Chiaroscuro

The gap in synchrony

between my head and feet

Both entangling a soul

though tethered free indeed

My earthbound walk painted

more like a stagger and lurch

Between eternal heights

and a cyclical curse

Ever failing to learn

lessons from missteps made

But for Your favor unearned

I’d end at the grave

Until You return in

this condition I’ll wait

Moving onward and upward

death penalty stayed

JesusFreak20: Colored People

I’d like to draw my readers’ collective attention to the following post from the decentchristiantalk blog:

JesusFreak20: Colored People.

It thoughtfully recognizes the song “Colored People,” from dcTalk’s legendary album JESUS FREAK (now 20 years old!)  with the merit it deserves within the historical context of the mid-90’s. It’s worth the read.

Lost (Free) At Sea

Dampening the impact on aging joints
Strides landing lighter now with a slowed pace
For each footfall I still pray grace anoints
Whilst traces of time stretch upon my face

Transparent to a fault it’s clear to see
My patchwork skeletons to which I cling
The sum of my substance is not of me
Confession of self is all I’ve to bring

With just the reach of the dock from the shore
A standard to measure infinity
Am I to loose this boat from where it is moored
For that which is beyond what I can see

The pull of my nature down relentless
In time with tried and truant devotion
Renders my guilt-weathered soul lost and helpless
But to breathe grace adrift on the ocean

I rise and fall on the sea’s rolling crests
In Your providence my broken soul rests

A song that struck me instantly, the first time I heard it, and that fits this poem – by All Sons & Daughters.

What Have I Learned?

What have I learned in life so far? I’ve learned that God is faithful. The route that I’ve walked, run, ridden, stumbled, and crawled upon, is one that, seemingly at times, had no purpose and, certainly, wasn’t pleasant. The metaphorical dark valleys have been pitch black during some seasons while, in others, the sunlit-peaks have been higher and brighter that I ever thought was possible in this life. But, through it all, there has been a vision. It wasn’t my vision, but, His. Even now, I don’t know what the rest of the pilgrim’s journey that lies ahead of me will look like. There could be tragedies and trials ahead that will call every ounce of my faith into question, but, that’s already happened in this life, I’ve come through it, by His grace, and I know where my ultimate fate lies. I know the One who will be there with me as I take every step, always trying to just put one foot in front of the other. I will surely trip and fall at times. I may even be thrown to the ground violently by this world. But, I’m not afraid. He’s with me and, in the end, even more so than it does now, my life will have found its ultimate purpose and I will know joy beyond what my finite brain and my currently earth-bound soul can even imagine.

Breakfast Is Served!

I’m reflecting this morning on the end of the gospel of John and a few key points seem particularly relevant to me today:

1-Jesus met the disciples where they were and in their then-present circumstances (he knew where to find them and what they’d be doing: out to sea fishing);
2-Jesus provided for them (a catch of fish too large to haul back into the boat);
3-Jesus prepared for and served them (cooked a meal of fish and bread and gave it to them).

Then, after doing so, He said, “Follow me.” The bible seems to indicate that He was just speaking to Peter, but, John got up and followed Him, too. Martin Luther, in his commentary, indicates that there are two lessons to learn here. First, even Peter, one of the greatest apostles, immediately after having been engaged in conversation with and called by Jesus, lost his focus. He took his eyes off Jesus and became concerned with what those around him were doing. Second, Jesus may have different plans for each one of us. In essence, Jesus responded to Peter’s question by letting him know that it was none of his business what His plans were for John.

So, what do I get out of this? First, I was reminded that Jesus loves me personally, where I am, right now. He knows what I’m dealing with on a daily basis. He knows what is swirling around in my head from one moment to the next. Second, He is more than capable of providing for my needs in my present circumstances. Third, what He has in mind for me is far greater than anything I can come up with on my own. I’ve never had fish for breakfast, but, if prepared and served by Jesus Himself, it would be far better than anything that I could pull out of the pantry or refrigerator to make for myself in the morning. Finally, we are not all called to live out the same story or to serve in the same mission or ministry in our lives. We shouldn’t model ourselves after other people that we think are good. We should model ourselves after Jesus. This is His story and He knows where we fit into it.

Have a great day!

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

Meanders Music Review: BROKEN TEMPLES by Kevin Max

kevin-max

BROKEN TEMPLES by Kevin Max – available on iTunes and Amazon

Broken Temples, the latest solo album from Kevin Max, the iconic voice of dc Talk and “Kings & Queens”-era Audio Adrenaline, is an album that celebrates space and the perspective it can bring, both figuratively and literally. Lyrics throughout the album paint a bird’s eye view of wide open highway landscapes, deep valleys amidst jagged peaks, and moments of still, quiet solitude contrasted by the boundless measure of the heavens and the infinite God that moves in, around, and through them.

The themes explored lyrically on this album are a marked departure from Max’s last solo effort, 2010’s Cotes d’Armor (True Rebels). Instead of what, by comparison, were darker, cryptic lyrics juxtaposed with ambient electronica, Broken Temples offers a direct line to hope without the candy coating of Christian clichés so overused on contemporary Christian radio. Laid out on a framework of new wave with occasional nods to the influence of U2, Johnny Cash, and the Beatles, the album is a clear product of Max’s musical influences. That fact, in and of itself, is respectable, since so many artists make so many concessions in their music just for the sake of getting on the radio.
It is Max’s ability to articulately explore and celebrate truths of God and the importance of grace as a dynamic in the lives of believers that I appreciate as much as, if not even more than, his amazing voice. Kevin Max is a poet and his expertise as a craftsman of words is on full display in the songs of Broken Temples. It takes a great lyricist to be able to use words within reach of the common lexicon, and to arrange and partner each of them with just the right musical moments in a song, in order to produce an emotional and personally relevant response within the listener that is both memorable and meaningful, and to do so to a degree that is greater than the sum of its parts. It is even more impressive when he can do so while simultaneously leaving enough room in the interpretation of the lyrics to allow almost anyone to connect their own bruised hearts with the experiences of a man who has stated that the lyrics to the songs of Broken Temples (“Just As I Am,” in particular) are some of the most personal that he’s ever written.
Lyrical gems alluding to the broken nature of humanity, and the relief and purpose that we have the chance to grab hold of through God’s grace, are threaded throughout the album and employed in a manner that communicates hope for the broken without ever conceding to the banality of the latest Christian music industry platitudes. I’m certain that I could tell my own redemptive life story by simply excerpting lines from the lyrics of songs like “Good King’s Highway,” “Light Me Up,” “Just As I Am,” and “That Was Then And This Is Now,” – all songs that reflect back on life-lived, for better or worse, and acknowledging the wonder of grace and eternal hope in the face of it all. But, it is the stripped down arrangement of “That Was Then And This Is Now,” certainly one of my favorite tracks from the album, that grabs me immediately within the first few seconds of the song and engages me on a deeper level, as Max sings about finding assurance and peace in the growing space between the mistakes of our past and the present hope of our future, through the duration of the song.
“Good King’s Highway” is a solid opening track that rings with optimism and celebrates providence in the midst of the journey of life from the very first note going forward while “Light Me Up,” a decidedly and unapologetically pop song, alludes to God’s ability and desire to use us, in our broken state, for his lasting purpose and, in doing so, provide a more abundant sense of life and meaning than we ever could’ve imagined before. The slick pop sound, set against the substance and poetic depth of the lyrics in “Light Me Up,” “Just As I Am,” and “When We Were Young,” are another characteristic stroke of Max genius.
Purchase and Download the music of Kevin Max on iTunes

Purchase and Download the music of Kevin Max on iTunes

As the 80’s new wave-inspired tracks “Just As I Am” and “Clear” unfold, the listener’s attention is focused inward as Max reflects upon the one-to-one, personal dynamic that exists between God and believer when we choose to accept His hope personally. Max ably meets the challenge of taking a sound so characteristic of the 80’s and making it sound completely relevant decades later.

Like “Good King’s Highway,” “White Horse” has an expansive sound, but, also has a spirit that steers closer to praise music than Max typically ventures. It does so, however, in a truly Max fashion, as he has managed to present a song that honors the truth of God without leaning on standard Christian music industry cut-and-paste lyrics, thus creating a song that is accessible not just to common believers, but, also to a wider audience that appreciates texture and artistry in music.
Broken Temples is rounded out by two Derek Web remixes (of “Just As I Am” and “Clear”) and “Infinite,” a celebratory chorus in the vein of “Give Peace A Chance” by John Lennon and “All You Need Is Love” by the Beatles.  While the argument against including remixes in an album does have merit (who wouldn’t want two more original songs instead?), I enjoy Webb’s alternate take on the two remix songs (“Another Big Mistake” and “Going Clear”) further the continuity of tone established in the first eight tracks of the album, while, also adding texture to the album as a whole. Besides, the deluxe edition of Broken Temples features “Lay Your Weapons Down,” (a bluesy, soul guitar track) and “Freak Flag,” (a tongue-in-check nod to 90’s Christian rock in the vain of classic Audio Adrenaline and DC Talk). Both songs, while certainly representing a tone not characteristic of the rest of the album (and rightly designated as bonus tracks for this very reason), more than make up for the notion that the album’s two remix tracks have cheated the listener. “Infinite” (featuring a well-placed appearance by Rachel Lampa) provides a memorable exclamation point to the album by celebrating the fact that God is so much more than any of us can even comprehend with our finite minds. There is more going on than we can see or even hope to understand, but, God is worthy of our faith.
As a whole BROKEN TEMPLES is simply amazing. Only time will tell whether the album will gain enough of the exposure it is worthy of in order to propel Max’s presence and notoriety in the Christian music industry onward and upward to the level of respect that he deserves as a solo artist. Regardless of whether it does or it doesn’t, Broken Temples is an album that stands firmly on it’s own accord. It takes guts to trailblaze through the wilderness that Kevin Max has and the grace of God to sound this good on the other side.
On a scale of 1-5: 4.5

BROKEN TEMPLES by Kevin Max is out NOW!

kevin-maxThe long-awaited album BROKEN TEMPLES, by Kevin Max, was officially released yesterday and made an immediate impact on iTunes, especially considering the fact that the album was released without a major label media machine to hype it’s arrival prior to release day. Truly, it is an amazing album! But, I’m taking a couple more days to soak it up before I write my review. In the meantime, check out these reviews that have already been published and then look it up on iTunes or Amazon:

Jesus Freak Hideout – 4 out of 5 Stars

Breathecast

Christian Review – 4.5 out of 5 Stars