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The Land of the Living September 24, 2012

Posted by markgeil in Music, Philosophical musings.

[Upon returning from Hutchmoot, the annual gathering of folks from The Rabbit Room to celebrate music and writing and all things bright and beautiful.]

This guy named Andrew Peterson said this guy named Frederick Buechner said something that really resonated with me, that spoke to my eternal soul, but I can’t remember what it was.

The abundance of Hutchmoot means that words and moments of sublime wisdom fall all around me like shavings from a whittler’s knife, such that I forget more brilliance in one long weekend than I’ve remembered all year. I feel like Rich Mullins when he sang, “There’s so much beauty around us for just two eyes to see.”

My “dream session” happened on Saturday morning this year. The aforementioned Andrew Peterson, as gifted a singer-songwriter as I have known, and Ben Shive, who possesses a preternatural musical intellect, were discussing the life and music of the similarly aforementioned Rich Mullins, the name I fill in the blank beside “All-time favorite musician”. Stoked, I was.

At the appointed hour I made my official photographer rounds to each session and landed at Rich-fest. Which is to say I landed near Rich-fest. The little chapel room was full. The doorway was full. I was three-deep outside in the foyer, straining to listen. I actually cocked my head to one side like a curious dog hoping the scant soundwaves might better land in my ear.

What I heard was like the fragmented call of a one-bar cell phone. A couple of audible sentences would thrill me – this really was AP and Ben talking Rich! – and then the whole room would laugh warmly at a statement I did not hear. I heard the start of a discussion about the elusive lyrics of “Land of my Sojourn”, and then someone in the foyer ordered some sort of frothy coffee that made all kinds of noise.

Standing just outside the room, forlorn and frustrated, I was suddenly reminded of my place in this fallen world. I don’t intend to deify Andrew and Ben and Rich, but in that moment they represented a glimmer of the Divine. The conversation in that chapel was something I desired because it spoke, in my language, of the beauty and mystery of the Creator and His Heaven. And I couldn’t hear it all because of an untimely cappuccino. I was a Mullins mendicant wandering off toward a cathedral, aching for the glory inside, stuck at the door.

Then, someone left. And none of my fellow mendicants moved to claim the empty seat. So I did. I took my place inside, where I could hear every word. I was no longer an eavesdropper, but a participant. And then Ben started playing a familiar hammered dulcimer part on his keyboard, and Andrew sang, “Well the moon moved past Nebraska and spilled laughter on them cold Dakota hills.” And then my fellow participants and I started singing along, in that infinity-part harmony that only seems to happen at Hutchmoot. And I felt the thunder, and I saw the Lord take by its corners this old world, and He shook me free to run wild with the hope.

I am home now, and Hutchmoot is past. In some ways I’ve left the chapel again, and I am back in the foyer where cars are double-parked and noisy televisions make their political noise. But I have learned that though we toil on this side of Heaven until eternity, though we are soiled and temporal, the doors to glory are not barred. We might be butterflies, fluttering frantically amidst the fumes of a grimy gas station, but by the grace of God we are butterflies nonetheless, and loftier breezes and cleaner air are in our skies.

I am determined to seek the glorious, and to seek it often.

“I am certain that I will see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.”

Psalm 27:13



1. Brenda Branson - September 24, 2012

Mark, wasn’t it fantastic to share space in that small room and sing Rich’s songs together, led by Andrew? As intoxicating as that was, my mind conjured up the time when we will all gather from the ends of the earth in the new Kingdom to come, where Rich will be teaching us the new songs of redemption he has written along with his pals Moses and David. But then we’ll be interrupted by the sounds of the sweetest love song being sung to us. The Voice Bible explains: “The Eternal your God is standing right here among you, and He is the champion who will rescue you. He will joyfully celebrate over you; He will rest in His love for you; He will joyfully sing because of you like a new husband.” (Zeph. 3:17)

And instead of aching for the glory to come, we will be welcomed to join the celebration and the party will go on forever!

2. ebransom - September 25, 2012

I found the link to your blog at the Rabbit Room. I am so glad I followed it. Your blog and Brenda’s comment fed my dry and weary soul and left me “longing for home”. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.

3. Peter Brunone - September 25, 2012

Ah, you hit it. I wish I could have made that session (and about five others), but we each were given what was right and necessary. Your last line (pre-Psalm) wonderfully encapsulates what I took away from the weekend.

4. Jade Payne - September 25, 2012

Love this! Excellent words, Mark. I appreciate you!

5. julie silander - September 30, 2012

Mark – That crowded room was one of my favorite memories as well. I love the picture you paint here – “aching for the glory inside” indeed.

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