I am at this stage of life where live music is my favorite tune. There are other things that make me tick right now too— loving the rain, loving people, loving the Lord—but live music especially is a new appreciation I am beginning to trip head over heels for. There is so much youth and vitality and unity in hearing people spill their hearts out on a stage, and standing among thousands as you rock along to the beat. Sometimes it looks like buying a ticket and finding a seat, and other times it means scoping out a free show and throwing your rag-tag Indian blanket on the grass. But all the time, it means hearing these tunes in a way that can’t be found in a set of headphones or on a Pandora station. And it is so exciting, guys.
I will never forget the first time I heard of the band Needtobreathe. I was at summer camp, watching the pictures slideshow for the day, and their hit “Something Beautiful” played. At that point in my life, I had just made the biggest decision I could ever pray and was on absolute fire for something beautiful. The lyrics resonated in me, and I instantly become a fan, listening to their music for a little over two years now.
When I found out earlier this past summer they were set for a performance at an amphitheater here in the outskirts of Nashville, I knew I wanted to go. Every piece of me—except my internal checkbook—wanted to go. But, as I made my desires known and sought open doors, a way was made for me to be there (this is a cool story. Pm for the details.)
So, that’s where I was when I bought these two tickets and invited my younger cousin to join me for an adventure that would turn into her first concert experience. She and I showed up with the Indian blanket that hangs out in my car, sprawled it across the grass among thousands of others, and took selfies as we waited for the show to begin. Guys, I was so stoked to bring her with me. And there was something so special when we leapt to our feet as the music began to sound…
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As the opening chords sounded, my heart jumped in nearly perfect rhythm. With the lyrics and familiar tune beginning to fill the space between us all in the crowd, I found my voice being lifted up among those around me. And as I sang along and my imagination ran wild, I knew.
I knew what radiance brighter than the sun looked like and how much more valuable this life is– even more than diamonds. More than the most sparkling, shimmering, lovely diamonds. I knew the overwhelming comfort of being found even in my wandering, and fanning a wild fire deep within the thickness of my soul. I knew what it meant to live for that fire and to desire to build this world up with that fire. I knew Mercy and Sweet Love, and to want so badly to surrender to a greater design. I knew what it meant to beg for more of such a good thing. And, as my hand joined the hundreds around me in reaching high above our heads, I knew what it felt like to feel the words, “May this offering stretch across the sky // these hallelujahs be multiplied.”
The Heart //
I grappled with the somewhat familiar opening verse until the chorus finally came along: “long live the heart, long live the soul that knows what it wants // that piece you can find, that part is the whole, and it never lets go.” This was the tune—“The Heart”– that is fun. That is it. Just fun. But not fun in the way that makes you awkwardly chuckle just for the sake of filling the silence; this is the fun that inspires your heart to make a move. To do something big and crazy. To know your heart and how to make it live in harmony with your soul. To find that piece of yourself that does hold on and makes you tick. This is the fun of discovering such a cool creation that has been woven in you, and rolling up your chambray sleeves, double knotting your vegan wrap skirt, and tightening your Chacos, to dig in and leap off this cliff. This is about finding who you were created to be—oh the limitlessness of such a thought— and the entire time singing, “whoooa // whooooa// whoooa!”
Difference Maker //
Just earlier during the day, I heard “Difference Maker” for the first time. And I thought it was about me. Seriously. I prided myself, “because of this path I have chosen, I am a difference maker.” I read comments on Youtube about this song about people’s confusion, and found my confusion among theirs. One person even went so far as to observe the astronaut theme and laugh– I imagine– that religion and science cannot exist together (this is a totally different topic that I would love to expound on in a more one on one setting, if you’re up for it.) And I found that I was among the questioners.
But, as I heard the sweet tune resound from the stage, I listened to the words and I heard something that I couldn’t on the web. I heard about calling into darkness, about brokenness, about free will—these things I know all too well. I heard about being given an extraordinary amount of life, and allowing it to slip through dirty, dirty hands. This, too, I know all too well.
I also heard about climbing, looking down, and speaking into the silence. This time though, I heard what He was speaking: “I am a difference maker // Oh I am the only one who speaks to Him // Oh I am the friendliest of friends of God.” And I pictured the bravest man to ever walk this earth standing on a hill. I pictured Him looking down on the multitudes of people He loved with such a fervent heart, and then looking at His not yet pierced hands, and saying with all the joy and solemnity of the world: I am a difference maker because through me, they will know Him. And in the bridge, I picture the very Gospel in my Bible and the spouts with all the Pharisees coming alive. I hear the very people He came to save doing a whole lot of mocking, testing, and pushing the very limits that He created. Then, I hear this man responding in the most certain and assertive tone and calm tone, “We are all transgressors, we’re all sinners, we’re all astronauts, so if you’re beating death raise your hand, but shut up if you’re not.” And I picture the hate subsiding. I hear the silence as this Man stands in victory so that we, too, might know the victory. And I see the crowds look at Him in awe and longing for the difference that this Man brought. The difference maker.
“Yeah, in this wasteland where I’m living, there is a crack in the door filled with light / and it’s all that I need to get by // yeah, in this wasteland where I’m living, there is a crack in the door filled with light / and it’s all that I need to shine.”
I did not know this song prior to the concert. But, it didn’t take long for me to find the chorus and join the voices around me in agreeing, “Oh, if God is on my side, then who can be against me?” The beautiful thing about these lyrics is they are a special reflection about the motivation that spun the song into motion. As a soft tune sounded, the lead singer, Bear Rinehart, shared the testimony of both the song and the album. He said something that sounded like this: “The band had reached a bad place. And there was a point when we really didn’t think it would continue. It was a wasteland, and that’s what we wanted the album to be named. But at some point in the midst of all of this, we realized that there was a light. There was a reason to be hopeful and to keep fighting. There was a river in the wasteland, but it was also a light in the wasteland. So we kept going.”
I hope that if you choose to listen to this song, I hope you hear the same brokenness that I do. I hope that you feel yourself in those words at Calvary, at a Great Divide, at a place of losing youth. Feel yourself replacing greatness for blindness and falling slowly. Wishing people are just as broken as you and basking in the hurt in that. But, as images and words and moments flash through your mind—a dirty, dirty reflection of your own wasteland—I hope you see a light. I hope that you see a small sliver of light at the end of the hallway that illuminates this dark hallway we’re in, and walk towards it. I hope that you know that even in the midst of these things that tear us down in this dark and damp and stank place, there is a light begging to build us up.
And I hope you stare at it in utter curiosity, and then as it holds your gaze, I hope you pick up your feet and walk towards it. And know that on the other side of that is a room where not a single shadow is cast. Where the windows are open, and as the curtains move in sync with the wind, the birds outside sing a chorus not a note out of tune. I truly hope that in the midst of this life, you always notice the light in dark places and absolutely run towards it. Heart pounding, feet as heavy as whales, and an innate desire to live in a great work, just run. Because here’s the thing: nothing about this life is designed to be in vain or useless or without an awesome purpose. And that’s what that Light is screaming at us.
I hope that you’re so overwhelmed by such thoughts that your hand reaches your chest, as your thumping heart beat, beat, beats, reassuring you that you are here, you are alive, and you are kicking.
More Heart, Less Attack //
As the concert began drawing to a close with what we thought was the final song, Alannah and I navigated through the crowd with my rag-tag Indian blanket in hand. We were nearly to the steps when the strumming of a new tune began to play, and I immediately stopped. Dead in my tracks in the middle of the standing crowd. As these simple words rose to the skies, my eyes made its gaze upwards. And for the first time all night, I saw this vast sky glowing with an innumerable amount of stars. Glittering, twinkling, mesmerizing stars. As I stood on these few blades of grass beneath the never-ending sky, I closed my eyes and wanted nothing more in that moment than to be a tiny thread woven through a limitless tapestry. To impact. To love. To see. To be so invested in a moment that it leaves you nerve-shaking wonder, and saying, “Dude, yes. Let me be that light and let me be one quick to laugh. Let me hold twice the heart they tell me I should. Please let me. Please let me live in those things.”
And all the while, the catch sang, “I stuck my hat out, I caught the rain drops/ I drank the water, I felt my veins pop // I’m nearly sanctified, I’m nearly broken / I’m down the river, I’m near the open.”
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We left that night and hit up the McDonald’s drive thru. I dropped her off at her house, and then drove back home to where I crawled in bed and replayed everything in my head that was said during the night. I guess to those my little car passed on the way to and fro, it was just another ordinary night. And I guess in some ways it was. But to me, I had just been shot into the air riding on fireworks. I had once again been given the opportunity to see life and freedom and love and beautiful things lived out in such an out-of-the-box way, and I had gotten the chance to relish that with a beautiful soul I love dearly. It was full of youth and vitality and fun and pure thankfulness to hear grace in such a way; that’s something I pray I never grow tired of.
I hope that it’s on your list to go to a live performance sometime soon. For me, my world shaking performance was Needtobreathe. Their diverse range of human life in their music is empowering, and the talent they have to set it to a tune– and not just any tune, but a good tune– is beyond me. They rock, ya’ll. Maybe it’s not your groove, and that’s okay. I still hope you get that you give yourself the opportunity to watch people come alive, live for bold ways, and share a beat with those around you. I hope you go out of your way to love on someone, and seek to do the thing that makes your heart tick.
And, of course, I hope that you fall so crazy in love with a moment that you sing and dance and raise your hands, and then retell it in no less than 2240 words.
P.S. Follow the link to check out the Needtobreate Youtube channel. I only chose a few of my favorites to write about from the evening, which is so unfair compared to the rest of their work because It’s all so good. Check out some of their other work and let me know what you think!