In a way, I feel like I lost an old friend…and gained one…this week. And no doubt, both of the objects of my affection would be surprised at the news.
The “friend” I lost: Bebo Norman—a singer and songwriter who announced his decision to retire from the music scene after 2013, at ripe old age of 39.
Bebo has many Christian contemporary hits to his credit, but one in particular—“The Hammer Holds”—has long struck a chord in my soul.
It’s almost scriptural in its appeal: Just like a favorite passage from the Word of God, I can listen to Bebo’s song again and again…and pick out nuances or layers of meaning that I never noticed before. So it’s a great loss to know that he soon won’t be performing the song for live audiences anymore.
Ironically, it’s the very notion of familiarity and repetition that led to Bebo’s announcement. He told an interviewer, “There’s just something about singing the same songs every night…I always battled with the idea that, when you take something that’s very heartfelt and comes out of a very real place, and then it becomes something you have to perform over and over again, it somehow loses a little bit of its credibility [on a personal level]…I started hearing it so much that it made me doubt it…”
While I’m sorry to hear that Bebo is hanging it up, I think I admire him even more than I did before—precisely for this expressed desire of his to keep it real. Precisely for choosing NOT to just keep going through the motions.
Which brings me to the “friend” I found this week—Iris DeMent. The other day, I happened across a story about Iris and her new release “Sing the Delta.” It’s her fourth CD, but the first one she’s done in 16 years…so I guess it’s not surprising that her musical career escaped my notice prior to now.
That’s quite a gap, 16 years. And here’s what she said about it: “I kept trying to write, but there was just no life to it. And I didn’t feel like making a record that was just a bunch of songs that didn’t have life and spirit to them…”
After sampling a couple tunes from the new CD, I’ve decided that it was worth the wait: Songs like “There’s a Whole Lot of Heaven” and “The Kingdom Has Already Come” do stir my spirit and resonate in my soul. And they led me to another of Iris’ songs—one that’s quickly become a personal favorite: “Let the Mystery Be.”
So today, I find myself feeling grateful for gift of music that these two “friends” have poured out into my life. And beyond their songs, I realize that I’m grateful for their trust and patience, too.
It’s a profound witness, to know that people like Bebo and Iris listen to their hearts…and attend to the stirrings of the Spirit that they encounter there. It’s perhaps the most difficult spiritual gift to acquire—the ability to be still, to let God’s wisdom come to you, rather than trying to force things on.
It would appear that (in some cases at least), “Still” can provide a fruitful alternative to “Will”.