So what is The Cannonball Flight?
The title for the album comes from a line in the song, “Confined to Spend”. I wrote this song in the fall of 2006 while staying at a cabin in New Hampshire with some friends. I remember standing outside one night and looking up at the sky. The air was so crisp and clear that it was like peering through a looking glass directly into heaven. As I stood there with my head bent up at the sky, I began to get a sense of how small I was in comparison to everything else that was going on out there. Along with that came the notion that the firmament above me was very ancient, I was only a youth in its eyes. These were the same stars King David saw thousands of years ago when he wrote:
“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?” (-Psalm 8:3-4)
I suddenly realized I was standing on the shoulders of many, many souls that had existed before me. People who had been born, lived a full life, and long since passed on. From here my thoughts turned to the fact that my own life was temporary and would one day come to an end. Should the Lord tarry, there would be many more stargazers in years to come to whom my life will be as ancient history. The Lord began speaking to my heart and I went inside to write down some lyrics. While I was writing and praying and thinking about all of the ways I wanted God to use my life, He gave me the picture of the arc of a cannonball hurling through the air. It represented the journey of life lived from beginning to end.
A cannonball is launched from a cannon with amazing force. Its initial trajectory is “upward and onward” as it rockets into the sky. This can be likened to the early stages of our lives, each of us being entrusted with our own unique gifts, aptitudes, and perspectives. For many of us in our youth, even though we may have our struggles, we can feel like life is on a constant upward rise. It’s during our youth that we grow physically and mentally. We can observe from year to year our bodies changing and becoming stronger. We increase in wisdom and knowledge as we glean from new experiences on a daily basis. Another significant aspect of youth is that we are not so inhibited by fears and physical limitations. We are packed with “potential energy” so to speak. I’m 36 now, and I still feel in many ways like I am in the prime of my youth, but as I get older and gain perspective, I find myself becoming more rational and practical and less prone to take brazen risks. I’m not saying it’s altogether a good thing. In many ways I wish I still possessed some of the recklessness I did twelve years ago, because sometimes, if rooted in faith, it can translate into doing great works for God. I’m merely pointing out that more experience inevitably produces more hindsight, and hindsight plays a significant role in helping us make appropriate decisions.
Part of the trajectory of the cannonball includes the apex – the point at which someone is metaphorically in the prime of life as a whole. The view from here is vast! There is still presumably much life ahead, and also plenty of life-experience behind to glean from. Many people in this stage are settled in a career, perhaps are married and have a family, are financially stable, physically healthy, possessing a sense of direction and calling, and are typically comfortable in their own skin. I’ve been told by someone much older than I that these can be the most fruitful years in a person’s life. I personally feel as though I am just starting to crest this stage in my own journey, and may only be beginning to have real perspective in life. I find myself starting to consider not just what do I want to accomplish with my time, but also what are the things that really matter?
There is also a dose of reality that is beginning to set in: that there is an inevitable decline ahead of me. My body will begin breaking down (in some ways it has already started to). Relationships that were once very significant have faded away, and many of my dreams are either not attainable any more or are no longer important to me. I met another believer in a coffee shop recently who is 79 years old and we started a conversation. He shared with me how the older he gets, the less he feels that he really knows. Not that he has lost information that was stored in his memory, but that he has a greater perspective on all that there is to know. He understands that of all that of all the knowledge that exists in the universe, he actually knows very little in terms of a percentage. He shared several stories from his life and explained that for the past 10-15 years God had been stripping him of all the things he used to be able to rely on: his health, his strength, and his independence. The thing that stood out to me in our conversation was that he didn’t seem to look at this stripping away as loss, but as gain. I wish you could have seen his face as he told me his stories – many of them would seem heartbreaking in the natural sense. But this was a man whose countenance was marked with joy and gratitude as he reflected on all the ways the Lord had directed his steps through each season of life. There was pain in it yes, but his perspective enabled him to look back and see the bigger overall picture. He didn’t say it explicitly, but the common thread that linked these little vignettes of his life together was this:
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His son…”(Romans 8:28-29a)
This man’s hope and joy rested in the fact that God’s power was beyond space and time. He could look back on the trail of his life experiences and see many examples of God’s involvement and wisdom.
“You have hedged me in behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it.” (-Psalm 139:5-6)
On the cover art for this album, I deliberately asked that the artist incorporate some element of mystery to the end of the cannonball’s path. It’s not clear where it will land nor what is the source of the glow behind the mountain in the distance. (Thank you to John Sumrow for capturing this concept perfectly in his excellent painting!) Part of the reason for this is to get the listener to think beyond this life. It’s a good thing to keep in mind that our time in eternity will be much longer than our time here on earth.
I of course admit that I don’t have all the answers myself. The reason I feel so bold to talk about these subjects in my songs is because I believe I have experienced a taste of the work of God in my own life, and that I have known Him personally. And though I haven’t visited life after death, Jesus has both died and returned on His own accord. Since Jesus knows what the next life holds, I want to spend my life learning about and putting into practice those things that are most important to Him.
I have been allotted a certain amount of time here on Earth. Scripture tells us over and over again that life is short, but that it is also very precious. Yet many of us carelessly live like there is “no tomorrow.” The goal of The Cannonball Flight is to help us turn our attention to the things that really matter here and now, and to pause and consider what will happen at the end of it all. Where are we headed? Do we merely crash into the ground and cease to be? Or is there some other mystery beyond the horizon? More importantly, is there anything we can do about it and if so, what?
“Lord, make me to know my end,
And what is the measure of my days,
That I may know how frail I am.
Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths,
And my age is as nothing before you;
Certainly every man at his best state is but a vapor.
Surely every man walks about like a shadow;
Surely they busy themselves in vain;
He heaps up riches,
And does not know who will gather them.
‘And now, Lord, what do I wait for?
My hope is in You” (-Psalm 39:4-7)
Thanks for reading. May God bless you and speak to you through these songs as you seek Him and contemplate your own Cannonball Flight!
Yours in Christ,