Ben Shive wrote and recorded this one for his first record several years ago, and I told him immediately that I wanted to record it for Resurrection Letters: Vol. I.
I grew up in the foothills of North Carolina. My childhood was surrounded by winding creeks, endless tobacco fields, and those mystical mountains always on the horizon. I could see it all from the car window on my way to school and from the back deck of my parents’ yard. I could see that the world was big and beautiful; it was wide and deep, full of mystery and wonder. But I could see it—from the car, from the deck, from books and movies and photos—only as others went on ahead of me. Read More ›
“On a scale of one to ten, what level is the pain?” the doctor in the emergency room asks me.
“Six?” I say. No, it’s more than that, I think to myself. At least a seven. But it’s not a hot pain, like when I sprained my ankle, or a burning pain, like the time I was stung by a hundred yellow jackets. No, it’s a dull pain that started in the morning and has lasted all day. I didn’t even know I was in pain until I started throwing up. Then I was dizzy and couldn’t talk.
One of the most meaningful moments of my life was last year at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. I wasn’t supposed to, but I used my phone to record the sounds of the Jews singing as the sun set that Sabbath, marking the beginning of the Jewish new year.
At the beginning of November, I began a weekly habit of posting art to my social media feeds—Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I call it Art Wednesday. Every Wednesday, over the course of the day, I post a series of eight to ten paintings based on an artist or a theme. I name each work and usually offer a small comment about each one.
I began this weekly ritual before I had a vision for what I was actually trying to do. It started because I had been to The Museum of Modern Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and wanted to share some pictures I took of paintings I’ve loved since my youth.
My friend Russ Ramsey, who was a pastoral consultant for this album, once preached a communion sermon on 1 Corinthians 11.
If you wander through downtown Knoxville on a Wednesday or Saturday morning from May to November, you will likely chance upon the Market Square Farmers’ Market, and what a happy accident it will be. Your eye will feast upon a kaleidoscope of homegrown vegetables. Heirloom tomatoes bejewel the boxes and crates, their variegated skins like the cloud-cover of exotic planets. Peppers of all sizes and colors spill out from baskets, drawing the brave and foolhardy with mythic names like Carolina Reaper and Trinidad Scorpion. Greens of every shade festoon the tables.
In a conversation with a friend a few years ago about why I’m a Christian, my answer boiled down to this: I’ve seen too much. There are too many good and beautiful things, too many stories that cry out for things to be made right, too many lives changed, too much healing, too many examples of humble sacrifice in the face of great evil for there to be no meaning, no bright love on the other side of the veil.
At my church, a small processional begins each service. The acolytes walk in holding a processional cross, the Gospel, and some candles. And as the cross passes in procession, it is appropriate to bow. I am relatively new to this, so most of the time, I have taken a tiny bow, almost non-existent. I’m not usually one to make commotion out of my ignorance. I tried to keep the bowing as calm and unnoticeable as possible.
I think I’ve cried more while listening to this song than any other in my career, and it’s partly because I didn’t write it. I wish I had, because it’s everything I love about songwriting.
“Heaven’s kingdom realm can be compared to the tiny mustard seed that a man takes and plants in his field. Although the smallest of all the seeds, it eventually grows into the greatest of garden plants, becoming a tree for birds to come and build their nests in its branches.”
It could have been any sort of day, the day when the seed was planted. I imagine, for I know the sensation, that the seed felt like a splinter grown infected. The heat and tenderness of the spot made it almost intolerable. It had to be removed.
I found a dead baby mouse on the bricks of our driveway. I picked it up and looked it over. It was so perfect, as if it were only sleeping. Tens of thousands of soft, little downy hairs lined its body, its muzzle covered in minute whiskers. Delicate little ears and fingers and toes. One of the sweetest little innocent babies of this world, and a true work of art. I contemplated how God could put such care and thought, even tenderness into his creations, only to allow them to fail.