Thursday, November 30, 2006

My Awesome Niece

Consider this a brief intermission between my thoughts on Jesus entries. My niece Elsy, who just got married and is living in Pennsylvania (which, in case you don't know is WAY different from living in Miami) sent out an e-mail to give us an update on being newly-wed, being Cubanita living among "Americanos" (wonderful "Americanos" by the way), and missing our family.

This is a quote on finding a church to worship in from that e-mail:

"We are looking for a church right now. I miss worship. I miss it very much. Jeff and I are so starving for christian fellowship right now that if we walk into a church on sunday and people are up there banging trash cans and plucking a jaw harp singing phil collins songs with christian lyrics...we would stay. Thats how desperate we are right now for some church."

I love it. Classic Elsy.


Thoughts About Jesus

I was just listening to Rich Mullins and The Ragamuffin Band album, The Jesus Record. This was Mullins last album, which he did not finish recording. His friends decided to finish it for him.

It's not a great album musically but it has some of the best lyrics I've heard from him; so great that it prompted me to think about Jesus.

So for Christmas, some random thoughts on the Savior in no particular order.

One of the songs on The Jesus Record is called "Surely God Is With Us." I love this verse:

" Well who's that man who thinks He's a prophet?
Well I wonder if He's got something up His sleeve
Where's He from? Who is His daddy?
There's rumors He even thinks Himself a king
Of a kingdom of paupers
Simpletons and rogues
The whores all seem to love Him
And the drunks propose a toast!"

You have to know that I am your typical post-modern individual. I am a cynic, a rebel; I've been told I have a problem with authority. I wore black at the age of 10, not because I was into an early goth phase, but because I liked Johnny Cash and his rebellious streak. I think that is one of the reasons I connect with Jesus so well. He did everything he wasn't supposed to do; at least according to the Pharisee in the Sanhedrin.

But he wasn't trying to be a rebel. He didn't have to. He was just doing what came naturally for Him. He expressed grace and love to those we look on with disdain; look down on with disgust. He looked them in the eye and let them know He loved them. There was no motive in His heart but love, forgiveness and acceptance.

Therein lies the heart of rebellion. Rebellion is expressing love to a world filled with hatred and hypocrisy. Rebellion is God standing against the heart of man, shouting at us, "Despite your own hatred and your two-faced nature, your lies and deceipt; in fact, because of it, I am coming down to become one of you. I will rebel against your hearts, and will die for this cause."

I always hear the usual complaints at Christmas time. "Christmas has become so material", we say as we're driving to the mall, talking on our cell phones. "They want to take 'Christ' out of 'Christmas'", we say in a desperate attempt to cast our own sins on 'non-believers'. It would be great if this year, we marvel at who Christ is, and stop looking at what everybody else is doing or thinking. He lived an amazing life that merits constant study. No man before or since Jesus has made such an impact on the world.

And he did it through a rebellion of love.

"I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love." - Mother Teresa

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Inspired Soul

In my list of great rock songs by Christian artists, I did not list Rich Mullins. There are 2 reasons for that. One is that he wasn't really in the genre of rock. The second is, he had too many great songs, and listing them would have been a long and ponderous task.

I was able to see Rich Mullins in concert, about 3 years before his death. At his concert, I had my first worship experience (even though I had attended church all my life, and I attended this concert when I was 24 years old).

In addition to being a great songwriter, he wrote some pretty good stuff for publication as well.

The following is taken from Release Magazine, fall of 1992 issue. It merits being read, and re-read.

Making/Being Made

The Bible is a very great book. It is the written witness to God's revelation of Himself in His word: Jesus Christ. And, if you like, you can make a great deal of it.

You can speculate about it: This will make you a philosopher and people will think you are deep and very smart.

You can pontificate in view of it: This will make you a preacher and people will marvel at your courage and gift for oratory.

You can adulate it: This will make you it's number one fan. You can display your very fine collection of it's various versions all over your house.

You can attack it: This will make you a skeptic and people will admire your honest, blind determination to live in your grim, faithless little world.

You can adapt it: This will make you a youth pastor or a Christian musician or a feminist theologian or a popular author. You, too, can be the icing on a cake.

You can systematize it: This will make you a theologian and people will quote you and regard those quotes as some sort of authority.

You can criticize it: This will make you a scholar - and those who are not put off by your egg-headedness will confer on you M.A.'s and D.D.'s.

You can theorize it: This will make you an expert in biblical slants on contemporary issues like political science, psychology, church growth, economics, sex and marriage.

You can ponder it: This will make you a mystic and people will turn to you for spiritual advice (and from you when they get it).

You can practice it: This will make you a model citizen - a fair, generous and righteous (if somewhat uptight) person.

Of course, what we make of the Bible will never be as great a thing as what the Bible will - if we let it - make of us. For that which is born of the flesh - our human understanding and handlings - is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit - God's revelation of Himself and the power of that revelation to enliven us - is spirit. The will of man will not ultimately prevail against the will of God. It is the will of God that we should know Him as He revealed Himself and that will has not only survived the arrogant attacks of scientific and "enlightened" men, it has (even more miraculously) thrived in spite of our best intended, though sadly misguided attempts at "rightly dividing" that seamless robe of revelation.

So, let us press on with no faith in our own understanding and nothing but faith in the Truth that is too great to be diminished by our feeble minds and too great to not transform us. Salvation comes from God, not from our cleverness. The Bible is a very
great book. Let us submit to it so God may do the great work of making us into a great people.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

God's Gonna Cut You Down

I just saw a music video for a new release of a Johnny Cash song, God's Gonna Cut You Down. Speaking of great Christian song-writers, Johnny Cash was the man. The video is cool, black and white, and kind of depressing. It features a bunch of famous people, who I guess are troubled by all of the fame and fortune they have. Cool people in the video include Bono, Chris Rock, Q-Tip, Dennis Hopper and a few others. But if I have to see another image of the Dixie Chicks on black and white film with mascara running down there faces, trying to draw a new audience among the underdogs and, I guess, some Country music/Goth crowd I haven't heard of yet, I'm blowing up Texas.

The song is great though. Rick Rubin is a genius.

Country Dixies

Goth Dixies (let's be dark and introspective... as we sing about our double-wide)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Last, but not the end - A Song of Scandal

In 1991, Derri Daugherty and Steve Hindalong Released a concept album entitled At The Foot Of The Cross, Volume 1 - Clouds, Rain, Fire. The album was ahead of its time, and I don't believe Christian audiences were ready for an artistic endeavor of this magnitude. This was not a rock album as much as it was a creative force of worship and story-telling. It was followed by Volume 2 which was just as stellar. Unfortunately, these guys were part of the rock music collective of the time, and unless you were Sandy Patty or Steven Curtis Chapman or 4-Him, nobody was going to pay attention to you.

Beautiful Scandalous Night
was one of the tracks off the album. Though the song was released in 1991, it did not get widespread attention until about 10+ years later, when the song was re-released on Daugherty/Hindalong worship project, City On a Hill. I still like the original version better.

Of all the songs I've posted, this one merits being read:

Go on up to the mountain of mercy
To the crimson perpetual tide

Kneel down on the shore
Be thirsty no more
Go under and be purified
Follow Christ to the holy mountain
Sinner sorry and wrecked by the fall
Cleanse your heart and your soul
In the fountain that flowed
For you and for me and for all


At the wonderful, tragic, mysterious tree
On that beautiful scandalous night you and me
Were atoned by His blood and forever washed white
On that beautiful, scandalous night

On the hillside, you were delivered

At the foot of the cross justified
And Your spirit restored
By the river that poured

From our blessed Savior's side


Go on up to the mountain of mercy
To the crimson perpetual tide
Kneel down on the shore
Be thirsty no more
Go under and be purified


There were many other great and notable songs during that time, but I'm getting bored and VH-1 isn't paying me for this, so I'll end my list with this one great song.

Allow me a short rant. A song like this not getting any airplay in Miami, and not being used as a key worship song in South Florida until over 10 years after it was written is testament to how badly Miami sucks. The church in general in South Florida is so CLUELESS when it comes to worship that it is almost comical. But hey, second rate city, second rate churches. Hopefully, a change is a'comin.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Songs of Inspir--... Songs that Rock - Mortal

In 1993, a group named Mortal released their sophomore project, Fathom. At the time, there was a term used with Christian audiences which went something like "If you like (enter secular band name here), then you'll like (enter Christian band name here)". These guys were compared to Nine Inch Nails. I felt they transcended anything NIN had done with this album.

It's difficult to pick one song from this project, because I could pop in the CD and listen to the whole thing, including the cool and hilarious bonus track. You could tell they poured everything they had into this album, even in the cryptic messages written into the cover art. They did not want to be compared with a secular band (comparisons were drawn to Skinny Puppy because of 1 song on their first album).

One song off the album that hits you in the gut is Rift, which deals with sexual abuse. How do you explain to a victim that they are loved by God? How does a person recover after such a life-altering experience? The song had a haunting feeling to it, and was hard and beautiful all at once:

You say you'll lift me up
you say you'll cover me
you say you'll fill my cup
before it empties
you say you're never far
you say not far from me
you say that where you are i'll
always be
and i believe you
you say that when you love
you love with all your might
you say you trust by faith and
not by sight
and i
i believe you, i believed you
you said you'd lift me up
you said you'd cover me
you said you'd nurse my cuts
you stare and watch me bleed
your eyes have seen The Glory
but your body's on hold
your lips have kissed The
but your story's leaving me
sometimes our lives depend
on that which we place faith in
and sometimes faith relies
in Whom we are depending
sometimes our broken hearts
are healed the moment we
Believe Again

I always felt that Mortal was one of those groups that, had they not been on a Christian label, would have drawn the attention of the industrial and hard music world at the time.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Song #7 - Steve Again

Steve Taylor released this song, On The Fritz, in 1985. I didn't hear it until about 1994. To this day it stands as one of the few brutally honest songs I have heard; one that doesn't pull any punches about the consequences of sins.

In 1995, Steve Taylor released a live album entitled "Liver". The concert version of the song delivers a psychotic intensity to the song. He later released a video that was equally as intense. I tried finding it on the web, but no dice.

The song shows the unraveling of a life caught up in "secret sin". How a man, seen by many as a "man of God" (ST was singing about the "televangelist" types), tries desperately to mask a wrong committed, but watches as his sin life spins out of control. The song illustrates those hurt along the way as well. The video was disturbing, because while it was not explicit in any way, the imagery clearly conveyed the anxiety, pain, and guilt associated with the fear of a hidden sin being uncovered.

On The Fritz

He wished to right the wrongs
he sang religious songs
he kept the private he
under a lock and key
heat keeps rising in an age of passion
shakes a conscience to the core
stopgap, hand-slap, take a tongue-lashing
my poor soul can't take any more

On the fritz
on the fritz
there he sits
on the fritz

He kept his ego there
it was a sad affair...on the fritz
the inner circle knows
and so the story goes...on the fritz
airborne rumors chip away the image
but you knew the stakes were high
first they get you thinking you're a prophet
now they've got you living a lie


So the crowds grew, and their praise did too
and a mailing list sent you money
so they love Jerry Lewis in France
does that make him funny?
it's too late for apologies when trust has been betrayed
now victims of your double life are naming names

He kept his ego there
it was a sad affair...on the fritz
the public's had enough
they've come to call your bluff...on the fritz
small talk breeds where kingdoms come crashing
rumor conquers where it wills
no one hears you, go ahead and cash in
if you don't die to yourself
pride kills

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Inspirational Song #6 - Poor Old Lu

One of my favorite "new"groups of the 90's came out of Washington State, and were a couple of high school kids when they got their start. Poor Old Lu, named after a line taken from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. They emerged duing a time in rock music where every group, song, and guitar riff were put into sub-categories, so they were called a grunge band by some. I just thought they rocked, and their music was original. During this time in Christian Rock circles, the music was in a weird place as the major labels were taking a hard look at possible profits from a growing audience. Lyrical substance and musical prowess were taking a back-seat to image and marketability. In the midst of all that, Poor Old Lu was one of the few to rise to the top.

This is my favorite song off of their 1994 album, Sin.

Where Were All of You

hey you got a little something to say
i know you think it wrong
and you're gonna make the world okay
make us strong

where did you go?

want your right? rise up today
you, one and all
and the soul not so much to pay
feeling tall

where did you go?
where were all of you?

a Man can die
a child can cry
or One crucified
for you and i

a child can die
a Man can cry
and nailed on high
to give us life

where's the rights?
where's the rights?
oh, where's the rights?

have to push 'no choice' away
ya, make it small
"have to do all what we may"
you can't fall?

where did you go?
where did you go?

'Where Were All Of You' basically contrasts the world's push for defending personal rights to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and the fact that He laid down His rights for us when He went to the Cross. His rights to a proper trial. His rights to be treated decently by his own people. His rights to be worshipped as Lord of all. Instead, He was "nailed on high to give us life", but where were all of the people screaming for rights at that time? Where were we who want our way so often? To be like Christ requires sacrifice for those who do not deserve it, love for those who are unlovable, and compassion for those who would strike out at us."

Lyrics and song commentary can be found on the website

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Inspirational Song #5 - not so inspirational

I'm posting faster than usual because I have songs playing on my PC as I work. This one just played a few minutes ago.

Mike Roe, independent artist and front man for the aforementioned The 77's, came out with the Safe As Milk album in 2000. I don't know much about Mike Roe, but if his lyrics say anything about the man, he has deep-seeded struggles, inner turmoil, confusion, and intermittent pain... actually, that sounds a lot like me.

I first heard It's For You on a live album, then picked up the "uncurdled" version (as he calls it). Even though this song came out in 2000, it still falls in category of the brutally honest songs released from mid-80's to mid-90's. For obvious reasons, this "uncurdled" version didn't make it to Christian bookstore shelves.

It's For You

it's a fishbowl fry
it's small potatoes
its some tough tomatoes
when the shit hits the fan
from the fire to the frying pan

so go on, stake a claim
but the lease is a little lame
'cuz the land is a little locked
to any borders or boundaries
it'll leave you in a quandary...

it's a wake-up call
'cuz the thrill of it all
isn't worth the punch
drunken binges only blow your lunch

yes you shot your wad
when you named yourself "God"
but your nickname is "chump"
blowing chunks out your mouth
wisdom out your rump

it's a belching gas
it's a treacherous trip
on a mountainous pass
it's a warning
it's a block
you're the cock 'o th' walk
but you can't walk your talk

it's for you and you and you

it's a freeze-frame still
full of whiskey and bitter pills
it's a catwalk crawl
through one barroom brawl after another
(it's a mother)
so don't look down
'cuz you won't like the drop
it's fun while you're flying
but it's bad when you're lying there
bleeding and dying

it's for you and you and you

it's a bath of sin
with no way to clean up
and no way to win
it's a hardened heart
that attacks when it stops
and you can't make it start again

yes, you're laboring under the law
with all of your foibles
and all of your flaws
you can cut 'em all loose
and save yourself from the hangman
there's no need to be damned
but do you give a dang, man?

whether fortune and fame
or rank poverty
we all rank just the same
'cuz every knee has to bow
to some god of some kind
which one will you choose now?

is it you and you and you?

Once you get past the realization that yes, in thought or in print, Christians do say 1 or all of the 5 words you can't say on television, and look deeper into the song, you will note that the last verse sums up the song nicely, and is a reference to Phillipians 2:10,"that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,".

Song of Inspiration #4 - Strong Hand of Love

The late Mark Heard wrote the song, Strong Hand of Love. It was recorded by Daniel Amos, and later covered on a tribute album by Bruce Cockburn:

Down peppers the rain from a clear blue sky
Down trickles a tear on a youthful face
Feeling in haste and wondering why

Up struggles the sun from a wounded night
Out venture our hearts from their silent shrouds
Trying to ignite but wondering how

We can laugh and we can cry
And never see the strong hand of love hidden in the shadows
We can dance and we can sigh
And never see the strong hand of love hidden in the shadows

Young dreamers explode like popped balloons
Some kind of emotional rodeo
Learning too slow and acting too soon

Time marches away like a lost platoon
We gracefully age as we feel the weight
Of loving too late and leaving too soon

We can laugh and we can cry
And never see the strong hand of love hidden in the shadows
We can dance and we can sigh
And never see the strong hand of love hidden in the shadows

This song is so poetic, you can hear it over and over again and capture something new each time. The funny thing is, as with most of the songs you will see on my list, it never got any air-play on Christian radio (at least in South Florida).

One interesting piece of information; Bruce Cockburn is said to have frequently called Mark Heard his favorite song-writer. Bruce Cockburn has in turn been lauded by Bono, and had some of his songs performed on stage by U2.

If you would like to add Mark Heard to your collection, check out

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Song of Inspiration 3

Okay, this looks like its turning into a top 10 type list of great rock songs by Christian artists. But why not? It's good mindless fun (for me anyway).

Why spend time on this list? In the sea of mass marketed mediocrity, it is good to know that there actually are artists in the Christian music scene, who write songs from the heart expressed honestly and with passion.

("Pray Naked" Album cover - note, the 3 naked guys are NOT the 77's. Also, you think a "Christian" rock group could get away with this today?)

The 77's were a rock band out of California. If you want their discography or more info on the band, just Google them and you'll find them. All I have to say about them is that they were one of my favorite bands. The first album I picked up was "Drowning With Land In Sight", which had the best cover of Zeppelin's Nobody's Fault But Mine I've heard to date.

The song I picked for this blog is "The Lust, The Flesh, The Eyes, and The Pride of Life". This song beautifully portrays the pull of the world on man. It's not only a great song lyrically, but has a very catchy guitar hook throughout.

Well, I feel
Like I have to feel
Something good all of the time
With most of life I cannot deal
But a good feeling I can feel
Even though it may not be real
And if a person, place or thing can deliver
I will quiver with delight
But will it last me for all my life
Or just one more lonely night

The lust, the flesh
The eyes
And the pride of life
Drain the life
Right out of me

Well, I see something and I want it
Bam! Right now!
No questions asked
Don't worry how much it costs me now or later
I want it and I want it fast
I'll go to any length
Sacrifice all that I already have
And all that I might get
Just to get
Something more that I don't need
And Lord, please don't ask me what for


And I love when folks
Look right at me
And what I'm doing
Or have done
And lay it on about
How groovy I am
And that I'm looking grand
And every single word
Makes me think I'll live forever
Never knowing that they probably
Won't remember what they said tomorrow
Tomorrow I could be dead


Monday, November 06, 2006

Songs of Inspiration - Hide The Beer

This song, released in 1989, isn't really inspirational. But it's a good example of what Christian musicians used to get away with. It's fun, and my favorite song from the Swirling Eddies. Notice the brutal truth hidden in this campy song.

Hide the Beer the Pastor's Here!

the straw runs down his arm and leg
under the carpet out to the keg
a secret party tonight at Point Loma

and the hate in your heart you're hiding well
but the booze on your breath is easy to smell
there's a six-pack to hide
on the Oral U side
let's drive to oklahoma

hide the beer, the pastor's here
hide the beer, think of your career
he might find out that we're human beins'
and bring us all down to the rack and the ruin

she had a beer as an evening snack
when the 'scripture man' planned a sneak attack
suspension's the buzz out at Wheaton
as she packed her bags and gathered her books
'scripture man' gave her that lustful look
yes lust is his brew but no one sees through
his minty fresh breath ain't reekin'

when the coast is clear, you can kiss me, dear
together we'll have hell to pay
so wear a beard, the pastor's here
put the "R" rated movie away

yeah, hide the beer, the pastor's here
hide the beer, think of your career
he might find out that we're human beins'
and bring us all down to the rack and the ruin

hide the beer (biola!)
hide the beer (bethel!)
wear a beard (west mont!)
hide the beer (calvin college!)
hide the beer (azusa pacific!)
hide the beer (liberty baptist!)
hide the beer (san jose bible college!)
hide the beer (bob jones!)
hide the beer (taylor u!)
hide the beer (california baptist!)
hide the beer (gordon college!)
hide the beer (calvin klein!)
hide the beer!

george fox, moody bible institute,
seattle pacific, baylor, smu, pacific christian,
jimmy swaggart u, john brown,
anderson, eastern mennonite, fort wayne bible,
grand rapids baptist, greenville, grove city, nyack,
travecca nazarine, multnoma school of the bible,
inland empire school of the bible, philadelphia college of the bible,
whitworth spring arbor,
and south & north western. . .

I Blew Up The Clinic Real Good!, and other songs of inspiration

Okay, so I've read and heard over the years about how badly music labeled as "Christian Rock" sucks. From "God Is Doing a Nu Thang!" (emphasis on the Thang) by DC Talk, to Stryper (and whatever songs they sang that people liked... I wasn't one of them), we've heard the vile criticisms. The latest great criticism came from South Park, the episode where Cartman decides to form a Christian band called "Faith Plus One". His secret? He takes songs from popular secular songs, and just switches some words of affection for more spiritual word (i.e. - Jesus for love).

However, rather than sit here and high-brow my way through yet another critique about how Christian rock is a business, and it's all bad copies of secular music (can you say Barlow Girls ala Evanescence?), and they're all in it for the money -- by the way, YES all of these criticisms are true -- I decided to highlight some songs that stood out in a time when Christian Rock was considered, well... just too gosh darn stinkin' controversial.

It is my opinion that the best era in Christian rock lasted from the mid' 1980's to the mid' 1990's. Back then, Christian rock music performers were on the fringe of both the secular world and the Christian music world. In other words, they were not widely listened to and were, for the most part, forced to seek distribution through independent labels. The result? The kind of freedom allowed to many indie artists to express themselves without the restraints usually placed on artists on major labels to fit the Jesus mold. The music was fresh and creative, and the lyrics had a depth and honesty that sometimes made the listener feel uncomfortable.

Over the next few blogs, I want to highlight some of the great songs, and their lyrics, that came out during that golden age of Christian rock.

The first song I picked was written by Steve Taylor, from his album "I Predict 1990". The song was later covered by rock duo Flemming and John, which was the first time I heard (their version is actually better, but props to Steve for birthing the song). The song was inspired by Flannery O'Connor. The original recording was done in London with a chamber orchestra.

Harder To Believe Than Not To

Nothing is colder than the winds of change
where the chill numbs the dreamer till a shadow remains
among the ruins lies your tortured soul
was it lost there
or did your will surrender control?

Shivering with doubts that were left unattended
so you toss away the cloak that you should have mended
don't you know by now why the chosen are few?
it's harder to believe than not to
harder to believe than not to

It was a confidence that got you by
when you know you believed it, but you didn't know why
no one imagines it will come to this
but it gets so hard when people don't want to listen

Shivering with doubts that you left unattended
so you toss away the cloak that you should have mended
don't you know by now why the chosen are few?
it's harder to believe than not to

Some stay paralyzed until they succomb
others do what they feel, but their senses are numb
some get trampled by the pious throng
still they limp along

Are you sturdy enough to move to the front?
is it nods of approval or the truth that you want?
and if they call it a crutch, then you walk with pride
your accusers have always been afraid to go outside

They shiver with doubts that were left unattended
then they toss away the cloak that they should have mended
you know by now why the chosen are few
it's harder to believe than not to...

I believe

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Halloween and Ms. Ellis

Yesterday, we took our daughter to the neighborhood I grew up in for Trick-or-Treat. We went down the same route we used to take when I was a kid. My mom was with us, and I saw the old houses, some with new doors to knock on.

We saw a house with a big picture window. On the other side of the window, the owner had decorated for Halloween, with a full sized monster figure, and lit up carved pumpkins. There were other assorted decorations finishing off the festive Halloween decor.

The owner of the house came out, and since she lived on the same block as our old mailman (see yesterdays blog entry), I proceeded to tell her about how much I enjoyed the mailmans decorations when I was a kid and that her decorations reminded me of his house.

"That was my father" she said. "Mr. Faye. He lived on the other side of the block. My daughter lives there now."

We continued talking for a bit. She was overwhelmed with joy, talking about how much her father loved decorating his house for Halloween. She was also very happy to hear that someone appreciated what he did.

So, I thanked Ms. Ellis, and continued to walk down the old neighborhood with my daughter. I realized that though Miami has changed, the old neighborhood hasn't changed much.