It’s a poetry-like book about the author’s life as a singer-songwriter and his advice on writing songs and stories. By saying ‘poetry-like’, I mean it’s beautifully written, honest, touching and romantic. I don’t mean it’s vague, weird and impossible to understand. The author talks about his childhood and adolescence, fascination and frustration with music, ups and downs of his career, his wife and children, his friends and heroes. Reading the book feels like speaking to him face to face in his living room. He’s very patient. He likes telling stories and he’s not in any hurry to turn you out of his house. He goes off topic sometimes but it doesn’t matter because we’re just hanging out. He’s funny, talking about his ambitions to impress girls in school and his biggest parenting victory. But he’s also painfully and gracefully honest.
He makes it all sounds very ordinary, for example, the process of writing a song is painfully slow. But it’s pretty epic as well. There are quite a few epic moments in the book. But again God didn’t speak to him in thunder on top of a mountain or blind him with light. They were personal moments of the heart but they were filled with God’s presence. The author wrote in a way that points me to see God in those moments of his life. And God’s presence can make any ordinary moment epic.
The book also makes me feel a bit ashamed. This is truly living: to use the God-given gifts to serve people and to glorify him. To struggle, to fail and to stand up again. I can’t say I want to become a songwriter like him (partly because I can’t even read music, but also partly) because the book makes it crystal clear that it’s not an easy path. But I’m envious in a way that I want to do more and do better. It sounds terribly un-Christian, to ‘do’ better. I mean it in the sense as in the Parable of the Talents: when Jesus asks me what have you done with the talent I have given you, I want to be able to say, I have not hidden it in the ground, but have stewarded the talent well. It’s this kind of ‘do better’ I mean.
Here are a few things I learnt from and especially liked about the book. Do not feel pointless when trying to write something or produce something. I might feel that no one cares about what I write. But ‘all I have to do is tell about my Lord and my God’. There are many ways he intentionally serves the audience on the stage and in the albums, many of which I would like to steal and make use of in my Bible study groups and seminars too. There is a very moving chapter about the art community and their spirit of togetherness. When he was dropped by the music company on the phone, he said:
“It was God’s kindness to me that I was not only in the middle of a project and had so much work to do that there was no time to wallow in self-pity, but I was surrounded by friends, by community, by people who told me implicitly by their involvement in my life and work that this was still worth doing, label or no label. It felt so good to walk back into that basement (after the phone call), roll up my sleeves, and try to craft an album about Jesus.”
Hope you enjoy the book as much as I did!