Monthly Archives: March 2012

Remembering

This wonderful arrangement was written by our minister of music, Dr. Terre Johnson, after the Enterprise tornado a few years ago that killed several students at the local high school.  It has been performed across the country, including the White House.  I hope it blesses you today.  There is hope.

I put it here today as I mourn the third anniversary of the death of my dear friend, Philip Wise, gone far too soon from cancer at age sixty.  God be with us all in our sorrows, that they purify and call us to our better selves and to the depths of love.

Rest in peace, my friend.  

Farewell, Earl Scruggs, and Thank You

1964, on top of the world, with Lester Flatt

Earl Scruggs, “pioneer” as the Huffington Post put it,  of the Three-finger Banjo style, has died.  For some of us, he has been a mentor and inspiration our whole lives.   He was not merely a pioneer, he was the King.  And there are many legends on the banjo–Bela Fleck, Ralph Stanley, Jens Kruger, Don Reno, J. D. Crowe, and many greats.  But no one like Earl.

As a displaced North Carolina boy moving around the country, my Dad kept me connected to music.  He had a Silvertone electric guitar from Sears and a Harmony archtop acoustic guitar.  The electric would shock you if you played in bare feet on the garage floor so I tended to play the acoustic.  I didn’t know much about Earl Scruggs, but I kept running into him over the years.

When we moved to Irving, Texas in the late Sixties, I learned to play very slow rhythm guitar to a very slow “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” and “The Ballad of Jed Clampett” (LISTEN) with my seventh grade friend,  Brad Phillips, who was the odd combination of a banjo playing Episcopalian. Read the rest of this entry

Coming and Going: Spring Break as Holy Hiatus

There’s a time to stay, and a time to go

This week has been Spring Break week for us—others are about to have theirs.  For preachers in churches of any size, it is a thrilling time, a high holy day, whether you leave or stay.

Resting at the beach...

Holidays for ministers always include times when large hordes of our parishioners go somewhere else and we stay behind in quiet offices and can only pray for them until they return.  Or, in occasional cases, along with the ancient eastern prayer, “Lord, have mercy,” we toss a few prayers from Jackson Browne, “Why don’t you stay…just a little bit longer…”   Read the rest of this entry

The Best Time to Give

Carson-Newman College

Life-giving leadership is not being in control so much as persuasion of others to offer their best selves to that which matters the most.

I got an email from former classmate, Vicki Butler, now in the Advancement Office of my old college, Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tennessee.  She was in town and wanted to visit with us.  I do this  in my work as a Pastor, so I know that institutions need money.  I have moved from being a disdainful idealist as a teen to a reluctant fundraiser to a committed realist.

So my wife Vickie and I met Vickie in the lobby of her hotel.  She told us what Carson-Newman College is facing and how they hoped alumni would help out.  I was preparing my protests:  (“Do you know how much I gave last year?  The TaxCut preparer always flags my giving.  Americans don’t give this much!”)  But our conversation moved on to how things are going, how the school has adjusted to hard times, and to what a great mission it has.

We were at Carson Newman from 1972-1976.  Vickie and I married early—Christmas of our sophomore year.  I was 19, she 18, and in love.  That this did not pay bills had not yet occurred to us.  We lived in the little house right behind the infirmary in 1973 Read the rest of this entry

Tax Help for the Creatively Impaired

It’s Spring Break.  The Church people with the means and the houses are skiing and walking on the beach.  I’m working and doing taxes in my spare time.  Tax time is like judgment day.  All the whinin’ in the world ain’t going to make it anything other than what it was.  So, get to it, son.  But the mind can’t help excusing.  So, here are some of my inside thoughts, just for you, in case you need them at the audit or while working on your tax program or separating receipts. Read the rest of this entry

Simple Things and Joseph Kony

I have not been surprised at the diverse and passionate reaction to the Joseph Kony 2012 video, viewed by more than 80 million people as of last night, with accusations of everything from overreaction to his being a “CIA contractor.”  I can comprehend the anguish.  When I went to Kenya in 2007, I was overwhelmed by the sight of tens of thousands of people living in the slums of Nairobi, and the complexities of a country whose history I only began to understand.  I chose a humble approach, assuming I knew nothing and had few answers.  I also know that only the people of a place can finally discover the answers for their nation. Read the rest of this entry

The State of the Union–of Love and Truth

Gary Furr

Love and truth belong together.  So why is it that they are so often found separated?  Moral life arises from the recognition of eternal truth, the acceptance of the reality of others in that same truth, and the sensitivity to feel the connection between them.  Puritan preacher Richard Baxter said love for one’s neighbor is akin to hunger and food connecting.  It makes possible a new and different conversation.

Truth and love cannot live divorced from one another.  Otherwise we are, in the former case, driven to principles rendered only as power, devoid of kindness and the graces and kindnesses of feeling for the other. Read the rest of this entry

Finding Your Voice

Gary Furr

It’s become a cliche only because it is so powerful and pervasive.  Your “voice,” I once heard songwriter Pat Terry say, is what makes people say, “That’s a Gary Furr song” or “that’s a (your name here) story.’  I have thought about this for thirty years, focused when I once, during a five day solitary retreat started to say a short prayer I had been using to center myself and blurted out, “Father, help me to be myself.

If that sounds so very self-centered in our culture already so “you-can-be-whatever-you-want-to-be,” permit me to observe that despite our coaching of selves and self-focus I sure meet a lot of broken ones out there in life.  People wounded and held back by a voice in their head:  “you’ll never amount to anything,” and somettimes not even traumatic voices–just ones we imbibe from our world.  “So many people are better than you.  What do you have to offer?  What’s the point?” Read the rest of this entry

GREAT show Friday night! Guarantee it…

Friday night, we are expecting another packed house at the MOONLIGHT as Shades Mountain Air joins with some of our friends:  the great JANET HALL O’NEILL, ROB ANGUS and BRENT WARREN from the NEWGRASS TROUBADOURS..  Everything from hammer-dulcimer duets to swing, original songs, rock and roll, blues and bluegrass.  It will be non-stop music til we drop (or need to go to bed).  Come early and stay until the end!

Musically Speaking

So, music became a channel of my emotional life quite early, and it is my ongoing therapy.  I’d say it is cheaper than therapy, but when I add up instrument costs, time, and how much I’ve invested, I actually think psychotherapy would have been less costly.

Continuing to pray for the many survivors of the storms.  We were fortunate to be missed this time around.  Plenty of chances for compassion for us all–giving, praying, helping, going, cleaning and building.  We may be in for more of this.

But I woke up alive again this morning.  At 57, waking up always feels like Christmas.  I’m so happy for every day!  It’s been a frantically busy time, but I love everything that makes it that way.  So, I thought about this song I recorded last year.  I wrote it thinking about the Scotch and Irish immigrants to this country who came, struggled, and persevered against resistance (that seems to be the way).  And they brought us a lot of wonderful music, a way they escaped the hardships of daily life with dance, laughter and song.

I called it, “Scotch Irish Outburst.”  It’s just my musical picture of a group of people dancing on a Saturday night after a hard week.  You can feel good even when things seem bad.  Art is necessary, even after storms.

I hope you like it.  I used drum tracks from Jim Dooley and I played the rest of the instruments.  Recorded in my basement, I have no idea when in 2011.

CLICK TO HEAR “SCOTCH IRISH OUTBURST” and have a wonderful day!  God is love.