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FIRST-PERSON: Dad rediscovers Christian music

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (BP)–“No,” I replied whenever my then-9-year-old daughter asked.

“When you’re in Dad’s car,” I told Kaeli, “we listen to National Public Radio” and, on occasion, classical music. And sports talk. But not Christian music.

Then, at Christmastime, Kaeli asked for a Steven Curtis Chapman CD.

I couldn’t fathom an elementary school student wanting a CD by someone who’s in his 30s, maybe his 40s. Kaeli’s much-desired CD nevertheless was placed under the Christmas tree, but I had no more interest in listening to it than the Plus One CD she wanted for her birthday a few months later.

Then one day a string of ideas popped into my head: Go cold turkey on NPR and talk radio. Find the Christian music station on the car radio. Listen to it with Kaeli and talk about it. And when driving to and from work, learn about the music, especially the words of the songs.

It had been 18 years since I had listened to Christian music, a span of three relocations and job changes. Since tuning out, Rich Mullins and Keith Green had died at the peak of their creativity, Mullins in an auto accident and Green in a plane crash. I had heard of Twila Paris and Petra but I knew nothing of their music. And I missed out on the early careers of Rebecca St. James, Point of Grace, Avalon, dc Talk and Michael W. Smith.

Years ago, I had loved the storytelling in Don Francisco’s music and the vocal styles of Evie Tornquist and Michelle Pillar but, alas, that was then.

As I began listening anew — and warily — to Christian music, I liked about a fourth of the songs I heard. Then it increased to about a third and then half. Now, I admit it’s probably two out of three.

The song that first gripped my soul was Avalon’s “Make It Last Forever,” a celebration of how faith in Christ should affect each of us: “You can’t ignore it / You’re created for it … There’s a higher high / Just this side of heaven / Brings you to your knees / Brings you back to life….”

I was amazed and humbled when Kaeli said it was one of her favorite songs — and when a teenager I know said it was his 6-year-old brother’s favorite.

More recently, I’ve been astounded by the truth throughout Audio Adrenaline’s “Good Life”: “I’ve watched my dreams all fade away … Everything I’ve ever had is unraveled and undone … This is the good life / I’ve lost everything I could ever want … I found everything I could ever need / Here in Your arms.”

Plenty of the songs give me something to say to Kaeli, who’s now 11, about our faith, while the recent wave of worship-style songs stirs us to hum and sing together. And, on one occasion, I have been able to issue important clarifications, such as: It’s not “Wooly is the lamb” but “Worthy is the Lamb.”

I now cherish the daily discipleship opportunity I never would have had if Kaeli hadn’t asked, “Dad, can we listen to Christian music?”
If you begin to explore Christian music, here are a few pointers:
— Focus on the words to the music, not the artist’s celebrity status. If a singer stumbles into trouble, it’ll lessen the amount of explaining that may be needed.
— Read the words on CD covers and note important lyrics that might provide teachable moments with your child.
— Query the person in charge of your local Christian bookstore’s music section about artists and music styles and trends.
— If you contemplate taking your child to a concert, be warned: The music typically is much louder and the lyrics much less clear than on the radio or CDs. Be sure to take some earplugs.