Ten Years On

You are hereby cordially invited to join me on a little trip. You need to know, though, that it is a very personal one. This past week marked the 10th anniversary of my mother’s passing, and it has occurred to me that I should write down my thoughts and memories of that time and the surrounding events, for three reasons: (1) it might help someone who is going through similar circumstances; (2) I need to preserve it for my children and their children to know; and (3) because it is one way available to me with which to honor the life and memory of my Mom. So, come walk with me for the next couple of blog entries and let me share with you these memories.

I was in a sandwich shop in Lewisville, Texas, with my wife the day after 9/11 when I found out that my mother was going to die. A few days before, she had been told that she had leukemia, and we were waiting for test results to tell us if it was the “good” kind, the kind that could go into remission, or the “bad” kind that would essentially be a death sentence waiting to be carried out. My cell phone rang. I don’t remember now who actually made the call. Could have been my sister. It was the bad kind. Acute myeloid leukemia. I went to the car so that I could cry properly.

By the following March, my Mom was worn out from the constant treatments. We had hoped that the chemo would give her at least two more years, five at the outside, but her body was slipping. So, as soon as my young children got out of school for Spring Break, we all packed the van and immediately made the 12-hour trip to Mobile, Alabama, where my mother was in a room at Providence Hospital. She wasn’t expected to last the week. I spent almost every minute of that week with her in that room. I read while she slept, and we talked when she was awake. Others were there all week, too. My Dad was there constantly, and my four older brothers and sisters were there, but they were in and out, all having jobs to hold down in the Mobile area, except my sister, Cathy, who had taken time off from her job in Fort Worth to be there. On Friday of that week, Mom was no better and no worse, and I knew that I had to take my family back to Texas. I had a church to pastor, and my children had school starting back up, and we couldn’t stay in Mobile indefinitely. And so, I did the single hardest thing I had ever done in my life up to that point. I kissed my mother and told her good-bye, which I knew might be the very last time I would see her. And I drove away.

It was the middle of March, and as we made our way west across the southeastern part of Mississippi, my heart weighed more with every mile. Five hours into the trip, before I had made it across the Mississippi River bridge, our van broke down.  The day had turned dark and cold and windy. It was almost nightfall. Stuck on the bridge, I made the requisite calls. A State Trooper took my wife and three children to a motel in Vicksburg, and I waited for the tow truck, standing exposed on the elevated concrete interstate, shivering and alone. As I stood there, I had a thought that I had never thought before, but even as it occurred to me, I knew it was true. This, I thought, is the worst day of my life.

Later, as my children slept soundly in the motel room’s other bed, Mary Ann and I watched part of “Castaway,” just because it was on TV. We got to the scene where Tom Hanks’ character has to knock out his own abscessed tooth with a rock and an ice skate. And I had another thought. Wow. My life could actually be worse.

Perspective is always available if you look for it.

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HOG WASHED: Chapter 2 “The Great Indoors”

ImageAs promised, here is the second chapter of HOG WASHED. And again, click here to become a backer for this project and help us publish it!

CHAPTER 2
THE GREAT INDOORS

The next morning, Reggie watched with a new level of interest as Breezy received his weekly grooming from the farmer. He stuck his snout through the pigpen fence and rested his chin on the second rail from the bottom so that he could relax as he watched.

The farmer whistled for Breezy as he held the garden hose over a big washtub, filling it almost to the brim with cold, clear water. Reggie looked down at the mud puddle he was standing in. As Breezy bounded up, barking cheerfully, the farmer rubbed the dog’s furry head, smiled and laughed, and when he scratched Breezy behind the ears, Breezy’s eyes closed, his smile got wider, and his back right leg twitched in time to the rhythm of the rub. Reggie tied to reach up and rub his own head, but his leg was too short. Then he tried twitching his back leg, but he only lost his balance and staggered a few steps to the left.

Next, the farmer motioned with his hand, and Breezy jumped into the tub. The farmer knelt down, put one hand behind the dog’s head, and with his other hand, he scooped up the sparkling water and rubbed it into Breezy’s fur until he looked half his normal size. Breezy stood in the water, dripping all over and shivering a little, despite the warm sunshine. The farmer squeezed a green liquid into one hand, then rubbed it into Breezy’s coat. This was Reggie’s favorite part. Soon, Breezy was completely white, with only his eyes, nose, and tongue showing through the suds.

The farmer kept rubbing and squeezing, rubbing and squeezing, and Breezy was enjoying every second. After that, the farmer took the bright green water hose and let the water pour all over the dog. This was where Reggie cold not help laughing out loud. Breezy the fluffy became Breezy the scrawny. It always amazed Reggie how small and skinny his friend looked at this stage. Finally, the farmer stood, tossed the hose onto the ground, stepped back, and said, “Okay Breezy, fire away!” Breezy then shook like he had been wanting to shake for the last five minutes, and soap flew in every direction, almost as if he had exploded all the love that had just been rubbed into him. Then he jumped out of the washtub like a shot and ran around so fast that all Reggie could see was a black-and-white blur. After a few minutes of watching Breezy roll around in the grass to dry himself, the farmer did something that somehow made Reggie ache with longing- he held open the front door, whistled once, low and soft, and smiled as Breezy pranced inside the house.

Reggie wondered what it was like inside the house. He had heard stories, of course, but he had never been. Pigs were not allowed inside. The dog could go in, sometimes a cat would wander by and be invited, and once the old goat got confused and ended up in the farmer’s upstairs linen closet, but no one had ever known a pig to set hoof inside. Reggie couldn’t even imagine what it looked like in there, but he could imagine what it felt like, because he could hear the sounds. He could hear running and laughter, barking and the playful growling that accompanied the squeak of rubber toys.  Reggie thought of the new word he had heard yesterday. I wonder, he thought, is that what love sounds like?

As Reggie listened more intently, he heard another sound coming from a different direction. This one was coming up the dirt road. It sounded vaguely like the farmer’s truck, but not as rattling and clanky. He looked to the left, and saw, coming around the big oak tree, a new thing with four wheels approaching the house. The driver looked a lot like the farmer, only younger. As this new machine came closer, it made a strange honking sound, then dust flew as it stopped abruptly by the front door. The farmer stepped out of the house, arms open wide, smile even wider, and the young farmer unfolded himself from the contraption and embraced the older man.

“Oh,” said Reggie to no one, “so that’s the son.” Breezy came bounding out next, running around the son’s legs five times before they all went back inside. As soon as they disappeared, Reggie was overwhelmed by the feeling of being left out. There they all were, inside. Together. With that love thing. He heard talking. Then laughter. Talking again. He saw the big apple pie that was cooling in the kitchen window disappear. Clinking. Something scraped across wood. Sighs and murmurs of “mmmmm, that’s good.” And Reggie couldn’t take any more. He had to get a look inside that house.

He went over to the shady corner of the pigpen, where the fence met up with the big tree. Reggie knew, and had known since we has a piglet, that if you held your head just right, held your breath just right, and pushed real hard with your back legs, a pig his size could just squeeze through a gap between the last fencepost and the tree, where the ground had gotten soft from rain puddles. Reggie did all these things, felt the gentle scrape and pressure of wood against his belly, and popped through the space, tumbling softly onto the grass on the other side. Although all the pigs knew about this hole, no one ever used it, because why would they? They had everything they needed in the pigpen.  Pigs, it was understood, were not a very adventurous sort.

Reggie curved around the big tree and felt the sun shine down on his back as he left the shadows and headed for the house. Many times, he had watched as Breezy had come bounding out what he had called the “screen door.”  Reggie had noticed that you could see through it before it swung back and banged against the house. He had just heard that same bang when they had all gone into the house a moment ago, and by the sounds drifting out, he knew that the heavy inside door was still open. Maybe, if he was lucky, he might be able to sneak a look through it and finally see this place he had been dreaming about.

Reggie, as quietly as a pig can be quiet, shuffled up the one small step onto the back stoop and inched his scruffy head closer to the screen door. The sounds and smells that wafted out to him made him a little bit woozy with delight, but soon he concentrated again on looking inside. He had to squint just right to focus beyond the wire mesh screen, but as he watched, the moving shapes began to take recognizable form. The farmer and his son were sitting at a table, talking, nodding their heads, and laughing, all while spooning heaping gobs of ice cream and apple pie into their mouths. Breezy stood between them on his hind legs, tongue hanging out, front paws on the table. It looked to Reggie as if Breezy was as much a part of the conversation as the two men. He nodded at the right times, wagged his tail, and Reggie was pretty sure that he even saw the dog laugh and shake his head at some kind of shared joke.

In a few minutes, the men rose from the table, laid their dishes in the sink, and, still talking, moved into a larger room beyond the kitchen. The farmer lowered himself into a contraption unlike anything Reggie had ever seen. At first, Reggie thought that the farmer had lost his balance and was accidentally falling into the jaws of a big, brown animal’s gaping mouth to be swallowed up, and was about to squeal out a warning, but when the farmer sat down, the thing that Reggie now saw was a chair, welcomed him by popping a small footrest out of its inner parts. The farmer’s son walked to a longer, softer-looking version of the chair. “Where’d you get this couch, Dad?” the son asked.

“Old Lady Perkins was selling it in a yard sale.”

“How much did you pay for it?”

“Well, nothing. She likes me.”

“Hm. You still paid too much.”

The son sat down on it anyway, and what Reggie saw next made time stand still. As soon as the son’s weight settled onto the couch, Breezy leaped into the air and landed squarely in his lap. The son kept talking to the farmer, but while he was talking, he rubbed Breezy behind the ears, dug his fingers into Breezy’s fur and scratched him, and sometimes he just gently rubbed his coat with a gentle, smoothing motion. Breezy looked like he never wanted to move from that place.

So, thought Reggie, that’s what love looks like.

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HOG WASHED: Chapter 1 “Mud to the Bone”

Hello Dear Reader,

This blog and the next one will be unusual. As you may know, we are raising a certain amount of funds through kickstarter.com, an “all-or-nothing” fundraising website, to pay for the publication of my next book, HOG WASHED. You can read more about the book and see how to support this project by clicking here, or going to http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1989269206/hog-washed?ref=home_location.

It works just like you are buying something from amazon.com, plus every pledge level comes with very cool rewards for you. Any pledge you make will not be charged to you until May 20, and then ONLY if the project funding goal has been met. If we don’t raise enough to meet the goal, nobody pays anything, and we can’t move forward with the book. So, in the interest of enticing you further, I now present to you the first chapter of HOG WASHED, followed by the second chapter in the next blog installment. I hope you enjoy what you see, and I invite you to become a backer for this project right away. As of this post, we only have 19 days left to raise the money. Again, details are available at the link above. And now, meet Reggie…

HOG WASHED:

a small fable about a big change

by Mark Wyatt

Author’s Note:

What you are about to read is allegory, an illustration of what I believe to be one of the most transforming, life-changing, freedom-giving truths that God is speaking to the Body of Christ today. It is the story of a pig who longs to be somewhere he has never seen, but knows that when he is there, he will find the life that he knows is possible. The message contained in this little story is being echoed around the globe, it is a sound coming from many different streams and from every corner of Christianity. It is the sound of sonship.

As I was writing this book, I became aware of some aspects of the story that might make readers remember George Orwell’s classic allegory, Animal Farm. While this work is in no way a re-telling of that novel, it is to our advantage to make a few remarks at the outset regarding comparisons and contrasts with it.

In 1945, when George Orwell first published Animal Farm in England, it was a scathing condemnation of Communism and the human rights violations of Soviet Russia. In the story, the pigs set themselves up as rulers of the working class while trying to maintain the facade that they are just like the common animals, except smarter and naturally more able to lead this new revolution of freedom from oppression. The problem is that they become corrupted by the power and gradually become more and more like the men they detested at the beginning. The moral of the story? Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Animal Farm, however, is born from the earthly reality of a fallen kingdom ruled by fallen men. It portrays the social inevitabilities of self-promotion, envy, and fear.

But what if there was another farm? What if there was a farm where the farmer was good and where the desire for more came not from discontentment or selfish ambition, but from the demonstration of a better life? What if there was a farm where a regular pig could dream of being more than just a regular pig?

What if the sun seemed to rise more quickly over Far Away Hill this time of year…?

CHAPTER 1:
MUD TO THE BONE

The sun seemed to rise more quickly over Far Away Hill this time of year, and by the time Reggie opened one eye, he was already miserably hot. It was only midmorning, but the sun pressed on the roof of the old doghouse, which was now a pighouse, and as Reggie sighed, he let out one big snuffle that blew a little path in the hay right in front of his snout. Even in the humid air, he couldn’t bear to leave the shade of the pighouse. “Just five more minutes,” he mumbled, barely above the sound of a dream.

“No, Reggie, now!” fussed his mother, who had stuck her massive head in the door for the second time in two minutes. “You are the last one still sleeping, so come on, get yourself upright and get out here and eat!” Reggie smacked his lips, blinked his eyes, wiggled his ears, and then he brought his legs up under his body and pushed up, wobbly at first, then steadying over the next few seconds. He lumbered ahead into the sunlight, blinking and turning away before stepping out of the pighouse. Reggie was not yet a full-grown pig, but he wasn’t a piglet anymore either. In fact, he was remarkable unremarkable. His mother had named him Regular because there was not one distinguishing mark on him— no tuft of white hair on his forehead, no cute star-shaped birthmark on his hind quarters, not even a memorable mole hiding somewhere on his smooth pig skin. Nor was Reggie particularly big or small.  The farmer had rubbed his ears once and told him that he wasn’t quite a “finishing pig,” that he wasn’t ready for market yet… whatever that meant.

Reggie walked over to the pile of corn, smiled at his mother as he passed by, and took two good-sized cobs into his mouth before turning right and going down the small slope toward the sound of the other young pigs shouting and laughing. As if he were on automatic, Reggie made his way to the ever more familiar mud hole, the wet smell of must and dirt growing stronger in his nostrils as he neared. This was the same thing he had done every day, and would do every day, for the rest of his life, he figured. Sleeping, waking up, eating corn, and wallowing in the mud hole.

He was almost fully awake now, and ready to find a good spot to chomp his corn, when a squealing little piglet tore past him, laughing, and launched himself into the deepest part of the mud hole- which, actually, only came up to the piglet’s knees. The piglet sailed through the air, closed his eyes, squealed even louder, and plopped with a mushy sploosh into the cool, thick mud. The other pigs watching laughed in approval as the next one started down the slope.

Reggie hurried across his path and smiled at the memory of playing the same game himself not long ago. He turned to encourage the clumsy little one barreling toward him. “Straighen up, Jimmy Dean, or you won’t get any height!” he yelled. Jimmy Dean was going too fast for himself, and right as he reached the launch site, his feet crossed in front of him and he slid, spinning into the mudhole on his belly, causing wet brown globs to fly through the air and splat onto the spectators, who laughed even harder than before and fell onto their sides in delight.  Reggie moved uphole a ways to give them their room, found a spot big enough to surround him, then executed his uniquely Reggian style: he stood, all four feet together, closed his eyes, and fell over, stiff-legged, into the soft, cool mud that he would call his own for the next few hours. Or at least until it was time to eat again.

And there he lay, wet and grimy, one ear twitching away with every tentative landing of two circling flies. He sighed, worked on his corn, and swiveled his head just enough to orient himself in the pen. Reggie’s little world of mud lay about three pig lengths from a wooden trough that, as of now, sat empty. He knew, though, that in just a little while, he would hear the whine and grind of the old truck’s gears. Then the ground would tremble a little as the board-sided pick-up would come bouncing heavily over the rise, with slick, thick, greenish brown waves sloshing over the stained and crusted panels that made the bed into a huge box.

Even as he anticipated its arrival, the truck rose into view, just as he had imagined it. It squealed to a stop on the other side of the fence, and somewhere inside its engine, rods pumped and gears ground again as the farmer forced it into reverse, bringing the old box right over the trough. The farmer shut off the engine, the door squeaked open and the farmer lowered himself out of the cab while he put on his thick leather work gloves. “Soo-wee! Hello piggies!” he said. “Time for your favorite treat!”

The farmer stepped to the back of the truck, removed a pin, threw a latch, grabbed a lever, and pulled. The bottom of the back panel swung out with the force of the liquid inside, and whoosh, splat, schplunk, out poured the slop until the trough was overflowing and thick rivers of the liquefied garbage glumped toward the ground.

Instantly, all the playing piglets stopped mid-game and ran over. Reggie knew there was no hurry to get to the trough. Let the little pigs have their fill, there would be plenty left. And there would always be more coming. Reggie had noticed that some of the other animals were fed once a day, and sometimes sparingly. He had heard a word associated with this kind of eating- “diet.” He didn’t know what it meant, but he didn’t want to know. It sounded horrible. Besides, the pigs were always given all that they could eat. Life for Reggie was like another word he had heard the farmer use—what was it? Oh, yeah. A buffet.

As Reggie lay in the mud, barely hearing the grunts and splashes of pigs and slop, he began to reflect, which was something pigs were not known to do normally. But Reggie wasn’t like other pigs. Sometimes he would just think. And when he thought, he would wonder.  This was one of those times. “I wonder,” he thought, “could there be more to being a pig than just mud and slop?” It wasn’t that Reggie didn’t enjoy mud and slop, but neither did he have some great affection or longing for it. It was just all he had ever known, and it was alright, he guessed.  But he dreamed of more.

    “’S goin’ on, amigo!” Reggie knew that voice immediately, and was smiling before he saw where it was actually coming from.

    “Hey, Breezy, what’s shakin?” Reggie greeted the farmer’s black-and-white dog as Breezy rounded the front of the truck. Reggie rose from the mud, which was pretty uncomfortable now. The sun had already begun baking it to his body, and when he stood, hard clumps fell off, pulling his hair as they went. “Ouch!” he winced as he sauntered to the fence.

    “Beautiful day, ain’t it?” said Breezy. People said that dogs don’t really smile, but Reggie knew better. Breezy smiled all the time. He came onto the farm out of nowhere, a stray in the truest sense of the word. For the first couple of weeks, the farmer didn’t know from one day to the next if the dog would be around. So when he did show up, the farmer started calling him Breezy. When Breezy came around, the farmer fed him, bathed him, petted him, and brought him inside at night. Breezy “came around” more and more, and eventually he figured out where life was good, and one day he just stayed. He had been smiling ever since. Breezy never talked much about his life before the farm, but he sure talked a lot about how good it was now.

    “Hey, guess what?” said Breezy.

    “I give up,” said Reggie.

    “But you didn’t guess yet.”

    “Nope. Not gonna, either. What?”

    “The farmer’s son is coming home!” said the dog.

    “He’s been gone awhile, hasn’t he?” asked Reggie.

    “Yeah, the farmer said he has been living in a place called ‘College.’ Said he’s been preparing himself to come home and help his father run the farm. Apparently there’s more to all this than what we see. Anyway, he’s coming home tomorrow! Isn’t that great?”

Reggie shrugged as much as a pig can shrug. “I guess so,” he said. “But why is that so great?”

    “Why?!” exclaimed Breezy. “Why? I’ll tell you why. That’s one more person to brush me, feed me, pet me, play with me… a whole other person to love on this lucky dog!”

    And as quick as that, a new word floated down onto Reggie’s ears. What was that word that Breezy had just used? Love. Now that sounded like a great word. Not at all like diet.

(To support this project and help bring Reggie to life, CLICK HERE now. Thank you!)

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40 Years Later: the Jesus Music Revolution, part 3

One of the hippies who had heard about Chuck Smith and Calvary Chapel from a succession of hitchhikers, was a young musician named Chuck Girard. Chuck was a resident of the Laguna Beach music scene, and after an unfulfilling journey through LSD, marijuana, and alcohol, he listened as his friend Denny Correll told him he needed to be saved. Chuck and his fellow seekers and musician friends began to read the Bible and ask all kinds of questions about what they were reading. One night, as a result of the invitation of someone whom he called “fully Christian,” as opposed to his self-described status as “mostly Christian,” Chuck found himself listening intently to the gentle teaching of Pastor Chuck Smith. “The service was very low key,” he wrote later.  “I remember being very impressed that Chuck didn’t yell or scream, just shared stuff about Jesus with a big grin on his face. I don’t remember what was preached that night, I just knew that something very powerful and important was going on in that room, and I wanted to understand it and be a part of it. I didn’t go to the altar that night, but the Spirit of God got hold of me in a big way. I began to weep deeply, as all my control and pride was broken like a twig in the presence of God. I had deep release as I wept before God, and felt such a cleanliness in my spirit, unlike anything I’d ever experienced before.”[1]

In the months that followed, Chuck Girard and his also-saved friends began to take the music that they had been hearing and copying all over Los Angeles from the Laurel Canyon music scene, and modify it lyrically until they had crafted songs that communicated everything they were discovering about a life of being in love with Jesus. In short order, Love Song was born, and they humbly led the way as a new kind of troubador. No longer were the folk-rock songs of L.A. exclusively about a directionless hope for some kind of political and “leave me alone” peace, but instead, the sound was rising that both purpose and peace were found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. On Love Song’s debut, they charged out of the gate with that message, with songs like the aptly titled Changes:

I’m goin’ through changes
Changes in my mind
Holding on to good things that I find
I’m going through changes
Changes in my mind,
And I’m leaving all my emptiness behind.

And, as would be clearly seen as the Jesus Movement gained momentum, the songs they were writing were not vague, formless declarations of love for an unnamed Person. Another example from Love Song’s self-titled debut, one called Freedom, proclaimed:

 

Jesus is the One that makes me want to shout the news above the rooftops
Come on, let’s shout the joyful news and let the people know that Jesus is the Lord!
HE’S THE LORD!
He’ll do the same for you!
(He’ll give you freedom)
He’s reaching out for you!
(He’ll give you freedom)
He’s the only One who’s true!
(He’ll give you freedom)
He’ll set you free
He’ll set you free
He’ll set you free
He’ll set you free

Soon, other voices, other guitars, would join this folk-rock, hippie-born and Heaven-redeemed choir. “Music,” says Time magazine, “has become the special medium of the Jesus movement… A growing number of musical stars, including Johnny Cash and Eric Clapton, are among the Jesus movement converts. Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary has preached on the steps of Berkeley’s Sproul Hall; Jeremy Spencer of Britain’s Fleetwood Mac has joined the ultrarigid Children of God.”[2]  Dana Angle and a few musician buddies would be inspired at a Love Song concert to direct their gifts in an eternal direction, and The Way became a staple of Jesus Music at Bible studies, churches, and festivals around Southern California. A Los Angeles disc jockey named Buck Herring encouraged his wife and her newly orphaned brother and sister to start singing together, and the uber-tight harmonies of the Carpenters were reimagined as 2nd Chapter of Acts. Barry McGuire found hope from the “Eve of Destruction” in Jesus, and Larry Norman, the godfather of Christian rock, was leading Randy Stonehill to faith in Christ at his kitchen table.

On June 21, 1971, Time magazine would feature the “Jesus Revolution” as their cover story, in an article titled: “The Alternative Jesus: Psychedelic Christ.” In it, the writer seeks to describe what was making this movement, this revival, different from what was happening with the same demographic—hippies—who were not connecting to Jesus: “There is an uncommon morning freshness to this movement, a buoyant atmosphere of hope and love along with the usual rebel zeal. Some converts seem to enjoy translating their new faith into everyday life, like those who answer the phone with ‘Jesus loves you’ instead of ‘hello.’ But their love seems more sincere than a slogan, deeper than the fast-fading sentiments of the flower children; what startles the outsider is the extraordinary sense of joy that they are able to communicate.”[3]

One year later, that “extraordinary sense of joy” would be expressed by some 80,000 of these Jesus People at Explo ’72 in Dallas, Texas. Organized by Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ and dubbed “the Christian Woodstock,” Jesus Music would once again provide the soundtrack. Artists like Love Song, Larry Norman, Randy Matthews, the Archers, Children of the Day, and even Johnny Cash, would take the same few musical notes, the same chords, the same sense of searching that fueled the stratospheric career of, say, the Eagles, and they would, for years to come, through records and decades-long ministries, provide the music and lyrics that still, forty years later, evoke a time of innocence amid aimlessness, peace in a time of great unrest.

And now, forty years later, as Love Song streams through my iPod, I still sing along with every word.


[1] Girard, Chuck. “My Testimony.”  http://www.chuck.org/my_testimony.htm. Accessed July 2, 2011.
[2] “The New Rebel Cry: Jesus Is Coming!” Time 21 June 1971: 61. Print.
[3] Ibid., p.56

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40 Years Later: the Jesus Music Revolution, part 2

It was the turn of a decade, and what a decade it had been.  The sixties had, in less than ten years, definitively demolished the look and feel of so much of the accepted American culture that had existed before. Until the Industrial Revolution in the late 1880s and 1890s, life for one generation really didn’t look much different from the generation preceding it, and the next generation was going to look pretty much the same again. The Industrial Revolution began to change every landscape it touched, physically, spiritually, and sociologically. The family, which until then had made its way through the world together, on the farm, was now being separated by factories and urban expansion so that the father, who used to be just out in the field, was now gone all day, often for weeks or months at a time, building cities and manufacturing products. Then, for the next 50 years, life in America settled into a manageable hum of achievement, patriotism, and assembly line excellence. Two-parent families and respect for authority were still the norm, and even the rebels of the 1950s were clean shaven and tucked in their shirttails.

In the sixties, though, the quiet acquiescence with which most Americans were so comfortable was decimated. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to surrender her bus seat in Montgomery, Alabama, and by the Fall of 1963, President Kennedy had sent 5000 troops to the University of Mississippi after the enrollment of its first black student; Medgar Evers was killed outside of his home; and Martin Luther King, Jr. had written Letters From A Birmingham Jail. Then, in November, President Kennedy himself was felled by an assassin’s bullet in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas. Add to that the escalating losses and increasing unpopularity of the war in Vietnam, and for the first time, a whole generation of teenagers and young adults were beginning to do something that had never been done so brazenly before— they were questioning authority. And so the postmodern generation drew its first tentative breath.

This new boldness to assert that maybe the people in charge might not know what is best, splashed over into every arena imaginable, and the still fledgling world of rock and roll began to find its voice in defiance. From Bob Dylan trying to find the answer “Blowin’ in the Wind,” to Barry McGuire’s warning that we were on the “Eve of Destruction,” to John Fogerty’s lament that he was not the “Fortunate Son,” guitars and voices joined together by the thousands to make their dissatisfaction with the status quo a matter of record.

At the very end of the 1960s, from August 15-18, 1969, a small village in New York hosted “An Aquarian Exposition: Three Days of Peace and Music,” better known for the name of its nearest town—Woodstock. It was actually more like three days of tents and torrential rain. Popular biographer Marc Eliot writes of that festival, “The single previously heard but still unseen act that emerged triumphant from Woodstock was Crosby, Stills, and Nash, joined onstage by Neil Young. Taking their turn at four in the morning, they sat themselves down on stools, reached for their guitars, performed their uniquely structured, lyrically sophisticated, harmonically vivid ‘Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,’ and at a generation’s wake became superstars.”

And with the ensuing success of Crosby, Stills, and Nash, the center of the new sound in rock music moved all the way across the nation from New York to the leafy neighborhood where the trio had first sat down in Joni Mitchell’s home and harmonized together: Laurel Canyon, perched high in the hills above Los Angeles. Laurel Canyon went on to be the incubator for other artists who found their voices there and delivered their newfound community’s music and attitude to the bars and clubs of Sunset Strip: artists like Jackson Browne, Jim Morrison, the Mamas and the Papas (who had migrated West from Greenwich Village), the Byrds, and the Eagles.

But as Texas boy Don Henley and Detroit-bred Glenn Frey were hitting their high notes together in the folk-rock, end-of-Vietnam, “what’s next?” atmosphere of L.A., other musicians were gathering and were finding their collective voice for what would prove to be just as world-changing, and certainly more eternal, than what was happening in Laurel Canyon. Less than an hour’s drive away, in Costa Mesa, a young pastor named Chuck Smith and a tiny church called Calvary Chapel were unwittingly playing host to other hippie musicians who would provide the soundtrack to what would soon be a sweeping, generation-impacting, Church-changing movement that Time magazine would call “The Jesus Revolution.”

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40 Years Later: the Jesus Music Revolution, part 1

It was early in the summer of 1973, and I had been sulking for a week.  My two older brothers and an older sister had gone all the way from our home on Alabama’s Gulf Coast to Canada on our church’s youth mission trip. But I was too young. I was only in sixth grade, still three long years away from being able to join the Youth Choir and go on exciting trips to exotic places like Winnipeg, Manitoba.

But they were due to arrive home any minute, and so I hunched on the landing by the front door, waiting to see what they had brought me from their world travels. Eventually the front door opened and they came into the house, all smiles and stories. The air of adventure in distant lands swirled around them like magic dust, and I listened with rapt attention to their report of all the states through which they had passed on the bus, and what each one looked like. Then, finally, we got down to the business of presents.

With great pride in their choice, they presented me with an item that they had bought as they were taking a tour of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Minneapolis, Minnesota. What they handed me was an album. A record.  A flat disc of grooved vinyl by a group I had never heard of.

I remember that the first thing I noticed about the album jacket was that it looked and felt pretty cool. It was mostly brown and tan, with artwork of a parchment sheet of music seemingly tacked to the front, and it was both textured and smooth at the same time. At the top, in big but soft seventies-style pseudo script, were two words: “Love Song.”  The parchment sheet of music apparently represented the actual words and music to the title track. Then I flipped it over, and there, on the back, was a group picture of the members of the band. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. They had beards. And long hair! And one of them, I think it was Tommy Coomes, even had an afro, for crying out loud! Now, it wasn’t that those things were all that uncommon for young men in 1973, but I thought this was a Christian album.

Obviously, my curiosity was piqued. So I went into the living room, lifted the hinged top of the console stereo, slipped the album out of its sleeve and onto the spindle, flipped the feeding arm over to the middle, and started up the turntable. The record flapped down onto the spinning surface, and for the next thirty-seven minutes, I heard what I had never imagined could exist— real Christian lyrics set to rock music. This was the same kind of music that our parents let us listen to.  (We were not allowed the hard stuff, although my brother, Gene, would occasionally sneak in with an album by Steppenwolf or Todd Rundgren.) These guys sounded like Bread! No, wait, the Eagles! Sometimes I even heard a little bit of Yes, America, and Seals and Croft!

That was it. My world changed forever. And so did many others.

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Overruled: part 3

ImageI can see Satan, scurrying back to hell as fast as he can go, trying to figure out what went wrong. His argument was ironclad, his victory sure, he thought. What happened?
No sooner does he slink into his dark, oppressive chamber, but there is a knock on the door of hell. He ignores it. But the visitor is insistent.  The knocking grows louder. “Nobody’s home!” he tries, cowering in the corner. And a voice answers back: “I’m coming in anyway!”
At the next knock, the gates of hell are blasted inward as the victor comes for his spoils. Jesus, arrayed in glory, stands at the threshold, undaunted, unafraid, the undefeated champion. Someone else is with him. A wide-eyed young man stands behind him, mouth open, watching. Satan points a bony finger. “Who is that with you?” he asks from behind a chair.  “Wait! I know him! That is the thief on the cross! Have you come to deliver him?”
Jesus smiles at the man standing behind him, then turns and says, “You must be mistaken. This man is not a thief. He WAS a thief. Now he is righteous. Now he’s with me. And, no, he has already been delivered. From you.”
“Then why are you here?”
Jesus steps toward him and holds out his hand. Satan backs up, trying to hind behind the horde of demons that has come to see what all the commotion is. They are the same demons who last saw this man being beaten, the same ones who laughed and prodded as the nails were driven. But now, here he is, standing in front of them, holding out one of those mighty, nail-scarred hands.
“I am here,” Jesus says, in a voice that echoes through all the ages, “for the keys.”
“What keys?” asks Satan.
“The keys to death and hell. They don’t belong to you anymore. In case you don’t remember, hell was prepared for you and your angels, not for the people for whom I just died. It is true, people will always have a choice. They can choose to reject the love of my Father, reject my love, the price that I paid, and then they will share your eternity. But that is their choice. Not yours. No longer do you have power or authority over them.  You have accused them unopposed for far too long. They now have an advocate with the Father. I am now on their side.”
And Satan thought of what worked so well for him before. “Objection!” he screamed.
And the response rolled down from heaven with astonishing power: “OVERRULED!”
And Jesus took the keys and walked back up, up from the bowels of hell, leading captivity captive, up into the tomb where they laid Him, and He BURST through the other side in radiant light, RISEN AND ALIVE FOREVERMORE!

And still, today, the father of lies tries to lie his way into the hearts of men and women. He tells them that he still rules, that there is no way out,  that they are under his control. But still, God proclaims to them, in myriad ways, His great love and deliverance.

And still, today, the accuser appears before God day and night, bringing cases against the children of God, those who have entered into the forgiveness and cleansing of the sacrificial blood of Jesus.
“Look!” he cries, pointing. “See that one there? Did you see how he just treated that waiter? And you say he’s one of yours. I object!”
And the Father looks down from his throne, and all he sees is someone that is robed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and stands forgiven by His blood. And he turns confidently and triumphantly to Satan. “Overruled.”
“Look!” the devil says again, “did you see that pastor? A pastor! Look what he is involved in! And the people, YOUR people, have no idea! Surely you must give him to me! You can’t keep him! I object!”
And the Father, with grief in his heart for a suffering child, still shakes his head and says, “Objection overruled. It is true that he is hurting himself with his sin, and I miss spending time with him, but he will always belong to me. Always.”
“Look there!” the devil continues. “And there! Are you blind? Can’t you see their sin?”
And the Father, with the righteous anger of a Daddy protecting his children from attack, stands and leans toward their accuser. “No,” he says, “I don’t see their sin. I see a redeemed man, I see a woman who once was dead but now is alive again. I see a teenager that was lost, but he has been found by me. I see a young girl confused by the world, hurt by friends, but holding on to my love for her. I see people who are struggling to live free from the chains you had them in, but they are winning. They are learning. They are growing. And I love them with all of my heart.
“Do you want to know what I see? Every time I look at them, every time they come to me in tears and in repentance, every time they struggle, every time they fail, every time they succeed beyond their wildest dreams, do you know what I see? I see Jesus. They no longer wear the old, tattered rags that you had them in. They have gotten a heavenly make-over. They now wear the robe of righteousness of my Son, and His blood cleanses them from ALL sin!
“So go ahead, accuse them all you want, throw whatever indictments you can find, scream out your arguments until time is no more, until the earth and the sky disappear, until all the kingdoms of this world have been handed to Jesus and he gives them to me. It doesn’t matter. One day, when the earth has run its course, my people will finally be able to say, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ!”  So, until that day, know this, and know it well: every accusation, every indictment, every argument against them, every objection you can ever scream out will be met with one word: OVERRULED!”

“The Lord has established His throne in heaven,
and His kingdom rules over all.”
-Psalm 103

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