For those of you unfamiliar with this tradition, each summer I write a "life playlist" with songs that capture the major themes and emotions of my year. This year we're gonna get real. Also, warning, I think this is the first playlist with non-radio edits, so there are a couple music videos that have explicit language. Here's a link to the YouTube playlist and the Spotify playlist for you to listen along.
1. Wake Me up When September Ends by Green Day
This year has been exhausting. This song represents my exhaustion. I need a break from the grief. And yet that's not really how life works. We work through the grief. So here I go.
2. White Jesus by S.O.
I used this song in my AP English class in September as I asked kids to evaluate the lyrics of the rap as a poetic expression of difficult truths. I had no idea how powerful the message would remain through the following months. I've been on a journey for the past several years to find the true Jesus apart from my cultural trappings, and that includes from my white experience.
3. Welcome to America by Lecrae
This music video came out FIVE YEARS AGO. This heartbreak from the past month, two months, or whenever you started paying attention has been going on for four hundred years. (Check the 1619 project for context.) Part of this year's playlist represents me sitting down to listen more carefully to the experiences of others. Lecrae is one of the voices I've valued a lot over the past several years through his music and interviews.
4. Heathens by twenty one pilots
I love this song on the surface, but I also love it as a message of an alternative form of evangelism for the modern world. This generation of teenagers I work with is not attracted to a selfish Gospel that doesn't extend to the outcasts of society. I read this article a long time ago which challenged me to think about how many of my peers and students have been chased out of the church, and I want to be on the same team with Tyler Joseph hanging out with the sinners and the tax collectors and prostitutes - the same kind of people Jesus hung out with - and letting them know they are loved right where they are without any agenda of conformity. Love is about healing and transforming not hurting and conforming.
5. Teenage Politics by MxPx
Okay, but teenagers are also a mess. I am also a mess. We all need to grow up a bit.
6. Call Me When You're Sober by Evanescence
I have a limit to what I can handle.
7. Some Nights by Fun.
I debated about whether to include this one or not for this year. I know what I stand for: I'm all in for Jesus. I do, however, wonder about the complicity I have with systems that hurt people. I'm interested in working within to create positive, lasting change. Erasmus over Luther if you know what I mean. But also, I see progress in some moments, and others I'm at that limit represented in the previous song. I'm really not in a place of questioning "What do I stand for?" Rather, my cry right now lines up with, "This is it, boys, this is war / What are we waiting for? / Why don't we break the rules already? / I was never one to believe the hype / Save that for the black and white / Try twice as hard and I'm half as liked / But here they come again to jack my style / And that's alright." I might need a pause on occasion, but I'm in this for the long haul.
8. You Need to Calm Down by Taylor Swift
Okay, if I wasn't controversial enough already. Back to that "try twice as hard and I'm half as liked" vibe from last song, I try to be careful and intentional in how I represent Jesus and encourage others to come as they are, but I've learned over the years that that upsets a lot of people. I resonate with "You are somebody that we don't know / But you're comin' at my friends like a missile" after a lot of hurt and heartache this year. Nobody was ever shamed into the kingdom of God, but plenty of people were invited to transformation through examples of love and kindness.
9. Raise Your Glass by P!nk
No apologies for loving P!nk always and forever. Minor apologies for the uncensored song, but also, this is the kind of celebration I need in my life this year. Jesus draws in the freaks from the margin; those who have no home find home in Jesus. Life with Jesus is family, is community that we can't find anywhere else. This song encapsulates my love for the musical RENT: unconditional love takes people where they are and helps them along the road of transformation and holistic health. I will never stop celebrating that with all my underdogs.
10. Hell Don't Need Me by Demon Hunter
I've been called a bad Christian by more than just that student I wrote about a couple weeks ago. I've been called a bad Christian by "good Christians" who hold to a strict legalism that doesn't have room for my invitation to everyone to come to Jesus as you are (which, I will point out, is straight up modeled by Jesus in the Bible in places like Luke 5:27-32 where Jesus seeks out the sinners to say they are loved and can come to him for transformation without first fixing themselves). You can call me a bad Christian, but I'm in good company with the likes of lots of Jesus loving people who were less concerned with the judgment of others but had their focus set on obedience to Jesus (like Paul the Apostle lays out in 1 Corinthians 4:3-4). Hell don't need me; I've got work to do here for a bit before I go to my eternal place even closer to the Jesus I love.
11. Anthem by Superchick
I've managed to have a different Superchick song each year (but true to middle school me, each year must have one song by them as well as one by Demon Hunter). This year I chose this song because I've got hope for the rising up of Jesus loving people who won't give up when things get hard. I'm really excited about a book club with five recent alum who've committed to reading a list of novels curated by Caylie and I over the next two years that we will discuss together intentionally looking at how the various stories and perspectives help us to love God and love others better. I can't wait to grow alongside these amazing young women. "Here's to anyone who never quit when things got hard."
12. Revival Anthem by Rend Collective
Most nights before bed, I play this music video to remind me that I'm fighting the good fight in God's strength and power rather than my own. I'm on the winning team, and I'm not alone in this. The darkness is shaking in the face of this great awakening. Last year during graduation, I submitted Galatians 6:9 to be read for my mini-me, Maggie. "And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." This year has had a lot of draining experiences, but I hold to great hope knowing there will be a harvest if we do not give up. A lot of this year's playlist is a reminder to myself not to give up when things get hard. (See above. See below.) When the world is a mess, I know I don't have to do this in my own strength, but I also know that I have to keep working in obedience to the good works God has given me to do.
Bonus Track: Tubthumping by Chumbawamba
Okay, so this bonus track is just a gem because, man, weren't the 90s great? Psych. I do not miss stirrup pants. I did, however, bump my head when I fell out of my wheelchair yesterday. Guess what happened? I got back up again. This is just my life; I won't give up.