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Momentous Mondays: Influential artists of the next 5-10 years – Week 22: Hunter Hayes

One of my favourite movies trilogies of all time is Back To The Future, filmed in the 1980’s and starring Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd. You can all look up the series on Wikipedia, read the plot and the synopsis of all three movies if you want to. But I suggest that for this iconic movie series, you’d have to trust me on this if you haven’t seen it and go out and buy the DVD or Blu-Ray yourself, so that you could binge what I reckon is one of the most confronting and engaging movies series of all time- even to this day. This series is one of my favourites because of its warmth, heart, comradery, and the fact that it speaks about issues still prevalent today, such as trying to be a better version of ourselves that we were before, standing up for yourself and not letting others walk all over you, and being there for each other through thick and thin just like best friends Marty McFly and Doc Brown. If you want the cliff notes version- the story is about Marty who lives in Hill Valley in 1985, who after witnessing his scientist friend be gunned down and left for dead by terrorists, inadvertently travels back to 1955 in Doc’s time travel car that he created. There he accidently prevents his parents from meeting, and hence the premise of the first film was that Marty would try to get his parents back together all the while ensuring that he could convince Doc to make revisions on the time machine and get him back to the present and back to his life in 1985.

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MOMENTOUS MONDAYS: INFLUENTIAL ARTISTS OF ALL TIME – WEEK 53: REBECCA ST. JAMES

You know how sometimes you have a plan of what you want to do, and how you’re going to go about it, and then in the end, the plan is uprooted and everything changes in an instant? Maybe that’s how I felt leading up to this blog post that I’m embarking on right now. And if I am to be completely honest, I wasn’t planning on writing about this particular artist today. I had everything planned out- for the next few weeks in fact, and I knew what I was going to write about, and it wasn’t about Rebecca St. James. Nevertheless, God always has His ways of showing up in the 11th hour, in places that you know you may not necessarily expect Him to. And He did- and as I write about Rebecca’s music and how it has been instrumental in my own life, and how the music has shaped my own ethos, beliefs, way of life, and outlook on people in general, I am thankful to how God can even use the things that have impacted us in the past, to remind us indeed of the past, as we understand that the things that have got us from then to now, still impact us to this day, creeping in our everyday lives when we may not think they can. Rebecca’s music has been a blessing to my own life in the last decade and a half since I first heard her passionate vocals in the mid-2000s. An Australian from a big family who uprooted themselves in the early 1990s to settle in to living in America (and Rebecca then subsequently moved into CCM ministry at the early age of 17 in 1994!); Rebecca’s place in Christian music, as well as even music in general has shaped the 1990s and the 2000s in ways that even I know I can’t even fathom- her trademark voice, and her youthful and energetic demeanour is what drew me to her music in the first place, and is what continues to bring me back to her music time and time again as the years continue to roll on.

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MOMENTOUS MONDAYS: INFLUENTIAL ARTISTS OF ALL TIME – WEEK 52: AMY GRANT

Once upon a time there was a tiny community in the Swiss Alps. This community was in serious trouble. The well that supplied water to the village went dry. The people began to panic. A river was near the community but it was located at the bottom of a deep, deep gorge. Hence no one could reach the water. And it was the middle of summer, so the snow on the mountain had long since melted. There was, however, another well flowing with water across the gorge on the adjacent mountainside. An imaginative young thinker came up with a solution. He built a bridge across the gorge. The villagers were elated. A bucket brigade was formed immediately and the water supply was replenished. Needless to say, the bridge became very important to this group. It was their source of life. They honoured the bridge. They named the bridge after the builder and painted it a beautiful gold. Tinsel was strung from the bridge. Miniature bridges were built and sold in the streets. People wore them on their necks and hung them in the windows. A committee was formed to pay homage to bridge. Only certain people were allowed to walk upon it, and then only on certain days, and then only when wearing certain clothes. The bridge keeper became the most respected and revered position on the mountain. No one could see or cross the bridge without his permission. Unfortunately there were some disputes within the committee. The disagreement centred on whether a canopy should be built over the bridge. So the bridge was closed until a decision could be made. Many villagers died of thirst while the leaders debated.

It’s easy to think that in the above paragraph, what went wrong was that the decisions weren’t made quick enough, or that the committee should’ve been changed earlier, or even the bridge should’ve not been painted…but maybe, just maybe, the real reason why the bridge debacle happened in the first place was that people were putting emphasis, maybe even a resemblance of worship, upon the bridge itself, rather than acknowledge that the bridge was just a means to an end- just a way to receive the water the village desperately wanted? Everyone wanted the spotlight, and everyone wanted to matter, the leaders the most, so rules were made- you can’t walk on the bridge on Sundays and Thursdays because that’s when the founder of the bridge has his quiet time on it, you can’t wear blue or red on the bridge because the bridge founder hates those two colours, bridge visits are to be supervised at all times because…well, who knows what could happen when people walk on the bridge not supervised by the one who created and thought about the bridge in the first place. When we look at it, these rules seem farfetched, and the story itself seems farfetched, but deep down, we all know we can act that way in life. Especially towards our fellow Christian brothers and sisters.

As like how the bridge was respected and worshipped, to the point where there were disputes and arguments about who was to walk on the bridge and what the bridge would look like (and thus people died of thirst while the dispute happened); we as Christians may place more of an emphasis on the process of being a Christian than really be a Christian. What does it mean to be a Christian? Should I have a cross around my neck? Should I try to discuss about God, Jesus and the questions about eternity in every conversation I have with strangers and friends alike? Or should I try to always give words of encouragement to our friends, in the name of love, even if we know they are not in the mood for such a word? Should I have a bumper sticker on my car, or quote bible verses to you when you’re feeling down? What does it really, really mean for us to show God’s love to those around us? Is it to do all these things that I’ve aforementioned, or is it just simply to love without reservation, and be present in the situation? We don’t have to say or do much for them to know God’s love. In fact, sometimes saying a bible verse here and there, or even discussing about Jesus at every moment we have, may often deter people away from wanting to know more about Christ. Because at the end of it all, we will we placing more emphasis on the ‘rules’, rather than the grace that comes from just letting all our preconceived ideas of what a Christian should be, behave and undertake, down before Christ, and allowing Him to shed light on how He wants us to act when we’re in the presence of people who don’t believe in Christ.

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MOMENTOUS MONDAYS: INFLUENTIAL ARTISTS OF ALL TIME – WEEK 51: ALICIA KEYS

As I reflect upon the 50 blogs I have written so far in my journey of exploring a myriad of musical genres and understanding that regardless of genre, God Himself can use whatever, whomever, and whichever, to show people things about themselves that maybe need to be addressed, or even show people things about Himself that people indeed need to address as well; I’ve come to realise a few things. One things for certain, I don’t know much about music that I initially thought I did coming into this experimental project. I was humbled, in a good way. I delved into the genres of country, exploring the likes of Lady Antebellum, Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood and Shania Twain, to name a few, who have made a tremendous impact on today’s society and music in general, while I also dived deep down into the unknown with the realisation that rap/hip-hop wasn’t as scary as I initially thought, with the exploration of Christian hip-hop (CHH) crossover icon Lecrae. I immersed myself into the pioneers of CCM in artists like DC Talk, Steven Curtis Chapman, Carman and Michael W. Smith; while also taking to the artists that themselves have had quite a big of success in both CCM and mainstream- Switchfoot, Skillet and needtobreathe. Now here I am about to move into my 51st post (wow, already more than ½ way in my journey through this list- then it’s off to the timeless ones!), and I realise this- that the more you don’t know about a certain particular genre, or a certain artist, or the more you realise you don’t know about the things that you don’t know, you start to develop a bit of a hunger to know, to understand, to travel deep within the crevices and cracks of whatever genre you are discovering next, and realise that every musical genre out there, no matter how foreign it may be to you, will still impact someone in the world on their journey in life.

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Momentous Mondays: Influential artists of the next 5-10 years – Week 21: Hailee Steinfeld

Have you ever stopped to wonder about influence, impact, popularity, determination, poise, grace, just a general sense of identity, self, command, authority, and how you carry yourself? I reckon it all comes down to confidence, and sometimes acting like you’re successful even if you’re not. But more often than not recently, the thought has indeed crossed my mind of ‘when’ is it in life that we become aware of these big important things that we need to talk about, and ‘when’ is it in life that we start acting as if we do have the ability to change the world in whatever way we’re called to do? The other week I wrote about how in this time of global pandemic and how we as humans are stuck at home quarantining, staying safe and healthy- about how we should try to see the good, the glory in the grind; this past week my thoughts drove back to that Louie Giglio sermon- which by the way I reckon is one of the most relevant sermons you could ever watch this year!- and to the point of when is it that we realise that we ourselves can make a difference in this world, no matter how big or small we are, and no matter how little we think of ourselves?

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MOMENTOUS MONDAYS: INFLUENTIAL ARTISTS OF ALL TIME – WEEK 50: SHERYL CROW

‘…sometimes I wonder what would’ve happened if I listened to great bands and songs, and the great albums from said bands, when they actually released, rather than all these years later. How would my music tastes have changed- or would they have stayed the same? How would my outlook on life be, would I be more of an extrovert or an introvert, would my values change or would I still be in the same profession that I am currently in? I know, weird questions, but I truly believe that music and the song that can impact and encourage, influence and challenge; can really change a trajectory of someone depending on when they hear it in their lives. And at a certain point, a song can be a catalyst for change, personal or as a collective, to be something better, to look inward and see what needs to realign and refocus, or what values that is held close, need to be reassessed, and which need to still stay the same. So to answer my own question that I posed earlier…I don’t really know what would’ve happened if I did listen to artists when their respective albums released. I mean, had I did listen to artists like Avril Lavigne, Ronan Keating, U2, Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride, even Owl City and Lifehouse, during the times when albums of these said artists released; maybe, just maybe, the wonder and awe, and the unique feeling that comes when discovering a whole discography of a new artist, could be less and less. Because essentially if you follow an artist’s career from year dot, you become accustomed to their music your whole life, as opposed to someone else discovering for the first time a whole discography of an artist they’ve missed out on…’

‘…mainstream music for me has always taken a bit of a back seat throughout my life, and it was only when I heavily invested my time and my intrigue and interest into this blog series that I started to undertake last year, that I truly understood that there was a lot of mainstream music out there that I was missing. That mainstream music was just another avenue of music that God can and does use for Himself to be revealed in our lives whenever we hear the music, either currently of now, or of the years gone by of yesteryear. As I’m about to undertake blog post #40 this week, I have reflected upon the artists I’ve delved into thus far: Delta Goodrem, Lifehouse, Sara Bareilles, Ronan Keating, Owl City, Martina McBride, U2, The McClymonts, Shania Twain, Ed Sheeran, Rascal Flatts, Evanescence, OneRepublic, Tina Arena and Daughtry, to name a few; have all had impacting and influential careers in music over the years. And all of them have been instrumental in the reshaping of my own views of mainstream music since my discoveries of this wide array of music from last year onward. And, all these artists aforementioned are under the label or category of ‘mainstream’ music, or just music that isn’t Christian, or ‘religious’ in any way. And maybe, just maybe, mainstream music doesn’t have to be as bad as I myself originally thought it was back in high school. It was only last year that I was stretched in my understanding and comprehension of what good music really looked like, and that it was ok for me to enjoy music that wasn’t Christian in any way, and that God Himself could move if He wanted to, speaking to me through the unlikeliest of sources, even mainstream music. And that’s ok! …’

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Momentous Mondays: Influential artists of the next 5-10 years – Week 20: Philippa Hanna

Do you often wonder why you’re in the valley sometimes? Why you’re in the same valley that you reckon, or maybe even believe, you’ve been there since the dawn of time; and the same valley that you’re certain and convinced that you’ll stay there until the day you pass? Do you often wonder why life isn’t going the way you thought it would be at this very moment, or why the whole world seems against you? You get the sense that fate, or destiny, or whatever deity or higher power that is up there (that you probably know for a fact is up there in the heavens floating about, but don’t really give the time of day, except for at Christmas or at Easter or at Ramadan or Hannukah or any other token religious festival and occasion) doesn’t care at all about you and your problems and your situations and your relationships with others, or your needs, or your wants and desires… otherwise he, or she, would be actively doing something, anything to create a positive change in your life. For the past umpteen years, it has seemed like you’re on your own, in the valley for eternity, with no one around you to keep you safe, or make you feel good, or make life worth living. So do you wonder why you’re seemingly stuck in the valley with no way out?

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MOMENTOUS MONDAYS: INFLUENTIAL ARTISTS OF ALL TIME – WEEK 49: FIVE FOR FIGHTING

I don’t know about you but sometimes I feel like a song can totally change the mood of a room, or it can lift the spirits of the entire world’s population at any given point in time. As I’ve said time and time again in blogs previously written, there is power in the song that may not be present in an encouraging ted talk, or a sermon. Songs have a licence in a certain moment to be the catalysts of positive change, to delve down deep into the soul and to ask the questions that maybe no one has ever dared to ask before. To challenge our very being when other conversations and introspective discussions have failed to do so, because whether we agree with this notion or not, this much is true- songs have power over us in a way that no other entertainment medium has. We listen to music at all hours of the day- morning, noon, afternoon and night. Songs travel down deep into our psyche, make us realise things about ourselves that we may not have been privy to, to begin with. Creating a song, to put it blunt, almost gives you licence to speak about almost every topic that can be judged as being ‘taboo’ in a sense, if said out loud and not tied to music- politics, death and religion, the three major things that cannot be spoken about at a dinner table? Discussed in song, I’m sure, at one point in history or another. Faith, doubt, uncertainty, love, loneliness, worry, hope, joy, and everything else in between; are all given the go-ahead when it comes to songs, music, and what is given the go-ahead in terms of what topics can be availed to the masses.

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BEST OF 2019- PART 12: TOP 20 EPS OF 2019

I’m very good at procrastinting, aren’t I? Anyway, the time has come everyone for another installment in this ‘Best Of 2019’ series. Even though we are more than 3 months late, I reckon today is the perfect time for us to reveal our 20 most inspiring EP’s of 2019- also especially since we all need our EP’s and albums to help us get through this whole quarantine process. So… without further ado, here is our list of 20 EP’s which have inspired and encouraged us!

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MOMENTOUS MONDAYS: INFLUENTIAL ARTISTS OF ALL TIME – WEEK 48: KEITH URBAN

I’ve realised a couple of things since I started this blog post series over a year ago. One: I am totally unprepared, in a general sense, for these blog posts, and I don’t pretend to know more than I do know at any one moment. I am but an amateur in terms of knowing about these artists, or these songs for that matter. I try and fumble through each and every week, sometimes I write more on one artist than another, sometimes I connect with an artist and their music more so than another, and I try and write my two cents. At the end of the day, hopefully I gain some kind of wisdom or appreciation for music that for me, is outside my comfort zone. For this blog post list is merely my own opinion, and various other artists outside the list, could easily, on any other given day, be inside. And that’s just life. Second: I am continuously amazed, impressed and inspired by the music I’ve heard over the last year or so, that I’ve noticed that lately, I am challenged and confronted, comforted and encouraged, and just plain reminded of how God can use anything and anyone, including music that I may not have listened to that much throughout my own life, or music that I may not initially enjoy, from artists that may not have been on my radar to begin with; to bring about my own good and His glory, as I learn more about myself, Himself, about love, life and the intricacies in between. For this week’s blog, I am embarking into the realms of Australian music once again- and with artists prior to this week that I’ve delved into that are Australian, from Delta Goodrem, Guy Sebastian, The McClymonts and the Newsboys, to for KING AND COUNTRY, Hillsong and Tina Arena; I have again put my hand into the proverbial hat of the plethora of Australian music artists at my disposal, and I’ve since pulled one out- Keith Urban.

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