For me, there are very few things more strongly tied to my memories than music.
There were the times I rollerskated to Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart” and MC Hammer’s “Too Legit to Quit” at the local rollerskating rink, whizzing around unstoppable.
The time I danced with my Big Crush to The Eagles’ “Desperado.” I worried that he could tell my hands were trembling and that my Secret UltraDry was up to the task.
The time my best friend was unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend (a genuine tragedy when you’re twelve) and I tried to cheer her up by singing (and, of course, goofily dancing) Mr. Big’s “To Be With You” (a song I realize now was lyrically inappropriate, save for the opening line: Hold on, little girl/Show me what he’s done to you/Stand up, little girl/A broken heart can’t be that bad).
The times I sang “A Whole New World” from Aladdin during the hot bus rides home, impressing a whopping two people. I mostly impressed them with my exaggerated claims that I was “related” to the singing voice for Princess Jasmine, the talented Lea Salonga, by way of she’s also a Filipina and she played with my brother when they were kids and we have pictures in some old family albums of her attending a birthday party at my parents’ house and everyone in the Philippines calls each other’s parents Auntie and Uncle, even if they aren’t related by blood, per se. (So me and Princess Jasmine? We’re like this.)
And then there was the time, just one of the many, when I went on a church retreat over Spring Break, lost my voice by the time the bus rolled in to the Windy Gap YoungLife Ranch because I felt the need to yell “Free Willy!” repeatedly on the seven-hour road trip north, stayed awake almost the entire week-long retreat, wrote loopy, sleep-deprived (and consequently HILARIOUS) poetry with my cabinmates that we read in front of the entire camp, played a ridiculous amount of sand volleyball, four square, and Saint John (best. game. ever.), and had one of the best nights of worship in my life. It still ranks in my Top Five.
We had just gotten to Windy Gap, North Carolina. Our church youth group was large enough to regularly rent out entire YoungLife ranches for our retreats, and Windy Gap was our favorite. We had opening ceremonies, which included some clever skits written by the youth staff and college work crew, a rundown of what to expect during the week, some house-keeping rules to reign in the adolescence, a timely message delivered by our then-brand-new youth pastor, and music by a youth group alum, Trevor Morgan, who always took time out of his busy schedule of being a rockstar to lead worship on our retreats.
Yes, Trevor Morgan, who is currently on tour with Third Day, whose vocals and mad guitar and song-writing skillz (with a z!) have graced the Glory Revealed compilations, who has a rock solid album fresh out and available on iTunes, who promised he remembered me when I caught up with him on his last Third Day/Glory Revealed tour, who is a dirty stinkin’ liar because he said he remembers me. (Just kidding about that last one.)
I recently downloaded his new album from iTunes, which then caused me to dust off one of his earliest albums, “Inside” (the actual CD…I know, so 90’s, right?), both of which I have listened to nonstop for the past 48 (ish) hours, which then catapulted me to those junior high and high school years when I, and a couple hundred of my closest friends, would spend a week every Spring sitting criss-cross applesauce on hard, neutrally-toned carpet, our limbs aching from volleyball tournaments, our eyes trying to sneak a peek at where the cute boy was sitting and if we were within an optimal line of vision, our necks craned toward the stage where we would laugh, squeal, shout, be moved, raise hands, sing along, and get lost in the moment.
It was that first night at Windy Gap that came back so sharply, I could almost feel the itch in my throat from yelling for seven hours straight, determined to be the Girl everyone paid attention to on Bus #2. We had our skits. We had our lesson. We had our rules and game plans laid out. We had our bunkmates picked out. And then the music began.
It always began with a few of our youth group Chart-Toppers, praise and worship songs we all knew the words to without the overhead projector, songs we sang in parts (Girls’ parts and Boys’ parts), songs we collectively made up motions to, songs that vibrated throughout our group of church-enthusiastic youth, songs I carried with me when I led worship in college three states away.
Then Trevor would sing an original song or two, after which we would usually yell, “Menudo!” (we were a clever bunch) and then a request, usually the one we often requested first, “Sing ‘Sunday School Superman’!” And he would oblige, sometimes forgetting the words because we picked one that old. But we always filled in the words faithfully.
Then Trevor would wind us down as the Lights Out Hour creeped up on us, the room still buzzing on a No-School, No-Parents (at least not most of ours), No-Problem high, a slower, more introspective praise song that segued into earnest prayer, authentic conversation between a genuine follower of Christ and his God, inviting us to listen in on their relationship, our hearts slowing with the tempo, our bodies weary from the road.
But this night was different. Our youth pastor, possibly moved by this new group of kids he was experiencing and the response we had to God’s Word spoken and sung over us, invited Trevor to play another song. He played. A few of the college work crew had to get to bed in order to rise early for breakfast duty. Bodies trickled out quietly. Another song. A few of the chaperones stifled yawns, unable to keep up with the younger crowd. More shuffling out the door and toward assigned cabins. Another song. Most of the kids running sound and lights decided to turn in. A few more goodnights. Some grew tired of sitting, ready to crash after a long first day. Trevor unstrapped his guitar, came and sat on the edge of the stage, and those of us remaining closed the gaps between, tightening the room to a small and steady circle. One or two kids stayed at the soundboard. More songs. Less noise. Someone would start singing something fitting, Trevor would jump in with the chords, we would join in with the harmony, reveling in the late hour, the undistracted worship, the promise of the days ahead.
I don’t remember when we finally went to bed, but I do remember the last kid on the soundboard had the foresight to record that impromptu praise and worship hour(s), handing out bootlegged copies to a few of us who remained. I lost that CD long ago, though it probably wouldn’t even play on any of my fancy mp3 players even if I still had it, but reliving that night through Trevor Morgan’s new songs is good enough.
Hey, Frazer Family, any others out there who remember that night?
I’d love to hear your recollections!