Friday, June 9, 2017

Bono and Rogue One

Bono from the band U2 recently gave an interview that has been circulating around the internet.  You can read it here: Bono and Christian Music.  While I don’t necessarily agree with the notion that there is a level of “dishonesty” in modern Christian music, I do understand the point he is trying to make.

As a Christian music culture, we seem to be very much fixed on a singular viewpoint of our faith and music.  God is good, and we are to remember that at all times.  This attribute of exultation is hugely important to our beliefs and who we are as Christians.  There is no dishonesty in that.  However, if we only worship in that manner, it may appear to those who do not believe in God that we are being fake.  Are we not living in a world of sin?  Is there not spiritual battles being fought as we live in a fallen world?  This is where the Psalms come in that Bono mentions.

We are created as emotional beings, with valleys of struggles that collide with mountaintop experiences of exhilaration.  Our art is an expression of our experience, and when we create art, we should not limit it to a singular emotion or experience.  It doesn’t tell the whole picture.

We are to be the salt of the earth and a light to the darkness.  As salt makes everything taste better, we are to make everything have more flavor.  The Creator has inspired us to create.  How much more artistic and profound our music and art should be!  It should be an endless drawing of inspiration for expression.  In the same way, we are light to the darkness.  The darkness cannot become light unless we go out and extend that light we have been given in a real and relatable way to the darkness.

This is why Unbroken Light made an album… this is why I create.  I sometimes feel like our forthcoming album will be the “Rogue One” album of Christian music.  Rogue One was a movie that kept consistent with the Star Wars universe and ideals, but presented them in a much more realistic and palpable way.  Similarly, Unbroken Light is drawing from the same roots as other modern Chrstians songs, but we are opening it up to more reality and allowing the listener to experience some sadness.  We are allowing the listener to hear that we have struggles of our own and that we cry out to God when we are in despair.  The Christian walk is one filled with doubt, expectation, longing, and excitement.  My hope is that our album encompasses many of these emotions, and that it takes the listener through a journey of celebration, struggle, and reliance on God, that He may ultimately be glorified.


Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Cathedral Logo

There is a deeper meaning behind the new logo of Unbroken Light shown above.  The logo is a design based off of the St. Denis Cathedral in France.  It is widely recognized as the first cathedral ever built using Gothic architecture back in 1144.  The architect, Abbot Suger, used the latin term "Lux Continua" for his design.  This phrase is where our band's name comes from as it means "Unbroken Light".  Abbot Suger wanted his cathedral to defy gravity and let so much light in that it would immediately bring your eyes and mind towards heaven.  On its doorway is inscribed:

"Marvel not at the gold and expense but at the craftsmanship of the work.  The noble work is bright, but, being nobly bright, the work should brighten the minds, allowing them to travel through the lights to the true light, where Christ is the true door."    - Abbot Suger

Our mission is similar:  To make music that glorifies God and points others directly to Him.  My prayer and hope is that through our music and our lives, we are able to truly accomplish that goal.



Friday, March 11, 2016

Gate Between Two Walls

Unbroken Light is coming up on our final year of finishing up the new album "Gate Between Two Walls" and I wanted to explain a little bit about why we will be giving the album that title.

In Nehemiah 3:3-32 the Bible talks about all of the gates that were in disrepair in Jerusalem that needed to be rebuilt.  It even mentions their names:  The Fish Gate, the Old Gate, the Valley Gate, etc.  One of the gates is named the Dung Gate.  Not a very classy sounding gate, right?  The purpose of this gate was to be where the Israelites would bring out their garbage and refuse and burn it, destroy it... eliminate it.  In spiritual terms, this gate is symbolic for the purging of sin.

All of our lives contain sin, as much as we fight it and battle against it, sin will always be a part of our lives.  In order to combat sin effectively we must immediately avoid the sin by running away from it (not giving into temptation) and asking for forgiveness in order to eliminate it from our lives.  We must take it to the Gate where it will be destroyed.

I loved this idea of purification by fire and how it related to our spiritual walk with Christ, but I was having a hard time dealing with an album title called "The Dung Gate".  Luckily for me, there was another name for the gate:  The Gate Between Two Walls.  The Dung Gate was positioned in Jerusalem right between two large walls.  Again, symbolically, I feel like this is the choice we are given when confronted by sin.  Do we give in to the sin, or do we run away from it?  We are presented with a crossroads, or a Gate Between Two Walls.

Building upon this foundational concept, our album will include lyrics that will encompass the entire journey of a believer:  the elation of being set free in Christ, the difficulties of falling captive to sin, and the desire to walk with Christ in authenticity and unhindered passion.  Many of the songs are a cry out to God in the times of trouble:  "Let me know that You are here...", "When the waves take me below, I will set my eyes on You...", "We're crying out to You...".  But many of the songs will also rejoice in the knowledge that we are set free in Christ:  "I am Yours, and You are mine", "In Your Name, there is no shame...", and "You are my hope, You are my strength...".

I hope that by including the contrast of experiences we face as believers it will be an encouragement to the listener that:

1.  You are not alone in your difficulties, we all face times of trouble
2.  You have been redeemed and are no longer a slave to this world
3.  You are part of a larger story with Christ as the focal point

By listening, I hope that you will also be encouraged to make the right choice when convicted by the Holy Spirit and confronted with a Gate Between Two Walls.  The path to purification is never easy, but God is with us, and He has made a way...

In Him,

- Josh

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

"Oceans" and the Grand Canyon

As a songwriter I am always fascinated with why certain songs resonate with listeners more than others.  One of the biggest Christian songs out right now is “Oceans” by Hillsong United.  Why is this song so popular?  Apart from the incredible musicality and dynamics in the song, the lyrics are a big part of why I believe this song moves people.  In particular the bridge of the song is what always gets me:

            Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
            Let me walk upon the waters
            Wherever You would call me
            Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
            And my faith will be made stronger
            In the presence of my Savior

This song is about going all out for Christ.  In a society that says “buy more stuff and make your life more comfortable,” this song says take me farther and challenge me more than I’ve ever imagined.  It’s the opposite of what we are used to hearing and desiring in our culture.

I believe that this is why the song resonates so deep down in our souls.  The biggest problem Christians have in America is that we are too comfortable.  We easily become apathetic and fall into a daily routine of living, but we are not really living.  We pray for safety, comfort, and blessing, when what we really need is perspective, challenge, and adventure.  We’ve become content to be content.

What if instead of praying for blessings and comfort, we prayed the bridge of “Oceans” everyday?  What would happen?  How could God use us if we gave ourselves wholly and completely to Him?
This week, I would challenge you to pray the lyrics to the song “Oceans.”  Make time for a daily prayer like, “Lord, take me deeper in my trust of You.  Let me not hold back any part of my life for myself, but give You everything.  Increase my faith today in a very real way, and let me trust You without borders.”  This is the only way that we can truly find out what God has planned for us.  Until we open up our view of who God is, we limit the ways He can use us to a much smaller reality.  It’s like standing one foot away from the Grand Canyon wall and looking straight ahead, instead of standing above the giant precipice and looking all around.  We are missing out on seeing the whole story… and we don’t want to miss out on that amazing view.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Frank Lloyd Wright and Walt Disney

Two of my heroes are Frank Lloyd Wright and Walt Disney.  I majored in Art at James Madison University and I have always been fascinated with how Wright blends his buildings into the natural landscape surrounding them.  Walt Disney fascinates me with his ability to somehow turn magic into reality.  Both of these men are similar in that they are remembered as extremely successful men who many people aspire to be like.  And there are things about both men that I love. But there is also a very different aspect about these two men that some may not know.

They had very different philosophies regarding children.  Wright believed that children were the biggest hindrance to productivity that could ever exist.  And let's be honest, they kind of are.  If I ever sit down to accomplish something and one of my kids are around, it is inevitable that they will come over and vie for my attention.  At the very least they will distract me, potentially so much so that I will quit what I set out to originally do altogether.  Frank Lloyd Wright had many kids to many different women, and he was not very involved in their lives.  His work was of upmost importance, and nothing else would take it's place.

On the other hand, Walt Disney loved kids.  His heart for kids went deeper than just how he marketed his brand... his priorities were different.  Disney is quoted as saying "a man should never neglect his family for business."  And here is the beautiful thing... even with a philosophy like that, he was still successful.  He's proof that you can put your family before your business and still be very successful.  This brings me great peace knowing that it's possible to invest the necessary amount of time with my kids/family and yet still also work hard and become a successful entrepreneur.  

So here's the bottom line:  as a parent, which philosophy are you adopting?  When you look at how your time is spent, which philosophy does your life mirror more closely... Disney or Wright?

At the end of the day, when I breathe my final breath on this earth, I would rather be remembered as a man who was successful as a father but a failure as a musician.  What a tragic loss it would be for me to be remembered the other way around:  successful in the music industry but absent from my children's lives.  What truly is more important?

Disney got it right... and who knows, with a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work maybe I'll be successful at both. He proved it's possible...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Why I Write Music

I was recently asked to write up a few sentences describing what was the message or the intent behind the music of Unbroken Light.  I have always in the back of my head known why I was writing music, but it was a good exercise for me to actually put pen to paper and write it down.  Here is what I came up with:

The vision for Unbroken Light is to bring a light to the dark places and show that there is always hope found in Christ.  Being a Christian does not take away our pain or challenges in life.  In fact, I believe that being a Christian brings along with it the hardest challenges of all:  dying to self, living an unselfish life, and constantly molding our character after Christ.  But it is also the most fulfilling and rewarding journey one could ever take.  I hope my songs show the entire spectrum of that journey, and ultimately, that Jesus is the only thing in this life worth following after.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Difficulty Of Success

I recently was looking through a journal I had saved from back when I was in college at James Madison University and thought this passage I wrote in March of 2003 was particularly strong.

"It is not a magnificent thing to merely conjure up dreams or aspirations no matter how monumental they may be.  The difficulty lies in taking action, and in suffering through the failure, which is an inevitable truth to all success."

I find this to be true in all aspects of life.  Even as I have recently started up the Unbroken Light band I find myself repeatedly coming up against roadblocks.  The key, I think, is to enjoy the adventure along the way, with all of it's peaks and valleys, and not to focus too much on the destination.  If you only focus on the final destination of your work then you miss all the good stuff along the way, and an incredible opportunity to grow.