Closer: A Lenten Playlist

Prelude — Every pilgrimage needs a soundtrack, even if that soundtrack is silence. Rather than our hearts interacting with the season of Lent  as a self-imposed burden, we should view it as a God invited journey. A journey is both wearing and refreshing providing rest and exercise. It has a time frame and a structure, but also liberty and an unpredictability to it. A journey is a story being written, not a platitude or marketing catch phrase that has already been decided for you.

In preparation for my pilgrimage (which starts this Wednesday, March 5th), I’ve packed some music (streams available below) and scripture for reflection. Some of these have been around for awhile, simmering until the time was right. Others were given to me at the last minute as gifts to help on the way. Through the next 40 days (as I not glance at, but gaze through) they will be transfigured and mean something to me differently than what they do now. They will be turned over and over again on the journey: one day as companions, another day as instructors, yet another as modes of worship and prayer. Creation declares the glory of God.

Christ is our source
Christ is our path
Christ is our destination

Act 1 :: Aaron Strumpel selections from January Journal, available for purchase via Bandcamp.
Aaron went through the disciple a couple years back of writing a song a day for each day in January. The resulting album is some of his finest writing. Though stripped down to his voice and acoustic, the music is anything but empty, even when all he has is three chords and the truth. This grouping of songs feels like a prophet to me, sometimes in hopeful lament under persecution, sometimes in intense pursuit of nothing but God Himself, sometimes in calling a spade a spade and religion dead.

1. – Sanctify | Your life and light will pierce me through
2. – Deep Dark | the hole in my heart will beat for You tonight
3. – Look Around | I open my ears, I think I hear Your still small voice
4. – Like You | why would I live outside of You?

5. – Fool | don’t be a fool though you say it’s for Him

6. – Under the Gun | I will get closer to You

7. – Death’s Dark Door | don’t chase the ways of man or the needs of flesh’s%20Dark%20Door.mp3%20

Interlude from Exodus 20 There is fear that leads to death and fear that brings life. We stand far off from God at times because we know to be closer means that some things in our lives have to go… it would mean to hear his voice without a doubt and we might not like everything we hear even though He is gracious and compassionate and disciplines those whom he loves. But God is found even in the thick darkness.

18 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” 21 The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.

Act 2 :: Derek Webb  Selections from Ctrl (acoustic), available for purchase via Noisetrade. The feel of this acoustic rendition makes me imagine a modernized Gregorian chant. Featuring a single voice, a nylon stringed guitar, and plenty of reverb to place you into the middle of an overwhelming cathedral, these three tracks are easily the most haunting on the playlist.

8. – Can’t Sleep | anywhere the light can reach, is no where I am safe
9. – Blocks | I love what I can control, so I don’t love very much
10. – I Feel Everything | it’s a promise meant to quell my every fear yet leave me cursed

Interlude from James 4 The Lenten season is a time to tear down, to uproot, to be shaken by the grace of God so that only the unshakable may remain.

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Act 3 :: Page CXVILent to Maundy Thursday, available for purchase via Store on Tuesday March 4th. (Tracks 11 – 17 on my playlist are the tracks in order below.) Page CXVI not only transforms old songs into modern melodies, thereby preserving the richness of lyric in the voice of this generation, but also creates originals hymns of their own. Their latest liturgical EP is the most full musically on the playlist, even including strings and horns. The songs bring a tranquil presence, a constant plotting that also tears up hard ground. If it were one of the living creatures crying “holy, holy, holy” in Revelation 4 worship, it would be the Ox out in the field, strong yet unassuming, doing the beautiful work it does in order to bring a fruitful harvest.

Postlude from Psalm 85

[1] LORD, you were favorable to your land;
you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
[2] You forgave the iniquity of your people;
you covered all their sin. Selah
[3] You withdrew all your wrath;
you turned from your hot anger.

[4] Restore us again, O God of our salvation,
and put away your indignation toward us!
[5] Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you prolong your anger to all generations?
[6] Will you not revive us again,
that your people may rejoice in you?
[7] Show us your steadfast love, O LORD,
and grant us your salvation.

[8] Let me hear what God the LORD will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints;
but let them not turn back to folly.
[9] Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him,
that glory may dwell in our land.

[10] Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
[11] Faithfulness springs up from the ground,
and righteousness looks down from the sky.
[12] Yes, the LORD will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
[13] Righteousness will go before him
and make his footsteps a way.

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