My Life, In Music: Undercover, Boys & Girls (When Faith Heroes Fall)

 

Lately I have been mourning a few “fallen” heroes of my youth. Last weekend I learned that a couple of the Christian musicians that I really looked up to have either publicly come out as gay (Ric Alba, Down the Line magazine May, 2010), or have openly renounced their faith in Christ (Joey “Ojo” Taylor, DTL magazine July, 2010).

Like a well placed sucker punch, the reality of human brokenness took my breath away. After all, who likes to be blindsided by the failings of their heroes? It was an un-welcome reminder of my own sinfulness. My first reaction was to lash out at those who had dared to come down off their assigned pedestals. So I ended up getting into a heated online “discussion” with Ric (Undercover, Altar Boys, DAS). I know that I was wrong to react that way, but It’s hard to face the reality that not everyone believes the same as you do, especially when they had a part in shaping your faith and career direction.

One night I couldn’t stop thinking about Ric and Ojo. Having once believed in the absolute authority of the Bible, both of them now seem to have rejected that view. I was losing sleep trying to wrap my mind around the “why” of their rejection. I grabbed my iPod and started listening to Undercover’s 3rd album Boys and Girls. I don’t know, maybe it was some desperate attempt to connect with, and be comforted by the younger, “safer” evangelistic version of Ojo. But as I lay in my bed clinging to each word, and absorbing each note, God began to speak through Joey’s lyrics.

 

Babies climbed up on His knee, He said “Let them come to Me.”
Little ones believe–Boys & Girls can see
The man said, “Take them all away, I’ve got important things to do today,
But little ones believe, Boys & Girls can see,

And I could see the world turn around
If I could live my life-like that,
If we could live our lives like–Boys & Girls

Big men reach for the stars, spend time on toys and cars
Politics and war and money from the poor
But the Kingdom belongs to a little child
And I don’t wonder why
Cuz little ones believe Boys & Girls can see
God came down and died for kids like you and me

As the song “Boys and Girls” washed over me, the irony of the situation was glaring. My fallen hero had forgotten the simple truth contained in the song that he had penned!

(Matt. 18:1-4)  Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.

So what do we know about the basic nature of children? They’re Innocent, trusting, literal, humble, needy, and willing to give love unconditionally. And unless we can come to Jesus with a penitent heart and these childlike characteristics, we will not be counted as one of God’s children, nor will we be welcome His Kingdom.

Look, I understand that the Gospel  doesn’t jive with our modern sensibilities. I get that, I really do. But I have no explanation as to why God chose the period of time that He did for Jesus to intersect human history. I know it’s hard to swallow, but I can’t tell you why He decided to speak through fallible men and the written word of the Bible. I am also at a complete loss as to why He wants the screwed up “whore” that is the “Church” to be the vessel in which Kingdom living is modeled.

Even the Apostle Paul had a clue as to how crazy the Gospel message seemed, when he wrote this to the Corinthians,” The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction…”  ( I Corinthians 1:18 )

I will not deny that to truly surrender to Jesus one must partake in a “willing suspension of disbelief.” Understandably, really smart people find that absolutely offensive. But this is what Jesus requires of mankind. And If we can just get out of our own way, put aside all the human arguments based on “our reason” and “our logic”,  the Father is waiting with open arms. And if we are brave enough to take a risky leap of faith, that is contrary to all that our common sense is screaming, He promises to catch us, and to never let go.

 (John 10:28) “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me,”

So as I finish sweeping up the last bits of my broken pedestals, I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for those pieces of innocence lost. Both of which are stark reminders of the need to keep my eyes on Jesus, and not so much on man.

Whether or not Ric and Ojo come back to the faith they once sang of I can’t say, but I’ll pray for them, hoping that God will somehow use their own songs as a reminder of who He is. I wish both men well, but I will leave them with this humble suggestion. Be careful with what you say, and where you say it. Even though you may no longer believe the things you once did, you affected the faith of many people. And whether you like it or not, you still do.

(Matthew 18:6) But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.

 Have you had any faith heroes, or mentors in your life, have they fallen away? How did you deal with the disappointment?

My Life, In Music: Smalltown Poets, Trust (Holy Spirit Double Whammy)

Smalltown PoetsLife seldom if ever, goes as planned.(thank you captain obvious!)
People lose jobs, loved ones are taken with out warning,
close friends stab you in the back, politicians lie, evil seems to prosper, while good people seem to struggle. I could go on, but you really don’t need me to do you? We all know that this world is broken, something is seriously wrong with the  planet, and with all of us.

Recently my family and I have been dealing with the loss of yet another job. That makes my 3rd job loss within a span of  5 years. Include an 18 month stretch  of unemployment in the middle of those 5 years, and the struggle starts to take shape.

As you can imagine, all of these situations have been painful and embarrassing, but this last ordeal stings just a little bit more, because on paper, it seemed like a really good deal. 1) I was working for a friend who was a Christian. 2) It was more money than I had ever made. 3) It had serious growth potential. 3) The job had a great benefits package. 

Don’t get me wrong, as great as things looked on paper there was going to be a huge risk of failure and I was facing a big uphill battle. 1) I had no experience in this particular industry. 2) The typical employee in this industry could be very “rough” in nature, and not open to those from “outside” the field. To make a long story short, in spite of how hard I tried, everything that I feared would go wrong, did. And after working their about a year, I was let go.

Digging deeper, one might be able to make the case that I was treated unfairly, or not given the proper training for success. However, in the end, I feel like those arguments are just sour grapes. The fact is, for whatever reason, I just couldn’t make it work. And once again, I have been left to work through my failure.

You can imagine the questions I’ve been toiling with. There’s the very basic,” why did this happen again?” Followed by the soul searching, “what did I not learn the last time Lord?” And then it’s all wrapped up nicely with the, “seriously God? WTF! (on that one, I’ll leave the interpretation to you)

The good news is that I actually did learn a few things the last time I was without work, so the “licking of the wounds” phase, has transitioned to the “throwing myself at your mercy” phase much faster than before. Now that’s progress!

Once again God is showing myself and my family “Mercy in the Wilderness” and while we are currently enjoying a peace that only He can provide, occasionally fear and panic will assault my serenity. It was during one such attack that the Spirit broke in to comfort my restless heart. It all started when he lead me to that day’s portion of scripture in my ESV One Year Bible:

“My grace is sufficient…”,”When I am weak, then I am made strong” (2 Cor. 12:9-10)

“Cast your burden(s) on the Lord and He will sustain you. He will never permit the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22) 

Obviously this was a Word I needed to hear, but the Holy Spirit wasn’t finished, and as I read and re-read the verses He drew my attention to the chorus playing in the background…

“…Another soul forsaking pride
Quickened by the spirit, he’s so sure that he could hear it
Jesus His savior calling him to come

Take this bread, drink this cup
Know this price has pardoned you
From all that’s hardened you
But it’s going to take some trust

Come every soul by sin oppressed
There’s mercy with the Lord
And He will surely give you rest
By trusting in His word

Take this bread, drink this cup
Know this price has pardoned you
From all that’s hardened you
But it’s going to take some trust.”

The music soared, the scriptures took root, and as the peace that passes all understanding washed over my body, I thought about the double whammy the Spirit had just dropped on me. Happy tears trickled down my cheek, as I grinned, and whispered a little prayer of praise. “Thanks Dad, but now your just showing off”.

 

Take Off Your Pants and “Christian” Jacket? Chris Taylor, Formerly of Love Coma Speaks Out

90’s Christian “alternative” band, Love Coma, featuring Chris Taylor on lead vox , remains one of the most under-rated bands coming out of that era.
The Mike Roe, (77’s, Language of FoolsLost Dogs) produced album, Language of Fools was a fantastic record. The songs “Tomorrow Takes to Long” and “Walk in the Rain” are still two of my all time favorites, and I can’t recall a time when I did not spin at least one of those epic jams on my show.

In addition, a concert memory best is the time I was able to see Love Coma at legendary concert venue, the Power House Room in Greenville, SC. As soon as the band started playing, I realized that Matt Slocum (Sixpence None the Richer) was playing guitar. Just to make sure, I shouted, “Matt Slocum!!” My suspicion was confirmed as he quickly looked up and grinned. I felt pretty good about that, because it appeared no one else in the room had realized who he was, and few, if any, knew that he had previously been in Love Coma, before launching Sixpence None The Richer with Leigh Bingham (Nash). I have always thought that was a pretty classy move on his part, considering Sixpence was on the rise and they had just won the “Alternative/Modern Rock Album of the Year” Dove award for their record This Beautiful Mess, (their best project IMHO).

That said, I thought I would share a very honest and thought provoking post that Chris recently added to a Facebook thread found on the 90’s Christian Music Recovery Group. I’d love some feedback on this, please read and sound off. Thanks – Bill

“If a bunch of Christians got together and made jean jackets, would we call them “Christian Jean Jackets”? Even if there was no writing or symbolism on the jacket in any way… They were just made by Christians… Looks like any other jean jacket… maybe they even took the time to create some cool stitching patterns or have a darker wash than the typical jean jacket…

I think what ruined Christian music was, in the beginning… someone put that label on it and we’ve been using it ever since. We writers and singers and musicians who were and are part of a church have always been told Why, How and Where to use and play our music. We are always told by pastoral types and other religious types what we should and shouldn’t be writing about. It’s always been an uncomfortable fit for me, personally. Even leading worship in different churches over 15 years… It’s never felt right. I always felt like I had to re-invent the wheel every week. I always felt like I had to be doing what someone else’s idea of worship music was all about… and fair enough to them… it was their church… they started it and I came along later in the mix.

Even beyond church… I had this inner, nagging feeling of what and how I should be doing/using my gift… but I didn’t have the strength or bravery to do it without the shadow of other people’s opinions to hinder me. It’s taken a lifetime to shake that stuff off and write what I have to write, sing and perform the way I have to and paint what, and how, I have to paint.

Although this may sound like a wicked contradiction – My music may be deeply fused with God and the things of a spiritual nature, among many other things… It’s NOT Contemporary Christian Music made for marketing and industry purposes. I want nothing to do with that. I want nothing to do with modern worship music – not that it’s a bad thing… but people see how popular it is and just copy and paste the style… again… not a bad thing… I’m just more interested in digging within myself and seeing what I have to offer this world.

Each musician, songwriter and artist has to find their own path… I can’t knock what someone else is doing if it’s a genuine step of creativity and spiritual growth for them… The scriptures say “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” and maybe we should apply that process to why we even let someone’s idea of a marketing term “Christian Music” get in the way of what God is doing through music and art outside that label. ~ Peace to you all.”

My Life, In Music: Between Thieves, The Spring (Virgin Water Obsession)

I have a confession to make. I love Fiji bottled water. Not only am I drawn to the tropical Fiji water bottlenature of its packaging, but I am intrigued with the companies claim that each bottle of pure, sparkling Fiji water is tapped directly at its volcanic source, and is never touched by human hands until its’ cool, refreshing, deliciousness touches my lips. I call it virgin water, and each time I buy a bottle I make a big deal to my wife and kids about how I will be the first human to take a drink from this amazing H20.

At first they made fun of me, with the rolling of eyes and clucking of tongue, but as I continued to preach its wonders, making a production of each bottle of “virgin water” I drank, they have now begun to fight over who gets the ceremonial, and coveted, first sip.

All kidding aside, I really, really like Fiji water. I CRAVE, Fiji water. And in spite of all the skepticism that comes my way in regards to my Fiji obsession, I find it to be pure liquid joy. However, and you may know where I am going with this, as refreshing and satisfying as I find my virgin water to be, it’s thirst quenching power is fleeting.

There is only one kind water that is truly thirst quenching and it is mentioned by Jesus when speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well.

13Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. 14But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

So what is this living water that Jesus is referring to? Although many people say that Jesus is the living water, Jesus Himself intended the phrase to mean the Holy Spirit who dwells in believers and seals them for salvation (Ephesians 1:13–14). It is the ministry of the Spirit, flowing out of a heart redeemed by God, that blesses believers and, through them, brings life and light to the world.

Drink deep my friends!

Water

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