The Importance of CCM

I confess.

For the past several years, I have distanced myself from Contemporary Christian Music. It’s odd, isn’t it, since I have always loved CCM? Yes. Well, when I left the Church in 2001, I struggled because I had questions the Church couldn’t (or wouldn’t) seem to answer; I was further frustrated when I would listen to Christian Radio and hear Jesus-is-my-boyfriend type songs which did nothing to address the real-life issues I was facing. Even when I came back to the Church, I did not come back to CCM. At that point, I began reading and singing through hymnals and finding the doctrine and answers I had been looking for all along. Not all of the answers, mind you!–but enough that I felt compelled to keep seeking.

Since that time, I just haven’t been too interested in CCM. Even the bands and artists I once loved seemed to be sucked into this empty, pop, I-heart-Jesus-yes-I-do kind of sound. When I listened to the radio, I felt like I was listening to commercial jingles. The songs were trying to sell me a product, rather than teach or minister anything to the Body of Christ.

But I confess.

This is not a fair assessment of CCM in its entirety. I have been listening to radio a lot lately, and what I’ve found are several artists that seem to have something valid to say to the world and to the Church. For years, I have been content to listen to my old cassette tapes and the artists I knew and loved; but suddenly I find myself loving some “new” artists and/or songs.

But whether good or bad, the importance of CCM cannot be understated. I think sometimes we shrug at the notion of music and how it impacts our lives. We assume that music exists solely for the purpose of entertaining us. And I hope music does entertain you sometimes. But far deeper than this, music speaks truths to our souls. Music resonates within us something we usually struggle to articulate. How many times have you been in a difficult situation in life and you turned to music for comfort or encouragement? How many times have you been stressed out and a song has helped you to calm down and put your anxieties where they belong?

And how many of us can quote more songs than we can quote scripture verses?

Our theology, our doctrine, our very perspective of who God is, is shaped somehow by the things we cram into our brains. For a Christian, this is CCM. So when CCM is shallow and empty, so is the Church. When CCM is oblivious to the concerns of the world, so is the Church. When CCM is focused on worship, so is the Church.

And CCM artists have to be careful in that measure. I remember hearing someone quote a popular CCM song and attributing it to the Bible once. We are a society in danger of being theologically illiterate. And if I’m right, and the vast number of Christians in America are getting their doctrinal views from CCM rather than from a pastor or from scripture itself, then CCM artists have a heavy task before them and an enormous responsibility to produce something of substance.

Thankfully, I think far more CCM artists are doing exactly that. I still won’t call myself a fan of CCM, but I have become a fan once again of some artists who use their music to convey some true message to the Church.

What do you think?

Pax Christi.


Where’s Your Heart, Part III

So we come to it.

We’ve been talking about our passions and goals in life and what it takes to see them accomplished. I promised that I would contemplate the matter and return with some honest truths about my heart. This entire week has been one of revelation for me, leading up to a point of utter, frustratable clarity last night.

As I lay in bed last night, I thought of the image of a puzzle. When I put together a puzzle, I begin with the end pieces. I end up with a rectangular frame with nothing in the middle, and a mountain of puzzle guts somewhere outside of that frame. It occurred to me that this is how my life, my goals, and my desires have been – a framework with a mound of confusion that doesn’t look like it will ever make a complete picture. That moment can be both thrilling and infuriating. Putting the first piece inside the frame is always the hardest moment of puzzling, I think. The puzzle of my life is far from complete, I’m sure; but it seemed to me last night that I was finally beginning to see the details of the picture. Suddenly, things I have carried for years without any clear idea of why I was carrying them began to make sense. I think I said “wow” more times last night than I’ve ever said in the course of my entire life up until that point.

So where is my heart?

If my life is a puzzle, then the sky is music. It is the part of the picture that is the most difficult to make sense of because each piece can look exactly like the previous piece and yet be so completely different. It is the backdrop to everything else in the puzzle. Music will always be my passion. I will always play my guitar and my piano; I will always write music. It will always be healing for my soul. What else it may become, I am unsure. I do know, as I said in the first of the Where’s Your Heart blogs, that I am compelled to pursue “the theology of music,” which I still have no idea what it is or how to pursue it. But as I’ve said from the beginning, I’m not sure whether this is a musical pursuit, an academic pursuit, a theological pursuit. I think it’s just a personal pursuit that will expand over the course of my life.

Writing is also a passion of mine and someday I want to publish a book. What book? Good question. I never knew that I enjoyed writing so much. I find myself wanting to write memoir, fiction, poetry, prose, you-name-it. And what could make more sense than me loving to write? Have you seen my journal collection? Someone remind me to take a photo and show you my journals.

Music and writing are personal loves that I will never stop pursuing. They are passions that no one else need recognize in my life. I am content. I write and make music because I am compelled to do so, not because I want to make a living at it. I would go crazy without these two things in my life.

But as far as making a difference in the world, my heart is with people who are broken. My heart has always been there. Many of you know this already. I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to make sense of it. I knew right out of high school that I wanted to become a Social Worker. What I didn’t know was how much it would take out of me, and how much I would need to have my own life on track in order to help others. I haven’t been very vocal about this aspect of the story, but when I dropped out of college in 2001, I had already changed my major to English. I was so exhausted with the idea of dealing with other peoples’ problems because I hadn’t even begun to address my own; so I did the only thing I knew to do – I changed my major. Now, as much as I love reading and writing, I loathed those classes. I can’t quite tell you why. Perhaps it was because I knew that I was avoiding what I really felt I should be doing (Social Work). Needless to say, when the financial problems became unavoidable, I gladly dropped out of college. I was so desperate for space to breathe and think and figure things out. I, of course, had no intention of taking so much time away from school. I fell into some destructive habits, and before I knew it I had forgotten why I even wanted to be in school.

But I remember now. My heart is with people – which is hilarious, actually, since I am about the least people-ish-person I know! I am not outgoing or comfortable with people I don’t know, and I am often awkward around people I do know! I pretty much keep to myself, which is therapeutic in its own way. I digress! My point here is that I love people.

I was out with Shana last night, which was such a treat! I haven’t seen her in ages. She has grown up so well. I found myself thinking over and over how proud I was of her. But as we spoke about a particular situation regarding a third friend of ours, I began to sink into an ocean of both compassion and anger. Oh, I wasn’t angry at any one individual, but more at the situation, at the foolish choices they were making, at the desire to drown problems in alcohol and other destructive behaviors, at the lack of resources available to them, and at the sense of despair that I knew certain persons must be drowning in. It was that sense of indignation that kept me awake all night wondering who in the world would possibly step up and help these individuals. And the frustration of knowing that you cannot force someone to receive “help,” but that they must choose for themselves that they want something different than what their life has become.

But the thing that broke me most of all was the knowledge that there are children involved – young children, who will grow up confused about who their actual parents are, unable to cope with stress in healthy ways, afraid to function in relationships, incapable of keeping a job, unsure how to battle their own demons. And so the cycle will continue. On and on.

My grandfather’s choices crippled my father.

My father’s choices crippled me.

Who will my choices cripple? For this reason alone, I thank God every day that I am not a mother. Does a parent have any chance of not passing down the same devastation to her children if she refuses to look at the devastation that was handed to her? If she refuses to deal with the hurts and fears and abuse of her childhood? I am doubtful. I know that some adults get beyond it without too much trouble. I am thankful for those individuals! But I am skeptical as to whether these things don’t somehow affect the relationship of the parent and her children. I’m not just speaking of mistakes, because we all make those. I guess I’m speaking more to dysfunction and abuse, manipulation, neglect. Somehow these things have grown cyclical in our culture. Can we survive such a cycle?

So that is where my heart is. When people are ready to break the cycles of abuse and destruction in their lives, I want to be the one that says, “Yes!!! You can do this! Come on! I’ll be here for you!” I’m not sure yet what kind of career I might want. My desires in this regard are vast. But I will begin with going back to school and finishing my degree in Social Work.

So I will sing. And I will write. And I will write about the theology of music. And I will go back to school.

This is a good start, I think!

Pax Christi.


Where’s Your Heart?

Where is your heart?

Over the past several weeks, I’ve taken it upon myself to go through some old boxes full of letters and journals and stories that I’ve written. I’ll admit it freely–I am enamored with my own writing. I love that I write. I wish I were disciplined enough to write more often.

I was in search of my old poetry binder. I haven’t seen it in years. Truthfully, I had forgotten about it for quite some time. I’m not sure what brought it back to memory, but try as I may, I couldn’t remember where I had hidden the binder or what old poems I had tucked away inside. I recall one titled Sonata in D Major, but it went through so many revisions that any attempt at recreating it now would be futile. My only choice is to find the binder.

I wish I were more organized in my writing. But I digress.

I stumbled upon my Theology of Music journal, which blew my mind away. I haven’t penned anything there in a few years now. It struck me as I read through its pages that I have long-neglected something that resonates deeply within me. Why is that? What have I been so busy doing that I would let days fade away into weeks and months and years? There was a time not so far removed in my life when I believed that the Theology of Music was my niche. I didn’t know how I was going to pursue it, or why I was going to pursue it, or what I would do if I ever made any sense of it. I only knew that I felt compelled to ask questions and to pursue the answers in regards to music and how it related to God and our knowledge of Him. It burned within me like no desire I’ve known before or since.

So why have I neglected it? Why have I avoided the very thing that God has called me to? Where is my heart? Here is where she was when last I knew her:

one of the board musicians started a thread a couple weeks ago entitled the theology of music. the thread didn’t do much, as i recall, but it has gotten me thinking a lot about music lately. what is the theology of music? what is the role of music in the church? what does music have to do with god? what does god have to do with music? what does faith have to do with music? these aren’t questions i’m trying to answer; these are questions i’m trying to acknowledge. it would be easy to write a blog telling you what i think about these things. that’s not my goal, though. my goal is to keep asking questions…to ask more questions…to ask new questions…and to keep thinking about the questions and why they are important, if they are important at all. this is something i want to pursue in the future; not simply as thoughts and opinions, but as an area of study and a field of knowledge, and eventually, as a place of ministry in the church. i have no idea what that means. i have no idea what this will look like. i have no idea why it has suddenly become so important to me. perhaps it has been important all along, and i just never realized it. of course…i don’t think i’ve ever heard anyone use the phrase “theology of music” other than the fella here on tweb. i don’t know that it even exists, other than as an idea.

dated 11/09/05, reposted from my former blog

Where shall we find our heart’s desire? I do not know. I know only that I need to pursue this again. There’s my heart.

Pax Christi.


Great is Thy Faithfulness

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God, my Father.
There is no shadow of turning with Thee.
Thou changest not; Thy compassions, they fail not.
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning, new mercies I see!
All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided.
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning, new mercies I see.
All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided.
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth.
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide.
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning, new mercies I see.
All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided.
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Thomas Chisholm

Speaking of God’s faithfulness…

It is so easy to get wrapped up in our lives, in our troubles, in our finances, in our relationships, in our jobs, in our lack of these things, in ourselves! I admit, I am prone to recall the moments when I have felt most alone and unimportant in the world. But this is folly. I am learning once again–or still, perhaps–that it is in those moments when I feel the most alone that God is carrying me and working all things together for my good, for His glory.

It helps to take our focus off of ourselves now and again. If I cannot find one thing in my own life to praise God’s faithfulness, then I am learning to ask others what God is doing in their lives. I find the most remarkable thing–that rejoicing in what God is doing in the lives of those I love allows me to see more clearly His faithfulness, even when I don’t understand Him. So this is a call out to all of us: speak of God’s faithfulness.

Speak of God’s faithfulness! Call to remembrance all He has done. Let not your heart be burdened with the weight of worry, but take on the yoke of Christ–it is easy, and His burden is light.

If you haven’t shared with me in awhile what God is doing in your life, I would love to hear from you.

Pax Christi.


Dear CDs, part II

Dear CDs,

So…since I’m going through my old CDs, I thought it would be fun to make a list of songs that I didn’t expect to find!

  1. I’m Gonna Be (500 miles), The Proclaimers
  2. Mr. Tambourine Man, Bob Dylan
  3. I Only Wanna Be With You, Hootie & The Blowfish
  4. Cold Hearted Snake, Paula Abdul
  5. Parents Just Don’t Understand, Will Smith (“well…maybe i shouldn’t. yeah–of course, i should!”)
  6. That Thing You Do, The Wonders
  7. Story of a Girl, Third Eye Blind
  8. Grey Street, Dave Matthews
  9. Be a Pepper, The Dr. Pepper Song
  10. People in a Box, Farrell & Farrell

Pax Christi.


Dear CDs

Dear CDs,

I forget how much I truly love you all (and by “all,” I mean “most of you”).

If you don’t know me well enough by now, I’ll tell you one thing that is almost always true: I am very intentional. If I act like I’m irritated with you, then I probably am; if I act like I’m thrilled to be with you, then I probably am; if I act like I’m impatient, then I probably am; if I act like I don’t want you to touch my piano, then I probably don’t; if I give you a tin of chocolate-covered pretzels, then I was singing prayers over you (I know that doesn’t make sense to any of you, but…trust me, it makes sense); if I have the television turned onto the Tiger game, then I’m watching the game; and if I’m not answering my phone, then I don’t want to talk. Nine times out of ten, I act intentionally.

It should be stated for the record, however, that those “one times out of ten” that I don’t act intentionally, I tend to make the biggest blunders. I really am quite scatter-brained, and when I screw up, I do a dandy of a job. But most of the time–at least from my perspective–I am intentional.

And music is no different. There is a reason I don’t listen to rap. There is a reason I listen to southern gospel. There is a reason I like 4Him but not Point of Grace (I miss you, 4Him). There is a reason I like PFR and Dimestore Prophets. And there is a reason I am so opposed to most of the newer CCM. There is a reason Rich Mullins was my hero. Songwriting is far more than rhyming and rearranging the three chords you know on your guitar. Songwriting is a gift, and it is a struggle. I don’t particularly enjoy songs (particularly Christian songs) that are easy-listening, make you “feel good” kind of stuff. If it’s going to make me feel good, it had better at least be musically or literarily whimsical. Either one suffices. But same-old, same-old, two verses, chorus, one-four-five progression, “Jesus” rhymes with “frees us,” songwriting just doesn’t do a whole lot for me. If it makes you feel good, then…by all means, enjoy it.

But for me? Music must be whimsical. Chris Rice caught me off-guard today. I was driving home and had only a handful of CDs with me, and one of them was his old Past the Edges album. I haven’t listened to Chris Rice in, oh, at least a year! Today, he caught me by surprise and with delight! Have you heard Smellin Coffee? Talk about whimsical! Musically, it couldn’t be more whimsical unless it were Cake (but don’t tell anyone that I listen to Cake; it’s Jenn’s fault).

So I am inspired. Tonight as I dip pretzels, I will pull out all of my old CDs and listen to them (well, not every single one of them, but definitely a couple). I’ll leave you with some Smellin Coffee:

I remember reading you’re the God who never sleeps

While I’ve been dreaming, you’ve been singing over me, yeah

Singing about my freedom, waking me up to hear your song

Now I can’t dance hard enough, cause yesterday is gone, gone, gone!

Love your CDs, people.

Pax Christi.