U2’s Bono likes this song of mine…

Well okay not really. Bonos’s never heard it. But I really think he’d like my song, “The Diamond,” and here’s why.

A friend just sent me this link to a new documentary featuring a conversation between U2 frontman Bono and Eugene Peterson, translator of The Message version of the Bible.

I just watched the trailer and can’t wait to see this film!

Bono said he’s tired of the dishonesty of so much “Christian music.” He said that he’d like to hear Christian singer/songwriters write songs about their bad marriages, or about being “pissed off at the government.” He says he’s suspicious of most so-called Christian art because it’s just not real, raw, and honest enough. In his opinion, Christian music is too safe, nice, and antiseptic. It just doesn’t tell the full truth about real life and that, he insists, is what God wants artists to do.

Well after listening to Bono’s remarks I had to sit down and write this blog piece and simply say that I think Bono would like this song of mine called “The Diamond.”

It’s not a song about my bad marriage exactly. It’s ultimately about the Grace of God. But it’s the first song I’ve written that lets the listener know that I was divorced after 23 years of marriage, and I don’t sidestep how painful that was. Here’s how the song opens,

My son asked me if he could use the diamond from the ring/ I’d given to his mom when I asked her if she would marry me/ The diamond that my grandpa gave my grandma, that she had worn for over 50 years/ At first I was surprised that my son wanted that same gem/ His mama gave it back to me when she and I came to an end/ Our marriage lasted 23 years, in case you’re wondering/ I’d say the blame was mostly mine

Here’s a link to the entire lyric  in case you’d like to read the words to the whole song.

To download “The Diamond” on itunes click here

To purchase the CD that contains “The Diamond” click here

I don’t play “The Diamond” in my concerts very often because it’s hard for me to get through it without “losing it.” In fact I can feel tears welling up again right now as I get in touch with the emotions that gave birth to this song. The whole experience of getting divorced was a world of hurt, and I can still all too easily go to a place of guilt, embarrassment, and a deep sense of having failed at one of the most important things in my life. And there’s a tidal wave of sadness that is always all too ready to carry me away when I think about the pain that I, despite my best efforts, had a part in causing for some of the people I love the most on this planet. I’m sure many of you who have been divorced know exactly what I’m talking about.

And yet, it’s right there—in the middle of that agonizingly raw and vulnerable stuff–in the middle of the real experiences that tear us open at the core of our beings—that our connection to the unconditional Love, Presence and Grace of the Divine gets into our hearts and lives most powerfully. Oh it doesn’t tidy things up or spare us and others the consequences of poor choices or put a nice ribbon around our brokenness or the wreckage we sometimes bring into our lives and the lives of those we cherish. But when the agony of our most painful experiences slices us open and our defenses are down and there’s no way to put a good face on our own failures or on the losses we’ve been thrown into, then in some paradoxical way we’re often also most receptive to learning our life’s most important lessons and to receiving gifts of Grace that are beautiful and healing beyond our wildest dreams.  Most of us know this.  Very little real growth happens in the comfort zones.  That’s why I quote Leonard Cohen, one of my songwriting heroes, in the bridge of this tune. As Cohen wrote in his amazing song, “Anthem,”

There’s a crack in everything…that’s how the Light gets in

Every time I have played this song publically, it’s evoked a powerful response from someone, because it’s real. I’ve had profoundy meaningful correspondences with people who have told me how much it means to them that I would be honest like this and minister out of some of the more painful experiences of my life. They say it makes them feel that we’re in this human journey together, and that they trust me and my music more now. That means a lot to me, and I get it. I find that I’m usually helped more in my own journey by hearing about the failures and struggles (and also healing and resilience and recovery) of others than by being intimidated by how faithful they are and how wonderful and supposedly trouble free their lives are once they “came to Jesus.” You know—the Christmas letter snapshots of how great everyone’s doing. I’ve pretty much stopped reading most of those letters, probably for the same reasons Bono doesn’t listen to Christian music.

So many of us have been divorced. Every one of us has been connected to the pain of someone’s broken relationship and the complicated aftermath. So many people are, even after years, in a place of unresolved pain and anger with a former partner. And so many of our children, young and adult, spend their lives in the crossfire of parents who can’t or won’t come to a place of peace with each other after a relationship ends.

And that’s why the chorus of this song often brings tears to my eyes…

All I know, after all these years/ Is Grace is so amazing, it can make an old stone shine/ Stories we thought always would be sad/ Love can still reclaim and rearrange the end

 

Yeah I know. Many stories don’t ever have a more Grace-filled ending. Or at least not yet. But I’m so grateful to my kids for doing their own work to receive the Grace to love and support both of their parents and to not blame us or resent us for being the flawed human beings that we are. I’m grateful to my ex-wife for being open to the Spirit’s leading and healing so that she and I can be together when we need to be and have a good time in each other’s presence so that our kids don’t have to worry that one of us is going to explode or make every occasion somehow about us. I’m grateful for the way even the most painful stuff has been used by the Spirit to teach and “grow our hearts” as I say in the song. And I’m grateful beyond words for the second chance at marriage that I now have with my beloved wife Meg.

So yeah. This song is kind of raw. I didn’t initially intend to record and release it. I wrote it because I had to express these feelings for my own health and healing, and maybe for my son and daughter and ex-wife Ann as well. But so many folks asked for it I felt as though I should take the risk and release this song. I’m glad I did.

So if you know Bono, send this blog/newsletter post to him, will you? I’d like for him to know that there are at least a few of us who are doing our best with the Spirit’s help to follow Jesus and also trying to be honest and real in the songs we write and share with the world.

Thanks for listening, reading, and showing up at my concerts and events folks.

Yours in the Grace that truly is amazing,

Bryan Sirchio

To download “The Diamond” on itunes click here

To purchase the CD that contains “The Diamond” click here

Fear, Love, Christmas, and a new song from Brian McLaren

There’s something about fear that is spiritually dangerous.   Why else would Jesus have told his followers so many times in the Gospels to “fear not?” It’s his most often repeated teaching.

It’s not that fear is somehow essentially “wrong.” It’s a natural and even healthy human response at times. We all experience it.  I’m sure Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane. We all have to deal with fear–face it, work with it, understand it, and decide how we will be impacted by it. I’d even go so far as to say we often need to honor our fear and listen carefully to it. It can cause us to make wise decisions and motivate us to take actions that save lives. Fear, when it serves as an alarm of sorts that awakens us to then choose passionate commitments to bold and loving actions to serve the common good might even save the planet.

And yet, Jesus told us again and again not to be afraid.   Why is that? Many reasons I’m sure, but perhaps the deepest one is because fear and love almost always exist in tension with each other. Fear almost inevitably causes us to be defensive, guarded, protective, cautious, closed off, suspicious, exclusive, blaming, and confrontational.   Love goes the other direction—it opens us up, causes us to reach out, welcome in, invite, include, offer shelter and hospitality, be gracious and forgiving, erase dividing lines, and to often risk being deliberately vulnerable. In fact I would say it’s impossible to love as Jesus did—which is really what it means to be his disciples–without choosing again and again to risk being vulnerable for the sake of Love.

Brian McLarenMy friend Brian McLaren, known mostly for his many wonderful books, is also a very talented songwriter. He and I and a number of other folks are about to launch a new worship music company called The Convergence Music Project or CMP (click here if you’d like to learn more about CMP).

Brian is quite humble about his singing and performance abilities, but a few days ago he sent me a simple demo of a new song of his called “Not Welcome Here.” I asked him if it would be okay with him for me to share this song publically, and he agreed. I hope you’ll listen to it. Not only is it timely in terms of the Christmas Story, but it speaks deeply to this whole tension between fear and Love.

As Brian sings in the second verse of the song;

A family showed up at border control/ We want our kids to be safe, They said, That is our goal/  We’re homeless and hungry and frightened and poor/  And our country is ravaged by hatred and war.  We said,

Not welcome here, not welcome here/  How do we know if you are sincere?/  It’s a dangerous world,  there’s much we should fear/  So people like you are not welcome here.   Syrian-Refugees4

Neither Brian nor I are suggesting cheap trite responses to the tensions between welcoming refugees at our borders and the very real threats of terrorist infiltration.  Personally, I see no reason why we cannot have a wise and prudent approach to immigration policy that is also compassionate and just and openhearted.   But what moved me so much in Brian’s song was the reminder of what fear can and will do to us if we’re not awake and in touch with the Spirit of God.  In the name of somehow protecting ourselves and our loved ones and our country, we can all too easily close our hearts off not only to the most truly vulnerable folks among us, but to Christ, who recognizes no national borders, and who will always be found, according to Matthew 25, among the most poor and destitute. In other words, there is no way to shut out refugees at our borders without shutting out Jesus.

What I fear most is what fear will do to us if we choose it over and instead of Love.   It is impossible to truly love without deliberately choosing to be vulnerable to some degree.   May our fear lead us to be as wise and responsible as possible.  But may the Love which chose to come to earth in the total vulnerability of a baby born among those “not welcome at the inn”… lead us to embrace a way of Living and Being that others will run to when they are most desperately in need of safe haven, hope, and welcome.

 

 

 

Behind the Song: “I Am Welcome”

The chorus of the song “I Am Welcome” from my new album “Fully Alive”  is just one simple line repeated a couple of times, but I’ve been amazed over the years how deeply this brief refrain seems to touch people. Here are the words…

I am welcome, I am welcome, I am loved just as I am

I often use this song when I lead worship in churches.  I sing the verses of the song and the congregation joins in on this simple refrain.

I’ve been amazed how often people start to cry as they sing these simple words.  Part of the reason is because far too many congregations have done a lousy job of fully welcoming people to be who they truly are. I’ve heard lots of painful stories over the years of how people were judged and rejected by churches– told that they were not welcome in one congregation or another. Not welcome to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion for example because they were divorced. Not welcome to be married or to have their children baptized. Not welcome because they weren’t “members” or because their lifestyle was regarded to be somehow “unacceptable” to God.  People in the GLBTQ communities especially have been through hell in this regard.  I’m so incredibly glad that the tide is significantly changing–although of course there’s plenty of work yet to be done.

But beyond the ways that folks have sometimes been excluded and condemned by churches or by other institutions, many of us have a painfully hard time fully welcoming and loving ourselves–“just as we are.”  We struggle to accept ourselves and to believe that who we really are is loveable.  Maybe we can’t forgive ourselves for some of the things we’ve done (or maybe not done).  As the bridge of “I Am Welcome” says…

Some of us have skeletons in closets that often haunt us/ And some have been put down so much we’re convinced even God couldn’t want us

But this is precisely why I wrote this song–to remind myself and others that it’s not only “okay” but actually beautiful to be a good old flawed human being.  It’s taken me a long time to embrace the truth that the spiritual journey isn’t about being perfect. It’s about learning to deal gracefully and deeply with the reality that we are all “mixed bags.” The mind-blowing Truth of the Gospel is that the Divine knows us better than we do ourselves and sees through all of our ego-driven half-truths, defenses, games, deceptions, strategies, excuses, addictions, cover-ups and crap.  God knows that we’re all less than we could be, or should be, or want to be.  The Source is fully aware that we let ourselves and others down. We forget who we Truly Are at our essence.  We hurt people, including those we love the most.  We blow opportunities and squander our gifts and energy and opportunities. Hopefully not on purpose and hopefully not recklessly or maliciously.  But let’s face it–we do that too– and sometimes with spectacularly painful and dramatic and heinous results.

And yet… as the bridge of the song concludes,

Here’s the bottom line/ the deepest truth about our lives/ is revealed as we embrace these simple words/…I am welcome…

In other words, God is flat out crazy about us anyway—so much so that to quote the late author Brennan Manning, “God would literally rather die than live without us.”

The “good news” is that somehow, even with all of our inconsistencies, this awkward dance we all do between our beauty and our brokenness is all okay. The Divine has made it all okay, and we’re all Welcome to simply be who we are, with all our gifts and glories, and yes, with all our worst screw ups and failures.  And I do mean ALL of them.  Otherwise Grace isn’t real or radical enough to truly set us free.

But Grace is that real, as President Obama just recently reminded us in his stunning eulogy for the Mother Emmanuel 9. Grace is unearned, and yet God gives it to us all anyway. Not because we’re good, but because God is good.

Oh I know that’s hard to believe. It’s harder sometimes to even like. I mean there’s a part of our smaller senses of “justice” that is offended by this Love that is handed out so indiscriminately and beyond all forms of meritocracy. And as hard as this kind of Grace is to believe, sometimes it’s even harder to feel. As I say in the first verse of this song,

It’s funny, ‘cause if someone told me what I just told you/I’d quickly tell them man there’s nothing you could ever say or do/ That could take away God’s crazy, relentless love for you/ and even though my head believes that that’s the truth/ my heart sometimes won’t listen to my best theology /It’s like the Grace I love to sing about was meant for everyone but me/ O Spirit come and find me; I think I’m needing to relearn/ That my place at your Table is not something I must earn/ ’Cause I am welcome…

The Truth is that it’s more than okay to be at home in our own skin and to just be who we are.  I may be stepping onto a potential theological landmine here, but I believe more and more that it was somehow an intentional part of the Creation Story that the “human condition” be exactly what it is—a Story about beings who were and are created with a capacity both for amazing fidelity and beauty and freedom and love–and yet also with an impressive capacity to choose against Love and mess it all up royally.  I mean isn’t that who we all are?

Well I know that’s who I am.  I can’t believe some of the stupid, selfish stuff I’ve done at various points in my life.  Times I look back on and think, “how could I have done that?  How could I have said that?  How could I have acted that way?  Treated someone that way?  Been that divided within myself? Where the hell was I?  How did I lose myself that completely?

But you know, the more the years go by the more I find myself actually feeling grateful for this freedom we all have to mess up as much as we do.   As much suffering as we sometimes bring upon ourselves and others, I’m learning to see it as a good thing that we are all free to lose our way.  I have a hunch that the Creator knew from the get go that this wild journey of getting lost and found again and again is what we humans would need in order to grow and mature “into Christ” (or into our Buddha nature–whatever framework you want to use).  Having the freedom to get it wrong sometimes is not only how we grow into our True Identity as children of God made in the Divine image–it’s also how we remain fully free for real relationships.  Real loving relationships can never be puppet shows in which we are forced to act or be a certain way.  And as Fr. Richard Rohr often remarks, “we usually learn and grow more by getting things wrong than by getting them right.” Anyone who has paid attention to his or her own spiritual journey at all knows this. Or as Julian of Norwich wrote, “First the fall, then recovery from the fall, and BOTH are the Grace of God.”

I don’t know about you, but somehow this is really good news to me.  ‘Cause I’ve messed up plenty.  And I’ve also learned some of the deepest and most important things I know deep down with my whole heart by virtue of the mistakes I’ve made.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not in any way minimizing the tragic things that we humans sometimes do or that others have sometimes done to us. I’m not talking about “cheap grace” or giving ourselves license.  Being Welcome doesn’t mean it’s “all okay” to lose ourselves so tragically and completely that we recklessly harm ourselves or others.   There are consequences for wrong actions and things we were and are never “meant” to do. But what I am saying is that even when we detour and lose ourselves most dramatically and the worst things actually do happen, the Love of God is still unconditional. In fact that’s when we ALL—victims and perpetrators–need to be reminded of Love’s unconditional Welcome the most—as the members of Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston, SC are teaching the world even as I write these very words.

It’s amazing how Grace is most powerful and transformative when God offers it through human beings who have every right and reason to hold a justifiable grudge or to flat out hate those who committed a gross injustice against them.  Oppressed peoples in the tradition of Sojourner Truth and Martin Luther King, Jr. and BB King and Oscar Romero and Harriet Tubman have consistently taught this kind of Grace to the world. As Dr. Cornel West recently said (and I’m paraphrasing a bit so click here to see the actual video) during an interview in Australia, “In the face of catastrophe, the Love has kept flowing and the best folks in my tradition have always responded with compassion, courage, and vision and never with hatred or vengeance.”

So I guess what I’m really trying to say in this song is that knowing and believing and trusting how deeply loved we all are–and always will be– is the most important spiritual Truth of all. I need to be reminded of this again and again, because I forget this again and again. But it’s funny. The more “Welcome” I feel personally, the more I want to be the most healthy, just, kind, caring, morally and ethically and spiritually alive person I can be, and the more I want to extend this same Welcome to others.   And that’s why the final chorus of the song evolves a bit to extend this Self-Love to others;

I am welcome, I am welcome, I am loved just as I am/ I am welcome, you are welcome, we are loved just as we are/ O Spirit burn that Truth into our hearts

Note:  You can download the song, “I Am Welcome” or the entire “Fully Alive” album on i-tunes by clicking here,

or purchase the physical CD and have it shipped to you by clicking here.

We’re All Scared of Being Hurt

Marques singing

I mentioned in my last post that my late friend Marques Bovre left 2 messages on his wife Tracy’s bedroom dresser. She found them recently, and shared them with me. We agreed it would be good to make them available to anyone who might need to hear what Marques had to say on those folded up pieces of notebook paper which seemed to appear out of nowhere.

I offered the first of those two messages in my last blog entry, and I said I’d post the other one later.

I was going to space these out a bit just because I don’t want to overwhelm folks with stuff about Marques, my own grief/loss, etc.  And, I don’t want new readers of this new blog of mine to think that it’s only going to be about Marques and my process of releasing his being into the greater Scheme of Things (i.e. the Mystery, Big Love, God, whatever you want to call Him/Her/It).

But I woke up this morning needing to read that second message again myself.  It’s been helping me a lot in the past several days in particular–not just with saying good-bye to Marques in the flesh, but with life in general.   It felt selfish of me not to share it with the rest of you–especially those of you who were close to Marques and his music.  I want you to have his words to comfort and strengthen you, as they have me.   So I’m not going to sit on it any longer.

The first time Marques and I got together immediately after his diagnosis with advanced and most likely terminal brain cancer, after letting his own sadness drain, Marques paused a moment and then said, “Well, the way I see it, I can either go into fear or into Love.  I’m choosing Love.”

Fear and Love.  So many things seem to come down to the choice between those two.  That message has been coming to me in countless ways in recent years.   It’s not unique to Marques, or even to Jesus.  But they both knew it was where the real action is for every human being.  Dealing with the interplay between fear and love is right at the Center–the heart–of what being a human being is all about.  I’ve heard that Jesus said, “Fear not” or “Don’t be afraid” 365 times in the Gospels.  One for each day of the year.  He knew that nothing will get in our way more when it comes to living Life in all its fullness and beauty than unacknowledged, unexamined, unconfronted, and untransformed (is that a word?) fear.

And what do we fear?  Well, in one way or another, we fear getting hurt, or being in pain, or hurting others, which only hurts us.  As Marques put it at the end of his brief note, “We’re all scared of being hurt.”

So here’s that second message from Marques.

Fear…    We never run out of second chances, but we do run out of time.  Live your life.  Don’t ever let your fears keep you from fully living your life.  Don’t let the fear of making mistakes and committing sins keep you from living your life.  Don’t fear the pain that the experience of life brings you.  Face the pain, live into the pain and allow yourself to experience what’s on the other side of that pain–which is joy.  It’s a process and it doesn’t necessarily get easier, but it does get more predictable and it does bring you closer to God and it does allow God to get further into you.

Fear is what keeps us from opening ourselves in vulnerability to others in relationship.  This is true both for relationships with people and with God.  “The distance we put between ourselves and our pain is commensurate with the distance we put between ourselves and God.”

We’re all scared of being hurt.

Marques leaned right into his pain.  And that’s why he also knew a lot of joy, laughter, and lightness.  That same evening after he told me that he was choosing Love, once we finished letting the sadness drain, he pulled out a DVD of South Park that he’d brought with him, and said, “Now we need to laugh.”  He turned me on to a couple of his favorite episodes (the only one I remember is “Smug Alert”).  And so with all due humility, we laughed at the fear, and he basically said to the universe…  “Bring it.”

Well, the universe brought it.  And Marques chose Love.  Not perfectly or flawlessly.  He had his moments when he had to pray and sing himself back to the place of Peace.  We all do.

Before he left that night, he said, “I need to sing a few songs.”  And so he pulled out his guitar and sang in my living room for himself, for me, and in a sense for anyone who has been scared of being hurt.  The first song he played was called, “Don’t Be Afraid.”  The lead guitarist of the Evil Twins (Marques’ first and probably most well-known band), the inimitable Linus, bravely and beautifully sang this same song at Marques’ funeral. Thanks so much for doing that by the way Linus–especially when you were in so much pain yourself.  The song was written initially as a lullaby to a little baby girl who started crying one day at the sound of thunder.

Here’s a link to the song.  It, like all of Marques’ music, will always be there when you need it.
https://soundcloud.com/#bsirch-1

The Mess of Being Flesh

Marques Bovre

My closest friend of about 20 years here in Madison, WI died of brain cancer last month.   Anyone close to me knows this was a big deal for me.   I posted a couple of his songs on my facebook page last night, so forgive me if I’m overdoing it.

But Marques was an amazing singer/songwriter, and one of the promises I made to him was that I was going to put some energy into making sure that folks got a chance to hear his music after he was gone.   He was so damn humble that he never really promoted himself.  But he also knew how gifted he was.  His was no “false humility.”  He just, as he often put it, “was blessed with a total lack of ambition when it came to ‘making it.'”  He knew what a toxic game it is to put much energy into chasing one’s ego around the music business.  Oh he gave it a serious shot, especially early on, and he kept on creating and recording as long as he possibly could.  But he was pretty much at peace with being an artist who would most likely only be discovered after his death–if at all.

Marques suffered from a severe form of arthritis, and was in constant pain physically.  It sounds trite, but I seriously never once, in 20 years, heard him complain.  Beyond that, he had a strange sense that he was in this ravaged body for a reason that he couldn’t begin to understand–but he accepted the assignment, and lived out his call to be in his body with an incredible degree of dignity and grace.

Two days ago, when I was visiting with Marques’ wife Tracy, she handed me two pieces of paper that she had just found on her bedroom dresser.  They were messages from Marques–not to anyone in particular–and Tracy has absolutely no recollection of ever seeing those papers on the dresser before.  There’s no way Marques could have written them or placed them there in the last several months.  Bizarre.  I’ve heard of this kind of thing–messages left shortly after someone dies–or little symbolic things found in the house that loved ones swear they’d never seen before or knew about–but which seemed like some kind of message from “beyond.”   Who knows.

But what Marques wrote touched me deeply.  I asked Tracy if she felt this was just for her, or for the “inner circle,” and she said that she thought it would be good to share it with everyone.  My new blog seemed to be the best place I could think of to let you know what Marques left on the dresser.  So here’s the first one.  I’ll post the second one another time.  I hope you find this meaningful.

Jesus didn’t write a book;  Jesus didn’t start a religion.  Jesus lived a life.

I have a confession.  I prefer to learn by experience instead of through reading.  That bias goes a long way toward explaining why I am a 42nd semester Sr. here at UW.  It’s not intellectual laziness so much as that’s just the way I learn.  And I think our Western culture tends to venerate the written page and those who are considered experts in the writing and reading of the written page.  It’s almost become a form of idolatry.  Even with the holiest of books–some people worship their Bible as though it were God.  But it’s not.  God is God and God is much too huge and wild and beautiful to be contained in any book.  I’m not here to denegrate the Bible, but today I’m not here to read from it either.  I’m here to ask you to consider why it is that God put us here in these mortal bodies with these immortal souls.  I’m here to suggest that occupying these bodies is the only way to simultaneoulsy experience both God and life.  And that makes for a mess.

I’ll just leave it there.

Click on the link here and it will take you to my SoundCloud page where you can listen to a couple of Marques’ songs if you like.  The second one, “Mystery,” goes well with the content of this post.https://soundcloud.com/#bsirch-1

What my new blog is about…

People have been telling me for years that I should get a blog going.

Well, okay, I’m finally going to give it a shot.

My primary reason for starting this blog now is to open up a conversation that’s emerged regarding the content of my recent book, The 6 Marks of Progressive Christian Worship Music. I’ve been getting some very cool responses from folks who’ve read the book, and it’s occurred to me that this could and maybe should be a more public conversation.

So, by all means dive in here. Post comments. Point us to other sources of insight and information related to the topics I’ll highlight. Go ahead and be as edgy as you like…

I’m going to give myself the freedom to be blunt and, well, to just try to be myself–you know–a bit less censored and/or concerned about offending folks than I tend to be in live settings (which usually means a church for me).

Beyond my book, I’m going to share thoughts and reflections and links to other stuff I think is important or fun or just worth sharing for some reason.

A lot of what I’ll focus on will have something to do with songs I write and record and release, but I’ll weigh in on other topics, share the work of other artists and writers, and try to offer up some life-giving material that will be inspiring for me to write about and, I hope, encouraging or at least provocative for you to read.

People who know me and my ministry well also know of my deep and longstanding relationship with the beautiful country of Haiti. I’ll have some thoughts to share now and then in connection with this huge part of my life’s journey as well.

I’ll look forward to being in communication with whoever reads this, and as I think you’ll see, I welcome push back and disagreement. I’m much more into mutual listening and learning than squaring off against each other. Let’s just try to keep it respectful. I will anyway…

“Progressive Christian”

In the past couple of years I’ve started calling myself a “Progressive Christian.” The truth is however that I really don’t like using additional words to qualify the term “Christian.” I wish the word “Christian” could just stand by itself and mean what it means to me without having to add other words. But I find that referring to myself simply as a “Christian” usually winds up causing people to actually misunderstand who I am and what I care about most.

Not surprisingly, a lot of folks assume I’m politically and theologically conservative when they learn that I’m a Christian and that I’m passionate about following Jesus. I guess that’s because so many of the loudest and most visible so-called “Christian voices” (in the media, etc.) make it sound as though being a Christian is synonomous with being a conservative Republican. Yet following Jesus has actually led me to embrace what I’ll call a “progressive world view.”

That is, the teachings of Jesus have led me to want to be a loving advocate and activist when it comes to issues of social justice, compassion for the poor, honoring the earth and all of the natural world, honoring the gifts and ministries and full humanity of women, people of color, people of all nations and tribes and religions, sexual orientations, making peace with justice, analyzing the integrity of economic systems and their impact on the poor, etc.

I use the word “progressive” because it helps to distinguish my way of being Christian from the louder and mostly conservative expressions of Christianity that often dominate our public airwaves. The word “progressive” quickly (though not perfectly) communicates the general direction that biblical faith has taken me when it comes to most issues and how I see the world.

I talk about all of this in much more detail in my book, “The 6 Marks of Progressive Christian Worship Music.” Yes, of course I’m hoping that this blog will help sell the book. Buy it now! Please… (there’s my “strong call to action” as my marketing friends would put it :)) –I published it myself and I can definitely use the cash!

But the truth is I’m doing great in every way and the response to this book so far has been fantastic. I do hope you read it even if you find a way to get it for free. As with all the stuff I’ve recorded, I’m just glad and grateful that folks are interested enough to want to pay attention to my music and writing. That means the world to me, and I don’t take it for granted. This isn’t about money or making a living first and foremost for me. It’s about trying to respond to God’s call on my life and to share the things I believe the Spirit has laid on my heart to share.

But I also welcome and need the money! Just want to be clear about that…

The book is available everywhere in all venues and formats (Amazon, Kindle, etc.), and you can buy it directly from me on my website by clicking here.

Okay, the commercial’s over. Don’t worry. I won’t be trying to sell you something all the time. Sometimes I will… but I’ll do it in a low-key, respectful, and playful way if at all possible.

Enough for this first post. Here are a couple of questions I’ll toss out to any of you who’d like to respond and get this conversation in process.

1. What do you think about using a word–any word– (evangelical, conservative, liberal, emerging, progressive, post-modern, post-denonimational, etc.) to qualify what we mean by “Christian?

2. How do you think and/or feel about the term ‘progressive Christian?’ Are there other words or qualifying phrases that you find helpful at this point? Tony Campolo and Share Claiborne for example often refer to themselves as “Red Letter Christians” (referring to their emphasis on the saying of Jesus which are in “red letters” in some Bibles).