Saturday, November 18, 2017

Needtobreathe: Difference Makers

{A Not-Writing-Related Ramble.}

This year I went to my first Needtobreathe concert.

Let me preface this whole post, for those who are not in the know, with a bit of context: I love this band a heckin bunch. Out of all the artists I listen to, they are my favorite. I love the band members, I love their songs, their music fits like a piece of my soul and it’s so good it aches. Okay. Glad to get that off my chest, now here's the rest:

My first concert with them was a spectacular experience. They rocked. They were amazing. The night was brilliant.

Being a Christian myself, I love following a band who is so unabashedly Christian without concerning themselves with fitting into a nice little label. They would get more airplay if they didn’t write any songs about Jesus, or more airplay elsewhere if they only wrote songs about Jesus. Instead, they write about life and their own journeys and struggles and emotions, and their faith is part of the package, and it all rings as beautiful and solid and relevant and true.

Standing in a room full of other people, we were all rocking out. Singing, screaming, clapping, grinning. Songs like “Great Night” and “Brother” and “Happiness” were naturally real hits. The anthems rang through the theater.

And then they played some other songs, songs like “Something Beautiful” and “Testify” and “Washed by the Water” and… you could feel it. Something changed. Something was off. You could feel the disconnect.

Don’t get me wrong.

Everyone was still cheering. Still grinning, still singing their lungs out with the band, still just as enthusiastic. But the atmosphere was uncertain, a little lost, like someone in the room had lost the beat. And you could physically feel it, in the undertow, under the lyrics. That roomful of people, hundreds of us packed in together…. and most of them had no idea what we were singing or why.

 It wasn’t jarring enough to keeping me from enjoying the concert, but it was definitely weird, and thoughts of it stuck with me. Mostly, it was this question: did the band feel that too? Up there on the stage, all in lights, the stars of the hour - did they feel the importance of their words falling without being caught?

A few days after the concert, and still riding that high, I was listening to my Needtobreathe albums and, among a host of their brilliant songs, came across the one called “Difference Maker.”

I confess, I did a double-take. I had to stop what I was doing for a minute.

See, I thought I had known what the song meant. And I was close, but I didn’t really get it until now, until having that concert experience. This is what the chorus says:
He walks on up the hill to the rock on which he stands
He looks back at the crowd
He looks down at his hands and he says
I am a difference maker.

Oh, I am the difference maker
Oh, I am the only one that speaks to him
And I am the friendliest of friends of God …

There is a desperate kind of loneliness to this song, and in large part it’s about the band members drifting apart themselves, but there’s also more. Because they know of something more, something greater than them, that they are reaching for. As with anyone else, it must be discouraging to know that sometimes you’re not getting through, and you’re alone in the room, and you have to remind yourself why you’re there.

They know. The band has felt what I felt that night.

In a roomful of partiers, who are all having a good time but not understanding, imagine knowing about that disconnect and singing these words:
I have felt the fire be put out by too much gasoline
and most starkly:
So if you’re beating death then raise your hand but shut up if you’re not
Guys, I love this band so much, having seen their success and their shortcomings, their moments of triumph, and the time not so long ago they almost called it quits. I respect them and love their music in a way I can't express with words. They are Outsiders and Difference Makers, and calling us to join them, to sometimes stand alone in the crowd and be the one to say the words no one else may understand.

I would encourage you to pray for the artists, celebrities, and performers you know who are also living out a life of faith. It can’t be easy to stand on a stage.

Let’s always let them know that we are with them, supporting them, but that - most importantly - they are not alone in their faith.
Oh, I am the difference maker
Oh, I am the only one that speaks to him
And I am the friendliest of friends of God.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Writing Inktober ~ Days Three: "Poison" & Four: "Underwater

yeah I'm cheating and doing two prompts for one piece.
"Poison" ~ "Underwater"

Fear. Sickness. It washed, crashed, flashed, and flooded. Over her head, into her nose and crawling down her throat.


She couldn’t move.

There was nothing she could do.

It was an age-old poison, so old it had no memory and no beginning. It came before understanding, before knowledge, before guilt. But they followed, all of them, like boundless waves, and she couldn’t surface. Salt in the water, she couldn’t quench her thirst, yet she drank the poison down again.

The poison was a chasm, it filled and it deepened and she couldn’t escape, couldn’t surface.

Could there be any hope? There was only fear.

The poison was in her blood, she couldn’t scrub it off her skin, she couldn’t cough it up, she couldn’t clear her lungs to breathe again.

Under, under, under.

Where was the antidote?



The poison in her veins throbbed, and the seas around her quaked. There was a new fear, not in her, but in them. Fear of discovery. Fear of being known.

Lightning again. Electric, brilliant, stabbing, illuminating.

All she wanted was for it to strike, to chase away the water, and to kill the poison in her.

Something was churning the tides. Something was beating the waves. Wind, a great wind. Air. She wanted so much to breathe again. She was almost gone.

The poison was like lead, it was an anchor, and it dragged her down. Down, deep, plunging. The surface was a dream. No wind could free her from underwater.

She curled in on herself, understanding the poison, understanding the cause. Fear, helplessness. The salt in her tears met no friend in the salt of the sea.


She could not even whisper.


The wind. She needed the wind. It had been seeking her, but could she still be found?

Inside her the poison tightened, around her the water swirled. It went faster and faster, she couldn’t see, she was almost gone. But the water still moved, and it moved as if by some other force, some other storm, a storm that raged beyond it, a storm that was above it.

And the wind found her.

Out from the undertow, away from the current, she was pulled, she was lifted, she was pushed.
The waves, the salt, the ocean, it broke away from her face.

The poison, the deepness, the weight, she felt it drawn out of her veins, out of her lungs like the water.

And air.

Warm, soft, sweet air.

It filled her.

Sand under her feet, the waters only lapping at her heels, the poison lost under their foam, somewhere in the reefs.

She was ashore. She breathed again. And she could feel the tears on her face as they fell. Here was hope, here was the antidote.

She was found.

 Well, this is a little dark, but here we are. Thanks for reading, good luck with all your writing!

Writing Inktober ~ Day Six: "Sword"

(technically finished on the 7th by calendar times, but I'm an overnighter, so??)

My father was iron and I was clay.

A warrior, cold as snow and sharp as stars, his sword wore the blood of its crusades, held in his ever-steady hands. Solid hands. Hard hands. As a child I learned that the warrior had fire in his veins, and the swordsmith had iron in his bones, and the father had a hammer beating in his heart. 

I would plant my feet, I would dig my hands in the earth, I would walk in the wheat fields while it rained. He would ride the hills as sentinel, or fill his forge with the smoke of a long-slumbering dragon. His swords were feared and his work was prized.

Eleven summers of youth I lived before he took me by my shoulders and looked me straight on. “Ride with me,” he said. And I rode. We rode fast and sure, to a high plain where he showed me the city in the distance and a black line I did not understand on the other side, and the hooves of our horses trampled the harvest as we passed. “We will not let an enemy have it,” my father said. “What is not gathered, we will burn.” A tear betrayed me as I nodded and my voice could not be lifted to agree.

My father was a man and I was a boy.

The summer ended and brought with it the death of many things: an old man who once wore the crown, fields whose bounty would not be stolen, the black line across the hills that then bled out into a black sea in the valley, and many hands that raised my father’s swords and would never rise again. The army had come for my homeland and my father’s forge was always hot.

Winter came and winter fled. The cold and white of a season could not outlast the wrath of war. Years could not defeat it, and my father still stood tall. I grew at paces in his shadow, but I could not match the master that he was, and my heart remained too tender, my hands were rendered too fine; I could not even lift his shield. I grew taller but I grew quiet, for no man’s voice could break the battle, and I did not cry again. I became the messenger, while my father led, and struck, and harried, and his bellows went cold.

My father became a captain, and I became a thief.

Homeland we would not desert, and no invader could pass our lines. I stole from them their horses, their food, their weapons, and their messages. The earth knew the feel of my footsteps and swallowed their noise in silence, and the horses knew my smell and did not stir when I was near, and my fingers knew the touch of every bag, sheath, and tent. What I learned and what I took, I returned to my captain, my father, and he would send for a messenger to go back behind the lines, he would give away and sell our enemies’ supplies. And my father, made of iron, would consider me. He said, “This work is almost finished.” I thought he spoke of war and I breathed a little lighter.

There came one night when the mist was like smoke, and the campfires burned red, and the constellations were flint, and the enemy struck. They surrounded and attacked us, and the black sea crashed and flooded over our heads. I swam through men; I couldn’t breathe, as if held down underwater. Ally and enemy, no one touched me: they saw a boy, when they were looking for men. We rallied and we fought back, and my father’s men – all iron – turned back the black midnight tide, winning the battle for the valley.

But their captain was in my arms, his sword fallen like a comrade at his side, and I held him. The hammer of his heart ceased, the fire in his veins met the sweet grass and faithful earth, and just like the sound of my spying and stealing, it covered his fire in silence. I was clay. I was a boy. But death… iron and might and death. They were now the thief.

In the seventh autumn we beat them, had them harried until they broke and the black sea of soldiers was a trickle as it filed away, finally past the valley and the hill and the plain. Homeland was a home once more.

My father died in battle and I lived to see a new king.

Our lord called to him those who served, and I went to present my father’s arms. I bowed my head, and my father’s blade I set down at his feet. Stained and bent and clotted, nicked and dull and used. “I cannot be for the army a warrior, and I have no skill with blades, as the war came before I was ready, and my father and I are not one.” The king asked then what it was that I would offer to my home and to my liege, and all I could say was what I had always known: “I am not iron,” I said. “I am steel.” 

The king whose eyes had seen but half the winters his swordsmith had, yet shared the pain I knew, placed a youth-soft hand on my shoulder, and spoke: “Then sit beside my generals and behind my queen. I find myself seeking council, and you will be a weapon there.” He lifted my father’s weapon from the stone, and it looked again magnificent in his hands, as though no enemy had ever touched it, and its only purpose was to furrow fields in spring. The king bade me to stand and there was a wisdom to his expression, like a young raven who has found out he has wings. “You understand this war has tempered us: I am steel, too.”

From that day onward to the setting of the sun on my oldest summer, I was a sword outside the armory, and I thrust in words and wiles. I still sometimes walked the fields of wheat, under full moons and clouds of rain. I remembered when the fields were blackened, ash husks of crops crumbling beneath my boots, and I understood, I think, my father, for the first and only time. While I was clay, he was iron, and we had lived like sun and moon, chasing after each the other, without ever seeing we were there.

Or maybe it was only the boy who was blind, and the master always knew. For, after all:

My father was made a swordsmith, and I was made a sword.

And there you have it, my first actual Write Inktober bit. Hopefully I'll be posting more, and going back to snag some of the prompt days I've missed! Thanks for reading, and happy writing!