Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Bryan is often hungry

On the way back from the weekend wedding we stopped at Ikea in Detroit (actually, Canton). Once was enough for me. I don't need to go back to Ikea. It's like a whole store full of furniture. Who would have guessed? The high point was a sign with a really big hot dog and Bryan posed while Meredith took his picture

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Family Wedding

Our family trekked to Ann Arbor for the wedding of my nephew Tim this weekend. Tim married Erica Postema and the wedding was wonderful. We had a great time and got a block of rooms at a hotel there where the entire VanderKooy family stayed. It was fun hanging out by the pool, sitting up with Laura's brother Dan and his wife Mary until midnight (something we old timers don’t do often) and seeing Bethany (who flew in from Georgia) and Laura’s sister Linda again (who flew in from South Dakota.)

We had fun fitting eight people plus all our luggage in the mini-van. Plus I finally got to see the Detroit airport from the outside.

The wedding was also on Laura and my 29th wedding anniversary. I'm a lucky guy.

Additional pictures at Meredith's blog here and here.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Teaching Hymnology

I spent yesterday afternoon with Bert Pohlman's Teaching Hymnology Seminar and had a great time. I helped the group think about revising James Sydnor’s Hymns: A Congregational Study. I led them through some activities designed to have them think about some of the basic questions curriculum writers need to address when they start a curriclum. The Calvin Institute of Christian Worship blog has a posting about it. I had a wonderful time meeting these fifteen scholars and helping them think about curriculum from an educator's perspective.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Now he’s 64

So Paul McCartney turned 64 yesterday, an age that goes un-remarked-on for nearly everyone else in the world except, you see, he wrote this song…

The real shame is that Paul’s song is about a couple staying together into old age and he has two sad things related to that. The love of his life, Linda, died a few years ago and it seems to go without saying that she would still need and feed him now that he’s 64. His marriage to his second wife, Heather, is apparently over, all except the legal work, and to have all that bad stuff in the press at a time when people are putting your name with a song about marital longevity is just a shame. Heather and Paul have enough people sniping at them so I won’t pile on – and if you think the press hasn’t been that bad then just surf on to some of the UK tabloids – they’ve been relentless and mean.

Sgt Pepper is one of my favorite albums of all time – just a great collection of songs recorded with creativity and energy. I got it from my brother, John, for my 13th birthday – is that like the coolest present ever or what? I remember sitting in our family living room in the swivel chair in front of the stereo (it was built into a big cabinet) listening over and over and over – then I got headphones and listened over and over and over and over. It was the soundtrack to my 8th grade year.

Paul’s solo work has been uneven but I’ve certainly gotten a lot of enjoyment out of it. He hit some real high points with Band on the Run, Tug of War, Flaming Pie and Chaos and Creation in the Backyard. Curiously, two of those best four albums were in the last 6 years or so – something to keep in mind when people say he’s lost it. But even his other albums have been great – he writes ballads like nobody else and manages to put at least one knockout song on almost every album. Driving Rain, for example, had the wonderful “Your Loving Flame” on it, an amazing song by anyone's standards. Even Press to Play, an album that is not one of his best has “Only Love Remains.”

It’s clear that I’ll still be a Beatles fan when I turn 64, many years from now. Thanks, Paul, for all the cool songs.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

'One Step Closer' by Christian Scharen

I just finished reading One Step Closer. I have followed the story of this book on Christian Scharen’s blog over the past year and it was good to finally read the book. Curiously, I got it at the Children’s Spirituality Conference and this isn’t a book about children at all but it was there and it was half-price at the Baker table so I got it even though I’ve read plenty of U2 books – not as many as Beatle books but certainly more than I need to.

And that’s my primary issue with One Step Closer – for those of us who have read a lot about U2 there isn’t a whole lot that is new in this book. The theological insights are fine and the U2 connections are pretty much right on target but I didn’t read much that I hadn’t either read before or thought before. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For people who are just starting to get interested in U2, especially the connection between them and Christianity, this is a fine introduction. I have already suggested it to my two youngest daughters. The obvious comparison point is Steve Stockman’s Walk On but the books really come at the topic differently – Stockman starts with U2 and Scharen starts with Christian doctrine and then makes the U2 connection. (Raewynne Whiteley and Beth Maynard’s Get Up Off Your Knees, another excellent book, is less systematic but also covers some of the same ground.)

The book is written in an easy-to-read conversational manner, goes quickly and does a nice job, both theologically and musically. I really liked Scharen’s introduction to hope and his take on the difference between hope and optimism. Nicely done.

The important thing here is that Scharen isn’t trying to layer something on top of the music that isn’t already there. He picks out things that were put in carefully by the band and he illuminates them with theology. I enjoyed it. So if you’re a Christian and a U2 fan you will probably want to read this book because this is about the stuff you like to think about. If you’re just getting into U2 One Step Closer is a good place to start because it will help you see what this band is really all about.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

World cup 2006

For reasons that pass understanding, I have gotten interested in the World Cup. I’m not really a sports fan and most of the time will find almost anything to do other than watch sports on TV. Sure, as a kid I liked watching baseball and, when I lived in Denver, had a short stint as a Broncos fan but really, for the most part, I’m just not a sports fan. (I'm not ignorant of sports - I know the rules and I know a few key players. I just don't care.)

Bryan’s success in high school tennis (winning state just a year ago) got me interested in professional tennis and I will often stop what I’m doing to watch tennis on TV but there is just something about seeing so much of the world excited in a series of tennis matches that I am finding irresistible.

As I write this I’m watching the USA-Italy game, which is perhaps understandable but I even got interested in watching yesterday’s Mexico-Angola game! My family is surprised to say the least but I’m really enjoying watching the games. I want the USA to do well but I'm more interested in the contest than in rooting for any particular team - of course I pumped my arms into the air and cheered when US got their goal so maybe I'm not as dispassionate as I pretend to be.

It doesn’t hurt that they use U2 music in the bumpers and the ads.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Children at the Lord’s Table

As I have mentioned before, one of the issued being dealt with at the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church this year is Children at the Lord's Supper. Originally I, along with Laura and my pastor, Marv Hofman, wrote a report (called an overture) to Synod requesting that children be allowed to come to the table because they are part of the covenant. There were lots of reasons but that was a lot of it. Historically, the church has stated that people need to make a profession of faith to do that. For reasons I outlined here I believe that is not right. When our overture got to Classis Holland it was scaled back to ask for a study committee, not for the actual change. Today Synod voted to make the change - not for a study committee - but for the whole thing. In addition, they will form a task force to look at what profession of faith now means.

We're thrilled that Synod took this step and that children will now be welcome at the Lord's Table with their parents and grandparents. Thanks be to God.

Also, look at Mary's blog to see what important steps the church took regarding women. I am disappointed that they did not just get rid of the restrictions and allow women to be at Synod as well but Mary helps me see the (little bit of a) bright side of this one.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Kingdom of Rock Is at Hand - Christianity Today Magazine

I enjoyed this article, The Kingdom of Rock Is at Hand, from Christianity Today. The first paragraph descibes something close to me:

Show me an evangelical between the ages of 15 and 50, and I'll show you an evangelical who can tell this story (or something much like it): I used to listen to secular music, then I discarded it all and listened only to Christian music. Then I realized I didn't like much Christian music, so I slowly started listening to secular music again. Now I listen to the David Crowder Band in the mornings and Radiohead on the drive home.

This isn't exactly me - I never "gave up" secular music completely but I certainly put a lot of my energies into Christian rock for many years. I have been disappointed with Christian music of late even though I do like the David Crowder Band. It seems to me that the author really nailed it - at least at the beginning of the article.

So, anyway, go read it - Calvin College is mentioned.

Monday, June 12, 2006


Did I mention who I was going to see in concert this fall??

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Music and Tech in Worship

My friend Ron Reinstra has written an interesting article over at Theology, News & Notes, a Fuller Theological Seminary on-line magazine. I like what Ron says in this article a lot - the article is well worth the read!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Friday, June 09, 2006

Jammed! by Phil Keaggy

I first heard about Phil Keaggy in something like 1974. Calvin College sponsored the group Wing and a Prayer, an offshoot of the group Love Song – a name that is well known to all who followed the brand-new Christian Music scene in the seventies. I was a student then and was fortunate to be able to spend the day with the band hanging out and setting up. As we talked music together bassist Jay Truax told me that I really needed to check out this guy Phil Keaggy. I kept that in mind when I found his album Love Broke Thru in the bin at a local Christian book store. I bought it and was hooked immediately.

When I got to see him perform about four years later in Colorado it was clear that Phil was a guitar player unlike I had seen before. He could do things few other players could do and he did it with a real sense of melody, elegance and fun. I have followed his career pretty consistently ever since. I’ve seen him in concert around fifteen times or so - I’ve long ago lost count. Keaggy albums are always a surprise because he plays with so many different styles you never know what you’re going to get.

Jammed is the first PK album that I didn’t buy right away because I already had much of it. It is primarily an edited version of Premium Jams which he released in 1999. Premium Jams was two discs full of jams that were recorded mostly (but not exclusively) during the making of Crimson and Blue and 220. It was fun but, frankly, needed an editor. Hence, Jammed had the potential to be a better listen. The good news is that it is, indeed, a better album.

Jammed is not strictly a reissue of part of Premium Jams. Phil rerecorded some parts in it, added a few new tracks and shortened some of the others to make the whole album flow better and keep my attention better. It is still a jam album so if you’re looking for strong melodic hooks they aren’t going to be found in every track – but they will be found in some. The high points are probably the tracks that are less strict jams and actually are instrumental tracks that never got placed on other albums, “Route Canal” (a remix of Premium Jams’ “Lockdown”) and “Joyphil”, a Keaggy-ized version of the Beethoven melody from his 9th Symphony known as “Joyful, Joyful”. This track could have fit nicely on Phil’s 2002 Hymnsongs album – which I believe was the last mainstream CCM release of Phil’s career. The others are fun, bluesy high voltage jams that show Phil’s chops and that he knows how to have fun in an off-the-cuff environment.

Phil Keaggy has now gone independent and it will be interesting to see what happens with his music now that he has more freedom to release what he wants. He’s been critical of the CCM scene lately because after a long successful career he was tossed aside while the companies chased after younger, prettier artists. Jammed is nothing new and earthshaking but it is a fun listen and a good introduction to Phil’s electric playing. You can find it here or get it here on itunes.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Childrens Spirituality Conference 2006

Note - this is cross-posted at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship blog.

Laura and I attended the second trienniel Children’s Spirituality Conference at Concordia University in River Forest, IL for four days this week and had a great time. We heard six keynote speakers. My favorites were John Westerhof, Terry Fretheim and a joint presentation by Catherine Stonehouse and Scottie May.

The group was challenged by Westerhof to think about how ministry to children should change as society is going through a period of change as we end the modern era. He pointed out that modernity caused us to see a sharp divide between logos and mythos and that modernity eliminated the mythos character of the divine texts.

Terry Fretheim gave a fascinating look at children in the Old Testament. While he said many fascinating things one thing that I took note of was how he urged us to look more carefully at the story of Ishmael and God’s special care for children who were endangered.

Scottie May and Catherine Stonehouse closed out the conference with a call for participants to introduce children to the biblical narrative, reinforcing the power of story and ended with a call for more research. It was probably my favorite session of the conference.

I enjoyed the small group session thread on theological perspectives on children and the church in which participants from a broad range of theological perspectives spoke from their denominational viewpoint (Lutheran, Anabaptist, Weslyan, Reformed and others) about the place of children. I especially appreciated Holly Allen and Catherine Stonehouse’s contributions.

In addition to large and small group sessions, we enjoyed networking, good food, good conversation, performances by three children’s groups (including the amazing Vivaldi Strings from Wheaton College) and a short break for a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio. All in all we had a great time and enjoyed the opportunity to learn and be around others who are concerned about ministy to children.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Billy Preston dies

I'm in Chicago at a conference but I just had to note that Billy Preston died today. You can read about that here. I, like most people, got to know Preston through his work on Let It Be with the Beatles and from his wonderful solo spot in the Concert for Bangladesh (which I coincidently am just watching on DVD.) He did a wonderful job recently in Eric Clapton's band and has always been a lot of fun to watch and listen to.

One of the things I appreciated about Preston was that he sang of his faith at a time when most rockers wouldn't, perhaps a result of his gospel music background but he could pull it off because he was just so cool.

If you want to see him on DVD a good place is Clapton's One More Car One More Rider set.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

U2 to work on new album this summer

According to this article U2 is going to start work on a new album this summer! Bono says he's been writing a lot of new music on the piano!

U2 can take a LONG time to get an album finished but you can't finish one until you start one and this is very good news for those of us anxiously waiting to see what they'll do next!