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Rewind - First Love - 8/15

Rewind - First Love - 8/15
Sometimes in our lives, seemingly unrelated events come together in such a way they make a very strong point. Such was the case for me a few weekends ago. I had just received the two video set "{{First Love}}" and planned on watching it Saturday evening.

In the Saturday morning paper, within just two pages, were two stories that impacted me significantly. First was a long story about Mitch Albom, the Detroit sportswriter, who wrote the monstrously successful book, "tuesday's with morrie." The point of the article was that Albom could with great eloquence recount the lessons he learned from Morrie Schwartz, his former professor, yet in reality he struggled to show evidence of the lessons in his life. Then came a review about a biography of Henri Nouwen, which talked with some sharpness of Nouwen's shallow theology and the life he led. While these stories were interesting, I passed them off as interesting weekend reading.

I sat down on Saturday evening expecting to watch just a portion of First Love - Part One. Some four hours later I found I had watched both tapes in their entirety and was anxious to see more.

First Love is a two video series featuring a who's who of early Christian musicians including, {{Love Song}}, {{2nd Chapter of Acts}}, {{Barry Mc Guire}}, {{Paul Clark}}, {{Andrae Crouch}}, {{Darrell Mansfield}}, Honeytree, {{Randy Stonehill}}, {{Terry Clark}}, {{Jamie Owens Collins}}, {{Chuck Girard}}, {{Annie Herring}}, {{Randy Matthews}}, {{John Fischer}}, and {{Matthew Ward}}. Also included was a tribute to the late {{Keith Green}}.

Each artist has just a few short minutes in which they are able to talk about what it was that brought them into the field of Christian music, some memory of their early days in Christian music, and the driving forces behind their music. Their simple stories, oft repeated, highlight what motivated their involvement in music -- a desire to reach people with the gospel. They say it different ways, they played different styles of music, but the common thread contained in their brief reflections is that they wanted the music to carry the message of what they had experienced; simply stated, Jesus.

There are moving testimonies, Randy Matthews recounting a good deed done him by Andrae, Andrae Crouch sharing about his calling, Randy Stonehill recalling his conversion, vulnerable personal sharing by Terry Clark, and the list could go on and on. These artists genuinely enjoy being together sharing themselves with the group. The environment is so warm and so familiar between the artists that a viewer sometimes feels like they are eavesdropping on another family's reunion.

Interspersed with the memories and the reflections are these artists playing their songs, some old some new. But all of them shining with the luster of high quality furniture hand rubbed to an exquisite finish. Unexpectedly, perhaps one of the most moving things about the video is to see the unabashed enthusiasm the artists have for the music, the sheer joy at seeing and hearing their friends perform, caught up in the message and the spontaneous worship evoked from the songs.

Anyone who was aware of Christian music during the 1970's will be reminded what it was about the music and the artists that drew them in. Anyone who didn't live through the birth and childhood of Christian music can catch a glimpse of what it was that made Christian music special. For me, it rekindled a fire that had perhaps been banked and left too long ago. As the title implies, the music took me back to my first love, Jesus. It pulled me back to remember my youth and my enthusiasm. It re-ignited in me the excitement of days past, but days still possible.

After I had finished watching the series and dried my eyes, the two articles from earlier that morning burst back into my mind. These wonderful pioneers are obviously worn, scarred by the onslaught of life's circumstances. They are fallen folks, just like me, just like you. They have never shirked from being a role model, but have always defined their role as pointing to Jesus. Their hurts and shortcomings, rather than detract from their message, emphasize the redemptive power of this Jesus to whom they gave their lives and their music. They haven't lived perfect lives just as Mitch Albom hasn't lived out the lesson's he learned from his late friend Morrie. Perfection isn't the point. Unwavering faith in the midst of a sin torn fallen world isn't the point. Redemption is the point. These artists wouldn't criticize Albom, they would say it is because of his shortcoming that he is welcome to join them.

Early Christian music has been, like Henri Nouwen in his recent biography, criticized for being shallow and naive. But I fear in our culture we have confused the meaning of shallow and simple. Often it is in simple statements of truth that we find the most profound meaning. In sharing their lives and their music these artists are clearly not shallow. It is simple, easy to remember and easy to hold onto when the storms of life roll through our lives uprooting all of our eloquently laid plans and schemes. When all else is blown away, these artists know the simple truth, Christ Remains.

These tapes are educational, fun and inspirational. I recommend them highly to anyone with any interest in Christian music. Entertaining, encouraging and uplifting. I need those things in my life and I bet a lot of other people could use a good shot of them too.

The message of {{First Love}} is pure, simple, and direct. It is Jesus who put the Christ in Christian music. And that is the start and the finish of the story.