Posts Tagged ‘andy gullahorn’

I Will Find A Way – A Take On An Advent Monologue

December 7, 2015

Jason Gray is a contemporary Christian singer/songwriter who hails from the Twin Cities. Several years ago he read a Walt Wangerin Jr. short story titled, An Advent Monologue (very short – posted below) inspiring him to write a song about it.  “There is a remarkable chapter from Ragman called ‘An Advent Monologue’ about the mystery of the incarnation that is strange, poignant, and utterly beautiful. It has haunted me ever since the first time I read it with its story of an abused woman whose history and heartbreak have caused her to be suspicious of any kindness and resistant to love. The story is narrated by a Protagonist who is determined to gently break through her best defenses to heal and love her, and ultimately deliver her from the prison of her own misery,” Gray said.

Gray worked on the song for about six years before approaching his friend and fellow singer/songwriter, Andy Gullahorn for some help finishing the tune. Gullahorn read the Wangerin story and said, “don’t write this song, just make a copy of the story and give it to all of the people at your concerts. It’s the most beautiful story I’ve ever read – we’ll only destroy it.”
Gray persisted saying he thought the story needed to be translated into song. They did indeed write the song – it’s titled, “I Will Find A Way.”

Before you listen to the song, read the very brief short story. And then listen to their interpretation. Both are beautiful.

An Advent Monologue by Walter Wangerin Jr. (Ragman: And Other Cries of Faith (1987) © Walter Wangerin Jr.)

I love a child.

But she is afraid of me.

I want to help this child, so terribly in need of help. For she is hungry; her cheeks are sunken to the bone; but she knows little of food, less of nutrition. I know both these things. She is cold, and she is dirty; she lives at the end of a tattered hallway, three flights up in a tenement whose landlord long forgot the human bodies huddled in that place. But I know how to build a fire; and I know how to wash a face.

She is retarded, if the truth be told, thick in her tongue, slow in her mind, yet aware of her infirmity and embarrassed by it. But here am I, well-traveled throughout the universe, and wise, and willing to share my wisdom.

She is lonely all the day long. She sits in a chair with her back to the door, her knees tucked tight against her breasts, her arms around these, her head down. And I can see how her hair hangs to her ankles; but I cannot see her face. She’s hiding. If I could but see her face and kiss it, why I could draw the loneliness out of her.

She sings a sort of song to pass the time, a childish melody, though she is a woman in her body by its shape, a swelling at her belly. She sings, “Puss, puss.” I know the truth, that she is singing of no cat at all, but of her face, sadly, calling it ugly. And I know the truth, that she is right. But I am mightily persuasive myself, and I could make it lovely by my love alone.

I love the child.

But she is afraid of me.

~

Then how can I come to her, to feed and to heal her by my love? Knock on the door? Enter the common way?

No. She holds her breath at a gentle tap, pretending that she is not home; she feels unworthy of polite society. And loud, imperious bangings would only send her into shivering tears, for police and bill collectors have troubled her in the past.

And should I break down the door? Or should I show my face at the window? Oh, what terrors I’d cause then. These have happened before. She’s suffered the rapings of kindless men, and therefore she hangs her head, and therefore she sings, “Puss.”

I am none of these, to be sure. But if I came the way that they have come, she would not know me different. She would not receive my love, but might likely die of a failed heart.

I’ve called from the hall. I’ve sung her name through cracks in the plaster. But I have a bright trumpet of a voice, and she covers her ears and weeps. She thinks each word an accusation.

I could, of course, ignore the doors and walls and windows, simply appearing before her as I am. I have that capability. But she hasn’t the strength to see it and would die. She is, you see, her own deepest hiding place, and fear and death are the truest doors against me.

Then what is left? How can I come to my beloved? Where’s the entrance that will not frighten nor kill her? By what door can love arrive after all, truly to nurture her, to take the loneliness away, to make her beautiful, as lovely as my moon at night, my sun come morning?

~

I know what I will do.

I’ll make the woman herself my door-and by her body enter in her life.

Ah, I like that. I like that. However could she be afraid of her own flesh, of something lowly underneath her ribs?

I’ll be the baby waking in her womb. Hush: she’ll have the time, this way, to know my coming first before I come. Hush: time to get ready, to touch her tummy, touching the promise alone, as it were. When she hangs her head, she shall be looking at me, thinking of me, loving me while I gather in the deepest place of her being. It is an excellent plan! Hush.

And then, when I come, my voice shall be so dear to her. It shall call the tenderness out of her soul and loveliness into her face. And when I take milk at her breast, she’ll sigh and sing another song, a sweet Magnificat, for she shall feel important then, and worthy, seeing that another life depends on hers. My need shall make her rich!

Then what of her loneliness? Gone. Gone in the bond between us, though I shall not have said a word yet. And for my sake she shall wash her face, for she shall have a reason then.

And the sins that she suffered, the hurts at the hands of men, shall be transfigured by my being: I make good come out of evil; I am the good come out of evil.

I am her Lord, who loves this woman.

And for a while I’ll let her mother me. But then I’ll grow. And I will take my trumpet voice again, which once would kill her. And I’ll take her, too, into my arms. And out of that little room, that filthy tenement, I’ll bear my mother, my child, alive forever.

I love a child.

But she will not fear me for long, now.

Look! Look, it is almost happening. I am doing a new thing- and don’t you perceive it? I am coming among you, a baby.

And my name shall be Emmanuel.

Ragman: And Other Cries of Faith (1987) © Walter Wangerin Jr.

Here are the lyrics to the song…

I Will Find A Way
(Jason Gray / Andy Gullahorn)

At the end of this run down tenement hall
Is the room of a girl I know
She cowers behind all the dead bolt locks
Afraid of the outside world

So how should I come to the one I love?
I will find a way

Many thieves and collectors have used that door
But they only brought her shame
So she won’t even open it anymore
Still I will find a way

I could call out her name with love through the walls
But condemnation is all she hears
I could bust down the door and take her into my arms
But she might die from the fear

So how should I come to the one I love?
I will find a way, I will find a way
How should I come to the one I love?
I will find a way

No hiding place ever kept her safe
So she hides inside herself
Now to reach her heart the only way
Is to hide in there as well
I will hide in there as well

She gave up on love waiting for a change
But a change is coming soon
Cause how could she not love the helpless babe
Who is waking in her womb?

I found way, I found a way…

She’ll know I am coming before I am here
When she hangs her head she’ll see me there
And then when I come she won’t run away
All the beauty and joy will return to her face
And what of the loneliness? Now it is gone
Lost in the bond of a mother and son
Every sin that she suffered at the hands of men
Every single disgrace will be washed clean again
I will love her completely and when I am grown
I will carry her out of that tenement room
I am doing a new thing and soon you will see
I am coming among you and my name shall be
Emmanuel, Emmanuel

I Will Find A Way (Gullahorn version)

I Will Find A Way (Jason Gray version)

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“I Will Find A Way” is one of the most moving non-traditional Christmas songs I’ve ever heard

December 15, 2012

Andy Gullahorn and Jason Gray wrote a song titled , “I Will Find A Way.” The song tells the story of Christmas from a very unusual perspective — God’s. The song is based on a chapter from a book titled, Ragman and Other Cries of Faith (written by a New York pastor named Walter Wangerin Jr.) You can find the book for less than five bucks online — I encourage you to do so.

Jason Gray: “There is a remarkable chapter from Ragman called “An Advent Monologue” about the mystery of the incarnation that is strange, poignant, and utterly beautiful. It has haunted me ever since the first time I read it with its story of an abused woman whose history and heartbreak have caused her to be suspicious of any kindness and resistant to love. The story is narrated by a Protagonist who is determined to gently break through her best defenses to heal and love her, and ultimately deliver her from the prison of her own misery.”

“I Will Find A Way” is one of the most moving non-traditional Christmas songs I’ve ever heard. It’s followed by the lyrics — followed by and interview of Gullahorn by Jason Gray.  (after you listen to the song, you’ll want to read the interview — and probably read and purchase the book.)

I Will Find A Way
JGray & Andrew Gullahorn
At the end of this run down tenement hall
Is the room of a girl I know
She cowers behind all the dead bolt locks
Afraid of the outside world

So how should I come to the one I love
I will find a way

Many thieves and collectors have used that door
But they only brought her shame
So she won’t even open it anymore
Still I will find a way

I could call out her name with love through the walls
But condemnation is all she hears
I could break down the door and take her into my arms
But she might die from the fear

So how should I come to the one I love
I will find a way, I will find a way
How should I come to the one I love
I will find a way

No hiding place ever kept her safe
So she hides inside herself
Now to reach her heart the only way
Is to hide in there as well
I will hide in there as well

She gave up on love waiting for a change
But a change is coming soon
Cause how could she not love the helpless babe
Who is waking in her womb

I found a way

She’ll know I am coming before I am here
When she hangs her head she’ll see me there
And then when I come she won’t turn away
All the beauty and joy will return to her face
And what of the loneliness? Now it is gone
Lost in the bond of the mother and son
Every sin that she suffered at the hands of men
Every single disgrace will be washed clean again
I will love her completely and when I am grown
I will carry her out of that tenement room
I am doing a new thing and soon you will see
I am coming among you and my name shall be
Emmanuel, Emmanuel

Several years ago, I discovered a book called The Ragman And Other Cries Of Faith by Walt Wangerin Jr who is, among other things, a pastor and award-winning novelist. The combination of his pastoral heart and his gift for storytelling are a potent mix that have been a companion and comfort in my journey. I can’t recommend his writing enough.

There is a remarkable chapter from Ragman called “An Advent Monologue” about the mystery of the incarnation that is strange, poignant, and utterly beautiful. It has haunted me ever since the first time I read it with its story of an abused woman whose history and heartbreak have caused her to be suspicious of any kindness and resistant to love. The story is narrated by a Protagonist who is determined to gently break through her best defenses to heal and love her, and ultimately deliver her from the prison of her own misery.

The story has never failed to move me and about 6 years ago I was compelled to write a song inspired by Wangerin’s beautiful vision of the incarnation.

After many starts that never quite felt right, I started to be afraid of failing the material – Wangerin’s prose was so beautiful, I feared ruining it. And since fear is the chief enemy of creativity, I knew early on that I would need some help finishing it.

The idea was pretty precious to me, so I was very guarded with it, bringing it only to a few writers who I felt might be able to help me make the most of it. No one that I shared it with seemed to resonate with it the same way that I did, until years later – when my record company was asking me to write an original Christmas song for a compilation they were putting together – I remembered the song and brought it to my friend Andy Gullahorn.

Andy is one of the most gifted songwriters I know, and his work never fails to move and inspire me. His songs have the magical qualities that mark all the songs I love the most: they surprise, fill me with wonder, and create a quiet place in me where the Holy Spirit can speak. I’m a big fan. That I also get to call him a friend is one of the great blessings of this season of my life.

Sitting in his songwriting room above his garage, grateful for another chance to collaborate with this giant of a songwriter (Andy and I have written a number of songs together, including “Holding The Key” and “How I Ended Up Here” from my last record), I shared Wangerin’s “Advent Monologue” and was encouraged when I saw it hit him much the same way it hit me.

SPOILER ALERT
Let me say here how nervous I am to presume to put words in the mouth of the Almighty by doing a song from God’s perspective, but for this particular song, it seemed there was no way around it. But it also seemed fitting to be so bold in a story depicting the boldness of the Incarnation. So with a sense of—I don’t know…God’s approval? Blessing?—we put pen to the paper (or fingers to the laptop) and started writing.
CEASE SPOILER ALERT

I had written a bunch of verses that we were able to keep much of for the middle two verses in the song (it’s always gratifying to raid the bone yard), but I was having trouble figuring out how to hang the song on a singular idea that could be the chorus.

Years ago, I had arrived at the idea of the Protagonist singing:

How should I come to the one I love
so she will receive me…
 or … so she won’t be afraid…

But it just didn’t seem quite right. I liked the vulnerability of the question, “how should I come to the one I love…” but the next line made the Protagonist feel weak and anxious to me.

Andy’s first suggestion was that the next line in the chorus should be “I will find a way,” so that it would be:

How should I come to the one I love
I will find a way, I will find a way…

And that was when the Christmas lights turned on for me and I knew we had a song. The earnest longing of “how should I come to the one I love”, answered by the unrelenting determination to “find a way” – that was when the song began to take the shape I had always hoped it would.

Andy has an amazing knack for getting to the heart of things – and he helped to make sure that every line had heart. In the world of songwriters, Andy is definitely one of my all time favorites. I might even go so far as to say I have a kind of professional crush on him as a writer.

Oh, uh… hi Andy… I didn’t realize you were here… um. Did you hear any of that?

Enter ANDY GULLAHORN:
Yes, I am here. But don’t worry, I didn’t read that last part.

First let me thank you for bringing this song to our writing appointment. I remember having some hesitations when you said you wanted to write a Christmas song. If I have any strengths as a songwriter, writing Christmas songs is not one of them. But as you explained Wangerin’s story to me I quickly realized that this wasn’t going to be a typical Christmas song – so I could jump in with you.

It isn’t a secret to anyone who knows me that I am not a well-read individual. Most of my knowledge about books comes from listening to friends talk about the books they are reading. So although I had heard of Walt Wangerin before that day, I am pretty sure I hadn’t read any of his work. I remember when we first started trying to write the song, I didn’t want you to show me the actual story – I was just going to go off of your re-telling of it. But it didn’t take long before I caved in and asked for the book. I was blown away when I read the story. I know I read it at least twice while you were sitting there pretending to think of lyrics but actually checking email or something. I think my first response to you was something like, “Instead of writing a song about this, you should just give a copy of this story to everyone in your audience.” I am grateful that you didn’t listen to me. You have had a vision for a long time of making this story accessible to people in a new way – and I hope we came close to that.

JG: I couldn’t have hoped for it to turn out better than it did! What I loved about the story and had hoped to capture in the song is a sense of the mystery of the incarnation. Because we’re so familiar with the concept of it as a doctrine I suspect that we’ve forgotten how radical it is that God chose to infiltrate humanity this way. Wangerin’s story awakened me again to the messy mystery of it and forced me to reckon with it all over again.

AG: I have been playing this song most nights on this Christmas tour. Every night that I play it, at least one person finds me after the show to ask me about it. The standard comment I get is “I really like the song but can’t figure out what it means.” The funny thing is that in some ways I feel the same way about the original Wangerin story as well as the song – and that is part of why I think it is special. I mean, on one hand I can easily say what the song is about – the Incarnation. On the other hand, none of the metaphors in the story tie up neatly. It is about a battered woman – but it isn’t. It refers to Mary – but it doesn’t. All I know is that when I read the story I am deeply moved – but it isn’t a movement I can easily explain. It is like the truth in the story completely bypassed my brain and my reasoning to take up residence somewhere deeper. So although I can’t really explain it, it feels more true to me than some things that are more easily explained.

JG: What I like about it is that it refuses to be reduced, categorized, and then shelved. Something about the messiness of it forces me to engage it (and therefore the mystery of the incarnation) every time.

AG: Ok. I have to say this feels a little weird talking about a song I “wrote” in this way. I am not saying it is one of the most powerful songs ever written. I can say, however, that it speaks to me as much or more than any other song that I have had a part of. I think I can say this because the most powerful part of the song (the story) is something that neither one of us can take credit for. That is all Mr. Wangerin. So even as I play the song, I am still moved by the story – every time. And I don’t say that to take away from the work that we put into making this song come to life – it was just as challenging (if not more) than writing something from scratch. But I have to say it is fun to sing a song that always feels like someone else is telling me a story.

JG: I suppose it doesn’t hurt that it’s the greatest story ever told.

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