A New and Hopeful Morning
- 2004 22 Nov
My Florida morning has a rhythm — cars on the road outside, a radio playing.
I laugh at myself. It’s impossible for me to write the word rhythm without spelling it out in the noisy space of my head: R-H-Y-T-H-M. Since childhood I’ve believed that rhythm is a word every musician should spell without error. The act of spelling this word has its own internal rhythm — two groups of three letters each, two eighth-note triplets to be exact, each occupying the real estate of one quarter-note in a single measure of 2/4 time. Because my brain delights in rhythmic memory, I haven’t misspelled this word in 40 years. When I’m laid to rest some stoic soul will remind the tearful gathering: “Who can forget how this dear man spelled the word rhythm with such stunning and consistent accuracy?”
These are my first brimming thoughts here in Seaside, Fla., at the end of August as I rise to a new and hopeful morning. There is still the aching head and the ringing in my left ear, though. The ringing is a constant solo soprano voice to the ATB of the rest of life. ATB is what follows the S in SATB. Like the letters in rhythm, I’ve known the sequence of these four letters most of my life. They came with my musician father, like a toy with batteries included. Soprano, alto, tenor, bass. SATB. Musical families, particularly those that read music, come with their own peculiar language: adagio, neapolitan sixth, double-tongue, double-reed and double-dog. Actually, the last is not a musical term, though I use it often and would like to know its origin and how it came into my vocabulary. How do we know what we know? That’s an ongoing question. For some of us it’s a question having to do with epistemology; for others, a curiosity. For still others, it’s a necessity like water and air — a question of health, wholeness and well-being.
Knowing, and the question of how we know, is a deep and complex human weave — a crocheted afghan, inherited and passed down. Getting at the intricacy of the weave involves time, patience, steady hands, good light and eyes to see.
The weekend before coming to Seaside, I spoke at an event to promote my latest book. This was one of those outdoor music festivals where people of like Spirit and Tribe gather. I didn’t want to gather in that way under those circumstances again. So I was there but not there. I came to love and loved less. I knew too much from too much knowing of the same thing again and again. I need a break from the institutions and mass media of the Spirit and Tribe I belong to. I’ve spent a whole life wanting to know things; now I want to not know things for a while — let mystery be.
Years ago I had the opportunity to spend about 20 minutes alone in conversation with the great writer Frederick Buechner ("Godric", "The Book of Bebb"). I learned a lesson that day. Perhaps now is the time to appropriate it. Buechner has spent a lifetime living out and writing about his faith journey in the Spirit and Tribe of Jesus. Buechner asked about my music and what I was up to. “Well,” I told him, “I co-wrote the No. 2 pop song in America right now, a song sung by Amy Grant.” “Amy Grant?” he asked. “I’ve never heard of her.”
In 1992, what rock did one have to live under to be a professing follower of Jesus in America and not hear of Amy Grant? Thirteen years ago I found this to be an amusing story about a great man out of touch with pop culture. Now it’s serious. I need to know where that rock is and quick.
Later, down at the beach I want to kneel with my wife, Andi, and call on the empathetic God. Instead we swim again. With our backs to the ocean, we look up to see not one but two rainbows stacked to heaven. The rainbow was and is a sign and symbol from God to people in this crazy place of light, darkness and shadows. With the rainbow He’s painting a story that says He will sustain and not destroy. He will overcome the darkness with the color of life. Double rainbow. Double-dog.
This month marks the end of my residency as a regular columnist for CCM. I have so appreciated the feedback that you readers have given. Thank you. I would also like to thank the magazine, in general, and Editor Jay Swartzendruber, specifically, for the opportunity to share my thoughts each month. I wish all of you good health and good work in the power of God who so richly lavishes His grace on us all. Remember to imagine well for your neighbors, to be generous and willing to share. Trust God with the unknown and practice the tolerance of mystery. Breathe deep, and love like there’s no tomorrow. Peace.
For more than a year, Charlie Peacock has graced our readers with his pastoral spirit and compelling ideas. We’re grateful. Charlie, as you sang to us all those years ago, “Stay young in heart with eyes of faith ...”
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