Bill Mallonee - Slow Trauma“Trauma” generally centers around moments that shatter reality as we know it. It is an engine that propels medical science, psychology, and disaster response. But what about the in-the-trenches impact of life from day to day or year to year? Such struggle is the stuff of spiritual journey, the stuff of sacrifice, the stuff of endurance, the stuff of failure and ultimately the stuff of faith, hope, and love. It is that “Slow Trauma” that Bill Mallonee explores with the ever-deepening poetic voice that has carried him from the “next big thing” status that plagued Vigilantes of Love into something more rewarding and valuable than any industry that seeks to profit from human expression could ever recognize. It is a shame that people might not hear these songs. The good news is that these songs exist: they are begging to be heard and demand to find and audience as listeners become promoters in the age of social media interconnection. In other words: I’m telling you about these songs so that you will tell somebody else. I want you to listen. I want you to purchase. I want your journey to be shaped by the journey of “Slow Trauma”.


These are songs of journey and struggle, of faith instead of certainty. Perhaps it’s the journey of a railroad worker leaving his family as the nation expands westward. Perhaps it’s the journey of a troubadour songwriter travelling that same geographic route while letting go of everything that defined his past in order to take hold of what lies ahead. Perhaps it’s the journey that all of us struggle to understand: a life with no guarantees except that of our own mortality. Perhaps it’s all of the above.

For churched people, it makes perfect sense that these songs first arrived on our doorsteps or devices as the journey of Holy Week was about to unfold once again. These are songs that point toward Easter, toward hope and new life, but get there by the only road available: the way of struggle, suffering, and even death. For unchurched souls, it’s much simpler: these songs are devoid of bullshit. They refuse to offer simple answers to burning questions; they also refuse to give up on what might be waiting over that last hill if we have the courage to seek it out.

Musically, Mallonee brings the sound of a full band to these songs, even while going it alone (save for Muriah Rose on piano and organ). His upbringing as a drummer provides a subdued but solid foundation for guitar work that has continued in recent years to expand into gritty soulful melodic leads that bring a wistful yet buoyant quality to each song. A striking feature of these particular songs are the yearning harmony vocals sung by Mallonee himself.

Over the course of 10 songs, Mallonee takes the willing listener on a journey. The album begins with the 1-minute overture of “One and the Same” setting the scene for all that is to follow. The need to embark on the journey unfolds in the uncertainty of “Only Time Will Tell,” the hesitant restlessness of “Waiting for the Stone (to be Rolled Away),” and the urgent inevitability of “Hour Glass (Only So Many Grains of Sand)”.

“WPA (When I Get to Where They’re Taking Us)” bids farewell to all that is comfortable and cherished while promising to write home regularly. It also touches on the uncomfortable journey that begins at the farewell of the grave: “Tossing you a scrap; throwing you a crust. It’s all ashes to ashes and dust to dust.”

The struggle of the journey unfolds across “Ironclad”, “High~Beam” and “Doldrums in Denver”. With no guarantees, there is a wish to “wind the tape back to the very start” even while acknowledging that there’s not really a home to return to. “High~Beam” is the catharsis of an artist that has come to terms with an industry that claims to want authenticity, but then turns a deaf ear. Grace invades in the form of a pen that keeps writing and a guitar that keeps demanding to be played. Out of that resolve comes the realization—or better yet: revelation—that “whatever is heavy as hell is what you shouldn’t carry”. “Doldrums in Denver” is the cold and lonely place that begs you to continue the journey if only to ensure that it doesn’t end there.

Ultimate hope offers a glimpse of its face in “The King’s Highway (New Set of Wheels).” Staying true to the journey and the reality of struggle, it makes no claim of certainly or on-demand delivery:

Could be soon, could be far;
but that’s not mine to say.
You’ll get a new set of wheels on the King’s Highway.
Just another road song for the radio to play.
You’ll get a new set of wheels on the King’s Highway.

“That Last Hill” offers the final word with the same eloquence that “One and The Same” started the story. As “the final grains of sand fall through the slender neck of the hour glass” and Mallonee reflects on life’s journey during which “it’s funny how things can get so damn misplaced”, he hopes that he will be received kindly at his final destination:

Lord, gather me unto Thyself
when my wayward heart grows still.
I just wanna see over that last hill.

Mallonee’s music continues to offer riches to every listener fortunate enough to have somebody insist that they spend time with these songs. If you have read this far, I must insist that you take time to listen to “Slow Trauma” yourself. Listen to it and invite others to listen. Bill Mallonee admits that the self-promotion necessary to sustain a musician’s career does not feel authentic to him. As an alternative, I can think of nothing more authentic than a legion of listeners taking up the mantle of inviting others into the struggle and the journey Mallonee’s music embraces. Who will you share these songs of grace and truth with?

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From June 28 – July 4, 2015, 18 volunteers from St. Luke Lutheran Church spent a week serving with Appalachia Service Project.  They traveled to Washington County, VA and did work to make 3 homes safer, warmer, and drier. This page is headquarters for updates throughout the trip and will remain as an archive of this important mission.

CLICK HERE FOR ASP2015 PHOTO ALBUM

Saturday, June 27 – Packing Day

The ASP team and their families met at St. Luke for a cookout and packing of the vans. Heavy rains brought the cookout indoors, but the vans were packed and the team will be ready to go in the morning.

Sunday, June 28 – Travel Day

5:40am – Everyone met at St. Luke, said goodbyes, prayed together, and were on the road by 6am.

3:30pm – The teams arrived at Rhea Valley Elementary School in Meadowview, VA. Sleeping quarters were set up in the gym and the team met volunteers from other churches, including St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church from Perkasie, PA!

Monday, June 29 – The Work Begins

The three teams headed out to meet the people they will be serving and to begin work on their projects. All 3 teams reported a successful start to the week, including good experiences with both their work and their new friends. Team Belted Galloway finished the last corner of siding on the outside of their house, picking up where previous volunteers finished last week.

The St. Luke team enjoyed ice cream together Monday evening as they shared stories about their sites.

Tuesday, June 30

Another great day! Team Longhorn tiled two bedroom floors and primed the roof, which will receive covering on Wednesday. Team Belted Galloway all had a turn using the circular saw as they prepared the back of the house for siding. They also removed the framing from a tub that will be replaced with a larger shower that will be more accessible. They enjoyed sitting on the porch while having lunch with their family.

From Team Pineywoods: Pineywoods has made great progress over the past couple of days. On our first day, we met our family, a couple with three kids. Their trailer home needed repairing and painting in a new nursery and a new floor in the girls’ bedroom. The Pineywood People (a.k.a. Tommy, Natalie, Katharine, and Philip) have sang a capella nonstop at the work site, on the road,  and even while cleaning the showers. The experience has been eye-opening and enjoyable. Piney Woods has been a blessing for all of us. Whoever assigned us to this home was listening to God. The family is so comfortable with us there, as we are too. We are putting in a new floor and painting a nursery and kitchen wall and building relationships with God’s love.

The evening “culture night” program featured Ms. Debbie, the principal of Rhea Valley Elementary School, who delivered a deeply inspiring talk about Appalachia, “her kids” at the school, and the great good that she has seen done by ASP volunteers.

Wednesday, July 1

Another great day!  It began with rain again, but cleared up by the time we were ready to head out to our sites.

Banded Galloway sided the back of their house today. They also removed the old tub and framing for it. “Our family invited us to sit and have cantaloupe with them. What a lovely way to end the day — sitting with folks on their porch enjoying the late afternoon!”

Team Longhorn put SBS roofing material on half of the roof today. It has a VERY strong adhesive  backing and after the learning curve  it went down well. It is kind of like wrapping the roof in a waterproof membrane. They finished cutting the tile in one room and a 3/4 of a 2nd room. The children are getting much more comfortable with the team; it seems their favorite target to tease is Amani. Using donations from home, we were able to purchase an egress window for the children’s bedroom at the Team Longhorn home.
The evening gathering included participation in a prayer walk. It was a nice reflection time. Then it was of to try out the OTHER ice cream shop right near the Appalachian trail.

Several of our youth decided to sit in on the staff meeting, which gives them the chance to consider spending a full summer as an ASP staff member.

Thursday, July 2

Day 4 was a little wet but still productive! Team Longhorn worked on the roof until the rain started, then moved inside and finished the floor in the girls bedroom. They then started  replacing the drywall in the bathroom.

From Team Belted Galloway: the new shower tub and framing are done as is all of the plumbing! We worked on waterproofing between the siding and the eaves. We ended the day on the porch with our family enjoying some watermelon.

From Team Piney Woods: We finally saw our efforts turn into a floor! Katharine, Natalie, Tommy and Philip spent hours installing luan flooring on top of OSB flooring on top of stronger joists and braces to support the floor. That was 4 days of effort and the result is a nice flat floor that is ready for VCT floor tiles. We will do that job tomorrow, Friday our last workday. We have been truly blessed to spend this week with our family of 5 and they had so much fun at dinner tonight playing with us on the elementary school playground. We have spent great days with them in their trailer home singing, reading  and of course playing and I would add sharing God’s everlasting love.  Mr and Mrs Gilbert are so proud of our crews’ endless energy and all of our St Luke’s(18 in all on this trip). You cannot imagine just what an impact you will have as an ASP volunteer until you get down here and just do it. Your hands doing God’s good works.

The evening featured the ASP picnic, which included ASP staff members agreeing to hair cutting, pie throwing and hair dyeing as they celebrated fundraising success. The day ended with the St. Luke ASP tradition of liars dice!

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It’s Holy Week. It’s a time where the story of Jesus invites us to engage with it a little more intentionally. There are many opportunities to experience worship services that are like no others during the year (and often include more focus on the story of Jesus and less focus on preachers). Below is a list of songs that perhaps will accompany you through this week. I like them. Maybe you will, too.

1. Steve Taylor & The Perfect Foil – Comedian

The “King of the One Liners”  had us thrilled
Then came the punchline, now we want him killed
And when he’s gone…gone
Who gets the mic…if it’s on?

The Kickstarter-funded album Goliath was just released at the end of 2014 (and on vinyl and cassette on March 31). The more I listen to, the more I’m beginning to realize that it may just be an masterpiece. Highly recommended!

2. The Velvet Underground – Jesus

Help in my weakness,
’cause I’m falling out of grace.
Jesus…Jesus

Perhaps the most sincere prayer every put to music. It need not be more complicated than this.

3. U2 – Daddy’s Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday’s alright!

For some reason, this is the U2 song I always come back to as a metaphor for God’s grace. Also fun to watch Bono (inspired by The Screwtape Leters by C .S. Lewis) mocking the devil in front of a stadium crowd.

4. Red Wanting Blue – My Name Is Death

I’ve got a million weapons and ways to use ‘em:
From nuclear power to drugs and boozing.
But my favorite just might be the element of surprise.

There is no getting around it: death is real. At the cross of Calvary the whole Jesus-is-God-made-human thing reaches its climax. God is with us, even though the “grim reaper” is still lurking. Side note: Red Wanting Blue may be the greatest rock band you’re not hearing.

5. Flobots – Stand Up

We shall not be moved
Except By a child with no socks and shoes
Except by a woman dying from the loss of food
Except by a freedom fighter bleeding on a cross for you

We shall not be moved
Except by a system thats rotten through
Neglecting the victims and ordering the cops to shoot
High treason now we need to prosecute

So Stand up

Let’s not forget that the Holy Week story is a story of revolution against persecution, a movement versus an empire. Jesus continues to be publicly executed today in every corner of the world because there is no standing up to evil without paying a dear price.

6. Bill Mallonee – In the New Dark Age (The Only Lamp Burning Bright is You)

All the masks came off and disguises were dropped
The game was declared over
Love was escorted out
There was hardly a shout
I’ll take the crimson & clover

Bill Mallonee‘s songs capture the scandal of Holy Week: the life of faith is not for the faint of heart. True religion is not escapism or self-help; it spends its time in the muck and misery of the world.

7. The Black Keys – Lonely Boy

Well I’m so above you, and it’s plain to see,
But I came to love you anyway.
So you pulled my heart out,
And I don’t mind bleeding,
Any old time you keep me waiting (waiting…waiting).

The cross. Plain and simple. Jesus is the lonely boy who won’t stop waiting (waiting…waiting).

 8. Sister Gertrude Morgan – I Am the Living Bread

There is something simply transcendent about the voice of an elderly New Orleans street evangelist armed with only her voice and a tambourine. I recommend Sister Gertrude Morgan‘s entire album.

9. Rez – Rooster Crow

This short bluesy intro to the Innocent Blood LP cuts me to the heart every time I hear it. Peter’s denial is the stuff of blues. My favorite moment from an evangelical Christian rock band that consistently stood against injustice and American feel-good Christianity.

 10. The Swirling Eddies – The Twist

here, touch my side…let doubt be crucified
nailed with your wounded pride to love’s grim altar
here, taste my flesh: my bloody humanness
i am no phantom guest; no skinless martyr

This one’s a pretty straightforward meditation on the Holy Week story from one of the great bands anchored by the songwriting of Terry Scott Taylor (see also Daniel Amos & The Lost Dogs).

 

That’s my playlist. What would you add?

We are getting ready for another great year at St. Luke. We are really excited for the High School group that meets during Sunday School. Things came together really great last year, and there’s a big group of 10th graders that have now completed confirmation.

Our main goals for the class include:

  1. Getting to know each other better and better throughout the year.
  2. Discovering stories of the Bible and how they matter in our lives today.
  3. Finding out ways that we (and other people) live out their faith.

A few ideas are “brewing,” but I really want to hear from YOU! I have been amazed at how smart, talented, funny, and faith-filled the young people of St. Luke are. It is important that all of you are involved in planning this class. Listed below are a few ideas that have come up. I’d love to hear what you think! Do you like all of thiese ideas? Some of them? NONE of them? Do you have any questions? EVEN BETTER: Do YOU have an idea of how we could spend time on Sunday morning that would help us meet the goals above? You can either comment on this page or email me!

IDEA #1 – “ECHO THE STORY” for exploring the Bible together.

There is a great new Youth learning series called Echo the Story. We would not use it every week, probably every 2-3 weeks as we alternate it with other things (like the ideas below) to keep a good variety on Sunday mornings. Here’s a short video that describes how Echo the Story works:

Weeks that we use Echo the Story will begin with a short video that starts with a fun question to discuss followed by a recap of “the story so far.” Here’s a couple samples:

After the video, everyone listens as a story is told. The stories are read in a way that shows how interesting, moving, and fun it is to hear a good story. While the story is read, everyone has a sketch journal to doodle or write in as they listen. Here is what some of the pages in the journals look like. With journals as a tool to help us experience and think about the stories, we are able to discuss how God’s story connects to our own stories and is meaningful in our lives.

IDEA #2 – FAITH STORIES – What following Jesus looks like.

Wouldn’t it be great to hear from some people about how their faith influences the way they live their life? We can devote some of our Sunday mornings to listening to someone tell us their faith story and then discuss with them what their faith looks like as they live it out. What do you think? Are there particular people (youth or adult) that you would like to invite to share their story?

IDEA #3 – REAL LIFE TOPICS

We can also spend some of our Sundays discussing topics that matter in the real world as we try to see ways that our faith can make a difference. It would be really great to get groups of 2 or 3 teens to pick a topic they are interested in leading and come up with a way for the group to learn about it and discuss (perhaps through sharing video clips or telling a story or sharing some information you’ve learned). What do you think? What topics would be great to discuss? Is there a topic you would like to help share with the group?

IDEA #4 – Youth & Adults Together for ANIMATE (Spring 2015)

For the last 2 years, there has been a really great spring adult class called ANIMATE. Using videos, ANIMATE has explored really great topics about Faith, God, and the Bible with help from speakers including Nadia Bolz-Weber and Shane Claiborne. Many times I have thought these would be great discussions to have with youth. I’m wondering what you all would think about spending 7 weeks in the spring in a class that would be about 50/50 youth and adults (of all ages) having these interesting conversations?

Here’s a sample of one of the videos:

So…there’s the ideas that have come up so far! PLEASE SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS AND IDEAS! I can’t wait to see what God does this year! You can share your ideas by replying/commenting below or you can send me an email. THANKS!