“It’s the End of the World As We Know It (and I feel fine)” by R.E.M. in Delight in Disorder (the soundtrack)

We married and moved to a three-room row house in South St. Louis.  Steam rising from asphalt. We passionately loved and more passionately fought. Out of our conjugal clash a child was conceived.

Seeking safety, we moved to the countryside and I became shepherd of a frozen flock. We welcomed our baby home to a Noah’s Ark nursery. I turned her first week into a music video – “God’s Masterpiece.” After a week, I was spent (or thought I was) and retreated to ancient texts and tired truths.

In the disorder, there were moments of delight and we conceived again.  Our graceful pilgrim. We followed a call to a church looking for an infusion of youth.

The delight became dangerously disordered.  It was the end of the world and I was bouncing off the walls. A light fixture fell and I was convinced it was a sign from God.

The next day, I found myself in the seclusion room of a psychiatric hospital.

That’s great, it starts with an earthquake
Birds and snakes, an aeroplane, and Lenny Bruce is not afraid

Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn
World serves its own needs, don’t misserve your own needs
Feed it up a knock, speed, grunt, no, strength
The ladder starts to clatter with a fear of height, down, height
Wire in a fire, represent the seven games
And a government for hire and a combat site
Left her, wasn’t coming in a hurry with the Furies breathing down your neck

Team by team, reporters baffled, trumped, tethered, cropped
Look at that low plane, fine, then
Uh-oh, overflow, population, common group
But it’ll do, save yourself, serve yourself
World serves its own needs, listen to your heart bleed
Tell me with the Rapture and the reverent in the right, right
You vitriolic, patriotic, slam fight, bright light
Feeling pretty psyched

It’s the end of the world as we know it
It’s the end of the world as we know it
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine

Six o’clock, TV hour, don’t get caught in foreign tower
Slash and burn, return, listen to yourself churn
Lock him in uniform, book burning, bloodletting
Every motive escalate, automotive incinerate
Light a candle, light a motive, step down, step down
Watch your heel crush, crush, uh-oh
This means no fear, cavalier, renegade and steering clear
A tournament, a tournament, a tournament of lies
Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives, and I decline

It’s the end of the world as we know it (I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it (I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine (It’s time I had some time alone)
I feel fine (I feel fine)

It’s the end of the world as we know it (It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it (It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine (It’s time I had some time alone)

The other night I dreamt a nice continental drift divide
Mountains sit in a line, Leonard Bernstein
Leonid Brezhnev, Lenny Bruce, and Lester Bangs
Birthday party, cheesecake, jellybean, boom
You symbiotic, patriotic, slam but neck, right? Right

It’s the end of the world as we know it (It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it (It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine (It’s time I had some time alone)

It’s the end of the world as we know it
It’s the end of the world as we know it
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine (It’s time I had some time alone)

It’s the end of the world as we know it (It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it (It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine (It’s time I had some time alone)

It’s the end of the world as we know it (It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it (It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine (It’s time I had some time alone)

(It’s time I had some time alone)

(“It’s the End of the World As We Know It (and I feel fine)” is the ninth song on my autobiographical Spotify playlist Delight in Disorder)

“Dancing in the Minefields” by Andrew Peterson in Delight in Disorder (the soundtrack)

With all the hope of a man desperate to not be alone in life and eager to find what he’d never been looking for, I bought you a ring at a mall kiosk. I placed it in Eeyore’s lap and wrapped it up as a Christmas gift.

We set a date then set about debating all the details of navigating life together in faith, clinging to the promise we would one day be One, bonded in a holy union that would somehow keep us together and prevent us from falling apart.

At our wedding, the minister fed me vows but I was too choked up to repeat them. I was crying. Amazed at the grace that the brokenness in me might finally be mended. At the prospect that what God was joining together no one could possibly separate.

It’s been over twenty years and the promise remains true, though we are miles apart. We’re still in the minefields, waiting for our song to play.

Well I was 19, you were 21
The year we got engaged
Everyone said we were much too young
But we did it anyway
We got the rings for 40 each from a pawnshop down the road
We said our vows and took the leap now 15 years ago

We went dancing in the minefields
We went sailing in the storms
And it was harder than we dreamed
But I believe that’s what the promise is for

Well “I do” are the two most famous last words
The beginning of the end
But to lose your life for another I’ve heard is a good place to begin
‘Cause the only way to find your life is to lay your own life down
And I believe it’s an easy price for the life that we have found

And we’re dancing in the minefields
We’re sailing in the storms
And it was harder than we dreamed
But I believe that’s what the promise is for
That’s what the promise is for

So when I lose my way, find me
When I lose loves chains, bind me
At the end of all my faith to the end of all my days
when I forget my name, remind me

‘Cause we bear the light of the Son of man
So there’s nothing left to fear
So I’ll walk with you in the shadow lands
Till the shadows disappear
‘Cause He promised not to leave us
And his promises are true
So in the face of this chaos baby,
I can dance with you

So lets go dancing in the minefields
Lets go sailing in the storms
Oh, lets go dancing in the minefields
And kicking down the doors
Oh, lets go dancing in the minefields
And sailing in the storms
Oh, this is harder than we dreamed
But I believe that’s what the promise is for
That’s what the promise is for

(“Dancing in the Minefields” is the eighth song on my autobiographical Spotify playlist Delight in Disorder)

“February Seven” by The Avett Brothers in Delight in Disorder (the soundtrack)

July, 1989 in “The Office of Friends.”  You were on the phone with South Central Bell, debating a deposit.

A spark from your words deflected off the receiver and landed in my heart.  I was slain in the Spirit.

You won the battle with the phone company and I determined, “I need this woman on my side.”

From “Shakespeare in the Park” to shopping at the mall, losing at hangman and going dutch on dates. I crushed your spirit then blended it together with sour milk and sugar, serving it back to you as Friendship bread. Complete with nuts and blueberries.

When you wrote “I love you,” on my back in Hebrew, was it God’s Word or just something people don’t speak anymore?

I went on the search for something true
I was almost there when I found you
Sooner than my fate was wrote
A perfect blade, it slit my throat
And beads of lust released into the air
When I awoke you were standing there

I was on the mend when I fell through
The sky around was anything but blue
I found as I regained my feet, a wound across my memory
That no amount of stitches would repair
But I awoke and you were standing there

There’s no fortune at the end of the road
That has no end
There’s no returning to the spoils
Once you’ve spoiled the thought of them
There’s no falling back asleep
Once you’ve wakened from the dream
Now I’m rested and I’m ready and I’m ready to begin

I went on the search for something real
Traded what I know for how I feel
But the ceiling and the walls collapsed
Upon the darkness I was trapped
And as the last of breath was drawn from me
Light broke in and brought me to my feet

There’s no fortune at the end of the road
That has no end
There’s no returning to the spoils
Once you’ve spoiled the thought of them
There’s no falling back asleep
Once you’ve wakened from the dream
Now I’m rested and I’m ready and I’m ready to begin

I’m rested and I’m ready to begin

(“February Seven” is the seventh song on my autobiographical Spotify playlist Delight in Disorder)

“Closer to Fine” by Indigo Girls in Delight in Disorder (the soundtrack)

I went to graduate school with the hope of finding my calling in ministry and growing closer to God. My faith was broken down in class. I was taught how not to talk about God. But through positions “in the field,” I found God in the smile of a boy who would never talk, in the songs of prisoners longing to be free, in the prayers of a man at the bedside of his dying wife.

I say I found God, but God really found me. I just didn’t run away.

I’m trying to tell you something about my life

Maybe give me insight between black and white

The best thing you’ve ever done for me

Is to help me take my life less seriously,

it’s only life after all

Well darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable

And lightness has a call that’s hard to hear

I wrap my fear around me like a blanket

I sailed my ship of safety till I sank it,

I’m crawling on your shore.

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains

I looked to the children, I drank from the fountain

There’s more than one answer to these questions

pointing me in crooked line

The less I seek my source for some definitive

The closer I am to fine.

I went to see the doctor of philosophy

With a poster of Rasputin and a beard down to his knee

He never did marry or see a B-grade movie

He graded my performance, he said he could see through me

I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind,

got my paper And I was free.

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains

I looked to the children, I drank from the fountain

There’s more than one answer to these questions

pointing me in crooked line

The less I seek my source for some definitive

The closer I am to fine.

I stopped by the bar at 3 a.m.

To seek solace in a bottle or possibly a friend

I woke up with a headache like my head against a board

Twice as cloudy as I’d been the night before

I went in seeking clarity.

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains

I looked to the children, I drank from the fountain

There’s more than one answer to these questions

pointing me in crooked line

The less I seek my source for some definitive

The closer I am to fine.

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains

I looked to the children, I drank from the fountain

There’s more than one answer to these questions

pointing me in crooked line

The less I seek my source for some definitive

The closer I am to fine.

We go to the bible, we go through the workout

We read up on revival and we stand up for the lookout

There’s more than one answer to these questions

pointing me in a crooked line

The less I seek my source for some definitive

The closer I am to fine

The closer I am to fine

The closer I am to fine

(“Closer to Fine” is the sixth song on my autobiographical playlist Delight in Disorder)

“Get Rhythm” by Johnny Cash in Delight in Disorder (the soundtrack)

They say misery loves company. Mostly misery makes company miserable. As I was sliding into a post-college depression, I had many friends who were good listeners and showed me great understanding compassion.  I was stuck — living in an unfurnished apartment, working in a plastics factory, aspiring to be a writer but writing crap and going nowhere. People without vision perish. I was dying on the vine.

Then a friend of mine met someone who turned his life around. She made someone who was maybe even more miserable than I was happy. I began to believe such a blessing might indeed come even to such as the likes of me. If life wasn’t simply taking the shape of a song for me, I would hum along just the same, like the shoeshine boy in Johnny Cash‘s “Get Rhythm.”

Hey, get rhythm when you get the blues
Come on, get rhythm when you get the blues
Get a rock ‘n’ roll feelin’ in your bones
Put taps on your toes and get gone
Get rhythm when you get the blues

A Little shoeshine boy never gets low down
But he’s got the dirtiest job in town
Bendin’ low at the peoples’ feet
On the windy corner of the dirty street
Well, I asked him while he shined my shoes
How’d he keep from gettin’ the blues
He grinned as he raised his little head
Popped a shoeshine rag and then he said

Get rhythm when you get the blues
Come on, get rhythm when you get the blues
A jumpy rhythm makes you feel so fine
It’ll shake all the trouble from your worried mind
Get rhythm when you get the blues

Get rhythm when you get the blues
Come on , get rhythm when you get the blues
Get a rock ‘n’ roll feelin’ in your bones
Put taps on your toes and get gone
Get rhythm when you get the blues

Well, I sat down to listen to the shoeshine boy
And I thought I was gonna jump for joy
Slapped on the shoe polish left and right
He took a shoeshine rag and he held it tight
He stopped once to wipe the sweat away
I said you’re a mighty little boy to be-a workin’ that way
He said I like it with a big wide grin
Kept on a poppin’ and he said again

Get rhythm when you get the blues
Come on, get rhythm when you get the blues
It only costs a dime, just a nickel a shoe
Does a million dollars worth of good for you
Get rhythm when you get the blues

(“Get Rhythm” is the fifth song on my autobiographical Spotify playlist Delight in Disorder)

“Blue” by Joni Mitchell in Delight in Disorder (the soundtrack)

In November of 1986, I began to process of leaving behind the pot and pills and Pabst that was keeping my peculiar brain chemistry from driving me crazy, but causing all kinds of other insanity. Coming clean caused me to sink into a pit of despair, expressed eloquently in Joni Mitchell‘s “Blue.”

Blue songs are like tattoos
You know I’ve been to sea before
Crown and anchor me
Or let me sail away
Hey Blue, here is a song for you
Ink on a pin
Underneath the skin
An empty space to fill in
Well there’re so many sinking now
You’ve got to keep thinking
You can make it thru these waves
Acid, booze, and ass
Needles, guns, and grass
Lots of laughs lots of laughs
Everybody’s saying that hell’s the hippest way to go
Well I don’t think so
But I’m gonna take a look around it though
Blue I love you

Blue here is a shell for you
Inside you’ll hear a sigh
A foggy lullaby
There is your song from me

© 1970; Joni Mitchell

(“Blue” is the fourth song in my autobiographical playlist Delight in Disorder (the soundtrack).

“Crazy” by Gnarles Barkley (Violent Femmes cover) in Delight in Disorder (the soundtrack)

Gnarls Barkley‘s song “Crazy” (covered by The Violent Femmes) is third on my autobiographical Spotify playlist Delight in Disorder (the soundtrack).  The lyrics describe the familiar misery of going insane.

I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind
There was something so pleasant about that place.
Even your emotions had an echo
In so much space

And when you’re out there
Without care,
Yeah, I was out of touch
But it wasn’t because I didn’t know enough
I just knew too much

Does that make me crazy
Does that make me crazy
Does that make me crazy
Possibly
And I hope that you are having the time of your life
But think twice, that’s my only advice

Come on now, who do you, who do you, who do you, who do you think you are,
Ha ha ha bless your soul
You really think you’re in control

Well, I think you’re crazy
I think you’re crazy
I think you’re crazy
Just like me

My heroes had the heart to lose their lives out on a limb
And all I remember is thinking, I want to be like them
Ever since I was little, ever since I was little it looked like fun
And it’s no coincidence I’ve come
And I can die when I’m done

Maybe I’m crazy
Maybe you’re crazy
Maybe we’re crazy
Possibly

When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 30, my doctors told me being a conditioned athlete through my teen years likely kept symptoms at bay. Then, I chose to self-medicate with drugs like alcohol, amphetamines, nicotine, and marijuana. It was like manufactured insanity, considered “cool” within the sub-culture of aspiring artists at college who took pride in their cock-sure craziness.

 

“My Back Pages” by Bob Dylan in “Delight in Disorder (the soundtrack)”

The song I’ve chosen to represent my childhood in Delight in Disorder (the soundtrack) is Bob Dylan’s “My Back Pages.” Dylan masterfully captures in vivid imagery a life mixed with youthful vigor and age-old concerns.

I grew up fast and hard, living in small-town innocence yet being exposed to discord, drunkenness, divorce. Sports and studies took my mind away and I prayed my body would some day follow.  Teachers taught me idealism even as one stuck his hand down my pants. Preachers hailed fire and brimstone from pulpits to pews filled by grandparents who embodied both wrath and mercy tasting like sour Juicy Fruit gum.

Disorder disguised delight yet light endured like the north star on night.

Crimson flames tied through my ears
Rollin’ high and mighty traps
Pounced with fire on flaming roads
Using ideas as my maps
“We’ll meet on edges, soon,” said I
Proud ’neath heated brow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

Half-wracked prejudice leaped forth
“Rip down all hate,” I screamed
Lies that life is black and white
Spoke from my skull. I dreamed
Romantic facts of musketeers
Foundationed deep, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

Girls’ faces formed the forward path
From phony jealousy
To memorizing politics
Of ancient history
Flung down by corpse evangelists
Unthought of, though, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

A self-ordained professor’s tongue
Too serious to fool
Spouted out that liberty
Is just equality in school
“Equality,” I spoke the word
As if a wedding vow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

In a soldier’s stance, I aimed my hand
At the mongrel dogs who teach
Fearing not that I’d become my enemy
In the instant that I preach
My pathway led by confusion boats
Mutiny from stern to bow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats
Too noble to neglect
Deceived me into thinking
I had something to protect
Good and bad, I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

(lyrics to “My Back Pages” Copyright © 1964 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1992 by Special Rider Music)

Delight in Disorder (the soundtrack): “Wonder” by Natalie Merchant

Not long ago, I was inspired to create a Spotify playlist to accompany the release of my spiritual memoir  Delight in Disorder.  I was initially led to search for songs with “crazy” in the title and came up with a playlist of 42 songs I titled “Crazy for You.” It is a fun collection I enjoy listening to.  But it doesn’t tell my story.

Today, as I was driving past the madness of Black Friday shopping, a number of songs started playing through my mind.  I eagerly drove home and gathered a collection of 21 songs I’ve titled “Delight in Disorder (the soundtrack).” From start to finish, the playlist tells the story of my life from my birth, through my childhood and school years, my troubled marriage and eventual separation and return to my childhood home.

While I enjoy quality instrumentation, it is through poetic lyrics that I find meaning in music. To share this passion, I’ve decided to feature the lyrics to this soundtrack for my life in a series of 21 posts, briefly reflecting on how the songs connect to my experience.

The first song is “Wonder” by Natalie Merchant.

Doctors have come from distant cities
Just to see me
Stand over my bed
Disbelieving what they’re seeing

They say I must be one of the wonders
Of god’s own creation
And as far as they can see they can offer
No explanation

Newspapers ask intimate questions
Want confessions
They reach into my head
To steal the glory of my story

They say I must be one of the wonders
Of god’s own creation
And as far as they can see they can offer
No explanation

O, I believe
Fate smiled and destiny
Laughed as she came to my cradle
Know this child will be able
Laughed as my body she lifted
Know this child will be gifted
With love, with patience and with faith
She’ll make her way

People see me
I’m a challenge to your balance
I’m over your heads
How I confound you and astound you
To know I must be one of the wonders
Of god’s own creation
And as far as you can see you can offer me
No explanation

O, I believe
Fate smiled and destiny
Laughed as she came to my cradle
Know this child will be able
Laughed as she came to my mother
Know this child will not suffer
Laughed as my body she lifted
Know this child will be gifted
With love, with patience and with faith
She’ll make her way

This wonderful song by the beautiful Ms. Merchant conveys both the theology and grandiosity that has marked my life since birth.  My delightful theology leads me to believe that I am one of God’s marvelous creations.  My disordered mind tells me I am perhaps more marvelous than most, that I have a special mission to fulfill beyond the run-of-the-mill labor of life.

This delight in disorder has been both a blessing and a bane in my existence.

When I was young, I could escape the fierce tension at home, satisfied with my own presence.  I would play for hours on an outdoor basketball court convinced there were hidden cameras filming me for a later documentary of a star-in-the-making.

Believing I had a calling led me to be the first in my family to obtain a master’s degree and launch a career in ministry. My disordered mind, however, led me to a psychiatric hospital where I believed it was the end of the world and I alone had the special mission of bringing the elect to safety.

“Wonder” is ultimately a very hopeful song, as has been my life with God. With love, patience, and faith, we will make our way.

From Kentucky Coal to a White House Medal: The Journey of Loretta Lynn

Loretta Lynn today was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama at the White House. The award, created by President John F. Kennedy, recognizes significant achievements in politics, world peace, science, culture and other fields and is the nation’s highest honor presented civilians.

An L.A. Times article by Randy Lewis elucidates “5 reasons Loretta Lynn earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom,” focusing on five of her songs where her very personal lyrics had profound political and social implications across the country. From her hardscrabble, yet loving upbringing “Coal Miner’s Daughter” to her rejection of the passive female victim in “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ With Loving on Your Mind.”  For bringing to life (with humor) the hard lot of child-rearing in “One’s on the Way,” to unveiling the inequities of divorce in “Rated X.”  After the death of her husband, “Mooney,” she reflects on facing life without him in “Miss Being Mrs. Tonight.”

President Obama hailed Loretta Lynn as “the voice of a generation.” More accurately, she is the voice of generations of the poor and downtrodden, the neglected and abused, the overburdened and under-appreciated, the unjustly judged and wrongly condemned, the lonely souls whose best hope is to keep singing out until the day they are heard.