Tuesday, October 11, 2011

All My Favorite People

Today, I introduce to you my very first guest post.  A storyteller, wordsmith, and not-your-average pastor, Phil Vaughan has made a recent entrance into the blogosphere.  I dig his writing.  

Thank you for making me think, Phil.

(In addition to his blog, you can find Phil on Facebook and Twitter.  Look him up.  Seriously.)

The same fire which melts the wax hardens the clay; the same sun which makes the living tree grow, dries up the dead tree, and prepares it for burning. Nothing so hardens the heart of man as a barren familiarity with sacred things.
J.C. Ryle

I was looking at my bookshelf the other day and came across several books that mean a great deal to me—books that have been very influential in my spiritual growth and my relationship with God. Just by looking at these books I can remember very specific seasons of life during which the author’s ideas shaped me. I can also recall some significant shifts in thinking that were created by the core concepts in those books—cataclysmic points in time, after which I was never the same. Sounds a bit dramatic, I know. But some ideas are like that. Once they grab hold of you they refuse to let go.
When I look at the small number of authors that have had that kind of influence on me I notice they have one thing in common: they all are a bit morose. They are broken people, who have been through some extremely difficult periods in their lives. They have been shaped by tragedy and loss.
This came to mind the other night when Donna and I were at a live performance by Over The Rhine—one of my favorite musical artists. I’ve followed Over The Rhine for almost twenty years. I first saw them live about 12 years ago in a small bar in Indiana. Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist make up the soul and identity of Over The Rhine. They have been writing and performing songs since 1989. Their best songs are pensive, with thoughtful lyrics that have an optimistic sadness. I loved the entire performance—live music is one of my favorite forms of art. I think it’s because of the uniqueness of each specific moment, knowing that it will never be recreated exactly in the same way again. As we listened to their lyrics and instruments the other night we heard soulful harmonica, percussion sounds placed with precision, the deep bass of a piano’s low register, and voices that told the story of hope born from loss.
The last song of the evening was titled “All My Favorite People.” Sometimes a lyric or a piece of prose captures an idea that resonates from deep within you. And occasionally the words express that idea beautifully, more completely than you’ve been able to. Such was the case with these lyrics: 

All my favorite people are broken
Believe me, my heart should know
All my friends are part saint and part sinner
We lean on each other, try to rise above
We are not afraid to admit we are all still beginners

The authors that shape me, and the singer/songwriters that craft music that moves me—they all live with an acute awareness of their own frailty. They have been through long, dark nights. They are familiar with the language of lament. They have encountered the sun and fire that Ryle makes reference to. And yet they have emerged on the other side of difficulty with a mature and lasting hope, and they dare to tell their story.

1 comment:

April Gann said...

Thanks for writing this, Phil, and posting it, Tricia! I agree, Over the Rhine is a definite favorite for the reasons you spoke of. I love that song. I love that life, and also poetry has influenced their song-writing. Did they tell you at the concert that this poem inspired the song, "There's a Bluebird in My Heart?" It's another life-influencing art moments.