"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."

Monday, September 27, 2010

Music as therapy . . . to make people feel better . . .

For the record, I don't often get paid to sing and to play guitar.

I've had a couple of offers . . . I must have been plan "C."

My dreams of making a living as a singer and guitar player are long gone. In fact, I made that decision / came to that realization about the time I got married. I've shared with others that I have recently come to conclusion that I was called years ago to be a music teacher, song director and music leader. For various reasons, and perhaps my own cowardice or inability to stand up for myself, I interpreted my call in the way I thought others wanted me to interpret it.

However, there was always something about singing, playing guitar and music in general that kept drawing me back to performing for others. I noticed long ago that when I sing to a group of children, or to a group of senior saints ... they usually smile, and most times, they start singing with me. I can't remember all the times after singing at a nursing home or at an assisted living center, that one of the residents said to me, "thanks for taking me back home for a while . . ." in reference to a song we may have shared together, that reminded them of family, old days, and sweet memories.

That was my first true heart felt inkling that music, for some people, can be a positive, healing diversion from everyday life, especially if one's everyday life involved hopelessness.

A diversion . . . almost to the point of being theraputic in nature. I know this is true. I've seen this too many times.

Music . . . can make a child, teen or adult . . . feel better. Music can promote physical, emotional, relational and spiritual healing.

I don't have the research on this to back me up . . . but I do have the experience that this is true.

So, long ago, I made the decision that my music would not be about seeking fame and forturne; instead, it would be about making people feel better . . . providing a moment or two of release from the various pains of life's struggles.

Earlier this year, I was provided an opportunity to apply as an apprentic to the Hugworks Theraputic Music Entertainment program. I am a little less than half-way through. And what I am learning in this process only AFFIRMS what I have known for years . . . that music is powerful and can help heal.

The Hugworks program focuses on children who are in hospitals, and who attend camps with other children with similar illnesses. I encourage you to ponder the possibility of your support of this wonderful ministry in some way.

FYI - I am a ministry volunteer for Hugworks. I do not hide this. I do not get paid for doing what I do, or for mentioning them here in this blog entry. My "pay" (that internal sense that I am making a positive difference) is getting to see children and older adults smile, relax, and enjoy themselves . . . even if only for a few minutes.

That is why I do this, why I show up, why I sing, why I play, why I travel, why I say "yes" when my calendar indicates I should say "no," why I rehearse, why I practice with others, why I learn to play new instruments, why I learn new songs . . . and why I even more today appreciate friends like Joe Laughlin and Floyd Marshall, for continually prodding me over the years to improve my skills. And, for friends like Sean Simon at Grapevine Guitar Works, whose support helps me show up with the equipment I need to entertain as best I can.

I am a theraputic music entertainer . . . and I have known that for years, even though I was not aware of the particular words or terms.

I sing and play so that others can feel better. There is positive power in what people like me can do for others.

Thank you Lord, for the 2nd chance opportunity to know why I sing and play.

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

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Just being able to "breathe" . . .

I think most of us take many things for granted most every day.

I personally think that many of us take one particular thing for granted.

Breathing.

I know I do, unless I have a stopped-up nose or sinus problems.

For people suffering from Pulmonary Fibrosis . . . they live in fear about getting their next breath.
On Tuesday evening a week ago, I officiated at a memorial service for a church member, retired police officer, and friend, Rob Neff. He died from complications arising out of his having pulmonary fibrosis. He died before he could get a lung transplant.

I watched Rob proceed toward death. And, I felt pretty helpless. At the request of Barbara, Robb's wife, friends of Rob have started wearing a "Breathe" wrist band. For a $3 donation, you can get one through www.pulmonaryfibrosis.org, or click here.

It's the least I can do for a friend, church member, and fellow law enforcement family brother.
In Genesis, we read the creation story where God breathed in the breath into Adam.
In the Old Testament, the Jewish name for God is a listing of consonants (YHWH) which make up the word, "Yahweh."
Say that 4 or 5 times. It occured to me that the Jewish name for God sounds like someone inhaling and then exhaling a breath.
God is breath!
I don't think I will ever again take breathing so lightly.
Please consider the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation as being worthy of your contributions and support. If you know of someone who has pulmonary fibrosis, then show your support by getting a bracelet.

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

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Core Values #1 - Family and Friends

At 53 years of age, I have worked through the process of reviewing my core values, those things that are of great importance in defining who I am as a unique individual / child of God.

In other words, a core value is something you believe in so strongly, that you have, if you will, "carved it in stone and taken it to the bank."

I had not intended to write about my core values now. But something happened today that peaked my interest is putting some words into print.

Ken, our Senior Pastor, sent out and email to the rest of the clergy on staff, asking us to submit to him some phrase consisting of 8 words that would "preach." We are preparing for this Sunday for worship services using Jonah 3, the shortest chapter in the Bible.

I submitted the phrase, "Family and friends are what make me rich."

I would have submitted "Jesus love me this I know . . . "; however, one of the other clergy on staff here had already sent it in.

On Wednesdays in September and October, I teach a class on "Emotional Fitness" at noon and again at 6 PM. While teaching the noon class today, I realized that I was focusing somewhat on what I had sent Ken, and realizing that I had reaffirmed what is the #1 core value in my life.

Core Value #1 . . . It's all about relationships!

My relationships with God, family and friends are the most important thing in my life. Unfortunately, this was not my #1 core value for many of my adult years. My former #1 core value used to be, "the church is the most important thing, and I must sacrifice who and what I am and hope to be for the sake of the church."

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNNNNNHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Wrong answer. Thank you for playing.

It is not easy to admit that I have sacrificed so much, and so many people, on the altar of success in past years. My dear wife, my two daughters, too many friendships to count. My wife and daughters were kind, loving and Christian enough to give me a 2nd chance. A couple of my friends offered the same grace in kind.

It took time . . . a long time . . . and I had to identify and heal some past hurts in my life, to the point where I truly began to understand, not only in my belief and words but also in my actions, that what was truly most important to me in my life was my relationships.

In a word, relationships are "everything."

My relationship with God . . . when that is going well, my other relationships seem to also be going well.

When my relationship with God struggles . . . the same can be said for my other relationships.

My relationship with my wife and daughters changed the day I "woke up" and realized how much of a blessing they were to me . . . that they each were a "treasure" to be cherished, loved, protected and honored. My wife, daughers, and their husbands, are worthy of my intentional time and prayers.

The time I came to embrace this was about the time I came up with the saying "family and friends are what make me rich." I only found out a few years ago that various authors and poets have claim on that phrase.

I don't care.

I may not own it, but I own the emotions attached to it.

Life is truly the sum (the answer to an addition problem) of our relationships, and the time we spend in each of them.

Core Value #1 - relationships are everything, especially my relationship with God, family and friends!

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

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I have hope for the United Methodist Church . . .

Today was a long day as part of the Mid-Cities District Committee on Ordained Ministry fall interviews for those requesting certification as ministerial candidates, and for those farther along in the process who requested we recommend them to the Conference Board of Ministry as provisional members.

Obviously, what is said and done in these meetings is confidential.

What I wanted to write about and share about these meetings today is this: We have some really great people in our district who feel called to serve our Annual Conference as future elders or deacons.

I mean . . . some really good people.

A couple of the people there today, one I helped interview, and another who I helped mentor . . . I am thinking to myself, "I would like to work with these guys."

I mean . . . some really good people. Bright, smart, creative, visionary, who think outside the box that I can't seem to find a way out that often.

I have hope for our United Methodist Church. A strong and firm hope. In fact, I have a smile on my face just thinking about all the possibilities.

When you come to understand that some of the brighest and best are indeed stepping forward to serve . . . you can't help but have hope.

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

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

James Taylor, still "theraputic" after all these years . . .

This has been a hard week or so . . . we had a funeral this past Saturday. The night before I responsed to a death call at a local hospital. On Saturday after the funeral, I responded to another death call at another local hospital.

It's what I do . . . it is taking it's toll, but . . . it's what I do. I spend a lot of time with people before they die. I spend a lot of time with their families afterward.

Truth is . . . and I hope I am not bragging . . . but I don't know of another pastor who walks with people toward death as I do . . . or who officiates a funeral as well as I do.

Naw ... that's not bragging. It's a fact. I have this core value that death should not be something we fear and avoid . . . but embrace as the start of a new journey, when the time for death comes.

Yet . . . today, I found myself drained, tired, and a bit weepy because the funeral tonight and the one tomorrow morning . . . I knew them both as well as you can know someone in being their pastor these past 5 years. I knew them. I loved them as friends.

So, I needed to take a break, but didnt have time to go to the Grapevine Guitar Works to hide for a while. I thought to myself, "Self, what do you need right now?"

My self answered back, "Give me some Sweet Baby James." I got it, and I'm back in the saddle preparing to do "what I do."

James Taylor . . . what an artist, even after all these years.

God grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Monday, September 13, 2010

Taylor CS-8

I took a 30 minute break around 4 PM today . . . we are getting ready for two big funerals this week, and I needed to clear my head.

So, I went down to Grapevine Guitar Works and sat down with a Taylor GS-8.

In a word . . . heaven!

Of my goodness . . . I've never heard a full-bodied acoustic with such great mid-tones. My Martin DC-16 has such a loud bass end. The GS-8 had balance between the bass, mids and trebles. I was really impressed!

This Martin Guitar guy is slowly moving toward Taylor's. I think I could one day embrace a GS-8, or other larger bodied Grand Symphony model acoustic guitar from Taylor.

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

Friday, September 10, 2010

F - R - I - E - N - D . . .

I had the pleasure and opportunity to spend part of today with my good friend, Floyd.

He came up I-35 from down south. We played guitar and talked in my office, went over to Grapevine Guitar Works and played guitar and talked some more.

Then we went to lunch, and talked some more.

Then we came back to my office, and played guitar and talked some more.

I am blessed to have a friend like Floyd, who would take a day off from work, and come up to see me, on a day when I actually needed a friend to talk to. I was needing to "unwind" and decompress a bit.

Love ya, Floyd!

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

Thursday, September 9, 2010

"The Well" is a great ministry . . .

"The Well" is a bi-monthly dinner meeting for the women of our church and guests and friends they invite. Attendance ranges between 180-240 women, who come for a great dinner, followed by a performance by a musical guest. This is followed by the main speaker for the evening, such as a noted woman author or speaker.

Participants gather on the 2nd Thursday each month they meet . . . when us guitar guys are having a jam session elsewhere in the building.

I had the honor and privilege of being the musical "guest" for the meeting tonight, and was followed by my friend and fellow pastor, Dr. Cindy Ryan. Cindy was in here element. Besides Chris back in the sound booth, I was the only guy sitting with the women.

And for the record, I had a great time!!!! Truth is, Cindy Ryan is one of my favorite speakers to listen to.
After a wonderful introduction by Trudy Hughes (especially since she could have told how that of all the staff we have, I qualify best for "the accident waiting to happen"), I opened with Jerry Reed's "A Thing Called Love." When I finished, I looked at Cindy and said, "This is the first time in my life that I've had 246 women between me and the door!"

It's the truth!

I then lead a good old fashioned group singing of "Puff the Magic Dragon," which ended up being a great song considering the topic Cindy talked about. I closed with an old gospel hymn from the 1850's, "The Great Physician."
Personally for me, it was a wonderful experience. In fact, it began a period of time where I am going to be doing a lot of solo stuff as I try to finish up my theraputic music entertainment apprenticeship through Hugworks.org. Hope to have that done soon after Christmas.

So, a good time was had by all . . . and I made it out the door. Didn't due half-bad, or at least that is what everyone said.

I will take that as a win-win by all who attended.
It was fun!

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

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sign Up Now for the Iron Men Golf Tournament on September 19th

2010 Iron Men Golf Tournament - Sunday, September 19

Golfers, here's your opportunity to join in a fun day of golf and help some great causes at the same time!

The Iron Men invite you to come out for the Seventh Annual Iron Men Golf Tournament on Sunday, September 19, at Sky Creek Ranch in Keller. (Please note the new date - this is two weeks earlier than years past.) All golfers are welcome - male and female, young and young-at-heart.

Registration is now open! Your $110 registration fee covers course fees, dinner buffet, beverages, goody bags, awards and a few surprises! The deadline for registration is Sunday, September 12.

Please also support the golf tournament with your prayers and consider becoming a sponsor! Various levels of sponsorship are available.

Visit our website for more information or to register online! Questions? Contact Kevin Mitchell at 817-416-2609 or kmitchell@grapevinetexas.gov. Click here to download a printable brochure (pdf).

Beatlegrass in concert . . . a great show

I normally do not take time to go hear many individuals or groups perform. If they play at the church, that is one thing. Out in the public . . . that is where I work every day, and sometimes I like to just hang out and chill on my own.

However, this past Saturday, our friends Rick and Donna asked us to go with them to the new Levitt Theater in Arlington, Texas, which is a brand new outdoor theater in downtown Arlington. Rick's favorite group, Beatlegras, was performing.

It's been really hot in Texas this summer. But it was an absolutely perfect evening to carry the lawn chairs in with a big Route 44 Diet Dr. Pepper from Sonic, and sit down to enjoy a great 90 minutes of Beatles song covered in bluegrass style.

Dave, Milo and George are exceptional musicians and vocalists, and they really put on a show. What a great evening. I am very glad I went.

Check out their website at www.beatlegras.com.

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

Monday, September 6, 2010

Times change, as does interest in certain guitars . . .

WARNING! . . . This blog entry is about guitars and stuff like that. If you like guitar stuff, then please read on. If not, then check back later . . . either way, "I appreciate you!"
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For over 5 years . . . my #1 guitar has been a Martin DC-16gte guitar. As fine an intrument as I had ever previously owned or played.

For years I had always wanted a nice Martin. My friends Joe and Floyd had Martins, and I always admired their looks and sound. My DC-16 has never let me down in this regard.
I was able to get it the week before we moved to Grapevine, purchasing it at Heart of Texas Music in Temple, TX, thanks in part to a grant I received, along with gifts I received from my friends Joe and Floyd.

I recently was able to finally obtain a Martin J-12-16 12 string guitar, after an over year long search. I had the opportunity to buy several truly wonderful Taylor 12-strings during that time, but instead waited for the Martin. I first learned to play guitar on a 12-string.

I know about, and have studied quite a bit of the Martin Guitar history. You could say I am and have been a Martin man for quite a while.

However, the Martin guitars I have dreamed of owning . . . are probably forever priced higher than I will ever be willing to pay.

A couple years ago . . . I felt drawn, and encouraged by others, to improve my guitar playing skills, including finger-picking. I found myself looking at the nylon string classical guitars that Sean would occasionally have in his showroom and Grapevine Guitar Works. I got to play a couple of Godin Multiac SA's, even had one for a couple months . . . but sent it back because it wasn't a true acoustic.

Over a year ago, while enjoying an after Thanksgiving break in East Texes, I stumbled across a rare, beautiful and wonderful sounding Martin N-20 classical guitar. A 1980 model, a year older than the one Willie Nelson still plays to this day.

I got to play it for over 30 minutes . . . a time I will treasure forever. However, with a near $4,000 price tag . . . I knew it was something I would never own, or play much in public out of fear of harming such a treasure.

A few months later, I stumbled onto a used Taylor NS42ce at another local guitar store. It's what some call a "hybrid" classical guitar. It had a Fishman pre-amp, 14 frets to the neck instead of 12, and the nut was 1 7/8 inches instead of the normal 2 inches for a classical. Thanks to my Mom, I was able to get it. It has served me well this past year. And, I began to play it more and more at children's time during worship, and during jam sessions. At most of the solo gigs I have had this past year, I have played this guitar through my Fishman Loudbox 1oo.

A month ago, Sean at Grapevine Guitar Works became a certified Taylor dealer. One of the guitars he bought for display at his showroom was a Taylor NS74ce. This is the top-of-the line Taylor acoustic-electric classical guitar. There is no better unless it is a custom order. Western red cedar top, and Indian rosewood back and sides. It has a larger body (Grand Auditorium) than the NS42 (Grand Symphony), and the sound it makes when you play it just swells. The NS74 also has the newer Taylor TS-E electronics, just three simple little knobs (volume, treble adn bass) to turn.

I am drooling a bit just writing about this guitar.

I took my Loudbox amp and NS42 to Grapevine Guitar Works showroom, and Sean and I plugged the two guitars in. The NS42 is a fine guitar, with great sound. However, the difference between the two guitars was amazing! We are talking bush league-verses-major league here, I'm that serious . . . Sean even said it was a $1,000 difference in sound. I believe him.

Sean was feeling compassionate that day, or perhaps generous. That's the kind of friend he is. As a result, my new #1 is now a Taylor NS74ce.

The price? That's between me and Sean, but it was less than an equal quality Martin would have been, and I get the customer service that Taylor is known for if I ever need it. But yes, there was some stuff I had to give up. Let's just say that to cover this price of this guitar, I had to part with a bunch of my current equipment. Nuff' said.

I think I have a clearer understanding now of the scripture about the man finding the prized pearl in the field, then going back and selling all he had to buy the field.

This is the nicest guitar I have ever owned in my life . . . without a doubt, despite my preference for Martin's. In my mind, this is a once-in-a-lifetime guitar.

So . . . thanks Mom! I love you, and we miss you a lot since your move to Husker-Land. I still consider this the guitar you helped me get. I will always appreciate that you believe in my passion to sing and perform. I will play you a personal concert this fall when you come visit. Being a musician yourself, you will appreciate this instrument.

And . . . thank you Sean, for directing me toward this once-in-a-life-time guitar, and for working out a way for me to get it. I appreciate this guitar, along with your friendship and counsel, very much.

And now . . . the even better news. I now only have 4 guitars and one amp in my office, to go along with my tenor banjoy and baritone uke. I have more room now than I know what to do with!

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