The fall of 2002 was the longest period of separation for me and Christine, and the longest I’ve ever gone without seeing the other person during a relationship (I only have one other long-term relationship to compare to, and the longest I was ever away from Sharon was a month or so during that summer on Catalina Island in 1999). In some senses, it was agonizing, but at the same time, I was having a lot of fun.
In with the New:
Over the Rhine
Out with the Old:
All Together Separate
Listen on Spotify:
During the second year of existence for our neighborhood Sedaqah Group, it expanded and I found myself getting to know a lot of new folks. We celebrated a lot of birthdays together, we went to the beach together, and we went hiking together – including an intended trip to Solstice Canyon in Malibu that ended up being rerouted to Malibu Canyon because Solstice Canyon was closed. That had been a great hike in February, but it was hot and miserable in early September! This is a picture looking back out of the canyon from inside, near where the helicopter would fly in during the intro to the TV show M*A*S*H.
Where in the world is this?
1) “1STP KLOSR”, Linkin Park feat. Jonathan Davis (Reanimation, 2002)
It seems weird that I’d start a mix from such a happy time in my life with such an angry song, but the slow, creepy build of this remix worked awfully well as an opening track. I could never get into Korn, because Jonathan Davis always gave me the creeps, and he still gives me the creeps in his guest appearance here, but the song was a good outlet for frustration during the times when I was feeling a bit impatient with life, and the bridge of this song in its remixed version now sounded a lot less silly, and much more likely to put goosebumps on my skin and dump adrenaline into my system.
2) “Spin”, Lifehouse (Stanley Climbfall, 2002)
This was one of my absolute favorite rock songs of the year 2002. It’s pretty much the antithesis of the previous song – this one threw caution to the wind and said, “The world may be spinning out of control, but this is exactly the way my life needs to be”. It was an expression of pure trust in the One who pulled the strings and kept the world in motion. Christine was the chaos that I had allowed God to bring into my life that year. I didn’t know where things were gonna go next, or what challenges we might have to face, but I knew that the boundary-stretching was good for me.
3) “Fad of the Land”, Newsboys (Thrive, 2002)
This might surprise you, given that I work in IT and all, but I’m often rather slow to adapt to new technologies. For a while there, I was convinced that cell phones and PDA’s and things like that were “the Devil” – well, not really, but I joked about it that way. I figured that we were just coming up with more and more ways to keep people busy, and at the beckon call of their jobs, their social networks, anyone who might call or message them at any time and interrupt their peaceful alone time – something I had learned was a precious commodity. So I enjoyed this song, because it made fun of mankind’s need to always have the newest, latest thing in their palms. (It wouldn’t be long, however, before I got myself into a cell phone contract. But I’m pretty sure I was one of the last holdouts.)
4) “Save Me”, Remy Zero (The Golden Hum, 2001)
Most people know this song as the theme from Smallville. I actually never watched the show, and discovered the band without knowing this fact about them. To me, this represents a somewhat pathetic cry from a man to his lover, asking her to save him from his misery or whatever. The sad truth is that she can’t do it. He’s asking for something that no human has the power to do.
5) “Precious Illusions”, Alanis Morissette (Under Rug Swept, 2002)
This one and “Save Me” linked together well, because this time around it’s the woman expecting to be saved by a “Prince Charming” who arrives out of the blue and fixes everything in her life. That’s the way it goes in the music video – in one half of the split-screen, at least. The other half shows the more awkward reality, which doesn’t exactly resolve to a happily-ever-after, because he’s flawed too, and ultimately, she doesn’t need a man to be whole. This was an attitude that I was trying to reinforce as Christine and I made plans to be spending a lot more of our lives together – I wanted to hold firm to the belief that she and I could be whole as single people, and that we wouldn’t rush into any deeper commitments just yet, because the intent was for our relationship to augment two lives which were already whole and fulfilling. I didn’t want her to be put in the position of “saving” me, nor I her.
6) “Engage”, Pax217 (Engage, 2002)
I don’t remember the exact sermon, but I remember leaving Evergreen one Sunday afternoon, really jazzed about the idea of engaging contemporary culture. I’m the kind of guy who is usually unafraid to admit he’s a Christian, but who isn’t really forthcoming with the details, because I figure so many people have been there, done that with the whole Jesus story. I guess a lightbulb turned on in my head that told me, hey, it doesn’t hurt for people to hear your story. Personal testimony doesn’t change the fundamental spiritual truths that caused things to happen in your life, but maybe it can provide a different angle that allows someone to see Jesus in a way they hadn’t before. Similarly, it can’t hurt me to hear the stories of others. It’s so easy to be wrapped up in the Christian bubble and not be receptive to the struggles and experiences in the lives of others – just ‘casue someone’s not a Christian doesn’t mean God’s not working in their life, or that nothing they say has any truth to it. The greatest evangelical tool is probably just listening and forming a simple bond between two humans, rather than emphasizing the differences that put you in different categories.
7) “This Is Not”, The Benjamin Gate (Contact, 2002)
I get easily frustrated with people who seem to behave like they’re supposed to live out their whole lives pigeonholed into the role that society has laid out for them ahead of time. I think a lot of people miss out on their potential, on the creative and unique individual that God has made them to be. I guess this song sort of sums up my wish to help people find what’s unique about them, in its own goofy, poppy sort of way.
8) “No Such Thing”, John Mayer (Room for Squares, 2001)
My jaw dropped when I heard the opening guitar chords from this song – they sounded exactly like the intro that I had come up with for a song I’d written called “I Want to Sing” back in 1999. The chords came to me in early 2002, since I hadn’t learned to play guitar yet, back in 1999, so clearly neither of us copied the other, unless I had heard this song previously and it only registered in my subconscious or something. (I later changed my strum pattern, just to be on the safe side.) Once I got over that, I found that I immediately fell in love with John Mayer’s songwriting style – he was putting into words exactly what I felt about the so-called “real world” that loomed over me in college, promising that one day I’d be this all-grown-up working drone saddled with responsibilities and no room for playtime. You know what? It really doesn’t exist. At least, it doesn’t have to if you don’t let it. Sure, you have to get a “real job” and take on a lot more responsibility and all that, but there’s part of me that still has that wide-eyed wonder, that thirst for knowledge and exploration and experimentation, who still feels like a kid in grown-up-sized shoes. And I think I’d always like to feel like there’s still some “growing up” left for me to do; it’s the only way life stays fresh and fascinating. Even if I’m working 40 hours every week.
9) “Grey Street”, Dave Matthews Band (Busted Stuff, 2002)
John Mayer and Dave Matthews originally got placed back-to-back because I thought they sounded very much like each other. Looking back, the pairing works on a deeper level because this song is about a woman who has given up on her dreams – she’s the opposite of the youthful dreamer from the John Mayer song. Dave plays the role of the guy who is trying to remind her of the colorful life she once led – but she treats him like a crazy man who needs to be hauled off to the funny farm. I guess this represents the person I don’t want to become – I have to stay on guard and not let pragmatism overwhelm idealism.
10) “Just to Get By”, Pillar (Fireproof, 2002)
Say what you want about Pillar (and I’ll agree with most of it), but this song had a good “action movie” sort of feel going for it, and it was in-your-face about something that warranted getting all up in-your-face about: Lukewarm Christianity. it’s easy to belong to a society where you’re good as long as you follow the rules and stay out of trouble, but who’s really going above and beyond the call of duty and making a difference? Who’s getting over their fears and taking actual risks?
11) “Circles”, Incubus (Morning View, 2001)
I was quite delighted to find a theme of forgiveness, or at least the willingness to let go and not hold a grudge, running through so much of Morning View, and that’s probably why I played that album endlessly in 2002, because it was something that I had to learn to do that year. This song is about a man who ends up face-to-face with the person who burned him so badly, and he’s given the perfect opportunity to run the person down, but he decides to be merciful and drive away. What goes around comes around… until we decide not to perpetuate it.
12) “The Red”, Chevelle (Wonder What’s Next, 2002)
I suppose that some of these songs would have fit better next to the decompression of anger that was “One Step Closer”, but I didn’t want to frontload the CD with too many angry songs. This one’s about being in that state of “seeing red” and just wanting to punch or break something and somehow get the point across that you’re pissed off beyond the point of no return – I have enough of an easily frustrated streak in me to understand how that feels, even if it would never lead me toward physical violence toward a person. Sometimes the verbal explosions that come from it are enough to keep people at a distance – it’s a habit I’ve struggled all throughout my life to control.
13) “Darkness”, Peter Gabriel (Up, 2002)
A song about facing the things that scare the hell out of you. The whole reason I decided to check out a Peter Gabriel album was because I was so intrigued by someone’s description of this song’s ability to startle them that I had to hear it for myself. There’s this loud screech after a deceptively calm period which does the trick rather nicely – but looking deeper, it’s about the things that happen when you stand firm after the monster rears its ugly had and shouts “Boo!”, and the realization that the monster is really just as much of a scared little boy as you are. I suppose there are times when fear is a God-given response that keeps us out of trouble, but sometimes I get so wrapped up in the fear of awkwardness or embarrassment that I allow those timid little monsters to puff themselves up and get me all freaked out over nothing.
14) “God Put a Smile Upon Your Face”, Coldplay (A Rush of Blood to the Head, 2002)
I was pretty stoked about A Rush of Blood to the Head when it first came out. Part of it was probably because Coldplay was on the verge of becoming immensely popular, and I was presented with the rare opportunity to be the first one to review their album over at Epinions (this used to excite me a great deal; now I realize it’s better not to rush these things). I kind of had it in my mind that they were stubborn about playing slow songs, so I was delighted to hear a good number of “rock songs” on their new record, and I don’t think I really examined the album more deeply until much later. This song’s still solid, though. It’s apologetic like many of Coldplay’s best songs are – the guy’s admitting to his girl that he screwed up, and pleading for grace. Any guy who’s honest with himself knows what that feels like. I did this a fair amount with Christine when the long distance between us got the better of us, and I’d fail to be there for her on an evening we had agreed to meet up for a chat or whatnot. I failed to realize how much those little snubs hurt her, because I wasn’t used to being with someone who valued quality time with me so much (in my previous relationship, it had been the other way around).
15) “Fly”, Jars of Clay (The Eleventh Hour, 2002)
This wasn’t one of my favorite Jars songs at the beginning, but as I learned what it was about (a guy offering comfort as he holds his wife’s hand while she fights off a devastating disease), I grew to appreciate it as a song of support and devotion, a reminder to be strong for the one who loves me when she is hurting. Even when nothing life-threatening’s going on, I learned during those months apart that Christine’s mood could be greatly lifted by the simple reminder that I was there for her and that I admired, respected, and appreciated her so much. I tend to just assume a person knows these things and that I don’t have to verbally express them all the time. But then, when she reminded me of some positive attribute that I already knew she appreciated about me, or expressed her feelings for me all over again, it wasn’t like that didn’t have an effect on me. It’s amazing how easy it is to forget to say “I love you”, and to not realize the effect that such words can have on a person when spoken genuinely.
16) “Less Like Scars”, Sara Groves (All Right Here, 2002)
I fell in love with Sara Groves’ sweet, homespun style immediately when I heard this song. It’s a beautiful realization of how hindsight is 20/20, and how the things that hurt the most and that left some of the deepest scars on our souls turn out in the end to build our characters. If you’ve ever been so in love with something or someone that God knows is dangerous for you, and God chooses to intervene and basically do emergency surgery to remove whatever it is against your will, it can feel like you were laying awake throughout the entire operation, without anesthesia. That is to say, it hurts like hell. And it only makes sense later that the very thing you were kicking and screaming and trying to resist is what saved your life. This song helped me to look back at the things I’d learn after the break-up, and not only say, “Phew, I’m over it”, but to actually thank God for how I had been changed by the stuff that I had to go through.
To celebrate Winnie’s birthday that year, a bunch of us drove out to the Oak Glen area, east of San Bernardino, to go apple picking at Los Rios Rancho, one of the many orchards out that way. It’s a beautiful hidden area of the Inland Empire right up under the mountains that I never knew existed – lots of fertile land and green, forested areas. The particular orchard we went to actually closed down the area where paying customers could go in and pick before we had the chance, but we got to go on a quaint little hike that led us by a few streams and marshes, like the one pictured here. Just because of the various shades of green (my favorite color), this is one of my favorite CD covers that I’ve designed around a California picture (as opposed to my huge archive of overwhelmingly green pictures from Hawaii).
Where in the world is this?
1) “We Are Tomorrow”, Bleach (Again for the First Time, 2002)
Heather I and decided we couldn’t get enough of Relient K after their excellent performance at Fish Fest, so we got a few friends together and saw them at the Glass House in Pomona that fall. Bleach was the opening band, and I hadn’t really caught up with them since their first album in ’96, but this punchy little anthem from their latest album proved to be a highlight. Overall, I couldn’t tell the difference between most of their songs, and they left my ears ringing more than any band has in a great while, but they were notably energetic and fun; a good choice to open for RK.
2) “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything”, Relient K (Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie Soundtrack, 2002)
The day before the Relient K concert, Tim and I managed to convince a bunch of folks from Crossroads and some other random friends that we should go see the new VeggieTales movie on its opening night. it seemed humorously appropriate to go see a kids’ movie with a bunch of college students and recent grads, since the series has a sort of cult following among that age group. I don’t think some of them found it as amusing as we did, but I’m proud of us for doing it all the same. The next day, Relient K managed to perform their remake of the classic VeggieTales song all the way through (after telling us at FishFest that it was too complicated), which made for a great one-two punch following “I’m Lion-O”. You haven’t lived until you’ve stood amidst a crowd of a few hundred teenagers and college students, singing along to theme songs from kids’ shows!
3) “Wash”, Lifehouse (Stanley Climbfall, 2002)
Lifehouse’s second album always makes me think of Linda, because I met her at a game party put on by some Evergreeners who invited both of our Sedaqah groups, and we quickly learned that we had similar musical tastes, with this album being one of the first that we discussed in detail over the many Emails that followed. However, it didn’t take long before I started to learn that while we liked a lot of the same bands, we liked them for very different reasons, as evidenced by my infatuation with some of the “weirder” Lifehouse songs like this one, that she had trouble getting into. She favored some of the more straightforwardly spiritual/emotional ones instead – not that those were bad, mind you. This divergence in the reasons behind our musical taste has kind of developed into a friendly mutual antagonism since then. But it was the catalyst for me meeting one of my best friends, and for some reasons she still puts up with my playful ribbing after all these years, so I guess I owe Lifehouse one for being one of the seeds of those early music discussions.
4) “Savior Song”, Rachael Lampa (Kaleidoscope, 2002)
Well, this one’s pure teenybopper guilty pleasure. Not sure I can do much to defend a song whose chorus is “He did it, I get it, and now I’m caught up in it.” Once again, I blame Christine for my brief teen pop phase. I was trying to relate, OK?
5) “Breathing Life”, Salvador (Into Motion, 2002)
This one had some pretty solid Latin guitar work, for a slick CCM pop song. It’s about the last time I really paid much attention to Salvador, though.
6) “Your Kisses Blind Me”, The Benjamin Gate (Contact, 2002)
After Christine visited in August, I made two mix CDs to send to her, which I hoped would convey enough nostalgia and romantic feelings to get her through the long wait before we saw each other again. One was called “HeavenlyHawaii’s trip to California”, playing off of a Yahoo! screen name she had been using when we first met, and that contained songs documenting the concert festival we went to and other highlights of her visit here, and the other was called “Love Songs for My Island Princess”, a more romantic-themed mix. This song ended up on the romantic mix. It’s much more of a spiritual song than a love song, with its cosmic metaphors and all that, but I figured the title alone would be enough to conjure romantic visions in her head, so I went with it. I’ve always been liberal about the definition of “love songs” anyway, because when I make romantic-themed mixes, I like to make sure that the music is diverse.
7) “I Pictured It”, John Reuben (Hindsight, 2002)
Here’s a track that definitely isn’t a love song. It’s all about being so turned around by a negative influence (in this case, a former girlfriend, so of course I related immediately) that you don’t know which way’s up, until you look back later and see all of the damage that was done. It took me a long time to appreciate John Reuben’s stylistic shift on his second album – I remember describing it to Khat as sounding like Eminem. It didn’t really, but the emotions on some tracks (like this one) were more raw, and he definitely amped up the goofiness on the party songs. This one, despite being a bit of an oddity, remained my favorite, especially with its seething climax that rivaled the creepy, claustrophobic approach of “X-Ray”.
8) “Your House”, Jimmy Eat World (Bleed American, 2001)
A plea from a guy to a girl that he knows he’s going to end up losing, for her to stop trying to make him fall in love with her all over again. I never had anything like that happen to me. I’m actually grateful for that – as much as it hurt to get dumped cold turkey, at least it was a definite resolution instead of the numerous “temporary breakups” that a lot of couples seem to go through before finally calling it quits. Incidentally, I never could figure out the right timing when trying to duplicate the guitar strum from this song. It’s tricky!
9) “Damage Done”, Shaun Groves (Invitation to Eavesdrop, 2001)
This one seemed appropriate as an apology to follow up on the hurt from the last two songs – a guy who had burned the bridge between himself and a former friend offering to take the blame and rebuild. I seem to recall Shaun Groves himself pointing out that this song was true to life when he got involved in a discussion thread on the CMCentral boards (a place in which I spent far too much of my free time) on the subject of Christian songs that were “cheesy”, which somehow escalated into a bit of an argument, which led to Shaun’s effort to try to re-build the bridge even though he did’t really look like the one at fault from where I stood. I appreciated him for trying to be the bigger person about it, though.
10) “Many Crowns”, Jeff Deyo (Saturate, 2002)
This was a pretty rockin’ song that wasn’t too shabby in its attempt to recast the meaning of the hymn “Crown Him with Many Crowns” in more contemporary language. This, of course, was before Chris Tomlin took over in the “Take a well-known line from a hymn and make a completely different song out of it” department.
11) “Daylight”, Coldplay (A Rush of Blood to the Head, 2002)
This was actually my favorite song on Rush when it first came out – there was something incredibly hypnotic about the vaguely Middle Eastern guitar line and the sweeping melody. Why it took me so long to give “Clocks” its due, I’ll never know, but I still think this one is an underappreciated highlight (if a tad repetitive, but come on, what Coldplay song isn’t repetitive?)
12) “Candle”, All Together Separate (Unusual, 2002)
ATS met a premature end for unknown reasons after their second studio album, but at least they finished strong with a good slow-burner of a song about a candle remaining lit through the wind and rain and various elements that it was exposed to. It seemed like a good, meditative, after-hours sort of song to put after the last waning rays of “Daylight”.
13) “Maybe There’s a Loving God”, Sara Groves (All Right Here, 2002)
On the drive to and from Winnie’s birthday party, I had the opportunity to talk with her younger sister Lulu, who was attending Evergreen on and off with Winnie at the time, but I actually wasn’t sure if she was a Christian yet at that point. It sort of reminded me that I can’t assume anything about people I see at church on a regular basis – they may still be seeking and asking questions before fully diving and committing themselves to a system of belief that I’ve taken for granted since I was a young child. Part of me wonders what growing up in a “secular” environment for these people, and likes to imagine that God was dropping little hints in their lives that would make sense later – a tendency to question the meaning of the moon and stars in the sky, and the world around them, in ways that the pragmatic adults trying to raise them didn’t understand. Sara Groves puts herself in the shoes of a little girl who doesn’t yet know God in that song, who insists that there must be something greater out there which she doesn’t yet understand.
14) “Dunes”, Iona (The River Flows, 2002)
The otherworldly flute in Sara Groves’ song led perfectly into this instrumental track by Iona, which is a beautiful, crystalline composition evoking a peaceful landscape of freshly fallen snow. It’s part of a soundtrack that they did for a BBC documentary ages ago, which was released as part of their box set, which of course I couldn’t wait to get my hands on. Much like the quieter moments from Beyond These Shores, it gave me flashbacks to that trip to Tahoe during our alleged “Spring Break” in my final year of college.
15) “Melody of You”, Sixpence None the Richer (Divine Discontent, 2002)
The unbelievably long wait for Sixpence’s much-delayed new album finally ended in late October, and I was immediately enthralled by this gorgeous worship song, which deftly weaved together acoustic guitar, piano, and strings in a celebration of God’s creative love. Though the language spoke of God as a potent drink or a painting, not your typical words of praise heard on Sunday morning, it immediately spoke to the reasons why I enjoyed leading worship – it wasn’t to be made somehow more “holy” or to make other people think that I was, but to simply be a conduit as God tried to remind people of His creative genius transforming their lives into something new and unexpected. “A simple tune I only write variations to.”
16) “The World Can Wait”, Over the Rhine (Films for Radio, 2001)
This is the first really big influence that I have Josh to thank for – he championed Over the Rhine almost as if they were the Second Coming then (I exaggerate only slightly), and continues to do so today, and for that discovery, I owe him bigtime. I remember the day I sat quietly in my living room, reading a book while listening to Films for the first time. It was September 10, 2002, the day before the 1-year anniversary of 9/11, and I had a lot of melancholy thoughts on my mind due to that and due to a wearying debate I’d been having with some folks at the Rebel Base’s forums (which I guess I also have Josh to thank for!) regarding predestination versus freewill. It troubled me to not be able to track down a clear answer to that conundrum, and to have to let go of my previous position that freewill must have been right simply because it felt better. As those words came from the speakers – “If this should end tomorrow, all our best-laid plans and all our typical fears” – I stopped dead in my tracks and wondered if knowing the answer even mattered in this lifetime. Not that it’s bad to ask the hard questions, but knowing the answers (when they are even knowable) means nothing in comparison to truly knowing God – and this song was about the simple, beautiful peace of just knowing God and being known. The world can wait. The need to solve puzzles can wait. The constant demands of real life can take a breather, because I need this solitude, this chance to simply be with my genius of a Creator. Why do I so often get this backwards and tell God he can wait in favor of the myriad of other trivial things on my mind?