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 can feel your excitement already. “ARE WE FINALLY GOING TO GET TO SEE MICHAEL GUNGOR’S BARE 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."

 

Shake

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 just...dance 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

(Lisa)

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 lastdaysinthedesert.com 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

(Michael)

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.”

“Why?”

“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.”

“Why?”

“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

 

Michael:

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

Michael

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.  

Lisa:

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.  

 

One Wild Life: Soul

"Say it with me class, 'I am a spirit. I have a soul, and I live in a body.’"

Christian school taught me that the essence of my personhood was a disembodied spirit-man that was (unfortunately) attached to a body for a certain amount of time until I died  (which I probably wouldn’t have to do because Jesus was coming back soon).

I wasn’t exactly sure what the soul was other than my brain or maybe some ghostly part of my brain or something…? I wasn't sure how my brain was supposed to be altogether different from my body or my spirit from my soul, but the essential point was that there was a difference between me and my body. My body was something I had to war with. Either I would be its slave or its master. 

This fragmented view of myself stemmed from a fragmented view of reality as a whole. Reality was essentially dualistic--there was the ‘natural' world and the ‘supernatural' world.  The natural world was the realm you could access with your physical senses. The supernatural or spiritual world was one you could access only with your spirit or perhaps your soul.  

This dualism is, in my opinion, what is responsible for ideas like 'Christian music' and TV preachers who sell miracle oil to old ladies. We could find portals into the supernatural world through faith—escaping the wanton world of the flesh and moving towards the purity and righteousness of our spirits. (Gnosticism 101 for midwestern American children)

At some point in my journey, I began to ask questions about the seams and divisions between these realities.  

I began to consider the worldview of people who thought differently about reality. People who made a pretty good case that there was no reason to believe in any other ‘realm' of reality because there was no real evidence that such a realm exists. All of that was just fairy tales and magic. I began to wonder—was this belief just a crutch? A fear of death and mortality that was simply evidence of the ego of mankind and our desire to be special? Perhaps there was not multiple realms or realities like my Christian school taught, and instead just the one reality that was the universe.

I decided I liked that story better for a little while.  Made more sense to me.  Especially after seeing behind the curtain of the oil salesman.    

But in living with that view of reality for a little while, there seemed to be something missing.  There were parts of reality and my experiences that felt like ‘more’ than just random atoms fumbling around.  So I began to take another look at the magic of my childhood and my Christian school, but only this time with a slightly different bend… What if rather rather than one magical realm and one natural realm, there was still only one realm like the naturalists said, only that one realm was magical?  

This seemed like a good compromise between the skeptic in my brain and the believer.  I should mention that I have come to terms with the fact that in my brain, there are competing thoughts. There is a full blown skeptic and a believer both active in my brain—roommates.  They have learned to co-exist. The skeptic in my brain refuses to believe in such a preposterous idea as an immaterial human soul. 'What evidence of such a thing exists?’ he asks.  The smiley believer guy in my head points out to the skeptic that his lack of evidence doesn’t prove souls don’t exist, of course. It just means there’s not really any evidence that we can test and prove the existence of something other than material reality either way. The skeptic shakes his head and rolls his eyes, but at least the believer roommate always pays his rent on time and keeps the place relatively clean. Together, they come up with a compromise. There’s only one reality, but that one reality is supernatural, magical, and shimmering with God.  

This is not the same view I had as a kid of being a spirit (hallelujah) that has a soul (eh) and lives in a body (ick).  Now, there is no need to see the body as somehow less than or separate from the soul or the spirit. And there is certainly no reason to go as far as some religious people do in calling the body depraved or sinful as that would akin to defaming God’s good creation. 

At this point I would rephrase my belief in the spirit, soul, body conundrum something more like this:  

I am a body.

I am a soul.

I am spirit.

How can I say that I am all of that at once? 

That’s what these three albums are going to dive into. Looking at how these three lenses all fade into one another. To give you a sneak peak:

Spirit gives rise to body which gives rise to soul.  And soul is the experience of both spirit and body.  

Okay, that might sound a little mystical and strange to some of you, but the albums will hopefully clarify more of that as they come out. For now, we are on focused on soul (the first record to be released of the trilogy). 

So, what do we really speak of when we speak of soul? Even when I was in Christian school, when we would speak of the ‘immaterial’, I think if we would have been honest with ourselves, we were more concerned with philosophy and perhaps even poetry than we were physics or chemistry. What we really were after was recognizing the mark of divinity in people and not relegating human beings to mere matter and chaos. And insofar as our language was intended to that, I still affirm it. I believe that there is something about the idea and language of a human being a soul that speaks of something more true than by simply saying that a human being is nothing but a collection of physical matter.  

There are experiences in the life of a human being that cannot be described with numbers and science. Take sex, for example.  Sex can be experienced as a profound and transcendent connection to another person, and to understand the mechanical operations or chemical reactions involved in sex is not the same thing as fully understanding and experiencing the potential mystery and spirituality of human sexuality. Or take music… just because one might know the frequency that middle C vibrates at does not mean that this person is a skilled musician or one who really understands or deeply experiences music.  To understand the math or physics of music is not the same thing as knowing music from the subjective ‘inside' of the experience.  

In my opinion, the ‘material’ explanations for life do not do justice in explaining or exploring aspects of reality like love and transcendence that seem to be larger than literal language can contain. Poetry does a better job than science in that department. 

This is why I think language like ‘soul’, ’supernatural’, or ‘magic' is actually some of the best language we humans have when speaking of the enormity of the subjective human experience. What experience can anybody fully explain down to the bottom of reality anyway? Nobody knows the fullness of how anything works or what it is the way it is. It just is. And that mystery at the bottom of all reality, my friend, is as good of a definition of miracle or magic as I could imagine. Does this mean I would agree with my teacher that humans do in fact have a soul?  Well, what I would actually say at this point is not that humans have souls, but that humans are souls.

The sceptic might ask why I would still use that sort of language. After all, doesn’t language like that imply to most people the very seamed reality that I spoke of before? Maybe.  But I think we use soul language because that’s the best language we have for certain kinds of experiences and ways of thinking about the sacredness of human life. 

It feels just as appropriate and true to me to describe the part of reality that leaves a room when someone dies by saying his or her soul departed as it would be to say that his or her body ceased to function. There’s an essential energy and reality to a person that brain waves and pulse rates don’t fully encompass.  When someone you loves dies, there’s a much bigger loss than the changing of numbers on the medical machines. When speaking of the essence of a person, there’s something more honoring and perhaps even more accurate about describing their soul then merely their physicality. 

So what is soul exactly? It’s you! It’s the whole mess! It’s the cooperation of the countless cells and systems in your body to keep you living, breathing, and moving. It’s the stories that you have experienced and been a part of others experiencing.  It’s relationship. Countless relationships of energy and synapse and contradiction.  Soul is personality and passion and quirks and sight.  It’s awareness.  It’s your specific embodiment of Creativity at work in the universe. 

A living human being is more than a slab of meat. She is a sacred soul. A godess. An angel walking the earth. Magical or mythological language isn’t untrue.  It’s often truer than true.  

One Wild Life: Soul releases today, Friday, August 7. Join us as we begin the journey of considering how we are living this one wild and precious life that we’ve been given, and how we are not just random collections of matter—we are soul.  

To celebrate the release of this album, we are announcing a lyric art contest. Over the next week, we want to see art that you have created, in any form or medium, that was inspired by and features your favorite lyrics in One Wild Life: Soul. It can be anything--photography, video, images, painting, etc. Post your creation to social media using the hashtag #OneWildLifeSoul. We will share our favorites and choose a winner, who will receive a deluxe merch package.

We're so excited to see what you create. Deadline for submission will be a week from today (August 14th)

- Gungor

Why One Wild Life?

Hey everybody, Michael here. With only 24 hours remaining for your chance to get in on this One Wild Life journey that a bunch of us are embarking on together, I just wanted to personally write to you to tell you a little more about this project and why I hope you will join us in it.

We have been making music professionally for more than a decade now, and I have learned a few things along the way. One of which is that a lot of the ways in which the music industry operates tends to incentivize artists to focus on celebrity, brand marketing and hype than it does for them to focus on making good art.

For those of you who don’t know much about the music industry, here’s how it works: there’s this thing called an 'album cycle.’ A single album cycle usually lasts a couple of years. The idea is that the artist makes an album (hopefully as quickly and cheaply as possible), then the artist gives that music to the label in order to market it and build a brand with. The music often ends up becoming part of the marketing for the brand. This is the argument that the streaming proponents often use. They say to stop thinking of music as the product and instead use the music to get more fans for the brand, and then sell merch and concert tickets to those fans.

For a lot of people, that works really well. They spend a month or two writing and then maybe a few weeks in the studio, and then they are back to the main part of their work--building the brand--doing things like interviews, videos, photo shoots, concerts, social media…etc But here’s the issue with having a music industry built on fame and personality rather than the art: the art tends to suffer. Imagine if Bach would have had to take 80 or 90 percent of his time away from his composing and instead spent it doing press interviews and traveling around Europe on a horse trying to get new fans... What could the world have missed out on? What art is the world potentially missing out on with the primary systems in place for the music industry often being more built on fame and branding than the creation of exceptional art?

I wonder how many musicians in our world right now are not living up to the fullest measure of what they could become as artists from the simple practicalities of needing to pay their rent and put food on their table. If you want to make a living in the music industry, all of the current systems lead you towards that typical album cycle model of making music that places the brand above the music.

That’s largely what we’ve had to do with our career up to this point as well. Of the time we’ve spent on our career, the vast majority of time is spent on things other than the actual crafting of the music. But over the last year or two, something has been stirring in us to question that status quo. We found that much of our creative energy was being spent on things like “how can we get to Omaha from Denver with 10 people for a thousand dollars?” rather than focusing on doing what we feel like we were created to do which is to craft music that opens the human heart.

Then I met a guy named Ryan, also known as ‘Sleeping at Last.’ Ryan is this amazing singer songwriter and composer who has been releasing a staggering amount of beautiful work over the last few years. I began to ask Ryan questions to figure out how he found time to make all of that, and I found out that he had simply opted out of the system. He had stopped spending 90 percent of his energy on touring and branding and all of the business and marketing stuff, and instead just focused on making music full time. And what he found was that his fans came alongside him and supported him in that endeavor. And somehow he was making it work! And now all of us who are fans of Sleeping at Last have all of this amazing music that we would not have if Ryan would have spent the last few years doing photo shoots rather than carving out thousands of hours in his studio.

We decided that we wanted to give something like that a try. And One Wild Life was born.

So we moved to Los Angeles and rented out a little space a couple of miles from our house where we could set up our studio gear. And so this year, every weekday (and many weekends), I wake up and ride my bike to my studio to make this music. And let me just say, I LOVE IT! I get to spend so much more time on the music and saying what we want to say! I feel so much creativity being set free from not focusing so much on selling t-shirts, but instead just focusing on making the best possible music that we can.

And so far, it seems like our mission of making music that opens the human heart is actually happening more effectively! Those who have purchased this season pass so far have been raving:

Here are just a few of some of your comments:

'I'm so happy I'm almost crying. Other artists entertain and are enjoyable to listen to...but you are the only ones that I've really connected with, that really get it, that feed my mind and soul. Your music is so thoroughly authentic.' -Kathryn Elizabeth Gillespie

'I myself have recently been aware of having developed a constricted and claustrophobic heart, and this album has proved opening and refreshing.’ -Mike West

"Soul" might be my favorite Gungor album so far. It is incredibly creative and bold. - Jonathan Le Shana

While we are extremely honored and humbled by such comments, it really makes me want to figure out how to keep spending the majority of our time crafting this music rather than trying to become more ‘famous.’ But to do that, we sincerely need the people like you that care about this music to be patrons of sorts. The reality is that we are going to eventually release One Wild Life: Soul to the public, and everyone will have easy access to it. Streamers will stream it. And we are happy for them to be able to experience the music. But for us to be able to focus on making this music that opens the human heart like we want to, we need other people to want us to do that as well. If it’s left to the standard music industry models and outlets and where it seems to be heading, the music will continue to be devalued into nothing more than a marketing tool for a brand rather than the primary work product of an artist. And that’s why we wanted to extend this season pass opportunity to you.

With this season pass, not only do you get the music early; not only do you get extra music and bonus materials and sales that nobody else will get, but you will literally be a crucial part of making this art. You will be paying for the studio that we rent in Los Angeles that I ride my bike to every day. You will be paying our rent so that we don’t have to spend all of our creative energy figuring out how to get people to Omaha for a thousand dollars. When you buy this season pass, the money goes right into making this art. It doesn’t go to Spotify. It doesn’t go to Apple. It goes to us and the creation of the art, and for those of you who believe in this music like we do, it literally means you are a part of making it. You are part of the stories that we constantly hear of people who have been inspired and changed with this music during difficult times of doubt or pain in their life.

So, today’s the day! The last chance for you to get in on the creation and enjoyment of the One Wild Life journey! What sort of art can we create together? I hope you’ll join us to find out. Listen to the tracks and consider being part of this alternative way of creating art together! Thank you so much; much love!!

Click below to hear a sample of the new music

One Wild Life

Ladies and gentleman, it is our pleasure to announce the launch of the most ambitious creative project of our lives thus far: One Wild Life

One Wild Life is a trilogy of three albums--Soul, Spirit, and Body. Many people use language like this as though to divide reality into different parts or even different realities entirely. This project is an exploration of the idea that language like “soul, spirt and body” are simply different ways of seeing the same single reality—this one wild life. 

Our world is in a time of tremendous change and friction right now. We are splintered into a million pieces--‘connected' to each other in constantly new and innovative ways, yet somehow isolated and fragmented from other human beings in other ways more than ever before. We believe that at the center of the division and disunity of our persons and our society is a lack of sight. Our eyes have grown dim to the wonder of our existence—of how fundamentally connected we already are to one another and to everything. This music is an attempt to see from a different vantage point.  To experience it all with a perspective of gratitude and wonder.

One Wild Life is a remembrance of how holy and sacred this life we’ve been given is. It’s the effort to open the human heart wider.

This first album, Soul, was born out of a tremendous amount of both pain and love.  2014, the year that gave birth to this project, was the hardest year of our lives. In 2014, we felt betrayed. We felt judged. We felt abandoned. But we also felt exceptionally loved. We felt hope. We felt passion and faith. So we wrote about all of it. From the birth of our daughter to the re-awakening of faith, hope, and love. 

This last year, we rediscovered why we write music in the first place. For us, it is not simply to entertain, but to open the human heart to God—to the magic and wonder of our existence. 
Most people who have heard this project so far have lauded it as our best work to date.  

And so with great love, we introduce the One Wild Life Collection. Over the next year, we will be releasing 3 full-length albums: One Wild Life: Soul, One Wild Life: Spirit, and One Wild Life: Body. For this collection of albums, we decided to create a digital season pass, which provides you with the following:

▪ Immediately receive a digital download of the first album: One Wild Life: Soul. (Check out the lyric video below for the song "Us For Them”, which is found on this first “Soul" album!) 
▪ Immediately receive an exclusive bonus acoustic version of the song "Us for Them”. 
▪ Digital download emailed to you over the next year, containing your own link, to the remaining 2 albums in the One Wild Life Collection before they become available to the general public. 
▪ Additional exclusive content sent to you that is only available to those who purchase the season pass.

This offer is the only way to hear this first record until it is released more broadly in August. This offer is also only available until July 10 at 12am PST, after which access to this offer and the exclusive content will no longer be available.

Join us on this journey as we explore the wonder of this One Wild Life.


Hymn Sing

Hey everybody! As we announced on social media yesterday, we are going to be sending all of our newsletter subscribers a few free hymns over the next week or so. So if you haven’t subscribed yet, do it now! The story for these hymns are that we have been recording a bunch of music over the past year and during that time in the studio, we ended up recording a few old hymns for fun. Also, we’ve been coming to terms with something over the last couple years that has been sort of hard to admit to ourselves, but it’s true… Every artist has roots. Like so many artists, we have really desired to transcend our roots and not be limited by them. But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. And we’ve had to come to terms with the fact that our primary musical heritage is not something sexy like rock and roll or R&B. It’s church music. And while we have sometimes sort of tried to deny that and just do our own thing, we have recently been becoming more at peace with where we’ve come from. Everybody comes from somewhere, and everybody has something to transcend and not be boxed in by. So us recording these hymns was sort of a way of looking at our family tree and coming to a greater peace with it. Actually becoming grateful for it.

So even though we have made a new album (you should keep your eyes peeled for that very soon btw…) that continues to seek new artistic ground, hopefully transcending categorizations like ‘sacred’ or ‘secular’ along the way, we wanted to take a second and remember our roots. And we wanted to share that remembering with you.

Belong

Do you ever feel like you find yourself in social or religious circles that expect you to fit a mold that you just don’t?  You’re not alone.  

On June 15-16, my Liturgist cohort, Science Mike and I will be hosting our first ever multi-day Liturgist event.  A group of 100 hopeful misfits will be gathering in Atlanta to have some open, honest and meaningful conversation about art, faith, science and why some of us keep coming back to the Table.    

This event lies at the core of why we started the Liturgists in the first place. (By the way, if you haven’t heard about the Liturgists yet, you could start by listening to our free podcasts here: theliturgists.com/podcast)  We believe that one shouldn’t have to leave one’s rational or artistic mind at the door in order to have meaningful conversation about God/Jesus/spirituality.  We believe that questions are a good thing. We also believe there is room at the table for anyone who is hungry.  Well, up to 100 spots at this table anyway… ;)  

For those of you who have read my book, The Crowd, the Critic and the Muse”, this will be a great place to continue some of those conversations of what it means to create in the world.  We want to hear about you and what you are making of the world around you and we want to help you do it better.  It will also be a great place to meet likeminded people and hopefully develop some meaningful relationships with people that ‘get’ you.  So this is our call to all those who might not fit the mold.  Those who might feel a bit spiritually frustrated or homeless.  Come, hang out with us in a place where you can belong, strange edges and all. 

We opened registration today, and seats are filling up pretty quickly, so get your seat before it sells out!  See you in Atlanta! 

theliturgists.com/belong

Wild

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”– Mary Oliver

I was not sad to see 2014 go. Quite the contraire, pretty sure I was yelling some choice explicative’s to 2014 and welcoming 2015 with open arms, cake, and trophy just for showing up.

And it is amazing how many people I have talked to that feel the same. Just last night we were talking with a group of friends, and sure enough, last year was the pits, if not one of the worst years of their lives. We talked about the small things like getting a cold or breaking a toe, then headed to the more weighty ones like losing jobs, losing relationships, depression, social media blow-ups, handing your baby over for surgery, struggling to find your way…just some light evening talk.

This may not be you, 2014 may have been grand, made all your dreams come true, granting you peace and fulfillment and puppies and flowers.  But when the clock hit twelve, I wonder just how many people were giving 2014 the middle finger and kicking it out the door.

I am a huge lover of celebrating, give me the smallest reason to celebrate and I’m there, I’ll make hats or glitter wands (because who doesn’t like a glitter wand) or cakes or whatever. I love being with old friends year after year, stalking up the memories of the same people, same faces around the table. Reminiscing happenings of the year, toasting the best of them, singing and yelling and dancing until the wee hours of the morning.

But this year was different for us  - with just moving to California in November, this year was all new – celebrating with new friends, new strings of stories, new traditions, a new set of children running wildly.  We all chimed in on the countdown for Eastern Standard Time as opposed to waiting for Pacific. We celebrated, we toasted, we played “Simon,” of course. Toward the end of it, Michael and I were supposed to go to yet another party, but instead, we drove home, put our girls to bed, snagged sitter, and headed to a movie.

…yes, I know.

Never would I have imagine I would want to be in an empty movie theater on New Years Eve, but really, it was the only thing I wanted to do. Just Michael and I, ringing in the New Year as we watched “Big Eyes.”

As the clock hit twelve, we kissed each other, smiled, and continued watching our movie.

It was perfect.

2014 did give us our beautiful little squishy, now 8-month-old baby girl – who has, by the way, mastered the art of blowing the most spit-filled raspberries you have ever seen and somehow smiles with her entire body - which has this affect of making a room overflow with happiness and rainbows. Give me the most cold hearted geezer, put Lucie in their arms, and they’ll turn to mush in seconds for sure.

But it’s true for us as well, it was the hardest year of our lives.

Hands down.

And I think I imagined jumping over a metaphorical line on New Years Eve where everything would be fine.

Everything would magically shift and the sorrows of 2014 would morph from tiny mice to beautiful white horses like little “Gusgus” and his gang in Cinderella.

But as I sat in that movie theater, I knew it couldn’t be instant, no flick of the wand. Change would be gradual, measured, something I had to actively choose.

There would be easy days, the ones where happiness would stream through the window, throwing open my eyelids in excitement for another go at life; where I would feel lucky to foster two ragamuffin children, lucky to change diapers, do dishes, write songs, unloading heaps of love onto my husband, family and friends, giving my portion to world peace, feeling full at the end of that day when I kiss the girls goodnight, put my feet up next to this hunk of a husband…then we’d make out, and fall asleep in bliss.

Good day.

And then there would be the not-so-easy ones, where happiness is replaced by its crude nemesis. Where opening my eyes to get out of bed feels truly impossible. Where I would pray that those two ragamuffin girls would (for the love) stay asleep so I didn’t have to give, because there was nothing to give. And I would be mad about it - that I had to change diapers or do the dishes for the thousandth time or change my shirt for the tenth because baby puke just keeps coming. Mad that I had to scavenge for any love to pour out of myself to that day before hunk-husband whom I just finished fighting with, pinpointing all the ways he is not living up the imaginary perfect person that is poised permanently in left back corner of my mind.

And we wouldn’t make out like teenagers, but instead would fall asleep with a thick angst between us.

Not-so-good day.

The day would be hard and I wouldn’t like myself, because I would think of all of the mothers who triumphed in the face of hardship, slaying that giant because “I am f-ing woman, hear me roar.” When I…well, I was shrinking back, feeling crushed in a weight I didn’t understand.

I thought there would be one day.

Just one where I would break open, letting loose my full rage and sorrow so wildly, then feel my soul infused with light and hope and have the strength to pick myself up and try again.

But it hasn’t been just one.

It has been many. Again and again, over and over and over…and over.

Rhythm and habit, that is what I have been working on - the habit of dwelling on good thoughts, picking one bad habit to let go of at a time, picking one good habit. And part of practicing that habit is finding a rhythm to my days.

When there is no rhythm I spin and have a million projects going at once and find that I am thinking about working when I am playing and playing when working, and it’s just spinning. And depression can have a crazy hold on you when your days are a blur or you have a habit of negative thoughts.

I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions; I didn’t cross some invisible line at the strike of 2015. But since it’s beginning, I was determined to try over and over again, to stick to a rhythm, retraining my brain and body to live a healthy lifestyle. It has definitely been a choice - getting up when I don’t want to, scheduling time for prayer, reading, play, work. Investing in the relationships that push us toward our best selves. But it has been hard. I find my mind going back to old thought patterns, find I fill my time with needless things. A researcher from Duke University published a paper in 2006 stating that more than 40 percent of the actions people perform each day are not actual decisions, but habits.

Does that seem completely crazy to anyone else?

So when I get out of bed in the morning and try to make these decisions for my day, I fall into old habits, old thought patterns, and that makes me feel totally helpless.

But here’s the thing…

That statement (40 percent of the actions people perform are not decisions but habits) helped me realize that my thoughts are not reality. They are just habit. I possess the ability to reshape channels in my brain. So one month in, I’m not sure why I am surprised, but I am actually feeling healthier. It’s like when you decide to work out, it’s tedious, and you think you will never see the results. But one day, you wake up and you notice it - your body is different, and you actually crave working out because it now feels good, now you have experienced all of those wonderful endorphins, and it has suddenly become a habit. I am feeling less and less fragile and something more like bravery.  Last year, I don’t know how many times I uttered the words “I don’t think I can do this.” But now, I actually know I can.

I have mentioned in a blog or two, and it is the topic of most conversations with anyone that is close to me - the idea of “the practice of sight,” and really, it’s a habit - to see beauty and love. You have to re-train your eyes…because it is there, sometimes we just forget how to behold the world. And this makes me totally in love with Mary Oliver’s words “what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” We have this choice, though it be unbearably hard at times, to live up to the best versions of ourselves. And it all stems from our thoughts, from the habits we create to live such a life (many new songs are stemming from this, which I’m getting pretty antsy to share with you all).

So here we go 2015.  I’m hoping you are kinder than your younger bully of a brother. I’m sure you’ll be filled with days of celebration as well as hardship…it will be definitely be good, and no doubt it will be wild.

Lucie Is Light

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetby:  Lisa Gungor

Pain is one of those things I don’t like much.

 

I’m sure there are at least a few people who share this sentiment. We’ve all heard the saying “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” Normally when I hear that, I immediately revert to a juvenile eye roll or mutter a slew of choice words under my breath.  This is because I have never understood why the pain is necessary.  It’s kind of like hackers – if hackers didn’t exist, there would be no need for firewalls. But people have learned how to create stronger firewalls because the hackers exist. The whole “you can’t have one without the other” deal. People learn how to be stronger because pain exists. But I’d much prefer the hackers didn’t exist. I’d much prefer the pain just leave me alone.

 

This was my stance, up until the day Lucie was born.

 

I am sitting here thinking back on her birth. Remembering the labor, the elation of the first time I laid eyes on her tiny body - immediately, unreservedly in love. Remembering the blur and the feeling of falling that came when the nurse told us about her.  I can still see the nurses face, see the anxiety in the posture of her body and movement of her hands as she said “she has features that are consistent with Down Syndrome….”

 

I don’t remember what she said next. I saw her mouth moving, and I nodded like I was actually listening. But I was falling, or really caving inward like my body was a black hole, sucking the air and all emotion inside itself and just disappearing; mind all a blur, heart pounding and painfully breaking.

 

They took her from me, said something about more tests…she was turning blue. Would my sweet girl be okay? Would she talk? Walk? …would my girl live? I felt I had done this to her, I failed my Lucie. I felt I didn’t supply the proper womb for her to grow in, that I didn’t give her the best possible chance. And I felt I had failed Michael.

 

I remember Michael's face. We locked eyes in this unspoken shared pain; we reached for each other. He was trying to be strong for me but I could see it there plain, a helplessness that overtook him, a broken heart for his baby girl. We had no words for each other, it was just shock, like the universe flippantly decided to throw two parents into a different world in one fowl reckless swoop.

 

I remembered shrinking beneath the pile of hospital blankets; I couldn't hide my pain enough as uncontrollable sobs shook my body. I was ashamed at how I felt. Ashamed I didn't only feel joy, only excitement at her arrival. I felt I had been tricked, this was not our life, we were not the couple who could handle a child with special needs. Quite honestly we are pretty selfish with our time and drive any personality that leans toward the scheduled type totally crazy. We travel a ton, stay up way too late, love to sleep in, aren’t the most patient, pretty forgetful…two creative types, not the best combination for a structured household.  We were nowhere near prepared to supply a child with special needs the balanced life she would need. This was not what we had dreamed.

 

Somehow I had made plans for this little life without even laying eyes on her. I had made plans for her future, expectations for her relationship with her older sister – dreamed about them calling each other in the middle of the night, heard their conversations about friends, school, favorite coffee, future careers, families...whispers about first kisses and boys. I could see them huddled in a pile of blankets in the tent we bought for Amelie’s third birthday...telling secrets beneath the covers and giggling like mad. Me telling them to go to sleep for the 10th time.

 

Unconscious plans. And in that moment, they all disappeared. The relationship I made for them disappeared. And embarrassingly enough, the baby girl I dreamed up disappeared.

 

Friends and family trickled in with smiles holding both sadness and joy, grabbing my face, leaning in close with tears brimming and saying "we love this girl, she is precious, we are here for you." Sister, Mother, in-laws, old friends, all surrounding, becoming the support I needed to breath in and out.

 

And then I remember Michael coming back into the room; everyone leaving, and him tenderly putting his hand on my me.

 

"For You created her inmost being..."

 

I broke.

 

“You knit her together in her mother’s womb….she is fearfully and wonderfully made…”

 

We sobbed in unbearable pain.

 

But in the same moment, something else happened….I have not ever and may never again feel such an insurmountable force of love.

 

“Fearfully and wonderfully mae…” Those words washed over me like a Holy Other hovering over void and calling things into existence. Giving life. Knitting two broken parents together, stitch by stitch. I have thought about that moment countless times the past five and a half months. It was surreal, grief and miraculous love; a great summit of my life.

 

In that moment, I loved Michael more than I could ever dream up. And not some fickle romanticized dream world love. A painfully real, vulnerable thing opening up a well I did not know existed.

 

I had never realized what a beautiful experience it could be to share in suffering. There we were, totally broken, scared for the future, thrust into an unknown world. And there was a great force of love right there, like a miracle, showing us that this is what family is about. This is what friendship is about - support when you crumble, breath when your lungs fail, believing in you when you don't, seeing you at your worst and not only remaining in the room, but leaning in.  The scary kind of close.

 

I realized, I just had to hold my girl - that is all I wanted. Thankfully they let us in to see her, and as I put her tiny body on mine, that is when I finally felt it…breath. I felt this peace and life pulsing back into my veins. The spinning slowed, and all that mattered was that she was ours. She wasn’t medical conditions, uncertainty, or frightful future, she was ours, she was loved, and she was a gift.

 

It’s crazy, I look back at all of this with new eyes. Amazing at how crushed we felt that day when now, now I see it all as a gift. This girl. She has unlatch something in me and I feel nothing but lucky. And I have found that I now do something that is perhaps a little strange…I watch other kids with Downs. And by “watch” I mean stare at. And by “stare at,” I mean follow and spy on with great excitement down the street or in the grocery store or wherever they happen to be.  Weird?

 

A few weeks ago, I walked through the airport to baggage claim  and I saw them, a mother and her son - her smiling down at him, him beaming up at her. And then I noticed it…the features…he had Down Syndrome. Immediately, I had the urge to run toward them excitedly while waving Lucie in the air like some sort of country flag “Look! Down Syndrome! Awesome!” I wanted to scoop him up and squeeze his cheeks, give the mother a big hug and chat up a storm right in the middle of baggage claim chaos.

 

I didn’t do any of this for obvious reason like scaring her child or because waving my baby in the air while yelling out “Down Syndrome!” felt like bad manners as well as borderline appalling. But also for the reason that I did not in fact have my Lucie with me, nor, upon a second glance, was I positive he had Downs…pretty certain, but “pretty certain” in this case is not something you want to gamble on. So that would be the worst of it – approaching a mother and congratulating her on her Downs child when he actually was not.

 

I digress.

 

The thing is that I was startled at the strength of these feelings; my immediate feeling of connection. And though our babies would be very different, she would know what I knew, she would have the same secret thoughts, experience the same thrill of hearing her baby swallow, know the angst and elation from struggling or reaching each physical milestone. We would share in this experience and it would be a comfort for the simple reason that we are not alone. She would know the feeling of loss then rebirth.

 

And though I lost it for a moment, I hear it all again – the whispers in late night, phone conversations about friends and jobs, plans for the future of these two girls I get to mother.

 

 

And the pain…yeah, somehow it has made us stronger. Amazingly I am grateful. I am sometimes still scared, sometimes still worry about what she might face, I’m sure I will still have my hard days that come with anyone that has experienced the sleep deprivation, crying at 4am, diapers, barf on your pants and shirt and car, breast milk on the same…the oh so classy world of parenting.  But I wouldn’t trade our story for anything, not ever.

 

Because this side of love, it is something to behold.

 

So here we are, almost six months later, three days away from our baby’s second heart surgery. And I just can’t explain how grateful I am – grateful for our family, grateful for our friends, grateful this surgery exists, for the surgeon who is going perform this incredible task of fixing our girls heart. Grateful for all of the countless families who have walked this road and sent messages of encouragement – your words have completely held me.

 

Lucie. It means light.

 

So on October 15th, the night before Lucie’s surgery, we are going to do a little something. We will stand outside and hold up a light, just a small flame, but a symbol of how these children our world is gifted with help us see; a symbol of solidarity to parents who know this road, who have felt the unbearable loss, beautiful gain, or a lot of the time, both.  Anyone who wants to join in, please do so, and if you would like, please share a picture or a video on Instagram or Twitter (@gungormusic, #lucieislight), we’ll look for you and send a whole lot of love your way.

 

Love is a force, and it’s strength is seen when we lean in close, dig beyond the pain, and find there is indeed, a light.

 

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More Headline Dates for Fall 2014!

New Gungor Tour Dates! We have added even MORE headline dates to the fall tour. Check out the new dates announced below and grab your tickets now!

Many of the Headline Show tickets are on-sale now via the Gungor Fan Ticketing Site (GFTS). After purchasing your tickets, you can add an I Am Mountain CD or Vinyl to your GFTS ticket purchase for an additional savings (you can pick up your CD or Vinyl on the night of the show at the merch stand)! Not only that but everyone who buys their tickets via GFTS will be able to participate in exclusive contests throughout the tour.

Sun Sept 21 - Marion, IN - Indiana Wesleyan University - Tix 4201 South Washington Street, Marion, IN 46953

Wed Oct 29 - Tucson, AZ - 191 Toole - Tix 191 E Toole Avenue, Tucson, AZ 87501

Thurs Oct 30 - Ramona, CA - Ramona Mainstage - Tix 626 Main Street, Ramona, CA 92065

Fri Nov 21 - Bryan, TX - Grand Stafford Theater - Tix 106 S Main Street, Bryan, TX 77803

Full List of Tour Dates

Fri Sept 19 - Bourbonnais, IL - Olivet Nazarene Univ. Centennial Chapel - Tix* Sat Sept 20 - Grand Rapids, MI - Calvin College - Tix* Sun Sept 21 - Marion, IN - Indiana Wesleyan University - Tix Sat Oct 4 - Mount Vernon, OH - SonFest - Mount Vernon Nazarene University - Tix^ Fri Oct 10 - Spring Arbor, MI - Spring Arbor University - Tix* Sun Oct 12 - Canton, OH - Canton Palace Theatre - Tix* Wed Oct 29 - Tucson, AZ - 191 Toole - Tix Thurs Oct 30 - Ramona, CA - Ramona Mainstage - Tix Fri Oct 31 - Azusa, CA - Azusa Pacific University - Felix Center - Tix* Sat Nov 1 - Petaluma, CA - Phoenix Theatre - Tix Sun Nov 2 - Chico, CA - El Rey Theatre - Tix Thurs Nov 6 - Middleton, WI - Blackhawk Church - Tix Fri Nov 7 - Minneapolis, MN - First Avenue and 7th Street Entry - Tix* Sat Nov 8 - St. Cloud, MN - St. Cloud River's Edge Convention Center - Tix* Sun Nov 9 - Bemidji, MN - Sanford Center - Tix* Tues Nov 11 - Omaha, NE - The Waiting Room - Tix Wed Nov 12 - Springfield, MO - Randy Bacon Gallery - Tix Fri Nov 14 - Longview, TX - LeTourneau University - Belcher Center - Tix Sat Nov 15 - Burleson, TX - Venue 510 - Tix* Sun Nov 16 - San Antonio, TX - The Aztec Theatre - Tix* Mon Nov 17 - Waco, TX - Waco Hall - Tix TBD* Thurs Nov 20 - Houston, TX - Warehouse Live - Tix Fri Nov 21 - Bryan, TX - Grand Stafford Theater - Tix Sat Nov 22 - Corpus Christi, TX - Spirit Fest - Concrete St. Amphitheater - Tix^ Sun Nov 23 - Round Rock, TX - Spirit Fest - Dell Diamond Stadium - Tix^

*Supporting Switchfoot ^Festival Date