Musical Goings On in Eric’s World

Hey all …

Just wanted to get some info out to people who may be interested in this sort of thing (namely music).

There’s a few things going on…

In north Florida we all know that when it rains it pours… I’ve got three gigs in eight days!

Last Saturday, I got the honor of playing with the amazing Avis Berry. Playing outside in the heat was pretty brutal, but we managed to keep it cool, and Mavis always delivers. Thanks to everyone who listened, and for all the generous comments…

Now, for some upcoming news…

First, if you don’t know, you can find me on iTunes and Spotify now…. As we used to say in Chicago, listen early and often.

I also have a new single out, “You Got My Peace.” Feel free to check it out.

Second, if you’re in Tallahassee/North Florida, I’m playing twice this week:

I’m playing Thursday night at the historic Bradfordville Blues Club. It’s an early show, opening up for the super-talented Rachel Hillman. Come early, space is limited.

I’m playing Saturday night with the Electric Apostles, a great cover band that plays, well, great songs. Come out to Fifth and Thomas (Fifth Avenue, between North Monroe and Thomasville Road).

Last, there will be some more new music coming out this summer as well, as well as some new gigs… Stay tuned!

Thanks for listening, and reading, and supporting… and everything.

+eric

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What I Learn in the Monastery 2: Simplicity is Possible

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While I am here, I adhere as much as possible to the rhythms they provide: I attend mostly all of the worship and prayers (5 of them daily, beginning at 4AM and lasting to around 7:45PM). The monastery also provides breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu is usually pretty simple, with the main meal being lunch. Dinner tends to be without meat: usually a soup and a salad. There are no televisions, and no computers (besides what you bring). Loud noises, music and “entertainment” are discouraged.

This is so different from how I function at home, especially in regards to food. Though I often fast during the day, I’m a pretty notorious snacker, and I gaze most of the evening. Though technically there are cookies left out all the time for the guests, I find the structure sets an expectation of, well, simplicity. So I eat dinner around 5:30PM, and then not again until 8AM or so. And I really don’t question it. 

Additionally, at the end of a day at home I still tend to fire up Netflix or AmazonPrime for at least some kind of viewing distraction. Maybe for just 45 minutes, but still the contrast is telling.

Being here tells me that this type of life is possible for me: actually I have had enough to eat at dinner, and I don’t need to snack at night. Actually, I can just sit quietly and read a book at night. (At least this year, I haven’t missed Netflix, etc., at all.)

What does it take to bring this back to my “normal” life? How do I embrace more simplicity? More structure? I know that there is a certain complexity to my life—commitments with church and children and my family and friends—but by and large there is also an invitation to say “No” to more so that I can say “Yes” to the important things.

Wake Up Call

Each morning, I read Joan Chittister’s The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, which is a day-by-day meditation on (you guessed it) The Rule of Saint Benedict. I really enjoyed her comments today:

To bear bad things, evil things, well is for Benedict a mark of humility, a mark of Christian maturity. It is a dour and difficult notion for the modern Christian to accept. The goal of the twenty-first century is to cure all diseases, order all inefficient, topple all obstacles, end all stress, and prescribe immediate panaceas. We wait for nothing and put up with little and abide less and react with fury at irritations. We are a people without patience. We do not tolerate process. We cannot stomach delay. Persist. Persevere. Endure, Benedict says. It is good for the soul to temper it. God does not come on hoofbeats of mercury through streets of gold. God is in the dregs of our lives. That’s why it takes humility to find God where God is not expected to be.

 

Why I Might Not Attend “The Biggest Tour of the Summer”

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Surely this is the big one.

(Always interesting when a music tour is announced in Forbes.)

Many of my friends already have their tickets, and I’m excited for them.

However, I’m pretty reticent about going, and mostly because (ironically enough) of the very words Mr. Bono wrote on a song that came out soon after the Joshua Tree. 

They went something like this:

“I don’t believe in the 60s // the golden age of pop
You glorify the past // when the future dries up
– “God Pt 2” from Rattle and Hum

I loved that sentiment, and the fierce, forward-looking creativity it represented. Achtung Baby came from that attitude, and so did Zoo TV, Zooropa, and even Pop and All That You Can’t Leave Behind. 

Somewhere along the way, however, endorsements started, and tours started to resemble product placements for Motorola and Apple. It was all tolerable and even understandable as long as the music was still reaching for something: something spiritual, as well as musical.

However, I feel like the boys from Dublin have wondered as of late. Songs of Innocence is the only U2 record I’ve ever listened to once and deemed it irrelevant and unnecessary for even a second listen. Lately, I’ve preferred the urgency of October or the explorations of The Unforgettable Fire and No Line on the Horizon.

I get it: I’m just a dude. Just a fan. Nobody cares what I think.

That being said, I don’t want to see my heroes do a 30th anniversary tour for a record that changed music (and life?) for me in a dozen different ways.

Even the Stones didn’t go out and play Exile on Main Street.

(I’ll give you The Who and Tommy.)

Will they just play the record and some other “greatest hits”?

Will they add in some demos and obscure “B Sides”?

(“Everlasting Love” is pure, ecstatic gold.)

I don’t know. What I really want, more than anything, is new, vital music from 4 guys that have carried the torch for so many.

And buried in that is another question: can/would music superstars ever trade tour/financial success for artistic exploration? How about making the music, the merchandising, the shows smaller for once?

How about an unexpected release with no fan fare? Didn’t Beyoncé just try that and hit it out of the park?

I am waiting in the wings for my heroes to drink deeply from the future, to be watered by the wells of artistic freedom.

And who knows? Maybe we’ll all be surprised before the kickoff in the spring?

I can only hope.

 

The Hard Edge of Grace

Grace makes me uncomfortable sometimes.

There, I said it.

Rare coming from a “believer,” rarer still coming from a pastor.

But when I really boil it down to the essentials, grace hits me hard, and challenges me.

Obviously, I don’t mind grace at all when I need it, when I call out to God and acknowledge my brokenness and shortcomings to Him or to other people. At that point, I’m truly grateful for free forgiveness.

But when I think about the ramifications of a truly loving, forgiving God, of what grace truly IS, it hits me hard, basically because it makes me think of those people that I tend to judge, those people that I try to “cut off” from grace.

It’s one thing when all the “good people” (and believe I know: who is really “good”, after all) get grace, but as my 12-step sponsor likes to remind me, “either it’s grace or it’s not,” and if it IS grace, then that means an awful lot of people get grace that simply don’t fit into my “good” category. These are the people that *I* like to judge, the people who aren’t spiritually curious, who are content in their anger and apathy, who are consumed by revenge and who would choose to remain small-minded and fearful about the universe.

Even they get grace.

It’s similar to the old adage, “Justice or mercy? Mercy for myself, justice for everyone else.”

My own mind doesn’t like that. I’d much prefer a hoop to jump through, or some kind of judgment first.

But then that’s not “grace” is it?

Grace is free. FREE. And WE don’t get to determine who gets it, and frankly the more I learn about this God in whom I live and move and have my being, the more I learn that He tends to be a lavish giver, and He will not be restrained.

I actually think He’s harder to avoid and reject than to discover. He’s sort of relentless that way.

I think when I see the Kingdom fully-realized, there will be so many there… Not just the drug dealers and gay people and transsexuals and church people, but also people from the right and the left, people who have THOSE bumper stickers… The list goes on and on.

Why?

Because GRACE, that’s why.

Morning.

I woke up this morning at… well, 3:15.

I tried to go back to sleep, but by 3:45, I realized it was pointless, and I went ahead and woke up. One of my mentors has always maintained that we should assume that when we wake up, God wants us awake and we should respond accordingly.

They probably never saw me as a teenager when my parents tried to wake me up.

God may have wanted me awake, but that didn’t necessarily mean I had to be thrilled about it.

MOST of the time, in fact, I am able to stave off God, and you know what? He actually respects that. It’s as if He’s like a child: He pokes and prods me like a 5 year old on Christmas morning. “C’mon, c’mon, c’mon get up, it’s happening! It’s here!” Except “It” is simply just another day, and not the once-a-year mad festival of gifts.

But the metaphor breaks down, because for me most of the time if I simply ignore him once or twice, he leaves me alone and I go back to sleep. If he was truly a child he’d bug me unceasingly until I woke up and got the coffee brewing. But as a spiritual master once said, “God is a perfect gentleman,” and so when he occasionally whispers, “Psssst. Hey: why don’t you wake up? I have some amazing things to talk to you about!” And I respond with disinterested grunts, and then roll over to squeeze another 45 minutes of time out of my night, he actually says (with really no disappointment, but with an amazing, unending disinterested love, “Okay… Maybe next time!”

That’s pretty much God. Always there. Always wanting to meet with me. Always willing. Never disappointed. Never shaming. Never quilting.

Just wants to know that he wants to meet with me. Pretty much any old time.

And then again, that’s pretty much me. Frumpy. Slightly lazy. REALLY, REALLY into what I’m doing at the moment, rather than looking up from my work (or my pillow) to see this bright-eyed child who just wants to sit with me, who really just wants me to know that, “Hey, I love you.”

40 Words: Failure.

“Failure” is not a pleasant word; not even close to something like, “Illustrious” (which was my favorite word as a 9th grade English student), or “Sublime” (not so much the band, but the adjective), or “Craftsman” (one of my former bandmates called me that referring to my approach to music, and it remains one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received… or could give).

Nope, “Failure” is a word we like to avoid.

It’s the “DNF” in the race (Did Not Finish).

I’m probably more familiar with failure than I’d like to admit.

It’s easy for me to focus on my “wins” and my achievements, especially over the last 12 months or so:

  • Graduating Seminary (with a 3.8 GPA, even!)
  • Running my first half-marathon
  • Raising two pretty decent kids
  • Becoming a better husband
  • Wrestling with some long-time demons, and achieving some semblance of sanity for the maybe the first time ever
  • Mentoring and teaching a variety of people in my community

Those things are all important, and I’m proud and grateful to have completed them, but I also have to admit that I have a pretty significant history of being someone who struggles to “finish.”

I’m great at starting.

But it’s that middle that tears me up.

I committed to blogging Lent. I did. I can’t take that back. I put it out there for all of the internets to see…

And then I failed.

I lasted what, two or three weeks?

I don’t even know. I don’t want to know, to tell you the truth.

And so the tapes begin:

“You see… you never finish anything

… You quit. You’re a quitter.

… You bail out as soon as things get hard.

… You don’t have enough grit.”

Those are some tapes that play in my head. Lovely, isn’t it? We all seem to have them—little quotes and sayings that invade our headspace whether we want them there or not, and remind us off all the bad things we are and all the good things we are not.

But I also know that’s not the whole story.

It seems to me that there comes a point where you have to make a choice about what it means to be human: are we the sum of our actions and deeds? Are we “sowing a destiny,” so to speak?

OR…

Or are we far more complex than that? Am I more than a failure, even when I fail?

I’d like to think that I am, and I’d like to think that God thinks so too.

So yeah, I failed. I started, and didn’t finish. I had the best of intentions, and they didn’t pay off.

But here I am: Holy Wednesday. I will walk towards that Cross on Friday, and I know that Jesus died for this “failure”, mostly because He knows that being human means not getting it right sometimes (most of the time?), and that we all need a little help.