Thursday, August 19, 2010

the Love that moves the sun and other stars...

Since Blaise was born over six months ago, music has taken a bit of a backseat in my life.  The time to reflect and write new songs--limited even prior to this amazing event--has dwindled to next to nothing.  In addition, having left my full-time music gig at Holy Trinity Church here in Kansas, my chances to play--either at a coffee shop or leading worship somewhere--are twice-monthly events...hardly enough for the musician in me.  Yet, truthfully, I have no regrets.  I wouldn't trade my son, wife, and my life in school for anything--especially not for a some new songs and some QT with my guitar.

This said, music runs through the center of who I am as a person.  Thirteen years ago, I went to my first ever major concert--watching Jars of Clay's "Much Afraid" tour of 1997.  I can still remember sitting on the second level of the basketball arena at a local New Orleans university (the New Orleans Hornets didn't exist then) and singing along to Worlds Apart as they finished the show.  I still remember feeling amazed and overwhelmed by my first experience with one of the greatest tangible metaphors for the grandeur and glory of God.   I have experienced now, many loud and amazing concerts--indeed I have directed the sound and led the music at many as well--and yet the glorious metaphor often slips away even at those moments.  I am reminded of the villages along the foothills of the Alps and the people who experience such natural beauty every day--even they search for something more after a while.

The journey to God is quite different than the elation of this mountaintop experience.  The journey to God--the journey to the very center of myself--to Love Divine--is very reason I got married to my amazing wife Kristen, decided to have a child, and left my music job to go back to school.  At some point the top of the mountain is simply another geographical location on the map--even the highest mountain or the furthest reaches of space cannot sustain wonder forever.  Love, on the other hand--that Divine experience of reality made tangible through a spouse, a child, a friend, a neighbor--Love can indeed sustain us forever.  Unlike the mountaintop, Love is ever new, ever shifting, ever challenging, ever pursuing our hearts, minds, and souls.  Love challenges me to take care of Blaise in the midst of a ridiculously crazy day with very short naps and very little peace.  Love challenges me to be patient in the present and let life approach at the speed it desires.  Love asks that I consciously walk past my guitar each day, having faith in the future, in my family, in the Divine compassion and love that calls me awake each morning and helps me to sleep each night.

So here we are.  In my daily experience, the ephemeral nature of love is not something I think about when I change Blaise's diaper or run to the store.  Indeed, it is often quite hard to think of God amidst the struggles, frustrations, and disappointments of daily life.  Which prayers get answered?  Which prayers will not?  How do I pray for our child attempting and marvelously to adjust to my wife going back to school?  It is often the practical thoughts that get me through--analyzing what has worked before, what he might need, what might work in the future.  Because of this, I am often tempted to pray--and do--only when times are most difficult, when Kristen and I reach our limits of patience and sleeplessness.  But this is not the God that I follow--or at least not all of the God I follow.  My God is the God of love of neighbor, of compassion, of real choices and real service to others, of patience and difficulty, of defeat and sacrifice.  What was once a yearning for mountaintops to get me through the next year has slowly become a realization of the holiness and grace bequeathed upon us by constantly searching for the love amidst every moment of each day.

I recently finished "The Mismeasure of Man" by the celebrated atheist, Stephen Jay Gould.  The book is an interesting and compelling walk through the attempts over the last few centuries to measure people's intelligence and how nearly every temp was riddled with unconscious or conscious bigotry of its day--and often bad science as well.  At the end of the book, however, Gould mentions his overarching purpose in describing a woman who was sterilized--without her knowledge--in the mid 20th century because she was apparently deemed unfit for procreation by a team of psychologists and other scientists.  He makes the point that all science--no matter how theoretical or impersonal--has very real and direct implications into people's lives, and that no scientist should live and work without the knowledge of this woman and her very real grief upon discovering this fact many years later.  He finishes by quoting Jesus (from Mark 2.27) who, after his apostles gathered some food, defended their actions by saying that "the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath."

We live in a time where atheists are often more Christian than Christians themselves, a fact that is both quite inspiring and quite depressing.  Let us then claim the sabbath, as Gould (and Christ) reminds us, for each person by gathering food, caring for our family, listening to concerns, directing music, healing the sick, clothing the naked, loving our children, casting our vote--that is, by allowing Love to work through us for the benefit of all others in this hectic and stressful world.

The world will not be sanctified by random acts of kindness--nor is doing random acts of kindness a form of Christianity but a selfish way of life free from responsibility and purpose--but by allowing the very essence of Love Divine to flourish throughout our lives in every choice, every thought, every action in every day.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Midday chance of dawn


I admit, I could not imagine this space just a few months ago. Blaise--our nearly four-month-old son--was born 4 days before the Spring semester began. And we survived. Kristen went back to school and heroically survived the final quarter of teaching. I hung in there with Blaise during the day and managed to survive 2 evening classes...complete with papers and projects and reading as usual!

We bought a car...

I sold my motorcycle...

and life moves on.

I am beginning my coursework for two summer courses. One on Liberation Theology in the United States, and one of Literary Acculturation of the Four Gospels. I've already begun reading the books for the former, and already have felt myself challenged, refreshed, and closer to where I want to be in terms of studying theology in the future.

Music flows ever daily...I sing the body electric, Whitman wrote, the armies of those I love engirth me, and I engirth them...who am I to question the place God calls us to? Who am I to question the immutable presence of the Divine on the surface of this small planet in a solar system on the edge of one of billions of galaxies which encompass the universe that we know? Truly, there is life yet to be found, within and without. I must be so bold as to ask God to be present and so humble as to realize there is much outside of me. Much music, much theology, much holiness, much love, much peace. But I am a part of this life...a part of this journey to holiness and the Divine.

Enjoy the new online presence of John Slattery Music! Here's to an everchanging world.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sing with freedom...

The rain falls quietly outside. I'm on my 3rd day watching Blaise solo during the day while Kristen goes to work...what craziness. i'm taking two evening classes this spring, a light load because of little Blaise Robert (born on January 29th!) and because I was able to take such a heavy load in the fall.

Life is full of struggles, joys, challenges to overcome, situations to exercise patience. Playing music has been a challenge since leaving Holy Trinity last August. I've been playing a decent amount with School of Faith ministries, but am struggling to find time to play caring for a baby full time with my wife!

I don't really mind, you know, this is the calling we strive for. To clarify the love of God in our lives, to find the way to best serve Him, to find the way to best serve the Law of Love and Forgiveness. While I can serve him much through music, I can also serve him intellectually, through focus, intensity, academia, and love.

Don't get me wrong, I have not given up playing music, and I fully intend to ramp up my playing with School of Faith and playing on weekends once this guy gets a little bigger and easier to handle! Until then, we wait in faith and patience (Heb 6.12) for the love of God to be more clearly present every day--in the rain, in little Blaise, in the love of my beautiful wife, in the studies and oftentimes frustrations of academia, in the unknown future.

Here's to a waiting, patient God and the desire to be more like Him every day. Here's to faith realized and future unforeseen. Music is so much more than music sometimes. =)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


There is a quiet resistance these days to the idea of the holiness of desolation. I recently finished reading and studying "The Cost of Discipleship" (in German: Nachfolge) a profound book by the WW II martyr and theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In his elaboration of the Sermon on the Mount, Bonhoeffer writes of the absolute necessity to not only pray in secret, but give ourselves spiritually, mentally, and physically to God in secret.

We are intertwined as human beings, spirit, soul, body, and flesh. We cannot detach ourselves from our 5 senses. Christ commands us to humble obedience and service to the Father. He commands us to suffer ourselves for the sake of the Kingdom of God. There is no nationalism that outweighs the Kingdom of God. There is no pride in country that can ever push aside our service to God.

And yet, we are beings intertwined in the flesh. The music we hear must be to drive us closer to God. That which we see must serve to stimulate our existence into building the Kingdom. That which we love must be, first and foremost, the will of God and God's presence in other people.

I am here to bring others to God. To help bring music, thoughts, sights, and feelings that will stimulate the mind and the body towards a holier existence. I have no illusions as to the size of my audience, but I will press onwards nonetheless. Because God is far, far greater than I could ever imagine myself to be.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

to never let go.

Now we sit, and think, and write. Three weeks into grad school classes and the Word of God is surrounding me from all sides! Music had taken somewhat of a back seat, and yet tomorrow I lead worship for a wedding and Sunday night I'm assisting at a service. The plans God must have in store...I can only walk in faith, in love, in hope of His promise and care.

On top of all this, my wife is pregnant! A little boy! A new school, a new year, and our first child. 'Wow' barely scratches the surface. But what love!

One of my favorite songs over the past year has been David Crowder's "Never Let Go." Near the end of the song (depending how you play it), a building backdrop of instruments and vocals surrounds the simple phrase "oh what love," repeated over and over again.

Oh what love
Oh what love
Oh what love

In joy and pain
In sun and rain
You're the same
Oh you never let go
Never let go
You never let go

Download the song on iTunes, listen to it on youtube, learn to play it yourself, or hear someone else play it...just experience it. There are few worship songs I can dive into wholeheartedly every time I play it.

Praise God who never, ever lets go.