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Alaska Road Trip | At Last...Alaska

Can you believe that the most wildlife we saw was not in Alaska, but on the Alaska road in Alberta and the Yukon? We saw 41 bears, dozens of wild buffalo and moose, and spent a dark evening avoiding elk on the highway by our headlights lighting up their eyes left and right. 

With that being said, Alaska did not disappoint. The entire state is one big national park. Where we drove hundreds of miles to get to a destination like Glacier National Park in Montana - it seemed that at every turn we hit a site of equal beauty as a Glacier that didn't even have state park status. 

 

Denali National Park & Hatcher's Pass

On the hunt for Mt. McKinley

We visited Denali first. We spotted hundreds of Caribou (our only siting on the trip) and a blonde Grizzly Bear. We watched patiently as a mother with her two cubs meandered toward us. We searched the skyline for Mt. McKinley, the highest peak in North America, but couldn't find it anywhere and were shocked that no one was talking about it. We were halfway through the tour when the guide was speaking about climbers attempting the dangerous trek up the mountain Denali when we realized...McKinley is Denali. Obama had changed the name not long ago to the original name, Denali, to honor the Native Alaskans. 

After Denali we visited some old friends of Sherei's, Nathan and Marissa Chud. Spending time with them was a fresh breath. Being with friends for the first time in 3 weeks would have been enough, but they spoke life into our hearts as we caught up and shared encouragement with one another of our next seasons coming (they are missionaries in Lebanon). As we spoke of the adoption fundraiser and preparing for the upcoming tour, he pointed to his "We Are Pioneers" shirt Sherei designed and then to the mountain behind us; "they look a lot alike! That's Pioneer Peak." We were thousands of miles from home, but felt like we were exactly where we were supposed to be. 

They asked us where we had been so far. Only Denali. They said that we had seen the least that Alaska has to offer. We still had the Kanai Peninsula with Seward and Homer, and their secret favorite spot: Hatcher's Pass. Hatcher's turned out to be one of the most magical places on our trip; a gold mining pioneer village in a bowl high up in the mountains. 

 

Seward

Sled dogs, Glaciers and Humpbacks

We had been hearing since before we left about this famed drive down the Kenai peninsula - from Anchorage to Seward. It was worth the entire trip. After an hour of coastal Hwy 1, Alaska style, I savored a locally sourced elderberry pie, watching a sea plane soar over me and land in the lake as Sherei slept beside me. I woke her up as we pulled up to the tunnel that was the only road to Whittier - it was Rivendell; dozens of waterfalls rolling down the mossy walls that led to the foggy fjord below. 

Onward toward Seward we found what was most likely Sherei's favorite stop - the Iditarod sled dog training facility. 5 years ago when we were in California Sherei found us jobs with one of these places (which we didn't end up taking)- it could have even been this one. Now we were finally there. We learned the vigorous training schedule of the musher, who took extensive time to tell us his tales from the Iditarod he had completed. There are more people who have been to space than have completed the Iditarod, a 1,150 mile race across the harsh Alaskan landscape. Teams race through blizzards causing whiteout conditions, sub-zero temperatures and gale-force winds which can cause the wind chill to reach −100 °F. We stared in awe at the walking wintery wonder of a man before us and listened to his tales as the future champion husky puppies in our arms melted our hearts. 

We stopped by Exit glacier for our closest look yet at a glacier. We drove past a sign as we approached a mile out with a date from the 1800s, then passed dozens more as we got closer - 1907, 1934, 1971, 2005. We realized this is where the glacier used to reach, having dramatically melted through the years from global warming. The glacier is the architect of this land. They carry nutrients to the waterways that feed the food chain that salmon feed from, which we and the bears feed from. The stark mountains soaring above us and the valleys we road through were shaped by them. And then we arrived in Seward to Kenai Fjords National Park - where we would thank God for the glaciers' work more than anywhere else.

A fjord (think Frozen), we finally learned, is a deep valley carved by glaciers that filled in with water. The unique thing about fjords is that they make the water extremely deep right beside the shore, allowing large cruiseliners to come in (this is where you will land if you take an Alaskan cruise), but more importantly allows for an extremely biodiverse marine life with humpback whales sneaking right up to the town's edge. We took a wildlife cruise and were overwhelmed with the amount of wildlife seen: in one 360 degree turn I saw a bald eagle, and mountain goat with a baby, a humpback whale, puffins, and sea lions. That evening we began a song about our trip around the campfire on the shoreline, and a sea otter scooted by on his back bathing himself. I love writing with Sherei. 

Wild river, run wild

Water falls if you let if flow

From the glacier to the coast

And I

When I wandered lost

Is when I finally found

That I

When I wanderlust

Is when I finally feel I'm found

 

Homer

"A quaint little drinking town with a fishing problem"

We stayed longer in Seward than anywhere up to that point. And it began to feel refreshingly familiar. But there was more to see. We decided our final city for the trip was Homer - a drive to what felt like the edge of the earth. Once there we drove a mile down the fishing spit and found our spot on the beach to camp for a few days. The next morning we rented bikes in town and rode to the end of the spit, stopping to rescue our tent that we discovered bent over on itself held down with a few rocks, moments from blowing away into the bay. To Sherei's delight, we went on a date at the most talked about restaurant in town: the Little Mermaid - which booked up days in advance. We walked up to chance if we could get a last minute table, and realized it only had 4 tables...no wonder it was booked up! They gave us a spot at a small bar and my Ariel loved it. 

That night a little boy with wild red hair wandered over to our spot, introduced himself, and after a pause began proudly with "I already know one story." He shared the scary campfire story of a 6 year old and we were inspired by his courage - the ignorant bravery of children who make friends on any playground. We made a fire and invited our neighbor, a lone biker from Canada, to come join us. We ended up hanging out the following night as well and were more entranced than the best Netflix binge as we learned of another's life so different than ours. We laughed and listened and he invited the other biker by him to join. How had we traveled across the world and these were our first new friends? 

The final day we took a horseback trip in the mountains with a jolly Ron Swanson...named Ron. He moved to Alaska to do whatever he wanted. It was 50 degrees and he was in a t-shirt. He said when it is 20 he puts on a jacket. He knew more about economics and history than my college professors, and gave us a lesson on the past, present and future of American currency - from the Gold Reserve Act to the 2008 financial crisis. Shockingly, it was riveting coming from Ron. He uses his 3 giant draft horses to hunt moose with when he isn't giving guided tours. He took us 2 hours longer than we paid for and let us gallup with the horses. We exchanged information and plan to keep up in the winters when things get slow with his business; the time when he reads his history textbooks. 

Matanuska Glacier

Where the road ends,

and the woods become wild again,

is where we begin

Where the road ends, and the woods become wild again, is where we begin. That is what it means to me to be a pioneer. And much of this trip was not me being brave enough to do it, but forcing myself to in fear - and hoping my spirit catches up. I faked bravery until I found it again. When you lose people you love, and death begins to feel so close, you can clam up and clasp tightly to all you hold dear for the sake of safety - above all else. I felt this creeping cancer of worry overtaking me, and Alaska was the chemo to kill it. 

As we came to our last adventure in Alaska I was faced with a final task. We drove down to the toe of the 26 mile Matanuska glacier and got out to face it on foot...in our chacos. Let me just take an aside here to say that if you ever decide to go to Alaska in the summer - you still need to bring a heavy jacket, insulated underwear, gloves, and hiking boots. It was scary and slippery. Was I going to play to the caution rising and whipping around in me - slapping the pioneering child within that was now awake again but still timid?  We saw the guided teams crunching onward through the ice ahead in their clamp-ons and helmets, and we sneaked smeagol-like around the blue ice chunks behind them - treading our own safe yet so-not-safe path toward the glacier face. We arrived in giddy bliss to what we had been dreaming of since we saw our first glacier from a far in Montana - a white and blue kingdom of Alaskan ice enveloping us on every side. We got some judgmental looks from the packs of people who paid $150 to take the tour, but I couldn't help notice a few of the kids - and even a few older gentlemen look at the freedom of our journey with childlike yearning and jealousy. 

 

Learning How to Die

Reflections from the road

Many have asked what I learned while on the road. What I walked away with. This next part may be hard for some to read - so if this past year has been hard for you I recommend having someone else read this first and advise you accordingly. 

Here in Nashville, 13,000 miles later I feel one step closer to freedom; a freedom from fear as perfect love slowly powers down on and envelops me like Matanuska. I had 7 funerals in the past year, which birthed in me a slowly billowing, crippling anxiety of death. I had a fairly constant headache for 2 months in one spot and went to get an MRI. I had chest pain that had me waking in the night in irrational panic that I was having a heart attack, which increased my heart rate which increased my panic. My mind slipped slowly toward recognizing these moments as irrational. One night developed into a full-fledged breakdown. If you know me, you know how abnormal this behavior, or any anxious behavior, is for me. I am the guy that everyone thought was a pothead in high school because I was so chill - despite having never touched drugs. I couldn't help thinking if so many bad things can happen to good people, how can Jesus say "do not be anxious about anything"? I am slowly landing with an answer there, but I do know why he said it: anxiety is bred in the absence of trust. You can't trust Jesus 100% and have anxiety plague you. For me, the foundational trust of my faith had been hammered hard 7 times and I, the structure above, was visibly shaken. 

Death is the great equalizer. It is the one guaranteed thing to all humanity. Every human and therefore every religion has an opinion about death. Most say either:

a). Accept death. Make peace with it, and welcome it like an old friend. The naturalists (read the poem Thanatopsis) and the Buddhists line up with this. 

or

b). Conquer death. Their belief systems give ways to defeat and deny death his victory. We find this with the Hindus and Voldermort (along with most other power-hungry leaders).

Yet both of these systems rely on your efforts; a self-reliance that you must muster up to either accept or defeat death. The problem is that both of these approaches leave you rife with anxiety.

But the truth is different. God doesn't like death. He doesn't want us to just accept it, nor does he want us to fight and overcome it. Both of these are shadows of the real divine perspective and strategy. The truth is that Jesus enables us to both accept death and defeat death. Yet the outcome is not reliant on our efforts - he has done it himself. He conquered death for us, and we are commanded to rest in the peace of knowing that, so that whether we live or die - it is well. What is required of us is faith, or you could say, trust. Trust happens within relationship, not religion. And our intimacy deepens as we realize that he weeps for the deaths of this age, and that one of the main reasons he came was to put death in his grave (2 Timothy 1:10, 1 Corinthians 15:24-26). 

And now, with that lens, everything changes. Our now changes. Our anxiety of our own deaths or the deaths of our loved ones fades with trust in Jesus and his work in resurrection. And the ones that have passed we grieve for - but not as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). 

Much of the life I have been living this summer has been learning how to die. If that is a journey you are currently walking or have walked as well, I hope the words above are a comfort to you. I encourage you to go to professional counseling - as it has helped Sherei and I so much, lean in with vulnerability to the community of Christ that can be vessels of God's grace and hope that act as salve to your wounds, and never give up pioneering - for your family, your friends and countless unseen others behind you who are waiting on your path through what feels like a cold-as-Alaska wilderness. Warmth and light are waiting on the other side. 

With love,

Daniel 

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Alaska Road Trip | Yellowstone, Glacier, & Alaska Hwy

I am now closer to Tokyo than I am to Charlotte. This distance (6,000 miles on our trip odometer so far) from the normal humdrum of my daily rhythms, familiar faces, and usual scenery has given me perspective, space to breath, rest, trust, begin to process the past two years and prepare for the ones to come: grad school + adopting our first child.

I will get to some of that later. For the most part, though, this trip has been taking in so much beauty in nature one day after the other, from Amarillo to Anchorage, that I have run out of words to use for being utterly overwhelmed. Here are some shots of us being dumbstruck, followed by some insights and pictures from the road:

Bears

Yesterday we pulled up to the campsite for the night and there was a sign telling us a bear had injured 4 hikers the day before so the campground was shut down for the next week. There was a news anchor outside the shut gate reporting on the incident. Sherei turned to me and said "I miss being afraid of snakes." Truly, bears have become both the delight and the doom of our trip. If we had seen that momma bear (that was most likely just startled and protecting the two cubs that were with her) that would have made bear NUMBER 16 for us on this trip. I was hoping to see a bear here, maybe even a few, but I was not expecting to begin to lose count of how many. Nor was I expecting to have so many face-to-face near misses.

We were hiking for the first time in Glacier National Park, and we set up our Eno overlooking this beautiful lake and mountain view you will see in the pictures below. A girl walked past us, then came back 5 minutes later and said "hey guys, I don't mean to startle you, but there are two Grizzlies about 200 yards down on the path so I wouldn't keep going if I were you." Nope. We packed up and walked out. And to think - we laughed when we first heard about bear spray! "We won't need that!" we thought...now we have a bear canister for food, a bear horn, two bear bells and I wear the bear spray in its holster on my hip like Clint Eastwood and we practice for bear moments regularly when we hike. Yep. Bears, man.

P.O.V.

In the midst of our wildlife journey, I discovered a delight that has been slowly teaching me to die to myself and learn to love better: seeing things from Sherei's POV (Point Of View). While I am driving, we will pull up on some wildlife or a landscape, and I get to see Sherei capture a moment and review it on her camera. It is often zoomed in so it captures details that I never would have seen. Her shot will have perspective and lighting that I would have missed if I didn't take a moment to see things from her POV.

The Holy Spirit was teaching me something in these moments about empathy. Jesus came to the earth to get our POV: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."(Hebrews 4:15). God loved the world so much that he came here. Loving someone from a distance is not real love. Like Atticus said, "you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them." Practicing empathy practically, by seeing things through Sherei's camera lens, has been teaching me to see life through her lens, unlocking a love for her that is deeper and that flows naturally from the heart, not from a striving mind.

My pictures of her perspective:

With all that being said, here are Sherei's photos from our trip so far! 

Glacier and Banff National Parks

Grand Tetons & Yellowstone National Parks

Alaska Highway

To close: a few landscape mode shots from my phone. They don't do it justice, but if you imagine what seems here to be so tidy and tangible to be immeasurably more massive so that it is intimidating to stand in front of - you are getting close.

Thanks for reading :) To keep up with more of our mischief to come, subscribe below:

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Alaska Road Trip | Rocky Mountains

Over the past three days we've seen desert, great rolling plains, enormous canyons, rushing rivers, and snowcapped mountains. The earth keeps us entertained as the hours roll by behind the wheel, and though I was incredibly thankful for a shower today - I do not feel the least bit road weary. 

On Monday night we drove in late on a terrifying, winding road and camped inside of the second largest canyon in the US, Palo Duro. We hammocked that night and a cool perfect breeze kept time with the rhythms of night noises, including the distant early morning howling of some neighborhood coyotes. 

We hit the road quickly to try and make it to the Rocky Mountain National Park with time to explore. The landscape changed so quickly it was hard to do anything else than take in our surroundings. Big grass prairie lands turned into green fields with little happy bushes and the straight road ahead could be seen touching the horizon. We made it to the Rocky Mountains with plenty of daylight but a slight storm rolling in. We decided to risk it and drive the Trail Ridge Road, which takes you directly into the Alpine ecosystem on the crest of the mountains. With every half mile the temperature dropped another few degrees, and before we knew it it was no longer 75 and sunny, but 40 and snowy. Enormous snowcapped mountains surrounded us on every side and at times the snow piled twice as high as our vehicle. We crossed rugged terrain and canyons with misty fog caught in the valley. Once we finally reached the summit it felt as if we were on a new, foreign planet. Endless white everywhere and angry clouds kept me totally awestruck. 

We camped at the base of the Rockies to our first rough night of sleep. The temperature dropped and my thin pair of long johns left me regretting not packing more winter gear. 

The next morning we headed onward through Wyoming in hopes of reaching the Grand Tetons before night fall. This was the strangest and most enchanting part of our trip. Exiting the Rocky Mountains we saw a moose and several Elk, along with some wild turkey, rabbits, and antelope around every turn. Once we passed the great plains the earth was very suddenly covered in a strange assortment of spring and winter - snow laiden prairies turned into a hilly, winding road with melting bodies of water and rushing new rivers all around. It was Narnia, in spring after a long, endless winter. Then suddenly, the horizon broke and in the very shadowing great far off we saw them - the Grand Tetons. 

I started to cry. How beautiful and how perfect. They ripped into the skyline and seemed to touch heaven with their sharp peaks. The clouds around the Tetons were so angry while everything else looked like pleasant spring. The closer we got the more majestic they became, and I decided that it was the most terrifying and lovely thing my eyes had ever seen. 

We took a dinner break at Jackson Hole, where some outlaws put on a show in the town square. We decided to press onward to Yellowstone, and on our way there was a massive pile up of cars and policemen. We wondered what the commotion was and got out of our car to see what everyone had spotted. There, in a big, lovely meadow was a beautiful black mama bear and her two baby cubs. They were rolling, playing, and running just 200 yards off. It made me endlessly happy. 

We camped under the Tetons about an hour outside of Yellowstone, woke up and spent the morning doing very boring and grown up things, like catching up on my Etsy work, doing laundry, and drinking real coffee. I am full of wonder at what the day holds, and feeling so overwhelmingly thankful for this beautiful planet. 

Daniel is writing a song that I love and dreamed about while I was sleeping. I am reading, doodling, and writing. All is right with the world. 

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Daniel's EP, Hidden Nation, released to raise funds for adoption

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Daniel's EP, Hidden Nation, released to raise funds for adoption

THE DAY IS HERE! After years of hard work, song writing, studio time, and dreaming - Daniel's 4 song EP is FINALLY OUT! Huzzah! I AM SO EXCITED!

This has been our dream baby for years, and the songs on this EP are the sounds of our home. We we first starting talking about recording, Daniel had a stroke of brilliance and began to dream about the project raising money for our first adoption. Can you believe I married him? He's the greatest.

We launched our fundraising platform 7 short days ago thru Generosity, and all proceeds from the album go towards our first adoption. You can hear our adoption story, and purchase all of the beautiful goodies from the album below: 

Check out our adoption story here:

Over the next few weeks, we'll be sharing more about the song writing process, the journey behind 'Pioneers', 'One Day', 'You Are', and 'Strongest Man Alive', and where we are in our adoption journey. I'm going to go cry now! Thanks for dreaming with us. 

- Sherei

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UPDATE: We've hit 30% of our goal! In celebration, check out the Pioneers & You Are music videos below:

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A New Song About the Prodigal Son

“Jesus's teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.” - Tim Keller, Prodigal God

I am reading Prodigal God with my LifeGroup at Assurance, which has got me thinking a lot on the life of the younger brother in the story. I wrote this simple song from his perspective, with a twist at the end changing to the Father's. I hope meditating on it along with the scripture might inspire new appreciation for this old story, providing some holy imagination, and breath some new life into what may be an old, dry narrative for you. If the Bible, or even Christianity, feel a bit dry and crusty to you - I wholeheartedly recommend Prodigal God for fresh life. It has certainly done so for me. The song is called Thinking of You. I have put the story first, then the song and lyrics underneath. 


"And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate." - Luke 15:11-32

Field and house
Lamb and calf
All my rings
All my staff

Give me mine
Father now
Sell my rig
Seal my right

Cause I've got things to do
And none of them involve thinking of you

Leave this land
Shake these hands
Lay with pigs
Laid with lambs

Cold wet ground
Ash dry mouth
Craving dregs
Caving crown

But I've got things to do
And none of them involve thinking of you

Heading home
Head hang low
Slaves still sing
Slaves belong

Rising sun
Father runs
Robe and ring
Arose my son

Dance and song
Seem so wrong
Years waiting
Father longs

Yes I had things to do
But all of my time was thinking of you

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UAB Framily ReUnion 2016 and a Little Worship Video To Boot

A wordsmith is very rarely found without words. Word's are my kind of my thing. Written, spoken and calligraphi-fied, I love them. Words and I go way back. Yet, this weekend leaves me fumbling, searching for the right words as I try to communicate the lesson learned.  

The tendrils of Hurricane Matthew are casting a gloomy day over Charlotte. My pumpkin spice latte, duck boots, and flannel are keeping me cozy as I sit in the Gordon Conwell library and watch the rain engulf the forest behind my school. Feelings of sleepy days and home sing a sweet melody around my person as I type. It's here that I find myself waking from the dream that was this past weekend to a hopeful future. 

Last weekend nine of my dear ones gathered in Panama City Beach, FL, after five long years of being apart. I basically cried and laughed for four straight days. We were all college friends, alumni of UAB (yes, we gave Janell an honorary degree), who spent our college years in absolute friendship bliss. From 2009-12, give or take, our little crew did life together. In our ranks we were black, white, asian and hispanic. We came from the poorest homes and the wealthiest homes. Our common bond really was Christ alone, but that bond melted away our differences and we became one family, one people. We lived together. We had worship and bible study nights that happened nearly every night of the week. We celebrated life and death together. Everyone was in a band together and played around town as the Prayer Furnace moved from place to place. We led the Alabama Campus Prayer Network together. We sought the lost, sharing our food, our home, and our very lives with one another. Baking bread, caroling during Christmas, and Erica saying, "dude, we've got to study" during overnight sessions at the library. There are so many stand out moments that resound from that era of my life. When my cousin went missing, it was this group of friends that tracked all over Montevallo's campus, hours away from our own, in the woods and in the rain, to look for him. When we never found him, it was this group of friends who held me while I cried in anger, pain, and loss. A few years later, when Daniel and I got married, it was this group of friends that camped out at my parents house for a week, making wedding decor and suiting up as our bridal party. When Janell left to travel the world, it was this group of friends that packed her bag and dropped her off at the airport. These people showed me what life in God's family look like, and since moving on from their ranks, I have been left wanting, lost in the thoughts and memories of yesteryear. 

But the wind did change. Some moved, some married, some took jobs, some started businesses. We looked up and years had past. Wanting so badly to revisit those wonderful days, we set aside a four day trip to be together once again. It was time travel. For four, perfect days we shared our hearts, cried, prayed, sung, played, and were together once again. God's beautiful family.

To my student readership: What do I want you to learn? Make good friends. Friends that love Jesus. It's through friendships like these that I have most experienced 'the kingdom at hand' in my own life. 

Here's a glimpse at our weekend together:

 

 

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XXX: My Rap About Porn Problems

This past Christmas I wrote a rap inspired by the Porn Problems post I put up a year ago.

I listened to a lot of rap growing up. Starting with sneaking Lil' Bow Wow in my portable CD player on road trips, then Outkast, later Kanye. I took a long break but here and there I jump back in and discover good rap is still alive. I discovered Kendrick Lamar before Christmas and was inspired to try my own, taking one of his beats for the track. I have had a pretty cushy life though, so I couldn't find anything to write about that got me angry enough to inspire lyrics, until I thought of pornography. Oh, and I made my voice lower to sound more intense. If you haven't read my previous post called Porn Problems, here it is. Here is the rap and the lyrics below:

XXX marks the spot.

They found me defenseless.

Jumping all these fences then

Dead down in the trenches.

Doubled over, I wish I didn't feel it.

Wish I didn't do it, but I did, and now I see it 20/20.

 

My marbles spilling,

I pick them up. They're on the floor,

Me they ignore, and now I'm reeling.

I should have some wisdom in these molars but I'm still teething,

Still seeking.

 

What is the answer? Where is the higher path?

A partial lobotomy or end up under my epitaph

Too soon. Severing limbs until quadriplegic,

Numbing my senses until paralysis stops my breathing.

There'll be no fireworks, there'll be no celebration

This is the funeral of the villain: the mistakes I'm making.

 

So you come to me asking do I hate myself for what I've done.

Would you end it all for yourself if I just gave you a gun?

Well hunt me, shun me, run me off into the sun,

But as for me my battles done, come see my red run.

And where's your blood?

Four-hundred-ninety times,

Seems the flesh still won.

 

So here's my question:

Where is the line? What's really natural and what is divine?

Or when is it time to find another lens;

A rhyme or reason for this mess we're living in?

Is ignorance bliss or is knowledge supreme ?

Or are we all drifting in the same dream?

My guess is were drifting, but it's not a dream,

And we drift on the ships of the slave or free.

 

Would I rather live in captivity than die in freedom?

So I guess give me the gun.

My time has come,

I'm over board; who cares who won,

Or whether,

I drown weighed down by my chains or find myself tethered

To a raft that washes me ashore in foul weather.

Better found dead or a tattered haggard,

Then a living, lost, locked away, rotting, beggar.

 

XXX marks the spot.

They found me defenseless,

Washed up on the shore,

Alive to live as a weary witness.

-----

Daniel

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Radiohead vs. Coldplay: A Study in the Purpose of Music

In the nineties, two bands emerged from the UK as distinguished and fresh to the music scene: Radiohead, led by Thom Yorke, and Coldplay, led by Chris Martin.  I became entranced with both of these leaders growing up.  I have seen both in concert, where I realized quickly how similar they were.  Besides visually looking alike, the leaders of the two bands play the exact same roles.  Both of them write the lyrics and music for their bands.  They sing the lead parts during the songs and play acoustic guitar or piano during them, as well.  The direction that these two musicians take their bands in often follows the same path.  They have both experimented with electronic, ethnic, hard-rock and non-lyrical music on their band’s records.  Although Yorke and Martin share similarities in their musical style and life-related characteristics, there remain significant differences between them in these regards. These similarities and differences lead to the discovery of two core needs in humanity that music is meant to provide.

My favorite Radiohead

Thom Yorke is angry, and his lyrics are almost always acutely poised for attack. Teeth showing, claws out - songs are often based on world issues such as materialism, poverty, war, and government corruption.  Other times they are more personal, but with weighty, often dark overtones: they focus on the deterioration of relationships, insanity and the emotional absurdities of humanity. The names of songs like “Knives Out” and “I Am a Wicked Child” are good examples of his style.  The music he writes is tense and serious due to the usage of distorted minor chord combinations.  His music exerts a pessimistic view of the world to most, and to others a strong desire for it to change, or to change it themselves, from its corrupt state.

My favorite Coldplay

Chris Martin’s music is unfailingly uplifting and romantic.  The names of his songs show their optimistic nature; such as “Beautiful World” and “God Put a Smile upon Your Face”.  They give feelings of hope to the listener.  His music incorporates major chord patterns, causing the mood of his songs to be light-hearted.  Lyrically, his focus is on the love that he has encountered throughout his life and the beauty found in daily situations.  Martin’s music is cheesy to some, but most perceive it as enjoyably catchy and emotionally appealing.

Thom Yorke has many mysterious and haunting characteristics.  He has an injured left eye that stays half-shut, giving him a look of being consistently demented.  He wears the color black in most concerts and public appearances and is seen in photographs with a snarling look of malcontent.  Yorke seems to take life seriously, and his music as very personal.  During concerts, he is known to yell at audience members if interrupted and lose his temper if a song does not go as he planned.  His music is a close reflection of his life characteristics. 

The life of Chris Martin is content and joyful.  When in public, he and his band are seen wearing bright colors and big smiles, proving their attitude to be cheerful.  Martin greets his audience with praise and gratitude after every song.  When a problem occurs on stage, he is better known to laugh and move on than to be upset or stay stuck in the moment. He dances around on stage in every show, smiling and laughing, like it is the best day of his life. These characteristics are played out in the overall optimism of the songs he writes. 

 Faces of Martin and Yorke overlayed

Faces of Martin and Yorke overlayed

Although they have several similarities, Chris Martin and Thom Yorke prove to be contrasting in several significant ways.  The fact that they share a fan base seems confusing.  The explanation is that the differences they have apply to different aspect of the listener’s lives.  I, like other fans, enjoy these two bands because of some qualities they share, but also for the characteristics that they differ in greatly.  One is yin, the other yang. One is a glass-half-full perspective (a theme Martin explores in his song "Glasses of Water") and the other half-empty. The question this dichotomy introduces is imperative to understanding the purpose of music: is it to simply get us through the day? Is it here to provide a rose-colored lens to look through, or to divert our focus from the everyday problems we all are so aware of to the mystery and beauty of what is all around us that we might be missing? Or is the purpose of art to magnify the hidden issues? To snatch the wool from our eyes, rip the bandaid off, and make us feel something real in a raw, untempered delivery. Is music meant to sustain us or to change us? To cheer on to our play of life or to chide us as our biggest critic. Is music here to bolster a life all about working in the harsh, cynical yet remarkably productive New Yorke, or vacationing in the sublimely ignorant and peaceful Lake Martin? Well, I like New Yorke and Lake Martin, and I need both. I need the rough streets to chisel me down to being a life that's worth living, and the other to soak in the warmth of all that's worth living for in life. Music needs both. Humanity needs both.

Let's be real: Radiohead is a way better band, musically. Chris Martin even has hinted at wanting to sound like Radiohead at the beginning. From Rolling Stone: "At last night's free Coldplay show in London, frontman Chris Martin joked that his band's song "God Put a Smile on Your Face" sounded an awful lot like Radiohead's "2 + 2 = 5." "Sorry, we shouldn't be talking about plagirism," he joked. "Ignore that!"" Elsewhere Martin said "Sometimes I feel like they [Radiohead] cleared a path with a machete, and we came afterward and put up a strip mall," he says. "I would still give my left ball to write anything as good as OK Computer." 

I say all that because, guess who played at the Superbowl and who didn't? Most people know Coldplay and not Radiohead. I think that is revealing. Most people want an IV of Coldplay music, and would rather ignore Radiohead music. They would rather keep the wool over their eyes, stay in that cushy, ignorant, sunny place and never face the hard facts. But music has more to offer. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater (as I said, I love Coldplay - the best concert I've ever been to by far), but let's listen to something that is musically incredible while emotionally and intellectually challenging. If you have never listened to Radiohead, go with Chris Martin's suggestion: start with OK Computer. If you are a Radiohead...head...that thinks Coldplay is cheesy: get out in the sun a little - maybe start with Viva La Vida. I think Radiohead and Coldplay are like Clark Kent and Lex Luthor, protons and electrons, your mother and her smart phone: they can't live with each other, but they can't live without each other either. They are equal but opposites. They need each other.

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Poetry I Penned in Peru

In 2009 I went to Peru with my best friend, Griffin. There was lots of time in Peru.  On the days we were in villages along the Amazon we went to bed with the sun. Plenty of time to sit around and read Whitman by the lamp in your tent shielded from mosquitos. Lots of time for thinking in the morning on the dirt floor when the roosters wake you up. Tons of time on the canoe with a potato and boiled egg breakfast dreaming of banana pudding and holidays with family.  Time for wondering about wandering forward in life. 

In that vacuum of time and far away space - I wrote these poems in my journal. And I still cherish them as treasures. They hold fragments of that time; glimpses into my mind during those precious wanderings and wonderings in Peru.

Here they are, along with some of my favorite Peru pictures I took:

 

How Is It That Sometimes?

 

How is it

that sometimes

a whole speech is quite worthless

but one word can mean the lot?

 

How is it

that sometimes

years of embracing are forgotten

but one gentle touch

is not?

---

 

Authors

 

I give authors respect by soiling

in relentless use, their books.

I award my fedora and Oxford suede shoes 

when they stink as bad as they look.

 

My Author wrote me well and yet I rebel;

I crave clean, tidy, unstained -

when what honors Him most is brown sweat on my brow and

at The End, see this body worn lame.

---

 

Blind Hunter

 

To whom shall I be

to this likening of a bride to be?

 

I am nothing.

 

Perhaps a blind hunter

dressed in orange as my only sign;

but a parade of orange it is

to this bride to be.

 

“What an orange is he!” says she.

---

 

Bottle

 

I think I’ll bottle myself soon;

put me up on a shelf -

not to preserve but rather, ferment -

keep every feeling to myself.

 

She who discovers me one day

will be rich, and I not sorry;

for she who finds this jar of clay 

Will be my wife, I do pray

---


Brittany


Sometimes I think

I would like a dog:

a sweet, Brittany bred.

They only would like to keep you company

and if you wish to

scratch on their head.


I get lonely of touch

though I have God love

it might be nice to have Him snuggle instead.

But since not, for a while

I will settle for dog

and have it cuddle and sleep in my bed.

---


Mist


I’ll disappear soon

like the mist atop a lake;

born with little reason 

then gone without a wake.


It seems time spent so fleeting

might have little or no cause,

but my time was spent in peace -

the most important time of all.


I’ll disappear into the lake;

no more of misty me.

That wispy mist above is with

the Lake who is beneath.


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Musical Moments that Made Me Weep

I have physical responses to music sometimes. Not sure if this is common - let me know if you experience this too. I don't mean that the lyrics necessarily are powerful - although sometimes they play a part - I mean the music. The note, or the moment, or the harmony, or the rhythm - whatever it is - sometimes it hits me hard - maybe it clenches my emotional and/or spiritual nerve so acutely that my body is affected too? Most often the result is crying. I have felt nauseous once as a result of a note Josh Garrels sung the first time I heard him (I explain it in an old music blog I had here). I don't know...maybe you can explain what is happening? Has this happened to anyone else?

Here's my best guess: Its like there was a bubble, a ceiling, over the place, with the whole song pushing against the top - and then this moment pierces through it. You can feel the singer stretching, yearning for breakthrough. Maybe what is happening musically is reflecting what is happening spiritually? So I feel that push, that breakthrough, when I listen - my spirit is resonating with what is taking place. The result for me is often breakthrough. It's like I am resistant to what the Holy Spirit is trying to do in me, and then this moment comes, and I'm undone. I can't resist any longer. I'm broken.

So here's my list. It's long - but I have always wanted to get these down. And I am vacationing in an Appalachian cabin by the fire (jealous?), so I had the time. I have put the moment that the tears started flowing by the song. I recommend listening to the whole song so you get the build up to the moment, but if not, start it a bit before so you get the effect. I've separated these experiences into four different types: notes, moments, instrumental and rap. 

 

bethel music w/ jenn johnson - our father

the moment - 3:38

josh garrels - words remain

the moment - 1:43

bethel music w/ amanda cooke - wonder

the moment - 5:14

bethel music w/ amanda cooke - shepherd

the moment - 4:54

kings kaleidoscope - felix culpa

the moment - 2:56

bethel music w/ jeremy riddle - walk in the promise

the moment - 3:18

 

bethel music w/ steffany frizzell-gretzinger - be still

the moment - 3:53

john mark mcmillan - silver shore

the moment - 2:56

hillsong united - with everything

the moment - 4:24

 

hillsong united - prince of peace

the moment - 4:00

harvest - curtains (side note - I made this video! stolen footage..)

the moment - 1:25

all sons & daughters - reason to sing

the moment - 2:34

 

lecrae - welcome to america

the moment - 3:41

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