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Murfreesboro Awakenings

Many thanks to the fine folks at Trinity UMC in Murfreesboro, TN last night for hosting me a second time. This was originally scheduled to be a show this past December, but one I had to cancel due to a severe cold, possibly the flu, the first I’ve ever had to cancel on account of illness. They were kind enough to let me reschedule, and though it was a small-ish crowd (apparently it was graduation night across the land), Paul Eckberg and myself were able to make some music that I felt came off sounding fairly decent considering we were both getting over (more) various sicknesses ourselves and hadn’t played or practiced together in nearly a year. Paul is absolutely tremendous and is the consummate professional musician, ever prepared and as tasteful in his playing as the summer day is long. It’s nice to have utter confidence in the musicians one occasionally gets to play music with. I don’t get to do it often enough, but I do love playing music with Mr. Eckberg. Also, many thanks to Stephen of the SPAdotnet who showed up to support myself, Paul and Chris Lee. Please be kind in your assessment, Stephen.

On the 40-minute drive home, I tried praying, but quickly realized I had no idea what to say since it felt like it had been so long since last I earnestly (and honestly) tried communicating with God.

I tried being quiet but my mind was wiry and busy. I said staggering things like, “I pray for…”, “I pray this, that….” and realized how stale it all sounded, how inhuman, how robotic. I could muster no flesh or blood or simple honest words to simply talk, one friend to another. So, in retreating response, I asked God to give me a thankful heart, while in the back of my mind I fully feared the very proposition: “What if having a grateful heart means having everything I cherish – the people AND the accumulated stuff – ripped away from me?” In no way do I want that to happen, so I sheepishly murmured the prayer, secretly hoping He wouldn’t hear it and might disregard it the way a sleeping cat ignores a buzzing housefly. How fearful and strange it is to be fearfully and wonderfully made. I doubt the prayer will be ignored.

I pulled up to the house at 10:03 pm and, after lugging in my gear, sat on the couch with Danielle, already 40-minutes into the 1990 film Awakenings (Robert DeNiro, Robin Williams). I’ve maybe seen this movie once before, probably circa 1990-91, but had forgotten the vast majority of the plot. There is one scene where DeNiro’s character, Dwayne, having awoken after 30 years of being in a nearly catatonic state (I’m unclear on the actual disease: Parkinson’s or encephalitis?), is courting a beautiful young lady who has been regularly visiting her own father in the sanitarium. This particular scene, Dwayne, who has been showing signs of his slow digression back into this unresponsive state after a summer of “awakening”, is in the cafeteria eating lunch with the red-headed woman. He is attempting to tell her he will never see her again and is saying his final goodbye. He stands to leave and offers her his hand to shake, himself trembling and ticking from the oncoming illness. She takes his hand but refuses to let go of it. She gets up from her seat to stand near him, takes hold of his other hand and proceeds to dance with him in the middle of the hospital cafeteria, a whitewashed room, with only the onlooking hospital staff, various patients and visiting families as witnesses. As she continues to press him close and dance, his spastic trembling subsides and he at last rests his head on her shoulders as the scene fades to black.

We hold so much dear, and yet let so much go. The touch of another human, so kind, so gentle, so caring, so compassionate, so purposeful, constitutes humanity as the beacon and image of an infinitely greater mercy. Combined in that movie scene and my post-concert drive home I was reminded of hope, how much of it I seem to have lost in my “adult” life with all the treading of responsibilities, the martyrdom of self, the threshing of grain, and how the presence of people, my wife and my son in particular, whom I need more than time itself, who are a salvation of sorts — a grace upon and within my world to keep me from losing hope altogether and to keep me from utter fear and shaking, to see in me someone worth saving, someone worth holding onto, worth touching and worth calming. I’ve never been much of a dancer, but, God, please give us thankful and awake hearts to hold so much dear, yet cling to what is worth clinging onto.

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