My Life in Music

Everybody walks to the beat of their own drum. Mine is a very different drum. That beat is what I hear in my head. My memories. My life. My hopes & dreams. This is the soundtrack to my life.


Laughter is eternity if joy is real

My dad loved this photo. He used to pull it out anytime he wanted to show people pictures of his once epic afro.

He loved it, but I hated it. Every time someone saw a picture of my dad and his hippy hair, they also saw a picture of me in a diaper... wearing my mom's boots. I was embarrassed every time this picture got a public viewing. Dad had other pictures of the massive afro - yet this is the one he displayed. I always thought he was intentionally trying to humiliate me.

I couldn't see the picture for what it was. It was a part of who my dad's identity - his history. But it was also a picture of me... his adorable two year old. Maybe I needed to hear the statement in U2's newest single Get on Your Boots a little more often - "you don't know how beautiful you are."

The embarrassment wasn't intentional. However, there was a purpose in his choice of this picture. It may have been pride in his death defying hair (and who wouldn't be proud to rock an afro like that), but it was also pride in me - his youngest son. The awesome afro wasn't the focus of this picture but a side benefit. The reason for this photo was the boots. My parents wanted a picture of their son doing something ridiculously cute.

I, like most boys have always striven to make my father proud. This picture is proof of a truth I wish I had have known when I was younger: I didn't need to earn my father's pride and there was nothing I could do to make him proud of me. He has always been proud of me, for no reason. I was his son, and that was enough.

I get it now. And I can laugh at this picture. All things considered, I'm sure I have an embarrassing arsenal of photos of my son doing equally (if not greater) ridiculous things. Like my father was proud of me, I am proud of my son - in all his goofy ways.

Get on Your Boots appears on the recently released album No Line on the Horizon.

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Just look around and you'll find the very face of God

Aside from music, mountains were an essential part of my formative years. It is there that I discovered God; there that I first saw how our world is relatively small. Each summer, I spent my days on a trail. I explored the beauty of nature, and the nature of the way things are. And I grew up. A lot.

The trip down was always amazing. It was the same path, but a different sight. With a different perspective, there were new things to see. When you climb a mountain, your focus on the trip up is always on the goal - the peak you are climbing. But what do you look at on the hike back down? You can't look behind you; walking down a mountain backwards would be dangerously foolish. Much like life, you should only look back to remember... to see where you've been.

And so you descend. Elated with accomplishment, exhausted from the climb up. There is an unexplainable feeling that you were in a holy place. You gain a new perspective.

Through my experiences, walking down from many mountains, I feel the significance of words sung in Walk Down This Mountain by Bebo Norman. "So walk down this mountain with your heart held high. Follow in the footsteps of your maker. With this love that's gone before you and these people at your side. If you offer up your broken cup you will taste the meaning of this life."

I was glad to have people with me on those hikes, to be able to share those trails with people who cared about me. Even now, I am grateful that I am not alone.

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Every waking hour I'm chosing my confession

For me, R.E.M. is the quintessential depressing music for happy people... or the happy music for depressed people. One of the two, I'm not sure which. They are however one of the few bands that I can listen to no matter what mood I'm in. And sometimes, that's a good thing. Many of their songs bring to mind deeply personal memories - from Everybody Hurts, to Shiny Happy People, or Orange Crush.

And then there's Losing My Religion. Every time I hear that song, I can't help but smile. I can't help but blissfully sing along. "That's me in the corner. That's me in the spotlight, losing my religion." But, where Michael Stipe lost his faith in the spotlight, that's the place I found mine.
That's me in the spotlight. And yes, I'm wearing leather pants. For about two years I helped manage and promote The Tommymonsters - three of the best friends I've ever had. Once, I took the stage with them... for their Halloween show. I played along for two songs- Gazillion Miles and Journal (the only two that I knew how to play). These two pictures are more to me than just one concert on one night. They represent a huge part of my life. From the time I was in high school through the time Bekah and I got married, I was involved in the local music scene in some way, shape, or form. Even now, five years later, I still find much of my identity in music.

I discovered my faith because of music. Defined myself through music. And experienced some of the most phenomenal personal growth and learning around other musicians. Without that influence, I would not be who I am today. If I were to rewrite R.E.M.'s classic, I'd sing "That's me in the corner. That's me in the spotlight, finding my religion."
Steve's the guy in the Mexican sombrero. Tommy is wearing the Oriental straw hat. Nate (behind the drum set) had an afro wig. I went with the rockstar look. Enjoy the pictures of me in leather pants. And go listen to music that brings you joy.

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When the world was younger

This is my parent's life; in 1981 they were young parents with a growing active family. I don't remember if my dad was still in ministry, but I know at one point he was. I don't remember if this was written while my mom was the church secretary, or before. What I do know, is that my mom wrote it (her ornate cursive/print blended handwriting is unmistakable), it was written to my great-grandparents, and it was never sent. (click on the picture for a more legible view)

If I do the math correctly, this was written when mom was the age I am now. That was close to the time (maybe a little before) dad left full time ministry. That was a big time of change in our lives, and those transitions are echoing in my life to day. It was their life. And it is slowly becoming mine. Christian is approaching school-age; Zu is the happy toddler that keeps everyone on their toes.

As I slowly grow into the person my parents were, I can't help but wonder who they wanted to be. What were their dreams? What did they plan for their lives? Twenty-seven years later, are they who they thought they'd be?

When I look through old family photos and unsent letters from the time when my parents were my age, I hear Switchfoot in my head. And I want to sing along, "This is your life, are you who you want to be. This is your life, is it everything you dreamed that it would be." I can't help but wonder what kind of people that my parents would be if things had have happened differently. Or what kind of men that Aaron and I would have become if our parents had have made different choices. I guess that's the curse of being a parent is never knowing for sure how your decisions today will effect your kids in 20 years - and the son's curse is never wanting to repeat your father's mistakes. We do our best, but you can't help but wonder.

This is Your Life is from Switchfoot's fourth album The Beautiful Letdown. While not my favorite album of theirs, it is one of their best... and it is one of the few albums I'd recommend to anyone. Several years ago (at least nine, because I still lived in Seattle) I told my dad that if I was ever in a band, I'd want to make music like Switchfoot. Funny how things change. This is my life. Am I who dreamed that I would be? How about you. Are you who you want to be?

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Superman plays doctor

In my pre-preschool days, my favorite pajamas was this Superman outfit - complete with cape (the toy doctors set was not a part of the outfit, but somehow I managed to combine medicine and the world of superheroes). My cousin and I used to pretend that we were Superman and Lois Lane. Of course, at that age, I didn't understand that Lois was a romantic interest of Clark Kent... I just thought she was a accident prone girl that always needed rescue.

Ah, the lessons we learn as we grow up.

Shortly after graduating high school, I picked up Blindside's self-titled debut album. During some difficult times, I often found solace in this brutally crushing album. Even now, in a more stable place in my life, this is one of those albums that I can listen to over and over - one of those albums that I can play at full volume through my car's stereo and scream along with it, while not feeling remotely silly.

One song has become an anthem for me, a song titled Superman. Not because I have an unhealthy megalomaniacal self-image, but because the song touches that strange dichotomy between who I am and who I once was. The lyrics clearly recognizes weaknesses in our humanity: "Just like you with my hands I can make mistakes. I wish that I could stop playing superman. I have decided to let the case drop. I'm not superman ." The four year old version of me had high hopes, but today, I realize I'm no Superman.

It's strange how, as kids, we want nothing more than to be heroes. We want to save the world. Why is it that as adults, we lose that dream? Is the real world to heavy a burden?

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