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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



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?





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.





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



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.



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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