Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Don't Fade Away...Winter Dance Party

A chilly Iowa landscape became the final resting place for Buddy Holly, Ritchie Vallens, and the Big Bopper. They were like any other musicians, travelling from place to place, arriving at new venues, hoping that their songs would receive the same rousing reception that they had found on the radio.

This past summer, we visited the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.

The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, was a perfect venue. Huge wooden dance floor. Tropical theme - to warm their spirits in the bitterly cold Midwest winter. Who knew that the evening of February 2, 1959, which held such energy and promise, would end in tragedy?

That night, the Winter Dance Party, would be forever immortalized by the fans who couldn't quite believe they were gone. Fast forward some 50 years later, and their memories have not yet faded away.

Fans of Buddy, Ritchie and the Big Bopper, gathered at Willowbrook Ballroom this January to hear the touring tribute to the Winter Dance Party Two of the artists, representing Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens, are played by musicians who are dedicated to keeping their music and memories alive. Ray Anthony bears a striking resemblance to the very young, good-looking Vallens. Buddy Holly tribute artist, John Mueller, from Los Angeles, captured the angular quirkiness and charm of Holly.

The Big Bopper was represented by his son, Jay Richardson While he never knew his father, Jay was born six months after the plane crash that claimed the life of his father, there were moments when he clearly communicated his dad's deep voice and sense of humor.

He took a rotary dial phone in hand - and told the young people in the audience, "You might not know what this's a telephone." He even explained, tongue in cheek, that you cannot take pictures with it. Then, with the phone ringing, he sang, "Helllllllooooooo baby..." and we were off.

I enjoyed watching the crowd. People smiled at the songs. Couples. danced in the back. And, others recalled the events they associated with the music. I heard several people say they knew someone who knew the person who flew the plane that crashed in the Iowa farm field.

I do know that everyone had a great time. We sat with two men, a father and his son, who are both huge Buddy Holly fans. The son said that everyone teases him about his interest in this "old" musician - but - for him - Holly has a draw that keeps him even attending these tribute shows.

Not everyone appreciates tribute artists. But, whether it is Elvis or Buddy Holly, it gives us an opportunity to hear their music again, performed live, as if it never faded away. Several years ago, at the Green Bay Rockin 50s Fest, we danced to the music of the original Crickets, Holly's band. Last summer, we visited the Surf Ballroom - a place we will never forget. But, this show gave me the chance to imagine that I had been there - in 1959 - to hear the three play their final show.

We had a great time at the Winter Dance Party 2013.

Buddy, Ritchie, and the Big Bopper will never fade away.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

It's a Book!

This morning, I signed a book contract with Moody Publishers. I am so excited!

Not only am I thrilled for this opportunity to be published, but I am honored to tell the stories of some amazing turn-of-the-century women.

The working title of my book is: HEROIC PIONEERS: 8 Christian Women Who Changed Chicago, the Church, and the World.

And they did!

The book will highlight the lives of eight, Chicago women who were contemporaries of evangelist D.L. Moody.

One was a slave’s daughter – one a single school teacher stricken by typhoid fever – one was a wealthy philanthropist - yet each of them achieved amazing things for God and His Church. They started schools and ministry organizations. They preached at the World’s Fair. They marched boldly into Chicago's vice district and changed taverns into missions. They worked alongside United States Presidents to change public policy and challenge injustice. Together - they instituted many important outreach organizations that are still active today. What a legacy!

Their stories deserve to be told.

Many people view the history of the church as male-focused. These stories negate that myth and illustrate how these women, with their bonnets and sweeping skirts, made an incredible difference in the history of the church and Chicago.

I can't wait for you to meet them: Emma, Mary, Sarah, Ruth, Virginia, Nettie, Fanny and more.


Friday, January 11, 2013

Dwight and Emma and a place called MBI

One day, on eBay, I found this silver key charm from 1915. Because I love history and all things vintage, from time to time, I do an online search for items that are related to Moody Bible Institute. This charm belonged to at student named Myron Griswold - and asked to be returned if lost...for a reward!

As I walked to my Chicago office, Myron's charm on a chain around my neck, I smiled. This little bit of history was going back to the right place, a place where I have worked since 1990. Funny how things come full circle.

I work at Moody Bible Institute because I love my job - I teach writing to college students who are driven to change the world for good. I help them learn to tell their stories and articulate their faith. They are hopeful, sometimes naive, but always determined that they can make a difference.

I also work there because I believe in the purpose and history of this unique and important Chicago institution  The college, located in the center of downtown, is a century-old bastion of Bible education. The school began in the late 1800s with the specific intent of training men and women in Bible and practical ministry.

Turn-of-the-century Chicago was a rough place. If you've read Devil in the White City or Sin and the Second City, you can imagine the problems. A huge wave of immigration had increased the city's size, but also the number of destitute families. Industrialization had brought jobs, but also child labor problems and harsh work environments. Women arriving in the city looking for work were often caught up in sex trafficking. The skyscrapers were rising and casting shadows on the sewage-filled city streets.

Into this place of need and vice, a young East coast evangelist came. He was bold and charming, not particularly educated, but spoke confidently and preached well. He attracted masses of listeners. He was not wealthy and not schooled, but he had a burden for orphans and street children. He started a Sunday School and invited in all the children who would ordinarily not darken the doorstep of a church. His ministry grew.

He met a woman, Emma Dryer, who was a single, school teacher from the East. She was training other teachers in Normal, Illinois, at the newly built university. She also felt called by God to do something different with her life. He challenged her: "Teaching is okay for some people," he told her. "But you can do more..."

She did. Moody and Dryer started a school - a training school for men and women. She took a map of Chicago and drew a grid upon it. She organized workers to visit every home in the rough and tumble city. They handed out Bibles and started classes to train immigrants with home and work skills.

A portly, uneducated man. A single female teacher. Together they started something grand.

Moody Bible Institute still stands today. The college and seminary, now located in three states, has trained thousands of young men and women to work as relief workers, teachers, preachers, missionaries, linguists and musicians. Our students have left for every country - going where they are needed.

D.L. Moody wanted to make sure that students would attend regardless of their ability to pay - and that tradition continues today. Tuition is paid for by donors at the Chicago undergraduate campus.

What a legacy these two ordinary people left behind.