Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Rats . . . Rats . . . Rats . . .

Well . . . it was bound to happen sooner or later, as much guitar playing and singing I do around the church . . .

Before singing last night at a very special Eagle Scout Court of Honor . . . I put down my Martin DC-16 . . . and while I turned away . . . it fell out of the stand . . . and the head stock struck the metal bass of the Troop flag that was in the room for the ceremony.

No wood damage to the guitar . . . but the nut shattered . . . and I think the 1st E string tuner is broken . . .

It could have been worse . . .

There is no more horrible sound . . . than to hear a guitar fall and strike something metal . . . and you have your back turned when it happens.


But . . . it appears to me to be more than repairable. Yes, it could have been worse.

Glad I had the Tacoma Jumbo as a back up . . . and it actually is more western looking, so it fit the occassion better . . .

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas went so well . . . I forgot about the new year . . .

Honestly . . . I was so focused on all our recent band gigs, and getting ready to preach yesterday, that I hadn't given much thought to the coming of 2010 in just a few days.

Wait a minute . . . wasn't Y2K just a year or so ago?

Decade?? Give me a break! I usually say, "where has the last year gone?"

Today, I am saying "Where has the last decade gone???"

For the love of . . . oh well.

But, my fussing won't last long . . . I only have one goal for 2010 . . .

To be what I am.

At my age (52) . . . it is too late, too painful, and way too expensive to even begin to try and be something I am not.

I just don't have the time anymore . . .

I know, in my heart, what I like.

I know, with passion, what is important to me.

I know, concretely, what I believe in.

Everything else . . . will probably get a "No!" answer in the most polite and loving way I can offer it.

In 2010 . . . I will just be me.

Happy New Year!

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I may never own one, but I got to play one . . .

One of the highlights of a recent trip with my wife and a couple of very dear friends to East Texas. In a small hole-in-the-wall music store, I got to play a 1970 Martin N-20 classical guitar.

For those of you who are Willie Nelson fans, Willie's "Trigger" guitar is a 1969 Martin N-20.

Awesome! Brazilian rosewood back and sides. It plays itself ... wow! What a thrill!

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What do you do when you've gone as far as you can go in your career?

This is a great question which Glenn Shepherd answers in his latest newsletter.

He uses a story about guitar great John Fogerty . . . so he got my attention quick . . . and I was glad I read the article . . . he makes a very good point . . . that when we come to a point where we are wondering what to do next . . . we should "get even better."

This is a story I had to print out and put in my "personal" notebook.


God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Monday, December 14, 2009

Guy's Grids . . . More than a chord book . . .

If you are wanting to reach the next level in guitar playing . . . then I recommend you check out the new book, Guy's Grids. Just got mine in today . . . and I am overwhelmed with possibilities.

Granted, learning chords is a matter of memory. However, Guy's Grids changes all this. It is advertised that it easily expands yoru chord vocabulary by visualizing guitar chord relationships.

More info here.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Five Practices of Faithful Congregations . . .

Many of the clergy in our annual conference recently attended a special event at FUMC in Mansfield, TX. Bishop Robert Schnase was the key note speaker.

As a rule . . . I loathe Saturday clergy gatherings. Sorry, it's just the way I feel. Mostly becasue I have been to a lot of Saturday clergy gathering / trainings that were a complete waste of time.

Hmmm, I see that I have failed to mention that the event with Bishop Schnase also included laity? There were over 1,000 in attendance . . . and it was well worth the time of all who attended.

Having said that, I am spending December carefully re-reading Bishop Schnase's book, Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations.

In January, we are starting a church-wide study of Richard Sterns exceptional book, The Hole in Our Gospel. This will be a second read of this book for me as well . . . but the first time doing so with many of our church members reading it as well. I look forward to many future conversations about both books.

Why read these two books? Each makes use of various terms which center, in my opinion, around the need for our Christian church / individual focus on people who live out in the "periphery."

"Periphery" is my new favorite word.

Let me explain, in terms that at least I can understand, both from experience and personal study.

Many churches, if you will, put most of their focus and efforts on maintaining status quo. Most effort and a majority of resources are spent on maintaining property, etc., and in most cases, longing for the way things were 20-30 years ago. They are not growing . . . they are not winning people to Christ . . . they are not engaging their neighborhood or community in mission or service.

Most of these churches . . . are dead spiritually . . . or soon will be. The focus is on the grand ol' days of the past . . . prior to the culture shift we live in now. Ask them what their mission statement is, and the answer will be something like . . . "we are nice people . . .but you should have seen this church back in the 1950's, 60's, 70's . . ."

Question: how does one move forward when you are always looking behind you?? Not a safe way to travel.

Some churches, and I am blessed to be at one of them, have a healthy balance of both looking inward at ourselves, but also looking outward in mission and service to others in the name of Jesus Christ. We began this process a year ago by drawing a mile circle on a map . . . with a pin marking where our church was.

What happened as a result? We started getting to know people who lived and worked within a mile of our church. As a result, we discoverd that over 40% of these people were Hispanic. We talked, prayed . . . and then moved to bring an Hispanic Associate Pastor on staff, who has created a Spanish worship service on Sunday morning in our Founder's Chapel.

We began a reading program in the elementary schools. We offer a once-a-month meal to our neighbors, especially those who live in the government housing next to the church. We sponsor local mission projects aimed at helping people with the real needs of their lives.

A lot of these people . . . don't look like us . . . or sound like us . . . or act like us.

These sweet people are"fringe" people. Fringe people are those who are just outside of your vision focus . . . you see them . . . but not very clearly . . . and unless you move forward to meet them . . . they are going to remain out-of-focus . . . and in truth, you will clearly see them as you think you do. These are people that would not feel as if they were welcomed or even wanted, unless you say . . . "Hi neighbor!" . . . and then reach our your hand.

Periphery people . . . my goal for ministry in 2010 is to discover what other people are out there, just beyond our ministry mile . . . just beyond our focus . . . who I can get know . . . who I can play guitar for and sing to . . . who I can start a relationship with . . . and who knows, maybe God will help us discover and start a new ministry or two . . .

That means . . . and this is going to frightening to many pastors . . . I am going to be out-of-the-office more. Bible, note pad, cell phone, and guitar in hand . . . this means walking out the office doors of our church building . . . and getting to know people again . . .

As I understand it . . . the model of ministry I was taught, was that we were to build a great buildings and programs, and people would come.

That model of minsitry does not work anymore. For the most part, people come because they are invited to come by people they know. They come because of relationships they have, and/or can form. And . . . they come because they have a need . . . the Spirit has told them that we are cooking and serving "bread." The "bread of life" is a mighty tasty thing.

I solicit your prayers. I am going to be doing, dare I say it . . . some local missionary work.

If you are not already doing so, or planning to do so . . . I cannot more highly recommend Robert Schnase's Five Practices book, and Richard Stearn's The Whole in Our Gospel. These two books, along with your Bible, will cause you to examine your faith as you start 2010, that may in time cause you to change your mind, in a good way, about what being a Christian in today's world is all about.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Friday, November 6, 2009

A friend of mine recently met a hero of mine . . .

My young friend, Christian brother and fellow singer/guitarist Joshua Ingram (who by the way is one of my favorite professional singer/guitarist types) recently got to meet one of my all-time favorite music hero's . . . Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary fame.  

I don't know the specifics . . . other than Josh got to spend a few minutes with Paul at a gathering in Ft. Worth, and during the conversation, Josh received Paul's blessing to sing his songs.   

Special?  . . . . Indeed!  

I have written before that Pete Seeger, along with Peter, Paul and Mary, have shaped me musically more than any other singer/instrumentalists . . .

Well, with the possible close exception of the Beatles, The New Christie Minstrels, John Denver and Gordon Lightfoot and Crosby/Stills/Nash among about 50 others.  But songs by Pete and P.P and M. were the first songs I ever learned to sing and play on guitar.  I bet I have about 10 P.P. and M. CD's.  

I actually had a chance a year or so ago to attend an event in the DFW area, where I might have gotten the opportunity to meet Paul Stookey.  Don't know what came up that prevented me from going . . . but I would have liked the opportunity to shake his hand, and just say, "Thank you!"

That Josh had the chance to meet Paul, and be blessed by Paul to sing his songs . . . I think that is most fitting.   In fact, it is very fitting indeed. 

I wanted to sing professionally.  In fact, it was what I was called to do.  However, I lacked the courage and self-esteem, and perhaps the faith as well to risk trying to do music as a career.   I guess I just cared too much about what I "thought" family and friends wanted me to do.    

Josh is a courageous faithful man, husband, father . . . who is taking the risk, and from what I am learning,  he is doing OK.   I have been playing his CD in my office for weeks now.  

Perhaps I like what Josh is doing because I am living a little vicariously through his music.  Well, just a little bit.  

But if anyone could add his own flair to a Paul Stookey  or P. P. and M. song . . . and be successful at it . . . it would be Josh.

Josh's webpage is www.joshuaingram.com, or click here.

God's grace still amazes me . . .  ><>

Thursday, October 15, 2009

To all the kids who survived the 1930 - 1970"s . . .

I received this today . . . I've seen it before, and if you know who to give credit to for writing this, I will post that info ASAP.

I was born in 1957, so I can relate to a lot to the contents of this article. It was a different day and time . . . and granted, children had an "innocence" back then. We played outside . . . a lot . . . and we went on adventures . . . we made discoveries, like watching a cocoon for hours at at time until a butterfly emerged. We wrestled, rode bikes, played sandlot sports . . . without adult supervision, because we knew that our parents would know, before we got home, if we had done something wrong or illegal.

It was a time when the trust parents had for their children, and the trust that children had in their parents was THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. We we told to act responsibly, and then given opportunity after opportunity to practice being responsible. We did chores, mowed the grass, cut down tree limbs with big hand saws, . . . we respected tools, and knew to put them back in their proper place, clean, after we were finished with them. We made our beds, helped wash the dishes, got to lick the cake batter bowl, took out the trash, washed the family car . . . all before getting the "privilege" of watching black and white TV, which in my case, only got 2 channels.

That's right . . . two channels . . . ABC and CBS. That was OK back then, because the college games, Wild World of Sports and the American Sportsman were all on ABC, and the NFL was on CBS.

We rode our bikes everywhere . . . rain or shine. And if we did something stupid, like cutting in front of a car, or riding close to someone causing them to drop a package . . . we never got a chance to make it home before another parent stopped us and gave us our "come uppence." One time I was stopped and spanked by one of the local policeman in the town we lived in . . . right in the middle of the street. (For the record, it was a fitting punishment for what I had done.) Then we had to go home, and face whichever parent who had already received a phone call about what we had done. More than once my Mom was outside waiting for me in front of the the carport, with the look which translated . . . "GET INSIDE NOWWWWWWWWW! I honestly remember the look of dissappointment on her face being far more painful for me than any spanking she ever gave me.

Some would call that "abuse." Good grief! We called it "love" . . . and were greatful our parents loved us so much that they would not offer excuses on our behalf. They marched us to whomever, and stood behind us as we formally confessed, asked forgiveness, and arranged how we would work off the damage.

Yeah, that's right . . . all the window's I broke in my life . . . I had to "work off" the cost of replacing them. That meant hard yardwork and tree trimming, or cleaning out a garage or storeroom . . . or even worse, for me . . . babysitting! M worse punishment in this regard, was shoveling 3 pickup loads of dirt and manure into a neighbors garden bed . . . and I shoveled the dirt into the pick up, and then shoveled it out onto the garden bed . . . did it all in one day.

Maybe, as I ponder it now . . . we were more a "tribe" back then . . . as it took the entire community to raise up the children. Our parents were not the only ones to hold us accountable. The neighbors and other people in the community did as well.

Today, I think I am better for it having been that way.

I feel sorry for parents today, who believe they are raising up their children alone. But, I know it is a different day and culture.

As much as I enjoy the ease technology has provided in my life . . . in the end all it has meant is my being able to do more work . . . and have time for less play.

Please read on and feel free to comment.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

To all the kids who survived the 1930 - 1970"s . . .

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant.

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can and didn't get tested for diabetes.

Then after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered
with bright colored lead-base paints.

W e had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, locks on doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had baseball caps not helmets on our heads.

As infants & children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, no booster seats, no seat belts, no air bags, bald tires and sometimes no brakes.

Riding in the back of a pickup truck on a warm day was always a special treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle.

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and no one actually died from this.

We ate cupcakes, white bread, real butter and bacon. We drank Kool-Aid made with real white sugar. And, we weren't overweight. WHY?

Because we were always outside playing...that's why!

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.

No one was able to reach us all day. And, we were OKAY.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps
and then ride them down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem

We did not have Play stations, Nintendo's and X-boxes. There were no video games, no 150 channels on cable, no video movies or DVD's, no surround-sound or CD's, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet and no chat rooms.
WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.

We would get spankings with wooden spoons, switches, ping pong paddles, or just a barehand and no one would call child services to report abuse.

We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and, although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them.

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn
to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

These generations have produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever. The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all..

If YOU are one of them, CONGRATULATIONS!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

My friends new song has started me thinking . . .

Eric Folkerth is a pastoral friend of mine. He is also an accomplished singer, songwriter, poet and human rights advocate. His new song, "Tell Myself" has been speaking to me.

Now to be completely honest . . . I still don't know why . . . but then, I love and appreciate process, and I love mysteries . . . there is an answer to the question, "Why has this song moved me?" and I will discover the answer in time.

My first initial attempt at trying to figure out how this song has connected to me is perhaps somehow attached to two things I am working through in my own heart and mind.

First, one of my best friends experienced a very big emotional / relational hurt last week. And as his friend and brother, I am longing to discover how to control my own emotions to the situation, and not put on my "Superman" cape and fly in to help him . . . no I can't do that. But what I can and want to do is to become able to better listen to him as he shares his grief. He has been a friend for a long time . . . he has earned and deserves from me a listening ear and calm non-anxious presence/spirit.

Second, the fall calendarleading up to Advent and Christmas this year, both the churches calendar and my own, are as full as I have ever seen them. And, wouldn't you know it . . . I have realized that in my own anxiety, I have, at times, begun to "do things and act" the way others want me to act. That is what I promised myself several years ago that I would stop doing. Doing so is not necessarily bad . . . but I end up being so drained by the experience . . . and get out-of-balance in my life. Getting back in balance then takes an equal amount of effort.

So, I continue to ponder . . . wonder . . . pray . . . think . . . stay in balance . . .

God's grace amazes me . . . ><>

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

1st Church String Band at Heritage UMC this Sunday, Oct. 11th . . .

We are singing four songs this Sunday at Heritage UMC, and I will be bringing the message, titled "Witness."  

The church is located on Heritage Ave. between Glade and Hall-Johnson.  Services start at 10:30 AM.  

Hope to see you there!

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Monday, October 5, 2009

I am attending a Seminar . . .

Just got home from the first of the "Leading Mediation in Churches" seminar in Arlington.

Not bad for the first day . . . I think now I understand how the rest of the week will pan out.

Funny thing . . . I love songs about peace. Peace songs were some of the first songs I learned and sang.

Now, as an adult . . . I am learning how to help people live in peace . . . especially Christians.
Feels like I've come full circle.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dear Lord ... please break me . . .

Dear and most gracious Lord, my God . . .

Please,  break me.

The older I get, the more I understand how amazing your grace really is, the more you bless me with a dose of wisdom here and there . . . the more I realize how little I really know . . . and how in a state of confusion, and fear . . . I do not yeild to the Spirit . . . but try to control . . .

And at those times . . . I am probably standing more in Your way than by Your side . . .

Please Lord, break me . . . from wanting to be in control because of my being afraid of the unknown.  If You are leading the way, then why am I still afraid?  Break me Lord, of all that keeps me fearful. 

As my personal mission in life becomes more clearer day by day . . . and as You ask me to do more things that are out-of-my comfort zone . . . to be honest, way-out-of-my comfort zone . . . things that cause my heart to leap for joy, yet which causes my mind and body to cry out in fear  . . . I ask that you would give me an ample portion of Your Holy Spirit, comfort, peace and strength to make up for my sometimes weak-as-water backbone.  

Please Lord, break me . . . of those things I let keep me weak . . . that keep my response on the slow side.  Break me from ever thinking again . . . "I am only human."  Break me from fretful worry about limits . . . 

I hear you Lord . . . "Play the guitar and sing in more places . . . Learn to play piano . . . Go to Kenya . . . Pray harder and more often for more people . . . Teach more people to both learn about and live out the Bible . . . Take my ministry more to the community . . . Take members of my church with me . . . Reach out to the poor, the hungry, the naked, and to those who have no voice  . . . "

Please Lord, break me . . . of my stuttering excuses and weak willed replies . . . for nothing is impossible with You . . . with You, all things are possible.

I am afraid . . . I am doubting . . . yet I will step forward because of my faith in you.

Guide me O Thou Great Jehovah . . .

Amen ><>

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Deja Vu all over again . . . I now have my grandmother's piano . . .

Wow! It's finally here.

I'm sitting only 5 feet away from it.  It's like facebook in a way . . . meeting again a long lost friend.  

My "friend" is my late maternal grandmother's Ivers & Pond piano. When my mother asked me what I wanted from my grandmother's estate after her death earlier this year . . . all I asked for was "Granny's piano."  

When my family moved to the Rio Grande Valley in 1966, my grandfather was serving the church in La Feria, TX. I think my grandmother had this piano then in the church parsonage . . . but for sure in 1968, when my grandpa retired, and they bought a home in La Feria, this piano was in their formal living room . . . in fact, it was really in the one spot that was the exact center of their home. And every where they had lived since . . . this piano went with them.  

My grandmother would have it no other way.  

That is how important music was to my grandmother.  

That is how important this piano was to my grandmother.  

This piano has most always been my friend . . . but it didn't start out that way . . . In our family, there were some holidays hosted by my grandmother, in which the children were required to sing before they got to eat.  

And I was always a hungry child.  

So I would stand by the piano as Granny played, and sing along the song she had chosen for me to sing. Family favorites like "Texas, Our Texas," "San Antonio Rose," "Oh, My Papa," "I'm a Little Tea Pot," and of course every Christmas song known to humanity.  

Aw, who am I kidding . . . it was a blast. I enjoyed every minute of it.  

Granny later bought my family a piano for our home, and gave me lessons for a while. I had my own piano book . . . and could do basic scales, etc. But I was also an athlete, and there wasn't much time for piano practice after sports practices and homework . . .  

And then, I discovered the guitar. Funny thing . . . the more I had spent time on piano, the better I would be playing the guitar. I have heard this said so many times now . . . and I regret that I didn't carve out time for piano.  

But then, I am such a "people person."  

Anyways . . . after many years separated . . . my Granny's piano is here in my study .... oh wait, it's no longer a study . . . now it's a "studio" . . . along one wall is the piano, metronome, amp, and the guitars I have at home.  


I played "Joyful, Joyful" on it a little while ago.  

John Fogerty was right . . . it's deja vu all over again.  

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Monday, September 21, 2009

Upcoming dates for the 1st Church String Band . . .

The 1st Church String Band will be singing again at Heritage UMC on October 11th at the 10:30 AM worship service.

Heritage UMC is located on Heritage Avenue between Hall-Johnson and Glade. 

The Band will also be performing on Friday, December 4th, at the Grapevine Housing Authority Tenants Association Christmas Party.  More info on the exact time of this event to come.

We love to play and sing for people, and for charitable causes.  

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Friday, September 18, 2009

A tribute to Mary Travers . . . Let's all start singing!

Those of us who are in our 50's and 60's, and who got caught up in folk music when we were teens and in college, owe a lot to Peter, Paul and Mary. They have shared 50 years of singing together. And now that has come to an end with the death this week of Mary Travers.  

Ah, yes . . . our beautiful, vibrant, endearing, wonderful Mary.  

Yes it is a sad day, for someone we love has died . . . but, it is also a day of challenge.  
Many of us can sing, many of us can still play instruments, but for many various reasons we have stopped singing over the years . . . perhaps singing became less of a priority in some way . . . perhaps at the suggestion of "other people", we were encouraged to have a more "adult" focus . . . there were families to raise, money to earn, careers to pursue.  

Perhaps, it was suggested that singing was just not as important as other activities, or other more "adult" pursuits.  

Can you imagine . . . being a singer, and not singing to your family?  

Can you imagine . . . being a singer, and not singing with your friends and workmates?  

Can you imagine . . . being a singer, and choosing to adopt other ways of dealing with life . . . seems to me that singing is a lot healthier than booze, drugs, etc., and a far better way to reduce stress and anxiety . . . plus when singing with others, you build community!  

I don't know about you, but in Mary's death, I hear a call for us to rise up again . . . to dust off our instruments, and tune them up . . . and start singing . . . because it matters!!!!  

We need to sing . . . and we need to sing together! And we need to make it a priority to do so in our lives . . . and if others disagree . . . we just need to tell them in grace and love, "It's what I am supposed to do."  

And then . . . we need to find friends . . . children . . . youth . . . other adults . . . to sing to or to sing with. I don't mean to quit your job . . . or to try out for American Idol (go ahead if you want to, but that ain't for me) or go on tour . . . rather, there are probably so many "venues" within a mile or so of your home or business . . . where a song leader or singer would be welcomed as a volunteer. For someone who has the fire in their gut and heart to sing . . . it could make all the difference in someone's world . . . including your own.  

I sing at nursing homes . . . and let me tell you . . . you have never had a more appreciative audience than people at a nursing home or rehab center.  

One of the things that marks my personal singing ministry . . . is that I do like to perform . . . in fact, singing before an audience is a thrilling thing for me . . . it feeds me in a way I cannot easily explain. I sing at my church, I sing for children in schools and parks, I sing with a great band . . . tomorrow I will be singing with the band at a wedding!  

But even more importantly, to me, than being a singer . . . is how I have much more enjoyed getting people to sing with me.  


Perhaps because, as a young singer and guitarist years ago, I had the best teachers anyone could have . . . Peter, Paul and Mary, Peter Seeger, John Denver . . . and other artists whose albums (now there is a "dated" word) I purchased and listened to as often as I could . . . playing my guitar and singing along. That is why I like folk music so much . . . because in folk music you are encouraged to interact with the singers and musicians.  

I mean, my singing "This Land is Your Land" is a good thing . . . but it sounds a lot better, and means a lot more . . . when I sing it with a bunch of other people.  

Another teacher was Johann Anderson, whose "Song's book gave us so many songs to share and sing with others. I have never met him, but his little book on song leading greatly changed my life.  

So, in tribute to Mary Travers . . . let's get together . . . and start singing with each other.  

Let's start singing about important stuff . . . love, friendship, peace . . . and faith . . . both in God and in our own willingness, at a more advanced age . . . to make a difference through music.  

Rest in peace, dear sweet Mary. Our tribute to you, is to keep singing!  

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Monday, September 7, 2009

Crummy ceiling fan . . .

Today was not a good day to be a ceiling fan.

Today, my wife and I emptied out our attic . . . we have service people coming on Wednesday to apply a radiant barrier in our attic, and add more insulation.

I lowered the attic ladder, and proceeded to climb into the attic, and while standing the ladder, half in the attic, and half out, I lowered the first box to my wife.

As I was handing the box to my wife, I felt the "pow-pow-pow" of the ceiling fan hitting the ring finger on my left hand . . . I realized I had not turned off the ceiling fan before climbing up.

Out of instinct I guess . . . or my old police training . . . or out of a rational desire to never experience the same situation ever again, I pulled the ceiling fan from the ceiling and stomped it into little bitty pieces.

Nah . . . I'm just kidding . . . I did call it some choice names . . . probably hurt its feelings . . . if ceiling fans can have feelings.

Crummy ceiling fan!

I jumped down to make sure my finger wasn't broken . . . and was glad this it only sustained a blood bruise. I put ice on it for 15-20 minutes, and it was good to go.

Guess I will remember to turn off the ceiling fan the next time I go up into the attic, which will be this next Saturday, putting back all the stuff I took down today.

God's grace . . . and my stupidity . . . still amaze me . . . ><>

Dr. John Francis (Planetwalker) lecture video . . .

Last year, I read PlanetWalker by Dr. John Francis.   Most of my favorite books are about travel, especially by foot (hiking), which explains why the John Francis, Bill Bryson, and the late Colin Fletcher are my favorite authors.

John is an environmentalist, a PhD, and a former UN Goodwill Ambassador.  He did not speak for 17 years of his life, and walked across a good portion of the United States and Central America.

Below is a video of a lecture he gave this past year, describing that how we treat each other is how we treat the environment.   An interesting concept . . . he goes on to share that basic communication is instrumental in bringing about any kind of change.

My wife and I have discussing what our personal actions in support of improving our environment should be.    We have started to recycle, and will have a radiant barrier and more insulation put in our attic.   We want to move away from using styrofoam cups, but I am finding that harder to do than I first realized. 

We know we want to do something . . . and we are learning more every day about what we can do.

Please watch the video . . . whether you agree with John or not, at least give it some thought.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Getting the chance to check out another guitar . . .

This is a blog entry about guitar stuff - if that isn't your thing, then skip this and continue reading further down my blog, or check back later. Either way, I appreciate you! RM ><>

For those who know I promised a blog on my "inept" attempts to discover "sound" . . . it's coming soon.

In the mean time . . . Sean at Dallas Used Guitar has loaned me an Ibanez Montage MSC700NT acoustic hybrid guitar. He thought I might be interested in it, and as usual, he was right.

In honest, truthful reality . . . I am not a guitarist as much as I am a singer who plays guitar. And since I do a fair amount of "solo" work singing at nursing homes, schools, etc., I have been trying to find a guitar I can take with me, which would have a few effects options.

My beloved Martin D-15 GTE has been showing some wear after the past 4 years of regular use. I acquired a Tacoma jumbo from Sean a while back, and have really enjoyed it, but it has no on-board tuner/eq/etc. But it sounds really good.

The Ibanez Montage . . . well I would classify it as a hybrid. You can play clean acoustic and it sounds pretty good. It also has settings for clean electric, and a setting where you can had some gain/"crunch" to it. In addition, it has chorus, notch and reverb controls as well. There are several YouTube videos out there which show/explain the controls and features better than I can. It used 4 AA batteries, and has easy behind body access to the control wiring. It has to be plugged into an amp for the on-board tuner to work.

I have put it through two good trial runs here in my office . . . and hope to use it at our jam session this Thursday evening . . . before it has to go back on the shelf at the Dallas Used Guitar Showroom at the Grapevine Antique Mall.

I wish I had known about this guitar earlier. I know something about the Line 6 hybrid (my good friend Floyd has one, and has used it some in the prasie band he plays with.). I've played a Taylor T-5 at a nearby Guitar Center . . . and seen, but not played a Parkwood hybrid.

For someone who is playing guitar to back up their singing (solo gig) . . . this might be a good guitar to consider. It is thinner than a standard acoustic, but also heavier. But, for anyone who can mess with an amp better than I can (which would be about 99% of you!) you could experiment and get some great sounds. In a band situation . . . I would only use the clean acoustic or electric settings. I'm just the rhythm player after all.

This guitar won one of the 2009 Best New Guitar awards given each year. It will not appeal to everyone. But it will appeal to some, especially those like me, who only want to carry one guitar and an amp, without carrying pedals, extra cables, power strips, etc. After all, I drive a Saturn Vue. The poor thing can only carry so much!

Thank you Sean, for letting me play around for a while with this guitar.

God's grace, and my friends, it all still amazes me . . . ><>

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Understanding the concept of multi-tracking . . .

Check out this video. Awesome.

May we all make, in some way or another, a joyful noise of some type every day.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Proud Papa . . .

I'm a proud Papa.

My eldest daughter and her husband have a new art blog, sharing about pieces of art they create together.

Check out their new blog Edwin/Oliver Art and Design.

My youngest daughter has begun a home cake decorating endeavor.  Pictures I have seen of what she has done just blow me away.  Best I've seen in a long time . . . and I'm a pastor . . . I see lots of cakes.

I am one proud Papa.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Several months ago, I was loaned the use of a 1956 Silvertone "Twin Thin" guitar by a family in our church. The intent of the gift was I would use it during the Children's Time at 8:50, 10:10 and 11:15 am services, as well on a children's worship CD we have been talking about.

It needed a bit of work . . . which was finished this last week. My thanks to Kerry Cash at Kerry's Guitar Shop for resetting the neck and making some needed adjustments.

This past Sunday, I used this guitar for the first time in worship, and the children helped in blessing it for use in ministry.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Living life more slowly . . .

Eight days of vacation in another state starts you thinking . . .

Again . . .

I've been on a "kick" for a while about my needing to decide to live more slowly.

Some have asked me if I mean "living one day at a time," or "living more focused on what is important," or "slowing down?"

Yes . . . Yes . . . Yes

So, I've begun my personal "Operation Living Life More Slowly."   Problem is, I can't make all the changes I want to all at once . . . and since I am a believer in process . . . I have started created steps for what I want / hope to do.

First . . . I am going to start eating all my meals more slowly.

I have actually been doing this for almost a month now . . . and with a few exceptions, I have focused on eating one bite of food at a time . . . slowly chewing . . . tasting more . . . savoring more . . . 

And, noticing in the process, that when I eat slowly . . . I don't eat near as much as when I just gobble it all down in record time.  Interesting . . .

I've also noticed . . . that I need to punch a new hole in my belt . . . it's loose!!!!

Second . . . I am going to start praying more slowly and deliberately.

This . . . for me as an extrovert . . . is very hard.  I am so easily distracted visually.  I am searching for a couple of good "prayer places."   But, if eating more slowly has been such a kick, then praying more slowly should be a trip indeed.

Other steps are coming to mind . . . working to get then in proper priority.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Friday, August 14, 2009

I love flowers . . .

Canon G-10, foliage setting.

We love our pretty flowers in Texas.

One of my favorite Disney Word pictures . . .

Canon G-10, auto setting with no flash. A bit blurry, but I am pretty proud I got this shot.

At this point, I had to put the camera down and just watch the show.

Wow! A memory I will never forget.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

My big Disney World bass . . .

Say what you will about my looks, how I sing or play guitar, how I preach, how I dress, how I walk or talk . . .

Say what you will about my family, my car, even my Tilley Hat . . .

But, you can never say that I can't fish a black plastic Zoom Trick Worm.

Wellllllll doggee!

She went 6 pounds on the scales. I put her back and she swam away like she was really mad.

A Florida Disney World bass.

Out standing!!!

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Les Paul . . . R.I.P.

Another guitar blog . . . if not for you . . . then move on, but be sure to check back later.

Just heard that the great Les Paul passed away today at a hospital in White Plains, NY. He was 94 years old.

He was an inventer, electronics and music pioneer, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member . . . credited with inventing the solid body electric guitar, whose design would become the Les Paul first made by Gibson, and a designed now copied by so, so, so many guitar manufacturers.

He also was credited with pioneering multi-tracking, which changed the sound of rock and roll, jazz, and all other music genres.

Youtube.com has many videos of Les . . . including parts of several documentaries.

For those of us who play electric guitar . . . "Les Paul, thank you, and R.I.P."

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Went South to visit my friend, Floyd . . .

And he was kind enough to take a couple of guitar pictures for me playing my Peavey T-60.

I never realized how big my hands were.

Check out the framed picture behind me in Floyd's study, given to him by his daughter. All the album covers of the Beatles.

"I love you yeah yeah yeah!"

Thank you Floyd, for a good moring of visiting and playing guitar, and for a great lunch.

God's grace . . . and my friends . . . still amazes me . . . ><>

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Camera stuff . . .

I had been planning on purchasing a Digital SLR camera for some time . . . well, for at least the past two years.   

My friend Floyd is into photography, and I enjoy talking to him about taking pictures, and once had the opportunity to take him to several areas in Grapevine and had the privilige of watching as he took pictures of flowers, water, even a few of me . . .

In the past, as I was preparing to buy a camera, the money I had saved needed to be used for something "more necessary" than a camera.

Oh well . . . there is always another day.

Prior to leaving for Disney World, I had the chance to look at some different point-and-shoot digital cameras.   At Best Buy, where we had gone to exchange an SD Card for my Mom, I finally got to look at and hold a Canon PowerShot G-10.

My Mom, bless her sweet-kind-wonderful-compassionate soul, was feeling more generous than her normal more-than-generous nature . . . long story short, we came home with the G-10, and immediately, we were all impressed with the quality of a 14 megapixel picture, especially without flash.

I am planning on doing a photo blog soon (something I have always wanted to do) . . . and will post some of the Disney World pictures I took.   I never put this camera out of the "auto mode" . . . and ended up taking some great pictures.

I did accidentally leave the operations manual at home, so I didn't do to much experimenting.  I am visiting with Floyd tomorrow in Waco . . . hoping for some pointers.  I had earlier sent Floyd a message about the camera, and he did some research for me . . . he knew what I was actually wanting a camera for . . .  and pronounced it all good.    

And for the record . . . "Thanks Mom!  I love you!"

My Mom's grace still amazes me . . . and, 

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Back from vacation on Monday, August 10th . . .

We are back from a family vacation to Walt Disney World in Florida.

To quote Andy Griffith (one of my heroes) . . . Outstanding!

To tell the truth, going to Disney World was never on my to-do list.  Always thought it was too far and too expensive.

Then, my  maternal grandmother recently passed away.  One of her final wishes was that my Mom take all the family, who could go, to Disney World.  

And the rest . . . . is Mang/Hudson/Cornell family history.

We enjoyed a 7 night stay . . . and had a great time.   I think the only reason we left, besides our reservation coming to an end, was the Florida afternoon humidity and heat.   We were just tired of the heat.   

For the record . . . we were not tired of Disney World.

And yes, for those who want to know . . . I want to go back . . . but in the spring or fall.  Maybe in 2010 . . . when depends on when I try to go to Kenya.

What did I like . . .  the stuff everyone told me I would like . . .

-The Parade of Lights and Fireworks at the Magic Kingdom
-Everything about Epcot
-The Safari ride at Animal Kingdom
-Cirque de Solieu (simply put . . . quadruple "Outstanding!!!")
-Catching a 6 lb black bass
-All the african animals in the animal preserve next to the Animal Kingdom Lodge / Kidani Village.
-Collecting and trading Disney Word pins.  I came home with every "guitar" pin I could find, with the exception of the Hanna Montana and Jonas brother pins.

Please . . .  I am not going down that road . . .

So, a few days to catch up on yard work and some stuff I need to get down around the house, then I will be back at the church on Monday, August 10th.

I'm rested.

I'm happy.

I'm focused.

I'm ready.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Yeah . . . it's true . . .

I had the distinct and wonderful privilige of introducing my mother to the congregation at the beginning of the 11:15 AM service this morning . . .

And . . . wouldn't you know it . . . I started to cry.   Could barely get out "my Mom is here."  I pointed to her . . . at which time she stood and waved her hand in a very stately fashion appropriate for the dear mother of the pastor who was preaching that morning.  

And, as everyone was looking at her . . . I forced myself to get better composed.

Who wants to see a 6'6" / 300 pound preacher in a black robe cry???

Mom waved at me and blew me a kiss.

I felt like a dork for crying.

In fact . . . I pretty much cried through out the rest of the service.   The Fishers of Men sang two songs today . . . and it was good to see Charles, Gary and Russ from our 1st Church String Band singing in that group today.  The entire group did a great job.

The chorus of the 2nd song they sang went like this . . .

-Loving God, Loving each other, Making music with my friends . . . 

I just lost it again . . . for that is exactly what we do when we get together as a band to sing and play our music.

Sniff . . . Sniff  

And . . . as I stood to preach . . . I found myself filled with more emotion before a sermon than I have ever felt in a very long time . . .  

I preached about how important it is for each of us to clearly know our "one thing" in life . . . using as a reference the famous "Curly's Law" bit from the old City Slickers movie.

"One thing, just one thing . . . and all the rest don't mean ____."

I shared about my past obsession with turning 50 . . . which began when I was 48 . . . which was tied to my having lost sight and grasp of my "one thing" some time before.   I shared the process, in detail, of how I rediscovered / recovered my "one thing" and shared it with all in the form of my personal mission statement:

To make a joyful noise wherever I am, or to cause one to be made, for God's glory.

That same mission statement appears in the right hand column of this blog . . .  and has for over three years now.

I can't remember a time when I have seen as many people taking notes while I was preaching . . . and I don't believe I have ever received as many hugs from people after a sermon. 

Usually when I preach, I tend to get a lot of blank stares.

Just kidding.

Anyway . . . it was a powerful service . . . and I haven't been as tired after a Sunday morning of worship services in a very long time.   

And, my Mom got to hear me preach for the first time in about 5 years.   She had been taking care of my late grandmother . . . and had to stay close by to where she lived . . . but today she was here . . . and we will be going with her on vacation here in a few days.

It was good.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Friday, July 17, 2009

Ft. Worth Guitar Show . . .

The Radisson Hotel South (I35W at Alta Mesa Blvd.) is the location for the 8th Annual Ft. Worth Guitar Show.

Sean Simon (Dallas Used Guitar) will have a booth there on Saturday and Sunday. I am going to help on Saturday for part of the day. Come by and say "Hi!"

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Taking the Silvertone Twin Thin to the luthier . . .

Another guitar blog . . . if not for you . . . then move on, but be sure to check back later.

A while back, I was given a 1956 Silvertone Twin Thin electric guitar by one of the families in the church.

To make a point/put things into perspective . . . I was born in 1957.

I think the guitar is in better shape physically than I am.

After playing my Hotrod this morning, I decided to plug in the Silvertone, just to compare.


Maybe it's the pedals, or maybe I have the amp finally where I want it . . . it has a very vintage tone . . . not right for everything, but . . . there are possibilities.

Either way, it's time to get the neck on this guitar worked on by Kerry Cash in Bedford, and start playing it a bit more often. It was given to me to use during the Children's Time on Sundays . . . and perhaps to play on a Children's Worship CD we have talked about doing for a couple of years now. I accepted it on those terms, so tomorrow I take it in to get Kerry's first opinion.

I have no idea as to how much it costs, or the time involved to straighten out a vintage guitar neck, especially one that doesn't have a truss rod, but I guess I am going to find out. I know in principle how to do it . . . and I have the tools and can make the jigs needed . . . but if I broke it . . . no, I'm not going down that road.

More to come.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Opps. . . forget to announce that my Hotrod #2 is home . . .

Fair warning . . . this particular blog entry is about guitars. If not for you, then move on . . . but please come back soon.

Yep . . . my only attempt at building a guitar . . . the Grapevine Guitar Works Hotrod#2 Stratocaster that Sean Simon and I built, is back in my office . . .

In a word . . . sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeettttttttttttttttttttttttttttt.

If I may, let me say that again . . . swwwwweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeettttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt.

To quote Joe Walsh . . . "That'sa so nice!"

Alan Massey, the lead guitar player of our 1st Church String Band, and a master carpenter, worked on it for a few weeks. I like the set up on his Strat and Tele . . . my guitar was in very good hands.

I will be getting a new bridge for it . . . later this summer for it. We used a cheap one that Sean had in a parts box . . . after that, I think it will be finished.

As my friends (Joe in Houston, and Floyd in Waco) have been telling me for years . . . playing an electric guitar is quite different that playing an acoustical guitar.

Truth be known . . . they are so right.

I play very little lead guitar . . . I don't have any skill for it . . . and would rather provide rhythm back up to a more competent player.

So, I designed my Hotrod #2 as a rhythm electric guitar . . . one that I could take to the after school functions I play guitar for during the school year. The Peavey T-60 I traded Alan for is my favorite electric, but it is so heavy . . . and not fun to transport. And being that the T-60 is no longer made . . . I just wanted to have a little bit of insurance.

So . . . Sean came up with the idea of our putting two P-90 soapbar pickups into a Stratocaster body, instead of building the guitar with the traditional 3 single coil pickups a Strat usually has, and using a Mighty Mite strat neck he had in his garage.

Then I came up with running the guitar through a Boss Super Chorus pedal (actually an idea Floyd gave me).

And . . . so far so good . . . my Hotrod is light . . . and has an action I can play. It sounds really good through the chorus pedal, but run it through a compression pedal, and it starts to really crunch. I am excited to start learning some new chords, songs and techniques.

And that, my friends, is what at least one instrument in your collection should motivate you to do . . . learn to play better.

As an acoustic player . . . I would say that I am a solid 6, and maybe even a 7 if I continue to learn new chords.

As an electric player . . . I am really a rank amateur, no more than a 3. But . . . I am ready to take the next step.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

George Harrison and Paul Simon . . .

My good friend, Floyd, sent me info on this video. I've been a bit down lately with an issue I am going to have to deal with sooner than later (isn't that usually how it goes) . . . and in a bit of nostalgic therapy, I think Floyd knew watching this video would make me feel better.

Floyd was right!

Thank you Floyd! Love ya!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Disney's "The Kid" . . .

Spent some time this morning watching Disney's "The Kid."   

It's one of my favorite movies.  Not because of how great a movie it is, but rather because of what it means to me.  I very much identify with Russ, the character played by Bruce Willis.

In truth, I am a man who gave up childhood dreams in an attempt to please and gain the support of others.  

Over the years, many of the people I admire most are those who pursued their childhood passions, despite the criticism of others, and achieved a sense of satisfaction and joy in life not experienced by many.   I chose that the need for acceptance and validation from others was more important than developing the personal discipline to pursue my dream . . . my real calling.

I do regret making that decision.  It was the wrong decision.  I can see that clearly now.  I am glad, however, that I have some time, wisdom and maturity on my side . . . and I know there is still time for a dream or two.

I shared several years ago the journey I took as I struggled dealing with the approach of my 50th birthday.  Now, two years later, I find that I have more easily allowed myself to identify and address the things in my life I love the most . . . my passions . . . a couple which relate to my childhood and adolescence.   The last two years have been a time of reflection . . . reflection which includes pain and remorse about past decisions, but also reflecting on a sense of personal recovery . . . as I find myself gaining strength in my understanding of what is most important to me . . . knowing who I am and what I am.

My personal and life mission has become more clear . . . and focused.   There are still a few things I want to do, and it looks like one of them may materialize in 2010.   My list of things I can say "no" to grows and grows.  The distractions are still there, those things that would try to take me away from my understanding how I am "fearfully and wonderfully made." But as I continue gaining a clearer understanding of where my focus and interest lies . . . and the reasons why, I find saying not to the distractions becomes easier and easier.  Distraction which in the past could pull me away from my path  . . . they no longer have any effect on me.  Some distraction . . . still . . . are a struggle.  But saying to them comes easier.

Regrets?  Sure . . . a bunch of them.   Most especially I regret not telling certain people in my childhood, adolescence and early adulthood these three words. . . "It's MY life!"   But then, back then I wasn't strong enough to do that.  Today, I am.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>


Monday, July 6, 2009

The String band members were busy yesterday ...

The 1st Church String Band played during the Pot-Luck Lunch yesterday in the Family Life Center, following our one worship service at 10:10 AM, and the dedication of the new parking lot.

Russ Logan joined me at 3 PM, later that afternoon, at the Atria Center, and we had the folks there clapping their hands. A group of ladies from Covenant Church also provided a program as well . . . and we all had a good time.

Thanks to everyone for the positive comments and encouragement. All the guys in the band played and sang their hearts out. We will perform again in worship at Heritage UMC on July 19th, and then we will probably take the month of August off, before getting ready for our annual "1st Church String Band and Friends" Fall Concert.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Saturday, July 4, 2009

July 4th weekend in Texas . . .

Just for the record . . .

It is July 4th . . .

In Texas . . .

It will be 102 F+ degrees today . . .

And one thing is lingering in my mind . . .

I came . . . I saw . . . I grilled . . .

July 4th weekend in Texas and grilling meat . . . It's the Cowboy Way!

Can you say "HOTDOGS!"

Happy Birthday America!

To all in the military . . . I appreciate you.

To those who disagree with me . . . you have that right . . . as I have the right to disagree with you . . . and I am glad we can still be friends even though we disagree.

I have not forgotten the freedoms and liberties I enjoy t oday , because of the sacrifice of others in days past.

And, yes, there are things in our world that need fixing . . . and if you have a solution . . . speak up. However, full time complaining gets old very quickly.

I thank God for my family and friends, who enrich my life.

I thank God on high for the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th. 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, 30th, 40th, 50th, 60th, 70th, 80th, 90th, 100th ... 200th ... 300th ... 400th ... 500th and counting chances to learn from my mistakes, my sins . . . and to grow and learn from my experiences, especially in light of God's loving grace and forgiveness.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Monday, June 29, 2009

Hotrod #2 is coming home . . .

Funny ... I feel like a kid at Christmas time, waiting to open the "big" present.

Last year, Sean Simon and I built two electric guitars . . . both Strats. We name Sean's guitar "Hotrod #1" and mine was "Hotrod #2." Instead of using three single coil pickups, we built both guitars with 2 P-90 pickups . . . very hot pick-ups . . . thus the name "Hotrod."

Scroll down the right side of my blog, and you will find a picture of my guitar above all music and guitar links.

Mine has needed a bit of extra work . . . as I just don't have the experience to more fine tune my guitar than I was able. So I asked our 1st Church String Band lead guitarist, Alan Massey, who is a master woodworker, to work it over for me.

He called me today . . . to let me know that my guitar is ready.

Earlier this year, I traded Alan my G&L Tele for his 1984 Peavey T-60. The main reason for trading, was the action on that T-60, which Alan had set up. I have never handled an electric guitar that I liked to play more than that T-60. The action on that guitar is just "effortless." Alan did a great set-up job on it.

However, that T-60 is incredibly heavy . . . so for rhythm work, I was hoping my Hotrod #2 would work out, as it weighs several pounds less.

Well, if Alan says I am going to love it . . . then I can only believe he has the actions as close as possible to the T-60 set up.

If so, I am going to be very happy and excited.

I am excited. Hoping to pick it up tomorrow, and have some time to play it before our final rehearsal this Thursday night before our July 5th concert.

God's amazing grace, and my friends, still amaze me . . . ><>

Take It Easy . . .

On July 5th, we will also be doing 3 Eagles songs.

"Take It Easy" started it all for the Eagles.  Come hear our version next Sunday.

Southern Cross . . .

The 1st Church String Band has been rehearsing some new songs these past months, getting reading for July 5th, when we provide entertainment for the All-Church luncheon in the Family Life Center.

I am personally a big fan of Crosby, Stills and Nash.   We will be singing Southern Cross for the first time in public on the 5th.   No, we are not C, S & N, we are no where closed, yet I am very proud of our arrangment of this song and I think we do it justice.

See you on the 5th.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

4th of July . . . a good song

A great song . . . simple country rock . . . Shooter is going to do it his way, just like his dad.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"One Phone" Days . . . .

Ok . . . I am heading over to the ATT store . . . and I will leave there with one of the iPhones that are on sale pending the arrival of the new iPhone this Friday, or I will leave with a Blackberry.

Hmmmmm . . .

You know . . . I can clearly remember my first appointment . . . a two-point charge serving churches in Palo Pinto and Graford, west of Mineral Wells, Texas. The phone number at the Palo Pinto church was the same as the parsonage phone. There was only one phone in the parsonage, and only one phone in the church, in my office.

At Graford, there was only a phone in my office, on the opposite end of the church building from where everthing else took place.

And now, 20 years later . . . I am in full realization that the cell phone is an appropriate tool for ministry . . . and I am wasting time trying to figure out exactly which phone to get.

I miss those "one phone" days sometimes.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Thursday, June 11, 2009

To Twitter or no to Twitter . . .

I set up a Twitter account today . . .

Don't really know why.

My friend and pastoral colleague, Steve Heyduck, has embraced Twitter, and I hope to have a conversation with him soon on this topic.

I think it would be great to have Twitter screens in worship sometimes . . . perhaps to use them during our annual Q&A with the Pastors on Memorial Day weekend.

Some pastoral resources I read suggest that pastors of all ages should embrace Twitter. And equal number seem to offer the suggestion "Don't waste your time."

I don't know. But will see what I can find out. Since I seem to be more about relationships than other things . . . maybe Twitter can become a communication tool I can use in positive ways.

Or, I can delete my account and move on.

Blogging . . . Facebook . . . Twittering . . . it's a lot to organize and coordinate.

Perhaps I just love to write.

Perhaps I just need to know that people are listening to me. Funny thing though, when you talk to much . . . people tend to quit listening to you.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Attending Annual Conference sessions . . .

In early June of each month, pastors and lay delegates from all the churches in the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church gather for Annual Conference.  This is a three day gathering, this year taking place at White's Chapel UMC in Southlake, TX, the largest church in our Annual Conference.  

And, only 9 miles from my house.

And, only 5 miles from my office at the church.

Our new Bishop, Michael Lowry, has hit the ground running.  His enthusiasm is infectious.  

We have a new sheriff in town.  Change IS here.  It won't be easy . . . but the role of our Annual Conference is moving toward supporting the ministries of the local churches, instead of the local churches supporting the Annual Conference.  

I am impressed . . . I am on board . . . and I am eager to meet with Ken and the pastoral staff next week to "decompress" the experience together.  


God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A great song . . .

I usually check out facebook early in the morning, before heading toward the church office.  My pastor / musician friend, Eric Folkerth (Northaven UMC in Dallas) had made a facebook entry and which included a great line from Chicago's song,  Saturday in the Park.  

"Can you help him change the world? Can you dig it?  Yes I can . . . "

For some reason, those words, and the tune to the song, spoke to me today, especially as I decompress this morning from our Career Transition Ministry Team dinner last night, attended by 10 of our church members who are currently in transition between jobs.   

Perhaps I can sort out my emotions this morning, as well as my thoughts as to how God is speaking to us about how we can help people with this need.  I sure hope so.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Monday, June 1, 2009

The art of preaching if you are an Associate Pastor

It was my honor to preach yesterday at the 8:50, 9:00 and 1o:10 AM services.

When I pastored at FUMC-Hewitt, and before that at Godley UMC, I found it helpful to get into a study pattern where I was about 3 months ahead on sermon preparations.

If for no other reasons, it helped my relationship with my choir director, as they knew in advance the basic theme for the service, and could plan hymns and special music accordingly.

Joel Deichman was my choir director at Hewitt, and I loved working with him. He challenged me constantly to be prepared 3 months +, and promised I would like the results of doing so.

In all honesty, it took about 6 months to break a lot of bad habits, not to mention some personal pride and a penchant to procastinate. But yes, I did like the results.

As an associate, I will be invited to preach in worship about 3-4 times a year, alternating with Dr. Cindy Ryan. I think that Ken, Cindy and I make a very good preaching team.

The problem for me, is preparation. In two weeks, I will begin my 5th year here at FUMC-Grapevine. And, in four years, I have to admit that I have gotten a bit out of the habit of getting ready to preach.

My goal has always been to have the sermon finished by Thursday. Then, after being away from the sermon for Friday and Saturday, I would revisit it early on Sunday morning, make a few edits . . . and that would be it.

My sermon for yesterday . . . I finished it late Friday evening . . . and having walked away from it for an hour, I returned to it . . . and threw out pretty much the whole thing, and then easily rewrote in about 30 minutes the sermon I preached yesterday.

It has "finally" occurred to me, that I need a new "pattern" for writing sermons. That will be one of my projects this summer.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The shoulder is feeling better . . .

Spent a few days working finishing a home remodel project that I started last July 4th.

Hip Hip Hooray.  

My right shoulder started feeling better after the 2nd day . . . working one armed didn't allow for much progress . . . so I went ahead and used both arms and hands, but made it a point to lift and handle things correctly.

In other words . . . I didn't do the guy thing . . . like strain myself for the sheer joy of experiencing excruciating pain.

Will follow the doctor's orders and wear the sling when needed . . . for the rest of the week anyway.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Friday, May 22, 2009

With apologies to all the "lefty's" out there . . .

Seems that I have, according to my chiropractor (who, if my memory has served me right, has never been wrong when it comes to diagnosing what ails me) . . .  I have nerve and ligament issues in my right shoulder caused by . . . 

"AHEM" . . . 

(note the not so subtle attempt at dramatic pause here  . . . )   

Wait for it . . . .

The way I sleep!

Seems I sleep a lot on my right shoulder  . . . and that . . . combined with a recent stacking of a bunch of kitchen tile in my garage  . . . caused my right shoulder to have a slight separation recently.

But . . . I thought I had just pulled a muscle . . . Hey, I'm a guy . . . "I'm good!"

However, the pain and discomfort increased dramatically over several days.

My wife said, "Go see your chiropractor, the one who is never wrong about what really is ailing you" . . .

So, I go see my chiropractor, and tell him I pulled a muscle in my right shoulder.  He examines me, and says different, that it was a slight shoulder separation . . . and as I said before, if my memory serves me right, my chiropractor is never wrong when it comes to diagnosing what ails me.

So . . . two weeks with the right arm in a sling.  I got a black one, pretty comfortable . . . and when I keep my arm in it . . . my shoulder actually starts to feel better.

Hopefully, this means no forthcoming surgery.  We will have to wait and see.

In the meantime . . . I am living as a "lefty" . . . not the easiest thing in the word to do if you have never lived that way before.  I have already embarrassed myself several times . . . and hereby apologize to all the lefty's out there, including my friend and ministry comrade, Nathan Firmin, and one of my daughters.

And . . . the truth is that I like and respect my chiropractor  (Dr. Curtis Ratliff) with all sincerity.  I would recommend him to anyone.  He is very, very, very good at what he does.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"Ask the Pastors" is this Sunday . . .

It's that time again, as we approach the Memorial Day weekend, our pastoral staff is preparing for the "Ask the Pastors" sermon this Sunday.

You can text a question on Sunday morning (the phone # to call will be annouced) and we will try to answer it.   Sort of a panel discussion, but with interaction with the congregation.  It is one of my favorite Sundays.

God's grace still amazes me . . .  ><>

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Thank you, Dr. Floyd Diehm . . .

This morning at 11 AM, I officiated at a private graveside service for Dr. Floyd Diehm, the father of Dr. Ken Diehm, the senior pastor of our church, and my friend.

Later at 1:30 PM, we had a Memorial service to honor Dr. Floyd's life in our sanctuary.  Close to, if not more than, 350 people attended, many from our church, but also from St. Andrews UMC in Arlington, and several clergy colleagues from across our Annual Conference.

A committed Christian, husband, father and grandfather, Floyd was also a Disciples of Christ pastor for almost 40 years, whose passions were Bible study, evangelism, golf and fishing  . . . Floyd was an intense individual who sought to get all out of life that he could.

He believed in the "abundant life."   He had a passion for living, and for helping other people live.  He was one of the best encouragers I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, and calling a friend.   Looking back on it now, the number of times in the past four years he encouraged me, are beyond my ability to count.  So frequent, so consistent was his encouragement to me and to others.  If anyone ever had the heart of a pastor, it was Dr. Floyd, as well as his son, Ken.

I give glory to God that I had an opportunity to know Floyd for the past 4 years.

Rest in peace, my friend.  Be with God!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Steve Isbell's "40 at 40" . . .

I am very proud to have supported Steve Isbell, a member of our church, in his recent "40 at 40" fundraising effort to help support Grace Ministries here in Grapevine.

As a way of celebrating his 40th birthday, Steve ran 40 miles to raise funds, as well as public support, for a very worthy cause.

To learn more about what motivated Steve to do this, in his own words, click here.

Steve, I appreciate you! Way to go!

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ain't she a beauty ???

A Tacoma JK28CE jumbo acoustic. Ain't she a beauty?

For those of you who do not care a "lick" (pardon the pun, a little guitar humor there) about how someone decided on a guitar . . . you may want to go on to the next blog on your list.
If you are a guitar person . . . you might be interested in this journey of mine.

I've been considering getting and playing a jumbo acoustic for several years now. In fact, Sean at Dallas Used Guitar loaned me an Alvarez jumbo a few years back. I played it for our week long VBS, and at one of our 1st Church String Band concerts. I liked it size wise, but the sound was a bit tinny, which is normal for most Alvarez guitars.

For the most part, during the Children's Time and when I sing at area nursing homes or at funerals, I play my Martin DC-16GTE or my Martin D-15 mahogany guitar. I have played the DC-16 hard for 4 years now . . . and it is starting to show some wear, along with needing new frets and some work on the electronics. The D-15 was one of the special events in my life . . . I was in the right place at the right time when it crossed my path. In truth, it was sheer dumb luck. Martin's have a deep rich sound that I just love. Always have, always will.

But, I was still, every so often, wondering about 
getting a jumbo as my "travel" and Children's Church guitar, and just use the Martin's for our band performances. My thinking being that a jumbo might project better at nursing homes and other venues where I do not have access to a sound system . . . or where I don't have enough space to bring an amp.  

The other day, Sean calls and says, "you got to see this guitar." So I go see it . . . koa wood back and sides . . . absolutely beautiful . . . sitka spruce top . . . this guitar is a beauty indeed.  And it is a full-sized jumbo, 100% American made.

But good looks never means it sounds good. So I tuned up and started playing . . .

Our jaws dropped . . . I strummed and E chord and the guitar just resonated forever. Later that day, I played both my Martins and the Tacoma. Very similar sounds, but the Tacoma has a bit more volume . . . as I had hoped for.

I played it that same dayy at an after-school program at a local elementary school, then played it Thursday night at band rehearsal, and then played it at 3 of the morning worship services yesterday.

This guitar may be the best sounding guitar I have played over our sanctuary house/pa system.

Yeah . . . it's a keeper.

As best I can explain my relationship with guitars . . . they are tools for ministry. I like having the proper tools for any job I do. I don't mean that I buy a lot of tools . . . but I do buy the right tools.

This Tacoma jumbo is the right tool for the music I sing and perform.  Now, if I could just find a Tacoma jumbo 12-string . . .

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>