Wednesday, June 4, 2008

IT’S SUMMER TIME – (a little misunderstanding)

I was in church on Sunday and the message was one of those I can still remember today. It’s Wednesday. How many hundreds of sermons have I heard? Thousands? And how many are forgotten – instantly. That’s not an indictment on the preacher but more on my inability to pay attention and apply what has been said to my spirit.

The message was all about communion and, in particular, the table – what the table says.

You may know that I’ve been to church a lot - all my life - so far. In my childhood days, we were regular in our church attendance on Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, Wednesday night prayer services and, well, any other day or night when something might be going on at the church. It was the spiritual center of activity and, for the most part, the social center as well. Much of my life revolved around what went on at church.

I’m not sure how often we came to the table for the Lord’s supper. We actually never really came to the table – it came to us. The elements were solemnly distributed by the deacons of the church.

The deacons were a powerful bunch of men. Most of them, well, all of them now that I think of it, were southern gentlemen held in high regard in our little town. One of them was my father. They took their responsibilities seriously and carried out the duties with quiet reverence and dignity. I knew and could see what most of those duties were but until I was a teenager, I was certain that one of the duties of a deacon at the little Baptist church was to stand out on the front steps and smoke cigarettes. Most of them faithfully offered up that sacrifice just as regularly as any of their other duties, then came in and took up the offering and served communion. There was no conflict as far as I knew.

Of course, the bread and the wine were mysterious elements to me as a child. I was perplexed how a church that so vehemently preached temperance and total abstinence from alcohol could run the “bread and wine” service without the wrath of God or at least the Southern Baptist Convention. (I was always a little suspicious though and wondered just went on in the privacy of some of the homes around town. There was probably some medicinal application going on and I heard all the jokes – “Why do you always take two Baptist fishing with you? Because if you take just one, he’ll drink all your beer.”)

The deacons would pass the plates filled with tiny pillow-looking shapes of some kind of bread product although it wouldn’t pass for bread anywhere else outside the church. Then the trays would pass with small glass cups filled with grape juice – probably Welch’s. Certainly not real wine. It was a very quiet and reverent affair. And one everyone took to heart – rightfully so.

The pastor on this Sunday just past said the table always has something to say. He described the table communicating words of comfort – of invitation.

He explained that someone had done a survey of some kind and come up with a list of the most comforting words people can hear. In first place, “I Love You.” In second place, “I forgive you” and in third, “It’s summertime.”

Or at least, that’s what I understood him to say from my seat in the balcony.

I wrote Jim an email on Monday and expressed how moving and meaningful the message was to me. I mean, who wouldn’t agree that those three lines are great things to hear. Who isn’t softened by the words “I love you”? We all want to be loved and when someone actually goes to the trouble to take a breath and form those sweet tones and direct them at our ears – well, it’s just spectacular and makes any day better. And “I forgive you?” Cleansing, healing, redeeming words.

“It’s summertime.” When he said that, it took me back to my childhood and the last day of school on any given year between first grade and my senior year. What great words! “It’s summertime” meant that, for three whole months, there was no homework, no studying, no assignments; just baseball, sleeping late, going barefoot,fishing and going on vacation. I remember that feeling of hearing the final bell ring, the bell that signaled the end of the last day of school. There were few things that matched the euphoria for a school boy.

Jim responded to my email. After some other comments, his email finished with “Incidentally, I said “It’s suppertime, not summertime.” Oh. Right.

That does make more sense. “It’s suppertime” is a great thing to hear, too.

I still have difficulty calling the evening meal, dinner. Seems a little pretentious to a small town boy. Dinner used to be at noon with supper coming in the evening. When I talk to my mom and the subject of food comes up, we still fail to communicate from time to time with the often misplaced “dinner” designation.

Me: So what are you having for dinner?

Mom: I already had dinner. You mean supper?


It’s suppertime calls the family together to share a meal and anything else that needs to be shared from the events of the day. It does say that it’s time to eat, time to dine, time to be nourished. Yeah, that does make more sense from the table of the Lord. The bread and the cup reminds us of the sacrifice that brought about real forgiveness, and hope of a new beginning – refreshment to the spirit. Volumes have been written by brilliant scholars about the deep meaning of the sacraments. I won’t try to wax eloquent here.

So, it was just a little misunderstanding. Suppertime – not summertime. So, I got the meaning and a bonus.

He loves.

He forgives.

It’s getting warmer.

It’s suppertime.

Come and eat.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Songs in the Night

I came home last night and fired up the studio – the computer, the software, the keyboard, and dusted off the guitar of choice. I didn’t have any particular sound or style in mind and there wasn’t a particular melody floating around in my head. I just opened up the door in case something popped out.

Unfortunately, not much happened.

When it comes to the doing, I’m handicapped by my hands and my ability to play something new. I go to the same chords a lot, the same progressions and the same licks that have given birth to songs in the past. When I try to start something new with my fingers, it comes out sounding like “For Such A Time as This” or “Friend of a Wounded Heart.” Geez. It’s frustrating. Then I start wishing I had my grand piano close by and that it wouldn’t disturb the neighbors if I started pounding on it. Maybe that would get me thinking in a new direction. But the old grand is in storage miles from where I’m sitting.


I’ve gathered a number of guitars over the years. I say gathered because collected sounds so, well, stuffy. I don’t want to collect guitars. I’ve lost enough or had enough stolen throughout my tenure in this work that I’ve got no real desire to get too chummy with a piece of wood shaped like a guitar. Once, after flying home from a concert, I opened my guitar case to find the neck broken in half. Another time, one just disappeared from the baggage claim in Baton Rouge, LA. A year after I’d filed the claim with the airline and gotten a small amount of money compared to it’s real value, I got a ransom note from the guilty party. Really. I’m not making this up. I got a letter from a guy that basically read, “I have your guitar. I feel bad about it. If you’d like to get it back, get in touch with me at this address.” Creepy. I never followed up.

Guitar love is a heartbreaking endeavor.

People ask – people that don’t gather or collect or even play – why do you have so many guitars? Or why do you need another one? Need?? Let’s not get personal.

I heard someone say once that every guitar has a different song in it. Yeah . . . I like that. That’s all I need. The guitar that had “Somewhere in the World” in it back in 1985 also produced “Watercolor Ponies” a couple of years later. That was a good purchase, I think.

But last night I picked up this one – the green one. This guitar is one of my favorites even though one of the most recent additions. It’s my favorite color and it’s also the color of my first car. But as I played it, again the limitations of my fingers came in to play. The chords that fell under my hand were the same ones as “When You See Jesus” from the latest album. Arrrgghh.

Try something else - yeah, that sounds . . . just . . . like . . . “Almighty.” Wow.

That’s it. Enough for tonight.

So I went to bed and just laid there. While it’s always been hard for me to turn off my mind and sleep, it was especially hard last night. Lest you think I lay there thinking deep, deep thoughts, let me just say, sometimes it’s a mental equivalent of “follow the bouncing ball”:

“Did I lock the door?”

“What did I have for lunch today?”

“How old is Regis?”

“What was that?”

and then, as it happens so many late nights, melodies and lyrics come to me. Realize that this is AFTER I’ve shut everything down and put everything away. It’s hard enough to get to sleep some nights and I’m sure not going to get up and start all over again with the computer, etc., etc.

But the limitations of my hands and fingers and my stale chord progressions don’t have a say in the mental flow of music in my head. Are these little gifts from God? Are they challenges?

I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve gone to sleep thinking of, what I think is, a great song idea, a strong lyric or melody, and say to myself “That’s so good – I know I’ll remember that in the morning.” Next morning – poof! Nada. Sorry.

The capacity to think and dream is mind boggling. There are few limitations. Whatever your particular area of expertise, or whatever your interests are, let yourself go this summer. The imagination is a beautiful companion and I know there are new heights to gain by letting God challenge our thoughts, plant new dreams and new songs in our hearts, and then walk with us to achieve them. I think there are great things to share and I look forward to sharing them with you and hearing the songs of your lives as well.

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Wishing you a great summer. Blessings to you.