"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right whatever is pure, whatever is LOVELY, whatever is admirable - if anything is EXCELLENT or PRAISEWORTHY- think about such things." Phil. 4:8
"All truth is God's truth." Os Guinness
I have to yank those two biblical passages out of context a bit in a minute to make my point. I generally despise it when anyone takes a passage out of it's context, but bear with my, OK?
This is an easy post for me. I know that the last few have been a bit on the downer-side, shall we say. But not so with this one. I realize that I can often sound a bit morose when I'm struggling with my darkness...which I am still dealing with, but I wanted this one to be a bit more chipper. (Plus, a friend at work complained that I hadn't put anything up for a while.) So...
Music. I like music. Anyone who reads this blog will notice that I try to fit an appropriate video in to a post to help illustrate it. Also, anyone who knows me knows what significance various songs and artists can hold on me. Anyway, I figured that I would do a post about some songs that hold these significances and explain a bit as to why this is so.
First, I have to step back in time just a little bit:
So I'm a High School kid of no importance. I didn't go to parties, get drunk or do drugs. That just wasn't my thing. I DID and still do have a massive dose of curiosity. That could have easily lead me into the exploration of drugs if I had hung out with the wrong folks...which I almost did.
Thankfully, I had a decent youth group at church. It was there that I had a friend named Danny. Danny was a long-haired, rock n' roller who played a "Flying V" guitar. I think a lot of people thought he was into drugs because of his look, but he wasn't. In fact, I'm not certain if he has ever even had a beer.
Anyway, Danny had the biggest record collection (Yes, RECORDS!) I had ever seen. I had liked music before this, but Danny turned me on to a whole new world. This, in turn, kept me away from the enticement of chemicals...so I owe him big. (Glad there weren't raves around when I was a kid. I like techno, and almost certainly would have tried extacy.)
Among the many, many, many bands and musicians that Danny turned me onto was a fellow named Neil Young. Mr. Young has long since been my favorite. He has a weird voice, and resembles a hippy-logger of sorts. But for some reason, the way he played that guitar of his just nailed me. I have seen him in concert more times than I can count, and I have yet to see any other musician fall into "The Zone" as effortlessly & consistently as he does.
"The Zone" can be described as the moment where a musician loses himself in the song and virtually becomes "One" with the instrument and music. If you have ever seen it, you know exactly what I'm talking about, and it's not easily forgotten.
For some odd reason, this song always makes me think about God...weird, I know. The chorus, "You are like a hurricane. There's calm in your eyes," always speaks to me of how I view YHWH. Maybe that's strange to hear for some people, but that really is how I feel when I hear this song. So without further ado...
BTW: Stick with the song till the end. The 2nd guitar solo begins about two thirds of the way through. Do yourself a favor and stick around until Neil whips his tie behind his neck and you WILL see him going into the zone & the crowd reacting. You will get to see EXACTLY what I mean.
(Honestly, I DO look at the creation story to explain all of this.)
I quoted James at the beginning to illustrate my thought that all good & beautiful things come from God...including music. As such, I fully believe that God can use anything he wishes to connect to people...including a secular artist. That doesn't mean that everything a secular artist creates is God-honoring. But then, neither is a good deal of the crap that gets put out by "Christian" artists. (Boy, have I got a few stories to back that up.)
So, with that I'll push the envelope a little further. The Rolling Stones...yes them. While I wouldn't exactly play "Brown Sugar" in church any time soon, (Especially if you know what the song is really about.) if I tweeked the lyrics just slightly, I could easily sing this next one in church. You may frown all you want, but every time I hear this song I think of seeking the shelter of YHWH. That may sound weird, but I doubt very much that I am alone.
The fact of the matter is that YHWH is the only shelter I have. Even on my worst days I know that deep in my bones. Often, I seek his shelter so desperately that I cry out in pain because I don't feel his presence as deeply as I want to. Ultimately, he is IT...there is no other. And I want him to give me shelter because I feel the storm pounding me. (I can't say that I like this broken, sinful world very much.)
Now, lest you think all I ever listen to is evil, secular tunes, you would be mistaken. About a year ago, I was turned on to a guy named Derek Webb. I heard him with some other artists who were touring with the author, Donald Miller. By his own admission, you won't often hear too many Derek Webb songs on your local "Christian" station. He is very raw in his lyrics, and rarely pulls a punch. (Dude even cusses in some of his songs) I do believe that there is not only a place for a guy like Webb, I feel he is absolutely necessary in the kingdom.
Anyway, this song has become a bit of the theme song for me. Derek essentially calls himself a whore in his relationship with Jesus. He runs from the only one who can truly love him for other lesser idols and gods. I find myself identifying rather deeply with the message in this song.
And now, with that cheery note...
And now for something a bit more mainstream...
I like the Newsboys. During my last year at the school where I taught, I would go into the office when everyone else had left for lunch and listen to these three songs of theirs over and over again with only one tiny desk lamp on. I worked with some tough kids and an administrator who had the air of a cowardly Judas about him, (Not the most supportive fellow.) so it was my way of keeping my sanity. I think you can probably figure out why these hold significance for me.
I apologize in advance that this first one has no decent video for it. Such is life...
Back to the secular stuff for a moment...
I heard this song a few weeks ago, and it made me cry in the car. It's how I feel about the people who make up the church that I attend, Living Waters. Listen to the song, there is no video. You'll get my point.
Someday...someday, I hope that I do actually fall in love. (Been in "Like" a few times, but that's not exactly the same thing.) If that ever happens, this will be my song for her. I heard it many years ago, from a one hit wonder band. If I play it for her, she'll "Get it."
Most days, I really would like to get out of here. I pray that God's kingdom will get here ASAP. Things will be much better under new management. So, this is a song I heard a while back that blew me away, because it really sums up my feelings on this subject.
There are some folks out there who chafe at the idea that God would dare use a "Secular" song to get his voice across. They seem to forget that Martin Luther's "A Mighty Fortress" was originally a german beer hall song. If God choses to connect to a person through a piece of music, art, a tree...well that's his business. As my friend like to point out, "He is a God who wastes nothing."
I also like something I heard from Rich Mullins once. Alluding to the story in the O.T. in which God spoke through a donkey, "God spoke to Balaam through his ass, and God's been speaking through them ever since."
Obviously, there are a lot more tunes out there that I dig. I chose these because they really are very near & dear to me. If you have any that hold weight for you, tell me about them. I really would like to know.
Finally, since I began with Neil Young, I'll go out with him too.
I saw him at the Minnesota State Fair many eons ago with his country band, "The International Harvesters." They played THIS song. This version doesn't exactly copy what I saw at the Fair, but at least it's the same band.
I recall that Neil so lost himself in the song that his hat came flying off. When he was finished, the crowd didn't even cheer for about 10 seconds. They were just in awe at what they had seen. Then they went crazy.
Neil then announced that the next song would be "For all the mothers out there." He jumped into "Heart of Gold." I looked around the crowd of assorted hippies, bikers and such. Tears were flowing from their eyes. Now THAT'S Rock & Roll!
It was also a good & perfect gift that was
lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.
P.S. If you are interested, here is another version of the first tune I put up. In this case, it is Neil with his back up band, Cray Horse. (Really should see them before they kick the bucket.) It's taken from the Jim Jarmush film, "Year of the Horse," and is two different concerts spliced together. You certainly get the idea of what one of their shows is like...and yes, in part of the film, Neil is stoned to the bejezuz. Who says God doesn't have a sense of humor? (Honestly, it's a testament to his talent that he can play like that when he is full of so much geef.)