When life’s sorrows bring us into shadowlands, we need the joy of Christ to restore our strength. We tap into this joy by nurturing a deeper longing for God. Shadowlands and Songs of Light: An Epic Journey into Joy and Healing takes you on a quest for joy and a life-changing longing for God.
Written by a C. S. Lewis expert and a skilled composer, the book explores 18 beloved C. S. Lewis classics, from Narnia to Mere Christianity, and 13 spiritual principles behind the art of songwriting, as seen in 13 studio albums by U2–all to answer one question: how do we experience deeper joy in our relationship with Christ during times of sorrow and trial?
Shadowlands is available to pre-order at Amazon or ChristianBooks.com. If you pre-order a copy, the author will personally email you with a thank-you note and a copy of his upcoming e-book devotional “Devotions with Tolkien,” which uses J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic “The Lord of the Rings” and Scripture. (This is all on the honor system: simply pre-order Shadowlands, and then send an email to shadowlands2016 (at) gmail (dot) com letting the author (Kevin Ott) know you’ve ordered it, and he will contact you.)
Text LIGHT to 54900 to get a preview of Shadowlands and Songs of Light.
It’s been almost a year and a half since Christian recording artist Plumb (@plumbmusic) released her book “Need You Now – A Story of Hope,” which is both a biography and an astonishing testimony of how God miraculously restored her marriage and brought her family back together.
And before I share my recent interview with her, I just have to say: if you’re in a difficult place in life and you feel like you’ve lost hope, or you’re slowly losing hope, I implore you to read her book. It is a stunning testimony of God’s love and redemptive work.
Right now, Plumb is on the Beautiful Offerings Tour with Big Daddy Weave and Jordan Feliz. Judging from the extremely positive comments about the concert on our Facebook page (from my concert review post)–and from my own experience seeing the tour in action–people are absolutely loving this tour. One of the reasons is its unique format: one band (Big Daddy Weave) is the backing band for the other artists (Plumb and Jordan Feliz), and so the artists move on and off stage seamlessly, blending their three sets in an interesting way, and then all three artists come on stage to lead everyone in worship for the second half of the concert.
I had a chance to interview Plumb in-person after her concert in Redlands, California on Feb. 5. We discussed: 1) the tour and how she’s been enjoying it so far this year; 2) her early stages of songwriting for her next album and what kind of themes God is bringing into her life that might end up on the new album; 3) how married life is going as she and her husband Jeremy continue to build on what God has restored; and 4) how their testimony continues to transform lives–including some recent stories that brought tears to my eyes right there in the interview:
How’s the tour going so far? Are you all hanging in there?
I think tomorrow is the 11th show in 12 days.
So far so good. I remember thinking, “Hey, eleven shows in twelve days. Um, What?” And so here we are, the day before [our break]. Tonight was the first time on stage when I was kind of like, “Whew, I’ve got one more in me, but I could definitely take a break.”
So you feel the finish line is close [before the first break in the schedule].
The first three or four shows it’s just like, “Oh my gosh. I’m never going to get tired of this. This is awesome!”
[laughs] Is that kind of like the cycle every tour?
No, this is completely different than anything I’ve done. Winter Jam, for one, is like an all weekend thing where you leave on the bus, maybe at midnight on a Wednesday or a Thursday, and then you’re gone for Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and you’re home on Monday, and it just goes like that for three four months.
I have, historically, in my whole career, other than one major tour with Jars of Clay in the beginning of my career, I have done weekends, weekends, weekends, weekends. A spot date here, spot date there that might have been during the week, a conference, festival, club, something like that. But I’ve not consistently done it this way where it’s “this many days on,” and then, “this many days off,” and “this many days on,” until Winter Jam, which was the most consistent 57 days of “this is what it’s going to be like.” Then we went back to the weekend and spot date thing. I’ve headline toured four times since then, but we kept it mostly like long weekends. So this is 10 to 12 days on, and you have a day off in there in, and then ten days off. So this is our first break of 110 shows right now that we’re contracted for.
Wow! May the Lord give you all rest.[laughs] Thanks, yeah, only a hundred more!
I’ve really noticed the format has been interesting for this. Have you enjoyed the sharing of the stage?
Yeah! I think it’s taken a little bit of pressure off everybody so they don’t overdo it in their set and then you’re just drained. It kind of spreads it out a little bit so I don’t think you’re as exhausted. That’s just my opinion, Jordan might have a different feeling, or Mike. But also there’s more camaraderie, I think, than the typical arrangement, where sometimes you see the headliner at dinner but then you’re on a different bus. You get to know the people on your bus, but you don’t really get to know everyone. This tour, no matter who you’re on the bus with, you’re in community with each other because you share the stage at different points. They have prayer time every single day that you can go to–though you don’t have to go it. Somedays those are the only days I get face time with my kids, so I miss it. They’ve incorporated some different ways to actually engage with each other. You get to know everybody. It is different that way too.
A little more like a family.
Yes. I think so. We’re only eleven days in or something. I know everybody’s name now. It took a little while. I was like, “Okay, you’re Rob.” They have all these weird nicknames for each other so I was like, “Hold on. You’re Robbie and you’re Brian.” And he was like, “Yes. They also call me BB.” We all went like, “Oh my gosh, what am I going to call you, and let’s have that conversation, and then I will just call you that.” [laughs]
[Laughs] They just need to have keys with everyone’s code names.
Yes, written down–or a text will go out and say, “Hershel’s going to go with BG.” I’m like, “Okay. That’s not BB. BB’s Brian so who’s BG?” And they say, “Well, that’s Ben.” I’m like, “But I thought his name was George.” “Well, it’s Ben George but sometimes we call him BG.” And I’m like, “Oh my goodness. What in the world. Who’s Hershel?” And then they explain to me, “Paul Hershel Winfrey. But everybody calls him Pauley.” I’m like, “But you just called him Hershel.” [laughs] So it’s taken an entire week to kind of figure out, “Who are you guys?” But it’s fine.
[laughs] It’s a process.
Yes. It is. I’m the only girl. They’ve got it easy, like, “Yes, there she is.”
I know you’re only a few days in but have you had a chance to be creative at all and do any writing while on the road?
We’ve not written. We’ve talked about maybe if there’s some sort of inspiration going on with anybody it’s just like, “Hey, let me know if you need me and
I’ll let you know if I need you.” I have one of my favorite co-writers coming in on the next run for four or five days. We’re going to spend that writing. He’ll get to sleep and eat and shower and poop and pee just like anybody else though but–[laughs]
[laughs] Join the ship!
Yes. Join the ship. We’ll carve out time that…usually that’s my downtime. I’m going to use that to write with him. I’m also independently writing on my own, just thoughts, melodies, recording things like.
I interviewed you over the phone a while ago [for this 2014 article] and you talked about the vulnerability of putting the book out and there’s even a song about that [“Lord, I’m Ready Now”]. Then doing “Exhale” and touring and going into this tour it has been kind of a theme of thanksgiving and really just offering yourself up. What kind of themes is God moving you toward now? Or is it too early to tell for the next effort?
I would say probably too early to tell, only because I’m not locked into anything yet. I’m definitely experiencing a little bit of uncomfortableness in the sense that I’m not used to not having my band. I’m not used to being away these many days at a time from my family.
My husband is the one who told me that growth doesn’t come from being comfortable. That very Sunday after he said that, our pastor was teaching and he said, “You know, growth doesn’t come from being comfortable.” He was out of town; my husband and I were like, “He just quoted you.” He was like, “No, I think we’re just like-minded probably and you need to hear this.” Him just saying that, and then sort of my pastor almost affirming it within 24 hours of each other, they both said, “Growth doesn’t come from being comfortable.”
So I think I’m going to probably write about some uncomfortable things that are going to help people grow, and I hope to be one of [those people who grows]. So I can definitely tell you that’s in there somewhere. It may just be one song or part of the whole project but we’ll see. It’s usually a diary that just sort of comes to life. With a diary, you usually write about it, and then you come back and carry it out musically. Some of what it’s going to be hasn’t even happened yet. There are things that I’m going to talk about and I’m going to sing about and stories that I’m going to tell that, I don’t know, one of them might be tomorrow at lunch.
It could come any time.
It could come any time. There are maybe two songs right now that are kind of in the wings that would be part of it. We usually come to the table with lots of songs written but usually try and have about thirty or forty solid. Jordan Feliz was talking about how he had three hundred he was trying to choose from. I just told him, if you’re an overachiever–which I don’t think he would claim that–I was just telling him how it actually becomes more troublesome than it sounds. Like, “Oh, that’s amazing you have that many,” but it’s chaos when you’re trying to choose between that many. I try not to have that many because at some point you’re just, “Oh gosh.”
Paralysis by an infinite number of choices.
Yes! So just having thirty or forty options is the goal and you kind of weed them away. Right now there’s like two. So we’re early. We’re really early.
Well, it’s always fun to hear about that earlier stage when it’s kind of fermenting. I listened to the Focus on the Family interview that you and Jeremy did–the two-part interview–and it was just awesome. I was in tears, trying to drive and not cry too much. [laughs]
Aw, thank you!
Has that enriched your lives to pour your hearts out to the public like that? It takes a lot of courage, I know, but have you been able to hear any testimonies about how it’s touching people?
It’s a double-blessing in my opinion because you get to talk about it. You get to relive it and we’re like, “God did that. He did that. He’s good.” Any doubts or frustrations or fears or questions I feel like are kind of put at ease because we’re still human. We still have bad days and fuss with each other or we are frustrated or need space from each other. It’s like, “Did I make the wrong decision?” Because I had an out there for a while. I just feel like that’s evil creeping in going, “Don’t you think that you could’ve made a better decision?”
Like “The Screwtape Letters” thing. [Referring to C. S. Lewis’s book about demons plotting their strategy to influence the minds of people and sway them toward negative or evil thoughts.]
Yes! Yes. Right. But I feel like those are the times when God can just ride in on his big white horse to be like, “Uh, I shut that sucker down. I fought for this because it is true and it’s good.” It gives us kind of a strength. That’s a blessing. Also, yes we’ve seen with our own eyes, and touched people’s shoulders and wiped tears off of their face, of God using this to encourage or to give hope or to inspire or to help transform.
Just this week, we woke up this morning with a text on our phones of a couple we’ve been kind of journeying with. The husband wanted nothing to do with us. The wife has been–we’ve been almost like a lifeline to her. Got a text with a picture of him, after eighteen months of separation–him living and having moved out ninety miles away from them and filing for divorce, four children, homeschooled, beautiful wife, precious, precious kids. All just in absolute devastation of his choices.
It’s a photo of him sitting on the ground with them, reading them a letter of repentance and asking their forgiveness and to come home. Her oldest [son], who wanted absolutely nothing to do with him, she told me in the text that when the letter was finished, he grabbed his dad’s neck and he said, “Dad, I forgive you.” She was kind of expecting him to be the one of the four that was a little like, “Uh, I don’t know if I can believe this.” She said, “I’m in amazement at how astonishing God is. I was prepared to sign papers because…nothing’s changing,” and all of the sudden God got a hold of him and he couldn’t sleep the whole night. He met her the next day at a counselor’s office. Then took her to dinner the next day and told her more. He said, “Is there any chance there’s forgiveness?” She said, “I’ve had forgiveness waiting for you for eighteen months.” Then he asked, “Can I talk to my kids?” She told him, “Yes, you can.” And he said, “I wrote a letter I want to read them.” She just sat back and thought, “I just watched the kingdom unfold in front of my eyes. This is what God’s capable of. Why do we rip him up? Why do we get in his way? I’m so thankful I did not quit fighting and stood for what I believed in because look, this is what God can do.”
My husband even said when I showed him the picture today, and I was talking with him because he’s on the road with me. He said, “You know, if our story had…if God had used our story in any way, even for like point one percent of helping to make that picture happen,
it makes it completely worth it.”
So you don’t just get to benefit from God’s grace and forgiveness and mercy for yourself. You get to be used by him, if you’re willing to do that. When he takes your pain and gives it purpose, you do relive it, but in such a redemptive way that…that stuff just owns me now. I live for a husband or a wife to say, “She came home,” or “He came home,” or “I feel free.” There are some marriages that don’t have that happy ending, yet the person that was fighting so hard finds peace and redemption and they find this life.
I posted a picture even today of another redemptive story of second chances. I watched one of my best friends fight for nine years, and [her husband] never ever came back. He virtually vanished. Someone else came into her life who had a very similar story in his own previous marriage. God has given them a second chance with each other, like he’s honored their fight to do what is true and pure and good and lovely. He honored that and even though the other person didn’t choose, God still honored their choice and gave them each other.
That’s incredible! It’s a different version of the same redemptive work.
I think people think it’s only totally legit if it’s your same spouse and it’s like, no, marriage takes two people to decide and do the right thing.
God’s very resourceful there.
Yes, he is!
And it’s amazing that you and Jeremy can become like swords in God’s hands. We’ll keep you both in prayer.
Somebody told me today that God, somewhere in the Bible, they talk about God pulling a sword from the sheath, and it will never return.
Look for concert locations and dates and purchase tickets for the Beautiful Offerings Tour here.