Sunday - always an amazing day. This time it was like I got to go to church twice. I actually think the James Taylor/Carol King concert in the evening was probably better because we'd enjoyed such a phenomenal morning with our faith community earlier in the day.
I've always been a JT fan. His songs tend to find that sweet spot in my soul, the lyrics are typically right on the money, and I try to emulate his guitar playing style. I've often joked that if I were to lead the praise band at church it would be an "if James Taylor had a praise band" kind of a sound.
So, when our friends hooked us up with some tickets earlier this week we were thrilled. We'd seen him at the same venue over a decade ago, but back in 1998 the acoustics were bad, the stage was set up at one end of the auditorium, and we were as far away as it's possible to be without being in the parking lot.
But this time everything worked. Second row, right by the stage. "In the round" with a rotating floor. Amazingly sophisticated acoustics - balanced and clear. Typically, I won't take a camera to a concert, but this time, knowing where we would be sitting, I made the effort and I'm glad I did.
We've never heard Carol King live before. We were blown away by her performance, energy, dynamic range, presence and powerful song-writing. Taylor sang back-up for her, she sang back-up for him, and they simply shared several songs such as "You've got a friend."
JT jokingly referred to his "Shower the people you love with love" as an "agnostic hymn". But I've sung it in church and I sense more belief in his music than he would be prepared to acknowledge.
In that regard what I wrote about the Rene Fleming concert (the world's leading operatic voice) held true once again. Music tells some of the story of eternity, regardless who is singing. JT and Carol King opened the window to heaven and let us enjoy a deep drink from the truth Sunday night. Our souls were fed.
Music has the power to bring so much to the surface. Faith, emotion, pain, joy, longing, satisfaction... I knew that, but was still surprised at how "You've got a friend" affected me. I've always loved the song, and have sung it in church more than once. It also became a favorite for me to play for Naomi to sing, and we had planned to do it together for her senior "Ambassador" solo at Bloomingdale High School - but things didn't go well that year and the performance was scrubbed.
So I did the song at her senior dinner at church - then Nathan McMillen performed You've Got a Friend for our father-daughter dance at her wedding. Tears, of course, every time. Later, Naomi sang it with me at a church fund raiser, just before she and Craig moved to Connecticut and - of course - people knew the story and she made the whole room cry.
All that came to the forefront when JT played the opening measure and offered the best rendition of the song - written by Carol King - I've ever heard. Not so much heard as experienced. And I couldn't help it, I cried the whole way through. Good tears. Tears of understanding the amazing scope of blessing I have - we have - as a family, and what it means to know without a shadow of a doubt that we are loved so deeply.... and unconditionally.
Bottom line, and this is a consistent theme in my life, I enjoyed an event that was not only first-rate, top-notch and state-of-the-art... but the experience was significantly enhanced by the state of my spirit.
I don't care what we're talking about: children, marriage, church, sporting events, beautiful scenery, gourmet meals, travel, art, history - or the most unbelievably awesome concert it's possible to attend. Everything is made more complete... more redemptive... when it is experienced consciously as a child of God. Forgiven, loved, free.
- Praise the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD (Psalm 150)
Happy Monday! This is going to be a great week - DEREK