Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums #497 – The Indestructible Beat of Soweto Volume One

This compilation album is full of heart. I really enjoyed the different voices and instrumentation choices. Because this album is not in English I don’t know what they were saying. However, that doesn’t keep one from enjoying the music. This Album was originally released in 1985. Several of the artists have been featured with popular American acts. This was fun as I was listening and I recognized the vocals of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. I love their beautiful harmonies.

I love listening to different languages. These foreign language albums stir up a desire to travel again. I am eager for our world to get COVID-19 under control so we can travel freely again. Someday.

500 Greatest Albums – 498 “Suicide” by Suicide

I really didn’t know what to expect from this album. I had never heard of them before, so I decided to do a little background reading on the Wikipedia machine. The band consists of two members, Alan Vega and Martin Rev. This debut album is best described as a electro-punk. The themes they tackle in this album have a lot to do with how America seemed to be destroying itself in the 1970s. (Insert comment about how the more things change . . . )

I fully anticipated that I would not like this album. But I was pleasantly surprised. I wouldn’t say I’d go looking for more from Suicide, but several of the songs on this album were interesting. The lyrics were fine, but the instrumentation with heavy use of synthesizers and electronic drums was interesting and seems well ahead of their time.

Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums – 499: Rufus, Chaka Khan – Ask Rufus

This was my first time ever listening to Rufus. I had heard some songs from Chaka Khan but I have never intentionally sought out her music. This album has some great funk vibes, and stellar vocals from Khan. The opening song “At Midnight (My Love Will Lift You Up)” has a great vibe, and I could see myself enjoying this in a summer playlist.

Track 6, “Hollywood”, sings about someone trying to chase their dreams for stardom and the challenges they find. I find it interesting how often people write reflections on stardom and fame. We are a culture that is obsessed with celebrity. From the outside we seem to think that celebrity is a great thing. But over and over we see that celebrity may make you wealthy, but there is a great cost. “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world and yet forfeit his soul?”

Overall, I enjoyed this album. I’m not a funk-aficionado, so I can’t speak to the quality of the music or if it was influential in he funk scene. Chaka Khan went on to a successful solo career though, and that’s about all I know. If you have more to say about Chaka Khan and Rufus, please feel free to leave a comment.

**Some of these entries will be brief, and that’s ok**

500 Greatest Albums – 500: Arcade Fire – “Funeral”

Tyler Huckabee at Relevant Magazine started sharing his thoughts on the Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums. I saw this, and because I love a project I decided to jump in at #500 and work my way forward.

I know that music is completely subjective, and there are going to be some albums that I love, and some that I hate. But I’m going to do my best to try to listen to these albums from the perspective of a pastor in the Christian, Pentecostal Tradition. I know that popular music can communicate big truth as well lies that run contrary to the teachings of my faith. I also know that if I want to understand culture, music is one of the many artifacts that can help build greater understanding to the zeitgeist, or the spirit of the age at the time the album was released.

So with all that preamble, let’s talk about #500.


I don’t remember exactly when I discovered Arcade Fire. I think my first exposure to this band was with their Album Neon Bible. But when I heard the song “Wake Up” as bumper music for the Podcast TBTL, I had to figure out what this band was all about. I loved the driving guitar and the and the choral “aaaahs” of the intro. When I finally figured out that it was Arcade Fire, I went to the public library to borrow the CD. At the time I was working as a youth pastor, we had just welcomed our daughter into the world, and I was working on pursuing my Masters Degree. My life was being pulled in many different directions, and something about this album resonated deeply in my soul.

I would listen to this album driving home late at night, and there were times when I would just cry. It seemed like this band understood how difficult it was to grow into adulthood, and hold on to faith in something bigger than yourself, when it seemed like the world was falling apart. This album has a maturity that surprised me. I was surprised that this was their debut album. I have been a fan since then. Even though the band has been willing to experiment with instrumentation and styles over the years, they have stayed true to exploring the big themes of life. The seeds for what the band has grown into were all planted in their debut.

I’d love to hear what you think bout this album. Please leave a comment.

Hang In There!

I keep seeing this article being shared on Facebook and Twitter. It’s a very sobering read. And the Thom Rainer article referenced in the piece is even more sobering. The past 6 months have been really difficult for everyone. As a pastor, these have been really hard times. Election years are already full of frustration, but throw COVID-19 in the mix and it all starts to feel like too much.

Jim Gaffigan has a bit about having 5 kids. The transition from 4 kids to 5 kids is like “you’re treading water and then someone says, ‘Here take this baby.'”

That’s kind of what 2020 feels like. And I know this isn’t just a pastor problem. Small business owners, teachers, studends, government leaders, parents, every body. We are all doing the best we can with what we can and it seems like more and more things just keep getting thrown to us.

But what keeps us going?

  1. Love.

I know it’s super sappy. But that’s all I have and all I have to offer

I know that Jesus loves me. And he loves people. Even the people who are rejecting him, the people who don’t believe in him. The people who are actively trying to destroy faith in others. Jesus loves all these people. And we don’t deserve it. But Jesus loves us anyway.

As a pastor I know that I’m not going to be able to fix everyone’s problems. I know that I am going to disappoint people, and other people are going to disappoint me. Church is a lot like a family that way. But one of the things that has been important for me to remember is that even when I disappoint Jesus, he still loves me. I want to be like Jesus in this regard. Can I love people even when I’m sad about their decisions? When I’m frustrated by a recent interaction? When I’m just tired of dealing with the same stuff?

Jesus said, “all men will know you are my disciples if you love one another.” (John 13:35)

Even when people leave, move, are angry or antagonistic. I am praying that love will still be what I am known for.

2. Calling

When I was in Jr. High I felt the Holy Spirit drawing me to devote my life to ministry. I have been very blessed to be a full-time pastor. I love being able to open the Bible with people and help people see that it is a living and active book. It speaks to our world today. When I went to Bible college I knew that whatever I was going to do for a career I was going to spend the rest of my life reading the Bible. That’s why I got a degree in Biblical Literature. That was my motivation to get my MA in Theology in Culture, because I wanted to have a broader understanding of the Bible, the countours of Christian Theology, and how to speak to the cultural dynamics in our world. When I entered the Doctor of Ministry Program at George Fox, this was the same motivation. I wanted to be better informed on the signs of the times, and how to lead our church community into the future.

I have told our church on several occasions that I love the privilege of teaching the Bible. To paraphrase a sentiment that I have seen attributed to several different football players, “They pay me to go to meetings, work through financial struggles, walk with people through painful seasons, etc. But I preach for free.”

If leaders only look at their organization’s metrics as the indicator of whether to stay or leave, then that is too much heart break, over things that we often can’t control. Following the Call of God on our lives is what keeps us going. Everyone at every church is temporary. I know that, but until Jesus gives new marching orders, I’m going to do the best I can, where he has placed me.

And out of calling comes

3. Self-Awareness

Who are you? How are you wired? How do your actions/behaviors/attitudes affect those around you? I found tremendous clarity when someone encouraged me to do an Enneagram assessment. This is just one tool to help build self-awareness, and build better understanding of others. It has been encouraging to recognize my patterns when facing stress and conflict as well as when things are going well. I want to be healthy spiritually, emotionally, and physically. The only way to start is by being honest about my reality. I know that I’m far from perfect. And I’ve also accepted that perfection is not the goal. My friend Anh posted this on Facebook recently: “God is not glorified in our perfection. God is glorified in our process.”

Right now, we are all in a new process. We are all figuring out how to move forward in this world. COVID is apocalyptic because it is revealing to us who we are and what really matters. Don’t waste this process of revelation that we are experiencing. Lay your own heart on the table and let the Lord Jesus show you what you may have been holding on to that you need to let go of. Let him build the things that truly matter. Surrender your heart and life to him.

and when you feel like you can’t do it, that’s when you need

4. Grace

Receive the gift of grace from Jesus. He died for you. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. So much of my prayer life over the past 6 months has been, “Jesus, I need you!” “Jesus, Help!” “Jesus, please heal these wounds in my heart.” “Jesus, please help _______ find peace in you.”

It’s easy to lash out in anger. What I have found is that when I am lashing out in anger, it’s usually because I’m angry at myself first. Maybe I’m angry that I can’t control the situation. I’m angry that I wasn’t enough for someone else. This kind of anger is rarely constructive. When I’m recognizing this anger in my life. That’s when I need to receive the grace of Jesus.

Love, Calling, Self-Awareness, and Grace. These have been the things that have helped me to hang-in there. The challenges of the world don’t just disappear. But I can look at them through these filters. And I know that I can keep going.

P.S. If you read all the way through this thank you for taking the time. I have been listening to these songs a lot lately. They have been helpful. They are both from U2, and I know they are not for everyone. But I like them and I they fit with the vibe of this post.

What are you about?

Photo by Jakub Gorajek on Unsplash

This morning during my run I was listening to The Holy Post podcast. They had an interview with J.R. Briggs and they talked about his new book, The Sacred Overlap, which I have added to my, to read list.

It was a great interview. There were several things that got me thinking. Skye and J.R. were talking about how Jesus knew and taught truth, he lived in conviction, and he still was compassionate. Jesus was was criticized by people because his teachings were too hard, and because he was associated with known sinners. He was living in this overlap. And in the overlap there is tension to pulling from either side.

The point that J.R. was making was the Jesus was able to live in that tension because he knew what he was about. He was about doing the Father’s will. When Jesus was a boy and his family lost him in Jerusalem, Jesus was surprised that they didn’t first look in the temple. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”1 When Jesus was confronted about doing miracles on the Sabbath, he said this, “Jesus gave them this answer: ‘Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.'”2

Jesus was about the Father’s will and he did the Father’s work.

Yesterday, I was reading in David Brubaker’s When the Center Does Not Hold that awarenesses of personal calling and purpose is one of the key qualities for leaders who are trying to lead through polarization. I want to share some quotes that I’m going to be wrestling with.

“What’s important is that we know ourselves. The most destructive leaders I have encountered are those who were utterly clueless about their behavior and it’s impact on others. . . . Clarity within transfers to clarity with others. When we know who we are and what we believe, we naturally commuicat that clarity to others.”3

Brubaker uses a college president’s experiences leading through significant change as a case study, Loren Swartzendruber knew that he needed to be a non anxious presence for his community, and in order to do that he had to have personal clarity on values and purpose. President Swartzendruber is quoted saying:

Leaders in any environment, certainly in one that is polarized, have to begin with their own integrity. Parker Palmer talks about leading from the inside. Knowing myself internally, knowing what my values are, knowing what my vision is, my goals. I have to keep coming back to that . . . what are my values?4

Over the past several years, we have all had to navigate change and polarization. Holding not to core values and knowing who I am called to be is what has helped me keep going. There are going to be people who attack from both sides. I’m too conservative for liberal friends, and too liberal for my conservative friends. But I am trying to hold in tension Conviction, Compassion, and Wisdom. And I am trying to be about the work that Jesus has called me to.

What am I about? I am called to help people see how the Word of God is alive and active, and how the word of God shapes and enriches our lives today. I believe Jesus is serious about his call to radical discipleship. I believe that my first allegiance is to his kingdom.

I don’t always get all this right, but this is who I am striving to be.

What are you about? What I have learned is it’s a lot easier to work through difficult and polarized situations, if you know who God is shaping you to be. If you wait until your are in a polarized season, to work this stuff out, you will create personal pain, relational pain, and organization pain.

Start asking know, What am I about?

Write out your core values, how is God shaping you? How do those values shape your organization? These questions can help bring clarity. And in personal clarity is a blessing during seasons of polarization.


1 The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Lk 2:49.

 2 The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Jn 5:19.

3 David R. Brubaker, When The Center Does Not Hold: Leading in an Age of Polarization, (Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 2019), 35.

4. Brubaker, When the Center Does Not Hold, 34.

It comes in waves

Photo by Leo Roomets on Unsplash

There are moments of great joy. Things seem to be working. Progress is being made. It’s easy to laugh and smile.

There are moments of frustration. Everything stalls. I can see all the problems. It’s hard to focus and concentrate.

I can’t be the only one who has felt this way over the past several months. Up and down, back and forth. The waves of good and bad news keep coming and going. This has been very frustrating and leading a church during this time has not been easy.

What I have been learning is that the world will always have waves. COVID-19 has been a major disruption. 2020 seems to have had several major tidal events. This has been rough. I have been trying to not get swept up in the waves, because that’s when you panic. When you don’t know which way is up and you feel the water pulling you in different direction. That is the last place you want to be.

Daily Bible reading has been part of my life for years. This year, I have been particularly refreshed as I read scripture, and I have been sharing daily devotions through a podcast. These disciplines have refocused my heart on Jesus in such a way that he really has become an anchor for my soul (Hebrews 6:19). The anchoring hope of Jesus is knowing that he has completed all that is necessary to save us from sin, and his death and resurrection are the path into the family of God.

As the Family of God, we are growing in maturity and unity in Christ. As we grow in Christ we learn how to swim safely, and we are no longer tossed by the waves (Ephesians 4:13-14). And our faith will help us to not be tossed by the wind (James 1:6).

The waves are part of this world, but our lives don’t need to be dictated by the waves. I pray that the Spirit of God will help us in the moments of crisis and uncertainty. We have security in Jesus, and when the waves come and go, that may change the shape of the shoreline, it may reveal some treasures, it may reveal some dangers. But the waves of this world don’t change who we are in Christ Jesus. He is our security, he is our hope.

– –

on a side note:

As I was writing this I was reminded of this song from U2, “Every Breaking Wave.”

Fear not the Extreme Among You

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Jesus invited a tax collector (someone who worked for the Roman Empire) and a zealot (someone who wanted to overthrow the Romans Government) to join his small group of disciples. Matthew and Simon were extremes, and they both found community in Jesus.

This past week I listened to the audiobook for People to Be Loved by Preston Sprinkle, and I began reading When the Center Does Not Hold by David Brubaker. I’m about 30% through Brubaker’s book so I’m not writing a reveiw of any kind in this post. These books are not talking about the same topic, but something that I found consist in their messaging. Jesus is not afraid of extremes. He calls people into relationship with him and he has the power to transform the extreme labels that we wear, so that those labels don’t define us.

Jesus doesn’t call us to water down our passions. But he can redirect our passions for his purposes. The Apostle Paul was an extreme person. He was breathing out murderous threats on his way to arrest followers of Jesus. Jesus halted Paul’s trip to Damascus, and radically transformed this Christian-hater into a church planting disciple maker. Paul who was one of the most passionate followers of the law, a Pharisee of Pharisees, became the voice that carried the gospel to the gentile nations. All the zeal that Paul had towards matters of the law, Jesus transformed and directed to be zealous for the message of God’s grace.

I pray that our churches, in-person an online, would be filled with extreme people. We need Matthews and Simons, and Pauls, who recognize that they are desperately in need of Jesus. We need not fear the extremes, if we keep directing people to Jesus as our shared center.

Yesterday Kathy and I were going to Costco, and we were talking about relationships with people and church leadership. Sometimes people leave for a bit, and come back because they know you are still there. It reminded me of an illustration I read years ago from Exiles by Michael Frost. Frost was comparing ranching techniques between different cultures. Some cultures build miles of fences to keep their herds and flocks in place. In other cultures, the rancher digs wells so the herds and flocks know where to come back for fresh, live sustaining water.

Jesus said that he is the living water. As a pastor, I am not afraid of extreme people, because they still need water. Jesus was not afraid of the extreme people, because he knew that they still needed water that he alone could offer.

I pray that we set aside our extremes and our labels for ourselves and others, and drink deeply that living water that Jesus gives us.

I pray that our passions for causes will be motivated not by our “right-ness” but by Christ’s righteousness.

Lord Jesus help us find our center in you alone.

Work in Progress

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I have been enjoying What if Jesus was Serious by Skye Jethani. This book is a devotional level reading of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Jethani has a great ability to communicate profound truths through his doodles and brief reflections. I have had several experiences of being challenged in my own thinking and actions while reading this book.

I was drawn to this book because I really do believe that if Christians tried to live out the principles in the Sermon on the Mount, we would radically change the world. Jesus’ teachings in this passage are so counter-cultural and so seemingly impossible that it’s just easier to say, “Well, clearly Jesus is being hyperbolic!”

Every time I find myself reading these passages of Matthew, I have begun by confessing that I am far from perfect. I am a work in progress. I know that my natural desires run contrary to Jesus’ teaching and I need the Spirit of God to change my heart. If I can admit that I am a work in progress, then I need to also be willing to extend this kind of grace to others. I also ask the Lord to help me see where I have been transformed by his grace in my life.

Lately, the areas I need to submit to the Lord revolve around worry (Matt 6:25-34) and judging others (7:1-5). In regard to worry, I don’t find myself crippled with dread about the world, but I do tend to stress about things that I can’t control. I can’t control who wins elections. I can’t control the economy and how that effects our region. I can’t control other people’s opinions about me. But that doesn’t keep me from worrying about it. But I’m a work in progress.

Christians have a reputation in this world of being judgmental towards people who are not following Jesus. This is not good, but that’s not my particular struggle. I want people to follow Jesus and I desire that people would be set free from life controlling habits, addictions, and sinful behavior. I really do want that for people. When I’m really honest with myself though, my judgmental heart is not focused on non-Christians, my judgmentalism is towards people who claim the name of Jesus. And that is gross. I am asking the Lord Jesus to help me get the plank out of my eye. I am a work in progress.

I ask for grace from Jesus and grace from you. The Sermon on the Mount is the goal that I’m trying to live out. I want to build my life on these words from Jesus, because his teachings are the solid foundation that I need (Matt 7:24-27).