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Album #10 & The Garden Of Wonder

December 17, 2015 — Jon Foreman

"My grandma used to say that there are a few things you're not supposed to talk about at a party: sex, politics, and religion. And yet, these topics are the ones I sing about night after night."

My grandma used to say that there are a few things you’re not supposed to talk about at a party: sex, politics, and religion. And yet, these topics are the ones I sing about night after night. I can sing painfully honest songs in front of a thousand strangers easier than I can talk about these things with my closest friends. It’s odd, and I wish it weren’t true- but it is.

We all have holy cows. Unmentionables. Darker elements of our live that we protect from the practical questions of the real world. It might be a parent who drinks too much, or a friend who has a hard time keeping a job. Or worse yet, maybe it’s my own issues and problems. These are the places I’d rather avoid- they’re painful, vulnerable, and awkward. But diving into these places of tension can be the beginning of a beautiful transformation. These dark spots are also incredibly fertile soil for songwriting. And sometimes the song can be the first step towards change.

"Sing about your deepest fears. Don't pull punches. Swing as hard as you can. You're not alone."

Fertilizer doesn’t smell good. It’s not the kind of thing you’d ever want to dive into. And yet, the rank stench of feces gives way to the sweet smell of flowers. Music has the same power: the song can craft something elegant and true out of the rotting death of the present and the past. Ironically, the new life feeds on the decaying bones of the old. It’s a necessary evil for growth and beauty and transformation.

I’ve often thought of The Maker as an incredible songwriter- making something beautiful out of the pain. And I believe that he’s still in business: re-making, re-deeming, re-leasing, re-newing. There is no church building that could possibly contain a God like that. Nothing is out of bounds. Which means none of my thoughts, questions, fears, or failures are out of bounds. The curtain has been torn forever. I am the temple of the Living God. Me. This dark mess of pride, lust, and apathy- I am the arms and feet of Christ? Truly astounding.

And yet, I don’t always act this way. When it comes to religion I tend to play with the kid gloves. Not just with my songs either- in my thought life I tend to act as if God couldn’t take a punch. What kind of a God do I believe in? If he’s not big enough for my doubts and fears and shortcomings then he’s not God after all. Robert Frost said, “The best way around is always through.” And he’s right. “Don’t run away,” I tell myself, “Face the dark places.”

A while back I had the privilege of meeting one of my musical heroes. He gave me some songwriting advice that I will never forget. “God doesn’t need a lawyer,” he said, “Your job is to be honest.” I need these reminders more than anyone. That which is hidden is empowered. So bring it to light. Face your shortcomings. Sing about your deepest fears. Don’t pull punches. Swing as hard as you can. You’re not alone.

"God doesn't need a lawyer," he said, "Your job is to be honest."

Categories: Studio

  • Nate Fox

    So excited for this new album!

  • Josiah Jung

    can’t wait for #10

  • Eric Boucher

    Jon, I’ve followed your music and thoughts since Chin and LOVE the direction yo’re taking in life right now. It’s SO encouraging for so many of us even if we don’t have the privilege of knowing you personally.

    Thoughts late at night:

    Maybe when it comes “to religion”, it’s that very idea which makes it so temptingly easy to “handle with kid gloves.” When there’s this thing: this “religion”, that’s not actually, in real terms in reality the fiber, the makeup, the material of which you are made–your redemption being the all in all identity we consist of as His redeemed–when your religion can be outside you, or separate from that for which you were reborn, then you’ve bought the lie. I’ve bought the lie. The lie that there’s any discernible difference any more. He redeemed me through and through and I belong to Him. So my identity doesn’t exist outside the meaningfulness of the redemption and eventual exaltation by the one who upholds the universe by the word of His power. Society and the world is swept up in defining identity of so many stripes, what a glorious thought to know to whom I belong, and by whom I am defined.

    So then the lie is: If the Lion of Judah can be handled with kid gloves, I’m playing with a neighborhood cat in a lion suit.

    The lion of Judah needs no defending. You don’t defend a real lion, you let it out of the cage and it takes care of itself just fine. He simply needs to be un-caged by faith in His ability to work gloriously through His instrument–this “dark mess”.

    Peter’s sinking on Galilee is SO poignant in that regard. Jesus rebuked him, “You of little faith. Why did you doubt?” Peter had just chosen to get out of the boat, himself, in a storm, and had volunteered. Raging storm, deadly storm. “I’m afraid! I’m overwhelmed! It’s dangerous! There’s a GHOST!” says the soul. And Jesus answers with a commanding reassurance….”DO NOT BE AFRAID.” WHY?

    Too often we hide our unbelief and unwillingness to trust Him amidst the storm behind the poorly constructed veneer of a western piety.

    There’s something entirely different in Moses’ interactions with God in the tent of meeting, in Jesus’ pleadings with the Father, in the searching of the soul in Isaiah and Job…I imagine these qualify as “swinging hard” type behavior.

    They’re like a widow pleading their case!!! Give me JUSTICE!!! Be true to your GOODNESS!! The Egyptians will say you brought them out to slaughter them in the desert!!! Do glorious things and help me to trust you are GOOD even if I can’t understand how this is supposed to be glorious!!

    • Helen

      Well said! God is totally big enough to handle our questions 🙂

  • Anne-Marie

    So grateful for your life, ministry and honesty. We will be in Bellingham to see the band!

  • Gail Eby Sease

    Love your constant honesty and authenticity.

  • MMM

    Thank you for sharing your gifts that God has given you! Your music and encouragement has meant so much to me as I have struggled to help our 15 year old daughter with depression and self harm. Her faith has come full circle in the process! I often share with her your words, her response is usually – “he is soooo deep :)”

  • Joyce Towkan Makar

    Can’t wait to hear this album and see what your tour schedule is this year. Miss seeing you guys.

  • Tarek Grez

    That’s what God wants, REAL people

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