It seems the older we get, the more heartache we’re bound to experience. As we get to know more people, spending time loving them and being loved by them, we inadvertently open ourselves up to greater pain in the process. Because just as we’ll share their joy and mountaintops, we’re also going to stand alongside them when they find themselves in the painful valley.
These songs have all had a powerful impact on my life at different times, lifting me out of my depressive funks and giving me a new feeling of hope. They serve to remind me that no matter how dark life can get, God is still good and He’s still in control of the world. And while He does allow us to experience deep, gut-wrenching pain at times, it’s never without purpose. We will heal in time. Life will get better. The more we commit ourselves into His loving hands, the closer He is to us and the faster we find relief.
So if you’re in a low spot of life and find encouragement through music, leave a comment and maybe you’ll be the lucky winner come Sunday. (Genres range from Christian to chillout to alternative to folk. You can listen to the songs via Spotify by clicking here.)
Around the same time I discovered Rosie Thomas’s Christmas album (see last week’s post), I also found Mindy Smith’s “My Holiday,” which is equally sublime. You can listen to samples below to confirm and validate that this album is worthy of giving away.
You want it? Leave a comment (here or on Facebook if you’re a “friend”) and you’ll increase your chances of winning 100%. Guaranteed. (Winner to be decided Sunday…)
Find a fireplace, pour yourself some hot chocolate (or a glass of wine), grab a good book and make this your soundtrack to holiday bliss.
Song Picks: I Know The Reason, Follow the Shepard Home, My Holiday
I stumbled across this album a few years ago and fell in love with Rosie’s soft voice and catchy songwriting. So now I’m buying you a digital copy of A Very Rosie Christmas for FREE! (Provided you leave a comment here or on Facebook… and are the lucky winner randomly picked on Sunday).
Listen to “Christmas Don’t Be Late” or “Christmastime is Here” to get an idea of what’s in store.
Her MySpace page has the best audio links, so far…
Okay, instead of trying to describe this music, I’m ripping off the description that’s on the label’s website. It’ll do a much better job of letting you know what Near the Parenthesis is about, and why you wanna get it.
“‘Japanese for Beginners‘ is Near The Parenthesis’ 4th album via the n5MD imprint and 5th overall. Not far behind on the contemplative artfulness of 2010′s “Music For the Forest Concourse” this new album finds Tim Arndt adding more texturally experimental treatments to his signature mix of melodic IDM and Modern Classical. Arndt was intent on creating a decidedly more “electronic” backdrop for the record, which includes what may be some of the most creative drum programing of his career. Building on this new platform, Japanese for Beginners continues Arndt’s bias and skill in constructing haunting piano motifs and, as always, brings the pieces together seamlessly. The songs on “Japanese For Beginners” are as hopeful, as dreamy, and as thoughtfully crafted as you want them to be. With this album as with any of Arndt’s releases, it is up to the listener to dive in to the details or simply let it play as the soundtrack to your day.”
Personally? This is one of my favorite albums ever. It’s a great worship album to me, when I want to calm down and focus on God, but I don’t feel like getting overwhelmed with predictable melodies and saccharin lyrics that most Christian worship music consists of. Near the Parenthesis? Allows me to be myself when I approach God, without distractions.
I’m not a fan of ambient music, or stark piano for that matter. But this album is the epitome of tranquil and serene. So click here to listen to some samples and see for yourself why you should leave a comment & try to score this thing for free.
Got Spotify? You can listen to the entire album here. For FREE.
A few years ago I heard a rendition of “Dust in the Wind” by a group called Daughter Darling. The lead singer was Natalie Walker, who’s since broken out on her own with a handful of successful solo projects. If you’ll click on the link (above), you’ll hear how her voice is vivid and somewhat mesmerizing. Her latest album, “Spark,” is equally as enjoyable (although I only download a handful of the choice songs.)
So today I’m offering the lucky winner a total of 5 songs from Natalie:
Dust in the Wind
Quicksand (Thievery Corportation Remix)
You can find samples for each one at Natalie’s Amazon page (or elsewhere on the web). And all you gotta do to enter is leave a comment. Ta-dahhh!! That’s easy. I’ll pick a winner on Sunday & get ‘em to you ASAP.
As usual, I don’t know how I ran across Vedera. Probably music mining over on Amazon or something… I dunno.
But I DO know I was thoroughly impressed with their debut album, “The Weight of an Empty Room.” So when their follow-up album, “Stages,” came out, I knew I would enjoy it. Granted, they rewrote some of their key hooks and melodies from their previous album into new songs on this one, but you know what? It works. (Part of the joy of being an indie artist… you’re free to do crazy stuff like that if you want to.)
If you’re a fan female-fronted bands ala Sixpence None The Richer, The Sundays or The Cranberries, you’ll probably love the infectious pop rock stuff that Vedera has to offer. Just leave a comment with your contact info below and I’ll pick a winner on Sunday for the Amazon MP3 album.
This is Part 3 in a 4-part series on Giving. Specifically, giving passionately. (You might wanna go read the others I wrote first. Not required reading, but just a suggestion…)
Aside from Books, I’m also passionate about Music. Music not only helps me relax and worship God more intimately, but there’s been numerous times where He’s spoken into my life directly through songs. As in, He’s told me exactly what I needed to hear at the time through a singer’s lyrics. (It’s always quite cool when that happens.)
Every December I scour the music sites in search of only the best Christmas songs to add to my collection. Most of the stuff I hear is bland or just uninspired, so I’m quite picky when I find a song I like. Well, this year I found some really good stuff, and I wanted to share it with someone else.
I have a handful of friends who I know appreciate music as much as I do, so I created a custom playlist on iTunes and sent it to them. It was about $10 each, so it cost me around $30 overall. Not a bad investment, I figure, lovin’ on people with the gift of music. To be perfectly honest, though, I wasn’t giving to them as part of the experiment. I’m a passionate guy, I love giving, so giving music comes naturally to me.
I also sent a former missionary student of ours (from our time in Indonesia) a flash drive filled with MP3s that I no longer wanted. (I figure I PAID for ‘em. Might as well send them to someone else to enjoy, since the songs didn’t rate high enough for me to keep. And for those who are curious, that would be a rating of 3 stars or above. 3 Stars = I’d like to hear it again. 4 Stars = I REALLY like this song. And 5 Stars? Well, if it’s a 5 Star song you’d best not play it while I’m in a coma. ‘Cause I won’t be waking up, people.)
Those were what I gave away. And the return? Well, the return has been shocking.
The other weeknight a friend dropped by the house. I had asked him a few weeks ago if he happened to have an older iPod shuffle on hand, the postage stamp version from a few years ago. I just wanted to have something to plug into in the car stereo once in a while, enjoy my tunes on the road (or in the sauna at the gym). He said he did, and he’d drop it by that evening. So I was pretty stoked when he came in and handed me the box with the iPod inside.
As I looked closer at the box, however, I saw it was not only wrapped, it was unopened. At first I thought he had found the original box and sealed it up, to make it look like new. But as I opened it, I realized this wasn’t the case. This box WAS new. Brand spankin’ new. And unopened. And inside was a brand new, state-of-the-art 4gb iPod Shuffle. Titanium. Engraved with a consolidated version of my Mills Creative Minds scripture, no less. (Colossians 1:16)
Blew. Me. Away.
I’m used to being the guy who GIVES this stuff. To other people. Aside from my MacBook, given to me from my wife, this is the biggest Mac-related gift I’ve ever received. I’m still in shock, to tell the truth.
Now, you might think this was just a coincidence. That my giving music and receiving an iPod are completely unrelated. But if that IS what you think, then you’ve obviously missed the last two posts. There is a direct link between what we give and what we receive, people, and even though it’s not always clear or in proportion (which is a good thing), it’s there. It exists. I’m convinced of it.
My hope is that some of you reading this will be changed as I’ve been changed. Will stop looking at your life as what you don’t have, but see what you DO have. And then you’ll take the next step to release your white-knuckled grip on your STUFF and give some of it away. Sacrificially. Passionately. Immediately.
Because the mysterious truth about how giving works has already been clearly stated:
Luke 6:38 “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
I’ve noticed a strange phenomenon in my life the past few months. It wasn’t obvious at first, but the more I’ve tested it, the more I see a pattern emerging. A clear pattern. A disturbing pattern. An oddly… comforting… pattern.
God is using my own words against me.
You see, at any given moment in my day I’m often hit with some kind of insight. It might be profound, it might be mundane, but if I feel it strongly enough I don’t hesitate to slap it up on Twitter or Facebook and let those in my sphere know. I feel it. I think it. I write it. BOOM! It’s out there.
For instance, last week I was listening to BT‘s “Somnambulist (Simply Being Loved),” and some of the lyrics were about how people are always so rushed that they constantly feel there’s not enough time, not enough love. I was moved by what I heard (how can you NOT be moved by something BT orchestrates?!? Just LISTEN to it! See the widget at the end of this post). (Fun Fact: this song is in the 2003 Guinness Book of World Records for the largest number of vocal edits at 6,178).
A few minutes later I wrote something along the lines of:
“When will we realize that there’s more than enough to go around? Love, time, money. It’s all a gift from Him.”
Deep, profound thoughts, right? Well, to some at least. To others, they’ll read it and say “Pfiffle” or “Balderdash” or some equally outdated exclamation. They’ll immediately try to discount what I’m saying. Based on their own experiences and disappointments in life, their mind will immediately conjure up why this ISN’T true.
I’m one of those people. Or at least I was last night.
This is how it works: I typically write something semi-deep or share whatever sagely insight I can muster up at the time, and not a day or two later, I’m on the other end of the spectrum. The pendulum completes its swing, and suddenly I’M the one who needs to hear the words. That’s what God does. He somehow gives me the very insight or direction I’ll need THROUGH me. AHEAD of time. (Yes, it is just as bizarre and sci-fi as it sounds.)
Last night? Well, last night I was quietly freaking out (as is my way). I felt like I have so much to do. Work on the Mills Creative Minds investor paperwork. Work on the book proposal & query letter. Work on the latest Mills newsletter. Work. Work. Work. And so little time! I lamented about the fact that I “just don’t have enough time!”
And Kim, my lovely and oh-so-wise wife of 16 years, quietly reminded me of my very own words just a few days ago. And I scoffed. Loudly. I scoffed at my own words and advice. I felt like calling the writer an idiot, because he OBVIOUSLY doesn’t know what he’s talking about or the circumstances surrounding MY life.
But I was wrong. (And, in God’s twisted and timely way, I was right.)
I DO have enough time. The squeezing I feel? That chest-crushing weight that’s bearing down on me like an 800-pound gorilla? It’s of my own making. I’ve created these self-imposed deadlines, to achieve this doohicky by this certain day, or finish working on that widget by this specific time. It’s all in my head. All of it.
So what if I don’t finish everything at the exact time I planned to? What, exactly is the end result? If I choose to freak out, then I get to turn the screw a little tighter and bear the weight of a false failure. If I choose to accept the shortcoming and adapt to the new timeline, then I pick myself back up and dig in the next day.
Yeah. I think I’m gonna go for door number two, please.
But here’s the thing: we don’t typically take the time to choose. Most of the time we spin through our lives at a hectic pace, stopping only long enough to pee and fill up on caffeine. If we took the time to slow down, to honestly Slow Down and look at our lives and the pressures bearing down on us, we’ll find a lot of them are in our heads. Figments of our over-active imaginations. Illusions.
So take these words to heart. Kevin. (Yes, I’m talking to YOU, Kevin, ’cause if history is any indicator, you’re gonna need to hear this in about 48 hours.) Slow down. Take a deep breath, clear your head and SLOW DOWN. Trust me, it will be better for everyone this way. You, your family, your friends, your dog. Everyone.
It’s a choice. My prayer today is that anyone reading this will choose the right one. Let this scripture below sink deeply into your spirit, because the words are powerful, and they can change the very course of your life if you let them.
“Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.” – Ecclesiastes 4:6
This is a picture I took a few weeks ago in Oklahoma. It was an unseasonably warm day, so Kim, Kyler and I decided to go visit one of our favorite parks and carpe diem with the best of them.
Once there, the two of them were determined to walk the trails and explore the woods within. I, on the other hand, was equally determined to lay flat on my back on a park bench and stare at the sky. (Truly, it was a win-win situation for everyone! I think…)
So I plunked down on the bench, got as comfortable as I could, and plugged in some tunes on my MP3 player. Now, for those of you who are crying out in protest that nature should be enjoyed WITHOUT music have obviously never stared at the sky while listening to Hammock’s post-rock drones. With their sweeping guitars, lush orchestration and aggressively tranquil songs, Hammock’s new album, “Raising Your Voice… Trying to Stop an Echo,” is the ideal soundtrack to enjoy your surroundings with minimal distraction.
I liked their original album, “Kenotic,” immensely. So when they released their second one last Fall, I have to admit I had high hopes. Thankfully, they weren’t dashed against the rocks. (Indeed, it’d be more accurate to say they were lulled to sleep on soft, silken pillows, if you’ll accept the cushy analogy…) Good stuff.
Had a great time that day, staring a the sky. I decided to include a photo because there’s a good chance the majority of you reading this don’t see this viewpoint very often. We’re so busy running around creating our own utopias on a horizontal plane that we fail to take the time and focus on the vertical. It’s important to remember there is so much more to life than what we see around us.
So give it a shot. Change your perspective once in a while, and see if it won’t help you look at the rest of your life a little differently.
As for me, I now know that sky-staring can serve as one of the more relaxing activities I engage in. AND – get this – it’s free.
I’m not really sure how I originally came across Hammock. I think it was through CDBaby.com (as usual), but it could just as easily been from a late night browsing session at Amazon or PasteMusic or one of the other music sites I frequent.
At any rate, being a huge fan of languid, shoegazer music such as Trespassers William, I was intrigued by what Hammock had to offer. I wasn’t disappointed. Ambient, post-rock, instrumental songs that are relaxing and mellow (possibly to a fault). This album is not for everyone. If long, drawn-out and rambling songs tend to annoy you rather than help you kick back, you might want to steer clear. But if you’re fed up with the conventional radio-friendly format and want to try something different, you might find you actually ENJOY this kind of stuff.
I usually decide an album is worth adding to my permanent collection if there are at least five songs to rip into MP3s. Out of the sixteen on the 70-minute album, Kenotic, I found nine that pass my aural, anal scrutiny. And that, my friends, ain’t bad at all.
Plus, I’m pleased to report that this album has been an educational experience as well, because I had to look up the word “Kenotic” so I wouldn’t feel like an idiot listening to an album with that title. And the definition? Read it here, and prepare to feel smarter…
Need more convincing? Read some reviews that plead their case even more effectively: