CBN.comFor the last six years, Jars of Clay has moved in a pop music direction, according to lead singer Dan Haseltine. Their musical outlook recently veered as the veteran bandmates started exploring the concept of community. The result is their latest record, The Shelter. Featuring 15 artists including Amy Grant, tobyMac, Mac Powell, Leigh Nash, Sara Groves, and Brandon Heath, The Shelter truly is a community project.
The Shelter has garnered the attention of the industry with two Dove Award nominations this year for Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year and Praise & Worship Album of the Year. Watch gmc on Easter Sunday (April 24) at 7 p.m. ET to see if Jars of Clay won.
CBN.com spoke with frontman Dan Haseltine about some of the songs on the new Jars of Clay album and how the band sees the Church and the world doing "community" better.
“Ar scath a cheile a mhaireas na daoine.”
CBN: The Shelter is built on the old Irish proverb: "It is in the shelter of each other that the people live." Why?
Haseltine: One of the things we were doing before we found that verse was talking about doing a second Redemption Songs project. We were going to find a lot of old hymns and redo them like we had done them on that first Redemption Songs record. So we were already thinking about doing a project that would be specific for the Church.
Then we found that proverb, and it really spoke to us. It was very human. When you think about our worship, in my own experience, I sing a lot of these songs, I go sit in my seat, and I'm usually looking at a screen or a group of people singing and leading. I sing these songs out into the air, but I don't really connect them back to the human experience. When I'm singing about the attributes of God and about grace, and mercy, and healing, and love, and care, I don't usually attribute that to the person who is sitting next to me. But, if we actually believe that God is working through His people, then we are the means by which all of those things happen. It brought all of those conceptual ideas about God, all of those big vague words, and lofty words, and language that we use, and we’ve brought it back to the human experience.
CBN: The title track encourages listeners to be a shelter to others. What is the Church doing right with regards to being a community?
Haseltine: My experience is that, in my own church, it's become more vulnerable. We've been willing to share the harder, deeper, darker parts of our story with each other. We're learning how to be better stewards of ... when we make bad choices, the potholes in our path of our story, the things that we tend to want to hide, that we don't want to really want to deal with or reconcile with.
What it is really doing is it’s causing us to love each other more because we're actually finding that our stories are not that different, ultimately, that we all have these places where we've been broken and where we have made choices out of that. But we have forgotten what the Gospel says about us, and, therefore, we have done things or needed things that we have thought we needed, but actually don't. Therefore, when a person knows your story, they can then speak into it.
It tends to bring us back in from being isolated. It tends to help push us away from addictions. What I see is that the Church is the main place where this is really happening and then it is moving outward. That’s really encouraging.
CBN.com: The chorus on "Small Rebellions" is striking, specifically the line, “brutal acts of kindness”. What’s the soul of this song?
Haseltine: It is a traumatic or a shocking way to describe really just anything that brings a person closer to another person. I was around a lot of the youth group culture when I was a kid. I remember the mantra was, "Go against the flow. Be different." That was a misuse of that idea that God has set us apart; that we are in the world, but not of it. But what it did to the kids, the way that a lot of kids translated it, it just made kids somewhat antisocial. It made kids weird. Also, there was this agenda that now Christian kids, they were there, listening to their friends so that they could get a foothold in so that they could evangelize, and so that they could bring them to Christianity. It just made kids seem disingenuine. It was love with this massive agenda attached to it, so it made kids different and weird. It wasn't something that made them countercultural really.
When I look at culture today, I look at it and I think, "All of these things like technology and entertainment, and everything seem to be on this course to isolate us. They are trying to make us more individual. They're using a lot of the language of connectedness and networking, but it's still isolating us." For me, anything that a true movement, a true Christian Gospel-centered move that is countercultural is something that brings a person closer to another person. That's what that is, these acts of kindness.
Simply doing something that shows that you care for somebody else is a brutal blow; and it’s a truly countercultural experience. We may think that they're somewhat insignificant, but they're really not. Every time that we attempt to love somebody well without agenda is a massive, massive, courageous act. That's what really the song is about, saying, "What if we all were in this place where what we sought to be was people that were trying to connect people together, truly face to face, arm in arm? What would life be like if we we’re doing that?” The brutal acts of kindness are those kinds of things. It's a very dramatic way of just saying, "the courageous act of trying to love somebody well."
CBN.com: The first radio single off The Shelter is "Out of My Hands." What's the song saying?
Haseltine: The song is about just the way that we try to control our lives, and our own story, and usually how much of a burden that ends up becoming in our failures. The song is from the perspective of a person that’s saying, "You know what? This isn't my own story to live. I certainly get to make choices, but here is what is true is that the burden that I should have to carry is much lighter than the one that I am putting on myself."
CBN.com: "Flood" is the band’s most recognizable song, especially in the mainstream market. Is there a "Flood" on this album?
Haseltine: I wouldn't necessarily say that there is. It’s an interesting question, because most of the time I don't think we intentionally tried to write songs that are specific to a Christian or a non-Christian crowd. What I mean when I say that [The Shelter] was specific to the Church is that a lot of these songs were designed to be sung in a congregational setting. They're meant to be sung communally, and that's a bit different. Maybe you find them on an Arcade Fire record. There's nothing like getting a bunch of people yelling these words that started this revolutionary kind of experience. We haven’t on this album really focused so much on pop music.... We used a little bit loftier language on this record because we figured it would be in a church setting most often.
The closest thing to a song that could be used beyond the church market might be the song "Eyes Wide Open". Although it’s geared towards the Church, hopefully the themes are universal, because hopefully God's truth is everywhere, not just in the walls of the church. But that one specifically just talks about the ways we yell at each other in our position of moral behaviors or any of the hot button issues that we have with things like abortion or homosexuality. We don't really spend a lot of time listening, even now in our governmental system and the ways that we yell at each other. It's a very violent, very disrespectful kind of process.
We try to spend most of our time being defensive to control our position there and keep our ground. What we need is to just be able to humble ourselves and listen to other people, and find that there are ways to love people, and simply understanding their position, and being able to find where God's story is in that side.
CBN.com: By design, The Shelter includes 15 artists from the Christian music industry. The popular '90s folk-ish band, Burlap to Cashmere, being one of them.
Haseltine: Yes. That was a treat. I've been a fan of those guys for years now. We've been friends for a long time, and so when we called them up and said, "Hey, would you be interested in being a part of this song?" , they were very much into it. That song ("Eyes Wide Open") actually is one of the ones that has such a strange combination of artists all together. It really embodies, again, that idea of community, with Mac Powell and Derek Webb, Jars, and Burlap to Cashmere all in the same song, all coming at their expression of Christianity and faith differently, but all being able to kind of sing the same song, it was exciting to us. We were really, really proud of that moment on the record.
CBN.com: With all of these artists on one album, your plan could have backfired.
Haseltine: Even as producers, we were very much aware that the potential was that we could create 11 "We Are the Worlds". It could get corny and not have good impact. We wanted to create a collective voice. What we’ve loved is that when you get all of those artists together singing on the chorus and doing harmonies together, that's where it all really kind of comes together for us.
Fairview Middle School
As students, we are constantly making decisions that shape the rest of our lives. Each choice we make can forever affect our future, our impact on society, and the way others perceive us. That’s why it is so important to develop our characters. Even a simple notion can spark a lifetime ideal – positive or negative. When we help out our communities, we are influencing ourselves in a positive way that often follows us throughout our adult lives. Each tiny thought, word, action, and habit, changes YOUR future.
This continuous sequence of events, this transformation of a single thought to one’s destiny, rests solely on you and your willpower. Middle-schoolers are at a pivotal point in their lives – and we can choose the actions that are going to shape our entire future! In my lifetime, I’ve tried to make decisions that will be constructive in the end. Our opportunities are growing, and helping others can only increase these opportunities. I’ve always felt that volunteering and community service are something that we, as citizens, are internally obligated to do. When we find a cause we care about, a cause we connect with, we are able to dedicate some time from our lives for this cause.
For me, this cause was homelessness. When I walk around this city, I see people trying to make it by on the street, with nothing but the clothes on their backs. For the past five years, I’ve dedicated my birthdays to volunteer work – a couple of friends and I hold a lemonade stand, where we raise funds for the shelter, and I accept only gifts of canned food for people who suffer from homelessness. It was a simple thought that has made a big difference in my life, and I hope, someone else’s life. This sympathy for people living in tough situations translated into a little fundraiser, which turned into a yearly tradition. Helping people this way has really inspired me: since, I have volunteered with the Homeless Shelter and other organizations, and I hope it has contributed to making me a more compassionate individual. A quick idea has easily morphed into a cherished ritual, and that alone should demonstrate the impact community service can have on your life.
Something as small as caring about something can change the outlook of your future. Whether you have a half-joking notion to become an actress, or a probing curiosity for science, or a love for animals: this seemingly small idea just might shape your fate. The ongoing transformation of words to actions, actions to habits, habits to character, and character to destiny, is always following us – it’s up to you to decide if you want to make a difference in this world.
“You must be the change you want to see in the world,” Gandhi once said. As a child you think that you could never make a difference in the world, but you can. It all starts with your thoughts. They soon become words, which becomes your actions, which become your habits, which become your character, which becomes your destiny.
Keep your thoughts on what really matters. Don’t clutter your brain with information that has no benefit to your community. If your thoughts are straight, then your words will be too. If you care about a goal it will be in your thoughts. Then, as the words start flowing out you will get closer to making that dream a reality. I sometimes think about how I can better myself and my community. After thinking about it enough I started to talk about it and before I knew it I was in the Hope Community kitchen cooking for the homeless. It’s always a good feeling to know that you can make an impact on someone’s life, but you have to think you can.
As you are acting out your thoughts and words you start to make it a habit to help. At first it may seem like going out of your way, but after a while it just becomes part of your daily life. Last summer I went on a mission trip to Haiti. There, I went to different orphanages and handed out shoes. It was a wonderful experience and you knew that you were making a difference when a child would smile at you. It really warmed my heart to know that I can help the less fortunate. You don’t have to go out of the country to make a difference, you can do activities like that in your home town. You would be surprised how a little goes a long way.
Habits are a major part of your character. If you have good, kind habits it will show in your character. While in the sixth grade I was given an opportunity to join my school’s Junior Beta Club. I joined because I thought it would be a great way to better myself. Since I joined, the club has done many things to help around town. Twice we’ve helped the Guardian Ad Litem by supplying them with Christmas gifts for their children. Even though I never got to meet the children, I knew that I did put a smile on their faces.
When I look back on all I have done in my thirteen years, I’m proud, and I know that I have a destiny to do much more in the future. I was able to take my thoughts and draw them out all the way so that they became my destiny. So even though I’m still young I know that I can make a difference wherever I go. Hopefully, Mahatma Gandhi would have been proud of me.
Fairview Middle School
I always monitor my thoughts, watching for what I think is good, and what isn’t. I do this now because once, a long time ago, so far I can barely remember, I didn’t. My thoughts were mean, targeting others. I didn’t believe that I would ever let them slip, but one day the words in my thoughts flew from my mouth. I gave no thought to the words either, until I started to act upon them. I acted as though I was better than the people closest to me. Soon, I couldn’t help it. The thoughts came in seconds, and a minute later they were flying from my mouth. A minute after that I was acting like someone completely different, someone I never wanted to be.
I never gave much thought to habits, because for me, they were just another part of my day, something unavoidable. Today I spend most of my time erasing those habits and making better ones. It’s hard because those habits I developed so long ago are a part of me. These things that built upon each other are still haunting me today. They threaten my future, torture my past, and are with me in every moment of each day. I never thought that the things I said would still be impacting me so far down the road.
Hurtful things I’ve said to people caused my to ignore them, or them to ignore me, and now, I miss them with all my heart. Those are people I won’t get to speak to again because I hurt them so badly that they do everything in their power to avoid me. They resent me now because I spoke thoughts that were based off of the way they acted, which were just a result of how they spoke, thought and grew up. Today, I see those people and all I see in their eyes is sadness, resentment, and almost hatred because of little words that started as little thoughts.
So today, I monitor every habit, action, word and thought, because they make up the person that I am; the person standing in front of you. In my life I try to think less of the worst things about others, and more about their better qualities. I try to think about the things that they do to make themselves better people. My habits went from horrible; no studying, no homework, screaming and the like; to wonderful. I now work in my community, get straight A’s, and help other people in the position I was in just a year ago.
So on that note, I warn you: “Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Choose your words, for they become actions. Understand your actions, for they become habits. Study your habits, for they will become your character. Develop your character, for it becomes your destiny.” And always, always, remember that there is time to change and people willing to help you, no matter what.