The New Weight Loss Plan Sweeping the World: The Socialism Diet

Caracas, Venezuela – After years of fine tuning, a paradigm-shattering breakthrough in the weight-loss world appears to have been discovered in Venezuela of all places. While test findings are still in the early stages, researchers behind The Socialism Diet are hopeful. Vincente Montenegro, lead scientist on the project stated, “Based on the data, the efficacy of this diet is overwhelming. I say this with all the hope and excitement I can muster – ‘The Socialism Diet is by far the best system we have ever studied.’ If you follow the plan faithfully, you will lose weight. A lot of weight.”

Señor Montenegro’s boasts are not without support. The average Venezuelan has lost nearly 25 pounds on the new diet in the past 12 months, and there appears to be no sign of the dreaded, rebound weight gain. “When you take away food from dieters, it will inevitably lead to weight loss.” adds Montenegro. “And there is no way to cheat on this diet. There is simply no food with which to cheat. It is foolproof!”

Some critics of the new weight-loss system argue that it leaves dieters hungry and fatigued. “That is to be expected in a plan this robust and aggressive,” adds Montenegro. “Fortunately, since this diet is socialist in philosophy, everyone is on the same level dieting field, as it were. We are all hungry together. It is a beautiful picture of a completely equal society.”

The rest of the world will have to wait to see if this groundbreaking system will make it to them. As of today, it is the one and only component of socialism that seems to thrive no matter where it is implemented.

Hat tip to Amanda Prestigiacomo for her early reporting on this promising new diet.

 

 




Thank God for the Nashville Predators

First, the bad news.

The world seems all sorts of messed up right now. If you spend any time on social media, or online for that matter, you will encounter examples of people doing horrible things. Everyone seems angry, offended, or worse. Navigating the turbulent waters of modern society is a supremely depressing task. Sure, there are good stories from time to time. And yes, in the grand scheme of things, many of the loudest complainers, whiners, and antagonizers are in a pathetically small minority, but that doesn’t make them any less annoying.

That is why I am so thankful for the Nashville Predators.

Don’t roll your eyes. I realize that a hockey team and its success will not fix any real-world problems. And I’m not advocating an escapist mentality. What I do know, though, is that every night the Nashville Predators play is a little better – a little brighter. Win or lose (and let’s be honest – it’s mostly win) watching the Preds play is an inspiring thing.

Case in point: Last night’s game was a clunker for nearly 50 minutes. The Predators were awful in the 2nd period and for half of the 3rd. They were down 3-0, at home, to a good St. Louis Blues team that clearly wanted the win more than our Nashville guys. I watched the game with my two oldest boys, who are 100% die-hard fans at this point. (That is what a deep, magical run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs will do for you.) Even down 3-0, my boys were not going to give up. Even watching the team sleepwalk through the 2nd period didn’t cause them to lose interest. This is the Preds we are talking about here and we all know that it doesn’t take much to swing the momentum in their favor. Calle Yarnkrok was the momentum swinger last night. His goal at the 9:06 mark was all it took. The home crowd got loud. The team decided it wanted to win the game. So they won the game.

It was awesome.

I realize that this sort of thing is rare in life and as a sports’ fan. I completely understand that my favorite teams are not always going to be this good or this exciting to watch – I am a Tennessee Titans’ fan after all. But for this moment in time, I am going to savor everything. Every goal. Every win. I am going to watch as many games as possible with my family and shout at every bad penalty, cheer for every crazy slap shot, and lose my mind at every moment of overtime magic. (Forsberg was the magician last night with his overtime, penalty shot goal.) I am going to watch the Nashville Predators and be grateful. This hockey team doesn’t fix all the problems in the world, but they bring a smile to my face and help me end most of my days on a high note. If that is not something to be thankful for, I don’t know what is.




Five Great TV Couples

To celebrate Valentine’s Day (a little early) we decided to shine the spotlight on a few of our favorite TV couples. However, we wanted our list to be a little different than a “best of.” It would be easy to write about some of the most well-known and loved couples in television history. Couples like the Huxtables from The Cosby Show. Or Ricky and Lucy from I love Lucy. Instead of that, we chose to focus on a few lesser known examples of good, strong, admirable TV marriages. We hope you enjoy our list and we hope you will add your two cents in the comment section below.


Wash and Zoe – Firefly

I’m not sure that there has ever been a TV couple so opposite that still completely adored each other. Zoe, the ultra-fit gun-toting, silent warrior woman and Wash a jovial, fun-loving, happy-go-lucky pilot. And yet their marriage is perfection nearly all of the time. If you have watched the show Firefly at all, you will know the very real passionate love that existed between the two. While they are fully committed to the crew—and Zoe is more loyal to the captain than anyone—it is still all about their marriage to them. Through all the intense activity they manage to maintain their little cocoon of eternal love and bliss. Their relationship didn’t start out that way, though. Not surprisingly, Wash’s manner rubbed Zoe the wrong way when they first meet in “Out of Gas.” During that encounter, she quickly determined she didn’t like him. How things changed. Most reading this have also seen Serenity, the Firefly movie that is a sequel to its epic one-season run. However, some readers may have inexplicably opted out. If that is the case, I will not spoil the specifics about how their life of bliss is finally torn about. But their love goes on and lives forever in our hearts through repeated viewings of the show. – Ben Plunkett


Eric and Tami Taylor – Friday Night Lights

Perhaps the best thing I can say about Eric and Tami Taylor is that they feel real. Friday Night Lights excelled at many things: It told poignant stories. It thrilled audiences. It created believable and fully realized characters. Yet the thing that brought many of us back was the Taylors. Coach Eric Taylor, a Texas high school football coach, poured his life into his team, his players, and his family. He was continuously required to make sacrifices with his time and energy. The great thing about it all was that he made those sacrifices with his wife Tami. They talked. They argued. They fought. But through it all, they loved each other. They compromised for each other. They took turns putting the other first so they could reach for their dreams. They did this all with genuine affection for one another, displaying love and respect all along the way. The Taylors built a family that reached well beyond the walls of their homes. They acted as parents to every player that came through the Dillon Panther program. This is all accomplished without grandiose plot lines or over-the-top dramatic conflicts. It is grounded and real. If that is not a beautiful and relatable picture of marriage, I don’t know what is. – Phill Lytle


Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv – The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air was a fascinating show when it aired and has only become more so since it ended. Will Smith is the loud but lovable, the cocky but contentious star. How this show completely altered his career by vaulting him into acting, without any formal training, is a true American success story. But for his real life named role to work, his aunt and uncle had to be good people. They had to have a strong marriage. Because they took him in, adding his troubled and working-class background to their upper-class family. And I loved watching them make sacrifices to accommodate Will, yet become crucial de facto parents who stood their ground to raise him right, which is no doubt difficult when you’re talking about a teenager. Their best scenes as a couple were during more serious episodes, as when Will and Carlton get unfairly arrested and they have to go to the police station to defend them. Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv were incredible in those moments and could bring the laughter, tears and applause at the same time. A switch in actress halfway through the series for Aunt Viv changed her demeanor some but it didn’t detract from this model marriage. – Gowdy Cannon


Hal and Lois – Malcolm in the Middle

The show is a bit preposterous. It is a loud, rough-around-the-edges sitcom following the lives of Malcolm, a boy genius, and his dysfunctional yet loving family. Lois is the overbearing, never wrong, say whatever is on her mind mother. Hal is the peculiar, probably crazy father. Their relationship doesn’t always make sense. He is clueless at times, though rarely does the show fall into the overdone cliché of the “dumb dad.” Lois is portrayed as possessing almost omniscient-like powers though the show doesn’t hide from her flaws. Lois is the glue that holds the family together. She is the problem solver – the one that fixes things when the boys or Hal completely screw up. Hal’s best character trait is that he loves Lois completely. He is devoted to her in ways that sometimes wanders into the uncomfortable. Yet that is one of the main reasons I am so drawn to it. It is rare that a husband is presented in such a love-struck manner – especially in a couple that has been together as long as Hal and Lois have when we first meet them. They are not perfect by any means, but their love is a passionate partnership and we could find much worse examples than them in popular culture. – Phill Lytle


Adam and Kristina Braverman – Parenthood

This show is such that my wife and I talked about the characters all the time as though they were real people. The title of the show tells you its main focus but for the Braverman clan, the ups and downs of marriage could not be separated out from child rearing. And one marriage rises above the rest for how exemplary it is, that of Adam and Kristina. Teenage rebellion, Aspergers, cancer, political campaigns, new babies…it didn’t matter what you threw at them, they would use it to make their relationship stronger.

By no means were they perfect and I appreciate when TV has raw moments of conflict that do not get handled well at first because just as in real life, it makes reconciliation a beautiful thing. For Adam and Kirstina, this was exceptional TV. I could list dozens of my favorite moments of theirs but I’ll limit it to two. One is at the end of Season 4 when Kristina is cancer free and they go to Hawaii, just the two of them with no kids. And the very last scene of the whole season is them running into the ocean together. So touching. It really was never just about parenthood. And second, when they discover that Hank, a more or less independently functioning adult, may have Aspergers just like Max, their conversation about it is crazy funny. They go back and forth with Adam being completely upbeat about the possibility of Max being similar one day and Kristina being skeptical because Hank definitely has issues. At one point they have this exchange:

A: He has a daughter!
K: But she doesn’t like him.
A: But she’s real!

To know Adam and his facial expression and voice inflection is to love that counter-response. I miss the Bravermans. – Gowdy Cannon

 

 




The Forgotten History of Christian Rock: Part Three

Welcome to The Forgotten History of Christian Rock.

This is Part Three of a five part series exploring the history of Christian Rock and Roll Music.

To read Part One of the series focusing on the pioneers of the movement in the 1960s and 1970s click here.

To read Part Two where we looked at the popular rock bands of the 1980s and early 1990s click here.

To read our intro where we explain some of the reasons we wanted to do this series click here.

Thank you so much for reading please feel free to comment below.


Part Three:
The Underground Groundbreakers by Phill Lytle
The early 80’s through the early 90’s

There were no platinum records. There were no arenas filled to capacity. And unless your local Christian station was unusually “out of the box”, you rarely heard this music played on the radio. Yet to many, if you were to pinpoint an era of music that justifies the existence of Christian rock, this would be it. Throughout the 80’s and into the early 90’s, a group of singers, poets, storytellers, and artists reshaped how we experienced “Christian” music. They turned it on its head and opened up a new world to believers, music lovers, and spiritual seekers. It was the time of the underground groundbreakers.

In part two we examined the bands that had major success and popularity during the 80’s and early 90’s. Bands like Petra, Whiteheart, and DeGarmo and Key. While those bands were playing in front of arenas full of youth groups, churches, and believers, there was another movement happening just outside of the Christian mainstream. Out there, bands like The Call, Daniel Amos, The Prayer Chain, and many others were singing about broken relationships, marriage problems, politics, and doubts. Out there, their songs were in turn angry and frustrated, joyous and hopeful, pointed and prophetic. The music was enigmatic – less definable. It was passionate, messy, and full-to-bursting with life. They avoided the pop rock sounds of their more accepted contemporaries, choosing instead to blaze their trails with styles and sounds all their own.

This era of music produced some of the most critically acclaimed music in the history of Christian rock. Many of the albums that released during this time frame are still considered some of the best Christian releases of all time. Circle Slide by The Choir. Sticks and Stones by the 77’s. Reconciled by The Call. These and more pushed boundaries and expanded what was believed possible for “Christian” music at that time.

Their music was never easy. Whether it was Steve Taylor singing satirically about a deranged ice-cream delivery man blowing up an abortion clinic to preserve his livelihood, or The Choir wrestling with the grief of a miscarriage, these bands made their fans grapple with big ideas and complicated emotional reactions. In some ways, they courted controversy, not to get the spotlight as much as to shock their listeners out of their comfort and stagnation.

At every turn, it seemed like these bands could not catch their big break. In a perfect world, many of them would be household names – their music was that good. That is not to suggest that these bands did not have any influence on future generations of musicians and creators. Members of these bands went on to form successful record companies that gave Christian music one of its biggest bands in Jars of Clay. They went on to produce albums for much more successful bands like Sixpence None the Richer and The Newsboys. They eventually wrote and created songs that are sung in worship services all over the world like God of Wonders. No doubt, their musical legacy inspired many bands that are being played on the radio today. While few of them ever achieved the kind of success and recognition they deserved at the time, our musical heritage would be much poorer without their contributions.

As stated before, the playlist below is merely a selection of some of the best music in this era. It is meant to capture the sound and the spirit of this pivotal time in Christian music. Please, take some time to listen and appreciate the music that laid the groundwork and played such a monumental role in our history.

 

***Editor’s Note: Part Four will be published on February 19th.***

 




500 Words or Less Reviews: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

I watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty in August of 2014. It was a passion project for Ben Stiller, the director and lead actor on the film. It is an adaptation of the short story by James Thurber. It is a very sincere film. If earnestness gets on your nerves then you probably won’t like it. It was rejected by most filmgoers and I am unsure why.[1. The film was not well received, scoring only 51% at Rotten Tomatoes and grossing only $58 million in the US box office on a $90 million budget.] It’s not perfect and there are a few missteps along the way, but overall, I think the film accomplishes what it sets out to do.

Walter Mitty is a negative assets manager for Life MagazineLife is in the process of publishing their final edition – and the negative that is intended to be the cover photo is lost. Walter is tasked with finding it. The film is an interesting blend of reality and whimsical, day-dream type fantasy. Walter loves his job but he yearns for his life to matter more – to be more fulfilling. As the film progresses we get to watch Walter step out of his comfort zone and start to live the life he has long lived in his dreams.

Few films have challenged me the way this one did. I wrote the following after watching it:

“I have a job that I don’t love. I would rather be doing something else, though I don’t know what. I am not unhappy with my current job. In fact, I am more content at work now than I probably have ever been in my adult life. Yet sometimes, I feel like I ought to be doing something more spiritually rewarding. At least, that is how I feel when I hear Christians talk about jobs and careers.

This movie helped me take stock of my life. I don’t find my identity in my career. I find it in relationships. My standing with God. My relationship with my wife, my kids, my family and my friends. I find my identity in service in my church and outside of it. But, I still feel like there is something more that I should or could be doing.

So, I am going to try to figure that out. I loved how Walter pushed himself and discovered new ways of viewing his life. I want to try to push myself in ways that might make me uncomfortable at first. How that will look is beyond me right now, but I’m going to try to figure it out. I am very comfortable and I don’t think that is a place that God really wants any of us to be. So, I am going to change that, if I can.”

While it was still a year before any real changes happened, this movie was the impetus to getting Rambling Ever On off the ground. It was an idea we had toyed with for some time, but this movie pushed me to make it a reality. Depending on your opinion of REO, you can thank or curse Walter Mitty.

 




Five Lies Temptation Tells About Sin

Years ago I was driving down the interstate headed home. As I navigated my vehicle on the road, I saw something up ahead. From my vantage point, it appeared that there were thousands of papers scattered all over the road. When the cars that were preceding me reached that spot, my guess was confirmed as the papers scattered and swirled with the wind produced by the passing traffic. I realized there was no danger so I continued driving at the speed limit until I reached the seemingly endless pieces of paper. Just as I was plowing through the mess, one “sheet” flipped up and stuck to my windshield. It was then that I realized my guess about it being paper was woefully wrong. Clinging to my windshield and staring me in the face was a picture of a nude woman from a pornographic magazine. I frantically used my wipers to dislodge this most unwelcome guest, but that did not work. I slowed down and then sped up again hoping that the change in velocity would remove my new passenger. Also unsuccessful. Finally, through no skill on my part, the page slid off my windshield and floated along the road behind me. There in my wake were thousands of pages from pornographic magazines twirling, spinning, and attacking drivers all over this unsuspecting Nashville interstate.

I tell this story for a few, somewhat contradictory reasons. First, temptation rarely works like that. It is not often that we are smacked in the face in such an obvious manner as my windshield porn. I have given in to temptation’s lies more times than I care to admit, but I am happy to report that this was not such a time. The example above is absurdly over-the-top, but that is not to say that we do not face some versions of in-your-face temptation. I will deal with one such example in a bit. Most often though, temptation is subtle. It is tricky. It is deceptive. Here are five of the most common lies that our temptation tells us about sin.


It is not a big deal.

In Acts chapter 5, we find the story of Ananias and Sapphira. It is a complicated and difficult story to deal with in modern-day America. First, God’s judgment on this couple seems too severe. Second, the idea of selling all of our possessions and handing the proceeds over to someone else goes against most of our natural instincts. Fortunately for me, I am not dealing with either of those particularly troublesome issues today! Instead, I want to focus on the sin involved in the story.

At that point in the life of the early church, the first members were renouncing their own possessions, giving all they had to the church, and allowing everyone to live without any financial needs. It was socialism at its very best because it was driven by pure motives and clean hearts and guided by the Holy Spirit. That’s where Ananias and his wife Sapphira enter the story. They too sold some property they owned. They too presented the profits at the feet of the Apostles. But together, they conspired to withhold a portion of those profits for themselves. Keeping some back did not seem like a big deal to them. They convinced themselves that they were still handing over enough. Why would anyone object since it was obvious they were giving to the work of the Lord? They were tempted to lie and they fell to that temptation. It cost them their lives.

Sin is a big deal. Always. Let’s stop acting like it’s not.


The outside is what matters.

Going hand-in-hand with not seeing their deception as a big deal, Ananias and Sapphira were also primarily concerned with the outward appearance. They wanted to be seen giving to the church. When Ananias went alone to place the money at the feet of the Apostles, he wanted to look committed to the cause and righteous, all the while he was lying to himself and to the church. I am not convinced that withholding the money was even that big of a deal. It was their money, after all. They could have just as easily brought a portion of the proceeds and presented it to the church. They did not do that. Instead, they chose to claim something false. They chose to lie because it mattered to them how they were perceived by others. In the end, their internal sin was exposed to the light and their judgment was swift and severe.

The outside is important as it can reflect what is happening on the inside, but do not deceive yourself into believing temptation’s lie. If you harbor internal sin, it will destroy you in the end.


We have it under control.

One of the most well-known examples of succumbing to temptation found in Scripture is the story of David and Bathsheba. At this point, I doubt there is anyone reading this story that is not aware of the particulars, but in case there is just one person out there that is not, allow me to give a brief summary. As king, David was the most powerful man in Israel. Scripture calls him “a man after God’s own heart.” He was married – to more than one woman by this time. At this moment in Israel’s history, things were good. We find the story of this great fall in 2 Samuel chapter 11. Early in the chapter, there is a key phrase that is used to set the context of the scene, “In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites.” For whatever reason, David decided that he did not need to go out to war. He chose to stay home. Perhaps I am reading too much into this, and that wouldn’t come as a shock to some, but this feels like a man that believed he had his life under control. He was confident, self-assured, and in control. That is a very dangerous place to be for any Christian. That’s not to say we should walk around scared and paranoid. Yet, based on David’s actions in the next few verses, it is clear he was not where he needed to be spiritually speaking. He was vulnerable to attack. He was open to temptation.

So David stayed home when he should have been off to war. It is late in the afternoon and he decides to go up to his roof to look across his city. It is then that he sees Bathsheba taking a bath. That was his porn on the windshield moment. That was temptation slapping him in the face with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. David should have walked away. He should have averted his eyes and fled from that temptation. But he didn’t. He chose to look. He chose to admire her beauty. And then he chose to find out who she was, invite her to his house, and convince her to sleep with him. The story only gets worse from there but that’s probably enough for my point. David let down his guard because things were good. That sense of self-satisfaction and being in control doomed him.

There will be times when things in our lives are humming along nicely. Everything seems to be working out for us. Cling to God during those times. Seek His face with more fervor than ever because it is exactly in times like that when temptation will approach you and trip you up.


We can hide our sin from God.

Ananias and Sapphira. David. All great examples of people thinking they could hide their sin from God. Scripture is full of these examples because humanity is very, very dumb. We constantly convince ourselves that what we do in secret cannot be seen by anyone. We forget or choose to not remember, that God sees everything. The story of Achan is perhaps the best reminder of this.

The Israelites were conquering the promised land. They were given specific instructions on what to do with the plunder. Achan violated those instructions. He took a robe, 200 coins, and a bar of gold and buried them in his tent. He thought he could steal those things and no one would ever know. And if God had not been involved, he probably would have been correct. He and his family paid for his sin with their lives. All for things he had no use for because to use them would have revealed his sin.

That secret sin you think is hidden is not hidden at all. God sees it. God knows. You might be able to keep it hidden from everyone else, including your spouse or your children but you will never keep it concealed from God. To make it worse, that sin you hide is slowly killing you. You are cutting yourself off from God and His blessings and that sin is doing you as much good as Achan’s buried treasure. Expose it to the light and let it die.


We can handle it on our own.

I have given enough examples of what not do to. For this, I will use a positive example of overcoming this lie. When Daniel and the other Hebrew young men were taken to Babylon in the first chapter of the book of Daniel, they could have easily fallen prey to the new culture and customs. Most importantly, they could have chosen to rely on their own power to survive in a hostile nation. Instead, they chose to commit together to not drink the wine or eat the meat. They found fellowship and accountability. They were not an island to themselves. They were united in their rejection of temptation.

If you are struggling with sin, seek help. Confide in someone you trust. Find an accountability partner who will be a voice of wisdom, encouragement, and if needed, rebuke. I know there is nothing novel about this, but our culture values independence and that is stifling to the Christian walk. We are made for community. We are made to walk this road with others. We are not islands. Find your support group and rely on their strength in times of temptation.


Hopefully, this will be a help to someone out there. I know I have listened to all of these lies at some point in my life. They are very alluring. Temptation works that way. It tells us that what we are doing is not a big deal. It lies that as long as we put on a good front, that is all that matters. It tricks us into believing we have it all under control. It tells us that no one, even God, can see. And it convinces us to handle things on our own.

Sin is serious and we need to take is more seriously than we do. We need to stop listening to temptation’s lies.

 

We welcome your comments below.




The Forgotten History of Christian Rock: Part Two

Introduction by Michael Lytle

When scanning the FM radio dial in any U.S. city you come across a wide variety of stations. In my city, if I want to hear oldies from the 50s and 60s I have a couple options. I can also listen to classic rock from the 70s, modern rock, alternative/indie rock, top 40 pop and hip-hop, and of course a variety of country options. If I am feeling particularly adventurous, I can check out mix stations that play popular songs from the last four or five decades.

If I want to listen to Christian music I have several stations to choose from as well. Unfortunately, they all basically play the same songs over again and their entire catalog seems to be chosen from music released in the last six to twelve months. It’s as if there is a deliberate attempt to pretend that Christian music did not exist before last year. There also seems to be a mandate to play a very limited number of artists who for the most part play the same generic style of pop worship music. These stations are very proud of the fact that their music is uplifting, upbeat, positive, encouraging, and safe for the whole family. Sadly, it might prove difficult to find music that is challenging, convicting, original, or thought-provoking because those qualities might alienate some of their more easily offended listeners.

Why do Christian radio stations seem to avoid anything challenging? Why do they often gravitate to easy and safe music? And more importantly, why do Christian radio stations and even Christian music listeners want to ignore their history? Regardless of whether you are a fan of the music that continues to be released in the Christian Rock or CCM genres, it is critical to recognize that there is plenty of great Christian music that has been made over the last several decades. Unfortunately, nearly all this music has been forgotten or ignored.

We want to do our part to shed some light on this overlooked music. We decided the best way to do that is a series of short articles spotlighting different time periods and styles of Christian rock music. In Part One we covered music from the 1960s and 1970s. This article will focus on popular Christian rock of the 1980s and early 1990s. We are including a Spotify playlist that features songs from 1982-1993. This playlist is by no means exhaustive. While Spotify has a vast library of albums and songs they don’t have everything we would have wanted to include.

We hope you enjoy reading these as much as we enjoyed writing them. We give you Part Two of The Forgotten History of Christian Rock.


Part Two:
Youth Pastor Approved by Phill Lytle
The 1980s through the early 1990s

 

The hair was long and flowing. The clothes were bright and garish, with neon, pastels, and spandex making frequent appearances. The music was big and bold – loud drums, big vocals, epic guitars, and keyboard and synth liberally sprinkled in for good measure. The early days of trailblazing and rebellion were gone. The banner-bearers of creativity and boundary-pushing were operating under the radar. The music that captured and defined the zeitgeist of the Christian rock scene in the 80s was unapologetically religious and unambiguously mainstream. It was safe rock and roll yet with enough edge and bite that it retained an element of danger and the allure of non-conformity. For the cool youth pastor, it was a dream come true.

As seen in Part One, the 60s and 70s had the passionate trailblazers Larry Norman and Keith Green. In Part Three, we will talk about the underground Christian music scene with counter-cultural geniuses like The Call, The Choir, and the 77s. While those bands and many others like them were carving their paths by different means, the focal point of Christian Rock was happening out in the open for all the world to see. Bands like Petra and Stryper routinely sold out arenas that had previously been considered out of reach. Bands were selling hundreds of thousands and in some cases, even millions of records, getting serious radio airplay on traditional Christian radio stations and were no longer looked at as pariahs by the church as a whole.

And their music made clear that the union of rock and roll and Christian ministry was the formula that worked. Most of the popular bands of this generation were overtly religious, eschewing subtlety in favor of on-the-nose messaging. This is not a criticism per se, simply an observation about the fundamental truth of the bands that reached the highest popularity during this era. They proclaimed Jesus, the Bible, and the Christian faith with no fear, no hesitation, and no reservations. To some, it did not represent real life in all its ugliness and complications. But to many, this music was a lightning rod for their faith – a boisterous and encouraging reinforcement for their spiritual journey.

This era produced some of the longest-lived artists and bands in Christian music history. Degarmo and Key. Mylon and Broken Heart. White Heart. It was a time that saw Christian bands like Idle Cure and Allies continue down the path forged by the godfathers of the genre. These and many more were rock and roll enough for young people to flock to in droves, while still maintaining a sense of spiritual steadfastness that made them feel safer than anything the world had to offer.

To be clear, the bands that thrived in this era did not do so with complete acceptance by the church. There were still many that attacked and criticized the bands for their hair, their attire, and their music. They were lambasted from the pulpit by more than one nationally televised preacher.[1. Jimmy Swaggart even wrote a book about it. We are linking it for educational purposes only.] While their path was easier than the generation prior, they still did much to smooth the road for the following generations of Christian musicians. They took the slings and arrows of an unwieldy and unaccepting group of believers, and they kept on moving, creating, and performing. We do well to remember the contributions during this era. Our Church and musical heritage demand as much.

Enjoy this playlist that will serve as a quick snapshot of the sounds and the styles of the most popular Christian bands of this era. In particular, pay special attention to the musicianship and artistry at play in many of these songs – something that seems to be missing from much of the current Christian music scene. Finally, we hope you will allow one minor indulgence. We have included a couple of songs by Rich Mullins on this playlist even though we realize he does not exactly fit the profile of the bands and artists we covered in the article. We just strongly believe that his music deserves to be remembered and this playlist was the best fit.

 

*Editor’s Note: Part Three will be published on February 5th.*

 




Five Movies I’ll Watch Every Single Time They are On

This is not a “best-of” list. These are not my five favorite films of all time. I might be weird (don’t say anything) but there are certain films that I am drawn to. Films that no matter how many times I have seen them, if I happen upon them while scrolling through my channels, I will sit down and watch them. Every time. My guess, based on what I have observed, is that many others are the same way. Our lists are likely completely different, but most of us have our go-to films. Once again, not our favorites. Not the best. Just the films that work on us each and every time. Here are five of mine. In the comment section below, tell us about yours.


National Treasure

This one might be THE go-to film for me. I remember years ago, my wife and I would go to my parents’ house every Sunday afternoon for lunch. At that time, my parents had a decent cable package and inevitably, at some point in the afternoon, I would be in the living room in a comfortable recliner, flipping my way through their channels. I lost track of how many times I would stumble upon National Treasure and get sucked in. It didn’t matter that I already knew the story – the grand mystery behind it all. I knew the jokes, the action beats, the insanity of Nicolas Cage. If National Treasure was playing on television, I was watching.

My oldest son and I watched it a few days ago. I soaked it all up again. It never fails.


The Shawshank Redemption

I’m pretty sure this film might be the G.O.A.T.[1. For those keeping score at home, this means Greatest Of All Time.] of all go-to films. There are endless jokes online about how often this film is always shown on TBS or TNT. (I have no idea which one, since I don’t have cable and those channels, seem pretty interchangeable to me.) All I know is that if someone is watching Shawshank and I walk in the room, I am also watching Shawshank. There is a rhythm and effortless charm to the film. It’s set in an ugly and harsh prison, and it still feels as much like a “feel-good” film as any I can find. Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman are perfect in their roles and their film friendship is a thing of movie legend. The movie is endlessly quotable and the resolution is brilliantly conceived and executed. I’ll spend time with these prisoners many more times before I die.


Sunshine

This one might feel a little weird for this article. It’s a sci-fi, horror film. It’s much more sci-fi than horror, but the final 20 minutes or so do fall into the horror category pretty neatly. Directed by Danny Boyle, of Slumdog Millionaire fame, Sunshine is the story of a desperate attempt to “restart” our sun. A spacecraft heads on its mission to the sun to detonate the largest nuclear bomb ever made in hopes that it will cause a chain reaction that will allow the sun to once again fully heat the earth. Without this, the human race and the earth itself only have a few years left. This is a film that I did not love on my first viewing. I saw it again a few months later and liked it a lot more. I saw it shortly after that, and I loved it. Each time, I couldn’t really figure out why I felt compelled to watch it again, but that didn’t stop me. I keep coming back to it like a moth to a flame. Or a spaceship to the sun…


Sahara

Based on the Clive Cussler series, Sahara had been Matthew McConaughey’s pet project for years. After a lot of time and money, he finally got it off the ground and completed the film. It was a complete box office disaster. Doesn’t matter to me at all. I enjoy this film every time I see it. I love the chemistry between McConaughey and Steve Zahn. There is nothing groundbreaking about the film – it borrows all sorts of things from other, “better”, adventure films. But the cast is affable and the film is exciting. For this type of film, what more could you want?


Hoodwinked

I love this retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood story. It’s not perfect – the animation is just not great even though they do some things with it that is inventive and very striking. The story does lag a little at the end and the climax is not nearly as satisfying as the first 45 minutes. But even with those minor complaints, the film is a resounding success. The story is familiar yet told in such a unique way that you feel like you are really getting the best of the old and the new. I love the format that they use to tell the story. The four different, yet somewhat similar, viewpoints are a great conceit to really give the film some good laughs. The wolf is my favorite character, but all the characters have their moments. And the film is full of Fletch references, so you can’t go wrong with that.[2. If you don’t know Fletch, then you really need to fix that immediately. Now that I think about it, Fletch probably belongs on this list as well. When you decide to watch it, just charge it to the Underhill account.] I get pulled in anytime my kids start watching this one. It’s just that good.

 

 




The Five Turns 100: Remembering the First Five Fives

It started with Ben.

He had an idea to list Five Reasons Not to be Scared of the Monsters Under Your Bed. It was an article to be released on a Friday when REO was just a few weeks old. And it was quite hilarious.

Then, Amy had the idea to try to do something similar the next Friday and thought it would great to keep it going. She told Phill, Phill told it to us and we loved it.  And out of this, the REO Friday Five was born. We have tried every week on Friday the last two years to publish a list of five entries that have something in common. Some have been funny. Some have been deeply theological. Some have been sports-related. They all have been an expression of the DNA of Rambling Ever On.  A few times we came up short (here, here, and here if you are curious) of a weekly Friday Five, but 97% of the time we have succeeded.

And today we celebrate our 100th effort at the Friday Five by looking back on the Five Fives that started it all. All the way back to January and February of 2016. These Five Fives are the pioneers so to speak of this longstanding REO tradition. And we appreciate them very much. And today we acknowledge them and reminisce about our beginnings and how each of these Fives foreshadowed what REO was going to be like, not just on Friday, but all the time. I mean, even the best sitcoms had good clip shows! – Gowdy Cannon


Ben Plunkett’s “5 Reasons Not to Be Afraid of the Monster Under the Bed”

This is what separates Rambling Ever On from other sites out there. Sure, we could spend all of our energy and time writing about spirituality and theology. Or, we could have article after article about music, movies, or current events. Frankly, we aren’t interested in limiting ourselves to that standard stuff.

Enter Ben Plunkett. If you have been reading REO for any time at all, you know Ben follows the beat of his own drummer. When others write about the latest political scandal Ben says, “Nope. Not for me.” Instead, he delivers some new form of insane genius. Take our very first Five as the perfect example. Who else is going to write with any sense of intelligence or articulation about monsters under the bed? Ben brings wit, humor, and just a dash of absolute madness to his writing and we are all better off for it. The Five on REO got started right and we have Ben Plunkett to thank for that. It is a philosophy that has guided us ever since. – Phill Lytle


Amy Lytle’s “Five Steps to Become the BEST Facebook Mother of All Time”

One of the things I appreciate about REO is the creative and appropriate use of sarcasm. It was the REO staff that convinced me that using irony this way can be an effective way to communicate and not always mean-spirited.

Our very second Five falls into this category. Amy’s REO articles have been some of our best-performing articles based on the number of views and this one is no different. Because I think people appreciate the humorous take on the reality of how people use Facebook. We have seen many other articles follow suit, including a whole Five on trash talk, but this was the one that set the tone. Superbly done and still relevant (and probably will be for years to come), we are very proud of this entry into our annals. – Gowdy Cannon


Collaborative “Five Romantic Movies Even Men Can Love”

This was the first collaborative Five. Often, we come up with a topic that many of our contributors care about and we figure the best way to make those articles work is to make it a team effort. As REO is primarily a male-driven website, we knew that Valentines Day was not going to be high on our priority list. But, we did not want to completely ignore it, so we opted to write about movies with a strong romantic theme that even men might enjoy. It was a perfect fit for what we do and it was the first of many collaborative articles on REO. It was also the beginning of REO trying to make our reader’s lives better – something we continue to do even to this day. You’re welcome. – Phill Lytle


 

Gowdy Cannon’s “Five Times Harry Potter Made Me Reflect On Real Life”

This was the fourth Five and offered a look at some wise and biblical advice from the pages of the magnum opus of J.K. Rowling. The Harry Potter book series is a truly classic children’s fantasy line of literature. And it’s more than just the storyline itself that makes it great. Much more. It is multi-faceted and many-layered in its meaning and depth. It does not take a lot of study to show that there are actually quite a bit of Christian truths that can be gleaned from its pages. Mega-Potterite, Gowdy Cannon, has delved into its pages many times. Here he lays out five great truths he has learned from Harry Potter (the book series not necessarily the character). In Five Times Harry Potter Made Me Reflect on Real Life he does exactly that. He considers five very insightful quotes from various characters that taught him certain lessons about life in our real-life Muggle world. We learn from the faithful House Elf, Dobby, about greatness and goodness; from Harry’s adoptive father, Sirius Black (in two quotes), about judging the true quality of a person and the true face of evil; from the great and inimitable wizard, Albus Dumbledore, on the surest way to wreak damage upon an individual: indifference and neglect; and from best friends Ron Weasley and Harry Potter on the nature of repentance and forgiveness. – Ben Plunkett


Phill Lytle’s “Five Words and Phrases That Need to Go Away”

I confess this is one of my favorite articles and one of the finest things we have done in my opinion. The content is exceptional on its own–clever and with a pulse on our culture’s extremely odd popular jargon. To paraphrase Ben, I cotton especially to the one about “Loving On” people because in the American Church this gets said all time. And it keeps getting said even though Phill and others–including some popular comedians–have called it out. It’s like a massive freight train of geeky Christianese. But Phill’s take on it is the best I’ve seen. And the conversation about “it is what it is” makes me cry laughing. It’s like a modernized Abbott and Costello routine.

But beyond the writing, the illustrations are LOL funny, so much that I’ve laughed while reading it for the 4th or 5th time. The simplicity of the way the searing logic is presented…the faces of the “men”…the exploding head…it’s all gold.

I bet I’ve referenced this article in public as much or more than any other in REO history. And we reference it yet again today, as being a Five that let the world know how acute our web site’s humor was going to be. – Gowdy Cannon




Wild Card Round Preview (The NFL on REO)

Tennessee at Kansas City

The Tennessee Titans are big underdogs in the Wild Card match up with the Kansas City Chiefs. This is not surprising. The Titans are without their starting running back, they have played poorly on offense for most of the season, and they are short on playoff experience. The Chiefs, on the other hand, have an explosive offense, a very successful head coach, and are playing at home. Even as a Titans fan I admit that it makes sense that the Chiefs are a 9 point favorite.

Maybe it is the homer in me, but I expect this game to be close. The Chiefs have not won a home playoff game since 1993. This will be their sixth try and my sources are telling me their fans are nervous. On the Titans side QB Marcus Mariota is looking healthier than he has most of this season. In their playoff clinching victory last week he ran the ball several times with a good amount of success. Something he has not done most of this season due to injury. The Titans defense has also played well, especially against the run, in the majority of games this season.

The Chiefs are a streaky team. They started off 5-0 and looked to be the best team in the NFL. They went into a 1-6 tailspin and appeared to be choking away their playoff spot. Then they rebounded and finished 4-0 to win their division and get a home game in the playoffs. Unfortunately for the Titans they Chiefs are on a hot streak right now and should win a tightly contested game. Final score prediction – KC over TN 24-20.

– Mike Lytle


Atlanta at Los Angeles (Rams)

Last year at this time we would have all been surprised to find that the LA Rams were even in the playoffs. The fact is, they are not only in the playoffs, but are expected to beat the reigning-NFC-champion Falcons by a touchdown. The new-in-town Rams have taken the NFL by storm and are trying to recreate the greatest show on turf. The Rams offense has been able to put up over 30 points in 8 games this year and over 25 points in 12 games. They average a league-high 29.9 points per game. They are a well-balanced offense that has only failed to execute a handful of time. Jared Golf has proven to be a quality quarterback and as long as Todd Gurley gets plenty of touches, the Rams should be able to put up points on Atlanta. Their defense, for the most part, has gotten the job done. With defensive genius Wade Phillips calling the shots, there is reason to have confidence that they can keep the Rams in the game.

Despite being the underdogs, I am picking the Falcons to with this game. The Falcons struggled early in the year, but they seemed to turn it around starting with week 10 against the cowboys. They have only lost two games since that time and both to strong teams. When push comes to shove, I have more confidence in Matt Ryan than Jared Golf. Ryan’s experience in the playoffs will be invaluable in picking apart the Wade Phillips’ defense. Perhaps more importantly, I trust Julio Jones to make big catches for his team. Sure, he has struggled to find the end zone this season, but big players live for big games. Julio was made for this moment.

Regardless of who wins, I expect this one to be a shootout. Falcons over Rams 35-30.

– David Lytle


Buffalo at Jacksonville

The Buffalo Bills enter the playoffs as the darlings of the NFL. For this storied franchise, it has been a long time (1999 season) since they have played postseason football, and it took a number of seemingly miraculous things to happen for them to finally break through this season. It is a great story and while I am happy for the team and their fans, great stories do not equal great teams, and the Bills are not a great team. They were a bottom half of the league team in both offensive and defensive statistics. They don’t do any one thing really well, and do most things just good enough to get by. And LeSean McCoy being less than 100% is a back breaker.

On the other side, the Jacksonville Jaguars have been objectively good this season. They are one of the top two defenses in the league by any measurements that matter. And not to be outdone, they are the number five scoring team in the league. Their weaknesses are inexperience and Blake Bortles. While Bortles has been mostly solid this season, is there anyone out there that has any real confidence that Bad Bortles won’t rear its ugly head at a critical moment?

Bortles will Bortle, the Bills are average, but the unit with the most talent on the field, the Jags defense, will dominate. Jags 30 Bills 10.

– Phill Lytle


Carolina at New Orleans

In my humble opinion this is the most crucial game of the weekend. Simply because a strong case can be made for the winner being the NFC favorite even if they will not have home field. Many people would look at Philly, Minnesota and the L.A. Rams and point to either struggles or playoff inexperience at QB as cause for concern. As is well documented on REO by now, not me. I have less faith in the Top 3 NFC seeds mainly because none of them have won a playoff game literally since George W. Bush lived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

That is not the case for the Panthers and Saints. On the road side you have a team that just went to the Super Bowl two years ago and were steamrolled by one of the more impressive defensive efforts by Denver we have ever seen in a game that significant. Carolina isn’t as good an offense as their Super Bowl year but they do have Christian McCaffrey now, and Cam Newton still plays with a swagger that belies his less-than-elite stats and it makes a difference.

On the home side, you have a team with a very unique weapon in former-SEC two-headed monster  RB Mark Alvin Ingram Kamara (combined 1850 yards rushing, 139 receptions and 25 total TDs). And also for only the third time in Drew Brees’ 12 years with the franchise, the defense finished in the Top 10 in fewest points given up. It’s uncanny how Brees has played with a Top 13 defense by this criteria five times in New Orleans and has made the playoffs every time and has played with a 25th or worse defense by this criteria six times and missed the playoffs every time. The one exception to this trend was the year NO won the Super Bowl with the 20th ranked defense.

In addition to being at home, I give New Orleans the advantage because of Brees. He has exceptional playoff stats in his career (320 YPG, a 4:1 TD:Int ratio) and has lost numerous times because his D could not get a stop, most notoriously against San Fransisco in 2011 when he led them to 18 fourth quarter points and still lost (Let it be noted that Drew Brees has far and away the most 4th TD passes in NFL history to give his team the lead in a game his teams would lose, nearly twice as many as the #2 guy). Their D is nowhere close to Denver in 2015 or even Minnesota this year, but they will be good enough to help New Orleans win this game and probably at least two more. I’ll say New Orleans 31, Carolina 20.

– Gowdy Cannon