We were born as strangers in a strange land. Our lives are but a vapor in the grand scheme of millenniums. But there’s far more to life for us, as Christians. “We’re citizens of high heaven!” (Philippians 3:20, The Message).
The trouble is, we don’t often live like we know it!
For Chris Lockwood and Jason Barton of 33Miles, it’s that pursuit of a Christ-focused, heaven-minded life that fuels everything they do, especially their music. Intensifying the message of their previous release, One Life, 33Miles shifts musical gears with Today, amplifying the truth that to make every day count, we’ve got to live with eternity in mind.
“Nothing we can accomplish in business, no amount of education—nothing compares to Jesus,” says Chris, “But how our salvation translates to how we live today is the question. To wake up every day and make the choice to live with heaven in mind, to not let the circumstances of this day override that choice. It’s easier said than done, but getting up every day and trying makes it more and more possible.”
Produced by Ian Eskelin (Stellar Kart, Francesca Battistelli, Starfield) and Nathan Nockels (Passion, Point of Grace, Watermark), Today—releasing October 5 on INO Records—features 10 pop progressive, but church accessible songs to remind us that we are meant for more than life on autopilot.
“One Life was such a broad stroke, obviously one that touched people, but we wanted to narrow that down to our everyday reality,” Jason says. “So it came down to, ‘What are we doing to live for Christ today, to make a difference?’ A lot of people live for the future, and a lot of people live in the past, but very few people tend to look at their lives and think about what life can be like right now.”
That message had been immanent for the Dove-nominated group over the past few months, as one of their original members, keyboardist Collin Stoddard, followed God’s calling into worship ministry full time. “For five years, it’s just been the three of us,” says Chris. “But I think God had been preparing Collin’s heart, just as he’d been preparing us. As his heart was headed elsewhere, our sound began to change.”
If you listen closely, you’ll hear influences well beyond the Rascal Flatts stereotype applied to 33Miles in days past, a wall of sound reminiscent of artists like Coldplay, Train and One Republic. But that wall never overshadows the message.
“Musically, we may be pushing the envelope in terms of what might be expected,” Jason says, “I think there’s a good balance of what we know works. We didn’t reinvent the wheel here. The classic sounds are still there, the harmonies, and the lyrical content is still strong and clear. But it’s definitely a step forward.”
From the vibey fun opener “What Grace Looks Like,” to the soaring first single, “Where I Wanna Go,” an 11th hour selection that seemed to add the missing exclamation point to the entire CD, to the powerful benediction of “Worth the Wait,” Today features some of the group’s most personal songwriting to date.
For example, “Live,” a song Jason wrote for his sister, boldly declares: You’re worth enough that he died for you / His heart burns with love and desire for you / Don’t be afraid to receive / Don’t be afraid to believe that you can live… live!
“My sister is a school teacher,” he says. “She lives in our hometown, and is just one of the most beautiful people in the world, with such a big heart. But over the last five years, she’s started to lose her enthusiasm for life. She’s been in and out of bad relationships, and somehow she just got caught up in the lie that she’s alone in all this, she began to give up. I wrote this song for her to say, ‘This is not what you were created for! You were created to live!’ That is the message Jesus died to deliver: God wants us to live life to the fullest.”
“No Greater Love,” holds a special place in Chris’ heart, in part because it moved him more than any song in recent memory. “The cross is at the heart of Christianity, so it saddens me that there are so few songs about the cross. I didn’t really pursue this song; it pursued me. Every time I tried to put it aside, I couldn’t let it go. Just trying to picture myself there, watching the torture of our Lord, brought me to my knees to ask, Who am I that you would come and die / I don’t understand / Why the God of all the universe would become a man / to redeem the mess that I have made, take away the shame of what I’ve done / There is no greater love…
“Hold Me Up,” is a powerful reminder that Christians aren’t expected to have it all together. Our strength comes in learning to rest in God’s hands. “I don’t need to wait until I’m on the floor falling apart to let him have it,” Jason says of the message. “There will be times when circumstances beyond our control hit and knock us to the ground, but if we allow God to hold us up, we can get through.”
Perhaps as much as any song on Today, “Where I Wanna Go,” the first single released in August 2010 to a wide reception on Christian radio, carries the message of the entire collection, challenging believers ‘to live like the future resident of heaven you will become,’ as one of Jason’s friend’s recently posted on Twitter.
“We need to regroup and refocus, to unplug from all the distractions that keep us from living like we know who we are,” Chris explains. “Despite our circumstances, we are people of faith. And like all those listed in the ‘Faith Hall of Fame’ in Hebrews 11, we have to live today as citizens of heaven. They didn’t receive the fruition of all they believed in, all they’d struggled to accomplish. But they kept the faith because they knew they were meant for the world to come. That should be our goal: to live with eternity in our hearts.”