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Monday, June 11, 2007

Monday Musical Musings: The Ministry Mixed Tape Edition

Ah. The mixed tape. I remember staying up sooo late in the 90s painstakingly dubbing songs onto blank cassette tapes for friends. Every song had to say something, you know? The advent of personal CD burners and iPods changed the form of the mixed tape, but the craft remains the same: someone handpicks music for someone else. Today, I get to be the someone and y'all get to be the someone else!

I hereby present my RevGalBlogPals with this virtual Ministry Mixed Tape (otherwise known as the Pastoral Playlist), with commentary included.

1. The Lord's Prayer: from Aaron Neville's CD The Grand Tour

One of the cardinal rules of the craft is that the first song has to be really stinkin' good. You can't mess around with #1. It sets the tone for the whole project. I'm taking a risk here with a "slow song," but you can't go wrong with Neville, and you sure can't go wrong with the Lord's Prayer.

2. The Gathering of Spirits: from the CD Betty's Diner: The Best of Carrie Newcomer
Song #2 also has a lot of responsibility. It has to sustain the energy the preceding tune, plus it should have something to say about the relationship at hand. Even though this song has been around a lot longer than RevGalBlogPals, it's like she's writing about us! We are a "gathering of spirits, a festival of friends"! And we are certainly "standing in the center of something rare and fine." I first heard this song performed live by Carrie Newcomer at a conference for United Church of Christ and Disciples of Christ women. It's gorgeous and revelatory, and that's even before Allison Krauss shows up to sing backup.

3. Beautiful Change: The Innocence Mission from the CD Befriended

This is the song from which the title of my blog was borrowed. It's about hoping for that much-needed quiet transformation, especially on the days it seems most far off. "Oh, I am going to find some peace of mind. At any time I could change, any day, a beautiful change." The Innocence Mission is in my personal pantheon of glorious bands. Their lyrics are simple but powerful, and they've deconstructed their former 90s alt-pop sound into shimmering folk music.

4. Sign on the Door: Kasey Chambers from the CD Carnival
I love to listen to this in the car, turned up way louder than what would be considered appropriate. Gotta do something to drown out my singalong! This is all energy and celebration and, though Chambers doesn't bill herself as a religious artist, praise. The chorus is catchy as all get out: "Open up the up the sky/ All gather around/ Praise the lord and/ Take a look at what i found/ (I got a) love thats as big as raging storm/ I got walls coming down that I need no more/ I got a sign on the door that says/ Lonely don't live here anymore." The only catch to all that catchiness is that it'll get in your head and loop indefinitely.

5. Man in Black: Johnny Cash from the CD Life

This is the song I hear whenever I wear my black preaching robe. It's the most amazing song about prophetic witness I've ever heard. Johnny Cash explains the reasons why he lived and died in black - for the poor, the hungry, the prisoners, the "sick and lonely old." It's a pastoral prayer for justice in the form of a country song.

6. Long Lost Brother: Over the Rhine from the CD Ohio
You can call me biased, you can call me mildly obsessed. But Over the Rhine is the best band in the land, period. I could go on (and on and on), but for the purposes of this post, I'll try to keep my enthusiasm directed toward the song at hand. Long Lost Brother is the song I turn to when it's my fault and I know it. When I've messed up and there isn't a thing to do but seek forgiveness. When I'm scared I'm not good enough and know I need help. "I wanna do better/ I wanna try harder/ I wanna believe/ Down to the letter// Jesus and Mary/ Can you carry us/ Across this ocean/ Into the arms of forgiveness." This song unravels me, but when we get all knotted up it's good to have some help getting untangled.

7. Mercy Now: Mary Gauthier from the CD Mercy Now
This song is slow and goes on for a long time, but praying for mercy can be like that. There are a lot of people to pray for, and you can't leave out the broken institutions. "My church and my country could use a little mercy now/ As they sink into a poisoned pit/ That's going to take forever to climb out/ They carry the weight of the faithful/ Who follow them down/ I love my church and country, and they could use some mercy now."

8. Rock of Ages (When the Day Seems Long): Sandra McCracken from the CD The Builder And The Architect
This original song is beautiful, orthodox, and haunting. It's a modern folk lullaby that feels ancient, because it's full of traditional theological language. But it's hard to argue with, as it's every bit as incarnational as the "moldy oldy" hymns that have sustained Christians for centuries.

9. So Much Grace: Allison Sattinger from the CD Vox
I happened upon Allison Sattinger's MySpace page a couple years ago when I was looking for artists influenced by Over the Rhine within ten miles of my zip code. (This is a very cool way to find local artists, by the way). "So Much Grace" started streaming, and so did my tears. It's just lovely: a capella gospel at its finest. I was none too surprised when the song was named a finalist in the International Songwriting Competition last winter - I know 'em when I hear 'em! Bonus: since Allison is local, we've since become friends. She's brilliant in every way; check out her leatherworking store at Etsy, too.

10. Take to the World: Derek Webb from the CD She Must and Shall Go Free
Derek Webb (the husband of Sandra McCracken) is making some of the most innovative Christian music around. After he left Caedmon's Call a few years ago, he started writing theologically and politically provocative lyrics. We'll leave his challenging stuff for another day; we need a benediction to make this a proper Ministry Mixed Tape. "Go in peace to love and to serve/ let your ears ring long with what you’ve heard/ and may the bread on your tongue/ leave a trail of crumbs/ to lead the hungry back to the place that you are from." Such a delicious, invitational Communion image!


I wish I could burn 300 CDs and send them off too every corner of the earth, one for each RevGalBlogPal. But that wouldn't be practical, or legal. So you have a couple options if you're interested in hearing the music gushed about today. You can visit the RevGalBlogPals Book Store at, where Cathy made a room for all the CDs these songs came from. Or, if you're into iTunes, you can check out the debut RevGalBlogPals iMix. (Note #1: clicking on that link will open iTunes. Note #2: I had to make a switcheroo on one song due to availability, but the replacement is just as good.)


-=Katherine @ any day a beautiful change =-


  1. This is so cool!!! I was just talking to a girlfriend recently about burning a copy of my "God Stuff" mix CD for her. Wild about the fact that you shared one with us.

  2. These look great! I am excited about the Mix aspect of it as this is a new concept to me on the IPod!

  3. This is very cool. My dd is offering to help me become an ipod person and this is a great motivator.

  4. oh my gosh, I can't wait to get home and buy this ilist! I only know two of the songs, so excellent, excellent, excellent. (It's like Paste for revgals!)

  5. Gannet Girl - I never knew the power of the Ipod until I had one and started fiddling with it - and I am sure I have only touched the tip of the iceberg.

    For those of you who want to look at Ipods, there are some in the RGBP Amazon Store.

  6. The Innocence Mission is MY FAVORITE BAND! I've been listening to them since 1989 (high school!). I'm completely obsessed!

    I'm going to see them in concert next month. I have front row tix. I'm a geek.

    They do have a new CD out, called We Walked In Song. If you have little ones, you'll love "Happy Birthday" and "I love that Boy".

    Ok, my crazy's starting to show. I'll stop now.

  7. love this ... I think it would be GREAT if we Rev Gals could put together a LEGAL version of the best :)

    PS I love rock of ages too :)

  8. Is there a way to download the whole list, or just one song at a time? I'm a rookie with iTunes...

  9. I'm ashamed to admit that the only one I've heard is Man in Black. That tells you something about my music collection :)

  10. Lorna, what do you mean? I don't believe there's anything illegal about a link to iTunes where you can buy the songs. Perhaps I misunderstood your concern?

  11. I just KNEW this feature was going to cost me BIG TIME. I just love the iTunes mix idea!!

    Hopping over there right now...Love love love my ipod.

  12. I just got one and haven't figured out how to use it yet, and my dd and ds are six hours away. Phooey.

  13. Once you figure it out Singing Owl - I think you will really like it. Do you have Itunes on your computer? That would be step one if you do not.

    Do we have someone that might offer some assistance on Ipods??

  14. Kathryn, you are soooo cool!

    Love this!

  15. Hey K - this is so cool, and thanks for the itunes thing, too :)

    Your comment about the man in black song reminds of Father Matthew - have you ever seen him on YouTube? He totally totally rocks. Here's a link to his cover of the song:

  16. singing owl,
    You don't have to have an ipod or understand the ipod you have in order to use itunes. Just follow the link into the itunes store, and click on "buy this song". It will give you a pop-up window to create an account. You'll create it and have to buy yourself a gift certificate. Then you'll buy the song and it will plunk right into your little old computer, where you can listen to it off the computer, or burn it to CD or connect it to your ipod (which is also really easy, but first things first....) You can also click on each song to hear 30 seconds of it, so if it's not for you, you don't have to buy it.

    Normally, Teri, you can just "buy this list", but one of the songs on the list wasn't available as a single, only as an entire album, so that would be really expensive until you're sure that you like that artist.

    And yes, iTunes is 100 percent legal--you can make 5 legal copies of your purchased songs. The beauty of iTunes for me is that you can buy one song, and then if you fall in love with the artist, you know it before you go out and buy the whole album.

    Thanks, Katherine, again! I'm totally digging it!

  17. Another feature of ITunes is that if you have a CD you want on your Ipod, it will import it into the program and you can play the tunes on your computer. If you want the CD/song on your Ipod, you can "sync" it by going to "file -> sync Ipod" and voila it's on your ipod.

  18. I love this idea--and I love the Carrie Newcomer piece. Thank you so much!

  19. Yeah, I was bummed that the Mary Gauthier song wasn't available as a single. Neither was the Lord's Prayer and the one Over the Rhine song.

    I'm really glad people are checking it out, though! It makes me so happy to share good music. (I secretly wish I were a radio dj, but the only relevant experience I could put on my resume is I Make Mixed Tapes.)

  20. Thanks for this list--I can't wait to check them out and also to learn more about the Itunes process since I got an Ipod for Christmas but have just used it for CDs I already owned.

    Never heard "Man in Black" till I received it as part of a mix which was a consecration gift. Very powerful indeed.

  21. This is like totally awesome!

  22. Hi Katherine! Thanks for a really great mix, and congrats on being the very first Musical Muser!


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