Five Songs I’d Be Bummed If You Never Heard

Josh Garrels-Ulysses

I hear a brooding lovesick Bridegroom in this song. And one of the most underrated singer/songwriters in America.

John Mark McMillian-Love You Swore

Singing seems like such strain to that deep raw voice of John Mark McMillian. Johnny Cash-esque if you will. With lyrics every bit as penetrating.

The Civil Wars-Poison & Wine

Marriage covenant. In a song. Other worldly beautiful.

Gregory Alan Isakov- The Stable Song

This is an adult bedtime lullaby with spellbinding lyrics. Love an old banjo too.

Head and Heart-Down In The Valley

“Wish I was a slave, to an age old trade…” Don’t know why, this song had me hooked with that opening lyric. The snazzy little harmonies probably helped too.

Hope you enjoy.

And

Do you have any favorite musical gems you’d be bummed if others never heard?

Bryan Daniels

 

“It Is Well”: A Supernatural Confession

The above hymn excerpt was written after several successive traumatic events in the life of Horatio Spafford (1828-1888).

In the mid 19th century, Horatio Spafford was a prominent and successful lawyer in the Chicago area. He had a beautiful family, beautiful home, and prestigious Christian friends who included Pastor DL Moody. Spafford had it going on like a boss, so much so maybe only Job of the OT had a claim on his Horatio_Spaffordcharacter.

Unfortunately, like Job, Spafford never saw the crippling punch to the soul that life was about to deal him.

The first blow was the death of his only son from pneumonia in 1870, at the young age of four. In the spring of 1871 he invested in large tracts of commercial real estate north of the growing city of Chicago. A couple months later the great Chicago Fire struck the area and left him utterly ruined financially.

His business interests were further hit by the economic downturn of 1873 at which time he had planned to travel to Europe with his family . They chose England in part because Spafford’s good friend Moody would be preaching there in the fall. In a late change of plans, he sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with the sea vessel, Loch Earn. All four of Spafford’s daughters died in the wreckage: eleven-year-old Anna, nine-year-old Margaret Lee, five-year-old Elizabeth, and two-year-old Tanetta.

His wife Anna survived and sent him this harrowing telegram from England,

“Saved alone . . .”

Shortly afterwards Spafford took to boat to meet his grieving wife. As he crossed over what was essentially his four daughter’s ocean tomb, he was moved to write these words:

When sorrow like sea billows roll; it is well, it is well with my soul...”

Only supernatural grace beyond human comprehension could produce such words after such an event.

And like Job, God wasn’t done with Spafford.

The Spafford’s had four more children. Shortly after the tragedy they moved to Jerusalem to start the “American Colony.” This ministry ran orphanages, hospitals, soup kitchens and more for all the people they encountered (Jews, Muslims, Christians). During the lean years of WWI the ministry helped sustain and keep whole impoverished communities alive. In 1888, four days shy of age 60, Spafford died of malaria, and was buried in Mount Zion Cemetery, Jerusalem.

I don’t presume to know what anyone is going through. And understandably, all this may sound trite in the midst of blinding anguish; but I know the God of Job and Horatio Spafford says this:

“I AM enough.”

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9)

And we may say in response to Him, as the world curses our faithfulness and heaps scorn on the God who would allow such tragedy:

“It is well.”

Bryan Daniels

Come Thou Fount To Every Wanderer

One of my favorite hymns performed by one of my favorite artists (Sufjan Stevens). It offers a heartrending backstory too. Around the “prone to wander…” lyric I usually start falling apart at the seams.

Bryan Daniels

Happy Birthday, Bob Dylan (71) – You Got To Serve Somebody

Happy birthday to one of the pioneers of bare bones singer-song writing folk music that was supplemented only by no frills acoustic guitar. Ever since high school I’ve appreciated Dylan’s brutally honest,  sometimes enigmatic, always timeless voice.

Much of his music has strong spiritual overtones. Some may say overtly “Gospel.” Maybe none are so strong and anthemic as “You Got To Serve Somebody”:

In his early musical years Dylan moved from an infatuation with the Little Richard type Rock and Roll towards the mellower Woody Guthrie-esque folk music of old. His explanation:

The thing about rock’n’roll is that for me anyway it wasn’t enough … There were great catch-phrases and driving pulse rhythms … but the songs weren’t serious or didn’t reflect life in a realistic way. I knew that when I got into folk music, it was more of a serious type of thing. The songs are filled with more despair, more sadness, more triumph, more faith in the supernatural, much deeper feelings.

I feel ya Bob. Happy Birthday.

Bryan Daniels

P.O.D.: The Band That Shook A Punk Kid

I owe a debt to “Payable On Death.” They helped lift me out of the miry (and stanky) clay of  mid to late ’90s alternative rock and rapcore.

In my early to mid-teens I was a sucker for bands like Soundgarden, Deftones, Beastie Boys, and, I’m afraid to admit: Limp Bizkit. I was a “good” church kid that didn’t miss a Sunday or Wednesday service thanks to my mom, but I wouldn’t categorize myself as much more than a spectator among Christian festivities back then. And though I assimilated much about cultural Christianity into my life during that time, I had a serious aversion to the Christian music industry.

With all due respect to Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, and dc Talk,* I couldn’t shake the notion that the only thing that Christian music had to offer was, well, cheese.

Then along came P.O.D. Their “Southtown” release helped ignite the beginning of the short lived “rapcore” rage. At the end of my 9th grade year I happened to stumble upon a $1.99 demo that featured their song “Lie Down” (still have it memorized).

I was shocked and hooked at once.

A bold and refreshing new world of Christian music opened up to me. It didn’t include keyboard solos and “Jesus is my boyfriend” sentiments. It had nasty guitar riffs, timely screaming, Rastafarian undertones, and contrarian lyrics like:

They feed us lies, dress up my King in false disguise

Behind those eyes, soul of Savior I recognize

No compromise, while the whole world becomes corrupt

Tonight we break the surface for lives, we comin’ up

There’s probably a lot more that can be said about P.O.D.’s choices for collaborations and album cover art, but not here.

I owe them more than that.

They helped me find my two choices were not limited to Nine Inch Nails or Steven Curtis Chapman in the musical style spectrum. There possibly was a righteous middle ground. If it’s tricky to rock and rhyme (as Run DMC stated so well), it is even trickier to rock and rhyme in a Christ-honoring fashion. Props to the bands who even attempt it.

My passion for P.O.D. has waned significantly in my adulthood (I have a more mellow pallate now) but my appreciation for them has not. The band God used to help spark my formative spiritual years still finds itself caught in a cultural rock and religious hard spot. P.O.D. is still somewhat too hardcore for the Christian music scene and too Christian for the hardcore music scene.

But I remember a time when listening to their heavy handed riffs and Christological lyrics was like a desert traveler drinking from a fire hydrant.

In a CCM land of cookie cutter music styles, cliché chorus lines, spray tans, and self conscious image projections, a gritty movement arose. That movement included a dreadlocked, tatted up, metal cover band with a passion for the youth of a nation.

One misguided youth caught their vision and hasn’t quite been the same.

I couldn’t tell you one song on the latest P.O.D. albums. But for old times sake, and as a tribute to the first “Christian” band I ever liked, I’ll conclude with this:

Tribal Warriors unite!

Bryan Daniels

*I appreciate ALL kinds of music now; I’m not hating on my boy Michael W. Smith, peeps!

Any bands or artists that had a great impact on you as a youth?

Josh Garrels-Free Music That Could Make A Baptist Dance

In my opinion, Josh Garrels is the best thing that has happened to the “Christian” music industry in years. The above vid is a just one sample of his refreshingly diverse style. His musical, lyrical and vocal range is crazy good. Also, his theological depth is a fresh wind of change for the contemporary Christian music scene. And he is GIVING HIS NEW ALBUM AWAY FOR FREE. Seriously. Download “Love, War and the Sea In Between” for free here. You will not regret it. If you are not fully satisfied, I will give you a full money back guarantee no strings attached ; )

If the “best things in life are free” , Garrels’s album goes along way to further strengthen that maxim.

At least do yourself a favor and listen to Garrels’s  song “Ulysses.” If you don’t hear the intense yearning of a Bridegroom for His maligned bride in that brooding blessed  song, you need some spiritual hearing aids. I’ve lamented about the state of the CCM industry in the past; Some of the more inanely repetitive poppy-ish selections are just pure unadulterated cheese to me. The lack of theological depth and trite sound sometimes frustrates me. Why are we talking about torn jeans when we should be talking about the torn and bloodied son of God on the cross?

But there are more than enough creative and rich voices to thank God for within that very same industry. Gungor and John Mark MacMillian are a few others I would add to my personal list of favorites. Other than my steady diet of sermon jams, John Mark’s “The Medicine” is probably the most ingested album on my IPOD. Part of that frequency is because the song “Skeleton Bones” makes my three-year old son, Josiah, do the robot (for reasons unknown to me).

But seriously, download Garrels’s album.

And

I’m curious, what’s on repeat on your playlist?

Grace and Peace,

Bryan Daniels

The Gospel Whitney Houston Heard

Note: This is not an indictment on the eternal state of Whitney Houston’s soul. God will do right regarding what everyone deserves in the end.

I happened upon Whitney Houston’s funeral service yesterday while channel surfing. I only caught the last 45 minutes or so, but the last message caught my ear.

Pastor Marvin Winans delivered the eulogy at New Hope Baptist Church; Winans seems like a passionate articulate leader. But with stars from around the world in attendance and an audience of  millions in television attendance, he  dropped the proverbial gospel ball a bit. To his credit, when bringing up Matthew 6:33, he did stress the “Kingdom of God and His righteousness” before all things be added to us. But righteousness was equated to merely right living, not the righteousness that is only given through the perfect work and person of Jesus Christ. Pastor Winans last sermon point he stressed to the listening masses was this: We need to “keep God first” and make Him “our priority” in all things. I agree with him, but what gives us the strength to carry out such an impossible task?

Let me say I know I may be looking through all this with a negative lens. My wife is always surprised by my ability to find the touch of grey in every silver lining. Sometimes I seriously wonder if God has given me the spiritual gift of  discouragement. : )

I really don’t know what gospel Whitney heard throughout the duration of her church life. There may have been some thorough biblical Christ centered teaching that she accepted or rejected at one time. But I am treating the message at the funeral service as a microcosm of the broader message most people hear from American Christianity:

The gospel of behavior modification.

This type of gospel when fully lived out will lead well meaning men to become “twice the sons of hell” they once were (Matt 23:15). It is certainly powerless to lead any man or woman out of the grim demonic grips of drug and self addiction.

Did Whitney hear on a consistent basis that sinful man had to pull himself up by his own boot straps, activate his own faith, or just rearrange his lifestyle to fit God’s standards? I hope not. Because that gospel only births desperation in the hearer. Though it masquerades as a gospel of grace, that gospel is actually the bad news of law keeping mingled with very little good news. Jesus said the flesh “profits nothing” (John 3). Paul said the purpose of the law was to “reveal sin” (Romans 3). James said to fail in one letter of the law is to be “guilty of all of it” (James 2)

Our greatest issue is not that we are merely failing to be Christlike. That’s a given. Our greatest issue is that we are dead in our sins and need supernatural resurrection in Christ (Ephesians 2).

As Pastor Tullian Thcividijian says: “Jesus came first to effect a mortal resurrection, not a moral reformation-as his own death and resurrection demonstrate.”

I’m sure over the course of her life Whitney Houston probably heard the gospel of self-fulfillment, the gospel of behavior modification, and maybe even the prosperity gospel. But this may be the saddest commentary of all regarding Whitney’s death: Despite her Christian heritage I don’t know if she ever consistently heard the gospel of the bloody righteous Savior Who lived a perfect life she never could live, and died a perfect death she never could earn. This is the undeniable understated gospel with a resurrection power that can obliterate the deepest sins, weaknesses, and addictions.

Did Whitney ever hear this clearly? Do we?:

God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that we may become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21)

A tragedy is a life lived in utter bondage. But an even greater tragedy is life everlasting in total bondage. May the biblical gospel we preach always address and free the captives of both.

Bryan Daniels