The Soundtrack of Deconstruction and Spacious Faith: Gungor’s Last Concert at the El Rey Theatre: The End of The World Tour and The End of Bad Religion

The Soundtrack of Deconstruction and Spacious Faith: Reflections on Gungor’s Last Concert at the El Rey Theatre: The End of The World Tour and The End of Bad Religion and the past Ten Years

A walk down memory lane, a timeline.

How do you put words to something that has been the soundtrack of ten years of your life? Not only the soundtrack, but I am grateful to have seen them many times over the past ten years and the way they have been woven into my own story. I dug out these photos from shows I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy.

gungor beautiful things
Gungor releases Beautiful Things February 16, 2010

gungor may 7 2010 worship central.jpg

May 7, 2010  – Costa Mesa, CA
Beautiful Things at Rock Harbor for a Worship Central Conference. The first time I heard them in their full splendor with a full band. I was completely blown away by their musicality, skill, musicianship, and beautiful melodies & harmonies.

I was inspired as a musician and as a songwriter. I had several charismatic type experiences during these two days, altar calls, tears and snot and prayer, and beginning to embrace songwriting as a spiritual calling. I’m not really sure what to think about that experience in hindsight…it was positive at the time. Though my memories are unfortunately marred by my abuser’s presence that weekend.

gungor march 2 2011 catalyst

March 3, 2011 – Irvine, CA
One year later, Michael, Lisa, and a cellist played at Catalyst West and I heard Michael chat on a panel on Creativity with Amena Brown & Jo Saxton. I still remember he shared that he went into music because it was something he couldn’t not do. That really resonated, and I felt similarly while connecting with his musings as a fellow music student.

ghosts upon the earth gungor
Ghosts Upon the Earth – Album released September 20, 2011

gungor march 10 2012

 

brilliance march 2012.jpg
March 10 2012, The Observatory, Santa Ana, CA
Ghosts Upon the Earth Tour – Amena Brown and The Brilliance opened the show.  A black umbrella and a chandelier draped over the stage as Lisa opened with the song “Let there be Light.” As the music built the lights came bursting aglow.

Behind the scenes, I was weeks from deciding and in the middle of begging God for confirmation about moving to Chicago.  I spent the weekend prior in San Diego at a hotel, on my own for a mini prayer retreat / and a bit of a vacation and I ended up feeling like I was saying goodbye to San Diego. One month later I committed to making the move.

creation liturgy.jpg
Creation Liturgy Live Album with Recordings from the Ghosts Upon the Earth Tour
Released October 9, 2012

i am mountain gungor
I am Mountain –  Album Release – September 24, 2013

gungor march 19 2014 with steph

wrigley

march 2014 gungor.jpg
I am Mountain Tour – The Metro, Chicago IL (Just a few steps away from Wrigley Field)

At this time I was living in Chicago, in the middle of losing my job, which was confirmed with about a week, and right before I began going to yoga every week (yoga saved my life). My friend from L.A. was visiting and joined me for the show. In a lovely full circle turn of events, I saw her again last night, right before going to the final show in Los Angeles at the El Rey.

one wild life


One Wild Life:
Trilogy Released in 3 parts, respectively: August 7, 2015, March 25, 2016, & September 30, 2016

This also became the soundtrack to my yoga practice as well as my departure from Bad Religion.

 

.


lastdaysinthedesert-specialnight

Almost entirely due to the recommendation of Gungor, I attended a Premier showing just north of downtown Chicago of the film Last Days in the Desert with Ewan McGregor, and it was a fascinating film. I really enjoyed it. Gungor opened with some music and conversation, just as they advertised and set it up really well.

Unfortunately, on my way home I received a troubling phone call to learn that one of the pastors was asking some questions, and so instead of getting to reflect on the movie I had just seen, I spent a couple hours before bed finishing up a 6-page document that I had already begun drafting, naming symptoms of Spiritual Abuse and how they were affecting me and calling out Spiritual Abuse and Bad Religion, and lastly, naming my abuser. Feeling a sense of urgency as a result of that phone call, I sent the email.  I blew the whistle. I wanted it to be clear what was and wasn’t going on. And within hours of my departure from the city, I received the most awful, abusive, manipulative email in response, I stood there shaking as I read the email on my phone. Let Bad Religion Die. Indeed.


Back in 2017, on August 22nd, I played the song Brother Moon on repeat for my nephew who snuck out for juice past bedtime, and he picked up on this gorgeous ethereal line as I sang along. (super short video).  Would you listen to that adorable baby musician? So sweet.


lisa gungor book.jpg
June 26, 2018
Last year, Lisa released her book, The Most Beautiful Thing I’ve Seen. I was able to get a copy from NetGalley and this was my review:

I’ve just finished Lisa Gungor’s memoir, The Most Beautiful Thing I’ve Ever Seen. It is beautiful, lyrical, and cinematic. I highly recommend it, especially to Gungor fans and to those who have difficult family tensions, and those with whom we don’t always see eye to eye. It’s poetic and eloquent, evocative, insightful, and a true work of art. Super judgy, analytical readers may not find it appealing. It is a stunningly, achingly beautiful memoir. I especially loved the way all the threads were woven together: giving color and nuance and context and expression and experience.

I loved reading how as she told her own story, of her childhood, as well as their love story, and their journey making music adding more color and nuance as well as gravity and ache to the small pieces that had been shared with fans and readers of their blog, and on social media. It really was very lyrical and cinematic the way she told the story, and I loved it so.

gungor archives album

Archives – Album Release – March 1, 2019
I’m so grateful that the Gungors decided to release this archive full of music. There are so many songs on here that I am loving so much.

end of the world tour concert.jpg

The End of the World Tour – May 6th, 2019 – Los Angeles, CA
And so we come to the end. The End of the World Tour. Gungor, the musical collective’s last tour, and very last show at the El Rey in Los Angeles, CA.

IMG_1650.JPG

  • IMG_1648I was joined by a group of friends who met online as a result of loving Gungor and/or the Liturgists Podcast which was started by Michael Gungor and Science Mike. How in the world does that even happen?! A group of us created a subgroup as an offshoot from the main group and started a new group to discuss our lives as single people, navigating the (already) confusing dating world in our various stages of deconstruction and reconstruction. We have regional meetups, and love getting together and bonding over this One Wild Life.IMG_1559.JPGIMG_1598.JPGI honor and thank Lisa & Michael Gungor for all their blood, sweat, and tears and the pure and honest artistry and musicianship that they have poured into the Gungor Collective. For sharing their lives and their journey with us. It has been ONE WILD LIFE. For sharing their family, their stories, their hearts, their spirits, and for their music. I grieve the ending of something that has been so profoundly meaningful, been the soundtrack to much of my own journey for these past 10 years. Thank you. And looking so much forward to what comes next. Thank you both. I could not have asked for a more perfect show, the setlist so lovingly curated and joyously. This yoga teacher is so grateful for the breath meditation moment that Michael led.

    IMG_1651-1.JPG
    Some favorites from last night’s show:
    Woman (Fierce & Feminine) by Lisa
    I am Mountain
    Please Be My Strength
    This is Not The End
    Oh, What a Beautiful World
    We’ll All Be Free

    Hearing William Matthews, Israel Houghton, Propaganda, and The Brilliance, the Younger Gungors, and everyone else who joined them on the stage that night was such a delight. Two cellos, two drummers, simply amazing. Truly, a musical feast, full of heart and soul, and full of the honesty of humanity.


*For more on my story, if you felt like I left you hanging…it is a long story, I didn’t want to make this longer; if you would like to know more, follow the bread crumb trails here on my blog, here are a few places to start:

  1. An Odyssey Moment
  2. Loved Back to Life: Redemption
  3. One Year Ago | A Uhaul & Unforced Rhythms
  4. Taking My Voice Back | One Year Later
  5. Surprise, it’s a Podcast!
  6. Integrated Soul Podcast Ep. 2 & 3 Shownotes
Advertisements

A Masterpiece & A Work in Progress, Simultaneously

As much as I want to not care what people think…sometimes I do worry what people think….maybe because I worry they’ll misunderstand my process. Not because I feel like I have to…but because I want to make sure I’ve explained it clearly. I hate being misunderstood. It’s something I face all the time.

I am not someone who puts my best face forward all the time. I do sometimes and enjoy it. I also want to show the hard days and the in-between days. I posted a glimpse from a hard moment that was about a trigger I had on my personal facebook page yesterday and am so grateful it was handled with care and well received and supported.

But…I wonder about the after effects, not just about that post…but overall. How will I be perceived now? I guess it’s a little bit of a vulnerability hangover.  These questions arise:

Will people think I’m too broken to take me seriously and will this put people off from following my work?

But the truth is I don’t believe that I’m broken if I am grounded in inner wholeness and know that I am aligned with Original Blessing. I fully acknowledge that I am a work in progress AND a masterpiece. Simultaneously.

masterpiece work in progress sophia bush

This quote gives me life. It’s so honest and so true. 

And then I go back to the zone of not caring what people think. The little boost I need to remind me that it’s okay. I’ve used my voice and said what I needed to say and it is what it is. What people think is not my responsibility.

There are so many instances of both/and. We can be walking contradictions. We can be both perfect and imperfect. We can be soft and strong. Fierce and tender.  Maybe they’re not so much contradictions as contrasts or variations on a spectrum. I am the fierce mama bear I need for myself, and I am also tender and nurturing. It can feel confusing if you let other people tell you that you’re only one thing. But last time I checked rainbows come with more than one color. Multifaceted, prisms of light, rays of sunshine. Different timbres. Celebrating our unique differences and honoring the light that is in all of us. Sameness was never the goal. Resonance is.

“…we are mirrors whose brightness, if we are bright, is wholly derived from the sun that shines upon us. Surely we must have a little–however little–native luminosity?

-C.S. Lewis

Being a masterpiece and embracing our inner wholeness doesn’t mean we have our head in the clouds, but that we’re choosing to embrace every part…all our paradoxes. Holding joy in one hand and grief in the other. The light & the dark. “Darkness is as light to you…”

You can see in the dark, for it is not dark to Your eyes.
    For You the night is just as bright as the day.
    Darkness and light are the same to Your eyes.

Psalm 139:12 VOICE

“The deeper our faith, the more doubt we must endure; the deeper our hope, the more prone we are to despair; the deeper our love, the more pain its loss will bring: these are a few of the paradoxes we must hold as human beings.” 

Parker Palmer

So here we are…walking each other home. Being kind with each other in each of our masterpiece-in-progress selves.

IMG_8366

Be sure to check out all the FREE gifts, downloads, email series, workshops and more available to you on my FREEBIES page and take a step forward in your own healing journey and discover your own inner masterpiece.

Begin Again

So, like children, we begin again
to learn from the things,
because they are in God’s heart;
they have never left [God].

This is what the things can teach us:
to fall,
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.

—Rainer Maria Rilke

new year begin again

I can begin again.
Life can begin again.
Today I begin again.
A new year to love myself.
A new year to love those around me.
A new year to shed the weight of expectations.
A new year to embrace all of me.
A new year to be fully present.
A new year to step forward, one step at a time, inch by inch.
A new year to say yes to all the good things.

A new year to embrace all of who I am. Body, heart, mind, & soul.
A new year to take flight & take up my space.
A new year to hope again, believe again, & reconstructing.
A new year to be equipped, empowered, enlightened and embodied.
A new year to be rooted and grounded in Love Divine.
A new year of freedom.
A new year to teach what I know.
A new year to be unapologetically, wonderfully me.
A year of wholeness.

The Language of Freedom

If you’ve known me for a while, you may or may not have noticed that my language has shifted. I’ve drastically cut back on the “religious” language that I use. This is completely intentional. It is part of my healing. It is part of my attempts at sobriety from religious addiction and trauma. Our subcultures and super-sub-subcultures have got to change.  We’re going around in circles talking about things we don’t even mean nor do we know how to say what we mean. We’re padding ourselves with religious bubble-wrap and cushioning, to keep ourselves safe. Hashtag blessed (hear the sarcasm?) From what exactly? From people who are different than us?


The language we use is very telling; and, very important. Pointed,  jagged, sharp, loaded and painful, hurtful words can sound like this:

submit, obey, character, trust, faith, choice, direction, death, self, die-to-self, surrender, sacrifice.


Here’s an example: “Your character needs to grow/change/improve.”

And slowly the word “character” digs sharper and sharper into my chest like a dagger. It sounds more like this. “We don’t like you the way you are. You need to be better. You don’t look like / operate like/ conform like us.” What is this, the survival of the fittest, most ultra spiritual person?

“You need to trust God.” or the accusatory, “You don’t trust God.”

Loaded. Bang. Bang. Do you hear it?


Oftentimes it becomes necessary and healthy to take a step back from the thorns that have entangled the true and good meaning of these words, and look again with fresh eyes at their true meaning and remove the religious stigma and legalism, and religious and spiritual addiction and spiritual manipulation, abuse and triggers.

Faith and trust can become gentle, and even trustworthy again.

A deeper listening and mindful awareness of the power of control, self-control and free will. The will to make decisions and power to consent.

Bodies and hearts are good. Intuition and wisdom are good. Paying attention, being aware and mindful of what’s going on inside your body and outside and noticing how your body is reacting or responding to various stimuli.

We don’t have to embed religious language into everything we do in order to “redeem” it. In fact, it can be quite dangerous, and unhealthy. Because you stop thinking for yourself (with your God-given brain) and you become a religious parrot, which we are not called to be. Our uniqueness and diversity is to be celebrated. You are a poem, did you know that? Our unique gifts and abilities; gifted to each one.

I dare you. Pay attention to your language. Use your thesaurus and your own words. It takes practice and it will take time. This is so important.

Not only are others desperate for this fresh, raw language, many of us on the fringes are in need of words that don’t hurt and burn and scar and wound and push us farther away.

language of freedom blog graphic

Loved Back to Life: Redemption

n56905082_32011958_7475

I studied music with a calling to lead worship. I was honored to have space to do this for several years. But I was restless. I attempted to get work at churches unsuccessfully for a countless number of years. Countless number of resumes and interviews, just to get my foot in the door. I was willing to settle for anything at that point.

apu angel
Seeking, I spent a year long process applying and joined cru in 2011. While I loved our training, I crashed and burned and still felt out of place as far as gifts and interests went. Support raising was impossible. Broken and hungry for purpose and new direction I moved to chicago on a “mission.”

IMG_1693

My voice was taken away from me. (And I don’t mean my vocal chords). I lost all meaning and purpose in my life. For months I described my state as feeling like an empty carcass. Yeah. I felt like shit. Eventually, my body began speaking to me through anxiety. As we learned this week at retreat, “listen to your body for it knows before you do!” This has been so true in my experience.

lori and sarah W IMG_9433

I found refuge in Greatly Gracious in Chicago. Experiential worship through movement and prayer in stillness and listening. I was loved back to life as I attended weekly classes with Sarah at Greatly Gracious.

I believe the reason God led me to Chicago was to find my way to Sarah’s class that first night and to be rescued. I came back every single week, for two years. That was three years ago. The same year I attended HY Touch training with Jonnie and a month later attended the Soul Care retreat in St Louis with Jill, Laura, and Whitney. That was just the beginning.
IMG_9792
Every single encounter, every person I have met in this Yoga family has spoken LIFE to me.

IMG_0027
LOVED BACK TO LIFE.
img_0008.jpg
Redemption. Are you ready for this?

I have found myself in a worship ministry. A ministry of healing and soul care and holistic ministry. I will speak LIFE and hold space for others.

Quick Christmas (115 of 7)

How’s that for redemption?

I’m still amazed. I can’t wait for the rest. As I dream and step into this next season in great anticipation and HOPE.

18199376_10100756240485370_2765031062018236633_n

Pictured here with some of my LIFEgroup gals who have been just that: LIFE for the past 4 months.

Loved Back to Life

Wild thing IMG_8995
My love for yoga ignited almost immediately. This was taken about a month after I began attending Yoga classes. 

I am celebrating that this past week in April was my Yogiversary!  I began my yoga journey and going to weekly classes three years ago!

YIMG_9435
Early morning yoga, coffee, bonding, and prayer.

midori IMG_9434

The best yoga teachers a girl could dream of, Sarah & Midori.


Greatly Gracious Yoga became my lifeline and place of refuge, my sanctuary. I learned so much about what I was capable physically and became stronger in that way, but also spiritually and emotionally and mentally. I learned to trust my intuition and listen to my body. I experienced the love of God in ways I never had before. I learned to listen in stillness. I became empowered and reclaimed my voice. My view of worship expanded as I observed my yoga teachers leading us in times of worship, with our heart, mind, soul, and strength. In prayer and in devotion. In love and encouragement. In experiencing peace, rest, and hope. In being refreshed and revived. I was loved back to life in that space. For that, I am forever grateful, to Sarah and Midori, Greatly Gracious women. ❤

 

 

lori and sarah W IMG_9433
My Yoga Teacher, Sarah Wheeler of Greatly Gracious Yoga studio in Wicker Park. Big hugs before I moved. 

 

 

 

Blooming

IMG_8604blog.JPG

There is a story unearthing layers as I watch the landscape bloom.

What is normally desert is lush and green. Greener than I ever remember. It almost feels like another land. The rain has poured and poured. It’s too much rain for many parts of our state, so desperately thirsty it gets drowned instead of drenched. And yet here, there are flowers blooming. Among rocks, along paths. The rocky ground, the green desert, now blooming. There is something in this landscape that is speaking to my soul, and I’m slowly putting words to it. 🌵🌺

An Odyssey Moment

 

image2

My life came to a halt four years ago when I was stopped from pursuing worship leadership. I thought it was over. I had nothing else to live for, the life was zapped from me, and I felt limp and lifeless. Then, almost 3 years ago, I started going to a weekly yoga class that was essentially a worship experience. I learned to listen in prayer, to listen in the stillness as we stretched our bodies and rested in child’s pose or savasana, laying on your back, relaxed, it’s a resting pose.

Five months later, I attended a one-day workshop where I learned some Thai Touch techniques and yoga massage. That experience solidified my desire to teach yoga as I witnessed what looked to me as our instructors leading us in worship. It was a huge moment of epiphany. They were worship leaders. It expanded my view of what I already felt was a broad and diverse understanding of worship, but with music feeling like such a deep wound, it gave me a renewed vision and renewed hope for my life.


 

11312982_10100507162833980_1513218690443143256_o
my view from the stage for our first of two performances, with the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra in front of us, in the beautiful University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Chapel

 

One year ago I auditioned and was accepted into the incredible historic choir in Chicago, The Apollo Chorus and dove into the deep end with a difficult, classical, oratorio, musical work by the name of Elijah, by Felix Mendelsohn from the 18th century; 172 years ago. Intense, emotional, difficult and deeply moving. It is an epic musical work. A part of my brain that had been dormant for 3 years or more came alive and I began composing and writing again.

 


After I left, I began practicing Spiritual Sobriety and right now I can’t even imagine what going back into doing music in a church setting will look like. Music, hell yes, but leading worship again…it’s still so painful, and a tender wound.

And then, back to today, I remember that I’m about to begin my Yoga Instructor training, in two weeks from today and it feels almost full circle as I unwrapped two of my books from today’s mail.  A name in the foreword of one of the books almost took my breath away.  It was a name I came across at least a few times doing research for my undergrad studies in church music (before they began calling it worship leadership). And it didn’t scare me, it didn’t hurt.


It hit me like such a gentle “woah” moment, quiet, and gentle and like the gentlest tap on your shoulder, almost like a surprise, long awaited embrace, relief, and a coming home.
This epic odyssey continues but the coming home parts keep “woah-ing” me away.

Woah.

Like, woooooah.

Breathless, silent, woah. I don’t know if I’m ready, but I’m so ready for this.

I’m about to be studying worship once again, the subject that I have put so much time and energy and schooling towards. And I didn’t even realize it until this moment. Today. And after much time awaiting and wanting to go through Yoga Instructor Training, it’s finally here. Beginning officially in two weeks, and I could not be more excited! 


My educational and career journey aren’t just a collection of random mismatched, aimless jobs.

I have a BA music degree, studied and completed a semester of graduate Masters in Worship studies with a 4.0, and am adding certified Yoga Instructor to my artist’s palette, or tool belt. It is slowly, gently, beginning makes sense, now. The puzzle pieces *do* go together.

  • Planning and arranging set-lists and putting together playlists and learning how to sequence a yoga flow…actually goes together.
  • Learning about design and furniture and research about how a space, room, or environment makes you feel…
  • Teaching a women’s workout at a gym and encouraging healthy habits.
  • Taking care of kids fits in there somewhere too. I love kids yoga.
  • Waiting tables and making espresso, fits in there too.
  • Learning about entrepreneurship back in 2009.
  • Technology and social media marketing, totally fits.