LPs. Records. Memories.

I was born in the 80s, a child of the 90s, coming of age in the millennium. But my heart belongs to an earlier day–or more like many earlier days.

Nothing takes me back to my childhood (and beyond) like the sound of the earliest Christian rock, 70s rock–the likes of Larry Norman and Randy Stonehill.

My mom and dad’s LPs that we listened to endlessly.

Larry Norman’s “In Another Land” (1975):

Turning back the table once again to enjoy our favorites.

“He’s a rock that doesn’t roll
He’s a rock that doesn’t roll
Well He’s good for the body
and great for the soul
He’s a rock that doesn’t roll!”

“He’s an unidentified flyin’ object
You will see Him in the air…
And if there’s life on other planets
Then I’m sure that He must know
and He’s been there once already
and has died to save their souls.”

And of course, trying our hand at the glorious harmonies of “Righteous Rocker #3” while Mom tells us stories of her college buddies who would break out into harmony while walking through campus.

“You can be a righteous rocker
Or a holy roller
You can be most anything
You could be a child of a slum
Or a skidrow bum
You can be an earthly king
But without love
you ain’t nothing
Without love
Without love you ain’t nothin’
Without love.”

Chuck Girard’s “Chuck Girard” (1975):

Crying for the girl from Tinagera. Crying in worship to “Sometimes Alleluia”. Walkin’ by the Sea, the Sea of Galilee. Rockin’ out to “Rock’n’Roll Preacher.”

Randy Stonehill’s “Welcome to Paradise” (1976):

Already a budding health activist, belting out the lyrics to “Lung Cancer”.

“She went down to the corner store
And bought a pack of filter kings
Don’t you know tomorrow she’ll be back for more
Cause she really likes to smoke those things
And every time that she inhales a cloud of that cigarette smoke
She’s just one step closer to the man in black
And 60 cents closer to broke
She’s been working on lung cancer,
Emphysema, a cardiac arrest…
She’s been smokin’ that C-I-G-A-R-E-T-T-E”

Meanwhile, Anna and Josh enjoyed the much more beautiful and poetic “Puppet Strings”.

“We are all foolish puppets
Who, desiring to be king,
Now lie pitifully crippled
after cutting all our strings.
But God said I’ll forgive you
and face you man to man
And win your love again.
O how can there be possibly
a greater gift of love
Than dying for a friend?”

2nd Chapter of Acts’ “Mansion Builder” (1978):

Joshua singing Matthew to Anna’s Annie, harmonizing beautifully to “Mansion Builder”.

“So why should I worry?
Why should I fret?
‘Cause I’ve got a mansion-builder
Who ain’t through with me yet.”

Lamb’s “Lamb I” (1972):

Joshua singing along with his favorite band, his child’s voice mingling with Joel Chernoff’s tenor:

“The sacrifice lamb has been slain
His blood on the altar a stain
To wipe away guilt and pain,
To bring hope eternal.
Salvation has come to the world;
God’s only Son to the world;
Jesus the One for the world–
Yeshua is He.”

The songs that take me back, that make me remember the wholehearted enthusiasm of three little children digging through Mom and Dad’s records. The songs that remind me of the days when we spent hours luxuriating in melody and harmony and rhythm. When we pored over the record sleeves, enjoying the long-haired hippyness of the Jesus-music, enjoying the poetry and occasional childishness of the lyrics and tunes.

These artists created Christian music as we know it today. They were decried as singing “devil music” because the music was syncopated–a Gothard anathema. They started their own labels to create a niche for themselves, unwilling to “let the devil have all the good music” (in the words of Larry Norman). And so began Christian rock.

But we have forgotten them along the way, now in our world where Christian music is ordinary, mundane, (in my opinion) boring. It wasn’t always this way. Once upon a day, the idea of Christian rock and roll was revolutionary. These were the pioneers. They dared to think that modern music could be a medium for the Christian artist. And they created true art. The art that fed my child soul.

Luckiest girl on earth

If I said I was the luckiest girl on earth, I wouldn’t be the first to say so. But that doesn’t change my general sense that I am indeed the luckiest girl on earth. And why might I be so lucky? What happy occasion heralds this joyous exclamation?

I began to realize it last night, when I told my family that it was official: Love Memorial Hall and AGN will be doing a bike-a-thon to raise money for Cedars Youth Services. We will be riding our bikes to the Missouri game on October 22. I mentioned that I should probably bring my bike back to the hall and start doing some serious riding before then. My mom told me that she’d gone out and gotten me a new inner tube for my bike as soon as she’d heard that I was possibly going to participate. My old tube was leaking around the stem and couldn’t be patched. My little brother Timothy put it on for me. But not only did he replace my inner tube, Timothy also prevented me from taking the bike back to the hall until he had adjusted the brakes so that they wouldn’t rub.

I’m the luckiest girl in the world because I have a family like no other. My sister offered to take me back to the hall in her new car, but took a bit of a circuitous route. First she dropped by Walmart to get me all of my little necessities–tissues, printer paper, deoderant. And not only that, she ran me by Wendy’s and got me a sandwich and a Frosty. What have I done to deserve my sister’s lavish gifts? Nothing. She works her butt off between going to school and her job as a Diet Tech, and I enjoy the fruits of her labours.

I’m the luckiest girl because for a seventh grade research paper, my dad brought me to UNL’s Love library. It was a research paper-why not go to a research library? He believed I could understand what I read and I was determined to prove him right. We wandered the stacks at midnight, searching for just the right book. We walked the stairs with crisp turns, pretending we were nerds without needing to pretend. In sixth grade, he got a book on HTML and wrote up an announcement to post on our family bulletin board. “Wanted: Web Designer. Must have at least a fifth grade education. Will train. Send resumes to…” I sent my resume in and got the job. We skipped, hand in hand, in the SAMS club parking lot on our way to get milk for the family.

I’m the luckiest girl because my mom spent five hours adjusting the bodice for a pattern I just couldn’t get to fit. It was supposed to be a simple pattern, the design of the dress would be a cinch to sew. I hadn’t counted on the adjustments–Mom patiently walked me through them. When I was in second grade, she read us The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I loved it and always will. When my fish died and she found it before I did, she flushed it so I wouldn’t have to. And when my bike had a leaky inner tube, that I didn’t even know about, she bought me a new inner tube.

I’m the luckiest girl because my sister Anna, though I once thought she was my worst enemy, is my best friend. Out of the blue, she announced to me that she was paying my car’s registration–“After all, I think you might have paid mine last year.” She’s at home because she can’t afford the hall, so she buys me everything I need to be comfortable here. She came and cooked for me on my busy day–despite the fact that everyday is her busy day. She never lets me dwell on crushes. She protects me from my own mind. To paraphrase Colonel Fitzwilliam, she takes prodigiously good care of me.

I’m the luckiest girl because I caught my brother Joshua as we were crossing Cornhusker Highway on our bikes today–going the opposite direction. I waved and shouted, and he was a bit embarrassed. But he’s my brother and it’s okay. When he’s in the middle of a deep history conversation and I break in with a piddling contextual question, he patiently answers. He lets me read his stories, even though I’ve always been a hard critic. And he took on my dish job when I went away to college.

I’m the luckiest girl because I’m always trying to one up my brother Daniel at busyness. I go to school and do a thousand piddly things. He goes to high school and works almost thirty hours a week. But that doesn’t mean he’s too busy to drive me around while the gas prices continue to rise. He’s always trying to torque me off about women’s lib, but I know that he respects me as a woman and as his sister. He started to work out and dropped fifty pounds after he scared himself at 200 lbs. And he had the grace to let me come to the gym and spot for him–even though I’d never done it before. He let me buy him some jeans for Christmas last year–even when I insisted on them being European style. And he asks me for clothing advice. He actually thinks my opinion matters.

I’m the luckiest girl just because my brother John is alive and is my brother. Because he loves missions and is on our church’s mission team with me. Because he loves children and begged me to let him help out in the nursery–we work together so that he’s not a boy alone with them. He’s got more energy than anyone I know, and he never lets anything get him down. He loves people and he wants to do everything within his power to help them. He’s the only one of my siblings who doesn’t correct me when I sit down at the piano. And he actually begs me to cut his hair–even though I cut his ear the one time I tried.

I’m the luckiest girl in the world because I can talk to my brother Timothy about books. We started with Lemony Snicket, back when he hated to read. Now he’s begging me to read Eragon, because he thinks it’s the best thing in the world. We read Phantom of the Opera out loud together in three days. We discussed our melancholy over loving and hating Eric at the same time. Tim’s growing up and his voice is deepening, but he isn’t outgrowing his sister. He comes up to me at youth group and gives me a hug, tells me about his day. He’s gotten into fixing bikes recently, and wasn’t content until he’d gotten my seat to just the right height.

I’m the luckiest girl in the world because my little sister Grace spent the night with me on Saturday. She helped me prepare the Sunday school lesson, and tried to pick out what I wore. She asked my advice on the right kind of eyeshadow to get as her first makeup. She asked me if I thought Meg Cabot’s All-American Girl was appropriate for her. (It isn’t.) She asked me “What does eighties music sound like?” Grace sewed me a patchwork pillow that perfectly matches my decor, being careful that all the little people on the toile fabric pointed in the same direction. And she only glares at me but does no more when I call her Trixie for the thousandth time.

And that’s only my immediate family. I could go on for pages and pages about the rest as well. How my grandpa checked my antifreeze and gave me an extra jug before I came back down from their farm last spring break. How my grandma and my aunts and I always get into huge theological discussions every time we’re together. How my Aunt Martha-ma-ba took me for a drive and asked me why I was thinking about going into teaching. How my Aunt Lisa, new to the family, had my sister and me over for a week when we were eight or nine. How my Uncle Jim solemnly informed us not to drink the pickle juice out of the pickle jar until the pickles were all gone. How my Uncle Leo places coffee filters on the girls’ heads and suggests that we become Mennonite. How my Aunt Alice organized a family dance after we discovered that we enjoyed dancing together at my cousin’s wedding. Yes, I could go on forever, because I’m the luckiest girl in the world.