Wednesday, February 26, 2020

40 Songs for 40 Days

I'm one of those people who always has to have some sort of music playing. At work, I'll have my headphones on all day, I can't workout without my playlists, and I even have song selections for when I'm just cleaning around the house. I'm not always the most precise when it comes to expressing myself and my feelings (we all know I'm not shy, this is a whole other issue). If I become frustrated it's easier for me to show it than to explain it. Music gives me a way to put words to what I'm feeling or experiencing. Because I'm not the only one that connects to their favorite songs in this way, I've been looking for more ways to incorporate this in church.

Last year, I made a playlist with covers of all my favorite Christmas Hymns. I was really inspired by our Hops and Hymns events we put on. Everyone knows the songs and sings along, but we were in a whole new context of being located inside of a bar instead of a sanctuary, and we also have this cool dynamic when we have our assortment of musicians who come with everything from mandolins, and flutes, and various percussion instruments. It's this really cool version of church where everyone truly comes as they are and only offers what they can. With that in mind, I was looking for covers of these hymns, trying to find a way to put a new spin on all of our favorites. 

Once that was done, I started looking forward to Lent. My first thought was to do the same thing - find covers of all my favorite hymns. I learned that while many of the hymns are available on Spotify, most of them are performed by choirs or organs. Now, I have a great appreciation for both versions, but the songs I was finding were very similar to what we typically hear on Sunday mornings, which defeated the purpose of trying to put a new spin on these songs. 

Then I noticed a new trend emerging in youth and young adult ministry - taking the secular songs we already know and putting them in the context of our faith. I saw many different advent playlists along these lines. While I haven't seen many for Lent, I'm hoping this trend continues. So, when I saw this kind of playlist, I knew this would be right up my alley. 

So here we are, now with this playlist of 40 songs for 40 days. Now, this isn't all hymns, or all secular songs, but rather a mix of those and some contemporary Christian songs as well. Sometimes when you find a good song, you just have to include it and not worry about the rules you set for yourself. I tried my best to get a mix of different genres and decades, but if you look through the playlist, you'll definitely see the bias of a Millenial who listened to a lot of alternative throughout high school. To balance that out, I'll list my songs below, highlighting a few of my favorite selections and why I included them. Then, if you have your own favorites you think should go on the next playlist, feel free to comment or shoot me an e-mail at 


1. Dust in the Wind - Damned Anthem - Dust in the Wind is one of those songs that every youth director, pastor, or religion professor loves to use to show scripture in popular music. It's one of those songs that has become a cliche for a reason. While I agree this song belongs on this type of playlist, I've already heard the Kansas version a million times, and plus I think this cover is a pretty cool and different take on what we normally hear. 
2. Shake It Out - Florence + The Machine
3. Ghosts that We Knew - Mumford & Sons
4. Why - Skinny Living
5. I'm with You - Avril Lavigne
6. Washed by the Water - NEEDTOBREATHE -
 I will admit when I first found NEEDTOBREATHE I had no idea they were a Christian band. They pulled a Switchfoot on me, where you think they're this cool alternative band, but really there's lots of hidden theology in some of their more popular songs. This one is a little bit more obvious than others, but I would highly recommend checking out more of their stuff.
7. What I've Done - Linkin Park
8. All These Things That I've Done - The Killers
9. Fix You - Coldplay
10. Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season) - The Byrds
11. You Found Me - The Fray
12. Wherever You Will Go - The Calling
13. Your Guardian Angel - The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
14. Wake Me up When September Ends - Green Day
15. Everyday - Dave Matthews Band
16. Hero - Enrique Iglesias - I'm sure this is one of those songs, where when you see it on the playlist you think, "Really Caitlyn??" YES! REALLY! Is this one of the cheesiest love songs of all time? DEFINITELY. Does it still have a spot on this playlist? YES! There are lines in there where he's sympathizing with the one he loves. Would you die for the one you love? We don't always have an answer to that question, but we 100% know Jesus would.  Would you swear that you'll always be mine, or would you lie? Would you run and hide? Hmm, that sounds an awful lot like something Jesus wants to know before he gets arrested. And guess what, the disciples do lie, they do run, and they do hide. All in all, I can see this as a last plea from Jesus, trying to tell us how much he loves us, but knows we can never love him the same way. Yet despite all of that, he will continue to love us and sacrifice for us. 
17. She Will Be Loved - Maroon 5
18. Wake Me Up - Avicii
19. Bring Me To Life - Evanescence
20. Shelter from the Storm - Bob Dylan
21. Don't Carry It All - The Decemberists
22. Creation Song - Josh Garrels
23. Jesus Walks - Kanye West - I will admit, I have a really hard time with putting Kanye West on this playlist. However I think this song does a great job of calling out the sins we have in our society, and Lent is all about repentance. Not only does Kanye tell us that "We at war/We at war with terrorism, racism/But most of all we at war with ourselves." He also reminds us that "the hustlers, killers, murderers, drug dealers, even the scrippers/(Jesus walks for them)/To the victims of welfare feel we livin' in Hell here, hell yeah/(Jesus walks for them)." The people in our society that are in the margins still are loved by Jesus, Jesus is there for every single one of them. We should be too.
24. Dust to Dust - The Civil Wars
25. Change on the Rise - Avi Kaplan
26. I Want Jesus to Walk With Me - Sharon Irving
27. Life is Hard - Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
28. Through the Night of Doubt & Sorrow - Luke Morton
29. Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord) - Johnny Cash
31. Brokenness Aside - All Sons & Daughters
32. Welcome to the Black Parade - My Chemical Romance - I'm 1000% sure this is not what MCR intended with this song, but you know when you make a great song people use it for all sorts of unintended reasons. Right off the bat, I see Jesus as the father in this story. He knows he's going to have to leave, but wants to make sure his child will remember him and carry on his legacy. The part that really gets me is "Give a cheer for all the broken/Listen here, because it's who we are/I'm just a man, I'm not a hero/Just a boy, who had to sing this song/I'm just a man, I'm not a hero." I think a lot of times as Christians we feel this pressure that we have to be perfect. If we aren't the hero, if we're broken, then there's something wrong with our faith. I don't think that's the case. If it were so easy for us to be perfect and heroic we wouldn't need church, we wouldn't need Jesus.
33. Blackbird - The Beatles
34. Mercy Now - Mary Gauthier
35. Demons - Imagine Dragons
36. Shallow - Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper
37. Resurrect Me - Skrizzly Adams
38. Float On - Modest Mouse
39. Dreaming with a Broken Heart - John Mayer
40. Beautiful - Christina Aguilera

Now, I didn't put a synopsis for every song, but I did carefully select each and every song on here. If you want more info on a song, feel free to hit me up!

One way I recommend using this is listening to this playlist with your family - which songs really resonate with you? What songs do you see the Lenten connections? Which connections are harder to make? Another way to use it is by doing what I do - keep it on in the background intentionally. This way when I'm doing ordinary daily tasks, like doing the dishes, I still have this thing that I know I have a spiritual connection to pushing me throughout the day. I can really focus on the music and the words when I feel drawn in, but I can just have it there supporting me throughout the day even when I may not be as focused. 

Thank you to all those who sent me their ideas while I was creating this! I definitely could not have done this alone. If you have your own ideas for songs that could go on this playlist or future playlists, please let me know! They are so much better when it's a collaborative effort. 
You can check out the full playlist here: