Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Our "First Church Guitars" group entertaining the participants and attendees at our 5th Annual Iron Men Chili Bowl.

We got really good reviews. And we got a gig for March 2nd!

Our version of "I'm a Believer" got the people singing, and a few were dancing along . . .

Most importantly . . . we had a lot of fun.

From left to right . . . Stu, Bill, Charles, Bill, Russ, Rick (me), Gary, Alan, Richard, Frank and Jeff.

I'm better than I deserve! ><>

Our guitar group is seeking a name . . .

Our First Church Guitars ministry is seeking a name for our group to use when we play in worship or perform at other church and community functions.

If you have a valid name for us to consider . . . then please let me know.

Back when I lived in Waco, my friend Floyd and I occasionally sang together. We called ourselves "The Cricket Town Stompers."

It's a loooooong story . . .

I'm better than I deserve! ><>

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Favorite Songs - #4 of 5

My #1 favorite song is Somewhere Over the Rainbow / What A Wonderful World - Israel Kamakawiwo'Ole.

My #2 favorite song . . . Walk Away - Joe Walsh and the James Gang.

My #3 favorite song . . . Closer to Home - Grand Funk Railroad.

My #4 favorite song . . . Leader of the Band, by the late Dan Fogelberg.

A singer/songwriter sharing his feelings of appreciation in song . . . a Martin D-41 dreadnaught guitar . . . and you have Dan Fogelberg on stage singing Leader of the Band.

The passion of this song is so deep, more so than I could ever personally write or sing. Maybe I will be able to one day, I really hope so, and I'm working on it . . . but not right now. There are still a few things I need to personally work through.

This song does raise a good question that each of us should ask ourselves as often as possible. What are we the "living legacy" of in our lives? I wonder, in truth, if most people even think like this anymore. I think we used to . . . back when tried purposefully to see the good in others . . . instead of immediately focusing on the bad.

This song also offers haunting advice about something we should give to our loved ones . . . permission to dream a big dream, then permission and support for their trying to reach for it. I wonder what kind of world we would have today if we each could be supported in becoming who we are really called to be . . . by the deep passions in our life . . . and by God. I think we each deal with the expectations on our lives of many people . . . and that can place a lot of demands on our time and focus if we let it. This no doubt occurs in stages as we age. But isn't life being able to say from our heart . . . "I am who I am".

Great song . . . a haunting melody and harmony. So simple . . . yet so profound in terms of its message to us all. This will always be a top 5 song for me.

I'm better than I deserve! ><>

Monday, January 28, 2008

Favorite Songs - #3 of my "Top 5" . . .

My #1 favorite song is Somewhere Over the Rainbow / What A Wonderful World - Israel Kamakawiwo'Ole.

My #2 favorite song . . . Walk Away - Joe Walsh and the James Gang.

My #3 favorite song . . . Closer to Home - Grand Funk Railroad.

Well . . . if nothing else . . . I like a variety of musical styles!

Yeah, I know, I know . . . this is a Viet Nam war protest song . . . but I was a teenager back then in that day and time. So perhaps this song reminds me of what a teenager was seeing in those days. Two of my friends who lived on the same street that I did back then had older brothers come home from the war in coffins draped with the American flag. It was troubling . . . and most of us didn't know what to think.

But the real reason this will always be one of my top 5 songs is this . . . it was one of the only songs my brother, Mark, and I could play together without fighting.

Mark played bass . . . and wanted to do rock-n-roll. He was a rebel at heart, always questioning the "establishment" and those who wanted him to do what they "wanted" him to do.

I was into acoustic 12-string guitar, worshipping the ground John Denver and Gordon Lightfoot walked on, singing folk songs and peace songs.

Mark wanted to raise his fist, throw rocks and scream, "Down with the man!"

I had the long hair, with the peace sign on my shirt . . . playing my 12-string to get people to come together to talk and share.

So, we were pretty much fighting with each other most of the time.

However . . . I could play the lead intro on electric guitar of this one song . . . and the same is pretty true today as well. I could sing the lead . . . and Mark could do sing good harmony and play the bass part note-for-note liked Mel played it on the GFR recordings.

I will always remember that. The song . . . . and the two Mang brothers not fighting about something.

My brother died several years ago, after living by choice for almost 15 years as a street person in San Antonio, reporting to no one, and doing life his own way. It was a short life.

At age 50, I feel like I am getting a second chance. Like getting the chance to begin again the process of becoming better at this singer / guitarist thing . . . which si something that I have never ever been able to let go of in my life.

Perhaps we are both in some way "Closer to Home."

I'm better than I deserve! ><>

Friday, January 25, 2008

Interesting info about Texas

From Eric Folkerth's blog, interesting stuff about why you never need to leave Texas.

I'm better than I deserve! ><>

Favorite songs . . . #2 of my top 5

My #1 favorite song is Somewhere Over the Rainbow / What A Wonderful World - Israel Kamakawiwo'Ole.

My #2 favorite song . . . Walk Away by Joe Walsh and the James Gang.

No truly redeeming words . . . just a raw, young and energetic Joe Walsh . . . and a just as raw double humbucking A chord at the 5th fret on a Gibson Les Paul going though what was then very heavy distortion.

I guess my fondness for the James Gang was the reason my dad did not want me to become a guitar player . . . I have two James Gang CD's, with the studio verson of Walk Away on one, and the live verson (Ow Baby!!!!) on the other.

I like the Eagles version also . . . Joe is older, sober, wiser, and playing it on a Stat. But then the Eagles have 3 guitar players. Joe was the lone guitar in the James Gang power trio format, and the LP was probably the best choice.

I love power trio's . . . a hint about song #3. Do the initials GFR mean anything to you?

I'm better than I deserve! ><>

Where has NPR been all my life ????

Oh my gosh!

I have made a life changing discovery!

I mean, this is better than a free box of Girl Scout Peanut Butter Sandwich cookies!

National Public Radio . . .

How have I existed without it for so long?

Except the days when I get to listen to A Prairie Home Companion (and that is maybe twice a year) . . . I have never paid attention to Monday-Friday NPR programming.

My daughter, and my friend Sean are both NPR listeners. And on the same day they both say to me . . . "You ought to listen."

So I have . . . and haven't changed radio channels since.

This is veeerrrryyyyyy interesting . . .

I'm better than I deserve! ><>

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Speaking of the ukulele . . .

For a funny video of actor William H. Macey singing and playing a uke, click here.


I'm better than I deserve! ><>

Favorite songs . . .

I've noticed that several of my blogging friends are posting info about their "Top 5" favorites in various topics.

I thought I would try my hand . . . with a list of my favorite songs.

I only recently discovered Israel Kamakawiwo'Ole, the late Hawaiian singer and ukulele player. His recording of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow / What A Wonderful World" is my #1 favorite song, and probably has been since the first time I heard the song when watching the ending to the Adam Sandler movie, 50 First Dates.

Israel, who was affectionately known as "Brudda Iz" had a gifted voice . . . so smooth . . . and every time I hear this song . . . I usually start crying. And that's not a bad thing. Sometime later on, maybe with my friend Floyd's help (he is good at this stuff) I will figure out what the sacred connection is in this.

Iz died in 1997 at the age of 38. He was only the 3rd person in history to ever lie in state at the Hawaiian state capital building. Since his death, his acclaim and fan base has grown throughout the entire world.

I am sad that I only discovered this great talent after his death. But a talent he was . . . and still is . . . especially to me.

Maybe it's time to start saving for a ukulele as well. What a simple but beautiful sounding instrument.

I'm better than I deserve! ><>

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

"All Strung Out" playing this Sunday . . .

"All Strung Out", the performance group of our 1st Church Guitars ministry, will be playing and singing around 6:00 PM at the 5th Annual Chili Bowl, this Sunday evening (1/27/08) in the Family Life Center.

We will be singing several Randy Travis songs, a "golden oldie" sung by the Monkees, and a tribute song to the late Dan Fogelberg.

The Elvis concert in the Sanctuary will follow the Chili Bowl. It starts at 7:00 PM.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Children's Worship CD

Well, I said this really wasn't a big deal in the grand scheme of things . . . but it is to me.

I am going to begin production meetings in February to plan the recording of a children's worship CD, which will contain a lot of the songs we sing during the Children's Time in Sunday morning worship. I was asked to do this by some parents a few months after I was first appointed here. However, things were just so very busy back then that I could only file the idea away and consider it at another time.

And I kept filing it away . . . and I kept filing it away . . . and I kept filing it away.

My biggest roadblock . . . how do you go about making a CD? I knew nothing about it. I buy CD's all the time, but I don't know how to go about recording one. Well, discussions with Wren took care of that. So we begin planning next month.

We are making a list of songs . . . and hopefully we will have some of our children who attend our church singing on the CD as well.

All monies made from selling the CD will go toward feeding school children in Kenya, a mission that our church has begun participating in this past year.

I think this is going to be a good learning experience . . . and now, I am looking forward to it. Let's give it a shot.

I'm better than I deserve! ><>

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Something that needs doing . . .

I shared in an earlier blog about a big decision that I am preparing to make regarding something that has needed doing in my life for a long time . . . something that I have spent a lot of time and effort throwing road blocks in front of.

What a waste of time . . . to throw roadblocks in front of good things that would be a blessing if completed faithfully. What is sad in this respect, is that what I am making the decision to do is in-and-of-itself no really major thing in life in the grand scheme of things.

Well, maybe to no one else . . . but this is something important to me . . . something I really believe God is wanting me to add to my ministry efforts, perhaps making it a priority.

I am almost ready to share what it is I am deciding . . . and I am confident I will do so in the next few weeks. There are family and certain friends I want to talk with first. I do request your prayers, as I get the last of the ducks-lined-up-in-a-row before I step forward on faith.

It's funny . . . I thought that when I reached age 50, I would be spending all my time achieving great things for my career, and doing all the things I "thought" others wanted me to do.

Now, instead, I find that what it is that really matters most to me is to simply be true to myself and to my calling to do ministry.

More to come.

I'm better than I deserve! ><>

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

2008 "To Do" List . . .

I've never been very good at making "daily" To-Do lists. One of my pastoral responsibilities is to be able to get-up-and-go when I am needed. So, I tend to start working (or at least thinking) about stuff I know I need to do a bit earlier than most. That gives me time to be able to work on a project, but still have the time to respond as a pastor to people and / or situations as the need arises.

Come to think of it . . . pretty much the same job I had as a police officer. You checked for open doors, shot radar, etc., until you got dispatched to a call . . . then off you went!

However, I do enjoy making "Big / Yearly" To-Do lists. It's fun to think about goals and dreams in big chunks, and try to figure out how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.

So here is a list I just put together. No particular order or priority, that will come later . . . just some stuff I've been thinking about, stuff I know I need to do for personal and health reasons.

1) Get out of bed at 6 AM every day.
2) Go to bed by 10:30 PM every day.
3) Ride my bicycle at least 3 times-a-week.
4) Lose weight . . . safely.
5) Review / Rethink my gifts and strengths.
6) Review / Rethink my personal values.
7) Review / Rethink my mission statement.
8) Practice guitar 5 days-a-week.
9) Pray every day.
10) Be a better husband.
11) Be a better father.
12) Be a better friend.
13) Be a better neighbor.
14) Be a better work mate.
15) Be a better pastor.
16) Take all my vacation time.
17) Sing as loud as I can at least once-a-day.
18) Go fishing once-a-week weather permitting.
19) Continue to work on getting debt free.
20) Become more satisfied with who I am.
21) Ask God to give me his advice about anything on this list whenever appropriate to do so.
22) Be willing to receive God's advice and counsel.
23) Which means, in general, that I have to become a better listener.

I'm better than I deserve! ><>

Thursday, January 3, 2008

"All Strung Out" - Christmas music on 12/16/07

The rest of the guys! From left to right: Bill, Richard, Alan and Russ.

Still better than I deserve! ><>

"All Strung Out" - Christmas music on 12/16/07

This is another photo from our "performance" back in December.
I may be old . . . but to me, playing guitar with my friends is what I call "fun."
From left to right: Russ, Gary, Jeff, me, and Stu.
I'm better than I deserve! ><>