Laying Out Gate Clothes

I am in the middle of writing a song for the soon-to-be-recorded X-Alt CD (tentatively titled “Funky Shui”).  I’m having a really hard time finishing it, because it’s so different from most Christian music, and it’s such a different perspective than the one I usually put forth.

On its surface, it is not an optimistic song at all.  It is not written from the mountain top, looking back with thanksgiving over the recently travelled valley.  It is a song written from deep inside the valley.

It is one step short of despair.  It makes the listener ache.

The song is more about a mood than any one thing.  I put myself inside the minds of the prisoners we visit.  I’m writing from the perspective of my friends who have dire medical situations.  I’m writing from the point of view of my brothers – one has a degenerative muscle disease that has been stealing his strength since he was 17, the other just got laid off by an employer he served for 27 years.  I even borrowed from our own money situation (up until last week); savings gone, no more coming in.

Mostly, I was inspired by the story of Sascha Weinzheimer (as told in Ken Burns’ documentary The War).  In short, she was a girl roughly my own daughter’s age in 1942, part of a wealthy family who owned a sugar plantation near Manila when the Japanese took over.  She ended up, with the rest of her family,  in the internment camp the Japanese set up on the walled campus of the Santo Tomas University.  There, her life slowly descended into Hell. After almost 3 years, they were finally rescued by the 1st Cavalry Division on February 3, 1945.

I won’t totally recount her story here, in fact, I’d like you go to this site,  and read the chronological excerpts from her diary. It truly is compelling.  I’ll wait for you.

Two excerpts that appear back-to-back stand out to me:

January 12.
People are dying every day from starvation. Fred Fairman and Mrs. Everett yesterday. We have such a short time to go ““ what a pity they couldn’t hang on to life just a while longer. Mother weighs only 73 pounds ““she used to weigh 148 ““ and Dr. Allen says she has to stay in bed from now because she can’t walk.

January 17.

Buddy’s favorite expression is, “Let’s talk about food.” He has a favorite suit, too, which he calls his “Gate suit.” He’s been taking this suit out almost every day for months, putting it on the bed and saying, “I’ll put my Gate things right here Mummy, so I can be ready.” All of us have something saved to wear out the Gate. All of us except Daddy who has been bare-footed now for six months. “I don’t need a thing for the Gate except two good legs to walk out with,” he said.

“what a pity they couldn’t hang on to life just a while longer.”

“All of us have something saved to wear out the Gate.”

This is the place I’m writing the song from.

On second thought, this might be the most optimistic song I’ve ever written.  It’s about that moment when you are chained to the floor, when everything in the universe has lined up against you, and you can see no way out.

Yet, you defiantly believe there is a way out, nonetheless.

The Universe tells you to curse God and die.  Against all hope, you lay a suit out on the bed.

I think this is going to be a pretty good song.  I hope to get it completed soon.  Going to that place is a little draining.

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2 Responses to “Laying Out Gate Clothes”

  1. Susie Says:

    Wow! This is gonna be one powerful song…hang in there!

  2. megaphonic Says:

    Have you ever noticed that a huge chunk of Psalms is about struggle and pain and “why am i all alone, God?!” i love that you’re willing to write a song from that place. i think it’s a problem with modern worship that we are afraid or unwilling to touch on the hard stuff for fear that people will remember that everything is not just rainbows and puppies once you accept Christ.

    those psalms are the ones that ring out to me. they are the ones where i find the most hope. when The Church (not churches, that’s a different thing) forgets that sorrow and pain are the flip-side hope and joy, everything gets skewed.

    write on, man.


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