Tuesday, June 27, 2006

home...and a prairie home companion

I am sitting on the roof of a 58 story apartment building in downtown Chicago, legs dangling over the edge, comptemplating the wind and battling a newly formed fear of heights. Atop our perch in the heart of the city, I can see every major Chicago landmark and structure with little to no obstruction and I am in awe of it all. My friends sit close by and laugh, telling stories and giving their cynical 20-something responses, but I remain mostly silent, just staring at the city, marveling at how the Sears Tower, which is remarkable close and presently under a terrorist threat, is more than twice the terrific height I'm sitting at. The whole thing is just breath-taking and I realize how much bigger all of this is that I am.

This has been a theme running through my life of late, the realization of my insignificance, the fraility of my circumstances, and the awesome ride the whole thing is. My microscopic piece of the picture is a blast, making the rest of the picture this daunting mystery, but a mystery I have joyfully explored on the ever-continuing path to illumination. Most recently, this tour, from which I have now returned home, has shown me the goodness of God and his provision as I have played and lived with people I call friends for the last two months, void of my insecurites and full of blessings just like the roof-top in Chicago.

The highlight of the last few shows occured at the end of our set in the last show. We had, with much trepidation, concocted a plot with our opening act from the tour, Omnisoul, that we would cover one of their songs with our own lyrics and they would do the same with one of our songs. The band was a bit nervous about doing it and at the end of our set, Omnisoul came to the front of the stage, dressed like each member of Plumb. They donned fake beards, wigs, make-up, clothing, and the singer even stuffed his shirt to look pregnant like Tiffany. It was simply hilarious. They're good guys we've really enjoyed hanging out with and it was a nice way to say goodbye.

Being home has been nice though I confess that I am feeling a bit of restlessness coming on. I have nothing do to which usually isn't a problem but today I'm going a bit crazy. I have been watching my fair share of movies so far. I saw "The Lake House", and "Life as a House" with Sarah. The first was a bit lame and honestly confusing, though the company was good. The second was a nice movie with a touching story that kind of makes you want to do something worthwhile with your life. Kevin Kilne was great and speaking of Kevin Kline, I just saw "A Prairie Home Companion". He is one part of a terrific ensemble of men and women who give great life to a show I love. Garrison Keilor has created one of the most consistent and charming pieces of Americana around, the last great voice of radio in the AM tradition save maybe the Grand Ole Opry, and his movie is entirely befitting of the show's legacy. I simply smiled from start to finish.

Okay, that's enough about me for the time being. Happy Wednesday. Cheers!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

until they go free: 3 days...

A dreary morning gave way to brilliant sun here in the Windy City. Chicago is a city I know as well as any other I've never lived in and given the current level of exhaustion and yucky head cold, I have little motivation to explore. This morning, we played on WGN's morning show and I felt strangely nostalgic roaming the halls of the studio that gave us Bozo the Clown, Romper Room, and of course, those terribly endearing WB shows like Everwood and Seventh Heaven. Actually, I must confess the guily pleasure that was Buffy the Vampire Slayer but I digress...I do love Chicago, though. I'm only a few blocks from Wrigley Field, a place that holds as much nostalgia as any location I visited in my youth. Despite my waning interest in sports, I find the place magical.

The tour is winding down in all ways possible. After the strongest shows of the tour, we had only 20 people come out to the show last night, leaving us slightly disenchanted with the last two shows still to come. My health is winding down as I am finding it increasingly irritating sleeping in what might as well be a coffin. My lingering cough has finally passed but my body is apparently not coping with wellness and has decided to come down with flu for the second time this year; I never used to get sick. The band is slowly seeking independence, irritation comes easy, and the bus just plain smells. It's gross.

We really are having fun still but it's good and time for a break. I miss my bed, my friends, I miss driving, showering when I want to, etc. I miss my church and the community that comes with it. I do not, however, miss the fear of over-drawing my bank account or the feeling that I'm not getting to play ever. I've grown in so many ways in these short two months on the road and hope it's not too terribly long before I can do it again. The band is meshing so well on stage and off and I've made some new friends in this time. Next time I just hope we get to use hotel rooms. Speaking of, I get about 20 minutes in one if a bit to take a shower so I best get moving. Cheers!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Can you legislate morality?

A little over a week ago, the senate voted on a Constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriages from taking place in the United States. They voted against the amendment and I confess I felt relief. I have struggled with this issue for a long time for two primary reasons. The first is that I believe homosexuality to be a sin, one of many sexual sins the Bible speaks out against and that followers of the word should abstain from. Like many sins, it is widely accepted in our culture; it is a part of our landscape. I know the law I live under, a law of grace and mercy that yields a process of sanctification. With that sanctification comes abstinence from certain things, sins if you will, which would include something like homosexuality. But what about the person who does not know grace? Can they be expected to follow the same code, especially if it is imposed on them by politicians who are often hypocrites? No, they cannot.

The second issue is a question I have considered for some time now: Can you legislate morality? What is the role of government and law-makers? Laws should be written in the best interest of the public, the voters, the people who give the law-makers power. Laws should reflect the voice of the people and the people are coming from a lot of different places. Different races, religions, and opinions permeate the population which would yield a variety of moral codes and obligations. Could it be possible for lawmakers to standardize this for so many different people? I would argue not. This is why there will always be drug dealers or prostitutes (among other reasons). There will always be the black and white issues like murder or tax fraud or any number of clear-cut ethical and legal issues in this country but what about the grey? Take abortion, for instance. What happens will a girl is raped by her father and becomes pregnant? Or euthanasia? It’s not just life issues mingling in the grey but also wire-tapping and surveillance, bills like the Patriot Act that get grossly misused and demand debate yet with no clear answer. There are all kinds of grey areas that no resolute decisions could ever be made about. And Christians should be no strangers to this; predestination anyone?

This brings me back to the issue of gay marriage. Immorality is something I see through the lens of my faith but something I see for what it is, sin. I do believe, though, that all people are children of God and should be treated that way regardless of whether or not they live in immorality. “You without sin cast the first stone,” was such a powerful and loaded statement with personal, social, and legal implications. Jesus trumped the law, but he did it through personal conviction, through example. If gay marriage were legal, I would imagine a modern parallel would be showing homosexuals kindness and love, allowing them to find faith and repent through their own process of sanctification rather than trying to legally impose upon them. I would argue that the Christian response is one that occurs despite the law rather than through the law.

Christianity was never intended to have the government’s protection but was designed, rather, to be a counter culture operating in the face of the government’s opposition. Christians should still abide in morality no matter their government; we have grown too comfortable with our protection and need to learn to quit taking it for granted. The faithful in countries like China, Sudan, or in the Middle East are a great example of this, living joyfully in the face of life-threatening persecution. Homosexuals who became Christians are to pursue sanctification just as anyone else but those who do not cannot be expected to live under its standards. The government should not be depended upon to maintain our Christian morality but should reflect its people in the spirit of democracy, a spirit we are losing in our greed driven culture and should be fighting to maintain. We are a country of conservatives and liberals, faithful and agnostics, homosexuals and so on; it is not the government’s job to protect the Christian morality.

I distinctly remember a phone conversation I had with my mother on the day of the last presidential election. She had called to tell me my grandfather had been diagnosed with cancer. Earlier that day, my heart had been broken as a class I was taking discussed the bi-partisan (this is not some liberal soap-box! I will never accept that some wealthy power-seeking politician, no matter their party or ideals, could ever understand the true needs of those who aren’t wealthy or powerful) short-comings in caring for the poor and broken people in our world. I haven’t the time to go into detail, but with the added news of my grandfather’s terminal state, I emotionally collapsed. Mom asked me if I was alright and I said no, that I felt completely defeated because neither of the men trying to buy their way into the most powerful position of leadership in the world cared the least for anything I thought was important. I simply cried and I realized that I could never depend on politicians, Christian or not, to stand up for the things that Christ would have. As a Christian, I had to stand myself and fight for that which is worth fighting for and I have since taken comfort in the many faithful around the world who have stood up to persecution and fought for what is right. This is my obligation as a person of faith, to stand up for what I believe in, be it an issue of morality, human rights, or the sanctity of human life - whether my government supports me or not.

Can you legislate morality? Sometimes, but I find it dark territory to be walking in as a clear answer now might not always be clear and because most answers this day in age aren’t clear anyway. In fact, I would rather the government not try and legislate the grey. The better question, I am finding, is this: Should we depend on the government to legislate our morality? Never. Walk upright on the path of sanctification if it is a path you seek, never take security for granted, and when the government and population at large threaten our ideals or show signs of persecution for the Christian morality, rejoice; that’s what Jesus said to do!

One day, I hope to marry a woman I love like no one else in this world and take on all the responsibility marriage entails. How can I tell a couple of the same sex who feels the same way that they cannot enjoy the same benefits of marriage that I hope to? How can I tell someone like Curtis, an old and loved family friend, that he and his partner of 25 years don’t truly love each other? Instead I must pray people like Curtis find the same love and grace in Christ that I have and be brought into repentance and sanctification. I believe true marriage in the eyes of God to be a union between a man and a woman, but many marriages have no respect for its sanctity as it is. Marriage is a joke to many people in society and to acuse homosexuals of ruining the sanctity of marriage is to turn a blind eye to generations prior.

I also find it important to say that when Christians with a platform, espcially politicians and religious leaders, openly fight and criticize gay rights, they are not showing love but rather demeaning these people into a place where Christ's love is mis-represented and therefor unappealing to people who desperately need it. Openly fighting a word and media war against a large and vocal part of our society is not an action of love and not what we are called to. There are better methods of loving homosexuals than fighting them with Constitutional amendments and I consider it time for Christians to quit relying on a corrupt government to protect us rather than faith in God to get us through the changing times. Christ is far more capable than the Senate and I will trust Him to abide in marriage over a hundred men and women of power and their laws any day.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

the best laid plans of record company executives...

Denver is the city of the moment, a La Quinta Inn the seat of my choosing. Sarah says La Quinta is Spanish for Denny's which makes me laugh. Yesterday, we all ate lunch together when Jeremy, Tiffany's husband, called her and our tour manager Trey and told them to get back to the hotel as quickly as possible. Warning signs were everywhere and a few hours later we all gathered in the front lounge of our bus for a meeting. The label has been promising us the necesarry tour support to complete this run of thiry or so shows but yesterday the GM decided to pull it. Tiffany and Jeremy could by no means support the tour and the decision was made to come home a week early. I made a phone call and told a select person that I was coming home and I quickly got excited at the prospect of being back. I submitted to our defeat and was content in our resignation.

This morning, however, I was awakened to fresh news. It would seem that the president of the label is quite the Plumb fan and did not appreciate the actions shown towards us. He fully reinstated tour support and we are underway for the rest of the trip which is 8 days, five shows, and a morning show appearance on WGN (it's nationwide so tune in!). We will return home on the 25th as planned. I'm glad we get to finish and the spirits on the bus are high. Oh the drama...

Okay, that's it for now. I've promised a more thought provoking entry in the near future on both this blog and to a special someone and since tomorrow (Sunday) is that special someone and I's anniversary of sorts, I believe I will comply. I never intended the blog to simply be a log of my day to days so I think this one's going to be political...cheers!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

I'd rather go to hell than texas...ok, not really...

Davey Crockett, why?!? Tennessee has so few heros to cling to and I have to ask the question, why did you leave our beautiful home to die in Texas? If I watched the Alamo, I might know the answer but for the time being, I must sit and simply wonder. Why do I mention this? I am in Texas and quite frankly, I don't see what all the fuss is about. It's flat, it's absurdly hot, and everything here is either dirt or concrete and it just radiates all day long. Dallas is this gigantic mess of capilatlism, sterile, hot, and seriously overcrowded. This friend of mine is always talking about wanting to move to Dallas, but I tell you, if you're reading this, think again!!! It sucks!!! Austin is a lot like Nashville which is actually kind of nice, and Amarillo completely sucks as well. I'm sorry if this sounds completely cranky on my behalf but I seriously don't like Texas. Okay, I'm through venting.

The tour has been great, however, as the band is really connecting both on stage and off and the crowds have been the best we've seen since we started. The highlight has been Austin as we played at a place called Stubbs; simply great BBQ in the restaurant and the show just felt terrific start to finish. We had a cello player sit in with us and the whole vibe was fresh and exciting. This is the only, I repeat, ONLY redeeming quality I've found in Texas. We drive to Arizona tomorrow and then head north and eventually east. Fun times, indeed.

I guess that's about it, I just wanted to leave a bit of an update. I have been working through some issues with a bit more meat and will put up some new posts in our coming days off. I hope everyone is well; feel free to drop a line. Cheers!

Monday, June 05, 2006

the far country

Jack Kerouac once concluded a description of the western landscape that read, “This day is beautiful forever.” I’d like to think he was talking about a day kind of like today. The sky is a remarkably soft blue void of the first sign of cloud or haze, the breeze is steady and as I sit here enjoying a free latte at Portland Brew, I am amazed at this day. This is my last full day home in Nashville for the next month or so and it only seems appropriate to soak it in for a while.

The last week has been exhausting but terrific. We finished the last leg of the tour to mostly small and subdued crowds but had the fortune of playing to a great audience in Columbus before driving home middle of the week; it was probably the most fun I’ve had playing a show in years. I came home to spend about a day with the people I miss most and then drove to Padukah, Kentucky, to see my friend Jonathan get married. The three days there were honestly joyful. He’s a friend who understands me like few people do and it was so exciting to watch him commit his life to someone he loves so much. I got to do the majority of the music for the wedding, including playing the bridal processional on electric guitar which has to be some kind of first; it was Jonathan’s idea and worked great. While I was there, some friends straightened my hair which proved quite humorous, the pictures of which I’ll post on myspace.

I also got to spend some time with my folks who drove in on Saturday to come see a show. We had dinner, talked for a while, and as always, they showed their incredible support for me and my pursuit of music. They rarely miss a show and I am grateful for the way they’ve chosen to cheer me on rather than cursing my choice to not become a doctor. I know you read this dad; thank you.

Presently I’m enjoying some great music I've aquired. I’ve been given several records recently for different reasons and picked up a couple on my own and all are proving to be great records. My friend Zach posts an album for recommendation on his blog every Monday so I’ll take today and do the same. Last night I picked up My Morning Jacket’s 
“Z”, Copeland’s “In Motion”, and Pedro the Lion’s “Control”. I’ve also been given copies of the new Paul Simon and The Flaming Lips records, Mark Knopfer and Emmylou Harris’ duo record, and a group called Tapes n’ Tapes. I would say any of these are worth picking up, but the real surprise of the bunch has been the new Paul Simon which is a great record. I’m always a bit weary when an older artist puts out new records as they seem to mostly disappoint these days but this album is terrific.

Jonathan also gave me a CD for playing in his wedding that I think deserves some special attention. It’s Andrew Peterson’s “The Far Country,” and album written entirely around the concept of death and the afterlife. It’s lyrically profound, almost a book in and of itself, and is based upon a quote by someone who’s name is presently escaping me (might be Meister Erkhart): “God is at home and we are in the far country.” This is the kind of album you just kind of live with for a while and it’s breaking my heart. Please get a copy and spend some time with it.

The idea of that is presently sitting with me comes from the title track. Peterson talks about creation, all the terrible things about it, the wars, the corruption, the things that seem so obviously God-less and then mentions nature, the mountains, the kinds of things that can seem so God-filled. He concludes by saying that all of it, from the “sin-fraught cities” to the “groaning wilderness” are all longing for what is lost, for God and for Christ, who is in heaven. I am humbled by the truth that even the best parts of this world, things that even draw me close to God and lead me to worship such as a beautiful day like today, are still things that hurt and cry out because this place is so temporary, because all of it is fallen. I am convicted to hurt and cry out as well, to long for God’s kingdom and a day in which we are forever in His presence. I find these lyrics profound and I encourage you to visit Peterson’s website and read through the lyrics.

We leave tomorrow evening for the final leg of the tour and the longest one to date, being twice as long as any other trip so far. I am finding that I love the road but I love being home as well. Despite everywhere I get to go, I will always miss my friends and those I am close to. Home is just that, home, but it’s the people that make it that way. Cheers!