Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Part 1: Love at First Listen

(This is the first post in a new autobiographical series titled The Roadtripper's Guide to Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Live Music. Indulge me. It releases weekly on Tuesdays. You can read the Prologue here.)

My relationship with unique quality tunes began the day I received a cassette tape in the mail from Release magazine. I had just gotten my first set of wheels -- a deluxe 1988 Pontiac Grand Prix, burgundy, previously a prize for a Mary Kay rep, complete with a futuristic dashboard resembling something from Flight of the Navigator. It might have been better if the car actually WAS pink. CD players did not exist when the folks made it in Detroit, mp3 players were a distant glimmer in some programmer's future, and the radio brought slim options, so tapes were still a delight to receive. As soon as I heard the songs on side A of this particular little cassette, I played them for anyone I thought might want to listen.

I distinctly remember sitting in my car in the FUMC church parking lot one afternoon after some youth event, asking Mrs. S, the mom of two kids I used to babysit, to hear this amazing new band I'd discovered. They came from somewhere out in Texas. A couple of guys and some girl with a pretty voice. They rocked. They used weird percussion instruments. They had a literary name. And I swooned.

As the first strains of Danielle's voice singing "This world has nothing for me..." resounded from my vintage stereo, I couldn't tell if Mrs. S was pleased at what she was hearing or just amusing a sweet little teenager. But as I preached the gospel of this new brand of smart folk-rock, I knew I would be forever changed.

Up until this point, my musical tastes consisted of my parents' do-wop classics, Kasey Kasem's Top 40 hits on Sunday afternoons, a casette tape of The Monkees, whatever was on the million country stations available (including lots of Garth), and a large dose of CCM, the pop hits that only came to us via radio on Sunday mornings, when local radio station KMX played music for puttin' on church clothes. I was stuck in a small south Alabama town where Dave Matthews hadn't quite yet made his presence known, the boys all listened to gangsta rap like it was Jack Daniels, and concerts were like a foreign country. Even the Christian music I thought I liked had to come by mail order or a trip to a shopping mall almost an hour away. At least we had Jars of Clay. That year you couldn't turn on the radio without hearing "Flood" pour out of the speakers. I remember posting lyrics to "Like a Child" on my dorm door when I went to a science camp back in the summer of '95. I thought I was so cool.

Don't tell anyone that my first actual concert of any kind, in middle school, was Ray Boltz. You'll shatter any illusions they might have had about my social stature. I followed those up with regular attendance at performances of Point of Grace, Rebecca St. James, Clay Crosse and somebody named Greg Long (who?), complete with all the paraphenalia they could sell me. One notable exception might have been a visit to my hometown from the guy who would later write all those songs for Casting Crowns,  but even then I can't seriously count that a brush with stardom. Anyone remember Skillet? Yeah, there's a reason I consider the moment I first heard Derek and Cliff as a conversion experience.

My junior and senior years of high school I spent too much time on messageboards for want of like-minded music lovers. Not only was I already a pariah in local cliques for intently following something called CCM Magazine, but I was about to jump ship and enter the world of slightly-independent music of which no one outside of a select few had even a remote interest. Mind you, the internet had only recently been introduced, but all us crazies tended to find each other there, so I forged ahead. My few real-life close friends at the time either could care less about music or were away at college, making their own discoveries. The one guy I dated in high school liked Nine-Inch Nails, for crying out loud. Not a paragon of musical taste. I'm still thankful to the youth leader from the Bible school formerly known as FBTC for giving me a poster of the album cover from this particular band's first label release. He was the first person I'd met in real life who actually knew who they were. It was a lead of love. (And if you just got that, then you do, too.)

And so I entered my senior year of high school armed with a new homemade binder for my AP English Lit class (where we began by studying early British texts), appropriately emblazoned with album covers and the band's name across the top: Caedmon's Call.

 Photo from http://caedmonscall.net/

Little did I know that there was a fellow Caedmon's Call fan from Alabama who was attending college just one state over and that in a few short years, our worlds would collide.

If you are still in the dark about this band (or any other I mention in this series) please go check them out at their official website. You don't even have to wait for someone to send you a tape or CD to listen to their music. We have iTunes now. And NoiseTrade, where you can download songs from their latest album for free!

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Books Read in 2011 (Gaines)

  • Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality -- (My review)
  • Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning
  • Keep Your Greek: Strategies for Busy People -- (My review)
  • The Acts of the Apostles (Sacra Pagina Commentary Series)
  • Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ
  • Confessions and Catechisms of the Reformation
  • Introduction to the History of Christianity: First Century to the Present Day
  • Historical Theology: An Introduction to the History of Christian Thought [Selections]
  • Peter Martyr Vermigli 1499-1562: Renaissance Man, Reformation Master
  • Colonial Presbyterianism: Old Faith in a New Land
  • The Color of Magic
  • The Orthodox Church
  • The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression
  • The Monster in the Hollows (The Wingfeather Saga Book Three)
  • Let's Study Hebrews
  • Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets

  • I'm a bit behind in getting this post up - a fact which pretty much sums up my entire reading effort in 2011. Oh well.

    Looking over the list, most of my reading was school-related. I guess that counts, but it just doesn't feel the same. Not that there weren't some good selections in there. The L.T. Johnson commentary on Acts was simultaneously brilliant and infuriating. I've almost finished all 4 volumes of Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics, and it has been worth the read. The collection of monographs on Colonial Presbyterianism provided some great insight on a period I am woefully ignorant of. And speaking of history, I especially enjoyed the Peter Martyr Vermigli biography - the book itself was okay, but the subject was very fascinating: Vermgli deserves much more attention than he gets!

    Of the non-fiction books that weren't for school, I especially enjoyed Amity Shlaes' The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression -- though it is easy to lament how quickly we forget the lessons of the past. Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets was often tough to read, but was an utterly captivating look inside the world of criminal investigation in a major U.S. city.

    My biggest regret: only two fiction books in 2011! Granted, one was Andy Peterson's thoroughly enjoyable third installment of his Wingfeather Saga. But I'll have to do better in 2012.

    Wednesday, January 04, 2012

    Tuesday, January 03, 2012


    If I ever write a memoir (because my life has been SO exciting), it shall henceforth have this title: A Roadtripper's Guide to Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Live Music.

    Okay, I confess. I've already started.

    Everyone likes a good love story, right? And I figure most of the folks reading this blog weren't there for all those years before we became the awesomeness that is now known as Team Redd.

    So, if there's one place you can be self-indulgent and write your autobiography, it's a blog.

    I've been dashing out ideas for months and creating chapters in my head while I'm in the shower or drying my hair (those are excellent moments in which to actually THINK for us moms, rather than just respond mindlessly to an oft-repeated request). However, the problem is that not many of those ideas make it to paper, or in this case, the pretty internets.

    But this is the time for resolutions, so by golly, I'm going to try!

    It's Tuesday, Music traditionally releases on Tuesdays. Hence, I submit this to you on a Tuesday. Look for Chapter 1 next week. And break out some nineties rock.

    Everyone's life has a soundtrack. Mine just might be a little less well-known.

    Stay tuned, folks.

    Monday, January 02, 2012

    Gladys Herdman and the Book of Joshua

    What does it feel like when God's Word speaks to you? To me, it's always like a smack on the forehead. "Listen Up! This is for YOU, silly!" Or maybe it's more like that Herdman kid from The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, whose strange proclamation somehow sounds like the best news you've ever heard: "Hey! Unto you a child is born! And he's in a barn!"

    Well, this past Sunday I heard a sermon that spoke to me like Gladys Herdman. (I highly recommend you take a listen to it if you have the time.)

    During the past year, our little church has been blessed by much change, some heartache, a search for new senior leadership, multiple guest speakers who have taught us from God's Word, an awesome associate pastor who has stepped up in a big way, and a long process of church revitalization. I'm on the Vision Team, and though I've put in many long hours (and Calvin, too, once he arrived), I think every minute has been valuable. One of the first parts of the process we've undertaken is to discern why God has placed us where we are. Why are we in this community? On this corner? In this building? And how can we use that to be part of what God is already doing? I thought about all this as I listened to the pastor draw together the grand picture of God's plan of redemption with events going on both across the world as well as in our own little corner as he exhorted us from the first chapter of Joshua.

    The last time I really meditated on the book of Joshua was 12 years ago. The summer of 1999 was coming to a close, and I was at a leadership retreat for our college's InterVarsity chapter. Just before arriving at the retreat center, I'd returned home from a summer away working at camp to find out that a childhood friend of mine had been killed in a car accident, killed by a drunk driver. She was only 19. Like Joshua mourning Moses' death, I was grieving. And yet, our IV leader showed me Joshua chapter one, and the encouragement there. It helped me not to focus on my own sorrow and loss, but on the task ahead and the work God had for me. And I needed to hear it then, just like I needed to hear it again yesterday, but for slightly different reasons these days.

    As he read from that first chapter, I was struck again by the oft-repeated "be strong and courageous," but also, for the first time, the parts surrounding the phrase:
    "Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1: 6-9) And also, in verse 3, the Lord tells Joshua that "every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you."
    For the first time, I connected those truths to my own life. Yes, I know intellectually that God owns everything, the mountains and the valleys are His and He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. The earth is His and all the fullness thereof. And I know that in Christ, the promises were extended so that now the promised land we are to inherit is not just a tiny patch in the Middle East, but the entire world. "For God so loved the world..." That is his promise -- His kingdom shall have no end. But on Sunday, I finally "got" that it applies to me. To our church. Right where I am, right now. Wherever I go, God is with me. God has people in this city that are His. If we commit to His Word and "meditate on it day and night" He will bring us people to share with, to love, to tell about the good news of Jesus. People in our neighborhood. People in our streets. People at the grocery store and the gym and at schools and parks and restaurants. Every place that the soles of our feet (or our tires) tread upon He has given to us. It seems like such a "D'oh!" moment to me now, writing this. Of course God is with you where you are! He's everywhere! But sometimes I just need someone to put it in slightly different words, like a betrodden kid dressed in angel wings who takes over the part of Gabriel and shouts the Gospel. "Emmanuel! God with us! PRESENCE!"

    Sunday, January 01, 2012

    Why I Blog: Because My Brain is Too Full

    While trolling through old blog posts to try to remember what my life was like before kids when we posted over 200 times a year, I just read this excerpt documenting our Christmas travels circa 2004:

    Highlights of the day included playing Nerf N-Strike (it has an interactive DVD!) with his young cousin (and almost suffering a concussion when he shot me at point blank range, while Gaines almost had a broken tooth when the little boy head-butted him). Avoiding any more near-catastrophes, we traveled back down to Montgomery to spend time with Gaines' parents and sisters and their dog. 
    A few funny things:

    1. That cousin we played Nerf with is now a junior in high school. His name is Austin and he also happens to share a birthday with our oldest, Jacob. This past Christmas, he tried to manipulate Jacob into telling everyone he was his best friend. "Who's your best friend, Jacob? (Say 'Austin'.)" Well, after some time of this he thought he'd sucessfully brainwashed him, so Austin parades Jacob out in front of the entire family. "Who's your best friend, Jacob?" Jacob: "Cole."  Mwahahaha.

    2. Oh my goodness I am much more prepared for violence these days. Gaines almost had a broken tooth? No way! That was nothing. I did grow up next door to three boys and I practically lived at their house, but perhaps by that time I'd lost my adaptation to testosterone. It's definitely back, now. I've got three boys of my own! Head-butts are like a daily occurrence around here!

    3. Both Gaines' sisters and his parents still live in Montgomery, though now each in their own homes, but I can barely remember that they, at some point, collectively, only had ONE dog. (Lucy, who liked to bite the UPS packages to make sure they were safe.) Now, his sisters have three dogs between them (Zoe, Chewy, and Cody) and his parents have Zeke, who probably misses all the excitement from our recent visit. See why we don't need a pet just yet? We can visit four any time we'd like!

    Books Read in 2011 (Allison)

  • Jayber Crow
  • Mere Churchianity
  • Madison House
  • Leepike Ridge
  • Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality
  • By the Pricking of My Thumbs
  • The Scriptures, the Cross, and the Power of God: Reflections for Holy Week
  • The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis
  • The Case for Classical Christian Education
  • When You Rise Up: A Covenantal Approach to Homeschooling
  • Out of the Silent Planet
  • Perelandra
  • Simple Church: Returning to God's Process for Making Disciples
  • Son of Laughter
  • Many Waters
  • That Hideous Strength
  • The Power of Words
  • 1776
  • Mudhouse Sabbath: An Invitation to a Life of Spiritual Disciplines
  • The Pressure's Off: There's a New Way to Live
  • Her Fearful Symmetry
  • The Help
  • Hoping for Something Better: Refusing to Settle for Life as Usual
  • The Politically Correct Guide to American History 

  • Though not quite the least number of books since we've been keeping track, 24 is still below my average. I'm seeing a trend, here:

    2004: 40
    2005: 47 (I count grad school and beginning teaching for padding my numbers that year.)
    2006: 35
    2007: 34
    2008: 36
    2009: 21
    2010: 23

    I am on a slight upswing, so that's progress! (And if you're curious, I linked to all the past lists.)

    Favorite first reads from 2011: Jayber Crow, Simple Church, and The Narnian

    Favorite re-reads: The Case for Classical Christian Education and Mudhouse Sabbath

    Best fiction not by Wendell Berry that I liked so much I read it again this year: The Help

    They all deserve a post, or at least a paragraph, of their own. Someday.