Category Archives: Books & Music

Lyrical theology

Over the course of the last year I’ve gotten into Christian hip hop. Of all the people that could introduce me to this art form, it was my old boss from Mars Hill, Jason Wendorf.

Jason is very white. He’s very German. And he has told me that in a former life he was much more emo than hip hop. Now he’s married with three kids and drives a Volvo (though it does have nice rims). A bit of an unexpected passion, huh?

Jason isn’t the only white guy here in Seattle who likes lyrical theology. For as many people around the country who oogle at the indie rock worship music Mars Hill produces, there are just as many at Mars Hillers who are quite entranced by a movement happening from our brothers on the east coast.

Lyrical theology has predominately come out of pastors and hip hop artists associated with Epiphany Fellowship, an Acts 29 church in Philadelphia. For them, rapping about the gospel is intentional missiology. They preach through passages and books of the Bible through their music as well as cover systematic topics.

The thing is, these guys are actually good. Really good. None of this cheesy Christian Eminem parody crap. They are using talents that some perfected long before they were Christians, now to tell others about Him.

For me, listening to Timothy Brindle, Stephen the Levite and Shai Linne has not fed my passion for music, but it’s increased my understanding of the Word. I remember a simple definition for grace from the song “Saved by Grace” by Timothy Brindle:

What is grace?

Grace is unmerited favor

Our inheritance major

cause we cherish the Savior

(Obviously it doesn’t sound that great quoted–you’ve really got to listen to the song, but nevertheless you get my point)

Us Seattle people may seem a little out of place in the lyrical theology world, at least at first glance. But so do Epiphany pastors when they show up at Acts 29 conferences. Imagine a bunch hip hop black guys making their way through crowds of clean-shaven, hipply dressed blond twenty-something guys from places like Colorado (you know, those guys who sit in the front row and wish they were Mark Driscoll).

We all believe the same thing. The expression looks totally different. It’s cool to see that stark difference bring people together instead of draw a big fat line between two very different cultures.

Here is the coolest thing EVER: Mars Hill’s rock band Red Letter backing up Lecrae on a recent visit to Seattle.

Love has come

This song moved me this morning. I really feel it to be true.

“Ten Thousand Angels” written by Sandra McCracken and performed by Caedmon’s Call.

What we’re reading

I just added a new feature to our blog–a “What We’re Reading” section on the right side under our photos.

If you click on the image it will take you to my Shelfari page where I am organizing the books we own, are reading, are wishing for, and have read.

If you like books AND you like to mindlessly organize things, you should check out Shelfari.

Laughter, tears, and fears

I listened to this song this weekend and found that it resonated with me more than ever before.

Born
by Over the Rhine

I was born to laugh
I learned to laugh through my tears
I was born to love
I’m gonna learn to love without fear

Pour me a glass of wine
Talk deep into the night
Who knows what we’ll find

Intuition, deja vu
The Holy Ghost haunting you
Whatever you got
I don’t mind

Put your elbows on the table
I’ll listen long as I am able
There’s nowhere I’d rather be

Secret fears, the supernatural
Thank God for this new laughter
Thank God the joke’s on me

We’ve seen the landfill rainbow
We’ve seen the junkyard love
Baby it’s no place for you and me

I was born to laugh
I learned to laugh through my tears
I was born to love
I’m gonna learn to love without fear

I used to think that there was something base and insensitive about laughing through tears. But now I see the ability to do so as quite the miracle.

I also used to think it was impossible to get past that wall of fear that has kept me from really loving people. But I’m starting to think that’s a lot more possible, too.

A Severe Mercy

At the end of this week we will pack up and head to the Midwest for Christian’s memorial service. Last night Jason pulled out a bunch of photos of the guys of Big Pink – Christian, Jordan, Rich and himself (along with some photos of a hideously-dressed version of Jason at the age of 15 or 16). We sat there at our kitchen table and laughed after a long day. I felt like I knew Jason a little bit more when I saw the guys holed up at the Foosball table, knowing Jason was behind the camera. And, having never met Christian, I got yet another tiny glimpse into his life on this earth.

Today I am home and still in my pajamas, immersed in a book that Jason put in front of me several weeks ago and told me he wanted me to read. I don’t remember what prompted his request, but I imagine it had to do with fear–fear of losing Jason as Liz just lost Christian. A fear of being left alone or being with someone and still feeling very alone. A fear of the aloneness of not really knowing (logos-knowing) the living God.

The book is A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken. It was not surprise to me, as Jesus has been chasing me down to read it for over a year now. First it was Keisha. Then my Minnesota friend, Colin. Then Jason, then others. Now Jason again.

What did surprise me was when Jason told me he had bought the book several months ago and was waiting for the right time to give it to me. He said it would scare the hell out of me, make me weep, and cause me to question many things, most particularly God.

This had to be Him. And because it was, I took it with trepidation. At the same time, because it was a book (one which would surely change my life) I took it devouringly. I only vaguely told Jason how I felt.

I have sat on our new velvety brown couch for a good part of the afternoon weeping as I read. I know the book has changed me but I’m in so much shock that I’m not quite sure how. I don’t know what God is doing in this not-made-up story, but I know that I not only wept for the sadness of it all, but for my own fears what God could possibly do and what He did indeed do in the lives of Christian and Liz Skoglund. More fear and idolatry. And also, a faint understanding of the beauty that can come from something so unnatural as death. I can only mildly grasp it now as it is displayed on book pages, and because, on top of that, I am so very inexperienced.

“If she died, I might–since, under God, I must not act to follow her–I might live for years. Those years and all of beauty they might contain I put into the ball. And then I offered-up all of it to the King: take all I have ever dreamed, all I may ever long for including the death I shall certainly long for: I offer it up, oh Christ, for her, for her best good, death or life. This was my offering-up. I asked God to take all, all that was or would ever be, in holy exchange, not for her spared life which would be my good but not perhaps hers, but for her good, whatever it might be. Later I would pray that she might recover only if it were for her good. That offering-up was perhaps the most purely holy and purely loving act of my life.” (158-159)

For various different reasons, this is a season in which the reality of death is a re-occurring theme. Sometimes I fear it is one of being prepared to encounter death in some way, shape, or form in another future season. I guess I can be guaranteed of that. Learning to continue to live joyfully and not in fear of loss is a challenge in and of itself.

I am not yet to the end of the tale–only in the grief. I am hoping I find hope. It is present even now in the story, but there has got to be more .

Time to singalong with Sufjan

Some of you know that my favorite musician is Sufjan Stevens. Probably of all time (so far). And that’s a big deal.

I won’t go into the boring details of why I think he’s so talented. That is for another time.

It is more important that I remind you that it is now officially the Christmas season, which means it’s time to break out Sufjan’s “Songs for Christmas”.

Have a very Merry Christmas from Sufjan in his crazy jumpsuit.

John Piper

Some of you know that I love John Piper (I’m currently reading his book When I Don’t Desire God with the MH staff). He is a great Reformed pastor and teacher out of Bethlehem Baptist Church/Desiring God Ministries in Minneapolis, where I grew up. In fact, the first conversation Jason and I ever had was over a message we both listened to from last October’s Desiring God Conference. Jason probably didn’t realize it at the time, but that scored him major points.

One thing about Piper is that he always has a new book out. The guy writes like mad. Books like Desiring God and Future Grace have been instrumental in my understanding of the gospel and what it means to practically live it out.

I say all this because over at the Desiring God blog, all John Piper books are being offered for $5 this coming Wednesday and Thursday (July 27th and 28th).

If you’ve never experienced Piper’s teaching, I encourage you to pick up a copy of one of his books. They are all good. Desiring God also has a ton of other audio, video, and print resources available on their website, too.

Enjoy!