Tuesday, June 28, 2011



A bit of background for this music video - the Raitt Music Hall at Pepperdine University  is named in  honor of John Raitt, highly acclaimed actor and singer, particularly in musical theater such as Oklahoma!, Carousel, etc.  John is the father of Bonnie.

A short time before John passed away in 2005, Bonnie performed a free concert in Smothers Theater at Pepperdine.  The first session featured Bonnie, a bass player and a percussionist - spectacular.  As many of you know, Bonnie is an excellent guitar player as well as singer and song writer.  The second session was focused on John - he sang a few tunes and Bonnie joined him for a few duets.  He sat in a big chair, and occasionally lost the lyrics, but it was a memorable event, especially since it was so close to the time of John's passing.

Here is a favorite that has special significance - Anna Montgomery sang this Randy Newman song, accompanied by Ken Willems and yours truly, at our daughter Rachel's wedding to Jonathan Moyer.

Something in your eyes, makes me want to lose myself,
Makes me want to lose myself, in your arms.
There's something in your voice, makes my heart beat fast.
Hope this feeling lasts, the rest of my life.
If you knew how lonely my life has been,
And how low I've felt so long.
If you knew how I wanted someone to come along,
And change my world the way you've done.

Feels like home to me, feels like home to me,
Feels like I'm on my way back where I come from.
Feels like home to me, feels like home to me,
Feels like I'm on my way back where I belong.

A window breaks down a long dark street,
And a siren wails over my head.
But I'm all right, 'cause I have you here with me.
And I can almost see through the dark there's light.
{omitted in this video and at the wedding}

If you knew how much this moment means to me,
And how long I've waited for your touch.
If you knew how happy you are making me --
I've never thought I'd love anyone so much.

Feels like home to me, feels like home to me,
Feels like I'm on my way back where I come from.
Feels like home to me, feels like home to me,
Feels like I'm on my way back where I belong.

Here is a studio version:



Guest commentary by Mark Schloneger, writing in Belief Blog

Mark Schloneger is pastor of Springdale Mennonite Church in Waynesboro, Virginia.  Special to CNN

I choose to belong to a strange tribe. Goshen College, my alma mater, made national news this month when its board of directors decided that the “Star Spangled Banner” would not be played before athletic events.

As could be expected, the decision was met with confusion and contempt. Wasn’t this just another example of our traditional values being trampled by the unrelenting march of political correctness? What sort of ingrates object to our nation’s anthem, anyway? Fluffy-headed campus philosophers? Lazy latte-sipping liberals?

The decision not to play the national anthem reversed last year’s decision to play it for the first time in Goshen College’s 116-year history. That, too, caught the media’s attention.  It also caused widespread concern and confusion among the college’s students, professors, alumni, supporters and, yes, donors - many of whom felt like playing the anthem compromised the college’s Christian values.

Goshen is a small school in northern Indiana that's owned and operated as a ministry of Mennonite Church USA. I am a Goshen graduate, a longtime member of the Mennonite Church and the pastor of a Mennonite congregation.  Mennonites live in countries all over the world. Though we speak many languages, have different ethnic origins, and express our faith in diverse ways, we all claim the Anabaptists in 16th century Europe as our spiritual ancestors.

The Anabaptists agreed with most of the ideas of the Protestant Reformation but felt that reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin didn't go far enough. Anabaptists rejected the practice of infant baptism, for instance, believing that water baptism should be reserved for believers who confess a faith in Jesus.
Because they understood the exercise of state power to be inconsistent with the church’s identity and mission, Anabaptists also advocated for the strict separation of church and state. This then-radical stance was prompted by both theology and necessity: Anabaptists had the distinct notoriety of being tortured and killed by both Catholics and Protestants wielding the power of the state against them.
Instead of compromising their core convictions about what it means to follow Jesus, thousands of Anabaptist men and women adhered to their freedom of conscience even as they were mocked by neighbors, burned at stakes and drowned in rivers.

Although there certainly are diverse viewpoints among individual Mennonites today, we continue to advocate for the strict separation of church and state. Most Mennonite churches do not have flags inside them, and many Mennonites are uncomfortable with the ritual embedded in the singing of the national anthem. That’s because we recognize only one Christian nation, the church, the holy nation that is bound together by a living faith in Jesus rather than by man-made, blood-soaked borders.

To Mennonites, a living faith in Jesus means faithfully living the way of Jesus. Jesus called his disciples to love their enemies and he loved his enemies all the way to the cross and beyond. Following Jesus and the martyrs before us, we testify with our lives that freedom is not a right that is granted or defended with rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air. True freedom is given by God, and it is indeed not free. It comes with a cost, and it looks like a cross.

It’s a strange tribe to which I belong, and sometimes it’s hard to be strange. We struggle to be inclusive in our welcome yet passionate in our identity. Our desire for acceptance, for approval, is strong, and we don’t always live up to the convictions that we set before us.

We must repent of that, for the world cannot know of its brokenness and hopelessness without a people who show a holistic way of life. The world cannot know that there is an alternative to violence and war without a people of peace making peace. The world cannot know that the weak and the vulnerable are cared for by God without a people practicing an economy centered on sharing and mutual aid.

The world cannot know the unsurpassable worth of human life without a people who consistently work to protect it - in the fetus, in the convict, in the immigrant, in the soldier, and in the enemy.  These convictions do not reflect ingratitude or hatred for our country. Rather, they reflect a deep love for the church and a passionate desire for the church to be the church.

Mennonite beliefs and practices seem bizarre to some and offensive to others. But it’s life in this strange tribe that keeps me faithful to what I believe. I love my country, but I sing my loyalty and pledge my allegiance to Jesus alone.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


In a previous post, I introduced Charlie Hall's Colorado Roots Music Camp.  Charlie is a highly accomplished player of multiple instruments as well as an instructor.  After hearing and watching all of the other incredible instructors at the camp, I must say that if I woke up tomorrow and could play like any of them, I would choose Charlie.  His playing is so crisp and clean and virtually flawless; he masters multiple styles instruments; and his singing is excellent.

Each of the camp instructors are virtuosos, winners of Grammys, competitions such as Winfield, and well-known amongst bluegrass and roots music players.  And, Charlie invites musicians who are excellent teachers as well as accomplished musicians, and each teaches classes from beginners to experts.  Each night the instructors give a concert, with the final evening being a student concert in conjunction with their instructors - all in all, quite amazing.  Since I enjoy guitar finger-picking, I was particularly impressed by Doug Smith.  What I had learned as Cotton-picking is Travis-picking, and can be played either "inside" or "outside."  Doug has several Youtube videos, and although I am not a fan of Stars and Stripes Forever, his rendition is over the top!!!  This is more to my liking:

The playing of Kailin Yong is difficult to describe - visit his website and watch him on Youtube.


One of the most moving pieces of the week was a Doug Smith/Kailin Yong duet of a blended piece - Ave Marie + I Can't Help Falling In Love With You.  Incredible.  Hopefully they will record this or get it on the web sometime.

Be sure to check out the websites and videos of the other camp instructors.  I especially enjoyed Tim May, Penny Nichols, Gerald Jones [the man is a hoot!], Dave Firestine [also a hilarious fellow] and Matt Flinner.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Last night, my kids and I were sitting in the living room and I said to them, 'I never want to live in a vegetative state, dependent on some machine and fluids from a bottle.  If that ever happens, just pull the plug.'  They got up, unplugged the computer, and threw out my wine.
They are SO on my shit list ...

Monday, June 13, 2011


Last week was inspirational for several reasons.  It is always special to be able to spend a week in the mountains on the back side of Pikes Peak at Rocky Mountain Mennonite Camp; volunteering at the camp is a rewarding experience; hiking to the Crags is invigorating, and this particular week was extra special because it was week for Charlie Hall's Colorado Roots Music Camp.  A one word summary would be Wow!  Check out the list of instructors - Cary Black, Flip Breskin, Shane Cook, Dave Firestine, Matt Flinner, Gerald Jones, Tim May, Penny Nichols, Raul Reynoso, Cyd Smith, Doug Smith, and Kailin Yong - all focused on teaching about 55 music campers ranging in age from 13 to over 70.  Flat-picking, Travis-picking, guitar, mandolin, banjo, bass, voice, harmony and songwriting classes were all available to the campers as well as one-on-one instruction.  We volunteers could hear the students playing and practicing during the day, but attending the evening concerts by the instructors and listening in on the late-night jam sessions was a real gift.  In the near future, I will write a bit about Charlie and each of the instructors.  Here is a prelude to this series featuring one of the instructors, Tim May:


Gladly, the decision has been made to forego singing the National Anthem at sporting events at GC.  Here is the email that was sent to college constituencies:

Dear Goshen College students, faculty, staff members, alumni and friends,

Good afternoon. Thank you for your continuing interest in the success and future of Goshen College. I am writing today to inform you of the outcome of the Goshen College Board of Directors’ review of the decision to allow the playing of the National Anthem before select athletic events at Goshen College.

Following months of prayerful consideration, the Board, in consultation with President Brenneman, has asked the President to find an alternative to playing the National Anthem that fits with sports tradition, that honors country and that resonates with Goshen College’s core values and respects the views of diverse constituencies. The Board is committed to advancing with President Brenneman the vision for Goshen College to be recognized as an influential leader in liberal arts education with a growing capacity to serve a theologically, politically, racially and ethnically diverse constituency both within and beyond the Mennonite church. The Board also affirmed the leadership of President Brenneman.

I invite you to read the Board’s Statement of Decision at: http://www.goshen.edu/anthem/docs/anthem-decision-statement.pdf The college’s website www.goshen.edu/anthem has the background and context of this complex issue.

In reaching this decision, the Board considered extensive feedback received during a six-month “Listen & Learn” process, which included an e-survey sent to alumni, faculty, staff, and students, a series of on-campus conversations and nine regional alumni gatherings. The Board considered the excellent report from the Listen & Learn Steering Committee as well as the comments submitted by many of you since the President’s Council made the anthem decision in January 2010. The Board decided this issue based on clear criteria.

The Board has a diversity of views on this issue as reflected throughout the process of considering the anthem. The Board itself struggled with significant differences and conflicting perspectives, so this decision was not easy and took many hours of discernment and prayer. Our resolution represents our best effort to find a path of wisdom that we could endorse together.

Board members acknowledge that not all constituents will be satisfied by this decision. Still, we have faith that all of us are united in love, loyalty and support for the mission of Goshen College. We also agree about making Goshen a place that makes people feel welcome and which holds Christ-centered core values and academics as its most important priorities. In closing, I invite your prayers for the college, its leadership, students, faculty, staff and alumni as we prepare for the 2011-2012 academic year.

Peace and blessings,

Rick Stiffney
Board Chair

Naturally, all of the right-wing wackos went berserk, such as Rick Moran and his nutwing followers, the blowhards at HotAir and of course the Fair and Un-Balanced at Fox, falsely claiming that the Anthem was "banned".

Suffice it to say that the College should have never gone down the Anthem path - perhaps there will now be rekindled interest in singing the Alma Mater at sporting events, like in the 'good old days.'

Thursday, June 02, 2011


This video has been making the rounds, and one version has been removed from YouTube - hope this one works: