Maren Morris Mixes Cash, 
Christ and Marconi In ‘My Church’

Great Billboard article on Grammy Award winner Maren Morris from Tom Roland:

“Country music is my religion in a way,” she says. “That’s what I grew up listening to. When you think about Johnny Cash’s ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’ and Hank Williams — where do I even begin with his catalog? — it’s church to me. And I know it is for a lot of other people, too.”

She had neither a melody nor any lines to support the title, but she had the faith. And busbee was an instant believer. He suggested a couple lines — “Can I get a hallelujah/Can I get an amen” — that they originally thought they would save for an a cappella bridge.

“But as we were writing the verse and he was building the track,” she says, “I sort of looked at it and I was like, ‘Man, that is really catchy, and I want to hear it more than once. Maybe this is the chorus.’ And so we tried it, and it ended up working out.”

And it worked out fast. The song itself was finished in about an hour, almost as if it was given to them.

“There’s a lot of ways to think about writing, and I do think the opportunity to be creative is a reflection on the Creator,” says busbee. “I don’t really know if it works where the Creator goes, ‘I want this song out there,’ and sends it to you or not. I have no idea how it works, but there are times where you feel like something is coming through you.”

Read entire article HERE

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Is Maui singer Kalani Pe’a a game changer in Hawaiian music?

Congratulations to Kalani Pe’a for winning a Grammy for his Hawaiian music. Interesting aspects of his style and talent are brought out in this profile in Maui Times by Jade Boren:

While modern music genres and icons like Beyoncé and Luther Vandross inspire Pe‘a, he takes the Hawaiian aspect of his album seriously–if not more. Pe‘a is a fluent Hawaiian speaker who graduated from Ke Kula ‘o Nawahiokalani ‘opu‘u, the Hawaiian Language School in Kea‘au, Puna, in 2001. But Pe‘a is not just an academic Hawaiian. He speaks the language at the dinner table with his family. Pe‘a is also a strong advocate for Hawaiian music to receive its own category at the Grammy Awards.

“Our Hawaiian language must thrive,” he says. “Our people must thrive. And in order for me to do that, I must share that through the composition, through the melodies, and every song.”

For Pe‘a, his album is not merely a collection of songs that happen to be sung in Hawaiian. Rather than looking at the Hawaiian lyrics as a second language, Pe‘a treats them as poetry. That is where the meaning of Pe‘a’s album reveals itself–the poetics. Although the literal meaning of E Walea is “to come together like birds, be elated, exuberant and enjoy,” there are more hidden messages, kaona, to be discovered in Pe‘a’s songs.

Read full article HERE.

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Chance the Rapper Losing God Helped Him Create Music as ‘Christian Man’

Justin Sarachik has a good piece on Chance the Rapper on Rapzilla:

“In that time I felt like I was kind of losing my God a little bit,” Chance the Rapper revealed. “That separation of God, I kinda got rid of that feeling by filling my whole neighborhood with that Kirk Franklin sound.”

He said every morning at 6 a.m., he’d wake up and then crank Franklin through the whole neighborhood. “That was the time I started making a lot of this music, two years ago.”

Chance knew his next project was going to be founded in God and his faith.

“I never really set out to make anything that could pretend to be new gospel or pretend to be the gospel,” he said. “It’s just music from me as a Christian man because I think before I was making music as a Christian child. And in both cases I have imperfections, but there was a declaration that can be made through going all the [stuff] I’ve been through the last few years.”

Read full piece: HERE

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Why Chance The Rapper’s Black Christian Joy Matters

Fascinating article “Why Chance The Rapper’s Black Christian Joy Matters” by Tomi Obaro.

“Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is our strength,” the prophet Nehemiah says. The latter half of that verse, “The joy of the Lord is our strength,” has been immortalized in gospel anthems, and it’s the guiding principle behind this mixtape, infused with a liberal dose of black liberation theology. On “How Great,” he evokes the imagery of faith no bigger than a mustard seed, magnifying God while shouting out Nat Turner’s slave rebellion: “Hosanna Santa invoked and woke up slaves from Southampton to Chatham Manor.” On “Blessings,” Chance raps “Jesus’s black life ain’t matter / I know, I talked to his daddy,” deftly comparing the black lives lost to police brutality with the ultimate death of Jesus. Chance gives his music not for free, but for freedom, freedom from the labels he believes are all too willing to exploit black artists. He’ll give the devil a swirly, he’ll conquer his Xanax addiction, he knows the difference between “blessings and worldly possessions.”

For those of us who remain in the church, wedded somehow in spite of the challenges that make leaving appealing, Chance’s ebullience is a reminder of the joy that faith in God can bring. That there’s hope and justice, even when evidence seems to be to the contrary. That we serve a good God who is present in our pain and beaming in our joys. “I speak to God in public,” Chance tells us, twice at the mixtape’s end. He’s giving us permission to speak to God too.

Great journalism. Read entire article here: 

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How One Church Is Reaching the Most Secular Society on Earth

Great write up in Relevant Magazine by James Dwyer about one of my favorite churches in the world and one of my favorite Brits.

“Nicky Gumbel has led Holy Trinity Brompton to think hard about how it can reach a generation many churches around them are simply missing.

“But what’s perhaps most distinct about HTB isn’t what’s different about it, but what’s familiar. For Gumbel, it’s not about innovation or presenting a certain image—it’s about finding the “right way to present the unchanging message,” he says.

“Gumbel pioneered the widely used Alpha course, a set of resources and curricula that explore the Christian faith (typically over 11 weeks). Today you can find Alpha running in cafés, churches, universities, homes and bars around the U.K. Much like the church it comes from, Alpha is not like anything you’d normally associate with church curriculum—which is why it has exploded with over 29 million people participating globally.”


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Cuba 2017

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Cuba 2017

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Central Havana 2017

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Skyline of Havana 2017

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Remembering Thomas C. Oden

By Steve Beard

Professor Thomas C. Oden was the prime agitator to the agony and ecstasy of my seminary experience. It was wading through 1,400 pages of his three volume systematic text books that introduced me to his dear friends Athanasius, Basil, John Chrysostom, Gregory Nazianzen, as well as Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine – that’s just to name a few.

To be honest, sometimes it felt like fraternity hazing and at other times it read devotionally, healing the wounds of my worn-out and stretched mind. Looking back on it, I would not have had it any other way. 

It was with deep sorrow and great gratitude, mixed with a redemptive joy, that I heard about the death of Dr. Oden (1931-2016), my dear friend who taught me so much about the faith once delivered to the saints. Along with his many other responsibilities, he also served – and we were honored to have him – as contributing editor to GOOD NEWS. 

There will be many glowing testimonials to Tom – and none of them will be exaggerations. He was a one of a kind theological mind with a deep spiritual yearning to be faithful to the deep roots of Christianity. Over our 25 years of friendship, there are a few reasons I have always trusted Oden. 

First, he was steadfastly committed to the historic teachings of Jesus. He made a professional vow to be theologically “unoriginal,” a counterintuitive move for a brilliant intellect within a culture where newer is always considered better and theologians huff and puff to “keep pace with each new ripple of the ideological river.” Oden was sold out to the witness of the martyrs, saints, and prophets – the faith that has been “everywhere and always and by everyone believed” to be the truth of Christianity.

Second, he had a checkered past. For some reason, I trust those whose skeletons have already been laid bare. He wasn’t always a bleeding heart for orthodoxy. As a “movement theologian,” he dabbled in theoretical Marxism, existentialism, demythologization, Transactional Analysis, Gestalt therapy, humanistic psychology, and parapsychology. Oden liked the bandwagons and everyone winked and nodded. Everyone, that is, except the late Jewish scholar Will Herberg, a brilliant colleague at Drew University who hounded Oden to rediscover his Christian roots. 

“The modern philosopher had told me again and again that I was in the right place, and I still felt depressed even in acquiescence,” G.K. Chesterton wrote many years ago in Orthodoxy. “But I had heard that I was in the wrong place, and my soul sang for joy like a bird in spring.” 

Taking Herberg’s admonition seriously, Oden incrementally turned his back on trendy movements and “the fantasies of Bultmannianism” he had embraced and ended up being United Methodism’s preeminent theologian. 

Third, Oden smiled. Sounds insignificant, but it was not. He was pastoral and deeply concerned about the care of the soul. He was a lover of ideas, an engaged student and teacher. Oden was not bitter – mildly amused, but not bitter. He was actually grateful for his colleagues – feminist, form critical, deconstructionist, and even heretical – who challenged him to be more clear in his espousal of orthodoxy. He only asked for a fair hearing. 

One would need a billboard to list all his books. Oden spent 17 years editing the 29-volume Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. My last interview with Oden dealt with his four-volume collection of John Wesley’s Teachings. He described Wesley’s sermons as addressing the “whole compass of divinity” through his deep grounding in ancient ecumenical teaching. 

The same could be said of my beloved friend, Professor Thomas C. Oden. He will be sorely missed.

Steve Beard is the creator of the Thunderstruck Media Syndicate. This appeared in the January/February 2017 issue of Good News Magazine. 

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