Upland Indiana September 21, 1996
Transcription by Sandy McMullen
[I Will Sing]
[Hope To Carry On]
(tuning guitar) Thank you very much. This is a...really fun to be here tonight. We gotta tune a little bit. I don't know why I try to tune, because I'm pretty tone deaf. (laughter) But people, professionals do this. So I'm (laughter) is something wrong with that one? (still tuning) Can you tell this is out of tune?
(voice from audience) Yes! (more laughter)
Rats! Well, if it bugs you, leave! (laugher) And you know I always hate people, all my friends, I mean, I have a lot of friends that are musicians and stuff, and they always tune their guitars for hours, endless hours. And I just go - (audience laughs in response to his action, he continues tuning) I think that's better. Ok anyway, this is a song that I wish I would have written but I didn't and a lot of people tell me it's their favorite song of mine. So I never tell them, under those circumstances, that I didn't write it. It's a song by Dougie McClain and it's called "Ready For The Storm."
[Ready For The Storm]
(applause, then laughter in response to his tangle with a microphone stand)
Yeah, professional musicians tune, and they don't get their guitar stuck in the microphone. Oh, well. This is a song that has this guitar part that goes: (plays guitar lick from "Where You Are" but with considerable difficulty,) so every time we get to that part just imagine that it's happening.
[Where You Are]
I'll do this song next because everyone always thinks I'm saying a bad word in it, but the word is 'ship.' (laughter) It doesn't make any sense that you would jump off the other stuff (laughter) so that you can walk on water. So...
[Screen Door] (piano)
Hey, I'm gonna do a really morose song now, because this is getting entirely too happy. (laughter) And that's the reason why I'm on my way out, because, you know, you 'Generation X'ers are also morose. And I have to work really hard at being angry, like you guys can be so naturally. So I'm thinking, I'm not gonna be a lot of fun for many more years, so that's why we're charging a lot of money at our concerts now. (laughter)
Anyway, this is as angry as I'll probably be able to get. It's a song I wrote about breaking up. Because, I was listening to Christian radio one day, which is something I'm not in the habit of doing, if I have to be honest. I don't suppose I do, nobody is probably gonna drill me about it later. But I think most people just listen to too much radio, and too many records. We ought to have a little more silence in our lives, because I think, you know, it's just too cluttery, the way most of us live.
But anyway, one day we were stuck in a radio station waiting on an interview, and after about an hour of listening, I realized that one of the things missing in Christian music was good break-up songs. (laughter, applause) You know, if you listen to Christian radio, you get the feeling like everyone is part of that Focus on the Family group, or something. (laughter) So this is a song I wrote because I figure I'm probably not the only Christian who ever was fourteen, and ever got his ring back from his girlfriend. So...
[We Are Not As Strong] (piano)
[Sing Your Praise] (piano)
(tuning guitar again) This is a song we wrote, me, another... a bunch of these songs me and Beaker wrote. We're gonna do some songs that Mitch and me and Beaker wrote, too. (still tuning) This we wrote, just on a... I used to live with James Bryan Smith and his wife Megan and their little boy, Jacob. And Jim, I call him Jim... was working on a book called Embracing the Love of God at the time... It's published by Broadman and Holman in case you want to buy it! ...And so, me and him and Beaker were sitting out on the front porch talking about the whole thing of trying to love people and not expect anything out of them. And Megan said, hey, the coffee's ready, and so Jim went in to pour it, and when he came back out, me and Beaker had written this song. And it's called "Brother's Keeper."
Here's another song me and Beaker wrote about the same time. This took a long time to write, because Beaker... his wife Julie found out that they were gonna have a baby, and so he wanted to write a song for the, for their baby who wasn't born yet. And they were one of these odd birds that wouldn't find out what it was with the ultrasound business. So it was really hard to write a song not knowing whether we were writing to a little girl or a little boy. Not that there's a lot of difference in what you would say to them. But, you know, we had to, we had to wait until Aidan was born to really make it a personal song. So one weekend we were out at my teepee, and we were looking at pictures of Aidan, and this is what we came up with.
[Let Mercy Lead]
Ok, we'll try a couple of dulcimer songs here. (cheers from audience) We'll start out with an Irish song. ('whoop!' from someone in audience, Rich responds) It's not really Irish, (laughter) but it was written in Ireland. So I consider it Irish. (tuning dulcimer) Heh! Ok, this will be way out of tune so those of you who get bugged by it need to leave now! (still tuning) The only thing about dulcimers, I hit so many wrong notes, it doesn't, I don't need to worry about how out of tune it is. (laughter) So this is named after the place where we stayed on our first trip to Ireland. And it's called '78 Eatonwood Green.'
[78 Eatonwood Green]
[Calling Out Your Name]
Was my dulcimer not 'on' the whole time?
Well, listen. (plays notes) Is it on now? (plays more notes)
(affirmative from audience)
Of course it was so out of tune with the guitar, you're probably lucky. (playing dulcimer) Well, I'll play a little dulcimer song, then. This is when Karl Barth was a really old man, someone asked him a very stupid question. Which... (stops playing) probably all brilliant men are asked stupid questions. You know, there's that thing that you learn in education classes, that there is no such thing as a stupid question, only stupid answers. But I think, given that there probably are really no answers anywhere in the whole wide world, there is probably no such thing as a smart question. That we're probably stupid for asking anything. So... except that curiosity is just a healthy part of being human. And it always cracks me up, people who always say, "Soon as I get to heaven, I'm gonna ask God about this or that." I'm kind of going, wow. If you've still got that on your mind when you get to heaven, then maybe you don't need to bother going. (laughter) You know, Karl Barth - are you guys Barth fans? Is he popular here at Taylor?
Well, he is blamed for being the father of neo-orthodoxy. Of course a lot of guys get blamed for that, that kind of thing. And it's not always really their fault. (plays a bit on dulcimer) He was world famous. And when he was very old, he was doing a series of lectures, and during a question and answer period someone asked him, "Could you give us the most profound statement of Christian theology?" And this is Karl Barth's answer to that stupid question.
[Jesus Loves Me] (instrumental)
Hey, we've got a new surprise for ya! (pulls out mandolin, laughs) Well, we don't play these no better than we play the rest of that stuff. But at least it's different. This is a... we will now attempt to do a Bach invention. (plucking strings) Or something like that. (to Mitch) Ready?
[Bach duet on mandolins with Mitch]
I just wanted to that for you guys, because I think a lot of people think that Christian music was invented by Larry Norman. (audience cheers) I'm a big fan of Larry's and all, but actually, Christian music goes back, you know, all the way to, well, if we count the Old Covenant, then it goes all the way back to, say, even before the Old Covenant, say Jubal, or so. So it ain't no new thing.
And I think one of the things that worries me a little bit about people nowadays, is especially now that everybody's changing hymnals. 'Cause you kind of go, you know, I'm all in favor of inclusive language, when it comes to, you know, when we're trying to talk with one another, I think that's important. But as a writer, I know how much it hacks me off when people change my words. And so I think, you know, it's nice to be inclusive, but write your own daggone hymns if you want to be inclusive. (cheers and applause)
We have a wonderful heritage of music in the Christian church. And as an education major, one of the, just so much that was talked about in education classes, I kind of went, man, growing up in church did so much more for me than education and the schools ever did. (laughter) I mean, you talk about multiculturalism, I got to say "Hello, how are you," in about fifty different languages because every year at VBS - Vacation Bible School - we had a missionary speaker. And we always got to dress up like them, and learn to say "Hi," and that sort of thing. So there was a lot of multiculturalism involved in church and everything. We have a great thing going. And I just hope that you all don't get all wrapped up in stuff that makes you forget it. How lucky we are, to be Christians and to have churches and all that.
(Rich begins "Boy Like Me, Man Like You" on piano, bungles a line by singing) "me they wrapped in swaddling clothes" (catches himself, stops playing, says) No, You they wrapped in swaddling clothes! (aside to the audience) "I get us confused all the time." (audience laughs, Rich continues with the song)
[Boy Like Me/Man Like You]
[If I Stand]
Calling Mitch McVicker. Mitch McVicker, please report to the Lost Children booth. Your parents are waiting to go home. (laughter) Normally works! (laughter) 'Course, nothing ever works all the time. That's one of the things I love about life, is how it almost makes sense, and then it just stops, just so, so short of making sense. (plays notes on dulcimer) Can you hear that?
Oh, good. (yells) Hey, Mitch!
(Rich calling to Mitch) Hey, you don't play good enough to show up late!
(sympathetic ah's from audience, Rich calls Mitch by whistle)
(voice from audience) He's taking a dump!
Well, we all have to sometime. (plays some notes on dulcimer) Anyway, let me go get him. I'll be right back. 'Scuse me.
(after a few minutes audience begins chanting) "Mitch! Mitch! Mitch! Mitch!"
(cheers from audience as Rich and Mitch return)
(Rich sighs) Yes. To be deducted from next month's pay.
[Awesome God] (audience sings along)
Whoa! You guys have been a lot of fun to play for. We're both a little bit frazzled, as you might have guessed. And I was gonna say, I start talking about home, because I don't know why, as I get older, I want to spend more time at home. When I get there, I get real uncomfortable, because it doesn't really feel like home, either.
I just wrote a line for Beaker one time. Because, you know how hard it is for guys to tell each other they love each other? We're just, we're so homophobic that we can't even be honest. So I really wanted to tell Beaker I loved him. So I wrote this really stupid song for him that I thought was kind of funny. And I included a woman's name, because my audience is so homophobic, that if I wrote a song for a guy they would stop buying my records, and let's face it, I gotta make a living.
The line that I especially liked was "if your home is just another place where you're a stranger." Because I think, I think so many of us are looking for that place where we really fit. Where we really belong. And the bad news is that I don't think that there is such a place. I think that part of being human is being alone. And being lonely. I think one of the stresses on a lot of our friendships is that we require that the people we love take away that loneliness. And they really can't. And so, when we still feel lonely, even in the company of people we love, we become angry with them because they don't do what we think they're supposed to. Which is really something that they can't do for ya. So don't be mad at each other over this. Don't be disillusioned with each other just because you feel lonely around each other.
Remember, we are a fallen people. And we thought, our ancestors thought, so many stupid things. Course what thoughts aren't really stupid, when you get down to the bottom of it all. Sooner or later, we all die. And when you're dead, your brain is just gonna rot away, so all those thoughts you're keeping up there ain't gonna do nobody no good. (laughter) Worms will like it one way just as well as the other.
And never forget that someday you will be dead. Because that's, that's just as sure as anything I can think of. So love each other as much as you can right now. Because this may be the last day you've got to love each other. Don't love each other because you think you'll be less lonely if you do. There's no point in that.
And don't try to get even, don't waste a lot of time trying to get even with each other. Because you never really do. Our ancestors thought if they ate of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, that they would be like God. The truth was, not only did they not find out good from evil, but they also were unable to know God after that. Not only were they unable to know God, they were unable to know each other. Not only were they unable to know each other, they were unable to know themselves. And that is our, that is our heritage, folks.
You will be lonely for a good part of your life, so just get used to it. Remember, someday you'll be dead. It won't last forever. So while you still have life, love everybody you can love. Love them as much as you can love them. Don't try to keep them for yourself. Because when you're gone, they'll just resent you for having left. Love freely. Remember that, after we die - and I don't know how it all goes together - in fact, I know so little any more that I'm not really sure why I try and say anything to anybody. But I get the strong feeling from reading the Bible that after we die, that somehow, Christ is going to raise us up again.
And somehow we'll be a body, still. But we'll be different than we are now. A new body's what we get, I've got a great one on order. (laughter) If Playgirl saw what I had in my mind for my next body, they would hire me now for pictures in the next life. (laughter) You laugh, but someday you'll be astonished. (more laughter) I'll have no bags under my eyes, I'll have a jaw line, biceps - the whole works. I'll be a 'jock.' Either a jock or a fife player, I haven't decided which.
And I kept thinking, maybe somehow, if I really read the Bible, if I really studied, my faith, that that would give me a sense of belonging, that I would find some kind of home there. And the funny thing is that I haven't, yet.
People often ask me what I believe. Which always cracks me up, because you always think, well, why would I write that song, 'Creed,' if I didn't believe it? That should pretty much outline it for ya. They want to know what my millennial view is. I don't even have a millennial view. I can't see it. They want to know what I think about baptism. Well, I think a lot of things about baptism, but I don't really know what I believe about it. My faith isn't in that. My faith isn't in Creationism. Certainly isn't in the Religious Right kind of reasoning. Everything that has ever happened has failed, and it will continue to fail. But I think that's because God is a jealous God. And He will not share us even with our best ideas about Him.
And when Christ has stripped away all of your 'phony-baloney' kind of systematic theology, all of your lame, Protestant kind of stupidity, all of your Catholic hang-ups, when Christ has stripped away everything that we have invented about Him, then maybe we will encounter Him as He really is. And we will know ourselves as we really are. So don't be afraid that your faith gets shaken. Could be that God is shaking you forward, and shaking you free.
And the issue is not which side of which fence you end up on. The issue is really, has to do with, what does it mean to love Christ? What does it mean to obey Him? And I'm not really even sure what that is. But if there is any meaning in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, it is this: that there is a God who created us, and who loves us so much that He would stop at nothing to bring us to Him.
And I really suspect that of all the things we think we want to know, the only thing we really want to know, is that we are loved. And if Jesus means anything, He means that you are loved. I hope you know that.
And I hope you stop worrying about all the stuff you don't know, because I don't think it amounts to a hill of beans. This is a song that Beaker wrote the chorus to. I wish I would have written this chorus, because it's one of my favorite things that I never wrote. (laughter) And it sounds so good if you all sing it. So (begins intro to "Sometimes By Step") I wrote these verses, but mostly because I wanted to get writing credit. I'm not sure they really fit in this song, though. I don't know what else to sing in the meantime. So...
[Sometimes By Step] (audience finishes acappella)