All posts in CMY(K): Letters From C

CMY(K): Must Be Hell On You (“C”, Track 5), A Letter To A ‘Lost’ Friend

Several of the songs that make up the CMY(K) project are written for and about friends. I am posting the letters I’ve written to these friends letting them know about their song.  Below is the letter I wrote to a friend whose loss of faith came at the cost of our friendship to some degree. Not because we didn’t want to converse about our differences but because, after years of Christ being the foundation of our love for one another, we lacked the language with which to rebuild. I wrote the song “Must Be Hell On You” for this friend.  The song appears on the EP “C” and you can listen to it at the Vimeo player below.

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You may recall a conversation a while back during which I mentioned that part of my next project was written with you in mind. The attached song “Must Be Hell On You” was specifically written for you.  I’ve actually been sitting on it since early 2008.  I needed time to figure out what the song was about for me and the more I realized what I’d written, the more inappropriate it felt to simply drop it on an album without writing to you about it.  It’s not just a song for you or about you; it’s a way for me to reconcile.

 

I miss you in my life. I think you know that but you have never heard me say it.  I specifically miss the place you had in my life for many years.  I remember talking on the phone after reading the embarrassing letters Christians had written to Richard Dawkins.  I told you on the phone that you were one of the few friends in my life who helped me feel normal as a person of faith. You shared that I played the same role for you. That short list is much, much shorter without you on it.

I remember the way your dramatic life-change was, for years, the clearest evidence of God I knew. I know now what kind of pressure that placed on you.  I also know, only now, what an impact it has had on me that you no longer attribute that change to God. Only as time has passed and we’ve grown more distant have I noticed how much I lost when you, for lack of a better term, ‘lost your faith.’

I’ve never blamed you for “walking away.”  Actually, I’ve never thought of it as “walking away”. I know it wasn’t a matter of simple pride or your inability to deal with some tragedy. I know that, at some point, you simply realized that you no longer believed. It would have been easier for me (maybe even for you) if something had happened which we could sit down and work through.. but there was nothing like that. In fact, that was just it.. at some point there was nothing where all along you believed there was Something.  I have never really known what to do with that… I wish I didn’t feel like I ‘lost you’ when that happened, but in some way I did.

Up to this point this is only a confession. One you have been owed for a long time. But it’s not all of why I wrote the song.  As I started off saying, I wrote this song as a way of reconciling; reconciling thoughts and feelings within me but also, hopefully reconciling with you.

While I don’t propose to entirely empathize with you (you know that I’ve had my fair share of faith crises) I wanted you to know that I have some sense of what you have lost as well.  When your faith crisis ceased to be a crisis and became a verdict, you lost a community and you lost God.. at least what you thought was God for so many years.  And so… I wanted to honor you, as you are, with this song because you are my friends and I love you.

Here are a few things I’d like you to know about “It Must Be Hell On You”:

-I wrote the song from your perspective instead of mine.
-I crafted the verses from bits of conversation we’ve had.
-I tried to simply tell your story without making an allowance or excuse… because I don’t need you to “come around” in order to see Truth in your story and in you.


You can pick up the EP at iTunes.
It is also available at my web store.
For more on the whole CMY(K) project, visit the CMYK info page.

 

 

CMY(K): Reticent (“C”, Track 3) Letter To A Young Brother

Several of the songs that make up the CMY(K) project are written for and about friends. I am posting the letters I’ve written to these friends letting them know about their song.  Below is the letter I wrote to a young man I’ve had the chance to teach and pastor. I wrote the song “Reticent” for and about him. The song appears on the EP “C” and you can listen to it at the Vimeo player below.

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I wrote the song “Reticent” for you. I hope it serves as a marker in your history; a way to remember what seems to be one of your life’s more pivotal seasons.

You have the ability to see clearly. Your analyses are generally accurate. Unfortunately, much of what you end up concentrating on is what is dark or broken.  This has often led you to crises of identity.  At times, your disappointment in the brokenness of things has led you to close your eyes and stop seeing… or at least want to.

Because of this kind of vision, you have often sought solitude and isolation in order that you might see and commune with the “Something Else” to which discontent always points. You had been convinced for a time that this Something Else was other-worldly and that in order to remain in touch with It, you would have to remove yourself from the “rest of world”… away from the emotional and the physical..

But on your journey toward the desert, you ran into other men. Men in whom you saw something deeply reflective of the “Something Else” you sought.  Men like Thomas Merton, who, in seeking a clearer vision of and connection to God came to realize that such a connection would lead them right back into the mess of life-with-others.

I must look for my identity,” Merton writes, “not only in God but in other men.  I will never be able to find myself if I isolate myself from be rest of mankind as if I were a different king of being.

For Merton, the Goodness of God, in which he desired to root himself, was not found only in solitude, away from the mess of humanity. It was also found in the mess of Humanity. Merton’s escapes or retreats served the purpose of learning to see both God and God’s creation more purely.  Put simply, learning to love God also means learning to love those God loves. And those God loves are not conceptual persons. They are emotional and physical persons.

And so, for you, just as for Merton, the question is no longer “is there good in the world?” or “where must I go to find it?” In fact, the question isn’t about the nature of the world at all; it’s a question about the posture of your heart in relationship to the world.

The question has become “Can I love?” Can you choose to engage patiently with those who “don’t get it.”  Can you choose to remain with people who frustrate and disappoint you? Can you sit still not just in silence and alone but over the long-haul with those messy ones to whom God has given you? Can you love?

The odd thing about this question is that its answer is not static; It is not a simple “yes” or “no” given at one particular moment in your life. It is an answer that is revealed (even to you) through a lifetime of choices to engage, to listen, to guide, to help,.. to remain. It is an answer you will work out in fear and trembling.. one that will be established by grace, just as it has been started.

“I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart,..” -Philippians 1.6,7

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You can pick up the EP at iTunes.
It is also available at my web store. 
For more on the whole CMY(K) project, visit the CMYK info page.

Reticent
I hold these truths to be so good
That they cannot be understood
Were I to hold them in my grasp
Then surely they’d no longer last

I’m reticent to sign my name
To something that won’t last beyond the day
I’m holding out for something real
Something I can’t feel

I feel so close to everything
It’s all lit up here on the screen
(I’ve found) What’s best in life cannot be seen
Will never be. Has never been

This is the way I save my own soul
I stay disengaged and stay in control

So bring on the new thing…

 

 

CMY(K): Take One For The Team (“C”, Track 2)

In July of 2009, novelist Anne Rice publicly disassociated herself from Christianity because of the general impropriety of Christians. She found those who call themselves ‘christian’ to be “quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious and deservedly infamous.”

As I have written previously, I found her analysis accurate but her response to be off the mark.  Shortly after I posted the blog, I got to work on “Take One For The Team.”   Lyrics are below the video but if you haven’t checked out the digi-book we put together for the EP, I’d recommend reading the lyrics there.

You can pick up the EP at iTunes.
It is also available at my web store. 
For more on the whole CMY(K) project, visit the CMYK info page.

Take one for the team
Take it on the chin
Pick yourself back up
And brace yourself again
They don’t come to fight
They only come to win
So take one for the team
And take it on the chin

Take another step
A mile beyond the call
Bear the weight of choice
To choose something at all
At times you’ll want to stop
And times you’ll want to craw
But take another step
A mile beyond the call

Honestly, you should know
You’ve been there
Sad and low
Patience waited on you, though
So, honestly, you should know

Take a moment now
To ponder your next move
Is what you’re giving back
The honest best of you
I truly understand
You’ve got to know I doYou took one on the chin
But you were swinging, too.

 

CMY(K): They Don’t Mean What They Used To (“C”, Track 1)

 

I met a young man in S. Carolina who had recently become the pastor of a church.  His father and grandfather had pastored churches before him.  The pastoralvocation was as much a part of his identity as his race or gender. He was made to serve God as a shepherd of people. Then, in the years following his installation as pastor, a series of tragedies had beset his family, including the death of their youngest daughter.  He told me that the truths he preached and sang were still true to him but that they did not mean what they had meant previously.

It was true that God was faithful.. but that did not mean God always protected young children from the harms of the world.

It was true that God was good.. but that did not mean God explained Himself or His ways.

It was true that God was real… but that did not mean it appeared that way.

He asked me if I would write he and his wife a song. That was almost seven years ago. It has taken me that seven years grasp a small piece of the frustration, confusion and courage he and his family were wrapped in.

I’ll sing these songs for you
But they don’t mean quite what they used to
I’ll sing these words to you
But only really cuz I’m supposed to

Her absence is a presence
Far more tangible than yours
Her silence has a volume
So much louder than your voice

You give me words to read
And yet my eyes are tired of reading
Light by which I can see
And yet I’ve grown so tired of seeing

Her life my greatest blessing
They say you give and take away
So as I gave I take away my praise

Cuz I can’t stop thinking about it
I won’t stop thinking about it

And so I run to you
If only to tell you that I’m leaving
What hope I’ve left in you
Is that you’ll finally hear me screaming

Cuz I can’t stop thinking about it
I won’t stop thinking about it
No, I can’t stop thinking about you
I won’t stop thinking about you


You can pick up the EP at iTunes.
It is also available at my web store.
For more on the whole CMY(K) project, visit the CMYK info page.

 

I stumbled across Anne Rice’s decision to “give up” on christianity through the PatrolMag.com posting.  She had originally made the declaration on her Facebook Fan Page. After reading her statement, I felt compelled to write the below letter:

Dear Anne,

I am sure that this post is one among many responding to your announcement that you are disassociating yourself from Christianity.  You wrote that your disgust with “this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group” has led you to the conclusion that you “simply cannot belong” to us.

I feel you,  Anne. I really do.  I’ve had similar thoughts and even expressed them publicly. I don’t mind at all the desire or even the need to stand at some distance from the label of christianity.  It may well have been worn through.  But I take issue with the notion that you must disassociate  yourself from ‘christian’ people. I mean sure, we’re a motley lot.  Belonging to this family can often feel like you’ve adopted a few thousand drunk uncles.  It’s incredibly embarrassing at times and frustrating at least as often. I get it.  But I also read that you’re making your move “in the name of Christ” and that presents a rather perplexing dilemma for someone who wants to quit on people.  You see, Christ hasn’t quit on us and if you choose to align yourself with Him, then neither can you.

Aligning yourself with Christ means aligning yourself with Someone who not only declared his love for all God’s children (believer or not), but suffered and died in order to establish and maintain a relationship with those children.  It is this redemptive sacrifice that defines His love as characteristically His.  Having chosen to follow His example, it seems that at least part of the redemptive sacrifice you are being challenged to make is to associate and identify yourself with this shabby batch of miscreants who are often quite bad at practicing the religion you love.  It comes at the cost of your ego and likely some book sales.  But that’s the nature of sacrifice; it costs you. It will cost you if people see you as being family to those “anti-gay, anti-feminist, anti-artificial birth, anti-Democrat, anti-secular humanism, anti-science” types among us.  Just as it costs Jesus to be seen as their Savior and Lord. Just as it cost him to be seen with prostitutes and whatnot.  It is the same social role-play with a different set of cultural lenses on. All your statement does is trade in “bigots” for “whores” when the heart of Christ is that they’re both beloved of the Father.

It’s simply reasonable that if you set yourself against people who set themselves against people you are only adding to the friction. If part of your issue with christianity is it’s exclusivity, you aren’t helping by only including those who “get it” the way you do.  True christian inclusivity means embracing the homosexual and the gay-basher in the same embrace; working for the release of the oppressed while praying and working for the redemption of their oppressor; loving the beautiful game of baseball and yet, somehow, also loving the Yankees.  It means loving the Lord with all of yourself and also loving those who grossly misrepresent Him.

I think you’re smart, Anne. I think you’ll hear some thoughtful feedback and realize you stepped across a line and might have to retract your statement.  You will also likely have to speak directly with Christ about the way you roughly labeled and dismissed the ones He’s drawn to himself and suffered to love.  Lucky for you, lucky for all of us, He’s incredibly forgiving and eternally patient.

In the name of Christ,
Justin McRoberts