Thursday, December 30, 2010

Songwriter's Retreat, Day 3: ten bookmarks

We are listening, hearing the Scriptures read aloud. Ten bookmarks*, ten books, ten chapters; five voices, around the fire, the prayer candle. The 'Beatitudes,' the genealogy of Noah (the one who will bring us relief from the ground which was cursed), reminder that Jesus brought reconciliation.

Two more songs written today, and yes! We are caught up on recording! Our songs are all so different, unique, which has really struck all of us. When we give a seed-song over to the ears and eyes of another person, they will almost always hear something that we could not have heard on our own.

And what do the rest of us do when one person is tediously recording vocals, guitars, etc.? We read. And draw. And snap pictures. And hold in our giggles... all in silence, of course! It isn't uncommon that as soon as we hear Matthew tap the spacebar (which stops the recording), exhales are heard around the room, followed by loads of laughter. But the best of it all is that we are always together during this time. Somehow, even amidst our various activities, there is a certain togetherness, a unity in our time. A mystery, we can call it.

We, at different times, have been stricken by this mystery, the beauty of it all. In moments throughout the week, the lenses have come off. And when they've come off, redemption is concrete; the Family of God is a real, intimate community; confession and honesty are healing, a necessary piece of dying to ourselves, our individual arrogance dashed.

Another late night, but oh, how it's been worth it...

*In Eric Papp's Bible are ten bookmarks, in ten different books of the Bible, representing ten chapters to be read daily. He's really loving this method of reading Scripture, and he shared it with us. Let us know if you'd like to know more about this for your own reading!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Songwriter's Retreat, Wednesday (Day 2): Emergency naptime!

As the lunch conversation ended, quiet was falling upon us and eyelids were heavy. At least, mine were. So, as the dishes were being washed, and a nap seemed really nice, Emergency Naptime was declared!

Hour-long (or more) naps ensued. All was well.

Today's outpouring of songs was good, encouraging. Each of the groups came together with songs mostly filled out. The girls got together with some folky tunes and harmonies; prayers from Scripture and hymns of old. The guys offered up some haunting ("in a good way") melodies.

Now, here we are, shakers, hand drums, and mandolins going wild, with 4 songs left to get down before the night is done. And I have to say, the Emergency Nap gave me the energy I need to make it through!

Katie gave us a word today about worship, naming us outpourers. We all worship, we all pour out. But what is in us to pour out depends on who and what we worship. I sense this week that we've been filled up with the richness of friendship, honesty, reliance on God through dark times; and now we get to pour out from those things.

Thank God for Emergency Naps, Family, and the gift of song to lead us in the pouring out!

May the lyrics and melodies bear fruit in the lives of those we may never see or know...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Songwriter's Retreat, Tuesday (Day 1): bringing our seed-songs

We began our morning slowly, quietly, with breakfast and some time spread throughout the house, alone with our journals and prayers. Today's journal entry for me is so different from my last - pleading and crying out for friends back in Memphis who are in the throws of addiction. [Lord, have mercy.]

But this morning, I sat on Lake Pickwick, watching the land around us rise up just a bit, like they are saying to the Smokies, "When I grow up, I want to be just like you!" A good space for writing.

We came together mid-morning for Family prayer, then we split off into groups to write songs together, which was wildly and excitedly successful! Matthew, Eric, and I headed downstairs with two sets of phrases in our hands and a baby of a melody swirling around... a seed-song.* By the time we re-emerged to the top of the stairs, Katie and Matt were on their second song.

We then took some time to teach each other; our tunes were vastly different. Then throughout the day, we took our little seed-songs and watched something beautiful grow from it. We've been adding harmonies and layers and having fun. It's long work to record, but here in the lakehouse, we're finding much joy in it. To write and record songs in less than 12 hours is such a treasure. How did we get here, away from our regular jobs and commitments? A gift from God, we know this is true.

Then there's all the laughter - at the dinner table, during recording (exactly when you are NOT supposed to laugh, of course).

I can still hear the harmonies, the many voices of Family, ringing in my ears...

*I owe the use of this word, "seed-song," to Sara Groves.
**All photos taken by Eric Papp

Friday, December 24, 2010

Songwriter's Retreat, Monday eve: arrival to the Bear Cub Cabin

We've made it; 9pm, and I am the last one to barrel through those doors, arms full of excitement, song lyrics, and weariness from the workday and the nighttime drive. But yes, we're all here.

Although 3 people had to back out at the last minutes (flu, snow, wisdom teeth), I can't help but sensing that those here in the Bear Cub Cabin are going to become a Family nonetheless, we who escaped the wrath of winter storms and viruses. We've changed the guitar strings, setup the recording equipment, and bought enough food to keep us fed for several days.

This was born out of a desire to know what it's like to give our songs over to our friends, and maybe even to those we'd just met. All of us in that cabin had written something of value (isn't all writing of value, in some way?) - songs, journal entries, long letters - but we'd always written alone. One individual's thoughts getting down on the piece of paper or computer screen in front of us.

And we'd known Community in our living rooms, on the stage leading worship, in the throws of grief, but still we'd not really submitted ourselves and our melodies to the larger group, our Family.

What do we expect? What are we doing here? What is worship anyway? These are the questions we raised and gave over to the voice of Community this week. And what we do know is this: we will write; we will pray; we will listen; we will sing.

And now we will rest, for the hour is late.

*all pictures taken by Eric Papp

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Songwriter's Retreat: the beginning

What is a Songwriter's Retreat? Who put this together for you? Where are you going? And what are you doing again? (And why do you need a whole week to... write?)

These were some great questions we received in the weeks leading up to our getaway to the tippy-toes of the Appalachian Mountains. These questions led us into some great conversations about why we write songs, why it's good to write together and especially how this week would be much more than just writing. We would write, sing, record, and above all that, pray, listen, and worship together. We decided to stop settling for, "Wouldn't it be so great if we holed ourselves up in a cabin for a week and wrote songs?"

This time, we did it.

And over the next several days, you can step back into last week with us and catch a glimpse of what it was all about, living in the Bear Cub Cabin, cooking meals, singing songs, reading Scripture, and laughing at Matthew's ridiculous clapping routines.

We hope you'll share the journey with us!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Advent: arrival of the Light

We stood in the middle of the bare apartment, with only the streams of light from the parking lot sneaking in through the worn out blinds. There were 5 of us, including the "wee one". It was a desperate evening. Half-truths were told. Promises made. Breaths held. Hope clinging on by its fingernails. Terribly sincere prayers were prayed. We are waiting for an advent.

Advent, which I've recently learned means, literally, "arrival," is fitting. We are awaiting the arrival of many things, but mostly for the rescue of these dear friends.

I've tried to intentionally be a much more expectant, patient participant in the Advent season, something that not many others around have helped me to be. But of course, we are all products of culture that doesn't allow for waiting. We are always connected (cell phone email, Twitter, laptop), always informed (24 hr. news channels, the world wide web), and always on the move (new city, new house, get to this appointment, rush to this event).

We rarely have to wait.

But tonight, tomorrow, in that dark apartment, there is nothing but waiting. The control was never - is never - ours. We have nothing but our hopes and expectancy, that Light will come and dispel the darkness, the darkness in which we sometimes feel suffocated. We hope for the Rescue and Redemption from One promised to us.

O come, you who are Light!