It was the kind of summer day that threatens to melt you into its scorched grass and heavy, humid air. I filled my Kool-aid bottle for the five-hundredth time that morning and languidly pulled myself up out of my lawn chair to go wander the campgrounds in search of God-knew-exactly-what. My go-to wander that summer at Cornerstone Festival 2012 was a little stage nestled right behind a long snaking line of bright blue porter johns, constructed rather haphazardly and shielded from the unforgiving Illinois sun by little more than a tarp or two.
It was called ‘Arkansas’, and I spent every afternoon sitting criss-cross in the back left corner, trying to seem inconspicuous and drinking in the languid, folky melodies of acoustic guitar players and hymn singers. Every artist who found their way onstage was a new discovery; a treasure to store up in my repertoire of all sounds bright and beautiful.
And then, suddenly –
like a train wreck,
like being born,
like fireworks and electrocution and every rude awakening –
I met the blues.
He looked like a lost son of the ‘70s – hair and beard almost to his knees, tied back out of his face with a faded bandana, cut-off t-shirt and an old steel guitar. “I hear death knocking at my door,” he sang,
and his voice quivered a little,
as if perhaps he really had.
Conjuring up phantoms of deep deltas past, he led his mesmerized listeners through old spirituals and scriptures, walking us through the simple truths of the Gospel and accosting us with the bold-faced prayers of a man whose soul seemed to wander up from the stage and into a fellowship with the divine that was almost uncomfortable to watch unfold.
I felt suddenly that maybe my soul had never quite had its fill;
that perhaps here was a man who knew how to truly commune with the God of history and tragedy and the grief of longing for redemption.
Here was a man who could sit in it,
soak in it,
drink in his own sadness and desperation while offering it back up to the only one who could truly bear the weight of his burdened longing.
“When the saints go marching in, dear Lord, I wanna be in that number,” he pleaded.
“Don’t let me go down to the grave.”
My soul echoed his words, screaming them at the heavens from the back left corner of the rickety old stage that now felt like home.
I never was quite the same.
This January, I am joining this man & his band in their mission.
I have the opportunity to help launch Sean Michel Partners from Nashville, Tennessee,
a movement based on the belief that music is mission –
that souls the world over will hear the blues when our hearts will not hear sermons.
We’ve heard enough talk.
But the Gospel and God’s mercy are new every morning,
and our methods in sharing them ought to be as broad and inventive as the One who first gave us our imaginations.
Please come with me.
If you cannot pack up a bag and fit in the back of an old rusty Toyota Corolla with me, then join in the vision with me from wherever you are.
Let’s get coffee and dream about the Kingdom coming.
If you can financially support me – 5, 10 or 20 bucks a month – well, please & thank you!
Lift me and Sean and the band and the hearts of listeners who haven’t learned how to sing the blues yet up to our Father,
who hears us and grieves with us and alone can soften our calloused hearts & make us sing.
Thank you, finally, for being my community.
I hope to keep dreaming and striving with you for all redemptive motion and heavy summer days and every aching,