I have six months to reshape my life. I can do this.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Great Beatles Songs: Paperback Writer

So the list continues. Number nine on the great songs list is Paperback Writer. It is the first song that Paul and John wrote which was NOT about love. It also has some interesting three part harmony.

This was the only single to be released in 1966, the year of REVOLVER. They released some songs off of REVOLVER but Paperback Writer (B-side was Rain) the only single issued that year. It made its way to #1.

This was my first favorite song. I liked the way they amped up the fuzz for the guitar and the bass. Of course Ringo's drumming was inimitable. And Paul and George were musically pretty daring (no, probly not in Brian Wilson's league that way, Dave). Paul was the Beatle who REALLY pushed them in the studio. 1966 was a landmark year for The Beatles. They would stop touring and become a studio only band. They poured themselves into the studio, as is evident in their run of the REVOLVER LP, Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane single and Sgt. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND. It is run that has never been matched in history (only Brian Wilson would have topped it with PET SOUNDS, Good Vibrations and SMILE if it would have been released - but Mike Love and Brian's problems kept it shelved for almost 40 years).

So Paperback Writer is the link really for them commercially. Even on the flip side they used backwards recording for the first time. But PW was the last poppy song and it is rather mature itself. What is evident: Ringo and Paul are VASTLY underrated on their instruments. PW proves that. The bass line and the drumming truly connect and rock out on this song. So enjoy PW, number 9 on my list of The Great Beatles Songs.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Great Beatles Songs: A Day in the Life

I love The Beatles. They are my favorite group ever. Macca (Paul McCartney) is the man.

They had 27 #1 singles total (combined from America and England). Many people just know the Fabs from these big hits (Love Me Do, From Me to You, She Loves You, I Want to Hold Your Hand, Can't Buy Me Love, A Hard Day's Night, I Feel Fine, Eight Days a Week, Ticket to Ride, Help!, Yesterday, Day Tripper, We Can Work it Out, Paperback Writer, Yellow Submarine, Eleanor Rigby, Penny Lane, All You Need is Love, Hello Goodbye, Lady Madonna, Hey Jude, Get Back, The Ballad of John and Yoko, Something, Come Together, Let it Be, The Long and Winding Road). And I too love many of these hits (Paperback Writer, I Feel Fine, Hey Jude, Yesterday). But I have found ten songs that I consider the greatest Beatles songs. In the next few weeks I will post about the ten greatest Beatles songs, in ascending order from 10 to 1. Some of their number one hits will make the list (three of them). But the other seven are not commercial hits. But if you do not know them, your knowledge of popular rock'n'roll music is, sadly, incomplete. So, without further ado....number 10.

A Day in the Life
The encore for Sgt. Pepper. Sgt Pepper was supposed to be this great concept album. In actuality it was only conceptual in that they dressed weird for the cover shoot, had two songs and a finale that linked together and Paul to this day stresses it was a concept album. But everything John contributed was special and stands apart. Three of his finest works as a songwriter appear on Pepper (Day, Lucy in the Sky and Mr. Kite). But A Day in the Life is the highlight on what many people believe to be the greatest album of all time (not me, as I rank this #3 JUST out of Beatle albums).

They pieced this song together from some bits of songs. John had one about reading some things from the newspaper (the death of the guiness beer heir in a car wreck, the potholes in Lancashire). And Paul had a brief little thing floating about him waking up and smoking. Paul pieced them together. But John added the inspired line. In the 60's to be turned on was not only sexual in connotation. It was also a phrase linked to drug use. You were introduced, or turned on, to a drug. And then they added that amazing orchestral crescendo in the space before and after Paul's snippet of song. George Martin worked it in there in the space provided. Together Martin, Paul and John recorded one of rock's masterpieces. And so it rests here at number 10 on my Great Beatles Songs list. Go listen to it. Tune in. Turn on. Drop out. Groovy.

A Retraction for Dave

Again, I feel compelled to post something because of Dave Mac.

I want to clarify something I have said in the past. I come down hard on the mega-church or the big church. I sort of lump all churches that see 1000+ in attendance each week as the mega-church.

I used to work at a 1000+ church. It was and is a great church. It is very unique and is nothing like the packaged, programmed article that you read about. That church had unity and community. The best friends I have had in the past ten years came from my time serving there. They were either folks in the church or people I met because of my job there, other youth ministers around the state.

I had some tough experiences there but by and large the last six months there may have been the most amazing six months of ministry ever. When I rail and complain about big churches, I need to clarify to the folks there (like Dave) that I don't really view it as the mega-church. It did more for genuinely hurting people than any other church. And recently they have become more active in missions work. While I was there that was an area we needed to explore more.

I say that basically for Dave and for me. Church is church. Big or small, every place of worship and every body of believers has great and awful. And it is supposed to be that way. However you live in community, there will be great and awful. And I have been fortunate to experience both great and awful at every place I have served.

That church will always sort of feel like home to me. I learned so much there. I made some great friends there. I grew up there. That church prepared me for what I am today here in Hot Springs. Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to have taken the minister and man I am now and dropped me back there when I was 22. Very interesting, to say the least.

I love my church here. I love my kids here. I am blessed to have been here for six years. I hope to serve here for six more years. But as long as I am here, it never will feel like "home." And I hope no place ever feels like home. I want to save that for much later.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Not Any Ordinary Tuesday

Today is my mom's birthday. She is either 62 or 64. But you don't ask people that sort of question, eh?

Dad's birthday would have been back on the 5th. He would have been 64. My big plan when he turned 60 was to wake him up with The Beatles song "When I'm Sixty-Four" off of Sgt. Peppers. But dad never saw 64. And my grandpa turned 95 last Friday. My grandma Smith made it to 94. And Grandpa Coldiron is 95.

And today is one year to the day that Ty shot himself in the parking lot here at the church. Today I will end my day by reading scripture from Ty's baptism bible that I found upstairs a day after his funeral. So it is a weird day. A day where I want to sit back and listen to something like Keb'Mo' and then Devo. A day where I cannot wait for mom to get home and listen to the birthday message that is sure to crack her up. And a day where I think about how my dad and I were able to say everything we needed to say to each other and how my brothers never took that opportunity.

So it is an awful and great day. As I get older, as I grow and as I shrink back, I have more of those sort of days.

Lord, surround me with your mercy today. Thanks for everything; the cool breeze which helped me sleep last night without turning on my AC, the fact that my mom is around for another birthday, the memories I have of my dad, the fog that has lifted surrounding the death of too many teenagers. And thanks for the lighter moments I am allowed each day. Laughing with Drew, Colby and Lee lifts my head. It carries me to better places, places where I can completely focus on you. So father, use me up, wear me out, pour me out. Thanks for filling me to beyond full. Help me to swing out into eternity on the hope found in Christ dying for my sins. You are too good to someone like me. - Amen

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Paying Taxes

Bah. Just finished paying off all the taxes.

The honor I have of being an ordained minister means I get to pay quarterly estimated taxes. Yes, four times a year I cut a check to our federal government and the state of Arkansas. Because an ordained, full-time minister is actually considered self-employed by our beloved government. So I pay. And if I don't estimate enough, well we can just make it all up at the regular income tax deadline. So, I get to cut even MORE money out for them. I LOVE being such a part of the inner-workings of our country!

Being single, the only real perk I have is the tax-free housing allowance. And that HARDLY balances out shelling out over 1/4 of my salary each year to the state and federal gov.

I complain but that is pretty much the system we live in. You live in the good old USA and you get to pay the taxes. I just wish I had more confidence that my elected officials could fix our financial crisis. Huge debt. Crazy deficit. Social security is falling apart...I wonder if I can still opt out of that? Hmmm...

In other words, I am proud to be an American. God bless the USA, mom, apple pie, Lee Greenwood, Rocky from Rocky 4, James Brown, hot dogs, football, baseball and the good people at Spann and Associates Accounting firm.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Todd Agnew

I have finally figured out who he sounds like. Cross the lead singer from the Crash Test Dummies with Dr. Teeth from the Electric Mayhem and you have Todd Agnew.

It is like he has been gargling gravel. My Jesus would turn the radio station and wonder why someone doesn't give Satchmo there a drink. Yeesh.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Tyler Brown

Rest in peace.

I think God has more than made your dream Saturday morning real, my man. He is using you in a mighty way.

Sometimes I wish that we would just listen to God in the fleeting moments of every day life. Then we wouldn't need the deep tragedies to get through to us. God could commune with us over coffee and toast instead of around the prayer circle outside the hospital.

When Bigger was SOOO Much Better

Early on (when I was still in my 20's) I was convinced that only big numbers mattered in church.

I was so excited to be on staff at a big church working with a big youth group. But now I realize that churches that are so big really struggle. A mile wide but an inch deep.

Now we are stretching, trying to expand and I feel that pull from some pockets in the family here to be "big." Like we wouldn't matter as much unless we can seat thousands.

We have been faithfully plugging people into missions work all over. Significant life change has been happening. Genuine community has developed. And I am anxious that we might lose that spirit and lose sight on Christ as we swing out into that big church mode.

Already I have felt some territorialism creep into my heart as we talk in staff meetings. So today I sit and wonder how effective BIG really is. I look at what I left in Oklahoma and even how big gets so hard. But I suppose Tom Hanks is right and it is the hard that makes it good.

But God is faithful. And I am not. He nudges and pushes and pulls. I vacillate and hedge my bets and whine. But my spirit has not really felt at peace or rested since we decided to build a new sanctuary. God may in fact be leading us that way. But my heart remains restless.

I am afraid that as we focus on paying off a facility we will lose the effectiveness that lead to sending groups to Russia, Peru (twice), Honduras, Nicaragua (twice) and to New Orleans, Chicago, Hope, Dixonville, New York and Pascagula. I am afraid that we will miss out on sending another Catie to Turkey, another Kurt and Ryan to Nicaragua. I am afraid that another Jessica might not be able to have God take her out of the USA and leave her heart in a foreign place and call her to a life of loving God's people in another language. I am afraid that my focus will go off Bagas and onto my weekly offering. I am concerned that instead of people making Cajamarca their first mission trip, we are going to be focused on making budget.

I am so fragile and weak minded. So many things to do. All I can do is allow myself distractions. Another not-so-great moment. Of course, God will show himself faithful. I just wish once in a while I could be about my Father's business.

And I am also tired of sitting with families in ICU as their teenager fights and struggles on the other side of that door. So, so tired.