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I don’t understand “free”.  I like it, sure, but I don’t always know how it works.

Google does free searches.  But they are pushing their own agenda – advertising.  Food and beverage companies give out free samples, in the hope that you will want to buy their product, so they can make money.

And then there’s Page CXVI, whom I have mentioned before.  They are now streaming their first two albums for free, in hopes of potentially selling more albums, sure, but also in hope of reaching more people for God.  And it’s hard to fault that reasoning.

The biggest freebie, though, is the gift of salvation.  We are sinners, condemned to hell by our choices.  And yet God gives us grace, inviting us to be His sons and daughters.  And this is offered to us, free.

Of course it’s not free.  A mighty price had to be paid.  But not by us.

Grace is an acronym: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.  Jesus Christ paid the price for the greatest free offer that you will ever read about.  Unfortunately, it’s a limited-time offer.  You can only accept it while you are alive.

Don’t be late!  And remember: one offer per person.

There’s a proverb – reportedly Russian – that goes like this:

The church is near, but the road is icy.
The tavern is far, but I’ll walk carefully.

It may or may not be real, but the sentiment surely is.  People do what they want to do.  We found ourselves in a close-but-not-exact situation.

Friday night, we went to Lake Isabella to hear a local blues band, 46 Long.  They had a keyboardist sitting in for the guitar player, and both are accomplished musicians.  The music was great, and the lyrics were terrible.  You done me wrong, you left me for another, I left you for another, I tried to leave you but I couldn’t.  Not exact quotes, but those were the threads throughout the songs.

Bettie mentioned that when she was in high school, she listened to secular music and was depressed because of that.  She said she wished there were Christian blues.  I told her that the two didn’t mix – Christianity and the blues are opposing concepts.  That would be like “dry water” or something.

I was wrong.

ChristianBlues.net is “the Internet’s first and largest source of blues music by Christian artists”.  They offer groups like the Victory in Heaven Blues Band, and have some free downloads.  I grabbed the tracks and will give them a listen.

On the “roads are icy” side of the proverb, we had planned to go to a hymnfest.  New Richmond is a river town about 40 minutes away, and as part of their River Days celebration, some churches were having a festival of hymns.  We had planned on going to it, but incoming bad weather helped us decide against the outdoor event.  In comparison to the blues songs, the songs for this include How Great Thou Art, Amazing Grace, and Victory in Jesus.  Bit of a difference, and much more conducive to a proper worldview.

Sunday, after supporting our church, we’re heading to see Holly Spears at the Elizabeth Ann Seton festival.  Holly is a Christian artist who has been through a lot and is joyously holding on to Christ.  She sang at our church last year, showing some of her art work and explaining how God is working in her life.

I’m standing at a crossroads
I am patiently waiting
And praying for light to be shown
Lord, which way should I go
I’ve been seeking out the answers
I’m still patiently waiting for God to say
Go down this road
It will lead you home
Don’t be scared, just go
I am with you
I am the way; I am the truth; I am the life;
I am the lamp that will guide your way always
I bring you love; I bring you peace; I give you strength;
I take away all your worries Give them all to Me

But God you see
I’ve been standing at this crossroads
For some time I have been praying and patiently waiting for you
Lord, please I beg what should I do
He said, I see your heart is in the right place
Yes, you’ve been patiently waiting
Now I say child go down this road
I have plans for you
Plans to prosper you and not to harm you
There is hope

I am the way; I am the truth; I am the life;
I am the lamp that will guide your way always
I bring you love; I bring you peace; I give you strength;
I take away all your worries Give them all to me
Lay your burdens down; have faith and then you’ll see
I am the way; I am the truth; I am the life;
I am the lamp that will guide your way always
I bring you love; I bring you peace; I give you strength;
I take away all your worries Give them all to me
Lay your burdens down just leave them at my feet
Then, follow me

(from Crossroads on Holly Spears’ Redemption Road album)

We are called generally to be in the world, but not it.  We are called specifically to be salt and light.  We attend a blues concert, plan on singing hymns, and celebrate somebody’s victory over darkness.  And we go live and shine.

Whether the church is near or far, we do have to walk carefully.

I’m always on the lookout for free stuff, and I just rediscovered the Free Music Archive.  Tons of music, and their categorizations

have subcategories

And no, I don’t know an IDM from a Skweee, and may never know.  I have been enjoying American Green’s She Goes to France, which is recorded and produced by Japanese musician Takafumi Shirai in his bedroom.  Mellow-sounding.  I’d like to hear a whole album of his stuff.

Because that music isn’t, you know, Glitch or Breakcore – Hard.  And it’s distributed through Bad Panda Records.  Anybody who has this as their logo can’t be all bad.

Regardless of their name.

(Panda art copyright © Julien Fanton d’Andon/Kulte)

As I was working outside this afternoon, listening to my MP3 player while digging up another flower bed, a Warren Zevon song came on.  It was Wild Age, about a rebellious boy.

Mostly when the reckless years end
Something’s left to save
Some of them keep running
‘Til they run straight in their graves

That’s a description of all of us, running from God until we wise up and let Him take over.  Or not.

I wondered if Warren Zevon had a deathbed conversion.  Not that I have found.  Two people in the comments here call him a Christian artist.  Me – I wish he had been his whole life, but I don’t find evidence of it in his songs.

Charles Darwin is another of those who is said to have had a deathbed conversion.  It would be nice, but even the Christian organization Answers in Genesis has debunked the story.

Just so there’s no doubt about me, I make the following statement.

I am a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ.  He saves me from my sins, and it is only through the power of God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit that I am able to live my life.  I don’t understand everything – predestination is still kicking around in my head, because my desire to believe in free will conflicts with what the Bible says, so I guess as a Bible-believing Christian I have my answer – but I know that having Jesus as Lord of my life is the only choice.  Living for self doesn’t work.  Living for work doesn’t work.  At the end of life, it’s going to come down to you and God.  And God is always right.  Will you be able to stand boldly before the throne, washed by the blood of Jesus, and reverently say “Hi, Dad.  I’m home!”?  I will.

My own deathbed conversion will be more of a translation – leaving this bald, fat, short-sighted lump of flesh behind, and becoming perfected with God in glory.

It’s just after 2AM Friday morning as I write Thursday’s blog entry.  Busy day at work.  And I still have to take out the trash.

time to take out the trash, you know it’s easy
but it seems harder every time you try to think about it

That’s from the song Time to take out the trash, from the Canadian group Brad Sucks.  The group is into “open source music”, where they release the tracks and encourage remixing.  I really like the Bill Berry mix.  It adds a fun pomposity to a song about taking out the trash.

Sorry for the short entry.  It’s late, and it’s time . . .

Last week I had a chance to see the A&E show Hoarders for the first time.  Interesting.  Challenging.  Bothersome.  Sometimes disturbing.

Some of the people had serious issues that expressed themselves in their hoarding.  Some were able to overcome their compulsions with a little help.  Some had deep, deep problems, that went way beyond what the producers thought they were getting into.

I watched about a show and a half.  I stopped because I didn’t want to spend more of my time watching other peoples’ misery.  Some things should be private.  But I was also get bothered because I could imagine myself in that situation.  I don’t have a whole lot of the messy thing going on (aside from books and music and software), but I can relate to the compulsive side of things.  One lady didn’t want to throw away a cheap soda cup from a fast food place, going and getting it out of the trash.  I have saved books that I may never read.  And no, I don’t blame it on genetics, although perhaps a case could be made.

My compulsiveness comes out in other ways.  I like patterns, having a certain meal that I like to get at each restaurant.  I listen to music an album at a time (shuffle is something for cards, not for music).  And the music I like is occasionally different.

Not exactly weird, so to speak, but a couple standard deviations off what gets radio play.  I’m considering getting Steve Reich’s Different Trains (“a three-movement piece for string quartet and tape”), and I like Laurie Anderson’s Big Science album with its repetitive sounds.  But I really like Phillip Glass.

He has done the soundtracks to several movies (from the plotless Koyaanisqatsi to the horror flick Candyman), and worked with a lot of other artists.  His works are very repetitive and almost mechanical.  But there is a comfort in that to me.  It’s familiar.

I have several of his CDs, and we have been to a concert.  I liked it.  Bettie, not so much.  (And Bettie thinks I didn’t like it at the time, compared to his recorded music.  I like my edited memory better than hers.)

But you might like the music, and here’s a chance to try it out.  Amazon is giving away a sampler of his stuff.  Check it out and leave a reply, if you’re interested.

A quick roundup of what we need and have, according to Christian music.

1)  A teenage fan club.

Superchic[k]’s song Barlow Girls includes this line, right after “Everyone needs to be loved”.  They are portraying the pressure some girls feel and their reaction to it, as opposed to the Barlow Girls, who are

Ordinary girls they don’t live in the fast lane

Emotional content: solid.

Biblical content: Decent.  Not exact, to be sure, but Hebrews 12:1 talks about

we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us

It’s a stretch, but a case can be made.

2) Compassion and forgiveness.

The song Mighty to save, from Hillsong, is a much more traditional song.  We used it last week in worship, and it’s been on the radio.  It talks about the lostness of us all, and the power of Jesus to save us.

Emotional content: good and catchy.

Biblical content: Yes.  Romans 3:23 says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  As far as the title, Isaiah 63:1 says

Who is this who comes from Edom,
With garments of glowing colors from Bozrah,
This One who is majestic in His apparel,
Marching in the greatness of His strength?
“It is I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.”

Hard to argue with a quotation.

3) A water buffalo.

Everybody’s got a water buffalo
You know yours is fast, but mine is slow
Oh, where do we get them you ask
I don’t know
But everybody’s got a water buffalo

Originally done by Larry the Cucumber, the Water Buffalo Song has been captivating audiences for years.  When Superchic[k] (them again ) covered the song on the Veggie Rocks CD, the adult population of the world sat up and took notice.

Emotional content: You rock!

Biblical content: Not so much, even checking The Message

Don’t sing out loud while trimming.  Even if it is a Christian song.

The group Page CXVI (that’s one-sixteen, for those of you who don’t do Roman numerals) has released their second album.  To celebrate, they are giving their first album away for a week.

I liked the original album when I reviewed it a year ago.  I still like it, and play it.

Did I mention that this is a free Christian album of very good music?  Grab it.

Browsers are freeOperating systems are freeBooks are free.  Why isn’t music free?

Glad you asked.  And yes, these are all legal.  Glad you care.

The first place I look for free music is Magnatune.  They have a free song every day, a free album occasionally, and you can listen to their music (streaming on-line) as much as you want.  I have purchased several albums from them after listening.

Another good place is Amazon.  They have a free song every day (I occasionally look at them, but I much prefer Magnatune’s taste in music), and loads of free sampler albums.

The Internet Archive has live concerts here and studio music here.  Eclectic (although deep – there are over 7,000 shows by the Grateful Dead) with some bands I’ve heard of (Smashing Pumpkins, Little Feat, New Riders of the Purple Sage) and some I’ll just leave alone (Sun Dried Opossum).

There are other various ones at Artist Direct, incompetech, the Free Music Archive (roll over the “By genre” hotspot), 50 foot wave, Jonathon Roberts, and Anthony Kozar.  All untested.

And then for something completely different, David Byrne (Talking Heads) and Brian Eno took two songs off their My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts project and gave people the raw tracks to remix and share.  And they did, over 250 times.

Finally, two links from my favorite brother.  Other people have looked into the free music thing and gathered links – see the collections from Download Squad and Learning 2.1.  Thanks, Bro.