WHAT?

For my entire life I have used my ears to make a living. I was a producer of music.

Yesterday, I was watching TV…(well…as best as someone with ADHD can watch TV). I came back into the middle of a commercial, after taking a short mental rabbit trail and couldn’t believe my ears. “Like a frickin’ motor…Ford.”
I told Pam I couldn’t believe what they’re saying in commercials these days and repeated the phrase. Pam just rolled her eyes and said, “Greg, that was, a brick and mortar store!”

I am not producing recordings anymore.

BACK TO THE MUSIC

I haven’t written much about my dad except for a chapter in my book, “Runaway Horse”. I was thinking about him as I lay in bed last night, so I thought I’d give memory a poke today, and peek once more into who we was. This post is more for me than for anyone else.

Some people have had little or no real connection to their fathers, because of dysfunction, alcoholism, abuse or they were too young to remember them because of divorce or death. I get that, but my father did not fit in any of those categories.

My dad was a pure and simple farm boy who had no more than an eighth-grade education, because when his father died, he had to help his mother manage the family farm. He served in the Army during World War 2, eventually formed a construction business with his brother and later became Superintendent of Construction for the state of North Dakota.

My mother was literally his personal English teacher. He spoke so poorly when they first met, that she would privately correct his grammar to help him.

Dad had a beautiful tenor voice, and grew up singing along with his brothers and sister, as his mother played a pump organ on snowy-cold winter nights, at their farm in Baldwin, North Dakota. He had a winning way with people, and was president of the city park board and the singing group in which he sang, “The Plainsmen”. He overcame his lack of education and at his funeral, the church was overflowing, with the governor of the state in attendance.

The other side of him was that he was distant from me, although my sister had a different take on her relationship with him. Let’s just say he was not a “lovey-huggie”kind of person. Typical of the men of his day, he was more stoic and didn’t show a lot of affection. I can never remember a hug or “I love you“. Don’t get me wrong, he loved me deeply and I knew it. He just didn’t know how to show me. When a hug and telling someone you love them is your love language, like it is for me, it’s a little harder to take when you’re younger.

He died early at the age of 56. We never had a serious conversation, and for a long time I didn’t think about him that much. But later, even now, there’s so much I wish I could tell him. That’s why the David Gates song about his dad, “Everything I Own” holds a particular poignancy for me .

Somehow, my life always comes back to the music.

THE RESIDUE

I’m going back to my hometown, Bismarck, North Dakota to hear the premiere of a piece I put together for the dedication of the G Ron Gilbreath Auditorium. This holds special meaning for me because it will be housed in Bismarck High School.

The work was composed together with my friends Daniel Bondaczuk and Amber Maxwell, and is a tribute to my dear friend, mentor and band director during the years I conducted the orchestra program at Bismarck High. His name is Gordon Knaak, and he and his family are held warmly in my heart.

In July, I go back once again to Bismarck to remember the life of a girl, who apart from my wife Pam, was my closest friend in high school. Her name is Greta Weisser and we played cello together growing up and never lost touch through the years.

This season of remembering fostered a poetic chord in me. I thought i would share it with my friends. It’s what i feel.

THE RESIDUE

Silver strands

wrinkled hands

a patch of thinning mane

in the mirror

a vision peers

at tracks

the years have framed

Warm moments spawn

fond reminisce

captured through the years

They temper well

the youthful scars

and adolescent fears

The world was what it was for me

I never thought to ask

or question in those carefree days

I thought would always last

But now the residue of grief

and emptiness I feel

aches for all whose damaged hearts

no human spackle heals

Blossom falls

on colored leaf

Ages payment comes

Once vibrant days

of living finds

a body soon undone.

Dreams and leaves then wind away

Lo soon they disappear

For now is not

what thought would be

in these ensuing years

Life has stamped it’s cruel mark

on all my childhood friends

But in the day

we had it made

We all were different then

It all was different then

PRAYER OF OUR REMEMBRANCE

I love Veterans Day, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. Those days have meaning to me because my father and his brothers fought in World War 2, and I’ve lost close friends and classmates to war, particularly the conflict in Vietnam.

War and its residual are tragic..ugly….and it rages on even now as I write. Young men and women, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers and children. There are casualties, including the dead, wounded and their families. This while we go on about our business, mostly numb to the reality.

The following lyric is set to the hymn tune of “Eternal Father Strong To Save”. It’s my attempt to articulate the feelings I feel on these national celebrations of recollection and gratitude.

PRAYER OF OUR REMEMBRANCE

(Verse 1)

O Lord let all who gather here

Give thanks for freedoms we hold dear

Remembering the bravest ones

Though facing fear their courage won

A prayer of our remembrance now

O God sustain them by your power

(Verse 2)

Now what is left when war is done?

Do joy or tears remain unsung

Would mother’s sacrifice and grief

Be blessings carelessly received

A prayer of our remembrance now

O God sustain them by your power

(Bridge)

So in the fervent cause of unity

And the heart of our dear country beating strong

We rise and stand together here today

To proudly lift our voice in grateful song

(Verse 3)

The lamp of light, eternal flame

Illuminates

Their honored ways

Steel guardians all who gave their best

Lord guide these heroes home to rest

A prayer of our remembrance now

O God sustain them by your power

(Verse 4)

Thou fount of mercy

Gracious One

Teach us to wield Your boundless love

Restore our nation in this hour

May ways of peace

Our hearts devour

A prayer of our remembrance now

O God sustain us by your power

O God sustain us by your power

Amen

Some Good News

Is it just me, or has anyone else ever felt like over the years, they never really grasped the depth of what the bible was trying to tell them? I read scripture and sang hymns using words like grace, mercy, redemption and surrender among others. Oh, I know what they are in terms of definition….and don’t get me wrong, I’m fluent in “Christianeze”, both in liturgical languages, and evangelical/Pentecostal buzz words and phrases. I can pop them off with the best of them, but it’s taken a lifetime to begin to understand the depth of their meaning as I now recount the redundant and overwhelming reality of God’s implementation of these words in my life. I’m such a slow learner.

I see I’ve spent most of my life sidetracked with busyness, children, making a living and trying to do the right things the world expects of me. But after a lifetime of living, something unbelievable has happened to me…beyond the quick quips and easy answers. Life has struck me down and I’m starting to understand what God has been trying to show me for decades.

The good news is that God has not given up on me. Gospel songwriter, Joel Hemphill wrote a song entitled, “He’s Still Workin’ On Me”. A wonderful hope for us all. In the 1989 William Nicholson play, “Shadowlands”about C.S. Lewis and his wife, Joy Greshem, the conclusion of the work conveys to us that the pain we feel as we get older, is God chipping away at us to make us in His image. Now that’s some Good News!!!!

“Being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians1: 6)

THE LITTLE THINGS

I’ve had the joy of staying with my sister for a few weeks after the death of her husband. It’s been a beautiful time, but I’m lonesome for home, kisses from my daughter, cuddling with my granddaughters, seeing my friends, warm hugs from Pam and just getting to talk to her in person rather than FaceTime. I also didn’t realize how much I miss having fun teasing her and fussing about things that are totally unimportant. Who knew?!!!!

I got a call from one of my Bible study friends, J.T. Olsen this morning. He called just to tell me that he was thinking about me and praying for me. It made all the difference to me and lifted my spirits. I’m sure he probably thought I’ll just give them a call, no big deal, I’ve got the time. But his call was huge for me, because it told me that he loved me and that I mattered to him. Even though those words were not necessarily spoken, it’s what I felt. It didn’t cost him much, but it was a lavish gift to me.

I often think that when I’m doing something I think is monumental, you know, something that has a lot of peoples attention, it’s really important stuff. I just want to say this. Sometimes, it’s the insignificant acts that are the big deal. I don’t want to lose sight of that. I don’t want people to get lost in the minutia of my thinking.

I’m reminded of this question that is found in Scripture:

“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?”

“Even the largest avalanche is triggered by small things.”

(Vernor Vinge)

I know I’m quite familiar with this concept about the little things, I’m so painfully aware that at this late stage in my life, it’s still not rooted deeply enough in me. Even though the thought occurs, my action does not follow nearly as often.

Dear God….

Teach me about the little things. Help me become more obedient to your prompting.

Amen.

THAT’S GOOD

I’ve decided to get into art. My medium is pen and ink (avec une gomme). It only makes sense because I have a lotta pens I get from doctors offices, the bank and when I go to my physical therapy appointments.

I thought I was more of an abstract impressionist like Elaine de Kooning. I really like that style because it’s a calming visual where you use colors and soft brush strokes to fill a large area, but Pam thinks I’m more like a distressed impressionist. She says my work definitely has a very distracting quality, troubling yet unnatural. She knows how to talk all arty like that but I think I’m tracking with her.

Just a minute ago Pam mumbled something that seemed weird to me. She said I might want to consider some other thing to get into…like therapy. Maybe artists do a lot of stuff like that to bring out their creativity….but knowing her, now that I think of it, I’m not sure that’s the reason why she’d want me to go.

I just have this sense that I’m on the precipice of something stunning. I just showed her my most recent work, and she told me it would be stunning alright…. more like a stun gun. That’s good, isn’t it?