Sunday, September 24, 2023

The Chosen

It's been "another" long time since I have written anything about anything.  Truth be told, I've been a bit preoccupied, working on planning for retirement next year.  More on that at another time.  I felt compelled to sit down and write something about the streaming series that I have been watching.  You may have watched it as well.  It's called "The Chosen".  You can watch it free on this link

One promo says this about this acclaimed series about Jesus and his disciples: "A charismatic fisherman drowning in debt, a troubled woman wrestling with real demons.  A gifted publican ostracized by his family and his people.  A religious leader struggling with his beliefs.  See Jesus through the eyes of those that met him."  I'm not certain that this description does the series justice.

I have watched the first season (of three), and it has been very inspirational.  Does it take some liberties with respect to character development?  I should hope so.  Watching how Peter's life is depicted makes perfect sense for the accounts we read about him in the New Testament.  Nicodemus is shown as a teacher who truly desires to learn more about God's love for humankind.   Matthew's background as a quirky tax collector is refreshing to watch.  

The flashback moments revisit important moments that speak to what was happening in that current day: Jesus' teaching in the temple at age 12; Moses making the bronze serpent to save the people from snake bites; Jacob digging the well.  It's a refreshing look at the old, old story that we have come to know so well.  Perhaps too well.  It's a joy to have your heart opened once again to the stories we have grown up with as a young child.

Sometimes I am too slow out of the gate.  I know people have mentioned this series to me in the past.  I would politely nod and move on with life, not taking their encouragement to watch this series to heart.  I am grateful that I didn't wait too long.  I recommend it to you.  Don't procrastinate like I did.  This is one series that is worth the time it takes to sit down and watch it!  Trust me - you'll be glad you did!

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Music Appreciation 101

I was taking a trip down memory lane tonight when I came across something I wasn't aware I had in my possession.  (I'm fairly certain that I shouldn't have it either.)  It's music from my high school band - Greenway RPB (Raider Pep Band).  Our band director was a pretty hip guy, always looking for the latest songs that we could play.  We even had a couple of budding composers who put together arrangements of songs we just couldn't wait to play: "Judy in Disguise", "Pain", and "It's Not Unusual" - to name a few.  

As I recall, it was a lot of fun, especially playing for the high school hockey games.  We had a number of rivalry bands which (quite frankly) couldn't hold a candle to our pep band.  Just sayin'.

Music has changed over the years.  I can't say anything bad about the music of today - I just don't listen to it.  However, if I were to offer a comparison, it would be that the music from my generation was perfect for its time.  It was easy to understand the lyrics, which also spoke to the issues of our time.  I guess all music does that, but the music of the 60's and 70's was stand-alone different.  Perhaps there were subtle messages within the music here and there, but it seemed like that music had a decency to it that is not as apparent today.  I'm not trying to rip on the music of today - I'm sure it has plenty of followers who will make the same claims years from now.

My brother had a maroon Olds F85 which had an eight-track player.  I was sometimes allowed to drive it.  There was nothing like driving in a car with an eight-track.  You had to listen to the entire track to hear the favorite songs from that particular band.  It only made sense that you would drive around in order to hear the music from the track.  I think we called it "cruising" in the day.

Music of any kind really has a dynamic effect upon us as humans.  It can take us back to a specific memory.  It can brighten our day or make us more reflective.  It can move us to action.  According to some medical resources, music can provide a total brain workout.  Research has shown that listening to music can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and pain as well as improve sleep quality, mood, mental alertness, and memory.

Whatever your music of choice, I encourage you to listen to it more often.  Turn off the tv.  Play your cd or your mp3s on your favorite player.  Go cruising to the music.  You never know how it might affect you.  It just might make your day a little brighter!

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!