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About the Author
Author and narrator Stu Garrard is best known as the guitarist for the British band Delirious?, who, for nearly two decades, penned many of the best-known worship songs in modern Christendom. Now, when not touring as a guitar player, Stu is writing, recording, speaking, leading worship, and watching Netflix.
Read an Excerpt
Words from the Hill
An Invitation to the Unexpected
By Stu Garrard
Tyndale House PublishersCopyright © 2017 Stu Garrard
All rights reserved.
POOR IN SPIRIT
What You Find at the End of Your Rope
Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.
* * *
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
* * *
You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
MATTHEW 5:3, MSG
* * *
When darkness is our only friend You are there And we're longing for the hope of man You will, you will, you will make a way.
"YOU WILL MAKE A WAY (POOR IN SPIRIT)," ALL SONS AND DAUGHTERS AND STU G
MY MID-LIFE CRISIS began with the best of intentions. I wanted to make a difference, to take on some of the injustice in the world, to do something really good with my life. I just wanted to change the world for one or two people, that was all. That's how it all started. But it ended up nearly costing me everything.
I felt like I kind of used to be someone. I was part of a band that toured the world. We wrote songs for churches to sing, and we wrote songs for everyone else, too. Some even made it onto the charts. We had a passion and vision for big music that made a big sound for one big, united world, and we were going somewhere. Those were amazing years.
For the longest time our band was on an upward trajectory. We had a special "something" — some kind of prophetic imagination between us that doesn't happen very often. While not everything we did was a major success, our influence and audience were growing. The music business was still selling CDs in the '90s, so we were able to keep advancing and climbing by owning everything ourselves, employing a staff that felt like family, and building our own delivery systems. When we needed help, we partnered with others who were bigger and stronger. We liked those words, bigger and stronger.
For a time, we felt invincible.
I never really knew what poverty looked or felt like. Even though I came from a working-class background, my family was far from being poor. We had food on the table, a roof over our heads, and loving parents who stayed together and worked hard. Sometimes some of my friends had the fancy electric racing-car kit while I had the cheaper, gravity-controlled Matchbox set, but I didn't want for anything in terms of love and holidays and laughter. It was picture-postcard stuff, and it made me happy.
I left school as soon as I could. At sixteen years old I followed my dad into a manual trade, starting an apprenticeship with the Eastern Electricity Board. I thought I would be an electrician until the day I retired. I thought I had my career taken care of. Funny how these days, the very thought of having the same job, the same colleagues, and the same routine each and every day leaves me feeling nervous. But those were different days back then. Lots of people — myself included — were still hiding within the dream that the world was neat, predictable, and unchanging.
I got my wake-up call in September 1979 at Parrot Records in Ipswich. I was still sixteen, just a month into my apprenticeship, feeling like a man with something to strut about. I was starting to like the feeling of having a little cash in my back pocket, and I'd walk around the streets of Ipswich wearing my mohair sweater and Doc Martens.
And then, in that record store, I heard Queen's album Live Killers for the first time. It changed my life. Literally.
I had been a Queen fan for years. Ever since I saw them perform "Killer Queen" on Top of the Pops. There was just something about Freddie's voice and Brian's guitar orchestra that grabbed me in the gut.
But that day in Parrot Records, from the opening bars of "We Will Rock You," I knew that I wasn't just a fan. This was what I wanted to do. I didn't just like Brian May — I wanted to be Brian May.
So I went home, picked up my sister's nylon-strung classical guitar, and learned to play the Queen song "I'm in Love with My Car" by ear. I sold my drum kit that I had started to learn beats on, and I bought my first electric guitar. My black-walled bedroom became my rehearsal room and my concert arena all in one.
My fingers bled.
At twenty years old I married Karen, a bank clerk whom — I admit — I would whistle at as she walked past the building site I was working on as an electrician. Three years later we moved to London to pursue music. I was in a few bands, played a few sessions, and started working for my church as a musician and song leader. Karen and I had our first daughter, Kaitlyn, on a dark, rainy November night at Archway hospital in North London.
Somewhere along the way I met Tim Jupp and a young Martin Smith. I was drawn toward what they were doing on the south coast of England like a grain of space dust is drawn to a black hole. I found a home for my music there in Rustington, West Sussex, and together as a young family — we had our second daughter, Eden, on a bright spring day at Chichester hospital — we found a place to be and to grow.
Full of passion, vision, naivete, and the Spirit, our band at The Cutting Edge events, and the cassette tapes we produced, paved the way for what became Delirious?
So we found ourselves travelling the world and sharing our music with millions of people in some really wonderful and interesting places.
And I remember Brazil.
We saw Jesus in Rio. Well, we went to see the statue, but I only saw his feet, as the rest of him was shrouded in mist. Then there was the Copacabana beach, samba dancing in Sao Paulo, sampling picanha in Brasilia. We stayed in great hotels and saw everything the tourist office of Brazil wanted us to.
But then we saw the favelas — the slums that everybody associates with Brazil. Filthy kids fighting for tiny scraps of food among the trash. Drugged and deformed beggars lining the streets. A dead man lying faceup in the middle of the road, his eyes staring heavenwards.
I didn't feel safe there. But the danger wasn't external — it was internal. This five-star musician lifestyle just didn't seem to fit with what I was seeing, let alone what I was singing.
I felt challenged and extremely uncomfortable. The sort of uncomfortable you feel when you're in a skid and about to crash into a tree — you're not in control and you know what's about to happen. Up until now, being a Christian had been about waiting for God to show up at the gig and not getting in the way as the "power flowed." But now to watch from the stage wasn't enough. I was learning the story that's always been true: the story of the God who hears the cries of the oppressed, those enslaved by lack of power and choices, and I felt the pull toward the unexpected — a new way of being. To join that story and do something.
So I went home and put an offer in on a better, bigger house, closer to the beach, with more rooms and a space for a studio in the garden.
* * *
I hated India when I landed there for the first time. I don't say that lightly — I really did hate it. Every sense was on edge, overwhelmed by the smell of sweat and cheap petrol engines, the sound of traffic and too many people shouting, the heat, the taste of poverty, the sight of so much chaos. So many people crowding, jostling, wanting to carry our bags even before we had gotten near the airport doors. Then outside, the beggars, the street people all wanting something from the rich Westerners walking out with guitars in expensive-looking flight cases.
The air-conditioned car ride to the air-conditioned hotel was like being decompressed after a deep-sea dive. But it didn't make me feel any better. There were armed guards outside the hotel, but they didn't make me feel any safer. Were they meant to stop the outside world from getting in, or were they there to stop me from getting out?
Finally, alone in my hotel room, I stared at the mirror.
What are you doing here? I asked myself.
I called Karen. I felt like a kid suddenly pole-axed by homesickness while on a school trip. "I just wanna come home," I told her.
"Stu, just go and be you," she said. "Be kind to people, do your job, and then come home."
There's nobody like Karen for putting my head back on straight.
Next morning a few friends and I jumped in tuk tuks and explored the city of Hyderabad. What did I have to lose? It seemed somehow different in the sunlight. We walked out of our five-star dream and immediately noticed a pristinely and colorfully dressed woman outside the blue tarpaulin shack that was her home, sweeping the road with a few twigs.
We dodged in and out of the ridiculous traffic, accompanied by the auto-horn symphony, breathing in the two-stroke tuk tuk fumes. Watching the crazy theater of Hyderabad kick off in front of our eyes and ears was intense. A new sound, a bold image ... every few seconds something else pulled my head towards it.
I was holding on for dear life. But what kind of life?
Later on that trip we played a concert in Mumbai and visited a feeding program for kids of sex workers in the vast slums there. Millions live beneath the blue tarpaulin and rusty tin homes, straddling open sewers, fighting for life against all odds. Those broken, beautiful people embedded themselves in my heart. Prostitutes and their kids, transvestites, and the folks giving their lives to serve these people in dire poverty — they all fused together within my mind, a crazed symphony of suffering and hope. So many of my fears, my prejudices, my stupidly simple answers, my Western privilege, and my easy, simple religion died there that day.
And I fell in love with India. I fell in love with it the way I fell in love with my wife when I saw her though the glass door, before she could see me, on our second date. I fell in love the way parents fall in love with the hazy, black-and-white image on the shiny bit of paper that the sonographer hands them in the darkened room. All that risk and all that hope. All that potential and all that chaos.
It sounds strange to me now, but I think I fell in love with India most of all because it was there that I finally saw God, in the very people I had never really noticed before. When I finally stopped and stared at the poor and the least, the weakest and the last, I saw his love and compassion in action.
And it was I who felt poor.
What was I supposed to do with all this? I was coming apart at the seams.
And when it became clear a few months later that the band was going to end, I may have been coping on the outside — but on the inside, I went into free fall.
* * *
If you want to see where God is, look at the Beatitudes.
Let's put ourselves on the hill that day. Jesus was looking at the very people he was talking about. And if you were going to go look for the "blessed" of the world, you wouldn't go looking there!
But embedded in these amazing words is the key to finding where God is closest to us: in the places we're least likely to look.
The other day, I came across this hard reality: Nearly half the world's population — 2.7 billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day. And 1.2 billion live in extreme poverty — less than $1.25 a day. It's hard to believe, isn't it?
The vast and growing gap between rich and poor has been laid bare in a new Oxfam report showing that the sixty-two richest billionaires in the world own as much wealth as the poorer half of the world's population.
When I read this, I feel sick to my stomach.
I spend more on a single cup of coffee than 1.2 billion people alive right now have to live on per day.
It's easy to imagine that more than half the people on the planet are not only poor but living with crushed spirits.
Trite language such as "You have the power to change your life" is so inappropriate for most of the planet. The gap between the mega-rich and the extremely poor is sickening and wrong.
It's almost like it's been designed to keep people in their place.
And yet how can I even comment on this, a guy who wishes he were a millionaire every day?
But I wrestle.
The thing is, once you've "seen," you just can't "un-see." It never leaves you, nor should it. It disrupts you for life.
Since the slums of India, the favelas of Brazil, the waste dumps of Cambodia ... life has not been the same. A daily wrestle with very few answers.
And then there are those of us with money in the bank, stuff in our houses — and the suffocating darkness and depression of feeling empty and unsatisfied. A different poverty of spirit, but spirit crushing nevertheless. Matthew's Jesus makes sure these people are also included.
Let's make no mistake. Jesus announces first and foremost that if you are poor — whether materially or deep in your soul — and it has crushed your spirit, God is on your side. No requirements, nothing to attain. This is the situation right now. Whoever you are. Wherever you are.
We don't have to look very far. I've been privileged to travel, and I have seen the most amazing people in the direst circumstances, and observing their resilience and joy has changed me forever. But I can also walk a couple of miles from my house in one of the most desirable counties in America and find neighborhoods where if the schools didn't send the kids home with food for the weekend, they would go hungry.
Hard to see a blessing.
And it's nothing to be earned.
It's just what is.
God is on their side.
I met Elissa Kim through something called Q Commons, which is a local expression of Q Ideas, an organization formed by my friend Gabe Lyons. Q helps folks engage in conversations that are all too easy to shy away from.
At Q Commons, Elissa was talking about her work with Teach For America, and her story and her passion for her job and the low-income communities she works with really inspired me. I was able to get in touch with her and meet up over a coffee in East Nashville to go deeper into her story.
Elissa is one of four children born to South Korean immigrants living in Indiana. Both her parents came from incredibly poor families.
Rising from the ashes of World War II, her mother's father had made the journey down south to scrape around for work. But then the Korean War broke out, and the north/south border was created. He met and married his wife in the south but never saw any of his family in the north again.
None of Elissa's grandparents could read or write, but her father's parents decided that they would sacrifice everything they could to give him a basic education. So they worked and worked and sacrificed and pushed doors so their son could learn to read and write.
Well, he turned out to be quite the bright kid. After some exam success, he got himself into med school, and from there he joined the army as a medic.
Elissa says that without the sacrifice of her grandparents and the "miracle" of basic education, her father would have lacked choices and therefore opportunities. His parents could see that education was the "key" needed to open doors to the choices they never had. He clearly had talent, but in the absence of the most basic education it wouldn't have mattered.
Elissa's parents had an arranged marriage, and it wasn't too long before they emigrated to the States, where Elissa's dad became a doctor. Then a couple of things happened that changed the Kim family's course again. Elissa's dad was in a serious car crash that all the cops and medics said he shouldn't have survived, much less walked away from. He was so shaken up, he said, "I was saved for something."
Later, he contracted lupus so serious that it put him on his deathbed. With friends gathered around and Elissa's mum crying, the physicians came into the room and said there was nothing left they could do. They were trying to prepare Elissa's mum to be a single mother taking care of four kids. How would they survive?
But weeks later, Elissa's dad pulled through — and thought for a second time, I'm intended for something.
"So he started exploring what he should do," Elissa says, "and he felt led to Kazakhstan first. And then he ended up opening free medical clinics in Uzbekistan, providing free medical care to the poor — and he did that for twenty years."
So this guy who brings his family out of poverty — through the chance of a basic education — becomes a doctor, and then gives free medical care to the poorest of the poor using his own money, in another country, for twenty years. Unbelievable!
But that's not the end of the story.
Elissa grew up in this household in Indiana that placed a high value on education, and there was never a question about whether the kids would go to college. Elissa got a full-ride athletic scholarship to play tennis at Northwestern University in Illinois.
Her own story differed from her father's in that she didn't really lack privilege growing up — but once she made it to the university environment, she quickly realized how much the circumstances of birth dictate the opportunities that people get.
The university culture is highly pre-professional, and so it's a bunch of hypereducated, privileged kids who really do have the world in front of them. They know they are going to get a great education, they can choose to go to Wall Street, they can choose to go to law school, they can choose to start their own business. They can do whatever they want, and these were the things that the system valued. Elissa fell in that path and said, "Okay, I'm supposed to be a lawyer."
Excerpted from Words from the Hill by Stu Garrard. Copyright © 2017 Stu Garrard. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Intro: Of Life's Unexpected Places xv
Chapter 1 Poop in Spirit-What You Find at the End of Your Rope 1
Chapter 2 Mourn-The Grief of Change 23
Chapter 3 Meek-When Presence is Ignored 39
Chapter 4 Hunger and Thirst-Blessing or Requirement? 73
Chapter 5 Mercy-Getting Caught in the Rain 95
Chapter 6 Pure in Heart-The Wonder of It All 125
Chapter 7 Peacemakers-Living in the Contested Space 145
Chapter 8 Persecuted-Holy Troublemakers 173
Outro: The View From Up Here 205
What People are Saying About This
I’ve loved watching Stu explore the Beatitudes in the writing of this book, making friends and discovering their stories along the way. Stu’s honesty and compassion have helped me hear these well-known words of Jesus in a whole new lightas announcements of kindness, mercy, peace, and his presence for us all. You will love it!
One Sunday night this fall, Stu sat in our kitchen, and instead of playing his own songs, he played songs from men and women he had befriended in his travels. Instead of telling his own stories, he told the stories of people who’d been abused, forgotten, marginalized. Stu is a man who is using his voice to lift people up, who is using his talent to draw out the talent of others, who is using his influence to tell a story of hope. This book is story after story of hope, and I can’t think of a more timely message or a more generous and wise messenger.
Stu G has successfully penned a book on the Beatitudes that is teeming with wisdom, heart, and practical insights. Never has the world felt more riven and ready for this fresh take on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Blessed are those who read this divinely timed book.
Stu G writes like he plays. He weaves the new with the old, the passionate with the vulnerable. Words from the Hill is an honest, beautiful book from a man who paints with his fingers the stories that his heart perceives.
When Jesus spoke the eight simple lines that we call the Beatitudes, he offered his listeners an alternate way to look at life, a different way to experience God. Stu Garrard invites us into a beautifully written, unfolding story to explore this unexpected way of living with God. He introduces us to people from the bright lights of the rich and famous to the shadows of death row who have each encountered this surprising transformation. I highly recommend Words from the Hill for those ready to join this journey.
In Words from the Hill we have Stu G’s unique exploration and application of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. It’s a reflective, disruptive memoir, beautiful and quietly incendiarya book well written by a life well lived.
Think you know all you need to know about the Beatitudes? Think again. Enter this book with holy curiosity, and you’ll discover stories that will change your lifestories of ordinary people who chose to “collude with the power of love” and experienced the blessed presence of God in ways they never imagined. I love this book!
Someone once introduced President Jimmy Carter as a man who used the White House as a stepping-stone to do great things with his life. Stu G has done the same, using his career as an award-winning rock star as a stepping-stone to do great things with his life. There’s no message more important for the contemporary world than the words of Jesus, the “red letters” in the Bible. Stu dives into the heart of those red letters in this book on the Beatitudes. I know that his words will move the world just as his music has. I’m honored to call him a friend.
Stu’s honest and poetic voice gives new life to some of the oldest truths in the world. I am grateful that he has used his gifts to promote love’s healing power through the lenses of the Beatitudes. His book teaches us how to walk more gracefully in this harsh world.