Saturday, March 14

Petra had rocked my world

Greetings. I was listening to the radio the other day and the hosts were talking about the bands in music that had influenced them the most and that when they heard a song by said band, they thought something like, "Wow, I've got to check this out." In my life, there are two bands that fit that description, and oddly enough they come from opposite ends of the spectrum. They are Petra, the long time Christian rock band that retired in 2005, and Metallica, the still running metal band. Both of these bands have really influenced me and been an outlet for me at different times in my life, and in some cases continue to be an outlet. I've got most of the musical catelog from Petra, at least since the mid eighties on, and all from Metallica. Of the two, I've actually only been to a Petra concert, and that was their farewell show in Irving, Texas, in 2005.

My first real music tape, after you got past the "kid stuff" that was out for young Christian kids in the eighties, was from Petra. It was the album "On Fire" that someone had given to me for a birthday or other gift. I remember listening to that tape multiple times growing up. I wouldn't do this today, but I was oblivious to the danger as a kid, but I used to put the tape in my boombox and take it into the bathroom, setting it on the floor or on the toilet lid and listen to On Fire while taking a bath. Weird perhaps for a 10 year old, but I didn't care. Later, when cleaning out my "kid" tapes and tossing them, I kept the Petra one and set the tape case away in my closet. A year or two later when rummaging in the closet for something, i found that storage case and that tape, and fell in love with Petra all over again, but this time as a pre-teen who was just getting into the pre-teen musical scene, and at that time, Petra were the only band out there that was Christian and also played rock.

A couple years later, I was sitting in the cafeteria at the school for the blind's summer program for youth, when a friend and brother that I had just met put headphones over my ears and said, "Check this out." He proceeded to play the "Armed and Dangerous" album from Petra to me. I was enraptured and it was at that point that I had that thought of, "Wow, I've got to check this group out." After listening to the title track and then "I Am On The Rock," I asked him, who this group was, and to my astonishment, he said, "Petra." I replied with something like, "This is Petra? The same guys that did 'On Fire'?" I was hooked after that.

My first CD was "Unseen Power" from Petra back in 1991. I admired Petra on a number of levels, for making great songs that really rocked out; for making great softer songs that had deeper messages; for, at least after a certain point, having completely new material on all their albums, which is hard for an artist to do; and for being a great influence. It was when listening to the "Beyond Belief" album that I noticed a theme in all the songs, some sort of connection. I think that this is my all time fave Petra album, but when you've got a group that you really dig, it's hard to rate anything in a one, two, three, order.

Petra were there when I was in junior high and at the school for the blind's summer program and feeling down and missing my folks and friends. I remember going to a store one weekend and looking longingly at the "Petra Praise" album that came out in 1990 or so. I didn't buy it at the time because probably I didn't have enough money. A few days later I got a care package from home that contained that exact album. I was so blessed by that alone. I couldn't figure out if someone at the school had talked with my folks or something, but now I know that it was the Lord looking out for me. I later talked with my parents who said that they saw that in the store and thought I'd enjoy it. Boy did I. In a place where there was next to none as far as fellow believers at the summer camp experience, I burned that tape up, listening to the songs and letting them become apart of me, over and over. I had them practically memorized by the end of camp, but kept listening. In that tape, and in a tape that my junior high church group sent to me, I felt that connection wit those back home, but more importantly with the Holy Spirit and God. Those were great memories. I even got some of the other kids to listen to them to, much to their chagrin since they were probably expecting some sort of flowery group instead of this busting out rock group, considering that this was the praise tape I had been listening to. Some made fun of me for listening to that tape, but I didn't care; that tape was my answer from God and from those back home to my loneliness.

I've snuck other Petra songs into main stream society as well, such as at some of the school to work weekends that the Texas commission for the Blind's Transition program used to have, now called Division for Blind Services. Or, at a high school dance that I sent to the DJ and asked him to play. They only played one song, but I loved it. One song in the age of George Michael, Janet Jackson and other artists in the early nineties period. I remember the DJ saying something before the song, likely apologizing for what he was about to play since it was a Christian song and this still was the secular high school dance, but I soked it up all the same. I've even turned other mains tream friends through the Dallas Services program for blind teens onto petra. One guy who really got into it and, for that brief time anyway, changed his attitude and outlook on life. I don't know if he ever became a Christian, but Petra was a welcoem addition to his musical collection, which included rock stuff and top-40 for the time around 1992 or so. Come to think of it, he probably dug Petra because of their musical talent and ability, since he really got into that sort of thing, but having the added bonus of a positive message didn't hurt either.

Even today, I've got loads of Petra songs on my computer, in my Victor reader Stream, and on a USB flash drive, that I listen to while doing stuff at work. They still sound great after all these years.

So here's to Petra; for being an awesome influence on my and other people's lives, for being great musicians, and for being there when I neede you and needed God's help. I'll write a separate entry of the other influential band. Talk later.

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