"But music was his life, it was not his livelihood,and it made him feel so happy and it made him feel so good. And he sang from his heart and he sang from his soul. He did not know how well he sang; it just made him whole." - Harry Chapin - chorus of "Mr. Tanner."

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.  

Awesome.  

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.  

Why?  

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 . . . ><>