One Wild Life: Soul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am a body.

I am a soul.

I am spirit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Gungor

Why One Wild Life?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are just a few of some of your comments:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click below to hear a sample of the new music

One Wild Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Hymn Sing

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

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

Belong

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

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

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

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

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

theliturgists.com/belong

Wild

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

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

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

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

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

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

…yes, I know.

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

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

It was perfect.

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

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

Hands down.

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

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

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

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

Good day.

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

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

Not-so-good day.

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

I thought there would be one day.

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

But it hasn’t been just one.

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

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

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

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

Does that seem completely crazy to anyone else?

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

But here’s the thing…

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

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

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

Lucie Is Light

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetby:  Lisa Gungor

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

"For You created her inmost being..."

 

I broke.

 

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

 

We sobbed in unbearable pain.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

I digress.

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Lucie. It means light.

 

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

 

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

 

photo 4

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More Headline Dates for Fall 2014!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full List of Tour Dates

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

*Supporting Switchfoot ^Festival Date

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.

Gungor Releases "I Am Mountain - Deluxe Album" & More!

I Am Mountain Deluxe Album & Bonus Material Available Digitally Today! The I Am Mountain Deluxe and Bonus Material albums are now available through all of your favorite digital outlets including iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon MP3! The Deluxe Album includes all of the original I Am Mountain tracks that you’ve grown to know and love, as well as eight additional kick-ass songs sourced from live audio, edits, demos, and b-side cuts. If you’ve already purchased the full I Am Mountain album, the Bonus Material is available as a standalone purchase just for you! We’re very excited about the albums and couldn’t be happier with how they’ve turned out. Head on over to iTunes to purchase your copy today!

Just before the holiday weekend, Gungor was featured on NPR's "Song Travels" - take a listen to this wonderful segment today!

Finally, don’t forget to head to Gungor’s Facebook page TODAY at 4PM ET /2PM MT / 1PM PT for a Q&A with Michael! Lisa will be starting her Q&A at 5:30PM ET / 3:30PM MT / 2:30PM PT!

We hope you had a great 4th of July weekend - enjoy the tunes!

Gungor's Going On Tour This Fall With SWITCHFOOT!

This Fall, Gungor's headed back out on the road supporting Switchfoot! Tickets go on sale this Friday, July 11th. See below for more info!  There will be a few more dates added as well as some Gungor headline and festival dates. Stay tuned for more details when we have them.

Fri Sept 12 - Syracuse, NY - Landmark Theatre 362 South Selina Street, Syracuse, NY 13202

Sun Sept 14 - Bloomsburg, PA - Bloomsburg University 400 East 2nd St, Bloomsburg, PA 17815

Fri Sept 19 - Bourbonnais, IL - Olivet Nazarene University Centennial Chapel 1 University Ave, Burbonnais, IL 60914

Sat Sept 20 - Grand Rapids, MI - Calvin College 3201 Burton SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546

Fri Oct 10 - Spring Arbor, MI - Spring Arbor University: Student Development 106 E Main St, Spring Arbor, MI 49283

Sat Oct 11 - Appleton, WI- Fox Cities Performing Arts Center 400 W College Ave, Appleton, WI 54911

Sun Oct 12 - Canton, OH - Canton Palace Theatre 605 Market Ave N, Canton, OH 44702

Fri Nov 7 - Minneapolis, MN - First Avenue and 7th Street Entry 701 First Ave N., Minneapolis, MN 55403

Sat Nov 8 - St. Cloud, MN - St. Cloud River's Edge Convention Center 10 4th Ave S, St. Cloud, MN 56301

Sun Nov 9 - Bemidji, MN - Sanford Center 1111 Event Center Dr NE, Bemidji, MN 56601

Sat Nov 15 - Burleson, TX - Venue 510 510 SW Wilshire Blvd, Burleson, TX 76028

Sun Nov 16 - San Antonio, TX - The Aztec Theatre 104 N St. Mary's St, San Antonio, TX 78205

Mon Nov 17 - Waco, TX - Waco Hall Baylor University, Waco, TX 76706

Facebook Q&A Tuesday July 8th!

In celebration of the I Am Mountain Deluxe Album and I Am Mountain Bonus Material releases hitting digital outlets this coming Tuesday, Michael & Lisa Gungor will be conducting a Q&A on Facebook.  Head on over to Gungor’s Facebook Page starting at 4PM ET / 2PM MT / 1PM PT on this coming Tuesday, July 8th where Michael will be answering questions!  At around 5:30PM ET / 3:30PM MT / 2:30PM PT Lisa will jump on and start answering questions herself.  The chats will last for around an hour each but could extend longer if schedules permit.  At the appointed time, Michael will post a welcome note on the Gungor Facebook timeline and you'll be able to ask questions from within the thread that Michael has started - Lisa will do the same when her chat starts.  There is a little lag time so be patient, they will surely get to your question!

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.

WSJ/Speakeasy Video Premiere – “Long Way Off”

Michael Gungor looks like he’s on a mission in the new video for his band Gungor’s song “Long Way Off,” premiering today on Speakeasy, though it’s anyone’s guess where the singer and songwriter is headed.

Directed by Simone Rubi, the video pairs the quietly engrossing pop song with images of the Denver musician dashing up stairs, striding purposefully past buildings and through plazas and running in slow motion through a tunnel. Keeping his destination unclear is in keeping with Gungor’s philosophical outlook.

“The human brain and consequently society has evolved to prefer and reward certainty, but the reality is, while humanity’s ‘knowledge’ and ability to survive on this planet is fairly impressive when compared to other animals, we really have no idea about so much about our universe and existence,” he tells Speakeasy.” I find an acceptance of that unknowing and of our humble place in the universe to be freeing and healthy.”

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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

Last Minute Liturgist Events

Some of you are aware that Gungor is part of starting a collective of artists called The Liturgists that exist to make thoughtful, beautiful, hopeful, and evocative liturgical art.

Well, we want to try something kind of crazy, and we would like to invite you guys to participate in this with us. We are going to hold two last minute free events in Nashville and New York City to try some of this liturgical material out. They will be Liturgist “beta” events if you will.

Gungor, The Brilliance, and Science Mike are some of “The Liturgists” that will be there.

The events will be held at:

Monday, March 3
7pm and 9pm shows at: Noteable Blends Chestnut Street Crossing 434 Houston Street Suite 235 Nashville TN, 37203 http://noteableblends.com

Wednesday, March 5
10:30 pm show at: Trinity Grace Church 75 Murray St. (between Greenwich St. & W. Broadway) New York, NY 10007

Now, I say “free” events, but in reality, these events cost us money. But we really would like the Liturgists to be more like a church than a typical for-profit band. Plus, the event actually includes liturgical elements like the Eucharist, and we just don’t feel right about “charging” for that. So we are going to try an experiment and just trust you guys. We will be accepting donations and they will actually be tax deductible, because The Liturgists has been set up as a ministry of Bloom, our local church in Denver.

So we’re going out on a limb with these things, but we really think they are going to be special. We loved the idea of trying these events out in these particular cities not only because we know a lot of people around them, but they are important cities when it comes to the arts. We find this experiment to be very intriguing and beautiful, and we hope to find some friends in these cities that might want to be a part of making it happen.

So, please, if you are anywhere near Nashville or NYC next week, please come join us! We will also have a time of discussion where we can talk about some of the ideas at play and we would love to hear your voice in the conversation.