That’s Country!

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Growing up, I had a list of “never”s.

By that I mean I had a list of things I’d just about rather die than be caught doing.

I don’t really recall most of them at this point, but I do remember a few highlights.

I specifically recall that I’d never 1) listen to country music, 2) drink coffee, or 3) put hot sauce on anything.

It’s probably best never to say never.

The hot sauce ban ended shortly after the Wasabi incident (where that Wasabi glob on my plate looked an awful lot like guacamole– but it wasn’t).

The no-coffee rule lasted until I had to be at work super early and I needed the caffeine to pry my eyes open in order to work more effectively.

The country music? It turns out that what I didn’t like was pop music masquerading as country music. I heard George Jones sing “The Grand Tour” and that was that. I’m now a fan of genuine country music– along with folk, jazz, rock, indie, and just about every other genre you can think of (and a few that defy categorization).

Recently, I picked up the Garth Brooks box set, exclusive to Target, called The Ultimate Collection.

There was a time when I would have rather had red hot pokers thrust into my eye sockets than listen to Garth, but times have changed.

I’m about halfway through the 10-CD set and I have to confess that I’m loving it. He’s the real deal.

My point (and I do have one) is to not close yourself off to new experiences because they’re different or outside of your comfort zone.

Take risks and be spontaneous on occasion.

Try to live and be present in every moment instead of always living for the weekend or the next holiday or the next big event in your life.

And that Garth Brooks collection is on sale at Target for $23. It’s a bargain.

http://www.target.com/p/garth-brooks-the-ultimate-collection-target-exclusive/-/A-51666650

All Those 10,000 Maniacs and That Toasted Graham Latte

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“These are days, you’ll remember
Never before and never since, I promise
Will the whole world be warm as this and as you feel it

You’ll know it’s true that you are blessed and lucky
It’s true that you are touched by something
That will grow and bloom in you” (Natalie Merchant, Robert Buck).

Maybe I look at music a little differently than most, but it seems to me that certain kinds of music lend themselves to certain seasons of the year.

Obvious example: listening to The Beach Boys conjures up all sorts of images of summer. For me, a lot of 90’s alternative music makes me think of cooler temperatures and fallish weather. Don’t ask me why. It just does.

My soundtrack for the drive from work to meet my friend at Starbucks was the fantastic 10,000 Maniacs compilation, Campfire Songs. It covers the Natalie Merchant era and makes me want to wear a sweater. PS Maybe I’m old, but most of the new music I hear doesn’t even come close to the likes of 10,000 Maniacs or Natalie Merchant as a solo act. And it’s sad that it takes 8 songwriters and 3 producers to come up with something that pales in comparison to what guys like Freddy Mercury or Brian Wilson could do all by themselves.

I had every intention of enjoying a pumpkin spice latte, but the new toasted graham latte called out to me. Not literally, because that would have been super weird. More like a metaphorical kind of calling.

 

I’ve found that for me, the best kind of therapy is a good song at just the right moment. Music has a way of bringing me back from obsessing over the past or fretting over the future. It forces me (in a non-violent way) to be completely in the present.

Maybe that’s why I nerded out a bit when I found Patty Griffin’s newest album, Servant of Love, at Best Buy. It truly made my heart happy and immediately went into the CD player in my Red Sled aka my 1997 Jeep Cherokee with almost 293,000 miles on it.

God speaks to me most through music, and it doesn’t always have to be overtly Christian music. Sometimes a song that’s not even remotely about God can be a vehicle through which God speaks directly to my need.

God is good like that.

The end.

 

Better Together

s&g

So many of the famous musical groups were better than the sum of their parts.

Take Simon and Garfunkel, for instance. To me, what they did together is better than what Paul Simon or Art Garfunkel have done since.

Don’t get me wrong. I love me some Kodachrome or Still Crazy After All These Years, but it’s just not up to the level of Sound of Silence or The Boxer.

I truly believe that the old Chicago lineup was way better than what Peter Cetera and the remaining members of Chicago have done since.

So many groups have either split up or seen their lead singer move on to a solo career. Sometimes it works out for the best,  but most of the time, the end result is that what each does separately can never compare to what they did together.

That’s a lot like being a part of the Church. We’re better together. In fact, we’re much more than the sum of our parts when we’re living in fellowship, sharing a common life together.

In Acts, the Holy Spirit came upon the believers and anointed the body of believers to go out and spread the Kingdom message. The results of them being better together are evident in Acts 2 where many thousands of people believed in their message and were added to the Church.

The present age tells you that you don’t need anybody and that you are best on your own. You are actually more vulnerable and prone to temptation when you’re alone, apart from other believers.

That’s why the local church is so important. Not because they’re the perfect group of people. Definitely not because your salvation depends on going to church.

It’s because we can do life together way better than we ever could apart. It’s where you are strong in areas where I am weak, and visa versa.

We are truly better together.

Back at McKay’s

“Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of ‘the brightest and the best’ among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these ‘nobodies’ to expose the hollow pretensions of the ‘somebodies’? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God” (1 Corinthians 1:27-31, The Message).

If you’ve kept up with my posts, you know that my idea of heaven is a place like McKay’s Used Books, CDs, Movies & More. It’s a place where the inner book-nerd can bask in the glow of the warmth that comes from a warehouse filled with everything to satisfy his geeky little heart.

I went Saturday and did my usual trading old unwanted stuff for new wanted stuff. I picked up The Beatles Anthology Volumes 1 & 2. Lo and behold, when I got home I discovered that Volume 1 consisted of two Disc 2s and no Disc 1.

So I went back today. What else could a self-respecting multimedia nerd do?

I ended up trading in a bit more and picked up a fantastic (to me) CD called Music Box Christmas Creations (which I am currently listening to as I write this) for the princely sum of 19 cents.

I also got the Beatles Anthology Volume 1 with both discs.

I had thoughts of putting up a hammock and calling it home, but then I realized my cat Lucy might object. She’s already camping out on my backpack to keep me from leaving home after I spend four nights dog sitting in the Bellevue area.

The best place is still in the “Very Scratched” section. Most people will pass that up, but I’ve learned that with the miracle of a little 70% rubbing alcohol (and occasionally some toothpaste) you can get any CD with scratches to play, In fact, you really have to work hard to make a CD unplayable (as I’ve learned).

Most of us are like that. We’re not new. We’ve got some scratches and scars and wear and tear from a life of poor choices, unfortunate circumstances, and that old persistent problem called a sin nature.

God still chooses to use us. He goes to the discarded section and picks us out because He has plans for us. I love that about God.

I only wish I had more stuff to trade at McKay’s. Maybe one day soon.

 

Summer in the 60’s

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First off, I wish the temps here were in the 60’s. That would be better than in the 90’s with ridiculous humidity. It’s like walking into an oven.

What I’m referring to is the fact that most of my musical choices lately have come from the great decade for music, the 1960’s.

Personally, I think the best decade for music was the 70’s. There was so much diversity of styles and genres. You had Led Zeppelin, James Taylor, The Bee Gees, David Bowie, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Al Green, The Allman Brothers, Sly and the Family Stone, Chicago, Santana . . . . the list could go on for days.

But lately, I’ve had a lot of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix playing in my car. Not to mention The Moody Blues, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, and the The Beach Boys.

For me, 60’s music seems best when played in the summertime. And country music was way better back then than it is now. At least in this writer’s humble opinion.

For the record, I’m an 80’s child. That was the music of my growing up years and is still the music that brings back the most vivid and poignant memories. Put on an 80’s song and I will probably be able to tell you where I was and what I was doing the first time I heard it.

But I am a fan of all the decades. I literally have music from every single decade of the 20th and 21st century. I even have a couple of CDs with music from the 1890’s.

As I’ve mentioned a few times before, I have music in my head all the time. I do mean All. The. Time. I’d probably be really good in a job where I picked songs for movie soundtracks because just about every situation will inevitable remind me of a song.

So that’s your music update from me for the month of June. Maybe I’ll update you again in July. Maybe not.

 

 

 

The Cut-Out Bin

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“Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these ‘nobodies’ to expose the hollow pretensions of the ‘somebodies’? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31, The Message).

As I mentioned a few posts ago, one of my favorite things to do back in the day, i.e. the 80’s, was to browse the cutout bins at the local record store. For me, that primarily was Camelot Music in the Hickory Ridge Mall in Memphis, Tennessee.

You could always pick out those CDs earmarked for discount by the telltale slash on near the CD label. My understanding is that record labels designated albums that didn’t sell very well to be moved to the cutout bin. Usually, you’d find a lot of unknown artists or the “sophomore slump” albums by those one-hit wonder bands or a failed comeback attempt. Every now and then, you might find a diamond in the rough that deserved better than being relegated to the cutout bin.

I discovered a section in McKay’s today that I will probably need to investigate further. It’s the “very scratched” section. It’s a good deal because 1) you can fix most CD scratches with 70% or stronger rubbing alcohol and/or toothpaste, 2) most of the CDs in that section are barely scratched, and 3) even if you wind up with a dud, you still haven’t lost much more than $1.

To paraphrase 1 Corinthians 1:26, God didn’t choose the top 40s of the world. He chose those of us stuck in the cutout bin. He selected those overlooked by everybody else, those whose best days seemed behind them, those who don’t look like much or don’t seem to possess anything special. He chose you and me.

That’s something worth celebrating. That’s something worth remembering on those days when you don’t feel like your life means much or that you don’t matter.

That also begs a question. If that’s who God chose, who am I to treat people any differently? Who am I to be elitist and snobbish when God condescended Himself and met the lowest of us at our most desperate point of need? Who am I to ever denigrate anybody else (or even me) when God proved His love by sending Jesus to die for all of us?

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.

 

A Moment of Nostalgia

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Recently, I went to Memphis for the funeral of a friend’s father. On the way, I stopped off with my mom at the Wolfchase Galleria and walked around while she looked for a wedding gift for a friend of the family.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a FYE Music and Movies store. I thought those were all but extinct. Needless to say, it made my heart happy.

Best Buy and Barnes and Noble are all good and well, but I miss record stores, especially those in the mall. I can’t tell you how many Saturdays I spent looking through the cutout bins for a great deal. I got my first taste of bluegrass music in a record store.

I’m old school. I like for my books and music to be tangible. Nothing beats the musty smell of a book that’s been well used and well loved. Nothing beats the feel of a compact disc or a vinyl record in your hand.

Don’t get me wrong. I have my fair share of digital music that I listen to on my iPhone. But sometimes at night when I can’t sleep, I’ll hunt down the perfect CD for my mood, find my headphones and portable CD player, and drift off to music that was created by real people playing real instruments.

The Bible is replete with music. It’s a way of remembering your heritage. Just look at the Psalms and see how King David marked every kind of occasion, happy or sad, with a song.

Even now, a song on the radio can conjure up an old memory like nothing else can. It’s like a time machine to a defining moment in my past.

I hope that music store in Memphis can survive. Maybe one day soon I can go back when I have more time to kill.

 

 

Revisiting My Own Past

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Recently, I discovered an old favorite band of mine that I hadn’t thought about in a while. You’ve most likely never heard of the band, since they were a late 70’s jazz fusion band. You most likely have heard of their drummer, an English chap who goes by the name of Phil Collins.

Anyway, back in the day I owned a cassette compilation of some of their most well-known compositions. I’m fairly certain I picked it up in the discount section at either The Sound Shop or Camelot Music in the Hickory Ridge Mall, probably just before heading to the food court for some pizza from Sbarro’s.

A few weeks back at McKay’s Used Books (and everything else you can think of), I had enough trade credit for four of their CDs among some of my other noteworthy finds.

It’s interesting how much more I appreciate their ridiculous musicianship than I did way back when. Of course, back then I really dug groups like Wham! and Club Nouveau. Don’t hold that against me. My musical tastes have definitely matured a lot since those days.

Also, I’ve been reminiscing about a great series of books I used to read as a wee younger lad. I believe they were called Choose Your Own Adventure. In them, you would read for a few pages before being presented with a list of choices, a la if you enter the dark and scary hallway, turn to page 94, but if you elect to stay in the kitchen and make yourself a PB&J, turn to page 108. I loved those books.

So my next quest is to find at least one of those books. I’m checking out the usual places– the library castoff section, Goodwill, McKay’s, and amazon.com, but so far no luck.

So far, I’m batting .500, which for me is a win.

 

 

 

It’s That Camel Back Day Again

Do you miss those Geico commercials about the camel who gets all excited about it being Wednesday? Neither do I.

I’d like to update you on what I’ve been listening to lately. Most of it has been in my car commuting to and from work, but some of it has been on those nights when I’m not as sleepy as I thought I was when my head hit the pillow.

1) Pink Floyd- Dark Side of the Moon: I used to fall asleep to this album every night. It’s good for when you’re up at 1 am in your dark bedroom (if you’re me). It could probably also be used on Halloween to scare the neighbors.

2) The Wailing Jennys- Firecracker: this music takes me to a happy place in my soul. Plus, it fulfills my quota for pitch-perfect three-part harmonies for the week.

3) Willie Nelson- One Hell of a Ride: I used to think I didn’t like country music, but I discovered that it’s the newer stuff that I (mostly) don’t really like. I love the old-school classics.

4) The Bill Evans Trio- Since We Met: It may not be a 5-star classic album, but it sooths the savage beast within. I think both my uncles would be proud that I’ve broadened my musical horizons so much.

5) The Spin Doctors – Pocket Full of Kryptonite

6) April Wine – The Nature of the Beast: I don’t know much about this band, but I like their sound. I do think a new CD with remastered sound would sound a lot better.

7) Joni Mitchell- The Studio Albums 1968-1979: this will very shortly be in my car and keeping me sane on those sllllloooooowwww drives home after work. Especially the song “Both Sides Now.”

That’s not everything, but it’s everything I could think of at the moment. I seem to have gone in a retro direction with my music. I like new music and new artists, but I find myself going back in time (as in before my time) more as I get older. But my tastes still haven’t mellowed all that much.

More to come at a later date.

 

 

 

Maybe My Favorite Line From a Song Ever

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“I can feel your love teaching me how
Your love is teaching me how to kneel, kneel” (U2, from the song Vertigo).

I discovered this line today. It’s odd that after listening to a song hundreds of times that one particular line that you’ve missed can suddenly catch your attention. This was Tthe line from the song Vertigo from the U2 album How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.

This line makes a lot more sense if you see it as God’s love rather than human love. I can say from my own personal experience that the love of God has taught me to kneel, not just as a posture, but as an action reflecting an attitude adjustment in my own heart.

True love of any kind is ultimately about surrender. It’s not what I want but what you want that matters, especially when it comes to the love of God. True love says, “Not my will but Thine,” which is a lot easier to pray as a line from a rote prayer than as an actual declaration.

Only those who have experienced God’s love can truly surrender their wills and lives. Not those who have read about or know facts about God’s love but those who have seen and felt and touched and been transformed by it.

So, yes, God’s love is still teaching me to kneel. To let go of my own desires so I can receive God’s much grander and wilder desires for me. To let my own plans and dreams crumble into dust so that my life can be a blank slate where God can dream His dreams for me and in me.

I say all this like I’m actually good at it, but I’m not. I’m much too stubborn and I cling to my will far too often for my own good. But thankfully God is far more patient with me than I am with God (or with me for that matter).

I’m learning how to kneel.