“The Other Promise” – Kingdom Hearts

One of my favorite tracks from one of my favorite franchises. Purely instrumental, with a piano overlay that immediately pours into you a cocktail of mystery, wonder, and ominous foreboding. I could love the song alone just for that. Alas, the fates would determine that it becomes much more. A flute enters the fray, stirring your heart and the beginning of a transformation. The song quickly ascends as strings arise through the melody and more power starts flooding through each note.

Described in one line: I read this song as a powerful, but uncertain hope to a long and desperate battle.

P.S. Super pumped for the long-awaited third installment to the primary series. Bring it.

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A Note on the Grammys

This post does not belong to me. I found it through a chain of facebook links and the original author is one Matt Gilman, an individual that I do not know.  As a rule of thumb, I typically steer clear of the Grammy’s or anything associated with them, but I found this a satisfying and worthwhile read.  Enjoy.
– – – – –
OK…(sigh)…#theGrammys

I feel like I can’t stay silent on this one. I’ve read so many posts in the last 24 hours in favor of and in opposition to last night’s ceremony. So what’s one more opinion huh?

Firstly, as a musician myself, the Grammys always intrigue me. I honestly don’t listen to secular music very often. In my line of work I’m surrounded by so much music all the time so when I’m in the car or at home I often opt to enjoy the peace and quiet while I can get it. But I’m always curious to know what’s “in” these days.

Oh, and just to set some of your minds at ease, this is not going to be an “anti secular music” post. So let your guards down a little. To be honest, there are some secular artists that I really enjoy…(gasp!). I have even been known to some as a (dare I say it?) Belieber! Yes….I do enjoy the Biebs. Do I endorse his lifestyle? Absolutely not…especially after this last week. But did I go see his most recent movie on opening night with my whole extended family, of whom one member carried a Justin Bieber action figure (ahem…..Taylor Christian)? Absolutely YES!!! And I liked it!!!!

I like One Direction. Let’s face it! They’re good! Justin Timberlake is an incredible performer. Miley Cyrus, as hurt and confused and misguided as she may be, has a great voice. Let’s get old school….I enjoy a good “N’sync Vs. Backstreet Boys” debate (N’sync….duh).

My point is I don’t think the general concept of secular music is bad or evil. If I wrote a song about a chair it would definitely be considered secular. Is it evil? No…it’s a chair people. But it is secular nonetheless.

But what I’ve noticed trending in these last few years as I’ve watched the Grammys is a competition between certain artists (not all of them) to see who can push the envelope the most. Who can create the most headlines? Who’s risqué outfit is going to cause the most controversy (Beyonce)? How far can we cross the line on sexual preference (Macklemore “Same Love”)? How many obscenities can I fit into my song that won’t be bleeped out on national television? And I can’t help but think that they know exactly what they’re doing. There is a HUGE agenda being pushed right now by the leaders of the music industry. And it is getting more and more perverse, in some cases demonic, and just downright gross. Let’s recognize this. Let’s not be naive about it.

And these are the ones that our children, the future of our nation, are listening to. These are the songs that our kids will come home from school singing.

Music will shape the minds of the next generation…for the better OR for the worse.

Why?

Because, as human beings, we were created by God to have an emotional response to music. It’s in us. It’s in our DNA. Whether or not you can sing, or whether or not you can play an instrument, you cannot deny the effect that music has on the human heart. Our emotions dictate our morals. Our morals dictate our convictions. Our convictions dictate how we learn, teach, parent, instruct, how we look at politics, etc. I think for everyone, there has been a song or multiple songs that you’ve heard at some point in your life that have “Wowed” you…maybe it was the lyrics, or the melody, or the instrumentation, or the beat. Music has the power to dictate our emotions. Some music really makes me happy. Some can help me relax. Some music can make me cry. There are so many ways music can affect us. It can be our greatest asset, or our greatest downfall depending on how we use it.

Again, I have nothing against the general concept of secular music. Some of it is just plain fun to listen to. And I think that is ok. But let’s use some common sense. Let’s be careful what we are feeding our spirits on. Look at the lyrics of some of the songs that are the most popular right now. Songs that slide in under the radar because they have a “good beat”.

Now, let’s get to the reason for my rant.

This is so personal to me. Not just because I’m a musician myself, though that’s a part of it, but because playing music and singing is the number one way that I connect with Jesus. All throughout scripture, old and new testaments, there are accounts of the faithful singing their praises, lamenting in song, rejoicing with loud clanging cymbals, angelic choirs, the saints gathered around the throne singing songs, thousands of musicians and singers in David’s tabernacle, the Heavenly throne room scene described in Revelation 4 is filled with antiphonal songs or chants between four living creatures and 24 elders that worship God night and day without rest….the list goes on and on.

GOD IS MUSICAL!!! And guess what…we were created in His image…which means WE ARE MUSICAL!!!!!

Music is so precious to Him. And as a worship leader it is so precious to me as well. Not only because I connect with Him on a deeper level through song, but because I’ve seen first hand, almost on a daily basis, how a song can change a life. I’ve seen people with hard hearts break under the conviction of the Holy Spirit while listening TO A SONG. I’ve seen kids who have grown up feeling worthless and devalued their whole lives living in pain and shame and feeling condemned come to the knowledge of who they are before the Lord while hearing the lyrics TO A SONG. I’ve seen people with real physical ailments completely healed because of the power of the Holy Spirit that rested on them THROUGH A SONG.

I met a woman once who willingly gave herself to prostitution for years and years. She eventually heard about Jesus and chose to give her life to Him. But she told me that even after that moment she still could never forget the shame of her past because of what she had done. But one day she heard my song “Every Captive Free” and she said “the shame lifted off her shoulders like a heavy weight.” And it never came back. I don’t say that to “toot my own horn”. I only mention that story because through it I got to experience first hand the power of what singing the Word of God can do. It’s amazing. It’s life giving.

IT’S HEART CHANGING!

And so much of what God intended in the creativity and musicality of human beings has been taken and turned into something completely opposite of what it was intended to be. It has been made wicked and perverse. And I can’t help but think that it pains His heart.

I write this not to condemn anyone who has listened to those aforementioned artists, or those who will. But rather, I write it as an invitation to rethink and ponder what we are feeding our spirits on. What we allow into our hearts will directly affect our daily lives and how we connect to and relate to God Himself.

These are my honest thoughts after seeing the Grammys last night. Undoubtedly, a lot of you may disagree. And that’s ok. Feel free to post your own thoughts if you’d like. But please let’s refrain from personal attacks or explicit language. It is possible to disagree in a godly manner.

Thanks for reading…..
Blessings!

Switchfoot – “Back to the Beginning Again”

(As far as I’m concerned, ignore the background/thumbnail. It is simply the youtube channel and has no relation to the song or artist.)

A track from rock band Switchfoot’s newest album ‘Fading West’. The album doesn’t officially come out until next week, but I’ve been getting my share of samples from youtube and itunes. Preemptive judgment has determined that this is my favorite song on the album. Please give it a listen, as I need to know that I’m not the only one infected by the chorus. It is so. freaking. catchy.

I do not own or associate myself with Switchfoot, their record label or any establishments related to or managing Switchfoot or any of their works.

Edwin’s Dilemma Short Story (Part 1)

I’ve been away for a while, for any number of reasons not worth outlining here, so I apologize.  Nevertheless, here is a new short story called Edwin’s Dilemma.  Or rather, it is the first segment of a marginally larger story.  This Christmas I approached my younger brother with a proposition.  He comes up with the plotting and outline of a story that I can update every 3-5 weeks (estimated to last a year, we’ll see) and I will bring that story to life.  This is the consequence of that team-up.  Not my usual cup of tea, but I like it and think it has potential.  Enjoy.
P.S. Recently powered off two books that I recommend: “Steelheart” by Brandon Sanderson and “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline. Check them out, especially if you have a ‘nerd’ lean.  One is about superpowers the other is about videogames. Can’t beat that.

Edwin’s Dilemma – Part 1 (1,797 words)

                For once, traversing Kastern was comfortable.  The streets, while in need of maintenance, were mostly clear.  It might have been cold, but Edwin considered that a grace this time of the year.  Things had been so humid and warm that it was nearly boiling, which resulted in fresh worries as to whether his new fortune could melt or not.  Could rubies melt?  Could diamonds?

                Edwin swung back his wineskin and filled his throat with something distinctly fruity, “Bismark, what is this one?”

                “Red.  You ask like I know anything about fine wines.” Bismark studied the rings on his hand.  They could hardly fit around the callous, “Wearing these makes me nervous.”

                Waving it off, Edwin plugged the wineskin again, “Nervous for what?  You could out-arm anyone in the city.”

                “Not in these clothes,” the man grimaced, “I feel like a nobleman’s fool.”

                “A nobleman’s confidant.  Carry yourself like one Bismark.  It will be important when we make audience with the king.”  Edwin grinned.  He still liked the sound of those words.

                Bismark shook his head.  Kastern was kind to the right people: the wealthy and the acclaimed.  There was even some mirth in the street urchin and thief culture, some level of status and reverence that grew out of their underhanded accomplishments.  Kastern was not so kind when the latter breached their territory and aimed for greater riches.  The caste system was there for a reason.

                Then again, maybe their transformation was something else.  Or maybe they were just stupid.

                “I feel cheap,” Bismark said, “Like I’m only pretending to know what I’m doing.  And how could anybody possibly walk in such restricting trousers?”  He moved his legs up and down like a marionette, “God forbid.  You can hardly even bend at the knee.”

                Edwin shrugged, caught off guard by the tightness of his nobleman’s doublet, “That’s what servants are for, my uneducated sir.  To bend for you.”

                Frowning, Bismark set himself to a dull and uncomfortable stride, “Would you stop talking like that?  I’m losing more faith in this enterprise with each passing minute.  How can we possibly expect to look the part of wealth when we are tripping over ourselves?  Both linguistically and literally.”

                “You say all of that,” Edwin said, “Yet you use words like ‘enterprise’ and ‘linguistically’.  Trust me, we’ll do fi–” Edwin cut his words short, a sharp tip prodding the small of his back.  “Bismark.”

                A grungy voice spoke, “Don’t move!”

                Holding up his new confidence on thin leg, Edwin spoke slowly. “What is it you want?”  A half-expected, but inevitable swing of events.  Kastern thieves always aimed for the less protected of the noblemen.

                He could almost hear the thug smile, “You made it out.  You made it rich, young urchin.  I want out too, and I want out big.”

                “Can’t say I blame you.  It’s pretty great on the other side.”  Edwin felt the sweat on his forehead growing thick.  Bismark stood only a few heads away, but wouldn’t dare make any snap motion that could get his lord killed.

                The smile faded, “Brat.  You’re still too new to this.  Have you already forgotten?  Noblemen should never walk the streets on their lonesome.”

                Edwin shrugged, “I do have my confidant.”

                “What?” The thug snorted, glancing at Bismark, “That wilt?”

                “Yes,” Edwin nodded slowly and snapped his fingers once toward the sky.  On cue, a long-shaft arrow struck away the thief’s knife.  Bismark spun with practiced motion and, in three swift movements, ripped their offender to the ground, resting a knee on his throat.  Edwin chuckled, “I also have eight guards tailing us, should someone try exactly what you have done.  Even without them, Bismark is one of the greatest underground fighters in Kastern.  No luck, bud.”

                Edwin looked out over the rooftops, where silhouettes matched the bitter night.  “Bismark, let the man go,” Edwin said, “If he follows us one more step, our friends will introduce him to iron.”

                Bismark nodded and released, returning to Edwin’s side like a passive sentinel.

                “Now leave,” Edwin said.  And like that, the thug hurried off, a dog threatened by another kick.

                “That was actually rather pleasant.  Well handled, my lord,” Bismark said.

                Edwin continued his trek towards the king’s palace, “It’s easier when you’ve been in their shoes.”

                Nobles and royalty everywhere.  Edwin sniffed, taking in every scent of their richly clad feast.  The king’s palace was to the brim with lords and ladies, come together for a night of gratitude and celebration.  Edwin wasn’t sure why.  He was too busy scanning over every figure in the room.  They wore their wealth in a way he didn’t yet understand.  Something about how they moved and held their heads.  Their riches didn’t show just on the outside, but innately, within their souls.  It was their confidence and morality.  These were people who understood the world in a brighter way, through a lens that Edwin could never afford.  They were fools.  And now he was one of them.

                “I don’t even recognize some of these odors,” Bismark said, catching the fragrances against the air, “Is that roasted beast?  It smells like the Kingdom of Kings.”

                “Bismark, focus,” Edwin said, “Our priority for the evening is to meet the king.  Do you see him?”

                Edwin had never seen the king, but it became obvious very quickly.  Crowns usually made men distinct that way.  Their sire was of an older cut, but not so old that he was expected to roll into his grave anytime soon.  His back was firm and his gaze forward, looking toward the future and over his peers.  Even from his past as an urchin, Edwin had to admit this man was a good king.  Better than many he’d heard of in historical texts, and he owned his authority with honor.

                “We seem to be in luck,” Bismark said, “It looks like he’s making friendly banter.  The question is do we make the cut?”

                Edwin didn’t hesitate.  He wore his chest out and chin up, stretching a mild, but practiced smile.  Bismark followed behind, reluctant.

                Waiting politely for the King to finish an exchange with one guest, Edwin stepped in, “My liege,” he bowed to what he thought was the perfect level, “It is an honor, truly.”

                The king smiled, “I do not believe I’ve had the chance to meet you,” he glanced over at a person who seemed to be his advisor.

                The young advisor perked up and shuffled through a couple sheets of lambskin parchment, “Um, oh, this is Lord Edwin of Lower Kastern.”

                Brows lifting, the king grinned, “Ah, that’s it, then.  The one who recently inherited his fortune.  Welcome, son.”

                Edwin bowed again, “I wasn’t expecting my reputation to precede me,” he held out a hand, “Again, I’m honored.”

                The king took his hand in a worthy grip, “Lord Edwin, it’s my –”

                Just then, the king of the realm sneezed forth like a maelstrom.  A million fragments of moisture poured from his nostrils and lips, all across their interlocked hands.  It was beautiful in the eyes of none.

                Edwin clinched, not wanting to be rude, but feeling effectively disgusted.  Somehow in his many reveries, he hadn’t expected high royalty to sneeze.  Thankfully the king withdrew from their contact and his advisor offered a cloth to clean Edwin’s hand.  This must have been a recurring theme for the night.

                All in all, their conversation carried on in a smooth and prompt fashion.  Not wanting to rob their high King of too much precious time, Edwin and Bismark left the man to his lordly business.  The rest of the night was simple and short.  Together they traversed the labyrinth of socials, making connections that only a year ago Edwin would have never expected to build.  The anatomy of the royal circles was elaborate, filled with more politics and gossip than his interest cared to handle.

                By the time they left the king’s palace, Edwin felt a unique sort of exhaustion.  Upon their departure, his shoulders slumped and his face fell.  Keeping up impressions was hard work.  When they returned to the manor Edwin purchased in his new wealth, he and Bismark split off to their own separate quarters.

                That night was filled with good dreams and nightmares alike.

                Heat spun through Edwin’s skull, and walking straight was a step short of brutal.  The morning had not been kind.  He was sick, sicker than he’d ever felt.  Worse even than the time he’d accidentally swallowed Lacrydine.  The sicknesses were not similar, but regardless, what he now experienced was worse.  That was impressive in its own, horrible way.

                “My lord!  You look dead!”  Bismark said, in spite of himself.

                “Thank you for your flattery,” Edwin sniffed, “I’m sick.  The apothecary can’t identify it.”

                Bismark sized up Edwin with concern, “Your skin is so pale.  Go lay back down, immediat–” Bismark caught himself and cleared his throat, “Rather, I suggest you lay back down and get some rest.  It can’t be good for your health to be up and about.”

                Edwin shook his head, “I tried, but I’m too restless.  I cannot figure out how I could have come down with any disease.  This is the first time in years.  My immunity is usually much more reliable than this.”

                “What do you think the cause might have been?”

                For a long moment, Edwin was stuck in a mental silence, half-conscious.  He was startled awake with force, like a beam of steel through his chest.  The King.  The king had sneezed on Edwin’s hand, spreading some sort of rich man’s disease.

                “That monster,” Edwin said, “I cannot forgive him.”

                Bismark’s forehead crumpled, “M’lord?”

                “The King.  I am stricken with an illness from the King.”

                Clarity, confusion and horror broke through Bismark all at once, “Surely you don’t mean–  My lord, please do not be taken with haste.”

                “My new life.  At the epicenter of my transformation,” Edwin said, “He has ruined it!  The king has destroyed all of my plans.  My ambitions!  A disease that even the doctors cannot cure?  Something worse than drinking raw Lacrydine?  Certainly there must be compensation.”

                Trying to maintain an air of control, Bismark seemed to let Edwin fume while he gathered his thoughts, “You are making rash conclusions.  Please, I beg that you return to your bedchambers.”

                “No,” Edwin stumbled to the window and peered out into the new day, “I can’t do that, Bismark.  I need to get revenge before it’s too late.  I must hold retribution for what he has taken from me.”

                “You mustn’t!  Think this through, Edwin!” Bismark pleaded.

                “Yes, it is so.  I wish there were an alternative, but there is not.  For his crimes, I must kill the king.”

End of Part I