TS10

TS10: Eaux4Pools

Welcome to a special edition of the TS10. It’s special in that there are several strains running through this playlist which carry different kinds of significance. Eaux Claires is this week and I’m excited to partake in that incredible event once again (I’ve undergone something of an evolution in my thinking about the festival over the last couple of years, which I will likely share more about later). With the impending “return to the river,” the playlist kicks off with Bon Iver and The National, a small nod to the creators of Eaux Claires, Justin Vernon and Aaron Desner. J.E. Sunde is also included because of the festival, not because of his involvement, but because in my opinion he really ought to be involved!

Independence Day is also upon us here in the States. I am quite ambivalent about the 4th of July. While I’m grateful for the immense freedom we possess here, I am also aware of the racist and bloody past (and present) we tend to whitewash not only this time of year, but pretty much all the time. As a follower of Jesus, it’s hard for me to be excited about celebrating rebellion from our governing authority (wink wink, Jeff Sessions) and the facilitators of that rebellion who were, by and large, slaveholders and/or proponents of the slavery as well as the subjugation and dehumanizing of indigenous peoples. I find the  4th to be a prime opportunity to grieve and repent, personally.

Based on this approach to July 4th, we have Derek Webb’s King and a Kingdom, an anthem from what has become a functional time-capsule in Webb’s 2005 album, Mockingbird. Even though Webb disavows what he once believed, the truth in this song stands: “My first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man…” Sylvan Esso’s Parad(w/m)e adds a little political commentary regarding current events. Muse’s Uprising is a call to stand up against the bullies. Marvin Gaye invites us to sit at the table, have a conversation, and bring “a little love in here today.” Lastly, Jimi Hendrix’s legendary version of The Star-Spangled Banner closes out this “Americana” aspect of the TS10.

Lastly, I am very pleased to debut a new song from what is quickly becoming one of my favorite bands, LASKA, rooted right here in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Their new track, Dirty Pools, is creative, a little mesmerizing at times, and rife with anger and pain. Those spill out throughout the song and eventually manifest in a few choice F-bombs at the end (you’ve been warned).

So, yeah, there’s a lot happening in this week’s TS10. So, take a listen and let yourself feel through it all!

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TS10

TS10: The Problem

Just recently, I heard a preacher speak on the New Testament book of James. He spoke with passion as he implored the audience to gain perspective, to see things from the proper viewpoint. During his discussion, he referred to a newspaper editorial from years ago in which the paper asked its readers to define what was wrong with the world. Things felt amiss. Something was wrong and the paper wanted to know what the problem was.

Renowned theologian G. K. Chesterton apparently sent an answer to that question. His response was simply “I am.” From what I understand, Chesterton was a good man and his writings have impacted lots of people. However, when considering the malaise hanging over the world, he saw himself as the cause. He was the problem. And so am I. And so are you.

Racism exists because we let it (and sometimes we facilitate it). Same with sexism, senseless gun violence, police brutality, and on and on and on. I am the problem. You are the problem.

While that seems heavy (and it is), that concept is also laced with hope. If the problem is in me, I can do something about it. I can’t control what anyone else will do. But, I can do something about the hideous stuff that lives in me.

-Ed

WARNING: This playlist contains some intense language here and there.

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TS10

TS10: Ain’t It Grand…

… when you’re living in La La Land? Ain’t talking about that movie from a couple of years back. No, it’s that head-in-the-sand, oblivious La La Land in which it’s so easy for us to take up residence, unaffected by things happening around us and the damage done to our neighbors. All Star United’s La La Land is a part of this week’s TS10 and it “celebrates” living in that space. It’s pretty scathing for church folks like me, actually.

Maybe that song won’t speak to you or challenge you, but I hope there’s something else here that will. Whatever it is, I invite you to feel it.

-Ed

 

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A Glorious Love Letter

Whenever someone asks how long my wife Charlotte and I have been married, which happens a lot around our anniversary (June 16), I inevitably say something like “16 glorious years.” Truth be told, not all those years could be labeled “glorious.” Some were somewhat less than that.

This year, we complete year 17. When someone asks, and I provide my typical answer, at least that part “17 glorious years” will be accurate. But “glorious” … no. Now, I will say that the last ten or so have been getting closer. As God has peeled away selfishness and other crud that stood in the way of real intimacy, our marriage has become more and better than I could have ever imagined. The process has been hard, but so, so worth it.

Part of this ongoing growth of intimacy, of course, is how well we know each other. Sometimes, it’s quite annoying. I get tired of how right she is about how I can’t hold a conversation and drive at the same time. I wish she’d stop being right every once in a while. Truly though, how we know each other is an immense blessing. She knows when I’m not quite right. I know when she is, dare I say, a tinge irritable. And we know what each other needs when we’re in those spots.

I could provide many examples of how beautiful this marriage is and how intimately we know each other, but I’ll focus here on one… one that is directly related to Tomme Suab. Quite a few years ago, I was in love (I still am, really) with Over the Rhine’s Goodbye off the Roaring Lambs compilation album. If you would have asked me why, I couldn’t have told you. After all, as a child, I was taught “good music” was what was predictable and safe. Understanding the nature of music, or art overall, was never a high priority for me or for those around me.

Some time ago, Charlotte and I were discussing that particular song and she said, “I know why you like that song.” Now, this would also make sense, because Charlotte has an extensive musical background, formal education included. She mentioned something about a “step-wise” movement in the song and explained what that meant. Afterward, from time to time, she would help me understand why I was drawn to certain styles, artists, or songs.

Eventually, she made a pivotal statement which amounted to something like “you don’t listen to music the same way most people do.” She was telling me I wasn’t a casual music fan. That little statement was an epiphany for me. It started me on a journey in which I began to engage with local art and independent musicians, with her cheering me on. It led me down a path in which I became drawn to the fringe, the unpredictable, the non-mainstream. More to the point, it led me to the realization that music impacts me deeply, on an emotional level. It was the root of what has become this blog, these weekly playlists, my involvement with Blugold Radio (soon to be Verge 99.9), and even in other civic activities and efforts promoting the arts.

None of this would have ever happened had it not been for my bride. It is just one illustration of how, aside from my God, she’s the best part of me. She has my heart and to say I’m thankful for her would be a gross understatement.

I love you, Charlotte. May these songs, in some small way, remind you of that truth. 17 songs for 17 years. Like those 17 years, this playlist isn’t perfect (or glorious), but it’s pretty damned good.

 

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TS10

TS10: Not That Great

This week’s playlist is named after the LASKA song included here by the same title. The song makes me smile, because I can relate to some of the sentiment in it.

Look at me and know, that I am not that great.

You love me because you’re blind to my mistakes.

While these words seem to speak to a deep-seated insecurity, they also speak to a truth. We’re all messed up. We are just “not that great.” And it’s okay, especially when we all embrace our “not that great-ness”.

It’s those broken pieces in us, the parts that make us not so great, that remind us of how much we need help, how much we need healing. In some small way, I hope this week’s TS10 leads you and me toward a new level of wholeness and peace, even though we’re “not that great.”

-Ed

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TS10

TS10: Sometimes

I fell in love with King’s X back in 1991. I loved their gut-level honesty and creativity. One of their early songs, Sometimes, is included in this week’s TS10. I love the tension is the song. I can relate to it. Stuck in the give and take of already/not yet. Hope deferred. Conflict in the pursuit of peace.

Those kinds of tensions are familiar to the TS10 and this week’s edition is no different. Take a listen and feel the tension. Maybe engaging in it will unlock some healing and/or freedom for you.

-Ed

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TS10

TS10: Lampstands

(Excerpts from Revelation 2-3)

To the angel of the church in…

I know where you live – where Satan has his throne. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die.

You say, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

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TS10

TS10: Tiny Little Sparks

Image from Bri Murphy’s website

The talented Bri Murphy released Things We’d Rather Not Say, her first full-length album, last week and it is pretty gorgeous. Her Tiny Little Sparks anchors this week’s eclectic TS10. Take a listen!

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TS10

TS10: Allergens and Flonase

I spent most of the day sitting in my comfy chair in my office, with my laptop and an open window. I love working from home and having that warm breeze floating through the room. That recliner, that window, that room… it’s kind of my happy place.

As the afternoon wore on, my eyes started hurting a bit. I could feel them getting puffy and itchy. I knew what the irritant was (seasonal allergies), but I was slow to get up grab the Flonase. For a moment, for some reason, I tried to deny the effect the allergens were having on me.

Wouldn’t you know it… once I got up from my once happy place and took the Flonase, everything was better. I was almost immediately relieved.

I don’t know where you are right now. If you are feeling “under it,” and need some relief, I hope this little playlist helps you find it. Maybe you’re a little too cozy in your “happy place,” and what you really need is an irritant, something to wake you from an intellectual or emotional slumber. Wherever you need to go emotionally, I hope, in some way, these ten songs will help you get there.

-Ed

 

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This Is (Really) America

My boy is currently having a playdate with his best buddy. The two boys are sprawled out on the floor, making up stories with Lego mini-figures. The cuteness is almost overwhelming. Just two friends having fun, whittling the afternoon way, with no care in the world. I am taken by their cuteness and their innocence. There’s something so entirely pure and beautiful about what’s happening on the floor in front of me.

As I watch the boys play, I have a clear line of sight to my son, who has been growing his hair out now for several months. He’s keeping it short around the sides and back, and then letting it grow up top. So much hair! It’s adorable, honestly, although it’s making this almost nine-year-old look a few years older than that. Not sure I like that…

His decision to grow his hair out was inspired by the blockbuster Marvel movie, Black Panther. He was, like me, enthralled by the antagonist of the story, Erik Killmonger. After watching Michael B. Jordan’s outstanding portrayal and witnessing how incredibly cut the guy is, I think Joshua and I both wish we looked like him. Joshua’s got a much better shot at making that happen. And, he began letting his hair grow out toward that exact end. He wanted braids or dreads that would look like those Killmonger sported in the movie.

Over these last few months, we’ve been getting his haircuts at a barbershop where they know how to cut African hair. I think there’s still a part of him that wants the Killmonger look, but I also think he’s been enjoying growing this huge mass of hair on top of his head, like a big, textured box-top. And, it’s adorable. So, now I have this super-cute third grader running around with the same kind of hairstyle I see on young men and teen boys who are also from African heritage. Amid growing up in mighty white Eau Claire, Wisconsin, I think it’s comforting for him to see older guys who look like him and also happen to have a similar hairstyle.

Just recently, I was scrolling through my Twitter feed, when I saw another young man with Joshua’s do. It was a still picture of a young man named Anthony Wall being pinned to the outside window/wall of a Waffle House by a police officer. I saw the headline associated with the photo; something about an older brother who had taken his sister to the prom. To be honest, I skipped by it quickly.

Why? It’s simple. That young man looked like my Joshua. In that moment, I was seeing my boy being pinned against a wall and choked by a police officer. I looked away and quickly skipped by that image. I didn’t want to think about that. It wasn’t that long ago that young Jordan Edwards was shot dead in the back of a car by another police officer. His story broke my heart. I could see my son in Jordan’s innocent smile. And it hurt.

Even though I didn’t want to linger in those thoughts, especially envisioning my son in the place of that young man at the Waffle House, I saw that image again on my feed and this time I chose to engage. That’s probably because I remembered Jordan Edwards. And I remembered why I need to care about this. I remembered I was wired to care about this. I remembered that I would be disobeying my God if I ignored this.

This second image wasn’t a still, it was a video. I watched the police officer forcing Anthony up against that wall. The officer looked to be at least twice the size of the young man. I could not see Anthony resisting in any way. I see the officer violently pressing his forearm into Anthony’s chest and throat area. For no apparent reason, I see the office then lift the young man off the ground and slam him down on the pavement, followed by the officer leaning on him, holding him down, and maintaining his intimidation.

It made me sick. What the hell was going on there? There are those who will say we don’t have all the context. Honestly, I don’t know what happened before this moment. Don’t care, actually. From the video, there is no apparent reason why the officer had to be so violent, why he was choking Wall, why he slammed him to the ground like he did.

As I write these words now, I can feel my blood beginning to simmer. I’m angry. I’m angry at the injustice and excuse-making. And, I’m sad for Anthony Wall and his sister. I’m sad for every young black man who is perceived as a threat for no legitimate reason. I’m sad for my son, who will no doubt be seen as such a threat before too long by some backward-thinking person. Who knows? Maybe he’ll fall asleep in the commons area of his college dorm. Maybe he’ll walk onto a country club golf course (of which he’s actually a member). Maybe he’ll be in his backyard doing nothing. Maybe he’ll just want to have a waffle.

To all my white, right-leaning friends who want to find a way to defend this officer, or the golf course employee, or the police who shot Stephon Clark 22 times while he wielded his deadly cellphone, I don’t want to hear it. Especially to my Christian friends who are more concerned about what Anthony Wall may have done to “deserve” the treatment he received from that officer, keep it to yourself. I can see nothing of Jesus in such thinking. So, don’t bring that here, please. It’s time for us to see things for what they are, and not just through the lenses of our personal experience in our little safe, white, Christian bubbles.

A few months ago, I had coffee with a good friend who shared with me a quote he’d come upon previously. I don’t remember the exact verbiage, but it amounted to something like this: “The artists are now our prophets.” Okay, so I will never say that Justin Vernon or Bono carry the same weight as Jeremiah or Isaiah. But, I think there’s truth there.

One great example of this artistic prophecy is the recently released video from Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover). The video was released on May 8th, but I’ll admit that it took me a couple of days before I wanted to watch it, mostly because I knew it would make me uncomfortable. You know, that discomfort I really need to feel. I eventually decided to engage, and I was changed.

I am still processing the meaning of the song and the imagery in the video. However, I feel like I can already say that it is one of the most important pieces of art I’ve ever seen or heard. The song is called This Is America and it is a poignant commentary on many societal issues, such as racism and gun violence. I will likely write more about this masterpiece later, but there’s one central theme I see in there that pertains to what’s happening to these black men and boys and my (our) response to these injustices: it is very easy to just keep living life while others around us are going through hell. The video is below (warning: it is pretty graphic).

Notice what happens throughout the video, not just what’s happening right in front of the camera, but what’s happening in the background as well. A man is executed. One of the four horsemen rides in the background. Riots break out. Someone gets thrown off a balcony. A choir is massacred. And what’s happening throughout all of this? Glover and those with him dance. They have moments of clarity about what’s happening around them, some of which they cause, but they are easily distracted back into the dance.

The lyrics, at one point, speaks of “shaking the frame.” The imagery there is of the frame of reality being shaken so we are distracted from what’s really going on. We hear of students being slaughtered at a school in Florida and we are forget a day later. We see images of a young man being powerslammed to the sidewalk and we turn away, not letting ourselves be affected. We read about a young white man sending bombs to the homes of people of color in Texas and we don’t bat an eye. We hear about another young white man bringing a rifle into a different Waffle House for the express purpose of killing black people, and we just go about our day-to-day as if this is normal.

It is not normal, friends. It is not okay. We need to stop victimizing white perpetrators. We need to stop justifying police brutality. We need to stop grasping at straws to understand how Stephon Clark, Anthony Wall, Jordan Edwards, Philando Castile, or Trayvon Martin somehow deserved what they got. We need to look at the pictures of those who have been killed or traumatized because of their pigmentation. We need to get real honest with ourselves. I need to get real honest with myself.

White friends, please hear me, we gotta stop acting like there is no race issue in America. We gotta stop pretending that all men are actually considered “equal” in our society. We gotta stop avoiding the voices and stories of black communities. By acting, pretending, and avoiding, we are saying one of two things. We are either calling them liars, or we are telling them they don’t matter as much as we do. Those are the only two options, friends.

Whether or not we want to own it or believe it, the stories of Clark, Martin, Wall, Edwards, Castile, and so many more are real. This is America, friends. And until we stand up, own that truth, and start having meaningful conversations about how to facilitate healing, freedom, and justice in our land, we are simply allowing more black people to be oppressed, slaughtered, and/or traumatized. This is America.

I cannot turn my head. I cannot ignore. I cannot pretend. I cannot, because that would not resonate with the life God has built me to live. A Christian ignoring these injustices is not aligned with the Jesus who came to set captives free, raise the dead, and preach good news to the poor. So, engaging in this is obedience for me, and I would argue, for anyone in America who professes to follow Jesus.

But, personally, I go right back to the boy playing with Legos on my office floor. He has already faced racism from other kids. And as he gets older, he will face more. I don’t want him to be the next Anthony Wall, Stephon Clark, or Jordan Edwards. So, I will fight. And, I ask you to do the same.

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