Friday, September 28, 2007

Caedmon’s Call – Overdressed

When I heard that Derek Webb was returning to Caedmon's Call (for at least one album and a tour) I was pleased. I thought that Derek benefitted from being in the band (although his solo work has been very good) and Caedmon's was better when Derek was there. So I wasn't really surprised when Overdressed, the new Caedmon's album was excellent. What did surprise me, though, is how strong all the members of the band are on this album, especially Andrew Osenga. With strong vocals, arrangements and writing, Overdressed is the best CC album since 2000's Long Line of Leavers.

Even though I came into this album excited to hear Derek's songs it is the two songs that feature Andy Osenga, "Expectations" and "Hold the Light," that really caught my ear. "Hold the Light," sounds like a really good track from the Normals (Andrew's previous band) and "Expectations" sounds like nothing Caedmon's Call has done before. That's not true of the entire album. Caedmon's wisely went back to their acoustic-based sound that they first honed on their independent albums and their first self-titled national release. And while there are sonic diversions, many of the songs, especially those sung by Cliff Young, tend to be right down the middle of the strike zone for fans of the traditional Caedmon's sound, which is both good and bad. It's good to hear what one expects from a Caedmon's Call album but it's also good to be surprised. This album has a nice dose of both. I especially enjoy hearing more of Danielle Young on this album than I did on earlier ones. She seems to take the vocal spotlight more often – or maybe she's just doing it better. "Sacred," a song she sings about how even our daily housework is done for God, is well written and well delivered. This album has many highlights, however, and only a few songs I merely like. I should note that the writing by Webb and Osenga along with Randall Goodgame and Sandra McCracken is especially strong on this album. If, like me, you thought that Caedmon's Call's best days were behind them and that perhaps they were fading away, this album will renew your enthusiasm for what is arguably one of the best bands to come out of the Christian Music industry.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

More people saying nice things about my book

These are probably the final two endorsements for my book, Helping Our Children Grow in Faith. It has been wonderful to read what others who I respect as professionals in the field have written about it. The book goes to the printer soon and I'll probably have a copy in my hands some time in December.

“Though this book includes lots of specific ‘we could do that’ ideas, it is mainly a sweeping vision book. I’d buy it for a parent or committee member who is new to children’s ministry or for one who has ‘done it all’ and needs to remember what it’s all about.”

—Carolyn Brown, children's ministry consultant and author

“Robert Keeley masterfully describes some of the best current ideas for nurturing children’s spiritual development—intentional intergenerationality, the significance of story, the role of wonder—and illustrates them with colorful family stories and incisive vignettes from a variety of church settings. Along the way, Keeley integrates biblical insights as well as key principles from Piaget, Kohlberg, and Fowler in engaging, understandable language. The book closes with a delightful bonus---an appendix of picture books Keeley recommends for fostering spirituality in children.”

--Holly Allen, Associate Professor of Christian Ministries and Director of Children and Family Ministries, John Brown University

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Internet Notoriety

My daughter Bethany is apparently spending her fifteen minutes of fame on punctuation. Her "blog" of "unnecessary" quotation marks got picked as a Yahoo Pick of the day and then written about by the Associated Press and her blog got 18,000 hits on the day the story got posted.

The story got posted on line by the New York Times, the Washington Post and lots of other newspapers around the country.

I think she did a radio interview for an L.A. radio station too. Pretty cool.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Two more endorsements

In addition to the ones I posted earlier, this week I received two more endorsements for my forthcoming book, Helping Our Children Grow in Faith.

“Helping Our Children Grow in Faith
offers a thoughtful, accessible, and practical introduction to the basic building blocks of effective ministries with children. Robert J. Keeley takes seriously children and their spiritual development, challenging congregations to move beyond simplistic approaches that don’t fully engage children. In the process, he invites leaders to transform congregations to become communities where children are included, loved, valued, and nurtured by a whole community of caring Christians.”

Eugene C. Roehlkepartain, Co-Director
Center for Spiritual Development in Childhood and Adolescence
Search Institute, Minneapolis, Minnesota

“Biblical,” “practical,” and “scholarly” are one way to describe Bob Keeley’s book. “Warm, “gentle,” and “encouraging” are another set of descriptors. Helping Our Children Grow in Faith weaves personal experience with scholarly research and biblical perspectives in offering pastors, parents, and church educators practical wisdom while gently challenging them to consider new ways to offer children a rich, vibrant faith. This would be an excellent study book for parents or a church’s Christian education committee.

George Brown, Jr.
G.W. and Eddie Haworth Professor of Christian Education & Associate Dean,
Western Theological Seminary, Holland, MI

Friday, September 14, 2007

Amy Grant podcast

Back in the old days of Contemporary Christian Music Amy Grant was the big star. She had CCM's first million seller with Age to Age, she was the first to "cross over" to the mainstream with unguarded, and she made what many consider the best album of the genre with Lead Me On. As one who followed her career from the early days (I saw her first tour with a band) I enjoyed her music as she changed from someone who sang primarily to tracks produced for her when she wasn't there to a serious artist who took control of her albums.

Frankly, I don't listen to a whole lot of Amy Grant any more (except at Christmas) and some of her albums sound quite dated. But I have fond memories of almost all of them. So when she produced this podast to celebrate the re-release of her catalog I subscribed to get it. And I'm really glad I did. This podcast is wonderful. Each segment (so far there are five) is a 20 minute talk about her albums, the writing and creating. it focuses on the music and not on People magazine type stuff. It's great. If you listened to Amy's music in the past subscribe to this *free* podcast. By the way, her recent live album, Time Again, is also a nice retrospective of her career done with a great band and updated sound.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

You say Goodbye...

It seems that Paul McCartney has been seeing a bit of Renee Zellweger lately, at least according to The Daily Star. Now normally I don't comment on such things because, well, you know... who cares? But in this case I will make an exception because I find the following line irresistable: Do you think she said "you had me at hello, goodbye?"

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Endorsements for my forthcoming book

Here are what some folks have written about Helping Our Children Grow in Faith (which will be available in January from Baker Books):

"I loved this book! Robert Keeley points us in the right direction for building a ministry strategy with children. It is a delight to find someone with a clear vision of how the entire life of the church needs to be developed if we want our children to have a healthy, growing faith in Jesus Christ. This is a 'must read' for every children's pastor and lay leader who cares about the spiritual nurture of children."

Kevin E. Lawson,
Director of Ph.D. and Ed.D. programs in Educational Studies
Talbot School of Theology
Editor, Christian Education Journal.

“Robert Keeley provides local church leaders with an accessible resource to guide reflection on their ministry with children. Two very important themes weave through the book, the role of the biblical story and the role of the faith community in the "three dimensional" faith formation of children.; the forming of "a faith that affects their head, their heart, and their spirit." Dr. Keeley challenges readers to see Bible stories as more than "moral tales' and discusses how to allow children to discover in those stories who God is and the relationship they can have with our great and loving God. Drawing on his rich experience as a Children's Ministry Director, Dr. Keeley offers practical suggestions for welcoming children into the faith community as authentic participants. He envisions church as a "child friendly culture," an environment healthy for the spiritual growth of children. And he points the way to forming such a community.”

Dr. Catherine Stonehouse
Asbury Theological Seminary
Dean of the School of Practical Theology
Orlean Bullard Beeson Professor of Christian Discipleship
Author of Joining Children on their Spiritual Journey

“Christians love their children deeply and are concerned for their growth, especially their growth in faith. For that reason Robert Keeley gifts us with a delightful, helpful, and accessible book for parents and children's ministry leaders. "Helping Our Children Grow in Faith" is an excellent resource for shoring up children's growth in faith. It also is an entry point for exploring the burgeoning field of resources becoming available that address the faith and spiritual life of children.

Writing from a reformed tradition, he rightly posits the faith of a child as coming from God, and it is the Holy Spirit that begins that work. But the community of faith and the parents are to help build the child's faith. Here is where this book shines.

Structured around six key principles, this book is loaded with stories and examples of how to implement them. For example, because Keeley feels that a church that mentors children may have a greater impact than a church with dynamic programs, he describes how mentoring might take place. His chapter on story is insightful. He also has the courage to go against the popular trend of separating children from adults for worship. He says that children need both--a time to worship with adults and time for worship intended for their own age.”

Scottie May
Dept. of Christian Formation and Ministry
Wheaton College
Co-author of Children Matter: Celebrating their Place in the Church, Family and Community

"Helping our children grow in faith is an engaging look at the opportunities and challenges of nurturing children's faith. Prof. Keeley's clear explanation of faith nurture, and thoughtful examination of the role of parents and congregations in the process is a refreshing invitation for the church to re-prioritize its children's ministry."

Darwin Glassford
Assoc. Professor of Church Education
Director of M.A. Programs
Calvin Theological Seminary

"Keeley has done us all a great service and made very insightful material available. I've always wanted our children to grow in faith and I've worked hard at it. But now I understand better how it happens, what it takes, and how one stage is different from another. Growing their faith won't happen without growing a church in which they can grow. This book will take you inside the church by taking you inside the process of forming a child's faith!"

Howard Vanderwell
Resource Development Specialist
Calvin Institute of Christian Worship
Co-author of Designing Worship Together

"Bob Keeley combines biblical grounding, educational research, and much experience to create this down-to-earth guide. Readers will find here not only practical advice but also a wise proposal about changing our congregational cultures in ways that benefit young and old. Above all, readers will be inspired by the deep love and respect for children shining through this book."

Debra Rienstra
Associate Professor of English
Calvin College
Author of So Much More: An Invitation to Christian Spirituality

Friday, September 07, 2007

Photograph: the very best of Ringo Starr

This has been a good season for Beatles fans. It started when Paul McCartney released one of his best solo albums with Memory Almost Full. But then it continued with an excellent re-release of the complete Traveling WIlburys catalog in a wonderful two-disc set showing that at the end of his career George Harrison still had some good tricks left in him. Then there was the Instant Karma collection with the solo catalog of John Lennon covered by a wide variety of modern artists. Tribute albums are not always successful but this collection reminded me of what a fine writer Lennon was and encouraged me to look back at his recordings again in the excellent Working Class Hero collection (newly available on iTunes.) And finally, and for me surprisingly fun, the best of Ringo Starr. These albums have all served to remind me that the Beatles were indeed something special and that there solo work also stands up well.

What surprised me most about the Ringo collection is that I find myself singing along with so many of the songs. It's not that I know them (although in most cases I did) but the type of songs they are just ask to be sung along with. "The No No Song," for example has that catchy chorus that I find irresistible. The same is true for "It Don't Come Easy," "I'm the Greatest," "Back off Boogaloo," "You're Sixteen," and the title track, "Photograph." Many reviewers have noted that Ringo actually outsold all the other former Beatles for a brief period and it's easy to see why – his friendly personality brought out the best in his collaborators. It's like they really wanted to do something good for Ringo and his clear limits as a vocalist and writer were used to his advantage.

This is not an album that I'm going to lift up as the finest example of pop music over the last forty years but it is an album that I'm going to continue to put on and that I'll probably find myself in the car singing along with at the top of my voice.

And to top it all off, it seems that we can stop worrying because Help! Is on the way!