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.

Summer Blogcation? And Intelligence, Humor, and Phone Calls.

Column deadline this week, and summer is almost over.

I haven’t been posting much at all this summer– and I don’t have a concrete answer about why. I’d say off-hand it’s mostly because I’ve taken so many pictures instead. Currently I’ve got 871 pictures in my iPhone, via the Camera+ app.

I’ve been having a blast with my friends.  I’ve been doing things spontaneously. And it seems rather than blogging about it, I’ve been capturing it via pictures. If I had more money, I’d go out and buy myself a really nice Nikon and some good lenses, and maybe take some photography classes. Because honestly, I have a good eye and a knack for candid portraits. I like watching people interact, and catching those little moments. When I’m doing this, I’m rarely in the pictures, because I’m busy taking them.

But I’m by no means shy, and love to have my picture taken as well. People tease me about the way I pose sometimes– and I’ve been doing this since I was a kid. I would see a camera, and BAM! Pose. Smile. I can’t help it! Hee. Unless I’m really having a bad hair day or skin day or HATE my outfit, you’ll rarely see me refuse a picture. I love taking pictures with my friends, or if I’m dating someone. I love documenting a friendship or relationship with pictures, and I think taking a bunch of silly pictures is a dandy way to pass the time when you’re both having fun! But photography isn’t my passion, and math is a HUGE part of that business. Ratios for shutter-speeds, f-stops, lighting, sizing, everything. Configuring pricing packages, how much you’ll charge for prints. Ugh. I am terrible at math. I don’t want to get involved in the business end of photography– I just like to it for fun, and sometimes I enjoy modeling for my friends who are shutterbugs or photographers.

My passion is words and literature. I think that maybe this summer, I just have been on a bit of “summer vacation,” if you will– from blogging. Who knows when the urge to blog frequently again will return, if it does. I also blog a lot less now I think because I want to save my best ideas for my column  or free-lance ideas involving money. And if I blog something first impulsively, then I obviously can’t use it for my column or a feature story. Sometimes I think I’m going to write a column about something, so I hold off on blogging about it– but later find a better topic, or too much time has passed. It’s not timely anymore, or I lose the urge to write about it.

Some days, I might write three posts– and sometimes I may go three weeks without posting at all.

But tonight, I feel like saying something.

I’ve noticed a trend in the type of man which attracts me— a smart one. That’s one common denominator in everyone I’ve had a relationship or even just five or six dates with– intelligence. That’s been manifested differently– from business managers to computer tech guys, to military, academic, to tradesmen, or creative intelligence. Not all had a college degree, and that’s still not an issue for me.

I like men who are confident, and have a deep base of knowledge in some area. Often, their interests may be opposite of mine– I think that’s because I find it more intriguing to learn something different. I want someone who likes to learn, who broadens my world.

I need a strong mental connection. But I’ve found, that isn’t guaranteed just because someone is intelligent. And I think there’s a big difference between being intelligent and being overly-intellectual. Some people of high intelligence are not very social, or lack much emotion. It’s all facts, all the time. I don’t want to be narrated to– I want to talk!

I need someone I can talk WITH, who enjoys exchanging ideas and conversation.

And I realized that although intelligence is a requirement for me and definitely attractive, that I need humor and empathy as well. Intelligence can keep me hooked on someone  for quite awhile if I’m in awe of their brain– but if the emotional compatibility never materializes, I move on. I need both.

The best things I’ve found that I like in a man is humor and imagination. Being a writer, I need to be serious to come up with anything of merit.  I like hearing totally different perspectives, because they challenge me and enrich my own.  I really appreciate a man who can surprise me with a comment that throws a mental curve ball.  Who can flirt a bit and remind me not to take myself so seriously!! NOTHING is a bigger turn-off than a Debbie Downer attitude, or being too caustic or negative.

And lastly, I like talking on the phone.  There are men out there who prefer to call rather than text. They are the exception, not the rule. But they exist. I’m not anti-texting, I text just like everyone else. But I can’t subsist on that alone, even in a friendship. I need to have audio conversations too, where I can hear the person’s voice and enjoy the natural rhythm of conversation. Texting is so different, and stunted at times. It’s okay in short doses, but not all the time.

Texting is fine as a supplement to spending time together and phone calls, but I just can’t feel connected to someone who ONLY wants to communicate electronically via texting, facebook, e-mail or Google chat. At the end of the day, it’s just words on a screen. You could be anywhere, doing anything. You could be on a date with someone else,  at a bar with your friends, bored at work, or even driving.

A phone call means that the guy cares enough to focus his attention on me for the time being. And both of you can still get things done– you could be washing dishes, doing laundry,  walking your dog, cooking dinner, reading an e-mail, or whatever else people do while having phone conversations. But the best kind of phone call is the kind where you’re both enjoying talking, and maybe not even doing anything else.  It doesn’t get more romantic than that.

I was in a long-distance relationship once, and I’ll tell you why I chose that over dating local guys.  We had 2,000 miles between us, and saw each other only a handful of times in just over 1.5 years– but were both phone people.  We were already friends for years, but happened to be living in different states. We didn’t Skype at all. It was just the phone, and there was something old-fashioned and sweet about it. We didn’t write letters. We texted and e-mailed too, but that was not the bulk of our communication.  Even a 15 minute phone call made me feel special.  And two or three hours was like Heaven! To me, that was more fulfilling that going on a four-hour date with a local guy, who would probably just text me or want to talk on facebook chat instead.

These days, the best way for a guy to impress me is to pick up the phone and ask me out, the old-fashioned way.