21 Days of Posts – Day 21 – The Christian Life – Learning and Pruning

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

Welcome to the last day all you who decided to follow along as I posted for 21 days straight as part of our church fast. For those of you just jumping in, each entry is numbered as a particular day, so if you are reading this and the title above doesn’t say Day 1 (which it does not), then you should stop now and go read from Day 1, or take a peek at Day 2 and pick a topic you are interested in. Thanks to those who were brave enough to join me.

Day 21!


I did it!

I’ve posted every day for 21 days straight. Yay, me! Now for this last post…

One of the main points of this fast we do every year is to devote more time to study and prayer, or even just contemplation. When we deny ourselves things we normally do not go without, we tend to notice other things, especially if we are giving up items of food. But even if we are just staying off social media, or not continuing a bad habit, or some other act of relinquishing, we hopefully go through the thought process of “what do I do now?”.

What do we do? What do we notice as we stay away from comfortable, familiar things? If we truly take the time to study and pray more, we probably learn things. Devoting more time to the Word of God is never a waste, nor does it fail to eventually reap benefits. Did you add a devotion to your quiet time? Did you read a book or two of the Bible, or dive into a Christian learning book? These weren’t required, of course, but they could have significantly contributed to your relationship with God.

Did you give up a bad habit? Quit eating an unhealthy food? Quit doing something that you knew you shouldn’t be doing, but just didn’t care enough or feel like you had the will or strength to quit? Are you dying to do that thing or eat that food, or has the desire ebbed and now, you could take it or leave it? A fast is a great way for us to prune things out of our life that aren’t good for us. If you did desist from a habit or food, I hope that you are able to toss it away for good, if that was your goal.

We as humans don’t like to be uncomfortable. We generally like familiar things, creature comforts, and unregimented use of our time. When we fast, we purposefully make ourselves uncomfortable. It is in the discomfort that we should look for an anchor, and I can think of no better anchor than our God. He is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, so he will be able to help you, knows exactly what you need, and will never leave you. What more could we ask for in a time of discomfort, whether purposeful, as in a fast, or when the unexpected happens, as when tragedy strikes?

As Christians, we should constantly be going through cycles of learning and pruning, as we strive to be closer to God and to develop those connections mentioned in yesterday’s post. Those connections are critical, as is our learning and pruning process. The more we do to take full advantage of these cycles, the closer our relationship with God will be, and the more fulfilling our life will be, even if it has been stripped of our comforts and familiarity.

Thank you so much for reading to (the very) end! It has been very gratifying to post for 21 consecutive days, even if no one reads any of it.

I will be posting more regularly in the future, at least once a week, so if you are interested, come back by and check out what is in my head. If I have time tomorrow, I will post a conclusion and summary of my takeaway of these past 21 days, maybe in the evening after the celebratory worship service.


Photo Credit – Photo by Kamil Szumotalski on Unsplash

21 Days of Posts – Day 20 – Connections Between People

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

Hello to all who have decided to follow along as I post for 21 days straight as part of our church fast. As you can see, each entry is numbered as a particular day, so if you are reading this and the title above doesn’t say Day 1, then you should stop now and go read from Day 1, or take a peek at Day 2 and pick a topic you are interested in. Thanks for being brave enough to join me.

Welcome to Day 20! In this post I want to talk about connections, mostly connections between people.

Most humans crave connection to other humans. I say most, not all, because there are people out there who would rather connect with their dog, or cat, or pet python than deal with the chaos of connecting to other people. Connecting to other people can be messy and complicated, as everyone brings their own baggage into a relationship, any kind of relationship. It doesn’t always have to be messy, but more times than not, messy is the operative description.

We crave connection with other people for a variety of reasons. Security. Looking for a kindred spirit. Someone to share experiences with. Love. Some things in life are just better shared with other people. Food. Music. Excitement. Laughter. Pain. Sorrow. Heartache. All of these are generally better when shared with other people.

But how do we make these connections in the first place? I could copy and paste both previous lists right here and be mostly right again. Shared likes, shared dislikes, pain, trauma-all are ways that we connect. Some experiences are more binding than others. If all we ever did with our friends was go out to eat or to a concert, we would develop connections with them, but not as deeply as if we were to experience intense joy or deep sorrow with them. Intensity of experience factors in heavily when we discuss the strength of our connections with others.

Another key component of making strong connections is dealing with unexpected circumstances. This can be as joyous as playing a new game for the first time with a group of friends, or as tragic as losing a loved one, family or friend. When unexpected things happen, bonds are formed that are tough to break. Ask anyone who goes through a traumatic experience with a group. Ask a military veteran how deep the bonds with his or her unit are, especially if they’ve seen combat.

Connections between people make the world go ’round. The saying “it’s not what you know, but who you know” is so true in so many circumstances. We find that unfair at times, but just as “luck favors the prepared”, so too can we say “luck favors the connected”. People get jobs and find opportunities all the time because of who they know.

High-dollar, luxury item salesmen know the power of connection all too well. If they can make a connection with a potential customer, that customer is more likely to decide they really do need that giant TV, extravagant boat, higher-priced car, or totally useless memorabilia item. Not making a  connection will tend to result in no sale unless the customer had decided what they wanted before they walked into the store.

Not every connection we make is going to be life-changing or even cause us to think twice, but there are three connections we all should make that WILL make a difference in our lives. You know what they are…connection to God, connection to people, and connection to purpose. Sound familiar? I hope so. How are your three connections doing? What do you need to do today, tomorrow, next week, or next month to make those connections stronger?

Thanks for reading to the end! Only one more blog post to go! Join me tomorrow for one last post in this series, then please follow me as I continue to post throughout my journey to complete a book. That series will most likely be weekly, not daily, and will be interspersed with other posts on various topics. More details to follow!


Photo Credit – Photo by Mario Purisic on Unsplash


21 Days of Posts – Day 18 – Why I Listen to Billie Eilish

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

Hello to all who have decided to follow along as I post for 21 days straight as part of our church fast. As you can see, each entry is numbered as a particular day, so if you are reading this and the title above doesn’t say Day 1, then you should stop now and go read from Day 1, or take a peek at Day 2 and pick a topic you are interested in. Thanks for being brave enough to join me.

Day 18! Closing in on the end of this 21 day project! Thanks for sticking with me!

This post will expound on my appreciation for the work of one Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell, known by fans as Billie Eilish or just Billie. She splashed onto the scene in 2015 when she dropped Ocean Eyes on Soundcloud much like a previous artist I wrote about back on Day 14, Marshmello. She collaborates and performs shows with her brother Finneas, who produced Ocean Eyes for its publication on the previously mentioned music website.

Why, oh why, you ask, do you like this odd, unpredictable, earthy teenager’s music? It can be so problematic, so disturbing, so…odd.

Yes, I say, to all of that. Her music can be problematic. She sings about topics many would prefer not to hear about, for a number of reasons. The songs that are free of these disturbing and definitely odd topics are generally incredible. I’ve mentioned before that I not only sing bass, but love to listen to it and Billie’s songs provide that bass groove in spades. Deep, intricate, and imaginative bass lines are a hallmark of her music, as is her breathy, some say ethereal, voice. Oddball rhythms, ambient noise, passionate, but flexible choruses, and probing, intimate lyrics all combine to make some great songs.

I’ll skip any more introduction of the artist. If you’ve heard of her, you’ve probably already checked out her official page and her Wikipedia page. If you haven’t and are interested, the links are right there. I’m going to jump into the recommended tracks portion of this post.

First, the uptempo tracks. You Should See Me In A Crown, Bellyache, and My Strange Addiction all have interesting bass lines, quirky vocals and lyrics, and have a slightly dark overtone to them. The broodiness in the lyrics is countered by the vocal delivery. Watch and its remix &Burn are a little lighter in tone, and both still sound great, whether you like the “rapless” Watch or the “rap enhanced” &Burn. They all will work your speakers hard to reproduce the bass lines.  They’ll get your head boppin’, particularly one infectious bit of the chorus in Bellyache.

Now for the really impressive tracks. These are all downtempo and lot more contemplative. Still quirky at times. I Love You, When The Party’s Over, and Six Feet Under are rich in plaintive narrative about love, relationships, and loss. Billie’s breathy vocals on I Love You, plus the ambient noises and hints of confusion and chaos make it one of my favorite tracks.

Which leaves just a few more tracks that are in the middle between these two extremes. HostageOcean Eyes, and Lovely, a duet with Khalid, are all very atmospheric and experimental at times. They each have interesting lyrics and paint great sound pictures with the instruments. Indeed, Ocean Eyes, with its lush sounds, is the song that started the whole giant swell of notoriety for Billie.

Does her music have issues? A few, yes, but the gems mentioned here are exactly why I listen to her often, as long as I have a good stereo system available. Unless you’re sporting $300 Beats headphones, these tracks will not sound anywhere near as good as they really are. Even then, once you hear these songs on a good system, feeling the bass right in your chest, headphones don’t do them justice anymore.

Thanks for reading to the end! I hope you enjoyed this post and maybe found a new artist you like.

Three more days of posts to go! Come back tomorrow to learn more about my writing style, then we’ll finish with two articles on relationships and faith.


Photo Credit – crommelincklars – Billie Eilish @Pukkelpop 2019


21 Days of Posts – Day 14 – Why I Listen to Marshmello

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

Hello to all who have decided to follow along as I post for 21 days straight as part of our church fast. As you can see, each entry is numbered as a particular day, so if you are reading this and the title above doesn’t say Day 1, then you should stop now and go read from Day 1, or take a peek at Day 2 and pick a topic you are interested in. Thanks for being brave enough to join me.

It’s Day 14 and I’ve decided to NOT change my topic, or artist.

Before we get started, I again want to thank you for reading these posts. They are short and many times have no point whatsoever, but I enjoy writing them. I hope they get me fired up and ready to finish a book this year, and I hope you get some amount of pleasure from reading them.

Marshmello. Nope, that is not a misspelling. The EDM artist and DJ, Marshmello, who wanders around in a marshmallow-shaped mask/bucket all the time, much like Daft Punk and Deadmau5 do with their headwear, is kind of a big deal on the music scene. His real name is Christopher Comstock. Ever since 2015, when he released an original track on the music website Soundcloud, he’s been making waves, and not just musical ones, everywhere he goes.

Marshmello has collaborated with musicians across the spectrum, from pop queens like Selena Gomez, to R&B and rap artists, like Khalid and Crankdat to rock bands like A Day to Remember. His music ranges from extremely chilled to wildly chaotic, and the lyricists and lyrics range from the syrupy sweet to the downright vulgar.

Yes, there are a number of tracks of his I don’t listen to, as they glorify the same kinds of terrible ideas that some rap and rock music do – drugs, misogyny, “ghetto life”, gangs, promiscuity, and crudeness of all kinds. But the tracks that these thorny issues are absent from are almost all incredibly enjoyable.

Before I dive into recommended tracks, I feel obligated to explain exactly why I like Marshmello. That’s kind of the point of the post. I like listening to Marshmello for at least three main reasons.

First, I don’t just sing bass, I love to listen to bass, and Marshmello never disappoints when it comes to quality, deep, bass lines. Even in the songs I don’t listen to, the bass lines are awesome. Maybe I can find instrumental versions of those. (Ha ha)

Second, almost all of his work is multi-layered synths and electronic loops over which talented lyricists sing their songs. I grew up fiddling with music on early home computers and that electronic sound is a huge part of my musical psyche. I love the ragged waveforms and thick mixes that Marshmello puts together.

Third, I respect the wide collaborative arc that he has pursued. I’ve already mentioned some of the artists he has worked with and the number is growing. Being able to work with such a wide range of styles is a tribute to his skills as a music producer.

So, what’s safe to listen to from Marshmello?

I highly recommend Sad Songs, Room To Fall, and Rescue Me, all from Joytime III. There are other gems on that same album like Falling to Pieces, Run It Up and Down. The singles AloneHappier, and Wolves are all excellent choices. That’s a good start, and further exploration I leave to you.

As I mentioned already, you have to be selective about which tracks to listen to, but the talent and the great music are worth the time to curate some lyrics. Google makes it easy to do this, and most of the time, if you know anything about the collaborating artist, you’ll have some idea what kind of lyrics will accompany the music.

So there it is, another look into my musical playlist. I hope it didn’t convince you I was crazy…

Thanks for reading to the end! Tomorrow we’ll circle back to an exposition on one of my recurring writing themes and the day after that, I’ll post about the concept of the church as a body.


Photo Credit – Q1q2q3qwertz  –  CC BY-SA 4.0

21 Days of Posts – Day 10 – Why I Like To Listen To The Cure

Est. Reading Time: 4 minutes

Hello to all who have decided to follow along as I post for 21 days straight as part of our church fast. As you can see, each entry is numbered as a particular day, so if you are reading this and the title above doesn’t say Day 1, then you should stop now and go read from Day 1, or take a peek at Day 2 and pick a topic you are interested in. Thanks for being brave enough to join me.

Day 10 of this 21 day journey brings the first of three (planned) “why I like to to listen to” posts.

This post will cover why I listen to The Cure, that wonderful English band that defies categorization aside from “rock”. The labels “alternative”, “post-punk”, “new wave” and the band-hated category of “gothic rock” have been applied to them as their music (and the band personnel) has changed over the years. They still manage to not fit neatly into any given musical category.

They’ve been around in some form almost since I was born (which makes them…nope, not going there), but I didn’t really discover them until I was in college, a year after Disintegration came out. I was hooked hard by that album, and even more hooked by the following album, Mixed Up. When Wish came out, I realized I was permanently addicted. My favorite tracks are on those three albums and the compilation album Staring at the Sea.

But why, you ask, do you like this gloomy, goth, sneaker-gazing, band with the alternating whiny or nasal vocals, quivering guitar, and mind-invading synths?

I’m glad you asked. Three reasons.

First, The Cure are the absolute, hands-down, best intro writers ever. The instrumental introductions to their songs last anywhere from thirty seconds to well over two minutes. They generally start with an instrument or two, and they build and build until you almost forget there’s supposed to be lyrics for the song, and may not care if anyone ever starts singing.

The best examples are To Wish Impossible Things from Wish, and the exquisite Plainsong and Homesick from Disintegration.

To Wish Impossible Things has only a ninety second intro, but it is one of the most beautiful intros ever written. The violin that starts about a minute into the track is hauntingly, achingly gorgeous, and the buildup to the vocals at the ninety second mark is a tingly, progressive affair. I love this song, despite its heart-breaking lyrics. The black hole of loss it leaves you in doesn’t diminish its beauty.

Plainsong is half intro and half lyrical song. The track lasts for five minutes and fifteen seconds, and two minutes and thirty-five seconds of that is wordless intro. Homesick takes it even further. The intro doesn’t really start to boil over until two and half minutes in and the words don’t start until three minutes and fifteen seconds into the seven minute song. These two songs are also markedly dark and melancholy, and speak of unspeakable loss or the fear of such a loss. Again, this doesn’t detract from their absolute brilliance and beauty.

Second, while The Cure could do dark and gloomy really, really well, their songs at the other end of the spectrum are also incredible and completely different, both in style and mood. The Cure has some wildly happy and exuberant songs, like Friday I’m In Love, High, and Doing the Unstuck from Wish, and of course Love Song from Disintegration (which Adele masterfully covered on her album 21, but listed it as Lovesong, all one word). These uptempo songs have short intros, the longest at thirty seconds and are bursting with happiness, love, affection, and optimism.

There are other masterpieces in between the gloomy and the ecstatic, including the creepily good Lullaby and the oddly indifferent Fascination Street, both on Disintegration, and the Never Enough, Close To Me, and In Between Days remixes on Mixed Up. The originals for the last three are so-so, but the remixes are fantastic.

Third, these songs became a part of my extensive and diverse musical psyche during a remarkably formative time – college. It was a time of happiness, learning, pain, sorrow, and frustration experienced during a time when I was probably as far from God as I had ever been since I was saved. I accidentally and actively rejected any ideas of regular church attendance, finding Christian friends, studying the Bible, or any other activity related to my salvation. How much easier college would have been if I’d had the support of Christian friends, a church community, or if I had simply studied the Word.

I buried myself in these songs, the dark and gloomy for my dark times and the happy and exuberant for my good times. I can vividly remember sitting in front of my tiny aquarium in my dorm room, watching my fish swim around, oblivious to my mood, good or bad, with my stereo (which was my pride and joy at that time) audibly thrusting  Disintegration or Wish into my ears, depending on my circumstances. This was my go-to “wild mood swings” music (yes, that’s a reference to another album by The Cure).

It’s why I still listen to The Cure, regardless of my mood.

Thanks for reading to the end of this somewhat longer post. Tomorrow I will get back to posting about the Christian life and contentment. Contentment is why I can listen to The Cure now, as I said above, regardless of my mood. Please join me again tomorrow.