Johnny Cash and Beyond

I get a lot of suggestions from friends and co-workers of songs that we should play in worship.  I very seldom have to start from scratch for new ideas, because they keep landing on my lap—so much that I literally have a sticky note titled, SURF & SNOOP containing songs, artists, websites and such that I peruse on those need-a-new-song days.

Almost all of these suggestions are right on the money for one criteria or another, but that’s the problem.  They hit ONE criteria that would qualify it for a worship song.  Sometimes the message of the piece is perfect, but the melody has nothing memorable to it.  Sometimes the song is easy to play and sing but has no real substance to the lyrics.  Sometimes the song is easy to sing, has a message that fits our topic of the day, but would be too complicated for any regular band to play.

Let’s talk MESSAGE.  So many songs have been suggested for certain topics that I’m often overwhelmed to choose just one.  Sometimes we have 6 songs at worship revolving around “water” or “forgiveness” or “crucifixion”.

It’s very easy for the band and myself to play the same old songs that we’ve done before dozens of times.  We do this for several reasons: it cuts down on workload/learning time, our congregation is familiar with it, we’ve already got arrangements/charts drafted, etc.  We always have to balance these familiar tunes with brand new material.

I often get push-back from the band about a song or two; I have to balance my gut, my head, my rehearsal times, and my player’s availabilities to determine weather we play it safe or push forward into new-song-territory.  The bottom line is that if the scripture and sermon topic presented doesn’t jive with the lyrical content we are singing, it doesn’t feel right.  No one wants to hear “Learn to Fly” for a sermon about the head of John the Baptist on a plate.

Sometimes we are hard-pressed to find ANY songs that deal with a particular topic at hand, and the entire set is comprised of material that ONLY sets-up or reflects on the aftermath of a scripture/sermon.  Anyone else confused by Jesus’ parables?

Johnny Cash’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down” has been suggested to me so many times.  I’ve balked at this each time because the suggester can’t give me a solid reason why it would pertain to worship—other than the facts that the song contains the word “Sunday”, he mentions a church in verse 3, and there’s a general sense of remorse.  I hear it as a helluva lonely hangover song, but it never seems to match a scripture or sermon theme.  I love Cash; someone find me a sermon this song matches.  Anyone in the Bible feel remorse and self-loathing from the night before and craving forgiveness?

More currently, artists like Trampled by Turtles, The Avett Brothers, and Mumford & Sons are writing songs that are wonderfully introspective and poignant.  When we look at how scripture is interpreted these days and how our political and cultural landscape is marred by discord and anger, different points of view and new connections are needed.  Please, keep sending in those song requests.  They force me to connect as well as be challenged in workload and viewpoint.

“For They Will Be Comforted” -from Children’s Minister, Heidi Hansen

Church nerd alert: this past Sunday I had the opportunity to join two Sunday school friends in worship at the United Church of Christ parish in my old ‘hood. So there we were all in a place two of us weren’t familiar with wondering what it might be like. I felt a little like we were seven or eight again. I think we behaved fairly well: we dressed appropriately, didn’t need to be pinched to subvert squirming, and there were no pew kneelers for me to loudly play with.

Pastor Lawrence delivered a sensitive sermon on Matthew 5:1-4 (“blessed be those that mourn for they will be comforted”), Psalm 23, with references to King David losing his beloved son.  He mentioned in his sermon that he had written a book describing some of his own losses.  I was so captivated that I bought his book after the service; of course I had it signed!

In his thought provoking and poignant autobiography, Pastor Richardson shares his cathartic and poignant autobiographical story of his life as a transgendered person of color called to Christian ministry of word and sacrament.  Raised, living, and serving in Minneapolis, he shares his story of a very troubled childhood which in some ways is reminiscent of Dave Pelzer’s A Child Called It. Despite all of the abuse and neglect he suffered at the hand of family, the church, and the larger society, he remains true to his calling to God and to himself. Pastor Richardson’s light shines on all whom he encounters.

This book is especially helpful because it clarifies aspects of LBGTQ identification and lifestyle which is probably unfamiliar to most of us living outside of that circle.  It also includes some valuable biblical commentary on the topic.

This book is an easy read and I literally could not put it down until I had finished it. I highly recommended it to everyone but most especially to those who work or worship in Christian churches and to those that work in social service type of occupations.

Richardson, Lawrence Tanner. 2018. I Know What Heaven Looks Like: A Modern Day Coming of Age Story.

Heidi S. Hansen, Spirit Garage Children’s Minister

Austin Experiences by Heidi Hansen

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to participate in a three-week Spanish Language and Hispanic Ministry Intensive at the Lutheran Seminary Program of the Southwest in Austin, TX. It was simultaneously an amazing, insightful, and thought provoking experience. While there, we students were introduced various national, internal and external cultures: languages (linguistic dialects), histories, values, beliefs, customs, clothing, family and social organizations, foods, music, arts, religiosities (traditions, rituals, and communities), and governmental politics within many overarching Hispanic contexts.

While there I elected to stay with two families to further augment my experience.  I stayed with one family of Mexican decent in Austin and one of Columbian descent in San Antonio.  In these two locales I was also mentored by two pastors (one Anglo: Ellen Williams and one Puerto Rican: Eric Miletti) serving bilingual congregations and was able to participate in both the English and Latinx worship services. The Latinx worship services were especially engaging and spiritual using traditional Lutheran liturgy embellished with congas, maracas, and tambourines.

These experiences along with the scheduled formal presentations gave me the opportunity to learn history from a perspective other than that which I was taught growing up.  I heard how the United States of America’s politics have adversely affected and contributed toward the current crisis’ in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. I heard horrific stories of persistent racism and abuse in Texas and beyond. It was shocking to hear Enedina Vasquez, a Tejana (indigenous Texan-Mexican descent) relate how she was told to “go back to where you came from” when in fact her ancestors predated Texas’ statehood. I was sickened to hear a gentleman from Togo living in an Austin shelter retell his harrowing immigration story which included a flight to Brazil, a trek through South and Central America, questioning in Panama, rafting to Texas only to endure a 10-month detainment in a cold cell with a final release to the shelter where he was receiving legal assistance. He was ever so grateful to have just been granted a truck driving license. It was a dangerous journey wrought with violence, bribery, and occasional human kindness. Nicole Garcia shared some of her troubling experiences living as a transgendered Latinx candidate for ordained ministry and I heard a young woman named Julieta relate some of her experiences as a Dreamer.

Julieta’s story prompted me to participate in my first ever rally (United We Dream) dressed in a clergy collar where I heard immigrants, attorneys, and politicians speak and march in downtown Austin.  I was personally thanked by a couple of people for “showing up”.  They were appreciative of the church’s presence. It might serve as a reminder to all of us to show up where and when we are called. We are all the church and we are all called to share the good news and hope in Jesus.  Throughout scripture are many stories of migration: Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Jacob, Joseph, Joseph’s brothers, Moses, Ruth, Esther, the Samaritan, and lastly Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. We are instructed in both the Hebrew and New Testaments to care for widows, children, and immigrants without qualifications. Jesus himself commands us do this in Matthew 25:31-46.

There are many great religious and secular organizations doing fine work on behalf of refugees: LIRS and Ammparo are two such ELCA affiliated organizations. Please consider how you might be of service to our neighbors however you are gifted. I want to encourage everyone to work together to eliminate suffering and walk alongside refugees to eliminate injustice and find sustainable solutions to long standing issues. There is hope.

Lapazde Jesucristo/The peace of Jesus Christ, Heidi+++Spirit Garage Children’s Minister


Dude, Where’s My Bulletin?

Welp, we have joined the mega-church trend of having a screen and projection during worship.  There are many reasons for this: saving paper usage, eliminating the staring-down while the band is up front, saving time in formatting, etc.  We still have a printed bulletin [worship order, announcements, people up front, etc] but it’s much less work to assemble it now.

Some of you have noted that you miss taking the lyrics home with you. We have your solution!  All of our original lyrics are now saved in the members area of our website.  Select “Login” or “Signup” to access them.  In the dashboard, select “Downloads” and BOOM, there you go.  You can easily view or download them.  While you’re there, check out the Prayers, Announcements, Hosting Guides and belonging booklet.  These documents will help you participate in worship if that’s your thing.

What about all the other songs that you play?  Can’t we see those lyrics too?  Yes, but those lyrics are not ours to do with what we please.  One lyric site I like to use is  There have far less ads and clickbait than most sites. Say for example, you wanted to read lyrics to Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers’ Ballad of Lupe Montosa. They have it.  Click HERE.  BTW this is the 3rd saddest song i’ve ever heard.

While compiling all these lyrics into single documents from our full-length cd’s, Free Parking, Faith, Love and Rock & Roll and #the40project, i got a little nostalgic thinking about how these songs were written.  Some were written on computers, some were started on scratch paper or bar napkins, and at least one was written on an airplane motion discomfort receptacle.  I’m certain more songs will join the fold, but it occurred to me that we only have 37 definitive recorded versions of these songs.  Although we aren’t quite ready yet, we have MANY songs already that are ready to be recorded.  I’m excited to think about another recording project.  What would the theme be?  What songs do we already have that fit together?  What songs have moved you [and me] the most?

As some of us mourn the loss of printed word, others embrace focusing our energy into something else.  Something new.  Something audible.

As always, we welcome suggestions for songs to play and more importantly, songs to WRITE.  All suggestions can be sent to  Let’s all write some lyrics today.

A Word From the DriveTrain

“Drive train: The drivetrain of a motor vehicle is the group of components that deliver power to the driving wheels and help drive it forward.

The Drivetrain of Spirit Garage is a leadership group of people that deliver power (direction, motivation) to help move Spirit Garage forward.”

We are up and running! After just two meetings, the DriveTrain is becoming focused and running at high RPM. We have taken on some specific roles and are going to work hard this year to make some important changes to, and help maintain other, Spirit Garage events, missions, community engagements, and financial goals.

The first is events. We have planned three big events this summer, labeled as “Summer Nights with Spirit Garage.” Our first event is approaching quickly, “Longfellow Walking Tour,” on June 27th from 6:30-8:15. Starting at Hook and Ladder, we will be walking a 3.5 mile triangle starting south, including ice cream and a park, and end up at Rodeo Nuevo for a drink for those who want to stay out a little past bed time! The second is a Revealed concert at Carbone’s on Cedar Ave, July 21st, and wrapping up summer with a Friday night (Led Zeppelin!) night at the St. Paul Saints on August 17th.

Our mission statement as the DriveTrain is currently being fine tuned to really encompass what we are trying to accomplish and will be shared with the community as soon as it is polished and waxed up.

Our financial goals are little behind this year. You have all done a fine job getting us as far as we have. However, we are looking at a year-long deficit of over $12,000. With just a little simple math, assuming 50 people show up per week, that is a mere $10 more per person per week. Sounds like a lot, but there are more than 50 people that give to Spirit Garage regularly, so knowing that, every little bit helps. A dollar, a peso, a euro; whatever you have laying around that you could see donating to the meaning you get from sitting in on a sermon from Holly or a sweet lick from Kerns. If the spirit moves you, never hesitate to feel good about giving to a great group of people who work tirelessly to bring you great music and wonderful messages every week. If you have an extra $5 here and there, we can take this ugly deficit out and finish the year strong!
Finally, have a wonderful, warm, wet, crazy, cool, safe, spirit filled summer! We’ll see you at the Hook and Ladder next Sunday!

Jason Eldridge


God is Wild Summer Playlist

Our summer sermon series, God is Wild, features a lot of these wild-titled songs at worship. We believe that God cannot be contained in a box and exists everywhere, even the dark places like rock & roll. It’s nice to know that my job allows, nee, REQUIRES me to play the likes of Steppenwolf, Tom Petty, INXS, and Duran Duran at church.

Check out this Spotify playlist I’ve created. In an ongoing effort to support musicians and their craft, please listen to this often; each spin gets the artist a fraction of a penny so let’s make it add up!


Please Note:

  • Junior’s Gone Wild is not on Spotify, so listen here.
  • Wild Child by Kenny Chesney & Grace Potter may not be viewable in the playlist. Listen here.
  • The Mob Goes Wild by Clutch may not be viewable in the playlist. Listen here.

The God is Wild Summer Playlist:

  1. The Mob Goes Wild by Clutch
  2. Wild Animals by Trampled by Turtles
  3. Wild Thing by The Troggs
  4. Wild One by Thin Lizzy
  5. Born To Be Wild by Steppenwolf
  6. Walk On Wild Side by Lou Reed
  7. Wild Child by Kenny Chesney & Grace Potter
  8. Wild World by Yusuf/Cat Stevens
  9. Wild Boys by Duran Duran
  10. Wild By Troye Sivan
  11. Wild Wild West by Will Smith, Dru Hill, Kool Mo Dee
  12. Wild Wild West by Escape Club
  13. Into The Wild By Philip Philips
  14. Into the Wild by LP
  15. Wild In The Country By Elvis
  16. Wild Life By Inxs
  17. Wild Wild Life By Talking Heads
  18. Wild In The Streets by Bon Jovi
  19. Wild Times By Jeff Lynne
  20. Wild World By Johnny Stimson
  21. Wild Child By Heart
  22. Wild Child by Sugarloaf
  23. Wild Side By Motley Crue
  24. Wild Flowers by Ryan Adams
  25. Wild Cherry by Foghat
  26. Wild Horses by The Rolling Stones
  27. Wildflowers By Tom Petty
  28. Honorable Mention: Cum On Feel The Noise by Quiet Riot
  29. Junior’s Gone Wild by King’s X

Summer Podcast: For the Wild 

We hope to see you at Spirit Garage on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. at the Hook & Ladder Theater for the God is Wild worship series.

Enjoy the God is Wild playlist!

Kernsey’s Playlist for the Start of Lent

Lent started on February 14 and will run until Thursday, March 29. As we start Lent, take a look at my playlist.

Kernsey's Music Playlist

1. Garden: needtobreathe 

Kinda perfect for Lent, although it should be in a minor key.

2. 316: Spirit Garage Bands

The assignment was to use the scripture passage, word for word, repeating words or phrases if necessary, in order to learn the scripture.  They didn’t choose my version.  I’m guessing it was a little to Nirvanaish for the Sunday school curriculum?  Rest in Peace, Andrew Senn, who played killer drums on this track.

3. Oh God, Where Are You Now? (In Pickeral Lake? Pigeon? Marquette? Mackinaw?)

One of the more complex Sufjan Stevens songs.  Not just a 4-chord drone, but several distinct segments with changing time signatures and melodies.  It still has many voices and harmonies and strange instruments and is over 6 minutes long, don’t worry.

4. It’s Not Just For the Dead: King’s X

If it WERE just for the dead, would we be able to hear it?

5. Epic: Faith No More

While I completely failed to update my entire cassette collection to CD, this one went from cassette to digital download.

6. All the Way Down: Glen Hansard 

I Learned this for a ONCE tribute show.  My second favorite track on that album.

7. Darkest Hour: Glen Phillips

A sleeper track from “Abulum” but a wrenching, ntender piece nonetheless.

8. 10001110101: Clutch

This is my new favorite band.  After hearing two songs, I downloaded 3 albums, joined the mailing list, and now follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

9. No Ordinary Love: Sade

Shelly Domke and I played it recently at a wedding celebration for 30 couples at a Bloomington church.  This song was commented on more than any others we played.

10. Slip Away: Josh Garrels

This might be the spookiest lent song I’ve ever heard.  There are several versions, but this one recorded [shot] on the beach is pretty dang cool.

11. Until the End of the World: U2

Most of you know of my very low tolerance for U2, but this song is perfect for Lent.  Interesting trivia fact: This is the first song I sang at a talent show in college, and the first band I was in at college.  Also on our setlist: Alive by Pearl Jam and Give it Away by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

12. Return to Dust: Bob Mould

Living punk rock legend, Bob Mould, remains vital to our local music scene as well as the national scene. This one has some great hooks in it.

Comedy Album

Robin Williams: Weapons of Self-Destruction

NOT SAFE FOR WORK.  This was William’s last comedy special, and it’s quite pertinent today.  Robin, you are missed every day.

Podcast Episode

James Bonding EP 059 Moonraker with Bobak Ferdowski and James Bladon

If you love James Bond in any way, listen to Matt and Matt and their guests tear apart, dissect, and zoom in [WAAAYYY IN] on each James Bond movie in the franchise, one by one.

What are you listening to for Lent? What would you add to this list?

Kernsey’s Playlist for February 1, 2018

These are songs in my rotation this week. Some are songs I need to learn, some are faves, some are “Hey, what’s this?” clicks.Kernsey's Music Playlist

Kernsey’s Music Playlist

Shoes: King’s X

Starting a song acapella [voices only] is gutsy. The funky metal riff that kicks in floors me every time. Play this loud.

Come Alive [Dry Bones]: Lauren Daigle

A worship song suggestion for a scripture that we used a few weeks back. Maybe next year when this comes around we’ll do it.

I Will Follow: Jon Guerra

I played this at a funeral last week for a high school friend’s mom’s passing. The fingerpicking almost killed me; basically your dust in the wind fingerpicking pattern.

Hip Today: Extreme

Another worship song suggestion that is probably beyond our playability level. Love that funky bassline.

I Saw the Light: Cowboy Mouth

We are playing this one at worship in February. I respect Hank Williams Sr. but this is much more our style.

Say it to Me Now: Glen Hansard

I’m playing a ONCE movie soundtrack tribute in March with Shelly Domke. This is from the opening scene of the lonely troubadour.

Let the Mystery Be: Iris Dement

The Leftovers was my new show to watch, but only we only got 3 seasons before they were canceled. This is the theme song and speaks to the show premise as well as the mystery of our God.

Laughing With: Regina Spektor

Cool video, haunting lyrics-even if they don’t rhyme.

Landed: Ben Folds

We recently saw Ben Folds with the MN Orchestra at Orchestra Hall play this. Hearing him with strings and horns is so peaceful, yet such a change from him bashing out songs in the 90’s.

Turn Up the Radio: Autograph

One of my all-time favorite 80’s anthems and hair rocker tunes. Incidentally, the solo, recorded by guitarist Steve Lynch, was dubbed “Guitar Solo of the Year” in 1985 by Guitar Player Magazine.

I Still Believe: The Call

It’s one of those 80’s two-hit wonder bands that you go “oh yeah, THAT tune” but you never really focused on the lyrics all that much.

I’m Ready: Tracy Chapman

Tracy Chapman is hit and miss for me, but this one is very spooky and fitting for worship services.

Favorite Podcast Episode:

The Nerdist featuring Ben Folds, 6.27.15

Had to do some backtracking catch-up for the Ben Folds Concert. He has some really interesting views on music notation and record labels.

Obligatory Star Wars Fix:

Star Wars Bartender, Richard Pryor

What’s on your playlist? Please share with the Spirit Garage community.

What Is 3rd Thursday Theology on Tap?

In January Spirit Garage launched a new event, in partnership with the young adult group at Bethlehem Lutheran. 3rd Thursday Theology on Tap will be held at Sisters’ Sludge Coffee and Wine bar at 38th street and 23rd Avenue S. The next one will be February 15th, from 7-8:30 PM.

At the first “soft launch” about 8 people showed up to discuss the question of the ages about religion: If God is all-powerful and all-knowing and all-loving, why do bad things happen?

When you arrive at Sisters’ Sludge, there are two sides; we take over the part by the fireplace, that has some couches and some chairs gathered around. On the table in front of you will be a few light appetizers, name tags and a “quotes and questions” page. This has a variety of different quotes on the subject to get you thinking, followed by some questions to use as jumping off points.

A few minutes after the start time, there is an introduction. In that introduction, you will hear that you are welcome there, with whatever questions, doubts, assurances, ideas, or lived experiences you come with. You are also invited to be listen for the wisdom of your neighbor.

Then we ask everyone to introduce themselves. This last month we asked people to say their name, and one unhelpful thing that people say when someone is suffering—like “God needed another angel.”

After that, we see where the conversation takes us. On the first night we ended up talking about the difference in magnitude between our personal heartbreaks and, say, Syria. We also talked about where God is in suffering…causing it or sitting in it. One question we tossed around is whether God makes bad things happen to teach us lessons, or alternatively, finds ways to make something good out of the bad things that happen.

Its hard to say—but we’re not there for answers as much as conversation. So join the conversation! In February, since it is the day after Valentine’s day, it seems appropriate to talk about Love and Marriage…like that song “Love and Marriage…go together like a horse and carriage…” Um…this is a really horrible metaphor. One is a working animal owned by a riding owner…

So, until 3rd Thursday. See you there.


Pastor @ Spirit Garage