Saturday, September 28, 2013

prayer minstrel: John Michael Talbot

A sweet blend of orchestral instruments rise and fall with the opening of the track. Then, the tender plucking of guitar fills the space and the soft resonance of a monk's voice rises in the blend of harmony.

My childhood was filled with the rich melodies and lyrics of John Michael Talbot's work. Talbot is a Catholic singer-songwriter with quite a record of albums dating back to the 1970s! He has an enormous discography and, yet, remains a humble, soft-spoken man devoted to the life of hermitage and founded his own monastic community, which can be found here.

While I am not Catholic, I do appreciate and admire the hermitage life and what it offers for single and celibate lifestyle, although it appears extremists to us who are deeply integrated into our modern society. Nevertheless, Talbot's work reflects his devotion to God, the Gospel, and reverence for the Holy Scriptures.

Of his many albums, there are three that stand out to me because they were the ones I grew up listening to.
His album, Table of Plenty (1997), is not an original work, but rather a collection of worship songs written by other composers that he chose to record in his style.The text for all these songs are all from Scripture and deeply convey the life of a disciple of Christ. Trials, affliction, surrender, humility, fellowship. The songs on this album are so rich and one can tell immediately the care and focus placed on integrating delicate instrumental lines and layers throughout each piece. The hymn, Holy Darkness, is a sorrowful but freeing song of surrender and trust during times of affliction. The piece, No Longer I, reflects the blessed truths found in Galatians and the Apostle Paul's letters. All the songs are incredibly worshipful.

The second album that I love to listen to is his instrumental work, The Quiet (1985). Unfortunately, I was not able to find clips of it through Youtube so I am unable to share it with this post. It was a collection of small meditative works with only his guitar and a classical ensemble. It is certainly a very meditative album. I would describe it as a work of rest. Slow, drifting, and layered with subtle and melancholy tones. When listening to his songs, one is immediately inspired to imagine a humble chapel in the countryside with a small group of people surrendered to a life of intercession, prayer, and the reading of Scripture.

Lastly, the third album that I found incredibly moving to me was Meditations From Solitude (1994). It opens with a distant church bell, the slow rolling of the sea's waves, and his soft guitar. It so fully captures, in the first 30 seconds, what his album is so aptly named for: Meditations From Solitude. Perhaps, the most lovely and haunting song on this one is I Found My Beloved. I have posted it below. Oddly enough, it is the only song from this album that I can find on Youtube at the moment. One of the reasons this particular song means so much to me is because it very much gave me the words to appropriately describe where I was during a broken season that I entered into during 2009-2010. I sought a time of set-apart reflection during an 11-week retreat in Windsor, CO and found my Lord wooing me at every turn, as well as stripping down fleshly patterns in my life. It was one of those "mountaintop" moments, which is something I encourage to many. It was a time of seeking the Lord very purposefully, giving myself to Him in complete abandon, and having His love manifested to me in profound ways. It was very much as the Talbot sings in the song, "I heard the whispering of love's breezes-To heal my broken heart" and also, "And there You gave to me/There You taught me, O so well/And I drank of Your sweet spiced wine/The wine of God/And there I gave to You/Keeping nothing for myself/And I promised You forever/To be Your bride." Ah, that time was a marker in my life that can never be forgotten; life was never the same when I returned home.

In conclusion, if you are searching for music that draws you to the spiritual life we have in Christ with a style that is strikingly different (through it's light and subtle approach) from much of popular Christian music, I would say that Talbot is a good artist to explore. While the dynamic of his music is simple, the arrangements and lyrics are anything but simplified. His music mirrors his lifestyle: one who has purposed to live a life of abandonment and a strong focus on the things which are eternal.

 I the lord of sea and sky
I have heard my people cry
All who dwell in dark and sin
My hand will save
I have made the stars of night
I will make their darkness bright
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?

Here I am lord
Is it I lord?
I have heard you calling in the night
I will go lord
If you lead me
I will hold your people in my heart

I the lord of wind and flame
I will tend the poor and lame
I will set a feast for them
My hand will save
Finest bread I will provide
Till their hearts be satisfied
I will give my life to them
Whom shall I send?

No longer I, but Christ who lives within me
This poverty, a treasure rich beyond compare

The life we live is not our own
Christ is within us, a seed that must be sown
Formed in the pattern of God's love
We die to rise with the Lord


We have been clothed now in Christ
Children of freedom of justice and new life
To Him whose dying set us free
We give our lives, our liberty


(For this song, I Found My Beloved, Youtube gives a warning that it contains innapropriate materal so you must select whether or not you agree and want to watch it. It contains images from the film Passion of the Christ so that is why there is some bold imagery that some may or may not want to watch)

So I found my beloved in the mountains
On the lonely and far distant isles
O'er resounding waters
I heard the whispering of love's breezes
To heal my broken heart

Oh tranquil evening, silent music
And the sounding solitude of the rising dawn
It is there that I hear You
There that I taste of You
In love's banquet to fill my heart


And I found Your footprints
In the sands by the sea
And like Your maiden
I ran along the way to a secret chamber

And there you gave to me
There you taught me, O so well
And I drank of your sweet spiced wine
The wine of God
And there I gave to You
Keeping nothing for myself
And I promised You forever
To be your bride

(Repeat Chorus)

So I have abandoned
All I ever sought to be
And in dying
My spirit has been released

Saturday, September 21, 2013


It's late. Always late.
It's a night owl season for me and my love. I desperately miss sunrises, but am trying not to complain. On Wednesday, I picked up my gratitude journal again. It has been over a month since I have actively pursued jotting down the little gifts of grace in my life. Once I remember, my heart begins to breathe again. My life is so rich, but my thoughts run astray in the multitude of minutes that pass with each day.

 Ah, I am a wild child. I accept it through and through. It is no lie when people say that marriage is no cure for a restless heart. It is the way of life. I struggle every day attempting to reconcile the fullness of my love for my husband as well as the great, terrifying sadness that often overtakes me from him not being enough for me, nor I for him. It is one of the most unsettling tensions I have ever had to experience. I think the romantic in me wants to stomp my feet and take up arguing this with Father. I have a bit of a naughty child in me; it isn't quite clear when she will grow up and move out. Needless to say, in all the very unique vulnerabilities and struggles that manifest after the first few months of marital bliss, I can honestly say that I am wonderfully and imperfectly O.K. This is my nature on the black and white days. I am feeler who is prone to introspection and melancholia. One can say I feel my lowest lows more deeply than my highest highs. It doesn't surprise me so much anymore. This has been the pattern of my life since as far back as I can remember. In all my inner loneliness and heart-wanderings, I am stretched upon the arms of my Lord. Sometimes, I weep in exhaustion from these repeated patterns of my nature and personality, desiring to do away with them, to be changed, to transform into someone better, more capable, and less like me.Yet, that isn't how this works. This, the Spirit-Life in God through Christ. It has more to do with receiving, accepting, and trusting rather than doing, behaving, and performing. In countless of ways, my husband I are both learning this together, almost as if for the very first time. Attempting to trust the enormity of Christ-in-me as a couple brings an entirely new dynamic. When we began our lives together, it was very much like opening up to a new life. Now, we must learn together and together is incredibly different from learning as an individual. You don't realize how awful you are at it until you are in a together.
 But, it is all right. Truly, it is.
 For the very first time in my life, I am learning to have patience with myself. It is so strange. I always rolled my eyes at those sayings of learning to forgive yourself, to have patience with yourself, to value yourself. Certainly, I do not believe there is any true or consistent power in trying to boost one's own self-esteem. However, I realized I was looking at it from an entirely wrong angle. Once I began to look at myself through my Father's eyes, that all changed. I learned to accept that He is patient towards me, values the whole of who I am, and forgives my failings. Many times, due to the expectations I hold myself to, I don't allow myself to receive that I am forgiven and valued by Him through it. In this revelation, I have begun to extend myself the grace that comes from His hands.

So, today, I am taking the very small steps to trust the greatest of truths ~ Christ in me ~ through the changeless seasons, the quiet days, and the monotony.

Ah, yes, He has me. All of me. 

~ ~ ~ ~

I keep finding fresh ideas for my blog, but never actually get myself to focus enough to do them. In the meantime, I am rearranging my blog layout and design. I want to simplify it a bit more so that it is not so overwhelming with images. It will most likely continue to change as I go since that is the way I do life. In the meantime, I hope to keep writing and sharing because I always need a medium to do so.

I conclude this post with photos from my flashy little smart phone. The 10th of this month found my dearest and I celebrating 7-months of our [very] young marriage. We drove through very hard rain to make it to our spur-of-the-weekend-planned-campsite. It was a grey weekend, but the sun greeted us on the lake as it set. The simple delights could not have been sweeter! The forest was blooming with color and, while my husband set up camp, I foraged the damp ground of the forest for wildflowers. In the evening, we roasted marshmallows and gazed at the stars glimmering above us with the faint haze of the Milky Way. Everything was divine.

Friday, September 6, 2013

letting marital love flourish

Love is patient and kind... ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4

Patience is that sort of virtue that promises to never lose heart. The very essence of the word speaks of endurance and it is coupled with kindness. To hear these words makes one reflect on the Divine. After all, in these chipped vessels of flesh, there is, very rarely, enough of these two virtues to be truly tasted and savored and known.

A long-suffering spirit that meekly extends kindness is never to be found. Such a soul is forged.

Is this not the design of marital covenant?

Love begins with an air of magic, or so it seems, and draws us with all its mystery and power. Enrapturing and freeing, it take us by the hand and we feel, for the season, as if we are new creatures, capable of being extended far beyond our limits. The tremendously compelling grip of Love awakens us to who we truly are and to who we truly can become. It seems to promise, with certainty and security, that this enrapturing aspect to Love shall never wane. We believe it because it seems to prove everything in an instant, in a feeling, in words, and in actions. Love seems to remake us when it meets us. All seems full and perfect and serene, as if the ultimate happiness as been known. It can make one think it would be so comforting to just settle there in that perpetual state of bliss.

Yet, the aim of Love is to take us beyond our ideals. Its purpose is to walk us to Glory. One can never known the piercing light of Glory unless one has traversed every bend of the shadows.

Thus, it is that, when the alluring and magically empowering side to Love seeks to leave the center stage of our finest hour, we are purposed to learn the very essence of Love. It is then that we are asked, "Will you proclaim in the shadows what you saw in the first rays of light?"

We are offended. We feel betrayed. Perhaps, none of us would dare actually to express it so honestly, but we feel slighted.

We do not want to have to learn a way that is foreign to us. It is so unlike us and so we shy from it. 

The interactions of newlyweds are, sometimes, given a bad reputation. There cannot be any season of life like it. It is as perfectly joy-giving, but it may be more grueling hard and sensitive work. One cannot help but think this is why there are heaps of premarital counseling and articles and books detailing 5 to 100 things men and women should know before tying the knot. The intensity and the desperation to prepare, prepare, prepare is forceful and rigid. Many quote divorce statistics and argue and strive over our society's battle with marriage. We quickly learn methods to fix, prepare, and prevent. We have never sought to ask ourselves, where did the simplicity of the way of Love go in the bustle of all these issues?

If husband and wife chose to listen to the stillness and the quiet of trusting Him who is Love as patience and kindness, they may find a freedom not given by methods, books, and programs.

 The tender, youthful years of man and wife are fragile indeed. Just as the planting of a small seed and the first appearance of a plant's stem demands understanding and compassion, so it is that the Bride and her Groom need such a space and time and gentle treading.

Such a space is called an environment of grace.

Grace enables Love to grow in an authentic way.
Grace is the favor for man and wife when both fail the other and themselves.
Grace is the cloak of protection as Love matures.
Grace is the hand extended to us when we have fallen because all has not failed, all has not been lost.
Grace is that ethereal gift granted to us from our Maker and comes hand in hand with Love.
Grace is the reminder of the things we have seen and known to be true about ourselves and others in the Light, although we, presently, are in the dark.
For it is Grace that shows us it is quite all right when the burdens of this world have stripped us down.
It is Grace that embraces us in our nakedness and clothes us, as well as enabling us to see the other's nakedness and extend protection instead of judgment or disappointment.

What if more husbands and wives strove to embrace the uniqueness of their own journey rather than yield to the pressure to perform and function at some universal standard from the get-go? What if both yielded to an environment of grace rather than the designs of their own making or of others?

 There are no demands for husband and wife to conform to anything except to the heart and mind of Christ. And, if that is a demand than it is a sweet one, for what is troubling about conforming to the long-suffering and kind heart of our dear Savior, who daily bears gently with us?

In marriage, we are lead by Love to become like children again. To live in the wonder, the imagination, but also the true belief that the fruit is within and will be given in due time.

Love is Patient. Grant it time to grow and flourish within the bower of the bride and groom.

That, in fact, is what God’s love is: it is His armor, an armor of forgiveness and acceptance that we put on...And so it is in marriage that when the Lord draws a man and a woman together in the most intimate of human associations, He does so by giving them His love, which is all that can shield them through the searing experience of self-revelation they are to undergo. This is an experience that all people both crave and fear, with a fear that is conquerable only by love. Only love can drive out the constant threat of condemnation and rejection that otherwise haunts and spoils all experiences of intimacy. People cannot seem to refrain from judging one another, and in the crucible of marriage the judgment can be so intense and oppressiveness that the only recourse is a loving forgiveness of the other’s wrongs, and in turn a courageous willingness to see one’s own sinfulness exposed, conquered, and actually replaced by the other’s love. In such a relationship, a true transfusion and transformation of characters may take place as each puts on the good qualities of the other and forgives the bad. Each is armor to the other, each is the other’s strength and worth.
 ~ Mike Mason, The Mystery of Marriage