Far before I could fully comprehend all that was being talked about or the struggle that this music was born out of, it was a rhythm that captivated my soul, a true language beyond words. It wouldn't be until years later that I would start to learn about all that encompassed this music and the origins of its humble beginnings. Topics like God, love, strength, hardship, equal rights, and a deep connection to creation were areas I would later grow accustomed to, not only within the music but in the world around me. It became very apparent to me that reggae music was more than just music; it wasn't something fabricated in a cushy studio or written for the billboard top 100; no, it was born out of struggle. No matter the continent you were born on, the color of your skin, your economic class, or the language you speak, I’m confident there is a place in your soul for a "roots chune"; you just may not be aware of it yet. It was, and still is, the people’s music.
Growing up as a kid in Florida, especially as I entered into my teenage & young adult years, I began to fall more and more in love with creation and the ways in which it reflected our Creator. Having my bare feet connected to the earth & the sun shining on my back was something that made me feel so close to my Heavenly Father. The concept of being a part of such a beautiful creation was so fascinating to me and still is to this day. There is a line from William Blake that has captivated my mind for years; it reads, “To see a world in a grain of sand and Heaven in a wildflower.” I can’t express how often I reflect on that line and how much I strive to see life through its lens. Whether I am standing on a paddleboard or simply on a walk in the neighborhood; I can sense His Spirit in the way the leaves dance in the wind or the morning rays of light reflect off the water. All these things pair so effortlessly for me with roots reggae and have shaped a truly holistic and symbiotic relationship between myself, the planet, and Abba, our Father.
And so you see, it is for these very reasons that this past September, when the winds began to pick up, waters began to rise, and the devastation looming in the face of a city I called home became more and more apparent, that the words of an old reggae number began ringing in my head.
"Lord God, guide and protect us,
When we're wrong, please correct us.
And stand by me. Yeah!
In high seas or in low seas,
I'm gonna be your friend,
He said, "I'm gonna be your friend."
And, baby, in high tide or low tide,
I'll be by your side,
I'll be by your side."
-High Tide or Low Tide ( Bob Marley & The Wailers )
Throughout my life, music & more specifically, roots reggae, has often served as a ‘finger pointing to the moon.’ The ‘moon,’ being God & the ‘finger’ the lessons within the lyrics. Robert Nesta once said, “The winds that sometimes take something we love, are the same that bring us something we learn to love. Therefore we should not cry about something that was taken from us, but, yes, love what we have been given. Because what is really ours is never gone forever.”
Hurricane Ian was unlike anything I had previously been a part of; in fact, it was unlike anything the majority of anyone alive has ever been a part of concerning hurricanes. It brought howling winds that, for hours on end, refused to break for even a single breath, relentless rising waters that felt as though they wouldn’t stop until nothing was left, and for many, they didn’t. It stacked shrimp boats like legos and caused bridges to crumble into the ocean. In the wake of it all, areas we in southwest Florida grew up cherishing were completely transformed into skeletons of a previous life. Time Square & the pier on Fort Myers Beach became fragments of what they once were. The sugary absurdity and chaos that was once the foundation of the Lani Kai resembled that of a ghost town. And every local’s favorite life-giving soft shell tacos & burritos from ‘Yo Taco’ were washed away by a storm surge upwards of 15 feet. Yet faintly in the recess of my mind, just audibly enough to make out, were echoes of the words from all those years ago; “the winds that sometimes take something we love, are the same that bring us something we learn to love.” The ensuing days, weeks, and months after Ian were proof of this. Our days were full of prayer, phone calls to check in on friends & family, local clean-ups, food drives, and a state-wide motto, “Florida Strong.”
Like all hardships, Ian has proven to be an incredible opportunity to come together & reorient ourselves with what truly matters. It has also provided space to look within and take a spiritual inventory of the areas in our lives that are either brimming or devoid of eternal currency. Much like the forefathers of reggae music, what you quickly realize when you are awakened, is just how fragile this material world can be.
At the heart of it all, what matters most is not our fancy cars or cushy jobs, but rather, the amount of love and light we pour into those around us.
The Ride Nature Girl’s Discipleship House is a perfect example of this. It took kayaks to get our team to the house the morning after the hurricane. The merciless waters utterly destroyed the inside of the home; floors and walls needed to be completely ripped out. We tossed nearly every possession that was inside. But, over the coming weeks, the response from supporters around the world rallied to rebuild what was so quickly lost. In less than 48 hours, we received donations from over 1,000 individuals and raised nearly $30,000 to rebuild and refurbish this home. Volunteers from all backgrounds came together, got dirty, rubbed elbows, and served to help create a beautiful home once again for the next generation of young women to be poured into and grow in an intimate relationship with their Creator.
As Yeshua reminds us, with death comes new life. With that, an opportunity for transformation, growth, remembrance, and honor has been placed at our feet, should we be willing to pick it up & carry it. Don’t get me wrong, the road ahead will be long. Our beaches and surrounding areas may take years to restore fully, but with each passing day, love shines brighter, hope grows stronger, and our community’s roots grow deeper. My prayer for this place I call home and the people that share it with me is that we will step out into each new day we’re given, remembering the words of Joseph Hill from the band, Culture.
“We jump and wake up in the morning,
For It was love that caused our first heartbeat.
Check the green trees,
How they bow their heads way down low,
To give thanks and praise to the Father.
Love shines brighter than the morning sun.
Love shines brighter every day.
You’ve got to believe me! ”
- Love Shine Bright ( Culture )
God is good, and there is not a single thing that can’t be overcome in this life with Him by our side. As I sit here writing this, there are no longer tears on my cheeks about what was taken but rather a smile on my face as I contemplate all that we will learn to love and the roots that continue to grow deeper for this community. A generation of children will grow up to tell of a time in Southwest Florida when yes, the skies grew dark, winds howled, and waters rose, but their story won’t stop there. They’ll speak of neighbors becoming family, prayers mending broken hearts, and a community being rebuilt because love shined brighter and even the trees bowed their heads to give thanks and praise to the Father.