Friday, November 30, 2012

Meet Brian Mulder

He's tall. He's bearded. He's Canadian by birth, Michigander by relocation. Loves people well, craves adventure, and rides a bike like nobody's business, particularly across the country (no, really).

Meet Brian Mulder.

In less than a week, various residents of the Malcomb House will make the 10-hour trek to Holland, Michigan, home to windmills, cool Dutch last names (like VanDenberg and VanWylen), and of course, Brian.

We met at Service Over Self (SOS) in the summer of 2005, becoming friends over music and heartbreak, sitting in the hallway on occasion, singing sad songs we'd written about ones who'd broken our hearts. Sob. 

We'd lead morning worship - me, Brian, and Matthew Clark - and the rest is history... friends for life. I love and respect Brian, a loyal friend and brother, compassionate and thoughtful about all things in life; he lives life deeply and fully.

In October 2009, Brian and Matthew set out on a month long house show tour. 'Twas good.

Not only is he a songwriter and musician, but once, not so long ago, he rode his bike a long, long way, for a good, good reason.

We'll be playing a house show in Holland on Saturday, December 8 at 8pm; if you're in the area, come on out! We'll play in-the-round, playing several originals from each of us - a taste of everything. For us it will be a joy to play on each other's songs, since we we don't see each other as often as we'd like.

We're still firming up details for the location, so check my website ( regularly for updates. You can hear Matthew's music here and Brian's music here.

Brian... it's happening!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Good Night

We sit in the living room, listening to Anna' favorite Over the Rhine song. Two candles. Homemade salsa. Lamps - never overheads. Housemates. Best friends. Pencil to paper. We're missing some, but they'll be home soon.

A meal of leftovers gives way to dark chocolate brownies and pistachio-almond ice cream. It's so dark already; autumn is here.

Still, we're listening, just listening. Deep chords from the piano. Smooth dobro. She met Jesus in New Orleans, the King in Memphis.

It's good. It's Sunday night.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Early Eve Thunderstorm

Danger. Risk,
in these flashes of
Bellows of thunder.

Feel the tiny pelting
of water drops.
The bark, so far,
is bigger than the bite.

Shouldn't I be inside,
seeking refuge,
a safety?

But I would miss
the breeze,
the kind you know
can only be that
of the mighty storm.

Sticky, unpredictable,
wind blows as it wishes.
Evidence of something
just over the horizon.

Danger, maybe, but I need
to feel,
to see,
for myself.

The life in the thunderstorm
makes even me come to life.

Autumn Garden

The Autumn garden has a different look. Lots of green tomatoes that began to appear at the end of summer; plentiful herbs that begged to be used; and scary men.


newbie next to the more mature
chives, gone to seed
thai basil
scary yard man, Matthew Clark

Monday, November 5, 2012

Grief Rushes In

We're sitting in the living room; we know the end is coming. I'm in her chair, the mauve one - her favorite color. Somehow these things fall to me or dad, the strong ones, they say, strong like her. "She won't get better, Pop; she isn't coming home." Does he understand?

"Yeah," he says. He's quiet. "I hope I didn't do this to her." What do you say? Maybe you just cry. Mom's in the kitchen doing the crying for us. Dad responds to him - with what, I won't remember.

He doesn't want to go back there to see her. He won't say this, but it's too much, too much. Too much white; too much sadness, anxiety; too many people; too much reality. He'll live his next six months in denial.


Our last phone call was from the middle of nowhere, a farm outside Memphis. She called from the hospital. Weak, but making little of it, just like she always did. Making little of herself is what got her here in the first place.

Things are better, she said. But she stopped hearing me, bad signal. It's okay, I heard her say. We'll talk soon.

That was the last time, the very last time.


I come here to her bedside a little every day, singing, praying, holding steady. But I know where we are headed. 

We're gonna lose her.

So, I sing.

It's gone on longer than it should have, we all know this. Still, the day comes, the day of endings. The end of life, of waiting, of false hope. The end of knowing her in life. And though we don't know it yet, the beginning of his end.


Did he ever really understand? Of course he did, he understood more than any of us could. He knew her leaving in her absence, in body, in loss of the care she gave. There was nothing she hadn't touched. He knew because the picture frame of his life, their life, had been broken. He could stand no longer.

We're gonna lose him.

Now, I'm kneeling by his bedside, singing into his ear, hoping he can hear me through the blanket of deafness that long ago covered him. And I know, I feel, that he's died long before his death. A shell of a man remains.

I loathe this white room, void of beauty, sound, reality. There's human kindness, to be sure, but even we humans cannot overcome the loss of identity that has taken place for him here. Nothing in this room is of him.

So he finishes the task.

He is gone.


I know you now in death. In memory, character, pictures. I know you, in many ways, more truly and clearly, now that I have only endless remembering. I see things that couldn't be seen when only eyes could see. I know things that couldn't be known when only information passed between us, when I watched you in real time. I hear things that my once closed ears couldn't hear, but now are ringing with your truth, your wisdom.

I have you now, maybe even more fully, than I've ever had you. 

When the grief rushes in, I welcome her. It is then that you are mine.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

What The Promise Is For

I am the wayward sort. My mind wanders, imagines a life I've never lived, with ones I've never known. Yes, I am the wayward sort, wondering what life might have been mine had I signed up for a different class, been born a different year, loved another man, written a different song.

And my life is good... so good. I am deeply loved and cared for by a faithful husband, supported and challenged by friends who are, indeed, Family. Countless meals and conversations fill my days. I have fulfilling work and vocation as a songwriter and musician. There is laughter, singing, creating. Yes, life is good; it is full.

But I guess born in us from the beginning is the question if things could be better, different; if we could have more control. "God, is there something you're withholding?"

I want to be the faithful sort - whose mind never wanders, who eyes never look in the wrong direction, who is content - joyful! - with what's been given, with what has been entrusted to my safe-keeping.


"This is harder than we dreamed, but I believe that's what the promise is for."
(Andrew Peterson, Dancing in the Minefields)

Vows exist for a reason. We promise to stay, promise to grow up together, keep on together. And not just marriage vows. Monastic vows come to mind. Without vows, commitment, we'd retreat to isolation. Or we would put our whole selves into others, over and over again, with no promise to carry these selves through to anything resembling wholeness, goodness. If there was no vow, I think I'd be in trouble, always wondering if the grass was greener somewhere else.

If we avoid vows, promises, commitments altogether, even though those of us who make them fall short, then what do we think about the world? About a god? About our life's purposes? There are accidents, not purposeful creations; using each other for one's own good, moving on when finished; no access to the joy found through suffering when you come out on the other side (for, without the vow, you jump ship when the suffering is just beginning).

May we be found faithful; may even I be found faithful.