THE BEST WAY

She’s my only daughter. Sarah Nelson Mingle. I need no other. She is enough. She is complete. Sarah is as strong a person as she is kind, and has never given Pam and me one day of grief, and always the one you can count on. (Oh, and one more thing..two really. She talks with her hands and is truly, the fun kind of funny.)

There are no words in the English language or any other mode of communication that adequately describe the love and respect I have for Sarah, or the gratefulness to God I have for giving me this pricelessis gift. I have only to hold her hand at every opportunity, be a good listener, give her my warmest hugs and whisper my best attempts to tell her how much she means to me. Oh, and yes, I can do one more very important thing .

I can endeavor to be a man after God’s own heart, continue to listen to His voice and understand that as I live my life, I am not making choices that affect only myself, but decisions that will shape Sarah, her children, and their children. And finally, as I love others well, she will realize all the more how much she is loved….It’s the best way for her to feel the truth of these words, “I love you, Sarah Mae. ❤️

WHAT DO I KNOW?

There are people of all Christian faiths, whether Presbyterian, Baptist, Episcopalian, Seventh Day Adventist, African Methodist Episcopalian (AME), Christian Church (disciples of Christ), Pentecostal, Catholic, United Church Of ChristNazarene, Church Of. God, Assemblies Of God, Church Of God In Christ, Moravian, Church Of Christ, Lutheran and denominations of every ethnicity….we all have our deal. This certainly is not a complete list by any means. Oh yah…and they all have their own Christian denominational dialect.

We’re expected to sort through eternal security, speaking ex cathedra, entire sanctification, 5 point Calvinism, 5 Solae, no instruments in worship, sacraments, eucharist, infant baptism versus immersion of believers, ordinance, pre or post millennials, speaking in tongues, gifts of the Spirit, purgatory, consubstantiation, transubstantiation, the unforgivable sin, does baptism save you, elders or deacons, episcopal, connexional, Presbyterian or congregational polity, Sabbath observance…and that’s just for starters.

Main streamers have a tooth for the tabernacle and the awe of God. Evangelicals tee-off on the temple and the teachings of Jesus while Pentecostals key on the experiential. The trouble is that each one dismisses the other. There are many congregations of wide diversity…but way more that stay with the people who make them comfortable.

Here’s the deal, you’ve got theologians on all sides of every issue, Bible answer men, a plethora of interpretation with most referencing what the Bible says or how it doesn’t really mean what it says. Just a whole buncha differing views. The funny thing is, not many of these debates center around orphans, widows, the poor and concern for the powerless.

I enjoy having people challenge my thinking, it’s a healthy process, and so needed. I don’t know if you’re like me, but I can sit down and listen to a guy who is really brilliant and convincing, and then sit down with another guy who comes from a sharply different perspective and is equally convincing… Well, that gives me pause. Then…when you think that those two intelligent men I just referenced were Calvin and Luther, both lawyers, it really REALLY gives me pause.

I speak for me only when I say, I haven’t done a very good job of being the God of my life. I have to have some sort of standard by which I set my course in life. That is for me, the Bible as I understand it. I study, I think, but I’m not that smart, but even so, the ability to retain information is not wisdom. Those are two different things.

I can’t run my life on other people’s personal feelings or in culture that shifts. I believe there are eternal truths.

Ultimately, I’m thinkin’ that if God has any questions of me, they won’t be the aforementioned theological issues I stated earlier.

But what do I know? 😮

MY MOTHER’S GARDEN

I remember the unbearable earaches I had when I was in kindergarten and first grade. My mother would lay my head on her lap and pour warm olive oil in my ear. Probably one of those old wives tales. It felt good for a moment, but it didn’t last. This was before you could put tubes in little ears to relieve the waxen impasse.

But somehow, as I lay there in pain and crying, she would look into my listless eyes, rub my head and comfort me. “IThere there, Greggie boy. I know, honey…I know.”

My mom’s name was Irene. She knew about comforting her children. When my father left for the Aleutian Islands during World War II, she was pregnant with her first child. In the early months after her birth she found that my sister had leukemia. She lived 5 months. The most poignant photo I remember of my mother, was her holding Mary Corene about two weeks before she died, her eyes looked so weary and sad.

My mother did so much more than that for me as I grew to be a man. . Things for which my brother, sister and I are forever grateful, and could never repay.

It’s not national Mother’s Day, but I’m thinking about my her just now. I love this poem by an unknown author. Its not profound, but it’s a beautiful image.

AS MY MOTHER KEPT A GARDEN

My Mother kept a garden.

A garden of the heart;

She planted all the good things,

That gave my life it’s start.

She turned me to the sunshine,

And encouraged me to dream:

Fostering and nurturing

The seeds of self-esteem.

And when the winds and rains d came,

She protected me enough;

But not too much, she knew I’d need

To stand up strong and tough.

Her constant good example,

Always taught me right from wrong;

Markers for my pathway

To last my whole life long.

I am my Mother’s garden,

I am her legacy.

And I hope today she feels the love,

Reflected back from me.

THE RATIO

One of my most challenging prayers is, “Lord, get me outside of myself today and help me set my affections on things above.

With work, personal situations and family….there are days that are just plain hard, and it’s easy to focus only on what I can see presently. So some days I gotta just stop and say, “Wait a minute…I’m gonna smile, I’m alive, I can help someone today and God’s got things for me to do.”

People go through the death of a spouse, a family member, a dear friend , job loss and other bad stuff. It takes a season to grieve, which is needed…healthy for sure. Each of us deal with hardship differently. Moving on, moving thru, moving past or letting go involves making a decision…and for me..that’s not easy.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restores the my soul.”

I am realizing just now that God isn’t just the Shepherd…but He is is “the green pastures”…He is the “still waters.”He is in every part of everything I encounter, including hard days and grief.

But there are days I don’t, or won’t mentally embrace what God can do. It’s complicated….I’m complicated. I get overwhelmed. Some people don’t get overwhelmed very much…if ever. I’m not one of them.

You’re just not believing God, Greg. You’re not trusting Him. Well, that is true. I have that tendency. There’s a lyric in the hymn, “Come Thou Fount” that describes this well. “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.”

I’m certainly not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I do think about things a lot…maybe too much….probably more than I pray. I’m guessing I need to get the thinking to praying ratio down a little better.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

THE HANDYMAN

I went to Home Depot with Pam yesterday to pick up some yard lights, Gorilla Glue and a small bag of grass seed. It was a beautiful day and I loved just strolling along with her as she got the stuff she needed.

Heading toward the checkout registers, we walked by a display of some big saws. Pam turned to me and pointed, “Would you like one of those for Christmas?” I told her I didn’t even know what a miller saw was. She went on, “ Now for sure you’re not getting one of those for Christmas, honey… it’s not a miller saw, it’s called a mitre saw.”

I hate it when she gets all passive aggressive on me like that….No matter what she says..I’ve got the handyman‘s number and Jesus in my heart. 😮

GOING TO TAKE SOME TIME

I’m tired…and worn out. This was the weekend of my brother-in-law, Bob Johnson’s memorial service.

I’ve been overwhelmed with the many caring friends and their acts of kindness. This is a time we struggled with beauty and sadness…smiles with tears…hope and loss…and imagining the recentering process facing my sister, and what’s to come. And all this, along with the exhaustion of engagement and grieving simultaneously.

It was heartwarming to watch the younger cousins witness the power and warmth of family, and feel the safety of being tethered to it. I asked my granddaughters to listen to the room as we visited at the house with friends gathered. “What do you hear?” They seemed puzzled by my question. I told them to listen closer. My youngest of Sarah’s girls said, “Well people are talking and seem happy.” I continued and said, “Yes, Tessa, what you’re hearing are the sounds of deep friendships, and the joy and hope of our faith in Christ. It’s a beautiful sound. Try and keep it tucked away in your memory.

I’m going to remember those sounds, it’s part of my recovery from this weekend. Pam and I stayed with Sig a couple extra days to deal with the immediate residue of it all. But when we get home, we’re going to need a lot of rest and exercise. It’s going to take some time to sort out life without Bob.

THAT’S WHY

I can’t tell you how much I relate to this cartoon. It confirms to me that I am not the only one that has found himself in this situation. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

I was a gear hound in my production days. I bought so many esoteric/vintage microphones, pre-amps, transformers, speakers, compressors, equalizers, monitoring systems, etc., it would make your head swim. It was my audio palette, and I used it ferociously. Racks and racks of gear were the aural foodstuff of my musical existence.

One time I might of pushed the boundaries a little too far. I heard a friend play a wonderful piano at a concert one night. I stuck around afterwards and put my fingers on the keys. It was a beautiful instrument, evenly tempered and sonically pleasing through every octave. It was a special artist series piano that was tweaked to the max.

When the Baldwin franchise here in Nashville went belly up, they remembered that I was interested in this particular piano, they called me and gave me an opportunity to purchase it…and I did just that. HOWEVER, I didn’t have enough in the “filch fund” that I used to buy equipment when Pam wouldn’t let me take any more money out of our checking account. (She knew about that fund too, and sometimes would say, “Why don’t you take it out of your “filch” fund?”) it was like she had eyes in the back of her head!!!

..I somehow finagled the purchase, but had to wait for a couple of months before it was more safe to tell Pam. They hoisted it up and into my 4th floor office/studio with a crane, because the elevator could not handle a 9-ft grand. When I finally did tell Pam, she said…”HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND!!!”

I told her that in fact I had lost my mind…but unfortunately, that wasn’t the kind of levity that was resonating with her just then, For her, it was like a joke without the humor.

Let me just say this to every young musician everywhere…If you wrong your wife, hide anything from your wife, misinform your wife, omit any facts from your wife….in any way whatsoever ….they have a special antenna…an alien-like antenna that reports to a “wife center” in their heads…After that, they get the IB (Intuition Bulletin) from their subconscious. What follows next is this. They don’t seem to talk much to you… there is little eye contact…but when they do look at you..they just stare at you in a real uncomfortable way. …This is the beginning of the end of any happiness you once knew.

Here’s the VERY BAD NEWS PART…You can’t possibly win or get back to how things were, no matter how you frame it, unless you fess up to it.And even that’s a long road back home too. Yah…and they have a myriad of ways to make your life miserable….and I’m not talking kinda miserable….I mean, REALLY REALLY MISERABLE.!!!! Why do they do this you ask me?. Because if you’ve forgotten…YOU DESERVE IT…THAT’S WHY!!!!! 😮

PEOPLE LIKE ME

There are seven hills in Rome, but I can’t pronounce them because they’re all like, well you know, in Italian….But I can pronounce the river that runs through it. The Tiber River. Pam and I had a wonderful time in Italy a couple years ago on a trip with my sister and her husband, Bob. We took a trip to Rome this weekend. It has seven hills, but this one has three rivers around and through it. Yep, it was Rome, Georgia. It is a beautiful city that has seven hills like Rome, Italy, but no Tiber River.

We were visiting dear friends, Amber and Charles Maxwell…and I spoke to the music students at Shorter University. We attended a lovely recital by five musical theater students and then I gave my presentation, which was followed by a Q and A session. I am grateful to Dr. Alan Wingard, Dean Emeritus of the School of Fine Arts and Performing Arts along with Dr. John McCluskey, the Chair of the Music Department for being so extremely welcoming. John is a very close family friend.

Afterwards, we drove around the city and toured the Seven (redneck) Hills of Rome. Later that afternoon, we visited their home place in the country, had a great time with extended family, ate some great hamburgers and finished it off with banana puddin’!! The next day we headed out to a beautiful rock garden behind a church near Calhoun, Georgia. Before we left for home on Sunday, we worshipped together, listened to Amber, her mother and father sing together, and heard a stirring message on gratefulness from Charles. 

Our love for Amber, Charles and their four boys were the genesis for traveling there. I first met Amber when she friended me on Facebook and later contacted me about some of her songs. I told her I’d be glad to help her, though I had never met her. I saw great promise in the songs she wrote and long story short, her husband, Charles and she came to Nashville to talk about songwriting. Later, they brought their four boys to Nashville as well. Pam and I were smitten with this family. They came to New York for the 25th Anniversary of Saviour performance at Carnegie Hall. Ambers first plane ride. SCARY!!!!

Charles is a bi-vocational pastor and works in the insurance business as well. He is ADHD and can fix anything. That’s just weird. Their boys include: Morgan, a bright, well-spoken college age student bound for medical school, Grant, a blossoming music producer/songwriter, Parker, who loves the way things are engineered (i.e., rockets) and classical music. The last is little Charlie. He’s five years old. Master Charlie is full of questions, sweet, loving and in perpetual motion. The common denominator of these boys is that they are extremely articulate, intelligent, respectful and a wellspring of theology.

Amber has homeschooled each one, maintains her home, serves in her church and still has time to write. Her background is singing traditional and southern gospel music with her mom and dad in the church. She is a fireball of energy and has a prolific output of songs. It is a joy to get to work with her. She has this background in one genre of music, but her heart and hands go to sounds that are more artful and elicit deep emotion. She’s had measured success in traditional music, but now finds the music she writes finding a home in mainstream denominational publishing, not southern gospel.

She’s met with a lot of rejection. Her husband, Charles, who’s one of the most impressive men I have met in a long time, also had his share of rejection as a young boy. As he detailed his growing up years, it was unbelievable to me what he’d faced. We talked about it. I shared with them about rejection in the music business.

When I first came to Nashville, a record executive told me to go straight back to North Dakota, because I did not belong in the music business, much less Nashville. I was told that one early record I did was the worst record that executive had ever heard. When people say things to you like this…it sends you reeling. Initially it makes you feel worthless and off balance. But you have to stop, take stock and learn from each set back. You weigh what is being said, adjust and move on…not backwards. I was sure of a couple things. I knew without a doubt that God had sent me out from His Kingdom, and He didn’t send me out to fail. I had been prepared since birth for what I was doing now. I would just dust my shoes off and keep going.

I told Amber that each publisher looked out the creative window differently…she just had to find the right window. It was important that she go back to the basics of writing a solid song. Even if you have spent long hours, days and months writing a song…it doesn’t mean that it will have wide acceptance. But at it’s worst; it will be solid and structurally sound. Sometimes a song will take years for others to come to it. Any songwriter will tell you they have experienced the same thing. We think everything we write is pretty darn good…but three days later we ask ourselves, “What in the wide world of sports was I thinking???”

I have learned something very special in these days. My life is not about music…the music only brings me to people and let’s me express my soul to people I may never meet, or people I meet along the way, people who give me a hand or I give them mine. Not fame, not money, not stature, not power…. People…..People like me.