Friday, December 27, 2013

This was last New Year's Eve

Yes, that's Tim Shue, the great and terrible. Mainly great, actually, but you need an Oz reference every now and then. It was a great night.

This year I'll be in Goshen watching some friends tear up the stage: Shiny, Shiny Black and Andru Bemis.

Photo by Anna Knutson

Monday, December 23, 2013

Hard at work songwriting

I just returned from the Dallas area where I went primarily to write songs for the next Surge On Smith album. The writing process went well, although it was definitely work. And I mean that in a good way. There's something to be said for working hard, and while I do believe that good art includes hard work, on many levels I'm a lazy writer. Now a lot of progress can be made in songwriting (and many areas in life) through dogged persistence. If you keep writing songs you will get better. And I have. But then there are those weak areas that just take work.

Surge On Smith, by the very nature of the project and the writing partnership with Kelly, gets at some of my weaknesses. I tend to be vague and I'm not good at story songs. This work is adding a layer of concrete, vividness, and linear movement to the gleeful sense of timing, love of melody, stabs at honesty and love of imagery which has been the core of my work to date.

Photo by Chriss Welter Wasinger

Monday, December 16, 2013

Surge On Smith Live in Deep Ellum

We tested out some of the new material we wrote at two concerts during my Texas time. We had the great privilege of sharing the stage with the talented songwriter Eric Beatty.

Joel Tolley made the live show something much more interesting with his work on the upright bass. Good stuff. I am continually surprised at the responses we get to this Surge on Smith material. In my over twenty years of making music, I've had the chance to be a part of some amazing partnerships and musical endeavors. I love the moments when we were able to give something of real value to an audience and engage them in a way that goes beyond just singing a song, but those moments can be rare. The regularity with which they occur with Surge On Smith surprises and delights me and I am privileged to be a part of writing and sharing these songs.

Photo by Chriss Welter Wasinger

Friday, November 15, 2013


I got new glasses. Ordered them before I went to Nashville. There I saw many pairs of glasses of similar ilk. I don't see as many in Asheville. You may not be able to tell from this photo but these spectacles are a bit granny-ish and very stylish. In case you wondered.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Nashville, Bluebird, Line

Well I've been to the Bluebird Cafe open mic night four or possibly five times now. I've played twice. That's because the line is always long.

I was there a couple weeks ago and the line is much longer than it used to be. Actually it's not longer -- now it's sort of a square, there are lines next to lines. The local businesses got tired of the line blocking their front doors.

They've also added a guard that organizes things. All of this is due, I hear, to the prominence of the Bluebird Cafe in a TV show that I have yet to see (which, legend has it, is NOT filmed at the actual Bluebird Cafe but in a life-sized replica -- step back from that for a second and think about the interesting world we live in -- imagine explaining it to your great great great grandmother).

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Songwriting Commission Part Three

My most recent commission ended up pretty well. I sent a rough recording and lyrics to people who commissioned it.  They wrote back that they liked it and sent it to all their family members. One of those family members wants me to do a house concert. 

They also wrote that some of what I put into the song connected with parts of their story that they didn't tell me. They wondered if I'm a mind reader. I'm not. But God is a revealer of mysteries and songs are not sermons, but can be conduits of mystery, filaments that glow, spark, sputter.

We all need truth that brings freedom, even if it's uncomfortable sometimes. I need light shining regularly into my own darkness (and I'm not just talking about shameful things I hide -- I'm also talking about ignorance, habits, assumptions, etc). I am surprised at the persistence that love shows in pointing me towards that which I'd rather ignore or avoid, but which (once faced) means growth. 

Sometimes this light seeps and stammers through a song, shrinking shadows, wooing us into the open.

Shrinking Shadows
Unapologetic Sales Pitch: If you'd like to commission a song for someone, send me an email at I would have time to do three or four yet before Christmas. It costs between $150 and $800 depending on a number of factors, including what type of recording you want.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Songwriting Commissions Part Two

When these songwriting commissions work best the person I write for recognizes themselves, their relationships, or their home town in the song, but also sees some things they might not have noticed before. Hopefully the specifics I use from the interview connect to larger patterns, stories, truths and provide bridges to new perspective and a sense of hope and being known. This does not always happen. Sometimes the people just like the song. 

And sometimes they don't. 

This might be for a variety of reasons. Here are a few: I totally misread them and the song is irrelevant.  I wrote a bad, unlistenable song. The song has something true in it that the person does not want to or is not ready to see. I'm sure there countless other reasons as well.

Now about that "song has something true that the listener doesn't want to hear" thing -- I can think of one or two instances where I wrote and sent a song a person didn't like where that might have been the issue. Of course,  I'm not sure. I do know it's been the case with me (songs I've heard that I didn't want to hear). In most cases though, when people get a song from me they really appreciate it.

There is, after all, something meaningful about having a song written for you, even if someone paid for it. (Someone always pays for it, actually!)

I will write one more post on this, and I will tell you about the most recent commission.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Songwriting Commission (Part One)

One of the fun side effects of the You Have Not Seen project is that I got a songwriting job out of it. One of the kickstarter rewards for a more substantial contribution was a commissioned song. When I say "commission" this is what I mean by it:

1.  I interview the subject (either about themselves, someone close to them like in the case of a song that's a gift for someone, or about a specific relationship or location). I ask a lot of questions and do a lot of listening.

2. I take what I hear and learn and I write a song. It's not meant to be an exact portrait of the person or place -- rather an impressionist sketch or story that takes flight from the facts, memories and perspectives of that person -- mixed with my own thoughts, prayer, reflections. 

I've done a number of these over the years, and it's been great to see what comes of them. I'll reflect more about them in part two.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

One lonely post

I posted like mad in the month gearing up to the big art show and now things have gone strangely quiet  on this blog . . . for several weeks. This was not because the show went badly and I didn't want to write about it. The opposite is true (great song by Bill Mallonee btw) -- it was so good it was hard to know where to start. So this is one lonely post where I begin telling you what happened at the You Have Not Seen art installation at Bluffton University:

Let's start with this picture. It was taken by Susan Spurgin who visited the show part way through the month, one of many viewers who had the privilege of having the gallery all to themselves for a bit (the reception was something else altogether, but I'm getting ahead of myself).

The first really important thing about this show was the work itself. It was captivating, cohesive, varied, interesting, and restful all at once. It was amazing to see people walk into the room and react in different ways to the art and the space. The art enveloped you and invited you somewhere different.

A number of people spent hours in the gallery looking, soaking.

This alone made all the work worth it, but it's just the beginning of what happened...

Friday, September 20, 2013

Artist Reception/Interactive Event Part III (the Why)

The most common question we hear these days is "why are you doing this?" Some people have connected to the work feel sad or frustrated that it will be taken down and divvied out to people. We feel a bit that way too, which is good -- that's part of what we are getting at! (We also feel thankful and excited).

The idea for giving the art away came to us after going to Christa's grandmother's estate auction. Grandma was moving in with one of her daughters so she had to get rid of most of her stuff. Some of that stuff was highly valued by the family members who came (an old Bible, a coin collection, a doll). Other pieces went for almost nothing. This got us thinking about how transient material possessions are, and how what one generation loves the next might dismiss without a second thought.

As artists we want to create something that is valuable and that might outlast us. We can can become very attached to our work and our ideas about what it should or might become. These dreams and plans are important to have, but they can also be damaging and distracting. Giving away the art was for us, a way of looking right in the eyes of the reality that this work is temporal. It may or may not last beyond our lifetimes.

This frees us also to take ourselves and our work a little more lightly, and to look for ways that it might make peoples' lives a little better, even if it's only for a few years or even (gulp) months. So (with this project) we decided to give the art away to whoever comes to the event.

Another image that was helpful to us as part of the "why"  is the parable Jesus told about the guy who invited his friends to a banquet. Many of them were too busy so the guy went out and invited anyone and everyone to come (including people you wouldn't usually want at your party).

Similarly, gallery openings and artist receptions tend to draw a certain crowd: art lovers, colleagues, and the artists' friends and family. We are hoping that by deciding to give away the art rather than sell it, that we can wholeheartedly invite whoever is interested (rather than focusing on the people who could further our career or afford to purchase the work).

This is a good chance for us as artists (and viewers) to consider (or reconsider) the reasons we make (or view) art. As we have thought about it, these things surfaced:

Art has been a gift to us, like nature is a gift.
We want to give others that gift too; the gift of beauty, rest, and a chance to acknowledge how little we have actually seen and open our eyes to see more.

Artist Reception/Interactive Event Part II

The Basics
Where: The Grace Albrecht Gallery in the Sauder Arts Center at Bluffton University, Bluffton, OH.
When: 2-4pm est, Sunday September 22nd, 2013.
What: Artist's reception and interactive event in which the show is disassembled and given to the people who attend -- and those people reflect on the theme and write about it on little yellow tags.

The Yellow Tags
Each tag will have space for participants to write about something they "have not seen". This could be something funny, imaginative, practical, personal and/or significant. For example, people might write "the alps", "a sunrise on mars", "a blue rhinoceros",  "my daughter finding a spouse", "hope that I can change", "a way forgive my brother" etc. And of course, people may elaborate.

The goal is that as the art of the You Have Not Seen installation comes down it will be replaced with peoples' responses to the ideas that generated the show in the first place. It should be an interesting and hopefully fun, thought-provoking and meaningful experience for those who participate.

Shooting photos and videos IS allowed. There will be people there shooting, and people attending are welcome to do the same. Because we're taking apart and giving away the pieces of this installation, images of the work and the process will be important for people wanting to remember it. However, we encourage you to spend time looking and experiencing the art and the space directly, not just through a lens.

If you'd like to have your perspective on the show added to other peoples', please tag your photographs #youhavenotseen on instagram or tag Christa Reuel on FaceBook.

Artist Reception/Interactive Event Part I

We plan to give away all the art at the artist reception this Sunday (Sept. 22nd). This is a sort of grand finale to the whole project. People have been asking us why we are giving away the art and how it will work. We keep thinking and planning, so I will try to put into words what we think it will look like at this phase. Remember, though, we've never done this before so we're expecting some surprises!

The What
The reception event will take place this Sunday from 2-4pm in the Grace Albrecht gallery at Bluffton University. The first hour (from 2-3pm est) will be a normal artist reception: art, conversation, a bit of food and drink.

When people show up at the gallery they will be given a piece of origami with a number on it. At three o'clock we will start the interactive piece. People who would like to take a piece of art home with them will be called in groups of five (based on the numbers on their origami).

When a group of 5 people are called each individual will explain to a helper which piece they'd like. The helper will work at getting that piece down (some parts are nailed into the wall and will take time to disassemble). The helper will also give the person a yellow tag to write something they "have not seen" on. When the piece of art is taken off the wall that tag will be hung in its place.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Last day of kickstarter, last week of the show

Today (Sunday, Sept. 15th) is the last day of our Kickstarter campaign for the You Have Not Seen; Roots and Wings art show
art installation at Bluffton University. If you want to jump on and help you can do so until 11pm tonight. We have more than doubled our goal which means that people have not only
covered our materials but also some of our time, which helps immensely with this project since we are giving away he art rather than selling it. It's been great  vision
to see people chipping in and helping make this vision a reality.

The show will be up in the Grace Albrecht gallery at Bluffton University until next Sunday (Sept 22nd) at 3pm, est.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Dailies after many many months

A while back I posted about my "dailies" -- the little regimen of disciplines I try to do 5 times a week (I average about 3/week at this point). I've done a number of revisions, and what I have now works pretty well. In 1 minute blocks I do little steps towards growth in a number of areas including spirituality, creativity, and personal growth. Here's a recent sketch from my dailies. The basic sketch took a minute - after my dailies I put in another 3 or 4 minutes to "finish" it.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Stay In Your Lane

There's a fine line between talking about something too much and not reminding people about something they really would like (and need) to hear more about. I'm trying to walk that line about the You Have Not Seen Project. It's a (very) little bit like deciding when to pass a semi in the mountains. There's a curve ahead but it's not that sharp, and this is the interstate, so I'll go for it.

"What is he talking about?"

"I'm not sure dear, keep reading."

"Well, maybe for another few sentences, but if it doesn't make sense soon I'm out."

Back to the You Have Not Seen art installation that Christa and I and a growing number of people are working on:

I'm excited about it. It keeps evolving. There may be a Surge On Smith concert now (it's not for sure yet). I write about it, but you really have to experience the art in person-- I say that, but hopefully if we end up with a little documentary you may be able to glimpse it at some level afterwards, through the eyes and words of people who were there.

But all that is still in the future. We haven't given away the art yet. And some of you might still want to help us do that. If so you have seven more days to hop on Kickstarter and make a pledge. After that all you can do is drive or fly to Bluffton before it's all over... or wait until we kickstart the documentary! :)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

We hit the goal

Today we hit our Kickstarter goal. There are ten days left before the end of the campaign. Hooray. Anything pledged from here on out goes towards giving away the art on September 22nd at Bluffton University. We're excited to see many of you (including a number of unexpected people) there.

If you want the longer update, please visit the Kickstarter page. Hooray! It's nice to hit goals, and it reflects an interest in and excitement about this project, and a lot of love. :) Thanks for both to all of you who participated to date. And thanks for those who are tracking from a distance as well.

Oh, this isn't self explanatory? I see. Well, it's my dad doing something to the roof of the garage. I thought it was nicely reminiscent of this blog post theme of reaching for a goal (although in this photo I think the goal is to power wash the shingles -- not sure the metaphor holds up to that level of scrutiny). I bet next time you'll nod and move on rather than ask, eh?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Volunteer squash (Or how the rhythm section showed up unexpectedly)

Toby Hazlett is one of those rare and wonderful people that keep showing up in my life (and projects) at just the right moment.

Most recently this meant that he turned up at Gabriel's studio with his son Aleks. They became the rhythm section I didn't know I needed (and couldn't afford).

I was particularly pleased to be the artist responsible for Alek's first recording session. He's young, plays a number of instruments, and has a good ear. When I was his age I was less than half of that -- young, with a decent ear... and I sort of played one instrument).

There are times to call the experienced veterans and other times where the best possible scenario is  the one that has everyone sitting at the edge of their seat, not quite sure they can pull it off. That was both Aleks and I at the Upperhand Studio sessions. It's too easy to get comfortable -- sometimes you've got to have something to wrestle to make art. I took along a cheap guitar to these sessions and fought it until there was a hole punched in the "too easy" that we could take all the beauty through. And then there were all the things we discovered along the way that no one planned.

So all in all, it was sort of a "volunteer squash" sort of recording session.

Friday, August 30, 2013

360 View (Almost) of the Exhibit and a Kickstarter Update

I shot a little instagram video of the show before we drove (well I drove; Christa pulled an all-nighter to finish up hanging the art so she slept) back to North Carolina. Watching this video is not quite like being there (scale is essential to this one) but it does give a sense of the work and the space. Can't wait to see some of you at the artist's reception in Bluffton on Sept. 22nd.

The Kickstarter campaign is going well. We've almost reached our goal, which is really exciting. The show is up and the gallery is open but there's still a lot to do (and costs to incur) planning the Sept. 22 event, preparing for a possible documentary, getting people organized to help give away the art, getting the word out, etc. So if you want to help us finish things up, get to the Kickstarter page soon. Once we hit our goal, the money we receive goes towards giving away the art at the reception. (Alternately, if you want to put money towards us giving away art, wait a couple days and then pledge!)

One other thought -- most of the backers so far for this thing have given pretty decent sized amounts (from my perspective anyway, it's relative), but part of what's cool to me about the whole crowd sourcing thing is that people can give very small amounts. It's about being part of something, not about how much money you have to give, so if you're excited about this thing but are broke, give two bucks. Or if that's too much write us a note. We've appreciated the feedback we've gotten so far, and some of the best encouragement that's helped us push through on this has come from people giving advice or offering to help. Funds are important, but no more so than the rest of the pieces that bring vision to reality.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Saying Goodbye

My family recently sold the land that has been the hub for our family on my dad's side for many decades. I spent some of my best growing up years at "the Woods" as we call it. I've been working through it by writing songs. Some sad, some a bit angry, some hopeful and hopefully (eventually) moving towards truth and wisdom. The trees are one of the things I'm saying goodbye to:

"Tune my heart, God, to how to let go
It's that start-stop dance 
that we all know we'll get to know
Soon or late 
break the news
to my family..."

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Kickstarter campaign launched

We just got a kickstarter page up for You Have Not Seen: Roots & Wings (Christa's upcoming show at Bluffton and all the stuff that's happening around that). We made a video in which Christa talks about her work and the project. This is a first of sorts, and while we need to fire the camera man, it gives a good window into what's happening.

Check it out, learn something, and help us finish this project!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Upperhand Studios

As part of the You Have Not Seen show Christa is doing at Bluffton College, I wrote four pieces of music and recorded them with Gabriel OBrien in Wooster, OH. "Wrote" is a partial misnomer -- the whole approach was different than usual -- refreshingly so.

Christa's art in this show is, in part, a response to place and landscape. Gabriel and I approached the music in the same way. These four bits of music will be playing quietly in different corners of the gallery during the show -- we wanted it to be like walking past a house and hearing someone playing on the porch or in the stairwell. So we recorded it that way.

For the track called Water Sight we set up mics on the front porch at 1am and I played quietly to the sound of crickets and an occasional passerby or car. All this became part of the track, and I improvised around the themes that emerged.

All this was quite different from my last recording, Watershed, which was one of the most tightly produced, focused things I've done to date. It was great to stretch in a different direction and I'm excited to see how what we came up with works in the gallery space.

Friday, August 16, 2013

You Have Not Seen

Christa is hard at work installing, adjusting, troubleshooting, creating. I am doing the same for the music and also planning for the Sept. 22 event...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Christa and I have been putting in long days getting ready for her upcoming show at Bluffton University. It will be called "You Have Not Seen" and it's the culmination of three years of work, and the largest show she's ever done.

I wrote music that will be part of the exhibit as well. We're at that phase where everything is coming together (or will have to soon). More news to come soon. It's been one of the most interesting and challenging projects I've ever worked on... and it hasn't even opened yet. I'll tell you more about it soon.

Monday, June 10, 2013

How It Went (Some Dreams Tour) and the Need for Trust

Back in March I made a few posts about the Some Dreams Tour I planned to do with Nate Butler. Well the tour happened (some of you were there). It was good. We all leaned in and went there. Specifically, that was Nate, Amber (they're married) and their fits-in-a-stroller daughter Charlotte. We played every night for a week, some days twice. It was marvelous. And exhausting.

The first night I lost my voice half way through my set. I was already worried that my voice wouldn't make it through so full a schedule. (Up until then I don't think I'd done more than 4 concerts in a week -- including the year I spent on the road with the Radiant Sonchild tour). It was one of those scary moments. I muddled through the rest of the set, adding long instrumentals, cutting songs, and singing not-so-great melodies. It was at the Electric Brew (a hometown audience) so people were nice.

As things were wrapping up I was pretty worried about the week ahead. I prayed asking for help and perspective. "You're just going to have to trust Me" is what popped into my head. So I did and my voice was fine the rest of the time.

Soon after I started writing music (which I loved) I started playing music live (which terrified me). There's been some element of trust needed for me since the beginning, and what I've learned and continue to learn (when it works out well or goes very badly) about trust as I get up in front of people to sing or speak, most definitely applies to other areas of my life as well.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Doctor and Memories and Towns

I was contacted today by a guy I know who produces videos. He asked if I'd be interested in licensing one of my songs for a Dr. Scholl's commercial. Well, I knew the day would come sooner or later when I'd have to decide if I'd sell out or not, but... thank goodness that day hasn't come yet! I love Dr. Scholls. Little known fact -- when I'm on the road and have been around people too much and need to get away, sometimes I go to a supermarket or drug store and hangout out in the insoles aisle. No one is ever there and insoles are comfort food for your feet.

We'll see if it happens, not a done deal yet. But it would be pretty fun if my first song licensing comes from the Doctor.

Which song?

Memories and Towns

Lean in and Go There

Within each network of relationships, formal or informal, a vocabulary will eventually develop. Buzzwords.

In my network two common phrases are "go there" and "lean in." While it's difficult to nail down exactly what these phrases mean, both are related to choosing to engage (and stay engaged with) difficult situations, challenges, learning opportunities.

I saw Tedeschi Trucks band last month and I remember physically "leaning in" and also "going there." I was sitting at the edge of my seat. (So that's where the cliche came from...) His slide playing was interesting, unique and compelling.

I assume that Mr. Trucks has spent many, many hours alone "leaning in" and "going there" with his guitar when he might have preferred to be doing something else. Because of that his audience gets the chance "go there" and may find themselves "leaning in" without meaning to.

That's an encouraging thought whether "leaning in and going there" means getting up the nerve to play at an open mic, apologizing rather than defending yourself, paying attention to or admitting your feelings, exercising, trying for a new job or forgiving someone who hurt you.

Monday, May 27, 2013

It's just so scary

Christa and I took a quick trip to Nashville earlier this month. Last year I spent several weeks there getting to know the city and working up the courage to play at open mics. I've played hundreds and hundreds of concerts in my lifetime, but probably less than 10 open mics. At this point I don't particularly like them. Actually I get pretty nervous. In a normal concert I usually have time to get a decent mix and it sometimes takes me a few songs to get into it, but that's ok. At the Bluebird open mic, you get one song. No time to warm up or tweak your mix. Get up and deliver the song. It kind of levels the playing field.

Well not completely. Even with all those restrictions, there's still the song and the performance. I've heard brilliant songs in Nashville that nailed me even though the writer could hardly sing. And, of course, many mediocre songs that seemed pretty good because of the performance.

Writing a song is one thing. Delivering it is another. Recording it is another thing altogether.

The night I played the Bluebird this month there were 30 performers. Everyone played once and then they picked 10 of those 30 to play a second time, a second song. I sat there while they picked the names, hoping really, really hard that they would not pick me. I made it through delivering one song; I wasn't sure I could have done another. They didn't call my name and I gulped water in the corner and posted to instagram through the final 25 minutes, then grabbed my guitar and cleared out of there. It's a good thing to do, a privilege for which I'm grateful.

It's just so scary.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Dailies, Part Two

After a few more revisions I ended up with this. And it's kind of working. (It takes 3 months or so to get a habit firmly established and I'm not there yet, but it's doable. Even, I think, while traveling).

It's quite different than my original concept. It's now the 3 Minute Dailies. I set the timer for 3 minutes. I do each discipline for that long. Stretching. Guitar scales. Sketching. Free write. Prayer. Silence. Reading. Study. Reflection. Etc.

If I'm rushed I cut it down to two minutes for each thing and it still works. If I've got just ten minutes I still get more than half of it done.

Monday, May 13, 2013


A while back I got tired of the fact that I've been so inconsistent with my personal daily disciplines. So I decided to make a system to put them in. I drew a nice chart, (one I'd want to look at every day as I began my new life of consistency). The chart included many, many things I'm working on (sporadically) from a wide variety of arenas: creative disciplines, mental disciplines, spiritual disciplines, etc.

I tried it. It didn't work. (Some of my friends predicted this). It seems I don't have two hours free for this every day.

So I went back to the drawing board and chopped it all up into small, workable segments. Only 45 minutes Mon, Wed, Fri, a full hour Tues and Thurs. That'll work, right? Hmm. No. I'll tell you where I ended up in the next post...

Friday, May 10, 2013


Cold shoulders
Cold fingers

Hum of a refrigerator

Snow flakes buzzing like bugs

- Jonathan Reuel, 2013

Friday, May 3, 2013

Inconsistent to Good by Choice

I need the twenty mile march
Athletes practice a monk's routine

Instead I 
Rush ahead 
Lag behind

lack confidence
am not prepared 
for trouble

Jonathan Reuel, 2013

Monday, April 22, 2013

Freeing, I think, about a million birds

The great light cage has broken up in the air,
freeing, I think, about a million birds
whose wild ascending shadows will not be back,
and all the wires come falling down.

(From "Rain Towards Morning" by Elizabeth Bishop)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Failure to Thrive or Just Impatient (A Caterpiller)

A caterpillar,
this deep in fall--
still not a butterfly.

(A Caterpillar by Matsuo Basho)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Rain Poems (A Year is a trained beast with no memories)

Rain Poems (by poets)

Afternoon (by me)

The slow plink, splink, poonk
Seeping deep
While I
Slink away to sleep

"The rain doesn't remember the rain of yesteryear.
A year is a trained beast with no memories."

(from "The First Rain" by Yehuda Amichai)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Where we're playing (Some Dreams Tour)

Here's a link to some info about the Some Dreams tour. Headed north before too long. It's going to be a fun ride, some new songs and different versions of old ones. Here's the venue list as it stands currently:

April 2: The Electric Brew.Goshen, IN 7:30pm. Tuesday.
April 3: House Concert. Warsaw, IN. Potluck at 6, show at 7. Wednesday.
April 4: Bluffton University. Bluffton, OH. Chapel, workshop, evening concert. 8:00-9:30pm. Thursday.
April 5: Cafe Amici (Findlay,OH). At open mic. 8-10pm. Friday.
April 6: Elm Street COB, Lima, OH. 7-8:15pm. Saturday
April 7: Jitters, Millersburg, OH. 6pm. (with special guest Annie Yoder). Sunday.
April 8: JK O-Donnel's, Ft. Wayne, IN. Monday.

Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Some Dreams Tour

I'm gearing up for a week or so tour in Indiana and Ohio. I'll be hitting the road with Nate and Amber Butler (of Shiny Shiny Black) and their daughter Charlie. I'm excited about this mini-tour because:
1. Great musicians to tour with -- can't wait to split shows with Shiny Shiny Black (reminds me of the Radiant Sonchild Tour in some ways).
2. A chance to see old friends and play new venues.
3. We made a recording with 6 songs (three new songs of mine and three tunes by Nate), including (go figure) the song "Some Dreams" which I've wanted to record for some time. I love to write songs, and recordings are a chance to get them out to people. Makes me happy. Hope to see you soon.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Twelve Year Cycles

Twelve years ago I traveled around a fair amount with an organization that did renewal work in Presbyterian circles. It was during this time (and with the help of a friend and mentor who was part of the organization) that I recorded my first CD, Sonchild Responsible.

I spent most of last week leading worship for a conference this same organization was hosting. It was a great chance to reconnect and see a decade's worth of growth and maturation of a vision. It was also encouraging and healing personally.

And I was surprised and encouraged to find that some of the songs from that Responsible recording are still being used in their network, and seemed to have teeth when I dusted them off again.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Christa is doing an art show in Asheville this month which is thematically related to this song. Here is an excerpt from her artist's statement:

"While creating this installation I was thinking about breath; how it is necessary and vital, daily and mundane. My experience of God is similar -- vital yet often unnoticed. I've also been thinking about birth, life and death (and it's relationship to breath) both metaphorically (the cycles I experience in work, friendships and identity) and more concretely (because of births and deaths in my extended family)."

- Christa Reuel, 01.2013

Monday, February 18, 2013

Crumpling Mountains (on Time Travel and why I use Instagram)

One day I was writing, looking at the mountains and playing with my camera's phone. I use Instagram for this kind of play because it's a quick way to capture something that catches my eye. Figuring out why that particular thing caught my eye, however, is usually a bit more complicated. And it takes work.

This particular day I crumpled up a piece of paper, noticed the similarity between it and the mountains, and started taking photos. Wow. Pretty profound, right? (These are the sort of things that you try to do when no one is looking, because, face it, it's pretty strange. But then again, the world is strange, and the border between useful discovery and useless weird is not always obvious).

At the time I liked it visually. It fit. Not just the shapes, but something about the idea of folding and bending paper and the essence of the mountains themselves. According to physics, matter, solid matter, is mostly empty space. We can bend paper but not mountains. (Jesus said we could move them, but that's a rabbit trail for another day). We don't naturally see the similarities between such things. We do, however, imagine it sometimes -- time travel, shape shifting, teleporting (this stuff is in the Bible, right? Jesus walks through walls, Stephen is transported from one place to another).

You can get into weird, unprofitable (dangerous even) speculation around this sort of thing -- but I think you can just as easily be afraid of, ignore or avoid the edges which contain things which are crucial for our lives and growth, places where new solutions are waiting to be discovered, where God is ready to take us past our own understanding (and control), where mountains are ready to be bent or moved (what did Jesus mean by "move" anyway) and where time flows like a river around rocks, slowing and speeding up but overall moving in that particular direction that we assume it moves towards like a machine in a factory. There is order in this universe, but it's not merely the kind of order we make; there is a deeper, richer, more flexible and mysterious order that we are surrounded by, which invites us beyond the surface into a life of discovery, risk, hope, faith... and hard work for the mind as well as the body.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Just That

Of of the more stunning things said to me recently came from a friend who is strategic, wise and successful -- not just in business but in his relationships, personal growth and spirituality (he has his share of weaknesses, but there is steady, incremental growth across the board in his life. Stunning.) He said something like, "Jonathan, I want to be more like you." We talked and I found out what he meant was he is learning to see life more as an adventure (as opposed to only something to plan and be responsible with) -- and he sees in me as someone who lives life as an adventure.

I do generally see life that way. I expect to be surprised, and I (often) like it when I am. Learning makes life stunning. I see God in the unexpected. I see hope in change. I feel potential in much that is difficult. A lot of the time. There is a downside to this approach to life too (which is why I can say back to my friend, "I want to be more like you too"), but I'm not going to get into that here. Instead I'll show you a photo.

This is our front door. What do you see?

Context: Snow melting, the sun blazing, bouncing off concrete and around the walls and doors. Amazing. To me it looked like angels, glints of another dimension, a language I was overhearing and felt I could almost understand. But it was just the light and water and shadows. Yeah, just those things; just elements and phenomena that scientists are still trying to understand and that religions see as metaphors and sacraments. Just that.

"I am the Light of the World, whoever lives in me no longer stumbles around in the dark... I am the Water of Life, whoever is thirsty can come to me and drink...(etc, etc)" - Jesus

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Then You Sparked Out

Wrote this for a friend who lost someone close to them.

Water Fall On Me

Jonathan Reuel: Water Fall On Me

A few months ago I took my music off of itunes -- it was getting too expensive to keep a number of different albums current. I'm in the process of putting up the music that seems relevant now. Just posted Water Fall on Me (which I wrote in the early 90's but is still finding a place in churches and camps). It should be available soon (spotify, itunes, amazon, etc). More songs will follow.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Meaningful Work

Several of my friends moved to Deep Ellum in the heart of Dallas a few years back. Through them I've got to know this unique area a bit. One of these friends recently opened a little shop in the heart of Deep. They put up a few of Christa's paintings and got good responses, so I took down another piece when I was there in January. And I stood on a ladder and hung it. Over the Gucci bag. Oh, and I bought a great red shirt from the late 70's.

It's fun to see my peers giving something back to their communities in unique ways: starting urban gardens, opening shops, creating artwork, teaching, starting churches, tutoring, starting creative groups, coaching, etc. It's not an easy path to try to carve out a life that is both creative and useful (and brings in enough money to live on) but I see people figuring out ways to do it, and see a real shift from just working to seeking and finding (at least in small doses) meaningful work.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Last New Year's Eve

The new year's eve concert is family tradition. We've done it for years. This year, for the first time, we had it somewhere different -- at the Shue barn in Kidron, OH. It's an amazing venue (pictured above, from the loft.

Great evening -- Tim Shue tore it up on electric, accordion,  trombone and vocals. Toby Hazlett anchored the tunes and occasionally showed his amazing chops on a variety of basses. Andrew Simms drove halfway across the state to play percussion and Kimberly Glick jumped in on vocals and gave us a glimpse of her songwriting talent as well.

All this happened in the great space cluttered with instruments, hand carved spoons, tools, and delicious food -- with snow swirling around outside.

I think it's the best this particular band has ever sounded. Made me so thankful to have the opportunity to play music with quality musicians and welcome the new year with a great mix of people: poets and writers, teachers and pastors, family makers and lovers of the single life -- that is to say: family, old friends and a scattering of people I just met.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

On the road (and the blog) again

After several very quiet, travel-less months, December and January launched us out of the mountains into a swirl of motion. I've been home only a day or two and have posted less on this blog than any time since sabbatical. The pace is picking up and the challenge is to find a good rhythm and fit the most important things in. More about that soon.

This is me in a hotel room doing a bit of late night practice on the guitar I've been using since my sister Kimberly dropped it off at our place late this fall. It's a Washburn, and it plays nicely with Marshall (who recently got new tubes). It's enjoyed it's visit with the Reuels and I've taken it to PA, OH and TX. It travels well. But that's enough gear talk.

I'll post more about the travels and what Christa and I have been thinking and making recently.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Copyleft defined: I grant you permission to use this image however you like, provided only that you grant the same permission to anyone who chooses to use the image (or its derivation) from your website.

So, technically, taking an image provided under the copyleft rubric, and offering it for sale, or otherwise restricting its use is a breach of copyleft. The degree to which an image is modified and becomes an original work, is a very gray area of intellectual property law.

I like the idea that I could protect an image I made -- either from being used without permission or from having it's use restricted by monetary issues. Of course you can argue philosophical and moral advantages of both approaches -- I think there is value in both, a "time for every purpose under heaven."

Monday, January 7, 2013

And How (Any Thing)

Any thing you pass on your bike
Any thing at all
Any thing you're willing to like
To paint or name or call
Any thing that you spend attention on
Mention in passing, or examine meticulously
Any thing can be a portal, a method of learning
A hint of the Holy
Anything can be a pillow, a spur or a crucible
Depending on who
Uses it, gives it, defines it
And how

- Jonathan Reuel, 01.22.2013