So, how do you give away one of the best albums of the year, especially in “Christian music” (sorry, but we all know that Christian music is just now starting to rise to the level of transcendence it rightfully deserves). Somehow he makes his eclectic sound not only natural, but spiritual – as if anything less wouldn’t do justice in expressing his thoughts and feelings for the Lord of all Creation. Josh Garrels is the real deal. Yes, talented, but gifted wold be a better description. Because His ability is clearly a spiritual gift that he, in turn, uses as his offering of praise back to God. Plus he freely gives it as his gift to us as well. Did I mention that it is completely FREE? Read about it all in his own words.
Listen here and download it in just about any format you want (I’m a nerd so I grabbed the FLAC for listening while I work and lossless for my truck, phone, iPod).
So, what do you do? What are your gifts? How are you sharing them with the world to the glory of God?
Thank you Josh, not just for the great album, integrity and creativity in Christian music, but for your living example of walking by faith and your unspoken challenge to trust and glorify God in all we do.
So GET it. SHARE it. BE encouraged. WORSHIP God. FOLLOW The Spirit. REST in Him. STEP OUT in faith.
A couple of weeks ago I was able to meet a few people deep in the trenches of ministry with teenagers while attending a meeting for TH1NK, the student line of books from NavPress. Andy Braner was one of those passionate servant leaders. In addition to being a writer, Andy runs Camp Kivu, an intensely focused time of outdoor adventure designed to instill a passionate Christian worldview in teenagers. Andy has devoted his life to next-generation discipleship.
His new book “An Expose on Teen Sex and Dating: What’s Really Going On and How to Talk About It” (NavPress) is intended to give parents and youth workers a glimpse behind closed doors, so to speak. Download a free copy to your Kindle or Nook this week only (ends May 22). As a parent of three little girls and former youth pastor, I’d say this is a must read – or at least check it out. I haven’t finished it yet, (I’m reading it in bits on my phone’s Kindle App) but I appreciate the urgency of Braner’s straightforward approach AND that from page one he does two things:
1. He admits that there is no specific biblical model for dating, because dating didn’t exist! He then proceeds to speak to biblical truths that are present, primarily that God is sovereign over every tiny detail of our lives – this is the central reality even in dating.
2. He humorously confesses that he’s not going to “Kiss Dating Goodbye” as the only or best God-honoring solution for young Christian teenagers… and neither are most teenagers!
This isn’t just his personal musing either. Two years of research went into this book (In addition to the daily interaction already mentioned). So grab your free copy on Kindle or Nook and spread the word while it’s still free to other parents and youth workers (feel free to purchase physical copies of the book too). This is a conversation that we need to be equipped to recognize and address from a biblical perspective – whether or not anyone agrees with every point in this book (or any Christian book, for that matter) is not the primary issue. The great thing is that Andy is seeking to open the eyes of our generation to what is happening in the next generation and how to guide young men and women through this ever-present issue in a way that honors Christ. (It’s a conversation, that quite frankly, parents and churches just aren’t very good at having).
Seryn. Think Anathallo from Texas. …Sufjan, Sigur Ros, The Low Anthem, Mumford & Sons, even Guster… BUT, here’s the kicker, all in worship. Seryn is hands down the best thing to come out of the Texas Indie scene since Explosions In The Sky. The closest comparisons would be hints of Josh Garrels or Gungor’s eclectic and atmospheric folk/worship. I can’t get over the creative resurgence in Christian Indie music. It’s like a second Renaissance. Creatively and theologically, there is a sweeping trend through our culture… the Church is seeking truth and beauty and expressing awe with integrity. No more shirking spiritual labels, yet still refusing to be pigeonholed by any genre. Unapologetic in faith and artistry, the result is wholly inspiring.
Can’t wrap your mind around that? Listen here. (Click on the arrow in the music layer for a free MP3 download of “We Will All Be Changed.”) Snag the 180gm white vinyl and digital copy of the whole album…
At the turn of the year, I was able to help develop a website for LAUNCH, a new church-planting and leadership development network. Check out my earlier post here. Tony Morgan is part of the leadership team for LAUNCH and Pastor of Ministries at West Ridge Church (out of which LAUNCH was birthed). But you may know him best as a consultant and guru of all things practical in church-world. If you follow Tony Morgan Live, you know that this week he released another free eBook (short, practical, biblical resource). You can preview it right here, or jump over to issuu to download Big Churches Getting Bigger along with his other eBooks (The New Traditional Church, and Developing a Theology of Leadership) and a virtually endless world of eBooks, eMags, etc. If you want to share resources, publications, or information, issuu is an unparallelled tool/community. So if you’re not familiar with issuu.com, drop what you’re doing and explore it now. (I, for one, am in love with the possibilities…)
First, this is seriously good (and gets better with each track – the last two being flat-out incredible). Birmingham’s own Matt Jackson is giving away downloads of his new EP (and you can pre-order the vinyl). Further evidence that great things are happening in the world of Christian songwriting. Think Indie-Rock meets Southern-Gospel (complete with horn section as the killer album art suggests). Not only is this quality songwriting, it was mixed by Grammy-winner Darrell Thorp (If you’ve heard the last several albums from Paul McCartney, Beck, Radiohead, or Thom Yorke, then you’re familiar with his work… yeah, he’s the real deal.) Musically, this album sounds nothing like any of those (that would be impossible), but the quality is that caliber. So go get Matt Jackson’s new EP and spread the word at iammattjackson.com
Also, Catalyst is giving away tons of free stuff just for signing up for info about Catalyst in Atlanta (October 5-7), including ebooks (Veneer, Gracenomics, more), music (Thad Cokrell, Seryn, Gungor, John Mark McMillan, Aaron Ivey, Aaron Keys, Lecrae, Sleeping at Last… more), and their “best of” from past speakers (Andy Stanley, Bill Hybels, Don Miller, John Maxwell, more)… too much to name, but some stuff worth checking out… seriously it’s a ton of stuff. And if you’ve never been to a Catalyst leadership event… it’s quite an experience. Think about it.
I came across this site today built by my friends at DC for The Upstream Collective. Very simple idea: Create a website (that looks awesome) where people can share brief stories as missionaries and/or people living on mission to spread the gospel. Once enough stories have been collected, produce an eBook… The Mission Book.
A couple of heavyweights whose books on missional and house church planting movements helped shape my view of ministry, Alan Hirsch and Ed Stetzer, kick off the story time. Just pick a book from the virtual shelf or use the arrows to move to the next story. Great use of technology to gather information for the sake of transformation. I hope this site is a great encouragement to disciple-makers around the world… and that the stories keep spreading (to spread the glory of Christ in every nation).
So whatever you do. Do it for the sake of the gospel. Use your gifts and sphere of influence to make disciples and encourage other disciple-makers.
Click the image below to jump over to their site and start reading…
Jesus: The Only Way to God (Must you hear the gospel to be saved?)is available as a free download from ChristianAudio.com through the end of the month. This bonus download from John Piper is an explicit response to the Love Winscontroversy (we won’t rehash that again).
The audiobook is in addition to the month’s free audiobook download: R.C. Sproul’s classic: The Holiness of God. If you’re into audiobooks (perfect for commutes to work or travel) then I’d recommend staying on top of the monthly offering from Christian Audio – the past several months have included: John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life, Let the Nations Be Glad and Jerry Bridges’ The Pursuit of Holiness. You can also grab sermons and other freebies (not to mention just about everything for purchase too) – I recently picked up Tim Keller’s The Reason for God lectures from The Veritas Forum (another great resource to check out).
That’s your foreign language lesson for the day. How many Finnish words do you know? Probably one. Now.
I can’t remember the last time I was so floored artistically and uplifted spiritually as when I was introduced to the music of Josh Garrels. Truly unique, but the best I could put it is think: the surprisingly rich soul of Paolo Nutini or Alexi Murdoch, the beautiful realism of John Mark McMillan or Ben Harper, an occasional bend toward the eclectic hip hop of Citizen Cope, the haunting atmosphere of Sufjan Stevens or Gungor, and the middle eastern Mumford & Sons collaboration… all infused with a heavy dose of Holy Spirit. Did you follow that? Josh Garrels takes it to church. I want to see and feel and love Christ the way this guy so clearly does in his music. I want to know this deep kinship with martyrs and our brothers and sisters around the world.
Below are some links to freebies to get you started (including the song “SISU” which was too interesting a title to pass up) and if you like him… or love him… support what he does and buy something and spread the word – fresh, artistic and worshipful music that flows from and into a realm that is anything but mainstream and stale.
This week’s free video on iTunes is The Avett Brothers’ Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise. (Download it here) But just like the title, the song’s video is a bit conflicted – an artistic juxtaposition…
First, let me say that The Avett Brothers put on one of the absolute BEST live shows around. My wife and I caught them this past New Year’s at The Fabulous Fox Theater in Atlanta with my good friend in life and ministry, Andy Blanks and his wife Brendt. All four of us were blown away. (I won’t detour into our people-watching adventures, but concertgoers can be ridiculous with their go-to dance moves, incoherent outbursts, and enthusiastic gestures…. head-bobbers, leg-slappers, fist-pumpers, whoopers and whistlers… and the token “i love you” guy.)
Second, I loved this video (obviously) and wanted to share it. I’m not sure if the art was done by Scott Avett or not; the painting seems to be very similar to his style (view Scott’s gallery). I can’t imagine how much time went into the production of this video. It’s over four minutes of stop-motion style animation with a painting, probably done digitally (like that iPad artist using the brushes app), and it looks awesome.
BUT, with the countless thoughts running through my head as my imagination was lead along this painted journey, I was left impressed by two things:
1. I love the Book of Ecclesiastes, and this video reminded me of the futility of man’s great achievements and the natural cycle of this world. There is nothing new under the sun. There are seasons, highs and lows. Ultimately, everything man does will be stripped away, returning to dust, only for the next guy to come along with the same great “new” idea. So there has to be a greater purpose than living for the so-called success and progress depicted in this video. We can’t depend on the things of this world, especially material things, to find meaning and satisfaction. (Which is their point, I believe.)
2. I was distracted by the video to the point of missing many of the lyrics (which as a writer, is one of my favorite things about The Avett Brothers). Ironically, the other theme seemed to be intentionally inserted in the middle of the video. At one point the sign is surrounded by the noise of competing signs. I say this is ironic because it seemed to unintentionally speak to the video as a whole, the noise of the medium drowning out the message. This made me wonder about life, leadership, ministry, writing, teaching, and communication in general… how often does the message get lost in the delivery? Does the creative presentation draw too much attention onto itself? Do the two work together or do they compete? Even if the creativity, production quality, and message are all incredible, is it cohesive? Is there synergy?
If there is a greater purpose and meaning in life (which I believe there is) then I want to be able to clearly communicate that in everything I do. Sometimes that means knowing when to reel a great idea in to better suit the content.
As sort of a test post to get this blog started, I think I’ll pay tribute to February 11, 1970.
40 years ago today was one of the greatest gatherings in American musical history… At the legendary Fillmore East, Duane Allman made a surprise appearance late in the Grateful Dead’s second set during Dark Star. Jerry hadn’t even told the band that Duane would be joining them. The result was a once-in-a-lifetime experience of spontaneous interplay between two of the most unique minds to ever play a guitar… (I still remember exactly where I was the first time I heard a tape of this night… yeah, remember cassettes…)
I won’t hype it up because if you don’t care, you won’t care no matter what I say (ask my wife) and if you do care, it also doesn’t matter what I say… you just want to hear it for yourself. So I’ve embedded a free streaming mp3 of the historical moment where Duane Allman joins the Grateful Dead, brilliantly complementing Jerry Garcia’s style on Dark Star. They wander into Spanish Jam during which Gregg Allman jumps into the mix. From behind the organ, he and Pigpen swap vocals back and forth during Lovelight and Phil Lesh finally passes the bass duties to Berry Oakley so he can just step back and soak it all in… so if you care to do the same, here it is… enjoy. (I am.)
mp3 :: Dark Star > Spanish Jam > Lovelight :: Duane Allman + the Grateful Dead
The Grateful Dead + The Allman Brothers :: Live at Fillmore East 2-11-70
Now, from what I understand, a worthwhile blog has a focus or a point… I won’t pretend to be someone who can blog about writing, music, culture, leadership, ministry, or humor regularly. BUT I do see the world through a lens in which everything speaks on a spiritual level. There is a metaphor, spiritual truth, or lesson in everything… So instead of just talk about what I like or think, if something interests me, I’ll try to show how everything in life “teaches” us something. Everything speaks if we’ll listen.
So from the late greats Duane and Jerry here, I think we can learn three simple lessons:
1. Always be open to what the moment may bring. It may not be what you are used to, what you had planned on and anticipated. It may be different. It may not even be better, but if we are always open to the leading of what God may want to do in the moment, we will experience some incredible moments of once-in-a-lifetime, spontaneous displays of His mind-blowing power, creativity, and wonder.
2. Be open to new people. Most of us, and if we’re honest most churches, youth groups, small groups, etc are tight little circles in which it is often hard for others to break into. As Christ-followers we should always be welcoming others to join the experience, inviting them to a life of shared community. You never know who may be there on any given moment and what unique dimension they may add to God’s work and to the enjoyment of your own experience.
3. Be open to letting other people take the lead. No matter who you are or how “good” you may be at something, let other people have turns leading. The collective ownership will strengthen the experience for everyone. There is a time and place for leading and a time for playing a supporting role. Sometimes you may just need to step back and be in awe of what is happening and how others are being used in new ways.