Whats Love Got To Do With It?

When I decided that I would write this piece on the idea of love, my first inclination was to emphasize the contrast between biblical love as defined in 1Corinthians 13:1-13, and love as defined by the world in romance stories, television commercials, and pop radio songs. While such a juxtaposition really is worthwhile, one that I believe is less worn and more necessary focuses the action of love.

Love becomes more than a stretched-thin combination of vowels and consonants when it is treated as a verb and lived out. I can tell my wife that I love her, but, it means a lot more to her when I make it a point to spend time with her in the evening instead of sitting in another room squandering my time away on the computer. Likewise, singing the Beatles song “All You Need Is Love,” while being a fine and enjoyable thing to do, is wholly insignificant compared to taking advantage of the daily opportunities that we all have to affirm and support somebody else through a kind word, an open ear, or a lent hand.

God defines Love as sacrifice for others. Sacrifice means putting the needs of others before our own.

What do you love? Who do you love? Whose needs do you place before your own? Who are you willing to die for? Family? Friends? Neighbors?

Who is your neighbor?

30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:30-32
12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command.
John 15:12-14

With Regards To The Annual Superbowl Hype…

Check out a fellow blogger’s perspective on life as a football fan:

You Are Among The Wealthiest In The World…

…if you are able to view this video:

36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?

Matthew 25:36-38

Album Reviews: OPEN by Jason Morant (2006) & BELONG (EP – 2007) by Jason Morant

I will start by noting that I’ve been a music fan for a long time and have likely read hundreds of album reviews since reading Rolling Stone’s review of Stryper’s IN GOD WE TRUST (1988) juxtaposed with a Slayer album review when I was 12. After writing my first album review (Kevin Max’s THE BLOOD) a couple of weeks ago, reading some other current music reviews, and considering the unique perspective and responsibility that a Christian might have in critiquing music labeled as being Christian, I want to state my intent to never post reviews of music that I don’t personally find intriguing. I will only post reviews of albums that I think are notable enough, in my opinion, to be featured in a blog that is not especially bent toward discussion of music. That being said, OPEN (2006) and BELONG (EP – 2007) are at least worth a post.

I’m grouping them together in this review because, essentially, BELONG is a mini-collection of rekindled, reinterpreted tracks from OPEN. I first fell in love with OPEN while listening to samples of the album when it was featured as a staff pick on iTunes some time ago. It is a rare occurrence when I purchase a whole album on a whim without any prior exposure to an artist, but, this was a complete impulse buy based on my first listen to a couple of 30-second song snippets. More than a year later, it is still a favorite on my ipod and in my car.

In trying to characterize the style and mood of OPEN, I can say that it is not pop, but, does feature layered melodies amongst more solitary undertones in a manner slightly reminiscent of Coldplay, but, with a New Orleans tint. Infectious and addictive? Yes, but, thanks to the lyrics, the listener’s thoughts are effectively focused on the substantive, yet basic, foundation that Christ laid out and that Christians should be known for, throughout the album: servitude through Love. In the title track, Open, Morant sings:

Its time for something more real than all these words
While the least of these are broken and dying
We count the pearls in our purse
It’s time to live in love
So open up your doors
Let the Son shine out into the night you’re hiding from
Let your hearts bleed with love because when all is said and done
Love’s the only voice that’s heard

Like in Open, the lyrics throughout the album do a tremendous job of focusing the listener’s attention on non-denominational, Christ-centered issues that cut to the chase of what Christ really wants from us. The songs aren’t about sentimentality, or overused, lifeless Christian wordplay. Morant sincerely sings about seeking in desperation, finding, and displaying gratitude to God through service to “the least of these.”

The 2007 release of the BELONG EP brought fresh versions of a few of OPEN’s tracks, namely Open, Offering, Belong, and Display My Love. In comparison to the original versions found on the OPEN LP, each of the reworked tracks exude more solitary tones, but, in a manner that amplifies the power of each song. Each of the EP’s tracks were appropriately seasoned with time since their original release.

I think that, for me, it is the wondrous marriage of articulate, focused lyrics with music that bleeds artistic integrity in a Christian music market that too often showcases so much less. Morant, is relatively under the radar of popular Christian music, but, that is the fault of the Christian music market machine and a testament to the substance of Morant’s music. I would find it hard to believe that he’s out there to sell T-shirts and become another ironic Christian celebrity. His music is less like the fast food snack-style of music so predominant in contemporary music and more like a gourmet meal meant to be savored and enjoyed.

Jason Morant on iTunes

Jason Morant on myspace

Momentous Life

I was in the middle of my first year of teaching fourth grade at a rural North Carolina school when I had my first “wintry mix” driving experience. I grew up and learned to drive in upstate New York and didn’t think it would be much of a challenge to navigate through the milder winter weather of a state six-hundred miles south. It didn’t take long for me to realize that it was a different game altogether in North Carolina. In NY snow plows, salt, and cinder trucks were just part of the scenery during the winter time. In North Carolina they are rare, to say the least. Because the roads are not pretreated and then maintained steadily throughout a winter storm in North Carolina, they, like their northern counterparts, can be pretty slick, too. Nothing too terrible happened, really, but, it sent a chill through my bones when, while driving relatively slow, I attempted a right turn only to find that, because of the slick road conditions, my car was in no mood to actually make the turn and it just continued straight past. It wasn’t until several yards after the place that I was supposed to turn, that my car’s momentum finally slowed enough for me to change course. Too much momentum in the wrong direction can lead to a loss of control.
So, I guess the question is, am I headed in the right direction and, if not, what direction should I be headed in?

I’ve been maintaining contact with my ninety-something year old great-aunt for several years now by writing letters. She’s a wonderful, retired teacher who is sharp as a tack and full of wit. In one recent letter to her, I asked her for some words of wisdom or advice. My thought was that somebody of her age and experience might just have a good idea of what works in life. In her response she reminded me that I had asked for advice and told me, “You will find it in the bible.” She then listed the following verses:

Proverbs 2:6
For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Proverbs 3:5, 6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 16:3
Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.

Because, as a Christian, I believe that the bible is the Word of God, knowledge and understanding can be found in it. I should place my full focus and trust in the knowledge and understanding that I find in scripture and I should live my life for Him. Only then will I be able to life a successful life. Will my success be indicated by a loaded bank account? Probably not, but, because it will be built on the wisdom and understanding of He that is the original source of wisdom and understanding, it will last forever and never fail me.

I’m not talking about the supposed wisdom that comes from a wealth and prosperity preacher on television or that of an auto mechanic, an underpaid fifth grade teacher, or a personal trainer at the gym. I’m talking about the wisdom that comes from the infinite, omniscient source of all wisdom who came down to suffer in the bowels of human existence, being born in a barn and laid in a cow troth and crucified on cross beams with nails piercing his limbs. I’m talking about the source of patient, unconditional love who extends His grace and hope to all who are willing to accept it.

As I grow older I am also growing in my ability to recognize, in the rear-view mirror, where I’ve made my biggest mistakes in life and what led to them. It is through this reflection that I’ve found that the only way to slow the momentum that carried me in the wrong direction is to let Jesus reorient my path and direct my future walk. Once I realized that I am loved by Him, my Abba, like the love between daddy and son, I began to experience a new level of peace and understanding. But, its continuance, the momentum necessary to maintain this perspective, is found only in remembering daily where I’ve been and where I need to focus from moment to moment: on His plan for my life. Through daily reading of scripture and prayer in which I ask Him to help me reflect his character, instead of my own, to those around me, I grow in His direction and in peace of mind. It is a realization that, even though I stumble on a daily basis, there is also grace, forgiveness, and renewal on a daily basis that maintains my momentum in the right direction.

Two For You

It seems like I’ve been spending more time reading blogs than writing my own lately. It occurred to me that this probably has something to do with the fact that the ones that I’ve been reading are so substantive and relevant. Please take a few minutes to visit:

Necessary Therapy: http://pistolpete.wordpress.com/

and

Walk Two: http://walktwo.wordpress.com/

“The Day I Tried To Live”

“Authentic prayer calls us to rigorous honesty, to come out of hiding, to quit trying to seem impressive, to acknowledge our total dependence on God and the reality of our sinful situation.” ~Brennan Manning, Devotions For Ragamuffins, Pp.8

My life, so far, has unfolded neatly in chapters. Starting almost precisely from the day that I graduated from high school in June 1994 and lasting for about the next five years, I experienced a dark chapter. It was a time characterized by my parents’ divorce, loved ones being incarcerated, loved ones passing away, the loss of our home and all possessions in a house fire, loneliness, depression, broken relationships, the consistent flow of alcohol, discovery of a brain tumor, subsequent treatment, and surgery. All of these things, however, proved to be secondary as contributing factors to a darkness that originated primarily from the fact that my back was turned to His love. Like many, I suppose, my college years were a time to shun morality for the sake of experience. Enemies and mistakes were made, time and opportunities were squandered, and sins were committed at a furious rate.

My soundtrack during those years consisted of a consistent flow of Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden, R.E.M., Faith No More, and Social Distortion. One Soundgarden song in particular stung my cold-encased and numb soul with piercing relevance at that time. It was just recently that I was playing some of my old dusty CD’s when “The Day I Tried To Live” (from Superunknown) and the circumstances of that time bubbled back to the surface of my memory. Juxtaposed against a retrospective view of the journey I’ve made since that time, the song lyrics still retain a ring of relevance, but, from a different perspective. Regardless, the truth is the same from any angle.

Soundgarden front-man and songwriter Chris Cornell’s lyrics intertwine good intentions with frustration and, perhaps unwittingly, the truth of God. He hit the nail on the head when he observed that life is a viscous cycle of meaninglessness and futility. Nobody is good. But, in recognizing how broken we are, the reality that we are liars and the fact that we have “wallowed in the mud with all the other pigs,” we have the opportunity to accept God’s grace and be freed from the “one more time around” mindset.


I woke the same as any other day
Except a voice was in my head
It said seize the day, pull the trigger
Drop the blade, and watch the rolling heads

The day I tried to live
I stole a thousand beggars change
And gave it to the rich

The day I tried to win
I dangled from the power lines
And let the martyrs stretch
Singing

One more time around might do it
One more time around might make it
One more time around might do it
One more time around
The day I tried to live

Words you say never seem
To live up to the ones inside your head
The lives we make never seem
To ever get us anywhere but dead

The day I tried to live
I wallowed in the blood and mud with
All the other pigs

I woke the same as any other day you know
I should have stayed in bed

The day I tried to win
I wallowed in the blood and mud with
All the other pigs

And I learned that I was a liar
Just like you

Music & Lyrics: Chris Cornell