On Christian Music and the Hidden Gem We’ve Been Waiting For

I grew up with a heavy dose of Sandi Patty, Michael W Smith (Smitty) and Steven Curtis Chapman. While I still love a good Ol fashion “Go West Young Man” or “Friends are Friends Forever,” if I’m honest, I haven’t listened to “Christian” music for well over a decade. For that matter, I’m still not sure how a noun like “Christian” can be used as an adjective to describe the salvific quality of a collective of voices and instruments, but that’s a whole other conversation completely… 

I didn’t intentionally stop listening to Christian music because I had some axe to grind, I just found that it no longer spoke to the Christian story I experienced: a story of doubt despite having all the “answers,” hope in the midst of crisis and suffering in the way of the cross. 

The Collection is not only my favorite band of 2014-15, but they are needed water on the dry soil of millennials’ interest in any music remotely “Christian.” Not only is their music creative and of high quality (think Mumford & Sons meets Lumineers), their lyrics cast a Kingdom vision in some of the most compelling and stirring ways I have encountered. 

I would argue that they aren’t getting popular because they are “cool,” but because the depth of their music is offering something that goes way beyond cynicism and critique of traditional forms of Christianity and instead offers a robust and constructive way forward.  

I spent some time with these good folks a few months back, long after I had become a fan. Here is an interview I recently did with the lead singer and songwriter, David Wimbish.

1. How would you describe your music? Who were major influences?

I like to think of our music as a shy rock kid befriending some band geeks and tripping into an orchestra pit. I’ve heard people say “Orchestral Folk” frequently. My favorite is probably “Big Band Americana”, though it might not be the most accurate. I remember reading an interview with Sufjan Stevens where he talks about how brass instruments can be just as “heavy” as electric guitars. Growing up in a missionary community, I was exposed to a lot of music around the world, and learned that concept through osmosis. I think a lot of the music that influenced me was music that had the same emotions as American music, but with different textures. Many times this was Balkan Brass, Traditional Ghanian, Chinese Folk, Mariachi, etc. Now it has grown to all sorts of things -- Big Band, Classical, Folk, Psych Rock, etc. 

2. Would you consider yourself a “Christian” band? Why or why not?

I don’t think it’s healthy, most of the time, for a band to identify that way, because I think it can perpetuate the idea that there’s a gap between a thing that is specifically “sanctified” and the normal world. If people believe that a god created the earth, I would hope very much that they would dwell within his creation, and that includes music, whether it is played by christians or not. That being said, some of our band members identify as christians, and some don’t. It definitely started more in that camp, and I think, in the American south especially, it can be hard to not at least have some connection with the ideas behind christianity as it has such cultural prevalence in this area of the world. Within our band dynamic, we try to promote a space for spiritual seeking, for loving others, and for acceptance, whether it be through christianity or not. 

3. In your music, you confront some heavy themes like the death of a close friend. How does your music serve as both an expression of lament and a hope for what has come and is coming?

One of the first shows I played, when I was 13 or 14, I remember my Mum afterwards telling me, “You were very good, you have a lot of potential, but all of your songs were so sad.” I know that’s a bit of a Mum thing to say, and I didn’t have much to be deeply sad about at that time, but I realized it was an easy way to write -- songs come out of our deepest emotions and the most common and universally felt emotion is pain, I think. So I’ve been trying to find a better balance in showing my honest process in wrestling with difficult experiences, without putting a bow on them, and still writing honest songs during hopeful times. I haven’t found it yet -- many newer songs have leaned a bit on the darker side I think than ones from the past. To me, though, what is important is honesty. I think people can hear when you’re lying in a song. Not lyrically, but emotionally. We identify with honesty. And for me, especially while writing Ars Moriendi, I felt really hurt, but I also felt hopeful, and was trying hard to capture both of those.

4. A few of your songs confront experiences of toxic legalism in the Church. Rather than coming off cynical, you paint constructive and beautiful pictures of the hope found in Jesus and the reality of the Kingdom. What has been your personal journey that has led to this point?

Thank you; I’m glad to know I don’t come off as cynical. It’s something I’ve talked with our bassist about a ton, “keep me in check if my lyrics start sounding cynical.” When I was younger, my Mum was the music leader at a church. She helped grow it in so many ways, and it became a beautiful place. At one point though, she was forced out, seemingly because she wasn’t mega-churchy enough. I spent ten years of my life being a part of that community, only to lose trust in people I had leaned on. Does that mean I wasted those ten years, that they didn’t mean anything? The truth is, there isn’t a human soul that has figured out perfect peace and harmony and love with other people all of the time. So any place there are groups of humans, there will always be some sort of toxic practice or thought, it is just part of being human. But, those ten years are part of what made me who I am, just like every hard experience I’ve had. There have been many times in my life that reading the words of Jesus gave me hope that seemed to transcend the bad experiences, and give me vernacular to understand the good parts.

5. So your band has about 87 members. Tell us why and share a bit of your hopes/plans for the future.

Ha -- we may have had close to that many in and out over the years. When I started writing “the Collection” songs, it was a bit of a solo project that selfishly came out of wanting to have a band without losing any creative freedom. I’m lucky to have had so many people be committed to my songs and the vision, even before I had a good way to be committed to them as members. If I met someone that played an instrument we didn’t have, and they seemed like a cool person, I’d invite them to come play with us. We weren’t touring much, so there wasn’t much of a commitment necessary from anyone. It’s grown into more of an actual band, which I am very grateful for because it has allowed more musical and relational intimacy than I was able to have in the past, but it still centers around us being a big family. This past tour we did with 7 members, while past tours have all been with 12, and it felt very small; we kept getting in the van and asking, “Wait, who are we missing?”, though I reckon 7 people is still a pretty big band.

We love being on the road, so I think a lot of our future plans are centered around how to do that as much as possible. We’re also working on getting our album release on Vinyl, Cassette, and putting out a documentary. Maybe some new music this year? Only time will tell -- we don’t always know where to move, but we just keep moving.


NOTE: Their latest album, Ars Moriendi, is off the charts good and where I recommend starting. They are also on Spotify. 

Raising Girls in the Image of a Male God?

Here is a guest post by my favorite person in the world; Jan Huckins (my wife). I learn from and am challenged by her everyday, so I’m thrilled she put pen to paper to offer up this incredibly important piece to us all. She is often so busy living the life I talk about that she doesn’t have time to do this silly blog stuff…



At seven months pregnant, I remember walk-waddling through the narrow, congested streets of the Old City of Jerusalem as it brimmed with life, scent and color. Between my protruding baby bump and the wildly hospitable shopkeepers, I was regularly stopped and asked, “It is a boy?” Those who didn’t know English as well would just say, “Boy?!”

Each time I would answer, “No, just a sweet little girl,” and each time their eyebrows would fall in a look of pity and say, “Oh well, she’ll be a helper.” This became such a common question that before they could ask, I nearly started responding, “I’m having a girl and she’ll be an amazing helper!”

This encounter in blatant gender preference led down an eye opening and transformational path where it became clear that this reality wasn’t reserved to the Middle East, but extended around the globe. As a mother of three precious girls, my experience in the Middle East -- and the learnings that followed -- have made me cling even more to how much I value raising girls.

Having been born in the early 80’s, I loved listening to Adventures in Odyssey, knew every Keith Green song, believed every word out the mouth of my male pastor and youth pastor, supported our predominately male military and pledged my allegiance to our male presidents as we watched males play all the professional sports that ever made it to our TV screen.

It wasn’t that any of these men were inherently wrong or bad, it’s that I rarely ever had the opportunity to be exposed to females with significant influence. And when I did, it was often in our shared attempt to unpack Proverbs 31 and its implications on our biblical womanhood. I would patiently wait for my “Todd” (Christy Miller series) to be my spiritual leader and finally bring me to completion.

When I closed my eyes in church, I would always envision God being in the form of a loving and accepting father. Again, this is a good and beautiful vision, but I’ve had to begin asking the questions, “Is this the only image of God that is acceptable and true? Does seeing God only as male somehow lessen the value and significance of women who were also created in God’s image?”

As I continually wrestle through these questions while raising three girls, the implications of our image of God has become much more tangible. Will my husband and I only introduce our children to a male image of God or begin to offer a more nuanced picture of the One we follow?

For the last three decades the male pronoun of God is all I’ve ever known, but that won’t be the story for our girls. It’d be like living your whole life only knowing and loving the sun but not discovering the moon and all the purpose and glory it brings.

When I think of the image of God as mother, I think of my mother-in-law in silent strength next to women as they navigate the trauma of cancer. I think of our local midwife who has empowered and accompanied the women in our community through the beauty and challenge of childbirth. I think of the single moms who are heroically raising their kids against all odds. I think of my friends who are yearning for children of their own even as they celebrate the new life of those around them. I think of my community of women who come around soon-to-be mothers to prepare and champion their efforts during labor. I think of my own mother who gives herself to the flourishing of societies’ marginalized as a way to reassign them dignity.

These experiences have given me an expanded image of who God is, but in ways I never thought possible. They are re-birthing a vision of life, hope and liberation.

I have nothing against men and am incredibly grateful for my present, involved, and loving husband. In fact, I don’t have anything I’m trying to prove or argue. I simply want Ruby, Rosie and Lou to believe in a gospel story that celebrates both the sun and the moon. And in doing so, maybe my girls won’t only find fulfillment as wives and mothers, but as liberated, compassionate and strong girls who see their own faces in the One who gave birth to all creation.

Embracing the Greatest Challenge of My Life as Opportunity

IMG_2280Having taken paternity leave with the arrival of our twins, I haven’t “worked” in nearly two months. With that said, there has been no time for reading deep, reflective books on spiritually. No time to engage world issues. No time to be active and seek the healing of systemic injustices in our neighborhood.

No, there has been time for one thing and one thing only; being a dad

If I’m honest, it’s been a struggle. The same exhausting, under appreciated, sleepless, messy and relentless grind of parenting four kids, all of whom are four years old or younger. There are certainly moments of joy, pride and gratitude, but they are far less frequent than the ones of discouragement and delirium. 

In the midst of the fog, I had a bit of an epiphany a couple weeks ago. I found myself thinking about how I would find time for spiritual practices to be reintegrated into my life and dreaming about the intellectual growth I would experience when I go back to “work.” It was as though I was telling myself, “If you just survive this season, then you can finally get back to attending to your spirituality and formation.” 

This is when the epiphany hit; If I don’t connect my parenting with my spirituality and formation, I’m missing out on potentially the most important season of my discipleship journey. 

Changing diapers at 3am = Opportunity to choose selfless sacrifice. 

Responding to yet another 2 year old melt down = Opportunity to model grace and understanding.

Chaos of everyday life = Opportunity to embrace and live into an everyday spirituality.

Weeks/months between dates with my wife = Opportunity for me to get creative in what love and intentionality look like. 

These are all opportunities for me to choose to grow in my personal formation and live more like the One I follow. I can’t see these as hurdles to jump so I can then get back to my spirituality and formation. No, these are the very experiences that are forming me into who I am created to be. To be fully human. To be connected to the gift of life that is pulsating in every moment of everyday. To choose to live a life of self-sacrifice for the flourishing of others. 

I don’t have this figured out in the least, but I do want to give it a shot. I don’t have to wait. We don’t have to wait. We just have to wake up to what is right in front of us and be fully present there.

Maybe that is what love looks like and what the gift of discipleship means in the midst of the mundane and unglamorous realities of daily life.



To My Four Kids, From Dad

IMG_1571After five days in the hospital filled with overwhelming joy, paralyzing fear and complete exhaustion in the wake of the birth of our twins, I finally found a moment to walk outside the florescent lights and sit under the bright moon. Sitting on a small patch of grass outside the hospital doors, the reality of being a father to four kids finally hit me. 

I was both overwhelmed and overjoyed by the gift and responsibility of raising four kids in a world so desperately in need of mustard seeds of hope that one day blossom into healing and beauty.

As I sit in relative comfort and begin to dream big dreams for my kids, I was struck by the reality that most father’s around the globe are forced to welcome their kids into a world where there is no “ladder” to climb because it has been knocked out from under them by broken systems that are breaking people. 

A world where many kids are born into families fleeing violent persecution and being nursed on the trauma of war in battered refugee camps; places where the thought of hope is a distant second to simply fighting to survive.

A world where one’s value is more closely associated with gender (male) than with the beautiful uniqueness inherent in every new life.  

But it is also a world pregnant with possibilities. A world where former enemies move beyond their past, share tables and begin to imagine a future together. 

A world where the blossoms of new life begin to sprout in the shadowy corners of forgotten neighborhoods.  

A world where the diversity of God’s kingdom begins to awaken our eyes and hearts to the new world God is making. 

It is in this world - a world that is both beautiful and broken -- that I offer this prayer over my four kids. 

May you see the humanity, dignity and image of God in everyone. Regardless of documentation, orientation or association, may you choose to see the face of Jesus in all those put in your path. May you see those who are different than you not through the lens of judgment, but with a spirit of curiosity and posture of invitation. 

May you immerse into the the muck and messiness of everyday life seeking to understand rather than be understood. May you move toward broken people and places catalyzed by hope rather than paralyzed by fear. And, finally, as you move deeper into relationship with these people and places, may you stick around for the long haul offering radical presence in a world of hurry.  

My dear ones, may your relative comfort and inherited privilege not lead to complacency, but instead be used to contend for the flourishing of others. May you be willing to sacrifice your reputation, finances and time in order to stand in front of any bulldozer that is flattening people. Like the Jesus we follow, may you return evil with good and choose not to get even, but get creative in love.  

May you lead out of your identity as ones first and foremost loved by God, so you can give yourselves fully to God and others. If you get anything, please get this: your identity is not based on what you do, but who you are. All is grace dear ones and you are God’s beloved. As such, your mother and me will always love you, contend for you, pray for you and stand with you no matter what choices you make or what you “do” or don’t do.  

Whether you join God’s mission of reconciliation in the halls of power or the back allys of forgotten neighborhoods, may you see and participate in the restoration made real in Jesus death and resurrection. May you taste, feel, see and experience a Kingdom where the last will be first and the first will be last. For it is there that love lives. 

And, day in and day out, may we be parents who live and model the kind of lives we are inviting you to live. 

Much love to each of you; Ruby, Rosie, Hank & Lou. 



Lament and the 4 Kids Who Will Never See Their Mother Again

unnamedLast night, friends from around our neighborhood gathered to hold a vigil of lament for the Charleston tragedy. 

We shared our confusion, our sadness, our anger and our pain.  

We read a liturgy of solidarity and empathy seeking to simply sit in the pain alongside our black sisters and brothers impacted not only by this tragedy, but by the “spoiled meat of racism” that manifests itself everyday. 

We then walked around the room looking into the eyes of each of the victims as their pictures and bio’s hauntingly and beautifully hung on the walls of the room. 

What a remarkable collective of people giving themselves to God and neighbor. No doubt, a collective of people God was and is using to bring about the world he is making. 

But the pain of this tragedy runs deep. We must lament. We must wail. We must sit in the disorienting pain of our sisters and brothers seeking to understand rather than to be understood.

unnamedIt was the beautiful face and story of DePayne Middleton Doctor that broke me. A mother of four daughters who day in and day out lived a remarkable life of love and care. Four daughters who will never hear the soothing voice or experience the warm hug of their mother again.  

As a father of four kids, this is an unfathomable reality that I can’t pretend to understanding…but I can weep.  

Weep over the missed birthday parties, graduations, weddings and grandkids. 

Weep over the deepened feelings of vulnerability and isolation.

Weep over the injustice of a death fueled by an ideology that was given birth by a busted history and system of inequality.  

We trust that the stories of those killed did not end last week, but is just beginning as their witness is now amplified around the world to shed light on an infection debilitating our nation. 

We closed by reading the wise words of Martin Luther King Jr. spoken after four girls were killed in a Birmingham church in an act of terror similar to last weeks.

“They did not die in vain. God still has a way of wringing good out of evil. History has proven over and over again that unmerited suffering is redemptive. The innocent blood of these little girls may well serve as the redemptive force that will bring new light to this dark city.”

While we pray this to be true, for now, we must weep. 

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