Interview with Marg Herder from 'Christian Feminism Today'
Wild Goose Festival 2013 – Troubadours of Divine Bliss
The Troubadours of Divine Bliss are slated to perform at the 2013 Wild Goose Festival at 7:00 pm on Saturday, August 10, at the Performance Cafe.
The Troubadours of Divine Bliss
They live at the end of a dirt road near Louisville, Kentucky, in a house with solar panels, a wood stove, and no running water (or as someone said, “There’s running water, you just have to run to get it.”). Just a couple of hours from where I live, actually. I was not familiar with their work, though friends have since said, “Sure! I know who they are. I LOVE them.”
I get busy in my head and miss a lot.
In looking for Wild Goose presenters to interview before the festival I picked them out from the lineup of performers’ pictures on theWild Goose site because I liked their name. I read on their website that they had been brought up Pentecostal. And then I read these words: “We both lost our faith in religion and gained our faith in the Spirit… Vowing to discover the difference — giving up Sunday School to become God’s fools.” And as you might imagine, I was sold.
I emailed and asked if they would talk to me. I found out they had a gig scheduled for downtown Indianapolis in June and made plans for Lisa and I to attend.
Renee (l) and Aim Me (r) -The Troubadours of Divine Bliss
Since then we’ve had a fun time talking and emailing. We’ve shared stories. I’ve seen them perform. And I’ve stood next to them, in their energy, just to make sure they were as real as they seemed to be. Not everyone is, you know. But they are.
I’m grateful they consented to give me a little glimpse of their lives and work by trading words back and forth. And I’m excited to tell you about these women. Because when they sing, I can hear Spirit singing through them. When they talk or write, I can feel the current of Her Love, Grace, and Peace winding through their words. And the most delightful thing of all for me is that I can just see Her moving through this world disguised as these two Troubadours of Divine Bliss.
In this post I’m going to start with some information, an introduction. Then in the next post I’ll follow up with highlights from our correspondence. The Troubadours describe their beginning this way:
In 1995, we had the wild wish of being Troubadours of Divine Bliss, street performers who travel around encouraging Revolution of the Spirit & Courage of the Heart. Renée had a dream she was playing an accordion, so she got one. Aim Me learned two chords on the guitar and Bliss was born.
We quit our jobs, piled everything in a Mazda 626 and headed off to The Big Easy to free our dream. We followed our destiny to the streets of New Orleans where (wrapped in battery-operated Christmas lights) we debuted as Christmas Carolers in 1995 on the corner of Royal & Toulouse. We sang our little hearts out and people said, “keeping doing this”, so we did. God has rolled out the red carpet for us ever since we made the leap in to fulfilling our call. Since then we have traveled all over the U.S., Canada & Europe freeing our dream and embracing life in pure delight and encouraging others to do the same…our wild wish keeps coming true!!!
Now that’s some serious SURRENDER.
Sacred Letters of Surrender – Troubadours of Divine Bliss (2009)
They have released six albums. You can buy the two most recent collections on iTunes (“Sacred Letters of Surrender” from 2009, and 2012′s “Awakening to Love”). Two others (their Live album “Off the Cuff: Live at the Winchester” from 2004, and “Dying, Laughing—Firecrackers on a Funeral Pyre” from 2002) are available on the Troubadours’ website here. Their first two releases, “No Place Like OM” (1998) and “Dressing Room for Eternity” (2001) are available only by special order from the Troubadours (contact them through their website).
Renee Ananda plays an electronic accordion. Besides the welcome fact that the electronic version weighs about 20 pounds less than a regular accordion, it also allows her to create the sounds of a variety of instruments onstage. Aim Me Smiley plays guitar. They both sing. The music is built on their vocal harmony and excellent songwriting.
Awakening to Love – Troubadours of Divine Bliss (2012)
The Troubadours spend their time writing, playing, touring, spreading Bliss. You can keep up with them byfollowing them on Facebook.
There are lots of videos here on YouTube. Many are music videos, but do a little exploring and you’ll findsome others that will provide an interesting look at how these women carry on in the world.
They are life-partners as well as musical partners. Here’s how they describe that aspect of their lives.
… July 22nd will be 18 years of bliss! We happened to fall in love with our best friend, and to be quite honest, even if either of us had been a man it still would have happened. The connection is so deep and pure that it transcends gender. We fell in love with the heart and soul of each other and feel so blessed to be in this knowing and growing together!
Wild Goose 2013 – Troubadours of Divine Bliss Interview
Yesterday I introduced readers to the Troubadours of Divine Bliss. I’ve been carrying on an email conversation with them for the last few weeks and I’m so excited that it’s finally time to share it with all of you. I love these women and think you will too. My questions are in bold, the Troubadours’ answers are in normal type.
The Troubadours of Divine Bliss are slated to perform at the 2013 Wild Goose Festival at 7:00 pm on Saturday, August 10, at the Performance Cafe.
Troubadours of Divine Bliss
Why Wild Goose?
A couple of fans suggested we would be a great fit for the Wild Goose Festival. They knew we came from a Pentecostal church, that we write songs of Spirit, that we are environmentally, socially, and politically active— and we encourage others to find their own path to God. They knew we created a festival called Mighty Kindness that “celebrates all that is kind for the body, soul and mind,” so these fans thought we would find Wild Goose a great match for us. We checked it out, applied, they accepted, and we’re counting the days!
On the festival website it says [the term] “Wild Goose” is a Celtic spirituality metaphor that evokes unpredictability, beauty, and grace.
The two of us met in a church called Grace Assembly where at ages 13 and 15, our friendship and spiritual connection was forged. The church, unfortunately, did not exhibit grace when it failed to extend compassion to its minister, Renee’s dad. A group in the congregation, led by Aim Me’s dad and step-mother, kicked him out of the church at a time when he needed to be ministered to and should have been shown grace in return for all his years of ministering to them. He was simply having a time of soul reflection and rather than send him on sabbatical they threw the family out and got a new preacher.
The Celtic metaphor that “wild goose” evokes has unfolded in our personal spiritual journey.
Unpredictability = Renee’s Dad getting kicked out of the church. Beauty = the gift of our connection and union meeting in that church Grace = the gift we were given and the prayer we now pray, “God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that can be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish one from the other.”
We have spent the last 20 years on a healing spiritual journey that has allowed our spiritual beliefs to unfold into a mingling of spirituality, social justice, music, and art. Our vision and purpose is well aligned with that of The Wild Goose festival. What an honor to have been asked to share our music in a space that seeks to “celebrate diversity,” that “promotes the common good,” and is “captivated by the call of radical humanity.”
We too are captivated by the call and can’t wait to dream and scheme with fellow seekers in an inspired and sacred place.
What are you trying to do here, in this incarnation, at this time?
Our mantra is “FREE YOUR DREAM!” That means to remove the barriers and blockades to “following your bliss” and setting your dream free! The only reason we do not all live a bliss-filled life is that sometimes credence is given to the things that take us on a detour from the path and keep us in bondage— separated from our bliss. These things can be relationships, debt, things, jobs, addiction, and anything that feeds fear and not love.
“Everything we possess that is not necessary for life or happiness becomes a burden, and scarcely a day passes that we do not add to it.” ~Robert Brault
In our journey we have discovered that we are here to be evidence of souls who have freed their dream. We are here to help others reveal and heal those things which are spiritual, emotional and creative barricades to their bliss, to help them find their way back to their spirit and their connection to God.
You grew up in a form of fundamentalist Christianity, something in which there is little patience for difference. There is a big set of rules everyone is supposed to follow in order to belong. I have several questions related to this.
a) When did you first realize your personal spiritual expression was outside of the rules?
Aim Me Smiley
Aim Me: It happened when I was 13 years old and truly felt the Holy Spirit for the first time in my life. I would get up at 5 am and read the Bible before school and then lead a Bible study group at high school. I felt the Spirit strongly but experienced a deep disconnect at home. My father, who was the deacon our church, would beat me until I had welts and then quote these Bible verses from Proverbs Chapter 23:
Verse 13, Withhold not correction from the child: for [if] thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. 14, Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.
It was very difficult to reconcile the violent instruction thrown at me from the Bible that I desperately wanted to understand, and the deep ocean of love from the Holy Spirit I was feeling. After heart wrenching soul searching, I slowly started to trust my own spiritual guidance from God and not blindly accept the religious instruction of the authority figures around me. I began to understand that perhaps those teaching violence, judgment and separation were misguided. If I stayed true to the teachings of Jesus— love one another, practice non-violence, love your enemies— I would be guided in the direction of God’s Radical Grace. I began to trust my own personal relationship with God, knowing that it was a living, deep connection. I trusted my own pure, sincere desire to be a loving example of Christ’s Love; that was my surest guide.
Renee: It was actually when I went away to college. I went to Evangel College, a Christian college in Springfield, Missouri. It was my first time to be in an environment where no one knew me or what I believed, so there was a great opportunity to explore who I was, what I believed, and begin to express that.
As a preacher’s daughter I always had all eyes on me and was very involved in the church singing and playing organ for the services. My father was a great teacher, and I remember enjoying his messages. But I also remember that I spent much of his message trying to figure out what music I was going to play for altar call. I took in all of the teachings on an informational level, but realize now that I was so busy in my role that I did not experience it as much personally.
When I went to college I made friends with a guy who was a thinker, and he loved to play devil’s advocate. In our conversations I would spout off what I believed and he would respond with “WHY do you believe that” and I would answer, “because…” It was then that I realized I really didn’t know what I believed, and started exploring that personally. This begat a journey that encouraged my expression outside of “their” rules and in the limitless arena of my own spiritual self-discovery.
b) How did this feel to you at the time?
Renee: It was exciting and limitless! I was coloring outside the lines. I felt the liberation of knowing I could have the personal experience of unfolding my own spirituality.
Aim Me: Honestly, it was so hard because I wanted to do the right thing. I wanted to be a correct Christian but it did not feel in alignment with my spirit. Learning to trust myself more than those in authority was difficult and confusing. Once I crowned Love as my King, everything became clearer and my faith in my own spiritual discernment grew stronger and stronger.
c) Was your difference apparent to others?
Renee: Perhaps not at first. I wanted to protect and preserve this experience from any questioning or challenging so I kept it private and personal. I know now that God’s love was boundless and I didn’t want to allow any possibility, at first, for anyone to try and confine or categorize my beliefs just as they were expanding. When I had established my own foundation, and knew more what I believed, I think my difference became more evident.
Aim Me: Perhaps in high school they saw that I was a very inclusive Christian. Everyone was my friend and I stepped outside the bounds of the “Christian Club.” My life changed radically soon after and my spiritual beliefs became more internalized and a part of my character rather than a religious agenda.
d) The spiritual message I hear in your music seems to be very universalist. It strikes me you often use Love as a definition of divinity, and that you frame things such that everyone who expresses love through the way they live their lives is walking a spiritual path. Is this a fair assessment?
That is absolutely a fair assessment. I, Renee, remember singing 1 John 4:7-8 in Sunday School. “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” God is Love. If you are walking in love you are walking with God, and you are on a spiritual path. Jesus has summarized it so well that we are to love God above all and love our neighbors as ourselves. If you are living that formula you are absolutely living love.
e) Your presentation, both live and in what I’ve read seems almost like one could say you are evangelical for Love. Do you think the way you grew up has influenced this presentation? In other words, are you okay doing music just to be doing music; or does music, to you, have to be interwoven with spirituality and thus done in service to a “higher” calling?
We are evangelical for love! God = Love. Love is the answer. The way we grew up has had tremendous influence on our presentation. One of the biggest things we both loved about our background was music and worship. We inherently have always made music not just about doing music, but have prayed to be vessels that it pours through. Music has provided us with an opportunity to tumble a key in people’s hearts and open the door to getting them to think about their purpose and what will free them from any barricades that block that dream.
We both have servant’s hearts and this gift of being able to share music does feel like a calling of service to others. Through music you can share a personal story or emotion that opens people up to their own stories and emotions, so we always try to honor that exchange. We try to offer within our music what we have learned about healing, revealing, and stepping into the highest calling of love for ourselves, one another, this gift of Earth, and God, who is Love.
Fundamentalist Christianity has a view that either you are saved and going to heaven, or not saved and going to hell. What are your current thoughts on what happens after we are done here? Does “after we are done here” even have relevance to you?
Troubadours of Divine Bliss
The original gift of this perfect planet where all of our needs were met with God-given provisions in abundance is our idea of Heaven. There was peace, no one was hungry, and everyone was healthy and had perfect union with God. Heaven and Earth were one. What has happened since then has become Hell here. Greed has created an imbalance and separated people into haves and have-nots. People are starving and suffering from disease without access to clean water or medicine while some sit on their yachts sipping martinis, making secret trade deals, and hiding their money in offshore bank accounts. There is the reality of genocide, wars (and secret wars) going on where innocent people are being killed, while people in their virtual reality are watching Hunger Games and playing Call of Duty in their family rooms. Child trafficking is stripping children of their innocence, stealing their childhood. There was an estimated 26,000 sexual assaults on women in our military last year and that number is rising. Corporations are taking over our food supply with GMO seeds, playing God and creating disproportion while they try to control our crops. The planet and its people are in a state of asymmetry. This Earth is sick from neglect, the human spirit is diseased from its loss of perfect union with God.
All these things and more are Hell. Heaven was the original gift. If all of us honored that original gift, we could restore and renew ourselves, and this world, into a place of perfect balance and union with God. That would be Heaven.
We are embracing a great mystery and none of us really knows for sure what happens when we are done here. We do know what does happen while we are here, and we are responsible for both our action and inaction. It seems the people who talk the most about escaping out of here and being taken to a Heaven somewhere else where there are mansions, streets of gold, and pearly gates often are doing the least here to help restore balance and peace here on Earth. At the same time, advocates and activists who see the hellish things going on here (the injustice and imbalance) are fighting for social justice, peace, and protection of the environment. They are trying to bring things back into equality.
We do believe that God’s template has always and will always be love, grace, and limitless compassion. What a patient God! We believe some day everyone will wake up and partner with God to restore themselves and this planet to balance. We believe and pray for a day when Heaven and Earth will once again be one.
Do you think your current spiritual view is a reaction to or repudiation of your early fundamentalist upbringing? So much of fundamentalism is about the strict enforcement of rules, and has quite a focus on punishment for breaking them. Not so much about grace and redemptive love for all, which is what I hear as the message in your lyrics and public presentation. I wonder if your current presentation, almost the opposite of what you grew up with, is your answer to growing up and finding your personal “divine image” rejected?
What a wonderful question.
We have found that it all gets stirred into soul soup. We have allowed all the ingredients from each stage of our spiritual growth to simmer and mingle together. Our current spiritual view is one that has been enhanced by our upbringing. We don’t want to miss the gifts we were originally given.
We were both raised with an awareness of God and our hearts were opened early to that relationship. What a gift to be introduced to that presence. Over the years we have realized even the strongest ingredients that have been added to our soul soup— strict rules, judgment and punishment— have mellowed in the abundance of grace, compassion, and love that have been added since.
We walk in a state now where everything is holy, and there is nothing that can separate us from the miracles offered by the Divine.