My Top 10 Albums of 2014 (On REPEAT)

*This post has been revised from it’s original version to include NEEDTOBREATHE’S Rivers in the Wasteland. I formally apologize to NEEDTOBREATHE. I will never forget you again.

 

I LOVE music! Seriously. I listen to music more hours throughout the day than I sleep sometimes. I have my favorites, the albums I play over and over again. But I also do a serious amount of searching for new artists. I love buying an album. I know these days are long gone, but I used to love the feeling of going to FYE, Target or the local record store, buying a cd and listening to it over and over again through a boombox. No headphones. No statuses to update. No liking the album online.

I would lay down on my bed, stare at the fan and listen to every single album I bought at least twice before I got up. Three times if I was lucky.
There was a time soon after Switchfoot’s ‘The Beautiful Letdown’ came out that I would fall asleep at night with it on repeat. A great idea except that I had accidently scratched the cd right where the song “On Fire” was at and I would wake up to Jon’s voice repeating the word “Mysteries-ies-ies-ies-ies-ies-ies-ies-ies-ies” endlessly until I turned it off.

I literally wore out cds.

But now we live in the digital-streaming age. I’ve grown to love Spotify. I still buy albums off of iTunes (gotta support your favorite artists and friends) and the occasional cd (1989, duh), but Spotify is a great way to branch out of your current musical-taste bubble and discover some great music you could be missing out on!

That all being said, I’d like to comprise a list of my favorite albums of 2014! Mind you, this isn’t necessarily my list of the “Best” albums of 2014, these are just the ones I found myself pushing the repeat button on more than once! Maybe they are worth listening to! All albums are posted with a Spotify hyperlink! (Purchasing albums is the best way to show love to your artist)

10. One Direction – FOUR (Deluxe)

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Okay don’t hate me. I had to give it to them, this album is catchy as FRICK. In 2014, I became a 1D fan. “Story Of My Life” caught me by surprise. Those boys can SING. And they’ve got style (someone will catch this joke). This album fuses boy-band craziness with rock anthem style and that’s a pretty great mixture if you ask me!

Notable Songs: “Stockholm Syndrome” “Steal My Girl” “18” “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” “Fool’s Gold”

 

9. Brooke Fraser – Brutal Romantic

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I have to be honest, I didn’t expect this sort of album from Brooke Fraser. She’s grown into her sound but hasn’t lost her RIDICULOUS talent for lyric content. Give it a listen, you’ll have this weird taste in your mouth wondering how you feel. Give it another listen. You’ll love it.

Notable Songs: “Psychosocial” “Brutal Romance” “New Year’s Eve”

 

8.  Bleachers – Strange Desire

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This dude from fun. totally captures the 80’s pop-rock sound and refuels it. This is another “summer” album. Road trip. Beaching. Running. This is really an anytime album! Have fun!

Notable Songs: “Rollercoaster” “I Wanna Get Better” “Wild Heart”

 

 

7.  NEEDTOBREATHE – Rivers In The Wasteland

610zMH8VYyLThis album is fantastic. Some of the best writing NEEDTOBREATHE has ever done. They continue to out due themselves every time. Make sure you catch them live.

 

Notable Songs: “Wasteland” “State I’m In” “Difference Maker” “Multiplied”

 

6. Coldplay – Ghost Stories

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A different sound from Coldplay with this one, but just what we needed. I really feel like this album was too short. They could have put one out twice as long and I still would have complained and begged for more. Go for a drive. Head for the ocean.

 

Notable Songs: “Midnight” “A Sky Full Of Stars” “Magic” “True Love” “Always In My Head” “O”

 

5.  Bellarive – Before There Was

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The best “unknown” worship band of all time. Bellarive is local to Orlando, FL but they are getting pretty well known around the world. They aren’t necessarily a CCM-radio worship band, but that’s a GREAT thing. They are changing the way that we see and experience worship. This album is their best yet, and their others are GREAT as well!

 

Notable Songs: “Calling On Fire” “Let There Be Light” “Lazarus” also THE WHOLE FREAKING THING

 

4.  Bethel Music – You Make Me Brave (Live)

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I’m not sure I would have made it through the year without this album. If at any time you are struggling to find the presence of God in your life, PLAY THIS ALBUM. He’ll be there by the first minute of “You Make Me Brave.”
Close your doors. Turn off your lights. Put on this album. Get into your posture of prayer. Your life will change.

 

Notable Songs: “You Make Me Brave” “It Is Well” “Forever” “Joy Of The Lord” “Come To Me” “Anchor”

 

3.  Foster The People – Supermodel

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Usually a band goes through a “sophomore slump” with their second album. Not Foster The People! This album is EXCELLENT! Listen over and over. The lyric content will surprise you once. So many metaphors and symbols. Plus, its pretty groovy.

Notable Songs: “Coming of Age” “Are You What You Want To Be?” “The Truth” “Fire Escape”

 

2.  Colony House – When I Was Younger

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GO LISTEN TO THIS NOW! I rode my bicycle to work everyday this summer and this album was that soundtrack. These are some seriously talented guys with GREAT, I mean GREAT lyrics. I’ve never heard a band’s debut album be this put together. They know what they want to sound like and they NAIL it! You’ll love it.

Notable Songs: THE WHOLE FREAKING THING

 

1. Taylor Swift – 1989

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DUH! You can’t be one of the best selling albums of all time and not be number 1! It’s no secret that Taylor is my favorite Woman artist right now, and probably always will be. I thought I loved her music in “RED” but Taylor has finally settled into HER SOUND with “1989.” It’s not on Spotify, but it’s worth the buy. I bought it the regular AND the deluxe! I’ve listened to this album so much, my car starts playing it automatically when I turn it on. Enjoy!

Notable Songs(besides the whole thing?!?!): “Wildest Dreams” “Shake It Off” “Style” “Out of the Woods” “This Love”

 

Honorable mentions:  Bad Suns – Language & PerspectiveYoung the Giant – Mind Over MatterNONONO – We Are Only What We FeelAmerican Authors – Oh, What A LifeWalk the Moon – TALKING IS HARDalt-J – This Is All YoursSt. Lucia – When The Night (Deluxe)The Colourist – The ColouristLecrae – Anomaly

For a playlist of the Top 10 (minus Taylor) click here:  Top 10 Albums of 2014 (On Repeat)

Be sure to post any of your favorite albums of 2014 down in the comments and I will be sure to take a listen!
Here’s to 2015! Still the year of Taylor, but there is loads of NEW music to keep an eye out for!

 

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You asked for the truth and called me a liar?

“…Again the high priest asked him,
‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?’
And Jesus said, ‘I am, and you will see the Son of Man
seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with 
the clouds of heaven.’
And the high priest tore his garments and said,
‘What further witness do we need?
You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?’

And they all condemned him as deserving death.”

Mark 14:61-64 ESV

Me: What further witness do YOU need?

How about this irony? Wouldn’t you hate to be that guy right about now? I call this quote “the DEFINITION of wrong.” The Man who IS truth is perceived as a liar. I can’t comprehend what I would have done if I were in this situation as Jesus, or even a disciple for that matter. I surely wouldn’t have hid, like Peter. At least we all would say that watching this story unfold in hindsight. If I say that I’ll live and die with Jesus, then I should surely back it up when push comes to shove. But we didn’t have the opportunity…then, at least.

What about the high priest? I mean, we know now that Jesus is God, but if you were in the position of the high priest wouldn’t you have acted the same way? After all he was just defending his God, which just so happened to be the same God that he was condemning to death. Tough break man. But we didn’t live back then.

For us, our opportunity to live or die for Jesus is now. Isn’t it?
Don’t we have the choice to live or die for Jesus in every passing moment?

Here is where we are now. Dying to ourselves, taking up our crosses DAILY. That’s the key. (Luke 9:23)

We are human. We make mistakes. Jesus calls us to push through those mistakes and seek after Him.
If we were perfect, there would be no need for grace and the cross would be null and void. But we aren’t perfect.
We are in need of grace everyday.

Grace.

A concept I will never fully comprehend but I grow in understanding better each and everyday.

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV

Everyday as I scoot to work (yes I drive a scooter and will gladly take a free car if anyone has one) I get the amazing experience of watching the sunrise. As a west-coast Floridian for most of my life, I grew up watching sunsets. NOTHING to me is more beautiful than a sunset. But I have grown to love sunrises almost just as much, mostly because of that verse from Lamentations. Everyday as I stare into the sun I am reminded that my mistakes of yesterday have been washed away and grace has given me a new beginning. Grace is not something I can achieve on my own.

I’m a daily mess. I screw up daily. We all do. But God, out of HIS love for US, provided a way to gain HIS righteousness. Each and everyday God stretches out His hands and offers us a new beginning. Grace is knowing that you will never ever reach the glory God has planned for you without Him. Jesus became the sacrifice in our place so that we can be made righteous in the eyes of the LORD.

As Jesus was on the cross, passersby took his teachings and threw them back into his face. They would yell out “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three day, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” (Mark 15:29-30) As I read this I smirked. Knowing the full story makes it easy for me to believe. But even Jesus said, “blessed be the ones who have not seen, yet believed.” (John 20:29) How much harder is it to believe when you haven’t received a revelation from God? Maybe that’s why I’m writing this. Maybe that’s why I write anything. To share revelation, so that you might believe.

I wrote a first draft to this blog and posted it a few mornings ago. I was proud of it. But God wasn’t done with it.
In this season of my life, I currently am apart of 5-7 worship services a week as well as being a full-time history, music and bible teacher for a small Christian school. This is something that I never expected to do. I never wanted to teach, but I have found so much joy in the classroom. Especially in a Christian school. I can stop and have Mr. Feeny moments whenever the Lord prompts AND I get to talk about Jesus as openly as I want.

Today during music class was one of those moments.

One of my students had lost a family member over the past week and began to break down in front of his peers. The room fell silent. I felt the prompting of the Lord to not talk about music today, but to say what He wanted me to say. I asked the room if anyone else had lost someone close to them. Hands flew up. I began to explain that even though God made us all different and we all go through different things, we can still come together as the body of Christ and lift each other up with our shared experiences. I shared about my grandmother passing away earlier this year. (you can read about that experience here) I shares how God gives you strength to get through hard times through the power of the Holy Spirit. Then He asked me to share what that means.

A few nights before this, we took a group of youth leaders and students to the SEU Worship Live album recording at the House of Blues (SO good btw). Special guest Rich Wilkerson, Jr. shared during ministry time with this point.

“We should not let our circumstances determine our faith. We should let our faith  determine our circumstances.”

A point I’d heard him and many others make before, but this time I was urged to action. Faith without works is dead anyhow.

I started talking to my students about how our circumstances (i.e. sadness, loss, guilt, sin, death, lust) begin to cut us down making us feel less than we are worth. Like my student who is in pain and sadness from the loss of a loved one. Those circumstances can look pretty bleak. How am I supposed to feel good when my circumstances tell me otherwise?

Jesus’ circumstances didn’t look too hot either. In Mark 14:61-64, Jesus is before all of the religious leaders of His day who are all condemning Him and accusing Him of blasphemy. But he keeps silent; waiting for the prompting of the Lord. Then Jesus is asked if He is indeed the “Son of the Blessed.”
Jesus replies not with a yes or no, but in the way YHWH would reply. I AM.

Moses asked the Spirit in the burning bush who He was. “I AM that I AM.”

John opens up with “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word WAS God.”

I WAS.

I AM.

I AM TO COME.

I guess the Word of God is never more true when it says “No one can come to the father unless the father draws him in…” (John 6:44) then in this moment.
Jesus basically drops the biggest metaphorical drop-the-mic, turn out the lights, #BOOM I’ve ever seen and the guy he’s talking to has the nerve to call him a LIAR!
In fact, he is so convinced that Jesus is lying that he becomes physically horrified at Jesus’ “blasphemy” and tears his garments off his body. Jesus didn’t let the intimidation of all the religious leaders of the day detour Him from the mission God had. Yes, He could have used the support of His disciples right about now. But they scattered; claiming to not know him. Peter, claiming to have never even seen Jesus before.
Peter.
Jesus’ best and closest friend.
The one who drew a sword just moments before, claiming to defend Jesus unto death.
Where did THAT Peter go?
Could it be that in THAT moment, Peter let his circumstance define his level of faith rather than letting his level of faith define his circumstance? Peter let his circumstance overcome his faith in his best friend. His faith in his savior.

Peter has now abandoned Jesus when He needed him most.

“But what about you?” he asked.
“Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.”
Luke 9:20 NIV

The same Peter who replied to Jesus, calling Him the Messiah, was now caught in a lie.

I think of Truth as I think of Light.
There is no such thing as darkness. Darkness is the absence of light. You can’t have more darkness. Darkness cannot overcome light. Darkness is simply the absence of light. Light will ALWAYS overcome the dark.
I think of truth and falsehoods in the same way.
Lies will never overcome the truth. The truth will ALWAYS come out eventually. Whether through your boss, principle, parents or the coming of the King. The truth will always overcome a lie. Think about any sitcom you’ve ever seen. Usually the plotline of the episode is based on a lie or falsehood that the main character is working diligently to keep alive by telling more lies. Eventually the truth comes out and the only way for the character to move on and learn a lesson is to give in to the truth, face the music and apologize.

Then what happens?

GRACE.

If we are talking about Boy Meets World (which I always refer to for every teenage life lesson) then Corey and Shawn would have to apologize to Corey’s parents and to Mr. Feeny, then serve detention to make sure the lesson stuck.
But the people involved don’t think any less of Corey and Shawn. They aren’t condemned for what they did. They receive Grace, detention and in turn, growth.

GRACE leads to GROWTH.

Always.

Peter has one more interaction with Jesus. Jesus has risen and Peter is all excited.
Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?”
If Peter loved Jesus, don’t you think he would have proved it. But he didn’t. Peter essentially “failed” Jesus by denying Him three times. But Jesus isn’t asking for proof. He’s asking for change. He was preparing Peter for what is to come.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger,
you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished;
but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you,
and bring you where you do not wish to go.”
John 21:18

Jesus is calling Peter to a life lead by the Spirit.
A life of daily dying to himself, taking us his cross and following Jesus. Everyday walking in Grace and Mercy, following the will of the LORD. Jesus is asking Peter to GROW.

He is asking this of us now. Jesus has given us Grace and we are supposed to take that Grace and turn it into Growth.
Grace isn’t a free pass to do whatever we want. Grace is a mission (should you choose to accept it) to turn away from our old desires and begin following the desires of Christ.

 

As night passes by, let your old self die;

And with the rising of the sun, rise as a new creation in Christ.

 

“And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.'”
Revelation 21:5 ESV

 

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#areyoucallingmealiar?

 

Selah

It’s been a year since I graduated SEU. W O W!
Even though it has been only a year, it feels like more. This year was so jam-packed with different places, jobs, seasons and blessings. I have learned so much in so little time.
Transitions have always been bittersweet.
Leaving a familiar place. Setting out into the unknown.
Exciting but dangerous.

I’ve been blessed with so much in just over a year.
I’ve acted in two feature films.
Traveled to Alaska, Seattle, Montana, Texas, Mississippi, Nashville 4 times, Kansas City, South Carolina twice, Alabama, Georgia.
I’ve led worship for numerous churches, camps and conferences.
And in February I moved up to Clermont with my best pal from SEU to serve at a church together.

I feel so blessed.
There are so many stories that go along with each place I’ve visited.
Stories of heartache and despair as well as stories of restoration and healing.
I’ve witnessed and help lead many to christ.
But I have also seen just as many stay the same.

So many different people in different places, with different jobs, different wages, different dreams.
But the staggering thing is that every time I enter an unfamiliar place I am surrounded by very familiar things.
So many different people in different places, with the same heartaches, the same losses, the same failures.

We as a people like to gloat in the fact that we are all different. And we are. We are each made unique, for a unique purpose and a specific destiny. I believe that wholeheartedly. Part of my calling is to help people find the skills and talents God has given to them that make them unique and to show them how to use that for The Kingdom.

But, we are all connected by one thing. Amongst all of our differences, humanity unites with a fatal flaw.

Sin.

Sin our common ground.

Sin is everywhere.
It’s in our loss. Our pain. Our suffering. Our fear of failure. Our fear of being alone. Our lack of self-worth. Our desire for more of what ultimately hurts us.

Sin is in our humanity. Our DNA. Our nature.

We can be born rich. Poor. Lazy. Talented. Alone. Sickly. Deformed. Having it all. Having nothing.
But we will still all have sin. And that’s what equals us.

Selah

I pride myself on being able to connect with a lot of people. I like people. I like having friends.
Better yet, I like making people feel LOVED. I love to love people. 
So when I meet someone new I try to make them feel as comfortable around me as possible, usually by connecting with them in some unusual way. Whether it be through music, a tv show, a book, or a personality trait, I want that person to walk away feeling loved and cared for even if it was just our first encounter.
Idk, that’s just how I operate.

I call this the emotional connection. (Mind you, I was a music major in college so I have no “professional” knowledge about this matter. This is all merely my observation.)

I like to connect with people. Find their likes and dislikes. Find out what makes them tic.
Once we’ve connected on mutual likes, I like to figure out what makes them unique.
How are we different? What things can you do well that I can’t? What makes you special?

First encounter conversations usually stop there. At least for most people, but not for me.
Recently, I’ve noticed that God will use this point in the conversation for us to openly talk about beliefs. The person I’m talking to will begin to spew out all of their beliefs on faith or lack there of. They change the conversation to be about God. Christian or not. 
This actually comes most unexpected to me, because I started this conversation with the intent of getting to know this person with no ulterior motive of testimony in mind. But over and over again, the person I have just met will be the first one to ask about anything spiritual or God related.
I believe this comes from having a genuine heart and earnestly trying to love everyone you meet with the love of Christ. People can feel true love and genuine kindness.

God uses our genuine heart as a beacon for the lost.

It’s like the Pete Townshend 80’s classic, “Let My Love Open the Door”.
Countless times during my travels in this past year I have been able to share my faith comfortably and unforced when I least expected it, solely because I showed the genuine love of Christ and God opened a door.

God has called us to connect with people. I mean, Jesus was the ultimate connector wasn’t He?
Yes His death was payment for our sins, but also for so much more than that. His death bridged the gap of sin so He could live in us and bring us life and life more abundantly. But we forget to show that part. We often show the tired, stressful side of being a follower of Christ. We boast more about the pains of financial struggle in ministry rather than boast about the joy of seeing so many lives changed.
We’d rather let our worries get to us than stand firm on the solid rock of Christ.

I wonder what would happen if we were all open and honest about our sin? About our struggles? What if we were completely open about how much GRACE we actually need to survive the day?

I am in need of SO MUCH grace.

2 Corinthians 12:8-9 says,

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

Christ’s power through us rests on our deliverance of sin, in our weaknesses. HIS grace is sufficient.
Shouldn’t that be our message?

If we are all connected by sin, then shouldn’t we all be connected by GRACE as well?

Selah

No matter where you are or where you go, you will always find broken people. You will always find sin.
But don’t waste an opportunity to show God’s love to someone through a friendly conversation or a kind act.
Wherever you’re reading this, stop. Take a look around you. WHO do you see? Do you know them? How well do you know them? If you don’t, what’s stopping you from talking to them? Fear? We all know that fear isn’t from God.
Take away your distractions and inhibitions and go LOVE on somebody.

You never know just how bad someone might need that love.
And then, if God opens a door,
share grace.

Because you know how bad everyone is in desperate need of that.

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