Music. Meaning. Friendship.
Two weeks ago, my friend, Mark Jones, asked Brook Ballard, Jake McKim, and me to take part in what's called the 30-day song challenge, and it's been something that has elevated my soul through the blurry days of April. You may know these guys. Just a little about them: Brook's a gifted, self-taught harmonica player. Jake founded a talent development group that steers behind-the-scenes strategies for artists like Beyonce, and Mark's knowledge of music is marrow deep, spiritual in nature. I?m the guy allowed in the band because I own a good amp.
Anyway, here's how the challenge works: each day you?re asked to identify your favorite ?song with a color in the title? or ?song you never get tired of.? Things like that. Thirty days, thirty categories. Each morning, you text the group a link or a YouTube clip of the song you've chosen. Both the shared experience and the music itself have become a happy bulwark against all the difficult news of the season, but I've noticed recently as the challenge advances, it's crept into a more personal realm? ?a song that you remember from your childhood? or ?a song that breaks your heart.? It asks for some vulnerability.
Given the remarkable company I've kept, the exercise has introduced me to an absorbing soundtrack of previously unknown songs and re-introduced me to artists I've under-appreciated for years, but what's been most profound is the sometimes comical, often poignant glimpses I've gotten into my friends? unique personalities. The stories about why particular songs are meaningful to them has been the most life-giving and soul-refreshing part.
Scripture assures us that where two or more are gathered, God is there, and, it turns out, it's true. Sharing almost any experience among friends with a measure of faith and a dose of vulnerability does summon us into God's presence. Add music to this mix and the separation between the physical world and the spiritual further dissolves. If the music's good enough, the gulf between an ineffable heaven and a gritty, dry-seasoned earth sometimes even seems to disappear. It's something akin to miracle.
Isolation is the challenge right now and human connection is the provision God gives us to overcome it. Music's a gift. You have a cool phone. Why don't you send a song to a friend this week?
We've sort of tried to do this here. When you ?Amen? the prayer below, you'll find a link to a Spotify playlist curated by Mark, Brook, Jake, and me. You can call these secular songs, but that's probably missing the point. This music is the work of broken, imperfect folks, but that description also fits a group of Galilean fishermen, a tax collector, and several other equally salty characters who threw in with a carpenter's son some time ago, not to mention a lot of us.
Give it a listen. There's Gospel within U2's lyrics and in the modern day poetry of the Waterboys. Don't miss it. It's in the jubilation of Oh Happy Day, the youthful exuberance of INXS, in Stevie Wonder's fingers, and Katy Perry's roaring anthem. It shows up in Ike and Tina's jam, the twang of Ray Davies? guitar, and in Emmy Lou Harris? astonishing voice. It's in the miraculous beauty that somehow routinely emerged from Lennon and McCartney, and it's in Randy Travis's country western confession. Christ shows up where you least expect it. It's weird. He tends to do that. Listen up.
God?What a wonder it is that a series of tones, rhymes, and recurring patterns conduct Your life into mine as if through a copper wire dropped from the clouds. And it's a blessing that urges me to engage with friends, for in the gift of music what I hear and what I remember also depends on whom I?m with, how old I am, and what's happening on the day I receive its lyrical beauty. I hear echoes, see signs, and sense the awe and truth of Your mystery, majesty, power, and grace in music, in friendship, and in how they mix together. It's an arresting combination, and for both I am grateful. Whether in these or in some other facsimile of eternity which You've planted in my heart, broadcast Yourself through my peculiar, un-repeatable story, this thing made of years and grace and love. This thing I call myself, which rests in Your hands.
? Greg Funderburk