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Apr16FriSome say God wouldn’t show up at a Swedish band’s concert. But I assure you, He did. April 16, 2021 by Phil Callaway
My wife, Ramona, was young and sweet, only 17, when we first heard the music of ABBA on a tinny radio at Pine Lake, Alta. Known for hummable tunes, platform shoes and flared polyester pants that could house a family of eight, the Swedish couples topped the charts for 18 years after winning the Eurovision Song Contest with their catchy song, Waterloo. Our conservative church forbade us from listening to such tripe, but we did.
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I celebrate a rich heritage. Great preaching, and music from Phil Keaggy and Chuck Girard were all part of the eclectic entourage that nudged me to faith in Jesus. Valuable life lessons were absorbed from secular sources, too.
From “I Quit” to “I Do”
Swedes joked that ABBA was the nation’s largest provider of revenue outside of Volvo, but they weren’t far off. When Anni, Björn, Benny and Agnetha sang, “Money, money, money. Must be funny in the rich man’s world,” the stuff rolled in. Some estimates put record sales as high as 380 million. Reportedly, their success was so enormous in parts of Eastern Europe that the band accepted payments in oil rather than money.
But no one is made to be worshipped. There is only one Abba (Father). Popularity brought legendary tours, meteoric highs, then crushing heartache and divorce. The year ABBA called it quits, Ramona and I said, “I do.”
Blasts From the Past
In August 2019, our lifelong friends, Kevin and Ivy, called. “You guys are celebrating your anniversary, right?” they said. “There’s an ABBA tribute band in concert. Let’s go.”
And so, for our 37th anniversary, guess what we did? Donned white suits, platform shoes and polyester pants.
Not really, but we did join our friends and a thousand other smartly dressed concertgoers.
Now, if you’re unfamiliar with ABBA, this paragraph may make little to no sense to you, but here’s the text I sent our kids: “SOS! Tonight I’m taking Mama to watch the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and a 12-member tribute troupe play songs we tortured you with in your adolescence. Does your mother know? Yes, she does. She asked where we were going. I said, ‘To see ABBA. Knowing me, knowing you, it’s the best I can do.’ Thirty-seven years ago today, she took a chance on me. She said, ‘I do, I do, I do, I do.’ And now I have a dream and enough money, money, money to take my honey honey. So here we go again. My my, how can she resist me?”
Well, it was just like it used to be and even better, reliving some of the music and memories of our dating days. The last lyrics of the concert were, “Thank you for the music, the songs I’m singing. Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing. Who can live without it? I ask in all honesty ... Thank you for the music, for giving it to me.”
Some say God wouldn’t show up at an ABBA concert. But I assure you, He did. I couldn’t stop thanking Him for His faithfulness through the years, and for His grace alone, which has kept us together.
On the way home, we four reminisced, giving thanks for parents who loved Jesus and took an active interest in our music. Then I cranked up an old ABBA tune: “It’s as good as new, my love for you. Just like it used to be and even better. As good as new, thank God it’s true. Darling, we were always meant to stay together.”
We said goodnight to our friends, and I planted a kiss on Ramona’s lips. In the history of kisses, it was surely in the top 10. When she finally came up for air, she laughed and said, “Mama Mia.”
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