About October every year I start to search for new Christmas songs to add to my growing list of carols… I have enough for a whole days listening so far.
However wading through some of the new albums is like listening to the sound of a wrecking ball smash all your favourite Christmas songs into 1000 little tiny pieces.
So what is the best of this years Christmas offering?
For Those about to ROCK:
OK… so for the lovers of Christmas songs that rock a little harder than the usual…. here is this year’s picks:
John Schilitt: The Christmas project
For those who remember the good old days of Christian rock, you would remember the legendary band Petra. John Schlitt was lead singer for the popular Christian rock band from 1984-2006. For those who like the whole 80′s hair rock, and the rock from the 90′s such as Def Leppard, Aerosmith etc, this would be a good fit… rocking up some old classics, and like any good rock band from that era the vocals are enough to break window panes… let me hear you Scccccccccreeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaammmmmmmmmmm!
Side note: If you are looking for a little rocking single, download ‘Little Drummer Boy’ by Whiteheart… a bit of a Christmas rock classic that you should have in your collection
For those looking for some soul:
Ok something heavy isn’t your thing what about some Gospel based stuff.
Marvin Sapp: A Christmas Card
Marvin, who made his name in the contemporary gospel group ‘Commissioned’ with his distinct Gospel sound, gives a rounded Christmas album with ‘A Christmas Card’ . This album gives a good mixture of new Christmas focused songs as well as a scattering of old classics with a modern Gospel twist.
Jonathan Butler: Merry Christmas to you
The first Christmas album by the two-time Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter-guitarist Jonathan Butler is a little gem. Gospel, soul and jazz tinged Christmas songs with a couple of new songs to make sure this album is one for the stocking. It has some great gentle jazz infused guitar colouring this album from the start to the end… just enough to keep you wanting more, like that turkey you’ll go for seconds for!
A little poppy and something new:
I LOVE discovering people who are doing some of my favourite songs in new and exciting ways… and I love finding albums that bring new Christmas songs and that tell the Christmas message (which is thousands of years old) in a new and exciting way!
For King & Country: Into the silent night
This has to be the greatest find for me this Christmas.
With the Indie pop infused feel of the likes of FUN (Some Nights) this EP is just a cool little album, mixing great harmonies with beats that push the songs forward and the pop sensitivity of a marshmallow in a hot chocolate – sweet and gooey with depth and flavour.
The single ‘Baby Boy’ is my favourite new song this Christmas with a chorus that cries ‘Allelujah’… pushing towards the phrase “Endless hope and endless joy started with a Baby Boy” – isn’t that how Christmas started?
Citizens: Repeat the Sounding joy
For some funky Indie pop from Mark Driscolls ‘Mars Hill Church’, check out Citizens. Funky guitars and horn sections give a feel of SKA music without actually being a SKA band… it’s great to hear this sound re-imagined. This is a fun album and will almost guarantee to get your foot tapping at some of the arrangement. The great thing about albums that sit with more of an Indie feel is that they often aren’t as polished as some other albums… and believe me for albums like this it’s a great thing.
The Classic ‘Christmas’ album:
Some people are just looking for a Christmas album that does stray to much from the norm… it’s the sound of the malls and I understand that… so hear are some new albums with that middle of the road Christmas sound.
Brandon Heath: Christmas is Here
“Chestnuts roasting by an open fire…” accompanied by the sound of strings and a soft snare drum being played by sliding brushes. This sums up this album. For those who like Micheal Buble then this is the type of album you need to add to your list this Christmas.
Sidewalk Prophets: Merry Christmas to You
Like Brandons album the Sidewalk Prophets ‘Merry Christmas to You’ is filled with strings and fun as the band focus on bringing you faithful renditions of some of the classic arrangements that we know for Christmas… From the ‘doo wops’ from ‘White Christmas’ to the haunting melodies of ’What Child is this’…
Just for Fun:
A Christmas is a time where we remember the gift we were given by God at Christmas, his son Jesus Christ. It should be a celebration, and while there are times to be reflective it’s about coming together as a family and celebrating.
If only I could find an album that is fun, but Christ focused, family focused but not stiff around the neck…
The Robertson Family: Duck the Halls, a Robertson Family Christmas
The Robertson family have shot to fame with their fly on the wall reality TV show called ‘Duck Dynasty’, that show’s a multi-millionaire Christian redneck family, that made it’s money from making Duck callers. The focus of the family is Christ, family and the love for the south, and these guys (and gals) will make you chuckle out loud as they just say things as they see it.
The albums is true to this also, with members of the Robertson family reading parts of the Christmas story and a mixture of a few classics like “I’ll be home for Christmas” and “Away in the Manger” with award winning bluegrass star Alison Krauss. Most the album is a fun country/bluegrass redneck Christmas with “Santa looks a lot like Daddy” “Camouflage and Christmas lights” and “Hairy Christmas” with Country stars like George Strait, Luke Bryan and Josh Turner also helping out along the way.
This album is worth the money for the closing prayer alone… remember what Christmas is about and thanking Jesus for dying on the cross and raising again so that we could too. If only every Christmas album could be as upfront about the gospel message as this one is.
I think it’s when the artist can release an album that when stripped back stands on it’s own merits, both lyrically and melodically… and still makes you feel like it’s relevant and forward focused.
This is why I love Luke’s approach to his music “I try write each song as if it’s my last” says Dowler.
Lets be honest, with all the hype of album releases and hit songs and the occasional craze hit single, isn’t the thing the music buying public is most interested in songs that connect to them?
These new songs from Lukes newest EP ‘West’ are the best he’s produced yet.
The EP starts of with the pulse of the bass drum , and some percussive clicks, before the familiar groove of the acoustic guitar pull the song ‘Revelation Firewater’ in.
I knew when I heard this track that Luke had grown. It was a strange mixture of Dave Matthews and Bruce Springsteen but still uniquely Dowler…
‘Good Enough’ has to be my favourite track on the album… this is the type of track that Luke fits best in. Sure, he can do other styles well (as this album will show) however this type of track is where Luke is G.O.L.D.
‘Good enough’ is a heart felt track that has a swag of a southern song, the gospel feel church and a whole heap of soul… it starts off beautifully with an acoustic guitar and Luke lamenting “You’re taking me for a ride, but I’m doing all the driving”. It’s a soul searching song that leaves Luke asking “Let me know when it’s good enough for you”… as the song grows so does the soul of the song.
‘Hold up the Sky’ a simple bluesy track that again showcases Dowler’s craft of songwriting. This is the most stripped back track of the album and is what Luke is all about. This is heart and soul. This is about love. This is about adventure. This is about creating. This is about holding on to the things you treasure the most.
“Most people want the best things in life, but they don’t want to watch them grow”
The EP finishes with what I think is a bit of an odd choice. ‘Halfway’ is a track that is heavy on the drum machine beats and is a bit of a distraction from the path the other tracks have laid before it. While I can see the need to try and highlight the fact that Luke is multi-dimensional and can do a variety of styles… it just feels a bit out of place… It’s great that Luke tried to push new ground, however what Luke does best is the heart felt, soul tinged melodies that connect with you when you least expected.
And so ‘West’ seems to show a new ‘all grown up’ version of Luke Dowler.
Luke has discovered his groove, his soul and his heart and this is the most complete album from Luke yet.
If this is the new direction that Luke is going to be going in, I really look forward to see more of it.
When did music lose it’s innocence?
Sure there have always been streams of the music industry that have been pushing the boundaries and that’s great but doesn’t it seem that everything has just been condensed down to love and hate?
It’s like we have taken the prized bull and boiled it up until all we have is an Oxo cube… do we really want beef stock rather than the bull itself?
To a point we can expect that from the secular music industry… cliche after cliche, remix after remix of a song that used to be famous when people still used to play music and sing music as if it was a craft that was about connecting people rather than just making a quick buck… with the sole focus to make people famous.
I can understand that from the secular music industry… but when did our church music become so obvious and bland?
I’ve listened to Kiwi singer/songwriter and worship leader David Lyle Morris for a couple of years now… and the first thing that comes to my mind is ‘innocence’.
David has this amazing ability to craft songs that would have stood along side the great artist such as Air Supply, James Taylor and Carole King.
His writing is honest, it’s heart felt, it’s thoughtful and with the fear of sounding condescending I am tempted to use the word ‘sweet’.
In fact the first time I saw him lead worship with just an acoustic guitar, I closed my eyes and I could almost imagine what it might have been like to worship with King David (if he played a guitar not a harp!)… there is a real authenticity that some people try to mimic but that you just can’t fake, and when you are around David Lyle Morris you just know that his heart is to help turn your eyes to God.
The album ‘Endlessly’ is a well crafted album and the album starts with ‘Start of something new’ a song for his boy Eino.
It’s a really honest song talking about the excitement and the forward looking nature of a Dad excited to share in the first moments with his son and the legacy that the Father wants the son to take up… Lines like “This is the start of a family tree, you’re the little branch under me” show the simplicity of Davids lyrics while at the same time casts great imagery.
In fact this album is full of so much imagery, and not in a daunting and heavy way but in a way that helps you relate with the song. In fact it really enhances the songs. Songs like ‘Caledonia Girl’ reminds me of James Taylor… the story telling, the melodic way that the music draws you into the story.
Endlessly is an honest album… Songs like ‘Open my eyes’ really start to show case the pureness of Davids vocals and the team around him just gently push, and nudge the song to enhance its colour.
Do you know what an album sounds like when you can tell that each instrument and layer and nuance of the song is there to make the other instruments sound better?.. it sounds like ‘Endlessly’.
It’s full of space… it’s full of meaning… it’s uncluttered and real.
Maybe David Lyle Morris is New Zealand’s own shepherd worship leader?
Maybe David is our new contemporary version of David the shepherd boy?
Do you know what happens when you add water to your favourite Pop drink?
You get a half strength watered down version of your favourite drink, less ‘pop’ and less flavour.
Newboys is known as a band that crossed boundaries, that had a good blend of electronic and rock, lyrics that were clever and thought provoking. I mean who can forget the cleverness of lyrics like :
Isabelle is a belly dancer with a kleptomaniac’s restraint
Tried stealing Helena’s hand basket, made a fast getaway, but McQueen she ain’t
At the courtroom Joshua judges her ruthlessly on account of Ruth walking out on him
In the Big House Isabelle is a-telling all to the chaplain who’s become her friend
-Newsboys “take me to your leader”
This album ‘Restart’ is none of the above traits from the Newsboys… it’s not clever, the lyrics are predictable and the sound is like every other pop sound on the radio. Maybe the album should be called ‘Rehash’.
I have to say I almost telegraphed it when I saw the cover picture of the Newsboys ‘Restart’ I though “Isn’t this a version B cover of the ‘Born again’ cover?”
The world gave a collective sigh of relief when the Newsboys brought out the album ‘Born Again’ in 2010 with new lead singer Michael Tait (DC Talk and Tait) it was an album that many believed would be the footprint of where the band would be heading creatively, it seemed like the creative hit that the band needed.
So we have ‘Restart’ – this album is not all bad, it is simplistic and has great tunes. This would actually make a great kids album…. in fact when I played ‘Live with abandon’ to my wife she made the comment “Is this a kids album”
When I said to her “Ummmm, No I don’t think so”
She replied “Oh??? It really does sound like a kids album”
Maybe we’re just being to spoilt here in the Southern hemisphere, with groups like Planetshakers, Hillsong, Hillsong United and Parachute Band?
Now I understand the need for music diversity on the music landscape and if we all copied the aforementioned bands we would be bored, but I can’t understand why a band that can release great albums like ‘Going Public’ ‘Take Me To Your Leader’ and ‘Born Again’ could not see and album like this as anything but sub par???
I might sound cynical but I wonder if the success of Toby Mac’s electronic infused ‘Eye on It’ album tipped the hat in the direction of a more electronic infused Newsboys album…. and it’s understandable, it’s not uncommon to hear a swag of ‘same sounding’ bands after the release of a big band with a new sound… remember how many groups followed the electronic sound of The Black Eyed Peas ‘The E.N.D.’ album? It seemed like EVERYONE was jumping on the 8 bit band wagon.
The Newsboys are great ambassadors for hard working Christian bands, and it’s easy to rate their albums high based on what they have done before and the way their songs may have impacted you in the past…. however the music industry doesn’t get softer with age, and bands like the Newsboys need to be aware (as I’m sure they are) that they are that they are paving the way once again for a new range of young and upcoming bands that are in the middle of a world full of mediocre music and lyrics and we (as a collective group) be making sure that the music that come out of the walls of the church are the MOST creative and the MOST influential. However Newsboys have released a good album, that is safe and easy and nothing new and exciting an a world that is needing new and exciting…. and what makes it even more disappointing is they did it by giving up the sound that they fought so hard to develop.
Jars of Clay have found the sound that defines them…. they have found their place on the musical landscape.
From their debut self titled album in 1995 where they were “the Christian Toad the Wet Sprocket” to “If I left the Zoo” where they almost had a ‘Counting Crows’ feel to them, there have been touches of 80′s instrumentation added to the mix over the years too, but now…. here is a band comfortable in who they are…. a band with it’s own sound that is a real accumulation of their musical journey.
‘Inland’ is the first album since Jars of Clays 2010 collaborative effort ‘The Shelter’ – so which Jars of Clay will turn up?
From the very first tracks you hear that this is going to be a very organic album…. it has a very Indie heart to this album and it’s no surprise as you see that Tucker Martine who has worked with the likes of The Decemberists, R.E.M. , Beth Orton and Sufjan Stevens all of which are Indie alternative folk artists.
Tucker is definitely at the helm and you can hear his influence on the album with tracks like ‘Fall Asleep’ bringing back memories of R.E.M.’s ‘Night swimming’.
One of the greatest things about Jars of Clay is they aren’t worried about ‘the usual’ radio sound…. and that has to be rewarded. The music is something that is onomatopoeic in it’s approach you hear the lyrics and the music is almost mimicking the feel, the sound, the tension of the song and you hear the alarms ring as they sing about getting your attention.
This isn’t a comfortable album to listen to… it’s alternative in it’s approach, it doesn’t have nice edges to it and will push you… if not lyrically…. maybe musically. I like that… music with dimension to it…. (who would have guessed that it could happen in this day and age) . The band even touches on previously untouched ground like ‘Loneliness and Alcohol’. While I’m sure other Christian artists may have touched in the subject Jars of Clay have given it the real focus it needs:
“Tell me of the world you’re leaving
While you’re swinging like a wrecking ball
Bury all your love in secrets
And loneliness in alcohol”
I love how the album signs off…. with the song ‘Inland’- no man is an Island and it’s a multi-dimensional approach to it… community and the God that never leaves you.
“Just keep heading inland and come on home to me
Yeah come on home to me”
This is the most complete album that Jars of Clay have released (maybe ever) and certainly deserves a listen…. even if it’s only for tracks like ‘After the Fight’ and ‘Fall asleep’ however it’s an album that has the best of what the band has done previously (in sound and lyric) but has enough foresight and edge to give this album longevity that would leave other Christian albums that will be coming out this year lost in this years offerings as the compete for the latest sound.
Inland will stand alone as a pioneer album in a world of albums that are happy to be in the safe flow of the mainstream…. and this is the Irony of Jars of Clay.
I’ve been bored with church music.
It seems to be rehashing the same paint by numbers music…. follow this formula and it will be a church hit. And while I understand that there are some great church songs out there I really think there are very few church song albums. By this I mean songs and albums that are simple in their approach, simple truths that our faith is built on… and it has to be creatively done…. after all shouldn’t church be the most creative place in the world since we have the most creative thing to write about… heck writing THROUGH us even!!!
Worship albums seem to be coming with an agenda attached, poverty/trafficking/sex etc…. and the list goes on. And while all of these things are important and should be looked at and should be given a focus isn’t it all taking away from the creator?
If we love the Lord our God with all our hearts/minds/soul/spirit shouldn’t that other stuff stir within us naturally anyway?
And then I received Evening:Morning.
I have to admit I was a little nervous…
The reason I got nervous was not because I was worried that the music would be bad… or boring… but because these guys have a reputation of pushing ‘church music’ and I had to wonder if I was going to like where it takes me. The Digital Age (TDA) is four core members of the David Crowder*Band that become The Digital Age (Mark Waldrop, Jack Parker, Jeremy “B-Wack” Bush and Mike “Mike D” Dodson)
The heart of this concept ‘worship album’ is 12 songs that represent the 12 hours begining at night and on to dawn. It’s qite symbolic in it’s approach to in the sense that it pushes itself forward musically standing on the shoulders of the past lyrically. I really like what Mark says about this:
“We were at the studio late one night and I’d had a conversation with a friend earlier about how worship bands try to say things new, when there are so many great old things to draw on. It’s (the song Believe) from the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed. It’s so straightforward and it repeats, and it’s what we believe. These words are so ancient they don’t need to be modernized; when I hear it, it reminds me of going to church as a kid.”
The album starts of with the words:
You’ve captured me again
You steal my heart “
The song Captured almost reminds me of Rend Collective Experiment it’s almost got that Celtic lean to it… and I can’t help but notice how simple the lyrics are… I thought at first that this might get annoying if they ended up like this for the whole album however I find that it is indeed a stroke of genius…. It’s so easy to pick up each song as you go through the album it’s almost as if they are strangely familiar… and they are… they’re almost like a refreshing of your faith.
Now this is an Alternative Rock album…. it pushes in concept and musically there is plenty on here to rock to however this is a journey that takes you through the night and there is also plenty here to help you search your heart.
Now even as I write that’s an alt rock album I hesitate.
From one band there is such as large soundscape… at one point you’re almost about to get into a jig, and the next track you’re rocking out… the next song will take you to the club… before taking you through a soul searching ballad. This really is a band that’s hard to pin down a genre for… even for one album the band diversifies. This works with the bands concept of what church music should be like:
The term ‘modern worship’ is played out; all these other things are played out. All we’re trying to do is write music that sounds like what we listen to, but worship music specifically. You have to be aware of the church and make it accessible. But we don’t want to fit into any mold. Worship music needs to meet the broader culture to make it more relevant.”
Where this album is so good is in three key areas… Lyrically it’s easy to pick up the words… Musically it’s easy to pick up , and you’ll be singing along before you know it as the choruses for a lot of the album have great hooks that will stay with you… and finally it’s full of faith, you know where these guys stand, unashamed and proud of it.
This album has become one of my favourite ‘church music’ albums of the year. It’s a really interesting album and is accessible for everyone, but it’s so multi-layered and multi-dimensional that you keep discovering more and more that speaks to you, interests you, challenges you….
If this is TDA’s first album…. in a year or two from here we could be redefining what ‘Church Music’actually sounds like…. and these guys would be on the forefront of that revolution.
“Our God isn’t passive and in the grave. He’s active and so we thought, ‘Let’s put the flashlight ahead of us and see what step we’re supposed to take.’ We don’t know where we’re going but we’re going somewhere and we’re trusting that God is with us every step. We’ve been given the gist; we’ve been given the songs. Now it’s time to go out into the wild, follow … and see.” – Mark Waldrop (The Digital Age)
Yesterday, Kanye West’s latest album Yeezus dropped with the third track titled, “I Am A God (Feat. God).” The song has already sparked reaction and has been likened to John Lennon’s remarks about the Beatles’ being “more popular than Jesus.” But maybe Kanye’s song is something we identify with more than we’d like to admit?
There are times when our culture presents to us controversial statements and issues which cause us to respond with a sense of urgency. We instinctively know that what is being communicated is wrong and therefore we become anxious to make our (presumably right) perspective known. In the case of Kanye West’s new song “I Am a God,” the immediate reaction from the Christian community is to get offended and defensive.
Kanye’s worldview quickly reveals itself with ridiculous lines like:
I’m not the most high,
but I’m a close high.
Wait, did Kanye just compare himself to God? Yes, he did! He draws this conclusion based on his genuine power and influence in the culture. It’s not only what he is saying that offends us, but it’s also the platform from which he says it. The size of his soapbox makes the sting of his statements all the more severe.
Issues of the heart
As we survey the culture and pass judgment, it is easy to bypass the issues of our own hearts (Jer. 17:9). The things in the culture that offend us most can often act as a mirror into our own souls. As Kanye presents himself as a “god” in his lyrics, we do the same in our thoughts and with our actions, desiring to be a god over our own little kingdoms. How many times have we esteemed ourselves more than our brothers? How many times do we exploit our position of influence for our own benefit? Even good theology can become a point of arrogance when we lord our understanding over our weaker brothers. As we praise God for his grace, we conveniently find ways to give the credit back to ourselves. We compare our achievements to others and pat ourselves on the back for all our accomplishments. The heart of the issue is a desire to be bigger, better, and more known than all the people around us—including God (Rom. 1:18–23).
The things in the culture that offend us most can often act as a mirror into our own souls.
In this way, we sing the same song as Kanye. His lyrics reflect back the reality of our sin. We share the same sin and contribute our own verse of self-exaltation to Kanye’s song. We all, whether we acknowledge it or not, are contributors to this track, which is the soundtrack to our lives. And rather than peering into culture and placing ourselves above it, we must take this opportunity to see ourselves as a Kanye. We must repent of our own idolatry and look to the one who truly sits high above the heavens on his eternal throne.
We are not a “god”
The truth is we are not a god. We are creatures made by the one true God. We have been made to reflect him, not be him.
But what is God like?
Consider the life of Jesus and the characteristics he displayed as “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3). Being all-powerful and worthy of all praise, he emptied himself and became the suffering servant to fill our greatest need (Phil. 2:5–8).
When you think about power and influence, consider God, who created the entire universe, including the very voice box of Kanye. He lowered himself by becoming a man and dwelt among us in humility. He came to serve, not to be served (Matt. 20:28). The bread of life did not come “demanding croissants” but rather offered himself as a sacrifice for others. He demonstrated compassion toward us by taking upon himself the judgment that we deserved because of our sin and our claim to be our own god.
So when the radio plays “I Am A God” fifty times a day, remember your idolatry. Remember we are a Kanye, and remember the length to which God went to save us from our sin
As you would see through my blog, I like Music… however almost even more than that I like discovering music, new music music that’s often left undiscovered by the masses unless people who like to dig and discover new music dig them up from the underground/indie treasure chest that many labels have decided to use to pave their way.
Now one genre I like to soak in every now and then is hip-hop… But I have to be honest I haven’t listened to good hip-hop for a while… or at least not good NEW hip-hop. All the hip-hop that’s on the radio is just boring and predictable… all about bling and girls… or a guy in bling and surrounded by girls in bikinis saying how poor they are (forgetting the fact they have a major record label and are on tour with 4 other major hip-hop stars)… I just roll my eyes and think “Oh please”
Hip-hop used to be authentic
Hip-hop used to be clever
Hip-hop used to push boundaries
Hip-hop used to say something that people wanted to say but couldn’t in a 3 minute song
I grew up with groups like De La Soul, Jurassic 5, A Tribe called Quest, The Beastie Boys, Bone Thugs & Harmony and Run DMC, all groups that paved the way for other genres and hip-hop groups… and while not all of them had something wonderful to say all the time… they at least were pushing the boundaries to places that other groups had never thought about… and when they weren’t they were helping young minds to think about where they are at and what they are about. You can recgonise the root of where the music came from in some music today and a lot of the above names are the genesis point.
They were groups at made a name for themselves in the mainstream but kept their feet firm in the underground… where the people live and breathe.
However now these groups have for a large part gone to ground who is taking up the mantle?
Who is filling the void?
That’s why when I discovered the guys at Humble Beast. I was like “thank goodness… some good quality hip-hop that actually says something… but not only that… groups that push boundaries”
The guys are so passionate about hip-hop and what they have to say that they are giving their albums away…
And it’s good stuff… I mean REALLY good stuff!
Artists like ‘Propaganda’ who’s style sits somewhere between roots and beat poetry… it’s clever and it makes you think about the world you live…
Artist like ‘Beautiful Eulogy’s who’s new album ‘Satellite Kite’ is hip-hop that is rooted in the past while the lyrics and style are pushing future boundaries, and they’re already featuring in Red bull skate and surfing. No one else seems to be pushing the organic sound in hip-hop like these guys… While everyone else is on the beeps and buzz sound pushed forward by the likes of Will.I.Am and his Black eyed Peas buddies it’s great to hear new sounds again.
They say on their website:
“Humble Beast is a collective of artists, who make music & resources. With each production, Humble Beast aims to be compelling & authentic for our culture. We pour our lives into each of these resources & in turn we give them away for free”
It’s good stuff… and they certainly are living up to what they said above… you’re not getting any dregs here folks… this is the Cream you’re getting here!
For free downloads of ANY of the Humble Beast albums click HERE!
Why my friends frustrate me, annoy me and get under my skin … (or …how I’m growing thanks to my friends)
Isn’t it funny how you make friends?
There seems to be no real rhyme or reason to it.
Some are like you… some are not…
Some are for a short time in your life… some are for life.
There is no real scientific equation that can be proven that if you followed it would guarantee that you will have a true friend for life… sure there are always words and phrases that people use when they talk about friends… Loyal… trusting… support you… are there for you… have got your back… Are always there for you… etc.
And when I look at my closest friends a lot of these phrases are true, but there is something that surprised me as I looked closer at my friends… it was the things that I admired about my friends… it was the things that frustrated me about my friends… and the things that made me stronger because of them.
If I was to describe myself I would use phrases like:
- Big Picture
- Breaks rules
- Likes to play/have fun
- Takes risks
- Talks a lot
- Vision focused
It starts to paint a picture of someone who is creative and always on the go…
My brain is usually pretty full of new an creative ways to do things for people, express myself and communicate.
However it also paints a picture of someone who maybe isn’t as grounded all the time as I maybe can be.
So I sat down and looked at my closest friends… and it was actually amazing to see how the people I valued the most were people who were almost the exact opposite to me.
My closest friends were:
- Reduces risks
- Goals and objective focused
And I wondered why I kept getting frustrated by them on one hand… and drawn closer to them with the other.
And when you look at the two lists it doesn’t take much to notice it’s because we go about the same tasks in a totally different way...
We look at things differently…
We fulfill different parts of the same vision or job.
Where I would be used to come up with an idea… I’m not the best person to follow through with the idea, that’s where people like my friends excel…
While I think about things in big picture form… my friends are all about the detail.
While I am being emotional about the people… my friends are looking at the facts
It’s frustrating sometimes because they will sometimes tell me something and I’ll be like “Darn they’re right… AGAIN”
But there is this real sense of Iron sharpening iron… my closest friends have free reign (within reason) to tell me the true as they see it… they can pull me up on things that they think I may be lacking or neglecting… they can be truthful even when they know it may be something I may not want to hear.
But here is the thing… I trust them so much that they have permission to talk into my life… and as a result I have learnt so much from the closest of my friends
I said to one friend not that long ago how much I admired them and the things that they have shown me… but I was surprised when they said to me how they had learnt from me the art of “looking to the left and the right when moving forward…” and it made me think… “Yes this is what about true friendship is about”
There is a verse in the Bible that is often used at weddings:
“A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”
Ecclesiastes 4:12 (New Living Translation)
You see it seems to me that we are to join with other to help minimise our weaknesses… and maximise our strengths.
If I was with someone who was to much the same as me… I wouldn’t grown anywhere near as much and I certainly wouldn’t have someone with me who helps me where I am weak.
Or to use the famous quote from Jerry Maguire “You complete me”
Because if you look at my two lists above… my closest friends literally complete me!
We’re two sides of the same coin.
It’s been starting to frustrate me how people talk about faith as something that ‘just happens’ but the more I read the Bible the more I discover that God often requires us to step out first… and at THAT point God comes and takes over.
Faith is a VERB… a DOING word.
I’ve heard it said “If God wants it to happen it will” and while that is true, it seems that we still have to do something to prepare.
It seems to me that God has placed dreams in our hearts for a reason… and it may be days, weeks, months, years before we see the fruit of that dream… but it must be in our heart for a reason.
So what are you doing to prepare?
I read through the Bible and I see miracle after miracle where the person had to ‘step out’ first before the miracle happen…
A few examples are:
- The Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land and God commanded the priest to step into the river (Joshua 3:8) – it wasn’t until they had stepped into the river did the river part.
- Jesus asked the staff to fill the jugs with water and take them to the head manager of the house before the water turned into wine… not only did the staff know they were taking water to the head of the house but they knew it was from the place where the people got water used to clean their feet.
- Mark 16:20 says people went forth and preached everywhere… with signs following
- God told Joshua that he had given the City of Jericho to Joshua… however they still had to walk around the walls 7 times in faith before they saw the miracle happen.
It seems that the Bible is FULL of stories where God asks us to step out in faith first, and then the miracles happen.
We shouldn’t just pray about our dreams… we should act on it.
Act as if God is going to deliver on his promise.
Now let me give FULL disclosure!
- We don’t want to put God in a box and say “This is the only way that God works miracles” because our God is certainly bigger than anything we could ever believe or imagine.
- This is NOT some “name it and claim it” scheme. You see it HAS to be in the will of God.
- It’s not about getting God to give us what WE want.
- It’s not about working hard to prove anything to God, in exchange for a miracle
So don’t just pray… because if our prayer isn’t accompanied by acting then there is a good chance we won’t go anywhere. It’s about putting feet to our faith or put another way:
“After kneeling down, we need to stand up and step out in faith” – Mark Batterson
I like that…
I once heard Pastor Francis Chan use the analogy of cleaning your room. He says:
“When my daughter comes to me and I say to her “Go clean your room” she knows better than to come back and say
“Hey Dad I went away and memorized everything you said… you said to me ‘Go clean your room’ ” …
She’s also not going to come back and say “I remembered what you said and I can tell you now that I can say ‘Go clean your room… in GREEK’
Or “We’re going to get our friends together every week and we’re going to study what it might look like if I was to clean my room.”
It doesn’t work does it?We have to at some point we have to step out…
Do you believe that God has planted that dream in your heart… do you know in your knower, that this dream is from God?
Then after you pray… Stand up… and step out in faith.