“The Man I Didn’t Kill” and Paying Attention

In 2008 I wrote a song called “The Man I Didn’t Kill.”  The story of the song is pretty simple in a way.  I get song ideas all the time just from observations of life.  I never mind a drive to the hospital or the million other tasks I have to do in my work as a minister.  It is an ocean of songwriting material, because it’s simply life experience.  I really admire the great songwriters who live in Nashville, sit in an office all day and crank out lyrics.  I’m not sure I’m that imaginative.

Gary Nancy Greg

My ideas come from life.  I walk through, listening to people in trouble, solving problems, managing a congregation, dealing with budgets, praying for the sick.  All along, though, the artist in my brain tries to pay attention.  I’m not looking for songs, but I’m paying attention for things that interest me. Kate Campbell talked a lot about being curious—noting things you care about and trying to understand why.

So songs, or at least ideas, pop up everywhere.  Back about 2008 or 2009, I wrote a song that ended up on my cd “Overload of Bad News Blues.”  It’s called, “The Man I Didn’t Kill.”  It came from a close call.  One day a pedestrian walked out in front of me without looking.  I was watching him, so I hit the breaks and, for the first time, he saw me.  Small bit of life.

As I drove on down the road, I started mulling over what had just happened.  What if I HAD struck him?  This connected to my childhood.  I ran out in front of a car and was knocked down in the road while my horrified parents watched.  I was scraped up, but fortunately the driver saw me and also hit the breaks.  Back to my near miss, I started reflecting.  My life would have been changed forever, and maybe his family.  When you think about things that don’t happen—a choice you make, a decision you pull back from, a bad option you don’t select—it can make as great a difference as the ones you do.  There is a difference, though.  We don’t really see the “things that never happen.”

So, I wrote about it, and it ended up as,  I think, a pretty good song.  Just to give you a taste of the way it come out for me:

A post was not abandoned,

“The Man I Didn’t Kill” is on my 2008 album, “Overload of Bad News Blues.”

Damage wasn’t done.

The shortcut wasn’t taken–

The bet was never won.

The wrist she didn’t slice,

The needle never used,

A come-on went unanswered

A childhood not abused


It’s the things that can’t be measured

Choices we don’t know

Sins uncommitted

Hate nobody sows

A soul the devil doesn’t get

Is one that heaven will

There’s power in the blood of

The man I didn’t kill    LISTEN CLICK HERE

This is an idea with a lot of play.  I love Lucinda Williams, and in 2011 she came out with her album “Blessed.”  The title cut takes some similar ideas and takes them in a very different direction than my song did.  She mulls the notion of how it is the things not seen as blessings that often bless.   I had never heard her song until the album came out.  I am very sure she never heard mine!  But similar ideas can occur to us and come out very differently in the hands of different writers.  My song was more about what might of happened but didn’t.  “Blessed” is about the ways that blessing comes from what shouldn’t have happened but does anyway–surely the signification of something from beyond us all.  She writes:

We were blessed by the battered woman

Who didn’t seek revenge
We were blessed by the warrior
Who didn’t need to win
We were blessed by the blind man
Who could see for miles and miles
We were blessed by the fighter
Who didn’t fight for the prize
It goes to show that ideas and experiences can have a lot of room for exploration and development.  One way to let ideas grow in our writing and work is to “let them” go to unexpected places.  What would be the opposite of our expectations?  The reverse of the “usual course”?  Your ideas can be like children—you have to let them out and play now and then!.

So, too, with life.  Expectations, roles, surrounding cultures can weigh us down into ruts in living.  I heard a preacher say once that a rut is a grave that’s open on both ends.  You don’t get out of it until you stop thinking it’s the only way.

Leaving the ruts, though, is risky.  It can be stressful.  But it can open up life, songs, and our minds, if we’ll pay attention.

“Sixty is Just Alright”

It’s a good time to polish up friendships, love family, forgive, thank and bless.

So I turned sixty, and for some reason the people around me celebrated for a week.  I know with Ebola, the Ukraine, ISIS  and Israel causing the end-of-the-worlders to crank out their book my firthday isn’t a big deal globally, but it has been to me.


Sixty is alright for sure.

Over the last five years I have laid to rest a close friend, a father-in-law (who was a second father to me) and a mentor and colleague I have known for 21 years and was my predecessor.  The Shadow has been around lately.  I have grandchildren.  There is likely more life behind than before me years-wise.  You know—morbidity hangs around.  Joints ache a little more.

You’ve poured a lot of concrete by sixty.  Decisions, patterns, character, and events harden into tracks out of which it’s hard to escape.  On the other hand, those same tracks give a certain comfort and stability to life.  It’s hard to break them up.

The upside has surprised me, though.  A certain amount of “I just don’t care about that anymore.”  I don’t care very much at all what others think about what I think.  I don’t need to correct them all the time.  I have dragged all my failings and weaknesses and contradictions along with me.  The point at sixty is to simply admit them.  The notion that “I’m going to get rid of that someday” doesn’t come around often.  You learn to live with it.

Taking care of my relationships matters more.  Family, my late father-in-law said last August at the beach, our last hurrah before his final slide, is hands down the best part of life.  I agree.  It’s a good time to polish up friendships, love family, forgive, thank and bless.  You pretty well know you won’t change the world.  You see bright young leaders coming along to take up the world and it is good to start letting them.  I am so proud of my family, I love them and they know it.   There’s still a lot of good work ahead, though, revising, editing, writing books that have been sitting in the computer, songs to write, giving what you have to the next generation to consider.

Sixty in theology is the prime of life.  You actually start to know some things.  Life experience is rich and full.  A few months ago I did decide to shed pounds and get into shape—didn’t want to go into the next decade old and tired and with high blood pressure, and I’ve taken up walking again with a vengeance and shed a lot of weight.  I feel good.  Musically, I’m in a great place.  I’m past 100 songs written, learned a lot, don’t have any delusions about my craft or goals.  I love playing with one friend or by myself as much as performing—maybe more.  I love writing.  The strands are coming together.

So I posted the other day, after I got the third birthday cake of the week, this: “Sixty is just alright with me.”  It is.  Feel

Younger, faster, more sure, dumber me.

Younger, faster, more sure, dumber me.

old if you want to, but that’s about other people, or some of that stuff you dragged here with you.  “Is” is all there ever is.  I want to stay there more often instead of “was” or “what if?’

I decided to compile a playlist for myself called SIXTY.  It turned out to be 120 songs, 2 per year.  These songs represent my musical, spiritual and personal journey.  Some are meaningful as a marker of something, or a time of my life.  Some were a turning point musically, others an influence.  These people have populated my soul journey—Shades Mountain Air, Kate Campbell, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, and a lot of relatively unknown names.  The list would be different every year of my life, so there’s nothing much to read into it.

So far, so good.  I feel grateful.  I’m letting go of some dreams that weren’t mine to begin with.  I’m asking, “What is here for me?”  So, xixty is just alright with me.

Hope yours is good for you.  Hey, if you’re curious, I’ve attached my SIXTY songlist.  No hymns–could have done 120 of those alone.  No classical.  Again, another list of 120.  Some of my songs are on here, as are Shades Mountain Air.  It’s my list.  Hope you like it.  If not, well, you have a delete button and you know what to do with it.


SIXTY    song-album-artist

1 Arizona 4:19            Driving With You Meg Tennant
2 Ave Maria 5:02        Slade Stomp Beppe Gambetta     LISTEN CLICK HERE   
3 Awakening 3:56       Once In A Red Moon Secret Garden
4 Away Down the River [#] 5:43       A Hundred Miles or More: A Collection Alison Krauss
5 Baby It’s Allright 3:03          If You Could Read My Mind Gordon Lightfoot
6 Bad Moon Rising 2:22         Chronicle, Vol. 1 Creedence Clearwater Revival

7 Bad Road 3:27 13    Ozark Mountain Daredevils

8 Be Still and Know 7:52       Invitation to Silence Lynda Poston-Smith
9 Birmingham 2:21      The Randy Newman Songbook Vol. 2 [… Randy Newman
10 Black Sky 3:08       Ozark Mountain Daredevils Ozark Mountain Daredevils
11 Blessed 5:49          Blessed Lucinda Williams
12 Bluegrass Breakdown (Live) 3:33             Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby: Cluck … Ricky Skaggs, Bruce Hornsby
13 Broken Places 4:54            Second Skin Ashley Cleveland
14 Carolina In The Pines 3:58            Blue Sky-Night Thunder Michael Martin Murphey
15 Celtic Set 3:23       Best of Kamp Kaufman CD 2 Various
16 Cold Frosty Morning 3:28 Acoustic Rising Emory Lester/Mark Johnson
17 Cold Old Middle 4:01       Live At Moonlight On the Mountain Shades Mountain Air
18 Come Together 4:20           Abbey Road The Beatles
19 Come, Ye Disconsolate 4:33         Grace Before Sleep Baylor University A Cappella Chorus
20 Consolation 4:39    Timeless Michael Dulin
21 Darling Corey (Live) 7:56             Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby: Cluck … Ricky Skaggs, Bruce Hornsby
22 Delmus Jackson 3:53         Moonpie Dreams Kate Campbell
23 Dill Pickle Rag 1:26          Foundation: Doc Watson Guitar Instru… Doc Watson
24 Dublin Blues 4:19              Dublin Blues Guy Clark
25 Earthbound 4:25     Fate’s Right Hand Rodney Crowell
26 Elk River Blues 3:33         The Littlest Birds The Littlest Birds
27 Epitaph Including March For No Reaso… 8:48     In The Court Of The Crimson King King Crimson
28 Every Breath You Take 4:14          Synchronicity The Police
29 Father, Mother 5:16 Legacy           Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band
30 Fields Of Gold 3:42           Ten Summoner’s Tales Sting
31 Fire and Rain 3:26                         Greatest Hits James Taylor
32 Gadget Daddy 2:21            Intrepid Jim Hurst
33 Galveston Flood 3:29        Tony Rice Plays And Sings Bluegrass Tony Rice
34 Ghost Train 1:57    Delusion Of Banjer Bad Livers
35 The Gift Of Mercy 5:11     Laugh For A Million Years Pat Terry
36 God Believes In You 2:25             Everything Matters Pierce Pettis
37 Harvest Moon 5:05            Harvest Moon Neil Young
38 Have You Seen Her 5:11   1970 Chilites
39 Daddy Never Said    permanent world of pretend   Gary Furr
40 Hurt 3:39    American IV: The Man Comes Around Johnny Cash
41 I Am A Town 5:07             Come On Come On Mary Chapin Carpenter
42 I’m Looking Through You 2:26                   Rubber Soul The Beatles
43 Im So Lonesome I Could Cry 4:36             Gary and Dad
44 Jackson 3:43          Car Wheels on a Gravel Road Lucinda Williams
45 Jesus and Mama 3:23         Confederate Railroad Confederate Railroad
46 Joyful Medley 3:31            Live At Moonlight On the Mountain Shades Mountain Air
47 Kindness 2:42        Turning Point David Wilcox
48 Lady Be Good 3:00            The Best of Django Reinhardt Django Reinhardt
49 Lay Lady Lay 3:20 Dylan Bob Dylan
50 Layla (40th Anniversary / 2010 Remaste… 7:04               Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs [… Derek & The Dominos
51 Let’s Stay Together 3:21     Al Green
52 Lonely People 2:30            The Complete Greatest Hits America
53 Losing You 2:44     The Randy Newman Songbook Vol. 2 [… Randy Newman
54 Love Is A Rose 2:47          Greatest Hits Linda Ronstadt
55 Make You Feel My Love 3:33       Dylan Bob Dylan
56 Meditation 7:52      Meditation Lynda Poston-Smith
57 Moonlight Waltz 3:38        Jethro Burns with Tiny Moore Jethro Burns with Tiny Moore
58 The Moon’s s Harsh Mistress 3:05             Judith Judy Collins
59 The More Things Change 3:56       Shooting Straight In The Dark Mary Chapin Carpenter
60 A Mother’s Love 3:40        Follow The River Michael Dulin
61 My Last Days on Earth 4:39           The Music of Bill Monroe Disc 4 Bill Monroe
62 My Sweet Lady 4:25          Poems, Prayers & Promises John Denver
63 The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down … 3:33               The Band The The Band
64 No One Knows My Name 3:16      Soul Journey Gillian Welch
65 North Carolina Breakdown 2:52    Banjo Talkin’ Cathy Fink
66 The Old Crossroads 2:44   Skaggs and Rice Ricky Skaggs
67 Old Dan’s Records 3:04     Gord’s Gold Gordon Lightfoot
68 Old Train 2:19       Creators Of Urban Bluegrass The Seldom Scene
69 Only Love Can Break Your Heart 3:09      After The Gold Rush Neil Young
70 Orange Blossom Special 5:25        Live At Moonlight On the Mountain Shades Mountain Air
71 Overload of Bad News Blues 5:41            Overload of Bad News Blues Jon Jassy, Jim Dooley
72 Overload of Bad News Blues 4:51            Live At Moonlight On the Mountain Shades Mountain Air
73 Paperback Writer 2:19       Past Masters, Vol. 2 The Beatles
74 Pitkin County Turnaround 2:26      The Crow: New Songs For the Five-Stri… Steve Martin
75 Polly 4:25 Through The Morning, Through The Ni… Dillard & Clark
76 Ramblin’ Man 4:50             Allman Brothers Allman Brothers
77 Red Eyes On A Mad Dog 2:44       The Family The Del McCoury Band
78 Redwood Hill 2:52            Summer Side Of Life Gordon Lightfoot
79 The Rights of Man / Ya Fama 6:09            Throw Down Your Heart – Africa Sessio… Béla Fleck
80 River Crossing 1:22           True Grit Carter Burwell
81 The Road Not Taken 7:07              Scenes From the Southside Bruce Hornsby & the Range
82 Roxburghe House 2:56       Arbroath Suite Unplugged Laura Mcghee
83 Sally Goodin 8:31              Unit Of Measure Tony Rice Unit
84 Salt Creek 3:51      Tony Rice Guitar Tony Rice
85 Scotland 1:55         The Music of Bill Monroe Disc 2 Bill Monroe
86 Simple Twist Of Fate 4:18             Blood On The Tracks Bob Dylan
87 Sneaking up on Boo Radley 5:16               Spirit Trail Disc 1 Bruce Hornsby
88 Someplace Green 3:57       Laugh For A Million Years Pat Terry
89 The Song Remembers When 3:56 All the Way On Hugh Prestwood
90 The Soul’s Desire 3:46       Live At Moonlight On the Mountain Shades Mountain Air
91 Standin’ on the Rock 3:54               Ozark Mountain Daredevils Ozark Mountain Daredevils
92 Standing in the Doorway 7:43        Time Out of Mind Bob Dylan
93 The Suit 4:24          All the Way On Hugh Prestwood
94 Sunlight Moon 4:20            Spirit Trail Disc 2 Bruce Hornsby
95 Sweet Georgia Brown 3:09           Souvenirs Django Reinhardt & Stéphane Grappelli
96 Sweet Georgia Brown 1:59           Doc & Dawg Doc Watson & David Grisman
97 Sweet Home Alabama 4:43           All Time Greatest Hits Lynyrd Skynyrd
98 Take Me Home To The Sweet Sunny So… 2:53                The Early Years A J.E. Mainer
99 Take Me Home, Country Roads 3:10         Poems, Prayers & Promises John Denver
100 Talk About Suffering 3:29            Gary Allison Furr
101 Tangled Up In Blue 5:43              Blood On The Tracks Bob Dylan
102 This Old Guitar 5:33        Prairie Wind Neil Young
103 This Shirt 3:51     State of the Heart Mary Chapin Carpenter
104 The Tide Will Rise 3:55 Harbor Lights Bruce Hornsby
105 Time To Go Inward 5:23             Fate’s Right Hand Rodney Crowell
106 Up On Cripple Creek (Alternate Take) (… 4:55 The Band The The Band
107 Wagon Wheels 7:03         What It Is Gary Allison Furr
108 Wake Up 5:35      Funeral Arcade Fire
109 Walls 3:41           The Mystery Tommy Emmanuel
110 Waterbound 2:53              Time Again Dirk Powell
111 Watermelon 3:17              Overload of Bad News Blues Gary Furr
112 Wheel Hoss 2:22              The Music of Bill Monroe Disc 2 Bill Monroe
113 Whenever You Come Around 4:19          When Love Finds You Vince Gill
114 White-Wheeled Limousine 5:28               Hot House Bruce Hornsby
115 Wildfire 4:49       Blue Sky-Night Thunder Michael Martin Murphey
116 Words Fail 3:52               Live At Moonlight On the Mountain Shades Mountain Air
117 Your’re No Good 3:45     Greatest Hits Linda Ronstadt
118 You’ve Got a Friend 4:33             Greatest Hits James Taylor
119 10 Degrees & Getting Colder 2:42          Summer Side Of Life Gordon Lightfoot
120 #19 (Album Version) 4:15           Selected Ambient Works, Vol. II Aphex Twin

Exploring the Discography of Life

“…there is a playful randomness about what we find and read.  Or rather, what finds us”

When I first rekindled my interest in songwriting and music again, sixteen or seventeen years ago, I began hanging out in music stores, playing the guitar again and digging out songs from my memory and on faded notebook paper from years ago.  One day, a worker in the store I frequent most, Fretted Instruments of Birminghm, said, “Are you just starting to explore the discography?”  I had just said that “I was getting into bluegrass music” and that was his reply.

I began to delve into just that—listening, going to shows, scooting to Nashville now and then.  I bought a collection of Bill Monroe’s music.  Over the coming years, I heard a lot of music live—Bruce Hornsby, Ricky Skaggs, Nickel Creek, J. D. Crowe, Earl Scruggs, Vince Gill, as well as a lot of lesser-known but excellent players and singers coming through the Station Inn in Nashville or here in Birmingham, especially at the old Moonlight Music Café and it’s descendant, Moonlight on the Mountain.  I listened to all kinds of music, leading me back to the Carter family, rekindling my love for Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, but also eventually delving back to my own eclectic roots in James Taylor, the Beatles (naturally), gospel music, hymnody, classical musick and the serendipity of albums I happened to buy at certain times.

It’s a little like books—there is a playful randomness about what we find and read.  Or rather, what finds us.  Somebody tells us about a book they love, or something they came across while reading something else.

Bill Monroe

Bill Monroe

Whatever interests you will eventually lead you forward and backwards, into new ideas, but also back into all that preceded it and explain it.  As technology has made more and more available, it is possible for anyone with a computer to go and find all sorts of interesting musical ancestors.  So for me, “exploring the discography” was going to graduate school.  It led me first to my initial interest, bluegrass, but then on to jazz, blues, soul, R&B, folk, gospel, old-time, and all sorts of fusions.

The intersections can be quite interesting.  There are purists, of course, who insist on telling all the rest of us what we are supposed to like, and they are in every genre, but both the honoring of the past and the acceptance of the new have a place at the table of creation.  In recent times, I find myself going back again.   Perhaps an inevitable preference of aging,  you want to re-touch meaning from the past.  But I also think there is another rich vein of possibility unearthed when we cease from our worship of “novelty,” (which often turns out merely to be unconscious borrowing or worse) and revisit the discographies of the world.  What we find is that, even if the work of art or song or words we read before are exactly the same, we no longer are.  We hear differently each time.

A little backward exploration enlightens you to know that everything is borrowed and reassembled.  Monroe forged together old-time music with gospel, country, blues and other streams to create bluegrass.  The Carter family recorded and handed down hundreds of songs that came from families and groups in the hills that had been sung for generations “by our people” and commercialized it as country music.  The great classical composers always stood on the shoulders of others.  The old becomes new when it is rediscovered and reqppropriated.

“The Road Less Traveled” is one way to live.  But there is value in traveling the road we have walked a hundred times with new eyes and ears.  It can be an astounding discovery of something we never saw in the first place.  So what is back there for you?  It may not be music, but something that keeps yielding fruit for you may still be waiting where you left it.

Mapping the Bluegrass Genome

“The genetic code of bluegrass and old time music is more sophisticated than that.  It carries stories of birth, life and death in the old days.  It tells of children dying young, tragic love, shame, murder, alcoholism and faith.  To learn the code, no stereotype will do.  You have to descend into the music and listen.”


In 2005 I took a three month sabbatical to study, pray, and feed the senses.  I went to art museums, read books, went to Nashville to learn about the music industry and played at open mic at the Bluebird Café, reaching one

Shuffler and Boosinger

Shuffler and Boosinger

of my bucket list items (the ultimate would be a gig on the “Prairie Home Companion Show” while Garrison Keillor is still on earth!).  But a lot of that time was “exploring my roots,” musical, theological and spiritual—which led to a week at Steve Kaufman’s Acoustic Kamp.

I’d been to the Kamp before, in Maryville, Tennessee.  Unless you are a devotee of the guitar and acoustic cousins like the mandolin, the “fiddle” (violin played a certain way), bass, banjo or dobro, you don’t realize that hundreds of camps happen every year across the world where musicians gather and play and learn the heritage of “roots” music—folk, jazz, country, celtic, and so on. In these places, campers rub shoulders with the legends of bluegrass, swing, fingerpicking and new acoustic music.  I met legends like Bill Keith, Clarence White, Read the rest of this entry

Daniel Murphy, Sports and Babies

“J——, this is your pastor.  Now having heard your

confession on the air, will you stop by to receive

penance instructions about being a better father and husband?”

It’s just too easy to weigh in on the comments of Mike Francesca and Boomer Esiason about Daniel Murphy’s decision to take two days to be present for his baby’s birth.

Daniel Murphy, new Dad, plays second base for the New York Mets.

Daniel Murphy, new Dad, plays second base for the New York Mets.

Of course, we live in a time of sportainment.  More and more, as politics becomes hopelessly unresponsive and global problems impinge on every part fo life, sportainment is the way we escape–from real life.  Except that ultimately isn’t an option.

One day I listened in on sports radio–I admit, it’s a guilty pleasure on the way to the hospital or a meeting, in part because I will always laugh at something pretentious, silly or absurd.  And much of what is discussed is fun to consider.  A husband caller complained to Paul Finebaum about a player’s tweet after Alabama lost its bowl game that “it’s only a game.”  His argument was that it isn’t.  He went on, passionately, to say that though he was a member of a church and loved his family, that during the football season he spends more time and money on the sport than on his wife and kids or his church.

My jaw dropped since I am a minister, but why should it?  I like to imagine that I might follow up crazy calls.  What would I say?  Disguised voice: “This is Dr. Hapner Wogwillow.  I am a marriage therapist.  I treat his wife for depression and recognized him in the call.  He needs to go home.  She just left for good with the kids.  I will tell him their names if he’ll call me.  BR-549.”  My other idea was to, “J——, this is your pastor.  Now having heard your confession, will you stop by to receive penance instructions about being a better father and husband?” Read the rest of this entry

Johnny Cash’s Music Lives On


Johnny Cash material released this week.

Johnny Cash, in many ways, lived as a prism of

the last half of the twentieth century,

at least a Southern version of that.


Johnny Cash died on September 12, 2003, going out in a blaze of recording glory with his last work, four albums titles “American I-IV”.  Ever experimenting and interacting with the musical world, the series, produced with the help of Rick Rubin, was highly acclaimed.  “Hurt,” and the accompanying video, appearing three months before June’s death and seven before Johnny himself succumbed to diabetes.

The brilliant video serves as a summary and eulogy for the man in black.  But apparently it was not the end of his recording career.  This week the world is meeting the music of Johnny Cash once again.  “Out Among the Stars,” a never-released album of songs recorded in 1984, was unearthed by his son and released to the public.  I just got it and am listening through.

Read the rest of this entry

ALABAMA FOLK SCHOOL offers Songwriting Class With Kate Campbell

Kate Campbell has created an impressive body of original work in the past eighteen years.

Folksinger and songwriter KATE CAMPBELL is coming to Alabama to lead a class on Songwriting during March (21-23) as part of a weekend school on writing.  If you write lyrics, always wanted to, are a performer who tours or just somebody whose been writing songs in the basement for twenty yearsa and never had the courage to sing one in front of anyone, you might enjoy coming to the Alabama Folk School’s latest offering, “WORDS, WORDS, WORDS.”  The Alabama Folk School is a lovely new place to go and learn about crafts and arts of all kinds—playing the mandolin or quilting.  And now, songwriting and the written and spoken word.

OK, the Grammys are over.  And I didn’t watch.  I am not a sourpuss who needs to pour water on people who want to make millions of dollars dressed as French mimes from Venus.  Free world, have at it.  I like most music, but not all.  Again, your right.  But me?  I like making music more than buying it.  I like crafting, thinking about it, playing with friends, encouraging others.  I like singing with my Dad whenever we’re together.  Singing in church.  Singing with our band, but I like practicing even more.  I love writing songs.  I love learning about it, crafting, exploring something until it is “finished” (which is the hardest part—letting baby leave home!).  And the best way to grow in your craft is to be around others.


The weekend event will offer a class on writing and one on songwriting.  No prior knowledge or expertise is necessary, just interest.  I’m sure the place will be full of people with guitars and notebooks, jamming, telling stories and swapping ideas.  Maybe you have words and want to meet people with a head full of tunes.  Or vice versa.

The weekend is NOT a competition for “greatest songwriter on earth.”  It is a community to encourage everyone to

deux deux idiots ou des génies?

find their voice and grow in their skill.

There will also be a sonn-to-be announced instructor for a writing class the same weekend.

Asking Good Questions: A Sermon for a Young Parent

 I’d want them to know my love was so strong that no matter how bad it gets,

how far down they go, who leaves them and abandons them, I won’t. 

13Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.    

Looking at a newborn is a pretty overwhelming reality.  It is the age we are in.  Vickie and I were sitting outside in the

waiting room, getting more anxious by the moment for our daughter and her husband and a little one.  Being born is

from cdc.gov site

from cdc.gov site

dangerous, not guaranteed, and full of anxiety, no matter what reassurances we are given.  In fact, the greatest advice from the OB to our daughter the last two months was, “Don’t Google.”

We don’t know how to know what to do with all the information.  In the old days, they took the mother, the father paced outside, and  the baby arrived.  It was the first inkling of what you had—boy or girl.  No paint colors until you knew.

Now, you have more knowledge about this infant than the NSA has of your cell phone.  But what to make of it?  Truth is, there is still a place where we cannot intrude with knowledge, and it is the miracle of life itself.

But don’t get me wrong.  It’s great to know.  And here’s how we got the word.  We’re sitting there, grandparents, waiting, worrying, praying.  Getting texts from our kids and friends—praying for you, hoping, let us know, that sort of thing.  And we occupy ourselves by answering these as we wait.  Naturally, we are watching the other occupants of the room.  A waiting room is pure democracy.  Rich, poor, well-dressed and barely dressed, country and city, every Read the rest of this entry

Musical Profile: Laura McGhee

Laura 2

Laura McGhee

Laura’s talent is immense and her music full of heart…,I hope you get to hear Laura sometime.  She’s a terrific musician and … You’ll find these tunes getting in your head and your voice humming along!


Laura McGhee performed together with Shades Mountain Air on Saturday evening, then came and performed at our church on Sunday morning, doing her two beautiful compositions, “Roxburghe House” and “Commemoration,” the former a musical reflection on a house in Scotland where hospice work now takes place, the latter a piece she composed for a 9-11 memorial in New York.  Set in the context of worship, they affected the congregation deeply.  It was quite a weekend, one in which I was able to spend more time than I often do with a fellow performer in a co-bill.

I met Laura last year when we shared a performance at Moonlight on the Mountain in Hoover, Alabama, near where I live.  It was a delightful evening, and her talent and musical chops were evident to all of us.  When our host on Saturday evening scheduled a retirement party for all of her friends this weekend at the same listening room, Read the rest of this entry

A Championship for God

I watched all the passion and powerful energy around the football season this year.  I have watched the most 3college football in years.  “What if the church generated such passion?”  I imagined a coach’s assessment at the end of the year.  It went like this:

  1. (At the end of the year banquet)  Great season, people.  We had our MVPs and our Most Improved.  It looks like we have a solid core back this year and that bodes well.
  2. We finished the year with a winning season.  Of course, we had our losses, too. Some major leaders and talent have gone to the next level, which in the kingdom of God is heaven.
  3. We had some transfers to other teams, and more than a few injuries.  In this league, the injuries


    are harder to see.  Quite a few have torn ACLs, (Attitudinal Christlikeness Lethargy) and more than a few are on suspension for inactivity.

  4. The most exciting news, though, is we had a great recruiting season.  Gifted people everywhere you turn, at every position.  And that’s good.  We have more than a few seniors who are not far from graduation.  They’ve kept the faith and fought the fight for a long time, and our lack of depth has been a real challenge, so they are happy to see these freshmen and sophomores  coming in here to help.  We need them to step up and help right away.
  5. We ought to be motivated to have a championship season.  The big game every week comes when we file into the sanctuary and listen to the Lord’s word, re-tell the story of our team, and get inspired by the great heritage of saints.  That’s our name, you know.  The Saints.  Not the New Orleans’ ones.
  6. And when we all execute our assignment we’ll win every time—blockers removing the obstacles out there and making way for the good news, passers sharing the gospel and kindness, practicing stewardship and pouring out blessings for the world, when our receivers go out and catch the ball and run for daylight, they carry the good news of the gospel to the world, to the lonely, the desperate and the hopeless.
  7. This year, we aren’t settling for a few measly points of improvement.  We are going to the top.  It’s silly for grown men to mope around for months over football games.  We’re about real and eternal things.
  8. 8.      No, the real championship is the Kingdom of God.  Healing diseases, crushing poverty and injustice, helping the illiterate to read, telling the story of Jesus to those who don’t know it.  Loving the unloved, working for reconciliation and forgiveness.  I’m tired of being number one in football, obesity and high blood pressure.  I’m ready to lead the nation in hope and the love of God and blessing little children everywhere.
  9. We have our opponent, of course.  The Bible describes him as a roaring lion, seeking to devour us.  Mostly that happens when we turn in on ourselves, or look at our troubles, or abandon hope and think we’re beaten.  Or responding with hate and fear.  Or worse, start blaming each other and sulking.  Win together, lose together.
  10. If we believe in the One who called us here we can do it!  Just believe in each other, do our assignments, don’t listen to the crowd and the critics, get up when we get knocked down, and always, always play the game with fearless confidence.  Now let’s get out there, and when you walk into this arena of worship on Sunday, come dressed for the fight, come for a victory, come to praise and pray and go forth.  And accept nothing less than the victory of God for everyone.  YEAHHHHH!h

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,069 other followers