What I’m Listening to #intimeslikethese

I swear if I see one more commercial that starts with some somber woman intoning the words “In difficult times like these…” I think I might pop. This is a time in which we are all seeking comfort, but I don’t look for or need it from a Subaru advertisement. God help me if I ever do.

Where I actually find a lot of solace is in things like prayer and family. And music. Music is big for me. I have no actual talent in the creation or performance of music whatsoever, so the listening of it is something I do purely for pleasure, not for examination or study.

I recently came to the conclusion that the song No Hard Feelings by The Avett Brothers (see below to listen) is perhaps the most beautiful song released in the last couple decades or so. (Argue with me if you want, but that just means you haven’t heard it.)  It’s a song that didn’t strike me immediately on first listen, but my appreciation of it has grown and grown over the years. I’m sure a lot of it has to do with the lyrical content, which (to me) is about the relief waiting for us in the next life when old hurts and regrets are wiped away and we are reunited with our loved ones and our Savior, with whom we will “shake hands laughing.” It’s just gorgeous.

My cousin Carly added the song to her “Being Held” playlist, the idea of which I quite like. There is a need to reach beyond this virus and all the turmoil it’s causing in our hearts and in our streets and in our hospitals. I think we’d all like to “be held” right now. And, as a person of faith, I’d like God to do the holding. Metaphorically speaking, I believe He is, and a playlist that reminds me He is there and always present is a good thing.

So, here’s my “Being Held” playlist. All of these songs are either about God or make me think of Him. They may not have been intended as such, but that’s what they are to me. And, when it comes to music, I think what it means to me is the most important thing.

Maybe you’ll find a few gems in here that will help you, too.

(Note: If you build this for yourself, I recommend not hitting shuffle. I sequenced this sucker!)

  1. Slow Your Breath Down – Future of Forestry. A good reminder, especially #intimeslikethese.

2. No Hard Feelings – The Avett Brothers. Chills every time it reaches the climax.

3. This Road – Jars of Clay. You’re gonna see a lot of Jars of Clay on this list. This song is like a warm blanket.

4. Before You Were Young – Travis. Not hard to imagine who is singing this song.

5. Open Arms – Elbow. Makes me tear up. This is what I want God to say when I return home.

6. Hymn – Jars of Clay. “So melt my pride that I may in your house but live…”

7. Division – Moby. No lyrics, just a vibe.

8. Help Me – Johnny Cash. This is speaking to God from a desperate place. A prayer given by a man at the end of his life who has said a lot of them.

9. I Don’t Mind – Phantom Planet. Whatever the Lord needs to inflict upon me, I’ll take it because I know it’s worth it. I don’t mind.

10. Oh My God – Jars of Clay. Now, in almost every instance I view exclaiming “Oh my God” as using the Lord’s name in vain. This is Jars of Clay crafting an entire song around the idea that there actually is a circumstance in which using that phrase is appropriate. What they come up with is absolutely devastating. This lays me flat every time, and it’s in my personal Top 3 favorite songs.

11. I’ve Been High – R.E.M. This always, always lifts me up.

12. Let Your Heart Hold Fast – Fort Atlantic. “For this soon shall pass like the high tide takes the sand…”

13. Morning Light – The Hunts. This song, sadly, is not available on YouTube, and is even difficult to find commercially. It’s worth tracking down though, believe me. A sweet song about turning the “darkest night into the morning light.” (A huge theme in a lot of my writing.)

14. Worlds Apart (Live) – Jars of Clay. A plea to God to “take my world apart,” which is a good thing to do when your world is bad. (Find the live version off their “Furthermore” album, if you can.)

15. Outro – M83. I think it’s a synth, but I wish the organs in our churches sound like this.

16. Bathed in Sunlight – Fort Atlantic. Wouldn’t we all like to be? Even I, who prefers dark rooms to the outdoors, want that sunlight.

17. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing – Jars of Clay. Probably my favorite hymn, and this is the best rendition of it.

18. Til Kingdom Come – Coldplay. Coldplay actually did a straight up, no-holds-barred Christian song, and I feel like people forgot about it. More overt than anything U2 ever put out.

19. On the Nature of Daylight – Max Richter. No lyrics, but the feeling this song evokes is extraordinary. I find myself thinking in cycles, life and death, that sort of thing. I think about God.

That’s it, those are the songs I’m drawing the most comfort from right now. Anything you would add to it? What are you listening to that’s bringing you to a better place?

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Day 37 – Horse Therapy and The Glorious Boring

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

Saturday – October 4, 2014

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Today, Cami rode a horse. She does this every Saturday morning, at the Heart of the Horse Therapy Ranch just outside of town. At the Ranch, they work with kids and adults with special needs, performing miracles on a daily basis. I don’t know what it is or why it happens, but there’s something about some horses that is magical* that brings out new things in people with difficulty.

*Besides unicorns, obviously. 

The first time Cami went to Heart of the Horse, she did something Erin and I had never seen before: she sat up still and straight. Cam is a fidgeter and to see her in total control and perfectly balanced moved Erin to some very real tears. We’ve been going every week ever since, for the past year and a half. Each time, without fail, a melt-your-heart grin washes over Cami’s face as soon as the horse starts moving. It’s incredible. It’s this whole other side to her we don’t see any other way.

The new thing Cami did this morning was push everybody away when they tried to take her down off her usual horse, Bandit. We already knew she loves to ride, but she’s never asserted herself like that before. We love it when Cami fights like that. Usually, she’s so agreeable and, because she’s nonverbal, it’s hard to tell what she wants. Not today.

This is a short video I edited, and shot with my friends Austin and Jesse. We did this as gift to the Ranch to help them with their first fundraiser (Cami is in it quite a bit):

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For Mormons, today was huge. Twice a year we gather at church buildings and around TVs and computers to hear the words of Apostles and the Prophet to know God’s will for his children today, in real time. It’s a stone tablets down from the mountain kind of thing, but via the internet. It’s a real time of spiritual refreshment and uplift.

It’s also terribly, at times, truly boring. The Conference lasts two days and plays out over five 2-hour sessions of, mostly, old men talking heads. If you’ve ever thought about becoming Mormon, I probably just ruined it right there. Also, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir tears the roof off throughout the sessions. This is all great if Errol Morris docs and organ-inflected hymns are your thing, but it can be a bit of a challenge it sit through if you prefer your visuals lean towards the Steven Spielberg end of the spectrum and your songs accompanied by more than one instrument.

So why watch this thing? Well, why I admit Conference is boring, that doesn’t mean I’m bored watching it. It engages me and others who watch it on a level beyond its entertainment value. I think entertainment is important, but the actual benefit entertainment provides is, essentially, escapism. Conference, and other religious services (when done properly), nourish and comfort, and that’s far more important. I approach Conference with a spiritual hunger. I don’t need to be entertained. What’s more, to be honest, I don’t even want to be entertained during what is supposed to be a direct download of truth and perspective. I think there’s a certain amount of artifice that goes along with entertainment–a manipulation–and if you lean too heavily on those tricks you risk compromising the message. I don’t want to be “sold” an idea with bells and whistles and jazz hands, I want truth presented to me, plainly, that I may see it accurately and can decide for myself without manipulation whether or not it is right.

THAT’S Conference in spades. That’s church. It’s boring, but it’s engaging. If you’re watching, really watching it to discover and participate–if you’re having that internal dialogue within yourself about how what you’re hearing applies to you and seeking to know God’s will for you from what you hear–you can’t help but be swept up in it just as much as you would the latest blockbuster.

And it’s boring. It’s dead boring and all the more glorious for it.

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The preceding had nothing to do with unemployment, as was my day. I don’t know if I should be worried about that or relieved that I’m not obsessing over our predicament quite as much.