Last night I saw you guys play in St. Louis. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen you play even though I’ve been a fan since 1999. I’m a heavy set woman in my 30’s. But that didn’t stop me from standing up front, singing, skanking, and just generally being an idiot.
I brought my two girls to see you guys too. And unfortunately for my oldest, I became “that mom”. She genuinely loves your music. She’s been on a one girl crusade to convert her pop music loving friends to punk and ska. But she’s so shy, I spent half my time telling horribly embarrassing stories about how much she loves your band.
I wish I could have told you how this show affected me last night. For one thing, having been in bands myself, I know what it’s like to have fangirls (or boys) come up to you after a show. You’re tired, you’re analyzing how good or bad you did and if you’re a Christian, you’re wondering if God was able to use you at all. Then some chick (or dude) you’ve never met walks up to you saying a bunch of weird crap and/or just generally being strange. Even though our bands never got out of Missouri, I’ve still experienced the odd fan or two. So when I go to a show, I try to be respectful and stay away from being “that fan” but I feel like I massively failed last night.
So here I am, fangirling again. If you ever somehow find this blog, I apologize now.
Here is where we come to the portion of the post where I ramble on forever and ever. Ready? Okay, here we go.
The year was 1999. I had been a committed Christian for all of about 2 years, maybe. I no longer identified with the group of friends I used to belong to and so I was that strange Christian girl who didn’t even fit in with the other Christians. Throughout my junior and senior years of high school I had discovered that I had a deep love for Jesus and that all I really wanted was to share the love of Christ with others.
It was around this time that I discovered Christian ska. It was the most powerful thing I’d ever experienced. It was everything I felt inside. But I was the only person I even knew who had heard of it. Living in a town of only 16,000, (back in ’99, we’re up to 19K now, lol) it wasn’t likely that I would meet anyone else who had. But I did.
By chance I went with a friend to her church’s youth group. They met on a different night than my youth group so when she asked me to come because she needed back up vocals for a song, I said sure. That night literally changed my life forever. Suddenly I was surrounded by a group of peers who not only loved Jesus as much as I did, they also loved ska! I started attending both youth groups (as you do) and it wasn’t long before I was asked to join Oxidizer 5.1.
Oxidizer 5.1 was the band my (now) husband, his brother and their friend Travis were trying to start. They were looking for a singer and I fit the bill. We began writing songs and playing shows. The band grew. We added horn players and changed bassists a few times. And despite the fact that I was incredibly awkward on stage, we became somewhat popular in about a 100 mile area of rural Missouri. Somehow, without even really trying hard, I was getting to do the one thing I had wanted to do more than anything else – sharing Jesus with others through ska.
But as you know, being in a band and playing shows is incredibly hard in so many ways. In the 2 years that Oxidizer was together we all changed so very much. Along the way we lost sight of why we formed a band in the first place. We split up for stupid reasons that seemed so important at the time. We lost touch with each other and went our separate ways.
Shortly after the demise of Oxidizer, my husband and I started a new band called The Throwbacks (as in the ones you throw away). It wasn’t long before we were enjoying a relative amount of popularity in our hometown again. We even got a fair amount of air play on the local college radio station. But commitments our drummer needed to fulfill and the fact that I was 6 months pregnant with my oldest daughter caused The Throwbacks to go on a permanent hiatus.
The history of my husband’s and my music takes a lot of wobbly turns after that and I really don’t want to A) remember things in order and B) make you read about it. So let’s just say that stuff happened. Nick started recording people. I taught myself piano and started writing my own songs. (I have something like 50 now.) He led worship at a lot of places. We had another kid. (That has nothing to do with music.) I started leading worship.
And now it’s 2016. (A hard year to be a godly man.)
I’m sitting at my desk and suddenly “When I Go Out” pops into my head. I decide that instead of being productive I will make a meme about it. I post it on IG and FIF likes the post! I was so surprised. I didn’t even know you were on Instagram so I decide to waste more time checking it out. That’s when I see your post announcing the upcoming show in St. Louis. It was 2 weeks away and all ages, I knew we had to go and take our daughters. FIF is my oldest daughter’s favorite band ever. She practically fainted when I told her we were going to see you play.
I bought the tickets online and had it all worked out. We’d go but stay in the back and just enjoy the music. My husband and I were just too old for this stuff anymore. But after we got there, I knew I had to take my daughters up front so they could really experience everything. As we were waiting for the show to start we got to meet Leanor, “Jeff the Girl”, which was amazing. All I really wanted to do was say hi, be respectful, not take up too much of her time, but I looked at my daughter Meghan who is so terribly shy, she was just staring at her and I knew I needed to say something, anything, to get her talking. My choice of stories to tell was less than desirable. All I could think of was the most embarrassing stuff. Even as I was saying the stuff I was like, “What is wrong with you, Bonnie?” But I just couldn’t reel the crazy back in.
Before the show I had every intention of just chilling out on the sidelines. But again, I looked at my daughters and knew I needed to be bold and crazy and dance and scream and freak out. Later they told me they loved watching me dance and sing along to the songs. It’s something I’m sure they’ll never forget. Haha. My daughter Meghan told me that the whole experience actually helped her grow. She realized she’d been hiding herself and that she needed to stop hiding.
Meghan is special. I know, all moms think their kids are special, but Meghan really is. She was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the tender age of 2 and dyslexia at the age of 6. And just recently she was diagnosed with scoliosis. We’ve been homeschooling since we discovered the dyslexia. So here she is almost 13 years old and like every other kid on the planet, she just wants to fit in. But she’s diabetic, dyslexic, homeschooled, her back is crooked and she listens to music none of her peers have ever heard of. And despite all of that, she has a real and genuine love for God. She’s an incredibly talented jewelry maker and enormously witty. She’s recently begun learning the guitar and even though she won’t let anyone know it, she has an amazing singing voice.
So after the show, when we were driving home, I apologized for how much I embarrassed her. I was sincerely sorry for turning into the stereotypical, embarrassing mother at the show. But she said she wasn’t mad. She was actually glad I did it because sometimes people need to be embarrassed in order to push themselves. She said going to the show made her realize she had to open up to people more and let her guard down. It seems last night may have been a turning point in my little girl’s life.
Back to the show.
It’s the last song. FIF plays “Every New Day”, which I understand is played last at every show. This is a song that has meant a lot to me in the past and I’ve actually played it at church on the piano during Sunday morning worship before. (Not sure what the little old ladies thought of it. Hahaha) Reese starts to sing “healing hands of God have mercy on our unclean souls once again” and a couple things inside me come undone. I start to bawl like a little baby. Gotta say I wasn’t expecting to do that at all.
One – I’m standing in a bar in St. Louis with strangers, many of whom are probably not Christians, and I’m lifting my hands in worship to God, asking Him to have mercy on my unclean soul. And the thought that it really doesn’t matter what anyone else around me or on stage is doing, that I can be the biggest nerd and just worship God right there and then just absolutely tears me apart.
Two – No matter what the current vision of FIF is, if you are out in the world to tell people about Jesus or if you just want to play music, doesn’t matter to me either. Something I lost years ago – an innocence, a simplicity – has been found again. That desire I had back in ’99 to share Jesus through music never really went away. I still write all the time. But the simplicity of it and the pure joy it brought me returned to me last night.
My husband and I have been worship leaders and youth leaders and prayer leaders for years now. We’ve never stopped telling people about Jesus. But in so many ways we became hardened, complicated, wary creatures. We’ve been criticized and asked to leave churches and told we aren’t good enough for years. We’ve burned bridges and hurt too many people. We’ve seen the messy side of ministry, the ugly side. But somehow, last night, I was transported back to 1999 where my heart was young and alive and innocent.
You will probably never read this and that is ok. I’m not sure I really wrote it for you. But if you do read this someday, I hope you know that whether or not you intended for it to happen, God used you in the hearts of The Cox Family on August 13, 2016. You helped a young girl to begin the process of tearing down a wall she’s been building around her heart for a long time. And you helped a burned out couple of ministers reconnect to the motivations that began them down their path so many years ago.
He is the same God that He was in 1999. The Internet, social media and Kanye can’t change that. At some point, in all of our hearts (I’m speculating) we had a real desire to change hearts and lives for Jesus with our music. Recognition, accolades, admiring fans and Benjamin$ didn’t really factor in. We had a cheap amp/guitar/drum set/whatever and passion and that was it. Playing a show out of town meant we were “making it” and usually involved cramming as much gear and people into as few cars as possible to save on gas. We didn’t get paid much, if anything, and didn’t have enough cash to even grab some dinner. But praying with that one kid or leading that other kid in the prayer of salvation or seeing kids on their faces in worship after they’d just danced those same faces off – well, that made it all worth it.
Last night reminded me that sharing Jesus can be simple and beautiful. It doesn’t have to be complex, eloquent, trendy or clever. It can be as simple as telling a 12 year old girl that you like the necklace she made. Or just singing “Healing hands of God have mercy on our unclean souls once again. Jesus Christ, light of the world, burning bright within our hearts forever. Freedom means love without conditions, without a beginning or an end. Here’s my heart, let it be forever Yours. Only You can make every new day seem so new.”
Sooooooo, yeah… I’ve been rambling on for a while now. Guess I need to conclude this puppy. FIF, keep doing what you’re doing. God is using you whether you want Him to or not. He’s God and He can do whatever He wants.
I’m gonna go write another song this week.
Love you guys,