Fading West

22 02 2014

Jon and Sam
Sam, Timberley, and I were in Lynchburg the last few days on a college visit for Sam at Liberty University. While we were there (and, privately, what prompted the visit in the first place), we saw Anna’s favorite band, Switchfoot. We never had the opportunity to see them with Anna, but have seen them three times now since we returned to the States. Each time we see them, it seems the show gets better.

Switchfoot had already became our family’s favorite band when we lived in Indonesia. We had their CDs A Beautiful Letdown (a gift from my brother), Nothing is Sound, and Oh! Gravity, as well as their first two CDs Legend of Chin and New Way to Be Human. I began to notice a difference in their lyrics from what we were used to hearing in today’s music. I still remember the day in our house in Semarang when I first heard the lyric to the song “More than Fine” from A Beautiful Letdown. “When I wake in the morning, I want to blow into pieces; I want more than just okay.” I knew at once that I needed to find out who these guys were. We were not disappointed.

Anna’s favorite song, I think, was “American Dream” from Oh! Gravity You can see in the photo below the colored hair bands she kept on her wrist. When I asked her one day if there was any significance to them, she smiled, looked at her brother, and sang out loud, “Red, White, Blue, and Gre-ee-een!” If you know the song, you’ll get it.
Beautiful Anna on Bike

Their songs took on a new meaning for us after Anna’s death. I began to notice more carefully the intense tragedy of much of their music. It became very clear to me that the songwriter, Jon Foreman, has experienced significant loss of his own. How else would he be able to write “Amy’s Song” or “Yesterdays”? Another aspect of his music that was already known to me, but which took on a new life, was the immense debt Foreman owed to C.S. Lewis. Foreman had obviously read much of Lewis and he understood him. He understood Lewis’s portrayal of our lives as being in the shadows, but that we will one day see things as they really are. This was captured most clearly in the song Switchfoot did for the second Narnia soundtrack, “This is Home.”

And they did it again on their latest album, Fading West. The last song, “Back to the Beginning Again” features this:
“I can feel it building up inside/The images that play inside my mind/The dreams that I’ve been dreaming all my life/The colors that live outside of the lines/But dreams aren’t all I hide beneath this skin/The cord is cut, the fears and doubts begin/My hope is anchored on the other side/with the colors that live outside of the lines.” Foreman understands that this life is not all we have. And it is not even what we might call the real life. It is a shadow of what is really real. Where the colors live outside the lines.

Anna would have loved the concert last night. Her favorite part, of course, would have been when Jon Foreman came out into the crowd, as he always does. Tonight, however, he stood right in front of her brother, Sam, and essentially sang another of her favorite songs, “This is Your Life”, to him. In the middle of the song, he borrowed Sam’s red sunglasses and wore them for awhile until he returned them to Sam and went back to the stage.

If you get a chance to see their Fading West concert, I would encourage you to see it. If you don’t know their music, it would do your soul some good to get to know it.


Time Well Spent

16 02 2014


I am listening to Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. It is an old record that I have which I have been able to lately listen to again thanks to Timberley’s Uncle Butch giving Sam an old portable phonograph. I guess that I never listened to any of my vinyl albums while Anna was alive. But I suspect she would have liked this album. The music is beautiful (if you like Russian Romantic era music–I have friends who don’t). Anna liked beautiful things. The music is big. It has a sense of adventure in it. But mostly she would have liked it because it was about Scheherazade. Anna knew the story of Scheherazade in the form of a book called Shadow Spinner. That book tells the story of Shahrazad, a young girl who creates new stories every morning. It is the story of a strong girl who becomes the heroine through her bravery and creativity. Anna probably never thought of herself as particularly brave, but she loved stories of heroines.

As I was listening to Rimsky-Korsakov, I thought I would peek into Anna’s room (our guest room where we keep many of Anna’s old things–Anna never lived in this house) and see if I could find the Shahrazad book. I couldn’t remember the title or what it looked like, so I was having to search through all of the titles on the shelf–and there are many. I finally saw Shadow Spinner written in a mildly Arabic-looking script and knew that I had it. I opened the well-worn pages. Anna was certainly not hard on books, but she read books many, many times. Hearing the story long ago of Shahrazad (Timberley and the kids used to read stories out loud) made me think of Anna. When I hear the music of Scheherazade now I am reminded of Anna.

Anna has been on our minds much lately. Today perhaps more so because of an unrelated milestone. We are celebrating Timberley’s 50th birthday today. As I searched Anna’s bookcase looking for that book, I had to look through many titles. Mixed into the shelf were some books that belong to Timberley about homeschooling and such. I saw the Children’s Herodotus (what is homeschool without reading Herodotus?). I began thinking of the long hours that Timberley spent on teaching the children. The books on this shelf represented an enormous investment that she made in the lives of our kids.

With our loss of Anna at such a young age, one might be tempted to say that Timberley had wasted those hours in school, preparing Anna for a future that never came to pass. Of course that is not true. I have heard of and know parents who have lost children at a point in life where the child is ready to move into adulthood and sprout their own wings. They are graduating from high school or college, or just getting married. The questions about what might have been, I’m sure, are devastating and would continue long in the parents’ minds. But that is not so much the case with Anna. Anna was meant to be a child. Not really that. It was almost as if she were already fully grown, or fully mature as a nine-year old. She was aware of the physical change that would begin to take place in her body as a teen-ager and she was terrified of it. She liked her physical age, but her mind had already far surpassed it. (Anna would be approaching her 15th birthday were she still with us. I cannot imagine her at that age. I have tried. I failed.)

So what did Timberley do in school with Anna? She prepared her to be a fully mature nine-year old girl. She built into her a godly character. She encouraged a love of reading and a love of God that created a thirst for God’s word and a passionate desire to be with the Lord. She now has her greatest desire.

So, Timberley, as you look back at your first fifty years and remember the things you have done and where you invested your life, I want you to remember the call that God placed on you to make disciples of your children. I want you to know that you prepared one of them very well, and she graduated at the top of her class. You have done well.