CHApter SIX notes

It is 469 miles from McCall, Idaho to my friend Brad’s house outside Portland, OR. Normally I wouldn’t try to book a show with that length of a drive, but desperate times call for desperate measures and I had two more songs to complete! After a couple of quiet days retreating on the lake in McCall (coming from my friend Justin’s place in Cali), I left early Saturday morning September 8th in the haze of smoke from the California fires that had drifted east, winding my way through backroads to find my home on I-84 for most of the next two days, having to return on the exact same route the following day to get back to Boise for one last show before heading home to Nashville. Most would find that amount of miles incredibly tedious, but there is something incredibly calming to me about long highway drives and the solace of silence that is created and as I made my way on that warm late summer morning, with the windows down and my song notes and guitar riding shotgun, I had nothing but miles and time to think about the final two songs for Chapter Six. Thankfully, the big skies and arid terrain of eastern Oregon plodding along into the refreshing depth and width of the Columbia River gorge did more than it’s share of inspiring me to write ‘The River,’ as the landscape mirrored the arc of Joel carrying me from a visual image of desolation into restoration, and in essence delivered me into ’We Will Remember.’

All throughout scripture, God uses imagery of a flowing river. From the Old Testament all the way to the end of the New Testament, the river is a source of life, proclaiming God’s presence, bringing with it power and restoration. And in the end of Joel, God promises that the ‘mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk; all the ravines of Judah will run with water, and a fountain will flow out of the Lord’s house watering the valley of acacias.’ The barren valley will give way to God’s river that brings with it promise and renewal. This idea from Joel 3:18 became the first and only verse of the title track, ‘We Will Remember.’ It’s prophetic declaration launched us into writing the purposefully simple chorus of recalling our role of remembering as a community, in the midst of the greater narrative; And that regardless of where we find ourselves, as my church says often, all of life is worship… and therefore all is worthy of bringing God praise… but I have come to know that I often need to be sung to be reminded of his goodness.

Somewhere along the way in The Millennial Narrative, Jaco quotes Psalm 56:8 and it blessed me to read because it is a verse that I have always wanted to use in a song and I thought finally… it will find it’s place in song number 11. For the God of great majesty, who reigns from the highest mountain to the lowest valley, is also the same God who ‘keeps track of all my wandering and my weeping… who stores my many tears in a bottle, never losing one.’ These two images of God, as constant as a flowing river and one who is in control of all, inclduing the minute detail of accounting my tears, are where Chapter Six songs took me.

As we’re called to remember and proclaim throughout this collection of songs, verse 1 of ‘The River’ begins in that familiar place and draws upon Psalm 56:8…

You came to me when I was a stranger

A wayward soul so lost and afraid

But you know every hurt I have and where I wander

You catch every tear; hear every word I pray

And then opens up the narrative to the Biblical story of Jesus as he walked upon this earth…

You've taken bread and fed the five thousand

You healed one man through the faith of a few

To every blind and broken soul you offer a home 

Cause no one is a stranger to you 

There is an assurance in these words that begs us to look deeper into our own narrative and as we think about the way we interact with the river that is flowing through our stories; And as songs #9 and #10 suggested, the way we flow towards our neighbors and community and how we affect the shape of the city. One of the themes that comes up in a lot of my conversations on the road is this difference between operating from a place of scarcity vs. abundance. The world around us, from social media to advertising to politics beckons us to assume the place of scarcity, so that we live in fear and it can fill that perceived void with anything and everything we might think we need. But what the Gospel of Jesus and Joel screams, is that we have an abundance from God and are called to operate from and give away from the abundance. And when we recognize both the abundance and the gift of giving ourselves away, we will see the bless-ed work he is doing through that river of restoration. 

This water rolls down mountains into valleys

And into streams that make this city breathe 

From your abundance we can flow like the blessings we know

The more we give, the more we receive

What that has practically meant for me is questioning what kind of water I want to be? Am I a part of nurturing and healing for others or am I self-focused on my own pain? Do I refresh like the Columbia River or am I just more heat on an already arid dessert? To add even more depth to the visual picture, Jaco very beautifully describes those who have encountered locusts as having ‘a natural ability to build dams and levees,’ out of the pain locusts have created. And that sometimes, he goes on to write, when we may have an intent to be a force for good, we ‘become flash floods of judgement’ that do nothing but erode those around us, ‘leaving deep scars on the landscape of their souls.’ I can certainly remember times in my life where I have done both of these things… sometimes intentionally and sometimes completely unaware.

Ultimately, we have the ability to choose whether we flow or not, or how we limit or share the water that we have been given… and as every chapter in The Millennial Narrative does so well, Jaco concludes with incredibly tangible practices to help make this decision become a real and living possibility. Without going into as much detail as Jaco provides (as you should just grab a copy of the book here), he basically suggests that through practicing participation, practicing volunteerism, practicing generativity, practicing collaboration and practicing self-care, we will be much more inclined towards adding to the beauty in this world. But he also adds the caveat, which feels like is getting harder by the day in our i-focused-digital-social-media driven world, that we must remember that we are not the source of the bless-ed restoration and beautiful transformation we may have the privilege of being a part of… we are just the honored vessels carrying the water of hope or leading others to the well spring that flows from our God of hope eternal.

You say come to the river already flowing

From your house up on that holy hill

You invite us to this bless-ed restoration

Only you and your love can fulfill

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, we have found our hope in you

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, we have found our hope in you

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, we have found our hope in you


Thanks for sharing in this journey with me and reading along. 

Again, I hope these musings and music have been a blessing to you and that if you’ve been moved by anything you’ve read, you’ll consider sharing it with friends and family. Both the We Will Remember: Songs Inspired by the Book of Joel (click here), as well as The Millennial Narrative: Sharing the Good Life With the Next Generation, which can be purchased here!