Word Seven / 2017 / Breath & Spirit / Dusti Jensen, Bryan Norton, Steve Whitby
Every songwriter has a process. Mine usually starts in my head; I hear a melody, some guitar and vocal parts, maybe even a full band. The best part is I’m almost always on a run, in the shower, or on the way to the mechanic. It’s the exception to actually be sitting down with my guitar. So I’ve gotten into the habit of “singing” the guitar and vocal melodies into the voice memo app on my phone. The playback is always “amazing”, if not a little awkward, as I listen back to these recordings and attempt to pull out the song that was running through my head. But, it works.
With Breath and Spirit, I distinctly remember this song introducing itself in my head mid-shampoo, and I fought hard to keep it there until I could get to my phone and a guitar. There was a bluesy grit to this one, and with Tenebrae coming up I was excited to share it with Steve and Dusti. Blues tones have a way of normalizing darkness and angst, making them easier to understand, at least for a few minutes.
Songwriting is so vulnerable. This is a perfect example of how, because now Bryan had to share that lovely little recording with Steve and I! When you co-write, you have to be able and willing to check your pride and surrender those unpolished, messy “doodles” of a song to another so that they can be colored in and shaded by someone else’s take on your picture.
I listened to Bryan’s rough recording on repeat one day as I drove dinner over to the Snelling’s after their daughter had just been born. I was instantly struck by the vulnerability it must’ve taken Bryan to share, but it was so good and made it so easy to visualize the rest. It was full of rough guitar parts, lots of humming and “doo doo doos” to place the “somewhat” melody, and at risk of sounding a bit crazy, I felt like I could hear the song in color. I knew how to shade in his doodle, if you will. So I wrote about those colors. The deep shades of purple and blue and crimson needed to be part of the content.
Our Scripture for word seven was Luke 23:46 : “Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.” As the bluesy sounds of Bryan’s guitar repeated in my car on the way home from the Snelling’s house, I wrote almost every lyric in my head, which is just as inopportune of a time as the shower! It was a pretty direct drive with only stop signs, so as I pulled into my garage, I just sat there in my car, kids still strapped in their seats begging to get out, and wrote everything down before I lost it.
I needed to capture Christ’s complete surrender. Surrender to the extent that he even makes death believe he has finally won. A surrender so intimate, he even offers and transfers his own breath into the lungs of death to give him a new beginning. I wanted the lyrics to feel like a taunt to death… like death is such a fool to do his victory dance, but because he’s a fool, he will. And yet, because this surrender is so entirely complete, isn’t his death and his breath in our lungs our new beginning too?
His surrender here changes everything. So as this bluesy seventh song encompasses Jesus’ last words, I hope you know death truly is a fool and sing along as we taunt him. And I hope you believe that your new beginning is found in Christ too.
Well maybe the sky
was a beautiful shade of purple
But I’m sure that his heart
felt every color of blue
And when death called his name
did he greet its face with a chuckle
Saying take me away
cause I know the joke is on you
Oh death, let me see you dance,
do your victory dance
because you can,
you are winning
Live it up, well you should live it up,
you should really give it all you got,
death is living
One last breath,
let me breathe it out,
cause my ending now,
is your new beginning
Have it all, you can have it all,
because you want it all,
you can even have
My breath in your lungs
Breath in your lungs
Well maybe the clouds rained down a dark shade of crimson
And when death made its move, maybe the air got so still
Saying take me away
calling me into its silence
Saying take me away cause I know you certainly will
You are winning
Death is living
Your beginning is
My breath in your lungs
My breath in your lungs (x4)