The Blues and Bad Behavior…

I’ve determined that I’m boring.

I know we’re not supposed to compare ourselves to each other, but sometimes the differences are so glaringly obvious that you can’t help but to notice them, and yep–I’ve noticed: I’m boring.

There was a time (and some of you will remember this) where I actually PRAYED to be boring (and my statement of being boring is NOT a complaint). Things in my life were so chaotic that I couldn’t see which end was up, and all I wanted was for things to die down–I needed an ordinary, boring life, and I prayed on a daily basis for some kind of calm to take place just so that David & I could catch our breath!

And, just like that, here we are–We’re boring.

Now, I’m saying this with the full knowledge that much like the proverbial dog-paddle, we look calm on the surface, but underneath, we’re kickin’ full-steam ahead. We’re treading water in the middle of a panic attack, but at this point, SO IS EVERYONE ELSE. Everyone is stressed out, fed up, flipping over, & manic…

And so are we…but we’re used to this, so we’re still smiling. 🙂 I guess I never thought of repetitive states of chaos conditioning us to a lifestyle of stress, but I’ll be darned–it has! I don’t always look at the frantic pace with this same level of calm (LOL–y’think?!?), but for now–even if it’s just for today–I’m a peace with all of it.

So, yeah, I’m boring (and I’m generally okay with that).

I had the opportunity this weekend to hang out with my older sister, Billie. We’re typically as opposite as two siblings can be–she’s short, I’m tall; I like Broadway and rap, and she likes Southern Rock and the Blues (okay, I like everything except jazz, and I think she agrees with that). I love broccoli, & she’d practically shank you with a stalk when we were kids, as opposed to just eating it (this is great ammunition for my son, because I can now tell him Auntie is short because she didn’t eat her veggies. He has no idea that at 5’7″ I am freakishly tall for our family. All of the veggies in the world aren’t gonna make that kid tall, but I can try while I have the chance). I don’t remember the last time we spent 3 days together, and it was a lot of fun. I have to say, I’m a bit envious–at 47, she still stays involved with the music scene and is a fill-in drummer/percussionist whenever she gets the chance. Sometimes, I’m not going to lie–I wonder where music might have taken me, had I given it the chance? It’s those missed opportunities and/or a lack of pursuit that occasionally rumble around in the back of my brain….

This was also my first opportunity to attend Blues Farm, where a bunch of people hung out, camped, and listened to some great music (Jackson Stokes, the Kris Lager Band, and the incomparable Amanda Fish).

Jackson StokesNow, I haven’t been camping…ever…and I’ve been told that since I didn’t have to use the bathroom in the woods, that this doesn’t count. Whatever–I slept in the Tent From Hell, so I’m counting it. Speaking of the Tent From Hell, therein lies the title of this blog–“The Blues and Bad Behavior.”

Ever lose your temper so voraciously that there is NO GOING BACK?!?

Like, have you ever lost your temper and basically spit fire and sludge like some kind of vomitous garbage heap?!? Yeah, I totally did. I lost it, and I lost it BADLY. I’ve learned that I should never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever–get it? LIKE, EVER–try to put a tent up in front of anyone. Like, no one should have to hear that hot mess. It was bad. I think I invented a few swearwords. I don’t even know what I said, but I know none of it was good. In my last blog, I wrote about, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?” & I think I addressed the importance of the words you leave behind. It’s safe to say that if anyone had my verbal launch in writing, it’s a story no one would ever want to read…I flat-out embarrassed myself. I’m a firm believer that profanities should be verbal, never written, and that they’re a lazy man’s way of communicating….and boy, was I slacking on the job. Thus, the “Bad Behavior–“I wish I could take it all back and somehow preemptively wash my mouth out, but nope–there it lays. UGH. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I recollect….hopefully…maybe it just seemed particularly coarse because I haven’t lost it that badly in a very, VERY long time (pre-child)…but yikes.

116874173_10158303941443070_1560939172266913042_n

(OMG, the gray hair! Get a good look at it, because I’m goin’ in for color in a few weeks! BAH!!)  It’s a good thing I was a pretty good distance away from people, and that the people who were within earshot were very, very forgiving.

But, back to the good stuff–The Blues.

I love music. I love music that makes me emote, music that hits my soul and makes me want to sing. I love that God created music as a universal language, that even when we don’t understand the words, we still feel it the same across the world. I love that feeling when someone just blows you away, and all of the hair stands up on your arms. I love seeing skilled musicians that love what they do, and that pour that joy into their melodies and lyrics.

I love seeing people get gross and sweaty on stage, because they’ve just poured everything out there for the audience to hear and to see. I love worship sets that have ended on the floor, because people are worshiping so passionately with music as the medium, that they are spiritually overwhelmed in the Presence of God. Music was made for worship, to worship, the One Who created it. He made it for His pleasure, and He made us in His image, so we respond to it as well.

Music is so, so powerful–I’ve met very few people that don’t like music, and I have always looked at them sideways. I don’t know that life (and I don’t want to). A good musician touches you spiritually, emotionally, even physically in the overpouring–it’s such a deep thing. I love how I feel when I get to be a part of a team of musicians that all have the same goal: To reach the feet of Jesus…to bear witness to that ultimate expression of worship…

Music is amazing.

The Blues as we know them came from the hearts of an oppressed people whose souls were overburdened with the pain of their lives. It grew out of sorrow that eventually transposed to other emotions–love, even joy. It became a genre of music, as opposed to a culture in music. I feel like it gets appropriated a lot by Southern Rock, which is heavily, heavily influenced by The Blues, and that bands have to be careful of making sure credit is given where it is due. The Blues originated from a deep, soul-level longing, pulling from African roots, from slave songs, and from spirituals. I think that in American music, we tend to categorize it by bass lines and chord progressions; I believe it’s much more than that.  There are all kinds of categories of The Blues, but when I hear that phrase, I always think of the call-and-responses from the fields where a stolen people sang their hope and laments.

This weekend at Blues Farm had some Blues, some rock, some funk, and a good mix of stuff that anyone can dance to, and it was a ton of fun. The bands that played were approachable, honest, and engaging; the people in the audience were so fun to watch, and I could not have felt more out of my element, LOL–but my sister was TOTALLY in hers! She played percussion for almost 6 hours–I’d be a noodle by then.

Amanda Fish

One of the takeaways that I had from the weekend (outside of my renewed understanding in my overall boringness) is how music is so gracious and fluid. My sister played with 2 bands that she hadn’t rehearsed with. There was no soundcheck (um, shout-out to Terry, the sound guy, for being AMAZING–sound is difficult to run, and he was primo!!!), no practicing–there was just, “Hey, get in, let’s play,” and that’s SO EXCITING TO SEE!!!  As a singer, that’s a freedom I wish I got to have, and I don’t think I’ve ever got to do that–to just jump in on a full set, BOOM, let’s go!!–and to not only do it exceedingly well, but to have fun in the process! I didn’t see ANY ego in the bands–everyone was so humble and so obviously there for the sheer joy of playing. I don’t see that enough in music (or ever, really, in church music–people get so caught up in the techniques and the ego that it falls flat of actually being a joyful experience. I’m guilty of it, too). I always overthink things and then I get scared, even in a worship set. SO. Much. Anxiety. I loved looking up and seeing the drummer and my sister perfectly in sync on various rhythms, solely based on how they felt the music, as opposed to having every “i” dotted. It was messy and funky, and it was absolutely PERFECT. GOSH, it was fun to watch and to listen to!

Kris Lager Band

So, in spite of my Bad Behavior, I wound up meeting awesome new people, at a beautiful piece of property in MO, and listening to some really groovy music made by some true artists. I got to sit in on Live Frickin’ Music, y’all, and I’d almost forgotten just how wonderful it is to be in the audience again..

117226474_10158303941798070_6755122828776137988_oI took the opportunity to try my hand at concert photography, which was a new experience that I didn’t know I’d like as much as I do (David could have done much better, but I don’t think I was terrible!).  I gained a new appreciation for my sister’s level of skill, and a new understanding of music in the process. I had a beautiful 3 days in perfect temps, and then I came back home on Sunday to my awesome husband and my crazy kiddo, who both missed me a ton (and I totally missed them). I’m back on the hamster wheel, but for 3 days, I got to experience Blues Farm, and I feel like (in spite of the Tent from Hell), it was a refresher for my brain.

Yep, I’m boring–I’m nowhere near as cool as those musicians or the people who looked way chiller than me, relaxing in their lawn chairs and enjoying the show. I’m way too uptight (I don’t sit still very well), but it was fun to kick back a few days and to meet new people (which, if you know me, you know I don’t do so well on that part–dang you, social anxiety) who seemed like they liked my neurotic self just the way I am (and who made a great deal of fun of my sister, so now I have to love them forever).

I’m looking forward to hopefully going back to Blues Farm in the future…and to hopefully, better behavior….or duct tape. 🙂 (I swear to you, I will NEVER put that tent up again. I’ll sleep on the bare ground first. I’m not kidding).

Love, Peace, and Loud Guitars Forever, y’all. 🙂 (Or at least, that’s what the Cool Kids say). 🙂

 

 

Music, Worship, & a Little Bit of Chicken Fried

And if you know that next line is, “cold beer on a Friday night,” you might be my people. I have a thing for the Zac Brown band.. I can’t help but to appreciate a group of true, honest musicians with REAL talent. I like music with meaning, and I like sounds that can be recreated face-to-face, instead of only in a studio.

Music is my happy place. When I hear a song I like, it feels like someone has recharged my batteries. I can’t identify the feeling, and I can’t tell you what it is about a song that gets my attention. I heard “Almost Human” on the radio this morning, and felt like I could go into war. I blogged about “Reckless Love” the other day, because it completely undid me (and continues to do so, every time I get to sing it). A good, truly well-written and/or well-performed song hits places in the spirit like nothing else.

I’ve sang for as long as I can remember. My mom is one of those harmonizers that you only hear once in a lifetime; I remember singing Gatlin Brothers‘ songs with her while we did dishes, back in the Single Mom Days. If walls could talk, I’m pretty sure my childhood home would sing.

I used to sing in a small group of mediocre people on behalf of our college, on a scholarship team. Yes, I said “mediocre,” as I am also, “mediocre.” None of us were ever going to rise up to be Kelly Clarkson. 😉 We were all comfortable midwest singers who did what we did to get out into various congregations to raise money for our school. We didn’t really have the resources or the training to take it any further. There are certain things about that time in my life that I remember fondly, but most of it is with sadness. Music was a performance on so many levels. I was singing about a Jesus that loved us all, but I felt unlovable and ugly…singing had been a refuge, but at the end, it was more of a prison.  It was a very difficult time in my life; I was very, very good at playing “church,” but my heart was broken.

It wasn’t the fault of anyone that I was singing with; I needed more help than anyone knew how to give, or that I even knew how to ask for. Every day was increasingly difficult, and by the time I graduated from college, everything crumbled. I didn’t want to sing…I didn’t want to worship…and I really didn’t want to do anything.

I was clinically, deeply depressed, but this was 1999, and no one really talked about such things.

Church relationships that I had over the following years fell apart…family relationships struggled…and at some point, I hit the bottom, and I lost my song.

I never turned my back on my relationship with the Lord, through all of it…but you can shut down and hide in a cave, without turning your back on Him. My prayers were a string of unfinished sentences and runaway thoughts, for the longest time…and then, things began to shift…

I can’t remember if it was a book or a song, or a message; I don’t remember. I’d have to dig through some journals to see if it was a catalytic moment that began to pull me back. But gradually, slowly, my heart began to thaw out, and the music began to come back.  Random songs began to pour out…songs about laundry, songs about the walk to work, songs about Jesus, songs about my future husband. I never really wrote any of them down, but they began to rise up like grass in a forgotten pasture. They were there; they never left, even when I shut my eyes and closed my ears.

In 2003 (or was it 2002?), I met my husband. We bonded over a shared love of Caedmon’s Call and Vineyard music that he introduced me to.  We don’t have a whole lot of musical tastes in common (I like rap. No, that is not negated by my opening paragraph. Anyone that can recite in rhythm the amount of lyrics that are in any given rap song is TALENTED. Rap is poetry, and poetry is art). He likes jazz (which I think they play in elevators in Hell), I like Americana; he hates country, and I want to punch Diana Krall. We do have a mutual love of 90’s music, so there’s that–we’ll always have “Holiday,” LOL.  I feel like most of David’s personal music catalog is some kind of cross between Rod Stewart and Norah Jones, with some Melody Gardot thrown in. My musical catalog is something like Chris Stapleton with some Steffany Gretzinger and some Tiffany, crossed with Andy Mineo, Jason Mraz, and some Alanis. It’s a mess. We don’t “fight” over the radio, but we know we can only listen to 3-4 stations together (oldies, soft rock, and K-SHE 95). It’s a beautiful compromise.

I spent a long time with a strained relationship with singing for any reason at all. I really struggled with self-esteem,  with not understanding direction in various musical settings, and with the fact that I am not a musician (there’s a difference between a singer and a musician, just like there’s a difference between someone who can plunk out a melody on a keyboard and a trained pianist). I do not play any instruments, and I can barely read music. I totally can’t read chords (they make no sense to me at all). It makes me feel like I am “less than” the people I am surrounded by.

In the late 2000’s, I joined a worship team led by a man named Chris Clausen, who is just ridiculously talented as a musician, a singer, and a songwriter. He & his wife, Paige, are also incredibly kind and nurturing. Chris has every reason to be an arrogant clod of a man when it comes to music (he is anything but), and I have no idea why in the world he decided to let me be on his team at church, but for a few short years, I was privileged to be a part of his crew. It was a musical education that I hold very close to my heart. More importantly, it was a time of internal healing and recognition. I’d been in such a bad place mentally and spiritually the last time I sang in a group; I had no faith in myself or in any abilities, and I was absolutely petrified. I vividly remember sitting in a classroom in our church at one point, having a near-panic attack just before we had to lead an extended worship set. I was consistently focusing on the wrong things, and it took my time on the Clausen team to work through those issues.

My time on the team was such a great experience for me…to have a teacher who was humble but direct, who recognized abilities that I didn’t know I had, and who had so much patience, was a blessing. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that my soul needed that time to remember what music can do in our relationship to the Lord. Music is a method of healing. Music is a method of how God speaks to us, of how He speaks THROUGH us. Music affects us physically, spiritually, and mentally. When we allow ourselves to focus, and to direct our heart and our intentions to Him in worship, He hears it, regardless of how it sounds in our own ears. I think that music opens up our hearts and our brains to receive from Him in ways that words just can’t. Music carries His message like nothing else can.

My husband got the message that it was time for us to move to a different church in 2011 or 2012, and we found ourselves in our current congregation. I think I finally (fearfully) stepped out and asked to join the worship team in 2013 or 2014. It’s a different vibe, but it’s a good thing. Our pastor is a musician (and a beautiful guitarist), and he’s a man that understands that God speaks through music. Worship is something we can do to give back to Him, to tell Him how we love Him; things change in worship that wouldn’t change in any other way. Worship evokes the prophetic, which is so, so important (and which is so totally forgotten in may churches today). God speaks in worship!!!!  God speaks through music!!!  Every note, every trill on a piano, every chord on a guitar, every beat of a drum–it all affects atmospheres in worship! Nothing else does what worship and music can do. There’s a reason why there are so many references to music in God’s Word (over 1,150!). It’s so important to our lives, and is such an important medium to get His message out into the world.

I still deal with anxiety and occasionally, depression. When King Saul was going through his crazy days in the Old Testament, he sent for a harpist to come in to play to calm him down. I get it. I’ve rarely been Saul-Level Crazy, but any time stress or anxiety are an issue, music is the first place I go to refocus. Even if I’m not in a place where I can sing along, just having it play is huge. And singing….There’s something about the physical act of singing that releases endorphins. Like, physically, you just feel better when you sing (Carpool Karaoke, anyone?!?!), not to mention the spiritual ramifications of pouring out your heart in worship. There are times when it feels like the world is somewhere between imploding and exploding. Worship is where you find the balance. Music carries the journey of finding that place of peace.

It’s just so important…worship is so important. As a singer, as just an average, run-of-the-mill, mediocre singer, I know from the depths of my heart that where worship is concerned, there is NOTHING mediocre about a soul that worships Jesus in complete humility and in complete honesty. It’s not the sound–it’s the heart, and hearts united in worship CREATE a sound that moves the heart of God. It’s so amazing, to be a part of a body of believers that come together every week with that one focus. It’s a movement that carries through the rest of the week.

Worship feels like home to me. I’m at a place right now where I am not afraid (which isn’t something I say very often). I’m not afraid of “doing it wrong.” I’m not afraid of embarrassing myself. I’m not afraid of being a mess in a room full of people. They’re family, after all. I know that when I come to that place, whether it’s on the platform or in my regular seat, that I am in a safe place where my King remains. My song–however it sounds–is beautiful to Him, and He hears me. It’s worthy of Him, because He makes it so. Worship is this beautiful whirling fire of incense that rises from our hearts to the very throne of God. He loves our worship, whether we sound like Cory Asbury or Gilbert Gottfried. He hears our hearts, and He LOVES our song.

I told David the other day that worship is the only place where my soul feels completely at peace. When I had my thyroid removed in 2015, I was so scared of the effect on my vocal chords, because I was so scared that I would lose my ability to get to that place…but I didn’t. My voice is different (weaker), but it’s still there, and I am so grateful. Worship is the only place I feel like every worry, every fear, every concern or outside thought, is shut out. It’s the single greatest place of focus that I can know.

Anyone who knows me or who knows how static I naturally am, knows what that means. Peace. True, unadulterated, uninterrupted peace. There’s nothing like it; there’s nothing worth more. It’s the eye of this hurricane called life, and when I’m there, I never want to leave. It’s taken so many years to get to this point, to have a revelation and a revolution in my relationship with music…so many years. I feel like I’m just getting started, and I get so excited when I think about an eternity with Jesus and endless worship. Ridiculous…just amazing….He’s preparing a place for us, with THAT. Crazy.

So, I appreciate music, and I appreciate excellence in music, because I understand Who gave it to us. I know what He gave it to us for…not to be entertained, but to bring it back to Him, for His glory…it’s all for His glory, and it’s unbelievable that He gives us all that gift to be a part of.  There are so many wonderful musicians that are so gifted; even if they don’t know Jesus, they are still part of creating a sound that He can use in ways we don’t understand. People’s hearts identify with the messages in music. It’s why musicians have a responsibility to celebrate goodness and joy with their sound, instead of misogyny and violence.

I love music in so many forms. It all has value, even the stuff I don’t like (jazz…ugh). It all creates movement in the spiritual, so as Christians, we have to be aware of the tug-of-war we’re a part of. Sing freely, especially this season. Worship freely, especially because we live in a country where we still can. “Let everything that has breath (it doesn’t say, “let everything that sounds marginally on-key, LOL, so don’t let that stop you if you “can’t” sing) PRAISE THE LORD!”

Psalm 150

 

Praise the Lord.[a]

 

Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
    praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
    praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
    praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
    praise him with resounding cymbals.

 

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

 

 

 

  • Image result for art psalm 150

“Holiness in the Shadowlands,” AKA, “Listening to Praise Music while Wanting to Throat-Chop People in Traffic”

Sometimes, when I talk about my faith, I feel like a giant hypocrite. Man-oh-man, do I make mistakes…I mean it when I say, “I love Jesus but I swear a little (somedays, more than others).” My filters are occasionally nonexistent, but I promise you, I am working on it.

I’m grateful for grace.

This morning, as I was on my walk around the local university, a kid (Millennials, LOL) with a man-bun, who was wearing those ridiculous Adidas slides with socks (they’re only ridiculous when worn WITH SOCKS), was texting and walking, and somehow walked OUT of their shoe, and tripped…because they were texting and walking. Did I respond with compassion?

Nope.

I laughed, and posted about it on Facebook, with the hashtag, #WhyDoesJesusLoveMe

I’m grateful for grace.

Last night, I was driving home with my windows open and my stereo BLARING a Brian & Katie Torwalt CD (BTW, what’s with mixing worship CDs with a crap-ton of bass? Are people gettin’ down in the club to worship songs?!?! I mean, Lord knows I love my bass, but it seems weird to have it bumped up in a quiet worship interlude? Is this for Da Youts? Am I just getting OLD?!?!?!?!?!?!?). I was singing along (loudly–sorry, other drives. Okay, I’m NOT sorry), and driving through what’s known as The Depressed Section of the city. It’s where the highway goes under the streets and pedestrian overpasses of downtown; it’s very congested, and dirty, and LOUD, and stands in direct contrast to the song about holiness that I was singing along with….

The juxtaposition of Holiness and “The Depressed Section” was not lost on me, and as the music (and the drive) went on, I could feel a fire erupt in my chest…

You see, this city–Saint Louis–stands on the brink. We stand on the brink of decisions that could potentially change the course of this city. We stand on the brink of once again, being the center of attention of this nation…this nation that is already so divided, and so on edge.

Everything is uneasy…

Everything is disjointed…

But the music in my car plays on…and I drive by the dirt and the graffiti, by the trash and by that glorious Gateway to the West…I breathe the fumes from the exhausts, but I refuse to roll up my windows, because I feel like the words to the song are a healing balm to this city….because I feel like maybe if I play it louder, someone–anyone–will hear it, and remember Who Reigns…

Holy Spirit You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory God is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence Lord”

He is welcome in this city…there is still a remnant left, and we cry out daily for the hearts of St. Louis…

The song plays on, and my mind is taking in the scene around me as the traffic comes to a standstill…

My heart cries, “Holy.”

The dichotomy of Holiness and helplessness…the struggles in this city, the poverty, the glut of resources and the lack of communication in getting them out…the children that cannot fend for themselves, and the adults who are too selfish to help them stand on their feet…my brain and my heart are arguing, but the music answers the questions:

“Let us become more aware of Your Presence
Let us experience the glory of Your goodness”

That is my prayer, for myself, for my church, and for this city…that we Understand a Glimpse of the Grace of God….just a glimpse….

The traffic is thick, but the song says to “sing Holy,” so I do…because I HAVE to, because it is what I was made to do…I get cut off in construction, and I wonder, “Lord, where do these two worlds meet?!?”

And He says:

“I

Am

Greater.”

God is greater. He is greater than every mess in this city. He is greater than the violence and the fear; He is greater than the racism and He knows better than anyone that it is real. He is greater than the traffic that is sucking my soul; He is greater than the accident that just happened. He is greater than the storms and the hurricanes and the earthquakes. He Is Greater.

God is greater, and His holiness exists, regardless of where we are or where we live. His holiness reigns supreme in this microcosm of a city, and it reigns in every corner of every house in this nation. Our mind CANNOT HANDLE IT, so we try to drown Him out.

We fail.

He simply cannot be dimmed, and when we pause for worship, we are reminded that His holiness is the greatest Light. Everything else is in shadows.

My mind is ready to throw a stick at the next car that cuts me off, but my soul still cries in harmony with the music playing in my car…I cry “Holy,” with the heart of a grieving mother…with the heart of a stubborn wife…with the heart of a Daughter of the King, with the heart of someone who is struggling to reconcile what He sees in me, with what I see in myself. He is greater than all of my insecurities, my judgmental behaviors, my filter issues. He is greater.

I don’t understand Him, but I will not stop worshiping His Name, even in traffic…

Even when I laugh at falling Millennials.

I am so, SO grateful for grace….