Monday, February 13, 2023

How Much Is That Doggy in the Window?

Have you ever been so convinced that something is not going to work out the way others think it will?  I mean, with absolute certainty, you are fully convinced that your way is the only way.  No amount of discussion will ever change your mind.  You are rock-solid in your belief and if anyone thinks otherwise, they are dead wrong.  Keep that in mind for a moment.

Three years ago, it was a Thursday night in late March.  I had just settled down to go to sleep.  Nancy was working overnight at the hospital.  I was exhausted.  The COVID pandemic was in its earliest stages.  Everything had shut down - in person meetings, in person worship, plans for gatherings - and so many more events that are important to not only life in the church, but life period - were all shut down.  It was the most difficult time for all of us.  I was emotionally spent.  I needed some rest.

My phone buzzed, telling me there was a text from someone.  I wasn't totally asleep, so I fumbled for my glasses, slightly annoyed from being roused from a rest that I know I desperately needed.  I looked at my phone.  It was from my wife.  She was telling me about an opportunity to get some kind of playmate for our cat, Ruby.  Ruby and I didn't see eye to eye so I wasn't in favor of even keeping Ruby, let alone getting another cat for her.  I wasn't ready to hear it.  My response was "You are kidding right".

Turns out, she wasn't.  You see, Nancy's family has a history of having animals: dogs, cats, parakeets, cows... yeah, that's right, cows.  She loves animals.  Talks to them like they can talk back to her.  I know she wanted another pet.  I just wasn't prepared for that conversation - not after midnight... not during the pandemic... I was convinced this was not a good idea and my avatar emoticon told her so.  It was late - I was tired.  I wasn't going to waver....
...until this.  

Even in an exhaustive state, a guy still has a heart.  One look and that was it.  It was over.  Maisy became part of our family.  She waits for me to come home now.  Like a little jumping bean, she wants to be held all the time.  And she begs for treats by standing on her hind legs, just hoping for some kind of dog treat that she can gnarl on.  But make no mistake about it - she is still Nancy's dog.  I'm just second fiddle... chopped liver... just a glorified benchwarmer... I take a back seat and I'm perfectly okay with that.

As it turns out, I am also perfectly okay with the realization that I was wrong.  Really wrong.  Maisy has been a really good pet for Nancy and as it turned out, for me too.  It's a good lesson to be learned - for all of us.  Our way might not be the only way.  Take a moment to consider another perspective before settling on what you believe to be true.  You won't regret it.

I know in my heart I don't.

Oh, one trade-off... Ruby the cat is someone else's cat now.  I'm cool with that too!

Thursday, February 2, 2023

The Beat Goes On

Once upon a time, I played drums in a rock and roll band.  True story.  Actually, I played in two different bands in the late seventies.  Those who know me are saying "Wait, isn't the trombone the instrument you play?"  The answer to that is yes, but I've always held this fascination with the drums.  In fifth or sixth grade (not sure which), the high school band instructor came over to the Vandyke Elementary School and gave music lessons to those young students who wanted to play an instrument.  My choice?  Drums.  I had one of those drum pads on which you could practice your skills.  It was relatively quiet and it seemed like I was on my way to being a drummer, if you can be on your way to doing anything at that age.

Sadly, I needed one thing... rhythm.  I just didn't get the rhythm.  The band instructor did everything he could to help me plug into the beat, but try as hard as I could, it didn't happen.  At the end of the first year, the band instructor said "Why don't you try the trombone?"  So, I gave up my dream of being a drummer and the next year I was learning how to play the trombone.

But the drums kept calling me.  The summer after graduation, I joined a ten-piece rock band, playing my trombone.  We played a lot of Chicago/Blood Sweat and Tears kind of music.  The guy who played the drums for us had a clear double bass drum set.  I thought it was the coolest thing ever.  the band was together for about one year and during that time, I whetted my drum appetite by sitting down at his drum set and playing it.  Lo and behold, somehow the rhythm issues I had so many years before had vanished.  I was able to keep the beat (not bad for a trombone player).  

Later that year, during my first year in college, the pep band didn't have a drummer (I'm actually surprised that we had a pep band!)  So, I took up the task and played the drums for the pep band (which only played during hockey games - which was great because I was on the basketball team and that was all I could handle!)  Fast forward to about 1978 - the summer of that year.  I cannot recall how it happened, but I purchased a Pearl drum set - bass drum, snare, and three toms - complete with cymbals.  I have no idea why I bought it - I'm sure Nancy didn't either.  As it sometimes happens, I knew a guy who knew I had a set and they were looking for a drummer.  Hint: if you own a drum set, then you are a drummer.  I was a drummer.

I played with that group for about a year.  Two singers who were dynamic (and were sisters) lead the group.  We played a lot of Heart/Fleetwood Mac/Linda Ronstadt.  We had gone on the road, playing in a dive in Moorhead, Minnesota when the group decided they needed a drummer with a bit more flash.  Hint: if you own a drum set, but have no flash, you will get no cash.  I thought my drum playing days were over.  I was wrong.

A fellow trombonist knew that I was playing drums.  He was also in a group that played 50's and 60's rock and roll - a group that (guess what) needed a drummer.  I joined his group and played with them for a couple of years.  I bought a double bass white Slingerland drum kit that was every bit as cool as the clear drum set I noodled around on in my first band.  The group eventually disbanded and I sold my set - thought my drum playing days were over.  I was wrong.  Again.

Fast forward to the year 2010.  I was now pastor for a church just south of Stillwater - on the edge of the Twin Cities.  They had a praise band and were in need of a drummer.  It had only been about thirty years since I last played, but I stepped in and once more, I was a drummer - this time for all the right reasons.  Since then, I've played here and there for our church praise team.  I purchased a Roland TD9 digital drum set, added two more toms and four Zildjian Gen cymbals - a set that I don't know what I will be doing with once I retire.  How many 70 year old drummers are out there? 

In the past few years, there have only been a few select opportunities to play the drums in the Worthington area.  Mostly, I've been connected to the City Band and the Symphony Orchestra playing my trombone, the instrument of choice.  I didn't think I'd ever be playing the drums in a group again.  I was wrong.  Again.

Last week, I was contacted by the person who is directing the local high school production of "Hello Dolly".  They were in need of a drummer for their pit band and wondered if I could do it.  I'm always ready to give it a whirl, so I went to their practice session on Monday night, sitting on a drum set that was set up for high school drummers.  It's been fifty years since I was the size of a high school drummer.  I was most uncomfortable as I tried to maneuver my way through the music.  I decided that I would bring my own set next time - a set built for me.  And my shape.  

So, my friends, the beat goes on.  Again.

I don't know that there is any specific moral or lesson to be learned from this memory, but I do know that it's important for us to have aspirations and dreams.  It keeps life fresh and new.  They give us hope for the future.  And hope is a good thing. 

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Down Memory Lane

You can ask my wife about my memory.  She would say (lovingly so) that my memory is selective.  I admit, there are some things I should remember, but I don't.  Short term things sometimes get by me.  I wish I could tell you why - they just do.  

Given this important background, why would I endeavor to write about my memories from long ago?

Shoot, I've read where it's normal to forget things as we age.  I can tell you so many times when I've walked into room and stood there for a moment, wondering... "Now, what did I come in here for?"  Normally, I retrace my steps and within a few moments, I recall the primary reason I went into that room in the first place.  I attribute these moments to having too many things on my mind or something momentarily distracts me from where I was headed.  It happens and usually, this is not a big thing.  

But there are some things I can remember with such clarity - things that took place years ago, when I was younger.  I have no real business remembering them nor do I have any inclination that I was even thinking about a specific memory.  Something will trigger a certain memory of an event that happened so long ago.  Right out of the blue.  It's a nice surprise when that happens for that very reason - I hadn't thought about that particular event for so long.  I wondered why I hadn't forgotten it completely.  

I guess some things are meant to be remembered when you need to remember them.  That's what I really enjoy writing about - things that happened down memory lane.

I hope that I remember that in my next article.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

The Gentle Man's Guitar

Just as abruptly when I paused blogging any thoughts, I return to these online printed pages.  So much has happened since my last entry that I'm not really certain where to begin.  Perhaps the most significant moment happened last February when my father died at the age of 96.  He lived a long and full life, I know.  Since he departed this world, I have thought about him many times during the passing of time... remembering his manner, his words, his encouragement, his example.  He had a lot of all of those things going on - living nearly 97 years will do that for you.

There are times when I catch myself sounding just like him... "Those cotton-pickin' rum dummies... why don't they just give the ball to the other team?" he would say gruffly to anyone who was within earshot.  It didn't really matter which team he was referring to - Vikings, Timberwolves, Gophers, Twins, Wild - they were all objects of his affection when it came to supporting a Minnesota sports team.  

In fact, it's funny how this last football season for the Vikings would have had him at his best with the topsy-turvy season the team had, winning so many games in the last minute.  Whenever he would get discouraged, he would get up from his chair, gather the Gretsch Country Gentleman guitar he had owned for decades and play the soft tones that he taught himself how to play over the years.  It was his way of soothing the agony of defeat.

Over the years, I've missed listening to my dad's gentle strumming of his guitar - mostly because I've been in the ministry for the past three decades.  But I am reminded of his music whenever I hear a Chet Atkins song (which isn't too often).  Chet Atkins was dad's guitar hero.  His guitar choice was the very same that Chet Atkins played.  He learned his style and taught himself how to play listening to many of Chet Atkins songs... you can listen to a few of them here.  

Of course, dad wasn't anything near Chet's level of proficiency, but that matters little.  His sound was soft and gentle and pleasing to the ear.  I hear the echo of my father playing his guitar when I hear an Atkins tune.  

I miss my dad... his gentle and soothing guitar playing.  

I miss him now more than ever. 

Monday, September 6, 2021

Labor Day - The Last Blast of Summer

I have heard the saying "you can't go back in time" and of course, I know that has a lot of truth to it.  Physically, that is an impossibility.  No one has invented time travel (that I know of).  But this last week has been a reminder to me of the past and the ability to remember the time gone by is a very powerful thing and perhaps, it is the closest thing we might have to going back in time.  

Last Thursday, I was able to watch my oldest grandson, Evan, as he performed with his new high school band.  He played the mellophone, which is a marching band blend of a trumpet/French horn type of instrument.  Evan has really blossomed as an accomplished trumpet player.  It was a trip down memory lane as I recalled the halftime shows we played in high school band.  Not only that memory, but others began to invade my space as I reflected back in time.  I don't want to turn back time, but it was a warm feeling to remember it.

It's Labor Day Weekend.  I have also been reminded of all the Labor Days of my youth - especially my high school days.  You see, for me, Labor Day was always the last blast of summer.  We'd spend that Monday in the small town of Bovey (home of the picture Grace).  The celebration was Labor Day, but in Bovey, it was always called Bovey Farmer's Day.  I would march with one of the three city bands I played in (Marble, Bovey, or Coleraine).  Right after the parade, I would then play in each of the city band concerts played on the lawn of the City Hall.  The day was filled with music.

The music didn't stop there.  Sometime that night, upstairs in the Bovey Auditorium, some local band would be playing the latest hits of the era at the Teen Dance.  I can still hear Edna Kwami (not sure if her named was spelled that way) singing the Jefferson Airplane hit "Don't You Want Somebody to Love" echoing through the dance hall.  The dance gave everyone a chance to see friends that we hadn't seen all summer.  Of course, the dance didn't last too long because the next day was the first day of school.  

It's a striking thing to be able to recall those moments of our youth.  It's even better when we can remember them with accuracy.  Farmer's Day was always a fabulous kickoff to the return to school.  I loved going to school.  Riding the bus each day, seeing my friends, interacting with the teachers I liked and even the ones that I didn't (which wasn't a long list, quite frankly), and the beginning of all the activities that brought us all together: Friday night football, halftime band performances, the usual excursion out to the peninsula to gather leaf specimens for biology class, the impromptu class meetings run by the principal, hot lunch, study hall, building the homecoming floats, and countless numbers of other things in which we participated.  When I start to think about all the things we were involved in, the memories become so thick I almost have to brush them away from my mind.  (Isn't it strange how I can hardly remember what I had for breakfast but I can recall events from a half of a century ago with remarkable clarity?)

Next year, my graduating class will gather for their 50th year since graduation - what would Greenway High School do without the Class of '72?  The planning team has decided to have that celebration over the Labor Day weekend.  It seems appropriate to me that date would be the choice.    

I hope my classmates will be able to be there.  Like our class song says "But I always thought that I'd see you again" ("Fire and Rain" by James Taylor).

We can turn back time once again!

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

These Shoes Are Meant for Preaching!

You know, it's been quite a while since I've sat down and wrote something for this blog.  It's been over a year, if my memory serves me correctly.  I have had some long spells in between these short articles.  I think I've been a bit pre-occupied with the COVID stuff that continues to dominate our lives today.  Honestly, I haven't felt like writing about that because there are so many different thoughts and perspectives out there.  I know I would be bound to cross someone with an opposite opinion and frankly, that's just not helpful today.  At least, that's my perspective.  Don't get me wrong - there are times when an opposite word is required.  But my perception is that people have their understandings about what this COVID is all about.  It would take a great deal to move them away from that perspective - whichever side that person might be on.  So, forgive me, friends, I'm not about to start a conversation about trying to persuade one side to move to the other.

So, let's talk shoes instead!  I've always been an easy mark for a flashy shoe.  I suppose that might be a surprise because on Sunday, I usually just wear a shiny Oxford wing-tip style shoe to church.  The shoes are always black.  Not much for the imagination and there is a reason for that: I am pretty sure people aren't coming to church to see what kind of shoes I am wearing.  So, I keep it low key to make sure that is true.  Can you imagine the conversations if I wore something flashy every Sunday morning?  Yikes!  We don't need that, do we?

But, during the week is a different story.  Take the shoe you see on the left in the picture on the right - the neon yellow and green New Balance shoe.  I bought that shoe when I was in Gainesville, Virginia five years ago.  I still wear them today.  But I was taken in by another pair of shoes in the Virginia area (visiting my daughter and her family) which are a bit more colorful than the neon shoes.  They have a nice blue green tint with a bright white stripe running down the side.  Let me tell you, these shoes are shaaaaarp!  And comfortable, too!  Yes indeed, these shoes will fit in nicely with my summer wardrobe - but I don't think it would be right to wear them on Sunday morning....

...unless it fit the text I was preaching on.  Then I could justify it!  I suppose the story of Joseph and his coat of many colors might be an appropriate story to preach on while wearing such a shoe.  Or maybe, just maybe, I could focus on Jesus and his discussion of the water of life, being that these shoes are bluish and look like they've been dipped in the waters of a clear blue bay somewhere.  There is always the Romans text that talks about the beautiful feet of those who preach the good news - man, I could wear them every Sunday if I took that text to heart!  There are a great many references in Scripture that talk about taking one's sandals off - I'm not ready to entertain that notion.

I promise I will ponder and pray about this.  Personally, I'm more concerned about making sure I bring the good news of Jesus Christ as opposed to what I might be wearing when I do that.  After all, that's the real deal, right?  People come to hear a word of hope for their journey, to embrace a moment that might brighten their day, to be given a light to shine in the darkness that sometimes envelopes them!  The Word is first and foremost!  

Everything else is just minor details that are discussed over coffee and fellowship during the week.  The only thing I will say is check it out... come in person or watch on the live stream... me and my shoes - we'll be there...

...but which ones?

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

What were those odds again?

Ok, I just had to get to this right away while the memory is still fresh in my mind.  If you've been following my posts, you will recall the Monday, April 20th blog entitled "What are the odds?" (You can review it here if you don't remember it.)  The short summary of that blog was that I really believed I was due to get a hole in one.  I wasn't arrogant about it (at least, I don't think I was).  It was just a matter-of-fact statistical look at the odds of any one golfer getting a hole in one.  At the end of the blog, I promised I would post when I got that hole in one to let you know it happened.

Well, today it happened!!  I was at #10 at Great Life Worthington Golf Course (which is the hole I had previously shown in that April 20th blog).  I was alone, but #10 is right next to the clubhouse - there is always someone nearby.  I had just played up #9 with Rick Dalrymple and another fellow, but they elected to stop for today after nine.  Rick said something about having to mow the lawn.  I told him he needed to get his priorities in line.

I will try to make this sound like a golf announcer: "#10 is a short par three that requires accuracy and a deft touch to a saddle style green.  Today, it's about 105 yards, very little wind - I see Daren is ready to hit his shot.  He has a nine iron.  The crowd is very silent - almost don't know that they are here.  The shot is on the way.  It is right on line with the pin.  Does he have enough?  Ohhh!  It hit the pin!  Dead straight!  But where did it go?  I didn't see it anywhere!  I heard the ball strike the pin - the only thing I can think of is that it's in!  It's in the hole!  Daren has a hole in one!  What a fantastic shot!  I believe that is Daren's first career hole in one!  And look at his response...the crowd is going wild..."

That's about how I might have imagined it had anyone been able to see it actually go into the hole.  I shouted "It went in!!  Did anyone see that?  It went in the hole!!"  I looked around and no one really heard me because there was no one there to hear me, except one guy who was preparing to go out on #1.  He came over and I told him what had happened.  He didn't see it, but he said that the golf pro was putting golf carts in the garage to recharge them.  Ben came out and I told him the same thing.  He said "Well go and get it"  and I said "Yeah, but someone has to verify it."  (After all, who is going to believe a pastor who is playing alone that he got a hole in one?)  Ben (the golf pro) said he'd watch me, but just don't have any golf balls in my pocket when I went to retrieve the ball.  Must have been golf pro humor.

I got into the cart and drove down to the green.  I cannot remember the last time excited and golf were used in the same sentence for me.  I walked over to the green and sure enough - there was my Titleist 3 wedged in the hole between the blue wrap that was installed for COVID 19 protection and the side of the hole.  I pulled the ball out and showed it triumphantly to Ben and the other guy.  I pumped my fist in the air and let out another shout "Yeah!!! Yes!!" I shouted.  It's not really polite to yell on the golf course, but who would care?  I drove back to the tee and Ben took my picture next to the tee box.  

It all happened so quickly.  But I was brought down to earth on the next hole with a triple bogey 7, but who cares?  Not me.  I didn't know what I was doing the rest of the round.  The odds of my getting a hole in one were 1 in 12,500 or something like that.  All I know is that it happened.

I was due!