Thursday, November 29, 2007

Good friends and good music

Often times my tastes in music have come from the people that I care about. This probably began with my friend Anna Manente in high school. Her dad played guitar in a bar band. Music like Eric Clapton, John Denver and James Taylor was always playing at her house when I was there. Tricia was in college at this time and she brought home artists like David Wilcox and Nanci Grifith. I passed along the music that I was discovering. When I got to Taylor I met people like Mike Wooten (Johnny Cash, Springsteen, Dylan, Bill Mallonee, VOL), Ben Arendt (Smashing Pumpkins) and Amanda (Over the Rhine). Over the Rhine is a great example of this. Before I met Amanda I had heard them and even been to one of their shows. I didn't really like them. I didn't "get" them. Once I saw Amanda's excitement for them, I wanted to like them and gave myself over to them. They have become one of my favorite bands and I look forward to each upcoming album.

I have also had the opportunity to introduce people I love to music that I love. Tricia began listening to the music that Anna introduced to me. Amanda has embraced almost all of the music that I like. My friend Jared has become a big Springsteen fan. Bill from work has begun listening to OTR and likes it. I recently passed on some music to guys I'm still in contact with from Taylor and Ryan Adams was a stand out favorite. Probably my most satisfying contribution is to my boys' musical tastes. Ben, Caleb and Matthew are Springsteen fans. Someday they will talk about the music that they listened to growing up. That will be fun.

I am always interested in the music tastes of my friends. To what are you listening? Who has influenced your musical tastes?

Now playing: Gillian Welch - Revelator
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Gammons family wish list

Following Gregg and Allison's lead, we have gotten a little bit of an list together. The only difficulty with these lists is that not everyone wants to buy all of their stuff from Amazon. If that's you. Send us an e-mail and we'll take what you bought off the list so that we don't get duplicates. Click on the link at the right and you'll see our list. Check back in the next couple of days. We're still working on it.

Now playing: NPR - Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard in Concert: 05/10/2007
via FoxyTunes

My personal investigation of creation and evolution

I was raised in a home where evolution was seen as the devil's handiwork. It was a huge shock when I got to Taylor University and found out that all of their science faculty believed in evolution. Since then it seems that every VERY smart person that I have met believed in evolution. So my question has always been, if evolution is somehow true and I believe the Bible to be completely true, how do I reconcile the two? Things like calling the first 12 chapters of Genesis myth or just saying it is all a mystery didn't make sense to me.

Last week we watched the NOVA program Intelligent Design on Trial on PBS. It was very well done and raised more questions than answers for me. I was especially frustrated by the Christians that were involved. The Intelligent Design movement seems like a meager attempt at repackaging Creationism and "backdooring" it into mainstream thought. Many of the people interviewed came out and said as much.

Since, I have been seeking for either some Christians who believed in evolution that could reconcile their views with those of the Bible well or for Creationists who were seeking to scientifically support the words of the Bible. This is when I came across Reasons to Believe. It is an organization that seeks to support a Biblical creation model through science. The founder, Dr. Hugh Ross, is a former CalTech fellow. All of the people on his staff are also REAL scientists. I listened to a debate that was hosted by the Veritas Forum (an awesome organization). In this debate, for the first time, I heard Christians who all believed in Jesus debating evolution and creation. It was great. I think at this point I have come to a few working conclusions.
  1. I believe that the Bible is true and does not contain any "myth".
  2. I believe that science can and does support claims in the Bible. All truth is God's truth. The more we find out about science, the more it will help make sense of the Bible.
  3. These are tough issues for smarter people than me, but I am expected to work on them in my own way.
  4. Smart people who love Jesus disagree on these issues.
Have you done any thinking about these difficult questions? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Now playing: Mar - Mother Star Sun (Edit)
via FoxyTunes

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving week recap

We are finally home! It was a great week at Mom's in Alpena. The boys had tons of fun with Uncle Al playing in the snow. One day Mom, Tricia, Alex and Davy all went to the mall. Amanda said to the boys, "It's kind of nice to be just our family for a little while, isn't it?" Both boys said, "No." We asked them if they missed everyone. They said, "No, just Uncle Al." Alex is the crazy uncle that plays non-stop with the boys, pulls them on the sled, does crazy photos on Mom's mac and pays great attention to them. He is going to be a great dad to his coming boy.

We also did Christmas gifts with Mom while we were in Alpena. Benjamin and Caleb both got a great Lego set. We spent around eight hours building them both. When the set comes with two instruction books, you know you're in for some time. It was a lot of fun though. Mom got me a Stir Crazy popcorn popper and an ice cream maker. We made our first batch of ice cream last night (cookies and cream). Amanda said that it was as good as any ice cream she's eaten. I would agree. Mom said that there is a Ben and Jerry's ice cream recipe book on Amazon. I'd love to get that for Christmas (hint, hint.)We are excited to try some new recipes.

One downer of the trip and yet a very funny moment was that I got a ticket in Wisconsin on the way back. This is at least the second or third ticket that I've received driving across Wisconsin. The police officer was very nice though and "let me off" with just a city ticket that he said would not affect my insurance and would be no points. When the officer went back to his car Caleb asked, "Are we all going to jail?" Then Ben said, "Dad, I will give you some of the money out of my piggy bank." Amanda and I almost cracked up laughing. They are all such wonderful people and we are so blessed to have all four of them in our lives.

It was a great week and we are so thankful for each of you that are important parts of our lives. See all of the pics from our week here.

Now playing: NPR - Neko Case in Concert: 04/09/2006
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, November 22, 2007

We're thankful for . . .

Today we are especially thankful for Carrie! Today is her birthday and we are glad that we have had another year with her. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CARRIE! We all love you.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


There are five children five-years-old and younger here at the Gammons' house. It's a lot of fun, but if you're not used to it, it's a lot. We have had a lot of fun hanging out with the Falder clan. Matthew and Davy are fast friends. Mom bought all of the kids matching camo pj's. Tomorrow is our attempt at a brined turkey. More to come on that. Sharon is down stairs right now yelling at me about getting the salt dissolved in the water.

Now playing: Neil Young - Long May You Run
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, November 18, 2007

What a view!

As I have written, my mom's house has a beautiful view. She has talked about selling this place. I think the view and not coming back to Alpena would be the things that I would miss most.

Coming home

There are great things about coming home. It always helps me remember good things about home and how it has impacted me. The popcorn bowl above is the one that we used growing up. We had an old black pressure cooker pan that my dad would use to make popcorn on the stove. If it was a very special night, he would bring home an eight pack of Pepsi bottles. Tonight we popped popcorn on the stove and had our usual Sunday night family meeting, big yellow bowl and all.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


We left White Bear Lake yesterday at 2:00 PM. Our plan was to stop in Escanaba, Michigan to sleep. When we got to Escanaba it was 9:00 and all of the kids were asleep. It didn't make much sense to stop and wake all of the kids to go into the hotel, so we pressed on. As we were getting close to the Mackinaw Bridge I said to Amanda that the boys would be really upset if they missed the bridge. When we were about half way over the bridge Ben woke up and we heard Matthew say, "Bridge!" We arrived in Alpena at 2:00 AM.

This morning we woke up, had a cup of coffee and went outside. I love being outside in Alpena. It was a beautiful morning with low hanging snow clouds. The boys and I made a huge fire on the beach and walked by the water. Tricia, Alex and Davy come on Tuesday and we are looking forward to having them. More from Alpena to come later this week.

Now playing: Agapeland - Smile
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What are you thankful for?

I was reading the DG blog this morning and Noel Piper (Pastor John's wife) wrote a great post about Thanksgiving. The best part about it for me was the following.

"If we want to give thanks, we need only two things. Something we’re thankful for and somebody to thank. Seems so obvious, but I think I need to say it because it’s amazing how many people can say, “I’m thankful for _____ ,” without admitting that God is there to hear their thanks."

We have been doing our "I'm thankful for . . ." banner after dinner each night this week. I need to remind the boys to whom we are thankful. What are you thankful for this year? Post them in the comments. Here are some things that have ended up on our banner.

Molly (almost every night from someone)
Star Wars figures
Poor people (I think Ben meant that we should pray for poor people.)
My kids
Jesus (Caleb knows we like this answer. He's a second child parent pleaser. I think he is thankful for Jesus though too.)

A few new videos

I have posted a few new videos to my Youtube channel. Nothing too exciting, but you might want to check it out.

Now playing: Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band - Raise Your Hand
via FoxyTunes

Ben as Bruce

Sometimes before the boys go to bed at night we'll put on some music and rock out. The other night I put on a DVD that I have of Bruce Springsteen's 1975 concert at the Hammersmith Odeon Theater in London. Ben was way into it. Do you see the comparison?

Friday, November 9, 2007

Things I look forward to about Alpena

One week from today we will be embarking on our yearly holiday trip to Alpena. This trip always brings a myriad of emotions. I love going home. It is a place of solace and rest for me. That might also be the fact that I'm always on vacation there. There are many things though that are peculiar to Alpena to which I look forward.
  1. Fires: I love a campfire. If I could I would build a fire every night, sit outside, smoke my pipe (I don't smoke anymore Mom.), and be near people that I love, I would be very pleased. I think this love started at Summer Camp growing up in Alpena. After the campers all went to bed, the counselors would sit around the fire that Bill Fitch had built, talk, pray and sing way into the night. These were amazing times! I got to know the saints of our church, learned to talk about this Jesus that I loved and grew up. I love fires now because it is something very masculine that I can do with my boys. I am teaching them things, they are breaking sticks, and we are being together. Fire is a gift to men. Men don't say things very well face-to-face. But if they are all facing a fire, words come more quickly and more gently. Every year when I go on our Guys' Weekend with my friends from Taylor, we experience this. We have talked about staying in hotels on that weekend, but someone always says, "What about the fire." I hope to have many a fire in Alpena while were there.
  2. Connie's Cafe: This is a little restaurant in Ossineke, Michigan a few miles from Mom's house where we always like to do at least one breakfast. Sometimes Mom will even keep the kids and Amanda and I get to slip off for a breakfast by ourselves. Sweet and precious time.
  3. Tricia, Alex and Davy time: I have missed seeing little Davy grow. I am looking forward to seeing them. Tricia was able to be so involved in the lives of our first two kids. It has been difficult to not be able to see Davy and Drew and be involved in their lives.
  4. Walks on the beach: At least once while I am in Alpena, I get to take a walk with just Amanda, one with just my mom and one with the whole family. Mom's spot there is so beautiful. The beauty of winter is one of quiet, cold, barrenness. It is a place where you can bundle the boys up, send them out and know that they are going to have good "boy" time: jumping in puddles, finding sticks, walking on the ice, pushing limits.
I am finding more and more that the times that I feel most myself are outside, not in a "I'm outdoors cool" kind of way. I just like to be out. This is something that I've always loved about Alpena. It is much better outside than in. Not everywhere is like that. Northern Michigan is definitely one of those places.

Now playing: Over The Rhine - My Funny Valentine
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Photos by Ben

Ben has also really been into taking photos with our camera lately. The camera is a hunk of junk that we need to replace so I don't feel too nervous about turning him loose with it. Here's a sample of what comes from his lens. I cut out most of the close ups of the brick on the patio, sorry. As you can see Molly is one of his favorite subjects. Mine too!

Now playing: Bruce Springsteen - I'll Work For Your Love
via FoxyTunes

Good new, good news!

My colleague Robert (a fellow Springsteen fan) came in this morning and said, "I assume you've heard."

"What?," I said.

"There's going to be a second show in March!"

That's right. Springsteen is coming back to the Twin Cities on March 16! Benjamin has been very into the new album lately. He keeps saying, "Dad, can we listen to the new Bruce Springsteen album?" When we put it on and turn it up loud, he bounces around playing his air guitar (which Matthew mimics). If he's getting really into it, he runs back to the bathroom and gets his hair wet. "Rock and rollers are always sweaty," he says. I tell him, "That's right buddy." The other night when we were jamming out, Amanda said that it would have been so great to take Ben to the show. Well, maybe we'll get our chance. Would a five-year-old like to get Springsteen tickets for Christmas? Would Ben rather go to a Springsteen show or get Lego's? Would Caleb freak out if just Ben and I went to the show? Tickets go on sale Saturday at 10:00 AM. Maybe you'll see Ben and I in line down at the Xcel Center with all of the 40 and 50-year-olds.

Now playing: Bruce Springsteen - Gypsy Biker
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Oh, Oprah!

So many times have I wanted to post about Oprah Winfrey, her huge ego and her cult-like pseudo-religious following. After the story that has come out this week about sexual abuse at her girls' school in Africa, I was compelled. What a terrible thing to happen to any young girl anywhere! I saw a portion of Oprah's press conference yesterday on the news. She said "This has been one of the most devastating if not the most devastating experience
of my life. But like all such experiences, there's always much to be gained and I think there's a lot to be learned." WHAT ABOUT THE LITTLE GIRL? She talked about how she spent the first half-hour after she heard about it crying. Then she was able to pull herself together and do what needed to be done. In response to this incident, she decided to give each of the girls a cell phone with her number on it. Do you think Oprah is going to be answering the calls from those little African girls? "Hello, you've reached Oprah Winfrey. I love you, but I can't take your call right now. Please leave a message." The causes that she tackles are admirable, but it always seems like it all about Oprah and not about caring for people. This seems to be just another example.

Matthew 6:1-4
1"Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

2 "Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Christmas, Jesus, kids, gifts, consumerism

As we begin to think about Christmas and all of the joys that it brings, I also begin to think about our kids and all of the questions that this season brings. This comes early this year because we are going to be exchanging gifts at my mom's house over Thanksgiving. When I come to this topic I come with a few givens.
  1. This season is about the most important gift ever given: the gift of the incarnate savior Jesus Christ and his eventual death, resurrection and redemption.
  2. Secondarily, the holidays are about being together with family and people that we love. As part of this, we give and receive gifts that are expressions of that love.
  3. If anything in #2 takes away from #1 it should be subordinated until #1 is paramount.
  4. Our culture makes the main part of this season getting the things that you want out of the Toys 'r Us circular (or Best Buy in my case.)
So with these givens stated, here's my question? What do you and your family or what did you and your family (if your family is gone) do to make sure that Christmas did not lose the focus of Jesus and time with loved ones? One thing that we are going to try this year, that we stole from our good friends the Arendts, is that we are going to give the kids three gifts. We'll talk about how Jesus was given three gifts as well. I think we are going to try and do our gift giving with just our family at home. In the past we've done it as a part of other celebrations. I long for my kids (and me) to be protected from the sweaty palmed madness of materialism/consumerism. It's a tough one and I think it may be something that they need to eventually battle on their own. What do you think? I'd love to read your comments.

Now playing: Brandi Carlile - The Story
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Working to keep the universe safe

I love this picture of Ben. He's so serious.

We had a great time last night. My favorite part of the evening was talking to the two widow ladies on our street. We tried to talk to them for a while. The first one said, "Are you having fun?" I said, "We sure are. Are you?" She didn't really know what to say. As we left she commented, "What a beautiful family. You've made my night." Again, a reminder to us that such a small thing to people in need really can make a difference. Shube said that we should invite one of them down for dinner. That would be scary, but I think we should too. I am sure either of them would love to come down.

Check out the other pictures from last night here.

Now playing: Bruce Springsteen - Devils & Dust
via FoxyTunes