeless. Period.
So: for Sunday morning, and for graduation.
Because greater things are yet to come,
and greater things are still to be done in this city.
So, apparently unspeakable tragedy happened in Connecticut today. I’m not going to belittle it; it’s historic in its magnitude, and the fallout will be happening for a very long time.
But I don’t GET it. I was with 30 middle schoolers this afternoon, for one last time in this month-and-a-half long program we’ve been doing (and that I’ve been shilling for the company). I got to play “random question!” with them, and go to all kind of scientific and silly and philosophical and ridiculous ideas with them like you can only get from a group of middle schoolers. I got to thank their parents for getting to work with them, and encourage them going forward. I was loud, madcap, passionate, all that.
I’m trying to put together in my head how the one thing could happen when I experience a completely different thing. I can’t get there.
I’ve hit a point in life where I only know how to do one thing, and that’s fly around everywhere I can as wildly as I can explaining as many things as I can while being as positive as I can and affirming everyone that I can. I don’t expect appreciation for that, or even want it. Honestly, the excitement in a kid as a thing makes sense to them for the first time, or as they feel freedom to ask weird and wonderful questions for the first time – that is its own reward.
But if I can encourage those of you who care to read these thoughts somehow, it is this way: the Golden Rule still matters. Giving to others the way you would like for people to be giving to you still WORKS. Think about that, and ACT on that. Instead of another complaint on Facebook about another way in which this world is sad and broken and over, make the world better. Go. Do.
To be a Christian and to be an academic is the only life path I could have possibly taken, and I am grateful for the experiences I have had and what they have made me. But there are seasons in this life that are overwhelmingly stressful, and if you think you know the costs that people bear, the incredible work poured in, and the risk that faculty take in the name of integrity, not knowing whether the arrow aimed at you is coming from the right or the left…until you’ve lived this out, you don’t know a blame thing.
Please pray for us. All of us, regardless of where we work. I am so thankful for the career I have, because I am seeing anew how quickly it could go away.
I gave this talk nearly a year ago. I am incredibly sad tonight over this simple fact: I did not love Shorter University enough to stay. There are so many of you that, if there was a way, I’d be back in my office at Shorter tonight and I would be listening to everything you had to say; God knows you’ve had enough to say to me this week, through Facebook and text and what have you.
Above and beyond everything else I am praying for peace and understanding between students, faculty, alumni, administration and board. I long for all of us who claim the name of Jesus Christ to be able to share that common ground, extend liberty in all of the non-essentials, and love one another in our every act.
(ed note after the fact: that very prayer has been repeated publicly so many times since, and privately infinitely more)