Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Back to School & Christian Music

Back in 2004, I took a leave of absence from my master's level studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary so that I could begin my work with college students in San Marcos. When I took the leave of absence, I had the full intention of returning to school the following semester. Fast forward a couple of years and I still haven't finished. I've taken 63 hours of graduate level classes and have nothing to show for it. And all I lack is my thesis.

Until Friday, I thought for various reasons that finishing that degree was not possible. But then Friday I heard back from the dean's office. Not only are they going to let me finish my master's degree, but they are going to let me simply pick up where I left off! In other words -- all I need to do is finish my thesis! I have a second chance that I didn't think I would get!

So I'm officially a grad student again! And, to be honest, that terrifies me! One of the reasons that I put off finishing so long was because I lost a lot of the passion I once had for the academic/scholarly side of Bible study. I was more interested in my family and my ministry to devote the time necessary to scholarly study. None of that has changed. So I can't help but wonder -- will I have the commitment and dedication necessary to finish this thing once and for all?

On the other hand, I realize that there are tremendous benefits to finishing this degree. It will open doors to me that would not otherwise be available. It would no longer be on the top five list of things I regret in life. And, quite frankly, I would be proud of it.

So there you have it. I'm a student again. If you can't find me, you might try one of the theological libraries in Austin.`

In all seriousness, keep this in your prayers, as it will require some sacrifices for me and my family. I'm dreadfully excited!
On another note, I am interested in exploring the Christian music scene. I have never really given this genre a chance, due in large part to a legalistic view of instrumental praise. However, I now want to see if there are some Christian artists out there that I could add to my music library. I recently discovered Derek Webb's album, Mockingbird, which I loved. Before you make recommendations, let me tell you what I'm NOT interested in.
  • Shallow songs about skipping through fields with Jesus, or anything similar.
  • Songs that simply repeat a variation of "Praise God" a million times.
I AM interested in artists that are honest about the struggles and triumphs of life, but express them from a faith perspective.

So let me have it ... what suggestions do you have? I'll leave you with a sampling of some of the greatness that is Derek Webb. This is a song called "A New Law." I liked the summary accompanying this video on YouTube:
Many Christians are more comfortable following artificial religious laws rather than enjoying the freedom that Christ provided in his resurrection. Christ came to give us freedom, yet many of us live as slaves, blinded to the beauty of our Christian liberty, unable to see past our 'new laws'. Music by Derek Webb.


Dana said...

Oh friend, you and I need to sit down and talk about contemporatry Christian music. I'll bring you some cds (that aren't burnt) to try out before you spend any money. As for being back in school, I am jealous. Seriously, let me know if I can do anything to help.

Richard said...

As with a lot of other areas of my life, I’m eclectic with my Christian music. I have to admit, though, that I personally lean towards the edgy stuff most of the time: www.897powerfm.com (Skillet, Kutless, Hawk Nelson, Switchfoot, etc.). It just helps me keep in touch with the reality that life is “noisy.” I can’t help but feel the power of this music. It addresses the intensity of the human condition – pain, soul, energy, affect, life – noise (Rob Bell’s provocative teaching DVD, Noise, notwithstanding).

Often, however, I feel that some of this music is trying to make up for in volume what it lacks in eloquence. That might be why I can only absorb so much of the chaos embedded in this style of music before the more contemplative side of my soul begs to be fed by a different form.

So, when I need something more soothing and more cerebral, I turn to the more subtle, nuanced artists like Michael Card. Or someone who is teetering on the edge of skipping along with Jesus, but just teetering, not skipping mind you, Mark Harris. And, a band that I think you will love, David Crowder Band. I also like Jeremy Camp, Jars of Clay, Caedmon’s Call, etc.

So, there’s my take. In a word, I crave balance in my Christian music: a theology of the ecstatic and a theology of the pacific all rolled into one – fire and ice (not oil and water!)