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 . . . ><>