Sometimes it’s better with the lights off…(Playlist #3 23Aug2017)

First of all, get your mind out of the gutter, you sickos.

The music I like the most, regardless of the genre (see the last playlist) moves me. There is something, usually hard to put your finger on, that strikes a heartstring and vibrates a complementary frequency with my soul. I like to let those songs crash over me like a wave. Some of them gently lifting me, some undermining my footing and burying me in the sand inch by inch and some slamming me down, taking my feet out from under me and leaving me gasping for breath. And each experience is wonderful.

While I listen to music all the time, I’ve found there are specific places where different songs are more easily experienced as the crashing wave. Sometimes, it’s while I’m cooking dinner (Sinatra, Satchmo, etc.). Sometimes, it’s while I’m driving (Metallica, As Cities Burn, etc.). Sometimes, it’s while I’m running (Rancid, Bob Dylan, etc.). Sometimes, it’s in a dark room, on my back, eyes closed, arms spread wide.


All music should be tested against this method. It allows you to get inside the song; feel the raw emotion of the voice lost when contrasting against road noise; feel the scrape of dry, calloused fingers against vibrating guitar strings; feel the earthiness of the bass. I’m ready to turn the lights off, how about you?

While all music should be experienced this way, this playlist has songs on it that for some reason always make me want to turn the lights off, lay down and listen…really listen…and absorb.

In no particular order:


  1. The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger – Moth to a Flame
  2. Battles – FF Bada
  3. Sylvan Esso – Play it Right
  4. Alkaline Trio – Blue in the Face (and everything else off Good Mourning)
  5. Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb
  6. Neutral Milk Hotel – In an Airplane Over the Sea
  7. The Postal Service – This Place is a Prison
  8. John Mark McMillan – Mercury and Lightning
  9. The National – Blood Buzz Ohio
  10. Nirvana – Something in the Way


What do you listen to with the lights off? What do you think of this playlist?

Today’s hidden track!

I listen to everything except (10 Aug 17 Playlist)

“For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom.” Galatians 5:14 (The Message)

One of the first things I ask most people I’m just meeting is what kind of music they listen to. I have found that a slight majority of people are pretty indiscriminate in their music taste. In other words, they like what they like but can’t really articulate what it is they like. These are the kinds of people who mostly use music as a background feature. They aren’t the people like me who can turn all the lights off in a room, lie on the floor and listen to whole records.

There is another very small segment that answers, “I don’t really listen to music.” I don’t get that at all, so I’m not going to address it.

I am going to address another, very common answer to the “What kind of music do you listen to” question. That is, “I listen to everything…except country and rap.”

My cowboy boots and flat-bill cap (on top of my gloriously trashed Ampeg HLF 410)

I think that is a dumb answer. First of all, you don’t listen to “everything.” How’s that zither music going? Don’t you love jamming out to Penderecki’s Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima. Second, it is close-minded. There are so many micro-genres within both country and rap. How do you really know you don’t like it? That’s like me saying I don’t like rock and roll because I don’t like Nickelback. Praise God, not all rock and roll sounds like Nickelback. Open your minds! I talk about this and more in a post from 2012 that you can read HERE.

Also, I recently read this fantastic article on of my college friends, Sylvan, posted on Facebook that was the real inspiration of this blog. I can’t express this sentiment as well as the article does, so please read it, too. Here are some thoughts from the article.

In regards to why listening to country is “so bad:” “Because it represents something that anyone looking to maintain or elevate their class status doesn’t want to associate themselves with. To admin you like country music is admitting you like something inherently and purely working class, which jeopardizes your status as middle class.”

“Country and hip hop are seen as extremes: one very conservative, religions and traditional, and the other vulgar and violent…These blanket statement topics are how the cultural majority is taught to interpret these genres. There’s no discussion that these are very rich groupings of music, with many vibrant sub-genres of their own.”

“Not being able to appreciate a song because you refuse to listen to it means you miss the subtleties, the humor, the craft and tradition of an entire genre. Do you really like everything, or do you just like everything you’re told to?”

That last line is a doozy! I try hard to find things in every genre that I love, like truly love. In a future post, I will talk about some of the ingredients that go into songs I love. In addition to Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, which I love, here is a playlist of country and rap songs that I love. Enjoy!

Presented in alphabetical order by artist:

Chance the Rapper – All We Got (featuring Kanye West & Chicago Children’s Choir)
Dwight Yoakam – Tomorrow’s Gonna Be Another Day
Ernest Tubb – Drivin’ Nails in my Coffin
Jason Isbell – Palmetto Rose
Jurassic 5 – Quality Control
KRS-One – Step Into a World (Rapture’s Delight)
Lords of the Underground – Grave Digga
The Roots – My Shot (featuring Busta Rhymes, Joell Ortiz)
Whitey Morgan – Another Wine
Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Shooter Jennings & Jamey Johnson – Highwayman (Live)

What music are you listening to?

What genres do you need some help in exploring? I’d love to be your guide!

What biases (musical or otherwise) has your upbringing built in you?




Today’s “Hidden Track” (The middle ground between punk and country).

Nothing New Under the Sun (3 Aug 2017 Playlist)

Screen Shot 2017-08-03 at 11.16.24 AM

“What has been will be again. What has been done will be done again. There is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9

When I started really listening to music as a ten-year-old, I quickly became obsessed with not just the bands I loved but also with the bands they loved. After buying Nirvana’s Nevermind and reading interviews with Kurt Cobain, I consumed The Melvins, The Pixies, Sonic Youth, Black Sabbath. After buying Metallica’s self-titled record and reading interviews, I consumed Judas Priest, Diamond Head, Iron Maiden, UFO.

It’s never been enough to love Eric Clapton. I compulsively have to consume Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Son House, Robert Johnson.

Today, I’m starting what I hope becomes a recurring short blog about one of the things I love most. These playlist articles are a celebration of what inspires me as a musician and a person.

This first list will be a true celebration of Solomon’s words above. I have a deep appreciation of cover songs where bands put their own spin on someone else’s work. To me it is such a show of respect when treated with truth, and it is exciting to hear how songs I love (or don’t) are interpreted and performed by other musicians.

This list could be 1000 songs long but I’m going to only share 10 I love, in no particular order.

Primus – Making Plans for Nigel (originally by XTC)
Nouvelle Vague – Love Will Tear Us Apart (originally by Joy Division)
Metallica – Loverman (originally by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds)
Easy Star All-Stars – Karma Police (originally by Radiohead)
Tim Timebomb – Ooh La La (originally by Faces)
M. Ward – Let’s Dance (originally by David Bowie)
Ryan Shaw – Yesterday (originally by The Beatles)
Wrongchilde – Love is a Battlefield (originally by Pat Benatar)
Lo-Fang – You’re the One That I Want (originally from Grease)
Johnny Cash – Hurt (originally by Nine Inch Nails) <— One of the best covers of all time!


What’s inspiring to you today?

Which song above did you enjoy the most?

What covers do I need to check out?



Hidden Playlist: This, This, This, This, This, This, This, This, This, This

Running and Challenge

I run a lot. I would like to run a lot more often. I love it. Most of my runs take place in the very early hours of the day, alone on the boardwalks and back streets of Chesapeake Beach and North Beach, MD.

I almost never run with anyone else. I think it is scary. I’m either worried that I’m not going to be able to keep up or I’m going to overwork the person I’m running with.

Chesapeake Beach Boardwalk
When I’m running with someone more fit than I am, I always keep up, even when I can’t, right up until the point of throwing up. It is pretty amazing how far your body will go beyond what you think it will. When I’m running with someone not as fit as I am, I am really worried about how they doing and I ask (maybe too much). I’m sure some of them, sucking for life giving air, have wanted to tell me to shut my face. At the same time, I focus on my own form because the motions are slowed down. Am I clinching my right shoulder again? Is my left foot landing square or am I running on the outside of it again? Am I wasting energy anywhere?

Last October, I went for a run with my friend and sometimes-teacher, Jody Giles. If you don’t know Jody (you should), he’s way more fit than I am. When he suggested we go for a run along the Pacific Coast of Dana Point, I wanted so badly to decline. He was going to kill me, not on purpose but because I’m stubborn. But, we ran. We found ourselves midway through the run stopping to walk down the beach and admire the beauty of God’s creation. Then we ran hard back to his car. It was a hard run for me, but it felt good to stand beside my friend and admire something amazing and then go on to be pushed by him.

Since February, I’ve periodically taken Ariella on short runs with me. We run a whole lot slower and less distance, but it works out to be about the same amount of time out of the house as some of my average runs. I help her think about her breathing, her stride and the beauty of nature around us. I also get a chance to review my own strides and listen to the little whispers of my muscles and joints. Plus, I spend time with someone I love spending time with.

And what of this doing stuff with someone else helps in other areas. There are a lot of things I do alone that I am or have been afraid to do with others: play music, be a manager, be a pastor, be a parent (seriously, I’m afraid of how Becky or other parents may see me), study…the list could go on for a long time. In almost every instance when I think about it hard enough, I realize that each time I have been invited by a Jody or invited an Ariella into it, I’ve grown and I hope they have, too.

I’m not saying not to do things alone. I love running alone more than I have the vocabulary to describe. Maybe I’m just suggesting that we sometimes do those things with others, and we don’t let fear keep us alone.

What are you afraid someone might invite you to do with them? What are you afraid to invite someone else to do with you?

See Others How They’d Like To Be Seen!

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in the upper lobby of the Marriott in Kansas City with Stadia’s marketing and events team. We’d been meeting for several hours the night before and that morning preparing for the future, evaluating the past and figuring out ways to be better. We had just returned from lunch and weren’t quite ready yet to dive back into work talk. Plus, my boss, the inimitable Tom Jones (not the singer) stopped by to have a chat with us and encourage my team (and me).

My colleague Phyllis proposed we all answer a question she uses whenever she is conducting a job interview. The New York Times is printing a full-page advertisement for you, but it can only have three words on it. What three words would you want on the advertisement to describe you so that the Times’ readers would know what kind of person you are.

Everyone in the circle had to answer, including Tom. It was awesome. It really gave a killer picture of how each of us saw ourselves and perhaps more importantly how we want to be seen by others. I’ll let you ask Tom, Phyllis, Janie and Abby about their three words on your own, but I’ll share mine here.

Hospitable: I feel like I am and I want to be known as the person at the party that is having fun but more importantly making sure everyone is having fun; even that new guy your other buddy just met and randomly invited. I want to be the person that makes sure everyone who has something to say at a meeting, small group, whatever, has the opportunity to say it. I want to make sure everyone is engaged. Sometimes that means making the comfortable, but in some situations, it means making them uncomfortable.

Driven: I think if you know me, this one is evident. I feel like I am and I want to be known as someone who theorizes, perseveres and accomplishes.

Agile: I want to be known for my ability to change course when I need to. When I worked for Siemens, I was on a small, very agile team in a humungous, not very agile organization. It was awesome. When I had to be in Malvern or Princeton and endure the corporate bureaucracy, I felt like I was drowning. I champion not falling victim to the sunk cost fallacy and am ready to move in order to accomplis

h the things I’m driven toward through my work, my ministry or my own ideas.

I’m not boring, am I?

Flip the script and the three words I would not want to be known as are Disloyal, Unprincipled and Boring.

I strongly encourage you to go through this exercise with your friends, family and coworkers. Knowing how others want to be seen helps you see them that way, and when you see them the way they want to be seen, you develop a new found respect and/or love for them. You also are more equipped to help them, lead them, love them, be led by them, be in relationship with them.

So, now you know my three. What are yours?

When Forward Motion Prevents Forward Motion.

I move forward. Quickly. And in the wake of that motion, sometimes, things get messy. Literally and metaphorically.

And eventually, the chaos created by the swirling air in my wake wears me out. I wake up with an uncertain, imprecise feeling of dread like I’m missing something, forgetting something, failing at something but unable to put my finger on what it is. I can look around and look back and count the good things, but that feeling remains.

I’m not made for looking backwards. I have a very good memory (which drives my wife crazy). I love to tell stories, which pull from past experience. I love learning, which pulls from past experience. But I’m not particularly nostalgic. I move forward. I think I’m above average at at evaluating situations, envisioning potential outcomes and developing a path from where I am toward the best outcome. Instead of nostalgia, I am focused on and excited for what’s next.

And I am starting to think (or maybe remember) that my imprecise feeling of dread occurs when I can’t focus on what’s next because of the chaos left in the wake of my forward motion.

Last night, instead of soaking in the pleasure of playing music with the Revolution band, I felt distracted. Last night, I had a trying night (thanks dogs and Rex). This morning I woke up with that tension in my heart, that dread. But I don’t have the time to let it work itself out on it’s own, so as usual, I’m moving forward.

Between Zoom calls, strategic planning for Stadia bookkeeping, building relationships for Stadia’s marketing team, I’ve been self-evaluating and cleaning up the chaos of the last few weeks of forward motion and arrhythmic calendars.

Before (the rest of the room is super messy, too)

My office is also my dressing room, rehearsal space, luggage storage location, Stadia supply room, and so on and so forth…. And dude, those spaces have become a disaster. Some small, non-vital tasks have been put off, ballooning my inbox. As I sat down this morning, I realized I could not see the short-term pathway forward. Dread.

Today, I cleaned my desk, organized my calendar, reviewed my notes (just finished the last page of my Moleskine), finished all but one of the non-vital tasks (my inbox is at 7…no, 10…no, 12). That sense of dread is fading.

After (the rest of the room is now organized, too)

Time to move forward.

What do you need to clean up in your physical and mental space in the next couple days so you can move forward?

A New View of “Retreats:” A Shared Mission With My Wife

I love to laugh and make others laugh. Many of my best memories of the last couple years involve sitting around a table with friends with variations of giggling, chortling, and guffawing. These are the moments that I crave; the moments that encourage me even when I’m burdened; the moments that strengthen me in times of weariness; the moments that make me feel connected; the moments that propel me forward.

Becky and I are passionate about encouraging couples in ministry, especially lead couples and double-especially (is that a thing?) church planting lead couples. Yes, we both have jobs in church planting that we get joy and fulfillment from, but it is the moments we can encourage and engage and connect ministry couples that we feel most like we are doing what we are supposed to be doing as a couple. We have been eyewitnesses to the damage that can be done in a marriage, a family, a ministry when ministry couples’ fall apart. We’ve seen the damages of infidelity, burn-out, depression, boredom…


And we’ve developed a dream to create retreats for ministry couples and a philosophy for “retreats” that are much more about laughing around a table than they are about teaching, like your typical Christian “retreat.” Let’s face it, we have world-class teaching at our finger tips at any moment via YouTube, Netflix, various podcasts and many other sources. Becky and I believe that what ministry couples need most is connection and community. They are already accomplished learners, but so many couples we talk to are feeling lonely.

I’ve been experimenting with this “around-a-table” retreat idea with men I’m connected with for almost two years, and Becky and I are now getting ready to pilot our first gathering of couples for a retreat. There are timing and funding issues that we need to figure out, but we are passionate about this, and we feel that it is important. We feel we have a gift for gathering people, and we have a sense that people want this.

It’s time to evolve in our thinking of what constitutes a “retreat” (and a conference for that matter, but that is a different blog). We need to start addressing the needs people have that they can’t get on their own instead of just retreading the same pathways of teaching, small group, planned itinerary. In our hyper-connected social media world, we’re actually not all that connected, actually. Almost everything we “connect” about on social media has already happened (read more of my thoughts on that), and what Becky and I are craving and perceive our friends are craving is real-time connection that encourages, strengthens and propels us forward.

What are you and your spouse passionate about? What is your shared mission?

Who wants to gather around a table and laugh with Becky and me?