Archive for July 27th, 2010

Some of you know, because I updated my Facebook status, that I have spent the last hour or so sitting on my patio with a nice cup of hot tea and a nice book of Wendell Berry. I had no idea what would happen.

I scribbled in my journal a few words, incoherent; illegible. I listened to rattling cicadas, barking dogs, chirping birds, clapping leaves, and tried to discern the flapping of the butterfly’s wings as the marvelous, glorious swallowtail flitted by scarcely able to control its trajectory because of the breeze waltzing through my backyard. I sipped my tea, breathed the summer air, and slowly, deliberately, lovingly caressed the pages of the book with my eyes.

I can’t read poetry straight through like a novel. Instead I skip around from page to page and read wherever the page stays open long enough for me to fix my gaze. I did so today and then I saw it, devoured it, made bare words my flesh and bone. Wendell Berry surprised me with words that quelled my anxiety, squashed my inner turmoil, and rushed new life into my failing heart.

“The way of love leads all ways

to life beyond words, silent

and secret. To serve that triumph

I have done all the rest.”

–Wendell Berry, A Timbered Choir

That’s enough. I just want you to know, or hear, again from love. Maybe you needed to hear from love as much as I do and did.

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Counting Stars Now AvailableIt’s no secret that I’m an Andrew Peterson junkie. Seven or eight years ago, he was scheduled to come play a small concert at our little in-the-middle-of-a-cornfield church, and – having become a bit burnt out on mediocre music with the label “Christian” slapped in front of it like “New!” on a stale bag of pretzels – I was going to skip it. A friend of mine from the church (and the guy who does our web hosting) suggested I might like it, and compared him to Rich Mullins. Unwittingly, he had just about put a nail in the coffin of my ever showing up, since pretty much no musician I’ve found in “Christian” music has had a favorable comparison to Rich.

And then I was asked to help promote the concert, and to play some of Peterson’s music on the piano in the weeks leading up to the concert. This meant I would have to listen to the CD and put some work into it, which – in turn – sold me enough that Peterson wasn’t the average CCM hack, that I broke down and bought tickets for the family to go to the concert. And while he wasn’t (yet) up to par musically with Rich, he had a great deal of talent and heart, and an authenticity absent from most performers.

The next year, he returned to our church, doing his first Christmas tour for Behold the Lamb of God, the True Tall Tale of the Coming of Christ. After that, my inner skeptic was stilled, and Peterson had pulled me into his artistic vision of the story of Christ – both within Christmas, and in every day life.

Peterson’s music and lyrics are not really comparable, in style or quality, within the Christian music sub-genre (or even outside it, for that matter) with anyone other than the dearly departed Mullins. If there is a key difference between the two, though, it is this – Where Rich had a haunted/pessimistic/cynical streak, seasoned with a wild but weary maturity of bachelorhood, Peterson has a more optimistic thread running through his music, most likely grounded in his family, as a husband and father. Apart from that, much of the instrumentation, flow and production are incredibly reminiscent of Rich’s later work (as he gained freedom from Word Records’ heavy-handed production) – similar, yet different enough to completely stand alone, in it’s own right.

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“Give up your good Christian life and follow Christ.”

Attributed to Garrison Keilor

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