Friday, April 18, 2014

Switchfoot at Hard Rock Live Las Vegas

I recently attended a parish mission at St. Francis of Assisi in Henderson Nevada. Father Jonathan Morris was the presenter and he spent much of his preliminary time discussing the role of John the Baptist in salvation history and our in our individual lives (warning: there are several Johns in this post...Fr. Jonathan Morris, John the Baptist, and Jon Foreman). His call was to “make straight the paths” for the arrival of the Messiah. Fill in the valleys, level the mountains. Prepare your hearts for the One who is to come.

John’s message was not about John – much to the disappointment of the throngs of people who followed him out into the desert to hear him preach. He called people to “do what you know you should do” (thanks to Father Jonathan for this summary!). He was preparing the world for the Messiah and at the appropriate time, he told his followers of the Messiah’s arrival: "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world" (see John 1:29). We are all called to be like John – to point the world to Jesus. These were the words filling my mind the days before I attended the Switchfoot concert on April 12 at the Hard Rock Live in Las Vegas. Words that connected with the concert. Words that challenged me to recommit myself to pointing the world to Jesus.

At a time when many bands attempt to play the part of messiah, singing their own praises and beckoning concertgoers to follow them like subjects of the pied piper, Switchfoot is a welcome reprieve. They have been criticized for not being "Christian enough." For not "praising Jesus" during their concerts, but this cricizm is, at best, misguided. Switchfoot points people toward faith in God in such a way that they appeal to both secular and Christian audiences. They bridge the gap between the two and stimulate conversation that can lead to conversion for both. For the Christian, their music is unmistakably Christian; for the non-Christian, their music is positive and hopeful - two things everyone needs. Like John the Baptist, their music prepares the way for The Lord. It draws Christians closer to Jesus and non-Christians closer to belief in a non-threatening way.

The Royal Concept opened up with a powerful and fun opening set. TRC is a good precursor to Switchfoot and a good band in their own right. They are an entertaining mix of hard rock and techno. Leadman, David Larson, connected with the crowd through his down-to-earth nature and frequent smiles. (By the way, band member smiling was a constant the whole night...everyone on stage was obviously enjoying themselves!). I didn't know any of their songs, but I liked them nonetheless. Each offering had a unique riff and well synchronized delivery. The lyrics, music, and band-to-crowd interaction made for a great experience. I imagine it is a difficult, humbling experience to be an opening band, but TRC did it with skill and enjoyment. They made me enjoy my experience even though I had been standing in line for a while and then standing in GA after that (my knees still hurt). They also found it important enough to hang out at their own merch table after the Switchfoot set. Good job The Royal Concept!

Switchfoot started their set after a smooth equipment transition (TRC actually broke down and carried off their own stuff...I guess this is another common trait of opening bands, but I liked it!). Say it Like You Mean it started off the set with a bang and the signature Jon Foreman hat came off pretty quick. Their set was pretty consistent with previous shows, but it didn't really bother me as much as I expected it to. They have over a hundred recorded and released songs, but have stayed pretty consistent with their setlist on the Fading West tour. In fact, I created a playlist to prepare for the concert and selected only songs that had been played at least 8 times on the tour (it made sense to me because there is a marked drop in play frequency from 8 to 4 after that...I'm not a statistician). The playlist only had 19 songs from the 38 tour dates. It turns out I was pretty well prepared!

Earlier on in the day, Switchfoot visited Zia Records (a local brick and mortar CD, record, merchandise store at Flamingo/Eastern in Las Vegas). They played a two song set including Hello Hurricane and Meant to Live. There were only about 25 people there and it was pretty awesome. I took my 6-yo son and he enjoyed it. Switchfoot hung out and signed CDs after the set and met everyone. Seriously, I was blown away when they left their signing table and started to walk down the line and introduce themselves to all of us. They were introducing themselves to us?? Very humble of them! I was actually pretty glad because I didn't know all their names....

Back to the concert though. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole concert, but I was particularly impressed and into three specific songs.

I didn't expect to get emotional, but this one really got to me. The lyrics, "your love is a symphony/all around me/running through me/your love is a melody/underneath me/running to me" just hit me somewhere down deep. Isn't is so true though? To be sure, we aren't always in tune, but God's love is intentional and well timed. When you look back at salvation history, you can't help but see how it all fits together. And it still does today. In my heart. In your heart. His love is the song that makes it all fit; makes it all make sense. Life is chaos without it.

Again, a little unexpected for me, but I can just feel the passion in this song. Especially for a band who was formed in San Diego and are all self-professed surfers. Saltwater runs through their veins. They belong at the beach. They connect with God at the beach. We can all relate to this song. "We're on your shore again/I can feel the ocean/I can feel your open arms/that pure emotion/I'm finally free again." We all have a place we call home. A place we can relax. A place we belong. This song strikes me as an anthem for all of us who are away from that home. In a bigger way, we are all away from home until we make it to our final destination. There we will feel his open arms. We will feel the ocean. We will be truly free! This song is pure genius.

Jon Foreman decided to leave the stage during this song. The discomfort of the security staff did not go unnoticed! What a fitting posture, however, for such a powerful song. Love is communal. Love must be shared. The lyrics and Jon's posture communicated this with clarity and passion. This song invites us to take risks to "find what we're made of through the open door" because "love alone is worth the fight." How true. How profound. We are called to love. Not only romantic love, but also love of neighbor. We need both. Thanks to Switchfoot, I was reminded of love's importance and cost.

Bottom line, I would recommend catching Switchfoot on this (or any future) tour. Take the kids and give them ear plugs (you should probably have some too!). Be prepared to catechize after the show. Switchfoot is committed to sing songs about hope and you can use their concert (and CDs while riding around I the car) to lead yourself and your family closer to Jesus. 

I also recommend the Fading West CD (along with all Switchfoot's other studio albums). Check out their popular songs on iTunes and go from there.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Pearl Jam and Heavenly Worship

My ears are still ringing from the PJ concert I experienced only a few hours ago. A late night meal and several hours of much needed sleep are all that separate me. The more I contemplate the concert, the better it gets. PJ played with so much emotion, skill, and passion it is hard to want to go to any other concert - ever. There is no way another concert could ever measure up. 

I became a PJ fan in the early 90s because of my quirky step brother who told me about these cool bands featured in his magazines. He turned me on to such bands as Green River, Nirvana, Mother Love Bone, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, and others with connections to each other. These connections appealed to me because they were unique and I wanted to be unique. No one else in my circle of friends cared about these bands or their heritage. The stories of these bands gave me the uniqueness I wanted and an outlet for the issues I was dealing with.

PJ grew out of these bands and their story is my story. I don't mean to say they took the same path as I did. Our paths are probably as divergent as any could be. PJ, however, spoke - and sometimes screamed - on my behalf at a time when my voice was not developed or heard. At a time when even I didn't know my voice. They were angry and hurt, but hopeful. I had anger and pain and needed hope. They weren't my sole source of hope, but they were part of the puzzle. Looking back, I see how their music resonated with the life I was living. A life with pain from early childhood and confusion in adolescence. 

This was more than a concert to me. It was a journey into my past and a renewal of my present. More than anything, PJ's music and the concert in Phoenix, allow me to connect things.

They allow me to connect my pain to my healing. Everyone's childhood includes pain and disappointment. It is what makes us who we are. PJ songs were playing in my ears during that pain. I've since processed much of that pain, forgiven, and moved on. Hearing the same songs over 20 years later helped me take stock and see my progress. I am thankful for how far I've come, but the memory of the pain will never go away. In fact, I don't want it to. After all, it is what made me who I am.  I have a new appreciation for the words of the PJ song, Present Tense:

you can spend your time alone redigesting past regrets
or you can come to terms and realize you're the only one who cannot forgive yourself
makes much more sense to live in the present tense

They allow me to connect my confusion to my clarity. My 15 year old ears couldn't process what I felt alone in my room. My older ears hear these songs and feel what I felt and understand now what I couldn't understand then. I understand life was confusing. I understand I was scared. Most importantly, I understand this is normal...even expected. It is clear now that things aren't supposed to be clear. That isn't how life is and that's okay.

They allow me to connect my adolescence to my adulthood. There are few things in my life now that were there when I was in high school so connections to my past in my present are valuable. I am an adult now, but sometimes it seems like the few fleeting years since childhood are all that separate me from the teenage boy finding solace in music. I am still that boy. I still find peace in powerful music funneled into my ears. It is injected directly into my soul like a drug and it makes me calm. It is who I am. It is who I will always be - as an adolescent and as an adult.

They allow me to connect my solitude with my community. I spent many of those confused adolescent years alone. Alone in my room. Alone at my school. Alone on the bus. Alone with my thoughts. Alone with my fears. Alone in my pain. Alone. Seeing PJ in concert allowed be to connect my aloneness to the aloneness of thousands of others. I am still alone in many ways, but I am not alone and alone.

They allow me to connect my past to my present. Teri (my wife) and I went to the concert together. We have known each other since 1994, but my adolescent pain was felt before meeting her and marrying her 4 years later. To be sure, my adolescence has certainly impacted our marriage, but this was different. The PJ concert was like taking Teri on a time machine ride to see the broken kid I was...and still am in some ways. It helps me let her know me even more. This final connection made the concert truly perfect.

I'm not writing this to add another review to the list of reviews for the 11/19 PJ concert in Phoenix. I am not a critic after all and I haven't been to enough shows to have credibility. I am also not writing this to make a case for myself as a PJ super fan. I'm nowhere near a super fan. I know this because I met some at the concert. This wasn't their first concert like it was mine.

I am writing this to make a larger point. A point that stretches well beyond PJ. Beyond the songs that have meant so much to me. Beyond the lights and noise. Beyond the perfect experience the concert trip was. My point is simple and, I believe, profound. 

All the authentic excitement, passion, love, pain, healing, and fun of the PJ concert - even in their intensity - are only a shadow compared to what we are made for. I'm not taking anything away from the concert. Quite the contrary. I am making the point based on the concert's perfection. We were created to honor God together. We will unite our voices one day when we are freed from the beauty and pain of this world. One day those who seek God will see Him face to face and know Him. We will raise our voices and hands together just like some of us did at the PJ concert, but this time it will be to glorify God. Attending this concert reminded me that this world is beautiful and good and the promise of the next builds on the beauty and pain of this world...only it is perfected.

Monday, February 23, 2009

New View on the Mercy of God

I have to be careful sometimes; when I have an innocent idea in my head, I can sometimes express it in such a way that the innocence is lost. I tend to frame things in a way that may offend. This topic in particular runs that risk.

Last summer (2008) I was involved in a Summer Apologetics Series at my parish in Henderson, NV. I gave a few talks on various Catholic apologetics issues to the mixed group of attendees (some Catholic, some anti-Catholic). I remember vividly making the following statement during the first of my two talks: "It just isn't a fair fight anymore. All historical evidence, the Fathers of the Church and the continuity of the Roman Catholic Church make the search for the church founded by Jesus simple. Further, the defense of this ancient church is also simple given this overwhelming amount of evidence."

What I meant was that the evidence clearly points to the fact that the Roman Catholic Church is the church founded by Jesus and the result of his promise to be with us always. There isn't any doubt in my mind. What I failed to realize at that moment is something I have been contemplating ever since that day (and likely before as well). If all the evidence is so crystal clear, why are there scholars and modern-day Davids (e.g., men after God's heart) outside the Catholic Church?

Having spent the majority of my life in the protestant church, I have known many people who are completely sold out and following Jesus to the best of their ability. They are, without a doubt, on their way to heaven without the fullness of truth found in the Catholic Church. As I contemplate their lives and consider their consciences are crystal clear, I am amazed that God can be so merciful - to them and to the others outside the Church.

I am amazed God has been so merciful to those who are outside the Church (through no fault of their own). He has ordained that many Godly people remain outside the Church to care for those who find themselves outside the Church. Otherwise, how can you explain people like Rick Warren, Billy Graham, Jim Elliot, C.S. Lewis, etc. These men of God are universally accepted and intelligent Christian leaders who have not recognized the fullness of truth found in the Church. Yet, they are undoubtedly on the road to heaven (some likely already there).

In a sense, this topic is also intertwined with our free will. If every quality non-Catholic Christian leader were to cross the Tiber and enter the Roman Catholic Church, their followers would have virtually no choice. Of course, I see this as a good thing, but I cannot begin to understand how valuable to God is our free will.

So, as my faith journey continues, I am keenly aware of God's mercy when it comes to non-Catholic churches. I have been routinely amazed at God's mercy toward me. Now I am amazed at the unexpected nature and breadth of His mercy. It is truly woven through all facets of life.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Fast Food and the Contraceptive Mentality

As a relatively new Catholic, I have to admit the teaching on contraception is one of the more enigmatic. However, I fully agree with the Church's teaching on contraception as summarized in Humanae Vitae, Evangelium Vitae and other documents. We are to avoid any form of artificial contraception because it is contrary to the dignity of the human person and the beauty of the conjugal union between husband and wife.

I frequently try to think of complex theological concepts in terms of everyday experiences so I can more fully embrace them and explain them to others. Today I was trying to envision something in our everyday life analagous to contraception in such a way it could be used to explain the teaching. This morning such an analogy popped into my head.

We live in a fast food world (at least in the US). At the root of this fast food mentality is an attitude that we can have whatever feels good when we want it with no consequences. We base our food choices on what happens in our mouth alone. There is almost no consideration to the long term effects of consuming large amounts of fast (or otherwise unhealthy) food. If our mouth likes it, there must not be a problem! We have effectively severed the union between good food and good health and made good health take a back seat. We ignore (to our demise) the natural, objective fact that food is directly related to health.

This is the same as contraception. We want sex without boundaries. Without regulation. Without consideration to anything other than how it feels to me. We choose to ignore the obvious, objective and complete reality of the conjugal union. This union is ordered toward procreation AND enjoyment. Separate procreation from enjoyment and you miss out on both. Sure, there is a carnal enjoyment while ignoring the procreative element of the conjugal union, but this is far from what God intended when he invented our sexuality.

Good food and good sex requires one to consider both the obvious temporal reality AND the deep reality of the union between the temporal and eternal. How we treat our bodies - whether with food or with sex - effects our soul. Ignoring this fact does not make it not true.

Interestingly enough, I heard other people discussing this same topic this morning on the way in to work. The subject articles are: Is Food the New Sex? and Sex - anything goes; food, not so.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Almost a Year After Our Conversion

We have been happily attending mass and receiving the Sacraments or almost a year now. We are truly home. There is no other place to be for those who want to sincerely seek the face of God.

We were attending mass at our local Parish (St Francis of Assisi) when I noticed a particularly significant characteristic of our position in the sanctuary. We came in late (as is frequent with our rather spirited family of 4) and had to sit in the side portion that looks at the altar from the side. As a consequence of our location, we were on the side of the crucifix. It brought to mind the story of St. Dismas.

He is the Saint who is said to have "stolen heaven." At his last hour, he looked upon the face of the crucified Jesus, defended him and repented. He made it into heaven by "the skin of his teeth" and by the grace of God alone.

As I contemplated the story of St. Dismas, I realized we are all like St. Dismas...or at least we should all hope to be like him. We commit sin. We are subject to the consequences of our sin. We are utterly dependent on the grace of God for entry into paradise. Our seat in Mass reminded me that we are all called to carry our cross and live as if we are being crucified. Given this fact, we should never have the comfort of standing in front of our crucified Lord as he suffers...we should be next to him carrying our cross. It is only in this position, in this posture that we can hope to share in Christ's suffering and somehow also "steal" heaven.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Rite of Welcome (Teri)

I've heard about this "Rite of Welcome" ever since I first "sat in" on an RCIA class - back when my mom and Tony started their classes. Last night was our night. It was very cool. Twelve of us came forward with our sponsors and Father Clarence (who is from India, which is also cool) gave us each a blessing. Our sponsors crossed our eyes, ears, mouths, hands and feet - along with prayers that we would speak the gospel, take it to others, work for Jesus and so forth. I really want to reprint the words because they're wonderful - so stay tuned. We loved it. It's bizarre to us that this happened on the very same weekend that we met the guy who wrote the book that started the whole thing. And our sponsors are the folks who gave us the book!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Visit with the Rays (Kevin)

We were honored to have Steve and Janet Ray visit our Parish this weekend. Steve gave his testimony on Friday and two talks on Saturday on Peter and the Eucharist. What a great weekend. Here is a pic of us with Janet, Steve, Kristi and Rich:

To read some of Steve Ray's stuff, go to: