Friday, May 5, 2017

Surprising Peace: Reflections on Turning 30

Over the past few months I have been mentally preparing for tomorrow. Tomorrow I turn 30. I admittedly found myself quite apprehensive about this fact. As I really began to examine and pray on why I was apprehensive I realized it was because I felt there were some gaps in my history. Particularly gaps in two areas of near lifelong interests of mine: Music and Major League Baseball.

Specifically, growing up, I inherited a lot of my parents cassette tapes when I was young. Music was my first love. I played many of these cassettes and wore them out, or they jammed in my cassette player, or accidentally got stepped on, etc. We have evolved technology wise into much easier and higher quality sounding recording mediums, but I have always had a sentimentality about cassettes. Therefore back in January, when I completed the building of my full retro stereo, I began purchasing some of the name brands and makes of cassette tapes on Ebay that my parents had used for recording the very albums I grew up listening to and enjoying. I then recorded the albums on those same cassette models using the tape deck I had purchased second hand. Thus, I filled in my history by recreating what I had back at age four, five and six, filing in my history and finding a strange peace in moving forward in life.

Now to my love for Major League Baseball. I didn’t develop this interest until the Autumn of 1995, due to the Cleveland Indians’ magical run to the World Series, and my Grandfather’s tutelage on what makes the game so great. However, my entire life I had always wanted to go back and learn about and see games that had occurred between 1987-1995, the eight  years of my life that I didn’t follow the game. I used to always ask my grandfather “did people record games from back then?” and he would say “probably, but I don’t know who did.” I would always read stories about years like 1989, when the Loma Prieta Earthquake caused a ten day delay in the World Series, or hear people slightly older than me talk about classic playoff and World Series games in the early 90’s, and wish I had been able to see them. Heck, I even wished to watch games played by the Indians at Cleveland Municipal Stadium during that time, even though they were known to be horrible!

This past February I was on YouTube and happened to notice a playlist called “Classic MLB” and looked at it curiously. I saw in this list were links to tons of FULL baseball games from back in the late 80’s and early 90’s! My eyes lit up! Could I finally have that wish fulfilled? Sure enough, every game from the 1991 and 1993 World Series in on there! Footage from San Francisco in 1989 is on there! There are even some Indians games from back in the late 80’s and early 90’s posted there! So I have been filling in my history over the past three months, watching and enjoying those games! Seeing players like Lenny Dykstra, Dave Henderson, Joe Carter, Will Clark, Mitch Williams, Kirby Puckett, Terry Pendleton, Dennis Eckersley and even Indians players from the ‘bad years’ like Cory Snyder, Brook Jacoby, and Pat Tabler succeed and fail on the big stages, has been thrilling!

Somehow being able to fill in my cassette collection and take in classic baseball games as if they were live has given me peace. I don’t completely understand how or why, but I do know that back in December I was praying for God to give me peace over my upcoming 30th birthday. I never could have anticipated that this was the way He would do, but it has sure seemed to be the case! Matthew 6:8 tells us that our Father in heaven knows our needs before we even ask, and I can say with all honesty that I have seen this to be true in my life these last six months. So tomorrow, at 2:37pm, when I officially have been on this earth for 30 years, I can say I am at peace with it, and looking forward to what Jesus has planned for me in this next decade!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

In the Matter of One Week's Time...And What a Week it Was- A musing on a sports miracle

It was a warm Friday night in Northeast Ohio. One of those Mid-June evenings that bridges the gap between spring and summer. However this evening there wasn’t much joy being felt over this fact. In an arena in downtown Cleveland, the city’s beloved basketball team the Cleveland Cavaliers were in the final minutes of a certain defeat at the hands of the Golden State Warriors, a team that seemed destined to win the Championship over the Cavs. Fans looked downcast, some holding back tears, as the final minute ticked away. This was it, game four was ending and the Cavs were one loss away from series defeat. Worse, they were headed back to Oakland for game five……

Game five took place on a Monday night, a night strangely chilly for June 13th. On that chilly night though, began what now are easily remembered as six day of magic for all those living on shores of the lake called Erie with a tower that is Terminal. That night, behind 41 point performances from both Kyrie Irving and LeBron James, the Cavaliers shocked everyone by beating the Warriors on their home court,112-97, and successfully sending the series back to Cleveland for game six; a game that everyone knew, would be the biggest sporting event the town had hosted in many years.

That Thursday night was definitely a big deal! Fans who attended the game were give a black shirt with a big Cavs “C” on it. The goal was to give the effect of a sea of black in the stands, and it worked. The Cavs picked up right where they left off in game five, opening the game with a 8-0 run, leading to a 31-11 lead at the end of the first quarter. The crowd was electric the entire game and the Cavs never lost the lead for the entire game, though the Warriors naturally made it quite close at times. However, the final was 115-101, and suddenly NE Ohio began to buzz. Suddenly the reality began to set in. The Cavs had forced a game seven; something that less than a week prior had seemed unthinkable!

Father’s day. June 18th, 2016. What a day. I was actually at the Indians game that afternoon with my parents. The Indians won the game, and as the fans were exiting Jacob’s Field, chants of ‘Let’s go Cavs! Let’s go Cavs!!” broke out. The city of Cleveland was alive with a buzz that I have not experienced very often. That afternoon, there were equal amounts of traffic leaving downtown after the Indians game, and entering downtown to get ready for what would go down as perhaps the biggest city wide watch party in the history of Cleveland, OH. People lined up in parking garages to watch the game on the giant screen outside Quicken Loans Arena, while inside that same arena 20,000 fans lined the seats to watch the game on the giant screens inside. Every bar was filled to the max. Many ran out of everything. However, no one was overly angry about it. This night would belong to Cleveland folklore forever.

You all know the rest and don’t need me to re-count it in full detail, but needless to say as Kyrie Irving hit the three pointer with under a minute left, and LeBron hit his second free throw to ice the Cavs 93-89 win, downtown Cleveland became the scene of perhaps the biggest celebration possible. Policemen were heard saying back to their dispatchers, “we are currently watching a giant crowd of people. They aren’t violent, they are just very happy.” Strangers hugged. People high-fived and shook hands with city police officers. That night, there was total unity of mind and heart. For one night, politics didn’t matter. Differing beliefs about doctrine didn’t matter.. For the Christian it was a microscopic example of what heaven will be like one day, where all believers are completely united in love and mind before Christ. Sports, while often heavily idolized, are one of the few uniters of people we still have, and can be harnessed for so much good. That night in Cleveland, no one rioted. No one looted. Everyone took care of each other. May we begin to see that happen more and more in Cleveland!

Even if the Cavs bring us another championship this year, it won’t be quite like the experience of that first one. Things like what this town experienced over those crazy six nights, are unrivalled and unprecedented. A Cleveland team overcoming a 3-1 deficit was simply unthinkable. No one dared even believe it was possible. That is why the first ever Cleveland Cavalier’s Championship in franchise history, and the first championship for Cleveland in 52 years was record breaking and stunning and absolutely euphoric. A second championship in many years would be fantastic, don’t get me wrong, but I also won’t be devastated if this year doesn’t end with a repeat championship. LeBron and company got us one championship, and if we are all honest, that is more than probably many of us thought we would see in our lifetime. Never forget the joy of last year’s win. No matter what happens this year, no one can ever take that away. Go Cavs!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Five Great Indians Home Openers! -Another Story Blog

In honor of the Indians 24th home opener at Jacob’s Field set to occur this afternoon, I thought it might be fun to look back on what I consider to be the five greatest home opening games in the ballpark’s history.

5. April 4th, 2014. The 20th anniversary of the ballpark doesn’t look to be overly impressive or exciting upon first look at the score. The Indians won handily 7-2. However, for over half the game the Tribe’s offense had been shut out, and they headed into the bottom of the sixth trailing the Minnesota Twins 2-0. Then catcher Yan Gomes had a seven pitch at bat to start off the inning, culminating in a solo home run, cutting the deficit in half. A walk and sacrifice bunt later, and Nick Swisher teed off on a pitch, scorching it into the right center field stands, netting the Indians a 3-2 lead, a lead they would continue to add on to as the game went on.

4. April 6th, 2007. A piece of humorous Cleveland sports lore is celebrating it’s 10th anniversary. Technically there is no record of this game ever happening, because well, it technically wasn’t an official game. However, those of us who tuned in or were at Jacob’s Field for this home opener will never forget the events that did transpire. It was cold, and snowy most of that Good Friday afternoon, but at just after 4pm the snow slowed to just about non-existent and the game began. Amidst snow flurries for the next four and two thirds innings, the Indians built a 4-0 lead over the Seattle Mariners. Then the snow began to really come down hard, and with two outs, the Mariners had the bases loaded and Jose Lopez at the plate. That is when Mariners manager Mike Hargrove chose to go out and plead his case with the umpires that his hitters couldn’t see the ball due to the snow. As Hargrove strategically stalled for time, the snow thickened ever more, the umpires called for the game to be delayed, and the rest as they say is history. The snow didn’t stop in Cleveland for two more days, causing the postponement of the entirely scheduled four game series, as well as moving the next scheduled three game series with the Los Angeles Angels to Milwaukee’s Miller Park. The Mariners would need to come into Cleveland three separate times throughout the summer of 2007 to make up the games. Had the Indians been allowed to get that final out in the top of the 5th inning, one game would have been official at least, but then, there wouldn’t be this chapter addition in the bizarre stories of Cleveland sports lore.

3. April 10th, 1998. On Good Friday afternoon,the Indians opened the home portion of their 1998 schedule, and had gotten a 5-4 lead to closer Mike Jackson headed into the top of the ninth inning against the then Anaheim Angels. With two outs, a single by Garrett Anderson tied the score at 5-5 and sent the game into extra innings. Despite the blown save, the Tribe was resilient, and as they entered the tenth against Angel’s closer Troy Percival, a pitcher they had a lot of success against in the 90’s, there was good reason for optimism. With two men on and one out, Jim Thome stepped up to the plate and hammered Percival’s 1-1 pitch deep into the opposite field bleachers for a walk off three run homer, sending the sell-out crowd into a roar of euphoria. My personal memory of this game, was waiting around the television with my parents while we talked with my grandparents on the phone. Our plan to all go out to a fish fry was temporarily halted when the game went into extra innings. The agreement was that if the Indians didn’t score in the 10th, we would meet at the fish fry and listen to the rest of the game via the radio. All of that discussing and deciding was brought to mute when Thome connected, sending us out to dinner on a thrilling note!

2. April 12th, 1999. It was a chilly but sunny afternoon. Dave Burba pitched for the Indians and did well, holding the Royals to just two runs. However, the Tribe’s offense was non existent, and through seven innings they trailed 2-0. Then in the bottom of the eighth, Kenny Lofton walked, and Enrique Wilson, not known for his power by any means, had a hard fought seven pitch at bat, ending with him lining a 3-2 pitch over the right field fence for a two run homer, knotting the score at 2-2! In the bottom of the ninth, the Indians loaded the bases with two outs, but Roberto Alomar grounded out and sent the game into extra innings. In the bottom of the tenth, after a walk and single put runners on first and second, Travis Fryman stepped up and launched a high fly ball that just carried over the wall in right center field, sending the sell-out crowd home happy!

1. April 4th, 1994. Simply put, the inaugural game at Jacob’s Field is still the greatest home opener the corner of Carnegie and Ontario has ever hosted. Randy Johnson took a no hitter and 2-0 lead into the eighth inning, with Indians legend Bob Feller, the only pitcher to ever hurl an opening day no hitter, pacing nervously in the press box, as his distinction began to undergo serious threat of slipping away. Johnson walked Candy Maldonado to start the bottom of the eight and then Sandy Alomar broke up the no hit bid with a single! Manny Ramirez followed that by hitting a long drive off the wall in left field for a double, allowing both runners to score and knotting the score at 2-2! The game headed to the tenth where the Mariners regained the lead 3-2, before a young Jim Thome pinch hit with a man on and one out in the tenth and lined a double down the right field, moving Manny Ramirez to third. An RBI groundout later by Omar Vizquel re-tied the score at 3-3. Finally in the bottom of the 12th, Wayne Kirby slashed a single down the left field line, scoring Eddie Murray with the winning run! It was a game that featured a little of everything, and set the tone for the type of games Jacob’s Field would host over the next 22 years!

What type of excitement will this ballpark host in 2017? We begin to find out today! Go Tribe!

Footage from The "Snow Opener" in 2007

First Game At Jacob's Field (Part 1)

First Game at Jacob's Field (Part 2)

Home Opener 2014 Highlights

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Day A Baseball Game Saved Hundreds of Lives-A True Story

It was an exceptionally warm day for October, even by Bay Area standards.  The temperature sat in the mid 80’s and the late afternoon sun was shining brightly, as people were arriving into and finding their seats at Candlestick Park, where the first pitch of Game 3 of the 1989 World Series between the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants was set to occur in a half hour. It was 5pm, West Coast Time, and ABC was just beginning their pregame broadcast.

Then suddenly at 5:04pm, as broadcaster Tim McCarver was narrating highlights of game two of the Series, the ground began to shake, the TV feed got choppy, and fellow broadcaster Al Michaels interjected to state “I tell you what, we are having an earth….” and then silence….followed by static and then an empty ABC logoed blue screen, finally followed by, as audio began to come back on the air, Al Michaels stating an earthquake had just in fact occurred and added for the sake of levity “that was the greatest opening in the history of television.”

Power went out all over both San Francisco and Oakland, including the power at Candlestick Park, and therefore the game would be cancelled shortly after, as players sought to find their own family members amongst the crowd. What had initially produced additional excitement in the crowd slowly turned to a quiet somber mood, as word began to spread through fans with portable battery operated radios that the earthquake had caused highway bridges had collapsed as well as a section of the Bay Bridge. What had just occurred would come to be known as the Loma Prieta Earthquake, and it measured at 6.9 on the RIchter scale.

Just prior to that season Candlestick Park had ungone major structural improvements that likely prevented the quake from causing the upper grandstands to fall. No one knows for sure, but thousands of fans could have been injured or killed had these repairs not taken place. However, these improvements allowed the ballpark to actually be one of the safest places for the crowd of 62,000 people to be at that moment.

Across the Bay in Oakland, a section of the top of the double tiered Cypress Street Viaduct collapsed onto the lower deck, crushing cars underneath, killing 42 people. However, highway experts estimate that had this been a normal Tuesday at 5pm, hundreds of cars would have been on that freeway section at that time, but due to the World Series game, many folks had left work early, or stayed at work for office watch parties.

Thus, October 17th, 1989 can be remembered as a day a baseball game likely saved hundreds of lives, due to the unique nature of both cities having vested interests in the game, and the time of day the game was scheduled.  It is also the only known time an earthquake of such magnitude has ever been captured on live TV.

The World Series would resume 10 days later, after extensive examination of both Candlestick Park and The Oakland Coliseum, for structural soundness. The Oakland Athletics would win the series 4-0.

Prior to the start of the rescheduled game three, ABC sportscaster, Al Michaels would give this monologue on the endearing nature of baseball, and how in difficult times it can bring about healing and help restore a sense of normalcy to the world:

“At this very moment ten days ago, we began our telecast with an aerial view of San Francisco; always a spectacular sight, and particularly so on that day because the cloudless sky of October 17 was ice blue, and the late-day sun sparkled like a thousand jewels.

That picture was very much a mirror of the feel and the mood that had enveloped the Bay Area...and most of Northern California. Their baseball teams, the Giants and A's, had won pennants, and the people of this region were still basking in the afterglow of each team's success. And this great American sporting classic, the World Series, was, for the time being, exclusively theirs.

Then of course the feeling of pure radiance was transformed into horror and grief and despair- in just fifteen seconds.[16] And now on October 27, like a fighter who's taken a vicious blow to the stomach and has groggily arisen, this region moves on and moves ahead.

And one part of that scenario is the resumption of the World Series. No one in this ballpark tonight- no player, no vendor, no fan, no writer, no announcer, in fact, no one in this area period- can forget the images. The column of smoke in the Marina. The severed bridge. The grotesque tangle of concrete in Oakland. The pictures are embedded in our minds.

And while the mourning and the suffering and the aftereffects will continue, in about thirty minutes the plate umpire, Vic Voltaggio will say 'Play Ball', and the players will play, the vendors will sell, the announcers will announce, the crowd will exhort. And for many of the six million people in this region, it will be like revisiting Fantasyland.

But Fantasyland is where baseball comes from anyway and maybe right about now that's the perfect place for a three-hour rest.”

Indeed baseball is a great distraction to us in times of sadness. I began to understand this after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 prompted a week of baseball game cancellations around the country. However, on 9/18/01, baseball came back, and some healing through the joy of the great American past time began.

So, as we begin the great ride of the 162 game marathon that will make up the 2017 baseball season, we look back on a day a scheduled game potentially saved many lives, and prepare to enjoy the endearing seasonal ride once more, surrounded by friends and family. Go Tribe!

Actual Pregame Coverage leading up to the earthquake

MLB Tonight's 25th Anniversary Six Minute Documentary

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Sports and Their Significance: A Cleveland Observation

I have been thinking about how to explain to non sports fans and/or, non native Clevelanders, why this Cavs journey means so much to Cleveland, and why so many people are drawn to cheer on our sports teams. For this city, especially, we haven't had a championship won by any of our major league sports teams since 1964. Now you can say, "so what? How does winning or losing have anything to do with your daily life?" and in doing so you would be right. Whether or not the Cavs, Indians or Browns win or lose doesn't affect you directly in any way. 

However, I would say this back. Sports teams are seen by any city as an extension of the city. They are ambassadors to the rest of the country. When they win it equals success, and the people who live here then, by extension feel that in a small way, we are successful too. The same goes for when any of our teams lose. We feel that also represents us to the world.

Because Cleveland has suffered so much financial decline in the last 20 years, we don't have the strong economy or large amount of businesses to bring us national attention in a positive light. Yes, we did snag the Republican National Convention, but only half of the country really has interest in that because only half the country are republicans anyway! 

Which brings up another point, sports create unity in a city. When people are together cheering on a team, no one is arguing politics or philosophies. A democrat can cheer next to a republican. A Christian can high five an atheist. A gun owner can toast a beer with a pacifist. 

While ideally the Church should create the same kind of unity, so often differences in theology can drive us apart instead of keeping us unified on the Truth of Jesus coming to save humanity from their sins. This is where sports provides that example in a positive way, and one more people should be in tune with, and enjoy. 

Ultimately that is why sports draws people in, because it satisfies a human longing to be a part of something bigger than we are, and brings us together with those who may be different than us, and gives us something in common. It then can bridge the gap to having genuine friendships with people and forge paths towards seeing them for who they are, people whom Jesus does love.

So that is why tomorrow night Cleveland will be at a fever pitch of excitement and hope, because if the Cavs pull it off, Cleveland will look good to the watching country, and everyone will remember the team that overcame a 3-1 game deficit and starred down elimination three games in a row and didn't flinch. No team has ever done it; tomorrow, Cleveland looks to write a solo chapter in sports history! 

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Top 15 Albums of 2015

Better late that never, I have below my yearly top album countdown. Enjoy!

15. Rend Collective- “As Family We Go.”

 I have been a huge fan of these guys since “Homemade Worship By Hand Made People” came out in early 2012. I loved their unplugged folk and bluegrass sounds they implored with their straightforward worshipful lyrics. The songs were high energy and filled with mandolins, banjos, and all kinds of intriguing instruments. “As Family We Go” now their fourth full length release, tapers away from the rootsy sound and instead seems to gravitate to more straightforward rock and roll, which isn’t bad, but isn’t a fun as their earlier work in my view.

14. MuteMath- “Vitals.”

MuteMath have always flirted with the electronic. They have always mixed in rock and funk as well to keep things interesting, but on “Vitals” they seem to have finally decided to make an album of synthesizer infused pop. There is plenty for Owl City and Paper Route fans to enjoy here. “Joy Rides” and “Monument” are soon to be fan and concert favorites for sure.

13. Twenty One Pilots- “Blurryface”

Take folk roots, mix in some good electric guitar work, and then throw in some loops and rap over it all, while singing some parts of the songs as well, and you kind of get what Columbus Ohio natives Twenty One Pilots sound like. “Blurryface” is an album that is almost impossible to classify genre wise, and that is actually a strength! The lament of growing up in “Stressed Out” is so easily relatable to so many in this current generation. “HeavyDirtySoul” is a catchy tune that features a great lyric like ‘death inspires me like a dog inspires a rabbit.” The lyrics are key to these songs, as they often possess deep truth alongside sharp wit, which keeps the nerds happy. Some will probably say I should have ranked this album higher, and their arguments are valid, personally I am not a big a fan of hip-hop so that makes me a bit biased in the wrong direction.

12. Ivan & Alyosha- “It’s All Just Pretend”

 These guys just know how to make good rock and roll, and this release has them utilizing many an instrument to drive home the rhythm, from keyboards to guitars and drums. They seem to wed the sounds of two other Seattle bands, Death Cab For Cutie and Nirvana with ease. “Bury Me Deep” and “Tears In Your Eyes” are two of the best songs Ivan & Alyosha have in their catalog. The former is a rocker at it’s best, while the latter is a tender love song that is among my top songs of 2015.

11. The Dawes- "All Your Favorite Bands"

These fellas from San Francisco have been crafting 70's sounding rock and roll for quite some time now. This album may be their finest and overall most consistent album. While only nine songs long, it borrows from Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers using extended organ and guitar breaks to stretch songs, especially on the masterful "I Can't Think About That Now." Other favorites of mine are the tribute to obvious statements ("Things Happen") and the epitaph to youth and innocence on the title track.

10. Owl City- Mobile Orchestra

Adam Young has been one of my favorite modern songwriters for a while. After a near three year full album hiatus (though an EP and several singles had been released) Young dropped "Mobile Orchestra" this summer and it was a fine effort. "Verge" kicked the album off with vicious energy and features guest vocals from Aloe Blacc. "My Everything" and "You're Not Alone" feature Young's most explicit Christian lyrics thus far, while "Unbelievable" is a danceable tribute to the 90's, and the biggest charting single from the album to date. This is a fine album of fun like we have come to expect from
Owl City, even when Young strays into a bit of melancholic tone on "This Isn't The End" he emerges by song's end in hope.

9. Passion Pit- "Kindred"

I am not always a pop music enthusiast, but this album of synthesizer based pop tunes is simply irresistible. Songs like "All I Want" "Where The Sky Hangs" and "Five Foot Ten" are gems. This is pop music done right, with nuances in sound scapes that keeps the listener interested!

8. Hillsong United- "Empires"

My dislike of these Aussie worship pioneers last album, "
Zion" is well documented. So I was pleasantly surprised that this new album, while still keeping the synthesizer involved, doesn't allow it to take over the entire project. There is plenty of guitar here back on display! Songs like the epic near six minute ”Prince Of Peace" rank up there with the finest songs in their repertoire, while "Hurts Like Heaven" and "Touch The Sky" are radio friendly but not formula filled. Needless to say, I am glad these guys are back on track!

7. I Am They- "I Am They"

Roots music is the rage right now, and I Am They are doing it quit well. These are worship songs that call to mind Rend Collective in their early years. "From The Day" and "We Are Yours" steamroll with upbeat acoustic fun, and this debut is totally solid through their cover of Crowder's "Here's My Heart"

6. Ben Rector- "Brand New"

There may not be a songwriter alive right now that sings pop, rock and soul better than Ben Rector. This song collection is a joyful ride through stories and celebrations about everyday life. "The Men That Drive Me Places" is one of the best modern story songs, as Rector reminds each of us that there is no one who has an insignificant part to play or place to fit in the world. "Crazy" celebrates the joy of marriage and daily life, and "Like The World Is Gonna End" reminds us of the fleeting nature of our own existence, and the importance of laying aside pettiness.

5. Ghost Ship- "Costly"

Near the end of 2014,
Mars Hill Church, due to the controversies surrounding founding Pastor Mark Driscoll, closed all of its campuses which encompassed a big chunk of the west coast. This was tragic on so many levels, but it was felt hard by all the bands that had risen out of the church families. Ghost Ship was one such band, suddenly without a label. They made the best of it, went indie, and delivered us this 14 song gem back in August. So many good songs here!

4. The Vespers- "Sisters And Brothers"

I realize I have a lot of folksy rootsy albums on this list, so I admit I am partial to that particular genre of music. Notwithstanding though, "Sisters And Brothers" The Vespers third effort is an enjoyable ride through bluegrass, folk, Gospel and slight country. Basically many a stringed instrument will make an appearance somewhere on this fine project. The title track, "The Curtain" "Not Enough" and the humorously upbeat sounding "Cynical Soul" are all highlights on this awesome album!

3. Sara Groves- "Floodplain"

Let me just say this, Sara Groves is to the Christian music world what Bruce Springsteen is to mainstream rock and roll: she tells the ongoing story of the struggle of every man and woman to survive in a fallen world. The main difference for
Groves is she knows Jesus is where true Hope is found. This album in my humble opinion is her masterpiece thus far. "Expedition" is my choice for song of the year, as it expresses a yearning to go out and explore and search the world for "lost time" something so many of us can relate to! "Second Guess Girl" "On Your Mark" "My Dream" "Native Tongue" and the title track all speak to the humanness of all of us, living in a fallen world, but they do so with grace, kindness and love. Don't miss this gem! It is a classic!

2. Best Coast-"California Nights"

Good rock and roll is really hard to come by these days, so when I heard the title track and first single from this album on Spotify two months before this album dropped I knew I had found something special. The lo-fi mixing combined with the nineties guitar distortion and sixties sounding guitar solos, creates a sonic whirling that sucks you in! The lyrics are often simple and straightforward lamenting lost love ("In My Eyes" "Fine Without You") and petty disagreements ("Jealousy"). Yet there is also the joy of romance found in "Heaven Sent." This is a great, great rock and roll album! If you love classic sixties summer rock, you must get outside on some "California Nights.”

1. Andrew Peterson- "The Burning Edge Of Dawn"

Andrew Peterson is the modern day Rich Mullins with flashes of Mark Heard, two of Christian music history's finest at weaving the struggle of living in a sin filled world of pain with a desperate clinging to the hope found in Jesus. On "Burning Edge" Peterson does this from start to finish. "The Dark Before The Dawn," "We Will Survive," "The Rain Keeps Falling," and "Be Kind To Yourself" manage to acknowledge the depth of sadness one can feel while simultaneous reminding the listeners that Jesus loves them, has not abandoned them, and will one day make things right again. The album captivates for the full 37 minute run, and then it fades out leaving us all to ponder the messages of hope among the ruins. This is by far Peterson's finest album from start to finish.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

On The Desire Of Knowledge: An Examination

I recently have had the question posed to me in regards to why I value knowledge and the pursuit of acquiring such knowledge so highly. Initially the question took me back a little, as I have always thought everyone has that thirst for knowing more about things they know little about. Apparently, this is not the case. 

I began henceforth to put some thought into answering this question. Why do I value education and learning so highly? As far as I can remember I have always desired to learn; from the time before I could read and taught myself to recognize patterns of writing so I could distinguish one side of a record from the other. 

As I began to analyze why, I began to realize that I desire knowledge because in a accumulating ideas, concepts, and statistics about a wide variety of topics allows me to 1) understand how people's minds work and function differently than my own and 2) connect with and have conversations with those people. 

The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10 speaks of desiring to be "all things to all people" and in collecting data about a variety of topics, areas of interest and historical records, I can speak to the interests of many different people. I can conduct somewhat intelligent conversations with people from many different background stories. As a leader in my Church, this is quite important in building relationships with people I encounter on a first time basis on regular occasions. 

While there will certainly be some interests that I have more of an abundance of thirst to develop and expand on more than others, I still try to take some interest in as many topics as I can. Often though, the more I learn about one topic or another, the more desire I have to expand my knowledge of that topic. It all basically seems to boil down to one simple truth I have learned about myself, I love to learn; I don't even have a legitimate other reason sometimes. I feel enriched when a new idea, original thought, or concept traverses my radar! 

So friends, my wish for you is that you keep on learning! Pursue knowledge to connect better with people and develop deeper relationships. Pursue knowledge to understand God's creation better! Dream big about what else there is to learn, and keep an open heart and mind to how God may use your mind to reveal new truth to you, and others around you!