About The Song

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.

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.