A few years back, Paul Simon released an album titled, Surprise. But for many of his listeners, and for me in an exceptionally personal way, the real surprise came with his 2010 album, So Beautiful or So What.
After its relase last spring, I wrote about the album, filled with wondrous stories about God and faith, Jesus and the afterlife, and love in "hard times," calling it one of the most spiritually powerful albums I'd heard in many years.
A few months after my review of the album ran, I got a phone call at home in California one afternoon. It was Simon, whom I'd never met or spoken to before, calling to chat. He'd read what I'd written about the new album and was intrigued by the idea that, perhaps, God might have moved through him in the music without his knowing it.
After I picked up my jaw up off the floor, we spent quite a while talking about the nature of faith, my identity as a Christian and what that meant to me (and how I see the world), evangelicalism, fundamentalists, prayer, religion, culture and grace.
It is one of the most beautiful surprises I've ever had, one of the more precious gifts — a staggering, unexpected, humbling and delightful grace — I've ever received.
Simon is the real deal. He is thoughtful, kind and intellectually curious. He pulls no punches, digs deeper, seeking the truth — whatever it may be.
We've visited a few times since that phone call in August and I'm more blessed than I can say by his friendship.
My colleague on the God Beat, Kim Lawton at Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, recently sat down to talk more with Simon about some of the things that led to our unlikely friendship. It is a beautiful conversation, one that, I think, captures Simon (and his spirit) eloquently and accurately. (Kim also interviewed me for the piece.)
You can watch the interview below and read the transcript of Simon and Lawton's conversation HERE.