Monday, March 12, 2012

A Sixth Love Language

I’m up late, and on cold medication, and am struck with a writing bug. This is my disclaimer. I may or may not remember what I type here.

I read a book a long time ago, when I was in an internship program at my church, and again when I got married, called The Five Love Languages. You may be familiar with it. In the church circuit, the term “love language” is as well known and accepted as “washed by the blood” and “backsliding”. The Love Languages are as follows:

Physical Touch
Quality Time
Words of Affirmation
Acts of Service

All those years ago, my love language was unequivocally “Gifts”, with a splash of “Acts of Service” thrown in. Jeremy’s are Words of Affirmation and Physical Touch. Gifts is a tough love language to have (if all of this is Greek to you, click here). To those without the "language", you look greedy for wanting gifts, ungrateful for wanting what you don’t have. And when you give gifts to someone who doesn’t have the same love language, their lack of effusive gratitude can throw cold water on your happy little gift giving bubble.

Example: Long before Jeremy and I were ever dating, he told me how his mom had bought him special Star Wars cereal (this was when The Phantom Menace was all the hype), which he loved. Apparently it was like Lucky Charms, but better, containing superior marshmallows and marshmallow to cereal ratio. Some part of me tucked this little story away. When we were dating, the second Star Wars movie came out. I watched and waited, excited to buy him this superior marshmallow cereal. I bought 2 or 3 boxes, carted them to his house and put them in his cabinets, and waited, almost giddy, for him to discover them. When he came home, he didn’t go straight to the cereal cabinet like I figured most single guys would. Bouncing with excitement, I told him to open the cabinets, that I had gotten him a surprise. He smiled knowingly (Lord knows what he was expecting, but with his love language being physical touch, I can imagine), and opened the cabinet to find it full of Star Wars cereal. He stared blankly for a minute while I jumped up and down behind him, clapping my hands.

“What’s this?” he asked.
“It’s your cereal!”, I squealed. “Your cereal that you love so much!”
“My what?”, he asked.
“You said... you said this was your favorite cereal. That your mom got it for you because you love the marshmallows,” I said, starting to deflate.
“Oh... Ok. I don’t really know how I’m going to eat all this before it expires. But. Thank you...?” He ended it like a question, not quite sure to do with a girlfriend who thought multiple boxes of cereal was an acceptable gift.

I was heartbroken. Obviously. 10 years later and it still stings. He didn’t mean it that way, of course. It’s just that we didn’t - don’t - speak the same language.

All that said to bring me to this: I’ve discovered I have a love language that isn’t mentioned in any book. Maybe I’m the only one who has it. My love language is music. I mean it. There is nothing- no gift you can give me, no service you can do for me, no amount of time you can spend with me- that will reach down and touch my soul the way music does. There is a tender spot in my heart that can only be touched by melody. I’m sure people will read this and say, “Oh yes, me too.” Maybe that’s so. But something tells me that this affinity is rare. It’s a gift and a curse, this language of mine. Not something I can control, and not something very many can relate to. Jeremy speaks the language of music as I do, although maybe a different dialect. But I know he feels it, and that has worked its way to healing breaches caused by rejected cereal.

I’ve said before that the way you can tell I really love you is if I’ve shared my music with you. When I make mix tapes (although I guess technically they are mix CDs), they’re never just random songs thrown together. I pour myself into them, spending hours arranging and rearranging track orders so that there is flow and meaning. In most cases, they aren’t songs I’ve written, but they’re songs I’ve written on my heart, and they are little pieces of me that I give away to the few people I’ve let into the crux of who I am. My life is built around music. Every turning point can be pinpointed by a song or musician. My everyday life is consumed with it. I don’t go more than a few hours without some song playing. It’s not that I hate the silence. It’s that I love the music. I can’t breathe without it. There is something so vulnerable about good, true music. And I don’t mean most of the “Christian” drivel that is played nowadays. No, not all of it’s bad, but most of it’s not good. There is no depth, no sweeping current, no true vulnerability in what mainstream Christian artists produce today. Music, above all, should be honest. It should come from hidden wells in our spirits that speak of deep waters. Look at the Psalms. More than anything, the psalms ring truth in every line, whether it’s good truth or bad. That’s what true music should be. Encompassing human nature, the precious and the ugly, the twisted defects of who we are, as well as the blinding beauty of who we can be. Christians certainly don’t have the corner on that particular brand. Here’s my advice on that score: Don’t put what you think can minister to and change your life into a box. There is so much rich, beautiful music out in the world that can truly bend the course of your life, and it doesn’t have to be found in a chapel.

Don’t worry. I won’t leave you hanging. You can read a previous blog about music that has touched me, and here are some other artists, albums, and bands (in no particular order) that have been weaving their way into my heart of hearts over the past few months, Christian and otherwise. Not all of it is "cutting edge". Very little of it is, actually, now that I think of it. I don't look for the shiniest, prettiest song to speak to me. I find that in recent years I've gravitated towards music that is more melodic, bordering on folk. I look for music that will wear well. Music that can be repeated for two weeks straight without becoming stale, but actually becomes richer with each listen, that layers itself into something that can mean one thing in January, and quite another thing in May. It goes without saying (and yet here I am saying it) that all of this music is to my taste, my opinions. Which you do not have to agree with.

Bison: Quill
I have to give a shout out to this local band that are well on their way to being the "next big thing". Their music is genuine, different enough to be memorable but not so different as to be weird. Make us proud, guys.

The Frames: The Cost
I. love. Glen Hansard. If you want to find passion in music, look no further. He has it by the bucket load.

Josh Garrels: Love & War & The Sea In Between
This album is completely free to download right now on Download it. You won't regret it. Here's a Christian artist I can get behind.

Bon Iver: Bon Iver
I love Bon Iver's rich melodies and harmonies. They make we want to drive for hours on a warm night with the windows down.

 Jon Foreman: Fall
Jon Foreman, of Switchfoot fame, has a series of EPs named after the seasons. I haven't heard the others yet. Fall has a little Dylanesque feel to it, and you can't get much better than Dylan. Another Christian artist I wholeheartedly support.

The Secret Sisters: The Secret Sisters
I love sisters. I love sisters who sing together with airtight harmonies even better. Their roots are firmly grounded in old school country, the kind my grandparents may have listened to, the kind that's easier for me to swallow. Some of it even smacks slightly of The Beatles' earliest albums, and I absolutely can't resist that.

Leeland: The Great Awakening
There's one song on this album that gets me every time, called I Wonder. Listen to it.

Ascend The Hill: Ascend The Hill
I found this album on (HIGHLY recommend this site). They're a little raw, but their worship is absolutely genuine.

David Crowder* Band: Give Us Rest or (a requiem mass in C [the happiest of all keys])
DCB's last album, and I can honestly say I think it's their best work. Modeled after a Requiem Mass (hence the name), it's two hours long and worth every minute of listening.

 Paper Route: Absence
A Pandora find, also on Noise Trade right now. These guys aren't a Christian band, but what I like to refer to as Christians IN a band (that's right, folks, it IS possible!). They remind me a little bit of Mute Math's first album (another great Christians IN a band band).

 Kieran Kane, Kevin Welch, & Fats Kaplin: Lost John Dean
I haven't heard this whole album. I have one song off of it, called "I Can't Wait" that I listened to on repeat for 2 hours straight one day.

 Sufjan Stevens: Illinois
Sufjan Stevens completely charms me. He's so eccentric, writing songs with titles like, "To the Workers of the Rock River Valley Region, I Have an Idea Concerning Your Predicament", and "The Black Hawk War, or, How to Demolish an Entire Civilization and Still Feel Good About Yourself in the Morning, or, We Apologize for the Inconvenience but You're Going to Have to Leave Now, or, 'I Have Fought the Big Knives and Will Continue to Fight Them Until They Are Off Our Lands!'" Despite the clever and goofy titles, his music is haunting and has depth that few artists can manage. He's another mainstream Christian artist that I love to support.

The Hunger Games Soundtrack: Safe & Sound
I've pre-ordered this soundtrack, which doesn't come out until next week, but this song was made available a little earlier. It. is. fantastic. Goosebump-inducing fantastic.

 The Civil Wars: Barton Hollow
I discovered The Civil Wars last year a few months after their first album released. Everyone has since jumped on the bandwagon, which quite offends me. I'm very possessive of music I love. And I love The Civil Wars more than I've loved any music in a long time. I'm going to overlook any bandwagon hopping in this instance, if you listen to them on my recommendation.

And if you’re wondering what I’m listening to as I write this (because writing and music go hand in hand with me), I’ve just picked up a little collaborative gem by The Chieftains, an Irish band that is celebrating their 50th anniversary, comprising original and traditional songs by various artists: The Civil Wars, Bon Iver, The Decemberists, Imelda May, and more. Definitely recommended.

And of course, I am always looking for new music to form a relationship with. I am open to any and all suggestions.


  1. thanks for the music recommendations. i love music & as you know - i too am bored with a lot of it. ill check 'em all out. thx again.

  2. I stumbled on your blog from someone else's blog (don't even remember whose now). Have you ever listened to Andrew Peterson? I feel like he's one of the most honest Christian songwriters I've ever heard. His lyrics are like poetry, and the style is often very folksy, too.

    Here are a few that are some of the most honest and touching to me: (ok, I had trouble listing just a few. I love this guy's songs so much, if you can't tell)

    The Silence of God
    After the Last Tear Falls
    Don't Give Up On Me
    No More Faith
    Don't You Want To Thank Someone
    Fool With a Fancy Guitar
    Let Me Sing
    Mystery of Mercy