The End

I (Michael) was hanging out with a guy the other day, and he told me that he was very surprised to see what I was like in person. He told me that he had quite a different perspective of me from afar. That is quite understandable. Who is Michael Gungor anyway? Is he a Christian worship leader? A jaded, confused agnostic? An atheist? A woo-woo mystic? “I mean, come on, are you a friend of God, a mountain, a whale, or are you just I AM?!”  

The problem with starting a band in your 20’s is you have no idea who you will be in a decade. Gungor started as a “liturgical post-rock” musical collective. We sang songs to God about hope, faith, doubt, and love. We had some success. I lost my faith for a little while and wrote music about that. Then I began to see the unity of all things, and we began to write music about that. For the last 4 albums, we’ve sometimes left many of our fans confused or frustrated— “What are they singing about now?” “Do they even believe in Jesus anymore?”...etc But we’ve always tried to stay true to what’s happening in our hearts at the time of recording a record.

Interestingly enough, as we’ve been making music over the past couple years, and trying to figure out what was the right next move for Gungor, we’ve had a really hard time finding clarity with it. We love where we’ve come from. We’ve loved the journey (in fact, I turned on Ghosts Upon the Earth earlier today to reminisce a bit, and found myself in tears.)  But strangely enough, we feel like that journey is over.  Gungor feels to us like it’s done what it needed to do. Said what it needed to say.  And now it’s time for something new.  

Of course, this doesn’t mean that we are going to stop making music. Music is a part of who we are, and, like I mentioned, we already have a bunch of stuff recorded that we are trying to figure out what to do with brand and marketing wise. But as for Gungor, we simply don’t feel the need to keep trying to write new stories on the same old paper. 

So here’s what this means: this upcoming “End of the World” is now also the Gungor farewell tour. We are going to sing a bunch of Gungor songs together (even some of the old ones). We’ll laugh. We’ll cry. We’ll send this wonderful adventure that has been Gungor into the night as the end of an old world and the beginnings of a new one.  We hope you’ll join us for one last time.  All of the love for all of you. 



On Earth - Vol. 1 [New instrumental album from Michael Gungor & Tyler Chester]

On Earth - Vol. 1 [New instrumental album from Michael Gungor & Tyler Chester]

Hey everybody, I just wanted to let you know about a new instrumental record that we released this week! My friend Tyler Chester and I worked together on it, and the music is all about the vibes. We used textures like old rickety pianos, cascading nylon guitars, slightly out of tune pump organs, vibraphones, and such to create a soundscape that I’m really happy with, and actually really enjoy listening to myself. This record is a great companion for a rainy day or meditative walk. A lot of the music was originally composed for The Liturgists Podcast (that I co-host), and we really liked the vibe that was happening, so we made a whole record out of it.

We’ve included a free song below for you to check it out, and if you want to hear more, you can buy or stream it anywhere online that you listen to your music through. Enjoy!


Michael Gungor

ps We found out as it released that there's a different group called “On Earth” that Spotify and some other places have confused us with. So you might want to search for my or Tyler’s name along with it. We are working on getting that fixed on our end. Sorry for any confusion there.


On Earth [Tyler Chester & Michael Gungor]

On Earth [Tyler Chester & Michael Gungor]



Are we the kind of people who open our hearts to others in their suffering or the kind who get afraid and turn our hearts away? 

We think this is an important question for people to be asking themselves right now, so we wanted to share this song with you called "Who We Are." We are putting it up and giving it away everywhere we can, including the charts and stems so that artists or churches can sing it if they’d like. Refugee Sunday is June 25th this year, and I hope that a bunch of churches do this song that day. I hope that some of us who still believe we can be who we’ve always said we are will rise up and link arms and speak love in a world so dominated by fear. I hope we can raise our voices together for those whose voices have been silenced. Will you join us?


We lie in bed, covers tucked up tight. Light streams through the window and sounds call to us from the outside but we shut our eyes, just want to sleep a little longer, don’t wake me, it isn’t time yet. 

Cars hum, doors creek, life begins to speak. We stretch, switch positions, rub our eyes. Waking up is a process – sometimes slow with yawning and stretching, the mind sorting and making sense of where you are, what is happening.  Sometimes it is fast – a dog or child comes in and pounces on you, shaking you from dream world. But it is still a process, mind still foggy, vision blurry, it slowly comes into focus just what is going on.

It is possible to walk around half-asleep / half-awake. Things can get done in a semi-orderly fashion. Like breakfast - you can pour the milk and the cereal but you may try to pop it in the microwave, or try to put the milk in the cabinet instead of the fridge. You may forget the kids on your way out the door, or forget it is Saturday so no need to be up in the first place. But it's okay if we heat up the cereal - warm milk never hurt anyone. It’s when our cultural perspective is affected - We may be against racism but forget we don’t have any friends with skin different from our own. We may be for equality but don’t ever speak up when we see a woman oppressed, or even worse, we may not even see her as oppressed. She has a job - who cares if she doesn’t make the same doing the same job as her male counterpart, she should be glad she has a job at all. We may see a child with a disorder instead of a child. We are half-asleep.

People, like trees, blurry, out of focus, we squint and try to make sense of what we see. We assign language to the blurry goo and tell anyone who doesn’t have the same language they are the wrong ones. We, we the blurry eyed know what we are seeing. But reality isn’t even real. My brain is helping me live, cope. What is in front of me enters through my lens, my eyes, then hits my brain. My brain tried to lie sense of the information, pieces it together, forms my understanding - my reality is created but is not truly accurate. I am filling up the cereal bowl thinking this is actually a cereal bowl, that I am actually touching it, feeling its smoothness. Then I pop it in the microwave unaware.

We walk around half-asleep. And sometimes it’s just too painful to be fully awake, to see it all. It’s too early in the morning and our brains just can’t cope with all the busy and light streaming in and kids needing. Depending on your lens or how open handed you are, waking up can be painful or beautiful - a lot of the times both. Because when we see more light, it means our eyes are more fully open. When we awaken to the political and cultural battles of the world, our hearts are pliable so we will feel all of it more – pain, beauty, love, anger, sadness, light. Like CS Lewis depicted in "The Great Divorce" – the grass was sharp, more real, uncomfortable for the ghost-like people to walk across.

I am determined to wake up. There have been moments, self-realization, places I thought all was as it should be, but in shock realized it is not -  incarceration is the new Jim Crow, things are not balanced. If my brothers and sisters in Syria are hungry, so are we all. If the refugees are cast out, so are we all. If one part of the world is divided, so are we all. If we are united, so are we all. We are connected, on a micro level and a macro one. Quantum physics is a wild thing I dip my toe into and don’t quite understand. But quantum physics tells us we are all connected on a fundamental level. You affect me, I affect him, he affects her - we all share particles as they migrate from one to the other from the stars to our skin, we are all made up of the same stuff and share energy. We are intrinsically unified. Zoom out and we are like one living, breathing, moving organism. We are one body. We are actually, not metaphorically or ideally, one.  

But we have been taught to see ourselves as individuals, we see it as our life. Our country. Our rights. Our body. Mine mine mine, like little children we make our boundaries, draw the lines in the room to protect what we have gathered and don’t care the kid across the room is crying. This is mine and that is yours. We are delusional in thinking, we are separated. We gather more, buy more, build our empire and wonder why we still feel the ache, wonder why we are still thirsty. We are one. When one is thirsty, so are we all. We one is broken, so are we all. Can’t we feel it? Can’t we see it? That is why Jesus said “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40. It is all the same, all one. When we turn our backs on our brothers and sisters, we are turning away from the Divine. Love your neighbor, love the Divine. Love your enemy, love the Divine. Love your president, love the Divine.

We are not separated, we are one. America is an adolescent teenager who is now learning to grow up, who is now awakening to the realization no one will do the work for her - the possibility for goodness is right within her own hands, the healing balm of love is right within her own heart, hope for equality and reconciliation right within her own voice. Are we awaken? I am hopeful now more than ever.

Join me on a spiritual retreat

I embarked on my first spiritual retreat almost 7 years ago, and it changed my life. Since then, I’ve continued to periodically go on retreats, and I can honestly say that those small windows of intentional time have done more to craft who I am today than almost any other experiences in my life. These retreats have greatly influenced the art that I make. They have taught me how to practice and fall in love with most important spiritual practices and disciplines in my life, and have opened my mind and heart wider than I ever thought was possible.

I’ve thought about hosting a retreat of some kind on my own for years now, and I’ve finally decided to carve out the space to do it. I just think it is such an important practice and perhaps even more important than normal to find some peace to exist and thrive within the current insanity of our world.

So here’s the plan—I would like to host two different types of retreat this year. The first is going to be a 4 day retreat for a small group of up to 30 people at a beautiful retreat center in central California July 20-23. You can check out the space here: At this retreat, we will focus on meditation and silence as gateways into the heart. It is a beautiful campus with all sorts of hiking trails and places to just be. We will have some times of teaching, group meditation, and discussion, but would also like to invite the people on this one to be silent for as much of the retreat as possible.This may be difficult for some at first, but the peace at the center of our hearts is often easier accessed in the silence than in the noise and distraction that we often never get away from. The cost for this retreat (including food and lodging) will be somewhere around $1,200 depending on what kind of room you'd like.

The second retreat option will be a personal retreat with me in Los Angeles. This idea came to me recently after I got back from a personal retreat with Ram Dass and had such a wonderful time. We have a back house that I used for my studio during the One Wild Life recording process, and we have been trying to figure out what to do with it now that we aren’t so intensively recording all of the time. My idea is to turn it into an ‘urban monastery’ and host personal, private retreats out of it. These retreats will be primarily self-directed, but you would be welcome to join me in some daily meditation practices and I’d be happy to spend some personal time with you every day on your retreat to offer some of the insights I have learned in my time with these practices.

For the private retreats, our house is in the city but has a nice peaceful back yard that provides a lovely space for reading, meditation, yoga..etc There’s plenty of restaurants and things to walk to, but there’s also a private kitchen in the back that would be yours to make yourself meals. There is also a recording studio in there that you could get access to if you are a musician and would like to turn this retreat into a sort of combination of a spiritual and a writing retreat.

If you are interested in applying for the very limited space of either of these retreat opportunities, please send us an email at that introduces yourself and why you are interested in a retreat like this as well as the date range that you are interested in booking the ‘urban monastery’. Honestly, I’m so excited about this! I feel like some really beautiful moments are going to happen for some of you, and Lisa and I are both excited to be a part of creating the space for it to happen. Namaste.

March On

Along with millions of people around the world, I marched with and for my girls this weekend. I marched because women are still not always treated equally in our country, and I believe they should be. I marched because this is a country who just elected a President who we all heard bragging (whether it was a joke or not) about sexual assault, and collectively, we thought that wasn’t a serious enough offense to not vote for him to be our leader. I marched because I wanted to be a part of the “NO” to the sexism, misogyny, racism, xenophobia, destructive nationalism, and deception that I see at the core of the current populism expressed through politics and the religious right.

But, honestly, there were times in the march that I felt quite sad. Because while I saw countless protest signs about love and saying no to oppression and hate, I also recognized a negative energy at play in some of it. I felt like there were a lot of us that hated the people that we perceived were doing the hating. A lot of us who were afraid of the people doing the fear mongering. A lot of us willing to soften our grip on ‘facts’ or ‘truth’ because we can’t let THEM get away with softening our grip on ‘facts’ or ‘truth.’

The ego game that allows you to hate people in the name of love is a very subtle and tricky one. It feels righteous to hate the hateful. But if love is love is love is love (something I saw repeated at the march), we should also recognize that hate is hate is hate is hate.

I’m not saying the whole thing was hateful; there was also something quite beautiful happening. Cooperation, courage, expressions of hope and love, truth-telling…etc But the temptation that many of us seemed to be falling prey to was the same ‘us and them’ tribalism that we were supposedly rallying against. It’s easier and simpler to demonize and scapegoat than to listen and learn. It’s easier to yell than to serve, and easier to despair than to take courage.

The truth is that there is no simple bad team and good team. There’s just people. Complicated, conflicted people. All of us want the same things—to be safe, to be loved, to enjoy our lives. And as beautiful as marches can be, we must also recognize that all of politics is largely played on the plane of tribalism and polar differences. There would be no liberal without conservative. There would be no rural without urban. All of it goes together as yin and yang. The poles of a single plane. The difficulty is that while you play on that plane, you are giving energy to it. I recognize that my marching was a response to something. Some other piece of energy that has occurred on that plane—namely an election. But of course, that election was a reaction to some other pattern of energy in the universe. ‘Every action has an equal opposite reaction.’ I was and am playing a part in the swinging of pendulums; in the the crests and troughs of waves. The march was a reaction. But it was also an action which will in turn create an opposite reaction. And on and on the game is played.

I don’t think this means that we should just throw up our hands and give up. While pendulums do swing, it does seem possible to make progress over time. Slavery can be abolished. Women can be allowed to vote…etc What I think we can learn though is that we do share a common ground with the people we are protesting. All of the marches, elections, revolutions, wars and everything else that humankind organizes itself into are the results of these ebbs and flows of energy. We live on a planet where life competes to survive. 7 billion human beings can’t all have everything they want. So we must figure out a way to navigate all of that tension. That’s what all of this is.

When you allow yourself to see how the other side is playing the exact same game that you are, and for the same reasons, it allows you to play the game with more understanding and with less fear. More compassion and less hate.

While there were aspects of the march that saddened me, I don’t regret the march. I personally believe the left in America have policies and values that are very important for our nation and our planet. So I’ll play my part as the liberal artist who rails against the religious establishment and the powers that be that it helped elect. But I’ll also recognize that this is just part of my dharma as the Buddhists put it (or the will of God as the Christians put it). It’s just the unfolding of the story of the universe that is happening, and I can’t take my own feelings about right and wrong push me into scapegoating and demonizing the people on the other side of the aisle. This light handedness allows me to both protest Trump and love him for being the image of the Divine that he is. The yoke doesn’t have to be so heavy. The burden may exist, but it can be light. So let’s march on, but march with our hearts and our eyes wide open to that which transcends marches.

Today is a day for mourning. 

Regardless of which side you stand on politically, the reality is that America just elected a man who pledged to discriminate against an entire people group and kick all of them out of this country. So today is a day to mourn with our Muslim-American brothers and sisters. It’s also a day to mourn with our brothers and sisters of color because we just elected a man who has been quoted as saying ‘laziness is a trait in the blacks.’ A man who has discriminated against black people in his business, who has time and time again lashed out in racist rhetoric and sweeping generalizations against Latinos. It’s a day to mourn for our daughters, many of whom went to bed thinking that we were about to have the first female President in history, who will instead wake up to an America that decided to vote for a misogynist who consistently objectifies women—a narcissist who believes that, because he is famous, he has the right to walk up to women and kiss them or ‘grab them by the pussy’ without their consent. 12 women have come forward and confirmed this story of his, and he vows to sue them for it.

So yes, millions of people around the world are mourning today. We are mourning the countless lives who have gone before us who gave themselves for life and liberty for all. People who marched and fought for equality, often with the result of imprisonment, beatings or death. We also mourn today for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, many of whom are terrified for their future. Will their marriages become illegal? Will they lose basic human rights under a superpower that has a man in the Vice Presidency who has stated that electrocution could possibly work as a ‘therapy’ to change someone’s sexual orientation. We mourn for all those with disabilities in America who now have a President-elect who we have video of contorting his face and mocking a reporter with a chronic disability.

We mourn the people who may be tortured as a result of this election. The people who may be imprisoned, discriminated against or killed. We mourn for the earth and the future of all our children as we have just elected a man who does not believe in climate change in the most existentially perilous time we have ever known as a species.

You may believe that DJT is better than Hillary for whatever reason, but that doesn’t negate any of these reasons to mourn. Regardless of what your thoughts on her were, the undeniable fact is that we have elected this man who has made white supremacists from groups like the KKK and alt-right very happy today. And regardless of what you believe about her, we certainly all must admit that we should have done better. We should have elected someone who we have tax returns from. Someone who we know with a reasonable amount of certainty isn’t a serial sexual predator. But that’s not the world we live in this morning. So we mourn.


Today is not the day to give into fear. Fear is what got us in this mess in the first place. Fear is at the heart of all of this, and fear will not be the thing that saves us. 

Today is the day that we are held to the fire on what many of us have been saying through this whole brutal election cycle—that love trumps hate. Many today are feeling so discouraged and despondent and feeling that this result in some way negates what we’ve been hoping for—that love wins. But love winning has never been about political power. It’s been about the human heart. Love wins because when you nail love to a cross, it looks at you in the eyes and says it that it forgives you. Love wins because even when you bury it in the ground, it won’t stay buried. Love wins because love is the only reason to live. Don’t confuse political power with victory. What, after all, is a life of political power without love? What is money without joy? Fame without peace? It is nothing. It is less than nothing—it is hell. 

So today, brothers and sisters, is a day to mourn. But is not a day to fear. It is a day to weep. But it is not a day to hate. Let love hold you today. Let it make you cry and then eventually wipe those very tears from your eyes so that we may stand and continue to fight with love, using everything at our disposal for the life and liberty for all.



After releasing the trilogy of albums for the One Wild Life series, we've decided to step out of the studio and get to know the people who have connected so deeply with our music over the last year. With Christmas right around the corner we want to use this upcoming season to play music that means a lot to us, both from the new albums as well as some of your holiday favorites. So for the first time ever we’re opening up our entire schedule from December 1st thru 24th to play a fun, acoustic Christmas concert for your college, your staff holiday party, your church or even a house show.

Ultimately, there’s a lot going on in the world and we think that something special might just happen if we gather and find community with one another through songs that have come to mean a lot to all of us.

If you’re interested in booking us for this unique and intimate Gungor Acoustic Christmas Tour,  contact us at for more details regarding costs, routing, etc. We’re going to do our best to accommodate everyone’s interest.

Voting For Hillary Is Not Voting for Abortion

Let me begin with a disclaimer.  I hate adding to the noise of this election cycle. Everybody’s talking about it and everybody’s mad. A huge part of me would prefer to just stay out of it, but I think there is something in all of us that knows that this election is important, and I have a few thoughts that I think might help a few people who feel stuck right now.

This is not a blog post to tell you that Trump is wicked. The question for most people right now is not whether or not Trump is a virtuous man. You already know that he is not. The big question for a lot of republicans right now (especially Christian ones) is about whether or not Hillary is any better. This is evident by the constant deflection of every new horrific revelation about Trump.

Revelation: Trump is a racist
Response:  Well, Hillary is a liar…

Revelation: Trump is a sexual predator
Response: Well, Bill Clinton…

Or, the ever present….

Response: But Hillary is pro-abortion…

This last response is the one I want to focus on for this blog post. Because I think there are a lot of people who feel stuck in their decision on who to vote for because of this issue. I think it’s important for liberals to try to understand this perspective and not just write it off as stupid or bigoted or whatever. In many conservative people’s minds, abortion is murder. So for them, supporting a candidate who is pro-choice is supporting murder. And as bad as racism, misogyny, and attempted rape might be, murdering millions of innocent lives is worse.  

Let’s be honest… the murder of millions of innocent lives IS worse than nearly any disgusting behavior and attitude of some eccentric narcissistic billionaire. And for this reason, Donald Trump is right. He could do anything and people wouldn’t leave him. He could walk up to someone and shoot them in public in broad daylight, and he wouldn’t lose many of his voters. Why? For some, it’s because murdering one person in broad daylight is better than murdering millions of babies. So people feel stuck. They hate what Trump represents, but they don’t feel like they could vote for a pro-choice candidate anymore than they feel like they could vote for a pro-Holocaust candidate who wanted to wipe out the Jews.  

I understand this tension because I used to feel it myself.  I’ve always been a believer that abortion is wrong. I grew up with the understanding that abortion is literally killing a human being. So with that on the table, what other issue even comes close to mattering? Taxes? The economy? Foreign relations? Who cares when there are millions of innocent lives being murdered around us? Sound familiar?  

I used to think like that myself until I learned something.  And if what I’ve been saying describes your feelings at all about this election, PLEASE pay attention to what I’m about to say.

Pro-choice does not mean the same thing as pro-abortion.

Again, please pause and maybe re-read that last sentence a few times. It’s so important, and something that took me a long time to understand.

Let me give you a thought experiment with a less extreme subject. Do you think adultery is wrong? Most people would say yes. Do you think adultery should be illegal? Most people would say no. But does saying that you don’t think adultery should be illegal mean that you are pro-adultery?  

You might respond, “But that’s different! Adultery is not as serious as murder!” And you would be correct. But that’s not the point of that analogy. The point is—the discussion of whether or not adultery should be illegal is not really a discussion for or against the morality of adultery but about the involvement of government in the legality of adultery. It’s an entirely separate conversation.

Now imagine there were two warring factions about whether or not adultery should be made illegal. What would you think the strategy of those who believe that it should be illegal would be? Don’t you think the smart move would be to stress how evil adultery is? How do you think the conversation might end up getting framed? I would guess that you would see two camps emerge that called themselves something like ‘pro-marriage’ and I don’t know…’pro-choice?’

For the ‘pro-marriage’ people, they would be so passionate about how wrong adultery was and probably eventually begin to demonize the ‘pro-choice’ people, maybe calling them ‘pro-adulterers’ or something like that.  As effective as that framing might be in gathering troops for each respective side, you could see how the conversation might start getting off track at some point. The ‘pro-choice’ people would be talking about how it’s not the government’s right to interfere in a married person’s life. ‘It’s their choice on who they want to sleep with!’  Some might even start defending adultery as not a bad thing at all in response to the demonization from the ‘pro-marriage’ people, who would probably be very vocal about how wrong and destructive adultery is to human lives and families.  And at some point in this fight, the sides stop hearing each other. They aren’t even talking about the same things anymore. Remember, the real conversation is not about whether adultery is wrong or not but about government’s role in deciding that for people.  

So back to the abortion debate. When does a human life begin? When the sperm touches the egg? When the sperm embeds itself within the egg?  When the baby is born? When the baby is ‘viable’ on it’s own within the womb?  Who decides the answer to this question?  Religion? Individuals? The government? This is the real debate for pro-choice vs. pro-life. But can you see how even in the naming of these different factions that they aren’t even talking about the same thing? Pro-choice people don’t call themselves pro-abortion because that’s not what they are. The political debate is not whether or not abortion or murder is good or evil but the government's role in philosophically deciding when a human life begins and should be protected legally.

For most Christians, they believe that the human soul is breathed by God into a fetus at conception. That God weaves the baby together in the mother’s womb as a full human being, sacred and beloved. It’s a beautiful idea. But, let’s be clear… it’s a Christian one. It’s not necessarily a scientific one or an objective one. After all, the question of when personhood begins is not a simple answer. Every sperm and egg carries the possibility of human life within it. Yet very few people would cry ‘genocide!’ when a man masturbates.

This is why this issue gets so complicated. The process from sex to birth is a gradual and mysterious process, and where cellular matter becomes human is a matter for philosophy, religion, and ethics—not objective science. And for the pro-choice person, matters of philosophy, religion, and ethics on this level should be determined by the individual, not the government.

I personally disagree with some of Hillary’s positions on this issue. For example, I find partial-birth abortion as abhorrent by any standard I can think of. But, let’s be clear, I have to concede that the issue that I would disagree with Hillary on in the regard is still political. It’s still about government’s involvement with it’s laws in deciding when it should consider cellular matter human. The debate is not whether or not partial-birth abortion is wrong, but whether or not a government should legally protect a life during birth or after birth. Can you see the difference?

Now back to this election. When you see what the debate between pro-life and pro-choice actually is, you can see how voting for a pro-choice candidate is not actually voting for abortion. For most pro-choice people (to my knowledge), their desire is actually to reduce the amount of abortions in America. They just happen to think that going about it through health care, empowering women..etc is a better road to minimizing abortions than by simply making it illegal and forcing women to have the abortions that they are going to have regardless of the law through the black market rather than a proper medical facility. Again, can you see difference between pro-choice and pro-abortion here? It’s important.

So to summarize all of that, if the abortion issue is very important to you in this presidential race, it should not be because you simply think that abortion is wrong, but because you think that the best way to minimize abortion is to make it illegal.

There are a couple of other factors worth considering if you are a person who strongly believes not only that abortion is wrong but that making abortion illegal is the answer to minimizing abortion:

The President of the United States can’t make abortion illegal.

Yes, she or he could appoint a Supreme Court Justice that might be more pro-life or not, but this, of course, is really starting to be a stretch. Even with a hardcore conservative, pro-life Justice, there’s really no reasonable chance of Roe vs. Wade being overturned anytime in the foreseeable future. Some would disagree with that, but I think the evidence would state otherwise. But let’s not get caught up in that right now. There are other important points to consider as well.  

Trump is not pro-life.

Even if a President could change the law or appoint such a fiercely conservative Justice that could somehow shift abortion laws in this country, do you really think Donald Trump will do that? Trump isn’t really a conservative. Hoping that he would appoint a Justice that would overturn Roe vs. Wade is sort of like hoping Richard Dawkins writes a new youth group curriculum about Creationism being the best scientific theory. I personally don’t see it in the cards.

With all of this in mind, can you see how voting for Trump is not actually voting against abortion? And conversely, can you see how voting for someone who has a pro-choice political stance is not actually a vote for abortion? I personally think it’s a good argument that the best way to actually minimize the abortion rate is to vote for whoever will take care of women and empower them to feel like they don’t have to have an abortion. And can anybody actually say with a straight face that Donald Trump is the best person to empower and take care of women in this country?  

This election is an important one. While voting for a pro-choice candidate is not voting for abortion, the same does not actually apply for Trump’s positions and worldviews. Voting for a racist, for instance, is actually voting for racism in a way because the ‘debate’ on racism in this country is not whether or not the government should make it illegal to be racist. If the debate were about whether or not it should be illegal to be racist, then it would be comparing apples and apples to compare the abortion issue to his racism issue. But that’s not what’s happening with Trump’s racism. The issue is that Trump seems to see white people as superior to people of color. Men as superior to women. Americans superior to all other nations.  Etc.  This means that by voting for him, you are in some ways actually becoming complicit in that viewpoint. You are using your power as a citizen to elevate that viewpoint to become the most powerful viewpoint in the world.  Again, please hear this argument and do not merely avoid thinking about it by deflecting this point to Hillary. Doing so will be missing the point entirely because it is not comparing apples with apples. (Unless of course you are arguing that Hillary is racist…but again, can anyone say that Hillary is more racist than Trump with a straight face?)

One more thing—aside from her being a woman, I don’t totally love the idea of Hillary as President. Not many people do. She has a history of dishonesty, less than exemplary judgement…etc But, to me, comparing her faults to Trump is like comparing bland food to poison. It’s not even a comparison within the same league. With this blog post, I’m not saying Hillary is the savior of the world or claiming that voting for her is the only right thing a person can do in this election. For some people, voting third party or not voting may feel like the right decision, and who am I to judge that? I do personally think either of those decisions is irresponsible in light of the potential evil we are facing as a nation, but I can’t say that voting for Hillary is the objective right thing to do. But I can and will say that I believe that voting for Trump is the wrong thing to do.

I hope that those who know that in their hearts but have been afraid of crossing party lines will be able to slow down, take a breath in all of this chaos and listen to what they really do already know in their hearts to be right. A vote for Trump is a vote against women, and therefore against the babies that will decide to carry or not carry in their bellies. It is a vote against people of color. And therefore a vote against the America that we all strive for—where all people are created equal. So it is also a vote against humanity, and against what I understand to be the Kingdom of God. I think you know this in your heart already. So I’d encourage you to not be afraid. Trump has built his platform entirely on fear. And my guess is that most people are only planning on voting for him because they are afraid to vote for someone outside of their tribe. For a lot of us, we have a hard time separating our tribe from right and wrong. But I hope that you’ve heard some of the things I’ve been saying here—voting for Hillary is not voting for abortion. It’s not voting for her lies anymore than voting for Donald Trump would be voting for his lies.

In November, I will be voting for Hillary, because when the vote comes down between ‘racism’ and ‘racism is wrong’, I’ll take the latter. When the choice is ‘let’s elect a man who thinks women are nothing but sex objects’ or ‘let’s elect our first woman President’, I’ll, once again, take the latter. I will be voting for Hillary not because Hillary is my ideal or perfect candidate or because I think she’ll fix the world, but because I agree that evil triumphs when good people do nothing. Voting for Hillary might not be your ideal scenario, but it’s at least not nothing. For me, it’s an imperfect but necessary way of standing against the wickedness of racism, sexism, xenophobia, and all of the other dangerous views for the most powerful leader in the world to have. I hope you’ll be able to triumph over your fear that the Republican candidate has constantly spewed and join me in proving him wrong. America is not ‘great’ when it swims in systemic oppression, sexism, greed, selfishness, narcissism and racism.  This is a country founded on genocide and built with slavery. We don’t need more of what America used to be. We need more of what America strives to be—a place of liberty and justice for all. 



First moments, the merging of two cells into one, multiplying—two, four, six, eight—rapidly growing and forming the information that will decide my hair, eyes, teeth, hands, my genetic DNA. Everything I needed to become a human and still I am invisible to the naked eye. I am grown from my Mother’s own body, my blood from her blood, my heartbeat from her choice; making her belly swell and her hormones go crazy with rage and want for whip-cream filled donuts at 4am.

My body grows and she puts her hand upon her belly to feel a foot kick her side, the jerk of hiccups, the round of my head. She is proud, proud of her body that is a force, source of life to mine.

I grow. Her body tells her it is time; I come into the world with pain and euphoria as she breaks her beautiful body to give me life. She sees me for the first time, what she has made, and it is good. The intricacies of the human body is something staggering - veins, heart, lungs, synapses, toenails, chemicals, eyelashes, all good and beautiful. She holds my body and breathes in.

I grow. From a baby to a toddler, toddler to little girl. I am four and I can run around with my shirt off and feel the fullness of the wind.  I can paint my belly and take baths with my friends, slap my butt and laugh. We sleep under stars and run through sprinklers naked and wild. We are silly and think our bodies are strange and wonderful.

I grow and I am six. I am taught what I can and cannot do with my body; can no longer take my shirt off outside on my front porch, no longer run around naked with my friends outside with paint on our bellies because the man across the street stares so my Mother takes me inside and tells me I am now the age where I need to be careful. A feeling comes I never knew before, I learn later the word for it is this - shame. We are at our friend’s house and the teenage boy keeps making me sit on his lap; I don’t understand it. We are all sitting in a circle, about ten of us, and no one notices. I am confused and try to get away from him, but he holds me there and moves his hands in a way I don’t understand. I feel I should obey because he is a strong older boy and I a small girl inherently weaker than he. I get mad that my body is not stronger, that I cannot break free. I feel it is my fault, maybe I should not have worn shorts so my legs were covered. And then there was the church leader, my friend’s father, who insisted he put lotion on my legs after our bath. I didn’t want him to, but he made me obey, because he was a man, and I, young and born the lesser of the sexes. It is uncomfortable and I thought he must not know what he is doing, a respectable man, let alone a church leader wouldn’t do this…but now I am older and know better, yes, he knew. So I am six and I can no longer be free in this body I once ran wild in, but I should cover it because there are predators and I don’t tell because I am ashamed, and it was no big deal, no reason to fuss.

I am fourteen. I feel my body changing on me, I notice and others notice and I no longer have the freedom of my youth. Blood comes and I am embarrassed; hiding the grocery store runs, keeping it a secret, seeing my brother laugh when he looks under the sink. It is a wonder of growing to womanhood, but I am starting to hate being a woman.  I am ashamed at what my body does, this beautiful thing that I once ran free in is turning on me, making me awkward and uncomfortable because even you are now uncomfortable with that thought. Boy’s eyes consume rather than see. I am told this is my fault, I am told God wants me to cover my body, wear longer skirts and shirts up to my collar bone and be sure it isn’t tight.  But how much skin is okay? Because other girls cover their whole body in black and I heard of the day there were two separate staircases for males and females so that males wouldn’t accidentally catch a glimpse of a girl’s ankle.

Now that I am fourteen, now that I am changing, is God now ashamed with what he made? The body formed in my mother, so good and beautiful, turned to shame with age and religious threads weaving and constructing my social identity? Oppression for something I cannot control, something completely natural and good. If this body is not holy in and of itself then God should have never made it in the first place. It’s the flower hating its vibrant petals, the beautiful tree sprouting from the earth only to grow and be ashamed of its bark.

I am twenty. I have rejected the shy, awkward aspects of womanhood and instead learned to joke about it to cope and be cool. But when night comes, I am often afraid to walk down the street alone. Every walk I take is accompanied with fear, because I see the eyes consume. I hear the threats and am followed. I have friends who are victims. Every girl I know has been afraid, every one of them. From taking a simple walk to rape and a child coming from it. One hid in the laundry basket when she was 9. One silently prayed every night from 13 to 16 that her father would be too drunk to come into her bed. One was at a party with her friend, he wanted something, she didn’t, so he trapped her in the restroom. One hid from her brother, another from her grandfather, another from her coworker. Some say it is the woman’s fault—the shirt was too low, breasts too big, how can a man resist?  But here’s a staggering idea: maybe the victim isn’t at fault. If in looking at the beautiful woman’s body you cannot appreciate her beauty but must strip and consume then it is true our culture has poisoned your mind—consume, take, be the animal, take, take, take.

Shame. Did my mother think that when she held me close to her chest at my birth? Was she ashamed? The beautiful form becomes forbidden and lusted at a certain age, all held together by a story of a serpent and a woman. Though some claim the curse is broken, some still believe it—the body is shamed, curse ever present.

I am thirty. I made two girls within my own body, felt the rush of bringing them into the world, and when I saw their bodies, I saw a miracle. Their skin and eye lashes perfect. Tiny lips, tiny fingernails, eyes embodying innocence and awe. They grow and run around my house naked and scream wildly without self-awareness or social concern. I teach them about our culture and what is and isn’t acceptable. But what I will not teach them is shame of their body. It was beautiful from moment one, and that will not change - not with age, not with anything. One daughter looks at her body in the mirror, we talk about the organs and skin, how her body will change. She is beautiful on every count. I remember when I was six, and I know I have to warn her. Not shame her, but tell her how some people were not taught to love, but take for themselves and she must be brave and aware. It pains me as I tell her, her innocent mind not know why one person would hurt another in such a way. “Do not be afraid,” I tell her. “But this is our culture, so be smart and be aware my brave girl.” Shame teaches us, but I will not teach my daughters in this way. I will empower them to be proud of their bodies, respectful of their bodies, in awe of how miraculous it is and what it is capable of.

 I will tell my daughter that to be a woman is not to be lesser, not object, not the bed in the red light district, nor the “bitch” in the hotel. She is not the body to exploit or product to consume.

“She” is not shame.

“She” is beautiful woman with beautiful body, capable of cosmic realities. Holding someone close, experiencing love, making love, creating life, accepting another human life as her own, feeling pain, joy, giving strength, healing with a kiss, wholeness with a touch; giving physical and mental nourishment with her own body.

“She” is grounded enough to follow, still capable to lead from a child to a nation.  The woman’s body is made in the image of Love, from Love herself, Life herself, so she herself is of God.

For my Grandmother, for my Mother, for my daughters, my friends, and as a reminder to myself: be proud, beautiful woman, your body is intrinsically good, perfectly good.

Perfect from moment one.

As you may have seen, the final record of the One Wild Life trilogy is releasing on Sept. 30! One of the things we are doing leading up to Sept. 30 is releasing a series of videos—one song from each of the records. These three videos share a story arc and build upon one another, but we don’t want to tell you too much about it because we don’t want to over-explaining or trying to interpret these videos for you. Art is, of course, made to be subjective, and I’m certainly don’t want to ruin your own experience at all with my own subjective conclusions. However, I think this is an interesting and beautiful video and I’ll share a little bit about it with you. This second video is filmed to “Love is All” from One Wild Life: Spirit. The first thing to take notice of is how beautiful this video is. Try to watch it in the full 4k resolution if you can. The video uses thousands of individual and beautiful full resolution images to create its unique stop motion effect. Team Woodnote did an incredible job making this video stunning to watch.  And speaking of stunning, perhaps we there is another aspect of this video that might be interesting to talk about (especially since our manager thinks that with this video we are about to dive into the fire of online fury again). The interesting aspect of this second video is this-- a brief and artful view of a man’s naked buttocks.


I’m sorry to tell you, but no. The aforementioned buttocks are not mine. Although—and this is God’s honest truth— I did volunteer to play the character whose cheeks are unveiled and everyone on the video team (including my wife) politely declined my offer. I was hurt, but I remained steadfast.

So why are we showing a butt? Simple - It’s part of the story and the art of the video. Perhaps a better question than that, however, is why wouldn’t we show a butt? Now we are talking about something interesting!

Humankind has always had an interesting relationship with our bodies. There’s so much shame, taboo, and stress about the human body—especially given the fact that we all have one. We are about to release the final record of our One Wild Life trilogy this year and it is all about the body, so we’ve been thinking a lot about this. One of the biggest things that we have come to realize is how unhealthy most of us are in relationship to our bodies. We hate ourselves and others for not being what we think bodies should be. But bodies are what they are. Do you judge every cloud in the sky that you see for not being a different sort of cloud than what it is? No, because you have no insecurity as it relates to clouds. If you were a cloud and insecure about yourself, then you would judge other clouds.

So back to the buttocks. (One of my favorite sentences that I’ve ever written in a blog post.)

Bottom line (pun intended): we aren’t afraid of showing a man’s backside in a video because we are trying to make art that says something—not bland propaganda that caters to a crowd who likes to pretend that people don’t have butts. This video is for the song "Love Is All" from our previous album One Wild Life: Spirit, and one of the themes in both the song and video is about casting off the constructs and untruths that keep us from our true selves. We so often mask ourselves in a million ways—through our work, our consumerism, our shame. Love, on the other hand unmasks us. It brings us to our most bare and vulnerable selves. It’s what sets us free.

When we have unhealthy relationships with our bodies, we are at war at the core of who we are. That unhealthiness can manifest in any number of ways. Some people feel shame and repress aspects of their humanity, others act out in a sort of strange reverse sort of shame where they hyper-sexualize or exploit their physicality in a way that may harm themselves or others but are willing to do so for some incentive—economic, as a means to power or attention…etc This video is not that. We are not trying to cater to man’s baser instincts to try to sell something or exploiting someone’s physicality for the sake of some ulterior motive. We are simply not repressing what we considered to be a really good story and concept for a series of artful videos.

Yes, we knew that including brief male nudity could potentially limit the reach of this video trilogy within certain circles. But we felt that trying to censor the filmmaker’s vision to this story would have been a decision based in fear. Fear rooted in a system of sexual repression and body shaming that results in a massive amount of darkness and suffering in the world. We are not interested in that. What we are interested in is making art that shines light into the world- not shadows. We hope that this video and this song helps you to feel more connected to love—more at home in your heart as your truest self. Of course, if you don’t want your kids seeing men’s buns, don’t let them watch this week’s video (I had no problem letting our daughter watch it btw.) But otherwise, enjoy the view, and maybe next time I can convince our team to let my own light shine.

Watch the "LOVE IS ALL" music video premiere on PopWrapped HERE.

Click HERE to watch One Wild Life: Video Trilogy Part 2 featuring "MOON SONG" off "One Wild Life: Spirit."



Gungor has made a lot of serious music.  We have searched and bared our souls and out of this have comes songs and stories of faith and doubt, joy and pain, life and death.  And with all of that idealism, philosophy, and navel-gazing, one finds that there are times that you just need to let your hair down. Perhaps don a green jumper or a leopard skin leotard and it out for a few moments.  Such an endeavor might remind you to not take yourself or your art too seriously.  

This ridiculous song came into the world while writing for our next album Body, but honestly, it’s just a little too ridiculous to fit the rest of the album—which again… is pretty serious..   So we decided maybe we’d just release it the week of Father’s Day to celebrate the men in all of our lives who simultaneously embarrass and delight us when the hair really does come down and ass shaking begins. We hope you enjoy this absurd Happy Father’s Day gift to all the dad’s out there who still know how to #shake it.  

Song Stories: Hurricane


Our oldest loves this book called “Kiki and Coco in Paris,” a book about a girl and her doll exploring the sites of the ever lovely city of Paris. I keep telling my oldest how one day, if possible, I will take her there, just her and I and her doll. We'll stuff our faces with pastries and take in as much art as humanly possible. We'll sit beneath the sparkly gaze of the Eiffel Tower, my girl and I. The book ends with Kiki saying “Je t'aime” Coco, and the doll says back “Je t'aime Kiki”. So of course that is now what Amelie and I say to each other many nights.

“Je t’aime, Amelie”

“Je t’aime, Momma”

But then came November 13th, the tower became a symbol of remembrance and we, along with the world, ached for Paris.

I was in London on November 13th, when the bombs went off and shooters attacked. The sadness was substantial - it walked with everyone down the street, plastered on every news channel in shops and bars. It stirred the fears of past events, made people afraid for the future, and it was the first time I was terrified to go home.

My mind filled with thoughts about 9/11, Columbine, Brussels, Arvada, Kabul, and the list going on and on, I don’t even know a fraction of the dates or cities. It is easy to get depressed with the world because there is so much pain, so much loss, an outrageous amount of hate for the fellow man all contained on a small spinning sphere. It is hard to raise children in this kind of world, not knowing what they may face, knowing they are sheltered and safe right now, but tomorrow? And what about the mother I saw in that photo online? She was crying as her children clung to her, they had just made it to Greece but lost family in the water. A whole ocean holding loved ones in the deep dark.

I felt defeated when we came back from London, felt the world would never change, these stories would go on forever. But I was sitting in my kitchen when I received a text, and it was from my daughter’s kindergarten teacher. It was a photo, the children drew flowers, and with them were the words “love is stronger than hate.”

I needed that drawing, in all it’s scribble and innocence. I realized in a world that so often feels like hell, I do see vivid love all around me. It is present in my girls, present in the people I see on my street each day; in the nurse taking care of her patients, the lawyer fighting for good day in and day out. It grows in the homes built for low-income families and gardens planted to help a neighborhood. Love is found when a friend is forgiven, spouse held close, when you see the other. A friend attends a church where the people adopted an entire orphanage of children – they saw a need, knew they had to do something, and just took action. Just like that. Some others do this thing called a “love flash mob” and raised over a million dollars to help refugees (they did this twice!), that is some strength, that is some generous, very present, vivid love. I thought about my incredible friend, Vickie, who started an organization called We Welcome Refugees, encouraging people to open their arms to the stranger, equipping them to help people start over, asking those who say they believe in love to put action to words. There is a radical love growing, we can often miss it because pain and fear feel so big, so devastating. But when we put our hands to goodness, helping where help is needed, being selfless, turning our lives upside down for someone else, it affects anyone standing in close proximity and spreads.

I sat down at the piano, feeling this strong love rise in my bones, and wrote a song called “Hurricane.” I sang that song at the top of my lungs, hoping the energy and words would attach to the atoms taking flight and somehow people around me and across the ocean could feel it. I see a love amid the hate, people building something good amid the wreckage. Love is stronger than hate, I desperately hope you can feel it.

Last Days in the Desert

Hey everybody, if you saw us on tour this spring, you probably saw that our tour was sponsored by a film by Rodrigo Garcia called ‘Last Days in the Desert.’  The film stars Ewan McGregor, who plays both Yeshua (Jesus) and the Demon (the devil) in the film.  The film is premiering tomorrow (Friday May 13), but today there is actually a special premier event in about 20 cities with an intro that includes Lisa, Science Mike and I introducing the film and Gungor playing a live acoustic version of Hurricane, (a song from our latest album ‘One Wild Life: Spirit’).  There are still tickets in some of the cities if you’d like to go.  Go to for more info. 

We were really honored to be part of the promotion of this film.  As many of you know, Jesus movies can be super lame.  But this film is a lot more nuanced and interesting than most Jesus films out there. It’s not religious propaganda. It’s art. It’s an imagined story about Jesus. I actually had the chance to sit down for a bit with Rodrigo Garcia and Ewan McGregor and ask a few questions about the film. You’ll be able to hear that conversation on the upcoming season of The Liturgists Podcast, but until then, I have a few thoughts about the film.  

I must say, at first, I was a little put off by another white, blue-eyed Jesus… Jesus was not a white, blue-eyed dude, after all. But as far as white, blue-eyed dudes go, I mean, come on, it’s Ewan McGregor… The guy’s a badass.  So, I was able to get past that detail and just get into the story.  To be honest, this film probably isn’t for everybody. If you’re the kind of person who would get offended at a person telling a fictional extra-biblical story, maybe just don’t stress yourself out and stay away from it. But I don’t think you should get offended at such a thing. Good stories are powerful, whether they are literally true or not.  Jesus obviously said and did things that were not in the Bible. Why not imagine what they were?  He was a man who used fictional stories as his primary way of teaching. I can’t imagine he’d be offended at this movie, and I don’t think you should be either. 

The movie is also not in a hurry.  It’s more of a meditative and subtle journey through the story.  But if you have the patience, there’s a lot of beauty to be found within.  Not only is the score and the cinematography beautiful, but for me, imagining Jesus interacting with normal people in normal conversations was enjoyable and at moments even profound. I loved how Ewan portrayed Jesus as a great listener and a man of empathy. A man with angst but also a profound determination and love.  I loved when he belly laughed with one of the characters who crouches down and lets off a huge fart.  I loved the subtlety of the Demon, and how he wasn’t a simple caricature of evil, but actually an interesting character in his own right.  And did I mention the music?  Man, I loved the music. 

Anyway, if you’re into the idea of seeing some really talented filmmakers imagine a story about Jesus in the desert where Ewan plays Jesus and the Devil, you should go check the film out at one of these premiers.  Would love to hear what you think of it.  Cheers everybody! 

Song Stories: Vapor


This song took me over two years to write. For years, doubt was a significant part of my life and my art. While I was able to manage it most of the time, there were times when it was crippling and it would cause me to spiral into despair or depression.  So as a guy that made most of my living writing and singing songs about God, it was terrifying and then ultimately incredibly liberating when I finally full let go of trying to believe anything at the end of 2012.  

It wasn’t until my experience of fully letting go of my ideas and beliefs about God and religion in particular, that I was able to engage with mystery in a different way.  During most of my deconstruction, mystery was present, but at times it was almost more like a fine print clause that I would remember in certain moments to keep me sane. Other times, I embraced mystery entirely, but again, it was still often rooted in the need to hold on to my belief in some way, even if that ‘belief’ was an entirely deconstructed openness to mystery. 

But, when I finally fully let go of my lifelong belief, I discovered something interesting. God was not ‘something' that I had to hold onto. God was not this other ‘thing' that could be analyzed, dissected, and believed in or not believed in. In the absence of belief, I was surprised to find that my heart still had the same strong desires for good; for beauty; for love.  Over the course of the subsequent months, I began to bask once again in the reality that my very being is grounded in Mystery, Goodness, and yes, Love. This faith was not exactly the same as the faith that was deconstructed, but it was faith nonetheless.  Faith in a way that is beyond me holding onto. A perspective that seems less like the objective observer wondering whether or not I should get in the river (which might be imaginary), and more like a molecule of water within the river itself. 

This was the experience that I needed to have before I was able to finish writing Vapor.  It was the first song to that which we would call God that I was able to write after my final chapter of deconstruction. It is the beginning of a reconstruction that sees myself within this infinite mystery, beauty, and love that words like “Divine”, “Holy”, and “God” conjure up. And though I no longer fear losing my ‘belief’ like I used to, I have once again embraced mystery and much of the language that I inherited (God, Jesus, faith…etc), but this time with hands that are genuinely and entirely open and unafraid. And I find that in that abandon, the language of my childhood comes rushing back. 'Trees clap their hands for you. Oceans they dance for you. You are holy.' And in the metaphor and language and mystery, I somehow find myself alive. I find God alive. The lines of reality are all blurred, and I am once again, simply home.  


Song Stories: Am I



At the end of every question is a question mark. 

As any parent of a toddler can attest to, there is no question that can be answered all the way down to the bottom.

"Why is the sky blue?”

“Because the molecules in the air scatter blue light from the sun more than red light.”


“Well, I suppose that’s just how our brains read and categorize the effects of how these particular particles are structured.”

“Why do our brains do that?”

“That’s how we evolved.”

“Why do we evolve?”

“Well, we just do. It’s how things are.”


“It just is! I don’t know, stop asking me questions!!"

At the end of every question is a question mark. I believe at the bottom of it all is great mystery. I am that I am.  

Song Stories: We Are Stronger



This song continues the album’s theme so far of one unified existence. Human beings are part of the fabric of reality. We give the universe eyes and prefrontal cortexes to see itself with. Not only that, but we share energy and even atomic particles with one another constantly. What makes me me was given to me by other people, and through my life I live in this constant give and take, until death—which is the final form of giving that we know of in this earth.  

In seeing things through this lens, we believe this should have an impact on how we interact with one another. The differences that we see in one another are so minute compared to all the ways that we are the same thing. It’s sort of like sand. Up close, you can see all sorts of differences between grains of sand. Different colors, shapes and sizes. But if you zoom the camera out a little bit, all you see is sand. Black, white, gay, straight, Irish, Chinese, French, African… On our very up-close and subjective scale of sight, we can tell differences between individuals. We can see things like skin color, sexual orientation, or age. We can understand differences in religion, philosophy or economic status. But back up the camera just a little bit, and we’re all human beings. Skin and sinew and blood and brains. Wisps of smoke here for a moment and gone the next. We all came from the same stardust and to the same stardust we shall return.

In this broader perspective, things like racism and war and angry online debates can all seem quite silly. At the deepest level, we are all the same. When seen fully, this idea need not erase our differences, but transcend and include them. We don't all inhabit equal worlds, but we do all inhabit these human bodies and we are all just trying to survive and make the most of what we have.  We are all born and we all die.  We all need the same basic things. Want the same basic things. Hope for the same basic things.  This should give us all a deep sense of humility and unity.

This 'sameness' is not the entire picture of course. Because on our usual zoom setting on the camera, there are real differences between people. Life is not fair. We are not all afforded the same opportunities. We are not all equally attractive and talented. There are major differences, advantages and disadvantages that every person is born with.  Racism and white priveledge really does exist. Sexism really does exist. Slavery and political and religious oppression really do exist. And in order for us to move towards unity in any real way, those differences must be seen and accounted for.  This is why the bridge of the song breaks down into recognizing those among us who sometimes are not treated as equals. It’s a recognition of the unbalanced scales of our society and our reminder of why it is so important to refresh our vantage point sometimes. To see my own face reflected back at me in the face of the other.  To see how you and I are the same is to see that I can no longer standby idly as you are oppressed by my unfair position of privilege and power within our society as a white, straight, male, for instance. For as soon as we can see one another as one giant human family, I believe many of our fundamental societal problems begin fixing themselves from the inside out.  

One of the potential pitfalls we faced and wrestled with this song was the potential misunderstanding of the lyrics in the bridge.

Every black life matters

Every woman matters

Every soldier matters

All the unborn matter

Every gay life matters

Fundamentalists matter

Here’s to life and all its branches

The danger we felt was that by adding anything to “every black life matters”, we hoped people wouldn’t see that as echoing the misguided response to “#blacklivesmatter” of #alllivesmatter.  While it is technically true, of course, that all lives matter, this response to #blacklivesmatter is misguided because it fails to understand the point, and actually negates it. Nobody is saying (or have ever said) that straight, rich, white men’s lives don’t matter. It is an important thing to remember that specifically black lives matter in the midst of systemic racial oppression that manifests itself in things like mass incarceration from the unjustly waged war on drugs fought primarily in poor black communities or the countless young black men being shot, beaten, humiliated, and dehumanized by the police. Saying “white lives matter” in that context is to ignore the very real inequality present in our societies.  This is why we left out the privileged positions of “white, male or straight” in our list of lives that matter in this song.  Still, some have taken offense that we added anything to the list at all, as though we were trying to echo the sentiment of #alllivesmatter. I assure you, we were not.  

The reason that we decided to go ahead and add to the statement “every black life matters” was because  this song is not specifically about racial oppression, but about humanity as a whole.  I really loved adding the line “black lives matter” because I feel without addressing the actual inequality of our society and the present issues of systemic oppression, the song veers into candy land. For us to get from solidarity to love, we are going to have to do some real systemic and maybe even political work.  Black Lives Matter is at the center of that work in America right now.  But to leave the inequality issues at race would be to leave out the also very real marginalization of LGBTQ people or unfair treatment of women in the workplace, for example. Also vital issues on the path to love. So this list is a list (although certainly not a comprehensives one) of people that people within our society tend to see as “less than” in some way.  It is not intended to take away from Black Lives Matter at all. In fact, by adding other oppressed groups, the hope is to see that there is much work to be done before we could ever hope to arrive at a place where love and unity thrives. Not mere colorblindness, but with eyes that fully see and hearts that fully love.

So while this song is about the existential unity of all people, and not necessarily primarily about social justice, social justice is a step in the right direction on the way to true unity and love. Until we learn to see the other, the different, the enemy as our brother or sister, we have no hope for true peace. That’s the reason for including the one potential ‘oppressor' into the list by saying “fundamentalists matter.”  Because for me, and many others, fundamentalists are the enemy of everything we are about. If there’s any group I have a tendency to dehumanize and marginalize in my own heart, it’s the people I perceive as fundamentalists. So if I’m going to call out the splinter in the fundamentalist’s eye in how they judge and look down on other people who are in reality equal to them, I might as well recognize the log in my own eye as well. 

Here’s to life and all its branches!

Song Stories: Introduction and lion of rock


Intro/Lion of Rock


One of my favorite sounds is that swell of an orchestra tuning itself before a performance. As the individual instruments ring out in their own mildly improvised chaos, a single whole emerges. The sound of individuals becoming a collective. It’s a sound that creates a sense of expectation in the audience. It's the inhalation before the first note is sung.  The rolling in of the clouds before the thunderstorm.  

That's sort of the effect I was expounding on in scoring this introduction piece. Musically, Intro/Lion of Rock has an enormous amount of textures. In fact, the ProTools sessions had more tracks than our mix engineer, Adam Hawkins had ever seen. (upwards of 160)  While I felt bad and even a little embarrassed giving him such a huge session (that's a lot of work to mix), each texture felt important to me for the big picture of this piece which seeks to echo the big picture of reality! Strings and brass and winds and electronics, and it’s all part of this one thing.  This is, after all, the driving idea of “One Wild Life.” All the variance and chaos and spirit and flesh and bones are just expressions and perspectives of a single unified reality.  So in that respect, 160 tracks is quite conservative actually.  ;-)  

This introduction is the incoming of the tide to be examined and considered in Lion of Rock. It is the warming up of all of the voices that will soon begin to sing. 

Lion of Rock was written from an experience that I had in New Zealand. We were playing a festival and on our day off, we went to this beautiful black sand beach. I climbed this large rock that looked sort of like a lion. As I sat on this 'lion of rock’, it was as if I saw the whole earth around me swirling in one unified reality. Shadows of billowing clouds over the sand. The wind blowing the sand in wisps over the crashing waves. People on the beach running and playing, and the whole thing just looked like this one single, breathing organism.  And I realized, maybe that's kind of what it is.  It's all connected. It's all one unified and beautiful reality with a single Essence at its center.  That great homesickness that we cannot shake off (thanks to Rilke for the imagery in the second verse). Maybe learning to be okay with both the inhalation and the exhalation of it all is part of what it means to live a full life.  Maybe love is (like Richard Rohr says) just saying yes to all of it.  If we see the connectedness and grandeur of Reality, I believe we begin to see what a grand and noble thing it is to be a human being in this marvelous universe, giving it eyes to see itself with.  


About two years ago I went to a silent retreat in Sacramento CA. They ask you to be silent to give space for reflection, prayer, meditation – our lives are so full of noise, it feels strange at first to embrace silence.

After four days of letting my mind rest, I walked up a hill before the sun rose. I could see deep clouds gathering in the distance, all rolling in together like a great oceans wave; wind bringing in the smell of rain. In dim light I could see cows and sheep sleeping on hills. Houses with inhabitants still tucked inside, not yet woken by the day. 

I sat there in the dim light for an hour, then, slowly, I saw shimmering orange and yellow peaking over the farthest stretch of earth. It gently crept over mountains, seeping into valleys like water spilling in slow motion. It found its way to the cows and sheep and crept onto houses one by one. As the light crawled, it all began to awake. 

And I had this realization – everything was giving and taking. 

The cows I could see in the distance, the trees, flowers and grass and the breath I was breathing. Everything I saw was both giving and taking something from the earth – chickens giving eggs and taking grain, cows giving milk and taking grass, trees taking water and giving shade, removing and storing carbon while giving oxygen back into the air. Me - working each day to hopefully give something good to humanity, give something good to the earth, building and creating. But I’m also taking, I’m taking the fruit, the vegetables, eggs, taking all sort of elements from the land, emitting radiation and carbon dioxide and pollution. All in the same breath. All of the life I saw coming from the ground would return to the ground and supply more life. Dust to dust. Life to life. 

It wasn’t tragic - the thought of death in order to bring about life. It was poetic, balanced, everything having it’s place, everything giving and taking in turn…”grace in it all.” And there was beauty in it, the birth, the life, and the death - all working in tandem with each other like an elaborate symphony.


Why I stopped trying to 'spread God's fame'

It’s Sunday morning, and I’m sitting in the Houston airport thinking about how many people are gathered right now in this city to worship.  And I’m wondering what it is that we all think we are doing.

I used to think that worship was somehow about making God feel good about himself. Well, I wouldn’t have put it so crudely. But this is a sentiment that I see in much modern church music. There’s a lot of talk about spreading God’s ‘fame.’  As though God was some wishful contestant on reality tv that really needed to get his name out there, so he’s relying on the white guys playing their electric guitars and synthesizers on church stages in their fashionable jeans as his primary PR campaign to become more famous.  

The Scriptures often quoted to support this view of 'God’s glory' are usually from the Old Testament, when most people believed in multiple gods.  Yahweh was one of who knows how many gods, but he was BETTER! He was BIGGER and GREATER and more glorious than the gods of those evil neighbors of ours.  

This theology and language tends to get along well with American conservatism/imperialism. We are the ones who have it right. It’s those people from outside our borders (whether physical or idealogical) who are to blame for the problems that we are facing. What we need to do is really buckle down and show everyone how our ideas, our values, and our God (capital G, not small g like yours) is greater than yours.  Our job as Christians is to spread that fame.  

But do we really believe in this view of reality anymore? Do we really see 'our God' as some guy up above the flat circle of the earth that exists among a bunch of other gods and goddesses who needs to be reassured that he is better than they are?  Maybe, if we pay attention, our worship has more to say to us about us than we thought.  

What if all of our gods (even when we spell them with capitol g's)  are imaginary constructs that we use to justify our own fears, biases, ideas and desires? What if any IDEA that we have of ‘God’ is nothing but a mask of reality and not the Reality beyond words that many of us hope to refer to when we speak of God?  What if what we are really saying when we talk about how our (G)od needs to be more famous--what we are really singing when the cymbals are crashing and the hands are lifted and we are endlessly repeating the phrases about the difference between our (G)od and theirs is that WE in fact are better than THEY are?  If that’s the case, then that’s not worship. That's narcissistic ego stroking and destructive tribalism.  

At this point, I’m not interested in that sort of ‘worship.’ I don’t think God has a self-image problem. I no longer think God needs me to 'spread his fame.' Aside from the fact that I’m pretty sure most people that have access to iTunes have heard the name Jesus before, (It’s a pretty famous name…) I think that view somewhat ironically puts me at the center of my worship. Now God's fate is our hands. He is the guy relying on us to make him more famous and desirable and to the ignorant sinners. We somehow become more powerful in that transaction.

What I do think could use some spreading, however, is the way of living that Jesus taught about. A life of love lived with open hands and an open heart to the divine nature found in all things.  For me, worship is now about opening my eyes to reality. Opening my hands of my attachments. Opening my heart to the truth that sets me free.  Opening my life to others.  Sometimes that experience may go well with some music and lifted hands. Often it goes even better with silence. But I wonder how many people in Houston (or anywhere) this morning are in church trying to experience something in a worship service but coming up empty. I wonder how many people are singing words that were written from an idolistic, fear and shame based religious (and probably American) imperialism and just aren’t getting anything from it. And I wonder how many of them feel bad about that. 

Well, if that’s you, don’t feel bad about it. Worship doesn’t have to be such a trivial and weird thing. Worship should feel like letting go not piling on. Worship should feel like adoration and gratitude, not duty or groveling. Worship should not boost our pride, it should destroy it. Worship should not stroke our ego, it should lead us to the path of transcending it. The worship that seeks to stroke any ego (including god’s) is probably the self-serving expression of an ego that still has some work to do on itself.  Our worship tells us much of ourselves, and we should pay attention to that.