#SquadGoals Pt. 2- The Right Kind of Crazy: Mary and Elizabeth

 

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Main Scriptures: Luke 1 and Matthew 1

When I first moved to Nashville 16 years ago, there seemed to be a massive influx of people coming from all over the world. What was really cool about that was if you asked someone why they moved to Nashville, even if the immediate answer was “for music” (and it was 99% of the time), there was a main reason that was often said in almost as low as a whisper:

“Okay this may sound crazy but God told me to move here.”

What a relief it was to hear so many people say the same thing! While music and entertainment might have been the means, as always there was an underlying purpose. There was a solidarity that formed because so many of us were on the same crazy adventure.   There’s something comforting about meeting other people that are going out on a limb like you are to bring something different to the world. Life can seem pretty isolating when you haven’t found those people yet.

When Mary the mother of Jesus found out that she was going to be an unwed virgin mother to the Savior of the world, I’d imagine there was no community for that; There was no church small group, no online chatroom, no community support meetups. Quite the opposite actually. Being a young, unwed mother was a disgrace at that time. And if asked how it happened, who in the world was going to believe this story:

Luke 1: 27- 35

27 The virgin’s name was Mary.  28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

Can you imagine having to think about how you were going to explain that to people? What’s so great about this story is that God knew that this was not something that Mary should have to go through by herself. His timing is so great.  God loves community and created us to be in relationship with one another.  He already had someone who was in a similar circumstance for her to visit so that she didn’t have to try and wrap her mind around this new reality alone.

36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38“I am the Lordʼs servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Mary’s relative Elizabeth also had a miracle in the oven and her kid was to be no slacker either. The same angel visited Elizabeth’s husband and told him that although they were both old and Elizabeth was barren, they would conceive a child that would “be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born… bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God… go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:14-17). Elizabeth was 6 months pregnant with John the Baptist.

Two very different women on parallel journeys to miraculously birth something that would not only change the world but the course of history altogether.  This was huge! Here’s why Mary and Elizabeth are #SquadGoals and what we can learn from them while being in the industry:

Continue reading “#SquadGoals Pt. 2- The Right Kind of Crazy: Mary and Elizabeth”

#SquadGoals Pt. 1: Remember Why You Started- Joshua and Caleb

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About #SquadGoals: We are starting a new series called #SquadGoals this week! It’s about the importance of having the right relationships, finding your tribe, and building community to walk forward in your purpose. I hope you dig it. Look for these every Sunday.

Note: This is a revision of a previous post that  * POOF * disappeared one day so it may seem a little familiar.  Check it out anyway as it has some extra nuggets in this version.

What. A. Year.  Unbelievable, huh? We’ve seen so much happen from tragic losses within the industry to a rollercoaster election year, societal unrest and personal tragedy.  It’s easy to feel helpless when it looks like there is so much around you that needs to change. I mean, what can one person do?

Well one person can definitely make a difference. No one should ever doubt the impact that they can make on the world.  However a good squad can do so much more.  I don’t know if I can fully put into words the importance of finding your tribe; like-minded people with a similar vision and mission who are committed to uplifting and supporting one another for a greater good. Community is important.

But what happens if it’s just you and one other person that gets it?  What if within your community you begin to be ostracized because you dare to be different and believe for greater? What happens when you are surrounded by people who are naysayers in the name of being “realistic”?

That’s exactly what happened to Joshua and Caleb.

When God was leading the children of Israel into the promised land of Canaan, he didn’t want them to walk into it blindly.  He wanted them to examine the land first and know exactly what it was they were inheriting. Check out the instructions Moses got from God to give to Joshua, Caleb, and ten other scouts before they scoped out the land.

Scripture references: Numbers 13:1-33, 14:1-24

18 (And) see what the land is and whether the people who dwell there are strong or weak, few or many,

19 And whether the land they live in is good or bad, and whether the cities they dwell in are camps or strongholds,

20 And what the land is, whether it is fat or lean, whether there is timber on it or not. And be of good courage and bring some of the fruit of the land.

The Promised Land, in this case and whatever that signifies in your life, is not heaven so it’s bound to come with some challenges.  I don’t care how good you’ve got it once you get there.  For a lot of you, God has shown you what you are destined for and it’s bigger than you and in an unfamiliar territory.  Just like the children of Israel, He wants you to be prepared for where you are headed.  God wants to set you up for success not failure.

So the 12 scouts went out as spies and explored the land for 40 days.  Even though they all went out together, not everyone came back with the same perspective. Check out the noise they came back with upon their return:

27 They told Moses, We came to the land to which you sent us; surely it flows with milk and honey. This is its fruit.

28 But the people who dwell there are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; moreover, there we saw the sons of Anak [of great stature and courage].

30 Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once and possess it; we are well able to conquer it.

While the rest of the spies were being “shook ones”, Caleb boldly spoke up declaring that they already had the victory.  It was just a matter of getting to it. He recognized the obstacles but since God said it was already theirs for the taking (Numbers 13:2), it was a done deal. The others besides him and Joshua, not so much.

31 But his fellow scouts said, “We are not able to go up against the people [of Canaan], for they are stronger than we are.”  32 So they brought the Israelites an evil report of the land, which they had scouted out, saying, “The land through which we went to spy it out is a land that devours its inhabitants. And all the people that we saw in it are men of great stature.  33 There we saw the Nephilim [or giants], the sons of Anak, who come from the giants; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.”

Note that verse 32 says that the report they brought back to the Israelites was described as being evil. Not just negative but straight up and down evil.  Why such a harsh word?  I believe this was for a couple of reasons.

  1. Pessimism is Poison

One of the many discouraging things we sometimes hear is that the temptations in the industry are far too great for a believer to resist.  Therefore we have no place in it. It is this discouragement that has driven many artists away from the church and some even further away from God. I remember reading Mase say “Why is it Christians are more confident in the Devil taking me more than Christ keeping me?” Sometimes this discouragement comes from people at church, family, friends, and even other artists- those who have spent some time on the mainstream side, had terrible experiences, and then decided to do gospel music instead.  Then afterwards as a part of their “testimony” will dissuade anyone from venturing into mainstream (as if the gospel music industry has no temptations at all).  I’m here to tell you that’s an evil report.  Let’s be clear: every believer that ventures into mainstream is not called to it and so sometimes that’s why they fail.  Let’s be even clearer: Some actually have been called to it but haven’t developed the character to sustain them and THAT’S why they failed (study the life of King Saul for a really good cautionary tale on that right there.).   This is why it’s so important to “make your calling and election sure” (1 Peter 2:10). If this is where you belong, be confident but most of all be prepared. Pessimism is poison. Stay far from it

2. They spoke poorly of themselves

Verse 33 says “There we saw the Nephilim [or giants], the sons of Anak, who come from the giants; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.” I’d be really surprised if someone told me that they have never been afraid in the music industry.  Everyone has had fear on some level. That’s understandable.  What’s dangerous however is to go into an industry like this with a poor opinion of yourself.  The 10 spies basically said that because of how they saw themselves, the giants saw them the exact same way.  Now I don’t know how much attention the giants were actually paying to them but I do know that sometimes those that hold or appear to hold a certain level of power can sniff out “grasshopper mentality”.  Too many artists have been taken on a ride because they thought so little of themselves and their capabilities that they allowed other people to mold and control them.  Not being confident in yourself can be a sure way to either be too scared to try or leave you vulnerable to be lead down the wrong road by someone who seems to be a “giant” to you.   Too many people have gotten “got” that way.  Just about any episode of Unsung, Behind the Music, and E! True Hollywood Story can tell you that. How you see yourself is crucial.

3. They were basically calling God a liar

Do I really need to go into why that’s a bad idea?

When Caleb spoke up and encouraged the people to believe God for the victory, not only were they not trying to hear him, they wanted to STONE him! Joshua tried with all of his might to the point of tearing apart his own clothes to convince the people to believe that God would lead them safely into the Promised Land:

Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”

Persecution can happen when you dare to be go to another level and do what hasn’t been done before. Some people want things too easily and when they can’t get it their way, they can sometimes persecute you for moving forward. It hurts when persecution comes from the very people you are trying to deliver. It’s heartbreaking when the same people you’ve been riding with turn against you because they’re too afraid to move forward and they want you to be stuck like them. A lot of us have experienced this and it can be devastating.

But this is what is so awesome about our God: While the people were talking about stoning Joshua and Caleb for daring to believe God, God showed up.

Continue reading “#SquadGoals Pt. 1: Remember Why You Started- Joshua and Caleb”

Who’s Gonna Check You, Boo? Why We All Need a Nathan

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“What about your friiiiiiiiends, will they stand their ground, are they gonna be lowdown, yeeeaaaah”. Okay I know it’s corny but any chance I get to include TLC in something I am gonna take it.

Main Scriptures: 2 Samuel 12 and Proverbs 27:5-6

Far too often we see entertainers doing all kinds of crazy stuff while surrounded by a group of trouble makers, hangers on and yes men who are along for the ride of fame but usually don’t stick around long enough for the consequences. It’s unfortunate the kind of people that fame can draw sometimes. I know we’ve all seen entertainers make a string of poor choices that get out to the media and we think, “They CAN’T have any real friends!” But sometimes, it’s not so much about the wrong people you are letting in as much as it is about the right people that you may be keeping out.

Here’s an example: I have a very small group of people I call my All Access Friends. These are people that have full access to information about any part of my life. They have shown themselves to be true and trustworthy friends. Yet within this circle, I have just one friend that I refer to as my Nathan. When everyone may be clapping and cheering me on, she is also clapping and cheering but will stop to raise one finger in the air and say “Yeah but my question is this…” She will then challenge my motives and my actions with grace, often showing me things from a perspective that I otherwise would not consider. She is my Nathan (thank you Tonya).

I am fully convinced that everyone needs at least one Nathan.

Who Is Nathan?
The name Nathan means “God has given” which basically means gift. Nathan, a prophet in King David’s inner circle, was definitely that. Anyone that will go to God in prayer and listen to Him on your behalf is truly a gift. I tend to think that Nathan wasn’t just a spiritual leader in David’s eyes. In fact, David went on to name one of his sons Nathan and I wonder if he named him after this person who played such a huge role in his life.

One of the things that I liked about Nathan was that he truly had David’s best interest at heart. God knew this and trusted him enough to go to David with His truth. We see this for the first time in 2 Samuel 7 when David has this good intentioned idea to build a temple for God. Nathan’s response to this was…

“Go, do all that is within your heart, for the Lord is with you.”

Translation: You the man, boss. God knows your heart.

Now building a temple wasn’t a terrible idea. It was quite noble actually. However, doing it David’s way was not the way God wanted. The Lord gave a word to Nathan that night explaining that it was actually David’s son who he wanted to build the temple. Nathan went back the very next day to tell David what God had shared with him about what the plan to build the temple should be. Why is this important?

Nathan’s initial response sounded good but it wasn’t the truth. He misspoke. Not a big deal, we all do that from time to time. For the people we care about, we will sometimes name and claim things for people that are not to be theirs. For some people however, it’s not a matter of being a true friend and wanting to see them happy; for some it is just a matter of tickling someone else’s ear because of what they can do for them. Nathan didn’t try to tickle David’s ear nor hide the fact that even as a prophet he spoke out of his own mind and not from the heart of God. I bring this up because I’ve seen this happen. Be careful and please pray for wisdom when it comes to people who speak to you about anything concerning your life, especially if they put the God stamp on it. Some people just want to be attached to your life for all the wrong reasons and will make it seem like their intentions are good and godly just to be a part of your circle.  It was more important to Nathan that David be in right standing with God than it was for him to appear right in what he initially said. That’s huge.

However lots of us are more familiar with Nathan’s role in the story of David and Bathsheba found in 2 Samuel 11. This story has about everything a good steamy Hollywood movie is made of. To make a long (but really good) story short, let me just give you a quick rundown of this infamous tale:

1 “Battle, shmattle”, David decides that unlike most kings, he doesn’t need to go to battle this one day so he sends his army without him. Chillin’ out on the rooftop of his palace, he sees a beautiful woman, Bathsheba, bathing on a rooftop across the way.

2 He inquires about who she is and finds out that she’s the wife of of Uriah who happens to be one of his soldiers. Doesn’t stop him from summoning her to the palace though. She comes through the crib, they have sex and wouldn’t you know it, she winds up pregnant with King David’s child. David then devises a plan to get Uriah to come out of battle and go home to sleep with his wife. That way when the baby is born it will appear to be his.

3 King David pulls Uriah out of battle and has him over to talk man to man about the war. He later sends Uriah home hoping that he will sleep with his wife so it will look like she is pregnant with his baby and not David’s. However Uriah, a noble man, bless his heart, feels bad that his fellow soldiers are camping out while he gets to go home. He decides to sleep at the palace entrance along with the palace’s guard. David then has to go to Plan B.
4 Plan B: David has Uriah over for dinner and gets chummy enough with him to get him drunk. Uriah still refuses to go home and spends another night at the palace’s entrance. Now David has to go to Plan C: Put him in an area of the war where he is bound to get killed. Unfortunately, Plan C is the plan that worked. Uriah gets killed and David and Bathsheeba get married. Of course God sees all of this and is not a bit pleased.

So what does the bible say that God does?

“So the Lord sent Nathan to David…” 2 Samuel 12

We are living in a time where it’s pretty popular to say “Only God can judge me.” Yes God is our judge but a lot of times when people say this they mean only God can point out their faults to them. It’s pretty arrogant to think that the only way that the Almighty God himself should speak to some of us is by writing a message on a wall or through a burning bush or by coming down himself to appear to us. God often sends people. Yes, flawed imperfect people just like us. Don’t be so prideful that you miss what God wants to say to you through the people he sends your way. By the time you learn the lesson on your own, it may be too late.

I think it’s important to note how Nathan approaches David. He didn’t wag his finger and say “Oooooooh God knows what you did last summer!” He tells him a story. He describes a situation of a rich man who had many flocks and a poor man that had nothing but one little lamb who was very dear to him and his family. The rich man had a visitor coming to town and instead of taking from one of his own flock, he took the poor man’s lamb, killed it, and served it to his guest. David was so mad that someone who had everything would so maliciously take from someone who had nothing. He said to Nathan that “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this is worthy of death.” To which Nathan replied (my translation), “David, YOU ARE THAT DUDE!” He doesn’t blast him and tell him what a terrible person he is for what he did. He tells him what God says.  He explains to him that after all that God had blessed him with, he went and took a poor man’s wife and had him murdered. He then went on to tell him what the Lord said the consequences of his sin would bring him and it was not pretty. Not only would there be much strife in his kingdom but his newborn son was to become sick and die. David sorrowfully repented and prayed for his son to be spared but the Lord did not see fit to heal him and he later died. David got himself together and continued to worship God anyway.

The bible says in Proverbs 27:6 that “Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” You need people in your corner who care more about you than they care about your feelings. People who want you to be successful in your life, not just your career. People that want you to prosper not because of what it could look like for them but because they care for you as an individual whether you have everything or nothing. If you have shunned such people because they insist on telling you the truth that you don’t want to hear, I encourage you to go to them and ask them for forgiveness. If you look at your current circle of friends and realize that you don’t have one person that tells you the truth, it’s time to make some squad cuts and pray for God to send some faithful friends your way. No friendship should ever take you further away from God. The right friendships should only help you grow closer to him because they are a reflection of his love for us. The right relationships are crucial to our lives. Please choose who you share your life with wisely.

No Fun Alone: Choosing Wisely When It Comes to Relationships in the Industry

Lucy and Schroeder

It gets cold at the top
Make sure somebody loves ya
You can feel alone in the spotlight
Make sure somebody cares for ya
Always be there for ya
It’s no fun alone

– Mali Music “No Fun Alone”

Here’s a story you may have heard before: Musician meets girl at a gig.  They fall in love.  He goes on tour a lot. She thinks that the absence will make his heart grow fonder.  He’s happy to have someone to talk to while on the road.  Thinking they have the ins and outs of musician life all figured out, they get married.  Then somewhere down the line when she’s had enough of weeks apart and late nights at the studio, what was once agreed upon is met with an ultimatum: his career or their relationship.  After witnessing this time and time again, my question always is, what happened?  Why is it that after a considerable amount of time of being together and dealing with the atypical routine of someone in the industry, does suddenly the other person in the relationship decide that enough is enough?

I asked a musician friend of mine about this the other day and he gave me some pretty good insight. He’s currently divorced but praying about reconciliation.  What he offered was this:  while being on the road and getting to boast about the places you have been and can take your significant other may seem glamorous, it is imperative that you communicate about your life goals and expectations.  If you can’t agree on those things, your relationship is doomed.

I think this really important issue of discussing realistic life goals is missed because too many people are more comfortable being with someone they can impress versus being with someone that truly knows and loves them. There is a new book I’m loving right now by author Donald Miller called Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy.  I highly recommend it to anyone that reads this blog.  He writes:

“People clapping for you will always be a nice thing.  But it’s better when you have somebody to go home to and talk about it with, somebody who is more in love with you than impressed by you.”

There are some people that are so impressed with people in the spotlight but they have no understanding of the cost of being in it.   They fall for passion, talent, and the money someone looks like they have or could possibly make some day. However what they don’t realize is that the very thing that they are so enamored with comes with hours and hours of practice and sometimes an unpredictable schedule that can whisk their loved one away at moments of inconvenience.    The very thing that they have become enamored with about a person can become the very thing that they start to resent.  Soon they start seeing the other person’s career as their competition.  The thing is, it’s not just the career they are seeing as competition; it’s that person’s purpose.  If we don’t engage with one another with the understanding that before they were your boo, they came with a purpose and a plan that God has mapped out for them before you met them (Ephesians 2:10), we are going to have some pretty unfair expectations of one another.  When you get into a commitment with someone, you can either help them go further in their purpose or you can hinder it.  Love doesn’t stifle things. It helps things to grow.  I think a lot of us have had bad relationships because we are not choosing people that help us but hinder us.

By no means am I saying that if you are in entertainment and your significant other is not that the relationship should revolve around you. Let’s just get that out of the way. I don’t believe that one person is more valuable than another. I don’t care if you are selling out venues and your loved one works a 9-5 Monday through Friday. The bible says in Romans 12:3-6 that in Christ we all function as one.

Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.

When two individuals consider building a life together as one, I think it is important to be realistic about what adjustments are necessary for the both of them to fulfill their destinies in life. Author Shellie R. Warren writes a great deal about relationships. I remember reading something a while ago that she said her mother shared with her: “God does not give you someone for where you are but where you are going.” In looking for relationship examples in the bible where adjustments had to be made for purpose, I think of Joseph, the father of Jesus, as a great example.

According to Matthew 1:19, when Joseph found out that Mary, the woman that he was engaged to, was pregnant, he thought about divorcing her quietly. It doesn’t exactly say whether he knew of and doubted her story or not. But it does suggest that either way, he considered no longer being a part of her life.  Still he loved and respected her enough to quietly divorce her to spare her public shame. As he thought about it, Mary’s situation from afar not only looked bad on her but it also looked bad on him. He didn’t want the public shame either.

But then after an angelic visitation giving him the entire story of what exactly happened and who Mary was pregnant with, he made a choice to move forward and marry the woman who would give birth to the savior of the world. That is a HUGE deal and yet he chose it. Not only did he choose it, but also out of his commitment to his wife and God (both are key), he made the sacrifices that were needed for her to carry out her purpose. Sacrifices like not consummating their marriage until Jesus’ birth (that will preach by itself); Sacrifices like moving all over the place to find a place for Mary to give birth; Sacrifices like moving his family out of harm’s way because the king was on a rampage to kill all newborn sons so he could get rid of the newborn king. These are huge sacrifices that he said yes to that I am sure when he got engaged he had no idea would even be possibilities. You have to remember that in relationships, no one stays the same. People change. And although I don’t doubt that he saw Mary as special, this new “mother to the savior of the world” business was not what he initially signed up for. Yet he stuck with his commitment to Mary and protected the destiny that came with her.

I think what’s also important to note is that Jesus’ lineage that was prophesied about in the Old Testament came through Joseph’s side and not Mary’s. On Joseph’s side were Abraham, Rahab, Boaz Solomon and David (2 Samuel 7:12-13, Matthew 1). So you see, it wasn’t just Mary that was chosen to be responsible for the birth of Jesus but Joseph as well. This had about as much to do with his destiny as it did hers.

Now I am no expert, but the relationships that I have seen be the most successful are the ones that work as a team. Where if one person is successful, then they count it as both of them being successful. If one person is having challenges, then they count it as them both having challenges. One of my friends whose marriage I have always admired, is an artist whose husband used to spend a considerable time away as a touring musician. She told me “I don’t just love him, I like him. I want to see him succeed. If he wins, I win. We are in this together.”

It is my hope that I start seeing more people getting together for the right reasons and enjoying healthy relationships within the music industry.  We need it.  I believe it is possible. I know some people with some great and healthy marriages.  They will tell you upfront that they require a lot of work and sacrifice.  One more great thing that Shellie Warren’s mother said was “Do everything you can’t compromise before you are married.”  If you’re not ready to blend your life with someone else’s, then wait.  As brothers and sisters first, we need to start taking responsibility for each other to help one another succeed.  We can’t be so selfish with our expectations and desires.  Everyone has been created on purpose, for purpose.  I believe that we are better together than we are apart.  We just need to choose wisely.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:9-10

Where Have Our Songs Gone?


“They sang songs about freedom now we act like we don’t need ‘em…”- Mike Hicks “Where Have Our Songs Gone?”

Have you ever noticed that when some sort of tragic uprising is going on in the world that the first song most urban radio DJs reach for is Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” which came out over 40 years ago? Now I’m not complaining about the song of course. It’s timeless much like all of Marvin Gaye’s music. I’d much rather hear his version than the pop star studded remake (sssshhh let’s not talk about that…nope, let’s not even).  But are we really that desperate for songs with meaning that we have to reach back over 40 years?

While pondering this, I issued a challenge on Facebook that went like this:  In light of recent tragedies regarding black men being senselessly murdered by police, if you were a DJ, could you put together an hour of music (about 15 songs) limited to only the following criteria:

* Is reflective of today’s societal  issues
* Performed by artists that have been on the Billboard charts within the past 3 years
*Encourages the listening audience towards peace, love, hope, self reflection and personal responsibility

And let’s not forget these stipulations as well:

* The song can’t contain the N-word or B-word used as a term of endearment because to me that’s a double negative (hey my challenge, my rules).
* You can only repeat an artist one time so no, playing The Roots and John Legend’s Wake Up album for an hour straight does not count.
*Insert Jeopardy music here*
After a total of 24 hours and 104 comments, we came up with a whopping SEVEN songs:1. Robin Thicke’s “New Generation” (Yes, “Blurred Lines” Robin Thicke. Don’t let the fluke of the success of that song fool you. He’s quite the songwriter actually.)
2. Erykah Badu’s “A.D. 2000”, a tribute to Amadou Diallo.
3. Jon Batiste and Stay Human’s “Social Music” (This was a new one to me. Glad I was introduced to his music.)
4. Aloe Blacc’s “Love is the Answer”.
5. Esperanza Spalding’s “Black Gold”
6. Janelle Monae’s “Sincerely Jane”
7. Mali Music’s “One”

7 songs in 24 hours.

Before I posted this challenge, I mentioned it to a friend who coincidentally found himself challenged on the way to work to find something to alleviate his frustration with current events, most specifically the uprising in Ferguson, Missouri.  He told me “I put on the Wake Up album but I got frustrated that I had nothing more to ‘soundtrack’ all of this to.”  Reminds me of something that John Mayer said in his song “Speak for Me”.

Show me something I can be
Play a song that I can sing
Make me feel as I am free
Someone come speak for me- “Speak for Me” John Mayer
Now if I were to say let’s pull some songs together from the sixties and seventies, we’d have no problem. Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, The Staples Singers, Nina Simone and many others “spoke for us”.  They gave us a soundtrack for our frustrations and cries for freedom, peace and justice during a very tumultuous time in our country.  And it didn’t just stop with their music. Many of them used their platforms to speak out against injustice and to unify people to bring about change.  But if you look at then and fast forward to now?
Now they’re celebrating broken things
I don’t want a world of broken things
You can tell that something isn’t right
When all your heroes are in black and white-
“Speak for Me” John Mayer

Make no mistake, I am not picking on these artists of today.  Promising to be socially responsible is not a criteria when it comes to signing a recording contract no more than the guarantee that one is mentally stable.  I can’t imagine putting the pressure on some of the most popular artists today to suddenly become socially conscious.  I don’t even think that some of their record labels would allow it.  Besides, after witnessing some of the things that they can get arenas of people to repeat and co-sign that aren’t exactly socially responsible to begin with, I honestly don’t think it would be fair. We have indeed become a society that celebrates broken things.  So contrary to what you may think I was getting at with my challenge, my point was not that today’s artists need to change.  My point is music has become less and less about music and more and more about amusement.  What necessarily has caused this imbalance in our music?  I don’t have all of the answers but what I do have is a theory that may reveal a part of the problem.Besides producing socially conscious music that has stood the test of time as well as using their platform to bring about social change, there is one more thing that Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, The Staples Singers and Curtis Mayfield have in common: they all started in the church.

In a recent Time article, Questlove was quoted as saying something that up until I read him say it, I thought I was the only one that saw a correlation:

“…I don’t think it’s a mistake that a lot of of my favorite artists are coming from Down Under. A lot of them more soulful than what we’re dealing with now. When you think soul music and Aretha Franklin and the Baptist-born singer, that’s sort of an idea in the past. As black people, we’re really not in the church as we used to be, and that’s reflected in the songs now.”

He’s right. Black people, particularly young black people, are not in the church like they used to be and we need to ask ourselves why.   How can generations carry on the traditions of those that started out in church when they aren’t even there?
“Sing a new song, can we just sing a new song? Somewhere along the way we got it wrong…” Mali Music “One”
As I mentioned, one of the songs that we came up with during the challenge is “One” by Mali Music.  He along with many others have gone through so much criticism for going mainstream; a fight that seems so illogical to me in 2014.  Thankfully he has gotten past that criticism and has forged ahead to put out a very important, non-compromising album.  But what about those that could never get past the criticism? Those that have either let their talent stay and wither inside the four walls of the church or that have left the church altogether?  What about them? Could they be our missing voices?

Is the church to blame for shutting up the mouthpieces that we desperately need to speak to and for our culture? 

Yes it completely and undoubtedly is.

The way the church, and not just the black church but the church as a whole, has grossly mishandled the musical talents and gifts of its members is a shame and a sin rooted in both fear and elitism.  It’s across the board. I’ve heard too many stories about mainstream artists who are Christians that are criticized for what they do but no one minds them sending their tithe check in off of what it is that they do; too many stories about artists who have gotten preferential treatment because of what they do and have been pressured to be in the spotlight in their churches all the while their personal lives were falling apart with little to no recognition from pastoral leadership.  I’ve seen church musicians frustrated and completely resent the church and leave never to trust the church again while the pastors were too busy worrying about where they will find a replacement before Sunday than that person’s soul.  The Church needs to repent for how we have treated our “Davids” and our “Asaphs”.  It was never the intent of God to keep His children and their gifts within four walls.  If you truly believe in the word of God, if you believe that “where the spirit of the Lord is there is liberty,” don’t just let but SEND with your blessing outside the four walls of your church those with the Spirit that brings about liberty to convey that in their songs so that they can impact our culture. Who else to sing about love than those who believe in and walk in Love?  Who else to talk about the issues of life than those that have been given abundant life?

“Won’t you help me sing these songs of freedom…” Bob Marley “Redemption Song”

It’s time to wake all the way up, Church.  I am pleading with those in leadership to please acknowledge the fault and take the lead.  We’ve got to call our prodigal sons and daughters back and tell them that we were wrong. That the very gifts that we cursed or exploited were ones that could have been used to speak life at this very moment when our culture needs them the most.  We’ve got to train, equip, affirm, and intercede for those that have been called to mainstream music.  We must because here’s the thing: so much of the resistance from the church that musicians have faced when it comes to going mainstream is rooted in fear; fear that the industry will be too tempting and too much for them to take to the point that they will compromise their faith.  And it is all of those things… when you have to do it alone.  They shouldn’t have to do it alone. We need to stand with them.

So where have our songs gone? They’ve gone with the very ones we’ve shut out and shut down.  It’s time to invite them back in.  We need them now more than ever before.