Talkin' Gibberish Blues

everything you ever wanted to know about nothing at all...

Saturday, January 07, 2017

If I were a poet, a writer, or a singer songwriter and had never written anything but the following verse, I'd be satisfied.

Then take me disappearin’ through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.

My love for Bob Dylan's music hasn't let up since I first heard Subterranean Homesick Blues almost 20 years ago.  Other more important things have gotten in the way of seeing him in concert (it's been a few years), and this past year there was a release of every concert he performed in 1966, 36 discs in total.  In years past, I would have jumped at the chance to get this, but in reality, there is no way I would have the time or the desire to listen to the whole thing in it's entirety, so I opted for the single release of a show from the Royal Albert Hall, a Christmas present from my dear wife.  It showed up a couple days after Christmas.  When I popped it into the player, I figured I would take down the tree, why not one enjoyable activity cancel out a not so enjoyable activity.  It didn't disappoint.  Mr Tambourine to me was the highlight of each of these shows (I've heard several), he draws out every word like it's his last, and the harmonica solos sound like they come from another world.  "Yes to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free" must be the most beautiful thing ever written. 

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

What it Means-the Drive by Truckers

Philosophize It!  Chemicalize it!-Kishi Bashi

Cold Irons Bound-Bob Dylan

Fill in the Blanks-Car Seat Headrest

22 over soooon-Bon Iver

Happy Saturday, friends...


Sunday, December 18, 2016

"May you never forget what is worth remembering, or remember what is best forgotten."

Last weekend, we took a trip to Florida with our very dear friends.  Much to Christie's chagrin, I don't much care for vacations.  The transitions between leaving children and work behind to going someplace to have the time of your life is always stressful for me.  I always wonder what burden I am creating in my absence.  Also, I like to know what environment I'm going to be spending my time in.  The vacation was a fine time, though, we saw some sights, and also did some relaxing.  Everyone on the vacation liked to take naps.  Naps stress me out too, so while they were doing that I did the thing that relaxes me, I walked as far as I could go, on the beach with my headphones on.  I tried to walk the entire beach that was within walking distance of our condo over the course of two days, but I think I missed out on a mile or two.  These walks weren't all that memorable in that not much really happened, I enjoyed the music I listened to (Chimes of Freedom by Bob Dylan, live in 2000 and Brilliant Mistake by Elvis Costello stand out), I enjoyed the scenery and as I found a shell or two and saw a snowman made out of sand, I missed my kids.  That being said, I will always remember these walks, just as I remember the walk I took at Rosy Mound in Grand Haven the morning before Christie and I went on our first date.

On the last night of our trip, we went to this kitschy restaurant on the water where there was a Christmas boat parade going by.  When we were seated for dinner, being the sentimental dork that I am, I asked what life would look like for all of us on December 10, 2017, and I hoped that we would remember that we sat at this restaurant (the food was okay) and watched the boats go by.  I hoped that Christie and I will be able to maintain our sanity as we have another child.  I hoped that our child would bring us as much joy as Lillian and Emmett.  I hoped that our friends would have another child by then (if they want one).  I hope for so many things, knowing full well that I don't always get what I hope for, but if there is one thing this year has taught me is that God gives me unexpected gifts that are greater than what I hoped for.  Merry Christmas, friends. 

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Brilliant Mistake-Elvis Costello

Christmas in the Room-Sufjan Stevens  The surprise hit of the Christmas season!

Good Christian Men Rejoice-Joseph Pensak

In Dulci Jubilo-King's College

Rise Up Shepherd-Nick Lowe

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

God's Economy

I suppose you could say it's my job to make money.  We put all kinds of other titles to it, but if I don't make money doing what I'm doing, no one will allow me to do it anymore.  Being the son of church workers, this hasn't always come easy to me, but I've become moderately good at it.  I just came back from our yearly convention, where people are praised for the amount of money they brought to the company.  Don't get me wrong, I love the company I work for, but the whole thing always makes me uneasy for a variety of reasons but especially for the praise of money making.

The parable of the talents always puzzled me, mostly because I sympathized with the guy who was given one and buried it in the ground.  In the grand scheme of things, I look at my little corner of the marketplace as equivalent to the guy with the one talent.  I know the parable isn't talking solely about money, though I think it could be applied to money as well.  I've never particularly enjoyed taking people's money, but again, it's the purpose of the enterprise.  I don't say this to brag, because it's nothing really to brag about, especially in the company I work for.  I think what particularly bothers me about the parable is not the money part of it, it's that I always want to come out even.  I want to play it safe.  I don't want to disappoint anyone.  Even after hearing the parable, I want to take umbrage with God and argue with him about the point of His story.  I want to stick up for the guy who hides the money.  I want to praise the guy for not taking any chances.

This time last year, I had an idea to have a bible study group open to anyone who wanted to attend while out of town at our company meeting.  I've never seen or heard of anyone doing such a thing and I thought it would be a great way to be a witness to a group of people who need to hear the word about Jesus Christ.  I had a friend at the time who was willing to do it with me.  The friend has since quit the company, and instead of acting alone, I did nothing.  To be honest, the reason I did nothing was most likely a combination of laziness and fear of having people roll their eyes at the mere mention of it.  I was ashamed to speak the words of Jesus in public.    

 I thought about Luke 12:48, to whom much is given, much will be expected.  No other parts of scripture disturb me in the way this verse and the parable of the talents does. Luke 12:48 always gets me thinking about my parents.  Not all have grown up hearing about Jesus every day like I have, how am I holding up my end of the bargain?  What have I done with the gifts God has given me?  Who has heard me spread the good news of Jesus Christ?  Not enough people, I can assure you.

Our economy is based on the exchange of goods and wealth.   As anyone who has bought or sold something will tell you if they are being honest with themselves,  they want to come out on top of the transaction and make out better than the other guy.  Capitalism is based on this principle.  The degree to which coming out on top is acceptable is an ever changing target.  I'm sure everyone knows the story of the guy who bought the patent for the aids drug and then increased the price 4000%.  What if the guy only raised it 50%?  Would he still be hated?  Probably not.  Markets dictate what is an acceptable amount to charge, but in the end, our economy is based on everyone looking out for themselves.  This is how our economy works, good or bad.  Greed is good.  This is the best system mankind has come up with to date.   

God's economy works in a completely different way.  It's not capitalism, socialism or communism.  God's love is given MOSTLY with nothing in return.  God's blessings are given ALWAYS with nothing in return.  God wants our love back, but not for himself, but rather because He knows that our love for Him is His greatest way of delivering his blessings to us and that a life in love with God is the best that anyone has to offer.  There is no viable business model for giving away goods or services with nothing in return.

Instead of abiding by God's economy, we try to bring God into our economy.  We try to do things to settle the score, to make things even.  I am a person who doesn't like to owe people anything, so if they do something nice for me, I try to do something nice for them in return.  If you ask anyone on the street if this makes sense, just about everyone would agree.  If we're honest with ourselves, we try to do this with God.  We do some good things to make it seem like we have earned God's love.  But since God is a horrible businessman, we cannot pay him back, despite all our feeble attempts.

Even a tithe isn't God asking for some of His money back, it's a way of giving God our trust, which only benefits us.  I'm sure there are no coincidences in the bible, so it's intentional that in the parable the one man is given 1/10 of the amount that the other man receives, and I believe this points to the fact that we will only be truly blessed when we give everything to God, meaning our lives, our time, our money and most importantly our hearts.  God doesn't want us to try to settle the score, or to try to come out even, God wants to use me to multiply His love.  This is incredibly scary, since, as I said before, I would rather be the guy who hides his talent in the sand.  God wants something better, for me and you.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

If You Never Got Sick

I got an early Christmas present today, courtesy of my children.  Lillian came down with the fever last night, dampening some of our plans for the day.  Other than the fever and feeling rather lethargic, she seems to be fine.  Later this evening, Emmett came down with the same thing.  We had a rare moment for a couple of hours with the two of them on me, without the usual squirming and getting up and down while we watched Polar Express.  The two of them laid on my chest, head to head, every now and then Lillian would stroke Emmett's hair and tell him he'd be okay.  Of course, I'd do anything to make them feel well again, especially being three days before Christmas, but this was an awesome reminder of how precious my children are and that nights like these don't happen too often.  We always seem to be working towards something, or looking forward to something, especially this time of year.  But for one night, I was content in enjoying the moment.

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

If You Never Got Sick-The Wallflowers

I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In-Sufjan Stevens

Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming-Ella Fitzgerald

I'll Be Home For Christmas-Bing Crosby

Who Took the Mary Out of Christmas?-The Staples Singers

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Christmas Blues

Christmas is my favorite time of year, especially now that I have small children.  Lillian shares my excitement of getting a Christmas tree and decorating it, as well as putting up the lights outside.  When she was a baby, I toyed with the idea of giving her the real scoop on Santa Clause.  It never worked, my influence is too small, I guess.  That aside, we really get into Christmas in the Schroeder household.  We pull out the Christmas records and cd's (we even got Lilly a Taylor Swift Christmas cd for her birthday) and listen to them whenever possible.  Christmas music is a lot like Christmas memories, every year I remember the good old ones, add new ones, try to forget the bad ones (even though you can't, insert the most annoying Christmas song you can think of) and let the unmemorable ones fade into oblivion.

My favorite Christmas music tends to lean towards the melancholy.  I remember all those minor chord Advent songs sitting in church on Wednesday nights.  They always sounded so sad and with every new candlelit on the Advent wreath seemed like another invitation to joy, but not so soon.  There would be a few more weeks of reminders of how dark the world is before that big white candle is lit.  I used to love looking through the hymnal, counting down the songs until the Christmas ones began.  Than we would get to Joy to the World or Oh Come All Ye Faithful.

Many of the the great secular Christmas songs have a hint of this melancholy.  Everybody always looks at "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" as this nice sweet little song about having a nice Christmas, but at the heart of it is an intense sadness.  "Through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow, until then we'll have to muddle through YEAR all our troubles will be miles away."  

Thirty six years on, I think I finally understand this sadness that comes with Christmas.  We're all in search of a perfection that we never achieve.  We buy new cars that lose their value as soon as we drive it off the lot.  We strive to keep the house clean and it's getting dirty the second we're done.  We work to buy our children toys they are bored with the same day they get it.  As the old John Prine song goes, "all the snow has turned to water, Christmas days have come & gone, broken toys and faded colors are all that's left to linger on".

We know all the right answers when it comes to Christmas, and we teach them to our children, only to forget them ourselves minutes after we teach them.  We search for perfection with Christmas;  we try to make memories to last a lifetime, only to be left with that same empty feeling that our idea of perfection can't be reached.

Which brings us to why we need Christmas in the first place.  Jesus came to save us from our frailties, our guilt, our greed, our anger, our shame, our selfishness, you can feel free to pick yours.  Christmas came as a light in a dark place, our perfection in an imperfect world.  It brings with it a tension between our sadness our sin has created and the joy of knowing the one who came to save us from our sin.  My hope for you this Christmas is that you remember all that needs to be remembered, forget all that needs to be forgotten, and most of all, that joy wins.

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Lo!  How a Rose E'er Blooming-Sufjan Stevens

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas-Bob Dylan

Of the Father's Love Begotten-Concordia College Fort Wayne

Good Christian, Men Rejoice-Kings Choir Cambridge

Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates-Sufjan Stevens

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A couple of months ago on a Friday evening, I took Lillian on a "hike" to one of our favorite spots, "Rosy Mound".  It goes through the woods up and over hills until you finally get to the shore of Lake Michigan.  The payoff for Lillian is, at the end, she gets to swim.  The payoff for me is walking hand in hand with my four year old daughter through one of the most beautiful places in our little town.  After nine years of living in Grand Haven, I still haven't lost the childlike excitement of seeing the water.  It even outweighs my adult like hatred of sand in my shoes.  When we got to the water, we had the beach completely to ourselves, it was an evening I'll never forget, and it'll remind me of many nights like it we've had since then in 10 years or so.

The next night, after work, the whole family went for a walk in our neighborhood.  It was another wonderful evening.  We were almost home and Christie was making Lillian laugh really loud.  We heard someone yelling from their driveway.  I thought maybe the gentleman was working on his car and was upset that we were being too loud.  It turns out, he had fallen and was asking for help.  We helped him into his house and as we were helping him, he kept looking back at the stroller that Emmett was in and Lillian standing right next to it.  We assured him that they were okay.  His wife came out and talked about calling an ambulance and then called her son.  She informed us that their granddaughter had died recently and he said maybe that is why he fell.  We got him in the house and told him we'd pray for him.  Christie wondered if maybe their granddaughter was the four year old who tragically died recently.  It turns out it was.  My heart sank.  She was younger than Lillian. 

I visited the gentleman the next day, he was feeling better, but started talking about his granddaughter.  I told him I don't want to imagine what that might feel like.

When my son was a few months old during church, the thought popped into my head that someday I'd have to give him up.  I'm not sure if that meant one day he'd leave our home to live a life of his own or something worse, but it was a good reminder that these children of mine are a gift from God entrusted to us for a short time.  Those two suck the life out of me sometimes, especially the boy at the moment, he is overly fussy (unless he's going for a walk or sitting in the grass), he doesn't want to eat anything that isn't a cracker or a piece of fruit, and he is in to anything and everything that he's not supposed to.  This post is three months in the making & as I speak, he's up earlier from his nap than expected.  They suck the life out of me but without them life would seem like it weren't worth living.  There a lot like the leaves on the trees in the yard at this time of the year, so beautiful, yet so much work.  The boys awake & the leaves need raking.  Happy Autumn, friends...

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Autumn Leaves-Nat King Cole

Everytime we Say Goodbye-John Coltrane

Autumn Serenade-Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane

Autumn-Joanna Newsom

Daddy's Little Pumpkin-John Prine

Take a drive in the country and listen to these songs and see if they don't put a smile on your face. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

My old man got me hooked on the Marty Stuart Show on Saturday nights on RFD TV.  There's something about Saturday nights that make me want to be at home, doing what I always do on Saturday nights.  Usually that involves listening to records, hanging out with the kids, then having a couple glasses of wine after we put the kids to bed.  My dad is usually doing the same thing, so my mother tells me.

Watching the end credits last week, I noticed the song playing over the credits as sounding familiar, it sounded alot like Bob Dylan's "Things Have Chaged" from the movie Wonder Boys.  It won an academy award, & is generally viewed as one of his greatest songs of the past 20 years.  I googled Things Have Changed and Marty Stuart, and a song popped up called "Observations of a Crow", off his 1999 album The Pilgrim.

 After doing some more research, it came to my surprise (only because I thought I knew just about everyone who's ever played with Dylan) that Stuart sat in on a Bob Dylan show in September, 1999 in Nashville.  The late, great writer Paul Williams writes this about the performance:

From Paul Williams: "I notice there's an extra person on stage playing mandolin. I take a good look through my binoculars: Marty Stuart. I've always wanted to see Bob with a real bluegrass band and throwing Marty into the mix transformed Bob's band into just that. Bob was talking to Marty in between songs all night long, as much as I've ever seen him verbally communicate with anyone on stage.
" ‘Tangled Up In Blue' finished off the acoustic set and as many times as I've heard this song, I don't know if I've ever heard it quite so beautifully rendered. Bob was genuinely inspired by Marty's presence and he pulled out his harp and played it better than I've heard him play it in a long, long time. He and Marty were standing right next to each other, trading off and it was quite a moment. Marty's mandolin added so much to the sound of the band, making them sound even tighter and more rhythmic than usual.
"This was the first time I'd seen anyone sit in the while night and, as great as those other folks were, this was definitely the finest overall contribution I've ever seen anyone make in a walk-on role. It was night and day seeing Bob with Paul Simon and then with Marty Stuart. It was obvious whose company Bob preferred, which is not to put down Simon, who the large crowd seemed to enjoy, as it is to say how much he seemed to immensely enjoy Marty's presence on stage. I know I did. I would love to see him join the band or at least make the trip down to Memphis on Saturday. All in all, I'd have to say that this was quite possibly the best Dylan concert I've ever seen and I've seen some great ones. Last night was pure magic."

Bob Dylan is certainly no stranger to country music, he's been playing Hank Williams and other more obscure country songs since he's been putting music to tape.  His friendship with Johnny Cash has lasted since the early '60s, and he's played with Ralph Stanley, Earl Scruggs, Lester Flatts, and Charlie Daniels.  His 1969 album "Nashville Skyline" started what was known as "Country Rock".  In 1999, though, Dylan's concerts began to feature a nightly bluegrass cover to open the show, as well as many covers of Johnny Cash songs, & he began sporting country western suits every night.  Some of his moves while playing guitar were reminiscent of ones you might see on The Marty Stuart every Saturday night.  Who knew RFD TV was so influential?

 Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Blue Moon of Kentucky-The Stanley Brothers

Not Fade Away-Buddy Holly

Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates-Sufjan Stevens

A Good Year for the Roses-George Jones

If We Make it Through December-Merle Haggard

Happy Monday, friends...

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Grand Haven, Michigan
the sun shines on a dog's ass every now & then...