A Week of Songs & Stories – Live with Mark Schultz

Christian Cruise

At the risk of bragging, I scored major points last week with my wife. For her birthday, I surprised her with a Caribbean cruise featuring her favorite musician, Mark Schultz. I didn’t know much about Schultz at the time (though I’d enjoyed his music, which she played on repeat throughout our house), but I knew it was a win-win situation. She gets to listen to her favorite Christian artist and I get to relax in the middle of a tropical paradise. Even though the cruise isn’t for several months, she’s been on a Mark Schultz music-and-video binge since her birthday. Some people just daydream about a trip like this, but her daydreams come with a soundtrack.

Then, one Saturday afternoon, I found her sitting on the couch with her laptop. Her eyes were full of tears. “Honey, what’s wrong?” I asked.

She patted the seat cushion next to her. I sat down, already wondering. Fourteen years together and I’m still not entirely sure how to interpret her tears. Was this happy crying? Were these tears of frustration or anger? Or was it because I ate the last piece of dark chocolate?

Anyway, what had her so upset?

She hit play on a Mark Schultz video. (I should have known.) It was “Letters From War,” about a mother who wrote letters to a son serving during wartime. I won’t ruin the ending for you, but let’s just say I was reaching for a box of Kleenex by the end.

Like usual, one video led to another, and then another after that. That’s when I began to realize why she was so captivated by his music. It’s not just because he writes a great melody (which, to be honest, was all I could have told you about him). But whether singing about the pain of sending children off to war or writing about a husband and wife who grow old together in a nursing home, his songs are stories that just…resonate. I’ve never sent a child off to war. And we are far from a nursing home. But the emotion in those words? I could feel it, just like she could. I love a good story, and Mark Schultz has a gift for telling them.

So, to state the obvious: I am looking so forward to this cruise. Of course, I keep picturing the warm white sand and clear blue ocean. But suddenly my anticipation has deepened. As I understand it, one highlight of Mark’s cruise is to pull back the curtain on his songwriting process—he tells the stories behind the songs. That’s what captivates me. Where did these songs come from? How does he put these ideas to music. How in the world does he make them rhyme? I’m fascinated with the process, and the chance to be on a cruise, with my wife, hearing the meaning behind the melodies—now I’m counting the days.

Which means my daydreams have changed a bit. The beach is still there, but I’m also imagining the two of us, post-concert, heading back to our stateroom to talk about Schultz’s songs, about our own journeys, about our own faith. Where will we be in 50 years? I know this: The cruise will only bring us closer together, and Mark Schultz’s music has given us one more thing to share. At any rate, I’m as excited about it as she is, both of us cruising vicariously with Mark Schultz’s songs, daydreaming and making a mental packing list. At the top of that list? Extra Kleenex.

Would you believe me if I said it’s just for her?

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