Friday, November 25, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

This weekend I am finalizing plans for some upcoming changes to the blog, including a new name and a new focus that I think readers will enjoy.  I've been toying with the idea for quite a while.  The new focus will be interviews with everyday normal guitar / uke / bass / banjo players about their favorite instruments. 

There is still a lot of prep work to do, including a new blog format and possibly a new web site.  So hang on for a little while longer.

Articles about singing to/with senior adults will still be a regular feature because that is my first musical love and passion.  My new goal will be to post one informative article a week on a regular basis. 

God's grace, and new adventures, still amaze me . . . ><>

Friday, November 4, 2016

A "Good Book" recommendation . . .

I would like to recommend a book for those who are thinking about singing to senior adults, especially if something keeps causing you to abandon your plan using either of these excuses:

-"I just don't have the time," or
-"I'll do it when I'm less busy at work."

I wrote these two specific excuses as examples because I have used them numerous times in my life.  I knew at age 17 that I wanted a career singing to kids in camps, libraries and schools, and to senior adults wherever they gathered or lived.  I didn't start doing either on a regular basis until my late 40's. I may have been 48.  I'll be 60 my next birthday.  That's a lot of years not doing what I wanted to do.

The title of the book is "The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity."  The author is Julia Cameron.

I'm working slowly (on purpose) through this book, and I am finding it to be very helpful as I endeavor to work through a bit of "creativity block" in my life at the present time.  I've put off doing a couple of things musically over the years for the reasons I listed above.  This book is helping me to slowly reform my thoughts.  I am journaling again most everyday thanks to the suggestions Julia Cameron offers in the book. That was worth the price of purchase for me alone.

I think I got the book for around $11 from Amazon.com.  I believe it costs $17 at Barnes & Noble.  If you are a creative at heart, then this book might be of benefit to  you.

God's grace, and good books, still amaze me . . . ><>

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Elderly Man In Nursing Home Reacts To Music From His Era





I found this video to be simply fascinating.  I've had a couple of similar experiences over the years when I have performed music for senior adults in nursing home / long term care facilities.  They will be unresponsive, until I sing a song from "back in their day."  It's pretty amazing to watch them when they seem to "come alive." 

Many years ago, I sang at a memory care center in Georgetown, Texas.  Back then, I always finished my program with the old gospel hymn, "The Great Physician."  An elderly woman was slumped into a wheelchair at the back of the room next to the nurses station.  Her eyes were glazed.  She was physically alive, and perhaps that was about it. When I began to sing, "The Great Physician," she sat up in her wheelchair and sang every word with me in a voice as clear as the ringing of a bell.

Sweetest note in seraph song . . .
Sweetest name on mortal tongue . . .
Sweetest carol ever sung . . .
Jesus blessed Jesus. 

Many of the staff, who were present at that moment, began to cry.  I did as well. At the time I didn't know what was going on.  Before I left the facility, one of the therapists explained what they believe had happened, and that it is a blessed moment when one of the older men or women can temporarily leave the prison that their minds and bodies become due to old age and health related issues.

If you can sing . . . go out and sing.  It may be a very special blessing.

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

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Texas Plains - Kristyn Harris





Kristyn Harris recently performed for the Crowley House of Hope Annual Volunteer Dinner which we were honored to host at the church where I serve as Pastor.  This is the 2nd time Kristyn has performed here . . . and we really appreciate her talent very much!  There are 50 or more videos of her on Facebook!

Enjoy!  This will lift your spirits!

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

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tommy Emmanuel with Sungha Jung ~ Day Tripper / Lady Madonna



This is a great video of Tommy Emmanuel and Sungha Jung.   I bet Tommy will pass on the torch to Sungha one day.  Both incredible guitar players.

Now, get this, all you are going to here is two guitarists, but it sound like they have a backing band.  Incredible.

Please enjoy!  Don't forget to make your own music today!  Sing to bless your soul and the soul of someone else!

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

Friday, October 14, 2016

Singing to Senior Adults: #5 - Do's and Don'ts when singing to older adults

Part 1 - Getting your foot in the door to sing to senior adults
Part 2 - Treat the first ttime to sing to senior adults as an audition.
Part 3 - The basic equipment you need to bring with you.
Part 4 - Giving senior adults the chance to experience emotion through music.
Part 5 - The "Do's and Don'ts" when singing to senior adults.

Over the course of singing to older adults for 20+ years . . . I've learned the following:

Do's . . .

1) Be on time.  I try to be early when I can . . . hopefully arriving 10 minutes early to set up and greet people.  If I am running late, due to traffic or dealing with something at the church, I will call and advise that I will be a little late.  they almost always understand.

2) Be prepared.  If I forget my iPad, no big deal.  I have enough songs memorized that I can sing with out it.  If you don't have the right songs memorized, that could be a problem.  So be prepared.  Make sure you iPad or tablet computer is fully charged, or that the songs you need are in your notebook.  Over the course of time, you will memorize songs.  It's not hard.

3) Engage the audience.  It's all about the performance.  The nature of the performance is often the therapeutic element.  You are providing the audience a chance to have a bit of a respite from life, to forget about their pain or loneliness for a few moments.

4) Verbally invite them to sing with you!   You will be surprised how many of them will sing with you, especially old Elvis songs or Gospel songs.


Don'ts . . .

1) Don't "flake" out.  If you have to cancel or can't make it, call and let your contact know ASAP.  Program and Life Enrichment Directors at nursing homes know that people sometimes have to cancel for various appropriate reasons.

2) Don't use a sound system, unless your voice needs it, or only if the Director asks you to use one.   My voice naturally carries well.  Most Dining or Activity Rooms are no problem for me.  I usually play a jumbo style guitar that projects well, even when strummed softly.  If you use a sound system, speak and sing with a normal voice.  If I sing with a mic, I will usually sing a bit softer than normal.

3) Don't react or allow your feelings to be hurt.  In a nursing home setting, their will be intercom announcements while you sing.  Audience members will talk to each other.  People will often be coming and going.  Rehab staff will come and take people to rehab.  A doctor will arrive and need to see a patient.   Just keep singing.  You are not there for you . . . you are there for the people you sing to.  It all usually works out.  If you have ever sung in a bar, or during a meal for a large group, you understand.

What Do's and Don'ts are on your list?  Let me know!

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

Friday, October 7, 2016

Singing to Senior Adults: #4 - Giving older adults the chance to experience emotion through music

Part 1 - Getting your foot in the door to sing to senior adults
Part 2 - Treat the first ttime to sing to senior adults as an audition.
Part 3 - The basic equipment you need to bring with you.
Part 4 - Giving senior adults the chance to experience emotion through music.
Part 5 - The "Do's and Don'ts" when singing to senior adults.

Singing for Senior Adults opens a wide variety of musical choices.

But sooner or later, you are going to sing a song that someone in the audience identifies with on a deeply emotional basis.  Please . . . consider letting them have that moment.

For some seniors, it may be a very happy memory of a day gone by, and the tears you see are reflective and contemplative tears of joy.

For others, it may be an unhappy memory.  But a memory they are none-the-less willing to feel the pain of again as a way of grieving.

I like to sing the old Pete Seeger song, "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine."  The last verse is about preparing for death . . . and the last line before the chorus is, "O Lord, I'd do it again" in reference to how they felt about the life that had been lived.  Life is meant to be reflected upon, especially by those seniors who still have the mental and emotional abiltiy to do so.  Also remember, that most songs, are about life.

Some love songs will affect some in the audience.

Some ballads will as well.

Some gospel songs will also affect the people you are entertaining.

That being said, I don't force songs on my audience.  After a while you get to know them, and you know what they like.  Some audiences want to sing with you.  Some audiences want you to sing to them.  Each older adult in the audience has a need.  You can't meet all their needs. Choose your song set wisely.

I've found that when I notice someone having a quiet emotional moment with a song . . . they will come tell me about it.  Most of the comments were, "that was my loved one's favorite song" or "that was a song we danced to" or "that's a song my momma used to sing."  If you have the time, listen to their story.  Be sure to thank them for sharing with you.

Also remember, some of the songs may very well affect you.  Every time I sing "My Cup Runneth Over With Love" . . . I usually shed a tear or two thinking about my wife and our 40+ year relationship together.

Choose your songs carefully . . . the "Branson" method of choosing your song set is still a good one.  If youve been to any of the musical variety shows at any music theater in Branson, you know that you will hear . . .

-Gospel
-Old time rock-n-roll
-Classic Country
-and Patriotic songs

The same kind of song set will usually work when singing to seniors.

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

Friday, September 30, 2016

Singing to Senior Adults: #3 - What to bring with you . . .

Part 1 - Getting your foot in the door to sing to senior adults
Part 2 - Treat the first ttime to sing to senior adults as an audition.
Part 3 - The basic equipment you need to bring with you.
Part 4 - Giving senior adults the chance to experience emotion through music.
Part 5 - The "Do's and Don'ts" when singing to senior adults.

What do you bring with you when you sing for seniors?   My personal list is not that long.

First . . . bring YOU!  Sounds simple, and kind of silly as well.  But if you don't show up, there isn't any music!  If you are a solo performer, then be sure to make every effort to arrive a few minutes early.  Setting up to sing for senior adults seldom takes me more than 5 minutes, even with tuning.  Be on time and be prepared.  Be dressed appropriately for the venue and for the event.

Second . . . bring your instrument!  There are several times in my singing history when I have shown up in a rush to get to the venue, and I brought the wrong guitar . . . which is always the one that has a broken string, or needs a fret job, etc.  The time to check your instrument is BEFORE you arrive at the venue.  Here is another argument for having one guitar.

Third . . . you need music!   OK, there are several options here.  If you have all your music memorized (and bless you if your mind favors this approach) then you are good to go. I have memorized quite a few songs: however, I do not sing every day.  Sometimes I need to have the song in front of me. If nothing else, it gives me the the confidence to quickly glance for the word or guitar chord that I might be forgetting.

When I first started singing, I simply sang from a songbook with the pages marked with Post-It notes.  As my song list expanded over time, and my eyes got worse over the years, I began printing out songs on two 8.5 x 11 inch sheets of paper, and brought all the copies with me in a nice 3-ring notebook. The nice thing about printing songs on two sheets that face each other, you can adjust the print size for old eyes.

If you use a songbook or a notebook, then be sure to bring a music stand!  There are no guarantees that any venue where you sing to senior adults will have a music stand.

I made the switch to an iPad about 4 years ago.   Wow!   Now I have EVERY song I know, and some I don't know, at my fingertips. No more heavy 3-ring notebooks!   I use the My Lyric Book app.  In My Lyric Book, you can organize multiple sets of songs, or create a songlist specific to your situation.   I also use an AirTurn BT-105 bluetooth floor pedal, which helps advance the words to the song on the iPad screen.  It can also advance my iPad screen to the next song on the set list!  Great right?  It is . . .  IF you keep the batteries charged on both the iPad and the AirTurn pedal!

If you use an iPad, or another model of tablet computer, then you will need a music stand or a tablet holder attached to a mic stand.  There are countless numbers of tablet holders available.  Lot's of music stores have them, and you can find one to fit your tablet computer on the internet in no time at all.

Fourth . . . bring the appropriate accessories!  My list is based on my personal preferences.   Your list may be different.  I bring a small back pack in which I carry my iPad and AirTurn pedal.  I have a spare guitar strap, a capo, a couple extra sets of strings, and a winding/string cutting tool.  I bring an electronic tuner, unless my guitar has one installed.  I bring a couple extra  9-volt or AA batteries for the guitar, and  batteries for the tuners.  I bring extra charging cabels for the iPad and for the AirTurn pedal.  I keep a 12' extention cord in my car to use in case I forgot to charge the iPad or foot pedal.

I always have extra guitar picks with me in a small pick holder attached to my key chain. You want to keep guitar picks handy in your pocket, or in your guitar case.

You will notice that I haven't mentioned anything about amplifiers.  At all venues, I usually play one of my Martin's, or one of my Guild jumbos.  My guitars are all loud guitars.  I don't need to strum or pick at them hard to get a good sound.  And . . . my experience is that senior adults, with hearing aides, don't care for amplified music.   I have a voice that projects well, and the venues I play are usually hard walled dining rooms or activity rooms, with hard floors.  If you want an amp or portable PA, check out the Lucas Nano PA system.

So . . . all I carry into a venue is, in one hand, my guitar (in the case).  In the other hand I have my folding mic stand with my iPad holder attached.  Over my shoulder I have my small back pack with my iPad, AirTurn pedal and accessories over my should.  Easy in, easy set-up, easy pack-up, and easy out to my car.

I hope this article gets you thinking about simplifying your set up, especailly if you primarily play the guitar.

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

Singing to Senior Adults: #2 - Treat the first time to sing as an audition.


Part 1 - Getting your foot in the door to sing to senior adults
Part 2 - Treat the first ttime to sing to senior adults as an audition.
Part 3 - The basic equipment you need to bring with you.
Part 4 - Giving senior adults the chance to experience emotion through music.
Part 5 - The "Do's and Don'ts" when singing to senior adults.

OK . . . you've made a contact, gone and introduced yourself, and you've been placed on the calendar of upcoming events!   Congratulations.

Now what do you do?  Well before you go any further, please understand that singing to senior adults is NOT ABOUT YOU!   It's ALL ABOUT WHO YOU ARE SINGING TO!!!!!

Sorry for the caps, but I wanted to make a point (and no, I wasn't yelling).

I have certain songs that I love to sing.  I have an iPad (more on that later in the series) with the words and guitar chords to over 400 songs I've sung to senior adults over many years. That's all well and good. However, the songs you sing to senior adults need to be the songs that they want to hear and like to hear, or songs that are somewhat similar.

At some locations, all they wanted me to play was gospel music.   At another location, they wanted Elvis songs (yeah, mostly older women . . . I can sing Elvis songs, but I don't look a thing like him).  The people at another location wanted to hear mostly folk music.  Some wanted show tunes.

When senior adults in a nursing home or rehab unit come to hear you sing, they are looking for an escape.  They aren't living in their homes.  They are usually dealing with health issues related directly to their age.  Some will have short-term memory issues.  Many will just plain be lonely.   Learn what kind of songs they want to hear, and include as many as you can over the span of several visits.  In doing so, you provide them a therapeutic time of escape from some of the things they are dealing with.  Giving them a time of musical respite is a wonderful gift.  The issues about life they are facing will be waiting for them.  Perhaps our music helps them see their problems in a different light.

It goes without saying that irst impressions are very important, not to mention the quality of your singing and how well you play your instrument.   So, here is what I have learned to do when singing for the first time, and it works for me very well.

1) I approach the first time I sing for any group as an audition, especially for senior adults.   I will come prepared with several songs in various catagories . . . early rock, old country, gospel, folk, love ballads, show tunes, and even a few fun children's songs.  These will be songs that I can "nail" in just about any situation.

2) I do not take requests the first time I sing.  Rather, I sing to let them know that I can provide a wide selection of music. This is a program that I will be well prepared for, and it will show in the quality of the performance.  My goal is that everyone will have a chance to clap their hands, tap their feet, and sing out loud at least once in the program.

3) I will take mental notes of what songs resonated with those in attendance.  I look for smiles.  I always made the effrot to shake hands with as many people as I can after the program.  I believe that thanking the residents who came is always a good diea. During these conversations, I will listen carefully to their remarks and comments about what songs they liked best, or songs they wished I'd have performed.  When I'm back in my car, I will transfer my mental notes to the little traveller's notebook I have with me at all times.   Those notes then determine my lists of songs for that location that I will have ready in my iPad (again, more on that in a later post).

4) I always thank the residents for letting me sing, and ask them to let the Activity or Life Enrichment Director know if they would like me to come back again.  Now normally, the staff in charge know pretty quickly if they are going to put you on the calendar on a regular basis after just a few songs.  But I always ask the people to vote.  I also encourage them to suggest songs I can sing "if/when" they invite me to return.

5)  It may be my first time to sing, but I do make it a point to dress for the occassion.  I sang for a new local group of seniors this past Saint Patrick's Day.  Yes, I wore green.  They were all wearing green as well!

Perhaps approaching the first time to sing as an audition might not be everyone's cup of tea.  The process works for me. Tuning in to the desires and needs of the "regulars" helps improve the therapeutic quality of the program for everyone.

Treat your first time to a new group of senior adults as an audition.  You will be better prepared, and in a better position to be invited back on a regular basis.

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

Friday, September 23, 2016

Reviews needed about Rainsong Guitars

I am interested in anyone's review of Rainsong Guitars.  Please email me if you can share from personal experience.

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

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Benefits and blessings when singing . . .

Singing to older adults has its benefits.  Sometimes the benefit becomes a personal blessing.

I sang this morning at our local Senior Center.  I sing there once-a-month, and on other special occassions.  I will be the "entertainer" at their upcoming Community Thanksgiving Dinner in November.  I can't wait!

When I arrived at the Senior Center this morning, the first thing I heard was "tell us about your vacation!"  

"Aww, y'all don't want to hear about my vacation."

"Yes we do!  Tell us all about it!"

So, I did!  For about 10 minutes I told them about our vacation to Colorado, where we went, what we saw, where we ate, and where we stayed.  They seemed genuinely interested.

The truth is, it wasn't so much that they were interested in our trip.  They were interested in me, and I knew we had made a great connection as a result.

This is a phenomenon that happens sometimes when you sing to older adults.  They move from considering you as "an entertainer" to considering you as a friend.  In other words, the music has done what it was supposed to do . . . provide connections between people.

I truly do care for the people at the Senior Center.  That doesn't depend on whether you are a pastor or not.  If you are going to sing "therapeutically" to older adults, then you need to actually care about them. It's nice to know that the folks at the Senior Center have allowed me to step into their extended family.  We care about each other.

Being a pastor in a local church, I like these kind of connections.  As a pastor, I live and work within a defined community.  I spend about half my time in the community making and forming relationships.   As a result, I sometimes get invited to sing, instead of going into a nursing home or senior center and introducing myself.  This is a good thing.  It usually takes about a year for this to happen.  You have to put in the time and effort.

Maybe the best place to start singing to senior adults, if that is something you are interested in, or feel called to do, is someplace in your local home community.  Give it some thought.

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

Singing to Senior Adults: #1 - Getting your foot in the door!


Part 1 - Getting your foot in the door to sing to senior adults
Part 2 - Treat the first ttime to sing to senior adults as an audition.
Part 3 - The basic equipment you need to bring with you.
Part 4 - Giving senior adults the chance to experience emotion through music.
Part 5 - The "Do's and Don'ts" when singing to senior adults.

This blog post is "Part 1" of a series I've wanted to write for some time.  I hope you enjoy it. Please feel free to email me your thoughts and questions.

As a result of a recent conversation with our local city manager (all relationships begin somewhere) I was put into contact with the coordinator of our local senior adult activity center.   I went over to introduce myself, and to volunteer to to sing.

Because I am a full-time pastor of a local church, I do not charge a fee when I sing.  Sometimes (Christmas maybe?)  I receive an honorarium.  I either keep it or donate it back to the group. However, I don't go in asking for one.

So, for those interested, here is my usual introduction (face-to-face with another human being), which I've used since I was certified as a Therapeutic Music Entertainer:

Good morning/afternoon!  My name is Pastor Rick and I am the pastor at First United Methodist Church.  As part of my personal ministry and individual service to the community, I VOLUNTEER to sing for senior adults in community centers, retirement centers, and at nursing homes and rehab centers.  I am a certified Therapeutic Music Entertainer, and I bring my own guitar and all needed equipment.  Would the folks here possibly enjoy or benefit from a music show which includes some light comedy and some group sing-a-longs?

And that, my friends, starts the conversation.  For the past 11 years, I have sung regularly for senior adults 3-4 times a month, and this introduction above (and it's earlier form) always seemed to help get my foot through a door. With the exception of one local nursing home, where the activity director and I just seem to always get each others voice mail, I have never been refused.

Something I also mention, if I feel doing so would be received well, that I come to sing as a volunteer.  I am willing to serve as an "on-the-spot" chaplain if needed, but I am a volunteer.  I also will attend volunteer training, and I always agree to participate in a background check if needed.   I've had to go get fingerprinted a time or two.  Such things are not uncommon especially if you are singing in a locked memory care unit.

In other words, it's not about me . . . it's about what I love to do, and those who are blessed or benefit by it.  It's ALWAYS about the people you sing to.  If's about you, then do this for money . . . and best of luck along the way.

So, if you have the desire to reach out in individual ministry or volunteer service by singing/providing music to senior adults, then consider the following list of contacts to make in your area.  I've learned from experience that these are the first phones calls or first-time introductory meetings to schedule:

-Contact the local Senior Adult Activity Center.   Many communities have them, even if you dont know where they are or have never been in one.

-Contact area Senior Adult Day Care Centers.  Again, unless you have been to one, or used their services, you may not even know if there is one in your community.  You don't know until you ask, or go on Google to search.  In smaller communities, this center may use the Senior Adult Acitiviy Center, or they may exist in partnership at different locations.

-Contact the manager at city-owned housing authories.   I sang regularly for residents of a local Housing Authority for 10 years.  I even called their montly bingo games (and got a free pizza lunch as well!)   I also asked, after the relationship had been established,  to mediate some neighbor disputes, provide workshops on how to be better neighbors, conducted a few funerals, and provided some individual counseling on request.

-Contact the Activity Director / Life Enrichment Director of nearby nursing home / rehab centers.  If you sing for free like I do . . . stress that information over and over.  These are great folks, but they equate free with "you must not be very good."  My response is simple, and one that will be proven.  I am a certified therapeutic music entertainer, and I sing a lot better, and more professionally, for free than the guy who comes dressed up as Elvis (who can't sing) who you pay $200 each time they show up.

If you sing to senior adults, you at least need to have the appropriate ego!  I am servant at heart, but free often means the program can be better than expected.

The venues I've listed above are all great places to start the process.  Remember, it's ALL about relationships.  Relationships begin with someone introducing themselves to others who might benefit from a music program.

One last thing about establishing relationships  . . . and that's referrals.  There are times when I do sing for a fee, and the venues where I do often contact me to check on my availability, because they heard something good about me from the folks who work at, or benefited from my volunteer music endeavors.  Being able to say "yes" to some of those invites, lead to other opportunities.

In the next blog in this series, I will write about treating your first time to sing as an audition.  This one approach has served me well, especially if I hopes to added to the locations regular calendar.

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

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

I'm Back . . .

Howdy to all . . .

After much contemplation, talking with others (especially my therapist and also with my wife) I entered into a time of comtemplation to re-identify and re-evaluate the things in my life that were most important to me.  This is something I try to do on an annual basis; however, it had actually been about 3 years since I went through this process.  In reality, it is very hard work.  Although I am not as bad at doing so as I was when I am young, I sometimes get bogged down with uncertainty when I embark on a new or expanded endeavor.   Leaving a long time pastorate for a new church at age 59 compounded the fact that I had not gone through this process.  The grief of leaving has subsided, and the "picture" in my head of my perferred future was coming into better focus as a result.

It was time well spent.

Singing, playing guitar and making music has been so rooted in who I feel I'm called to be in my life.  It was good, as I went through the process of journaling my thoughts and reprioritizing what is important to me, to know that music was still very much a part of what makes my heart and soul beat the way they do. Even after taking a few months off, I found that I missed singing and playing very much.  It just makes me feel, well, in a word (and to quote Harry Chapin) "whole."  It connects me with the understanding of my call, of what I am here on earth, and in life, to do.

Besides my family, preaching and pastoral duties, music is one of the only things I am willing to work at with dedicated effort.   Hopefully that dedication will be much more focused than in the past.

So, I hope to begin writing and sharing on a more regular basis as I resume singing in the area, especially in nursing homes, senior citizen centers and for church and civic groups when I am invited to entertain as my personal and church calendars allow.  I'm back playing rhythm guitar for our little Praise Team as well.  To my amazement . . . I've already received a couple of invitations for events in 2017.

More to come!

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

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Been very busy

Well friends . . . I think my blogging time is winding down.  It's been over two months since I last blogged.  I haven't even thought about writing in a long time.  Life has been filled with many things lately, some new, some old, including successes and challenges.

Being the only pastor in a church has its demands . . . and they are numerous.  It has never been more difficult being a pastor of a church . . . and . . . it has never been as fulfilling.  I'm usually singing about 3 times a month.  That's about all I really want to sing at this time, although our annual Vacation Bible School is next week!   I'll be banging the guitar and singing each night for 4 days.

I love blogging . . . well, I think I do . . .  but so many things have changed since I first began blogging when I was at FUMC-Graevine,  Those were good days helping lead a band, and singing up to 10 times a month.  Here at my new church (and I've been here a year already) things are different as I expected they would be.  All in all . . . it's time for a change.

So, time, focus, responsibilities, family . . . life in general . . .  now necesitate that I spend some focused time taking care of myself and those whose overall well being is my responsibility.  So there will no more blog postings for the forseeable future.  I plan to take down this blog in late August.  I will begin rethinking the focus of my writing efforts in the near future.  But right now . . . it's time to acknowledge that the season has changed.  Time to go fishing.

Thanks everyone . . . I've had over 73,000 hits since I started almost 10 years ago.   Please keep singing if you are . . .  and if you aren't singing yet  . . . jump on in, the waters fine!

God's grace still amazes me . . .

Rick ><>

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

R.I.P. - Guy Clark



I just read that Texas songwriting legend Guy Clark just passed away at 74 years of age after a couple of years of illness.

If you are into Texas music, especially TEXAS country western music (not the current regurgitated rock-n-roll country music) then you have heard of Guy Clark, or you have heard songs he has written.

My two favorite Guy Clark songs are "Desparado Waiting for a Train," and "The Guitar."  I'm not really sure what kind of a man he was, but his bio is impressive.  A renaisance man to say the least.  I am told he lived his life with a very dry, but kind, sense of humor.  I'm told that a lot of songwriters and storytellers are like that.

Click on the video and enjoy.

God's grace still amazes me . . . as well as a good Guy Clark song . . . ><>

Monday, May 2, 2016

Thank you Crowley Senior Citizen Center



Ruby Hawes at the Crowley Senior Citizen Center sent me a picture of the CSCC gang and I went I went to sing for them on St. Patrick's Day.  A sweet group of good folks. I will enjoy singing to them each month.

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

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Prince ...

I have never really been a Prince fan, but one cannot discount that he was a great musical artist.  I do like this video where he played guitar with others for the song "While My Guitar Gently Weeps.  Awesome.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Thank you Crowley Nursing Home . . .

Thanks to the folks at the Crowley Nursing Home for letting me come sing this past Thursday.  I "passed" the audition, and will begin singing their at least once a month (3rd Thursday afternoon at 2pm) beginning in May.

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

Thursday, April 7, 2016

RIP Merle Haggard

As many music minded people already know, the great Merle Haggard died yesterday on the day of his 79th birthday.

The "Mighty Merle" is gone.  There is a hole in the music world today. 

RIP "Hag".

Friday, March 18, 2016

Hot off the presses . . .


Larry Dykstra's new book is available through Barnes and Noble and through Amazon.com

Hot off the presses!   A new book about singing as a way of serving . . . and you need to get a copy if you sing to children and/or senior adults as a volunteer.  You also need to get this book if you would benefit from learning more about another persons journey to discover how to serve others.  

Musical Hugs: Succeeding Through Serving, One Song At A Time.

Larry Dykstra, my good friend, music partner and Certified Therapeutic Music Entertainer (TME) mentor/trainer, is the author of this book.  I was pleased to read part of an advanced copy that he sent me by email.  Jim Newton, our good friend and TME mentor/"God Father," dropped off a copy of this book to me this morning.  Thank you Jim!

The book is about one man's dedicated and systematic journey to discover how to serve others through music.   One great take-a-way from this book is how Larry learned to value and then benefit from each of his experiences.  The last chapter, where he sums it all up, is worth the price of the book.  I don't want to give to much away . . . just get the book.  I give it 5 stars, and read it completely through in one setting.  It is well written, and you will find yourself feeling as if you are standing by Larry in each and every situation he faces as a musician and hospital chaplain.  This is a book you will easily connect with.

I have a shelf in my office where I keep a small handfull of books that I read each year.  This book is going on that shelf!

You can purchase your own copy of Musical Hugs by going to the Barnes & Noble website or through Amazon.com.  Click on on either of these links and you should go directly to the page where you will be able to purchase this book with just a few clicks of your mouse.

God's grace, and musical hugs, still amazes me . . . ><>


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Upcoming Changes . . .

I recently posted  that I was thinking about gving blogging a break, or changing the direction of what I blogged about.  Since that time, I have been doing some soul searching of sorts.  I have come to the conclusion, in the process, that I love to write, but have lacked a plan to do so.  The plan is being worked on right now, and I am pleased in the direction it seems to be going.

I know that I don't have it all figured out yet, but I do now know that I want to continue blogging. In fact, I have decided that I want to take blog writing up a notch and expand my audience, and perhaps my sphere of influence as well.  I am wondering if my writing can become a form of mentoring that someone might find of value.

So, as as result of my soul searching, and some personal reseaarch, and on the advice of others who blog more regularly than I do, I have decided that within the next month or so, I will be moving my blog to wordpress.com.  I will post my new domain name / blog address on this site for several months before I take this site down.

I know that in some way I want to continue to write about about being a "stuggling-less-than-part-time-singer-guitarist" because that is what I am.  But as I reach the big "60" in another year, I find that I have some knowledge of a few things that I would like to share with those who might have similar interests, including doing some reviews of people, items, programs that have helped me obtain some needed life balance. That being said, I haven't quite got the exact plan worked out yet.

I am a little amazed at the amount of thought I am putting in to all of this.  I am going to chalk it up to my recent change to a gluten free diet.  It seems that a mental fog has lifted from my mind.  One thing about mental fogs, you don't know you have one until it lifts!!!   That being said, I know that I want to write about things I have used that helped my life and personal / professional ministry become more productive and effective.  Organization and life balance have always been a strong interest of mine, and now I am doing a lot of study on what it means to live more simply as part of the overall process.  Call it experience, or call it maturity, but I believe I have some good information to share.

Hopefully I will have this all figured out soon.  I may try to do two different blogs, but perhaps my focus right now should be on just one, and do it as well as possible, which means several specific hours a week focused on good content.

More to come.  Thanks for the support.

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

Monday, March 14, 2016

New singing gig . . .

Today our City Manager suggested I contact the Crowley Senior Citizen Center.

I've been here for almost 9 months, and I have spent far too much time in this church building.  I did't even know we had a Senior Citizen Center!

I drove over and met with Ruby, who is the coordinator there.  After a short conversation, I will be singing there this Thursday morning (March 17) at 9:30am.   I treat my first time to sing at any new venue as an audition of sorts, so I will be singing a wide variety of songs in an effort to find what kind of songs the folks there enjoy.  

I am glad I got out of the office and crossed paths with some neat people today!

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

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Field Notes memo books ...

Several of the Field Notes I use on a daily basis. In the middle is my homemade Traveller's Notebook. It will hold up to 6 Field Notes, but I only use 4.  Works for me!
This is a blog article/review about Field Notes Brand 48-page memo books. I've been using several of these memo books every day since January 1st.  I keep 4 of them with me pretty much everywhere I go, and keep them in a little homemade Traveller's Notebook that I put together with some leather I purchased on sale from a nearby Hobby Lobby store.   If you look up Traveller's Notebooks on YouTube, get ready for a ton of videos.  You can purchase them from many resources, or make them yourself.  These are quite the rage among people who travel professionaly and recreationally, and they have found their way into the lives of several professionals who I keep up with on the internet through blogs and videos.

As I mentioned already, I usually carry 4 of these memo books with me at all times.  I have one that I treat as a Common Place Book, where I keep quotes and notes from books I am reading.  The second one is a daily note/memo book where I keep notes, appointments, thoughts when I am away from the office.  The third is my notebook for my daily devotions.  And the 4th is an idea book.  I try to enter at least one idea a week related to my ministry, personal hobbies and family trips and vacations.

So far I've puchased a set of their Cherry Wood (graph paper) memo books, and several sets of their Workman's Companion (a special 6 volume set), as well as some of their regular black covered ones.  I like how they are made, and their durability.  The covers are good, and the paper, for writing with pen, is great.  Yep, I know they are a bit on the expensive side, $9.95 for a set of three, but they are great quality and are American made.  I buy them locally at W Durable Goods in Fort Worth TX, and at Lone Star Lawn Supply in Rendon, TX.  Or go online at www.fieldnotesbrand.com.  The website alone is worth the perusal.

Field Notes won't  fit everyone's needs, but they fit my needs, since I am more of an analog guy than a digital guy.  They have several seasonal series which seem to appeal to collectors.  There are several video's on YouTube pertaining to the creator of Field Notes Brand, Aaron James Draplin of DDC (Draplin Design Company).  He couldn't find what he wanted for use in his design business.  So he made some and gave them to friends. One of the friends, Caudel Partners in Chicago, thought they could make them into a business.  A decade later, they are going strong.

God's grace, and writing things down on paper with a pen or pencil, still amazes me . . . ><>

Thursday, March 3, 2016

A recent trip to Arkansas . . .

My wife and I have just returned from a recent trip to Arkansas, my adopted 2nd home state.

Not sure if Arkansas will ever adopt me, but I have adopted it!

My wife and I spent a few days in our beloved Eureka Springs area, and then I attended a meeting at the Mount Sequoyah Conference and Retreat Center in Fayetteville, where I serve as a member of the Board of Trustees.

Whenever I travel anywhere with anybody, they soon realize that I love to quietly hum.  It has been pointed out to me that I hum out loud far more than I am aware of.

Really?

Yes, really.

My Mom hums as well.  She is coming in for a visit in a few days.  I bet we could hum together if giving the chance.  Humming in harmony!  It can be done!

Why is it, for some of us, that we make music whenever and wherever we can?  Humming, singing, whistling . . . I am one who could easily believe that life, in and of itself, is a song!   In my Christian tradition, life is supposed to be lived and experienced as an actual act of worship.   Worship for me would always include singing and music.   In fact, I don't mind attending a worship service were there is no sermon (except when I am preaching!!!!!!!!)

But the thought is intriquing . . . my life as a symphony.  It would a diverse piece of music.  The music would have to portray elements of joy and happiness, as well as sadness and sorrow.  The music would have to share the emotions of hope and  defeat.  Some aspect about the music would have to communicate a spirit of overcoming, and the ability to always, given time, trying to get back up when knocked down.

Lastly, the music would have to generate an understanding of life lived as a journey . . . with different stopping and starting points along the way, as well as course changes and corrections.  And finally, the music would have to clearly communicate the long held value of family and friendship, and of having goals and dreams, which become more clear because of maturity and lessons learned.

What kind of music would communicate about your life?   What would your song sound like?

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




Thursday, February 18, 2016

A new book that will be worth the read . . .

My friend and past musical partner, Larry Dykstra, has a new book which is currently in the print process.

Musical Hugs: Succeeding Through Serving One Song at a Time is the name of the book.  Larry writes about his making a change in his life by singing to children in hospitals.  I got to read an advance copy, and I think it's a great book for anyone determined to make a difference in the lives of other people.  In truth, I took a couple of the same steps that Larry did during my therapeutic music entertainment certification process.  Larry was one of my mentors during that time.  Anyone who sings to others will be able to relate.

This will be a "must read" book for anyone who has ever said out loud, "somebody should do something about this problem," and later realized that the "someone" who needed to act was themselves. 

More info later on where/how to get a copy.

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

Darn sniffles and allergies . . .

Illness prevented me from singing this week at either of my two normal gigs.  When singing around patients in nursing homes, or to residents of a retirement community, it is a good idea, and just plain common courtesy, to not leave them a gift of whatever you are sick with.  Not much of a gift if you ask me.

Wait a minute . . . .

Ahhhhh . . . choo!

Excuse me.   I hope it's just allergies!

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


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

It's all about balance, balance, and balance . . .


 

Greetings everyone and a Happy Belated New Year!

Question: Why have people already stopped wishing each other a Happy New Year?  There are over 10 plus months left in the year.  I could use some well wishes!  And I figure others can use them from me as well.

You might wonder why I posted a picture of myself (taken on my iPhone . . . ain't I a geek?) holding a new T-Shirt that two of our church members gave me?

Well, it's been explained to me many times that a picture speaks and thousand words.  This picture speaks that and more.  It is a great illustration about why music has not been able to be one of my main focuses since I arrived here at my new church thsi past July.

At my previous church appointment, I was the Senior Associate Pastor (1 of 5 pastors), and as such I only preached about 4-8 times a year on Sunday mornings.  I knew weeks (often months) in advance when I would be preaching.  An example, for 10 years in a row I always preached on the last Sunday of December.

At my new church appointment, I am the ONLY ordained UMC pastor/minister/clergy type person on staff.   That means I am the main preacher for at least 42-45 weeks of the year.  I have already shared the pulpit with other staff who enjoy preaching, as well as some great guest preachers.  

As a result of preaching regularly, I have had to spend a lot of time each week in sermon and worship planning and in sermon preparation.   I have developed a good working system now, thanks in part to great people on our worship staff.  However, crafting a good sermon every week takes time.  There is necessary reading of different Bible translations and Bible commentaries, and note taking (I just love Steadtler Norica HB2 pencils and Cambridge Hardback Spiral Notebooks) as I read. Finally there is putting it all together and typing the sermon on the computer, then printing the sermon, then doing necessary edits . . .

All=in-all, my system is purring along jsut fine.  And therein lies the problem.  The time necessary to prepare good sermons, which IS my main responsbility here, takes from the time I used to spend playing and singing 2-3 times a week, and rehearsing, and learning new songs. 

My past church appointment (of 10 years) allowed me to focus on music as a major part of my commuity and pastoral care ministry.  And I loved it.  I really did.  I think my blog writing showed it.   My current church appointment requires that my main focus must be on sermon preperation, worship planning, vision casting for the future, administering a staff, and providing great pastoral care.  As a result, I only have time to sing at 2 current venues an month (a nursing home and a retirement home).  I believe that I can make the time to sing at one more communtiy venue as well each month, and I plan to get the word out that I am available.  

So, it's both fair and honest to say that this blog of mine is going to change a bit . . . maybe a new title . . .maybe some writing about leadership, time management, and effinciency topics, in addition to some writing about EDC (everyday carry) items that I have found helpful to have with / around me each day.   And, I will continue to post about guitars, singing and therapeutic music entertainment as the mood strikes, which I hope is more often than not. 

It's all about balance . . . but balance takes time to figure out.

What hasn't changed . . . is that God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>


Friday, January 22, 2016

Rest in peace Glenn Fry . . .

News has reached many about the recent death of Eagles founder and leader, Glenn Fry.   His death at 67 came too soon . . . too soon.

I've written before about the many folk artists who have influenced my personal and music life.  I have not written as much about rock music artists who have done the same.

The Eagles are surely an influence on my life and music.  As a teenager and young adult in the 1970's, the Eagles were so often on the charts, and their songs were the songs that we sang and played.  At the forefront as founder and leader . . . was Glenn Fry.   He was not the best singer.  No, that was Don Henley.  He wasn't the best guitarist.  No, that was Bernie Leadon, and Don Felder, and Joe Walsh.

Glenn was the leader.  Don Henley mentions that in commenting after Glenn's death . . . "Glenn was the one who started it all.  He was the spark plug; the man with the plan."

What Glenn also brought to the table was master song crafting, and a knowledge of popular music. He studied why songs became hits on the charts.  Song writing and helping lead a band were things he practiced as a craft.

He is gone from us too soon.  He will be missed.  The tributes about him on YouTube are growing and growing.

That is a good and appropriate thing to happen.

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

Friday, January 15, 2016

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and a new health diagnosis . . . it's been a busy time . . .

Howdy all!

Whew!  I never truly realized that my changing churches, and becoming the ONLY pastor would take up so much of my time . . . and it has been a challenge.  But after 6 months, my schedule is getting more into a rhythm.  We have such a wonderful staff here at Crowley. They have been a blessing to me, as have been the members and friends of my new church home.

All in all, my job has pretty much completely changed from when I was at Grapevine.  Not quite a "180", but almost.  I have a lot more administrative and leadership responsiblilities.

Where has music and "Rick's Songbag" been in all this?  Still active, but not as much as in past years.  I am singing at an area retirment home, and at an area nursing home.  There appears to be an opportunity to soon sing at another local nursing home, but that is not quite a done deal.  Singing at these three venues will max out the available time I have to do so.  I sing for our preschool chapel every week that I am available, and I have a couple of Walk to Emmaus and United Methodist Women events to sing at soon.  I usually play guitar for our informal worship service each Sunday at 9AM, and I play every so often for the children during the Children's Time.

In the past months, I have also been diagnosed with Celiac's Disease . . . which explains a lot of life-long health problems I've had that were always assumed to be food allergies.  I'm old and wise enough to appreciate and stick with a gluten-free diet, which is the only treatment for Celiac's.  So far so good.  I do physically, emotionally and mentally feel the best I have felt in the past 10 years.

That being all said, it pains me to share that I am being drawn toward several new interests, which are necessitating my thinking that this music blog has perhaps come to an end.  I have a strong desire to write about servant leadership and spiritual formation.  I also feel the need to document some changes I am starting to try and make in my life.  I am feeling that writing about them would be therapeutic.   What I am not sure of yet is whether I can handle more than one blog with my schedule, and do them well.

So, I solicit your prayers (the 5 of you that read this blog . . . ) for help in what lies ahead.  I am approaching my 59th birthday, and my 40th wedding anniversary.  Music took center stage in my life and ministry at Grapevine.  That may not be the case here in Crowley, as I am being called here to be a preacher, teacher and trainer.  Music, especially singing and playing guitar will always be important to me . . . and I am a most unhappy man if I can't play the guitar.  However, this will not be my main focus anymore, at least for the time being.  To keep it my main focus will take away from the time I need to be a great pastor, and to make some needed personal changes.

As in all things . . . we shall see.  And after seeing, we will try not to react out of emotion, but instead to respond out of faith.

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