Archives For Music

My Brothers in Arms

July 9, 2012 — 6 Comments

This past week my men’s group had an emotion-filled time spending our last night together at our friend’s house. We have been meeting at his house, primarily his porch, for the past two and a half years. My friend is getting married, moving and off on a new adventure so we can only be happy for him. There is a little sadness in leaving his porch for it has been a place full of great memories, some of joy, some sad but ultimately it was a place of encouragement. It is a place where you are reminded that you never have to walk alone. Our group is moving to a new house with a new story to be told and I’m excited to see what God will do through it. These past years have been special and I’ll never forget them.

My wife knows I need other men like those in my group and I’m thankful she can see how beneficial it is to have these friendships. In my life experience, every man needs a fighting friend or more to navigate life.

The famed Sergeant Bill Guarnere in the book and HBO miniseries, Band of Brothers said it best,

Once we get into combat, they only people you can trust is yourself and the fella next to you.

I don’t have a natural brother so God has instilled something special in me that helps me grab tightly to those like in my men’s group. Throughout the pages in my life story, I have been blessed to have many great friends whom I call brothers. The life chapters have been wonderful with my friends growing up in Kansas City, my Young Life brothers in Christ in St. Louis, my brothers in college in Evansville and this group now. We are brothers in arms, united always fighting through life, celebrating our successes and failures, joy and pain, adversity and adventures.

My brothers, I thank you for fighting with me. As it says in Hebrews 13:1 (ESV), “Let brotherly love continue.” My feelings for you can only be expressed through the Dire Straits song, Brothers in Arms,

Through these fields of destruction
Baptisms of fire
I’ve witnessed your suffering
As the battles raged higher

And though we were hurt so bad
In the fear and alarm
You did not desert me
My brothers in arms

In a few short weeks we approach the anniversary of a tragedy that most of you reading this remember well.

I didn’t know anyone directly who perished on 9/11.  I still feel for them and pray for their families.  I pray that I am living better because of what we have learned from that day.  I now am married and have two little girls and when the time is right, I will share what happened on that fateful day and what we all have learned from it.  My parents had shared where they were when hearing that JFK was assassinated and their parent’s experience when hearing about Pearl Harbor being attacked.  Each generation had its defining moments.  In my early 20s, I wondered if my generation would have that kind of moment.  Before 9/11 I remember vividly the following events; The Challenging exploding in 1986, Operation Desert Storm in 1991, Black Hawk Down in 1993 (occurred on my birthday), and yes even Bill Clinton’s speech acknowledging his indiscretions with Monica Lewinsky.

I had only been working in my new job out of college for a few months when the 9/11 attack happened.  My routine each day was a 10 mile drive toward downtown St. Louis.  My routine was filled with two cups of coffee, one at home, one for the ride to work and I would listen to talk radio.  On 9/11 the routine was broken.   My car had broken down the day before so I borrowed my parent’s car.  Instead of the daily radio talk, I put in Travis’ new album The Invisible Band and listened. Perhaps nothing for anyone was routine following 9/11.  I would have listened to the live reporting of the attack on my drive in but instead was in some other world.  I learned immediately when I entered the door at work from a colleague that planes had hit the towers.  We had a person from our New York office visiting us that day and she was emotionally distraught not knowing if her loved ones were okay (She learned later that they were).

The next morning, I took a look at lyrics from one of my favorite songs on that album that I listened to that fateful drive to work.  It was the song, Pipe Dreams.  

I read it all, every word
And I still don’t understand a thing
What had you heard?
What had you heard?

Very few things were ordinary about 9/11.  What had you heard on that day? 

The day after 9/11, I like many still went to work.  No music today  as I paid close attention to the talk radio.  It was full of fear, confusion, sadness, full of messages about economic demise, and anger.

My office was a half a mile down the street from the UPS central depot in St. Louis.  If I was just a little late getting to work, I would be stopped by the trucks leaving for their daily delivery route.  On the normal day, I would have been extremely annoyed if getting caught by these trucks.

On 9/12,  I was stopped by those UPS delivery trucks.  I sat in my car cheering for 30 UPS trucks leaving their depot.  I was not alone and saw several others doing the same.  Were we cheering for giving terrorists the finger and that economically we would not slow down?  Not really.  It felt more like a symbolic way that people were willing to keep moving forward even after being knocked down.

Ask any boxer about this feeling.  You get hit.  You get knocked down.  You get back up and fight.

My responsibility as a human being living during such a tumultuous period is to share the lessons we have learned.  I wonder how we will remember 9/11, 50 years from now?  Unfortunately events like these could probably happen again in some fashion.  My daughters’ generation will have defining moments but may they learn from 9/11, JFK, and Pearl Harbor an important lesson I learned as well as my parents.

We must keep going forward. 

Lately I have been thinking about one of my favorite questions to ask people.

“What was your first live music show?”

I love asking that question to people and hearing awesome stories from someone’s first show.   I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s so I usually hear the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Poison, INXS, Def Leppard, NKOTB, etc.  Occasionally I meet someone like my great friend Josh Lang whom I think said his first show was Bob Dylan, which is unbelievably golden.  There are also people whose unfortunate first exposure to live music was Color Me Bad or RATT.  I’m surprised the Department of Children’s Services didn’t take those poor kids away from their parents.

And me…

Well my first live show that I can remember was the great Paul Simon.  My mom took my sister and I to see him at Starlight Amphitheatre in Kansas City.   It was Paul Simon’s Rhythm of the Saints Tour in 1991.   I think all summer my parents were playing that album along with Graceland, which to this day I still listen every few months.  I remember the amazing African drums, the bass vocalist singing The Obvious Child, and all three of us singing the Born at the Right Time together out loud.  My sister and I were hooked.  Looking back, I am surprised that was the first show since my parents were big folk music fans and thought it would be something more like The Kingston Trio or Peter, Paul and Mary.  But thank you mom because I feel that I can share that story with great joy.  Paul Simon is one to be proud of when answering that question.

The question is more important than ever now that I am a parent.

My daughters are growing up and I want them to be able to answer this question in the future with great confidence.  Okay basically I want them to acknowledge that their parents were really cool, right?  Is that wrong?  I need to be careful because whatever artist my wife and I may be into at the moment might not stand the test of time.  So in these next 10 years, I’ll be sure to report in what that first show will be.  But I will still love my kids if their first live music show is that year’s version of Hanson or Bieber.

So…what was your first live music show?

My Funeral Music Mix

August 2, 2010 — 33 Comments

I’m not dying so don’t worry.

I apologize for the morbid post but I love music and I always find it fascinating to think through life’s ending in its dramatic way.

A great friend and mentor, Terri Adams, reminded me that these blogs will be read by my little girls one day and they can perhaps learn a thing or two about me.  No pressure, huh?

I started to think about my favorite music and the type that inspires me more than anything.  When Brooke and I got married, we put together a music mix that we gave out to those attending the wedding.  It was so much fun compiling the music that most inspired us as a newly married couple.

Why not a funeral music mix?

Sorry but The Rolling Stones “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” didn’t make the list but have fun with me.

I Will Not Take These Things For Granted-Toad the Wet Sprocket. My sister Sarah introduced me to them when she went off to college in 1992.  This song provides such a beautiful way to live life with no regrets and to embrace every experience and relationship.  Thank you Sarah!

The Bud Light Commercials, especially “Mr. Giant Taco Salad Inventor.”  I’m from St.Louis so the tie in works. How can you not bust out laughing?  You need a laugh after a funeral.

Heartland by U2. There is something about this song that says “home” to me.  Beautiful and underrated song from U2 during the Rattle & Hum age.

Don’t Dream It’s Over by Crowded House: The title says it all.  Plus, I just love this band as they continue to evolve from the 1980s.

Remember the Mountain Bed by Wilco.  This song, written originally by Woody Guthrie and made popular by Wilco in their Mermaid Avenue albums.  It reminds me of falling in love with my wife up on the mountain in Sewanee, Tennessee.

A Sort of Homecoming by U2. This makes me think of a place in my heart coming home whether it be a physical place like Nashville, St. Louis, Kansas City, or Scotland where I have lived.  But, it’s also a powerful song about the struggle to move forward in Ireland despite its violent past 100 years.

Into The Mystic by Van Morrison.  Yes, both U2 and Van Morrison get multiple songs here.  This song is played on repeat during long driving trips. Listen to it and you’ll understand.

The Trapeze Swinger by Iron and Wine. When I first heard this, I felt it was much too long but looking through the lyrics it is quite authentic and just a beautiful piece to inspire by Sam Beam.  The lyrics are questionable in meaning to me but his voice and tempo of the song makes me smile, always.

In Christ Alone by Stuart Townend & Keith Getty.  I remember hearing this first at church and one of our Young Life kids played violin to it.  I was in tears then and everytime it hits Brooke and I hear it we look at each other and the tears come back.  The lyrics best capture my faith.  Read the story of the song here.

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm…

Jungle Love by Steve Miller Band.  Yes, why this song?  Oh…it was just the hippie theme song at Castaway, the Young Life camp I attended in 1994 when I became a Christian.  How could I forget this song?  It makes me want to dance everytime.

God of Wonders (Caedmon’s Call version).  This song always gets me pumped up for church or the start of a week and reminded me of the endless possibilities God provides.  Never doubt him, dream with him.

Count Thou Fount of Every Blessing (Sufjan Stevens version).  I used to hate this song in church.  When I heard Sufjan Stevens’ version, it came alive to me and the lyrics blew me away.  It reminds me of how much God blesses me in life by friends, family, shelter, and each moment in-between.

Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell.  I didn’t discover this song until I heard it at the Opening Ceremony at the 2010 Winter Olympics.  How great is that?  The song is almost 40 years old now and people still discover it.  What a lovely song to help reflect on an honest life of hope while acknowleding some regrets.  By the way, I can only think of one regret, quitting Boy Scouts.  Funny, huh?  But, in the end I know that it all was for a purpose.

Take It Back by Pink Floyd.  This song just makes me want to fly.

Wild Mountain Thyme by The Silencers. I fell in love with this song when I lived in Scotland.  It reminds me again that I need to bring my wife back to Scotland.  Oh, my second home.

And we’ll all go together
To pick wild mountain thyme
All around the purple heather
Will you go?
Will you go?
Lassie will you go?

These Are The Days by Van Morrison. I love Van Morrison, I mean there are not many white people who understand how to incorporate “soul” into their music.  The Irish get it.  Van “the man” Morrison does that and this song in particular. Most don’t know much about his faith but you get the feel from these lyrics. They will carry me home one day.

These are the days by the sparkling river
His timely grace and our treasured find
This is the love of the one great magician
Turned water into wine

These are the days now that we must savour
And we must enjoy as we can
These are the days that will last forever
and you’ve got to hold them, in your heart

Dance on and live well everyone.

I’m pretty sure this mix will evolve throughout life as new music moves me but it was challenging to put  this together and I hope you enjoyed.

For my daughters, I hope you learned more about me in the process and make your own mix tape of life.

What do you see as your top song you’d like played at your funeral?

Why?

Is there a story behind that song to you?

—— additional song added September 18th, 2012 ——

Learn Me Right by Mumford and Sons with Birdy. Such a beautiful song featured in the movie Brave (2012). It makes me want to fly back and run through the hills and mountains of Scotland. It shouts out freedom and dreams. Mumford and Sons also recorded a wonderful sister song version on their 2012 album, Babel.