Dear God

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything. To the handful of people who have noticed, I apologize. It’s not that I haven’t been thinking about life and observing culture through the perspective of my faith, I just haven’t been making time to share my observations. Let’s not pretend this is the rebirth of anewdoxology.com, but if new content starts finding it’s way to this URL more often I hope a few people will see it as a good thing.

Like anyone else, my musical preferences have been changing, evolving, even maturing throughout my life. The first CD I owned was Hi-Five, but back then I pretty much listened to whatever was on Casey’s Top 40. I also had a Shaq CD (as in Shaquille O’Neal, the now really old basketball player). I’m not one to talk about liking “good” music, at least not when I was younger. In high school I listened to a lot of hip hop (2Pac, Notorious B.I.G. and Outkast being some of my favorites). I played basketball into my first couple years of college, so the rap thing never quite left my system, but I also began listening to a lot more acoustic and folk rock in college.

I realize that many young people’s musical tastes are influenced by their college experience (parties, friends, whatever the people down the hall decided to play LOUD), but for me I think it also had a lot to do with the specific college I attended. The Dave Matthews Band had been to Luther College twice in four years before I arrived in the fall of 1999 (including a live album that was released during my senior year of high school). During my four years as a student at Luther we hosted concerts by Live, Guster, G. Love, Jurassic 5, Blues Traveler and a couple singer-songwriters who at the time I had hardly even heard of; named Ben Harper and Jack Johnson.

College is also the time in my life when I discovered Christian music (and it’s sibling genre “praise and worship” music). Being a person of faith who also likes a lot of mainstream music, I’ve always had a hard time finding music that connected with me on multiple, meaningful levels. During my early music-listening years I probably would have responded to questions about my favorite music by saying “I like what I like, because I like it.” Bring up the fact that a lot of the lyrics in rap music are vulgar, violent and speak poorly of females, I’d tell you “I don’t really listen to the words, I just like the beat.” Try telling me that the content of an acoustic or pop rock song is all air (fluffy and nice, but without any real substance) and I’d probably have said “but it makes me feel happy,” or “it’s good background music when I’m studying.” Ask me how I can listen to cheesy love songs about Jesus and I’d struggle to come up with a response but eventually say it’s “encouraging” even though it’s also corny and unrealistic. (Thankfully, music made my Christians has come a long way in the last ten years and we now have artists like David Crowder, Bethany Dillon, Shane & Shane and the Robbie Seay Band making music that speaks of God and faith while maintaining some sense of human reality and musical quality.)

The music I most enjoy today falls somewhere between genres or categories (by the way, “Christian music” is no more a genre than “80s music” is). I love music that’s difficult to describe, but can be felt (especially at concerts or through really good headphones). Really great music is a form of art, and when the lines between genre, style and even religion are blurred you can experience something that is truly real and beautiful. I love hearing Chris Tomlin and Phil Wickham sing specifically about God’s healing love and the hope they find in Jesus, but after a while I want to hear the vague words of Mat Kearney when he sings to a struggling young girl that “he hung in love just to draw you near” or even Kanye West when he honestly raps “I wanna talk to God but I’m afraid cause we ain’t spoke in so long.” (For an earlier example of this, listen to Jeff Buckley’s version of the Leonard Cohen song “Hallelujah.”)

Music doesn’t need to include the name Jesus, or any of the other Christianese words to express faith and a longing (or searching) for God. I still remember the first time I heard Matt Wertz sing about life, love and faith in a style that spoke to the core of my music-loving soul, and it wasn’t long after that I discovered his buddy Dave Barnes and felt a similar response. More recently, I’ve discovered Brooke Fraser, Needtobreathe and MuteMath. They all make good music that is honest about life but also recognizes the role of God and the influence of faith. You can add your own favorites to this list, but these are just a few examples. I suppose two obvious bands that haven’t been mentioned yet are U2 and Lifehouse, whose music is laced with God and faith, whose music has inspired worldwide organizations, been used in worship, and even a youtube famed dramatic skit and other/lesser-viewed projects.

There are many artists or bands whose music doesn’t include consistent theological themes or undertones, yet in select songs (or albums) it’s definitely present. Kanye’s “Jesus Walks” is an example of this, as is Coldplay’s Viva La Vida album (check it, yo!). But in the end, the reason I started writing any of this on a Thursday afternoon while sitting in my office is because I ran into a student on campus here at the seminary this morning and he asked if I was going to the Monsters of Folk concert in Minneapolis tomorrow. I mentioned that I hadn’t really listened to their album much, but that I’d check it out soon. “Soon” became reality when not even five minutes later I was back at my desk facing MOF’s myspace page, listening to the first track from their album, “Dear God (sincerely M.O.F.).” Wow! Talk about music in the grey area between sacred and secular, the church and the world, theology and life…this is it. Click play on the video below to listen to the song. I’ll post the lyrics below in case you want to follow along.

Dear God (sincerely M.O.F.)
by Monsters of Folk

Dear god, I’m trying hard to reach you
Dear god, I see your face in all I do
Sometimes it’s so hard to believe in
Good god I know you have your reasons

Dear god, I see you move the mountains
Dear god, I see you moving trees
Sometimes it’s nothing to believe in
Sometimes it’s everything I see

Well I’ve been thinking about,
And I’ve been breaking it down without an answer
I know I’m thinking aloud but if your love’s
Still around why do we suffer?
Why do we suffer?

Dear god, I wish that I could touch you
How strange sometimes I feel I almost do
And then I’m back behind the glass again
Oh god what keeps you out it keeps me in

Well I’ve been thinking about,
And I’ve been breaking it down without an answer
I know I’m thinking aloud but if your love’s
Still around why do we suffer?
Why do we suffer?

4 thoughts on “Dear God

  1. More people than just you would definitely think it was a good thing if more posts suddenly appeared here! :)

    Just wanted to say that I agree that the most satisfying musical experiences are those where I am able to discover the meaning of the song myself rather than have it be blatantly obvious (although sometimes those experiences are really good too). I still remember exactly what I was doing (driving straight into a gorgeous summer sunset) when I figured out what “Red Meets Blue” was really about. That sunset will always be part of that song for me and hearing it reminds me to thank God for His beautiful creation. The music with multiple layers is the music that sticks with you and almost seems to grow with you over time. Maybe that’s why it’s an art form that speaks to so many so deeply.

  2. Hey Andy! I am definitely going to check out some of these groups that you mentioned – thanks for bringing them to light for me. I love how you are able to weave together such great topics in an entertaining way – you have much to be desired!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s