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Music for thought, beauty, &/or worship

Not everything you see here will be "Christian" music. I like to find seeds of the divine in the secular when it is there. Some of this is done by Christian musicians in the secular field, Christian musicians in the Christian field, and some may not be Christian musicians but give us things to think about.

Poor Bishop Hooper: (Band) I don't even remember how I came across them. But I think that a lot of their music is wonderful. If you listen to my podcast, you'll hear their music. Music rarely lifts my soul and carries me to worship in connection with God, but much of their work does just that for me. The simple song below is just one example. It starts with Abraham and traces his lineage to Jesus Christ. Stupid idea for a song, right? But as you listen to the names and consider their stories, there is something odd and beautiful about it as it builds to the climax of the birth of Jesus. Some of the names have great faithful stories, some of stories of the names are scandalous. But it sounds wonderful!

This video gives a glimpse into the heart of Poor Bishop Hooper as they describe their project EveryPsalm. Over the course of about three years they made a song for every Psalm, "until every Psalm is sung again."

The Golgatha Experience: (Concert) This was my introduction to the band Poor Bishop Hooper. I don't recall how I came across it, but I was hooked from the beginning. This is excellent for a Good Friday meditation, but of course it can be listened to any time of year. I find this band to be very worshipful and I love their music. There is a fantastic companion book(let) that they wrote for this. You can see that here. They essentially put the stations of the cross into music and performed it as a concert.

God Moving Over the Face of the Waters: by Moby. Genesis 1:2-5
The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day. 
NASU

 

God inserted Himself into creation at the very beginning. I know of nowhere in the Bible that says He ever left. This song I think is very powerful.

And for those of you that prefer a less synthesized, more orchestral version. Also powerful and beautiful. This version has several comments on YouTube about its beauty.

A Case for Shame: by Moby featuring Cold Specks. There is a line in this song that feels like grace to me. In the studio album version, the line "You today" gets repeated several times in the song with no context until the last stanza: "I heard you say / I will not shame / You today". I remember reading the notes he included in one of his albums that he loves Jesus and has a cross tattoo on the back of his neck to signify that. I do not know what his faith looks like, but he has some songs that just seem transcendent and worshipful. This, to me, is one of them.

The studio album version is also beautiful. This has the official music video.

The Last Day: by Moby featuring Skylar Grey. In addition to the beauty of the song itself, the lyrics are wonderful even though they may be a word of warning (as well as redemption). I think of the thief on the cross next to Jesus for some of these lyrics (even the background lyrics in the studio version: "Looky, lookly yonder / Where the sun done gone"), but of course they have meaning in other contexts:

"He was searching / Blindly night and day / This life, there must be more / Breaking beauty, just to stay awake / His heart was like a stone / His heart was like a stone / And on the last day / He walked out in the sun / He only just discovered the sun (Son?)... And on the last day / When all his work was done / He only just discovered the sun / On the last day... All this rapture / Right here all along / In scraps he tossed away / All this color / In his final breath / exhaled the dark and grey... He walked out in the sun / He only just discovered the sun / On the last day..."

The studio album version is also beautiful. This is the official music video.

Casimir Pulaski Day: by Sufjan Stevens. I don't know Sufjan Stevens but I do know that he has made some beautiful Christian themed songs and remakes of Christmas songs. I was told he is a Christian. This song isn't necessarily beautiful in an uplifting way, but there are Psalms of Lament, Ecclesiastes, and Lamentations in the Bible. I think God can handle our questions and includes difficult things in His Word to let us know that we can bring our questions and concerns to him. I think this may be what Sufjan was doing with this song. If you watch this on YouTube, the lyrics are posted there.

To Be Alone With You: by Sufjan Stevens. This is one of those quietly worshipful songs by Sufjan Stevens. I like the understated and intimate nature of this song. If you view it on YouTube you can also read the lyrics. When Sufjan sings that Jesus died to be alone with him, think in terms of intimacy with God in silence and solitude.

Vito's Ordination Song: by Sufjan Stevens. I know it gets repetitive at the end. If it bothers you then you can always turn it off. But this song is one of his beautiful worship songs. Again the theme of intimacy with God comes through. It's funny, I saw Sufjan Stevens and Massive Attack in back-to-back weeks at the same venue in Philadelphia, Tower Theater. Sufjan sold the house out whereas Massive Attack didn't even sell out the main floor. I guess I am not the only one that appreciates Sufjan Stevens.

For Blue Skies: by Strays Don't Sleep. This song, while not specifically Christian (though one of the 2 headline singers of the group is reported to be one, maybe both I don't know), it deals with a powerful Christian theme: forgiveness. One of the most powerful forces in the universe.

Life is a Song: by Patrick Park. I have no idea of the faith of Patrick Park, or if he even believes in a god. But the lyrics of one of the stanzas in this song serve as a clear reminder that we are indeed ambassadors of Christ, be it for good or not so good. It reminds me that I want to be a good representative of Jesus, both because I love Him and want to represent Him well, and because I love those who also do not yet know Him, and they are watching. Those lyrics I mentioned?: "You say that you know / that the Good Lord's in control / He's gonna bless and keep / your tired and oh so restless soul / But at the end of the day / when every price has been paid / you're gonna rise and sit beside / among some old seat of gold / Well then won't you tell me why / you live like you're afraid to die / and you'll die like you're afraid to go"

Everloving: by Moby. This song has no lyrics, but it has a title. I invite you to sit back and enjoy, considering the love that God has for each and every one of us. His presence, his action in our world.

And if you prefer the more orchestral version.

Wait for Me: by Moby. "What you did for the least of these" (paraphrase of a phrase found in Matthew 25:34-40)

Reflektor: by Arcade Fire. Friedrich Nietzsche said "God is dead... And we killed Him." While I know that he was talking about something other than the statement at its face value, there is a kind of religious truth to this. The thing is, the god we killed isn't the God of the Universe, the God that Jesus Christ showed to us. AW Tozer, Dallas Willard, James Bryan Smith, and others have spoken of how important our understanding of God is. Not only are we representatives of Jesus Christ in actuality, but with an understanding of Who He is that is wide of the mark, then we may be representing a different god and calling him Jesus Christ. Who is the God that you believe in? Is he worthy of trust? Is he good and true and beautiful, the way and the truth and the life, infinite and powerful and capable of caring for us, close to all of us, knocking on every door, calling out wisdom from the streets? If you aren't sure, then I invite you to order James Bryan Smith's "Good and Beautiful God" and AW Tozer's "Knowledge of the Holy" and give them a read when they arrive. Meanwhile, immerse yourself in the Psalms paying close attention to the God described there.

Why do I say all this in relation to this song? These lines: "Thought you were praying to the Resurrector / Turns out it was just a Reflektor"

Open Arms: by Elbow. This song is celebratory. I'm sure that they were not thinking about the Parable of the Prodigal when they wrote this song, but I hope it was playing at the celebration of the return. Have you or someone you know wandered away? We can play this song for you when we celebrate your/their return.

A New Law: by Derek Webb. Derek Webb isn't afraid to speak his mind, which has also made him some critics along the way. I don't agree with all of his points of view, but I appreciate the challenge he offers to my thinking when we disagree. This song we agree on. The question is how do we live this life in Christ? Are we to focus on the "what"s, getting all the commandments down and then doing our best to keep them all, hoping that it leads to vibrant life with the Trinity? Or do we focus on the "why"s, seeking to know God well, share His heart, understand both about Him and know Him relationally, letting His Spirit transform us into the good tree that naturally bears good fruit? Is our obedience from the outside in, where we just need to keep a new law, or is obedience from the inside out, where we learn and take on the heart behind the commands, so we can understand where and how those principles are to be applied?

Creature Comfort: by Arcade Fire. Arcade Fire can be counted on for thoughtful lyrics. Here is another one. The lyrics scroll along the bottom of the picture in their official video here. They are making a point. The point is the worthlessness felt by so many of our youths; so many of our adults. We, as the body of Christ, carry "this treasure in earthen vessels", the gospel of Christ, which includes the immense worth of every individual person. We carry the exact message that each of these wayward souls need to hear and believe. Jesus' payment for relationship with each person, not "just" "the world", demonstrates their value. Something is worth what someone is willing to pay, they say, and Jesus paid an immense price for each person (2 Corinthians 4:6-7, Galatians 2:20). I pray that we all (myself included) remember to treat each person appropriately to their value to God.

This Wild Darkness: by Moby. Another just beautiful song from Moby. This one needs little explanation. Disappointed with how things are going and his own failings, he is calling out to God to light his way. (Psalm 119:105)

To Cry for You: by Carolyn Arends. This is a nice video. Carolyn Arends is a musician and is on staff at Renovare. I used to really dislike being a sensitive person who tears up easily at movies and sad songs, funerals, etc. Now I appreciate that God made me this way. This song explains how it is an honor to cry for those we love or loved (that have passed). They made an impact on us and had value in our lives.

Everything Now: by Arcade Fire. They say and sing, in this catchy tune, the emotional, relational. psychological, and physical impact of our chasing it all. The lines near the very end are heartbreaking. How many dreams have been sacrificed on the alter of having everything now?

Jesus: by Mar.

 

Please note: There are apparently multiple musical entities known as "Mar" and they are quite different from one another. YouTube and Spotify have difficulty in separating them and so you will see them listed as one band. Not so.

This band may, or may not, be Christian. But the imagery is there in this song. Don't base your theology, or understanding of Jesus on this song. They mix objective truth and felt experience, including wrong felt experience. Nevertheless, this song often brings me to tears.

 

The ending of the lyrics of this song hearken to Revelation 3:20 where Jesus is standing at our metaphorical door and knocking. The end of the lyrics of this song say that sometimes the singer feels forgotten by Jesus and so he leaves Him out.

Another point of the song asks Jesus if he (the singer) kisses Him (Jesus) on the cheek (as in Judas' betrayal), will Jesus point out his mistakes. But it is the Satan, the Accuser (Satan is a title, meaning, among other things, Accuser), who stands and accuses. The Bible makes clear that when Satan accuses, followers of Jesus have Jesus Himself as our Advocate. Yet there are times when it feels like God Himself levels accusations at us, yet another lie from the Accuser, so that we distance ourselves from God.

Yet what starts the song off is his recollection of Jesus at the side of his bed making him alive from the dead, but now he feels like he needs that miracle again. He feels forgotten by Jesus. Nevertheless he is aware that Jesus having raised him from the dead means he actually lives in freedom; it just doesn't feel that way right now for him. "Jesus, do you still know my name? Sometimes I feel forgotten. Do You leave me out? Have I failed again? Have I failed You?... Jesus, I still know Your name. Sometimes I fear I'm forgotten. Then I leave You out." The song closes there so it isn't a feel good song, but sometimes we find ourselves in a place that doesn't yet have a resolution.

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