Not Striving for Significance: A Mother’s Day Tribute

Mom 001

When I look in the mirror, I see my Mom. Not because I’m having a vision of my dearly departed mother but because I look so much like her. I have so many physical traits like her side of the family that I’ve had people look at me and say, “You must be Eleanor’s son.” Yes, I must.

When I look down at my hands, working on some detailed project, I see my Mom’s hands. They tremble just like hers did. She became quite self-conscious of this as she got older. Likewise, I am becoming more self-conscious of my shaky hands. People think I’m nervous about something when they notice it. The only thing I’m nervous about, however, is that you’ll notice it make a comment like that. At those times I feel my Mom’s frustration.

When I consider the follicle challenges I have on my head yet see the copious amount of hair that happily grows everywhere else on my body, I think of my Mom; not because she was bald and hairy but because her brothers were bald and hairy. As I understand it, I got that genetic quirk through her side of the family. The scant hair gracing my head is quite grey now, too. Also a reason to think of Mom. She got grey very early on in life. In fact, as the baby of the family, the youngest of six kids, I have no memory of my Mom with anything but grey hair. My siblings like to say it was because of the youngest child that she went grey so young. Sorry, Mom.

When I hear someone make a joke about their “quasi-Alzheimer’s” I think of my Mom. I have said before that she lost her battle with Alzheimer’s disease but I really don’t like that phrase anymore. She had as much chance of “battling” that disease as the young Somalian pirates had of taking on the U.S. Navy at the end of the “Captain Phillips” movie. It was not a fair fight and the end was inevitable. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about ending my days in the fading confusion that comes with that horrible disease. It was difficult not to feel cheated by not having your Mom fully there for the last few years of her life. Yet even in the throes of Alzheimer’s, there were aspects of who she uniquely was that could not be extinguished. She still loved to laugh. She still brightened up when little children came around. She still remained deeply concerned about caring for people, being hospitable, having enough food for everyone.

My Mom was a compassionate and gracious person. She came from a quiet, kind-hearted family, humble to a fault. I have very few memories of Mom talking much about herself. She would elaborate on some things if you asked her but seemed genuinely uninterested in being the center of any conversation. Only very late in her life did I discover she had dreams of being a nurse when she was young. Her parents discouraged this notion, especially when it became clear she had the opportunity to marry a charismatic young man who was destined to become a pastor. To them this was by far the highest status she could achieve, being wife to someone of prominence and position. I never sensed that my Mom resented this or resented the role she played as wife and mother.

She never did much striving for significance. It didn’t seem to be in her DNA. But a funny thing happened: By not striving for significance but instead being faithful and committed to her life as it unfolded before her, she achieved a significance so far beyond the reach of so many who have given all for success, money, fame. By being the gentle person she was, by living out her values and beliefs in simple, day-by-day ways, she created a legacy that has had long lasting ripple effects.

When her kids all get together these days we laugh and sing so loudly that the mother responsible for all of that noise must’ve done something right. Sure, most of the noise comes from our Dad’s genes but the spirit of it all, the sheer joy of being joyful, comes directly from our Mom. Laughter, so strong it makes you cry – that’s my Mom. But more than that, by being who she truly was and living that out for us to see and emulate, she set our lives on a course of compassion and grace. Each of her children embrace a very practical and very human way of being like Jesus. This is no accident.

I realize now that the earthy spirituality I hold so dear – an internal value so important to me that it can’t be excised from my soul – I owe to my Mom. She lived that way absolutely unselfconsciously. She didn’t attend a seminar, read a book, hear a message and then decide to strive for being real, being joyful, being compassionate, being gracious, being loving – She simply lived the way God led her to live. And in the wake of that life there are children, grand-children and great-grand-children who also strive to live the same way. She unleashed on the world a small army of little Jesus’s cast in her mold. Was this her master plan all along? Unlikely. Mom was just being Mom and letting God work out his master plan.

All this has been very important for me to consider on this Mother’s Day. I have spent too much time fretting over my own significance. We all want our lives to matter, to leave something behind, to have a legacy. We strive and we strive for things that ultimately will make us look good, will make us come out as special, unique, gifted, significant. My Mom left behind a legacy that the world would deem insignificant. She didn’t write any books, make tons of cash, find a cure for some dreadful disease, star in movies, hit lots of home runs, grace the cover of magazines or serve in some political office. History will not remember my Mom’s name. But the effect of that one quiet life will resonate on and on beyond anything that the so-called Significant People could ever muster.

So in honor of my Mom, I want to renounce a striving for significance in favor of a goal to live the life God has given me, fully and abundantly, until he calls me home. I don’t expect to be remembered to history, either. But it is my prayer that I can continue the ripple effect of grace and compassion for many more generations to come.




To Be Nobody But Yourself


To be nobody but yourself –

in a world that is trying its best, night and day,  to make you everybody else –

means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight;

and never stop fighting.

e.e. cummings

My wife bought a piece of artwork with this quote on it for me many years ago. She knows me very well. She understood then and she understands now that the “hardest battle” of my life has been the fight to be truly myself. She loves who I am and wants me to experience that and, more so, wants other people to experience who I am. Yet there are times I’ve felt crushed by the weight of other people’s expectations. And times when I’ve felt that who I am was slowly disappearing.

A friend of mine recently commented to me that it seems I’m going through a “mid-life revival”. I really liked that sentiment. He was referring to the fact that I have been delving back into artwork, posting my creations on Facebook and also writing the very blog you happen to be reading right now (thanks for that, by the way).  Edging closer to 50, I am putting myself out there more than ever and expressing myself in these ways more than I have for many years.

I am an artist. And like so many artists, I’m not content to stick to one area of creative expression but tend to dabble in multiple areas when I get the chance. I have always felt most fully alive when I am making visual art or making music or acting on stage or writing prose. I made the decision to enter the blogosphere because I wanted the impetus to get back into writing for the shear creative joy of it.

For many artists, the act of creating is almost as natural as breathing. But it has not always been so for me. I have had long stretches in life where I felt I was becoming someone else and that artist side of me was fading, fading away. There are a number of factors that contributed to this but most of it had to do with a Twofold set of realities in my life: (1) I am a Christian; and (2) I am a Pastor.

The evangelical Christian world is not always the most welcoming and accommodating world for the artist. Artists, when they are remaining true to their creative impulse, like to push the boundaries, ask the tough questions, challenge themselves and others to view their world from different angles and in different tones and hues. This impulse is not generally encouraged or fostered in the evangelical Christian setting. The mysterious, the mystical, the grey areas, the fringes – these are not places where the Evangelical mind and spirit tend to go. Yet they are precisely where the Artistic mind and spirit go on a regular basis. The Artist doesn’t mind ambiguity, uncertainty. The Evangelical minds it a great deal and much prefers clarity and certainty.

I am generalizing, of course. But I stand by these generalizations because they are so often the way things play out. And so often the Artist feels very much a stranger in a strange land when he or she dares dwell among the Evangelicals. I have dwelt in that place and felt strange indeed. I have sensed the tension. When I did have the Jones to create, I’d find myself self-editing, concerned that I might offend someone. Or I’d have to defend myself for acting in a play in which the character I was playing said “Oh my God.” Or I would get the less than enthusiastic responses that spoke quiet volumes of displeasure about something I had created. And often I found myself tucking the artist in me deep down somewhere where it would not rock any feathers or ruffle and boats.

Yet, ironically, I ended up in Christian ministry, a Pastor. I won’t get into how that all happened because, frankly, after almost 20 years I am still bemused by it. Imagine, if you will, already feeling on the margins of Christian life and then ending up as someone who people look to for leadership in that Christian life. My artistic sensibilities took a beating from my own sense of responsibility to “the Call” and from the expectations of the Flock. When these things conspired together the Artist in me became almost undetectable and I no longer felt the natural impulse to create. I would continue to be creative, of course, and find avenues to do so, but it became a sidebar to my life, not a main part of the story.

I was doing good things for people and trying my best to remain faithful to what I felt God was asking me to do. But my wife could see that who I am and what made me feel most fully alive were not being given adequate expression. So when she came across the quote above, she thought of me.

I do not blame my Christianity or my role as a pastor in the Church for this fight to be myself. If anything, I have found over the years that I have no one to blame but myself. It was my choice to hide things away, to bury the Artist deep within; no one forced me to do these things. If anything, this Mid-Life Revival is showing me my own responsibility in all of that and also challenging me to no longer allow that to happen in my life. And it is my faith, and the belief in a God who created me exactly the way I am supposed to be, that gives me the motivation to be nobody but myself. In fact, I have begun to see that it was the Artist in me, the part of me that liked to push the boundaries, ask the tough questions, not be content with simplistic answers, and continually embrace challenges, that has made me most effective in my years of Christian ministry. I look at the Bible and my faith from odd angles, as an artist would, and that has given a distinctiveness to what I do as a pastor.

To any of you out there who also exist in this tension-land of Art and Faith, I would ask you to take heart. You do belong. You do have a role to play. People will not always understand you. You may offend some. You may confuse others. And there may be times others question your faith or you yourself do the questioning. But as artists we’re here to give expression to alternate realities, to be on a continual quest for compassion, to make people feel a bit uneasy in order for them to see God where they hadn’t seem him before.  That is a scary but fabulous calling.

The Great Artist made you an artist for a reason. So be that artist.

To those of you who are not artists, know that we will sometimes freak you out, whether you are a Christian or not. We will sometimes offend you. We will certainly confuse you. But if you let us speak, sing, act, write, draw, paint, sculpt, dance – create – you will be opening yourself up to a much bigger world. And that expanse in your spirit and mind and heart will make it that much easier to embrace all of Creation. You, too, are unique and uniquely gifted. And you, too, help people see God.

From now on until I die, I want to be unashamedly myself. I still have a lot of work to do but I feel I’m on the right track. I have steeled myself for the fight. Bring it on!


An Artist Again

self portrait with snowman January 2015

Twenty-five years later, I am an artist again.

Way back in the spring of 1989 I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. For the better part of five years I created art, studied art, talked about art, was surrounded by art. After that day when I was robed and mortar-boarded in order to receive my diploma, art virtually disappeared from my life. With no sense of where all this art was taking me, I had begun looking into other avenues for potential careers. I felt no burning desire to continue on the path to a Masters degree in Art or to make my way to New York City or grab the first job that came along to fund my creative Jones to draw and paint. Instead, I felt like I needed to “do something” with my life; make it count; serve people and serve God.

My decisions and choices began to veer away from art. Having grown up in a family that highly valued Christian ministry, I dabbled in missions for a bit, traveling overseas to test those waters. After that I dove into the heady world of Calvin Theological Seminary, plunging into a crucible that almost incinerated me. From there it was an accidental internship at my first church in Wisconsin, a premature ordination before my Masters of Divinity was completed, and then a leap of fancy into church planting in Ottawa where I experienced a different kind of crucible altogether, which ended in taking that particular ministry off life-support and letting it die. Emerging besmirched and bewildered, I wandered from job to job, desperately seeking something not related to Christian ministry. My search proved successful and unsuccessful at the same time: a man unsure of his calling to be a pastor met up with a community of faith unsure if they wanted a pastor at all; perhaps not a match made in heaven, but just the place I needed to begin the slow process of understanding what-the-hell-my-life-was-all-about-anyway.

Attached to this move back into church work was another move that seemed at first to be a sidebar, an add-on to what was really important to my life: I began to work part-time for an organization that serves people with developmental disabilities. For very practical, monetary reasons I had to take on a second job. Being a Christian organization, they weren’t confused by my CV and I was soon working at a group home in the Ottawa area. For the better part of three years, I worked the pastor job and the personal support worker job side-by-side. I was doing something with my life, making it count, serving people and serving God.

But where was art in all of this?

As a child, if I had a spare moment, a pencil and some paper, I was drawing, drawing, drawing and drawing some more. My dear Mom, bless her insightful soul, used to sneak papers inside a Bible she brought to church so I could draw away during my Dad’s sermons. Being a huge fan of comic books and superheroes, I even created my own line of characters. My stapled-together pages of typewriter paper would be filled with panels of adventures of the Pilot, Son of Samson and, my personal favorite, Mass Man. At school I was simply “the artist”, both praised for my fortunate ability to create and bullied for the sensitive person I had the misfortune to be. I was not a great student or a stud athlete so I came to define myself solely on my abilities as an artist. No great surprise, then, that when it came time to continue my education beyond high school, I chose to pursue a Fine Arts degree.

A lithography print from my college days

A lithography print from my college days

My childhood identity was art. More than some kind of “happy place”, art was a place where I found joy and purpose; art was so much a part of me that I likely could not have imagined it ever not being a part of my future.

It comes as a big internal shock to consider that twenty five years have passed in which the art part of me was pushed far, far to the margins. Certainly, creativity played a large part in my life over those twenty five years. I had many opportunities to write and present messages, act and sing, dabbling now and again in graphic design or some cartooning for a church advertisement, Sunday school lesson or powerpoint display. The creative process in its many forms kept me going in life, without it I would wither away. But truly devoting myself to art, for all intents and purposes, completely faded from my understanding of who I was and how I was gifted.

Then, lo and behold, along the path of my life I took a side-road less traveled by, and it has made all the difference. Feeling unchallenged and frustrated in the group home context, I pursued a change of the “sidebar” job by applying to an adult day program serving people with special needs. It is a place that is part vocational training, part school, part business and part something completely undefinable.  But within this context there came an opportunity for me that would never have materialized if I hadn’t taken this second job for practical and monetary reasons. After a few months, I became the instructor/facilitator of the art division of the day program. Charged with helping the people we care for learn about art and make art, I am now, once again, surrounded by art; quite literally, in fact, as my art room walls are covered with many creations of mine and the other artists there.

Tree House, colored pencil on construction paper, 2013

Tree House, colored pencil on construction paper, 2013

I am “the artist” again. I am drawing and painting again. I am getting my hands dirty with charcoals and tempera paints and markers and oil pastels. I am feeling the joy of seeing something emerge on a piece of paper in front of me, something that wasn’t there before, something that was crafted by my hands and is now my own.

After twenty five years, it is very difficult for me to adequately describe how this feels. But a truth in it all is that I feel I am fully and truly developing into who I really am after all this time. I am the person who has been involved in the bizarre ups and downs of Christian ministry, yes, but I am also the person who longs to create art, to express myself that way and to give that part of myself, too, to the world around me.

After twenty five years I am becoming okay with the thought that being an artist is also doing something with my life, making it count, serving people and serving God. In fact, being an artist may be the deepest and most profound way I could imagine living my life. It took me a long time to get here but, in the end, it all makes sense. I have a heart to serve people and I have a heart for art. I am blessed to see those two things come together for me now, a quarter of a century and a lot of living later.

Chalk pastels on paper

Pitcher with Roses, Chalk pastels on paper, 2014

Please check out the Facebook page dedicated to my artwork:



Rattled By a Raffle

SPEC2081908-1Recently, my wife was declared one of twenty finalists for a $10,000 prize towards the purchase of a new car. Spearheaded by our neighborhood car dealerships, local businesses had gotten together and placed ballot boxes around town promoting this event. When we received our call we were invited to attend the giveaway raffle: a modest soiree with some food and balloons and promotional pitches from the car salesmen. We had never gotten within sniffing distance of any prize of this value, so this was a unique moment for us. We very much needed an automobile upgrade and to win would be a huge boost for us. Let’s just say that we are not in the kind of income bracket where buying a new car is a possibility. In fact, we’re not in the income bracket where buying a used car is a possibility.  Frankly, I’m not sure what you’d call our income bracket; “Middle-Impoverished” comes to mind.

As the time approached to attend this raffle, I noticed that my love-hate relationship with my current car was veering dangerously close to a loathe-hate relationship. I was dreaming of a new car without old-fashioned roll down windows – Imagine that!  As visions of something built in this decade raced around in my head, I puttered painfully uphill in my 2001 Ford Focus. Would my new car have heated seats? Would it have the guts to get me up this hill? Would it not leak inside when it rained? I allowed myself the fantasy or two involving a newer, sleeker ride to call my own. I envisioned a vehicular life of bliss in the near future.

You can probably guess what happened at the raffle, can’t you? Someone won the $10,00o prize; someone not my wife. Basically, we got a free meal out of the event and then trudged our way back through the cold February night to our measly-mobile in the parking lot. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel like kicking my car as I walked up to it. But I’d also be lying if I said something  very important did not happen for me that evening.

Being a part of that raffle, going through the days leading up to it, dreaming of something new, something better, an easier way to get the thing I desired, put me in a detestable mood; I found that my focus over and over was on what I did not have, not on what I have. Agitation, discontent, annoyance – these feelings dominated my mind, all because I had a tantalizing carrot dangling in front of me. The possibility of gaining something I perceived as far superior to what I currently had was causing me to despise not just my wheels but my lot in life as well. My mindset became less about getting a new car and more about getting a new life, as my current life looked dull and pathetic next to what I could have if I only had more money, more stuff, more, more, more…

I was becoming increasingly more disenchanted with my life as I approached this raffle evening. Yet something amazing happened to me after I realized I’d be going home with nothing: I was overwhelmed with the reality that in fact I was going home with precisely what I needed – I was going home with my wife, my friend, lover and partner through so many adventurous, monotonous and ridiculous days of life together. I was headed home to my two children, the daughter and son who I love so much that it actually hurts at times. I was headed home with the realization that I didn’t need anything, actually. A new car would be nice, sure, but that would never alter what is deepest and truest about my life; it would never find its way into my “Top Ten” list of Greatest Blessings. Not a chance.

Not winning turned out to be an awesome thing! Maybe that’s why we went through all of that in the first place. Certainly, the Lord works in mysterious ways and sometimes He even uses balloons and car salesmen. It’s not likely we’ll ever come that close to a big prize like that again but, honestly, I don’t care. What I have that can never be taken from me is priceless and it will be mine forever.

So stuff that in your ballot box.


The Winter Olympics: a Cure for Cynicism


Austrian alpine skiers pose for a photograph in the Olympic rings at the Olympic athletes mountain village in Rosa Khutor Cynicism is a very post-post-modern virtue. Contemporary humor is soaked in cynicism as any episode of The Daily Show or The Colbert Report will show you. Often, it is the cynical approach which is deemed the most realistic and the most reliable. The “Keep on the Sunny Side” people of our day are looked on with suspicion, as if an ulterior motive lurks behind all that gratuitous positive-ness.

I am certainly guilty myself of adding a large dollop of cynicism to what life serves me on a daily basis. I am very cynical about politics, celebrities and our celebrity culture, professional sports; I am very cynical about the human race as a whole, to tell you the truth. I find this all a bit shocking as I am generally a person with a bright view of life. But it is hard to maintain, especially as you slip away from the glow…

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The Winter Olympics: a Cure for Cynicism

Austrian alpine skiers pose for a photograph in the Olympic rings at the Olympic athletes mountain village in Rosa KhutorCynicism is a very post-post-modern virtue. Contemporary humor is soaked in cynicism as any episode of The Daily Show or The Colbert Report will show you. Often, it is the cynical approach which is deemed the most realistic and the most reliable. The “Keep on the Sunny Side” people of our day are looked on with suspicion, as if an ulterior motive lurks behind all that gratuitous positive-ness.

I am certainly guilty myself of adding a large dollop of cynicism to what life serves me on a daily basis. I am very cynical about politics, celebrities and our celebrity culture, professional sports; I am very cynical about the human race as a whole, to tell you the truth. I find this all a bit shocking as I am generally a person with a bright view of life. But it is hard to maintain, especially as you slip away from the glow of youth to the gloom of middle-age. Not that being older is necessarily a gloomier time but often any light you see has a hazy edge to it; your silver comes with a cloudy lining. Cynicism creeps up on you along with wrinkles and hair loss. It almost feels inevitable.

If cynicism is the belief that all human behavior is motivated solely by self-interest, there is certainly a lot of fodder out there today. But I find my tendency to cynicism greatly challenged every four years when the Winter Olympics comes around again. Of course, I know there are many reasons to be cynical about the Olympic Games. These reasons have been well documented and every time an Olympiad rolls around, the cynics emerge in force. Yet there is something to the Games that challenges a deeply pessimistic view of humanity. For me, the Winter Games stand out in this regard over the Summer Games. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s the nature of many of the sports involved: fringe sports to say the least with many athletes who labor at an obscure discipline who cannot possibly be in it for the money or fame as neither ever comes their way.

At Sochi, Russia in 2014 there are examples galore for cynicism but as I watch I find far more glowing examples for a bright view of humanity. There is unabashed joy and silliness on display. How can you keep a dim view of humankind when you see the Norwegian curling team’s pants in high definition? How can you not smile and root for the snowboard cross gold medalist, Eva Samkova, who exuberantly crossed the finish line sporting a handle-bar mustache painted in the colors of her Czech Republic flag? How can you retain your gloomy view of people when you are practically blinded by the outrageous display of orange on the crazy Dutch fans at the speedskating events?

Cynicism takes a beating in the CBC broadcast I have been watching here in Canada. Alex and Frederic Bilodeau and their own unique band and bond of brothers; Gilmore Junio stepping aside to let eventual silver-medalist Denny Morrison skate in his place; Summer Olympian Adam Van Koeverden, in his role as CBC commentator for these games, choking up in a report about hometown support for athletes; figure skater Patrick Chan mouthing the words “I’m sorry” from the “Kiss and Cry” when he realized he didn’t strike gold for his country; and Canada’s LaPointer Sisters – Maxime, Chloe and Justine Dufour-LaPointe – and their parents’ genuine and compassionate example of the phrase “We Are Family”.

Perhaps there is no such thing as a cure for cynicism. Maybe it has moved beyond epidemic to pandemic in our society. But the Winter Olympic Games come as close to a cure for me as I have found  anywhere. If nothing else, the Games help stave off what is a really toxic view of life. There is no real joy or wonder to be found in the supposedly “realistic” perspective on humankind that cynicism offers; so why not embrace the opportunities, when they present themselves, to fall into the arms of unashamed and unapologetically human moments when they come around, even in the form of some insanely dangerous and beautiful sporting events beamed in from half a world away.


The Union of Song & Soul

the_strumbellas_01There is a soundtrack to my life. It hasn’t been composed by Hans Zimmer or John Williams.  There is no unifying theme, no brass section for the exciting bits or strings for the romantic stuff.  Minor chords do not sound in the background when I’m in danger. My soundtrack doesn’t follow all the expected formulas for scoring a movie. But, then again, my life is not a movie. Good thing, too, as my life would probably be a slow-pace, independent film with lots of actors you’ve never heard of and no budget for any CGI or special effects of any kind. Likely straight to video, too.

But at least there would be a soundtrack. And a kick-ass soundtrack, if I do say so myself.

There’s a scene in the movie “High Fidelity” where the main character reveals that his record collection is sorted chronologically, according to his own life story. To find out what album he’s looking for, he has to remember certain events in his life, past relationships. It’s as if his life and his love of music are lived simultaneously, blending and weaving with each other, influencing each other, crafting, if you will, a soundtrack to his life.

I am a major music lover or, as my wife calls me, a “music snob”. If I didn’t have a family to provide for I would probably be living in some dingy basement apartment surrounded by vinyl, CDs, cassette tapes I can’t part with and perhaps even some eight-tracks just for the retro-weirdness of it. I would’ve been a less interesting and less medicated Lester Bangs.

As the years roll by I have discovered how much the music of my life rolls along too. I am not a nostalgic music listener. In fact, I kind of despise nostalgic music listening – that is, when middle-aged folks like me listen almost exclusively to the things they cranked on their boomboxes in high-school. These are 40-somethings who talk about how totally awesome Bon Jovi/Journey/Loverboy/(insert hackneyed ’80’s band here) is and how music today has gone down hill from when they were younger and blah, blah, blah-blah blaaaaaaaah…

Wow. My wife is right; I am a music snob.

Of course, there are times I listen to music for purely nostalgic reasons, to summon feelings from past times in my life. But I find more and more that I view music as a continually unfolding composition in my life; a soundtrack that is uniquely my own. I don’t dwell exclusively on the songs of the past, no matter how wonderful they may be, because there are new songs in my life. There is an ever-expanding playlist with room for more and more tunes to come.

I was considering this because I have recently been smitten by a roots/pop-folk band called the Strumbellas. I get smitten every now and again. My family knows when said smiting has happened because they get to hear me playing that artist or group over and over and over.  They have a lot of patience with my musical crushes. The Strumbellas are a six-member group in the vibe of the Lumineers or Mumford and Sons. The main obstacle to their success is that they happen to be Canadian, which is, of course, their own damn fault. Other than that, their music is great, evidently causing a lot of spontaneous dancing to erupt wherever they play. I have not been able to see them live yet. If you happen to see them or have seen them, let me now about the spontaneous booty shaking, okay?

While driving to church one Sunday morning, I heard my first Strumbellas’ song: “In This Life”. After a pleasingly simple guitar riff and very catchy handclap intro came these lyrics: “I know the seasons ain’t been changing and everyday looks like rain/ But I’m still hoping for that sun/ The streets are filled with demons, lord, that’s never gonna change/ But I still want to be with everyone/ I know there’s something for you out there in this life/ I know there’s something for you out there in this life.”

There is someone I love who desperately wants to live an abundant life but struggles with her own demons. When I heard that song I started to get teary eyed; it was as if I was singing it to her, as if the Strumbellas had written and recorded a song for what was on my mind and on my heart in my life right then and there. Before the song was done I was smitten! And I experienced once again the power of life and music blending together and becoming part of my soundtrack; part of me.

After my Strumbellas CD arrived and I listened to it over and over and over, I ordered another one and listened to that one over and over and over. My family endured my crush and, once again, music and life came together. I discovered that so many of their songs deal with death and losing a loved one. The lead singer/songwriter of the group, Simon Ward , lost his Dad when he was only 16; I lost my Mom a little over a year ago. In their songs I was hearing incredibly life-affirming, danceable music supporting lyrics dealing with the subject of death. Here was a group seeing the spectre of death as a great motivator for life; the reality of the grave making your chance to dance so much sweeter. Check out my first blog, “Death and Life”, and you’ll see me writing those very same sentiments.

I love music. Music can be so many things. It can remind us of good times, bad times, ugly times. It can make us jig and it can make us bawl. But perhaps its greatest aspect is the mystical union of song and soul. I don’t know where my life is going, what scenes will play out, but I know there will always be an ever-unfolding soundtrack and that makes me feel a deep sense of joy.

Here’s a link a Strumbellas video for “In This Life” – Enjoy!