What first struck me when I met Mike Donehey was how the man knew words, and books, and The Word. This is a guy who lives richly, thinks deeply, welcomes lavishly. His is an unlikely story: Just two months after a near fatal car accident during college, Mike Donehey proved science wrong when he was up and moving, eager to play in his school’s soccer championships. While recovering from the crash, Mike picked up the guitar – and almost never put it down. “In college, I experienced a lot of frustration because things weren’t working out the way they were supposed to,” recalls Mike, lead singer/acoustic guitar of Tenth Avenue North. Then he met fellow musicians Brian Homan and Jason Jamison, who he admired because “they sang about just wanting to be with Jesus.” Soon after, Fraggle Rock was formed, and later changed to Tenth Avenue North, a Dove Award winning group, but a group of friends who have sharpened me personally to live more attentive to Jesus right here with me, and keep company with Him and His unforced rhythms of grace… Couldn’t be more honoured to invite my friend, Mike Donehey of Tenth Avenue North, to the farm’s front porch today:
Life felt so beautiful three days ago.
It was Sunday afternoon, and it was so utterly heart-wrenchingly perfect.
You know those days don’t you? When you realize we’re not meant for the crushing boundaries of time?
When life slows and testifies to the eternal now…
I sat on my porch after church, lunch in my belly, coffee against my lips, the children slept — all three of them slept. At the SAME TIME!
Ahh praise be to the Lord! Nap time. God’s mercy to parents from the beginning.
It was also unseasonably warm in Nashville last Sunday. 80 degrees in early November, and the trees were on fire.
Fresh greens gave way to the autumnal hour, as one last burst of color blared before winter’s rest.
Sitting there, sipping coffee in my rocking chair, while the breeze whispered soft on my face, I was struck by the mystery. Nature was declaring the promise.
“Even in death, there is life.”
It was as if the trees were reciting I Corinthians 15 to me. “O death, where is your sting?”
You may have your rule for a time, but even in the twilight of summer, our God will find a way to let beauty break forth.
It is, of course, the backward way of the kingdom:
In the bleak ruin, redemption begins.
In death, life rises.
We lay down our dreams, we let agendas die —
and room is made for Christ to weave His wonder through.
But that was three days ago.
Right now, God is giving me an opportunity to live the parable. I love to pontificate — but practice? Practice is another thing entirely.
For the last 90 minutes, I’ve been sitting on a plane —
sitting on the runway.
Oh yeah, I know, it’s not the worst thing a human being can be subjected to. Far worse atrocities are committed almost every moment around this fallen planet, but to the 150 people on this plane, 90 minutes has felt like 90 years.
To the young mother with the screaming child two rows back, 90 minutes has been eternity. Being a father myself, I know all to well, the silent seething directed toward a wailing infant.
To the businessman across from me, 90 minutes means he’s missing his connection, and now he’ll have to wait yet another day to see his family.
To the girl across the aisle, well, I’m not quite sure what’s going on, but her choice of language suggests something earth-shattering. I know it sounds melodramatic, but if you could be in this plane right now, you’d feel the tension rising.
And of course, for me, there’s the ever-waging war within. Why is it the Spirit and my will always seem to be in some sort of disagreement?
It feels like I’ve gone to the corner to pout over my dashed plans, while the Spirit stands waiting in motherly fashion, hands on hips, asking,
“This too, Mike? Will you not receive all with thanks? Will you not accept all from My hands? Didn’t the trees prepare you for this?
Won’t you let the seeds of your agenda die and make room for life?“
Before I can voice my protest, a voice descends. “Ladies and gentlemen!”
The Spirit is interrupted by the captain on the intercom.
“We’re leaving!” A collective celebration breaks out in the cabin. We start moving. We have lift off. We get some distance.
Hmmm. Yup. There are those trees again. “Hey little trees!” I call through the window. “Hey forest!” I smile. Wow. I’m suddenly quite giddy.
Wasn’t my world on the edge of meltdown a moment ago? Amazing what some movement will do for your soul, isn’t it?
So now I’m relieved and a bit embarrassed. I stretch out and let a sigh escape from my chest.
I try to forget my resisting the mystery: Christ and Him crucified.
It boldly proclaims, Christ is with us. It cries out, through the tragic and the mundane, there is nowhere we can go that He is not.
In our weakness, He is there. In our re-routing, He went before us. In this trembling broken world, He walks with us.
He lives inside us.
“The present is the only point where time touches eternity.”
-C.S. Lewis Thanks Clive. I needed that.
Remind me you are closer than my plans, Jesus. If I ascend into the clouds, You are there. If I am delayed below on the tarmac, You are there.
Even in the autumn hour, joy is waiting.
Joy is always available. The sacred is inside.
All the earth is holy ground.
I can’t begin to tell you how much I respect, Mike Donehey, lead singer of the band Tenth Avenue North, who is fast becoming a leading voice in today’s faith conversation. The band’s newest record Cathedrals just released and asks the question, “What does it mean to be a cathedral?” Donehey’s answer is that “if we are Cathedrals, two very important things happen. First, our life no longer becomes about the dreams or goals we can accomplish, but about the purpose of bringing Jesus to your job, school or family. Wherever you go, Jesus goes with you. Second, cathedrals used to be a place of safety and protection for many. We become that place of protection and safety for others when we are Cathedrals; a place of rest for others.”
Tenth Avenue’s songs have walked us through some pretty dark valleys in the past, and we’re playing it pretty much non-stop here at the farm these days: praying that He’d make even us into His Cathedrals …