Friday, December 27, 2013

Oh what the heck . . . it's my blog . . . another Smother's Brothers clip . . .

Too funny.

Enjoy.

God's grace, and great entertainers, still amazes me . . . ><>

Hello Josh Garrels . . .

Well, Merry Christmas to me . . . I do so love discovering young artists that I have not been aware of before . . .

Yesterday, I was catching up on some of the music articles through the NPR app on my iPad, and saw an article about Josh Garrels (www.joshgarrels.com).

Josh is a Christian music artist . . . but not part of (by his own choice) the contemporary Christian music industry.  If I have read things right, he has self-produced most if not all of his CD's and has even participated in a documentary film of his most recent tour.

I watched several videos of him performing on YouTube.   In a way, he reminds me of Keith Green.

I like what I am hearing . . . and will be reading and listening more.

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

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas to all . . .

Have a Merry Christmas everyone!  

Monday, December 23, 2013

Smothers Brothers . . . Poor Wandering One / Dueling Banjos

Sorry . . . just one more Smothers Brothers video .  .  .  entertainers today could learn a lot from these guys.

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

Saving Mr. Banks . . .

My wife and I were able to have a bit of free time yesterday, and went to see "Saving Mr. Banks". 

This is an outstanding movie, and you do not have to be a Mary Poppins fan to make any connections. 

Emma Thompson should at least receive an Academy Award nomination.  She was the heart of the movie.  In the film, she portrays P. L. Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins book series.  Tom Hanks plays a very interesting older Walt Disney.   Great supporting cast.

The movie just works, and is suitable for the entire family.

If you have had a relationship with a parent or relative, in which they failed to live up to being on the pedestal you placed them on . . . and you blame yourself as a result  . . . go see this movie.

"Let's go fly a kite . . . and send it soaring!"

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

Friday, December 20, 2013

Acousticletter.com

If you are either considering the purchase of a higher-end price acoustic guitar, or wanting to compare several together for sound and playability . . . well, you have a problem.

Many music stores can't afford to carry more than a couple $3,000 guitars due to overhead limitations.

Alas, do not fear . . .  you can always check out the reviews and demos that Tony Polecastro does through www.acousticletter.com.

I subscribe to the site and receive all the updates to their YouTube channel.   I'm not buying right now, and won't be for a while now that I have my Martin J-40.  However, you learn a lot by watching the videos, and Tony is great at explaining the tonal qualities of the different woods and guitar shapes.

God's graces till amazes me . . . ><>

Another Smother's Brothers clip . . .

Just too funny . . .

Dick and Tom Smothers singing "Boil that Cabbage Down."

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

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

AirTurn BT-105 review . . .


Well, it finally arrived . . . and I am pretty happy about it.

I am not a full-time singer/musician, as much as I wish I could be.

I do get to sing several times most every week, and always enjoy doing so.  I'm the "Plan C" program/music guy" for a lot of local groups.  My schedule is flexible to a point, and I'm not interested in the money.  That by itself will get you a few invites.

Several years ago I made the intentional effort to being memorizing as many songs as I could.  Only thing . . . memorizing songs is easy when you sing a lot.  I sing in public, but 3-4 hours a week is my usual average. 

That's not really a lot of time to sing songs regularly enough to remember them well.  Let's say my ability to recall things and my age seem more and more tied together.
I got an iPad for Father's Day a few years back.  I hadn't used it that much, until my wife, a Project Director for a local engineering firm, challenged me to get more tech savvy.   So, I've been using my iPad for a lot of stuff.  I discovered a stylus I can write on the iPad with, and the I started putting all my songs that I make song-lists from (over 450 songs) into my iPad with an app called "My Lyric Book."  

Hey, no more carrying a couple of 3 ring binders with me to jam sessions, rehearsals or gigs!

Awesome!

Works great, except when I have to swipe the screen to move the page up or change the song.  It takes two hands to play a guitar.  You have to stop playing . . . or hit a long single chord . . . and then hit the forward arrow button or swipe the screen, and then start playing again.

Not easy . . . but I was managing.  I'd like to give myself some multi-tasking credit here and there. 
Then I heard from a pastor friend about blue-tooth foot pedals for use with iPads and other tablets.

Seriously . . . such a thing exists?  Before that, I had to ask, "What's Blue-tooth?"

OK . . . I admit my techno learning has happened in a slow curve.

And learn I did . . . Yep, they are Blue-Tooth pedals out there for use with iPads.  I check them out.  I got to see one being used, and try it out.  As a result,  I recently placed an order for an AirTurn BT-105  (www.airturn.com) which you see in the picture above.

Connect it by blue-tooth with your iPad . . . and step on the right pedal . . . the song sheet on your iPad moves up.  Step on the left pedal . . . and the sheet backs up.  Once the song is done, step on the right pedal, and the next song comes up. 

Mercy!  I'm like a kid in a candy store.  "Beam me up, Scotty!"

The entire unit, pedals and all, is only 4" by 6 1/2" in size.   Fits in my back pack with my iPad. 

Folks . . . if you like using an iPad . . . and you keep your music in it . . . you might want to consider a blue-tooth foot pedal.  Hands free operation of the iPad  . . . mean hands free to play more music on your instrument.

I know I am behind the times a bit . . . but this thing is pretty neat.  Combine this with some of the neat gadgets I've purchased from IK Multimedia, and my iPad has become many things music wise for me.
 
Awesome!  But I've already said that.

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

Monday, December 16, 2013

RIP - Mr. Ray Price

Just read that Ray Price passed away today.

The man had a voice . . . a classic voice.

A sad day.

However, I am grateful for his music.  I always enjoyed listening to him.

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

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Truly entertained . . .

I have always enjoyed good entertainment.

And in the process, I appreciate not being shocked.

I watch entertainment to be entertained.

In other words . . . to have good time.

What do I call good entertainment?

Watch the video below.

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

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The weather did us in . . .

Well, we were ready for our Christmas house concert last night . . .

I mean, we were really ready!

However, a freak Texas ice storm this past Thursday night and Friday, and temperatures in the 20's for 4 straight days, left the area with 2-3 inches of ice and most major freeways closed or pretty messed up until this afternoon.

We got word late Friday that the event was cancelled.

A good decision.  I'm 56, and one of the youngest guys in the band.  Most wouldn't have made it.

It was a paying good too . . .  they were going to feed us.  Yeah . . . that's right. If we get fed, it's considered a paying gig.

And the food at this gig would have been mighty fine, indeed.  Shame.

Still pretty bad this morning.  I was told that the parking lot at the Downtown Campus was a skating rink.  We only had 45 in worship at one service at 11 AM, and my wife and I didn't make it.  I live 7 miles from the church, and with two bad knees, I don't slip and slide as athletically as I used to.

The weather also caused the cancellation of our 77th Annual Christmas Candlelighting Service this evening.  80+ participants . . . roads are just too bad in various parts of the community.  I hope we can reschedule this service to later this week.  More info to come about this soon.

Liz and I did get out this afternoon, after scraping the ice off the driveway.  Manageable, but you had to drive carefully.  Tomorrow should be pretty navigable driving wise, so I'm sure the gig at Dancing River is still a go.

Texas weather . . . wait 5 minutes and it will change.

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


Thought you might like to see the band . . .

Some of the good folks who make up the 1st Church String Band . . .

Front Row:  Brother Harvey Guthrey

Back Row (l-r):  Brother Charles Weems, Brother Ned Conner, Me, Brother Russ Logan, Brother Stu Spencer, and Brother Bill Haines (pianist)

Not shown: Sister Mari McAdoo (who ordered us into position for this picture) and Brothers Jeff Murphy and Gary Ingram.

I've been making music with some of these guys for going on 8+ years.  A joy!

God's grace . . . and the folks in the 1st Church String Band . . . still amazes me . . . ><>

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

You may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one . . .

When my oldest daughter and her husband (I love'em both!!!) moved out of my home (after an extended stay) . . . my wife blessed me (as she has done so many more times than I have ever deserved) with giving me my old music room back.

In my house, Bruce Springsteen is not the boss . . . my sweet wife is . . . and I am a happier man for it!!!!!!

My music room is the smaller of the two front bedrooms of our little home.  It's my spot.  I have a couple of guitars hanging on the walls, my late grandmother's piano, a lot of my music books, and a very comfortable chair.  It is where I try to spend a least half of every Friday (my usual day off) either playing guitar, listening to music, reading and praying.

It's also a very neat place for an old man to dream.

Yep, its even in the Bible . . . old me dream dreams . . .

My sweet wife (the one who always seems to be blessing me more than I have ever deserved) bought me a poster for my music room, one of John Lennon playing an electric guitar.  Below his picture are the words:

You may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one . . .

Yeah . . . what he said . . .

My dream . . . is to one day, in some form or fashion, open a folk music coffeehouse venue of some sorts . . . some where . . . some how.

It might be in storefront . . . or at one of our church campus locations . . . or in New Mexico or in Arkansas.

It might happen tomorrow . . . or become my life mission when I retire (provided I get to retire) along with singing to children in hospitals and for senior adults.

Thought I'd go ahead and announce it to the world today (that being the 2-3 of you who read my blog.)

Seems to feel good to my idea off my chest . . . and out in the open. 

One day . . . one day. 

I'm a dreamer, but not the only one.  Maybe another dreamer will help me pull it off one day.

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

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Every once in while, I do something right ....

I was assigned turkey cooking duties this year by my wife and eldest daughter. 

My last attempt at doing a whole turley did not go that well.  Edible ... but I had trouble keeping the Big Green Egg at a constant  temp. I know I could have done better.

Just 4 people for dinner this year ... so we picked out a turkey breast.

I fired up the Egg .... and got it right for once.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  Count your blessings today as many times as you can. And then count them again tomorrow. And again the next day and the next day and the next day . . .

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

Saturday, November 23, 2013

SCORE . . . it pays to walk through a Half-Price Books . . .

I had taken a box of books to our local Half-Price Books.  I didn't want any money for them.  Just a box of books I had no interest in reading that were taking up space on the floor in our study.

So, after dropping off the books . . . just a very quick walk over to the music section . . . just a very quick scan because we had things to do and errands to run.

BAM!  Could it be . . . no way!

WAY!

A paperback copy (1975 - OUT OF PRINT) of The Folk Songs of North America by Alan Lomax.

Best $20 I've spent in a while.

If you are a collector of American Folk Music books and memorabilia, or a public or private school music teacher, or music historian or folklorist (perhaps a couple such people read this blog, one can hope) . . . you no doubt share in my joy!  Yes folk music collectors and teachers . . . there are some copies of this book still out there.

If you don't know anything about folk music history and folklore . . . then you are scratching your head wondering why I am happy about getting this book.

Simple explanation:  Alan Lomax continued the work of his father, John Lomax, in traveling our nation, and the world for that matter, collecting and recording folk songs in as many places as possible.  In the process, they often drove, walked, hiked, crawled to out-of-the-way locations in our country because they had heard about someone, here or there, who was a native folk singer.

Without the efforts of John and Alan Lomax, followed by Pete Seeger, and his sister Peggy and brother Mike, a lot of the folk music of our country, and perhaps of the world, would have been lost over time.

A lot of folk music has been lost over time, according to music historians who know such things.  But the Lomax's, Seeger's and others have done, in my humble opinion, a great service to all of us who are rediscovering the "ancient" songs of our individual nations and cultures.

This particular book is a collection of 300 of those songs, along with a little bit of history.

(Pardon me . . .  I need to take a moment to do a fist pump here . . .  Ahhhhh! That felt good!)

Some of you get it . . .  most don't  . . . either way . . .  it helps explain my love of acoustic guitar, ukulele, 4-string tenor banjo, and the Native American flute.   One of these days I'm going to learn to play at least one song on a lap dulcimer . . . again, one can hope.

There is something, to me at least, that happens when you sing and play an American folk song . . . or a folk song of another country or culture.

You feel the story of song, how it resonates the history of the struggle of a lone individual, the trials of a community, the many and varied struggles of a nation . . .

As you sing and play, you feel the ring of hammers on steel, the wind that comes across the water to fill the sails of mighty ships, the wind that dries out a land so badly or burns an area so badly that the lives of may people are ruined.

As you sing and play, you hear the cadence of the workers in the field, the driver calling out to his team of mules or oxen, the cry of the damsel mourning the death of her lover, the father singing words of comfort to his frightened child . . .

As you sing and play, you also hear the cries of injustice, of pain, of anguish . . . that call out, each in their own way, for justice, for fairness, for peace . . .

As you sing and play, you smell the dirt in the wind, the wood being cut, the ground being plowed, the corn being harvested, the fire burning, the meal cooking . . .

Folk music is a magical thing for me . . . I guess I should thank my elementary school music teachers at Bowie Elementary in Alamo, Texas, down in the Rio Grande Valley. Those ladies got me started singing folk songs.  I wish I had a copy of my 4th and 5th grade music book.  Maybe that's the next music book I try to find for my library.

But right now . . . The Folk Songs of North America is going to get a long perusal.

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


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Lean on me . . . seriously . . .

This past Tuesday evening, I provided entertainment for our Be Our Guest meal.  This is a formal sit down dinner we serve to  those in our community who wish to attend.

A great meal . . . served by some of the best volunteers ever.

I closed my song set (quietly singing in the background), I started the song "Lean on Me."

No big deal . . . except that it's one of the favorite songs for about half of our volunteers, who broke out in dancing and singing the song with me.

Several tables of people eating also broke out in song.

A great way to end and evening . . . a bunch of people singing together . . .

Lean on me
When you're not strong
I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long 
'till I'm going to need
Somebody to lean on . . .

To a lot of people in that room . . . those words describe how they are trying to live their lives.

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

Monday, November 18, 2013

Call me a goon . . . but I learned something important when I last visited Branson, MO

Today I performed for the sweet folks at the South Colleyvine Ranch retirement facility.  I have  regular gig there every 3rd Monday of the month.

The folks there really enjoy a "show."  

With that in mind, I always take into consideration what I learned attending music shows in Branson, Missouri.

Every music show there (pretty much) includes:

-Rock-n-Roll songs
-Country Western songs
-Folk Songs
-Patriotic Songs, and
-Gospel songs.

If you are singing to a group of "seniors" (I will leave you to define the ages related to that term) you need to remember to include songs from each of the above categories.

And . . . put some life into it!

Crack a joke (a clean joke still gets big laughs).

Tell a story.

SMILE!

In the end . . . sing the best that you can. 

The outcome of all this is two-fold.

1)  You see a lot of smiles and hear a lot of laughter, and . . .

2)  You get asked to return!

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

Friday, November 15, 2013

Starting to get "Holiday" busy . . .

I am sure glad that Liz and I were able to take some time off in October.  It's "Holiday Time" hear at the church . . . meaning I will start having a lot of extra events on my calendar through the rest of November and all of December.

Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter are truly the two busiest times of our church year.

Along with extra meetings, worship services, and various Christmas parties, it's also the time I take a look at my winter 2014 calendar.

Why?

Well, it's time to work some singing back into my schedule with the Hugwork's guys at various children's hospitals in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

I would have figured, years ago, that the older I got, the less busy I would be.

Not the case.  Not the case at all.   I'm busy . . . and to be honest . . . I like it.

Since my return home from Philmont/New Mexico this summer, I believe I've been doing some of my best work in several years.  I believe my focus on important things has been much more clear than in the past.

My devotional life is ok.

The 1st Church String Band is performing again.

The worship service at the Heritage Campus is slowly growing (slow as in "crawling").   I have been enjoying preaching again . . . something that I did a lot of at Philmont at the various outdoor chapel services.  I came back from New Mexico knowing I wanted and needed a change.  Preaching more was that change.

I am grateful that I will be preaching more this next year.

I am grateful that I will be singing more as well.

Now, to work in an hour or so of fishing each week!!!!

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

Friday, November 1, 2013

We are all of the nature to change . . .

Sometimes I am contacted by area funeral homes to either officiate or sing at the chapel or grave side services of people I don't know . . . and because of their deaths, will never get to meet.  I honestly try to accommodate all such requests if my calendar allows it.  I guess it helps to have a great relationship with all the area funeral homes, and I do.  They all know that when I come, it's to serve those who are grieving.  It has little to do with me.
Most of the people I lead funeral services for  . . . are "old."

There really isn't any better way to put it.  They were old.  People who had lived long lives. Most died with families or friends by their side.

A few died alone. 
At times I sit with someone when death draws near, at their request or at the request of their family.  Doing so would make some people uncomfortable, I guess.  I find it something I seem "wired" to do, able to do, willing to do.   I listen to them breath. I hold their hand.  I sing or read scripture.

Birth is a blessed event.  Death is supposed to be as well, in my belief . . . or at least it can be.

It is a passion of mine that no one should ever have to die alone.  I know I don't want to die alone.
I just read about the death of someone most of you will have never heard of before.  A 98 year old female folk-singer from San Francisco . . . Faith Peltric.   In a blog about her mother, Faith's daughter included this quote:  

I am of the nature to grow old.
There is no way to escape growing old.
I am of the nature to have ill-health.
There is no way to escape having ill-health.
I am of the nature to die.
There is no way to escape death.
All that is dear to me and everyone I love
are of the nature to change.
There is no way to escape being separated from them.
My actions are my only true belongings.
I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.
My actions are the ground on which I stand.
Buddha - (Translation by Thich Nhat Hanh)
We are all of the nature to change . . . we can't ever be separate from change.
I needed to hear that today. 

I am growing old . . . the physical signs are all there.   Dealing with cancer for a year-and-a-half reminds me of how ill-health feels.

We are all of a nature to change.   I began to think some about that. Some things came to my mind.
I have, in my 56 years . . experienced a lot of 180's in my life . . . believing one things about certain groups of people (most often those beliefs being based on assumptions, other people's opinions, or other people's interpretations of religious writings) . . . only to come around to the other side as I learn and experience more about them.

I recently moved my office at the church to a smaller space.  In doing so, I found that I needed to go through a bunch of old files . . . mostly sermons that I wrote 10-20 years ago.   I threw all but a couple sermons into the recycle bin.  An appropriate place for them . . . because they were simply garbage. 

Good grief!!!   I was ashamed my name was associated with such garbage . . . like I am about some of the songs I have written!

More than once . . . I found myself saying, "I wrote that?

Or I found myself saying, "I thought that?"

Or an even worse feeling, "I actually preached that?"

It's obvious to me, that as I have lived these past years  . . . my focus and beliefs have broadened considerably, as have my personal understandings of faith and my interpretations of the Bible.  For me personally . . . a good thing.

I am of the nature to change.   Again, a good thing . . . since I read that when you stop changing, you die.  It's a law of nature.  Change is growth, and when you stop growing, you die.

Carve it in stone, and take it to the bank!

It may not be that way for some . . . but I think it is that way for me.

I am of the nature to change.  It causes some stress, but it also helps me appreciate that my life right now is very, very busy . . . but also very, very rich.

Thank you God, for change . . . and how dealing with it all causes me to seek to dwell in Your presence more.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

My schedule through the end of the year is packed, and that mean's . . .

Well . . . it means this.

For the first time since way before my cancer surgery, I have to announce that I cannot accept any more regular gigs until January of 2014.   With preaching responsibilities at our Heritage Campus in November and December, I just do not have the time, nor many open slots on my schedule until after the first of the year.   

It is good to be back in a much stronger level of physical, emotional, relational and spiritual strength.  I feel as balanced in all four areas as I have been in some time.  Being gifted by the church with  mission/renewal leave this past July did me a world of good in many more ways than I am probably aware of.  

It is all carrying over to my being much better able to focus on important things right now . . . pretty clear focus for the first time in a long, long, long while.   Distractions right now  . . . I've never more enjoyed the freedom of saying "no" when they come.  

A wonderful and rich marriage to the love of my life and doing pastoral care, preaching . . . and a lot of singing. 

I wish  you could see the smile on my face!

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

Monday, October 28, 2013

Posted a song, and then I got to sing it!

What a surprise yesterday, when Wren Robinson, our Director of Worship Arts, asked if I could fill in and sing "Drops in a Bucket" in the 8:30 AM service at the Downtown Campus.  Then I got to sing it at the Heritage Campus later in the morning, backed up by the Heritage Campus Band. 

Wow! 

It's a great song.  The video of Mitch Barrett singing it is below this post.  Enjoy.

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

Friday, October 25, 2013

Just a great song . . .

A great song . . . a great message.   I've been working on this song for the past 3 weeks, and will be using it a lot in gigs I have scheduled for senior adults.

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

I'm preaching the next two Sunday's at the Heritage Campus . . .

Should'a shared this news earlier.

Oh well, a lazy Friday morning, and I've just taken out the trash.  Now I'm at the computer looking over my blog.

A slow and lazy Friday morning.

But, for those who would like to know. . . I will be preaching at the Heritage Campus worship service (10:30 am) this coming Sunday, October 27, and also on November 3, 2013.

This Sunday, I will be finishing up, for the Heritage Campus, our month-long Sunday study of the book of Galatians.  I will be taking us through some of the main points from chapters 5 and 6.   The 27th is also our first time to participate in our "Drops in the Bucket" giving campaign as we raise support for our ministries for 2014.

In November, we begin a new sermon series titled, "First World Problems".   I will preach at least twice in November at Heritage (3rd and 24th ??), and may do all the preaching in December.  That decision will be made in the next few weeks.

I'm at the Heritage Campus most every Sunday morning now, providing pastoral supervision.  I come over after helping with the 8:30 am service at the Downtown Campus.    I'm blessed to serve a church that has three great worship areas, and we use them all each week for various services.

All good.

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


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

1st Church String Band is now jamming weekly . . .

Yep, you heard it here!

The 1st Church String Band is now jamming and rehearsing weekly (on most Thursday evenings) beginning at 6:30 PM, usually in Room#2001, located upstairs in the Family Life Center at the First United Methodist Church of Grapevine, Texas Downtown Campus.

We are looking for a lead guitar player.  Just thought that should get out there to anyone who might want to play around with us.

We will begin rehearsing a bunch of Christmas songs for 4 Christmas gigs in December, one of them at the Traveller's Service at our Heritage Campus on Dec. 18th.

More info to come!

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

Come on to the Pumpkin Patch

On Thursday, October 24th, I will be helping staff our Youth sponsored Pumpkin Patch located on our Ball Street parking lot across from the Grapevine Botanical Gardens (west of the Main Sanctuary).

I will be there with John Mollet between 2-4 PM.

No big deal, but weather permitting, I am bringing my guitar and would welcome anyone else to come on by for an acoustic jam session!

God's graces till amazes me . . . ><>

Monday, October 14, 2013

Turn down my guitar?

My good friend, Bill Haines, who doubles on the side as our keyboard player for our little church guitar group, was kind enough to join me this morning when I played for the good folks at Dancing River. 

I extended an invitation to the guys and gals in our little guitar band to join me when I sing at retirement and nursing homes.  Bill was there to check me out.  I hope he will join me soon, because he is a good keyboardist.

As we were walking back to our cars, I was remarking out loud how good I thought the Martin guitar I had played sounded in both the Memory Care Unit as well as in the main Activity Room there at Dancing River.

Bill said he thought the guitar was pretty loud. 

Now that is a first, from anyone . . . telling me that an acoustic guitar I was playing was loud.

Actually, it was good to know, because both rooms have tile floors and sound does carry and echo well in both places. 

I remember an old advertisement poster from Martin Guitars . . . about the J-40 model.  The guy playing the J-40 is being told by the other guy (who is playing an electric) if he can turn the volume on his guitar down.  Except the guitar was not plugged in.

A fun morning with a good friend.

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

Friday, October 11, 2013

A couple of non-music related shout outs . . .

In the past few weeks, my family and I have gone through the process of taking bids on a complete HVAC replacement for our home, as well as for some foundation work.

We ended up doing business with A#1 Air out of Carrolton.  I like the way they do business.  Signed the contract, and the install was the next day, and it went without a hitch.

3 different foundations companies indicated that I needed a lot of foundation repair, with bids ranging from $6,000 to $14,000.

Jeff from All Pro Foundations in Denton came yesterday.  Sat in his car in front of our house for over an hour because his previous appointment cancelled.  After an inspection, he told us that we didn't need foundation repair.  We needed some drainage and landscaping work and new guttering.  This company approaches foundation repair from an engineering perspective.  We only have a couple of sticking doors.  Yet all of our door frames and windows are level and plumb.  Jacking up the outside walls with piers would have, in time, caused cracks in our walls and windows to act up.

Now, am I the only one who sees something good in this . . . that a foundation repair sales manager sits in front of my house for an hour, and then tells me I don't need foundation repair.

Guess who my new foundation repair company is . . . All Pro Foundations.

The links to bought companies are listed in the "Good Stuff to Know About" section below.

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

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

I'll even sing in a Pumpkin Patch!

 
















No.  I am not the Great Pumpkin.

However, the youth group at FUMC-Grapevine are sponsoring a Pumpkin Patch next to our Ball Street parking lot, across from the Botanical Gardens.

Pumpkins everywhere!

The usual rush hits right after school lets out. Today was my first day to play the guitar and sing for whomever wanted to listen, and to entertain all of our great volunteers.

Can't say enough about the weather!   Can't say enough about all the good people I get to do neat things with!

God grace still amazes me . . . ><>


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Our Seniors need you . . .

Ok, this is a request for help.  The request comes in a minute.  First some info.

I was reading the other day.   It seems that the US Census Bureau is projecting that in the year 2025 (when I will be a young 68 years old) that the number of adults in the US over the age of 65 will outnumber all the children aged 6 and younger in our country.

This will be the first time in the history of our nation that this has happened.  But hold on.

The US Census Bureau is also projecting that in 2050 (when I will be 93 years old, and hopefully still playing guitar) that the number of adults over 65 will outnumber all the children and teens aged 18 and  younger.

Again, for the first time in our nations history.

Lately, I've been noticing a lot of new senior retirement centers under construction in our area.   I sing at 2 similar facilities on a regular basis.  I also provide community ministry to adults who live in the community funded housing next door to our church.  Most of them are seniors.  I visit in retirement and nursing homes.

Guess who the residents are.  Mostly seniors.

I did some more checking, and in reality only about 5% of all senior adults aged 65 and older live in retirement or nursing homes.

That's really not many.  Some receive great care, and value for the money they spend.  Sadly, many do not.

FYI . . . there are those who will say to me, "Rick, you get paid by your church to sing and visit in these places."

Yes, that is true . . . but what I do go far beyond doing it because it's part of my job.

Finally . . . the request . . . or maybe it's an appeal . . .

Please consider what you can do to volunteer ANY TALENT you have at a senior retirement center, assisted living center, or in a nursing home.  The Activity / Life Enrichment Directors who work in such places need help.  They are mostly young and some are even a joy to work with . . . enthusiastic and passionate about helping improve the quality of life of the residents.  They often have limited budgets to work with . . . and they have to stretch their resources as far as they can.

I help by singing and playing guitar.   I help by providing worship services on site once a month.  I go when I can to sit and visit and talk . . . but mostly I listen to people reflect back on the successes and failures of their lives.  Good and bad times.  Fond memories and deep regrets.

They are people who deserve to be appreciated and valued.

So, what can you do?

My singing schedule posted on this blog (look to the right-hand column) is usually up to date.  If you would like to join me when I sing for Senior Adults, please let me know.

If you would like info on how/who to contact in your area to volunteer your services, then send me and email.  I will be glad to help you work up an introduction letter, cards, song set list . . . whatever I can offer counsel about.

God's graces till amazes me . . . ><>

House Concert . . . a great experience . . .

This past Saturday, I joined the guys (and gal) of our First Church String Band in performing a house concert for one of our adult Sunday School classes at the church.

Gospel, folk, rock, C&W, golden oldies . . . we had songs in every category, and we did well enough on each that the "audience" (composed mostly of friends) sang and danced.

We are Methodists.  Dancing is OK.

At 56, I may be one of the youngest guys in the band.  I'd say we are composed of 50-80+ years olds, mostly retired, a few still working.  Many of us have previous experience being in a band . . .

A looooooong time ago!

I suggested that a better name for us as a group was the "Wanna Be Band."

In truth, we all "wanna be" in a band.

And it has nothing to do with fame, fortune or being in the limelight.

It has to do with making music.

Personally, I am an adequate rhythm guitar player.  I might even be good enough to earn some extra money playing guitar more . . . if I had the time.  However, I would have to play a lot at night, and travel.  Something I am not willing to do.  Travel is OK, when my professional schedule allows, but working nights in clubs, etc. . . . that no longer interests me in any way, shape or form.

Personally, I can sing pretty well, with the proper warm-up and rehearsal time.  Even after my thyroid surgery, I am still a bit of a nasal baritone, but not as much as I used to be.  I can't hit as many high notes as I used to.  And despite my singing solo a lot these days, I would rather sing parts in a trio vocal arrangements.

I really like the blending of voices.  The singers in our First Church String Band all understand the value of harmonizing.

But more than being an adequate guitar player or an adequate singer . . . I have an energy for making music with other people.  I have shared before that I love performing.  But what I love even more is when the audience sings with us.  Or when they start clapping in rhythm. Or when they join together is motions.  Or when a couple will stand up and start dancing to the music.

I like most when I see someone smile and whisper to a friend, or say out loud to the band . . . "I know / remember that song!"   Sometimes we call people up to sing it with us.  Terrifies a few.  For others, it makes their day.

People so benefit from singing together.   Do you have any talent to sing, or play and instrument?  If so, you are needed.  Our world is sort of screwed up, and I am one of those people that others label as "naive" who think that people who sing together can start overcoming their differences in order to do some good for others in the world.

Call me naive.  But I have seen (and will testify) the good that music can accomplish in helping constructive change take place in people's lives, in a neighborhood, in a church, in a community . . . and I look forward to one day seeing just how far music can reach and just how much good it can help accomplish.

God's grace, and what music can do, still amazes me daily . . . ><>

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I'm preaching at the Heritage Campus this coming Sunday . . . 9/29/13

I will be preaching at the Heritage Campus on Sunday, September 29th during the regular 10:30 AM service there.  

The message title is, "Hearing God's Voice."  In this sermon, I explain the 5 historic ways that God has spoken to his children.  

There will be a 5th Sunday fellowship lunch immediately after the worship service. Come one, come all!

God's graces till amazes me . . . ><>

Thursday, September 19, 2013

I'm preaching this Sunday . . .

I will be preaching at the 8:30, 9:45 and 11:00 AM worship services at the Down Town Campus of the First United Methodist Church in Grapevine, Texas.

We are finishing up our current sermon series, "Our Favorite Sins."  My message will focus on steps we can take to help with those desires in our lives that can lead us down paths we would not really want to travel, or cause us to experience consequences which we would rather have avoided.

I will be preaching at the Heritage Campus on Sunday, September 29th during the regular 10:30 AM service there.  The message title is, "Hearing God's Voice."  In this sermon, I explain the 5 historic ways that God has spoken to his children.  At the end of this sermon, you will be surprised to realize how much you already know!

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

TODAY (September 19) is North Texas Giving Day - to benefit Hugworks!!


Please help me support 2013 North Texas Giving Day that will in part benefit the great program my friends at Hugworks provides for children in area hospitals, and to support future plans to provide music to senior adults in various venues.   

Help support all that Hugworks does by clicking on this web address.

https://www.facebook.com/DonorBridge

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

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Both sad and excited to report . . .

This past week, after a 4+ year run, my good friends at Grapevine Guitar Works closed the doors to their showroom in Grapevine.

Sad . . . as I really enjoyed having a guitar store just a few blocks from the church . . . in particular because the main owner is a dear friend . . . I helped paint the showroom, hand slat-board, and helped display guitars as my schedule permitted. In truth, I spent a lot of days off helping around the showroom.  Even sold a few guitars.  Played a bunch.  Figured out in the process the kind of guitars I like the best.   The GGW showroom and storeroom were  also my "hidey-hole", or the place I could hide for a while to deeply think about things that needed thinking about.

I'm going to miss that place.

I am excited as well . . . as GGW is not going away by any means. They are re-vamping their website, and will soon be an even stronger presence on the internet. Below is more info directly from their website.

Check them out in the days to come.  They always have done me right and good.

I'm still a local music store kind of guy . . . but times change.

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

__________________________________________________________

We are re-inventing our website over the next few days, to coincide with our major decision to close our Grapevine, TX showroom in favor of a full service concierge and appointment based guitar trade and sales organization. For those of you who have supported our local showroom over the last 4 years, we offer our sincere thanks.  Our online presence will be stronger than ever as you will see in the coming weeks and we look forward to this model, which we view as the future of how people try and buy guitars. While your waiting for our new site to go live, please be sure to head over to our eBay store, where every item we have in inventory is listed!  And as always, if we're online, we're available to live chat!

http://stores.ebay.com/Grapevine-Guitar

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

I will be singing tonight at our Be Our Guest Meal . . .

A quick announcement . . .

I am singing tonight at our monthly Be Our Guest community meal, which will be served in Leach Hall here at the church beginning at 6:00 PM.  This is a "sit-down-family-style" monthly meal we offer and serve to anyone who lives in or around our church neighborhood. 

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

Saturday, September 14, 2013

I will be preaching at the Heritage Campus on Sunday, 9/15/13 and Sunday 9/29/13 . . .

For those who have not heard, or would like to know . . . I will be preaching at the Heritage Campus on Sunday morning, September 15 and 29. 

The service begins at 10:30 AM.  On the 15th, I will be preaching a sermon in the current sermon series, "Our Favorite Sins" on desires that I will also preach at the Downtown Campus on September 22.

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

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Music2Life . . .



I am in the process of learning more about Noel Paul Stookey's efforts with the new Music2Life organization.

To go to the Music2Life website, click here.  Their Facebook page is here.

I have tremendous hope for efforts like Music2Life and Playing for Change.  At some point, all these groups, and others, need both monetary and musical support.

If you sing, play an instrument . . .

If you have sung in the past . . .

If you have any kind of musical skill . . .

There are people out there who would benefit you crossing their path.

There are different community, church, personal, private and corporate groups and organizations, like the Hugworks group that I participate with, who need help in their efforts to make music once again the power in people's lives in can be.

Please consider learning more about any or all of these groups, but most especially the ones active in your area.

Can't find a group in your area . . . then start one!

God's grace still amazes me . . . and many others . . . ><>

Friday, September 6, 2013

Finally . . . back to singing!!

No more talking about it . . .

No more getting around to it . . .

No more wishing it was like it use to be . . .

No more worrying about cancer, or any other stumbling blocks, getting in my way . . .

After more than a years absence from regularly singing and playing guitar for others . . . this coming Monday . . . September 9, 2013 . . . I will sing twice in the morning at Dancing Rivers in Grapevine (senior living / retirement facility), and . . . I will sing for the children who attend  our Monday afternoon "Project Fun" after-school program.

My goal for singing to others this fall, winter and spring is simple enough . . . to sing somewhere . . . for somebody . . .  at least once a week.  I am confident that my pastoral and personal calendars can handle that with no problem.

My voice is good (I actually think it's improved since my 2nd throat surgery . . . but its only strong for about 30-45 minutes).  I need to build up the endurance I had back when I was singing 2-3 times a week before being diagnosed with cancer and going through surgeries and treatment.

Endurance will come again from singing regularly.

My Guild jumbo's are in great shape, and "Marty" (my Martin DC-16) can handle any situation where I need to "plug in."

So . . . decent "pipes" and good equipment.  And . . .  a good attitude as well.

I know what's at stake for me personally, and for the people I sing to.  And, if I might be so blunt in saying . . .  I truly "give a damn" again about singing!

At some point this past year, I guess I lost the passion to sing . . . perhaps because I had no singing voice for 3-4 months.

But the observations a couple of people shared with me in past months has helped me see things differently again.

My wife confirmed something that was brought to my attention for the first time this past July at Philmont.  She told me that when I sing and play guitar, I look different.  She said that I look really happy and full of joy.

At Philmont this past July, one of my protestant chaplain colleagues, Dr. Jim DeLair, told me the same thing.  I think the way he put it to me was, "every time I've seen you playing your guitar . . . you just glow!"

I'm ready to sing.

I'm ready to play guitar.

I'm ready to glow . . . and to help  children and adults glow through the power, comfort and healing that comes through music.

I'm ready . . . really ready!  Let's do this!

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

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Resurrection time! I just un-retired :"Marty" . . .

Pardon the picture of yours truly with spiky hair and a failed attempt at facial hair . . . a road I traveled several years ago without success.

A couple of years ago . . . I "retired" my favorite guitar of all time (so far), my Martin DC-16GTE cut-a-way acoustic electric dreadnaught (the guitar in the picture).  I was able to purchase it in May of 2005 thanks to my receiving funds from a grant, along with gifts from 2 friends. I had used it a lot over 6 years, and it had the road damage (nicks, cuts, scrapes, head stock bumps, etc.) to prove it. 

Fearing it being damaged accidently (or maybe because at the time I wanted to justify getting another guitar) I retired "Marty" to my home study.

Too be truthful, several friends told me I was going to be making a mistake.  I sometimes hate it when others are right!   Well, sometimes . . . maybe this time in particular . . . but it really was a mistake on my part.

I am in the process of re-arranging my home study, which I share with my wife, because I am moving into a smaller office at the church in the next few weeks, and most if not all of my music files, books, etc. will not fit in the new space.   Most of it needs to come home.

As  a result, I have been moving things around at home, getting ready for the ensuing clutter to follow.  In the process, as I was moving "Marty's" case, I stopped and pulled him out for a quick "hello" and to check him over.  Played on him a while. Not bad, not bad at all.

Then this past Saturday, as I was preparing to leave my house to officiate and sing at a graveside service at a local cemetery, I realized that I had not brought home either of my Guild jumbo's.  So, I grabbed Marty and off I went. 

Marty is about 9 years old (using the serial number as a reference), and let's just say that the wood that guitar is made of has "opened up."  In other words . . . it sounded great . . . played great . . . outside ... an awesome experience to play him again.  Several people came up to me after the service to compliment the guitar.

I played him some more that evening.  i lost track of how many times I heard that guitar whisper to me as I played it, "what the hell did I ever do to you that caused you to put me in a case for two years without so much as a "hello", or "kiss my foot', or 'have an apple?"

If you know what movie that line is from . . . then you are my age or older.  Great movie.  One of my all-time favorite Christmas movies.  That's the only hint you are getting.

However, the question was a fair question to ask . . . in fact, it needed asking.

I apologized . . . not sure if "Marty" believed my response, or my promises to put him back into my regular guitar arsenal.  Playing him again as often as I can will patch things up between us . . . I hope.

So . . . here I am realizing that I own a bunch of great guitars . . . several of them gifts . . . and several I've worked for or purchased outright.  And a question comes to mind . . .

Why?

Why do I have as many guitars as I do? 

I've been asked this question . . . and sometimes I wonder if the people who ask are trying to make me feel guilty, or if they are simply curious.  Anyway, I got sort of worried about what my honest response would be, and spent some of my time at Philmont thinking about it all.

Here is what I accepted ownership of . . .

In the past, I've claimed or tried to justify getting guitars as my effort to find "the" guitar.  The honest truth . . . I am a collector at heart and in spirit.

I collect hiking / walking sticks.

I collect hats (size 8 hats to be precise.)

I collect Boy Scout patches. 

I collect tools.

I collect song books and sheet music.

I collect ukuleles and Native Indian flutes.

Why?  More than likely, it has something to do with my enjoyment of "the hunt" for each item, and the joy or surprise when I find one, or stumble across one accidently. 

Also, I collect guitars.

I like guitars.  I like playing them.  I like researching and learning about them. I like looking for particular guitars (the hunt??)  I like collecting guitars (and glad I have been able to acquire a few in these past years because I am, in part, good at what I do and fairly compensated for it.) 

Some of them I play a lot.  Some of them I don't play very much at all.  Some I use acoustically, and some I use when plugged in.  Some I will keep and some I will trade.  Some of those trades will lead to sadness and regret, and some will lead to joy and surprises.

I own two great Guilds jumbos, 3 great Taylors (and one not so great) . . .

And, I have "Marty."

Of all my guitars, "Marty" has the deepest place in my heart.  The first "really good guitar" I ever owned . . "Marty" will be probably be the closest thing to ever being "the" guitar for me. 

Yet, I will probably never have the "one" guitar.  Maybe . . . perhaps . . . Who really knows ... We will have to wait and see.

It's not a matter of Guilds being better than Taylors, or Taylors being better than Martins, or Martins being better than Guilds . . . (although . . . I am have always been partial to the balance and tone of Martin's ... I've just never been able to come across one that I would trade something for).   A good guitar is a good guitar, the brand doesn't matter.  To some people it does . . . but not as much for me as for others.

That being said . . . I may have the opportunity in the near future to acquire a "dream guitar" in the form of another Martin.  A slim outside possibility at present.  I hope to share more one way or the other in the future.

Oh, by the way, I brought "Marty" back to my church office.  All I have now in my office within arms reach are "Marty" and the 2 Guilds, along with my PA and my acoustic amp.   They will completely fill the space I will have for them in my new office.

My current goal is to play "Marty" a lot more, especially when I plug into a PA or amp.   He is the best sounding guitar plugged in that I have (yes, better than any of the Taylors),  Mercy, the sound from that guitar, acoustically or plugged in, is really sweet.   Doesn't sound like I'm the one playing it.  Hopefully in all the time I have spent looking for guitars, I have still made some time to improve as a player.  Perhaps having "Marty" back in my life will move that along in a good way as well.

That . . . would be a good thing.

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



Thursday, August 29, 2013

Link to my recent "Confessions" sermon . . .

Several people have requested the link to the video of my recent "Confessions" sermon on August 11th at FUMC-Grapevine, TX.   It is available through the TruthCasting website; however, you can go to the direct link by clicking HERE.

There has to be a song I can write about my hummingbird. 

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

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Project Fun is starting soon!

Our weekday after-school program, called "Project Fun," begins on Monday, September 9th with a little party for the volunteers followed by the arrival of the children who join us upon completion of their classes from area schools.

Food, art and crafts, fun Bible memorization . . . and this year . . . more music with me!

I am going to be attempting to be present at as many Project Fun events as I am able, guitar in hand.

I'm really, really looking forward to it!

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

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

I will be singing this fall at a new venue . . .

On Monday, September 9th, I will provide music entertainment for the residents of the Dancing Rivers community here in Grapevine.  I will be doing two music sessions that morning, the first at 10 AM in the Memory Unit, followed by one of my standard programs in the main building at 10:30 AM. 

Several members of our church reside at Dancing Rivers, and I must say that I was very impressed with the facility and staff in my tour today, especially with their Life Enrichment Director, Jill Jurena.  She is truly called to be doing the work she is doing there. 

Except for our Vacation Bible School here at the church in late June, and the couple of times I sang during Chapel services and in performances with the Wannabe Band at Philmont, I have otherwise refrained from accepting a full singing schedule this summer . . . for no other reason than a bit of soul care for myself while ending up cancer treatment. 

Aww . . . mostly I didn't sing because I knew I would be doing it out of a sense of duty . . . not because I wanted to. 

Part of what I learned about myself at Philmont, and in the weeks since as I processed that experience in my mind, heart and soul . . . is that I truly do very much want to sing for people . . . not to them. 

Singing is a way of serving people . . . some may not agree or see it the same way as I do.  That's OK.  My call is to serve . . . and singing for people in nursing homes, retirement centers, for hospice patients, for children or adults in hospitals, in area libraries, for groups at the church . . . it's one of the ways I enjoy serving others. 

I believe music is a blessing for those listening . . . and also a blessing to me. 

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

Something good to know . . . StopHungerNow.org

I am very glad to be provided some good information today from a friend about a group called StopHungerNow.org.  They are one of the mission partners of our National United Methodist Men's ministry, and are supported by churches of all denominations, and by many Scout troops. 

I've been looking for another cause to offer some of my time to, perhaps to raise funds for through a community talent show.  Working to feed hungry children in our world is worthy of everyone's time and attention.

I will be sharing more about this in the future . . . so, more to come.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

iPad . . . what have you done for me lately?

IK Multimedia is a company that manufactures and sells different accessories for musicians to use with iPads and iPhones.

Since I claim to be a musician, and since I have an iPad, I thought I would give a few of their products a try since they were advertising a "B-Stock" (blemished/returns) sale.

I purchased the iKlip, the iRig, and the iMic.

I had already purchased their iRig Pre, which allows you to plug a standard microphone into your iPad.  The iMic ( http://www.ikmultimedia.com/products/irigmic/ ) is a microphone that plugs into the iPad without having to carry a second accessory.  We will see if it works well for recording, and for recording my blogs more often by "voice."

The iKlip ( http://www.ikmultimedia.com/products/iklip2/ )is a little ingenious thing that holds your iPad onto a microphone stand in various positions depending on what you are using the iPad for.  Since I have most of my song music in the Pages app on my iPad, I thought I could use the iPad instead of carrying a big 3-ring notebook and a music stand.  I tried it out just now, and I like it a lot.  I think it's going to work.  I've seen singers and musicians use several variations of the iKlip when they performed at venues I frequent, mostly for singer guitarists who sing at restaurants.  If it means less to carry, and helps me justify the money I spent on the iPad in the first place . . . then let's go!

The iRig ( http://www.ikmultimedia.com/products/irig/ )  allows you to plug your guitar into your iPad, to record or to use the iPad as a pedal board with various guitar player apps.  Not sure how it's going to work with acoustic guitar. I will share that info later.

Hope the learning curve on all this is easy.  More to come.

God's graces till amazes me . . . ><>

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Things I came away with from New Mexico . . .

I did a lot of thinking during the 60-90 seconds the hummingbird sat on my finger at Philmont in July.

I've done a lot of thinking afterwards about all that I thought about.

First . . .

I am not the center of the universe.   The world does not revolve around me.  My many attempts to make the world where it does revolve around me have failed miserably over the years.

What I was humbled by most in this was coming to understand the level of arrogance that people have who live like they are the center of the world.   I know this, in part, from a lot of first hand experience being the one who was acting arrogant.   My family and friends can all remember those days.  In the past 9-10 years, I have moved away from living like that a majority of the time.

At least I hope I have.

Second . . .

I believe that God is FOR everyone.   The more I read, re-read and re-read John 3:16, the more I understand that God is FOR everyone . . . something that doesn't often get shared enough.

Actually, I think some people have never heard this in their entire lives.  God is FOR them.

Part of this is related to my first point.  When I have lived life fully focused on believing that the world revolved around me . . . it seems I was always trying to point out similarities and differences . . . to my advantage and to other people's detriment.  And . . . I figured I did so because I felt like I was always having to prove myself.   I think people who believe that the world revolves around them do spend a lot of time in their lives trying to prove themselves, that they are worthy of love, to other people and to God.

I believe that God loves all of us . . . desires a relationship with all of us . . . and will meet all of us within the dirtiest contexts of the real lives we live through Jesus Christ.

Third . . .

The opposite of living like the world revolves around you is choosing to live everyday with a servant-spirit.   Having a servant-spirit is the "180" of living life like you have to have everything going your way.

This 3rd point is the one I have spent the most time thinking about.  One goal I set in going to Philmont was to "clarify" if what I am doing now in ministry "matched" what I felt I was called to do back when I was in my teens, when I first felt a call to ministry in my heart.

What I have been able to clarify, is that my calling was "to serve others."  It seems I am happiest, content, and feel closest to God when I am serving others . . . as a pastor, as a counselor, as a singer and musician, serving as a community chaplain, or calling bingo.  As a servant, I personally enjoy ministry on the "the fringe."  I don't have to be the front person.  I enjoy working in gray areas of ministry . . . with the people who live in the gray areas.   My personal and spiritual strengths are very suited for this type of service.

More to come . . .

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


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A defining moment ...
















One of the defining moments during my time in New Mexico this past July was during the taking of this picture. 

I had just finished the Saturday evening Back-Country Protestant Chapel service at Cimarroncito Camp at Philmont.  On the porch of the staff cabin were several hummingbird feeders, which were actively being circled about by at least a dozen different hummingbirds.

One of the staff members advised me to put my finger up to one of the feeders, and then told me to "stay really still."

After a couple of moments, this little female hummingbird came to rest on my finger, and began to feed without hint of any threat.  She stayed there for about a minute . . .  perhaps one of the longest minutes of my life.

Awesome.

The finger the hummingbird was sitting on was the pointy finger of my right hand.  It's the finger I use to point at people, things, the line on a map, etc.

When people ask me for directions, I usually point with this finger.

When someone isn't paying a attention (and should be), I sometimes point with this finger.

When I am making a point in a meeting or discussion with others, and I am saying something I believe to be important, I will tap or "thunk" the table with this finger (the proverbial "driving home the point" gesture).

And, when I serve others . . . this finger comes to play as well . . . for it is on my dominant hand, my right hand . . . the hand I extend to others.

This Sunday I am going to be preaching at the downtown campus at FUMC-Grapevine.  We are in the middle of a sermon series titled, "Confessions from the Pastors."  My confessions will be that for many years I thought the world revolved around me.

That all changed the day I came to realize that God is for EVERYONE and EVERYTHING.  On that day, I began looking at others not as different from me . . . but as my brothers and sisters, the children of a loving God.   On that day, I began to see that my narrow and selfish focus on my needs was blinding me to the needs of others that I could do something about.  On that day was born the "servant spirit" I try to live with on a daily basis.

I hope in the process . . . that the finger I pointed at others, as a way to declare how they were different, and how I was better . . . has become part of the hand that serves others as often as possible.

During the taking of the picture above, I came to understand that I was actually serving a little female hummingbird.  The tenderness of the moment struck my heart and soul deeply.  I'm 6'6" tall, and weigh in the 280's.   I hope you can imagine in your mind the picture . . .

A really big guy . . . serving a tiny little hummingbird.

A very humbling experience.  I hope I am man enough, as a person of faith and as a pastor, to take the time to learn the lesson I had the opportunity to learn that day.

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

Sunday, August 4, 2013

It is "really" good to be back home . . .

Ain't it good . . . to be back home again! (Oh yes it is . . .)
Sometimes, this ol' farm feels like a long lost friend.
Oh ain't it good, to be back home again.
Oh ain't it good . . . to be back home . . . again . . .

Not sure my home would be ever considered a farm, although we do have a lot of plants and vegetables in pots here and there . . .

But, for the record, it is sure good to be home again.

Heck, I don't even mind the temperature (100+ degrees today) . . . the temperature doesn't matter when you are home.

It was good to be back helping lead worship at the downtown campus . . . and I was reminded that I preach the next two Sundays . . . time to get back into work time.  "Leave time" is over.

I will spend some time later this week putting down some thoughts about my time away.  I came away with several "take-a-ways," . . . not sure that they aren't any different from past "take-a-ways" after other periods of vacation or time away . . . but several seem to be sticking in my mind a lot longer than normal. 

More to come . . .

It really is good to be home.

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

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Heading home soon ....

I am getting to spend a few more days in New Mexico before heading back to Texas and arriving home on August 2nd.  I will be in worship on August 4th, and back in the office on August 5th.

The past days have been a time of relaxing, thinking, reading, feeding hummingbirds, and driving around the Golden Triangle area of northern New Mexico.  I'm so happy that Liz could join me this week to share in the experience.  I have missed her so much.

For the record ... She is the better driver.

Today is one beautiful day for sure .... Not a cloud in the sky.  Today is an official "exploration day."  Meaning, we hope to head out on a road we have not driven on ... And see where it goes.

In a couple of days ... The road we travel will lead the way home ... A road we have driven on before, a road that we know well ... A road that calls us gently with the words, "it's time."

I'm looking forward to going home.

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

Friday, July 26, 2013

Philmont Report #5 - Last day . . .

Friday, July 26th . . . my last "official" day as a Philmont chaplain.  Tomorrow morning I drive to pick up Liz at an area airport, and then we will spend a few more days "on vacation" before leisurely heading home to the DFW area.  I will be back in the worship services at FUMC-Grapevine on August 4th.

I made 3 camps this morning, then spent the afternoon cleaning and packing up my stuff, doing laundry, reading, and saying a lot of "goodbyes."  I am honestly surprised by the number of staff who have come by to wish me well and to offer me travel blessings.

I guess in some way, I will miss Philmont . . . the camp, the mountains, the scenery . . .

But the truth is, I will miss the people here the most.  I have worked for 26 days with a whole lot of 19-23 year olds . . . and I have hope for the future of our country and our world as a result.

But, it is time . . . time to head back to those who I have missed working with and beside back in Grapevine  . . . much much more than I will miss my new friends here. 

I had thought that Philmont might possibly be my "dream job." 

I was wrong.

My dream job is the one I am returning to back home . . . serving on the pastoral staff at FUMC-Grapevine, and to sing when my schedule allows with the Hugworks gang in area children's hospitals, nursing homes and for those in hospice care.

I have other things I need to write about, but will do so after I get home and think about them for a while . . . in addition to downloading and posting a few of the pictures I took during my stay. 

Time to rest for a bit . . . then head back to that great Lone Star State . . . to my family, friends, church . . . my life.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>



Monday, July 22, 2013

Philmont Report #4

A quick update . . . as I start my final week at Philmont during this Summer 2013 camping season.

As of today, I have only 4 full days left here . . . and I am serving as the Back Country Chaplain, which means I am in a Chevy Suburban driving all over the place.  Today I went as far north as Dan Beard Camp . . . the first Philmont Chaplain to do so this year!  The final leg of the trip to Dan Beard Camp is the steepest road on the entire Philmont property. 

Thank you, Lord . . . for 4 wheel drive.

The north country here at Philmont has a distinct Southwest flavor . . . which I just love.  I actually walked up on a patch of Indian Paintbrush blooming at 8,300 feet elevation.  Awesome.

Tomorrow, along with Cantor Michael Dzubin (our Jewish Chaplain), I will be travelling back into the far north part of Philmont, called the Valle Vidal region . . . which I drove into last night with some of the staff from the Health Lodge, to pick up a sick camper who was participating in the Rayado program (a 21 day "pretty-much-on-your-own" hike through the region).  On the way back, after picking up another ill staff member . . . we blew a rear tire . . . at 1 AM in the morning.

Have you ever changed a tire in Northeast New Mexico, in the mountains, at 1 AM on a moonlight night . . . 30 miles from the nearest town . . . all 30 miles on a dirt road that is supposed to be a New Mexico State highway???

If you have, then you know what I mean by saying we were working fast to change the tire due to several series of "growling noises" coming from off the road near us.

We guessed it was a mountain lion . . . but we never saw it.

Or "them."

An adventure for sure.

I've had difficulty posting pictures . . . so I will do that after I get home in early August.

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

Friday, July 19, 2013

Philmont Report #3

Sorry for the delay in posting report #3 . . . it's been busy!

This past week, I was assigned the relief chaplain rotation.  In other words, I covered 6 of the different chaplain rotations, in the process allowing the other chaplains to have some time off.  A lot of what I learned the first two weeks here came into play this past week, as I made several trips into the back country to notify advisors, campers or staff about family situations back home.

Yesterday I was assigned to travel out to the Saw Mill camp on the far west border of Philmont, to share with an advisor and his son that their father/grandfather was near death.  It was a very emotional time for them, and for the members of their crew, as they were only half way into their 12 day trek.   Their crew rallied around them, and they decided to hike on until they received additional word from their family.  

I guess it's one thing when your pastor arrives to tell you something potentially uncomfortable.  And it can be another thing when a stranger walks into the room to share the same information with you.  It is amazing to me, that most everyone here recognizes that the Philmont Chaplains are "their" pastors while they are here.  It feels good in my heart and soul to make that kind of connection with people here, just as I have made connections with the good folks who make up the FUMC-Grapevine congregation.

To tell you the truth . . . I am enjoying it here in New Mexico.  However, I truly miss my church family and church staff family.

I miss all MY family.  

This coming week, I will be the chaplain assigned to the back country of Philmont.  I will be charged with visiting as many of the back country staff camps as I can, driving to each in the Philmont Chevy Suburban that was assigned to me.  I am glad this is the assignment for my final week, as I have been making lots of notes on my map, and feel pretty confident now that I won't get lost driving around in the mountains on single lane dirt/rock/and mud roads.

FYI - I  loooooooooove 4-wheel drive!

Another FYI - if you ever have a chance to purchase a used Philmont Suburban at auction . . . DON"T BUY IT!

The vehicle, I promise you . . . is plain wore out!!!!   After 75,000 miles of 4-wheel drive mountain travel, they are on their last legs.  I feel very safe and confident in the one I have been driving.

But it's only a couple of years old.

Yesterday I drove about 94 miles, visiting 4 camps, delivering the message I wrote about above, carrying an ill advisor back to the Health Lodge at Camping Headquarters for assessment, and finally getting to drive to the northern part of Philmont to visit the Ponil and Rich Cabins staff camps. 

And, I still managed to walk over 14,000 steps (about 8 miles).  I'm not sure how much weight I have lost (not as much as I would have hoped for I'm sure), but I have got some decent walking legs under me now.  I am going to really try to keep up walking after I get home.

Besides working in the back country this next week, I will be preaching 3 more times, playing guitar and singing with the Philmont Wannabe Band at least two more times  . . . and, starting to pack.

I came to Philmont with a list of things I wanted to have answers to . . . and after a week, that list of "wants" was complete rubbish.  Instead, I come away with the knowledge of things I needed to come away with, instead of wanting to come away with. 

First, based on life-long dreams and goals . . . I thought working at Philmont would be my dream job.

Now, for the record, I have enjoyed every minute of it.  I've been doing inter-faith ministry every day, doing ministry the way I felt I was called to do it.  Philmont is a place I would like to work, perhaps after I retire.

But the truth is, I leave Philmont  next week understanding that my dream job is the one I have back in Grapevine, TX, serving on the pastoral staff of the FUMC-Grapevine, and singing when I can for Hugworks.

Too bad it took a month-long trip to New Mexico on renewal/mission leave to figure that out.  But lessons learned are, in the end, what is most important.

Second, I come home with a very clear, and very short, list of my core-value driven priorities.   In other words . . . I am saying "Yes" now to the things in life that matter the most to me . . . and saying "No" to the things that are not important to me.

In other words . . . I will come home with a very clear understanding of the many things that have a tendency to distract me.  Hopefully my focus will be clear enough that I won't waste any more time on distractions . . . but focus more on the things I am passionate about . . . the things that I am good at doing . . . the things that play to my strengths and passions.

I'll probably publish my list of important things after I return home in August.  It's on my to-do list.

One more week . . . then a week of vacation . . . then back home ready to hit the ground running.

I am ready to go home . . . back to my family . . . back to my dream job.  

It's all good.

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

 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Philmont Report #2

Greeting from Philmont Scout Ranch, and a somewhat wet north east New Mexico.

Rain is the order-of-the-day, and every drop is being welcomed and appreciated.  The area around Philmont in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains is still in a severe drought.  However several inches of rain have fallen in the past 3-4 days, and things are greening up a bit, as the ground is finally able to soak up some needed moisture.  At this elevation, lightening is always a threat, and I've driven through two hailstorms in the past week.   Mornings are bright and beautiful, but afternoon rains are now a regular occurrence, and muchly needed.

My assignment this week is serving as the Camping Headquarters Chaplain.  After breakfast, I take off on foot and try to visit as many staff members as I can, and also hang around the Welcome Center to greet arriving trail bound crews, as well as home bound crews.  During lunch time, I head over to the Dining Hall and speak to as many crews as I have time for, finding out where they are from, inviting them to Chapel services, and offering to help however I can.

FYI - Philmont averages 300+ campers arriving daily, and 300+ campers departing daily, with several thousand campers on the property every day.  I am amazed at how many staff people it takes to support all the crews who are here for their trek.  I am also amazed at how logistics here runs so smoothly.  There is a sense of expected efficiency here . . . and I am taking lots of notes.

I am also blown away by the servant spirits among all the staff here.  Much effort goes into training all the staff in the principles of servant leadership.  I cannot remember a time when I was surrounded with a large a number of people whose first response to advisors and campers is "how can I help you?"

In the afternoons, I visit the Staff Activities Center, as well as hanging out around the courtyard next to the Tooth of Time Traders Store here on site.   At 5:45 PM, I meet with all the Chaplain Aides from every incoming trek crew, and train them on their responsibilities. Afterward, I step into the Crew Advisor meetings, and share with them the role of the Chaplain, and explain all the worship service opportunities.

This past Sunday, I led the 9 AM morning Protestant Worship for staff members, and both preached and led worship (with guitar) for the 7PM Protestant Chapel Service.   My first day off is this coming Thursday, and I am looking forward to it.  I hope to head into either Raton or over to Taos.  The weather that day will determine which direction I go. 

Tomorrow I have the honor of leading a short interfaith service for a group of Scouts and leaders who are members of the Order of the Arrow, before they depart Philmont.  Since I have not been invited into this order as a member (which I hope happens one day) . . . I am taking it as an honor to be invited to be the Chaplain for the service.

I believe I am averaging about 14,000 steps a day this week.  I believe 18.000+ steps has been my record so far.  The exercise is needed. Now that I seem better acclimated to the elevation (6,500 feet here at Camping Headquarters), walking is not tiring me out near as much.  I have hiked up to crew camps at altitudes near 9,000 - 10,000 feet . . . and SURVIVED!

More to come in the next few days.  Prayers being sent my way are appreciated!

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

Friday, July 5, 2013

Philmont Report #1

Greetings from Philmont Scout Ranch!

I arrived at 8:15 AM on Monday, July 1st, having left Colorado Springs at 5 am.  It was an awesome drive going south through Pueblo, Trinidad, Raton Pass, and then out to Cimarron, and finally to the Philmont.

Monday and Tuesday were spent in getting in a weeks worth of training in 2 days.  I did get to lead evening Protestant Chapel on July 1st, and preached on July 2nd. I will preach again on Friday.  I am sharing Protestant Chaplain responsibilities with 2 other gentlemen, and we are getting along great.  my back country driving training was overseen by our Jewish Chaplain, Cantor Michael Dzubin of Miami, Fl.  Yesterday I drove up to Cimarroncito Camp, and then waaaaaaaayyyyyy out to Sawmill Camp to pick up 3 hikers who were ill, to bring then down to the Health Lodge at Camping Headquarters.   I am thankful the Suburban's we drive here have 4 wheel drive.  I drove from 6500 feet up to over 10,000+ feet in elevation on gravel, dirt and mud roads, including driving to Sawmill during a hail storm.

Awesome . . . I can't wait to do it again.

Being a chaplain at Philmont is a "ministry of presence."   We are expected to be visible and available to campers, adult advisors, as well as the Philmont Staff.  This coming week, I will be the Camping Headquarters Chaplain, and will spend time training the Chaplain Guides on each trek crew.  This are  youth who have volunteered to serve in this capacity for their crew.   I will participate in 3 services on Saturday, and will preach at least 3 times on Sunday.

A miracle of sorts has taken place.  I haven't limped much in the past couple of days.  Many friends and church members are aware that I have dealt with some chronic plantar facaistis pain over the past few years.  I've averaged over 14,000 steps each of the past 4 days, and my foot seems to be hurting less.  I'll take it.

On Monday and Tuesday, we had chapel at an alternate site due to rain showers.  The past two evenings, we had chapel outside at the Protestant Chapel area.  It is an awesome place to have worship.  I haven't been able to upload the pictures I took, but hope to have that worked out soon.

I hope to write some more in the next few days, and perhaps post some pictures.  Wish I hadn't forgotten my camera . . . but my phone seems to be working ok with pictures so far.

Appreciations for those who promised to pray for me daily during my time away. I really appreciate it.

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

Thursday, June 20, 2013

An "Official Announcement" and a very humble "Thank you, Church!!"

Dear FUMC-Grapevine Church members and friends . . . 

Two years ago, I was extended the honor of being invited to come serve as a member of the summer Chaplain Corps at the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico, the largest outdoor youth camp in the world.  To say the least, this is a great honor to myself and to the church I am proud to serve, the First United Methodist Church of Grapevine, Texas.  I initially thought that my going to serve as a chaplain  at Philmont during the summer would be out-of-the-question.  Being away from the church and family for so long just didn't seem realistic to me.  I was very comfortable with my yearly trip to Philmont to serve as chaplain for the week-long Fall Leadership Conference held there each September.  A week away was far more manageable.

Then . . .  I got cancer. 
 
I have to admit, my cancer battle took far more out of me than I realized, and it lasted a lot longer than I expected it to.  There are still some physical side-effects from the cancer and treatment that  I am dealing with, which I am told can linger for a year or so.  Age, maturity and my past experiences providing pastoral care to others going through cancer helped me to realize that at some point in the process,  I was going to need a break.  
 
After receiving a “disease free” report from my oncologist, I was encouraged to approach Rev. John Mollet , our Senior Pastor, and our Staff-Parish-Relations Committee at the church about the possibility of my be granted leave during the upcoming month of July for some renewal time, and to serve as a chaplain at Philmont.  John offered his encouragement and support, and the SPRC graciously granted my request. I will be forever grateful to them for allowing me to experience this unique opportunity.

So, I would like to "officially announce"  that I will be leaving for New Mexico after the close of VBS on Friday, June 28th.  I will serve at Philmont, with endorsement from FUMC-Grapevine (all chaplains at Philmont must have an endorsement), from July 1 – 26.  I will be leading and/or preaching at Protestant Chapel services each evening, in addition to Sunday afternoon ecumenical services at the Philmont Training Center.  I will also get to help lead the Tuesday and Thursday morning sunrise services at the Training Center, a tradition I helped to start there 3 years ago.  Along with other chaplains, I will be responsible for the spiritual needs of all campers, volunteer adults leaders, and Philmont staff members.  My responsibilities will also include counseling and conflict management/resolution, delivering the mail and emergency messages, and being a 1st responder for various situations as they arrive and as needed.

For those wondering . . . Chaplains at Philmont usually put in 10-12 hour days at a minimum. 

I can't wait!!!!

Liz will join me on July 27th, so we can enjoy together the remainder of my leave time.  I plan to be back for worship on Sunday, August 4th.

It has been my honor and privilege to serve on the pastoral staff of this grand church for the past 8 years.  I hope and pray to be able to return from time away with fresh eyes and renewed energy for my next 8 years here.

I do not have the words to express my appreciation for this opportunity, other than to humbly say, "Thank you!"

As time permits . . . I will occasionally post a blog article or two during this experience.

For more information about Philmont Scout Ranch, please go to www.philmontscoutranch.org.

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