My mom would always tape a 3x5 card to the fridge. On the card was a written list of our bills for the month. While walking through the kitchen or opening the fridge to steal a hunk of bologna, I often found myself pausing to look over the list. I was only in the 5th grade so I was just beginning to understand large numbers and how money worked—but I still had no clue as to the amount of work and time it took for my mom to pay for those 2 to 3 digit numbers on the card. She held down a full-time job, and spent many other hours either employed part-time or fulfilling various sewing or art related requests to support our family. My mom loved her kids; she grew tired of work, but never grew tired of us.
So when the time came for me to join the band at school—and buy an instrument (snare drum)—I knew it would be difficult for my mom to afford the extra cost. But she believed I had the ability to play drums and she wanted to provide the means for me to do so. Luckily, the music store selling the band instruments offered a monthly payment plan to spread out the cost. So on to the fridge it went: $15/month – Snare Drum. To some people this may have been a drop in the bucket, but this was money that could be used for groceries or gas for the car.
We would have band rehearsal on Wednesday afternoons, so that morning my mom would drop me off and I would carry my snare drum (in a big case that weighed almost as much as me) from one end of the school building to my classroom on the other side. It was heavy and my back ached. When the school day was over, I couldn’t transport my drum on the bus so I had to be picked up from school, which meant I would be waiting a good 30-45 minutes until my mom was available to pick me up. I would watch as numerous teachers left the building, occasionally one would speak to me asking if I had a ride and then I would have to explain the situation to them. I was extremely shy so I was often embarrassed and awkward as I talked to them. I grew to loathe Wednesdays.
My mom would eventually arrive in a beat up car and greet me with a Hey Kiddo and I would respond in kind, but underneath I was so angry and disappointed in her.
As we drove home I would steal a glance at my mom. She was tired. She spent many hours each day working because she loved her kids. She worked jobs she disliked to provide opportunities for us to live and grow. She knew music would become a passion for me, and her sacrificing some time and effort on her part was totally worth it.
For the rest of the school year, I happily carried that snare drum through the halls, and Wednesday afternoons still found me sitting outside the school, alone, on my drum case. Teachers would stop and ask if I had a ride and I would simply smile and proudly say, “My mom will be here soon.”
I began adding a steady stream of Christian artists and musicians to my music collection about 15 years ago. I enjoy the message as well as the level of musicianship of many Christian artists currently performing and recording. Christian music runs the gamut of emotional topics, and usually connects with God in some way, and for the most part, I enjoy it.
Where it becomes frustrating to me, is when I hear a song like this from an artist by the name of Jamie Grace.
Here are the lyrics for the chorus in case you missed them…or wisely opted out of listening to the entire song.
“Oh, I love the way You hold me, by my side You’ll always be
You take each and every day, make it special in some way
I love the way you hold me, in Your arms I’ll always be
You take each and every day, make it special in some way
I love You more than the words in my brain can express
I can’t imagine even loving You less
Lord, I love the way You hold me”
Is it just me, or does it sound like Ms. Grace is longing to sit on a hillside somewhere watching the sunset while on a date with God, staring longingly into one another’s eyes? The song makes me nauseous. Don’t get me wrong, it’s catchy and fun, but it’s barking up a dangerous tree.
This song represents one of the things wrong with the modern Christian music: spiritual intimacy is being misinterpreted as earthly, physical intimacy. “Hold Me” is essentially a Colbie Caillat tune that’s geared towards Christian radio. Christian record companies and their artists (not all of them) are so preoccupied with selling poppy, trendy songs to K-Love listeners that they let the content become boring, unchallenging, and misleading.
I challenge Christian music listeners to pressure record companies and large radio networks such as K-Love to turn the dial when fluff songs like “Hold Me” are played. God has created us to be better; above a record company profit or catchy chorus.
During the first year of our dating relationship, my wife and I would sit outside a local coffee shop in her car and talk and stare at each other and talk some more. We began this little weekly tradition late in November of 1999. It was usually pretty late on a Thursday evening and the air was turning cold as the small town around us began to extinguish the lights of the day and turn in for the night. The car would be running, interior warm, and maybe on certain nights the wiper blades would stir awake every few minutes to clear fallen raindrops or a light scattering of graceful snowflakes; signs of winter returning.
The world was invisible to us in our small mobile bubble. Yet through our conversation, laughter, and dreaming, there was an outside voice that provided comfort and intermission when our words fell silent. This voice came from Phyllis Campbell, known affectionately as “Mama Jazz”. Phyllis passed away this past weekend at the age of 89.
Mama was a wealth of story and background information on the songs she played, but she was also a welcoming and warm presence on the radio. She wasn’t trying to push an agenda or sway public opinions, she wanted you and I to listen to good music and to learn about the amazing musicians that created it.
She lived a full, blessed life and she may have never realized the impact she had on so many hearts and ears; especially two teenagers falling in love while Mama spun the tunes that would become the soundtrack of those special hours.
We’ll miss you mama.