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Sharing life together, though complete and utter strangers

In art, Community, culture, devotional, faith, familiy, home, music, poetry, politics, Prayer, Spiritual, Uncategorized on November 10, 2012 by mstevensrev Tagged: ,

Moments in this life take on a forever quality that I would have thought could only be reserved for heaven.  Last night was on of them.  This month I turn 36 years old, still a kid I know, and Karin and I went to a house concert of a music hero of mine name Bill Malonee who I have have been listing to for twenty years.  There are many times that Bill’s path has crossed mine and each has been significant and meaningful to me, some directly others indirectly, some glorious others painful. I’ll start with how I ‘met’ Bill and then I’ll tell you my favorite story about him.

I moved back from living overseas my first to years of high school.  The transition back had it’s challenging chief among them was I got cut from the varsity basketball team of my new school after having played varsity for two years overseas previously, thanks Coach Brotias.  Suddenly my plan to be the next Bobby Hurley and start at Duke was looking like it was in jeopardy. In addition I had not registered for a beach trip a group of my new friends were going on with my church because it conflicted with basketball.  I was left discouraged and going to be alone in it, until this small group of young guys (5 of them) made sure that I was going to the beach with them. That was a long way around the barn, so I’ll get to it.  On the three hour ride to the beach instead of riding on the huge bus, where all the girls were which should have been motivation for us, my group of guys piled into a small van, probably the worst smelling van in history.  There we had our own boombox to control the music we listen to on the way.  Erik Crown brought his Jimmy Buffett tapes.  Being new to the group and from a family of teetotalers this was highly offensive and I struggled with listening to ‘drinking’ songs while going on a church retreat.  Little did I know these young men were setting me on a journey more theologically rich and challenging then I could ever imagine and they were using music.  This is the same group of guys who introduced me to Bill Malonee, the story would only be better if his name were Bill W:)

ImageBill Malonee was the writer and frontman for a group call Vigilantes of Love, or for fans like us VOL. They were a gritty thoughtful theological rock band with folk influence from Athens, GA.  VOL and Bill’s lyrics became a soundtrack for my life, one learning to love mercy, seek justice and walk humbly. My soul was fed and challenged with lyrics like:

I’ve been trying to negotiate peace 
with my own existence. 
She’s gotta stockpile full of weaponry; 
she breaking every cease-fire agreement.
-Welcome to Struggleville

Now look if you’re gonna come around here 
And say those sort of things 
You gotta take a few on the chin 
You talking about love and all that stuff 
You better bring your thickest skin 
Sometimes you can’t please everyone 
Sometimes you can’t please anyone at all 
You sew your heart onto your sleeve 
And wait for the ax to fall
-Skin

It’s amazing what you’ll buy if you think last chance went buy
You weave a new set of lines to cover yourself
‘Cos love is just a plea at the deepest point of need
We take the reasonable facsimile most of the time

-Reasonable Facsimile

If Bill approached faith with gloves it was not the white gloves I was used to it was boxing gloves, and he seemed in my mind to be on the receiving end of the punches…most of the time.

Years later one of my closest friends played bass in a band, The River, from Eastern College in Philadelphia. The River found their inspiration from bands like Creedence Clearwater Revival, in your face Southern Rock with a great lead singer who’s voice clearly woke you up.  The River’s first big show was to open for Vigilantes of Love and they were honored at the opportunity.  Nervous and extremely excited they took the stage, played their set, during and afterward they knew there was something terribly wrong. Later that night while hanging out with Bill, he showered them with complements about their potential and asked, “Would you like some advice for the future?” Receiving wisdom from an artist that had made it was a great opportunity so my friend said yes and in all humility and graciousness Bill said, “You guys have some real talent, for the future I would just invest in a tuner.” The River is no more but the story lives in rock and roll lore as one of the most gracious and hilarious moments, on par with anything that was scripted in the movie, We are Spinal Tap.

ImageSo last night I had to opportunity to experience a house show with Bill Malonee and his wife Mariah. Time has not stood still, Bill has a son only ten years my junior and I have three daughters who did not exist when I was introduced to Bill.  As I sat on the floor at Bill’s feet, he poured out his soul, challenging me to remember those who have died as a result of corporate greed in West Virginia coal mines, wooing me with lyrics of songs that have transformed my soul from the past, and introducing me to a new friend Seth Martin. In a world that I have information on anything I want, Bill reminded me that there will always be those who are called to be prophet. Whether they are riding in boxcars like Woody Guthrie or playing Madison Square Garden like Bob Dylan, I need a prophet to speak or rather sing into my life reminding and rekindling my soul as to what is important.

Today my soul is rekindled, may you take a moment yourself and listen to one of my favorites of Bill’s called Double Cure.

ImageThanks Bill.

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2 Responses to “Sharing life together, though complete and utter strangers”

  1. What a great description of a fantastic night. I love those moments when heaven touches earth. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Michael, I like this man’s advice to “The River” about investing in a tuner. As a sub teacher who often rehearses music classes, my job is to instill in students basic musical skills – intonation, rhythm, tempo, ensemble (playing well together) and balance.

    People who communicate spiritual truths with excellence (basic skills) based on considerable effort, education and experience are to be respected for their work.

    What communicates truths to one group of people will not necessarily connect with another group of people because of the varying amount of exposure to and education in different styles of music from different cultures.

    Individuals and groups of people have different “tastes” in music, depending on their exposure to kinds of music and their education in music (this can be extended to other areas of culture, including literature, acting/theatre, dance, whatever).

    When people don’t know basic skills (lack the education or knowledge of what is skilled and what is unskilled) and/or are not open to different styles – then one runs culture “wars”.

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