I have always loved being in a band.
Well, let me amend that: most of the time I have loved being in a band.
The idea has appealed to me ever since one fateful night in the fall of 1966. My father came in the room to change the channels on the television, saying “Hey Dave, there’s a new show on I think you might like. It’s supposed to be funny”. He switched it over to The Monkeys, and I was hooked. The show was funny, but for me it connected on a whole other level. It made me want to play guitar. And not just play guitar: it made me want to play guitar in a band.
There is much to be said for one person playing solo guitar, accompanying themselves as the sing. I like the singer-songwriter genre, and there are a handful of artists who play and sing solo that I have listened to over the years. I enjoy singing and playing myself, too.
But there’s only so much you can do with one voice, six strings and ten fingers.
The first time I tried to read the Bible was when I was a boy, probably in the first or second grade. My parents had a big black leather Bible they kept on our coffee table. I knew this book was important to my parents and grandparents, and to the preacher at our church, so I became curious to know what it was inside. I opened the front cover and began turning pages, trying to read here and there. I had no idea who King James was (the old rascal), or what King James English should sound like. After a few fruitless minutes trying to understand something of what I could read, I closed the Bible and put it back in its place on the coffee table. My initial exposure to God’s Word left me feeling that the Bible was a mysterious and difficult book.
The Bible is a mysterious and difficult Book. But it is also meant to be read and understood, at least in its main message. The fact is, when the Bible is translated into their native languages, the Story of the Bible can be understood by people all over the world.
I have loved Christmas lights from the time I was a small boy. Whether they were on my family’s Christmas tree at home, or adorning various houses on the drive home from my grandparents’ house, it was always a thrill to see Christmas lights. Sometimes my Dad would take the long way home just so we could see more Christmas lights.
Back in the late fifties we always had real a Christmas tree with those big, colorful, tear-shaped lights, the same kind you see on Ralphie’s Christmas tree in A Christmas Story. Then sometime in the 1960s Mom got tired of cleaning up pine needles and we got an artificial tree. For a while we used the old lights, but by the 1970s we had changed to the smaller, brighter lights shaped like tiny eyedroppers.
And the artificial trees were different in another crucial respect: the branches didn’t go all the way to the ground. (I guess that was to make room for more presents…?) That key difference made it possible to do something my brothers and I had never done before: we could lay under the tree and look up at the lights through the branches…at least until the presents crowded us out. I always thought it was especially beautiful, seeing the lights that way. Even as an adult from time to time I have laid down with my head under the tree to see the lights (when no one was looking).
U. S. Highway 66, or Route 66 as it is usually called, is an iconic, legendary American highway. It runs for 2,448 miles, starting from Chicago, Illinois, and meandering south and west all the way to Santa Monica, California. It’s been immortalized in song—apparently you can “get your kicks on Route 66.” And when I was a kid, there was a TV show called “Route 66” that ran for four seasons, starting in 1960. (I liked the show. I didn’t know what it was about, but the guys drove a Corvette, and that was good enough for me.)
There is also a U.S. Route 67, which runs from Sabula, Iowa (Anybody been to Sabula lately?), going south and then southwest to end at Presidio, Texas, on the Mexican border. Route 67 is not as long as Route 66—only 1,560 miles. And to my knowledge, there aren’t any songs written or TV shows produced about Route 67.
More humble still is our own Indiana State Road 67. It cuts across our state diagonally from Vincennes through Indianapolis to end at the state line near Celina, Ohio. It isn’t very long at all, by comparison. The entire length just misses the 200-mile mark, being officially listed as 199.24 miles long. (That’s 320.65 kilometers for all you Europeans out there.)
Every now and then something comes our way that is just too good not to share. This story comes from Cindy Miller’s sister Jill Quick, and her husband Gary. I think of it as “The Powdered Sugar Donut Incident”, but they call it: A story about Powdered Sugar Donuts.
Several years ago, my wife and I were part of a coffee ministry at our church. We had two services on Sunday, 9:00am and 10:30. One Sunday a month we arrived at church early to prepare the coffee table with large carafes of coffee, hot water for tea and cocoa, and most importantly donuts holes: chocolate, glazed and powdered sugar. The coffee table was the center of attention prior to each of the services as folks of all ages stopped by for a beverage and a donut.
My family listened to Johnny Cash a lot on the radio when I was growing up. I especially liked his song A Boy Named Sue. But we also heard Folsom Prison Blues, Burning Ring of Fire, and Jackson. We didn’t have any of Johnny Cash’s records, but would often hear him on the radio in our car when we were driving. Dad almost always listened to WIRE-AM when he was in the car. That station played country music exclusively, and also carried the Indianapolis Pacers’ basketball games.
When The Johnny Cash Show debuted on the ABC-TV network in 1969, we almost always watched that, too. It wasn’t quite my cup of tea, but they did have people playing guitars on the program. Even if I didn’t like the music, I could still look at the instruments. They even had The Monkees on the show once.
Johnny Cash almost always wore a black outfit. After a while, especially after his TV show was on the air, people started to ask him why. His answered the question in a song called Man in Black. Here’s part of the lyrics: “I wear the black for the poor and beaten down, livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town; I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime, but is there because he’s a victim of the times…” The song goes on like that. According to Johnny Cash, his wearing black was a sign of his rebellion, and a symbol of the hurting and downtrodden in society. We’ll take him at his word. But the truth is, he had given other explanations earlier in his career.
My musical heroes keep dying.
Most recently (as of this writing) Randy Meisner died, on July 26th. He was a founding member of the Eagles, their first bassist, and an incredible tenor who could sing such high vocal harmonies. He was 77 years old.
Gordon Lightfoot, Canadian singer-songwriter who wrote the hit songs If You Could Read My Mind, Carefree Highway, and The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, among many others, died on May 1st.
And back on January 10th, English guitarist Jeff Beck died at the age of 78.
I know there are many other famous musicians and singers who have died so far this year—Tony Bennett died on July 21st at the age of 96, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease—but the ones I listed were part of the soundtrack of my youth. I never really listened to Tony Bennett. But the Eagles, Gordon Lightfoot and Jeff Beck were part of the musical backdrop of my life. So, it’s kind of surreal to hear of their deaths.
As I write this, it is late afternoon on the second day of Vacation Bible School here at our church. You would be within your right to think. “Well, big deal: it’s summer, and churches all over America are having Vacation Bible Schools.” But this one is different for us. This is the first Vacation Bible School we’ve had in over ten years.
That’s a rough figure; I haven’t looked it up. But it is definitely in the ballpark. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a Vacation Bible School here at First Baptist, Linton.
Now, we have done other wonderful things. Our Board of Christian Education, along with a lot of volunteers, have put on block parties, weenie roasts, hayrides, and events with bouncy houses. We have put on concerts, hosted free meals for the community, and even tried our hand at some, ahem, acting. (Understatement alert: Nobody was in danger of winning any Oscars.) We’ve put in lots of work, and had lots of fun together doing these things.