Mix From the Dashboard

 

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 3.00.37 PMAs you, my friends are well aware, I love music. You, of course, are aware of this precisely because we are friends. And friends know one another.

This morning I had to take three of the boys with me on some errands and NPR was playing the weekly round-up edition of the Diane Rehm show. Now, I know that lots of people really like Diane Rehm. But I wanted to listen to some music. If you live in the Phoenix area, you know that radio was not really an option. So I reached into my dashboard’s crap-hole, you know that big gaping storage area where you throw all your crap? No? Just us? Well, in that crap-hole were several blank CDs. I grabbed one, popped it in and was greeted by a mix I don’t remember making.  It’s like Christmas for your ears when you have a mix of music you know you like (because you made it) but you don’t know what’s next!

I’m pretty sure I did in fact at some point make this mix because I’m not sure who else would put together this particular collection of artists. There doesn’t seem to be a real theme or even significance to the order of songs. The best I’ve got is that the most recent songs on the mix are from 2014 so it was made some time after that. Maybe for a roadtrip? I don’t know. I don’t know where it came from. But I liked it. I liked it enough to pass along to you. You know, for fun.

Download the mix with art and tracklisting here.

Here’s the tracklisting:

  1. Hanasakajijii (Four: A Great Wind, More Ash) by Anathallo
  2. Franklin’s Tower by the Grateful Dead
  3. Who Built the Moon by Shinyribs
  4. Rosalee by the Chris Robinson Brotherhood
  5. Can’t You Hear Me Knocking by the Rolling Stones
  6. Prophet Omega Riff by Ramsay Midwood
  7. This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) by Talking Heads
  8. Excursions by A Tribe Called Quest
  9. Move On (Bloom Like The Sunlight In My Song by Mike Doughty
  10. Southern Grammar by Hiss Golden Messenger
  11. Homestead by Northern Hustle
  12. Walking On A Pretty Day by Kurt Vile
  13. Water Wheel by Steve Gunn
  14. Time To Move On by Tom Petty

Download the mix with art and tracklisting here.

He Shines In All That’s Fair: Thoughts On Common Grace, Creativity and Introducing My Music Mix

He Shines3The doctrine of common grace, like many doctrines, can be a contentious one. The basic issue centers around whether or not God is “pleased” by the actions and creations of those not numbered among His people? Because, Christians are in the continual process of aligning themselves, including what we do/can and can not take pleasure in consuming.

While the issue at hand may not seem immediately apparent to those unconcerned with pleasing God in everyday life, the issue may be summarized as something like this:

Christians understand sin to be the heart of idolatry and includes anything antithetical to God’s character. It is, by definition opposed to God since we believe that He is the sole source of all our hearts seek. So to look for fulfillment, security, joy, etc. outside of Him is in fact, opposing Him. It is a question of the posture of one’s heart.

Christians are thus left in the perpexing situation of what to do with anything not done from a heart’s posture to bring glory to God since it is thusly, in some way opposed to God?

Or is it?

What about things that in and of themselves might be benign? Moreso, what about things that somehow point to God’s character, even if they creator doesn’t know it or intend it? Music? Art? movies? Books? Poems? The very creative process remind us of a God who brings order from the chaos and flowers from the ashes. But what if the creator isn’t thinking of this or might even be opposed to such a worldview? Can Christians take pleasure in art made by n0n-or-even-anti-Christians?

As Richard Mouw summarizes the situation in his book He Shines In All That’s Fair: Culture and Common Grace:

How do we take with utmost seriousness the need to be clear about the lines between belief and unbelief, between those who live within the boundaries of saving grace and those who do not, while at the same time maintaining an openness to – even an active appreciation for – all that is good and beautiful and true that takes place outside of those boundaries?

While some in my own past theological streams argue that the doctrine of “common grace” is not appropriate, Mouw and others have come to believe that it is not only acceptable but appropriate for Christians to celebrate beauty and cultivate creativity. Wondering at a painting, being swept up in a piece of music, moved by a string of words or ideas, marveling at a sunset, hiking a mountain, smelling hops, tasting coffee, laughing, singing, crying, these are glimpses of God’s grace. They remind us of His goodness, of His character.

For many well-intentioned Christians, the fact that such glimpses are not sufficient to bring someone to salvation, they are not worth our while at all. Or more severely, they should be condemned. How else could someone come to believe that burning music albums brings glory to God more the creative process they contain?

I’m not making light of the struggle many Christians face as they try to align their consciences with God’s character as they choose what to watch, read or listen to. I’m simply trying to make sense of how we’ve come to a place where “American Christianity” rejects so much artistic expression without creating anything worthwhile of our own?

Do we believe that the terrific painting by a non-Christian somehow less valued by God than the horrible painting by a Christian simply because of the intent of the heart? Is there not inherent value in both? The value may be perceived differently by the eyes of faith but the eyes of most people would rather look at a great painting than a bad one (now is not the time to enter into the subjective nature of much art).

This may seem like a rather nebulous rambling (even for me), especially since I’m not here today to really look for answers to many of these questions. I’m simply giving you a context for the three-volume mix album that I’ve come up with. All of these questions and more have been rattling around my head for years, especially as I listen to music. Which I do. A lot. So over the years, I have kept various private playlists of songs which have presented me with an unexpected glimpse of God. A bit of grace in the everyday. Not every song explicitly mentions Jesus.

Some songs are by Christians. Some songs are meant as worship. Some songs are meant as evangelism. Some songs are by more skilled musicians than others. But, not every song here is even by someone who would claim to be a Christian. Some have said these songs are not even about Jesus (though they don’t mind them interpreted as such.). Not every song is to be understood as a theological statement or even representative of my own personal beliefs regarding God (specifically Jesus). And, please be forewarned, there is at least one “F-Bomb” for those sensitive to such things.

But over the years, every song here has, at some point, reminded me of, encouraged me on or challenged me in my own journey of following Jesus.

The Great American Mixtape Exchange: 2015 Favorites (My Edition)

2015Along with the incidental noises of the everyday, music is the soundtrack to life. It can help us make sense of our journey and frame the chapters of our story. It possesses a special power to bring back times, places, people and emotions, rivaled only maybe by the power of smell.

Music can enhance or change our emotions. Curated collections of music (mixes) can be a deeper diary than the one on your desk. Music can be a friend, a solace, a comfort, a challenge and everything in between.

Every year I try to make a collection of some of the songs that have meant the most to me during that year. I keep a playlist on my computer to which I add songs as they strike me throughout the year, then I edit them to a playlist that will fit on a blank CD at year’s-end.

This year, as I sat down to listen to the songs what I had set aside, I was struck by the narrative that presented itself.

This year has been challenging in a lot of ways. I resigned from ministry in January after serving as a pastor for ten years. I found myself unemployed half-way through the year after I came to the (financially) painful realization that I am not a salesman and that I don’t necessarily think ministry is best pursued through quotas. I have applied to over 105 jobs and I am still unemployed. I had to turn down one job that, after travel, fuel, etc., my family and I literally couldn’t afford to take. We put our house up for sale and had over 70 showings. Finally, we had an offer on our house squashed by our HOA. Dang the man. So we took our house off of the market. We very seriously considered selling everything we own and cramming our family of 10 in an RV to travel the country until we realized that not only could we not afford that, but our extended family greatly disapproved. I still wish that had worked out.

I have come to terms with the idea that (aside from abortion and marriage) I am considered socially liberal by many of my Christian friends while also being confronted with the fact that I am quite theologically conservative compared to my socially liberal friends. I have wrestled with issues of vocation and identity and calling. I have had to ask whether or not I would ever again “aspire” to serve as an elder in a local church.

We have faced uncertainty and doubt. We have tiptoed through anxiety and swam in depression. And yet we have tried to hold on to hope through it all, confused as we are, confused as we might continue to be. We know that we are not alone in our travels through this world, even if we feel like we can’t go home. Wherever that is.

With all of that rattling around in my head cabinet, it’s no wonder that many of the songs I set aside this year deal with finding your way, figuring our your identity, feeling alone or trying to find “home.” Of course, not every song perfectly fits this mold, but I was amazed at the consistency with which my sub-conscience was weaving a narrative of my year through music.

Through it all, feeling lost and unsure, my faith in God has not wavered. I have questioned a lot about the church and the way we as Americans put it into practice. I have questioned what my role in that will be in the future and I have felt the sting of thinking people were my friends when I was simply their pastor. But faith has anchored my soul, providing surety in the storm.

So, without further ado, I invite you to take a carefully curated musical journey through my 2015.

Here is the tracklist:

  1. Pilgrim (You Can’t Go Home) by Dave Rawlings Machine
  2. Shake It Off by Ryan Adams
  3. Don’t Wanna Fight by Alabama Shakes
  4. C.R.E.B. by Built To Spill
  5. Pretty Pimpin by Kurt Vile
  6. Living My Life by Deerhunter
  7. Leave A Trace by Chvrches
  8. Disappear by Seryn
  9. Through The Seasons by Promised Land Sound
  10. The Life You Chose by Jason Isbell
  11. Traveller by Chris Stapleton
  12. River by Leon Bridges
  13. New Way of Living by David Ramirez
  14. Never Gonna Be Young Again by Doug Burr
  15. Falling From The Sky by Calexico
  16. Went Looking For Warren Zevon‘s Los Angeles by Lucero
  17. Shine A Different Way by Patty Griffin
  18. Always Be by Josh Garrels
  • Download my 2015 year-in-review mix from Zippyshare.
  • Stream my mix from Spotify right here: