Athens, GA is a cool town (understatement of the year). And I don’t love it just because my family goes back for generations in north Georgia, nor because of the many family members I have that graduated from UGA. But Athens has given us the original and incredible R.E.M.
And I just have to comment on what may be one of the coolest R.E.M. songs they have written, in my humble, but accurate opinion. Granted, there are MANY incredible songs by R.E.M., but one that I never get tired of hearing was recorded on one of their most successful albums, although definitely not my favorite album, Out of Time. I speak of “Near Wild Heaven.” There are many reasons for enjoying this song…the opening with Peter Buck’s signature chiming guitar playing a wonderful melody, Mike Mills singing a great lead vocal, the melody leading into the chorus that says, “not near enough.”
But the coolest part of this song occurs after the third verse is sung, about 2:25 into the song. In a tribute to a man that I consider to be a 20th century pop music Mozart, Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys, R.E.M. begins to display some vocal gymnastics that are reminiscent of what “America’s Band” has been known for since the early sixties. The high falsetto “oooh’s,” layered on top of some “bop bop bop bop bop’s” with Peter Buck’s intricate guitar playing underneath is just an amazing collision of two great sounds. I don’t know if I could think of a cooler combination than R.E.M.’s classic, timeless sound with the genius vocal arrangements of The Beach Boys. Now I have heard that Peter Buck and Mike Mills are both huge fans of Brian Wilson’s music, and frankly, I would expect nothing less. R.E.M. delivered in an unbelievable way that is only fitting for a tribute to a pop music master.
My daughter is a songwriter. That’s right, seven years old, and already composing her own songs. I discovered this one Saturday afternoon as my family and I went for a bike ride.
We recently got bikes for everyone, and my wife wanted all of us to go for a ride one afternoon. It was one of those hot, muggy days on the island when you could cut the air with a knife. And of course being the Weather Channel junkie that I am, I had to check our “local on the 8’s” before we hit the trail. Sure enough, the radar showed those dark green scattered patches that signify imminent rain. I was not anxious to get out on a bike ride. However, my children continued to plead with me, and I relented. My wife seemed particularly hopeful that we would not encounter any rain.
My wife took the lead, pulling a little “trailer” with our youngest two inside. My daughter was on her bike in the middle, and I was pulling up the rear. We got about a half a mile away from the house when all of the sudden, I felt a drop. Then two, then several at once, and before we knew it, we were traveling down a bike path in the rain. And I don’t mean a light sprinkle. It was one of those tropical downpours that occurs in the summertime on this barrier island. I could feel the frustration beginning to build in me. “We saw the radar, they knew it was going to rain, and no one seemed to really care. Well I care!” We were all getting drenched, and I was getting angry.
No sooner had my blood started to boil when all of the sudden I hear a song emanating from my daughter. Not just any song, but a gleeful, joyful song that came straight from her heart. The melody sounded like “I’ve Got Peace Like A River,” but these were her lyrics: “Oh we’re riding in the rain, we’re riding in the rain, and we won’t get hot ’cause the rain is cool!” She continued to make up these great words, and my frustration washed away with the rain quicker than it had appeared. She was having a great time! And it was contagious. Before I knew it, I was smiling, laughing, and asking her to sing her masterpiece again and again.
Those are moments that I want to engrave in my memory. I wonder why sometimes I seem so slow to recognize those moments. Family is a gift from God, and I’m so thankful for a daughter that helped me realize once again how blessed I am.
Here I am. New to the world of posting my stream of consciousness writing on the internet for the world to see, although the assumption that the world will actually read this seems rather unlikely and somewhat arrogant. Nevertheless, thanks to a little encouragement from my brother-in-law, who is an excellent writer and blogger, I’ve decided to take the plunge. So, with a pipin’ hot cup of Seattle’s Best by my side, here is my first blog.
Why “Breakfast on the Beach?” Well, aside from the fact that I love being beside the ocean on any occasion (I do live on island that sits about four miles off the mainland in the Atlantic Ocean), one of my favorite verses of Scripture occurs in the book of John. After Jesus had laid down His life on the cross and had risen from the dead, He appeared to His disciples on several occasions. I particularly love it when He appears to them on the beach. The disciples had been fishing all night long, and these professional fishermen didn’t have a single fish to show for their efforts. Jesus calls out to them from the beach (they were only about 100 yards offshore), gives them instructions on where to cast their net, and they bring in a huge catch! Their eyes are opened to Who is speaking to them, and Peter reacts first. And may I say that I love his reaction! He simply throws himself overboard to swim for the beach, and the others come back in with a net full of large fish.
Then we have John 21:12a, “Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.'” I have always loved this simple invitation. In fact, we’re told that when the disciples arrived on the beach, Jesus had a charcoal fire going, with fish and bread already cooking. He simply invites them to have breakfast with Him on the beach. There is no class being conducted, no court being held to convict the disciples of their unbelief, just an invitation to enjoy Jesus. Hanging out with the Lord, spending time with Him, just enjoying His presence…that scene has always spoken to me. Believers have the constant opportunity to enjoy hanging out with Jesus. The Lord Himself spoke of it in John 15 as “abiding” in Him. What a thought…abiding in Jesus! And what better place for the disciples than to enjoy His presence than on the beach having a cookout over a charcoal fire.
The Christian life is not a life of drudgery, of “do this and don’t do that.” It’s REAL life, full life, abundant life that the world can only cheaply imitate. The invitation of Jesus is to know Him, enjoy Him and have breakfast on the beach.