Michael Sweet Threw a Bible, and I Caught It: My First Christian Rock Show!

I’ve been avoiding music shows lately– I’m tired of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll being championed.

The gold set list on my black leather jacket-- God and rock 'n roll!

The gold set list on my black leather jacket– God and rock ‘n roll!

Tired of hearing rants about how wasted they got on the way to the show, challenging the audience to do shots. I know it’s all part of the image and that partying is what the industry is built upon. But I don’t drink or do drugs and although I go for the music and have a great time, I get tired of being one of the only sober people in the room. Tired of being hit on.

Luckily, my friend Tammie had invited me to see STRYPER last night! And I felt totally at home.

Everyone from the bands to the road crew setting up seemed to be sober. Maybe a few weren’t– but it definitely changed the atmosphere for the better. They played Tailgaters Sports Bar & Grill in Bolingbrook, IL.

People DRANK Coke, rather than bragging about doing it. I saw crosses, not cleavage, everywhere. Mostly, I saw a lot of respect. For the band, for the audience, for the venue.

The show was exactly what I needed after work, especially since a co-worker told me, “You look like a nun.”

She didn’t mean it as a compliment, although nuns ARE awesome. I ran home and dressed up for the first time in months, it seems. I wore a white shirt that I love with golden crosses all over it, and my favorite dangly heart earrings. I put on eye-liner and mascara and actually used hairspray! I searched frantically for the Stryper album I still have on CD, but couldn’t find it. My phone was nowhere to be found so I Facebooked my friend that I was leaving, Googled directions and wrote them down, and got to Tailgator’s within about 25 minutes.

My friend Tammie was waiting for me at the door, bless her. She’s always been a steadfast friend. Even better, she had bought our tickets in advance and we had a table RIGHT by the stage! In the left corner, where Michael Sweet would step out later on a few times.

The two opening bands were wonderful– Ignescent, and Signature. The first was definitely a Christian band, and I don’t think the second was, but I really enjoyed both! As always, I missed a lot that I couldn’t hear– but the musicianship and performances were great. I loved the fact that Ignescent front woman Jennifer Benson was a petite woman about my size. Seeing her up there rocking out– for the Lord!– was so inspiring. I loved that she still locked like a rocker, but modest as well. She had on a black dress, black shredded jeans, and a cute black skirt and black shoes. On the way to the bathroom, I met her! She talked to me for a few minutes and had the best smile. She was really sweet.

When I returned, Signature lead singer Sami Carava walked by me and gave me a sweaty kiss on the cheek, and I grinned.

And as set-up began for STRYPER, I saw the set list being duct-taped down, right in front of us! Black tape.

Bass player Tim Gaines was directly in front of us.

I asked Tammie to use her phone to look-up the verse on the banner behind the drum kit, Isiah 53:5. She had a Bible app! We scrolled down and found it, and I loved it.

Once the set began, I was transported.

Earlier, Tammie had posted a Facebook photo of a BIBLE Stryper had thrown into the crowd Friday night at an acoustic show at the same venue. This was the electric show. As soon as I saw that, I decided my goal would be to GET ONE myself! She also had a yellow guitar pick, given away for their 30th Anniversary tour– they began in 1984.

I saw the tiny hornet-yellow picks set up on each mic with an apparatus that had them lined up for the band members to toss to the crowd.

During, “Call and Respond,” Michael Sweet was throwing Bibles.

I JUMPED out of my chair and waved my hand without shame. “ME!! ME!!”

He looked at me, smiled and tossed one to me. I caught it!! It’s pocket-sized, perfect.

And suddenly, GOD is rock n’ roll. I am so excited to see a legendary band like Stryper endorsing the Bible. Plus, it’s the most genius gimmick ever. It’s the NIV, New Testament. It’s black, with a black band sticker.

They embodied the virtue of charity, throwing out several Bibles and guitar picks.

Sweet was riveting. I loved the Abalone squares on his guitar, and the fact that he wore nice black leather shoes, like a gentleman. Black jeans with yellow crosses down the leg and on his back pocket.

And it was so clearly about the MUSIC, the Lord, and the fans. He talked to us. But unlike every other front man I’ve ever seen, he wasn’t leering or gyrating. He was there to praise, not seduce. To commune with the fans, not challenge them to get wasted. He asked for a show of hands of fans who had been to past shows– smiled in recognition at some of them.

I realized why MUSIC is the booming business it is. It’s healing, on a soul level. And how much pressure Christian bands must face to conform– the gigs they lose and the money the pass up, to adhere to their faith. The pressure they all face to sexualize themselves to sell more albums.

I’m going to look for more Christian bands. Not so say I’m abandoning secular music– but I love the atmosphere of a Christian show and I’ll take the challenge to find more!

During a set break, Tammie showed me the Rosary she had made with rose petals from her mother’s funeral, 15 years ago. I was so happy she let me hold it, it was the most intricate Rosary I’ve ever seen. I’m Catholic and she’s Non-Denominational Christian, but we focus on what we have in common. Earlier this week, we’d talked about attempting to learn to pray the Rosary together. I love that she wants to share that with me, even though she’s not Catholic. What an extraordinary display of friendship.

Whenever I have doubts about this blog, Tammie is there reassure me I should keep going. She’s been a subscriber since she learned about it.

I felt Christ’s presence in that room. Maybe that’s a bold thing to say, but I’m alright with that.

I’ve been looking frantically for His presence– I only thought I could find it in Mass. I’ve been anxious because when my work schedule changes, I won’t likely be able to go to Mass as often, or maybe at all. But now I know you really don’t need to go to a church to find Him.

God, Christ, whoever you identify with– He’s all around us. If you only have the courage to look.

Seek the GOOD– and you will find it.

And I was reassured that I’m not alone in my faith walk. I never wondered what denomination anyone was– it didn’t matter. I felt united under God’s rock concert. We’re all struggling. We’re all trudging forward, best we can.

A man at the table to my immediate left held up two fingers in a cross sign. I saw people closing their eyes, being still- seemingly in prayer.

I loved when he said the band was going to “stop trying to be modern,” (If I heard that right!) and just go back to their roots. This was their last American tour stop before heading out to Brazil. What are the odds that I got to see them!? God’s brought me there for a reason.

I’m an old-fashioned gal, who doesn’t often feel at home in this newfangled world. Hear, hear! I was bummed that earlier I couldn’t find the CD of theirs I had bought in 2005, which still have! I wanted to show it to them, maybe try and get it signed. But look what I got instead!

God’s abundance. Thanks for reading this far– I know I’m a verbose lady!

They closed with an encore performance– “To HELL with the Devil!” That’s the only song I previously knew, and it was absolutely perfect. I was AWED that Sweet’s voice really IS as operatic as it sounded every time I played it in my car.

I bought my first and only Stryper CD in 2005, when I was living in Freeport and working as a news reporter. I interviewed a woman who was selling a bunch of random things in her home– and I snatched up that album.

Now I write on my own terms– with this blog.

The best moment of the night was after they closed with their encore performance, “To Hell with the Devil,” of course!! FINALLY, the audience all got to their feet. I had thought they were a little TOO respectful, all sitting down the whole time.

But it was also just like any other rock show– there were still drunk women lunging at the stage.

Last night was I reminded I’m right where I need to be for me, right now.

Especially when as the road crew packed up, a man HANDED ME the set list with a smile! I screamed and taped it on the back of my leather jacket. I didn’t worry about anyone stealing it, and no one did.

Tammie was so happy for me, too.

Robert Sweet fist-bumped me, and Ox Fox shook my hand as they exited the stage. They were so gracious.

We stopped at the merch table on the way out, and I decided to buy myself a birthday present: I’ll be 34 next month. I don’t have anything planned as of yet. I’ve gotten down on myself in the past for not having the markers of “adulthood” yet– not being settled down with a family and mortage.

I’m still renting and I’m single.

But God gave me this FREEDOM for a reason. And I’m grateful. I’ll enjoy it as long as I’ve got it!

I spied a hoodie with– what else?– To hell With the Devil– on the back, in yellow script lettering. I asked if there any smalls?

ONE left.

Most of my money these days goes toward basic expenses: food, bills, gas. Books. I rarely buy clothes.

But I decided I deserved this. And I gave myself permission to splurge and get it. Now I’ve got a perfect new hoodie for fall, and I can’t wait for Stryper fans to stop me and talk to me about it!

I’m sure that’ll inspire some conversations about religion and God, with all sorts of people.

I can’t wait.

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Online Dating and Hilarity

I’m back out there, after a sabbatical! The wilderness of online dating.

I just joined 13 days ago– and my profile is blowing up! I decided to take a different attitude this time. Before, I wrote a very detailed summary of my personality, with a lot of jokes in it. This time I kept it simple– and I focused on my core values, especially my faith. I injected a bit of humor. In the past, I was very specific about what kind of man I’m looking for– this time, I barely listed anything. I figure I’ll just tell them who I am, and the right one will come my way.

And hey, so far it’s working!

Tonight I went on my first date. And it was okay– but definitely not love. He was a nice enough guy, but not once in two hours did I really laugh. That’s the thing for me– I’ve gotta laugh. I’m looking for a partner and a best friend who will make me laugh until I can’t breathe, but has a heart bigger than Andre the Giant. I used to think I hated sarcastic guys, but I’ve realized over the years that they’ve grown on me. So many of my friends are wickedly sarcastic, and people always say that I am too. I don’t usually claim that description for myself, but for me it just means that I can laugh at myself and usually find the humor in anything– except when someone is just being blatantly ignorant or cruel.

He wore one of those cheesy vacation t-shirts, and I have to say it was a turn-off. I put effort into my style for dates! However if I had liked him, I probably would have found it charming.

He lost my vote when he said that blogging is completely “pointless,” and unimportant, because you can’t make any money doing it. Whoa, buddy. (In his defense, he was unaware that I’m a blogger.) But then he also said that he doesn’t believe in buying actual newspapers anymore– and that he was SHOCKED to see newspaper stands outside the coffee house where we met. He said he forgot they still exist?!!!

Dude. Game over.

But on the hand, I’m really glad I did meet this guy. I mentioned that I write, and he was really impressed that I write poems– like it was a big skill. He was astonished that I haven’t published in so long.

I told him my fear, that it would be a turn-off for guys I might be involved with– that they wouldn’t want to date a writer and be dragged into the material I produce. He said if it bothers someone I’m a writer, than they obviously are not the right person for me. And that was really sweet. He got major points for that.

And truthfully, I HAVE dated men who were so invested in my writing. In fact, my passion for writing and blogging was one of the chief things that attracted them to me. Why have I forgotten that?!

I think’s more about my own fear of exposure. Intellectually, and emotionally.

But I’m feeling more confident these days.

Sadly, the conversation never took off. So I livened it up by asking if he’d ever had any really bad dates– and he hadn’t. Not even one?! I told him about some of mine, and had him cracking up.

He was very Christian as well, so that was good. But I decided to use that to my advantage and have a little fun, too. I went on and on about nuns and how much I admire them– that I wish I could be one! (Truth, I have considered it. But I’m just not ready to answer The Call! I’m not ready to give up the idea of marriage and children. But social justice is important to me.)

We joked about him being a monk, but he’s not into their haircuts.

I was aiming to avoid having to turn down a second date and that awkward “Should we kiss?” moment outside. Victory! He gave me an awkward hug, and it was clear that I wasn’t the love of his life either.

No chemistry. No eye contact or lingering.

He didn’t say anything about calling me, and I was relieved.

We went our separate ways. I probably won’t hear from him again.

But I hope I gave HIM a good story about our date.

I’ll be “that one chick I went out with who wanted to be a nun!”

Heart of Mary (for 99 cents!)

The Heart of Mary now beats in my car.

I found a cheap necklace today for 99 cents– and knew I needed to buy it. I don’t care that it’s not real gold– it’s the symbolism.

I feel protected so often while I’m driving. I’ve been pulled over but not ticketed many times. (Not because I flirt my way out of it!)  I’ve avoided near-accidents in ways that only can be explained by a feeling of grace. I must have a whole team of Guardian Angels.

I took down the stupid unicorn air freshener and necklace I previously had hanging in my car. Rosaries are too long and clunky, since I’ve tried those before. This necklace is just the right length, and it won’t get in the way of anything.

On Oct. 3, I prayed my first Rosary. I know, it seems ridiculous that I’m almost 32 and have never done one before. But although my entire family on both sides (and my step-mother’s side!) is Catholic, they are not punitive type who threatened I would be damned if I didn’t compulsively pray. I felt that praying a Rosary was intimidating, so I never tried it.

But I decided to try it in honor of my Aunt Mary Jane, a Catholic nun for 59 years. On the second anniversary of her death, I wanted to feel close to her. I used to call her whenever I wanted to talk about Catholicism, God, or matters of faith. She sent me icon cards my entire life, braided palms with me on Easter, and gently encouraged me to keep going to Mass. But she never shamed me when I felt distant from the church– and that’s why I was able to come back to it as an adult. Her faith was so strong, she knew I’d find my way home without pressure.

So I put on a black dress, with a broach of hers I’d chosen after her death. I wore the golden cross she had given me.

I went to a local church that’s kept open all day for Adoration. I brought one of my rosaries (I have several) , and I picked up a simple pamphlet there– on the basic steps of how to pray the Rosary.

And I did my best to begin.

I was alone in the church, and felt safe and peaceful.

Soon, I was crying. The rhythm of whispering the Hail Marys was healing, and it was more cathartic than anything else I’ve tried.

It’ll take practice. I don’t think I did it all right, it’s a lot to learn. But it’s something I plan to try again and I want it to become part of my routine. I’m inviting the Blessed Mother into my heart, and already I feel better.

So now I gave her a home in my car as well, and I feel closer to my aunt by doing so.

Sister’s light brought me back to my faith: Common Sense column #12

This is my most personal column yet.

I wrote it in tribute to my aunt, a nun who helped to build my faith. I believe it she who guided me to the opportunity, and praying to her gave me the strength to apply for the job at all.  And as the Year of Faith begins in my church, I declared mine via my column.

Here ya go!