PAM’S BIRTHDAY

I woke her up this morning, sang happy birthday to her and kissed her. She really likes that. We both do.(i’m not much of a singer, but she doesn’t seem to mind)

I love this picture of Pam when she was little. It speaks so much about her. She is a tender, loving and very caring woman….but to be sure…she is strong, and a leader. She is the consummate champion, counselor, encourager, and understands what it is to persevere. I never get tired of posting things about her.

Her love for me, like her faith, is unshakable. She is a mindful partner, thinker, and we love our conversations of life, theology and philosophy.

No better wife, friend, mother or grandma….Just ask her kids. So Pam….Hope this day is fabulous for you!!!! It is for me, because it’s another chance to tell my friends how I feel about you. Cheers, baby!!!!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! 🎈🎂 ❤️

CHRISTMAS PRESENTS

I was never one to sully the Christmas spirit by trying to find out what presents I was getting before Christmas Day. I would never ever have thought to look in my parents closet, under their bed or in the trunk of the our car where they usually were. I want to make it perfectly clear I would never stoop so low as to steam open the packages under the tree when my parents were gone, it just wasn’t like me to do something like that.

Every year it seemed, our dog would get into the presents under the tree. It was really bizarre, because one year we didn’t even have a dog….😮

IF NOT JUST FOR ME

Okay…I know theologically that people aren’t the same as angels, and people don’t “get their wings.” Now that you understand that I understand this, I will feel the freedom for a little poetic license in this blog of mine.

Other than our immediate family, God sends us extraordinary people at different times in our lives. Ones that are obvious divine gifts…. beautiful angels I think. Curiously, I’ve had three strong women in my life named Holly. They have inspired me, encouraged me, helped me, strengthened me, loved me and cared for me. I will tell you about them in the order in which we met.

First is my treasured niece, Holly Nelson. She was a bright shining light wherever she went. She gravitated to those that others missed in the fury of life. A gifted artist, she lived and loved in a home that was filled with music. We could hardly wait to see what she would do next as she continually made all of us feel that the world was a field of blossoming hope. To soon she would be gone. At age 25, there was an accident, and she was off to better things…. heavenly things. The hurt of missing her has never left my heart.

Next, Holly Krig-Smith is an amazingly exceptional person. For years she managed my life when I was a producer, songwriter and publisher. Never have I experienced the rare combination of total professionalism and genuine people skills as she has. It’s hard to explain. Let’s just say there was never a time that I wanted or waited for anything related to scheduling, studio preparations, travel arrangements, hiring or handling difficult people problems. Her work was meticulous and the companies with which I worked were given immaculately detailed budgetary and album credit Information. It was like she could read my mind and had already handled any issue. She is kind, brightly creative, understood the song world perfectly, and all while being the organizational center of the planet. She loves Pam and the children, and we love Steve, Maddie and Emma. We don’t see each other often, but keep up and cheer for them from a distance. She is the director of Fine Arts at King’s Ridge Christian School in Atlanta, and is rockin’ the house in that capacity as well.

One of the most precious of Holly’s is Holly Rudge. In the winter of my days, I am contending with many things that I have recounted in previous blogs. They are daily and limiting all rolled up into one. Holly and I have played in our orchestra at church, for weddings and other occasions. Her family to me is one of the best things that ever happened in this season of my life. Holly instinctively understands me. She knows I can’t see very well and helps me organize my music, makes sure my stand is lighted, that I have the roadmap for each song and that my music is blown up so I can see it. She laughs at my jokes, talks to me and makes me feel like I matter, and in this stage of life, there are occasional days when I’m not so strong..not so sure. How do I possibly describe this kind of tender care? I can hardly wait for her to get to her chair next to me so I can get a hug …and that smile of hers…yeah….the smile. She is extremely sensitive to others, a fabulous musician, hard working and always kind. Did I mention that all three of these women are absolutely beautiful? Their faces radiate vulnerability, yet, strength, and each defines what is a radiant servant spirit.

I don’t ever want to forget those who have brought so much meaning to my life. I never tire of being thankful to so many who have done so much. Angels they are…..if not just for me.

ONE BETHLEHEM NIGHT

I’m sitting here in our great room enjoying our lighted tree and the beautiful decorations that Pam has spent so much time putting up. I was in Minnesota eating lutefisk so I can’t take any credit. She did it all.

Christmas and all the decorations have so many different meanings to people. Some see the season as a time of good cheer, goodwill toward men and peace on earth. Some don’t care a bit about Christmas and there are those who are offended by all the hoopla.

This is a picture of a dear, long-time musical friend of mine from Bismarck, North Dakota. Her name is Leslie Smith, and she passed away this week. She is a lover. She is a lover of people, of music, of those with whom she worked….and most of all, of her family, and faith in Jesus the Christ.

I say this because Leslee’s passing points out how deeply meaningful this holiday is to the Christian community. Believers around the world find their eternal hope through the birth of Jesus, His redemptive work on the cross and the Resurrection. It was in these elements that Leslee found assurance as she moved from this life to the next. And all made possible because God came to us by way of a humble, yet glorious personal encounter, one Bethlehem night.

PROUD OF MY SISTER

It’s probably one of the most beautiful sounds you’ll ever hear. The annual St. Olaf Christmas Concert in Northfield, Minnesota.

Not only is there a Christmas concert, but a smorgasbord of Norwegian cuisine including lutefisk and lefse prior to the concert that will fling any cod-blooded norske into nordic ecstasy . This is Mecca, this is Scandinavian Nirvana, This is…..The Promise Land

I come up to the snowy north country at least twice a year. My sister, Sigrid and I are kinda like twins born in different years. We know what the other is thinking…it’s freaky! She’s about 3+ years younger than me. My brother and sister could not possibly be any closer and more proud of each other’s abilities then we are. Just not possible.

Before she and her husband retired in 2015, Sigrid spent the better part of her career as an Artist-In-Residence at this college, conducting the Manitou Singers.

Let’s get one thing straight….my brother and my gifts pale in comparison to our little sister. She operates on an entirely different musical level than either of us. She is a sought after choral clinician and conductor all over the world.

Sigrid is a three time featured lecturer at the World Symposium on Choral Music, and member of the esteemed jury for the Béla Bartók International Choral Competition in Debrecen, Hungary. She has prepared symphonic choruses for Neemi Jarvi, Sir Neville Marriner, David Zinman, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Gerard Schwarz, Edo de Waart, and Leonard Slatkin, among others.

Anton Armstrong, conductor of the St. Olaf choir, tapped her to takeover the conducting duties of the chorale during his sabbatical. Armstrong said “she has the best ears in choral music.”

Her husband Robert (BJ) Johnson, former manager of musical organizations during his tenure at St. Olaf, is a brilliant marketer and entrepreneurial leader of all things organizational. He concluded his career by receiving an Emmy Award for the television production of the “St. Olaf Choir Concert In Norway.”

Do I seem proud of my sister and her husband….well….I AM!!!!!!

AN OCEAN OF SOULS

Sweeping forested vistas, scary car rides up the mountain, ice skating, catching up conversations by a fire, meals together and children’s squeals of laughter…. these were the sights and sounds of our family’s Thanksgiving weekend.

Our children, Ben and Emily, Sarah and Damian, called us about a month ago and surprised us by telling us they wanted to celebrate our 70th birthdays together. They rented a huge cabin outside of Gatlinburg, Tennessee and invited us to spend the Thanksgiving weekend with both of their families. They were so excited and we were so overtaken by how thrilled these thoughtful two wonders of ours were. Both Pam and I couldn’t believe it…. pretty emotional stuff for both of us.

Our children know us…. they know our tendencies to keep things simple. We don’t have a bucket list…. we’ve done everything that we have dreamed for ourselves…. but this this is a whole different universe from a bucket list. This is what fulfills Pam and me beyond description. We were waited on, hand and foot…like royalty. This entire weekend embodied all things family….and all things poignant and beautiful.

Getting to watch our littlest granddaughter, cousin celebrity and family ringmaster, Maya interacting with Sarah’s girls, or snuggling in the early mornings with Tessa, our 7 year old princess, joking back and forth with our 11 year old fashionista, Blythe, and get tickled silly by my fourteen year old gem, Georgia, I counted a pleasure…lavish….and humbling.

In our time together, I thought about a phrase I have used before referring to how secluded our lives become by living in our own “little harbors”, and unconsciously thinking that’s the way everyone lives. There are countless families who have never experienced what Pam and I did this weekend. It’s okay to enjoy what we have, but a real insular misstep is to forget that this is not the way all the world works in God’s teeming ocean of souls.

ON OLD AGE AND WRITER’S BLOCK

Now in my seventies, I’ve had more than my share of conversations with compatriots, who in confidence have expressed feelings of being dismissed, unappreciated, angry and irremediable. Although these sentiments are understandable, I have the same thoughts on this dilemma as I do “writer’s block.”

When I retired, I retired from the rat race, I didn’t quit believing in my gifting. My gifting didn’t go anywhere. I still have it. The truth is that in my case for instance, I can no longer hear as critically as before and find myself visually impaired. I can’t really produce in the studio anymore. So what?!!! I can still write songs, blogs and books. I can be creative in other contexts.

Here’s the deal. I don’t believe in writers block. I DO believe that if I’m having difficulty, it means I’ve quit going out and engaging with people…I’ve quit noticing stuff…I’ve become isolated, not realizing that my tank is empty. Ya gotta get out there and fill up the tank…keep looking, keep believing, reading, writing and rewriting.

The younger generation does tend sometimes to dismiss the elder in the practical. As I look back, I think that if I’m honest, I was not immune to that same tendency. Young people have a lot of fiery passion, and they like doing things their own way. I totally get it. It’s the flow of life and you move in the current. I can’t fight it, so I just gotta let it work for me in this next season of the march home. Life is a series of letting go…and it’s okay.

In my later years, I have the choice to either pity myself, stay bitter, give up…or…I can encourage these young creative champions of song, artistry and production. How about giving yourself away to whomever, whenever and however. How about a little gratefulness for what you do have,….because whatever you have now…God has given you….and what He’s given you….Is enough. And if it’s not enough ….you’ll never be happy.

Thankfulness ….. That’ll clear up that elegiac rash right away!!!!