Encourage Each Other…

English: A western spur rowel showing chap gua...

A western spur

Isn’t it so easy these days to not engage with anyone… or you might engage but on a really small  shallow level…
I was thinking about the things that influenced me the most… and it was two things.

Things that made me happy… and things that made me sad

Do you remember the things that your parents said to you when they said something like “You must always remember this…” – it’s great if you do… but I certainly don’t… the things I remember are the times that someone gave me encouragement, lifted me up… a parent telling me that they were proud of me… a friend giving me an ‘atta-boy’ at going a good job… it’s those things that stick…

On the flip side however it’s the things that often hurt the most that stay in your mind too… the time when you felt betrayed, shamed or guilty…. these things when held onto can hold back and cripple someone.

My thought is… if the things that impact us the most are so influenced by the people who are part of our lives, and if we are filled with the Holy Spirit and different from the rest of the world… then why don’t we encourage each other more and help take away those negative thoughts???

  “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.”
Hebrews 10:24

We’re to ENCOURAGE each other… lift each other up… motivate each other.

How?

“By acts of love and good works…”

It seems to me that when we are being counter cultural to the norm  and we start to show our love for others… and do things for these people… it makes a real impact. The world expects people to take advantage of them, to use them when they are weak, and to hold a grudge… what are we doing to counter that?
Notice however it does not say “just saying nice things”... but it’s “doing” nice things… it’s putting your money where your mouth is… it’s walking the talk!
After all LOVE is a verb.

And what starts to happen when we start to do things for other people and love them how Christ loved us (which is unconditionally – after all he died for us when we were still sinners) then not only do we see those around us change… but we start to change too.
You see we’re called to spur each other on… but how do you even start that??

We need to make sure that we’re taking our cues from the Holy Spirit… just ask if there is anyone in mind that he thinks you should ‘spur’ on… or maybe there is someone that comes to your mind straight away… how are you going to make them feel encouraged?

However here’s the thing…
Spurs often hurt… sometimes you need to give the person that you are trying to encourage a bit of a ‘dig’…

Wounds from a sincere friend
are better than many kisses from an enemy.
Proverbs 27:6

Sometimes you have to say the ‘hard word’ to a friend… sometimes you have to give your friend a reality check… and it can be hard and it can be painful… however if your friend knows that you’re saying it from a sincere place… and if you feel that you’re saying it as a prompting from the Holy Spirit… it may be the things that sets them free from some of the pain that they have been holding onto for sometime.

So are you encouraging your friends?
Are you spurring them on?
What are you doing to change the life of your friends?

Because isn’t it easier to be right… than it is to love someone?
Lets not choose the easy option!

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Album Review: Playdough ‘Writer Dye: Deux or Die’

Playdough – Writer Dye Deux or Die

“These people come her tonight to hear some real rap… am I right everybody?” a screechy sounding voice starts off the new Playdough album  ‘Writer Dye: Deux or Die’…

I loved Playdough’s last release ‘Hotdoggin’ a lot, I loved the word play, the mix between the beats the musical hooks were genius… and then I heard that Playdough was going to releasing another of his ‘Writer Dye’ albums and I was a little disappointed… “Oh no has Playdough run out of ideas just when he seemed to be hitting his straps?”
The album concept didn’t sell me either… it was Playdough reimagining lyrics from iconic songs of multiple genres and molding them into entirely different songs.
I immediately had visions of Wyclef Jean or Vanilla Ice ruining a great Queen bass line or even a whole song.

However…

There is a reason Playdough is able to live up to his moniker as “The Greatest Emcee in the World” – because he takes all sorts of music and mixes them into something that sounds totally new but strangely familiar all at the same time.
If you had heard ANY of Playdough albums before you would know that he’s got a great ear for an awesome hook… and also how to use it well… he would find hooks in the most craziest places… and for ‘Deux or Die’ it’s no different… Playdough is throwing hooks and lyrics and lines from Bob Dylan, Coldplay, Led Zeppelin, Johnny Cash, Queen, Modest Mouse, Digable Planets, The Beatles, Bon Iver, The Strokes and the list just keeps going… and he does it so well that most the time you don’t even know he’s doing it!

Playdough plays with lyrics like a cat plays with a dead mouse… he’s entertained by it, he’s knocking it from all angles until he’s finally devoured it…

If you’re expecting another ‘Hotdoggin’ then you’ll be disappointed… Playdough has moved on and it’s great to be able to listen to an album from an artist who keeps it FRESH. I often found myself singing along to parts of the album on my first listen… that’s how you know an artist has a good grasp on what makes a good album.

Playdough is an interesting kettle of fish as he’s able to keep his street cred that he gained with Deepspace5 by keeping the tracks not to ‘pop’ for the mainstream but not to inaccessible .. often it’s easy for an artist like Playdough to baffle you with science and bring out a really confusing album and call it ‘art’… Playdough walks the line well…

My favourite track is ‘Beatlejuice’ where Playdough takes the lyrics from the Beatles ‘Your Mother Should Know’ song and turns it into a smooth summer track (perfect for those in the Southern Hemisphere right now) where Simon and Garfunkel’s famous lady ‘Mrs Robinson’ makes an appearance…
Another favourite is the King of Queens track, where Playdough makes Bohemian Rhapsody his chorus, which is really cool to hear it done in another way… rather than just sampled as it is, as other lazier MC’s would do.

This is a fun album… don’t take this too seriously… but listen to it to have some serious fun…
Playdough is flexing his creative muscles… he’s showing who’s got the chops when it comes to mashing good tracks and adding lyrics that enhance the track… these aren’t copies of famous tracks… these aren’t even a tribute album… this is Playdough creating new songs with well work samples and lyrical prowess.

Playdough ‘King of Queens’

Isn’t it typical…

Insurance

Is there shelter from the storm?

Have you ever been in a place where you have been making progress in your faith and all of a sudden you get railroaded?

I have… after a hard couple of months due to business and just ‘life’ in general I finally felt like I was in a place that was a place where I could get real with God again… it was time to do business!!
I had been really getting back into the word of God and reading it each morning with my wife Emma… and then last night we were with our growth group and we decided to have communion together… it was something most of us had never done outside of a ‘church’ building before and it , and most of us agreed that it gave it a different feel… a different focus… as we wrestled with how it was described in the Bible.

Spiritually I was feeling like things were getting back to where they had been before…maybe even better… until today.

A while ago I was in a position where I was being pursued by another woman… it was getting pretty messy (I won’t go into details) however I was given the opportunity to move to another part of the city for my job and I took it… and things were going pretty well… until today.

The same person I had being trying to stay away from and cut out of my life, started to message me, and text me… out of the blue?
I don’t think so… because all of a sudden I found myself thinking of where I had been before instead of where I was going.
It hit me like a bolt out of the blue…
I was frustrated on the drive home in my car… why this… and why now… things were starting to look so good.

And then I realised the hugeness of what having communion and remembering where we had come from as sinners meant to me… and then what it meant to the enemy.

And then I started to be frustrated at myself…
“Of course this has happened now… you had drawn a line in the sand and declared that you are aligning yourself with God… and the enemy doesn’t want that”
It was a ‘Duh Goose moment’
The reason it took me off guard was because I wasn’t being vigilant.

“Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8

“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy…” – John 10:10a

Was I that naive to think that these things happening were an accident?

The enemy is strategic and forceful, and he’s playing for keeps… the Holy Spirits role is to help you have a closer relationship with God… and the enemy wants the opposite…

Be vigilant… keep and eye out.
Now I realise what is happening I am certainly going to be.

Album Review: Propaganda ‘Excellent’

Propaganda ‘Excellent’ – from Humble Beast Records

You may not be ready to listen to this album… It might just be too hard for you to listen to… this album will stir you to your core and it will make you feel uncomfortable, yet uplifted… it will make you want to listen but not to hard… it will draw you close to listen and push you away to think…  because while the words and lyrics are beautifully crafted and thoughtfully put together into well timed and well  formed rhyme… it’s confrontational… not in a way that attacks… but to make you think… and you might not be ready to actually think about the art you’re listening to yet. Just sayin’

Right from the start Propaganda lays it down on the opening track called ‘Don’t listen to me’ where he opens this albums account with an honest viewing of his life’s credentials as as a human and as an artist as he says “Apparently I don’t know that much, I just know the Gospel and good hip-hop, I’m a pretty simple dude, all I’ve got is my all, and I promise to give you that”… where else do you get that sort of honesty on ANY record let alone a hip-hop album that are usually filled with people who will tell you how great their life is while you watch them crumble in the media. Propaganda walks the talk. 

This is not your usual hip-hip album, and once you’ve listen to it you’ll be forever grateful of that fact. Unlike other hip-hop albums that you listen to in the background, you won’t love this album until you are listening to it as if you’re sitting over the other side of the table from Propaganda… listening to his stories, as he unpacks his thought gracefully and carefully… but Propaganda’s not timid, he’ll lay it down… and you will be caught off guard… 

Propaganda’s style is relaxed… and sit somewhere between ‘spoken word’ and traditional hip-hip and it’s both poetic and aggressive… and it’s a great mixture as it keeps you fully engaged…
While on the subject of the mix, the beats and music have been put together by Beautiful Eulogy, who add their unique mix of electronic acoustic blues based music… it’s organic and is a perfect mix for an album like Propaganda’s.

There is too much on the album to pull out just by itself, however… every now and then there will be a phrase or a line that will just catch you off guard and you’ll HAVE to think about it. Propaganda doesn’t play with words like some common hip-hop artist, this stuff it top shelf… it’s crafted… and it’s honest… and it’s powerful.
Propaganda knows his history and and on tracks like ‘Precious Puritans’  he slams knowledge on the table as if to say “now here’s the facts what’s your next move?” as he beautifully and excellently pleads

Your precious Puritans were not perfect, you romanticize them as if they were inerrant, as if the skeletons in their closet was pardoned due to their hard work and tobacco growth, as if abolitionists were not racist and just pro-union, as if God only spoke to white boys with epic beards, you know Jesus didn’t really look like them paintings, that was just Michelangelo’s boyfriend.”

You might not be ready for this album, because if you buy this album just to listen to it as any other hip-hop album, one day you’ll find yourself having to confront some issues that propaganda has laid down for you to consider… HOWEVER… if you buy this album to think, like a book or a conversation  with a close friend talking about of tough issues then you’ll come out enjoying this album… rewinding… reviewing… re-listening… rediscovering.

Treat this album like a friend… and learn to listen… wrestle with some of the words that Propaganda has to say… I’m not saying take it as Gospel, I’m just saying try to understand… and when you do then you’ll find it is indeed ‘Excellent’

You can buy this album for FREE HERE…   or if you want to support the artist you can buy it from your countries iTunes store.
Or by visiting the humble Beast Records website. www.humblebeast.com

 

 

Album Review: Heath McNease ‘The Weight of Glory – Songs Inspired by the Works of C.S. Lewis’

HeathMcNease ‘The Weight of Glory’

Heath McNease excites me as an artist… he seems to be linked to an eternal fountain of sharp and witty lyrics and musical content.

For those of you who may not be aware of who Heath is, he’s an Independent music  artists who grew up ‘in the sticks’ in South Georgia, U.S.A.

While Heath may be more well known for his hip-hop works (Thrift Store Jesus, Wed, White & Wu with Playdough) this album has him focusing on some of his best pop folk sensibilities and it works really well with his easy, laid back style.

The basic idea of the album is simple – songs about books by C.S. Lewis that inspired Heath to write songs, the circle of  life of an inspired song if you like!

The album starts of with ‘The Great Divorce’ – a song that sits somewhere between ‘The Digital Age’ (ex David Crowder Band), and Jars of Clay… a meandering verse that makes way for a memorable chorus in which you can’t help but sing “Come Lord Come….” 
And then the album drops to the single acoustic guitar with Heath singing “Everyone I’ve ever known left me in my funeral clothes with nothing but a single rose…lowered down, lowered down” – as Heath slowly unpacks ‘Grief Observed’ a simple song, with a simple message of mercy that is reflected in the softly lifted chorus “Mercy on our soul…” 

Mere Christianity starts off with a bass drum and hand claps… it feels dark, like a negro spiritual, that’s been fused with jazz and bluegrass and looked at through a rock filter… but it’s magnetic and you find yourself  drawn into the song, as it slowly grows until it’s filling every space… and you’re stuck with a simple question, “who are you John or Judas?”… so was Jesus a Liar, Lunatic or Lord?… but like only Heath can do he’s able to keep the album ‘upbeat’ with a song ‘The Problem with Pain’. ‘The Problem with Pain’  was a book that Lewis wrote about how the idea of a loving God fits in with a world full of pain… yet it’s a song that would fit in well on a Bruno Mars album, yet he’s able to keep the lyric content sharp and doesn’t back off the intensity of the  last song with lyrics like “The problem of pain, it insists that you quietly watch it spread and attack your insides“… it’s a fine balance sometimes with adding a quirky melody to a tough subject, however Heath is able to make it flow with thought provoking  lyrics that keep you captivated.

Heath works through a lot of the works of Lewis… the only song that doesn’t have the title of a book is ‘Edmund’ and it’s another upbeat poppy number about Edmund from the Narnia series, and how he was enticed by the White witch to sell out his family for Turkish delight… and I love how Heath does this, he could have easily written a song about Aslan and how he was always ruler of Narnia etc… however Heath chooses the option that maybe is less explored yet is maybe most about our hearts as humans.

One of the highlight of the album is this magical number called ‘Joy unspeakable’ with a huge chorus “Joy unspeakable and full of glory, but the half has not been told, You’re not a reason, You’re reason itself.” – the song is based on the book of the same name in which C.S. Lewis talks of his journey from Atheism to Christianity…

‘Weight of Glory’ is the last song on the album and is based on the series of essays of the same name, starts of with a single acoustic guitar as Heath sings “So this is the view from outside the world…” however the song grows like many of Heaths songs and we’re taken on the final journey of this album…

It’s a great album that is both deep and listenable… often with content as varied and thought provoking as C.S. Lewis an album like this find it  easy to either fall apart due to too many ideas or just purely be boring…
Heath defies all of these and has brought together an album that you can have on in the background, or have it up loud to start to think more deeply about who we are and where we fit in on this Earth… and he does it through the old fashioned craft of great songwriting… I honestly wish I could listen to more music as uniquely crafted and well formed as this more often…. but these days it’s often about the money rather than the content…. and it really is a shame… popular radio needs to hear more of these type of well crafted songs.

Not only is this a great album it gets EVEN BETTER

‘The Weight of Glory’ is FREE to download…

So if you are a fan of Jars of Clay, David Crowder’s more acoustic stuff, The Digital age, Mat Kearney, Bruno Mars… or even the works of C.S. Lewis himself make sure you go and download this album for FREE HERE.

Heath… Mr Lewis would be proud of this.

(if the link about doesn’t work try downloading here
http://heathmcnease.bandcamp.com/album/the-weight-of-glory-songs-inspired-by-the-works-of-cs-lewis )

What goes around in music… is a record

English: Line art drawing of the A note Españo...

There is nothing new in music… lets just get that out there now… phew you feel better right?

Rock was birthed out of blues… blues out of Negro Spirituals… Bluegrass even was inspired by some Jazz influences…

If you take away the distortion and yelling, and unplug everything heavy metal sounds just like a mixture between classical and country… it’s can actually be ‘pretty’.

What about band’s making their careers longer by using other bands members?

Now I have been thinking recently specifically about the old Christian rock groups of the 90’s (specifically DC Talk, Audio Adrenaline and Newsboys) swapping band members… my reaction to it is “Meh”

Bands have been doing it for ages…

Van Halen, had Gary Cherone from Extreme… look back further… band members from other groups used to form ‘Supergroups’ all the time, Crosby (The Byrds) Stills (Buffalo Springfield) Nash (The Hollies) and Neil Young… Or The Traveling Wilbury’s  with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty.

Heck even New Kids on The Block decided to join forces with The Backstreet boys to form NKOTBSB *sigh*.

So why is everyone so upset when Soul tinged singer Micheal Tait, grabs the mic for Newsboys… or when Kevin Max grabs the Mic for Audio Adrenaline?

Isn’t it about the music, rather than the personalities?

And while I think about the fact that it’s a sign that often the music industry is wanting to hold onto the past it has to be pointed out that if there’s nothing else new and exciting coming through the other side from new and upcoming, then they(the music industry and music labels) have to scramble to keep revenue ticking in right?

Music is always about personalities… Elvis, the Beatles, Prince, Michael Jackson, KISS, Ben Harper, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and of course the list goes on… however… it’s always the MUSIC that lives on…

As Frank Zappa famously quoted:

“All the good music has already been written by people with wigs and stuff.”

So lets not worry about who is singing with who… but the fact that someone is still singing!!

 

Everyone Cheats

A sign at The 5 Point Cafe in Seattle, WA

A sign at The 5 Point Cafe in Seattle, WA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did you know that you’re cheating on someone you love RIGHT NOW???

Now I’m not talking necessarily about you cheating on your wife with another woman… a game of cards… or tax.
I read a phrase by Andy Stanley that through this out of the park for me… What if we use ‘cheating’ in the broader sense?

“Try thinking of it as simply choosing to give up one thing in hope of gaining something else of greater value”

You see when you read that you can’t help but think that you’re a cheater can you?

The reality is that our lives are so filled with ‘stuff” from work commitments to hobbies, and each is competing for our time…. so what we do to get around this is ‘cheat’ and that may mean purely allocating time the best that we can, but we know that someone that we love is going to feel ‘cheated’ don’t we???

I recently went through a tough patch with my beautiful wife Emma… it wasn’t because of anything that either of us had done… it was because time was being allocated in the wrong places.
We had just come through a really busy time of conferences and other commitments that both Emma and I had agreed to… however due to us having to take on extra  loads that we hadn’t accounted for we ended up passing like ships in the night. I would come home from work… hand the keys to Emma kiss her and she would head off to another meeting… and the same was true of the weekends, one of us always seemed to be busy, and we were cheating each other of ‘couple time’.
This went on for 4 months… and the tension started to build, in reality I was spending more time with the people at my work and creating bonds with these people, and wasn’t able to invest the same amount of time in my own wife’s life… it was a steep learning curve.
We both knew it was a problem but it was like watching a crash in slow motion… and because both Emma and I are communicators and weren’t able to communicate, things started to happen and intimacy evaporated… *poof*

There was business… there was illness… there was commitments… etc… all of which were taking our time away from each other, and due to the amount of time we were spending apart we were investing that same time in the things we were involved in… we were cheating on each other… with our work and our friends… it was time and intimacy we were robbing each other of.

“Someone is going to get cheated. Worse yet, someone is going to feel cheated. You’re not giving him/her what is deserved or needed.”

The issue is never “Am I cheating?”

The issue is “Where am I cheating?”