A Thank You

It was dinner. With a cow outside the window. In downtown Meridian.

cow at ricks

Bessie is on a trailer and her ears are in the back of the truck; that’s another story in itself. That giant cow set the stage for encouragement from a friend to post a thank you letter that perhaps more than one person would like to see. My friend says the letter has a story beyond gratitude to a talented artist. Her reasoning:

“The letter deeply and intimately expresses who you are … while this is certainly a thank you to Chris Rice, it’s also a commentary on your spiritual growth over the last 17 years. In that sense, I think you should post it to your blog…. It may just start some wonderful conversations about how music is transformational and so often the only way we hear and accept God’s voice.”

So while it’s still today and in continuing pursuit of courage and watching God work in our hearts through transparency and story, and because saying thank you is a delight:

  • here is my thank you letter to Chris Rice
  • here is a picture of 17 years and more of trying to better know the Love Who Pursues Without Limit

Hi, Chris,

God’s invited me to write you a thank you note. I think he may not recall I haven’t written a letter to an artist I don’t know since Captain and Tennille, circa 1977. That was an opportunity to practice my cursive handwriting, share the important news that I had a Toni Tennille haircut, and gush over “Muskrat Love.”

Here’s praying this is less muskratty.

My gratitude is nearly 17 years in the making. The blessing of your words and music has been consistent through layers of God’s work in my life; the nuance and joy of them have evolved along with his reframing of my heart.

Buying Deep Enough to Dream made the CD player with the cassette tape adapter for my car the smartest purchase I’d ever made. “Clumsy” spoke more of my heart’s emotions and longing about him than I had ever put to words before, and I am a wordy girl. The songs on the album made me cry, laugh, reflect, and rejoice every time I listened or sang at the top of my lungs in my little Honda CRX.

My heart ached, though. Much as I wanted to trust and bask in the love, mystery, and longing depicted there and in so many other songs over the years to come, there was the seemingly immovable disappointment of being me; this had to be for others better at honesty with him and who knew something I didn’t about not blowing it as often (even if they said they kept stumbling after 30 years of practice). It was so disappointing to be me, how could I not be disappointing to him? I was incapable of not falling. Not failing. How in the world can I really fall a thousand times and he STILL wants to be near me? Rich emotion, depth of heart, and patient forgiveness were integral parts of my family life growing up, but I flavored everything I learned and studied over the years about God with the pervasive tone of “Don’t pursue or study God incorrectly … don’t let him down … you have to get this right, Kath.” Fear of not being smart enough in pursuit of him, of “getting it wrong,” always carried the day, always managed to steal the moments of reassurance that he cared about my heart, our hearts, as much or more so than he expected our obedience.

If the picture you have in your head is a hard-working, bring-more-good-to-the-world-in-his-name-out-of-gratitude-to-him functional Pharisee, that’s about right. A pretty exhausted Pharisee, who could quote applicable Scripture and get A’s in Old and New Testament Survey classes, but who couldn’t figure out what to do with the emotions brought on by grief, by poverty, by pain, by broken humanity. Except to tell my heart to be quiet and tell myself to get busy.

And in some of that busyness, in the moments when it was clear I was in way over my head and there was no way for Kathie to be smart and prepared enough to do the next thing he asked, your music was a comfort and a reminder; whether I was under a mosquito net in Africa, the gallery of a minaret in the Middle East, or colorful wiring dangling from an airplane ceiling in Central Asia, he was indeed not only mighty enough to see me through what he had brought me there to do, but loving enough. And it was likely going to be mysterious and feel strange and yet he was tickled about it and in reality I didn’t want to be anywhere else. You were a voice that traveled with me that said someone in the world both loved Jesus and was positing that the juxtaposition of all those things was okay.

Fresh layers of gratitude have come in recent years, seasons that brought completely unexpected stories (the central character in these life-spinning events being my 89-year-old grandmother). They have been the most emotionally wrenching years I have endured to date but also the most eye- and heart-opening to his love and why feeling it, not just quoting it, matters so very, very, very much. And I suddenly got why Chris Rice’s lyrics, music, and voice spoke to me deeply: truth and curiosity and wrestling and mystery and joy and longing and feeling were all there. The metaphors and imagery and honesty that fascinated and drew me previously were suddenly newly interwoven into experiences of God’s patient and delightful reassurance that he is indeed stunningly holy, unimaginably vast, incredibly personal, and poignantly tender.

I have joked for the past couple years that I am an either/or kind of girl and God is a both/and kind of guy. If we were going to go any further, one of us needed to come around in our thinking and relating. Thanks for being part of the story that helped me move closer to him and see the much richer shades of grown-up life than the black and white I had envisioned and expected for so many years.

Thank you, too, for sharing yourself and his reflection in you that helped me long for more of him before I had the words and emotions to express it. As Fred Gailey reminds us around Christmas each year, “… don’t overlook those lovely intangibles. You’ll discover those are the only things that are worthwhile.” As God continues to reshape my heart and mind in his love, I have the joy of experiencing your lyrics and music even more sweetly, more thoroughly, in more wholehearted love and rescue. Now they ring of the place where I can live in the center of his extraordinary love, and where he scoops me back up into his arms after every fall and fail. And he is delighted in me every time.

And many thanks for quoting Coleridge in your August 29, 2013 blog for me to divinely discover all those months ago, the night before I leaped with intentionality into a writing effort God and I have been going around about for a while. Coleridge’s “Human Life: On the Denial of Immortality” is my favorite poem, so it was like a getting a nudge of “Go on … deep breath …” from an old friend.

Blessings and joy,

Kathie

1 Comment

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One response to “A Thank You

  1. I remember talking with you on the phone about the writing of this letter; it’s intriguing to get to read it now.

    As always, your words are thoughtful and thought-provoking. I’m interested especially since music so rarely does speak to me in this way (though I’d posit–as Sarah suggests–that the music is really a jumping-off point for a lot of other thoughts and feelings. I have contemplated writing to actors, both on screen and voice performers, about similar shifts in my thoughts at particular performances. As usual, these are opportunities to look in the mirror at the reflections that the refracted light throws up for us to see. (If I tortured that metaphor any further, I’d be thrown into some literary prison, I’m certain.)

    And it’s delightful to see your writing again! Keep it up, only moreso!

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