Today pre-orders start for my new record, Lights of Distant Cities. Hard for me to believe the Oct 22nd release is just 3 weeks from today. It’s always so interesting to me to watch how the writing and recording process unfolds, how the songs end up finding a common thread between them that weaves some sort of theme. In ways, I think Lights of Distant Cities turned out to be an answer to my last record, Ocean. If Ocean was a record that sort of embodied an idea of longing for something, I think Lights of Distant Cities embodies the idea of finding it…or perhaps, rather, being found. One of my favorite things about the writing and recording process is that you just sort of put your head down and pour out until it’s done, and then sit back and try to reconcile what it all means…how it all represents and speaks to what life has been the past few years. The title itself is a nod to all that draws us forward in life, all that stirs our hearts and peaks our imaginations in a way that reminds us that there is still so much to be hopeful for, even in a dark and confusing world. I think maybe that’s the thing I keep coming back to in almost all of these songs…the goodness of God in the middle of everything, as the foundation for everything. I often find myself asking God why things are the way they are, why this world can seem so terrible some days and so beautiful on others; but there is a basic and simple truth that the German mystic Meister Eckhart wrote in the 1300s that I keep coming back to… “if the soul could have known God without the world, God would never have created the world.” Simple. Never more true. Like the mystery that lays out before us in lights of distant cities that we’ve dreamed of and never seen. It pulls us forward into that mystery and reminds us that there is indeed so much to hope for.
Archive for "god"
One of the things I am most thankful for in playing music for a living is that it was never my intention. I am an accidental musician, at best, who sort of stumbled uncomfortably onto this journey half-protesting and with great trepidation. Admittedly, much of my fear was based in the mystery of the unknown and the lack of control of things, much like any graduating college student heading out into the real world, but quite a bit more was based in the fact that I never quite felt “cut out” for this sort of work. I always felt like a bit of an imposter…like I would some day, inevitably, be “found out” and everyone would realize that all this time I was just pretending to be a songwriter, just posing as an artist. So many of my counterparts in music seem to live and die by the art they’re creating and, to be honest, I have many times envied the passion with which so many of these artists carry out their calling. They cling so desperately to the art and creation and delivery of music that I think it quite literally becomes their lifeblood. It’s as if the act of creating is as vital and involuntary as the act of breathing. As if without it they would cease to exist, and with it, they have something to really live for. Truthfully, though there have been times that I have tended in that direction, I fear that that sort of singular passion toward what we do, or even who we think we are, can pull us away from our one, truly singular identity in Christ…and Christ alone.
All I know for certain is that music was meant to be part of the story God was choosing to tell for me, whether I planned it or not. I was just a college kid with a Biology Degree and firm sites set on absolutely nothing apart from medical school. But I also wrote songs. My own little “personal therapy sessions,” as I like to call them, were never really intended for use outside of my living room walls. But thanks to a few close friends who quite literally forced me to face the possibility of “seeing what would happen” with music, here I am today. A 1-year “experiment” before planning to apply for medical school has turned into a 15-year career of writing and playing songs. I can say with all honesty that I have no idea how it happened. People ask me all the time how to “get started” in music and I have to tell them that I quite literally don’t know. I can say this. It was not comfortable for me. It was not my dream. It was not my life’s ambition. I was afraid. I was insecure. I was not up for the task. But I believe that God was. I believe that God saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. I believe there was a Spirit flowing in a certain direction and I knew only enough to not try to swim against it. I’m actually excited to see where God takes me when music is done. I am not nearly naïve enough to think that it will last forever. And to be honest, I don’t want it to. Because I know that music is not my life source. It is not my identity. Music is not who I am. I have tried to run from it, even prayed that it would end at times. What I know to be true is that, for whatever reason, God is for us and He chooses to use us. And He wants to use us right where we are. And this is where I am right now: I am a husband and a father, a friend, a brother, a son, and yes, sometimes a musician. It has been a beautiful story to watch unfold.
For the entirety of my adult life, almost like clockwork, every two years or so I have been given the gift of being “forced” into taking stock. I’ve often told people that I don’t know how to write songs if I’m not writing them out of my life, out of my own personal experience, and so for me I think it’s inevitable that any new group of songs will tell some sort of story about where they have come from. And so for the last 15 years, 8 times to be precise, thanks to the deadlines that the powers that be “impose” I have been given the gift of taking stock, of evaluating where I have come from, what God has been unfolding – to unpack, assess, organize, (more…)
I’m watching the sun rise over California through an airplane window this morning. I am on my way back home again. I don’t know why but there are random moments such as these when I really do understand with clarity the absolute goodness of God. I have struggled lately in a much longer story with feeling a certain separation from the real source of all that is good in my life, but today it is very clear to me. (more…)
[Excerpt from an old Journal entry]
I’m reading Annie Dillard this morning and, as always, she is leaving me breathless. Her words say everything. Her willingness to find her own reality in the reality of the wilderness is compelling. She tells a story in Teaching a Stone to Talk (pg. 12) of a man who shot an eagle out of the sky. When he examined the eagle he found “the dry skull of a weasel fixed by the jaws to [the eagle's] throat.” This is really a story of a weasel. She goes on to describe just how this sort of thing might happen. (more…)
Why is it that something as ridiculous as a game can bring me such joy? I mean, really honest, pure, non-obsessive, deep down unadulterated joy. I know that probably sounds ludicrous to most, but I have been a football fan all of my life…first and (still) foremost, college football (the Georgia Bulldogs and the SEC, to be specific), but after living in Nashville for the past decade as a Titans fan, I can’t get enough of the NFL now either. So I woke up this morning and for a few brief moments there was literally nothing on my mind except for the Playoffs. (more…)