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87 LOCAL NATIVES | DAVID CROWDER PETE HOLMES | ELECTRIC GUEST | LEVI LUSKO ROB BELL | SUM MER TRIPS THAT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE F A I T H , C U LT U R E & I N T E N T I O N A L L I V I N G

Maggie Rogers Folk, French electronica and Pharrell­—the unlikely path of music’s next big thing.

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CONTENTS

T H E M A G A Z I N E O N FA I T H , C U LT U R E & INTENTIONAL LIVING

MAY-JUNE 2017 // ISSUE 87

May-June 2017, Issue 87 Back in our day, something going viral was a bad thing.

Publisher & CEO | CAMERON STRANG Executive Editor & Director of Digital Media | JESSE CAREY Editorial Director | AARON CLINE HANBURY Copy Editor | KATHY PIERRE Content Coordinator | JESSICA COLLINS Contributing Writers: Stephanie Granada, Matt Conner, Ruthanne Irvin, Kristi James, Dargan Thompson, Adam Weber, David Crowder, C. Christopher Smith Director of Business Development | AME LYNN FUHLBRUCK

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Senior Account Manager | RACHEL DOUGLASS Account Manager | JENNIFER SCHNEBERGER Advertising & Distribution Coordinator | CAROLINE COLE

Features

Senior Art Director | JOHN DAVID HARRIS Designer | LAUREN HARVILL Designer | ALEXA MENDEZ Development Director | BRAD TAYLOR

Maggie Rogers

Audio Producer | CHANDLER STRANG Contributing Photographers: Zachary Gray,

p .70

Katherine Kaufman, Know Good LLC, Kenny Harris, Miller Mobley, Phil Knott

Pharrell—and talent in spades—made her a viral sensation. With her label debut, can Maggie Rogers live up to the hype?

Operations & Project Manager | NIKKI GRAHAM Finance Manager | MERCEDES LANGDON Operations Support Coordinator | JENNA RICCI

4 6 // THE URBAN FOOD CRISIS

ADVERTISING INQUIRIES: www.RELEVANTmagazine.com/advertise

Food deserts represent famine in urban areas. Here’s the attainable solution.

5 0 // PETE HOLMES IS CR ASHING

50

The comedian is back on TV, this time facing the story of his own divorce.

5 4 // SUMMER RE ADING GUIDE

7 4 // 10 TRIPS TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE

With so many books out there, how do you know what to read? We’ll tell you.

Make sure your summer vacay isn’t only about Instagram shots and sleeping in.

5 8 // LOCAL NATIVES GROWS UP With their new album, Sunlit Youth, the

7 8 // ROB BELL TAKES ON THE BIBLE

SoCal outfit tackles the loss of youth.

The always-provocative thinker gives his thoughts on the sacred text.

6 2 // COULD LOSS BRE AK YOU?

8 2 // ELECTRIC GUES T IS BACK

How Levi Lusko faced the tragic death of his 5-year-old daughter.

How the indie duo lost their mojo—then got it back full force.

6 6 // DAMON LINDELOF’S END IS NE AR The co-creator of Lost is heading into the final season of his latest show, The Leftovers.

8 4 // THE PR AY ER NECESSITIES You want God to use you. Here’s how prayer can make that a reality.

RELEVANT TABLET EDITION Print subscriptions include access to our digital edition, available for iOS and Android tablets. Download the RELEVANT app from the iTunes App Store or Google Play Store and connect your subscription using your account information.

RELEVANT MEDIA GROUP 900 N. Orange Ave. Winter Park, FL 32789 RELEVANTmediagroup.com TO SUBSCRIBE relevantmagazine.com/subscribe Rates: 1 year (6 issues) U.S. $21.99, Canada $31.99, International $37.99 SUBSCRIBER SERVICES WEB: RELEVANTmagazine.com/subservices Phone: 866-402-4746 EMAIL: support@relevantmagazine.com BULK DISCOUNTS: 866-402-4746 RETAIL DISTRIBUTION Michael Vitetta, Curtis Circulation Company mvitetta@curtiscirc.com

1 4 // FIRS T WORD

8 8 // RELE VANT SELECT S The new entertainment releases worth your time, featuring spotlights on Marian Hill,

1 6 // CURRENT How society is wrong about millennials, sex before ... dating?, Haley Baldwin’s conflicted

COIN, Sampha, GAWVI, Kim Walker-Smith, Taelor Gray and SOHN.

Instagram, Stephen Colbert’s late-night

9 6 // L AS T WORD

theology, Demi Lovato’s sobriety, how to

David Crowder on division, unity and the

break your cellphone addiction and more.

diversity of our world.

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Issue #87 May/June 2017 (ISSN: 1543-317X). RELEVANT is published 6 times a year in January, March, May, July, September and November for $21.99 per year by RELEVANT Media Group, Inc., 900 N. Orange Ave., Winter Park, FL 32789. Periodicals postage paid at Orlando, FL, and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to RELEVANT Magazine, P.O. Box 531147, Orlando, FL 32853.

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FIRST WORD a letter from the editor

Through heartache, Pete hits reset and finally pursues his dream of a career in comedy. He doesn’t know if he’ll make it; he doesn’t

The Tension of Resolution

THE OUTCOME. THE FORMATIVE

even know what he believes

JOURNEY, THE

anymore. That’s what the show

BEAUTIFUL

explores. It’s also in the conversation with

MESS, IS IN

Damon Lindelof, co-creator of The

THE TENSION

Leftovers, a show that explores faith

LEADING UP

and humanity in a post-“rapture” world. You’ll probably also

Whether it be in our relationships, careers or even eternity, we all want to know how it’s going to turn out. But maybe life is supposed to embrace a different perspective.

IT’S NOT ABOUT

TO IT.

remember Lindelof as the co-creator of LOST, and yes, we ask him what the deal was with the smoke monster. (His answer, in a sidebar on page 68, is a game-changer.) The tension of the unknown is in conversations with Rob Bell about

S

ongwriters have a trick they use to get

the Bible and Adam Weber on how to

people hooked on a song. Most listeners

pray when you want God to use you.

aren’t overtly aware of it, but almost all great music shares it in common.

The tension is even in the story of Maggie Rogers, a breakout

Songwriters purposely create moments

indie artist whose music somehow

of “unrest” or “conflict” in music—moments

blends hymns and folk with French

that require resolution. When it’s done correctly, tension

EDM and pop influences. Will her

builds in a way you can sense the resolution coming.

unconventional and singular vision

Sometimes it’s in the rhythm, the melody or the bridge.

translate to mass audiences? It’s that

A build-up, a chord or a break in the beat. Great songs

unknown that makes her one of the

masterfully build tension and keep us hooked. We want to

most exciting new artists around.

know what happens. The technique isn’t just limited to music, obviously. It’s what keeps us turning a page in a book or hitting “Play Next Episode.” You see tension and resolution everywhere. Sometimes, there’s payoff and the tension is satisfyingly

In music, the tension before resolution is what creates beauty. In life, it’s no different. We need to appreciate the space before we know how it’s going to

tied up, like in the finale of HBO’s Big Little Lies or Lil Jon’s

work out. We need to embrace

“Turn Down For What.” And sometimes, the tension is left

living in the tension.

unresolved, infuriatingly, like in the finale of LOST. But, really, it’s not about the outcome. The formative

And then, just hope things ultimately resolve better than LOST.

journey, the beautiful mess, is in the tension leading up to it. That’s where life is lived: moving forward in the unknown. Tension and resolution is a theme you’ll see throughout this issue. It’s revealed when we talk to Pete Holmes about his HBO comedy, Crashing, which tells the true story of his sheltered Christian world being shattered when his wife has an affair and leaves him. He has to start all over, while grappling with

C A MER ON S T R A NG

everything he’d believed crashing around him.

Publisher & CEO

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CURRENT A B I M O N T H LY L O O K A T F A I T H , L I F E A N D C U LT U R E

It’s Official: The Millennial Critics Are Wrong New data says this generation isn’t falling behind—it’s leading the way.

2013 COVER OF TIME declared

A

millennials the “me, me, me generation,” and described them as “lazy, entitled

narcissists who still live with their parents.” Read enough think pieces (or watch enough TV shows) about them, and you might come away thinking the generation roughly aged 22 to 37 is basically a drain on society. But data tells a much different story. For starters, 71 percent of millennials believe business innovation can improve society. So it’s no wonder the trend of businesses giving back is being led by millennials. Socially conscious brands like Warby Parker, Sseko, Harry’s and State Bags (to name a few) were all founded by millennials. This might be the most entrepreneurial generation in history: 67 percent plan to start businesses. And they’re already the most well-educated, with never-before-seen numbers graduating from college. Some, like

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Christopher Gray (creator of the scholarship app Scholly) and Matthew Ramirez (the education tech company WriteLab), are even combining the millennial passion

2.

for education and business by finding 1. SCOT & JACQ TATELMAN

students.

2. C H R I STO P H E R G R AY

important thing to millennials: 84 percent

Scholly - myscholly.com

believe making a positive difference is

3. KAT I E DAV I S M A J O RS

3.

But career success is not the most

more important than getting professional

Amazima Ministries - amazima.org

recognition. In fact, some research suggests

4. M ATT H EW R A M I R E Z

than their parents ever were, with three-

WriteLab - writelab.com

millennial Christians are more generous quarters donating to nonprofits and 70 percent reporting that they volunteer their

5. J OS H UA D U B O I S

time to causes they believe in.

Values Partnerships -

As Joshua DuBois, who led the faith office

valuespartnerships.com

for President Barack Obama, can attest,

6. L I Z B O H A N N O N

Sseko Designs - ssekodesigns.com

4.

innovative ways to help colleges and

State Bags - statebags.com

sometimes this means increased political advocacy. This will be important for the

7. R AC H E L G O B L E

future of politics, given there are now 69.7

The Freedom Story -

million eligible millennial-aged voters. That’s

thefreedomstory.org

the largest bloc, a responsibility millennials like DuBois don’t take lightly. But the desire to make a difference can also mean a passion for charitable giving and engagement. Thanks to technology, millennials are the most globally connected generation. That’s opened the door for unprecedented awareness of global

5.

challenges, and the

63 PERCENT OF MILLENNIALS HAVE BACHELOR’S DEGREES, AND 67 PERCENT PLAN ON STARTING THEIR OWN BUSINESSES.

ability to create change. Katie Davis Majors has given her life to serving Ugandan orphans by founding Amazima Ministries. Likewise, Rachel Goble is fighting human

trafficking through her organization, The

6.

Freedom Story. And they’re just two of the 78 percent of millennials who donate portions

1.

of their own money each year. The good news is also that millennials don’t seem to be overly affected by all of the negative perceptions: Somehow, the generation formed by 9/11 is actually the most optimistic generation in a century. The

Sources: Bentley U., Thrivent, SocialCast,

majority remains convinced the country’s

7.

best days are ahead. So enough with the

Pew, Forbes

millennial hate, already.

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CURRENT

THE HOT LIST

Kutcher testified about child trafficking before the Senate in February.

Bimonthly Culture Power Rankings

KENDRICK LAMAR [Hottest]

The rapper is back with a new album, and he wants to talk about God.

P O L I T I CA L SAT I R E [Hotter]

Weekend Update is coming to primetime; Colbert and Samantha Bee own late night.

Ashton Kutcher Is Leading an Innovative Campaign to End Child Sex Trafficking EARLIER THIS YEAR, Ashton Kutcher

software to help law enforcement find

testified before the Senate Foreign Relations

victims and their traffickers. The technology

Sure Carpool Karaoke

Committee to ask for tighter anti-sex

helped identify 6,000 victims of modern

is fun, but we’re excited

trafficking measures. His emotional,

trafficking in just the last six months. The

about Cash Cab ’s return.

15-minute testimony surprised many, but

actor and activist asked lawmakers to

this is an issue Kutcher has been engaging

support technology that can save children.

S H OWS I N CA RS [Hot]

for some time.

“We were the last line of defense,” he

He is the co-founder of Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children, which develops

said. “An actor and his foundation were the potential last line of defense.”

VO I C E ACT I VAT E D AS S I STA N TS [Cold]

Know-it-alls Alexa and Siri are just getting smug at this point.

AT H L E I S U R E [Colder]

Opioid Addiction Is Literally Overflowing Morgues in Ohio OPIOID ADDICTION HAS

Evidently microfibers in

BECOME an epidemic across

stretch pants might be

the United States, but in Dayton, Ohio, things have reached a fever pitch. In just the first 33 days this year, the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office brought in 163 people who died because

polluting waterways.

I N S U R A N C E D E BAT E S [Coldest]

Unfortunately, we have no idea if we can go to

of opioids. It’s more than the office has ever seen in such a short time—and far beyond the morgue’s capacity. County officials had to ask funeral homes to take the extra bodies, in addition to storing them in refrigerated trucks.

IN DAYTON ALONE, FIVE PEOPLE DIED FROM OPIOIDS EVERY DAY IN JANUARY

the doctor now.

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I N H E R E N T L Y B E A U T I F U L. I N T E N T I O N A L L Y D E S I G N E D.

SHEREADSTRUTHBIBLE.COM

BIBLE

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CURRENT

[ S C I E N C E: ]

Your Date Is Judging You for Your Shattered Phone Also, for having an Android. Sorry.

YOU’VE HEARD THE SAYING ,

“Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but no one’s ever mentioned anything about phones. Maybe that’s why 86 percent of women say they would negatively judge a date with a cracked phone screen. That’s real data from a real survey by Singles in America. Judgment isn’t limited to cracks, brand loyalty is important too. The survey revealed that Android users are 15x more likely to negatively judge iPhone users and iPhone users are 21x more likely to negatively judge Android users.

Sho Baraka says he’s disappointed but not shocked.

LifeWay Is Now Banning Anatomic Terms Sho Baraka found out the hard way some non-curse words are still too hot for the Christian chain.

IN HIS SONG “Piano Break 33 AD,” Sho

phrases, check out Mark Driscoll’s 2012 book

Baraka describes his past self as “thinking

Real Marriage or any number of relationship

with [his] penis.” That line got his album

books that can be found on the store’s

The Narrative removed from LifeWay

shelves. Just don’t do it in hip-hop.

Christian Stores, despite LifeWay’s product

Baraka said he was disappointed by the

page describing the album as “saturated in a

move, though, he said there are much bigger

Gospel worldview.”

issues he’s dealing with in his music: “If

The lesson? If you’re writing a Christian

getting kicked out of a Christian bookstore

marriage book, you can be as explicit as an

is our metric for revolution, then I think we

HBO series—if you want to learn new sexual

need to re-evaluate our activism.”

MISC.

MAY-JUNE

Tilda Swinton has emerged as the

Get ready early ‘90s kids: The

Since last year’s presidential election,

shocking favorite to take over for

Magic School Bus is coming

the number of churches offering

Peter Capaldi in the wildly popular

back. This time it’ll be on Netflix

sanctuary to immigrants fearing

BBC series Doctor Who. We

and SNL’s Kate McKinnon will be

deportation has doubled to 800

support this.

voicing the famous Ms. Frizzle.

across 45 states.

020

2017


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CURRENT

We literally had to buy this off eBay because who has a physical dictionary anymore?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary Finally Gets the Update It Needs MERRIAM-WEBSTER UPDATED their guide to the English language with more than 1,000 new

words to prove they’re still hip with all the kids. Their linguists/Scrabble-argument-settlers now include phrases like “weak sauce” and “throw shade.” (Really.) Clearly they haven’t spent too much time with too-cool-for-Sunday school Christian hipsters though, because they missed a few we think should make the next update:

Lifewayed /līf -weyd/ (verb) Getting kicked out of a place for an incredibly dumb reason.

Doin’ Life /doo-in lahyf/ (verb) A justification used by church staff to make hanging out seem like a “work” activity.

Calvinists

#Blessed /bles-id, blest/ (adj) A guilt-free photo caption to make your friends resent you.

Gluttony

/cal v’n istz / (noun) The really fun people in the comment sections of theology articles.

Smokin’ Hot

/gluh tah nee/ (noun) The one sin that’s totally fine to ignore, judging by the size of most Southern preachers.

/smohk’n hot/ (adj) The way many pastors describe their spouses on uncomfortable social media posts.

Nobody Wants Politics to Mix With Church IF YOU’VE BEEN AROUND A TV or

newspaper in the last two months, you’ve noticed the dust-up about the Johnson Amendment, a piece of legislation that leverages tax-exempt status to keep nonprofit organizations—mainly religious orgs, churches and charities—from endorsing political candidates. There’s been talk from President Donald Trump about abolishing it. But a majority of Americans, including pastors, don’t want electoral politics in their churches. In 2008, 75 percent of Americans disagreed that churches should endorse candidates for public office. That number grew to 79 percent in 2015.

PERCENT OF AMERICANS OPPOSING CLERGY ENDORSEMENTS

75

Not actual size

MAY-JUNE

This Magic Bean Can Save the World— Seriously

CLIMATE CHANGE IS dramatically affecting the

ability of the world’s harshest climates to grow food. But a group of scientists are working on a way for these climates to produce crops: the tepary bean. Researchers are examining how varieties of the bean retain water—even in dry conditions—in an effort to develop a crop with valuable nutrients and even good taste.

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2008

2015

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10/17

CURRENT

MISC.

Community creator

Sufjan: A ‘Christian Nation’ Is Absolutely Heretical

Dan Harmon took to Twitter a while back and offered empathy to Christians who feel alienated by Hollywood. He also had this to say about Christians acting fearfully: “And this is the only political thing I’ll ask: if fear can enter your heart, does it take up space that would otherwise be God’s?”

S

INGERSONGWRITER SUFJAN STEVENS

has had enough of Christian nationalism. In the past several months, political

One of the NFL’s

rhetoric has increasingly

most promising

linked national and religious

young coaches,

identities—particularly

Rocky Seto,

among Christians. Sufjan

recently decided

says that’s not just wrong; it’s

to leave football to

heresy. Here’s what he had to

go into ministry.

say on social media:

You cannot pledge allegiance to a nation state and its flag in the name of God, for God has no political boundary. God is love, period … A “Christian Nation” is absolutely heretical. Christ did not come into this world to become a modifier. Look at what happened to the Holy Roman Empire ... To gain access to true love and true self, you

MAY-JUNE

must die to yourself, to your family, your heritage, your narrowminded ideology, your ego, your ill-conditioned consciousness, and your false identity ...

Ikea plans to roll out a new line of rugs and textiles made by Syrian refugees in

You must eradicate all the corrupt theological fear-mongering they preach from the pulpit and from behind the political podium. Get real and get right with God. Go in your closet and pray for your enemies.

024

2019. The initiative is expected to create jobs for about 200 Syrian refugees living in Jordan, most of them women. Not that 20-somethings need an excuse for $13 home accessories.

2017


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CURRENT

The Megachurch That Won’t Stop Settling Refugees WHEN GEORGIA’S governor

declared the state closed to Syrian refugees in 2015, Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, a 4,000-member congregation in Atlanta, continued settling refugees. We talked to the church’s pastor, Bryant Wright, about why:

Miami’s Vous Church is pastored by 33-year-old Rich Wilkerson Jr.

Where Are All of the Millennial Pastors?

HELPING REFUGEES TODAY IF YOU FEEL LIKE you can’t find a pastor who

IS UNAVOIDABLY POLITICAL.

looks like you, you might not be wrong. A

“I’m sorry that’s the case, because I think people are allowing politics, or their news broadcast, to influence their thinking on how we’re to minister to immigrants and refugees.”

new study found the average age of pastors today is 54. That’s a 10-year increase from 1991 when the average was 44. A research team conducted the State of Pastors 2017 study through a partnership between Barna and Pepperdine University, and found that only 1 in 7 pastors is under 40.

WHY HAS YOUR CHURCH

The trend may be having a negative effect on the Church: A recent Pew study

ATTRACTED SO MUCH

found that even though about 80 percent of

ATTENTION?

younger millennials grew up religious, only

“[The press] wants to put you in a very strict political stereotype. And I try to tell them, look, we’re just trying to follow what the Bible says on these issues.”

56 percent still call themselves Christians.

New research shows that America’s pastors are aging—fast.

AVERAGE AGE OF PASTOR S

54

2016

44

1991

WHAT IF IT COMES TO DIRECT DISOBEDIENCE?

“If the door closes, we’ll minister to those who are here and keep doing that. And we want to go to them [in the Middle East], too.”

The Plan to Stop a Global Killer EVEN THOUGH CHOLERA IS

rarely talked about, people in 70 global countries face the threat daily. This makes the disease a massive pro-life issue. Victims in the worst-

MAY-JUNE

case scenario can die within six hours because the body rids itself of literally all of its fluids. But an Indian research group is changing that. The team treats 200,000 patients each year and

Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in

99.9 percent of them recover. The World Health Organization also approved a vaccine that’s cheap enough to be stockpiled for outbreaks. The end of cholera could be near.

026

Atlanta, Georgia.

2017


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PLANETSHAKERS


08/17

CURRENT

Summer Gear That Does More S

UMMER IS HERE. The air is

and clothes that will not only ensure you’re

warmer, the sun is out and your

well-equipped, but will also last for summers to

next big adventure (aka trek to

come. Everything in our summer gear guide is

some obscure location to snap

high quality, made from sustainable materials,

that perfect Instagram selfie that makes all your

gives back to important causes or is ethically

friends jealous of your #blessedlife) awaits.

sourced—in other words, it’s not just a bunch of

Thankfully, there is gear, accessories, tech

“Suns Out, Guns Out” tanks.

Sevenly’s ‘People Matter’ Tee Wear your heart on your tee. The money from this purchase will contribute to Sevenly’s pledge to World Relief.

MAY-JUNE

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Build a custom beach bag for yourself and employ women around the world? Apparently you can have it all.

$30 USD

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07/17

CURRENT

MISC.

Wait, Sleeping Together Before the First Date Is the New Norm?

When a pregnant person presses a button in the new Babee on Board app, it sends a notification to smartphones within a 15-foot radius, alerting passengers on public transit that a pregnant woman needs a seat. Take that, old people.

Y

OU’VE HEARD A

or not.” As staggering as that

of connecting

LOT about this

is, now there’s a growing

with people

generation’s

perspective that sex doesn’t

romantically—

increasingly casual

even need to be connected to a

suggesting they’re

relationship at all.

that much more

sexual habits. Match’s annual Singles in America study found that 48

The study also found

likely to test the

millennials are 48 percent more

relationship

percent of millennials are

likely than Gen Xers to have

sexually—and it’s

likely to have sex on the first

already had sex with someone

tough to tell what

date—far more than any other

before they go on a first date

connection this

generation—as way of testing if

with them.

generation sees

“there’s a connection.”

Add this to the fact that this

Perhaps nothing better represents hookup culture than HBO’s Girls, particularly this season’s first episode featuring Hannah (Lena Dunham) and Paul-Louis (Riz Ahmed).

between sex and marriage.

And nearly 30 percent of

generation is 125 percent more

Didn’t the Apostle Paul have

millennials “view sex as a way

likely than previous generations

something to say about what to

to decide if they love someone

to be “addicted to the process”

do when passion is burning?

Global Gender Equality Is Officially 170 Years Away THOUGH THE RATE OF MEN and women attending school are

generally globally equal, economic and political empowerment are still a long ways off. How off? The World Economic Forum recently found that “true global gender equality” is 170 years away. In the U.S., researchers found that stereotypes based on gender show up in kids as young as 6 years old. While 5-yearolds associated intelligence with their own gender, those a year or two older were more likely to attribute brilliance to males. Although girls academically outperform boys at this age, the stereotypes that suggest otherwise have lasting consequences.

MAY-JUNE

Worship artist John Mark McMillan is part of a team releasing an EP of previously unheard, spiritually focused songs by Prince.

In a recent concert, Justin Statistically, more girls aspire to be like a Kardashian

Bieber paused to shout to his audience: “Mark my words: Jesus

than to be

loves you.” At one

recognized as

point in the show,

a genius.

he even climbed in a large Plexiglas box and wrote the words on its walls for the audience to see.

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03/17

CURRENT

The New King of Late Night Won’t Stop Talking About God

MISC.

The kids are all right, but they need money. According to surveys that track young people through their first decade of adulthood, about 40 percent of 22-, 23and 24-year-olds get help from their parents on rent expenses.

Ye shall know the

Colbert consistently

example, when he engaged

truth—and talk

at the top of late-night

outspoken atheist Ricky

consumption.

Gervais in a debate about

about it on TV.

Colbert’s rise didn’t come from playing beer pong

the existence of God. Just in the past year,

with celebrities, either. Of

Colbert talked to Bill

HE STATS ARE IN,

course, the host’s sharp

Maher about conversion

AND STEPHEN

political humor fits the

and Andrew Garfield

Colbert is the

current national mood. But

about Jesus. He had Oprah

official new

you can’t overlook Colbert’s

Winfrey share her favorite

king of late night. Since 2014,

persistence in discussing

Bible verses and Joel Osteen

Jimmy Fallon and his Tonight

substantive questions about

explain his theology.

Show held that title practically

God and life—you could say,

unchallenged. But that changed

theology—with his guests.

T

this year, with Nielsen finding

Take this spring, for

has announced it’s launching a wedding registry. Because nothing is as romantic as garlic powdery pizza crust.

Because what’s funnier than deep-dives into life’s big mysteries?

Research from

Demi Lovato Credits God in Her Journey to Sobriety

McGill University found drivers who depend on GPS-style navigation to get

DEMI LOVATO , who has been open about her struggles with

around, as opposed

drugs and alcohol, has been sober for five years. To mark this milestone, she took to Instagram and told her followers how much she relied on God through the whole process: “So many times I wanted to relapse but sat on my hands and begged God to relieve the obsession,” she wrote. “I’m so proud of myself but I couldn’t have done it without my higher power (God), my family, friends, and everyone else who supported me.”

MAY-JUNE

BREAKING: Domino’s Pizza

to those who rely on their own spatial abilities, ended up with less brain activity. Basically, smartphones are making us dumb.

032

2017


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11/17

CURRENT

[B E T T E R L I F E]

How to Get Healthy This Summer Without Chasing Fads HERE’S A REASON TO TELL your CrossFit

is boasting about the summer bod, we’re

that has 1,000 calories of dressing doesn’t

friend you don’t want to hear any more

here to remind you that being fit doesn’t

help. We’re here to help take the pressure

about their WODs or rope climbs. While

necessarily mean being healthy. After all,

off by debunking three of the biggest fitness

every magazine and commercial out there

ordering a Diet Coke to go with your salad

crazes you can avoid this summer:

1. Avoid intense workouts. It’s not just about intensity—in fact, pushing yourself too hard often leads to injury. It’s about consistency. Although your instinct might tell you to work out until you feel like puking, you might be better just taking a 30-minute walk daily. Even this increases dopamine, energy and burns at least 100 calories.

2. Don’t crash cleanse. It might be tempting to juice cleanse before you’re supposed to go on vacation because you want to look good, but it’s a bad idea. Not only does juicing not give you all the nutrients you need, your glucose crashes making it more difficult to concentrate or be tolerable in general. Skip the detox teas. You just need a well-balanced meal.

3. Don’t fear gluten. It’s one thing if you’re gluten intolerant, but many people are adopting the gluten-free lifestyle out of (very inconvenient) vanity. Most gluten-free products are made of rice or barley which aren’t exactly low calorie.

Yes, yoga pants can also be worn for

And they’re also high in sugar to substitute

exercise activities.

for the flavor and natural sugars found in wheat. If you have to go gluten-free, stick to vegetables and avoid any of the market products. You’ll thank us when you’re not eating bread that tastes like cardboard.

MISC.

MAY-JUNE

Humans have a LOT of stuff. Scientists

Brace yourselves: Harry Potter

The latest version of the World

discovered that all objects on

officially debuted 20 years ago,

Happiness Report recently came

Earth created by people add up to

and we’re all way old now. The

out, and the United States dropped a

approximately 30 trillion tons. That’s

Philosopher’s Stone (or the Sorcerer’s

spot to No. 14. Norway is the world’s

more than the mass of the Earth.

Stone) was first published in 1997.

happiest country.

034

2017


START STRONG. BE READY.

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12/17

CURRENT

Angelina Jolie’s New Film Stars Genocide Survivors

ANGELINA JOLIE is the

director behind a new buzzworthy Netflix film, First They Killed My Father, which is based on the 2000 book by Luong Ung. It tells the story of Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge communist party in the 1970s. More than 2 million people were killed by the regime, including Ung’s parents and two sisters. The film is a passion project for Jolie: One of her children

Christians Donate the Majority of Shelter Beds CHRISTIANS TALK A LOT

about helping their cities. A new study shows that’s more than talk: Researchers at Baylor University found that 60 percent of the “emergency shelter beds” for the homeless in 11 major U.S. cities were provided through faith-based organizations. And that meant a lower percentage of homeless people.

is Cambodian. The film features only Cambodian actors who speak Khmer, and it showcases the stories of hundreds of survivors.

Angelina on the set of First They Killed My Father.

What’s Worse, Atheism or Busyness? NO ONE HAS TIME to

read, they say. This is increasingly true for the Bible. A Barna survey found the main reason people read the Bible less is busyness. Some 58 percent reported not having the time to read it. The next most likely thing to stop you from reading the Bible? Becoming an atheist. That was 17 percent of those surveyed. MISC.

MAY-JUNE

And now, $18 coffee in Brooklyn.

Chance the Rapper

The reboot of all reboots is in the

Extraction Lab, a new java joint in

announced on Twitter he’s

works. The 1999 cult-classic film The

Sunset Park that opened this year, is

hiring an intern. We don’t

Matrix will reportedly be making

serving up the most expensive cup of

know what that means, but

its way back into the center of pop

coffee in the country. Of course.

where do we apply?

culture. Get ready, sermon writers.

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2017


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13/17

CURRENT

2.

[T H E G U I D E]

Six Documentaries That Will Change How You See the World FORGET WHAT YOU KNOW about 10-hour Ken

Burns history lessons and preachy political films. The documentary film has been reinvented, with new series and projects

1.

3.

3. Rock in a Hard Place Starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the film looks at youth incarceration and how Miami-Dade County Corrections & Rehabilitation Boot Camp Program is changing the lives of young inmates.

4. Planet Earth 2 The stunning nature documentary uses bleeding-edge technology to capture jaw-dropping footage of the Earth’s most remote places.

4.

emphasizing stunning visuals, important subjects and moving stories. Here’s a look at six that are changing the game—and will impact your worldview in the process:

1. Chef’s Table Each episode of this documentary series tells the story of one of the world’s greatest restaurants. Far more than a cooking show, Chef’s Table reveals the depth of creative intentionality behind the world’s finest meals and how groundbreaking chefs create those unforgettable experiences.

2. 13th Ava DuVernay’s gripping film explores the systemic racial injustice and policies fueling America’s underreported mass incarceration epidemic.

5. Abstract Each installment of this Netflix series profiles one of the world’s revolutionary designers, showing how great design doesn’t simply shape what we see in the world, but how we see it.

5.

6. Lo and Behold From acclaimed filmmaker Werner Herzog, the film is comprised of vignettes that each look at the legacy and impact of technology that makes the world work.

6.

MAY-JUNE

038

2017


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04/17

CURRENT

Tell Your Boss to Get a PingPong Table ASAP

Generation Stress? If you’re a millennial, everyone you know—like, everyone—is stressed out.

MILLENNIALS, DESPITE WHAT YOU may have heard,

are currently the hardest working generation. Oh, and the most stressed out, too. That’s the major finding of a new study by staffing firm

AMOUNT EXPERIENCING STRESS FROM WORK

Accountemps. A separate study reveals that millennials are working more hours than any other generation and

64%

taking less time for themselves. Take, for example, a look at these patterns: 24 percent of millennials said they would forfeit unused vacation days for their jobs. Sixty-four percent of millennials experience stress on a day-to-

MILLENNIALS

day basis because of work. Meanwhile, the stresses of work only affect 59 percent of people ages 35-54 years old and 35

59%

percent of people ages 55 and older. The cause of all this millennial stress? Looming deadlines plus unrealistic expectations and heavy

YOU CAN ROLL YOUR

eyes about ultra-trendy coworking spaces, but they might be onto something. In two surveys, the Journal of Vocational Behavior researchers found the more fun employees had, the more engaged they were with their day-today work. The more social time employees are given to bond, the greater they measure their well-being at the job. Your serve, bosses of the world.

AGES 35-54

workloads (college debt loads probably don’t help), but the biggest factor is how often millennials work. Of all the stereotypes floating around about

24%

millennials, maybe all the talk about “millennial angst” falls flattest. It could just be good old fashioned work-related stress.

AGES 55+

Kal Penn Fought Trolling the Best Way Ever KAL PENN, AN ACTOR,

producer and former Obama administration official, recently raised more than $860,000 for refugees. It all started when a social media troll commented on Penn’s Instagram: “You don’t belong in this country you ****ing joke.” Penn called the fundraiser “Donating to Syrian Refugees in the name of the dude who said I don’t belong in America” and wrote, “We will turn [the hateful people]’s bigotry” into love.

MAY-JUNE

040

2017


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16/17

[ T H E C H E AT S H E E T ]

CURRENT

6 Ways to Shatter Your Phone Addiction BY A N D R E W B L A C K B U R N

IF YOU’RE LIKE, WELL, EVERYONE , you probably

spend way too much time on your phone. And you’re not happy about it. You don’t like the way it sucks your attention away from more important things (and people), the power it has over you, the impulse you feel to pull it out any time it’s quiet for more than 10 seconds. So you decide you’re going to do something about it—through sheer willpower and determination, you are going to break through your phone’s grip on your life. But the “sheer willpower and determination” technique doesn’t work very well at all. The reason is simple: We can become physiologically addicted to our phones. Here are a few suggestions that will actually help you break free: TURN OFF THOSE NOTIFICATIONS

You know that excited, jumpy feeling you get when you feel your phone buzz? That’s dopamine. It’s a chemical in our bodies that encourages us toward things that might be pleasurable or rewarding, and it’s the reason we can get addicted to our phones. How can you escape? Simple: Turn off your phone’s notifications. DELETE THE OFFENDING APPS

Here’s a simple solution: Cut yourself off from the apps that keep sucking you in. Cold turkey. It doesn’t have to be forever, but the second you delete the app from your phone, it loses its power over you. You might still feel your hand twitch toward your phone, but the impulse will

GET YOUR PHONE AWAY FROM BED

your phone out of grabbing distance

gradually disappear when you get used to the

When you sleep with your phone next

when you’re with people you should

app being gone. It’s awfully hard to be addicted

to your bed, it’s easy (and tempting) to

be paying attention to.

to checking Facebook on your phone when you

wake up your brain with all the noise

no longer have Facebook on your phone.

and chaos the internet can provide.

SET TIMES TO CHECK YOUR STUFF

Get your phone away from your bed;

You budget a certain amount of money

TURN OFF YOUR DATA

don’t even give yourself the option. Oh,

for coffee, and phone time should be

It’s like deleting individual apps, except with

and if you use your phone as an alarm

the same way. If you know that you’ve

this, you’re basically deleting all of them. You

clock—you can just get a real alarm

given yourself 15 minutes to check text

can do it from your phone’s settings menu, and

clock (like an adult).

messages, emails, etc. at 10 p.m., it’ll be

you can switch it back on any time if you need

easier to put your phone down at 8:30

it. You can also turn data off for specific apps,

DITCH YOUR PHONE WHEN YOU’RE

p.m. This allows you to still respond to

if there’s one or two in particular you want to

WITH PEOPLE

messages that need responses, but to

leave on (like a GPS app or iMessages).

The point is, as much as you can, put

do it on your terms.

MAY-JUNE

042

2017


Draw Closer. Connect with God daily with the Our Daily Bread app. Learn more at odb.org/app

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CURRENT

17/17

[T H E B IG Q U E S T IO N]

What one thing changed your spiritual life? Y

ou’re probably not content with your spiritual life—really, no one should be. Yes, your spiritual walk is a journey, but shouldn’t that mean it’s going somewhere? Here’s reality: The faith leaders you look up to weren’t always, well, faith leaders. And while no

one is saying they’ve “arrived,” they’ve deliberately prioritized their spiritual growth—and observing what helped them can help you. We asked three such leaders about the one thing that changed their spiritual lives.

MAY-JUNE

Trillia Newbell

Shauna Niequist

is a speaker and author of Enjoy:

is author of Present Over Perfect:

is a best-selling author and the

Finding the Freedom to Delight

Leaving Behind Frantic for a Sim-

senior pastor of Summit Church

Daily in God’s Good Gifts.

pler, More Soulful Way of Living.

in Raleigh, North Carolina.

IT’S INTERESTING, the change

REGULAR INTERVALS of silence—

started with me realizing the spiritual disciplines and the various practices that help them happen aren’t legalism unless I’m trying to earn God’s favor. That understanding has freed me to do things like keep a calendar to mark days when I have read the Bible and write out what I’ve read. Keeping a calendar of my time with the Lord is motivating and challenging as I pursue to delight daily in Him and His Word.

even just a few minutes—have been the single greatest tool for transformation in my life lately. Silence used to terrify me, and looking back now I realize that so much of the chaos and busyness of my life was an attempt to outrun my feelings of anxiety and fear. Initially, silence felt awful. Over time, though, the silence became a safe place to navigate those feelings, to connect with God and gain grounding and peace.

DEVOTING AN HOUR a day to reading. A planned reading digest expands my horizons and stokes the fires of my heart. It makes me feel like I am being discipled by some of the greatest believers in history, gaining a greater understanding of culture and being enriched by the beauties of God’s creation. I don’t always feel like reading, much less have time to, so turning it into a near-daily discipline has enabled me to keep it regular.

044

J.D. Greear

2017


THER E A R E T H O SE W H O SE E K K NOWL E DG E I N O R D E R T O SE R VE ;

That is Love.

—BERNARD OF CLAIRVAUX

undergraduate

|

graduate

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doctoral

045 discovernu.com

|

on-campus & online RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


More than 19 million Americans live in food deserts. But there’s a solution— and it’s easier than you think.

MAY-JUNE

046

2017


BY KRISTI JAM ES

Imagine

able than a couple pounds of apples from the supermarket a mile away. Here’s the trickiest part of food deserts: They’re often hidden in plain sight, all over urban areas. The best, pur-

a neighborhood convenience store owner turning off the

est foods are just out of reach for many who live in cities,

lights and locking the doors after closing, leaving the store

and the result is rising obesity and diabetes rates. A food

sitting quietly under a street lamp. The next morning the

desert is a complicated thing.

owner puts the key back in, turns it mid-yawn and sees that an entire row of potato chips and crackers has been

But organizations like Seedleaf and Beardsley Community Farm say there is a solution that works: gardening.

stolen overnight.

***

This and more is exactly what Ryan Koch hopes for every morning. Except his isn’t a convenience store, it’s a

GARDENING IN THE HEARTS OF CITIES

community garden.

The idea behind Seedleaf’s community gardens is essen-

“It’s the best kind of vandalism,” Koch explains. “I show

tially this: If getting whole, healthy foods from the store is

up, see an entire row of cabbage gone, and I know some-

hard enough that it prevents residents from eating well,

one ate well last night. I trust that they did.”

why not bring the food to them?

Koch’s Lexington, Kentucky-based nonprofit, Seedleaf,

It’s a simple solution, although not an easy one. And

uses community gardens in urban areas to fight the effects

to hear Koch explain it is to be reminded of not just the

of what are called food deserts. An estimated 19 million

efficacy and efficiency of the urban garden, but also the

Americans live in food deserts, and of those millions, 80

simple beauty of taking a plot of land, cleaning it up and

percent live in urban areas, like Koch and his co-laborers.

planting food intended to feed people who need it. Safi Mahaba started Burton Street Community Garden

***

in Asheville, North Carolina, back in 2003. Her neighbor-

THE URBAN FOOD CRISIS

hood saw a lot of drugs and violence. Mahaba and her

What is a food desert? The United States Department of

husband hoped to push the drugs into the shadows and

Agriculture (USDA) bases it on two factors: income and

bring the community back out and together.

food access. According to USDA definitions, an area is

It’s worked.

designated “low income” when it has a poverty rate of 20

In some ways, the community garden has worked it-

percent or higher, or when the median family income is

self out of its primary job. The gardens moved to people’s

less than or equal to 80 percent of the metropolitan area’s

yards, and the community garden, while still active, now

median family income.

serves as a gathering place for the neighborhood, featur-

An area is deemed “low access” when 33 percent of the

ing art and various events throughout the year.

population (or 500 people) lives 1 mile or more from the

Beardsley Community Farm takes a more educational

closest supermarket (10 miles in rural areas). In food des-

approach. Their goal is to teach people of all ages—from

erts, elevated poverty rates coupled with limited access

preschool to the elderly—how to start their own gardens.

to fresh, healthy food result in communities filled with

As they instruct, they also grow, and they donate their

health problems caused by diets made almost entirely of

food to various shelters and missions across the city. Last

packaged, processed food.

year, Beardsley grew 10,000 pounds of fresh food—and all

“If you don’t have a car, the most convenient thing is to

of it went to the hungry in their city.

get what you can carry, and if you have a family of four

***

that can be a real problem,” explains Khann Chov, who runs Beardsley Community Farm in Knoxville, Tennessee.

HOW TO START A COMMUNITY GARDEN IN YOUR CITY

A pack of hot dogs and some chips from the conve-

There are many ways to address food deserts using urban

nience store on the corner is significantly more obtain-

gardening, and although their approaches are all unique,

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I show up, see an entire row of cabbage gone, and I know someone ate well last night. I trust that they did. – Ryan Koch

plot should be usable for 5 years or so—to help with consistency. Consider local parks, empty lots owned by neighbors who wouldn’t mind having them cleaned up and taken care of for free and church lawns that might serve the community better by growing food instead of requiring regular mowing. He suggests starting small. “A couple of 4x8 boxes are a great start,” he says. “It’s easier to expand than to dial one back.”

Koch, Chov and Mahaba all describe the process of starting a community garden in similar ways.

In urban areas, the soil should be tested before planting food there. Often, urban soil tests reveal lead or other

First and most important is finding the people.

unhealthy chemicals or toxins, and the best option is a

Koch suggested gathering about 10 people to work on a

raised bed.

new garden, with one as the designated champion of the project. Chov suggested making that position a paid one, even when money is tight. Mahaba explained that having an anchor person or couple is vital to the consistency of the garden, and without a consistent presence there, it just won’t work.

“It’s important to know the history of the land before you try to grow something in it,” Khann says. This adds cost, but it helps keep people healthy; one of the goals to begin with. Then water is key, and it can be tricky. Koch recommends offering to buy water from neigh-

The next step is to get access to land.

bors or teaching them how to capture water in rain bar-

Koch encourages people to think creatively here. The

rels. Even in areas where the weather normally provides

P E R C E N TA G E O F U R B A N P O P U L AT I O N S WITH NO CAR OR SUPERMARKET WITHIN A MILE

Convenience stores with inflated prices and a lack of fresh P H O T O C R E D I T: F O O D M A R T / J E F F Z O L I N E

produce often are the only place to purchase food in food deserts.

MORE THAN 10% 5.1-10%

MAY-JUNE

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2017


The Beardsley Community Farm in Knoxville, Tennessee

enough through rainfall, it’s important to have access to water in the case of an unexpected drought.

bors involved in the garden. “Start with the kids,” Koch explains with a smile. He

Both Mahaba and Koch mention remembering that a

says the adults might take longer, but it’s not hard to get

garden is more than seeds and dirt. When Koch asks his

kids working in the garden. They’ll bring lots of energy,

neighbors what they need, they say they want a place to

but low-skill labor, so have appropriate jobs ready for

gather, one that’s welcoming, a place where their kids can

them. Koch offers another reminder here—pay attention

get outside and they can contribute.

to how dirty they get. While some parents don’t mind

In the case of Mahaba’s Burton Street Garden, the actu-

kids coming home muddy, it would be counterproductive

al harvest became secondary as neighbors moved toward

to send a child home only to be chastised for bringing in

planting plots in their own yards. Consider extra features

mud from the garden.

like a raised sandbox for kids to play in or art installations made from found items for added visual interest.

You’ve likely heard the saying, Don’t build a higher fence, get a longer table.

Once the garden is started, it’s important to make sure

When it comes to feeding the 19 million living in food

everyone involved with the project understands the pur-

deserts, community gardens can start to fill in the gaps;

pose is to feed the neighborhood.

calling those who might go without healthy food to gath-

As with the missing row of cabbage, “You can’t steal what we’re sharing,” Koch explains. “Sometimes we put signs up to remind people they aren’t stealing in one of

er, partake in the harvest and be filled. Unlike convenience stores, these resources never close. And they bring nourishment and life to cities in need.

our free, you-pick gardens.” When necessary, they’ll post a little something reminding neighbors that if they’re willing to wait another week or so, the produce will reach peak ripeness and taste much better. In urban areas, it can be hard to get the actual neigh-

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KRISTI JA MES writes at kristenannjames.com, edits for P&R Books, mothers three spectacular little girls and spends her days trying to make her church-planting husband laugh.

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Pete Holmes’ raw and hilarious HBO sitcom explores faith, divorce and rebooting life in an unexpectedly profound way. BY JESSE CAREY

There’s a scene in the very first episode of the HBO comedy Crashing

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

where the main character—heartbroken after

a devout evangelical household and attended a Christian college.

finding out that his wife is having an affair—is driving in his car to a stand-up comedy gig. He

The show—which Holmes calls a story of “a religious guy whose wife leaves him and gets kicked into the deep end of the New York comedy scene”—is a scripted sitcom, but Holmes says he “never really considered it a piece of just straight fiction.” Like the character, Holmes is divorced. And he also grew up in It was there, while attending Gordon College, that the real Pete Holmes started to develop his skills in comedy.

has no following. No career. And now, no spouse.

“They had something called REACH ... and that was as close as

As he drives into New York City, he listens to a

it came to comedy theater,” Holmes explains. “We did these hor-

Joel Osteen sermon for encouragement. The brief scene may seem out of place in a series full of the kind of raunchy humor and ref-

rible student-written, preachy sketches where basically 19-yearolds would go and perform for 15-year-olds to drive home the idea that they shouldn’t smoke pot or get an abortion.”

erences to drugs and sex you’d expect in a com-

Despite the nature of the material, Holmes loved being on-

edy produced by Judd Apatow (the mastermind

stage. Soon, he met another comedian—who was also a Chris-

behind Knocked Up, Superbad and The 40-Year-

tian college student—and auditioned for his improv group, one

Old Virgin). But, for Pete Holmes, Crashing is all

that allowed him to push more boundaries, kind of. He says,

about doing something totally unexpected.

light-heartedly, that he would get in trouble for shouting the

“Judd was very good at finding the balance between comedy and what we were trying to

phrase “you bast**d” during scenes, but it would also draw big laughs from the Christian student audiences.

say,” Holmes explains. “He and I both wanted to

“It was so salacious, and I’d have to wear a paper bag on my

show what it was like to be an earnest, believing

head which we called the bag of shame,” he remembers. “I mean,

person. Because I do sometimes think that those

who needs catharsis and relief more than a bunch of 19-year-old

characters can be caricatures on TV and film. But

kids who think they’re going to burn forever because they mas-

there’s a huge, rich and complex tapestry of dif-

turbated earlier that day.”

ferent kinds of believers and people that manifest that in different ways.”

Holmes still remembers his college days fondly, though he no longer agrees with the conservative theology of his youth. “I felt

On the network that broke hugely influential

like it was Footloose,” he jokes. “I had to teach the kids how to

comedies playing on themes like celebrity (En-

dance. It was easy to be that kind of rebellious bad boy. I got to be

tourage), identity (Girls) and sex (Sex and the City

a real rascal, which is a wonderful comedic position.”

and, well, Girls), Crashing is decidedly different. “In a ‘regular show’ about a guy whose wife leaves ... the next scene is them doing drugs or getting drunk or certainly having sex,” Holmes explains. “Judd and I were far more interested in

But his Christian improv group soon wasn’t enough to satisfy his burgeoning passion for stand-up comedy. Secretly, Holmes would sneak away from his friends to perform for club crowds. Though his career was just beginning, soon, Holmes’ life—and his faith—would change forever in almost a single moment.

what it’s like for a character who is morally opposed to those ideas, who doesn’t think it’s great

BEST LIFE NOW?

to get drunk or do drugs or have sex. That’s what

Like many Christian college students, Holmes married his cam-

makes it interesting.”

pus sweetheart shortly after graduation. And thanks to his new

But to understand what makes Pete the character so interesting, you have to look back on the life of the man behind him.

passion for comedy, he even had a career plan mapped out. “My mom wanted me to be a youth pastor, and when I became a comedian she said it was close enough,” he says, laughing.

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I didn’t know it at the time, but that really started what has become a lifelong pursuit for an understanding of the Divine in everything. Holmes says the two professions basically require the same skill set: “It’s standing in front of strangers, usually being somewhat cheery, and you want everyone to leave a little bit happier and more connected than when they came in.”

ex-wife.

“I would listen to [Osteen] and then my wife

Still rooted in the faith and values of his upbringing, he em-

painful chapter of his life. “So I was spending my

braced feel-good, pop-theology teachings about prosperity and

days listening to Joel tell me that God has favor

hope as he fostered his young marriage and career.

for me and God only wants to invite me to the

“I would listen to Joel [Osteen] on audio all the time,” he re-

banquet and the bounty and the harvest, and

members, explaining why he wanted an Osteen sermon to be

then my wife tells me that she’s been sleeping

featured on his show.

with another guy.”

“He just is a smile. He’s just kind of, ‘God loves you, God wants

He said the theology he’d embraced—of a God

good for you.’ I kind of look at it like the starter set for spirituali-

who favors those who do right and punishes the

ty. There’s a thing that loves you, and it wants to meet with you.”

immoral—didn’t help in his dark season.

and suddenly, that easy message didn’t sync up with his reality.

plays Pete’s

real-life heartbreak. has this affair,” he says, reflecting on the most

But it was around that same time his own marriage fell apart,

Lauren Lapkus

fervor of the message collided head-on with his

“I remember very vividly when my wife broke the news, and then there were a couple days af-

“My wife left me when I was 28 in real life ... and Your Best Life

terwards trying to listen to Joel on CD, laying on

Now had just kind of come out, and I was really, really into it,”

my bed with my earphones in, listening to the

he says. He remembers the painful moment when the optimistic

same thing that just a week earlier really resonated with me,” he says. “And it just didn’t make sense. There was nowhere for it to land anymore. “I didn’t know it at the time, but that really started what has become a lifelong pursuit for an understanding of the Divine in everything, including loss and suffering and ugliness,” he says. “Because just that kind of straight prosperity message didn’t make sense to me.” THE UNCYNICAL COMEDY

There’s a running bit throughout Crashing that lands no matter what guest comedian happens to be co-starring on the show that night: Pete is unrelentingly earnest, and every one of his new comedy-world friends is a hard-edged cynic. Artie Lange is a recovering addict who’s convinced he’s about to relapse. T.J. Miller is a jaded workaholic. Dov Davidoff and his team of promotional street “barkers” are foul-mouthed hustlers desperate for an audience. Even in the face of personal devastation, Pete is unflappable. In a way, Pete’s real-life personality—and real-life faith—mirrors the TV character’s. When the weight of divorce collapsed in on his surface-level theology, he didn’t abandon God in bitterness. He just rethought his approach to Him.

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“I looked at God like Allstate, and I thought because I didn’t smoke, drink, swear, have sex, look at pornography or masturbate that I was in His protection plan,” he says. “So when something ‘bad’ happened to me, it really kind of threw everything to the side.” Holmes started to “walk around with a certain level of freedom,” essentially forgoing some of his moral code by dating non-Christians, swearing and even experimenting with drugs. It was around that time he discovered Rob Bell’s controversial book about the afterlife and punishment Love Wins. The book introduced him to a new way of looking at the Bible. Though many disagree with the book’s assertions, Holmes said it was an opportunity to engage with the Bible outside of the context of his upbringing. “I used to just want so badly to have afterlife insured and make sure I was going to heaven,” he

Technically,

says. “Then someone like Rob comes along, and

Holmes’ sitcom

is like, ‘You’re like you’re asking the wrong ques-

is about him couch surfing after a divorce

tions! You’re thinking about this the completely

and finding

wrong way!’ It’s far more intoxicating, enliven-

a new path, but more

ing and exciting.”

deeply it’s

The alternative way of thinking about faith led

about being

to more reading and more reframing of his faith

OK with being uncertain.

and understanding what Christianity looked like outside of the context of his Christian education and Joel Osteen. Holmes’ career started to pick up as his faith evolved. Holmes began getting higher-profile stand-up gigs and late-night appearances. He also launched a chart-topping podcast, You Made It Weird, that has drawn some of Hollywood’s and comedy’s biggest names: Jon Hamm, Aziz Ansari, Tig Notaro, Ellie Kemper, Andy Samberg. He also uses his growing platform to talk to some of his new heroes: the thinkers, writers and leaders reshaping his faith. Richard Rohr, Rob Bell and “Science Mike” McHargue have all

“Whenever people say, ‘I’m a Christian,’ she says, ‘Already? I’ve

joined Holmes for conversations on faith, doubt

been trying my whole life and haven’t gotten there yet.’”

and God.

Pete doesn’t pretend to have all of the answers when it comes

His faith and comedy now look dramatically

to faith. But really, that’s what the show about crashing on peo-

different than his days performing sketches with

ple’s couches while you figure out your next move is all about: a

his Christian college comedy troupe.

journey toward answers, looking for God and asking questions— and not getting too comfortable where you’re at.

EMBRACING THE UNCERTAINTY

“I think there’s something really special about that,” he says,

HBO recently announced it is renewing Crash-

referencing Angelou’s idea. “I don’t really feel like I’ve landed

ing for a second season, so audiences will see

anywhere necessarily, but I do look back now at the loss of my in-

what becomes of “Pete” months after his divorce.

herited traditional faith that maybe was a little more literal and a

There’s uncertainty on the direction the show

little less mysterious than it is now. I look at losing that as essen-

will take, but Holmes is OK with uncertainty.

tial. And that’s one of the things I want to explore on the show.”

He says lately he’s been thinking about a quote from the poet Maya Angelou. He paraphrased,

Holmes might not know all of the answers, but he sure is enjoying asking the questions.

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JESSE CAREY is the director of digital media for RELEVANT. He lives in Virginia Beach with his wife and two kids.

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


T H E R E L E VA N T 2 0 17

Summer Reading Guide Long, warm days are perfect for kicking your feet up and relaxing with a great book.

BY C . C H R I S TO P H E R SMITH

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O

ur fast-paced, technology-driven culture has changed the nature of reading. We get our news from 140-character sum-

maries. We form ideologies based on Facebook. Taking the time to sit down and read an actual book is a lost art. But it’s an art worth reviving, even if it means retraining our attention spans.

The Face of Water A Translator on Beauty and Meaning in the Bible Sarah Ruden ( P A N T H E O N B O O K S)

Books can transport you to different worlds and give you new perspective of your own. They can teach you more about God and what it looks like to live

Jen Pollock Michel

out your faith. Don’t believe us? Check out these titles. The following selections are perfect for the next time you head to the beach or sit down for a lazy summer afternoon read. You’ll thank us later.

SARAH RUDEN IS NOT

a biblical scholar, but a Quaker and expert on ancient languages who has been translating portions of Scripture from Hebrew and Greek. In her translation work, she finds that we are losing a significant amount of the beauty and tone of the original texts once they’re translated. Ruden selects three down passages from the biblical texts and explores how reading these passages in the original languages breathes new and fresh life into her reading of them.

Exit West A Novel ( R I V E R H E A D)

unnamed Middle Eastern country, a nation which soon thereafter erupts in civil war. As the war closes in around them, they find a way out, following in the footsteps of many refugees headed to Europe. Saeed and Nadia follow the route from their home country to the Greek island of Mykonos, to London, to the United States. It is a harrowing journey, no doubt, with perils looming every step of the way, and yet in the middle of the almost unbearable

RELEVANT: In Keeping Place, you explore

the idea of home and why it matters for Christians. Home can mean different things to different people—can you explain what you mean by it? JPM: I think of home in three parts: There

is a geographical dimension to home, but there is also a social element to home— our connection with one another—and third, the spiritual aspect, our connection to God. You don’t have home without all of these things. RELEVANT: You talk about our longing for

home, which you describe as nostalgia. Why do we have this longing? JPM: Nostalgia often gets a bad rap, as

Mohsin Hamid

SAEED AND NADIA FALL IN LOVE in an

eeping Place is a compelling book that stirs imaginations by giving the language and tools to reflect on how we collaborate with God in the work of healing a broken creation and helping it flourish.

K

life of a migrant, Hamid gives us moments of extraordinary beauty: a Mediterranean breeze that wafts through their hair, the strains of a favorite song downloaded to a phone. Exit West not only gives Western readers a peek into refugee life, it poignantly reminds us that migrant people are human beings, with the sort of hopes and longings that are common to us all.

055

people long for eras that weren’t so great for some people. But the sort of nostalgia I am most interested in is nostalgia that goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. There we had all three elements of home. The human spirit is nostalgic for that experience.

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Movies Are Prayers How Films Voice Our Deepest Longings Josh Larsen ( I V P B O O K S)

There is a great temptation in our day to simply watch movies or television as amusement—that is, as a distraction we don’t think much about. Film critic Josh Larsen isn’t opposed to enjoying films, but in this new book, he encourages us to reflect carefully on them and consider what they reveal to us about God and our identity as humans created in the image of God. Larsen provides 10 different categories of prayer that scenes in movies can evoke and illustrates these prayers by reflecting on more than 100 films. Movies Are Prayers is a delightful and important book that shows a particular way in which we can encounter God prayerfully in our daily lives. Although Larsen’s focus here is on film, the language of prayer he introduces could easily translate to any other medium. Considering the ways in which watching movies can be a form of prayer stirs the imagination about the possibilities of what it could mean to live a life full of prayer or, in the words of the Apostle Paul, to pray without ceasing.

MAY-JUNE

Colson Whitehead you recognize his name, that’s because Colson Whitehead is one of the most significant and versatile writers in the business. In 2002, he won a Pulitzer Prize for his novel, John Henry Days, and he attracted a whole different set of readers with his sports and culture work at Grantland. But his most lasting work—which is saying something—might have arrived last year with his latest novel, the best-selling and National Book Award-winning The Underground Railroad. Somewhat predictably, the book is about a runaway slave. Except in Whitehead’s fictionalized world, the escape route isn’t just a metaphor.

IF

Under the ground, runs an all real, fully functioning railroad, transporting slaves to the north and to freedom. It’s an idea that floated around Whitehead’s imagination for years. “I wanted to honor all the people who had been in slavery, to the dead, to my ancestors,” he said in an interview with Vulture. For much of his career, Whitehead stayed away from writing about the topic. In a separate interview, he said, “For years I felt that I wasn’t ready to take on slavery. It’s a huge topic, and I didn’t want to mess it up. Plus, I knew I would have to put Cora and my other characters through horrific events in order to be realistic. I had to know I could get it right. Which is probably why it took me about 16 years to finally write it.” But don’t think Whitehead’s work is a piece of social commentary on race relations in America. “I think five years from now, when people read the book, they won’t have [an association with the racial issues of 2014-2016], because our brief conversation about police brutality will be over,” said Whitehead. It’s not that The Underground Railroad doesn’t speak to current tensions—it’s that the story is timeless.

The Light Is Winning Why Religion Just Might Bring Us Back to Life Zach Hoag (ZO N D E R VA N)

Zach Hoag offers a unique mix of memoir and cultural commentary in The Light Is Winning. By telling the story of his own faith journey, Hoag illuminates the challenges and opportunities that face American Christianity today. He makes the case here that religion is what we need in the 21st century to lead us deeper into the sort of flourishing that God intends for humanity.

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Becoming Curious A Spiritual Practice of Asking Questions Casey Tygrett ( I V P B O O K S)

Building on the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ own curiosity and the questions He asked His disciples and others, Casey Tygrett describes a life of discipleship

Always With Us?

in which we are always asking questions and learning. Becoming Curious is wonderfully refreshing, especially for those who feel Christianity has too many answers and not enough questions. This book will turn many deep convictions on their heads. Taken seriously, it can transform the way in which we live out faith every day.

What Jesus Really Said About the Poor Liz Theoharis ( E E R D M A N S)

Jesus’ words, “The poor you will always have with you” are often taken as a license to not care for neighbors in poverty. In this book, Liz Theoharis

helps readers understand the context in which Jesus spoke these words, what He meant by them and what it all means for modern life. Today, Christians may be more attentive to the dynamics of their faith in matters like race and immigration, but conversations about economic class have been less prominent in churches.

The Leavers

Borne

The Knowledge Illusion

A Novel

A Novel

Why We Never Think Alone

Lisa Ko

Jeff VanderMeer

Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach

(A L G O N Q U I N B O O K S)

( M C D B O O K S)

( R I V E R H E A D B O O K S)

Ko’s debut novel tells the story of Deming Guo, the young son of an undocumented Chinese immigrant mother in New York City. One day, his mother Polly goes to work and never comes home, seemingly vanishing. Deming is eventually adopted by two white professors in upstate New York, but the dissonance of this new world in contrast to the Chinese community in which he spent his earliest years is unsettling, and he flounders through delinquency as a young adult. Polly eventually resurfaces, and Ko reveals what happened to her, interweaving her story with that of her son’s.

Set in a dystopian world of the not-toodistant future where biotech firms run amok, Borne is a gripping sci-fi novel. While out scavenging the city, Rachel, the book’s protagonist, finds Borne, a creature that captivates her although she doesn’t even know whether it is a plant or animal. Borne grows and Rachel maintains her fascination, even when it puts her life and well-being in jeopardy. Through this vividly crafted future world, Jeff VanderMeer unveils the tenuousness of our own world and the sort of stability we find as we reach out to know and be known by our fellow creatures.

An utterly fascinating and unsettling book, The Knowledge Illusion shows how everything we know is bound together with the knowledge of others. Sloman and Fernbach break down assumptions about science, how we think and how we know anything at all about the world in which we live. Despite the gravity of it, the authors are upbeat. The illusion is that we don’t know as much as we think we do, but this humbling realization is not necessarily a bad thing. Living under this illusion bolsters our confidence and energizes us to discover new ideas and connections.

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The eclectic indie rock band’s third album is a reinvention. And it’s unreal.

“I want to start again.”

The first line sang by Taylor Rice to open

“There’s an idea at this point of what a

Local Natives’ most recent album provides

Local Natives song is,” Rice says. “We’d only

the best summation of the SoCal band’s hopes

had two records out heading in to record this

for Sunlit Youth. After years spent developing

one, but we’d been playing together forever.

a specific (and groundbreaking) sound, they

There’s a specific way we write music. I love

committed themselves to smashing conven-

my bandmates and we know each other so

tions with their new album.

well. I mean there’s such a strong musical

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connection and so much unsaid where we can just feel where the other person is going. “We don’t throw any of that out, but we also want to expand and ask, ‘Why can’t this be a Local Natives song, too?’ “We were replacing guitars with tons of samples or 10 synths stacked on top of each other. For ‘Villainy,’ we had a chord that played through the whole song and we replaced it with 27 voices singing the same chord. That desire for freedom forced us to push ourselves into new territory.”

SU N L I T YO U T H The band’s third album showcases a totally new approach to songwriting.

It’s a bit of a risky proposition for a band still on the front end of their arc. Eight years have passed since Gorilla Manor debuted to great acclaim and the band became a buzz-worthy sensation after their breakout performance at Austin’s South by Southwest festival in 2009. By year’s end, Gorilla Manor was featured on almost every “best of” list, and Local Natives began to discover the demands of a global tour. The momentum from Gorilla Manor bled straight into the demands for Hummingbird, says Rice. There was little chance for the band to stop and reflect on where they had been or where they were going. Tours with The National and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes gave way to headlining offers all around the world. Local Natives did what so few bands experience these days. They truly broke through. When it finally came time for album No. 3, however, Rice says the band looked up and noticed that years had passed. In the process, they’d earned the chance to not only take a break, but to potentially change things up. Success had come and, with it, the ability to call their own shots. Given the chance, they decided to reinvent what it means to be Local Natives—a risky move for a band still forming their platform and solidifying a fan base. “We found ourselves back home after touring essentially six years straight,” Rice says. “We toured Gorilla Manor forever and went

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“In some ways, we invented ourselves during that time. We allowed ourselves to make music in different ways. [Sunlit Youth] was amazing because it was a big exploration of who we are and how we want to push ourselves creatively.”

LEFT TO RIGHT: Nik Ewing Taylor Rice Ryan Hahn Kelcey Ayer Matt Frazier

tion that will either be scrapped completely or saved for later. But Rice says it was a joy. “Usually the work is much more focused and arduous and you work on a specific song for nine months,” he explains. “This time, we tried a million things.” Not only did the band—which includes vocalist-keyboardist Kelcey Ayer, drummer Matt Frazier, bassist Nik Ewing and vocalist-guitarist Ryan Hahn—shift their musical approach, but Rice said they switched their

right into Hummingbird and toured that one

Sunlit Youth] was amazing because it was a

lyrical emphasis as well. Rice, Ayer and Hahn

forever. This was our first moment to take

big exploration of who we are and how we

share songwriting duties within the band,

stock of where we were in our lives. We

want to push ourselves creatively.”

and this time they allowed the lyrics to come

found ourselves feeling like the future was

Sunlit Youth is about the same length as

bright and limitless. We didn’t have to follow

its predecessors at 12 tracks, but Rice says

before the music—the opposite approach of

any rules or fit in any boxes or worry about a

the process to get there was completely for-

“We’d have lyric retreats or trips, which

certain fit as a band.

eign. The band wrote 50 songs for the record,

was something we’d never done before,” says

their previous albums.

“In some ways, we invented ourselves

whereas they usually only write 16 or so. The

Rice. “Kelcey and Ryan and I would head to

during that time. We allowed ourselves to

cutting room floor was littered with unused

the desert for a week. Instead of working on a

make music in different ways. [Recording

work, bits of experimentation and explora-

song or music, we’d focus on the lyrics togeth-

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er. We really wanted to put a new focus on

of Youth,” a song that challenges societal

that. Oftentimes, the song would have a soul

norms. The song asks, “Why do things have to

or identity and the lyrics [were] the last thing

be the way they are? Is it just because they’ve

to add. I’d have to find lyrics that fit the soul

always been this way?” The questioning of

of a song, but this time we wanted to let the

those things is how progress comes in every

lyrics lead where the song goes.”

generation. It’s also a song that came in a mat-

The lyrical focus on Sunlit Youth allowed the album to feel “more cohesive,” Rice says.

ter of minutes. “If you read about songwriters, there’s a

“What happens is you have a song you’ve

common feeling where you have the song

made that you love where you’re just mum-

just channeling through you all of a sudden,”

bling gibberish over it, and you’ve put your-

explains Rice.

self in a box,” he says. “Now you have this in-

“I have had that experience, and I’ve had it

sane puzzle trying to fit these words into this

on this album—most directly with ‘Fountain

musical structure that has so much meaning

of Youth.’ The chorus just hit me and then as

behind it. The most stressful part of finishing

I was singing the verses, the basic format and

a song is the need to make the lyrics fit into

all of the lyrics came out in 30 minutes. It just

this thing you’ve created. So it was great to let

came together on its own. When it works, it is

the lyrics lead because having that down, you

the best feeling ever.”

already have a much more cohesive thing to work on when you fit the music around it.” One example from the album is “Fountain

Sunlit Youth looks back at youth, but that’s not what it’s about: Ultimately, and this is what Rice describes, it’s about reinvention.

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M ATT CONNER is a writer and editor living in Indianapolis.

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


Death, Heartbreak & Hope

What the tragic death of his young daughter taught Levi Lusko about what he believes.


BY RUTHAN N E I RVI N

Levi Lusko

sat on his couch in utter shock, his three young daughters tucked in around him. He held them close as they took in the news coverage of the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. It was December 14, 2012. A gunman, for no apparent reason, walked into Sandy Hook, found two classrooms close to the entrance of the building and began shooting children and teachers. First responders arrived at the school within minutes, but it was too late for those classrooms. The man murdered 20 kindergarten and firstgrade students. The heartbreak reverberated well beyond the Newtown community. Lusko thought about the parents who all of a sudden switched from planning birthday parties to planning funerals. He was dumbfounded, he says, and kept asking himself, “How on earth could you possibly plan a funeral for your kindergartener? There’s no way I could do that.” But Lusko’s vicarious grief watching TV that night paled in comparison to what he’d experience just a few days later.

*** The Luskos live in the picturesque skiing village of Whitefish, Montana, where snowcapped mountains fill almost every view. The main street looks like a set from a Hallmark film—worn storefronts, light posts wearing seasonal decorations and a certain kind of bustle most cities never experience. This is where Lusko and his wife, Jennie, built their family and ministry. Montana provides a familiar backdrop for Lusko, who grew up surrounded by the


I was trying to be as open as possible so God can use the pain, but it’s not pretty; it’s a mess. Hurting with hope still hurts.

mountains of Colorado. Mountainscapes have

***

been one of the most consistent parts of his

Fast forward to December 2012, just five days

life. That and church.

after the Newtown shooting. The Lusko fam-

Lusko became a Christian in high school,

ily—now a family of five, with three daugh-

after which he sensed what he calls “an irre-

ters: Alivia, Lenya and Daisy—sat around

sistible pull toward ministry.” Once he gradu-

wrapping Christmas gifts and otherwise do-

ated, he enrolled in Calvary Chapel Bible Col-

ing normal family stuff.

lege near Los Angeles for a couple of years,

Then Lenya had an asthma attack, which is

before leaving school to work as a youth pas-

fairly routine for kids with asthma. But Len-

tor at a church in New Mexico.

ya’s attack didn’t subside.

Later, the Luskos returned to California

She didn’t respond to an inhaler, and even

for a different church job. But it was during

a nebulizer treatment didn’t help. Her breath-

that season the couple felt the pull to plant

ing worsened. Lusko and his wife tried every-

a church. “We wanted to plant a church off

thing they knew, but Lenya passed out from

the beaten path where there wasn’t a million

lack of oxygen, and they called an ambulance.

cranking megachurches you can throw a rock

By the time the ambulance arrived, Lenya’s

and hit,” Lusko says. “We just really wanted

heart had stopped beating and the 5-year-old

to blaze a trail in more of the unknown, some-

died in Lusko’s arms.

where where if it didn’t exist there wouldn’t be that option at all.” Montana came into the picture, even though most people they talked to didn’t think Big Sky Country was a good idea. But they couldn’t shake the idea that God wanted them there. So Lusko, his wife and their daughter, Alivia, moved to Whitefish, Montana, and planted a church in nearby Kalispell (population 19,000).

The Luskos went from wrapping presents and anticipating a Christmas service at their church to picking out a casket for their 5-year-old daughter—all within a few hours. “It was the absolute, most treacherous thing you could imagine,” Lusko says. When the doctors pronounced Lenya dead, Lusko couldn’t leave the hospital. “All of your instincts as a parent are to protect her,” he says. But she was gone.

*** There’s a bar in Kalispell called the VFW, Glacier Park post 2252. It sits right in the main square of the town, dimly lit, filled with billiard tables. A dingy, stale smoke lingers—you can still smoke indoors most places in Montana—and above the bar is the equivalent of a storage room. That’s the spot where Lusko started Fresh Life Church with 14 people. That was 2007. It was the same year the Luskos found out they were expecting their second daughter. She arrived September 8 that year, and they named her Lenya, which means “lion” in Russian. Her name turned out to be prophetic. “It fit her personality,” Lusko says. Lenya grew to be “the most energetic of our daughters, the most ferocious, the most high-strung in terms of needing discipline, just so much fun,” he says. Lenya was also born with asthma, which is neither cause for much concern or abnormal (some 6 million kids around the United States have asthma). Levi Lusko and his family

MAY-JUNE

064

2017


Almost in tandem with Lenya, Fresh Life Church grew. Those 14 people grew into 100 people in three months, and by the end of the first year the church outgrew the bar and bought a new space to hold the more than 400 people attending the church. Today, Fresh Life has campuses in Kalispell, Whitefish, Billings, Missoula, Bozeman (near Yellowstone National Park), Polson and Helena, Montana, in addition to an out-ofstate campus in Salt Lake City, Utah.

*** A week and a half after Lenya’s death, Lusko preached Fresh Life’s Christmas service. At the service, three people decided to follow Christ—two paramedics and a respiratory therapist, all three of whom were at the hospital when Lusko lost his daughter. Through this, Lusko said he and his wife began to sense God had some purpose—however faint—not to waste their loss. Lusko says, “Even in the midst of the horrors, there were glimpses of beauty, glimpses of knowing God’s going to use this in a ‘When does faith work if not in the fire?’ way.” Lusko says the loss of Lenya made “tangible what I’ve heard my whole life: that we have an anchor for the soul. It’s one thing to preach that in the sunshine, but you find out what you really believe when pressure is applied.” He now sees grief as an opportunity to

“point grieving people back to the grief.”

happy ending. Lusko would be the last person

comprehend what God teaches through the

What Lusko knows now, and what he

suffering itself. Grief and loss, he says, have

wants others to know, is that grief is normal

to tell you that. “The Bible talks about the peace that sur-

the power of doing evil or good.

and good and hope exists. Lusko wrote his

passes understanding and I really believe

“It’ll either smash you against the rocks, or

own book, both to process his loss for him-

God gives you peace like that, but He doesn’t

you will stand on the rocks and be who God’s

self and to help other people face grief and

give it to you before you need it,” he says. “He

called you to be through the pain,” he says.

move on from it. That writing took the form

gives you only what you need to get through

of a memoir called Through the Eyes of a Lion.

what you’re going through in the moment.”

In many respects, Lusko thinks his life and ministry prepared him for this tragedy.

“I was trying to be as open as possible so

Living in the face of devastating loss isn’t

“We’ve not felt destroyed by it; we’ve felt

God can use the pain, but it’s not pretty; it’s a

about blind optimism or avoiding pain and

deepened by it,” he says. “We feel honored,

mess,” he says. “Hurting with hope still hurts.”

grief. For Lusko, it’s about facing life—includ-

privileged that God would allow us to suffer. We felt like he trusted us with this trial, and

***

there was a sense from the beginning that

Through the Eyes of a Lion doesn’t only ref-

God didn’t grace us with the pain, but He

erence Lenya’s name. After her death, the

graced us with the power to go through it.”

Luskos agreed to donate her organs.

As he continued to process his loss, Lusko

Later, doctors told the Luskos Lenya’s eyes

found little to no help in books. Nothing he

were transplanted to two elderly blind peo-

read, he says, gave him answers or helped

ple, allowing both to see for the first time. This

him sense “God’s future justice over sin, sor-

served as another reminder to the Luskos of

row and the brokenness of the world.”

God’s purposes in loss and tragedy.

Every resource he came across seemed to

But the point isn’t that every story has a

065

ing potential loss—head-on, trusting God to provide both in seasons of gift wrap and funeral plans. “The worst thing you can do is to turn your back on the waves.”

RUTHA NNE IRVIN is a writer and editor living in Louisville, Kentucky. She’s on Twitter at @RuthAnneIrvin.

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


MAY-JUNE

066

2017


BY A A RO N C LI N E H A N B U RY

How the creative mind behind hit shows Lost and The Leftovers is changing TV with big ideas about God, faith and mystery.

nside the church building, up

In a way, the Millerite family

front and just to the right of the

in the 19th-century town serves

this

pulpit, stands a chalkboard. And

as a microcosm of the entire se-

parture—remains

on that board the church’s pastor

ries: The whole thing ostensibly

All the characters learn is that

has written a date. The chalk-

orbits

supernatural

around 2 percent of the world’s

board declares the world’s end.

event—one that defines each

population, with no distinguish-

character’s setting, circumstanc-

able connection (including reli-

es and relationships. But don’t let

gion), simply vanish.

This church, with a tall white steeple

and

matching

siding,

looms at the far end of a Quak-

a

vague,

the event(s) distract you.

version of Left Behind. Except rapture—the

sudden

de-

ambiguous:

This lack of closure keeps

er-looking village, sometime in

The point of this aside, and the

the mid-1800s. A family—mom,

question at the heart of The Left-

dad and young son—sits weekly

overs, is grief after loss—wheth-

“Organized religion takes a

in the pews, listening to sermons

er it’s loss of family, belief or

lot of heat, but they have these

about the date on the chalkboard

hope—particularly when the loss

amazing constructs for grieving

and trading glad, anticipatory

doesn’t make sense.

cycles,” says Lindelof, who last

grins as they prepare for the end.

drives the show’s tension.

year won a Peabody Award for

***

But the date comes and goes.

wounds from healing, and it

his creative work on the show.

There’s a reason, of course,

“What happens when the world

“But they all have sort of a defin-

one the pastor quickly identi-

doesn’t end and you put all your

itive end. Because of [the sudden

fies; he amends the date. Once

eggs in that basket?” asks Damon

departure], because these people

again, this Millerite family sits in

Lindelof, the writer and co-cre-

aren’t dead they’re just gone,

church, this time with renewed

ator of The Leftovers. “Does that

there is no natural endpoint for

confidence that soon, very soon,

shatter your faith or does that

their grief.”

the prophecy will prove true.

cause you to double down? That

But the date comes and goes, again. Then again. And again. The series of unfulfilled proph-

felt like a very interesting emo-

***

tional and religious parable to

If his name sounds familiar,

start the entire season off with.”

that’s because Lindelof isn’t new

ecies pulls at that family. After

The Leftovers show, like the Perotta

novel,

to TV. Back in 2004, he created

two or three dates pass, the fa-

Tom

centers

a show with producer-director

ther grows skeptical. In time, he

around an event called the “sud-

J.J. Abrams that, like probably

takes the young son and leaves.

den departure.” This immediate-

no show before it, captured the

The mother remains faithful,

ly, for Christian watchers, recalls

attention of TV-watchers every-

even at the cost of her family.

the idea of a rapture, the end-

where. That show was Lost.

Still, there’s no grin or even an-

lessly speculated moment when

“I never dreamed in my wild-

ticipation on her face anymore,

many believe Jesus Christ will

est dreams that I would be a

only desperation.

pull His followers out of earth

part of creating something that

the

up into heaven and initiate the

tapped into the zeitgeist in the

third and final season of HBO’s

multi-year—1,000 years?—apoc-

way that show did at its peak,”

award-winning

alyptic end of the world.

Lindelof says. “I was so terrified

This

village

is

where

The

Leftovers

begins. It’s about a 10-minute

The Leftovers doesn’t shy away

by the magnitude and responsi-

vignette set in an entirely differ-

from this idea, per se, and you

bility of the work I wasn’t really

ent world from the show’s mod-

can fairly think about the show

able to appreciate the fact people

ern-day context.

as a grittier, HBO-appropriate

were really digging it while it

067

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


S O, W H AT ’S THE DE A L W ITH THE SMOK E MONSTER IN LOST? When Lost ended, so did a special era of TV. But questions—like, a lot of them—remained. Chief among them: What the heck was that smoke monster and where did it go? Because we’re hardhitting journalists, we asked the man who created it all:

“The conventional thinking is that the smoke monster took the form of John Locke for the end game of the final season, and its intention was was on.”

were super compelling,” Lindelof

ner with Perotta. And just like

Whether he dreamed it or

says. “He was amazing at twists

that, Lindelof began creating.

not, in the era of TV before Mad

and coincidence and cliffhang-

“I was really captivated by the

Men, Breaking Bad or The Walk-

ers. He was writing TV before

idea the show centered around a

ing Dead, Lost stood out. Its in-

there was TV.”

mystery that never was going to

to destroy the island. The island was functioning as a cork for all sorts of

triguing collection of characters

Lindelof has been a fan of Tom

be answered,” he says. “And that

and complex—which is putting

Perotta’s novels for years—and

this show was about living in a

unpleasantness

it nicely—story created a cultur-

it’s no surprise his books Election

world without resolution—ver-

and evil in the

al phenomenon. Inextricable for

and Little Children were adapted

sus Lost, which was very much

world that would

Lost’s success are the themes that

into successful films.

built around questions the show

have been freed

weaved in and out of every epi-

So when Stephen King wrote

sode: a higher power, supernatu-

in The New York Times that Perot-

“I just loved that The Leftovers

ral forces both good and evil and

ta’s The Leftovers was “the great-

is like all these people disap-

a redeemer-savior.

est episode of The Twilight Zone

peared, you’re never going to

That Lindelof sat at the center

that had never been filmed,”

find out why or why them, and

of Lost and now The Leftovers is

Lindelof, who at the time hadn’t

how do you live your life in that

no coincidence. In fact, the more

read this particular Perotta nov-

environment? I was just really

sacrificed his

you learn about him, the more

el, was “immediately intrigued.”

catalyzed by that, and the meta-

life in the great messianic

cohesive his works appear.

had to answer.

“I was really moved by it emo-

physical and religious, both text

His writing interests, from the

tionally,” Lindelof says. “And

and subtext, were really fascinat-

very beginning, aimed more for

then I was like, this feels like it’s

ing to me.”

screens than pages. Largely this

a world large enough to contain a

comes from the writing he en-

television show versus just doing

joyed as a kid.

it as a movie.”

The first writer with whom

had [Locke/the smoke monster] achieved its goal. Fortunately, Jack Shephard

tradition to stop this from

***

happening, and

The lack of resolution presented

he defeated and destroyed the

Lindelof found out HBO al-

in The Leftovers intrigued Linde-

enam-

ready controlled the rights to the

lof, but what really “moved” him

smoke monster in

ored” was Stephen King, and he’s

story. The project wasn’t moving

in the novel was the “inevitabili-

read all of King’s novels multi-

forward because Perotta wanted

ty in life is death.”

the process.”

ple times. And then there was

to be involved in any adaptation,

“I’m 43 years old now, and

Charles Dickens.

but the network worried about

that’s right at the point in life

Lindelof

was

“[Dickens]

“deeply

fascinating,

his lack of TV experience. In

you start attending just as many

because he wrote over a centu-

short, HBO executives needed an

christenings as funerals,” he says.

ry ago, but I felt like the stories

experienced showrunner to part-

“I’ve now seen the grand layout

MAY-JUNE

was

068

2017


of life. I lost my own father; I

by Christianity and the same

am a father … I’m really curious

questions.”

I’M REALLY CURIOUS ABOUT

about what I’m supposed to do

In Lindelof’s view, the Jewish

while I’m here on the planet, and

faith didn’t take the stories in

I’m really curious about whether

the Old Testament literally. The

WHILE I’M HERE ON THE PLANET,

or not this is it. I want to explore

stories represented parables of

that curiosity in the stories that I

some sort. He was never sup-

AND I’M REALLY CURIOUS ABOUT

tell, and I want those stories to be

posed to think an actual whale

populated by characters who are

swallowed an actual Jonah.

preoccupied by those ideas.

tered believed that everything

death: It’s the most emotional-

that happened in the New Testa-

ly intense experience. I had the

ment was to be taken literally,”

occasion to be present when my

he says. “That was a fascinating

son was born, and I was also

process for me. So I’ve always

in the room when my father

kind of known about the idea of

died. Those events were equal-

the rapture, certainly as popu-

ly profound and stunning and

larized by the Left Behind series

amazing. I don’t know how I

and then every once in a while

write about anything other than

one of these doomsday prophets

these two things ever again.”

coming forward and saying, ‘The end of the world is nigh.’”

***

Though Lindelof has never

The Leftovers’ sudden depar-

been convinced of a particular

ture recalls the specific feature

religion for himself, he’s widely

of some Christian circles called

attracted to the idea. When he

a premillennial rapture. While

first met his now-wife, she was a

the best-selling Left Behind nov-

practicing Catholic and Lindelof

els introduced this concept into

would go with her to mass.

mainstream

WHETHER OR NOT THIS IS IT.

“But the Christians I encoun-

“Because it’s very profound,

21st-century

WHAT I’M SUPPOSED TO DO

cul-

As

time

progressed—which

ture, the concept is central to the

Lindelof describes as “that par-

theological framework known as

ticular thing that happens in the

dispensationalism.

coasts ... if you live in L.A, or New

If you pay attention, you can’t

Not exactly the idea you’d ex-

York”—he started to define him-

help but see how Lindelof’s own

pect to attract the attention of

self more as a “spiritual being”

ideas—you could say his theolo-

a sci-fi writer who grew up in a

rather than a part of a religious

gy—mirrors the Millerite wom-

“culturally Jewish” half-Luther-

tradition. The rub, for him, is the

an who opens the third season

an, half-atheist home.

parts of “every religion based on

of The Leftovers. No, he’s never

exclusion or superiority.”

been part of a cult, but his story

“I went to Hebrew school and

ten to you much longer.”

was Bar Mitzvah’ed, but not re-

“My issue with Judaism was

does include the journey from

ally ever a believer in the strict-

always the idea that there was

Bible stories and Stephen King

est sense of the word,” Lindelof

a chosenness attached, where

novels to the birth of a son, the

says. “But I obviously had a lot

it’s sort of like ‘We are the only

loss of a father and a hovering

of instruction on the Old Testa-

ones who have it right,’” Lindelof

awareness of the incompleteness

ment. I was always fascinated

explains. “The longer you spend

of solitary worldviews.

by Bible stories in terms of, was

inside the Catholic community,

In many ways, this is the bridge

I supposed to take these things

the more there is the same idea,

from Lost to The Leftovers. Both

literally—Was there actually a

which is, ‘We welcome you as

mysterious and eerie, the former

flood? Was there an Abraham and

long as you know this is the only

retains a black-and-white ortho-

Isaac? Did Moses actually part

one, true way.’

doxy, the latter a chalkier hope

the Red Sea? Or were these things

“I think that we’re much more

amid circumstances no one fully

comfortable living in a space of,

understands. Both face the same

“As I grew older, as I began to

‘Hey religion can be a wonderful

questions head-on: One holds a

go out into the world and read

thing and if it works for you then

framework for loss and grief and

and experience people who had

great.’ But the minute that you

redemption; the other leaves you

different religious upbringings

start telling me my belief system

wondering, as Lindelof says, if

than I did, I became fascinated

is flawed, it’s hard for me to lis-

this world is all there is.

more parables?

069

Justin Theroux plays Kevin Garvey Jr., the lead character of The Leftovers, a man trying to put his life back together after the sudden departure.

A ARON CLINE HA NBURY is the editorial director at RELEVANT. You can follow him on Twitter at @achanbury.

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


CON N ER

M AT T

BY

to the hype?

debut live up

Does her

went viral.

and the video

floored Pharrell

college, she

While in music


songs like “Alaska” folk music, first and foremost.

the industry, seems familiar. That’s

“I think the transition really happens in

not necessarily bad, but it certainly

production, because the songs—the way I’m

makes this statement all the more

expressing myself, the vocabulary I’m using, the

striking: “I’ve never heard anyone

structure—all still feel like folk songs to me,” Rogers

like you before.”

explains. “I still play them on the acoustic guitar.

Those are the words of 10-time Grammy-winning artist and producer Pharrell Williams, visibly

They translate into folk music or just strippeddown music.” Rogers’ folk rootedness emanates from a

stunned after hearing a song by

childhood love of nature and the outdoors, having

Maggie Rogers. The video of their

grown up in rural Maryland. When she moved to

exchange went viral last year and made Rogers an

New York City for college, and then studied abroad

overnight sensation.

in France, Rogers was exposed to the electronic

The clip features Williams sitting

dance scene and influences that now

to offer critique to the student songwriters involved in the class and found himself blown away by the song Rogers penned for it, “Alaska,” which she wrote in 15 minutes about a hiking trip. The song is a mesmerizing blend of folk harmonies and electronic rhythms that feels nostalgic but also completely new. “Most of the time, people will say, ‘I’m going to make this kind of song,’ and it ends up sounding like something we’ve heard or felt before,” Williams said. “I feel, like, your whole story—I can hear it in the music. I can hear the journey.” Williams’ thoughts are shared by anyone who’s heard Rogers’

stunning debut EP, Now That the Light Is Fading. Rogers’ breakout moment has actually been a

And that shouldn’t be a surprise, given Rogers’ story. “I think music for me has been a reflection of myself,” Rogers says. “I came from the Eastern shore of Maryland and moved to New York City. I’d always defined myself by the outdoors and suddenly found myself really falling in love with the city and its energy, and then not really knowing what that made me. I loved pop music, and I loved New York City, but I also loved hiking and being in Maryland, and those in stereotypical forms fall in really opposing categories. I just realized that I could be both. “It’s funny because I always get pegged as this sort of nature girl and, yeah, I do love nature, but I think if you heard my music in a coffee

shop, you wouldn’t say, ‘Oh, this is definitely folk music,’” she says. “I think people picture me in

long time in the making. She began writing songs

nature fighting against the elements, and for about

10 years ago, and won a songwriting contest at a

one month a year that definitely is me, but I’ve also

Berklee College of Music summer program before

lived in New York City for the last five years and it’s

her senior year of high school.

something that I really love. So I think it’s both.”

She recorded and released two folk albums—The

071

University. Williams was on-hand

“It’s singular,” Williams said.

The viral nature of the masterclass video

Echo (2012) and Blood Ballet (2014)—prior to her

featuring Rogers and Williams is found in its

recent success. In fact, despite the electro-R&B sheen

authenticity—an honest, vulnerable moment

on her new release, Rogers says she still considers

preserved and shared. It’s an extension of Rogers’

MAY-JUNE

part of a masterclass at New York

mix for a truly rare sonic blend.

I think music is this really, incredibly delicate frequency that’s able to bring people together and create community.

next to the then-unknown college student, both facing the camera, as

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM

ost music, especially to people in


emanates in the same authentic way. Rogers’ music videos always feature her in her favorite pair of old jeans. Her songs resonate with experiences

“Sufjan Stevens’ cover of ‘Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing’ is one of my alltime favorite songs, and that’s just a folk song,” she says. Between her childhood immersion in

and emotions that easily connect with

hymns and an art teacher in high school,

listeners. By being true to herself—or

she received her musical education.

her journey, as Williams would say—

“Where I went to high school, there

she’s able to invite fans in, in a way

weren’t really cell phones or Wi-Fi

other artists may not—or will not.

around, but there was one teacher who

“I think music is this really, incredibly

had a record collection in the painting

delicate frequency that’s able to bring

studio,” Rogers says. “I didn’t grow up

people together and create community,”

with musical parents, so I never really

Rogers says. “I think inevitably it ends

got a pop music education, but in high

up showing us we have more in common

school was the first time I heard Bob

than we might think.”

Dylan, The Beatles, Carole King, The

If that statement sounds spiritual,

Rolling Stones and Talking Heads. It

Rogers admits that she is “very

really was like we were living in a

spiritual,” although she’s also quick

different era in the best way. I just really

to distance herself from equating

immersed myself both in hymns and

spirituality and religion. Though she

that music, too.”

does admit loving hymns, describing them as “the original folk music.”

Rogers describes nature and music as two things “very spiritual” to her, and even the synthetic backbeat found on dance cuts like “On + Off,” “Alaska” and “Dog Years” stem from the natural rhythms she experiences while hiking. “I think the thing I love about nature and folk music is you find your own internal rhythm when you’re hiking,” she says. “You’re just walking. You find a pace, and there is sort of a quiet meditation in those moments. That’s what I loved about being outside, and often my rhythm of my steps served as the backbeat for a lot of my early demos for folk songs.” After her first two albums, Rogers took some considerable

Maggie Rogers and Pharrell Williams in the 2016 video that went viral and launched Rogers’ career.

I didn’t grow up with musical parents, ... but in high school was the first time I heard Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Carole King, The Rolling Stones and Talking Heads. ... I just really immersed myself both in hymns and that music, too.

music and accessible persona that


RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM

time away from music to gather her creative thoughts and figure out what the next direction would be. “I had a couple years in college where I stopped making music and wasn’t really sure what I wanted to make,” she says. “But then coming back to music and having it feel so urgent, the only thing that felt really logical was to be able to sort of challenge myself and express myself in a way that I hadn’t before.” Rogers set a new standard for herself: She decided only to make the kind of music she would actually want to hear. “I had been making quiet folk music, and I just really wanted to play a show that I wanted to go to on a Saturday night,” she says. The kind of show where people could come together, dance and actually find community. Rogers wanted to create “something that people could find a release in—substance or no substance.” It’s substance—decidedly a different kind— illustrated by the look on Williams’ face as he first hears “Alaska.”

073

that draws you to Rogers’ music, a fact best

It’s the video that launched a groundbreaking new artist and created a label bidding war. But despite the buzz and ever-demanding schedule, Rogers says she’s most grateful for that video inasmuch as it allows her to pursue her love of making music. “I didn’t know Pharrell was going to be there that day or that there was going to be a camera crew or that that would end up on the internet, so inevitably when that moment happened, I N OW T H AT T H E L IG H T IS FAD IN G

just took it as a sign that this music I was just

The five-song major

in some way,” Rogers says. “I actually made

Rogers features her signature sound—one like no other.

the song better the same day I met Pharrell. I immediately went back to working on music and assumed nothing would happen. At the end of the day, music is the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. I’m a young college graduate with a job doing the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do, so it’s been a pretty incredible year.” But the most incredible part is she is just getting started.

M ATT CONNER is a writer and editor living in Indianapolis.

MAY-JUNE

label debut EP from

newly experimenting with was translating


10 SUMMER T R I P S T H AT COULD CHANGE YOUR LIFE

re you traveling for work or

MAY-JUNE

One answer is considered to

and maintenance as working

BY

leisure? You get asked this

be a luxury, something you do

out, eating well and seeking fel-

STEPHANIE

when filling out customs forms,

when you have money and time

lowship. And you don’t have to

G R ANADA

booking hotels and even when

to spare. But for a balanced life,

do it often to reap the rewards—

an acquaintance wants to know

traveling is almost a necessity—

one good trip every couple of

why you’re here or there.

as conducive to personal growth

years should do the trick.

074

2017


The difference between taking

Mills’ eloquent discourse. Fly

any old vacation and travel that

into Denver—quick and rela-

positively impacts your life lies

tively low-cost from most major

in setting out with purpose. Not

airports—and drive toward

just booking the most exotic

Estes Park, which rests at the

destination and filling your

foothills of the National Park

itinerary with restaurants and

and celebrates its 100th anniver-

shops—don’t get us wrong, we’re

sary this year. Plan to go when

not saying to scrap that—but

the summer traffic starts to fizzle

the most fulfilling trips happen

out and the weather is still ami-

when you challenge yourself,

cable enough to climb and hike

seek to learn and connect (or, in

to your heart’s delight.

some cases, disconnect).

visitestespark.com

By seeing the world, we break down borders and barriers, come to understand and appreciate where people come from and find things that make us one. We get to marvel firsthand

nps.com/romo

2

24-HOUR DISCONNECT Solitude and silence are necessary for reflection. Set on 2,000 acres of working farmland in

at the wonders God created out-

the hills of Central Kentucky,

side of our limited context.

the Abbey of Gethsemani hosts

Yes, that sounds expensive—

guests searching for mental

and some trips are—but when

clarity and seclusion in simply

done right, even setting out in

appointed rooms with private

your own city can be an enrich-

bathrooms. Space is limited, and

ing adventure. Think about your

reservations are needed four

passion—whether it’s being in

months ahead. But once you’re

nature, diving headfirst into the

in, you’ll have unstructured

unknown or working with kids.

days free to roam the grounds,

Now use this list to see how you

meditate and pray.

can get the most out of your summer escape.

1

Take note: The Trappists are a quiet tribe, and speaking is only allowed in designated areas. One

THE AWE-INSPIRING NATURE ESCAPE

of the abbey’s most famous resi-

Enos A. Mills, known as the fa-

who wrote The Seven Storey

ther of Rocky Mountain Nation-

Mountain, an honest account of

al Park, said: “Among the serene

his search for salvation and pur-

grid, desert areas where respect

and steadfast scenes, you will

pose. The book is considered a

for the land is valued above

find the paths of peace and a re-

benchmark in seminarian circles

all else. These places reward

pose that is sweeter than sleep.

and one of the clearest accounts

respectful residents and visitors

If you are dulled and dazed with

of contemplative living. Read it

with an expansive setting and

the fever and the fret, or weary

before heading to Kentucky.

tranquil vibe.

and worn—tottering under burdens too heavy to bear—go back

dents was monk Thomas Merton,

3

marfa.com), located three hours from the nearest airport in Fort

We’re not talking about holy

Worth, Texas. In the 1970s, artist

sites. This is about those places

Donald Judd settled in the West

where everyone seems to live on

Texas border town and planted

us that no matter how high-and-

a different, ethereal plane. It’s

his minimalist doctrine through

mighty we may feel one day,

where artists in search of soli-

artworks and structures that

we are but a small piece of the

tude and inspiration escape to

blend into the landscape, rather

puzzle. Fortunately, it’s pretty

get away from the chaos to hear

than attempt to outshine it.

easy and affordable to get to the

themselves think. These colonies

Colorado peaks that inspired

are usually settled in off-the-

Mills recognized that nature is God’s gift to us. The mountains have a unique way of reminding

National Park

One such place is Marfa (visit-

monks.org

THE SPIRITUAL RETREAT

to the old outdoor home.”

Rocky Mountain

The Chinati Foundation (chinati.org), his contemporary

075

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


brothers and sisters. But it’s important to reach beyond gadgets and physically show up, too. The U.S. has federally protected national memorials for 30 of the country’s deadliest terrorist attacks. It’s not so much about the place as it is the people. It’s a way to say we remember what happened there, the lives lost and that we stand by survivors and affected families. More than 350,000 people visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial every year. And it’s not just morbid curiosity that lures them. Yes, it’s a chilling experience to stand at the face of tragedy, but even more powerful is the opportunity to reflect on what we lose and gain when Tents and a camper at Marfa, Texas’ El Cosmico

art museum, housed in a former

seek ways to bridge the divide.

catastrophe hits, and how the

Army base, is still recognized as

Among the many virtues of

power of hope strengthens us.

a leader in the field.

living in an immigrant-built

oklahomacitynational-

country is the possibility to

memorial.org

Last year, 87-year-old artist Robert Irwin unveiled his first

experience a wide range

freestanding, permanent piece

of nationalities.

6

THE GREAT, BIG, BEAUTIFUL, INTROSPECTIVE DRIVE

at Chinati. The museum is a ma-

Every city has its Little India,

jor draw, as are the independent

Little China, Little Ireland—pock-

galleries, artisan-run shops,

ets where transplants hold onto

indie music clubs and a fake

traditions and perpetuate their

Blue Ridge Parkway—any scenic

Prada storefront made famous

heritage through food and art.

road, really. There’s nothing like

In Miami’s Little Havana (mi-

by Beyonce’s Instagram.

66, Louisiana’s Great River Road,

a long road trip to fuel internal

amiandthebeaches.com), you can

dialogue about who you are,

saintgeorge.com), a sleek inn

stroll the Calle Ocho sampling

what you’re doing and what

filled with locally made furnish-

legit cortaditos (Cuban coffee),

you’re doing it all for.

ings and priceless paintings,

investing in modestly priced

CAN UNDERSTAND

opened last spring—Marfa’s first

paintings imported from the is-

IT. THE MORE WE

new high-end lodging in almost

land and dancing the afternoon

90 years.

away to the sounds of the sals-

THE MORE WE KNOW ABOUT A CULTURE, THE BETTER WE

UNDERSTAND IT,

Hotel Saint George (marfa-

The Pacific Coast Highway, Route

Still, we prefer the rustic qual-

eros playing on street corners

THE EASIER IT

ity of staying in a glamped-up

or at Ball & Chain, the lounge

Route 66 near the

IS TO RELATE TO

tent or camper at Austin hotelier

where Billie Holiday and Louis

Mojave Desert Red

Lim Lambert’s, El Cosmico (el-

Armstrong once played. Closed

cosmico.com).

in 1957, it was painstakingly

ITS PEOPLE.

4

THE EYE-OPENING DAY TRIP The more we know about a culture, the better we can understand it. The more we understand it, the easier it is to relate to its people. We can’t

ago (ballandchainmiami.com).

5

THE MOMENT OF REMEMBRANCE These days, our digitally connected generation shows support when terror strikes by

through our country and the

posting #prayfor_____ on social

world right now.

media. We understand the need

current state of things, we can

MAY-JUNE

restored and reopened two years

deny the racial tensions flowing

Rather than ignore the

Rock Mountains

for solidarity, and this is our way to stand beside our grieving

076

2017


Brooklyn, New York

It’s also in the cooking traditions

Costa Rica is so cheap, you can

that involve such attention

afford to stay for weeks and real-

to detail that an American

ly live the Pura Vida way.

documentarian was inspired to create an entire film just on the art of one Japanese man’s sushi process (Jiro Dreams of Sushi). We know going to Japan isn’t a chump-change trip. The ticket it-

visitcostarica.com

10

GIVE-BACK ADVENTURE Voluntourism—the idea of doing meaningful work while on vacation—has gone from selfless

self costs more than a grand, and

mission trips to self-serving

once you’re there it isn’t cheap

detours resort-goers take to see

either. But it is worth saving for.

the “real” side of their tropical

You won’t leave Japan the same

getaway. And really, who are we

person—and that’s a good thing.

to judge what leads someone to

us.jnto.go.jp

9

do good? But the rise of voluntourism

THE REAL-DEAL LOCAL EXPERIENCE

has also led to some shady,

The Costa Rican motto is Pura

some cases, companies function

Vida. Technically, it’s “pure life,”

more like opportunistic busi-

but it means more than that in

nesses than charities and use

counter-productive practices. In

Great writers know this.

you break through stereotypes

the Central American country.

kids as bait. It’s important to find

That’s why many novels have

and create the experience you

For Ticos, as Costa Ricans are

the right operator. Me to We is

been written on or about a

want to have.

known, the phrase symbolizes

an ethical resource focused on

what they truly believe and live

helping people think less about

memorable time on the road. In

Don’t see the city for what the

2015, self-described American

media, movies or its consumer-

every day: Life is short, things

themselves and more about the

road-trip freak Richard Kreitner

istic merchants tell you to see.

could always be worse and we’re

collective good.

plotted 1,500-plus coordinates

Seek out the people and places

all in this together.

mentioned in iconic books such

that give the city soul. Instead of

as On The Road Again, Zen and

shopping in Soho or bar-hopping

genuine enthusiasm and level of

ensure the efforts can be sus-

the Art of Motorcycle Mainte-

in Williamsburg, book a Context

hospitality that beats anything

tained long after volunteers take

nance and Travels With Charley.

Travel trip—an architect-led

you may have experienced in

off. Itineraries range from help-

tour of the city’s storied and im-

the most congenial of Southern

ing grow cacao while staying

to hit the road and rediscover

pressive buildings (contexttravel.

homes. From the moment you

at an eco-friendly lodge in the

America. Not all pit stops on

com). Instead of the pricey din-

arrive, locals open their doors

Galapagos to building schools

his list wind through major

ner downtown, attend a cooking

and share the lay of the land, in-

and collecting water in Kenya.

highways, but all can lead you to

class with an Uzbek woman

viting you to live like them—no

The trips are pricey, but students

a story-worthy adventure.

at the League of Kitchens in

tourist trappings or reservations.

can apply for scholarships.

Harlem (visit.org). Companies

Plus, traveling to and around

His goal was to inspire folks

Pick the right travel partner for such a journey (someone

such as Visit.org are wising up

who you enjoy talking to, will

to millennials’ itch for authentic,

help drive, goes with the flow,

meaningful experiences and cre-

and when needed, appreciates

ating hyper-tailored services.

the beauty of silence). There’s also nothing wrong with going it alone. Kreitner’s map can be found on the independent travel platform Atlas Obscura (atlasobscura.com).

7

That mentality translates to a

They create projects meant to empower communities, and they

metowe.com

8

ALL-AROUND CULTURAL WONDER We can take a cue from the restrained Japanese and Zen practices balanced with the thoughtful mentality that ele-

THE ALTERNATIVE URBAN ESCAPE

vates a simple task like drinking

The Big Apple may be the last

in the centuries-old temples

place you think about visiting

and samurai tales, the highly

when considering a spiritually

sought-after ski resorts and their

enriching trip. But the idea

post-workout natural hot spring

behind purposeful travel is that

soaking tubs.

tea to near rituals. You see this

STEPHA NIE GR A N A DA is a freelance writer and editor based in Colorado.

077

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


ROB BELL IS AT I T AGAI N

MAY-JUNE

078

2017


BY A A RO N C LI N E H A N B U RY

Love him or loathe him, the theological provocateur says it’s time to rethink the Bible.

A

WHEN WE APPROACH THE BIBLE, WHAT ARE WE APPROACHING? WHAT IS THE BIBLE?

I want people to answer the question, “What is it?” with another question, which is, “What does it do?” And, “What happens to you when you engage with it?” I actually want people to come away with another question, which is the answer to the question: “What happened to you when we started talking about nonviolence? What happened to you when we looked at that story of loss and betrayal?” Because that’s the power of the Bible. I want to rescue it from static categories and defenses for it as some sort of intellectual thing that’s either right or wrong, and I want to reclaim it as people had experiences and

19-year-old Rob Bell took off his Birkenstocks.

they wrote some things down and when you

He didn’t know a lot about the Bible, but he

engage with their experiences there’s always

knew something about it was different. He’d

the chance you may find something of your-

just finished preaching his first sermon,

self in them—and that to me is divine.

which came on something of a whim, when he became aware that he was “standing on

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO APPROACH A

holy ground.” He had a strong feeling his “life

MAJOR PROJECT ABOUT THE BIBLE?

would never be the same again.”

I don’t live in a religious area, and I noticed

For Bell, there was something about stand-

how often people found the Bible fascinating

ing up in front of a group of people and read-

who had never read it. Because the Bible is in

ing “an ancient text and then unleashing it in

the cultural stream: David and Goliath, heal-

the space” that changed him.

ing the blind man, I was blind but now I see,

This was the experience Bell expected from digging into the Bible, though it was far differ-

turn the other cheek. This stuff is just there in the cultural stream.

ent from what he saw growing up. But when

What I noticed in L.A., living in an area

he got into the Bible himself, he found what

that isn’t conventionally religious, was how

he was looking for. And 25 years later, he’s

often I would say, “Oh you know where that

still captivated by that ancient text—though

comes from? There’s this whole thing involv-

he has questions.

ing the Babylonians.” And my friends who

So, Rob Bell did what Rob Bell does: He

have never been to church are the ones who

processed his thoughts publicly. In this in-

are saying you should totally do this Bible

stance, his thoughts initially took the form of

stuff. It’s so interesting and dangerous and

a “book” on Tumblr. He wrote a “chapter” a

provocative and hopeful.

day, publishing each on the platform. Some 75 posts and 100,000 words later, Bell

WE TALK ABOUT THE BIBLE BEING

had his thoughts out. Now, those thoughts

SIMULTANEOUSLY DIVINELY INSPIRED AND

have been expanded and put into the form of

HUMANLY WRITTEN, AND YOU WRESTLE

a traditional paper-and-ink book.

WITH THIS HUMAN-DIVINE TENSION. CAN

We sat down with Bell to talk about the Bible—what it is and how it changes people.

079

YOU TALK ABOUT THAT?

I’ve read books about the Bible that were sort

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


Th e i d ea b e h i n d a sa cred text i s th at i n yo u r i nte ra c ti o n with

of attempts to explain it, but they can’t say

somehow they began to think about the Bible

certain things because you realize the author

in those terms.

might lose his or her job, so it ends up avoiding all the real questions everybody has. That’s why you start with the human sto-

about a book that speaks to this level of the

ries because actual people wrote these stories

soul. It’s almost like history needs poetry and

down, and then people edited these stories

poetry needs history, and the moment you’re

together. They were old traditions, and they

putting it in those categories you’ve already

left out some content, and they included oth-

lost the plot. So I think so much damage has

er content, which they tell you they’re doing.

been done by people defending [their view of

A lot of people who perhaps grew up with

it, yo u wo u l d b e m oved ... a n d wo u l d n’t n eed to b e

It’s already missing the point because those aren’t the kinds of questions you would ask

the Bible].

the Bible need to be told that it’s different

Once you begin to read [the Bible], if

[from other books], that it’s inspired, that

you’re reading the prophets where they’re

it’s sacred. I would simply begin [by asking]

talking about exchanging the poor for a pair

about a section of the Bible that is sacred to

of sandals, and what happens when you have

you. Otherwise you’re just repeating things

a widening gap between the ruling wealthy

that other people told you.

elites and the poor masses who can’t feed

But the idea behind a sacred text is that in

their kids, and how this is an affront to what

your interaction with it, you would be moved

it means to be human, if at that point you’re

and the Spirit would speak on something to

like, “Well, is this inerrant?” You’re so asking

you, and you wouldn’t need to be convinced

the wrong question at the wrong time.

of its divine nature or origins. So what I’m in-

co nvi n ced of its d ivi n e n atu re or origins.

terested in is people actually having an expe-

YOU REFLECT ON SOME OF THE ODDITIES OF

rience where those sorts of questions are no

THE OLD TESTAMENT—STORIES LIKE EHUD’S

longer their pressing questions.

MURDER. YOU SAY THEY’RE MORE THAN JUST WEIRD STORIES.

YOU SAY YOU DON’T LIKE THE CATEGORY

So many people read what’s called the Old

OF INERRANCY. CAN YOU EXPLAIN THAT?

Testament or more accurately the Hebrew

No one ever asks me if my marriage is work-

Scriptures and they’re like, why is there all

ing because those aren’t the categories.

this violence? One of the answers is because

It’s a classic example where somebody

the editors of these stories want you to see

somewhere in a lab must have been looking

the futility of violence. You don’t think to

at data and was like, well, does this data have

yourself, “Oh, obviously Quentin Tarantino

errors in it or is this research correct? And

thinks that the solution to every problem is

A C T U A L LY, H O W D I D W E GET THE BIBLE?

CA N O N I Z E D

Generally, 398 BC is accepted as the year the Pentateuch was completed.

T H E P O E TS A N D P RO P H E TS

Job is the earliest written book, circa T H E P E N TAT E U C H

T H E H I STO R I E S

Tradition holds that the first five books

The books of Joshua through Esther

of the Bible were written by Moses

cover about 800 years of history, and

(with a few verses contributed from

were written throughout that time.

2000 BC. The psalms were written by a few authors. Malachi is thought to have been completed by 433 BC.

Joshua) in the 1400s BC.

MAY-JUNE

080

2017


violence. When you see a Quentin Tarantino

just sort of piecemealed together. The power

of Mark opens with Mark saying, “This is the

film, in some ways you think he’s spoofing on

of a lineage or a tradition is that it gives you a

good news of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of

the ridiculous notion that violence can solve

grounded center. And then, of course, a tradi-

God.” And “son of God” was a Roman propa-

things. So there’s this whole level of subtle-

tion that is capable of self-critique, a tradition

ganda term. The czars were considered sons

ty and nuance, and I would argue like the

that is capable of affirming the truth found in

of God because they came from the Divine.

book of Judges, which is just Game of Thrones

all other traditions—that is something that

They crushed everybody in the power of the

meets a David Cronenberg film, I would argue

could actually help you.

gods. And “good news” was a Roman military

that’s the editor’s point. The editor is saying,

propaganda term. Oh my word, Mark opens

“Have you noticed here that the violence isn’t

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU DISAGREE

his Gospel with very political propaganda,

working?” So you’ll have critics of the Bible

WITH SOMETHING IN THE BIBLE?

but it’s about Jesus not the czars. So he’s es-

saying they don’t believe in these ancient vi-

I instantly want to know what’s going on just

sentially telling a counter-narrative. I might

olent fairytales. Well, neither do the people

below the surface. So in first-century Gali-

get on that and then just go down the rabbit

who wrote it. That’s probably why they’re

lean culture there was a patriarchal system

hole. Well, what else is going on there?

writing it.

that said this is how it is and any question-

Or I might think the Psalms are fascinating.

ing of that system got you kicked out of the

Somebody said half the Psalms are laments,

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR THE SCRIPTURES

system. And you had a particular taxation

half the Psalms are basically, “Where are you,

TO HAVE AUTHORITY FOR CHRISTIANS?

system, and then a scribal system, that actu-

God?” “Why do you hide Your face?” I might

The word authority is that which you give in-

ally made people’s lives miserable. There was

go, “Oh interesting, I should go through and

fluence to. We have this extraordinary capac-

a whole social order that wasn’t working, it

make a list of all the lament.” Or see that a

ity to give influence and not give influence

was actually oppressing people. And to refuse

healthy spirituality is filled with denials of

to things and people and voices. For many

to participate in an oppressive system often

the divine.

people when you say authority what they

put you at odds with your family of origin, so

So that’s how it works. Something gets

mean is some person told them this is how it

when Jesus says something like your mother,

birthed and it raises a whole series of ques-

is, and they unquestioningly went along with

father, brother, sister, these were real press-

tions, and I go after the questions and grad-

that. But if there is anything at the heart of

ing issues. Do I stay in an oppressive system

ually it all starts talking to each other. And a

the Scriptures, it’s growing up and growing

or do I leave it?

book, a podcast, a tour, something starts to

in maturity to where you’re learning how to discern things yourself. That’s how I would start with that ques-

So, I think about it less in terms of do I agree or not agree, but I think about it in

come out of it. So to answer your question, there’s no rhyme or reason.

terms of curiosity.

tion: You’re living according to something. You’re giving somebody—teacher, mentor,

WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE FOR YOU

Marc Maron, HBO, somebody somewhere—

PERSONALLY TO BE A CONSUMER OF

you’re giving them influence. And for most

THE BIBLE?

people it’s a grab bag of influences that are

I may get an idea and then ... so the Gospel

A ARON CLINE HA NBURY is the editorial director of RELEVANT. You can follow him on Twitter @achanbury.

T H E A P O C RY P H A

The 15 books that make up the Apocrypha are known to be written between 300 and 100 BC. Historically, Christians haven’t considered it scripture.

CA N O N I Z E D

In AD 90 and 118, the councils of Jamnia affirmed the 39 books we have as the Old Testament canon.

CA N O N I Z E D

In 325, the Council of Nicea put together the ideology for Christianity, canonized the New T H E N EW T E STA M E N T

Testament and set up some church rules.

The 27 books were written between AD 45 and 85 in Greek and some Aramaic by nine authors.

081

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


BY

Back in 2012, Electric Guest was

DARGAN TH O M PSO N

riding the wave of indie success. The duo’s debut album, Mondo, landed on several Billboard charts.

How the indie duo lost their mojo—then got it back full force.

Critics

hailed

Electric

of pressure,” Compton says. The writing process was slow and painful. The pair worked

Guest as an artist to watch. Songs

with

from Mondo were tapped for the

Danger Mouse on their debut,

soundtracks of shows like Girls

but Taccone was determined to

and Suits. They sold out shows,

produce Electric Guest’s next al-

played the summer music festi-

bum on his own.

val circuit and toured internationally.

musician

and

producer

However, Taccone was facing some personal issues that he says

But when it came time to

took him to “a darker place.” He

write their follow-up album, Asa

and Compton wrote an album’s

Taccone and Matthew Compton

worth of songs he describes as

worried about the dreaded soph-

“dark, slow, somber.”

omore slump.

MAY-JUNE

“Because of the first album being such a success, there was a lot

082

“We wrote a ton and we played

2017


IT’S A BIGGER METAPHOR FOR HOW YOU WANT TO LIVE YOUR LIFE IN GENERAL. WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE IN THIS LIFE? ... I ALWAYS THINK THE MORE SPECIFIC YOU ARE, THE MORE OF AN ARTIST YOU ARE. THE MORE OF YOURSELF YOU PUT INTO IT, THE MORE SPECIFIC IT’S GOING TO BE.

it for the label and friends of ours,

songs he and Taccone worked on

This can make Electric Guest

people we respect,” Compton re-

after they scrapped their original

hard to pin down. Taccone and

calls. “Everyone was like, ‘Yeah,

batch of songs. They were having

Compton write catchy songs, but

you guys should write some more

fun again. They knew they were

they’re not trying to fit in with

and see what happens.’”

on the right track.

top-40 pop. Taccone says that at

Taccone and Compton decided

“It felt better, honestly,” he

to listen to the feedback. They

says. “We were happier and kind

scrapped almost everything they

of felt like we were going some-

had and started over. Taccone

where with it.”

eased up on himself. He and Compton sought outside perspectives, working with

In the end, Taccone says, Plu-

general,” he says. “Who do you want to be in this life? You could

ly optimistic.”

be anything you want to be, and

“The record, to me, is kind of

it just comes down to what your

Hill. They tracked drums at Dan-

about joy coming back from the

taste is, what you’re into, what

ger Mouse’s studio and got his

dead,” he says. “And being so

your values are, what you feel

opinion as they finished new

wrong that you don’t remember

comfortable with.

songs. They let things come natu-

that it can.”

“Any collaboration was just real casual, real off-the-cuff,”

cific you are, the more of an art-

Taccone says, they worried its

ist you are. The more of yourself

happy tone wouldn’t fit in with

you put into it, the more specific

the heavy political climate.

it’s going to be.”

“But then I think we realized,

After almost five years out of

little more like hanging out and

‘Oh, people need this too,’” he

the spotlight, Taccone and Comp-

making music.”

says. “People need a sense of

ton say they were a bit apprehen-

hope and optimism. And I think

sive about releasing new music

it was a bit of a release.”

and touring again. But in a lot

songs from their first attempt made it onto the finished album,

back with music that felt natural to create.

“I always think the more spe-

After they finished the album,

Taccone remembers. “It was a

Ultimately, only two of the

debut, Electric Guest is

“It’s a bigger metaphor for how you want to live your life in

producers Lars Stalfors and John

writing process.

Five years after their hit

to personal taste.

ral “ended up being coincidental-

rally instead of forcing the song-

PLURAL

the end of the day, it comes down

However,

the

duo

doesn’t

Plural. Listening to Plural, you’d

want their music to be mindless.

never guess it had somber begin-

They try to stay authentic and

nings. The album builds on the

draw from real emotion.

of ways, it seems they haven’t skipped a beat. Electric Guest is back to playing sold-out tours and perform-

brand of upbeat, eclectic indie

“I think it is a balance of want-

music Electric Guest is known

ing it to be a catchy and for peo-

for. “Oh Devil,” for example, lay-

ple to like it, but at the same time

Taccone says after the hiatus

ers Taccone’s falsetto hooks over

keeping your own standards in

and left turn, Plural feels like a

a grooving, reggae-inspired beat.

check,” Compton says. “You can

fresh start.

While Mondo had a Motown

lose some of the emotion or feel-

“We feel blessed,” he says. “It

feel, Compton says he wanted to

ing of something if it’s too sugary

kind of feels like our first album

make Plural more synth-oriented.

or packaged.”

in some ways.”

“Dear to Me,” a song that fea-

“You want it to be emotive over

tures the Haim sisters on backup

anything else,” Taccone adds.

vocals, is a love song with an ’80s

“That’s such an elusive thing, but

vibe. Compton cites “Dear to Me”

you just go for that internal sense

as a turning point in the writing

of if you find it to be emotionally

process. It was one of the first

compelling in some way.”

083

ing on late-night TV. This spring, they toured Europe.

DARGA N THOMPSON is a freelance writer and editor. Find her online at darganthompson.com or on Twitter @darganthompson.

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


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grew up in a home filled with music.

BY ADAM WEB ER

As a kid, my mom would play the

Why risk failing if you don’t have to? Why take the chance of looking stupid if it’s not required?

piano as I sat alongside her on the wooden bench and sang along. We’d

SPEAK THE WORDS

flip through the old Lutheran hymnal

Some years passed by, and on a visit home from college,

until we found a song we both liked,

my mom pulled out the hymnal and we sang “Here I Am,

and then Mom would play.

Lord” again.

My favorite song to sing with her was “Here I Am, Lord”: Who will bear My light to them? / I will go Lord, if You lead me.

Who will bear My light to them? / Whom shall I send? My answer: Someone else. I wanted to be used by God, but what could He do

I didn’t understand the words I was singing. But early

through me? I wanted to “bear His light,” but I figured I’d

on, this song was planted within me. It was a song I

probably cause more harm than good. My anxiety level

would cross paths with again.

rose just thinking about it. Sitting on that piano bench, a tug-of-war took place within me.

INADEQUATE TO BE USED

As we sang on, however, I heard my soul speak the

One of my greatest struggles in life continues to be the feeling of being completely inadequate.

words: Here I am, Lord. It wasn’t much, but I prayed the words and meant

Whether it was playing football at recess in the fourth grade or speaking in front of my communications class in college, I felt inadequate.

them. I was wanting and willing to be used by God. I still didn’t fully understand what the words meant, and I still felt 100 percent sure God couldn’t use me. But

In my appearance, gifts, skills and expertise, I’ve always been quite average. Everything I could do, someone else could do much better.

a small part of me was willing to say yes. Something in me couldn’t say no any longer. Wanting to be used by God, but not sure where to

Even in my adult years, I have felt disqualified from being used to do anything important, particularly by God.

start? Unsure of what to pray? Just let God know. Speak the simple words: Here I am, Lord.

In a world filled with billions of people, it’s easy to feel quite average. And when you feel ordinary, average or

LONG-KEPT DREAMS

less skilled, it’s always easier to play things safe, isn’t it?

Within each of us, there’s a desire to be used by God.

Don’t raise your hand. Don’t step out. Take no chances.

We want to take part in something great, to make a

Don’t try to be used by God.

difference for good. We want our lives to matter.

To be honest, “safe” is where I wanted to stay.

085

Ask a person, “What would you do if you knew you

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O d d l y t h e

e n o u g h ,

o n l y

t i m e

couldn’t fail?” and long-kept

person’s willingness to say yes to God—to big and small

dreams will flow out. The

things. And particularly to things that don’t make sense

person will seem to come

or are out of one’s comfort zone.

alive right before your eyes.

w e

c a n ’ t

u s e d i s

b y

G o d

w h e n

t h i n k

b e

w e

w e

a r e

a d e q u a t e .

It’s like they begin to glow. Whether it’s a 65-year-old retiree, a young stay-at-

Whether it’s seeing a need and filling it, applying for a job, submitting a proposal or telling someone about Jesus; be willing to say: Here I am, Lord. When you start saying yes to Him and actually take a

home mom or a seemingly

step, God will begin to do the impossible in and through

successful person at the

you. Things that blow you away. Things that will leave

top of his career, the story

you completely speechless.

is always the same. When

When you’re willing to say yes—and take action—with

I meet someone for coffee,

the small things, God will give you opportunities to say

I’m likely to hear a secret

yes to big things. This is the story of my life.

aspiration pour out: “I’ve always wanted to be a school teacher.”

The best part is that when God does the impossible through average people, we clearly know it’s all God. It’s because of His abilities and not ours. Only He gets the

“I’ve always wanted to

credit. Only He gets the glory.

write a book.” “My whole life, I’ve wanted to make a difference in the lives of others.”

WHAT IS GOD PREPARING YOU FOR? Looking back, I’m amazed by how God continually

“I want my life to matter.”

prepares us for the question, “Whom shall I send?”

When we think of doing “great things,” we typically

When I was a kid, my mom and I volunteered at a

picture a story that will make the news or get shared

local nursing home each Wednesday. She played the

in a book.

music and we both sang for the folks living there. At first,

But I’m beginning to realize that with God, anything can be a big thing. In the Bible, we see that through an act as simple as opening up our homes for guests, we

I was terrified by the “old people.” They were excited to see me, but I was scared to death to see them. But as the people slowly wheeled themselves into the

might be entertaining angels. Sometimes the smallest

room, Mom would begin playing the piano as I handed

things make the biggest difference.

out the songbooks. Before long, I loved helping people

What’s the long-kept dream within you? What keeps you up at night in the best way possible?

find the right page so they could sing along. I didn’t like hospitals or funeral homes. They were depressing and smelled weird. During college, I heard

WE ARE INADEQUATE, BUT GOD …

about a flower shop that needed a delivery boy. How

A few more years would pass before I sang “Here I Am,

hard could it be? I had no idea that most of a flower

Lord” again. I had finished seminary and was being

shop’s deliveries go to hospitals and funeral homes.

ordained. The church was filled with people. At the very

Many of the flowers sent to hospital rooms were

end of the ordination service, of all songs, we sang: “I

ordered by loved ones who couldn’t be there in person.

will go Lord, if You lead me.”

Before long, instead of dropping off the flowers and

I was overwhelmed by God’s faithfulness. For years He had been preparing me. He wanted to use me. The truth is that, on our own, we are inadequate. In

leaving, I often asked the patients how they were doing. Sometimes I commented on how pretty their flowers were and mentioned that I would be praying for them.

every way. On our own, we are disqualified from being

Even though this was a small, simple gesture, I left

used by God.

feeling that I had made a difference in people’s day.

Thankfully, it’s not about who we are. It’s only about

Who would have known that years later I would take

who God is. It’s about His gifts. His abilities. His strength.

a job that would require me to be comfortable in nursing

His wisdom. And His potential. Not ours.

homes, hospitals and funeral homes?

Oddly enough, the only time we can’t be used by God is when we think we are adequate.

With God, all things are big things. He’s constantly at work, shaping and preparing us for the next adventure

Again, it’s about God, not us. It’s about trusting Him

that will take us to the places we least expect.

more than we trust ourselves. God only requires us to be

And just think: All you have to do is ask.

willing, to simply say: Here I am, Lord. Not once or a few times in life, but daily.

SAY YES, AND TAKE A STEP One of the clearest ways I can see that someone is growing in his or her relationship with God is the

MAY-JUNE

086

A DA M WEBER is lead pastor of Embrace Church, and the author of a new book, Talking With God: What to Say When You Don’t Know How to Pray. Weber adapted this article from chapter 13 of that book.

2017


087

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R E L E VA N T SELECTS

FILM/TV MUSIC

THE RELEASES YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT

Marian Hill

In an era saturated with electronic music, this duo puts an organic twist on the genre.

L

et’s be honest, it can be tough for

laced electronic that makes them stand out. “That’s definitely been a big thing for us

that’s not the case for duo Marian

from the beginning,” says Jeremy Lloyd, the

[REPUBLIC RECORDS]

Hill. Their songs snap electric

male half of the duo.

This album gives fans

textures over R&B-infused pop that’s attracted

“There’s rarely any doubling, and I think

fans around the world. Since their mid-2016

that lends a lot to it feeling very organic and

debut, ACT ONE, they’ve played late-night TV,

natural. And then also when I’m looking

made high-volume radio rotations and even

at sounds, I’ll sample someone playing

provided the soundtrack to an iconic Apple

saxophone to get an instrumental that sounds

commercial.

really natural and pair that with really

But it’s Marian Hill’s intentionally organic-

MAY-JUNE

ACT ONE

electronic artists to stand out. But

more of what they love about Marian Hill, including tracks with nostalgic R&B vibes (“Talk to Me”) and haunting, airy electronica (“Thinking”).

electronic stuff.”

088

2017


THE FAR FIELD FUTURE ISLANDS [4AD]

Future Islands frontman

Taelor Gray Meet one of our

Samuel T. Herring has

favorite indie

always had a flare for

rappers.

the dramatic, and on the highly anticipated follow-up to Singles, his vocals fuel passionate

Last year was difficult

for rapper Taelor Gray.

synth pop that’s

In addition to all of

surprisingly moving.

the racial, political and cultural tension in America, Gray faced some unexpected personal struggles. This “heaviness”—and keeping his faith throughout it— led to Gray’s third album, In the Way of Me. “Each song was written at different places in 2016

LA LA LAND DAMIEN CHAZELLE [SUMMIT ENT.]

Even if you’re not a fan of musicals, La La Land’s optimistic look

that meant something to me in that moment,” he says. “And once we put it all together, it seemed to have a sense of cohesion because they all

at chasing your dreams

represented everything

and a twisting love story

I wanted to say at that

makes it a fun ode to old-school Hollywood.

IN THE WAY OF ME [INDEPENDENT]

time.” That cohesion

Taelor Gray might be flying under the hip-hop

shows up throughout, as

radar for some, but In the Way of Me could be

Gray mixes introspection,

his breakout. Musically and lyrically, it’s one of

vulnerability and hope

the strongest Christian hip-hop projects we’ve

with impressive lyrical

heard. He won’t be under the radar for long.

dexterity and depth.

STARLIGHT BETHEL MUSIC [BETHEL MUSIC]

The California worship collective has crafted a

LOGAN

SOUVENIR

JAMES MANGOLD

DREW HOLCOMB &

[20TH CENTURY FOX]

THE NEIGHBORS [MAGNOLIA MUSIC]

stirring new collection

Hugh Jackman takes his now-iconic

that combines hymn-

Wolverine character (Logan) to a

The Nashville outfit’s latest release

darker, deeper and more redemptive

has all the hallmarks of an Americana

place than ever before. This is the

classic: guitar-driven love songs,

X-Men movie even non-X-Men fans

ballads to the open road and big,

will love.

catchy choruses.

inspired reverence with modern songwriting and atmospheric compositions.

089

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


02/03

RECOMMENDS

Kim Walker-Smith The most trying year of her life shapes a new, worship-filled cry to God. KIM WALKER-SMITH has become

been a life-changing journey

one of the most recognizable

for me,” Walker-Smith

voices in worship music thanks

explains. “The Lord has taken

to her leading role with Jesus

me on a journey of ups and

Culture. On her new solo

downs, wrestling through the

project, On My Side, she shows

different pains and emotions

an even more personal side—

that go along with it. The one

delving into her own story of

resounding message He kept

losing her parents.

assuring me of is that He is on

“The last four years have

ON MY SIDE [JESUS CULTURE MUSIC]

Emotion spills from track to track of this reverent worship album. Sing these by yourself and in church, alike.

SILENCE MARTIN SCORSESE [PARAMOUNT]

Based on a novel from Shūsaku Endō, Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece tells the story of 17th-century Christian missionaries to Japan facing unimaginable

my side.”

persecution.

“THE ONE RESOUNDING MESSAGE [GOD] KEPT ASSURING ME OF IS THAT HE IS ON MY SIDE .”

IN MIND REAL ESTATE [DOMINO RECORDS]

Harkening back to early 2000s indie rock Real Estate creates breezy songs laced with intricate guitar work and delicate vocals that sing lyrics about growing up, love and life.

HIDDEN FIGURES THEODORE MELFI [20TH CENTURY FOX]

This drama tells the real-

MAY-JUNE

life story of three brilliant

SHOTS FIRED

VOLCANO

GINA PRINCE-BYTHEWOOD

TEMPLES

[FOX]

[HEAVENLY RECORDINGS]

Fox’s 10-part drama offers a nuanced

The second LP by these

racial stereotypes while

look at police violence, racial tension

psychedelic rockers offers up-

helping America get to

and activism in America.

beat, danceable synths.

090

black mathematicians who worked for NASA in the 1960s, defying

the moon.

2017


SOHN SOHN has been laying low since 2014, but he’s back in a big way.

B

ritish musician Christopher Taylor isn’t exactly a new artist, but his marriage of synth and alt-R&B feels immediate. Since his debut hit in 2014, Taylor—who goes by SOHN—has

been relatively silent. But this year he released Rennen, which features an intricate weave of dark flourishes and crisp, pounding beats with simultaneously airy and soulful vocals. This deservedly walks the same lane as 2016 darlings Gallant and James Blake but with a sound that’s all his own.

RENNEN [4AD]

If you’re already a fan, you’ll find this is SOHN’s most experimental and personal project. If you’re not yet, the soaring alt-R&B will show you why this is one of our favorite albums this year.

MYSTERY SCIENCE

shows—which features

THEATER 3000

comedians watching

JOEL HODGSON [NETFLIX]

terrible B-movies just to

HEBA

throughout, but

LOWLY

that’s about the only

[BELLA UNION]

make fun of them—has

consistency. Lowly approaches each song

returned two decades

The Danish five-piece’s

differently, making

One of TV’s most

after its first run. We

debut LP floats on

Heba a musical journey

groundbreaking

couldn’t be happier.

atmospheric textures

worthy of taking.

GAWVI GROWING UP, GAWVI was always in

church. Not just Sundays, like every day. When he got bored, he’d end up messing around on instruments he found. And ever since, GAWVI has been hooked on making music. This fascination with music and sound permeates the producer and electroR&B artist’s debut, We Belong. The worshipful songs glide on a bed of EDM, R&B and Latin flavors.

WE BELONG [REACH RECORDS]

GAWVI weaves a fabric that wraps his Latin roots with EDM and R&B, and gives you a totally different feel from most music in this space.

091

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


03/03

RECOMMENDS

SAMPHA DON’T BE SURPRISED if 2017 turns

out to be a breakout year for altR&B singer Sampha. After multiple

PROCESS

hits with the likes of Drake, Kanye West and Solange, Sampha Sisay’s

[YOUNG TURKS]

highly anticipated debut LP, Process,

This eclectic,

doesn’t disappoint. The artist’s

emotional album could position him

mother died in 2015, and the album

as a superstar.

finds Sampha processing his grief in a beautiful, unforgettable way.

HOT THOUGHTS

creatively inventive

GROWING UP SMITH

becomes obsessed

SPOON

project yet. It’s a thrilling

FRANK LOTITO

with becoming a

[MATADOR RECORDS]

ride through sonic

“good old boy.” This

[GOOD DEED]

experimentation that

idea flick offers an

They’re back! Hot

keeps a solid handle on

When an Indian family

intriguing perspective

Thoughts probably

the sound that makes

moves to America,

on immigrant life and

stands as Spoon’s most

Spoon indie legends.

their 10-year-old son

the American dream.

DELIVERANCE & DOUBT T H E

D E B U T

A L B U M

F R O M

Available now on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify S E E M O R E AT D E L I V E R A N C E A N D D O U B T. C O M

MAY-JUNE

092

2017


COIN

The indie band’s album is forthcoming.

F

OR THEIR SOPHOMORE

attempt, How Will You Know If You Never Try, the Nashville indie-pop

outfit COIN is doing things a little differently. For their eponymous debut, the guys only had 11 songs to

HOW WILL YOU

work with. This time, they spent a

KNOW IF YOU

year writing more than 100 songs,

NEVER TRY

including months in L.A. with

[COLUMBIA]

top-40 pop writers. The goal, says

COIN’s

frontman Chase Lawrence, is to

indie-pop has a

wanted to make.”

melancholic lining.

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LAST WORD Before We Go

More Unites Us Than Divides Us Grace and love apply to all people the exact same way.

I

come from a town divided. Texarkana, Texas, USA. The town is positioned, geographically, in the northeastern corner of the state,

with half of the city proper hanging over into Texas and the other half jutting into Arkansas. There’s a sign there to prove it. At the foot of the sign there is a white line painted on the concrete. You can stand there with one foot on one side of the line and one foot on the other and be in two states at the same time.

still played games like “Mother,

someone put there without

May I” and we still made neat

asking. Maybe, what I’m

freaking stuff out of Popsicle

supposed to be doing is pointing

sticks and glue. But as I grew up,

out that a person can stand right

the prodigal story never really

there in the divide, brave and

evolved or developed much

free and not feel a thing.

more nuance than how I first

have the divide spanned on my

is pretty darn beautiful.

behalf. Grace works on us all

But I think the real story, the

just the same. Love works on

one worthy of an italicized title

us all just the same. Freedom

designating the start of a new

works on us all just the same.

allegorical tale as told by the Son

There’s only one definitive line,

of God in the middle of a gospel,

and that’s the one between death

The Parable of the Prodigal Son,

and life.

is way more indicting than just calling out a rebel. Turns out the word “prodigal” is an adjective meaning “lavish.” At the very beginning of the story, which may be the most puissant, the father bestows his inheritance on both of his sons.

What is beautiful about

WORKS ON US ALL

living in Atlanta, I know what

ON US ALL JUST

here in such a land of blessing,

THE SAME.

what shall we do with what has

everywhere else I’ve lived,

feel a thing.

is that most of the time I’m

political atmosphere can give

been placed upon us? The current social and

outnumbered in terms of the

rise to a ruinous reduction

Georgia a few years ago. The

diversity of people around me.

in your sense of well-being.

specific part of Atlanta I landed

So, there I am, a pasty, white,

Watching the news, reading

in is called Cabbagetown. Turns

hillbilly-talking dude trying to

editorials or listening to the

out the street I landed on, the

say something about roots and

people at the table next to yours

one with the mill, it’s where

home and belonging, while

at Denny’s brings on a sadness

country music was born.

sinking roots and finding a new

no amount of bacon can service.

home and true belonging in this

I’ve tried.

The Old Fourth Ward is the birthplace of the Rev. Martin

hyper-globalized and diversified city of Atlanta. Mrs. Panell told me the

Luther King Jr. and home to

parable of the prodigal son in

Ebenezer Baptist Church, where

Sunday school. I was still of

King was baptized and where he

the age where they brought us

pastored.

cookies and Kool-Aid, and we

MAY-JUNE

FREEDOM WORKS

To find our place on this planet,

Atlanta, and far different from

is the Old Fourth Ward.

THE SAME. LOVE JUST THE SAME.

and you know what? I couldn’t

On the other side of the tracks

ON US ALL JUST

father. As an American currently

feet on either side of the divide,

I moved from Texas to

GRACE WORKS

Both are lavished upon by the

it means to be lavished upon.

I’ve stood right there, with my

I know what it means to

heard it in Sunday school. Which

But I think we are all a lot more the same than we are different. We’re all just dirt and water and the breath of God. It’s just a painted line. Or some railroad tracks. Either way, it’s a thing

096

DAV ID CROW DER is a worship pastor, recording artist and author.

2017


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04

2017

RELEVANT- Issue 87- May/June 2017