Mumford and God

I said yesterday – and have said on many occasions – that eternity is set within our chests. It’s Scriptural, I can’t remember if I’ve said that before, but it is. It’s in Ecclesiastes – a book in which Solomon, the author, looks through the wise, discerning lens God has given him and makes observations about life “under the sun” – that is, life here, on this finite earth, where it is broken.

It is in this book, speaking all about the finite and the truth of what goes on in the earth – be it right and good, or not – that Solomon says,

“he has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he puts eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work of God from beginning to end… and whatever God does it shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, or taken from it.” (3:11 & 14)

In taking note of life here, Solomon cannot ignore that we are hungry for things that are not here – the mystery we cannot have, because it doesn’t fit in finite, because it is that good. And it’s good that it’s a mystery, and it’s good that we cannot have it yet, and it’s good – though it aches at times, it’s good.

I expounded on that terrible, beautiful ache already – no need to do so again.
What I’m seeing plainly today – as the sky shifts uncomfortably and the wind comes through my window with such gentle strength that I know it’s God’s caress and as Mumford and Sons’ new album plays for the fifth time today as a soundtrack to it all – is that eternity is set in not only my heart. “He put eternity in their hearts” and it cannot be undone -ever.

I do not know what the members of Mumford and Sons believe – what truth they hold fast to, what they chase to satisfy (for we all hold truth, we all chase something – the difference is whether or not it truly quenches.) I do know that I cannot stop listening to their words and melody.

I know that I could give you the lyrics to every song of theirs I’ve listened to over and over again and you would see the intimate, hard, and glorious conversations between two lovers – God and his children Marcus Mumford and Ben Lovett and Winston Marshall and Ted Dwane.

And I know that it resonates.

Because the same eternity that is in me is in them – and we share the same longing for home. And we know, because of the eternity in us that can never be changed, that home is coming.

“Hold me fast, hold me fast,
’cause I’m a hopeless wanderer,
But I will learn to love the skies I’m under.”

The skies I’m under.

Simon and Garfunkel

Music sometimes makes me feel lost. It most times makes me feel found, but there are times where it comes into me and makes me feel like I never actually knew where I was and makes everything around me feel foreign. It is then that I feel small and incapable and want found music again.

Simon and Garfunkel is my current found music – it rescued me. It rescued me with its fluency and its perfect encapsulation of the weather. That was the problem – the reason music made me feel lost, instead of the usual deeply found and understood it brings – I was trying to make a playlist of songs that were perfect for today – a nearly snowy day – and it was fun and easy for the first three songs, then I got so caught up in the idea I had in my head about how it was supposed to look that it became dreadful. I could hear the airy and warm notes and combinations of instruments and voices that I knew should be on the playlist, I could hear the words about birds and cold air and fire places and wool sweaters and the good longing for sunshine and millions of other things, and I was raking my brain, flipping fervently through every song I knew and thinking surely I was forgetting millions that would be perfect and wondering why my song catalogue was as short as it was and I lost my bearings and slid to the imaginary floor of the imaginary room I’d been ravaging through, my hair wild, my face flushed, papers carpeting the floor and falling from the ceiling onto my distraught head. “Who am I?” I wondered aimlessly – as if the filing room for all music being in such utter disarray had made me forget.

I Googled ‘winter songs’ and browsed through the playlists provided, finding most of them to be entirely the opposite of what I was looking for, it was here, however, that I was brought to Simon and Garfunkel and their travelling, jovial, whimsical music filled me up and found me. It brought warm memories of elementary school and my third and fourth grade teacher who would play their music to us, her students, as we did social studies projects or journaled for the week. She is possibly my favorite teacher ever because she knew that young minds needed to be forced to journal and to be exposed to things as wonderful and pondering as Simon and Garfunkel.

I felt as I let the familiar notes wash over and through me and bring me back to found, that somehow Miss C. must’ve known that Simon and Garfunkel was found music – music that would seep into our wondering, wandering minds and stick somewhere and in the future in some lost kind of day, resurface at their call and speak of home.

It sounds ridiculous, I know, to put such high regards on Simon and Garfunkel, but it’s true. It’s true of lots of “ridiculous” things, but today was Mrs. Robinson and the wondering at what exactly “coo coo ca choo” means, and I am a Rock, which now, and forever will, bring on thoughts of Winnie Cooper because its first 26 notes are her theme on The Wonder Years, and The Dangling Conversation, which makes me smile because it’s so entirely me. It was as if each song, well-known or not, brought back the peace that was so flippantly lost and reminded me that “who I am” is not defined by music – though that may be part of it – who I am is not unraveled because I can’t find the songs I know exist that perfectly capture winter in their few minutes. Who I am is Maggie, daughter of the Father, who I am is the very desire of God’s heart, who I am is Beloved. In light of that, my identity crisis over the music looks more than stupid – it wasn’t though. It was me being so very consumed with Spotify and the fact that everyone can now see what I listen to 24/7 and worrying about what everyone’s opinion of everything that I lost the point of everything. It was me being unable to fill a mold I had created for myself – one that I wasn’t really meant to fill. It was me putting far too much thought and effort and worth into something that was supposed to be enjoyable – because somehow if I couldn’t complete the task exactly as I had planned to, I was a loser. It was me allowing the very powerful, deep-speaking thing that is music to wash over me in confusion and inadequacy. It was me forgetting. It was me forgetting what defines me. It was me forgetting what really fills me. It amazes me, really, how far my mind can stray. It leaves me awestruck, however, the ways in which I am called home – called to found. It leaves me dumbfounded how deeply music speaks – how the thing that had wrecked me, reminded me that I hadn’t strayed that far and there wasn’t really anything wrong and I just had to turn around and walk back to the house with the lighted windows waiting for me in the midst of the snow and the dark and open the door and be home.

It is stupefying to me that I am thanking God for Simon and Garfunkel, but I am, honestly and deeply, because he used their notes, their words, their rhythm to rectify my silly, wandering mind, and he smiled as he did so. Thank you God for Simon and Garfunkel – and for smiling as you did so.

Pushing Back the Darkness

Andrew Peterson – musician, author, artist, and general extraordinaire – has this Christmas concert. It’s a culmination of a great many things of wonderment and beauty and it comes annually to a mediumish church in Milford, Ohio (amongst many other places.) The Christmas season officially begins when, and only when, we have attended said concert in Milford, Ohio and taken part in the wonderment and beauty. I hold Andrew Peterson in a slightly exalted place where he resides with a soft halo around his head, music ever playing around him and pen ever moving gracefully across the Moleskin I personally and hypothetically placed in his hands. And yes, I realize that’s slightly unhealthy – he’s simply the kind of person you really just want to be. So, when, two years ago my family and I loitered in the building until he came out from “backstage” (which, being in a church, was probably just some small room behind the “stage” – an elevated area with mics and a piano) to talk with us, his emphatic, ever-so-slightly-worshipping fans, I had a small conniption fit of glee and jumped on the chance to speak with him, half-dragging my family along behind me. We had a lovely conversation, he and my family and I , about writing – because that’s something, much to my pleasure, we all have in common. I informed him that’s had written him a letter, which he said he remembered reading and would respond to as soon as he found time, this brought on a slightly more contained conniption fit of glee. He also suggested two books for our benefit and pleasure, etc.

The War of Art – Steven Pressfield
Bird by Bird – Anne Lammot

My mom, being the wonderful woman she is, bought the books for my dad for Christmas, breaking “don’t buy the spouse anything” rule that is in place for no apparent reason other than to be broken. She justified this rule breaking by signing the tag “Andrew Peterson,” claiming that the gift was essentially from him. We relished those books – still relish those books. They were like some strange connection to the story-telling, music-making man – he had read those words, been impacted by them, and they were in my house. They are brilliance.

Admittedly, I’ve never read either of the books. My mom and dad have both read The War of Art and at least half of Bird by Bird and I have done no more than peer lovingly at the covers of either of them. My mom has, however, passed on to me two invaluable concepts from these two books. One is a charming anecdote about Anne Lammot’s three year old and some toy keys and some choice words. I will leave you to ponder at that or read the book for yourself (or buy the book and let it sit in your house and hope that it will seep into your brain while you sleep like I so often do – that’s why there is a constant stack of books beside my bed – it has yet to prove itself as an actual method of learning things.) The second is from The War of Art and it finds its way into most of what I do most of the time. It is more a concept than a said quote or story – it may sound familiar due to the fact that I reference it from time to time on here, or it may sound familiar due to the fact that it’s a desire and a truth placed deep down inside all of us.
Pushing back the darkness.

It even sounds hopeful and brave and inviting. The idea is this: Steven Pressfield has identified this “force” in the universe. He refers to it throughout his book (of which I have now read a few pages in order to find the quote I’m looking for and be sure that I actually know what I’m talking about before I proclaim it to you, my rather smallish blogging audience who deserves the truth in spite of your unimpressive size) as The Resistance. He says this about it

Resistance is the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease… To yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and we’re born to be. If you believe in God (and I do) you must declares Resistance evil, for it prevents us from achieving the life God intended when He endowed us with our own unique genius.

I really would like to insert the entirety of the book above because after reading several pages past what I actually needed, I came to the realization that I should’ve read this book long ago. Though, please know before you buy it and gather up all of your children or friends or family around your feet and read to them “this fantastic book this random, rather goodish blogger suggested,” that it is not exactly G, or even really PG rated as to language and such… It may actually be close to R – but it’s a great book nonetheless. That aside. The point is that we are created to fight against this Resistance. We are created to be brilliant and glorious and to, by our words and our actions and our dancing and singing and music writing and instrument playing and whatever else, “push back the darkness” – fight against the Resistance by being what we are. It creates this beautiful image of warfare with what we love, with finding and creating beauty in the everyday places, with realizing we hold powerful, powerful weapons in our hands and realizing that God is bigger and deeper than only revivals and church meetings and giving statements and mission trips and youth groups. He is in paintings and poems and movies and songs and books, even books with questionable wording – he is not to be boxed in and he is calling us to let him infiltrate all of ourselves, and through that to join him in the war against The Resistance – that thing that keeps us from being who we are. It’s beautiful. Truly beautiful.

Yes, this is a reoccurring theme. It’s kind of my passion – get over it. Redundancy is not at all bad.

An Amos Lee Kind of Day

Does anyone else do this? Does anyone else categorize and define their days according to music? Allow me to elaborate. Amos Lee days are not simply days during which I listen to Amos Lee. No, I’ve had Amos Lee days during which I didn’t listen to him at all. It’s not really Amos himself that defines the day – it’s his sound, the feeling that comes when his songs drift through the room; that waking, sentimental, eerie, warm, thoughtful air that comes with his music. Amos Lee days come mostly in the winter I find (of course this could be due to the fact that he was introduced to me as summer ended – and so autumn and winter are the only seasons he’s had for the claiming) something about his music plays off the cold air and grey skies in a way that adds to it and yet contrasts it in beautiful, intriguing fashion. There are other kinds of days – though, I find that most of them are hard to put into words unless you are in the midst of them. It’s just the kind of thing that you know is there – the kind of thing where you wake up, and are walking around whatever house you find yourself in, and it hits you suddenly and gently that today is whatever kind of day it is. It’s not really something I can explain, as is so plainly seen by the poor attempt above. You’ll see though, you’ll wake up one day and find yourself in smack dab in the middle of a Paul Simon, or Carly Simon, or Andrew Peterson, or Peter Gabriel, or Ray Lamontagne, or Ray Charles, or Nickel Creek, or Beatles, or Coldplay, or Glenn Miller, or Montgomery Gentry, or James Taylor, or Rich Mullins, or Bach, or John Williams, or even, dare I say it, Justin Beiber, kind of day and you’ll just know and you won’t have any words to describe it other than just that – it’s an Amos Lee day, a Sara Groves day, a Chubby Checkers day.

All of this to say that this is today, Amos Lee – thoughtful, eerie, warm, sentimental, waking. That’s the second day of the year – thoughtful, eerie, warm, sentimental, waking. It’s an appropriate kind of day, I think. Something about the fact that today is a day early in a new year makes this day full. It’s a day brimming with newness and possibility – a blank page. Not a cliche blank page. It’s more like a friend of mine once said that a journal is “an unwritten book” – today is an unwritten story, a page free of any scarring, marring lines, gashes, or scratches. Amos Lee the soundtrack, every step, every breath, every word, every thought, the moving pen “and nothing is more powerful than beauty in a wicked world.”