Switchfoot and Hope

31 07 2017

“Hope deserves an anthem and that’s why we sing.”

(Jon Foreman)

Kath and I attended a superb concert last night.  Switchfoot came to our town and played Meadowbrook Theatre, a venue at my alma mater, Oakland University, in suburban Detroit.

She was blown away.

So was I.

The band was superb.  Tight.  Didn’t miss a note.  Engaged from the opening “Hello Hurricane” to the final encore “Dare You to Move.”

I’m not a kid anymore.  That was four decades ago.  But I was a kid last night.

I first heard of Switchfoot, an alternative band from San Diego, about fourteen years ago.  Their album “The Beautiful Letdown” put them on the map in a big way.  Indeed, their performances of “Meant to Live” and “Dare You to Move” from that breakout album at the concert’s end capped the night brilliantly.

Today, I listened to interviews with the band’s co-founder, front man Jon Foreman.  When asked what Switchfoot’s music is all about, Jon answered, “Hope deserves an anthem and that’s why we sing.”

Odd, I came into their music in a big way after I passed the half-century mark.  I’m fifty-three and rock and roll for me means Led Zeppelin.  And more Led Zeppelin.  (Factoid: Jon Foreman was a part of a Led Zeppelin tribute band in his teens.  Factoid no. 2: During the middle section of “Bull In a China Shop” last night, lead guitarist Drew Shirley launched into the solo from “Whole Lotta Love.”  It was spectacular.)

As I’ve gotten to know Switchfoot’s music, I’ve become very uncomfortable.  Hope is a theme.  So are themes like “live life fully, unafraid and without regrets” and “is this who you want to be?”

Ouch.  A little too near the heart and conscience

Check them out.  They’re raw and real, all flawed humanoids trying to figure life out.  It’s all spelled out in the music.


Recommended Resources:

“Where the Light Shines Through” (Switchfoot)

“Fading West” (Switchfoot)

“The Beautiful Letdown” (Switchfoot)

“Fading West” – Film (Switchfoot)


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(Written for homeless kids in San Diego)

35 Years Ago This Evening

29 07 2017

I remember July 29, 1982 like it was yesterday.  Thirty-five years ago, I stopped at a donut shop to visit a friend and picked up the Detroit Free Press.  I read of an airplane crash.  11 people dead.  And one of them, an iconoclast Christian musician named Keith Green.

Quickly, I grabbed the newspaper and went to the house of a friend.  It was probably about 9:30 at night.  And he was in bed.

“Keith Green is dead.  You have to see this.”  He was awake immediately.  We began reflecting on the profound impact this now deceased twenty-eight year old Christian musician had on us.

Keith Green was what we label as an acronym: WYSIWYG.  “What You See Is What You Get.”  He was intense to a fault.  A friend of mine, a recording engineer, met Keith once.  He said he was so intense he was scary.

Keith was a seeker.  And eventually he latched on to Jesus of Nazareth.  Jesus became his guru.  And then his master.  He never looked back.

Keith was not easy to deal with.  He was impulsive, impetuous and his intensity–so says his longtime friend, Randy Stonehill– could often give you an Excedrin headache.  He was immature at times but dead earnest with what he knew was truth.

I was first exposed to Keith’s music as a young Christian disciple.  His in-your-face lyrics both challenged me and made me wither.  The same could be said for multiplied thousands of people who came under his influence.

Keith, thank you.  You have no idea the effect you have had on me for thirty-seven years.  Add to that multiplied millions of others.  May your tribe explode in growth.

Suggested Resources:

No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green (Melody Green & David Hazard)

“Your Love Broke Through:  The Keith Green Story”


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The Pretty Girl at the Piano

12 07 2017

It was thirty years ago today.  July 12, 1987.  Northern New York, near the Canadian border.  Morning was hot and muggy when I first had a look at a beautiful young woman, a striking brunette in a striped dress, as I walked into the one hundred and fifty-two year old church.  She was playing the piano that morning.

I was hundreds of miles from home and came to this place to help in a missions trip to upper Ontario, James Bay region.

I noticed this young woman had a ring on the third finger of her left hand.  Odd.  For some reason, which I noted in a journal at the time, she didn’t seem married.  But she was lovely.  She caught my attention.

Fast forward to September 2, same year.  I’d now moved to this small village seven miles south of the St. Lawrence River.  She introduced herself to me.  “Hi Chris.  I’m Kathy.”

I was enchanted.  We soon found we were each other’s soulmates.  Seven months later we were wed.

Thirty years later she still takes my breath away.

Marry well.  I still have a hard time believing I get to share life with this marvelous lady.

Suggested Resources:

Marry Wisely, Marry Well (Ernie Baker)

The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts (Gary Chapman)


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10 07 2017

Leonardo da Vinci used to draw things upside-down.

Parents of little children are encouraged to crawl around on their hands and knees to see the world as their kids do.  “Hmm, what can I grab?” (This insight courtesy of my lovely and sharp-as-a-tack wife.)


Perspective.  Often we need to approach everything from sketching a portrait to seeing the world through another set of eyes, like those of pre-toddlers, to seeing the upside of our current difficulties by entirely different approaches.

We’re human.  That means we have limited understanding of stuff, imbalanced and one-sided approaches to knowledge and problem-solving.  We need people and new views and algorithms to see the many dimensions of the things we face day-to-day.

One thing knowledgeable  art teachers do is teach their students how to see.  It’s not as obvious as you might think.  We tend to have certain universal ideas about how things look.  A hot dog is long and tubular.  Eyes tend to be oval and dark in the pupils.  Hands generally have four fingers and a thumb, the middle finger being the longest.  So we draw what we think, rather than what we actually see.  Instead of seeing digits, one learns to see light and shade.

We all find, if we haven’t already, that we need the input of other people and other approaches to help us experience the relief that a balanced perspective brings.  Got laid off from your job?  Maybe it’s because there’s something much better suited to your skills and temperament just ahead of you, if only you’ll apply yourself.  Someone did not return your text?  Maybe it’s because they’re callous and ill-mannered.  But it might just be that they know you love them and they don’t need to respond immediately.  They’re safe with you.  And probably buried in some task.

It takes humility to admit that perhaps you’re viewing things, usually the stuff that bugs the crap out of you, in an incomplete way.  Our minds seem hardwired to assume the worst.

Often it’s not so bad after all.

Here’s some things I’ve learned about acquiring that treasure called perspective:

  • Ask those who know and love you if you’re viewing something bugging you correctly or are defaulting to worst-case scenario thinking.
  • Find a way to draw your circumstance, problem, difficulty upside-down, like da Vinci. One of the easiest ways is to mentally put yourself in another person’s shoes to understand them.  Your boss probably doesn’t have it in for you; he or she is probably overwhelmed with stress.


Suggested Resources:

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain: The Definitive, 4th Edition (Betty Edwards)

Perspective: The Calm Within the Storm (Robert J. Wicks)


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Ray Bradbury On the Joy of Writing

3 07 2017

“You write to please yourself. You write for the joy of writing. And then your public reads you and it begins to gather around…The enthusiasm, the joy itself draws me — so that means, every day of my life, I’ve written. When the joy stops, I’ll stop writing.”

Suggested Resources:

Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity (Ray Bradbury)

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (Stephen King)


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Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman On Truly Knowing a Thing

14 12 2015


“See, I have the advantage of having found out how hard it is to get to really know something, how careful you have to be about checking the experiments, how easy it is to make mistakes and fool yourself. I know what it means to know something and therefore, I see how they get their information and I can’t believe that they know it.” (Richard Feynman on pseudo-sciences, 1981)

The Pleasure of Finding Things Out (Richard P. Feynman)

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After A Long Hiatus….

6 12 2015

After A Long HiatusI’ve taken quite a long sabbatical from writing regularly on this blog.  One post in the past sixteen months has been it.  I now intend to return to at least semi-regular, if not regular, contributions to this page.

Much has happened in the past year and a half.  Our eldest daughter married a fine man from the Plains.  Both are now happily ensconced in the Deep South, surrounded by salt water and palm trees.  My wife, Kath, and I visited them a month ago.  A great trip.  They are well.

Our youngest daughter, happily married for the past two years, has moved with her husband, another son of the Plains, thousands of miles away to new tasks.  They, too, are surrounded by palm trees and salt water.

Our vacations will be superb!

Here in northern New York, we recently sold our one hundred and one year-old Victorian farm house and have a smaller apartment close to work.  We are content.  Our home of fourteen years served us well but, with our two daughters married, it was more house than we needed.  So we sold to a fine young family with adorable children.

Candidly, sheer busyness accounts for my writing hiatus, a good bit of it anyways.  But more than that, I’ve learned some things over the past year and a half.  My reading has increased in breadth and depth.  I’ve had the good fortune to be mentored skillfully and have been forced to reevaluate many of my cherished prior commitments about life, human accomplishment and foible, God, reality, and lots of other things.

I hope to share the fine authors and thinkers who’ve helped me grow.  They’ve not been easy on me.  And won’t be easy on you either.  But then again, as a mentor recently admonished me, “Do not be seduced by low-hanging fruit.”  What has value must be extricated at cost and time.

Or, as Sara Groves sings on her newest record Floodplain, “Love is a diamond hidden in mountains, covered in danger and dirt.”

Let’s do this.  Thanks for reading!

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