Review of Hillsong United’s New Album: Empires

I would have to say that one of the most influential, relevant, and touching songs I have ever known is Hillsong United’s “Oceans” from their 2013 Zion album.

Review of Hillsong United's New Album: Empires

So when I was asked if I would like to receive an advance copy of the Australian worship group’s newest album, Empires, to review, it was an easy decision for me.

Empires, (which was released today on May 26, 2015)has been playing in my car for more than a solid week now. My process of reviewing it has been to refrain from paying attention to which individual track I was listening to; instead, only investigating the song after it really stood out to me as the album played as a whole.

I love this album.

It’s the kind of album that just flows in a cerebral experience, like ColdPlay’s Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends; as if there were not 12 individual songs, but instead a never-ending trip to a different, higher place. I would almost refer to it as an out of body experience.

Though I absolutely am obsessed with the the entire album, my favorite songs from Empires are the 6th and 7th tracks: “When I Lost My Heart to You (Hallelujah)”, a seemingly romantic song (which it is not, actually) that reminds me of the 1970’s Peter Gabriel era of the progressive rock group Genesis; and “Even When It Hurts (Praise Song)”, a track which might actually deem too honest and real for some members of an American audience.

Here’s an excerpt from the “When I Lost My Heart to You (Hallelujah)”:

Love laid its breath against my chest

My skin was thick but You breathed down all my walls

Love like the fire steals the cold

The ice wore thin as Your light tore through my door

You have my heart

As for “Even When It Hurts (Praise Song)”, I predict the honesty of the raw lyrics will distract some listeners from hearing the true meaning:

Even when the fight seems lost I’ll praise You

Even when it hurts like hell I’ll praise You

Even when it makes no sense to sing

Louder then I’ll sing Your praise

Here in America, we think nothing of the word “bloody” as an adjective, as we reference what we think as a thoughtless British adjective. However, I hear it serves as profanity in England.

I think it’s a similar case with the American use of “hell.” Unless someone is literally referring to hell in a Biblical manner, many Americans deem it as profanity; though that doesn’t quite seem the case overseas.

Either way, it’s safe to say that  “hurts like hell” isn’t something I’d let my 4 and a half year-old go around saying. After all, with this being Family Friendly Daddy Blog, part of what I do is screen for potential offensive content.

However, the Bible itself isn’t rated G or even PG; and neither is real life. And this album isn’t targeted for children. It’s for people who are seeking God, from a place of humility, desperation, and honesty.

Despite it being a “worship album,” it’s not “churchy”. It’s real.

So if you’re able to get past the culture shock of that phrase and try to understand the possible place in life that the songwriter Joel Houston was referring to, it can be a deep and meaningful way to illustrate from what depths of despair (hell) we can “choose joy” by deciding to praise God in the most unthinkable times.

I think that “Even When It Hurts (Praise Song)” may even contain the ability to unintentionally expose how easy it is to praise God in a church setting but not when you or someone who know is actually going through “hell on Earth”.

From divorce, to loss of a steady job, to experiencing a miscarriage, these are times when it’s not so practical to want to praise God.

As the song says, “when it hurts like hell… when it makes no sense, I’ll praise You.”

And that goes back to the track before it, “When I Lost My Heart to You (Hallelujah)”: “You have my heart.”

If Christ truly has our hearts, we will grasp on to straws to keep our faith in Him, if that’s what it takes; not just in the midst of a worship service at church… but when life is too real, when it seems the furthest from Heaven… “when it hurts like hell.”

That’s why this album is personally challenging for me. Beyond its well-produced, well-polished “spa rock” sound, it’s definitely the most brutally honest worship album I’ve ever been exposed to.

Thanks for reading my review today. I hope you found it helpful.

#EMPIRES  #FLYBY

Twitter: @HillsongUnited
 
Instagram: @HillsongUnited
 
 
Check them out on tour this summer: http://outcrytour.com/
 
Official website: http://smarturl.it/Empires
Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”
 

Dear Jack: Webisode 2 of Jack-Man- “Shaving Bath-Man”

4 years, 6 months.

Jack-Man Webisode 2

Dear Jack,

Word is getting out about our new web series, Jack-Man. So we filmed the 2nd episode, “Shaving Bath-Man.” I released it on YouTube yesterday morning. Here it is:

In this webisode, a new villain is introduced: Bath-Man. He shows up to revenge the humiliation of Green Meanie, who Jack-Man defeated in Webisode 1.

Bath-Man is a very strong man, but has an unfortunate weakness. It just so happens that Jack-Man’s new weapon, the Philips Norelco Shaver 9700, is the perfect counter to Bath-Man’s strength.

“Shaving Bath-Man” also introduces a new jingle I wrote specifically for the Philips Norelco Shaver 9700, which is featured throughout the shaving scenes.

Unlike the 1st webisode which is mostly scripted, this new 2nd webisode was completely thrown together. You asked me last Sunday if we could do another Jack-Man video, so we did; pretty much right then.

I didn’t want to feature Green Meanie again in the following episode; in an effort to keep the story fresh. However, I didn’t have a good costume idea ready for a different villain.

So I thought, “What do I have in my closest that is the slightest bit unusual?” I remembered my gray bath robe.

From there, Bath-Man was created and I quickly whipped up a plot line, accordingly.

The overall storyline of Jack-Man will involve Green Meanie attempting to quench Jack-Man’s strength with sugary drinks and snacks, since Jack-Man serves as a threat to Green Meanie being as profitable if everyone knew how unhealthy sugary (and diet drinks) really are.

That of course leads to Green Meanie sending his henchmen to help defeat Jack-Man, as we see with Bath-Man, who is not necessarily emotionally involved with Green Meanie’s personal agenda of profitable off of people buying his drinks.

We make Jack-Man videos because you love doing them. You continualy ask me when we can do our next one.

Well, if all goes as planned, we will film Webisode 3 this weekend. You have made a special request to “do one where we just fight a lot.”

I can make that wish come true…

JM2a

Also, your teacher sent me some pictures of you from school this week:

Hi Nick!

Jack was very busy in our writing center last week!

He’s been very aware of letter sounds and sounding out words!

He’s spelled everything from; cat, dog, mark, and more.

The one that made me laugh the hardest, was this funny conversation we had.

“Ms. Aimee, how do you spell booze?”

“…….bruise?”

“No, booze!”

“…….what’s booze?”
“I just want to spell it.”

“Ok, well, let’s sound it out….”

“B?”

“Yep.”

“Ok thanks, two o’s make the oo sound right?”

“that’s right”

“Z?”

“Yep….”

“B…. oo….z…. ok thanks!”

Oh I about died laughing.

He is also fascinated with the light bright! It’s such a fun way to increase fine motor skills. He kept making the cutest crabs.

Aimee Cornelius

Lead Rockstar Preschool Teacher

Rainbow Child Care Center

Spring Hill, Tennessee

www.rainbowchildccc.com

Oh, this just in… looks like we might be filming a new Jack-Man episode sooner than we thought. Our neighbors saw our first 2 Jack-Man episodes and want to join in on the fun!

Love,

Daddy

JM2b

#FaTHURSday

Dear Jack: Webisode 1 of Jack-Man- “Here, Kitty Kitty”

4 years, 6 months. 

EP1 Title Card

Dear Jack,

This past weekend, you and I shot our very 1st official episode of our new web series, Jack-Man. You were great! Here it is:

As the writer/producer/director/video editor/theme writer & performer, I can confirm that you (as the main lead) did very well following my instructions, scene to scene. I am very pleased with how “Here, Kitty Kitty” turned out.

I re-recorded the Jack-Man theme song, changing some of the lyrics, from the Toyota Sienna version I did for our homemade commercial.

Here are the new, official lyrics:

“Jack-Man, who will fight for justice?

Jack can, he really likes bananas

That man gets his superpowers from them

Jack-Man, knows just where to hit ‘em

When it comes to creepy villains

He packs a punch and eats a healthy lunch

Jack-Man!”

This is the 1st of many, many webisodes I hope to record with you. I plan to create a large collection of “creepy villains” (mainly played by me) for you to encounter.

In this 1st episode, the main underlying plotline of the show is revealed: Green Meanie attempts to get children hooked on soda, which in the words of Green Meanie, “is filled with sugar, caffeine, and weird chemicals.”

Soda is Jack-Man’s kryptonite, where has bananas and water are what gives him his super powers; those of which will slowly be unveiled as future episodes are released.

I’m not exactly sure who the demographic of the show is going to be. My assumption is that Jack-Man is designed for young children. Hopefully kids will like it; and hopefully, parents will deem it safe enough for their children to watch.

Obviously, being part of the super hero genre, there will be swashbuckling action… but if I do it right, our show should still be age appropriate for kids who would want to watch it.

We’ve already filmed the 2nd episode as well, which I plan to release in the next few days.

This is fun!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: I Could and Would Die for You

4 years, 5 months.

Dear Jack: I Could and Would Give My Life for You

Dear Jack,

Without any hesitation, I could and would give my life for you.

However, I believe there is nothing heroic or surprising about that statement whatsoever.

Instead, it’s simply common knowledge, I would assume; that a father would simply in a moment either risk his life or give his life if he saw his child in serious danger. Cue a relevant song:

The reason I recently gave this thought is because recently when we took our mini vacation to Pensacola, we walked out to the end of the long fishing pier at Casino Beach. Mommy and I took turns holding you up to the guard rail to let you see over into the water.

(We were all surprised to the see the man next to us catch a small shark; which he ultimately was required to throw back into the ocean.)

As we left the pier and walked back to the beach, you asked me this:

“Daddy, what would happen if another child’s daddy or mommy was holding them and they pretended like they were going to throw their child into the water, but then they really did, but they didn’t mean to?”

I was amazed at such a deep, hypothetical question from a 4 and a half year-old little boy.

My answer was this:

“They would do whatever it takes to get their child back. If it were you that fell in, I would immediately jump in after you.”

Granted, I’m not sure I would survive the hit of impact of the water (that pier is pretty high off of the water), or that the water would absolutely be deep enough to save my fall.

Either way, I would follow you, even to death. Cue another relevant song:

This reminds me of a scene on one of my favorite shows, Lost; during the final season one of the main characters gets trapped in a submarine, after a bomb explodes, causing water to rush in.

Spoiler alert! Even though Lost ended almost exactly 5 years ago:

Her legs are pinned down from the explosion, leaving her upper half out of the water, as her husband desperately tried to bend the steel bars in order to free her.

After several attempts, he realizes it’s impossible. Though he himself was free and could escape instead of drowning, he chooses to stay with his wife; dying with her in the flood.

It was one of the most touching moment in Lost for me.

But ultimately, it wasn’t heroic. You undoubtedly would die for the people you love the most; without hesitation.

So yes, it’s a dark thought to think about you falling in the water or that we would not spend many more decades together here on Earth.

I just want you to know- I can’t imagine living the rest of my life with you or Mommy. If I felt I was about to lose either of you, I would instantly throw my life in front whatever it was to try to prevent anything bad from happening to you two.

Not because I’m some great guy, but simply because you and Mommy are my life. What would life be without you?

Love,

Daddy

Pensacola Road Tripping In A 2015 Toyota Sienna

Pensacola Road Tripping In A 2015 Toyota Sienna

If you’re a regular reader of Family Friendly Daddy Blog, you’ve probably noticed in the past several posts there has been a presence of a 2015 Toyota Sienna.

Pensacola Road Tripping In A 2015 Toyota Sienna

That’s because for my family’s recent mini road trip from Spring Hill, TN (the Nashville area) to Pensacola, FL we had the privilege of being able to test drive it. In essence, we modeled it; showing what it would look like for a family of 3 to take a 7 hour road trip (one way) in the Sienna. (We were in the vehicle for nearly 20 hours total, including the trip back, and driving once we got there.)

Pensacola Road Tripping In A 2015 Toyota Sienna

Here’s my newest video I made for the occasion, equipped with our own theme song I wrote and performed:

So today, I want to share my thoughts on taking a road trip in a 2015 Toyota Sienna.

Pensacola Road Tripping In A 2015 Toyota Sienna

My wife and I both agreed that the thing we appreciated most about the vehicle is how “road trip friendly” it is. For example, the 2 captain’s chairs directly behind the driver and front passenger’s seat are literally recliners.

Pensacola Road Tripping In A 2015 Toyota Sienna

esame Street: Elmo The Musical Vol. 2 Learn and Imagine- Family Friendly Review

That makes watching the large DVD/Blu-ray screen (equipped with headphones) that much more enjoyable for the passengers. It creates such a comfortable and entertaining environment for everyone; including the driver, who can keep the sound to the movie in the back of the vehicle.

Pensacola Road Tripping In A 2015 Toyota Sienna

Pensacola Road Tripping In A 2015 Toyota Sienna

In addition to the Sienna having a great capacity to be both comfortable and entertaining, we also noticed how spacious it is.

Pensacola Road Tripping In A 2015 Toyota Sienna

The paradox is that while it truly seems to be a large vehicle, it doesn’t drive that way. I had zero issues with visibility. The turning radius on the Sienna alone was amazing! I ended up having to do my share of U-turns while driving in an unfamiliar city, so I would know…

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Sienna Walk-Around

Pensacola Road Tripping In A 2015 Toyota Sienna

We also definitely appreciated the power sliding doors and back door. I was able to open them remotely for my wife and son before we even got the vehicle.

Pensacola Road Tripping In A 2015 Toyota Sienna

Pensacola Road Tripping In A 2015 Toyota Sienna

I will close by giving you another opportunity to check out my other blog posts involving the 2015 Toyota Sienna. It would be an understatement that we had a great family road trip, as you will read about when you click these links above each picture- and please don’t forget you can also watch the original video I made for these underneath each link:

Dear Jack: Our Homemade Jack-Man Commercial For The Toyota Sienna

Dear Jack: The Treasure Chest You Found Buried in Pensacola

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Sienna Walk-Around/Silly String Fight

Dear Jack: The RV That Exploded In Casino Beach Parking Lot/Highway 98 Bay Bridge Crash

Vegan Friendly Review of Pensacola, FL

Sesame Street: Elmo The Musical Vol. 2 Learn and Imagine- Family Friendly Review

esame Street: Elmo The Musical Vol. 2 Learn and Imagine- Family Friendly Review

Dear Jack: The Treasure Chest You Found Buried in Pensacola

4 years, 5 months.

Dear Jack: The Treasure Chest You Found Buried in Pensacola

Dear Jack,

Leading up to our recent mini road trip to Pensacola, you announced to me, “Daddy, when we go to the beach, we need to dig in the sand because maybe there is a buried treasure chest… and dinosaur bones too!”

So thanks to a quick trip to Dollar Tree and Party Central, I was able to obtain the treasure chest (a lunch box), plastic coins and jewelry, and some dinosaur bone puzzles; all for less than 10 bucks.

Mommy packed them up in our beach bag, and from there I loaded them up on the back of the 2015 Toyota Sienna we drove for the trip.

http://familyfriendlydaddyblog.com/2015/05/07/dear-jack-our-homemade-jack-man-commercial-for-the-toyota-sienna/

When we arrived at Casino Beach during one of our trips there, you and Mommy immediately began playing in the sand. I snuck over, just about 50 feet away from you, and dug 2 holes: one for the treasure chest and one for the dinosaur bones.

Right as I finished, you ran over to me in excitement. I explained to you that I thought I had just found a good place where someone might have buried some treasure.

Of course, from there, the magic began…

Here’s my video I made, capturing the whole event:

You were mesmerized by your finding for the rest of the weekend; proudly wearing your jewelry in the van and during lunch at the restaurant.

I could actually see this becoming a new tradition for us each time we go to the beach. I’m even imagining you getting old enough to figure out that it’s really just me hiding the treasures but where I would simply hide gifts that you want anyway.

http://familyfriendlydaddyblog.com/2015/05/07/dear-jack-our-homemade-jack-man-commercial-for-the-toyota-sienna/

And it’s all because in your own 4 and a half year-old creativity, your faith led you to believe that there truly would be hidden treasure there at the beach with Mommy and me.

Yes, the hidden treasure is definitely there if you’re looking for it.

Love,

Daddy

http://familyfriendlydaddyblog.com/2015/05/07/dear-jack-our-homemade-jack-man-commercial-for-the-toyota-sienna/

Dear Jack: The RV That Exploded In Casino Beach Parking Lot/Highway 98 Bay Bridge Crash

4 years, 5 months.

Dear Jack: The RV That Exploded In The Pensacola Parking Lot

Dear Jack,

We definitely had a lot of fun during our Pensacola trip, but there was also a string of weird, potentially dangerous events in our near proximity.

Here’s my video I made for this story today:

For example, when we first arrived at in Pensacola, at Casino Beach, after our 7 hour road trip, you and Mommy ran for the water. As I was several steps behind as I was carrying our belongings, I heard an explosion behind me; from beyond where we had parked the Sienna.

I turned around to see a black pillar of smoke rising in the distance behind me; but not the far distance.

My initial concern was to make sure it wasn’t some kind of terrorist attack. So I did what any dad would do: I begin running as fast as I could towards the smoke.

If I needed to help us escape from the chaos in the Sienna as our getaway vehicle, I needed to be able to do so as soon as possible.

As I ran closer, I began hearing from other people who were running alongside me that an RV had exploded.

Dear Jack: The RV That Exploded In The Pensacola Parking Lot

Another explosion occurred, inviting more sirens and smoke.

I decided from there that there was no need to evacuate the beach, as I began to be able to see the flaming RV.

After an hour or so of hanging out at the beach back with you and Mommy, we decided to drive by the scene on our way back to the hotel.

The firemen were packing up and the policeman continued to keep a presence as curious onlookers like us visited the aftermath.

As you can see from my pictures, there were only charred remains of the RV. Even the car parked next to it took a major hit.

And that wasn’t our only brush with danger during the trip…

Dear Jack: The RV That Exploded In The Pensacola Parking Lot

Later the next day as we were in the middle of the Highway 98 Bay Bridge in Pensacola, over the water, a 3 car pile-up occurred just a quarter of a mile ahead of us. We were stuck there in the middle of the bridge for an hour before the crashed cars were towed and we were able to move.

And on our final day, we had arrived back at our hotel to see dozens of people standing outside in the parking lot; along with a fire truck and policemen.

Dear Jack: The RV That Exploded In The Pensacola Parking Lot

There was apparently some sort of gas leak scare that had occurred in the kitchen. The hotel had to evacuate everyone.

We had arrived about 45 minutes after the evacuation. We watched and waited from the Sienna. About 20 minutes later, they allowed us back in.

I can’t help but point out that we made sure to continually pray for God to keep us safe in our travels; from the moment we left our driveway.

And I believe our prayers were answered. Not to mention, to my knowledge, no people were seriously hurt during any of these events. So God wasn’t just answering our prayers, but others’ too.

Love,

Daddy