Monday, February 26, 2007

The Fine Line Between, "Speaking the Truth in Love", and, "Speaking the Truth in (other)"

So one of my weaknesses can be a lack of boldness, I admit. There have been times, in given situations needing some "truth" or "Truth" (notice the difference), where I sit on my hands. Sometimes this is because I simply have no idea what to say, sometimes it is because I think I know what to say (but am afraid to for whatever reason), and sometimes it is probably because I also have this nasty habit of, "checking my motives to a fault" (i.e., I know what to say/do, but I don't want to do it fo the wrong reasons, so I often do nothing at all...essentially, I "neuter myself"). It is something that I have been asking God to give me more of (boldness), and I do think that in small doses, he has given me the confidence to be so. But I am wired the way I am wired, so while I may have been a "level 3 in boldness" in the past, I may never get past "level 6" due to my personality makeup. Yet, boldness is something that has worth in the life of a follower of Jesus. He is indeed a loving, grace-giving one, yet he certainly had plenty of Truth-telling moments that were a bit on the blunt side. Still, it seems that even when the Truth had to be told, there was great love evident. He was clever in his methods of exposing hypocracy, like with the woman caught in adultery (;&version=31;), yet even with a command to, "...leave your life of sin", love and grace are evident all-over the place.

"And your point is, Ben?"

Well, I guess I struggle greatly with those "turn-or-burn"-types (NOT those who talk about sin, eternal punishment, etc, which I do believe need to be talked about...I am talking of those who bluntly use fear to 'get folks into Heaven'), and folks who seem to just be interested in spouting off harsh words just to get their point (personal agenda?) across. Simply put, while Jesus says that even folks that use unorthodox methods, or even seem to have "iffy" motives behind what they say, do, teach, live (;&version=31;), can still be used by God to get His story across (which gives myself hope when I am not of "sound heart", and also helps me to love and respect those from different Christian traditions that are different than what I am used to), I greatly struggle with the fact that some folks act like they would rather "puff their chest and authority", and proclaim Truth (or sometimes, maybe not...maybe just a personal agenda that is not of eternal value...but spun right, can sound like it). I just don't think that is at the heart of the Gospel message.

Paul, when writing to the church in Ephesus, talks about how we need to be more unified as believers (when, much like today, back then they must have been typical humans, better at dividing than uniting...), how we all have gifts that need to be valued, used, and respected by others, and how we need to move from being spiritual "infants" to full-grown disciples. And I am sure that some gifts do involve a bit more challenging Truth-telling (;&version=31;). But still...there has to be a more Christ-like way to proclaim, even if the message is a challenging one, than one that is harh in tone, finger-pointing, and, well, seems to be more interested in, "speaking the Truth in (other)", as opposed to Paul's challenge to speak Truth in love (;&version=31;).

I am not sure the best way to live up to this challenge, because I have seen in myself where the desire to simply "love" has resulted in little-or-no action or challenging words at all. I am seeking God's counsel, encouragement, and courage on that struggle, and it is changing. But still, there has to be a better way to "challenge in an encouraging way", to guide those around us to Truth, to Jesus, to salvation, than being ugly, condescending, and (other). Let's NEVER stop seeking how to best speak, live, show LOVE!

For what it's worth, friends...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Most Underrated Musical Artists According to...Me...

I know, I've been busy and/or lazy lately with my posts...I'll try to get better...

Ok, on to something I have had fun pondering the past few weeks: What are some bands/solo artist I think don't get the due they are, well, due? In no order (just as they come to mind):

* The Cult: When I think of bands that simply ROCK, I usually think of the usual Metallica's, Van Halen's, Led Zeppelin's, etc., of the hard rock world. But one band that, each time I listen to their at-times metal, bluesy, boogie-rock, or even bordeline goth/new-wave stuff, I just go "wow, that was cool" is The Cult. I remember my mom seeing a CD of their once in my collection and in her innocent, sometimes naive persona, saying, "Uh, Ben, is that some satanic band?" No mom...they actually, while not a Christian band, have some good stuff to sing about (and plenty of "pointless rock songs" as well...), and they tend to shy away from the sex/drugs/rock n' roll of most bands formed in the 80s. In most cases (not all), their sound is a unique one. Guitarist Billy Duffy most definitely has a "sound" that has been imitated. IF you want to see what I mean, take a listen to albums like "Sonic Temple", "Electric", "Love", and their surprisingly strong 2001 offerering, "Between Good and Evil". Get ready to have your face rocked off...

* Pre-"Hysteria" Def Leppard: I know, I know..."Def Leppard?" Well, once they got all glossed-over (which is still kinda fun to listen to), I think the hype was too much, but their first three albums are just as good as any hard rock that was out there at the time (and "Pyromania" is still a great "windows down, turn it up to 11" listen). Easily as good as AC/DC in their prime, in my opinion...but Leppard seems to be more remembered for their 1987-92 selves...

* Ben Harper (& the Innocent Criminals): There is already one good funky/rock, guitar-god-esque, multiracial, extremely spiritual (Christian?), sometime husband and boyfriend of celebs out there. His name is Lenny Kravitz. I love him, but if anything, he is overrated. Ben Harper is cut from seemingly the same cloth, but is soooooooooo good. Way better guitarist (and plays a 1920s lap-electric), much deeper lyrically (Lenny has some good ones...but the "let love rule"-mantra, while good to hear, needs to be mixed up more), just darn good in general. I was firts truly turned on to Harper's talents when I was in Houston from 2001-2004, even though I had heard his song "Steal My Kisses" on the radio before that era. The "Live From Mars" double disk is outstanding (one disk straight up rockin', the other just Ben and a guitar playing to a smaller crowd"), but just about everything I've heard is greatness. He also did a fun collaboration album with the Blind Boys of Alabama ("There Will be a Light") that is pretty much a blues-gospel offering. Dig it!

* Rich Mullins: R.I.P.... This guy is about as "KLTY/KSBJ" as I get (folks in DFW and Houston know what I mean), but his lyrics (as well as some of his later music) is outstanding. So deep, light years more than most of the "I love Jesus, yay!" stuff out there. "A Liturgy, a Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band" may be one of the best Christian albums I know of.

* Simple Minds: Always overshadowed by others (U2, anyone?), this band nonetheless has some great stuff out there. A few big hits ("Don't You Forget About Me", anyone), but it is their more minor, obscure stuff that is so great. "Belfast Child", "Sanctify Yourself", "Waterfront"...great stuff. I haven't heard any of their post-mid-90s stuff, but would love to check it out. Also, a whole lot more spiritual than you might realize...

* King's X: Maybe the most underappreciated hard rock band of all time. I remember first hearing them in 1988, and being like, "dang, that is like nothing i've heard: great guitars, harmonies, deep lyrics...". They do get props from some of the heavyweights: they were ranked in either the 70s or 80s on VH1's "Greatest Artists of Hard Rock" a few years back, and the bands that gushed over them were quite impressive. Very spiritual (if not afraid, especially their post-1995 stuff, to openly question their faith...without seeming to completely abandon it). Ty Tabor is one of the most unsung guitarists out there. Saw them in concert during my college days, and WOW (and they are a trio!). "Dogman", "Ear Candy", and "Faith, Hope, Love" are my favorites...and the few songs I have heard from more recent albums are darn good, too.

* Soundgarden: I am shocked how many teens today have no idea that the lead singer of Audioslave (Chris Cornell) used to front one of the most groundbreaking bands of the early/mid-90s to come out of the Seattle "grunge" movement. Soundgarden was a pretty huge band by their breakup, but I rarely hear them discussed anymore, which is a shame. I love the album "Superunknown".

* "Vegas-Era" Elvis Presley: I bet you are perplexed now..."Elvis? He is THE KING!" Yes...but he is mostly respected for his early work. His later (late 60s-70s) era is loved by many, but often remembered for his personal excesses, health issues, etc., and thus it is almost a "joke" to many. But listen to some of that stuff. I know he almost (maybe never at all...not sure) never wrote his own stuff, but thanks to marrying into a family of 70s-era Elvis freaks, I must say I quite enjoy most of this time in his career. "Kentucky Rain", "Polk Salad Annie" fun!

* The Beatles: Yes, I just said The Beatles. I know, I know, like Elvis, they are "the Elite" of rock n' roll, so how can they be underrated? Because I don't really think most folks born after their time truly realize how much they revolutionized music. They were talented, great, had tons of hits, yes, but I think my appreciation truly started after a high school history class's "cultural day" on the 60s. Coach Schwartz, a self-proclaimed Beatles buff (and conspiracy theorist...aliens, JFK, etc.) showed us examples of the rock music climate of the early 60s, right before the Beatles arrived: BORING! Lots of the same-ol' rockabilly, etc. Then the The songs weren't even structured the same, played the same, etc. In fact, what I heard was...the same basic structure we have today! They were maybe the first to do THAT is why I think they are underrated, still. They are respected for all they did in a short time (8 years?), for all their wonderful sound experimentation, etc., but the fact that our basic "rock/pop song format" is what it is today due to their unique approach...that is why they are on this list. Folks just don't realize that.

Ok, I have wasted enough time. I promise a more serious, "thinking" post soon.