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some truth is just too big

Some things are so big, so expansive and so true they must be sung. Often the most appropriate container for the truest truths is a song. Melody is a hypodermic needle that can bypass the mind and inject eternity right into the bloodstream, causing still hearts to beat again.

Honestly, the majesty of Jesus, 100% man, 100% god, is just too grand for words alone. I could make a list of all the wonders of Jesus, but by the time I got to number 10, most people would be finished – for the very worst reason – boredom. That’s not a knock on Jesus, it simply reveals how we are wired – we “need” connection on multiple levels. We need intellectual, emotional, and physical contact.

“Truth” must touch the whole person – especially when engaging subjects like Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The deeper the truth, the larger the reality, the more we need experience. The beauty and horror of the cross, and the countless implications of a God who would literally take off glory and put on flesh and bone to enter into history and forever alter history, must be sung.

Melody makes abstract ideas and concepts meditative. When I can sing it, I will sing it – over and over. It’s in the “over and over” that subterranean deposits become available.

Music takes concrete, immovable ideas and makes them pliable again. Melody has a way of taking academic theories, which seem intimidating and lifeless to the average person, and make them vibrant and alive. Music is an experience, which is why singing the great truths of scripture is so important. The church suffers not for ideas and theologies about Jesus, but for experience. We all “know” that Jesus loves us, but few of us feel it. We all “know” that Jesus is beautiful, but few of us can honestly articulate it from a place of personal experience.

Songwriters – we’ve got to mine the depths of truth, and then, like the sparrows, sing it.

Peace!

Adam

midnight phone call

This week’s post comes from, special IW guest, Andy Squyres.

Last night I got a midnight phone call. I’ve had three others in my life. It’s never a good thing when a call comes in the middle of the night because what it means is that someone is dead.

Last night’s call wasn’t the worst I’ve been through. In fact not even close. This wasn’t my best friend or a family member. This was someone I had not seen since 2005. But the circumstances surrounding his life and death were tragic and subsequently heart-breaking. And though I was not extremely close with this person he was still my friend, and for some reason I was one of the first people to be contacted.

So I hung up the phone. After a few moments of consideration I fell back to sleep without difficulty. But in the morning I had two things in my head: my friend is dead, and, the words, ‘streams from the fountain’. I didn’t realize in that moment but Holy Spirit was talking to me.

I got ready for work and before running out the door I downloaded Kevin Prosch’s album ‘Palanquin’ to my phone. I was halfway to the office when his song ‘Streams from the fountain’ came on and out of nowhere a groan rose up from my belly, an ache of thanksgiving that would only come out in a howl. As I sat there in the passenger side with Amy driving and my children looking on in silent wonder, I mourned for my friend, crying those sweetest most sorrowful tears of heaven that are born in pure love that covers a multitude of sin. Though I could not see or feel anything the previous night, I was now able to experience the ecstasy of knowing how much God loved my departed friend.

As Kevin’s song flooded my mind I knew I was being given a gift. I was in sweet communion with God, as a child of God always is. But many times we don’t SEE this reality. And this is the beauty of a song that is written from a true heart unrestrained by religious rules; it helps us to see.

As songwriters, as artists, how we see and what we see determines the course of our craft. Your song, however deep or shallow will clearly communicate to the listener what you have seen and heard. If you are compelled by that strange force of grace to write for the church, you would serve it well to see something new, beautiful and good. Bland thoughts turn into bland songs. Muddy thoughts turn into muddy songs. Songs with no revelation reveal nothing.

Kevin’s song was so important for me in that moment because like many of his songs, it didn’t give a damn about any existing notions of what a worship song should or should not be. His willingness to unabashedly tell the story of his own journey into the scandalous Gospel of Grace revealed to me God’s true heart for my friend.

Because ultimately the song itself isn’t the point, it’s what the song lets you see. And then, and this is the kicker, I wasn’t just seeing God’s love, I was experiencing it.

Andy Squyres lives in the heart of the North Carolina Piedmont near Charlotte with Amy, his beautiful wife of 17 years. Together they are raising 6 happy kids with the help of their border collie Clarence. Andy has been pursuing the craft of songwriting passionately for almost 20 years. He serves as worship pastor at Riverlife Fellowship, a small vibrant church in Mooresville NC

the white, blank page

There are few things in the life of a songwriter as intimidating as the white, blank page. It mocks you without saying a word. It stands ten feet tall. It’s stare stricken’s even the hardiest and most accomplished of writers at times.

I’ve been known to sling a notebook across the room. I’ve been known to literally roll around on the floor of my office out of frustration.

Does all this sound childish?

The white, blank page has, at times, reduced me to the fetal position. Imagine this – a 33 year old, rapidly greying, father of three, pastor curled up beneath his desk. Yup, that’s me.

I’m sure I just lost 10 twitter followers.

But there is a cure.

Fill up the car with gas, and alongside a good friend, drive straight out of town. Set your hearts on pilgrimage. Head for the big city. Drive into the wilderness. Take lots of money, or perhaps give all you have away. Drink two Red Bull’s and put on some Motown. Pitch a tent and sit in absolute silence. Put on your best clothes and go to a great restaurant. Put on your cut-off shorts and feed the homeless.

No matter what, go see some great art.

No matter what, go dancing.

No matter what, go hear some live music, without allowing yourself to be critical.

No matter what, listen to another person’s story. Just listen.

The white, blank page is really just the physical counterpart to the white, blank heart – fatigued and empty. Sometimes we become so familiar with our surroundings that we are no longer able to adequately perceive of all the ways that God has woven his goodness into our lives. We become callus, like hands that have handled a shovel, hardened by the work, hardened by the process, hardened by the progress.

All our ideas are really just the slow and invisible distillations of other people’s ideas. Every idea, every ounce of input, over time will percolate through the many layers and chambers of the heart until one day they all emerge like children, unique, yet familiar.

As artists, we need contact with other art. We need contact with other people. We need to see and hear other people’s ideas, because every idea is an open door to another idea. Every melody the path to another melody. Every conversation a deeper glimpse into the wonder of life. Often times the only way to get “there” is to go through a “door” or down a “path” that someone else has crafted. There’s a kind of humility built into all great art. Sometimes we just need to go out and receive.

Peace!

Adam

i have a fountain

I am a pessimist. It’s taken me 33 years to admit that, but now I can, and hopefully, as the “recovery people” have promised, I can begin the process of renewal – after all, being able to admit that you have a problem is the first step, though looking at this rambling, fallen-down-shack-of-a- run-on sentence is making me doubt it.

There are those who are less willing to admit to being pessimistic. They refer to themselves as neither pessimists nor optimists, but realists, and always with an air of smugness. That’s because “realists” are just arrogant pessimists, the very worst kind. Even now I’m giving myself a pat on the back for not being one of those. By now you’ve probably realized that I’m a bit jaded, given to criticism, and generally speaking, snarky. Yup, guilty on all counts, but I can admit it so that means I’m getting better – right?

As a pessimism professional, here’s what I know: pessimism is just fear with a salt-and-pepper dash of bitterness – a toxic marinade that has soaked countless songwriters. We are afraid of writing something bad. We are afraid of being misunderstood. We are afraid of writing bad theology, as if the only ones qualified to write for the local church were college professors. We are afraid of being too artistic, and not quite congregational enough. And then, after we’ve battled the beast and written a song or two that really connects with the church, we become afraid that we’ll never be able to do it again – that our best days are behind us – that we’re not really writers – that we just got lucky once or twice. It’s all rather paralyzing. It’ll make you bitter. I’ll make you a pessimist. This kind of fear looks to dominate your confidence, until, you just stop trying.

Now here’s the gospel truth:

Psalm 87:7

“all my fountains are in you”

I can write today, tomorrow, and whenever else because I am not the source. I am merely the conduit. Songs flow when I am connected to the fountain – and this fountain is an eternal, limitless, infinite fountain – there is more than enough.

The image of fountain is one of abundance. What person was ever able to contain everything that flowed out of a fountain? If that were possible, we would certainly not be dealing with a fountain. I can drink a single glass in mere moments. In a couple days all of the Kool-Aid is gone from my house. But fountains are bigger than my thirsts, even a lifetime of thirsts. Fountains satisfy whole communities.

We can be confident that when we are connected to the source that there will be such an abundance that those around us will be well watered. Not only that, but we too can be refreshed in the process.

His abundance is larger than all our thirsts, and because of that I can pick up my guitar with confidence and expectation.

It’s hard to be a pessimist when you live near an oasis.

Peace!

Adam



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