Lessons From a Master Gardener

When I was in San Francisco I toured the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. It was created by Makoto Hagiwara in 1894. Mr. Hagiwara was clearly a master gardener. I was awed by the cultured beauty and peace of the garden, but I particularly loved the Bonsai trees. How did they grow so perfectly shaped? I knew there must be a story behind each one, just like each of us. I found the answer in the Bible.

Through my brief study of the art of Bonsai, I learned the trees are actually regular size trees or shrubs that have been cultivated to a small size. To maintain the tree’s small size, constant  pruning must be done to control growth. Roots must be cut back so the tree will not grow beyond the size of the container. Branches are wired to shape them into the desired position. The trees require regular maintenance to keep their design intact.

When I began to read my Bible regularly, I realized a Christian is like a bonsai tree. We start out as a new believer, ignorant, eager, and desirous of becoming like our Lord and Savior. We are raw material waiting for our Lord to teach and train us, so that we may be pleasing to Him and able to do the work He calls us to do.  

Jesus explained this in John 10:10b, “…I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

Most importantly, God wants us to bear fruit. Jesus said in John 15:1-2: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away:  and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.”

In John 15, we learn about the true vine. Who is the vine? Jesus. God, the Father, is the husbandman or gardener. The branches are Believers. In a biblical sense, we find that abiding is the result of a personal relationship with Jesus. If we are not part of the vine of Jesus, we will wither and die.

Just like the Bonsai master prunes his tree, so does the Lord prune His children. The beautiful form of the bonsai is accomplished by placing wires around the branches to bend each one gradually into the desired shape. Through God’s shaping process, the Believer is groomed to better produce fruit.

The Lord shapes us through His Word and through life experiences. He trains us to put aside the selfish and self-interested tendencies of the natural person. He reminds us that we are rooted in Him through the Holy Spirit. He keeps us, just as the Bonsai master keeps his trees.

The Bible says in Ephesians 2:10:  “for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

As a Believer, we are expected to obey God’s Word because we love Him. We recognize the sacrifice He paid so we might be saved from the punishment for sin. Abiding is about love, commitment to Jesus, and obedience to His commands. As we grow and develop as Believers we will be used to reach others. Our Lord created each of us for a purpose that He reveals to us in His good time.

Change in us and in a bonsai tree is gradual and oh so slow. I am thankful that my Lord is patient and kind to me, giving His life that I might have eternal life.

Written by Linda Hull

 

More about the Bonsai…

*Here is a link to the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco:

http://japaneseteagardensf.com/

http://sfrecpark.org/destination/golden-gate-park/japanese-tea-garden/

 

*If you would like more information about bonsai trees, check out this website:

https://www.bonsaiempire.com/

*Here is a link to the United States National Arboretum’s page about The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum which features a bonsai photo gallery.

http://www.usna.usda.gov/PhotoGallery/BonsaiGallery/index.html

Cimorelli’s New Album Might Be The Best Yet

 

Written by:  Jill Sheets

Cimorelli’s newest album has just been released. Even thought Alive is not their first album, it is their first pop/Christian album. The Cimorelli sisters wrote every song on it. (When you think they cannot get any better, they do!) Personally, I think Alive is their best album so far. It’s catchy and upbeat; it shows off their strong vocals and meaningful lyrics. They have worship songs, but they also tackle hard issues like worthlessness and addiction. These inspirational and uplifting songs will get stuck in your head, especially when you need a certain message.  It is hard to pick my favorite song, as I love them all. Each song speaks to me in a different way, and I’m sure they will for you too.

 

Track Listing:

  1.    Your Name Is Forever
  2.    One More Night
  3.    Alive
  4.    Never Let Me Fall
  5.    The Love Of A Man
  6.    My God Is Here
  7.    Hope For It
  8.    Kick The Habit
  9.    Find Me
  10.    Love Song (Over Me)

I had been waiting a while for this CD, and it was worth the wait. I cannot wait to see what Cimorelli does next. If you are interested in learning more about this sister group you can go to the links below.

https://www.cimorellimusic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Cimorelliband/

https://www.instagram.com/cimorelliband/

https://www.youtube.com/user/cimorellitheband

 

Save The Lost…The Game!

There are lots of fun games out there — but how many of them teach meaningful Christian principles?  Of those that do, how many are cool enough that kids and teens WANT to play them?  The obvious answer: “not many!”

That’s why we created Save the Lost.  It’s similar to classic outdoor games like Hide and Seek, Tag and Capture the Flag — but unlike those games, it’s played with specialty glowing lights.  LED Candles mark important boundaries. Players wear illuminated cross necklaces and flashing red bracelets.  The game’s objective revolves around one beautifully lit orb, called “The Light.”

This is not a “sit around and talk” kind of game.  This is a glow-in-the-dark adventure game, one that’s active, that calls for hiding, searching, running, even sneaking up on people!   It really is FUN — but it also teaches profound Christian principles.

Check out this video of the game in action:

Interested in learning more?

Visit the official website:

http://www.savethelostgame.com/

Or check out it out on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LX3WQ6X

Chatting with Singer Whitney McClain

 

Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing up and coming singer Whitney McClain. This talented young artist is bringing fresh, beautiful neo-soul music to the pop industry. Read on to find out about her EP, how she got into the music business in the first place, and who her biggest influence is.

R: Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into the music industry.

W: Well, my whole life I’ve always wanted to sing professionally, but I had stopped singing for a period of time when I was in college. A couple years into college, I decided that I wanted to take singing lessons, so I called my uncle (who is in the music business) to suggest a vocal coach for me. He set me up for a voice evaluation over Skype with producer/songwriter Mauli B., and he told me he wanted me to come out to Los Angeles to see what I sounded like. When I got out to L.A., I went to the studio and recorded my first record, “Bombs Away.” From there, I just kept recording and created the EP. That’s pretty much how I got started.

 

R: Tell us about your songs “Bombs Away” and “Heart Games.”

W: “Bombs Away” was my first song. It holds a special place in my heart. The process of making “Bombs Away” was spontaneous. I did not go into the studio with the intention of creating a full project. Mauli was working on the song, and when I got to Los Angeles, we recorded it. It was fun. I liked it a lot and showed it to people who I knew. It began to really gain a lot of traction, and I asked my uncle if we could do something further with the song, as it was getting a lot of good feedback. “Heart Games” is a bit more personal for me. I wanted to share a part of me emotionally in my music, in hopes that other people who are going through relationship struggles may be able to relate. This is a song about me trying to get closure with an ex. Many young people my age go through similar situations, and the most difficult part about that is feeling like you are the only one who is going through it. Hopefully, when people hear “Heart Games,” they will feel comforted and know that they can get through it like I did.

 

R: Can you tell us anything about your debut EP?

W: My EP is called “Nothing to Lose.” All of the songs are about love and heartbreak, and having the strength to move on. I have five songs on the EP: “Terminal Love,” “Sober,” “Heart Games,” “Nothing Left,” and the lead single “Bombs Away.” Listening to my EP, I want to take my fans on a journey. I want people to be able to vibe out, but also be able to relate to the songs. Even though the songs may be about depressing topics, many of them have an upbeat tempo to them. My music is really about connecting intimately with my fans. There are so many artists out there that go with the trend. I am not against that. Making a pop record is great, but I really want my fans to feel like I am talking with them through my situations, and also through theirs.

 

R: Do you have a favorite song?

W: My favorite song is “Nothing Left.” “Nothing Left” is about putting my all into a relationship and it never being enough. I had to walk away. This is not something I, or I imagine any of my fans, would be able to take lightly. I feel like a lot of people can relate to that.

 

R: Your write your own songs. What is your writing process and how do you come up with the idea for the songs?

W: I really only started writing songs recently, but most of the time I have the music or a beat first, then I come up with the melodies and lyrics. However, I’ve also just come up with songs off of inspiration without any music.

 

R: Where can people get your music?

W: My music is available on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, and on my website (link below).

 

R: If you could travel to any five places, where would they be and why?

W: I’ve always wanted to travel. I would travel everywhere if I could. It’s really difficult to narrow it down to just five places. Australia would definitely be one of them. From what I have seen, it looks absolutely beautiful. I want to go to Israel to see all of the history, and be where Jesus was. That’s very important to me, personally, to go to the Promised Land. That’s just something you have to see in a lifetime. I’ve been to England before and I loved it, so it’d be amazing to go back there one day. I’ve also been to Amsterdam once, and it seemed super cool. I didn’t have enough time to really explore the city, though, so going back there is a goal. My last place (it’s not far, but I’d love to go there) is Washington, D.C. I want to see the White House and all of the historic sites in the Capital.

 

R: Who is your biggest influence and why?

W: Musically, Amy Winehouse. She’s just amazing. I love her voice and her musical style. Jesus, my Lord and Savior, is my biggest influence, because he’s perfect and he has a pure heart.


R: What are some of your future goals?

W: I would like to go on a world tour. That would help me in my goals to travel and see the world while doing what I love. One of my other goals is to win a Grammy. Music is big for me. If I can feel like I’m making a difference, that would be awesome. I have a strong desire toward helping others out. It makes me who I am. I would love to start my own non-profit charity one day to assist me in doing this.

 

R: Do you have any charities that are close to your heart?

W: The Doernbecher Children’s Hospital Foundation is very important to me. I do work with the charity frequently. They saved my life when I was younger, and I want to give back so other kids have that resource if they need it.

 

R: It is not easy been a teen. What advice would you give them?

W: Don’t sweat the drama. And for the young ladies, don’t worry about boys – they need sometime to grow up first. For everyone, I want them to know they just need to be true to themselves. Don’t ever let others pressure you into being someone that you aren’t.

 

R: Other than this one, what is the strangest question you have ever been asked?

W: When random people ask me to marry them over social media or in person.

 

R: What are five things people may not know about you?

W: I love the television show My Strange Addiction. On the weekends, I sing in my church’s choir. I was a cheerleader in high school. I love fashion. I’m really good at game shows.

 

R: Are you on any social networking sites? If so, which ones and what are their addresses? Do you have an official website and/or YouTube?

W: Yes, I’m on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and my website is www.whitneymcclain.com. You can get linked to all my social media pages from there.

 

R: Is there anything else you would like to add or say to your fans?

W: I would just like to say thank you for supporting me on my musical journey and for taking the time to listen to my music. It’s truly a blessing.

 

Written by Jill Sheets

Photo credit: Richard LR Elie

A Good Biscuit!

by Linda Hull

What brings a family together? Food! Joining loved ones around the table is a heartfelt blessing because families are God’s gift to mankind. A delicious meal is worthy of praise, for it is truly a gift of love to the family. I should know because my Grandmama was one of the best cooks in the world, notably for her buttermilk biscuits!

“Helping” Grandmama in the kitchen was a real joy back in those little girl days! Back then, just about everything was made from scratch. Cooking took more time and effort than it does in today’s world. It also provided many opportunities for talking about life.

It was a fact of life that Granddaddy had to have his biscuits every night at dinner. So making biscuits was the last menu item to make before everyone was called to dinner. That’s because Granddaddy liked his hot, with lots of butter and strawberry jam!

While the rest of the meal simmered on the old stove, Grandmama would gather her ingredients. The flour was kept loose in a pullout flour bin in what was probably an old Hoosier type cabinet, a novelty in today’s kitchen. Next she would measure out all her ingredients into the sifter. The flour, baking powder, and salt were shaken together as she turned the crank. Next she scooped out the shortening and placed it in the bowl with the dry ingredients.

Once the ingredients were assembled, she took a table fork and pressed that shortening into the flour mixture until it resembled coarse meal. Next came the buttermilk with a little cup for me to drink. Then she would scrape the mixture all up into a ball of dough, kneading it for just a little bit. Not too much or the biscuits would be tough.

After rubbing a bit of flour onto her rolling pin, she rolled that dough out to about a half inch thick. Each biscuit was cut from the dough with her biscuit cutter and placed on the cookie sheet to bake. My little bit of dough was added to the cookie sheet too, a testimony to her diligence in teaching me, and my desire to be just like Grandmama.

You know, you can learn a lot about God and His ways when you make biscuits. When I think about Grandmama’s hot biscuits, I think about Luke 6:38 (KJV): “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give unto your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”

Biscuit making is a lot like life. You see, God knows we women are givers by nature and by design, but in order to be useful to Him, He has some work to do in our hearts. God sees us as that lump of dough that needs to be worked to make a good biscuit! He gives us everything we need to become the person He wants us to be, including the power of the Holy Spirit and His Word. He presses us down a bit to bring us into conformity with His Word. Then he shakes us up so we learn to depend on Him. He shapes us by our life experiences into women who are useful in furthering His Kingdom. He teaches us that what we give always comes back to us with more besides. When life brings discouragement, just remember God is making you into a good biscuit!

 

***********

 

Following is my biscuit recipe roughly based on Grandmama’s old recipe.  I’ve made adjustments like using self-rising flour and using the Crisco brand shortening.

 

BUTTERMILK BISCUITS

 

2 cups sifted self-rising flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons Crisco shortening

2/3 to 3/4 cup buttermilk

 

Sift together dry ingredients. Cut shortening into flour mixture with fork until it resembles coarse meal. Add liquid gradually, stirring with the fork, until the mixture sticks together. Turn out on a lightly floured clean surface. Knead gently for about 1/2 minute until it feels elastic. Flour the rolling pin. Roll out dough to 1/2″ thick. Cut dough into biscuit shapes with a biscuit cutter or a floured beverage glass. Place on un-greased baking sheet in very hot oven (450 degrees F) for 12-15 minutes.  Biscuits should be lightly browned. Serve immediately with butter and jam. Makes about 1 1/2 dozen depending on the size of the cutter.  

 

Bibliography

 

“Baking Powder Biscuits.” American-International Encyclopedic Cookbook. Thomas Y. Crowell Company. Copyright 1972 by Homemakers Research Institute.

 

How To Find Real Love: The Inside Guide

The number one thing that most of us want in our future is a happy relationship and, later, a happy marriage. Does that sound sappy? Yeah, probably, but it’s true. The idea of having someone who’s a constant support for you and the real love of your life is a dream for many people. Here are some tips on how to form a happy and healthy relationship and meet the person God has chosen for you.

Get Out There

If you want to find a partner, then you need to be in places where it’s easy to meet people! A lot of people expect love to simply fall in their laps, but that doesn’t happen in real life all that often. If you want to find love, get involved at church, start new classes, get talking to people around you at work, and don’t dismiss people too quickly and easily. Download dating apps, but make sure you’re careful to let a friend know where you’re going and what time you expect to be home if you go to meet anyone from them. Remember that kindness and humour are much better qualities than a man who’s instantly attractive to you, if you’re looking for something long term.

Be Realistic

We’ve all been fed stories by the media, by movies and by romance novels about the perfect man, the perfect relationship, the perfect diamond engagement ring, the perfect marriage. But the truth is that perfection simply doesn’t exist in relationships. That doesn’t mean that you should settle for someone who doesn’t treat you well and who you’re not quite sure about – on the contrary, you deserve nothing less than to be extremely happy with whoever you share your life with. But you need to remember that even Mr Darcy, the most famous romantic hero of all time, was actually a pretty awkward, standoffish weirdo, and it took a little time before Lizzy Bennet saw through that to the good heart beneath his snobby exterior. Don’t dismiss a good guy because he isn’t perfect – chances are, you aren’t perfect either. Trust God to lead you to the right person.

Get What You Deserve

Although it’s important to be realistic, it’s even more important to make sure that you’re with someone who treats you well and who has the same moral values as you. Don’t expect to be treated like a queen – on the contrary, your relationship should be more to do with give and take than that. You should be just as kind to him as he is to you to create a healthy and happy relationship. It’s important that he treats you well, that he keeps talking to you, and that you feel you can trust him. Above all, you should both put God first and when those priorities are lined up your relationship will benefit.

Be Open And Honest

The truth is that no one really has time for mind games. At the end of the day, they simply aren’t worth it and they make no one truly happy. If you open your heart up to whoever you’re talking to, then sure – there’s a chance you could get hurt. But remember that you could also find something incredible by being open and honest about what you want. Good luck! Finding love is a challenge, but it’s one that you’re very equipped for and likely something God already has planned for your life.

 

To Party Hard or Not? The College Social Life Dilemma!

audienceThere seem to be two stereotypes about the social life of a college student. The first one is that they are always at parties, leaving little time to study. The another one is that they are always in the library and are so focused on their studies that they let the social life slip. Happily, the reality is more of a balanced middle ground. You don’t have to party too hard or spend all of your time in the library. You can solve your college social dilemmas by following the advice below.

Church Groups

One of the best ways of having an exciting social life without feeling pressured into attending parties is to find your local area church group. Or a church group on campus if there is one.   A good church will have all sorts of events on like Christmas get together, choirs, study groups, and service opportunities. That means you can keep your down time full with constructive social activities that adhere to your values.

Sports Or Intellectual Teams

Joining a sports team in college is another great is a social activity. Being a member of a team helps you to integrate into college life. There is nothing that brings people together quicker than being on the same side of a competition.

The same goes for campus club like the debate team. It also helps to introduce to all sorts of people that you wouldn’t meet otherwise. For example, they could be on a different course to you or from a different background. In addition to that, there are always lots of social occasions based around teams. So you will have plenty of chances to mingle and make new friends.

Sororities

Sororities are an option for some students at college. Freshmen try out for these in their first year, and some of them can be pretty tough to get into. However, once you in you find a sense of belonging along with some like-minded people. Of course, there will be plenty of parties and mixers with other sororities too so you can get to meet a lot of people this way.

Organize Your Own Fun

Of course, these options won’t suit everyone at all times, so there is another alternative. That is to make your own fun. Being on campus or in the location of a college is a great opportunity to get involved in the community. You can be proactive and organize your own parties, mixers, and charity events.

Anything goes here. You can organize something informal like a night out at local restaurants for a select group of your friends. Or you could plan a food drive or a sponsored event to help the needy in the area.

Whatever you do just make sure that you have some down time from your studies. Both too much and too little study can hurt your performance. Remember too that being open to meeting the diverse mix of people that will be around during your time at college is an important part of the whole experience.

Dear High School Self

Dear High School Self,

Hello, my friend. I see you will be graduating in the spring. You’ve had trials, drama, and success the last few years. I know you still aren’t quite sure where you fit or what part you will play in life, so be patient. It will reveal itself along the way. It has been and will be worth all the effort you have and are making. Sometimes we race across the finish line with fanfare and cheers. Other times we seem to barely survive and crawl across. HOW you finish matters a lot less than THAT YOU FINISH. Keep giving it all you’ve got, and you’ll get somewhere worth being.

I know you have often wondered if you have what it takes to become something more than you are right now, or if there is even anything MORE out there. Trust me, you can do it. I know now that you will never be alone, especially on those long, dark roads you have and will be required to travel.

Treasure the remaining few months of high school. Don’t allow what you don’t have to rob you of what you do have. Attitude and what you choose to dwell on can make a difference. Don’t allow the “can’t do, so don’t try” people to control your life. There are great things out there for you to accomplish, and wonderful people to meet. Keep yourself in the game so you can be on the field when the really interesting stuff happens.

You think you’ve done some cool stuff. You will always remember your experiences in football, swimming, and music fondly. Having such passion and endeavors has kept you on your feet. I know you are planning to swim in college. You will have a great experience. It may not last long, but it will help set a pattern you will follow the rest of your life. Never hesitate to go for your dreams, or try to accomplish really hard things. Strength and learning are more often found in the path and the effort rather than in the end result.

Hold on and continue to develop that growing faith in the divine. It will become a solid foundation during some of the storms that lay ahead, and it will also allow the sun to shine all the brighter each day. He is there for you.

My young friend, I stand at the other end of the path, looking back over 43 years with a measure of envy. I am happy that you have so much in front of you. Life is a wonderful adventure and will take you amazing places. I see clearly the events that separate us and, with some insight, can say that who I have become is due to all the experiences combined. We don’t get to skip over the rough spots, and we shouldn’t want to. It is the good and the bad, the success and the failure, the joy and the sorrow, things lost and things found, that blend together to give our lives depth, color, and meaning. I see more clearly the meaning of your life, and it has been worth it. All of these experiences make it possible for us to become the wonderful and interesting people that God intended. One day you will see to live…truly live, love, and aspire to be something more…is glorious.

What more can I say? Thank you for making me who I am. As a result of all that has happened, I have found joy and meaning. You will too. I believe in you.

Your friend,
Clark

Clark Burbidge is an award-winning YA author, especially known for the trilogies “Giants in the Land” and “Star Passage.” In this letter he writes about what he wishes he could have told his teenage self. Clark talks about being patient because even if you don’t feel like you fit in now, one day you will find your place in the world. He also discusses learning to enjoy the moment and not to not spend your time worrying about the next thing. You can read more about him here: About Author Clark Burbidge

Respect Inc.

by Hannah Udobia

A young couple out for a stroll holds hands on a sunny springtime Saturday as they cross a street in downtown Doylestown PA.

Mercy was so in love that she made her friends jealous. She couldn’t stop bringing up Tony’s name in every conversation. He was her screen saver, her D.P and his picture was the first thing you see in her locker. Tony’s intelligence, charisma and cute smile coupled with his gifts endeared Mercy’s friends to him. (He was every girls dream)

A few months later, no one actually knew what Mercy did, they went out on a date and she returned with a blood stained top and a bruised lip. Her younger sister was so upset that she texted all of Mercy’s friends behind her back about the incidence. Mercy went to school concealing her scars with her makeup but the truth was out.

I often come across females who don’t know their worth. Irrespective of who the person is, you deserve ‘respect’. All in the name of being ‘in love’ people accept all kinds of crap then call it ‘destiny’. Does your relationship leave you feeling worst then you were? Or do you find yourself making excuses for your friends’ behavior just to feel among. It is time to move on. Here are some tips to guide you.

1: THEY DON’T OWN YOU: First, no relationship is a do or die affair. Hope you got that? Let’s start with the guys, often times, when a girl walks around with the “rescue me! I need a man in my life look” she gives a guy the power to toy with her emotions and when he is done he tosses her over to his friends to carry on from where he stopped.    Just because he is cute doesn’t mean he’s got character. If really want to know his character wait to see his reaction when he is really angry when he is embarrassed by his friend in public and the way he treats other people

Listen, you’ve existed before he ever came into your life so why give him the power to treat you the way he pleases. Pleasssssse if our total dependence was from any man then CNN will have a field day reporting cases of dead women.

2: BE FREE: Have you met someone who couldn’t laugh or eat in public because she’s around someone who acts like he is perfect.  I love to laugh when something amuses me, I enjoy being ‘me’ it is such a relief. Do you miss laughing out loud and eating your snacks or crunching that chicken bone without feeling ashamed but you just can’t because you are always reminded of how you sound like a pig or make weird sound when chewing?

Urgh! If your friend hates your nose, your hair, your smile virtually everything about you, don’t you think the handwriting is clear on the wall, go where you’ll be appreciated. How many plastic surgeries or comestics will you have to change just to be accepted?

Shocker Alert! The very thing they hate about you is the very thing someone else is dying to have. Argh! Yes that’s true do you know you worth far above rubies.

Who told you your lips are too big, your boobs are too small or your eyes are too big. Workout if you want to for you.

“Don’t change so people will like you. Be yourself and the right people will love the real you” Anonymous

Lastly, if you think everything is wrong with the way you were God created then you will continue to be unhappy but this is a promise to you from God,

“Can a woman forget her baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?  Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you in the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. Isa 49:15-16 NIV. Girl! You look amazing

 

Hollis Creek Revival: In the River

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins
hollis creek revivalI was drawn to Hollis Creek Revival immediately; ten seconds into my first listen of  “Wildfire,” I knew this was a band that I wanted in my daily musical rotation.  A somewhat tamer version of Needtobreathe, they are in that same southern rock, earthy, organic vein.  This is music I can’t get enough of.  And while they sound great, even more importantly, their lyrics are treasures; morsels of truth that both comfort me and inspire me to live closer to Him.

Their press release explains that the band recorded In the River with the intent for the first half of the album to have a more modern feel while the later half to have a “more vintage, retro” sound.  Overall all, the record is cohesive, and there isn’t necessarily a fine line where they flipped a switch from one approach to the other.  At least, that wasn’t audible to my ears, anyway.  But what I did notice is the first half of the album has a general, upbeat motivational perspective, like a bird’s eye view of the world, and the second half has more of an introspective and personal feel to the songs.  It has a “hey, world, this is who we are as a band and how we feel” introduction to a “and, hey, by the way, since you are still listening, this is WHY we feel the way we do.”  It’s pretty ingenious, actually.  They’re so forthcoming, and I feel like I could be friends with these guys since we have so much in common.  I adore that transparency.

“Wildfire” is brilliant.  Both the song and the video are both so seriously good.  Anyone who has a smidgeon of wanderlust will love the song; anyone with a call to missions will understand the embers they speak of.  While understanding this earth is not our true home, God reveals himself in the sunrises and the sunsets, the majesty of a waterfall, the constancy and power of ocean waves.  He’s everywhere.  Anyone who says miracles don’t exist anymore hasn’t taken time to wonder at the complexity of butterfly’s wings, the act of breathing… But once that perspective of amazement has been adopted, it’s just so overwhelming; the desire to get out, see more, to share more, to tell others!  This song tells of that passion.

“Home” and “Violin” stand out to me as well.  They’re both slower songs, one near the beginning and one near the end of the album, but they tell stories in the great way that timeless songs often do.  “Home” is not what you might expect-it’s about being in the presence of heroes and ancestors and legends who set a precedent, and without them, your life would look completely different.  The name Hollis was the name of the lead singer’s grandfather, and this song is another bow at reverence for lineage that made an impact.  “Violin” tells the power of music and the bonds it can create.

Whether it is learning trust over time and realizing God is never late (“You’re Right on Time”), learning to let the pain go by turning burdens over to Him (“Weightless Yesterday”), or realizing God is always waiting for us to seek Him (“Like Brand New”), Hollis Creek Revival use their gifts to create an album that brings both comfort and inspiration.  The last song, the hymn “What a Day That Will Be,” reminds us of the bigger picture…getting to heaven, but all the other songs do an amazing job of encouraging us find joy in this life by remaining connected to the truth.  With that as our focus, there is no reason we should let not live our lives like a “Wildfire.”

For more information, please visit:  www.holliscreekrevival.com.