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.

 

photo 4

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with m5 preset

Make Us One

My lateness to respond to the recent posts was because I wanted to make sure I didn’t give a knee-jerk reaction. I didn’t want to be angry or spinning. I greatly appreciate the positive support we have had and wanted to respond with a level head to it all… I went to bed three nights ago with a fair amount of anxiety. The past three months have been the hardest Michael and I have ever faced. They say things come in threes, but you just don’t expect for the grouping of three to happen three times over. The moment I feel I have a little breath in my lungs, something else hits hard.

It was sad to me how the articles spun out - believing in something many well-respected theologians hold to has blacklisted us and caused a wide array of hurtful comments. I stayed away from the comments, knowing I would feel beat up and angry. But of course, four days later, curiosity won. Some of the remarks were incredibly encouraging and wonderful – something we desperately needed. But others hurt deeply. As I fell asleep that night I tried to think of some clever retort, looking for THE thing that could help our case and bring peace. But I couldn’t find it. I knew there wasn’t one answer that would suffice. Someone would have a retort, a better answer, a fancier gun to fire.

Waking to morning, I hoped anxiety would find calm, but still, my mind swam once again. Strong was the motherly instinct to protect my family, wanting to defend against all of the people who have strewn hatred onto the oblivion of the internet.

I wanted to defend. But instead, I did the thing I didn’t really want to do…I prayed for love.

Honestly, I wanted to pray something like, “Oh gracious God, come to my rescue and crush or annihilate or rain down stink eggs from heaven upon my enemies! Make US the good guys and THEM the bad guys” …the kind of prayer that makes us feel like God is on OUR side and not the other. Our hearts were torn and hurting deeply, so I wanted to pray for vindication. But I realized God was not on my side…nor was He on “their” side. He was around and within all sides. So instead, I prayed blessings. I prayed for peace and understanding amidst the confusion and chaos. I prayed for those of you who somehow (despite our honestly best efforts), felt betrayed. For all who were berated. That’s the thing about sides – it is so very hard to see the other when a massive gulf lay between.

Both sides declaring “right-ness,” both sides stating a case but are we really listening to each other? So I prayed anger would subside; that Michael and I would lay down our desire for ammunition, and others would as well. I prayed for love.

I prayed we would be one.

I am all for working out our beliefs and theology, delving into the debate, I believe we move forward into truth when we do so. This is not about squelching the discussion. But I am not for hateful and sarcastic remarks…on either side. Berating people doesn’t help, it only hurts and loads another gun. Church history is jam packed with splits, new denominations, walls in and around and between. And it keeps happening. But unity doesn’t come by accident. It’s a choice we must eventually make. Unity isn’t us all believing the all the exact same dogma. It is loving each other over and above our differences.

I am not writing this to dig it all up again, just feeling a lot of love for everyone out there that wrote or was the receiver of a hateful comment. Let us remember we are all real people, real faces behind these computers, real kiddos to put to bed at night, real hearts feeling stress and hurt when discussions and comments run wild.

So I pray for you, for me, and for us - that we would discover unity. That as we discuss, search for truth and take leaps of faith, that love would rise above the noise and we would miraculously, amazingly, be one.

Lucette

AA04B8F9-6447-4E42-9D96-70243CC49D37Yesterday was the craziest day of our lives. Lisa had been having pregnancy issues, and we knew this was going to be a high risk birth, but over the last couple weeks and especially during the delivery, I occasionally caught pauses or furtive glances among the medical staff that made me wonder if something else might be going on that they were not wanting to say and worry us with. Perhaps it was nothing.  Perhaps it was new dad paranoia.

As the labor grew in intensity yesterday morning, tensions continued to mount in the room.  Extra staff was called in.  Eyes were glued to the monitors.  But all of the tension subsided for us the moment Lucette Ana Gungor entered the world. It was beautiful. Lisa was amazing. Matthew Perryman Jones’ ‘Land of the Living’ was playing from my fairly obsessed over iTunes playlist.  There’s nothing like welcoming a new life into the world. The magic, the beauty, the absurdity of it.  Lisa held our little, purple, crying Lucy to her chest as tears streamed down all of our faces.  But the bliss soon gave way to panic as we began to realize something was wrong.

The doctors took Lucy from Lisa and to the table in the corner to check her more thoroughly. I followed them, and as I stared at her crying  face, something about it seemed a little unusual.  That same pit of worry began to grow in my stomach again, only this time, even more intensely.  In a few minutes, the nurse confirmed to Lisa and I what I had suspected at that table and it knocked the air out of me.

Lucette has Down Syndrome.

The nurse continued to speak, but I couldn't fully understand the noises coming from her mouth.  I was like a spirit no longer present with my body, floating there in the hospital room, not sure where to go or what to do. If I could have spoken, I might have said something like:

‘What do you mean Down Syndrome?  That’s not us… That’s not our lives… Parenting a person with special needs… Our lives are too complicated now as they are.  This just can’t be…’

But words don’t come easily to disembodied spirits.  So I just stared blankly out of the void at the nurse making the meaningless sounds.

Even though this is only yesterday that this happened, I don’t really remember the next hour or two very clearly.  It felt like some bizarre nightmare where I wandered around aimlessly in a dark and lonely fog.

I looked at Lisa, who had tears in her eyes but did not seem to know how to process the information any better than I did.

We sat in the room for awhile and held the baby. People said things.

The ache and fear continued to grow in my gut. I was devastated. I couldn’t see anything but how hard this was going to be. The limitations. The costs. The dangers.  And then the guilt for feeling the things I was feeling.  Shouldn’t I just be excited for this little girl after all?  Dread, sadness and guilt are not the sort of emotions one wants to feel upon the birth of his beautiful new daughter.

The world was spinning. I needed some fresh air.

I took a walk around the block. I felt such grief, anger, confusion, and would occasionally be paralyzed as I bent over in heaving cries.  I called my sister.

She told me that this baby was precious and loved and that this was going to be a beautiful experience.  She told me that we were going to be the perfect parents for Lucy, and that she was fearfully and wonderfully made.

I made more calls.

Everyone was so supportive and positive and compassionate.  Slowly, the lonely, shadowy darkness that I was wandering through began to lighten.  Our amazing family and friends began to surround us and mend flesh back to spirit. The love of those around us was the realization that we were not in fact, solitary ghosts. We were not alone in this. I cannot tell you how wonderful people were to us yesterday.  Family that was not already here dropped everything to start making their way here. Friends drove and sent loving texts and encouragement. Even the doctors and nurses were especially present and kind to us. Love really is a powerful force.

Our heads began to clear. We were surrounded by all of these amazing people and their overwhelming support, but Lisa and I hadn’t yet had a moment alone. So I asked everybody to leave the room for a bit.

When the room was empty, we just held each other and wept.  Deep, guttural crying.  When we had no more tears left to cry, I felt inspired to do something that is kind of odd for me to do these days.

Honestly, my personal relationship with the Bible has not been great over the last few years.  I find it to be such a difficult and misused book that I often just avoid it.  But somehow in the middle of this very real pain, I was struck by that phrase my sister had used.

'Fearfully and wonderfully made.'

So I took out my phone and googled Psalm 139.  I placed my hand on Lisa’s belly and read:  “You created her inmost being;”

That phrase unearthed a new reservoir of tears for both Lisa and I.  It took a long time before I could gain composure to continue reading.  But eventually the words washed over us like a waterfall.

'You knit her together in her mother’s womb.

We praise you because she is fearfully and wonderfully made

Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Her frame was not hidden from you

When she was made in the secret place,

When she was woven together in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw her unformed body;

All the days ordained for her were written in your book

Before one of them came to be.

How precious are your thoughts of her oh God

How vast is the sum of them

Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand’

I began to see that this precious life that had been given to us was indeed a gift.  Even though it might not have come in the expected packaging with the exact kind of bow and wrapping paper that we are accustomed to, it was no less of a gift.  Life is a gift.  Period.

Life is more than salary levels or grade point averages.  Life is more than rankings on a chart.  Life is about things like love, wonder and joy.  And let me tell you, this girl is going to be loved. And while I don’t know that much about Down Syndrome (DS) yet, the people with DS that I have seen certainly seem to know how to experience some very real joy and wonder.

Life is a gift.  Lucy is a gift.

We know we have a challenging road ahead of us.  We have been informed, for instance, that Lucy is going to need a couple of major heart surgeries in the next six months.  This is not going to be easy.

But we also believe its going to be an amazing adventure. As I watch Lisa and Amelie (our other daughter) hold and kiss this precious little girl of ours, I already am more in love with this family of mine.  Together, we are going to learn and experience love and joy in new ways. We already are.  We are already connected with our friends and family in a deeper way.  And Lucette is gorgeous.  Her name means light, and we know she is going to continue to bring so much light to a world that needs it.  Welcome to the world, Lucy. We are so grateful for the gift that you are. You are and will always be loved.

The Practice of Sight / Motherhood

Light crawls from the corner up the molding, then spreads across the glass panes one by one, sheets of glowing sun.   Silence rests on the yellow chair across the room, like a comfortable friend, sharing in the dawn of this day through angled shadows on the patterned tweed. A gentle hum emerges from a city waking, starting its engines, opening doors and arms to another day of possibility. Selling stocks, cheese, adds, energy, coffee.  Feet begin to treat the grid of yet another day. Then I hear it, soft, unmistakable sound of small feet padding floor. I can feel the presence before the sound, the breath on my face because she leans in so close and quietly before her hand softly touches my arm. I look, she smiles broad with excitement and asks if she can put a princess dress on.  Tired, my first impulse is to crawl within the covers and tell her to go back to bed.  I need sleep. But how many times do I get this? The smile, the hand, the excitement of child who’s only desire is to put on a princess dress. Of course, why wouldn’t you want to start the day in glitter and lace, magical imagination. I have the choice to brush off this childishness, the wasting of time on something simple…or actually see and feel the moment that has been handed to me.  She wants me to see.

I will never forget the first time I held her – soft new skin, smallest wrinkled toes, wide eyes looking up at me, blurrily seeing for the first time, lungs taking in air, ears taking in sounds of a new world. Birth. It’s absolutely crazy, incredible and terrifying all at the same time. So much pain and breaking of the body, then at once, flooding love with sight of this small being, a witnessed miracle.

Motherhood.

It’s been almost four years now. There are times where it is easy to see the magic of it.  There moments of connection and joy gush freely.  Nothing could be more wonderful, elating – your heart runs around in the sunlight and the world is as it should be.

Then there are the hard times. Where the magic has been sucked from the room,  your 3-year-old has just performed the tantrum of a lifetime and with one foul swoop took your very soul and dignity. After wiping the last tear from her face, she then smiles and informs you “this is just how girls are (emotional).”

Gasp.

We chip away at the hard surface, desperate for a drop of that gushing joy to sneak out again. One. More. Time.

Tonight, I’m remembering the struggle, how hard it was for us, like so many others, to find the magic. So we tried to have a child for years. T r i e d….a n d…. t r i e d.  Which is slightly awkward to tell strangers because everyone is thinking the same thing “lots of sex.” But for some reason, we just couldn’t get pregnant. Years passed of attempted adoption, tests, trying, giving up, more tests. Giving up.

The rollercoaster ride of not being able to conceive a child was heart wrenching. I never knew the journey would possess so much pain. It was the beginning of a great struggle for me, one that lead to a massive shift of belief.

Astonishing how many women I came in contact with that were on the same journey.  We would e-mail, call on Mother’s Day in hopes to help the great ache of longing, cry when it was too much, and helped each other unclench our hearts and hands. None of us liked being “that girl”  - the one the others were afraid to tell their good news to, the fragile one.  I was in a mentorship program at the time, mentoring a 15-year-old girl.  It was unbelievable how many of her friends were pregnant, how so many girls who didn’t want a child had a child or multiples …gaggles and gaggles of children.  It was like a really bad joke.  “Okay, I get it. Stop flaunting your awesomely fertile wombs and placentas that produce fleets of offspring, it’s gross…and over-populating.

I would walk around the house at times, singing this melody and words, hoping I would believe it someday:

“You make beautiful things.”

I wanted to believe it, but it was like a children’s story once heard and now too old, too experienced to hold on to. I heard of miracles, but didn’t believe anymore because of the lack of seeing. The floating light blazing in the sky, giving all things life, that was everyday occurrence. My eyes were clouded. Still, I sang the melody, like a meditation for my own soul, hoping I would believe it again.

A long time passed…moving forward, falling back, then forward again. And the meditation changed – it slowly became more about seeing the miraculous right in front of me than looking for a whole different miraculous. Seeing miracles actually happening all around me.  It felt like ages, feeling your way through the dark, not knowing if there was light at the end of the tunnel. But it happened, the years of shifting, letting go, and discovering all led to a place of not just being okay, but complete.  Grateful.  I did not need something else/ someone else to believe this Love creates beauty all around us. I could sing the words because my eyes were beginning to see again. It was there all along, the light crawling up the window pane, the floating orb that gives off just the right amount of heat so I live, the hum of a world awakening, selling cheese and bread and energy. It was there, I just had to practice sight.

So when we surprisingly heard those lovely words – “you’re pregnant,” I was grateful/ jumping out of my skin/ ecstatic in so many ways.  I was so grateful the pregnancy wasn’t the thing that made me believe in Love again. I believed in Love again because she is Present Reality. She wants me to see.

So I sit here.

Thinking of the gift.  Thoughts of my almost 4-year-old and how she has dramatically changed our lives.  How she calls my name at night when she has a bad dream. How she crawls into our bed in the morning to kiss our faces and lightly run her fingers over my nose. How she is thoroughly entrenched in girl world, dresses, beads and lace. And how we are just days away from meeting this new one. As I write this, she kicks and moves around in my belly, a crazy, alien-like experience.  In a few days, Motherhood will greet me again, with a whole new heart, lungs, and experiences.

I get so many days of this.

Magical moments, waiting to be seen.

And at the same time, I think of the struggle - for the women who are still longing for a chance to see these moments, or have faced the utterly bitter loss of a child. Still hoping for a tiny hand to grasp their own, a small voice to call out to them at night. My heart, like many others, is with you. There is no silver-lining, no reason, just the feeling of lack. But I know our stories entwine, and though you may feel completely alone, please know, you are not. You are intrinsically connected to all of us who have felt the ache.  You are not alone.  There is still magic for you. She, Love, is here for you.

So if your arms are full – may you grasp the moments that have been handed to you. The hard and the wonderful, they are all magic, may you have the eyes to see.

And if your arms are longing – may you feel comforted, feel the hand of God our Mother holding you close the way a mother does.

These moments we are given are a gift. They react to our attention, shape us and others around us. In pain, grief, gain, fullness, whatever thoughts Motherhood holds for you today, may you have the eyes to see, there is magic right in front of us.

The Liturgists

Today, we released the second installment of an experimental art collective known as ‘The Liturgists.’  All the music on this project was written by us (Lisa and I), but we were lucky enough to collaborate on this release with some amazing people like Rachel Held Evans, Rob Bell, Amena Brown (the poet Gungor has toured with before), Aaron Purdy (the music guy at Bloom), and of course, Mike McHargue (aka Science Mike). Since we have been focusing most of our touring and marketing energy on the ‘I Am Mountain’ album, we’ve kind of done these releases quietly, but I just wanted to tell you guys a little more about this project, because I’m really excited about the work we are doing.

The plan is for us to release a monthly ‘liturgy’ this year and then maybe record or re-mix some sort of ‘best of’ from the year for our first full scale album release next year.

This particular month (Garden) is based around Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday.  Each day has a spoken word piece that I take and do some scoring and sound designing with.  There is also a liturgical song for each day that we hope is useful for both individuals and communities to engage with.  Then we finish the liturgy out with a spiritual ‘practice’.  This month’s practice is the second installment of ‘Centering Prayer’ with Science Mike.

To help you understand why we are releasing this stuff as The Liturgists rather than Gungor, you’d have to get into my idealistic head a little bit.  The short of it is that while the earlier Gungor stuff definitely had more of a ‘liturgical’ bend to a lot of the music; the reality is that Gungor has also always primarily been a performing arts entity and not a purely liturgical one. Liturgy means ‘work of the people’, and I’ve had ideas about what a more purely liturgical collective could be about for years.  We finally are doing that, and letting Gungor free to roam in other artistic frontiers.

In dreaming about what the Liturgists should be, I actually wrote a sort of ‘manifesto.’   Here it is:

The great mystics, sages and theologians of history have always espoused that all of life is sacred. While the power-hungry and money-lovers within religious power systems may find incentive to parse life into clear-cut categories like “sacred” and “secular”, we, the Liturgists, firmly reject this sort of categorization, insofar as it leads to a destructive domestication or heirarchal dissolution of the exquisite oneness and wonder of existence.  We reject the notion that singing about “God”, for instance, is somehow more inherently “sacred" or “spiritual" than singing about romance, money, or any other aspect of human life.

Still, there is something to be said for the specifically termed “religious”, “sacred”, or “liturgical” practices that human beings have consistently experimented with and bonded themselves to over millennia for the purpose of more fully experiencing and making sense of the incomprehensibility of our existence.  “Spiritual" disciplines (practices like silence, meditation, prayer, fasting, feasting, alms-giving, Eucharist, study, corporate worship…etc) have been found to be invaluable for countless people in enriching life to be more fully enjoyed and experienced. The use of the word 'spiritual' here is not meant to imply that only certain parts of life are spiritual. On the contrary, a healthy practiced spiritual discipline leads one to seeing the spirituality and sacredness within the mundane. In spiritual disciplines or sacrament, mere silence becomes the voice of God, and a dry piece of bread becomes the very Body of Christ.

It is in this line of thinking that the Liturgists begin our work.

There have been a long line of musical composers through history who have composed musical works intended for specifically “sacred” or “religious” purposes. From the plain-song and Gregorian chant of the medieval times to the grand masses composed by the master composers of the Renaissance and Baroque periods to the hymns written in the centuries following the Protestant Reformation, there has been music written for the specific purpose of church ritual and worship.

While the art form of composition for the specific function of worship and ritual has largely fallen out of fashion in mainstream Western Culture for the last couple of centuries, the Liturgists exist to explore new artistic possibilities within liturgical space.

There is a challenge to this since the most popular and common music in our day and age generally falls into a modernized version of the ancient Greek ideal of self-expression. This is, of course, a valid and potentially beautiful function of art.  Still, there are billions of people in the world that gather weekly for the purpose of religious ritual and worship. Every Sunday, millions of people across the globe sing songs together for the purpose of prayer, spiritual discipline and encountering the Divine.

Unfortunately, it is arguable that much of the artistic material incorporated into these gatherings is not thoughtfully created or executed. Rather, like corporate jingles, hotel room paintings, Disney cartoon songs or any number of musical expressions designed primarily to carry a “message”, there is often a temptation to resort to what is safely vanilla and imitative of what has already been successful in popular culture.  We, the Liturgists, seek to overcome this temptation and become a community of progressive musical composers, poets, preachers, filmmakers and other artists who work together to create 'good' (thoughtful, creative, hopeful and evocative) liturgical work.

These four pillars, thoughtfulness, creativity, hopefulness and evocativeness, are what shall guide us as we create liturgical art and space.

So that’s some of what we’ve been up to lately.  Hope you enjoy it!  If you want to check out the work, you can go to theliturgists.com  It is also available for download on iTunes or Bandcamp.

http://theliturgists.bandcamp.com

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/garden/id856424890

What Do We Believe?

Let’s do a little experiment together. Pick up some droppable object near you. Keys, a pillow, a small child, whatever. (For the literalists, I should add that I am just kidding about the child, and that you really shouldn’t ever drop children.)

Ok, now look at it and really try to believe that when you drop it, that it is going to float into the sky. I am going to do this with you. I just picked up a stuffed rabbit that happened to be on the couch. Now using your free will, REALLY try to BELIEVE that when you drop your object, gravity is not going to exist anymore. If you are anything like me, you will find that this is not possible. While I was staring at the rabbit, I actually was able to create this superficial feeling of suspense and tried to really expect it to not drop. But if you stopped me and asked me in the middle of that if I would bet my life on the results, I am going to go ahead and admit that I would have bet on gravity.

I dropped it. And guess what?! It didn’t drop! It floated in mid-air! Isn’t that amazing?

Do you believe me?

No?

Why not?

Because by the time you can use your conscious mind to “believe” something, your unconscious mind has already sorted through the data and there is no way you can force yourself to un-know what you know. You might be able to convince yourself that it is possible for gravity to stop for a moment. It’s like when I was in junior high and I kept almost breaking my glasses to prove that I really believed God would heal my eyes.

But when the rubber meets the road, you really can’t choose to believe or not believe in something like gravity. Every moment of your existence has been influenced and limited by it. You’ve never escaped it, and unless you leave this planet on some space adventure some day, you never will.

I grew up in an environment that placed a high priority on belief. Belief was everything. Belief was made you “us" rather than “them”. Belief was what determined not just your life, but your afterlife. But what is belief really?

Do I believe in gravity or do I know that it exists? After all, isn’t it theoretically possible that gravity as we currently understand it doesn’t exist? I mean, our views of what holds us to the ground has changed pretty radically through history. Who is to know that we won’t discover that our current understanding of gravity is wrong? Even the most straight forward assumptions are still assumptions. There’s always another possibility. For example, isn’t it theoretically possible (even if unlikely) that we are part of a computer simulation that holds us to the ground simply because that’s what the programmer wanted the program to do?

So on that level, pretty much EVERYTHING is a belief because EVERYTHING we know is built on assumptions. We "know" that gravity is real, but that assumes that your perception of existence is real and not a dream or some sort of momentary simulation in the mind of God. Everything you believe or know is built on a lot of assumptions that have already been processed by your unconscious mind and that is the foundation upon which we can start forming words and ideas about what we “believe.”

So what happens when your unconscious mind removes some of the assumptions?

What happens when some of what you built the words and concepts on does not exist anymore?

For instance, let’s talk about God.

When I was a kid, I would pray up to the sky all the time. During worship services, I would look up because I was somehow taught that God was this Supreme Being “up” in Heaven, and someday he would come “down” here to rescue us. But then in school, of course, we learned about space and the earth and how it rotates and how there is really no such thing as “up” or “down.” These are ideas relative to earth and our position within its gravitational pull. And in fact, what is up to me right now is down for a lot of other people on earth, and in a few hours, up has drastically changed for all of us. So if up and down aren’t real, then what do we mean by God being “up” in Heaven? And why do so many worship leaders stare at the lights of the sanctuary and reach their hands into the sky as though trying to reach somebody “up” there? Up where? Towards which planet? Which galaxy? Because if it’s in some direction that we are supposed to think about God, that direction would be constantly changing. Sometimes the congregation should be gazing down and to the right or reaching their hands straight out behind them…

So what do you do when you lose the up and down assumption in your unconscious? Well, you either stop looking up, or you look up in a more metaphorical way. But once you lose that assumption, it’s impossible to once again BELIEVE that God is UP there. You can’t do it. You have seen that up is not real, and you will never be able to un-see that.

So here’s my point in all of this: we should be very slow to judge people for their beliefs.

I’m talking to myself as well here. There are some beliefs that drive me crazy. I find them backwards and limiting and destructive. But while I think it’s okay to make value judgments on beliefs, I think so many of us are so quick to label, categorize and dismiss human beings because of their beliefs.

But here’s the reality. We don’t really get to chose our beliefs. They are handed to us from our environment. Who of us came up with any our beliefs on our own? You can't even have concepts or beliefs in your head without words. And where did you get those words? Did you make them up? Did you invent the word ‘God? Did you invent the words ‘science', ‘humanism', ‘good', ‘evil', ‘love'…? No, these words do not exist as something separate from your experience and environment. These words come to you with concepts and experiences that have been handed to you from your particular environment. And you either accept them, change them, or deny them, but even those decisions are largely out of your control. You will see what you will see, and those things cannot be un-seen. You will think with words that your environment hands you and you have no ability to unlearn those words or concepts. They are burned into your brain, and they always will be.

This sounds awfully fatalistic, but I don’t think it has to be. Because I believe that you can choose with your conscious mind what you want to do with the (un)beliefs that you have.

Back to the “up” thing. Even if you know God isn’t up there somewhere, perhaps you are a person that finds great solace in looking up while you pray or lifting your hands when you sing. Perhaps it makes you feel like a child looking up to a parent. Or perhaps it makes you feel lighter and more human, more connected and a part of everything. So maybe you decide to keep looking up sometimes. Maybe lifting your hands makes you feel like you are surrendering something of yourself to something or someone “higher” than yourself. Even though you realize the absurdity of thinking of God as some being that lives somewhere in the direction of Galaxy 54-tx42… You have a choice on what to do with that belief (or lack thereof) now. You can stop looking up. Or you can look up. That’s your decision. Unlike believing that the rabbit is not going to hit the floor when you drop it, that’s something you can actually choose.

Over the last year, I have had so many questions asked of me about what I believe. Just tonight I had a conversation with someone extremely close to me that said that he wouldn’t consider me a Christian anymore.

Why?

Not because of my life.. Not because my life looks like Jesus or doesn’t look like Jesus. But because of my lack of ability to nail down all the words and concepts of what I exactly BELIEVE. Because I’ve lost so many of the unconscious assumptions that I used to have and have no ability to un-see what I have seen.

I have no more ability to believe, for example, that the first people on earth were a couple named Adam and Eve that lived 6,000 years ago. I have no ability to believe that there was a flood that covered all the highest mountains of the world only 4,000 years ago and that all of the animal species that exist today are here because they were carried on an ark and then somehow walked or flew all around the world from a mountain in the middle east after the water dried up. I have no more ability to believe these things than I do to believe in Santa Clause or to not believe in gravity. But I have a choice on what to do with these unbeliefs. I could either throw out those stories as lies, or I could try to find some value in them as stories. But this is what happens...

If you try to find some value in them as stories, there will be some people that say that you aren’t a Christian anymore because you don’t believe the Bible is true or “authoritative". Even if you try to argue that you think there is a truth to the stories, just not in an historical sense; that doesn’t matter. To some people, you denying the "truth" of a 6,000 year old earth with naked people in a garden eating an apple being responsible for the death of dinosaurs is the same thing as you nailing Jesus to the cross. You become part of ‘them'. The deniers of God’s Word.

The easy thing for me on the other side of my experience would be to see those who do believe in literal Genesis stories like that as somehow unenlightened or foolish. It would be easy and just as destructive for me to write off all THOSE people who believe those things as something less than beautiful, complicated and intelligent human beings. I must remember that the people that believe in a literal Genesis have no more ability to not believe it than I do to believe it. They have been handed a set of words, ideas and assumptions that they have built their consciousness on, and until something shifts for them, they see the world as they see it, and they can’t un-see it.

I think this understanding can help us see that all of us have assumptions and biases and beliefs and that we ought to be very slow in writing others off because of their words and concepts. That would almost be like writing them off because of the color of their skin or because they speak with a different accent or language than you.

So be careful of labels. Be careful who you judge as “in” or “out” of your camp. It’s a destructive way of seeing the world.

I think a healthier way of thinking about belief is to think about the kind of lives we choose to live with the words and beliefs that have been handed to us. Perhaps a more important question than whether God is a guy in the sky or the Ground of Being or the future, infinite Trinitarian relationality is what you will do with your assumptions of what God is or is not. Will you love God? Will you love your neighbor? Maybe these questions are far more important than what you BELIEVE about God or your neighbor. Maybe whether or not you do what Jesus said is more important than the language that use to describe Jesus.

I’m not saying that language is unimportant. It is important. Just not important enough to divide over. People are more important than ideas. Love is more important than the concept of love. We should never hurt or lessen the humanity of actual human beings because of the language, beliefs, and concepts that their environment and experiences have given them.

So, for me, I’ve decided to think about my ‘beliefs’ in terms of how I live rather than what my unconscious assumptions are. Because there are lots of people that have all sorts of beautiful ‘beliefs’ that live really awful lives. If I’m on the side of a road bleeding, I don’t care if the priest or the Levite have beautiful ‘beliefs' about the poor and the hurting.. Give me the samaritan. The heretic. The outsider who may have the ‘wrong' ‘beliefs’ in words and concepts but actually lives out the right beliefs by stopping and helping me. That’s the kind of belief I’m interested in at this point.

What do I believe? Look at my life. That’s what I believe. And that’s the kind of belief I’m interested in for my friends as well. I don’t care so much about what their words and unconscious assumptions are (even though that can make for some enjoyable pub conversation). I care about what kind of lives they live. Do they believe IN the underdog, or do they BELIEVE in the underdog? Do they believe in loving their neighbor or do they believe by loving their neighbor?

So you believe in God? So what. You believe Jesus was the Son of God that will someday come again to reconcile all things? Big deal. So do most serial killers.

Allow me to close this post with some words from the book of James, chapter 2:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds."

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?

Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

The Next "I Am Mountain" Tour

So, it’s the new year and Gungor is getting ready to go back out on tour! As many of you know, every Gungor tour has been different than every other Gungor tour. We’ve toured as a three piece acoustic ensemble. We’ve toured as a five, piece, a six piece, a 10 piece and a 12 piece. We’ve utilized poetry, movements, string sections and drum solos.

So what should you expect on this “I Am Mountain” tour?

Well, first of all, I would consider this tour one of the most musically ambitious of any that we’ve done. While we have been playing at least a few older songs, most of the material in the evening is from our latest album, “I Am Mountain.” We are playing pretty much the entire album, and we are playing it as a four piece.

That means every one of the band members has a lot to do.

Here are the members of the band on this next leg:

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John is a piano performance graduate from Texas University in Austin, and let me tell you… The man is a beastly musician. One of our favorite things to do when John is around is just start singing random Disney songs, and listen to him arrange them on the fly into these wonderful, magical moments. Anyway, John’s been playing in the Gungor collective off and on since the beginning, and we are really grateful that he was able to do this tour with us. He actually helped write a bunch of the songs on the album with Lisa and I, so it’s great to have the source of a lot of our music on the stage with us on this one.

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We are excited about working with Dan Bailey on the drums on this tour. While this is going to be our first time working with Dan, from what I’ve heard, the man knows how to strike a drum. While we will certainly miss Terence (the guy who has been the primary live Gungor drummer the last few years) on this tour, we are looking forward to seeing Dan bring all the noise that I’ve heard about. It’s always fun getting some fresh ears on previously recorded music to see what new things can come to the stage.

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The very lovely and very pregnant Lisa Gungor will be shaking her baby bump on the stage through the duration of this tour, and come on people, just that should be worth the price of admission! Shake it baby! She will also be playing some keyboards and rocking that auto tune solo on Wandering. Maybe she’ll even hit that high note for you if you come to the show and show her some love. :)

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Hey, that’s me. I do actually touch a keyboard during Wandering, but for the most part, I stick to what I do, and that is guitars. This new stuff is by far the most involved guitar stuff that I’ve ever had to play live. Especially since I have to sing at the same time. But I have some sweet new gear from TMG guitars, Badcat and IMMIX amps, and JHS pedals, and I am pumped to see what all of it can do. Plus, if I feel courageous enough, I might just throw a little Bach in at some point of the concert.


So that’s everybody in the band on this one. We scaled back to a 4 piece for this music to both leave some musical space and to push ourselves to the limit with what we can do on a stage. We rehearsed a month before the fall tour to pull off this music, and it was still not easy. But we are getting it under our fingers now, and I really think you should come and see it. :)

If you are a Gungor fan, please do come out and check out a show on this tour, and tell your friends about it! That is really the only thing that allows us to tour. We are not on a label. We pay for all of this ourselves, so when you buy a ticket or tell a friend, you are literally enabling us to keep making music. Thank you to all of you who consistently support us like that. We love you guys! See you soon!


Click Here For Tour Dates


 

VIP Show Packages & I Am Mountain Merch/VIP Bundle

 

Many of you have already purchased VIP show packages - thank you! If you haven't below is an explanation of what you get as part of the two VIP packages. All packages can be purchased here.

Package A - VIP Tickets include early access to the venue 30 minutes before doors. Plus access to a post-show meet & greet with Michael Gungor for photos and autographs. In addition you'll receive a digital thank you EP via email a few days after your show plays.

Package B - VIP Tickets include early access to the venue 30 minutes before doors. In addition you'll receive a digital thank you EP via email a few days after your show plays. (This Package does NOT include post show meet & greet).

In addition, at each show we'll be offering the following merch/VIP bundle for sale at the merch stand.

The "I Am Mountain VIP Merch and M&G Package" includes:

I Am Mountain CD Star Tee Gungor tour poster which gets you into the post show M&G described above (where you can get your CD and poster autographed by Michael!).

The Best Part - About The Song

I awoke to a mess of curly hair atop a pink princess dress peaking around our bedroom door. She scuffled to the bed and crawled her way onto her Daddy’s chest, head tucked into his neck. “I think I should eat an Oreo,” she whispered.

Good morning of a new year.

I lay there thinking about the past year – the traveling, the shows, breathtaking places we had seen, songs written, mistakes, failures, accomplishments. We have had the privilege of visiting some of the most incredible places; been able to share beautiful musical experiences with people all over the world. It has been amazing to say the least. And I’m filled with gratitude.

And then I think of the times no one else sees. The equally tough and magical moments our tiny family of three share: Dancing around the house wild to one of our favorite musicals. The ecstatic joy when our daughter learned to draw an “A.” Walking around the house on Daddy’s feet. Michael and I finding ourselves slow dancing in the kitchen after a long hard day. Lying awake at night, just letting the silence comfort. Cuddling in a pile of blankets on the sofa after a long time being away from home, sun coming in the window just right, and seeing my girl twirling around the house, stopping just a moment to shoot a smile my way. These are the best parts. The tiny moments that sparkle and beg for our attention. The moment like this one here, waking to a new year with this man that has seen the very best and worst of me, and a small raggedy wide-eyed girl kissing our faces while recalling her night dreams.

God, I don’t want those moments to end. And I don’t want to miss them by looking for the next grand thing. It’s the practice of seeing. Seeing what is right in front of me in it’s fullest. The practice of feeling it all. It’s easy to look toward some future amazing and miss the magic right in front of me.

The song “The Best Part” was written because of these moments. In the band, we joke how it ended up being “the sex jam” when it was inspired from family moments. But it was a one-take deal. In the studio, we got in a circle, played it, and it just felt right. We tried re-recording a few things, fixing the mistakes or the parts we didn’t like. But cutting it up just ruined the vibe that was present.

Sometimes the cheesy-ness of parallels makes me cringe. The “You know, when I was a kid, I fell in a ditch”...story goes on and on...then....” but you know, life will have all kinds of ditches, it’s how you climb out that counts.” Cringe.

BUT. I can’t help but make a parallel between how this song was recorded and what it means to me (I apologize if you are cringing). There were little things I wanted to change: less vibrato here, less breath there, better tone. But picking it apart sucked the feeling right out. We couldn’t re-invent the “togetherness,” or vibe that happened in the moment. Parts of life are grand, magical, the Eifel tower, the Mount Everest. And some parts are the regular and ordinary; the inconsistencies and flaws that speak to our humanness. I love that this song speaks of the ordinary moments that have become some of the best parts of my life. It wouldn’t be amazing if they were taken out.

This song is for my two great loves, Michael and Amelie...and one other sweet one on the way.

The Blog Post That Won't Die

There is this blog post that I wrote a couple years ago making its way around the internet again the last few days.  It's a spicy little rant that I wrote on a plane as I was coming home from a long "Christian music" tour, and I was tired, cranky and sick of the copious loads of b.s. that I had continually encountered in the religious circles that I found myself in. The blog post was angry.  It wasn't all that articulate or even very well thought through, but it did call a spade and some people appreciated that.  Of course, it made some people angry too.  Some said that I was arrogant and cynical, and maybe I was.

I ended up deleting the blog post because, as I thought about it and discussed the issue through the next year, I realized some things. I realized that the issues I was upset about don't just exist in the tiny bubble that I was living in.  They exist everywhere.  The issues I saw were just a small piece of fruit on a much larger tree planted within a much larger orchard.  I actually ended up writing an entire book about it called The Crowd, the Critic and the Muse.

So imagine my chagrin when my road manager told me a couple of days ago that people were texting him all day about that deleted post that I wrote years ago...

Why is it that the CCM post is by far my most "viral" blog post ever?  Is it because it's more true or honest than other blog posts I have written?  I don't think so..  Is it because the content was more informative than other posts I have written?  No.  I think it is for the same reasons that football is more popular than the symphony.

Both a sports team and an orchestra are made up of highly skilled, highly trained, and highly rehearsed human beings working together for a common purpose. The great athlete and great musician have both put in countless hours of hard work and have achieved a level of mastery both mentally and physically of the 'game' that they are playing.  But symphonies don't pack out stadiums…

So why is it that 50,000 people show up to the football game but only 500 show up to the performance of the Rachmaninoff concerto?

I think it has something to do with the fundamental difference between the nature of the goals of a football team and the goals of an orchestra.  An orchestra rehearses together to focus their talents into a single vision: the piece.  They work together to build something beautiful and grand.  A sports team also must learn to work together, but it is for the purpose of defeating the opposition.  The entire purpose of a sporting event is competition.  An orchestra is more like a construction team trying to build a beautiful piece of architecture together, while the sports team is more like an army trying to defeat an enemy.

When your team comes to my town, and my team crushes your team, I somehow feel powerful.  I am on the right side of the battle.  I am part of the winners and we are better than you.  You don't get that at the symphony.  You don't really walk away from listening to Bach feeling superior or powerful.  If anything, it is a humbling experience.  An experience of wonder and beauty, but not of conquest or tribal pride.

So, what does this have to do with my blog post?

Well, what is it that made this particular post get shared thousands of times and others get largely ignored?

In my opinion, the infamous CCM blog post was not nearly as "beautiful" as other posts that I actually spent time crafting and shaping.  It was an unedited rant.  Just guttural angst vomited onto a laptop keyboard.  Sure, I think there was truth in it, but I honestly don't think it was the truth that made it spread.  It was the guts.  The blood.  The lines that could now be drawn in the sand.  Us. Them.  Those of us who feel justified in hating most mainstream Christian music.  Or those of us who love Christian music and see how much of an ass this Gungor guy is.  The battlefield was setup.  Now, go, kill!

I made the mistake of perusing some of the comments that were left on the reposted post yesterday.  They get really mean.  Name calling and below-the-belt personal attacks on both sides.  Parental warning here.  Some of the comments below are not suitable for young audiences.

"I've never called you creative. A copy, yes. Clone, maybe.  Creative, no."

"The real problem with the “Christian Music Industry” is that Michael Gungor is a part of it. Get a fucking life. Your are a joke just sitting around stirring up meaningless conversation. No one gives a shit about you or your opinions. Asshole."

"You're an idiot."  

"Michael, without a doubt, from this post, you sound like an ignorant, stuck up oaf, attempting to veil your attempts at basin someone who violates a pet peeve of yours…"  

Where there is passionate blood shed, there is social media sharing.

My point here is that I think most human beings in our current mainstream level of consciousness are often drawn more to competition than cooperation, and the result of this is a world that gets divided up into camps of 'us and them', and the world is a worse place for it.  The reason that I deleted the post was not because I was afraid of calling out the b.s. in the Christian music industry, but because I think the way I wrote it was a bit too emotional and narrow.

I say it was narrow because like I have said, the problem does not lie solely within the Christian music industry.  There are plenty of people and industries that wade behind the true innovators and pick up the crumbs to insert their messages into a previously alive creative medium.  There are plenty of TV shows, Disney movies, boy bands and pop albums that are every bit as soulless and zombie-like as the most generic Christian songs on the radio.  And there are songs that have been arguably been created within the somewhat imaginary "Christian music industry" that are full of life and innovation and soul.

So, in hindsight, I think this post was too narrow and the emotion it was written in a way that lends itself to a fight rather than a discussion.  And for that I am sorry.

What I do stand by after the years that have passed since I wrote this post is that there is too much fear in the world and we ought to create and behave from a place of passion, belief, and love rather than truing to homogenize, pander, and cater with our art. But while I enjoy making art with an edge that speaks against the things that ought to be spoken against and for the things that ought to be spoken for, I also want my art to be more like a symphony than a football game.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not anti-competition.  Competition can be good fun and even helpful at times.  But here's something that we sometimes don't think about… Competition is not as effective in nature or in human history as cooperation is.

Human beings didn't evolve to the top of the food chain because we are the biggest, strongest or fastest.  If competition were the highest rule of the universe, then wouldn't you expect some sort of giant shark-dragon-monster at the top of the food chain that just easily defeats all of its prey with its venomous fire balls or something?  Instead, you have these relatively small, slow, and fragile creatures called human beings who can't even survive a winter without fire, clothing and shelter.  Sure we can use our opposable thumbs to make weapons, but that's not really what has made humanity thrive.  It is our developed ability to empathize, communicate, and cooperate with one another.

And this is not just about humans.  If you look at nature, there is love and cooperation everywhere.  Ants building cities together, whales forming families and clans that spend their whole lives together, parents sacrificing their own lives for their offspring, cells working together to keep life going… Cooperation towards a greater good can be found everywhere we look.  In some ways, the most "fit" are not the biggest, strongest and fastest but the the most empathetic and cooperative.

So why don't we as a society value cooperation as highly as competition?  Why must there be a loser for us to be interested?  Why is the most boring part of American idol when all of the singers sing together?

Because we want blood!  

The result of this type of thinking are a world full of 'us vs them'. A world plagued with things like concentration camps and bad religion and Roman arena games where thousands are slaughtered for the public's amusement.  But is this really the kind of world we want to build?

Tribal, competitive thinking allowed for societies to develop certain helpful things through history.  But when these tribes start getting nuclear bombs, the world is in trouble.  I think we are at an important juncture of our development as a species. We either will learn to cooperate and empathize with the "other" or we will continue to try to conquer them.  And if it's the latter, we are all in trouble.

You see this on a global scale, but you also see it down to a personal scale.  Down to a, "what should I post on my twitter feed?" scale.   The world we live in is built of small decisions. So what kind of world do we want to build?

I, for one, don't want anything to do with drawing more lines in the sand between people.  I'd rather be a part of trying to erase them.

At this point in my life,  I have no desire to bash Christian music or anybody's music really.  But I do still think we ought to be wary of the fear and b.s. that plagues not just the religious world but our world as a whole.  My conclusion about the matter is this: spend your energy on things you believe in, and do them honestly and to the best of your ability.

Wandering - About The Song

I used to think there would be a time in my life where I would feel like I had arrived.  Like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow or reaching the mountain’s summit.  The long exhale out of all I had worked for, breath in of satisfaction.  I would feel content and certain, have the trophy with the inscription “Lisa Gungor has completed said task with moderate skills and semi-good attitude.” I’d see the grand path of the future laid out clearly with all the right answers. No question marks. But I’m finding these moments are fleeting. I feel the summit, then the mountain augments, another journey begins. I find the gold, the key, the thread of truth that unlatches every thing. This is the thing I have been looking for, this is what makes sense of it all.  Clarity is everywhere. Then the thread unravels, leading to other threads that are tangled and weaving a fabric of complex chaos. I find the gold, but rather, it is gold foil-covered Hershey’s chocolate...the worst kind of chocolate.

Last summer, I went on a silent retreat that took me from one of the most wandering of places to clarity.  But the clarity was more making peace with the wandering rather than finding all the answers…which, I think, is a good place to be in. A wandering that wasn’t so scary - more like exploring space with a tether, rather than flailing off into the abyss. More grateful for finding the corner of the map than no map at all. But it took an opening of the hands for this to happen.

I never knew how clenched my fists were until I had to let go. And yes, I had to let go. Some foundational ideals I was holding were actually hurting me.  Poisoning any healthy growth.  I continually wanted to go back to what I knew, what was familiar.  But eventually the tape used to hold cracks together would fail, and I would get angry all over again at the ideals I had just let go of. The going back sends me into a tail-spin every time…dragging me under to a place Michael likes to call “crazy town,” though I prefer to call “the deep dark abyss of death.”  …dramatic yet appropriate.

On this retreat, I remember climbing to the top of a hill, long before the sun was up. I waited.  And I watched in awe as the sky began to glow with shades of orange, then burning crimson, light crawling along the valley and then up the hills.  I looked down at my clenched fists.  I saw worry, uncertainty, doubt…fear. Loads and loads of fear. I was afraid if I opened the hands that I would lose ground and never find anything to stand on, that I would just keep slipping.

But I had to.  It felt a lot like jumping off a cliff. Like leaping over an edge that doesn't necessarily have a landing point. Like someone asking “Do you want to leave your family, your friends, everything you’ve ever known, and start a new life on the moon?”  The unknown. Total uncertainty.  I was headed to the moon. I knew something was shifting in my soul and it was a choice. As I opened up my hands, letting go of all that was holding me, the ground I had been floating on shifted and became solid. The air became breath.  The world became mystery and goodness. My soul felt an unimaginable freedom. And the doubt that I thought was in opposition to my faith actually took on a different face - once that leads to truth.

I stayed there for hours, sun coming up, beautiful world awakening. After years of throwing punches, the uncertainty of life and I had a long chat and found we could actually be friends. Some people may have found their life has one destination, but I’ve found mine has had several, and still more to come.

God and Country - About The Song

I used to be a pacifist, but then I had a kid. I do still believe that non-violence is always the better option, but I just think that there are times when complete non-violence becomes impossible in certain circumstances.  If someone breaks into my house, yes, I'm going to do whatever I need to do to protect my wife and my daughter.

But what I find incredibly ironic and perverse is how religion and violence often get tangled up together.  It boggles my mind that, in the US at least, it is often the "God fearing Christians" that are the most trigger happy, pro-war people on the planet.  That would be like if a group of Richard Dawkins followers started a new theistic religion with Dawkins books.  It would be precisely the opposite effect that Dawkins intended with his writing.

While the American Jesus of the political right in the US tends to be a homophobic grouch with a shotgun in his hand, the Jesus of the Gospels was nonviolent.  That's just painfully obvious in the writings, and so curiously missing from the religious views of people who like to claim that they take the whole Bible literally. Jesus taught his followers to turn their cheek and pray for their enemies and warned that those who live by the sword die by the sword.  I mean, remember that whole thing with the cross...?  Jesus was not a person who KILLED people, who was someone who was KILLED by people for his message that Rome's sword would not have the final word.  That's kind of the main Christian thing… Love triumphs over evil.  Right?

God and Country is a lament of the violence that so much of our lives and our world is built on.  It is, in fact, perhaps the most "Christian" song on this album to me.

The song imagines a war between two lands and is told through the eyes of a daughter and a father who both lost somebody they love on opposite sides of the conflict.  A daughter loses her father and a father loses his son.  Both the girl and the father seem to have a disdain for the war.  They don't know what in hell they are even fighting for, but it seems the girl's people from "the East" have justified the war by thinking that they are tasked by the gods to set the native people from the West free, and in the process, they just happen to find land, oil and prosperity.  The father from the West hates this war just like the daughter from the East does.  He doesn't care about things like land or money, but now that these foreign monsters have taken his son, he's pissed and ready to gather up his God and his guns as well.

The distinction between gods and God here is to demonstrate how our different languages and beliefs get tangled up in our politics.  Yet, everyone tends to place themselves at the center of the good and true.  Both sides pray for victory.  Both sides see themselves as justified.  And our differences in language make us think that we are fighting fundamentally different than ourselves.  But we are not.  We are all fathers and sons and mothers and daughters.  We're all human.  We all want the same things.

How many millions of people need to be needlessly slaughtered in war before we see that the whole idea of war is outrageous and ridiculous?

How many school shootings do we have to endure before we realize that our guns are inherently a bad thing?

This is not to say that war and guns are always avoidable with the current set of circumstances on planet earth.  The sad fact is that there are millions of guns in America, and they aren't going anywhere anytime soon.  There's no amount of lamenting or legislating that is going to change that.  But what gets me is when religious people seem to think that this is a GOOD thing!  It is not a good thing!  War may be unavoidable now and then at this point in history because of our hard hearts and feeble minds, but war is never a good thing.  It is an evil. It is a plague on creation, and it should NEVER be associated with religion on any level.

When I look at things like gun legislation in America, I get pretty bummed out.  All the "answers" of the different parties seem entirely futile and hopeless.  This country was birthed in blood and it's sustained in blood.  We are intrinsically a violent people.  I don't think external laws will be able to fix that.  But most people in America also call themselves CHRISTians.  So, perhaps a little change could start to come if those who claim the name of Christ would pay a little attention to what he actually said.  Maybe if those who called themselves Christians started seeing violence as a bad thing rather than a good thing, a little progress could be made somewhere down the road.

Yesternight - About The Song

What is life without stories?  Nothing. Random collisions of energy.  Stories are what give our lives shape and meaning.  We are made of stories.  So what happens when we lose our most important stories? The stories we define ourselves by. What happens, for instance, when a young quarterback has worked his entire life for his work...who has essentially defined himself as first and foremost a quarterback...then suddenly breaks his leg and is told he will never play football again?  What happens to him when he suddenly finds himself without that story anymore? Or think of a mother who finds her life's meaning in her children and then she loses her children...  That's not just a change of circumstances, it's a rupture that happens deep in the foundations of whatever makes us who we are.

The loss of our most important stories is a profoundly visceral and potentially life-devastating experience.

This is what the song "Yesternite" speaks to.

Yesterday the gods were smiling down on me

Yesterday the angels graced the glassy sea 

The world was bathed in black and mystery

Yesterday 

 

Yesternite the gods they disappeared from sight 

The angles flapped their wings and took their songs to flight 

The shadows lift their hands and praise the light 

Praise the light 

 

Yesterday your hands were home in mine 

Yesterday my heart was yours to find 

Yesternite I found some peace of mind 

Yesternite 

 

And so the morning finally shed its light 

The mourning of the loss 

The sacred fight 

Sunbeams lift their hands and praise the night 

Praise the night 

There have been people that have been confused to my repetitive use of the word "gods" on this album.  Some have actually wondered if I now adhere to some sort of polytheistic new age worldview or something. If you read this blog, you will probably know that this is certainly not the case. Throughout the album, I use "gods" as an example of the mythological constructs that we use to comfort ourselves and give our lives meaning.  Stories that we thought were true, but no longer are.  Stories that we lived by, defined ourselves with, but can no longer believe in.  Whether it's the gods that are lost in "Yesternite" or the gods that we gather up to defeat our enemies in "God and Country", or the gods in "The Beat of Her Heart" that let Orpheus down.. the "gods" are always found to never really come through for us.  The football player loses his identity as a football player. The mother is no longer a mother and something of the self is truly lost.

Yesternite was written as a reflection of a deep experience of loss that I had. The light had been snatched away and the day had become night.  But the interesting thing about the experience was that somehow there was a new kind of light and clarity to be found within the night.  There was this old poet, St. John of the Cross, who wrote about the "dark night of the soul".  What's interesting about it to me is how he talks about this darkness with some level of love.  For him, the night was a purifying and clarifying experience.

In Yesternite, there is both a sense of loss of something important but also the realization that the night brings with it the possibility of a new day.  Loss and pain can bring something invaluable to the person who experiences it, so that the shadows lift their hands and praise the light.  Which is why even the sunbeams can praise the night.

 

Tour Update

We're on the bus right now heading towards Boston as we finish up our first week of touring this new album.  It's been quite a hectic month getting ready for this tour!  We did nearly a month of rehearsals/production rehearsals and this music has not been easy to pull of live as a four piece band...  But I think we are starting to get the hang of it after the first week of touring. One of the interesting things about this tour is that our music is pretty different than it ever has been before and you can tell that a lot of people are still trying to figure out how to engage with it in a group setting.  K.S. Rhoads is touring with us and he has been telling us that he is amazed at our crowd.  He says we have a much more attentive crowd than normal.  We're playing in a lot of clubs, which are normally pretty noisy, but on this tour there have been these beautiful moments that you could hear a pin drop in the room.  K.S. had played lots of clubs and he says he's never experienced anything like that before.  People are  attentive and engaged, and that's really cool on one hand!  It's amazing to have an audience that actually pays attention to the nuance of what's happening.  But on the other hand, there are moments of the set where it feels kind of funny.  "Let It Go", for example, is a pretty much a full out dance party jam, but a lot of people don't really know what to do with it.  And understandably so… In the past, we've toured with poets and string players, and broken up our show into movements…This time, there are shadow puppets and I'm often wearing a poncho and dancing around like an idiot.

So, while we have had incredibly positive feedback after the shows from people, there has also been a bit of awkward transition time as people try to figure out what they are supposed to do while we play this music.

So for those of you who have seen us before and are planning on coming to one of the shows on this tour, here's a little list of recommendations that might help ease you into the live experience of this new record…

Remember that all of life can be "sacred".

Because we started as a band by making liturgical music, it is easy to feel like something like a dance party jam is less "sacred" or something.  We don't believe that to be the case.  All of life is sacred.  The pain. The struggle.  The joy.  The stained glass and the mirror ball glass.  It's all part of existence, and it all matters.

Let go and have fun

Because there are all sorts of moments on this tour: heavy, fun, mystical, thoughtful…etc, the tendency can be to try to fit yourself into just one of those modes.  This tour is best experienced with loose fingers.  Experience the experience that comes and then let it go without expectation of what the next moment might entail.  Specifically, I'm really hoping that by the end of this tour, more people in the audience will start joining us more viscerally in the celebratory aspects of life that are found in I Am Mountain.  I love the attentiveness, but I'm also hoping to see more beer flowing and more booties shaking. That would make this experience even more sacred for me.

Bring a friend. (The crazier the better.)

I'll be honest with you.  Most of our real fans (the ones that buy tickets to come to our shows) love this album, but there definitely is a group of people who were kind of on the line about Gungor anyway who we have now officially lost with this album.  That's actually ok with us, but we also want to get this music in front of new people and perhaps fill some of the newly emptied seats with some of those who haven't heard of us before.  I think there are a lot of people out there who this music would mean something to that have never heard of us.  If you have any weird friends that would be interested in a concert that contains a classical guitar piece, synth solos, a resonator, a banjo and a dance party, then please let them know that they are welcomed to join some wayward and torn in having a good time singing and dancing together.

Hope to see you soon!

Long Way Off - About the Song

"The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool."William Shakespeare

We are born whimpering bundles of skin and sinew- naked, bloody, and with no thought or language. We live for a few years and learn to speak. We give names to the rocks and animals that we see on this little speck of dust of earth, and we use glass and mirrors to stare up into the vastness above us in the hopes of categorizing and understanding the mystery that is existence. Yet, all of this is done from such a limited perspective. We are just one of the trillions of planets in this known universe. And who knows what lies outside of the universe that we can see with our glass and mirrors…

Yet, despite our knowledge of our cosmic insignificance, we human beings tend to FEEL like we are the center and apex of the universe. That's because our feelings are tied to our bodies, which are very small and local realities. This is why when I stub my toe, it becomes much more important to me than the knowledge that someone else has stubbed his toe. I think it would be reasonable to assume, for instance, that several people in India just stubbed their toes as I typed this sentence. But, I don't give that much thought. Because those people are not the center of the universe in my ego ridden brain. I am. And this is how humans build our society. A group of me-centered universes that find ways of cooperating into building something bigger than the individual. Still, we are talking about one species of hominids on one tiny speck of dust in one tiny little solar system in the corner of one of the arms of one little galaxy.

Humans are arrogant creatures. We always have been. We see that we are smarter than the other animals on earth, so we figure that we are the center of the universe. We used to literally think that was true. We came up with geocentric models of the universe to support our narcissism, but then our glass and mirrors got a little too clear for that self-deception, so now we only get to FEEL that we are literally the center of the universe. How many of our most brilliant minds need to proven wrong a decade after they die for us to understand….human beings are very limited creatures…? What do we KNOW about anything, really?

Sure, Descartes made it seem pretty reasonable to believe that at least "I" exist… And there are plenty of other things that seem reasonable to believe. But the lines between knowledge, belief, doubt, and hope get awfully blurry. Do I KNOW, for instance, that I am really sitting here typing at this computer right now? Is it possible that I'm dreaming? Not probable, but certainly possible. Is it possible that I'm in some sort of elaborate Matrix-like scheme where my real brain is actually hooked up to some crazy network somewhere? Sure, it's a stretch, but how do I KNOW anything other than what my very limited senses offer to my very limited brain living in a very tiny corner of the universe? I can't see with anything but MY eyes.

So I'm born this bundle of skin and sinew, and then after a few years I learn to speak to these other egocentric mammals who have also learned to speak. And together we come up with grand stories and, who knows, maybe experience bits of revelation from beyond the vail. But these days of ours are very short and our experience very limited. We live a few moments, and then like mist, we disappear into the Mystery from whence we came.

So why are we so arrogant?

Why do we, the mist, the sinew, the breath think that the Mystery is so small as to fit into our little brains through the extremely limited data set of information that we have access to as we clutch for our lives to this ball of dirt soaring precariously through space and time? Because as clever as we can be, we are also fools. We are foolish enough to ignore the vast space above our heads and instead fool ourselves into believing that my stubbed toe really is the center of the universe. We are afraid, and so we hide our heads in our books and in sex and work and religion and anything else that can distract us from the fact that our lives are a vapor and we really don't know very much about anything.

I had a friend tell me that she has been listening to "The Long Way Off" over and over in her car. For her, it's been a relief. It's been encouraging for her to remember that she doesn't have to figure everything out to live a good life. I think that's interesting because there are a lot of other people who don't feel that way about a message like "we're a long way off." For some people (people that don't feel like they are a long way off), that idea can be disconcerting. But, there's something about coming to terms with your limitations that can actually be quite freeing. I think it allows for a certain childlikeness again. It allows for some mystery and wonder.

Now, certainly, I'm not advocating for a mindless abandonment of all thought or belief. I believe we ought to use our limited minds to the best of our ability. We ought to research and study and work hard at understanding what we can. But we ought to be humble in the endeavor, realizing that we are mist, a vapor, a breath, the slightest flicker in a flame, and anything that we do get to see or understand is a very small part of the magnificent and unfathomable depths of Reality.

With the limitations that we have as human beings on this planet, certainty may never be a viable option for us. But trust…hope…faith…love… These are possible. And maybe it's better that way.

The Beat of Her Heart - About The Song

This song began as a short piano piece by John Arndt, who has played with us for years, and who wrote a lot of the songs on this album with Lisa and I as well as assisted in producing the album.  (He has actually released a bunch of his little piano tunes on iTunes. You should check it out. The Beat of Her Heart idea is "number 10")   Anyway, as soon as I heard it, I wanted to hear more of it. So I talked to John and we decided to develop it into a full song. But what kind of song could it be?  To me, the music had this sort of timeless quality and I felt it needed some sort of timeless story.  I'm not exactly sure what it was that made me land on the mythical story of Orpheus and Eurydice, but it just felt right, and when I told John and Lisa about it, they agreed.  For me, there was just something about Orpheus that I relate to.

If you don't know the story, here's the gist of it… There's this musician named Orpheus who deeply loves his beautiful wife, Eurydice.  One day, Orpheus is playing his lyre and she is so moved by his music that she begins dancing through a meadow.  She is watched and pursued by a satyr. (Which I guess is some sort of freak-goat-man-thing) She runs from him, steps on a viper, gets bit and dies. Orpheus is deeply grieved and begins to sing so beautifully and mournfully that the gods weep and convince Orpheus to travel to the underworld to retrieve his beloved wife. On his arduous journey, he uses his music to convince the powers that be to give her back. Consent is given but only on the condition that he must walk in front of her without looking back until both had reached the upper world.

All he has to do is walk out of there and not look back.  Sounds easy enough, right?

Yet, how you can he not look...?  I mean, he doesn't KNOW that she is actually following him.  All he has is the word of Hades… And how trustworthy is that word, really?

Blindly walking out of there might prove him to be a gullible fool….just strolling out of the underworld in blind faith that Hades has indeed sent his wife out behind him. Imagine if it was you.. I mean, all that work that you did to get into the underworld… All the work of getting past the gatekeepers and using your music to lull the guardian of Hades to sleep so you could go even deeper… And now you're just going to take Hades at his word that your wife is really there with you?  Why should you trust him like that?  And, how in the world is he even going to know if you just take a quick glance backwards to make sure that you aren't being an idiot?  Just one quick glance and you can KNOW that you are on the right path and that your love is really is there with you….

"My mind was a tempest, my doubt was a storm I turned back to see if she really had come Just as our eyes met, she faded from sight That's when I knew I would never find the beat of her heart Or the song in mine"

Man.  What a story.

I get it.  I too have a hard time trusting authority figures.  If Hades tells me that I can't look back, I'm sure as hades looking back. (sorry, couldn't resist that one) And I have experienced great loss as a result of that part of my skeptical soul.

I had a really hard time figuring out where to put this song in the album order. At first, we had it buried pretty deep into the album.  But it's such a dark song, that I felt like it needed some light around it to keep some breath in the listener's lungs through the album.  We decided on putting it second because I thought that it offered such a stark contrast to the first track, and I always enjoy that "what the..?" feeling that I occasionally get in listening to an album that keeps me on my toes.  We knew that not everyone would like it like that. I knew that some would feel such a strong contrast as disjointed or jarring.  But, that's a part of the essence of this record to me.  As we have already stated thus far in the record: life is jarring.  Existence is not simple and without a fight.  There is no life without death.  And if we are going to make it to the full life that is found elsewhere on the record, we may need to experience some loss and some death along the way.

So that's the gist of the song to me.  It's probably not going to be played on the radio.  But I like the story and am really looking forward to playing the song live. It has a very involved guitar part that is fun to play, and I get to sing "I played my guitar and the earth opened wide." I think that's kind of badass.

I Am Mountain - About The Song

Disclaimer:I've decided to do a little blogging about some of the songs from our new album "I am Mountain." I wasn't going to do this originally, because, first of all, I think trying to explain poetry with prose can often be a counterproductive endeavor. It's sort of like trying to explain why a joke is funny. The process can actually make it not funny.

So, here's my disclaimer about this… If the poetry on "I am Mountain" is already speaking to you, let it speak. In fact, you may not even want to read these song blogs because the temptation would be to think that these thoughts are the "correct" interpretation of the art, which is not the case. In fact, this album was very intentional about leaving room in its lyrical choices for interpretation. We are all at different stages of our journeys and sometimes what we need to hear most is not the same thing as what the creator emphasizes in his or her own mind. That's the beauty of art. Most of the songs on the album were co-written by a few of us in the Gungor collective, each of us with different thoughts and viewpoints, and honestly, we might even disagree about what these songs "mean". So, again these song blogs should not be seen as the official "meaning" of these songs, but merely some of my personal thoughts about the art that make this album lyrically interesting to me personally.

So here we go!

The song "I am Mountain" was one of the last songs to be written for this album. Even though it's the first song on the album, it is actually kind of the "conclusion" of the album as well. I considered putting the song later in the album, but to me, there is a cyclical and wandering nature to the album that made beginning in the place where we will leave off feel right. For me, the journey of this album begins and ends with mystery.

"I am mountain, I am dust Constellations made of us There's glory in the dirt A universe within the sand Eternity within a man"

I wrote these lyrics after reading a book by my friend Rob that emphasized the beauty and mystery of life's existence. Science shows us that we are literally made of stardust. http://www.physics.org/article-questions.asp?id=52 Quantum mechanics shows us how strange and connected this universe of ours is.

"We are ocean we are mist Brilliant fools who wound and kiss There's beauty in the dirt Wandering in skin and soul Searching, longing for a home"

Here, we see the major theme of the album come into play for the first time. We have acknowledged the beauty of existence, but there is also something to be said for the dark side of existence. We may be oceans of complex mystery, but we are also as fragile and temporary as mist. We have these brilliant minds that allow us to speak and think and have consciousness, yet we often use these gifts so foolishly. We love and then destroy that which we love. The complexity of this skin that meets soul creates a dissonance within life's very fabric.

"As the light, light, lights up the skies, up the skies We will fight, fight, fight for our lives, for our lives"

Living in the beauty rather than the chaos is going to be a fight. Enlightenment and wisdom rarely come easily. But fighting to see that light that makes the world shimmer is worth the effort.

The chorus has this big, communal wordless cry that to me feels something like the aforementioned fight. We are all in this existence thing together. It's big and its complex and we are all deeply connected within the same story, the same fight.

On some days, the world shimmers. On some days, our metaphors lose all their meaning, and the world saps the life out of us. At the end of the day, it's all part of life. How are you going to live it? In fear or in love? With violent, clenched fists or with open hands?

"Momentary carbon stories from the ashes, filled with holy ghost Life is here now, breathe it all in Let it all go You are earth and wind"