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Reality

Someone asked me for this short paragraph from my sermon yesterday. I thought I might as well share it with you all, for what it’s worth. I was focused on the 23rd chapter of Jeremiah, which speaks of the challenges of leadership and the power of the Living God to help us.  I said, toward the end, these words:

“There is always hope, but it never comes without cost or pain or struggle. There is always a future, but never at the expense of our past. There is always Presence, but it is not always comforting and pleasant. There is always a way forward but it is never found by evasion or running away from the hard places.”

Chesterton

G. K. Chesterton

They are my words, not a quote. They come from my experience of life, both the good and the disappointing parts of myself I’ve known. I hope they help you. Two other great quotes I used:

I heard an ad executive on Ted Talks say this:  “Poetry makes new things familiar and familiar things new.”

And this one from G. K. Chesterton,  The Everlasting Man  “Christendom has had a series of revolutions and in each one of them Christianity has died. Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a God who knew the way out of the grave.”  Don’t worry so much when things get torn up.

Or, as Leonard Cohen said in his wonderful lyric, “Anthem,”

Ring the bells (ring the bells) that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)
That’s how the light gets in

Leonard Cohen

BREXIT and the Flopidemic of Slurrds

The Brexit vote in the UK set off a global panic. In part, because we assumed that people in England, if not the rest of the United Kingdom, would always think about a decision and be sensible. They would never vote without knowing what the implications of that issue might be. Apparently, we’ve been wrong.

The first problem is the word “Brexit.” It’s a combination word, and I think that is why Europe is coming apart. We are not using enough words now. Words were a way, in the olden times, like the 1990s, to actually describe something in detail and debate it. Think of the most powerful places to communicate now—non-existent “platforms” named, ironically, “Twitter,” “Instagram,” “Facebook” and “YouTube.” Four major media with only 27 letters total between them. We don’t use enough letters and words anymore.

The Brexit, we are told, has great impact for the POTUS election and thereby SCOTUS appointments. And I don’t really know what I just said.

Because we now use pictures instead of words—after all a picture is worth a thousand, so 20 pix is 20K, right? The core problem is the flopendemic of Slurrds (for old people, this means, “a flood and epidemic of slurring words together.” Get with it, Geriatrics).   Brexit is the chief example. Brexit sounds like a breakfast cereal. When I went to England years ago, there was a cereal called, “Wheatabix.” I am sure confused many voters. “Exit from cereal? Read the rest of this entry

Call and Response: Excerpt from Poems, Prayers and Unfinished Promises

In December, Mossy Creek Press released my new book, Poems, Prayers and Unfinished Promises.  I have been so gratified by the readers’ enthusiastic responses.  From time to time, I want to share a few excerpts with readers.  Since we are in the Lenten Season, I share this prayer, found on page 48:

A Prayer for the Beginning of Lent

Based on Psalm 42:8-11COVER PIC jpg

As a Baptist kid in the South, I had never heard of Lent, but I understood “call and response” instinctively. Someone sings and you sing back to them. In southern gospel, it was often something the basses and altos did, little descants under the melody, like a man and woman when they really speak and hear each other’s hearts. That’s the Lenten journey to me—get quiet, listen and when you finally pick up the song, sing back. You really have to train your ear to hear it.

“By day the LORD commands his steadfast love and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. I say to God, my rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I walk about mournfully because the enemy oppresses me?” As with a deadly wound in my body, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me continually, “Where is your God?” Why are you cast down, O my soul and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.”  Psalm 42:8-11 NRSV

 

Read the rest of this entry

“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. 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.

MORE INFO CLICK HERE:

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.

The Artist and the Editor

There is a time for the Artist and a time for the Editor

The Editor worries about the audience, sales and attracting attention to the finished product

The Artist tries to listen to the deep, deep truth within, unfiltered and unfettered

The Editor wants it to be the best it can be and to have a chance to be heard.

The Artist wants the work to be true to what it was the first time she heard it

The Editor is outside the Artists heart and mind and often doesn’t “get” the artist’s vision

The Artist cannot leave himself and struggles to know how it will connect to others and sometimes what makes sense to the Artist doesn’t make sense to anyone else

The Editor is finally responsible to the publisher and the audience

The Artist is finally responsible to his Judge and Maker and himself and his art

The Editor respects the artist, may even be one herself, so it is not about bad and good.

The Artist respects the Editor, and understands that it is not just about money or pleasing others.  It is also about belonging to the community and the world and being heard

Sometimes they clash and tears are shed.

The Artist’s matters of conscience can turn into stubbornness and pride

The Editor’s insistence on practicality, marketability and being liked by large numbers of people can mask a desire to please and the willingness to sacrifice integrity for success.  They both labor with the burden of ego and control.

They always have to talk and pray about it and listen to each other for the best thing to happen, even when the Editor and the author live inside one person.

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

10 Qualities of a pERFECTionits

deadline coming...

1.  Perfectionists cannot stand it when something is not completed.  For example, when a person…

2.  There is a rigidity about things always having to be a certain way or else they become very upset.  Things cannot be out of order, altered from their usual place, etc.

4.  If you’re going to do your best, you can’t always worry about pleasing everyone else (“You know you shouldn’t be writing this blog.  I told you to major in something else in college.  You’re an idiot.  Nobody cares what you think.)  Pay no attention to that voice in my head…

3.  Practice makes prefect.  Practifect makes perfice.  Aw, you know what I mean.

5.  If you are a Christian, be happy all the time and when you are mad, talk more piously.

6.  Almost perfect is never good enough.  Perfection is so hard to reach, you often don’t try.  This is so frustrating that I’m not going to list the last four.  It’s too overwhelming.

I forgot the other four.

In an article by Elizabeth Scott at About.com, I came across this statement.

High achievers tend to be pulled toward their goals by a desire to achieve them, and are happy with any steps made in the right direction. Perfectionists, on the other hand, tend to be pushed toward their goals by a fear of not reaching them, and see anything less than a perfectly met goal as a failure.

That rings true.  Sometimes our goals are so lofty with a song, recording, preparing a presentation, aspiring to a project, or writing, that we are immobilized.   My friend, the late John Claypool, used to say that there’s a difference between wanting to do something and wanting to BE somebody.  The first group accomplishes a lot.  The second group tends to make themselves and everyone around them miserable.  It’s all about “how you look.”  Faggetaboutit!

In this culture so shaped by the visual dimension of life, are we so oriented to expectations that come from without us that we cannot find the “push” from within?

So, here is my advice to perfectionists.  Lose yourself in the task once in a while.  Don’t worry too much about how to sign your autographs just yet.  Just write good songs.  Sing your best.  All that obsession with fame, stuff, adoration and making a million is too much about being PUSHED.  Let yourself be pulled by something that offers so much joy you just HAVE to find it!

note to self

Accept the process and enjoy the ride.  The journey of healing will not be automatic and instant.  Taking something in, getting somewhere, growing, all involve time, faith, hope and love.

Strive for reality, not perfection. A friend of mine was struggling with some people whose behavior disappointed him in his church.  He expressed his disappointment and I replied, “You have to learn to lower your expectations.”  He asked, “How do you do it?”  I answered, “From reading the Bible.”    Have you ever noticed what a sorry lot of people are in the Bible–Jesus being the exception, of course?  If you want to feel good, read a Bible story.  But it ought to encourage you.  God works with the available material.

Try on a new self-assessment based on reality, not what you have experienced, come to mistakenly believe, or adapted to as a reaction to life.  Work on those voices inside your head.  Turn off the editor when you want to be creative.  Let it flow.  You’ll be surprised what comes forth when you aren’t worried about what someone will say about it.

Finally, lie down and sleep when you run out of ideas.  You’d be amazed what the acceptance of our limits can do to unleash creative power.  Turn the world back over to God every night.  It’s liable to still be there when you open your eyes in the morning.