America . . . then, and now

91K593vG-xL._SY550_I’m a ‘baby boomer.’  From what I hear I grew up during America’s *richest* era — the 50’s and 60’s — a time when the ‘middle class’ had a lot of ‘wealth’.  Not ‘millionaire’ level kind of wealth, but lots of ‘discretionary income’ . . . for vacations and various ‘non-essentials’ that life had to offer . . . stuff like cars, homes, vacations, clothes, toys, gadgets, TV sets and other technology, etc.

But the world I was born into is not the same world I live in today.  How has it changed?  How *often* does it change?  How I would describe and articulate it?  With great difficulty.  But, to some degree, I’ll try.

In some ways I don’t think ‘people‘ are the same.  What people will accept and reject — tolerate and not tolerate — is different.  To mention one obvious thing — when you have one group of children grow up (in the 1950’s and 60’s) with practically zero technology and another group grow up (in the 1990’s) with lots of technology (and never having been without a personal cell phone) . . . that sort of thing produces a different ‘type’ or ‘kind’ of human being, I would argue.  I’m not placing a ‘value’ (good or bad) re: that — just saying that it exists.  Getting into all that is beyond the scope of ‘this’ piece.

The 1960’s had the Vietnam war . . . an undeclared war . . . a war in which our government leaders lied to the public (ongoing) until Dr. Daniel Ellsberg leaked the famous “Pentagon Papers” to the newspapers (which published it, verbatim).  The P.P. (LOTS of pages) clearly showed the lies perpetrated against the American people by its leaders.  If *that* was lied about, what else?  In 1960 outgoing President (and former 5-star general) Ike warned the American public (on national TV) about the, “. . . military-industrial complex.”  Did we listen?  No.  Not then — not now.  If people are being “entertained,” why should they ‘listen’?  The effect of entertainment is not unlike the effect of a drug.  Consider the parallels, and play it out (in your own mind).

In the 50’s and 60’s public schools were designed to produce “good citizens” . . . not citizens who were actually informed/armed (with real facts) and made ready to function in the world as productive adults and informed political citizens.  You were ‘trained’ to be a good ‘cog’ in the machinery (that was/is the USA) and to not “rock the boat.”  If you rocked the boat you were called disloyal or unpatriotic or treasonous or worse.  Is it any different today?

We were told/instructed that the USA was the “greatest” country in the world . . . the most powerful . . . really just the BEST, at just about everything.  We were told pleasing fictions about George Washington and Christopher Columbus and the Founding Fathers and all sorts of things that were either not true or distortions or fragments of the truth.  Is it any different today?

For certain things the ‘profit motive’ needs to be removed from the equation . . . certain things being the obvious ones: war, medical/medicine, education, etc.   There are some things that it would be clearly *wrong* to profit from.  Murder?

If you really want to know what’s ‘going on’ . . . and why things are ‘as they are’ . . . follow the money.  WHO profits from this or that?  There‘s your answer . . . THAT’s why it happened . . . someone (or some entity/group) got more wealth and/or more power and/or more wealth AND power from what just went down.

Somewhere along the way (mid to late 19th, early to mid-20th Century) the USA decided that it knew what was *best* for everybody, everywhere and that it was right and just and proper for us to assume our “rightful place” and *police* the *world* (which included installing military bases all over the world) . . .  and, to do this and that in the name of *freedom* (while simultaneously committing various crimes and atrocities around the globe) — the kind of stuff that does *not* get mentioned in the corporately controlled media (US news sources).

During the 60’s peace movement there was an opposing slogan, “America, love it or leave it.”  (Well, for the record, I do ‘love it’ don’t want to ‘leave it.’)  The peace symbol was called a, “Footprint of a chicken” by some.  Yeah, right.   There are some who argue that to criticize war is to criticize the men and women who serve/served in the US military.  I disagree; but it seems to me that in today’s world one can’t tell who is a hawk and who is a dove.  Most seem indifferent.  I hear very little talk about war, or peace, or American government (especially with respect to foreign policy).  I don’t hear much talk about what I would call ‘serious matters and issues’ (though I know various heated discussions occur in the Facebook and Twitter environments and other social media outlets).  I rarely hear anyone bring up American Imperialism.  Is that because they don’t know what it *is* . . . don’t know it exists . . . or they deny it exists . . . or what?

I am a veteran of the US Army and, while I am against war (except for bonafide self defense) I don’t believe that to criticize and call for an end to war is to condemn our military personnel — the ones who do the actual bleeding and dying.  No, it’s to condemn certain political/military decisions (and the elected and non-elected decision-makers) that are made solely or mainly for the increase of  wealth and/or power.  As always, it is not the blood and guts of sons and daughters of US Senators and Presidents (or the other elites — the ruling class) being spilled in the sand in some foreign land.  It’s the ‘ordinary’ people who see it as a profession (like any other job) and/or actually do want to ‘make a difference’ (for the better) in the world.

If someone is *told* what to think . . . from the cradle to the grave (via what is aka indoctrination) . . . it would not be surprising to learn that that someone is living in some kind of  ‘trance.’  And a person in a trance doesn’t *know* they are; and, if you tell them, they likely won’t like you . . . and, likely won’t agree with you.  It’s only when a person ‘wakes up’ . . . that they realize they’ve been ‘sleeping.’

A person who is *awake* does their own thinking — thinks their OWN thoughts — not what they’ve been programmed to think.  They do their own research.  They investigate and research and ferret out what the actual/true facts of a matter or issue are.  They don’t believe something just because someone said it was true.  A person who is awake doesn’t continue to *trust* once knowledge they’ve been repeatedly lied to comes to light . . . they don’t trust blindly or naively.

Read what ‘other countries’ have said (and are saying) about us.  Read Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky.  Read Oliver Stone’s, Untold History of America.  Read similar books,  which offer truth (i.e., actual and *factual* views/records/reports of America and American history).  And then, don’t take my word for it . . . don’t think my thoughts . . . wake up . . . and do your own thinking.  Until you do that, you don’t be able to tell if we agree, or disagree.


That’s How I Got To Nashville . . .

Back story:

In the early spring of 2001 (while still on the job with the State of IL) a coworker/friend gave me a copy of a paperback book by Lee Strobel, “The Case for Christ.”  I started reading it without thinking much about it, one way or another.  I was not a practicing Christian at the time.  Actually, I did not ‘believe in’ organized religion at the time.  I felt religion was “too personal” to be organized.

With the small Strobel paperback book I didn’t know (as they say) what I was “in” for.  At the end of it author puts reader “on the hot-seat” and asks (something like), “OK, I’ve presented lots of evidence/information . . . you’ve heard from many leading scholars and experts . . . you’ve heard testimony that would hold up in a court of law . . . so, now, you have to choose . . . WHO was Jesus (of the Gospels)?

In agreement with C.S. Lewis, Strobel argues that there are only three possible choices:   (1) Jesus was a liar; (2) Jesus was a lunatic; or (3) Jesus was Who He claimed to be — God — King of Kings and Lord of All Creation.  Because if He is *not* #3, then he HAS to be #1 or #2, or both!  The one thing he could *not* be is a “good” man.  Good people don’t lie and/or think they are GOD (when they are not) and misrepresent themselves to an extreme degree.

Well, I didn’t expect this — didn’t expect that I would be ‘forced,’ right then and there, to choose.  I didn’t want to choose.  I didn’t want to submit to the answer I knew was true.  I didn’t want to go to church!  But I knew Jesus was REAL . . . I *knew* He was God . . . and STILL IS . . . and agreed with Lee when he said that HE expects me to HONOR HIM as      such . . . and so I went . . . I went, but  went kicking and screaming.  Sometimes I think I’m ‘still’ kicking and screaming.

So, at that time, with the help of what I believe to be the Holy Spirit, I became keenly aware of three things:

  • I was a wretched creature . . . compared to God, and His Holiness, I was filthy and odious.  Compared to His Power and Might, I was ineffably feeble and impotent.  In/by the “light” of God, I could “see” how truly foul and fallen I was and am.  If God is a “Straight Line,” I could clearly SEE how “crooked” I was.
  • It didn’t matter what “I” wanted — it mattered what God wanted — HE was the Creator of Reality — the RULES OF THE GAME.  God wanted me in church.  God wanted me in ‘organized religion’.  It’s THY will be done — not TY’S will be done.  So, I went.  Do I ‘always’ do what God wants?  No.  There are still pockets of rebellion within me.
  • The Christian life is all about surrender and submission (to the Bible, to a Monarch, to a King’s Will) . . . on a 100% voluntary basis . . . solely (as much as possible) out of LOVE for/of GOD.

So I started looking for a church . . . a place to go  hear the preaching and proclamation of the Word.  I knew I wanted a “Bible-based” church.  To my surprise, I ended up at West Side — a “mega” church.  I was baptized there on Father’s Day, 2001.  I stayed there until the spring of 2005 when the main pastor suggested I might be “happier elsewhere.”  At this time he and I had developed some significant differences of opinion about church (and some Biblical doctrines).  He explicitly encouraged me to avoid reading any John Calvin.  I found much of Calvin’s exposition to be quite powerful and compelling.  His book, Institutes, had been regarded as essential Protestant reading for centuries (mid-16th through mid-19th).

At that time (2005/06/07) I working on a Master’s Degree (in counseling) at Lincoln Seminary and reading many diverse and interesting books.  One book, “Feed My Sheep,” swayed me to a position I’ve held ever since — preaching should be *expository*.  So, as prompted by the West Side pastor, I went looking for a church that preached that way.  Thing is, I found out, most churches that preach that way are REFORMED — they believe in the Five Solas and that salvation is through Grace alone.  To one degree or another they hold to the same teachings and positions that the very first Protestants held (in the 16th Century), when Luther and Calvin broke away from the Roman Catholic Church and began powerfully speaking out.  Once upon a time, ALL (or most) Protestants were Reformed.  Today, Reformed Christians are smaller (in number) than Arminian Christians, who believe salvation is Grace + works (by an individual).  It’s somewhat more involved than that, but that’s one of the key points.

Around this time I was still in a small/neighborhood West Side “community” Bible study group.  I eventually left this group as my new and emerging Reformed beliefs informed me re: certain things and more or less caused me to fall “out of step” (to one degree or another) with my West Side brothers and sisters.  As I began to read Reformed literature I was able to slowly “connect the dots” that allowed me to understand the Word as a whole  . . . how *one* part of the Bible supported and informed *another* part of the Bible.  I ultimately made a very deep and thorough study of it and found myself among the ranks of those who believed that Reformed Christians had the most accurate understanding of what the Holy Scriptures actually said.

One of the first Reformed books I read was THE SOVEREIGNTY of GOD by A.W. Pink.  He is brilliant!  Every time he referred to a passage (in the Bible) I looked it up, eventually looking up well over a hundred.  I collected them all in a document . . . did proper exegesis on each . . . and learned how they worked together to support each other.  Each was just one more link in his very long chain of evidence (for his position).  Since that time, I count John MacArthur; R.C. Sproul; Francis Shaeffer; A.W.Pink; J.C. Ryle; Charles Spurgeon; James M. Boice; Tim Keller and various Puritan-era writers as my ‘go to’ authors and commentators.  My current pastor also likes John Piper quite a lot.  I think the authors before the 20th Century had a lot less distractions (than we do, in our time), and were thus perhaps more lucid in their thinking.  It was the era of the *printed* word (and reading)      . . . not the image (and watching).

I eventually found a small OPC Church in Springfield and attended there until shortly before I moved to Nashville (the weekend of Thanksgiving, 2007).  I have since ‘softened’ my theological views.  Most Christians agree on the *essentials* . . . so “fellowship” with most any Christian is, for me, feasible.  Even those I’m closest to at my current church do not agree with me on certain non-essentials . . . and we can still fellowship and worship side-by-side.

Why did I move to Nashville?  12298744374_9441f9cbeb_b

In (and during the next few months after) May of 2007 I graduated from Lincoln Seminary with a Master’s Degree . . . retired from state government after 30+ years on the job . . . lost my father to a progressive illness . . . and, at long last, moved from Illinois to Tennessee.

I was thinking of trying to either teach theology or preach the Word but email and phone conversations with various academic advisors around the country informed me that no one, anywhere, would hire someone of my age . . . that they would always hire someone younger — someone more or less at the beginning of their professional life.

So . . . plan B was pretty easy.  I’ve pretty much ‘always’ been a songwriter.  So, I came to Nashville with a big bag of “we’ll see.”  As in, “I think my songs are pretty good . . . but, we’ll see.”  I knew that Nashville is where the “heavy hitters” were . . . some of the best in the world.

My plan was to “. . . give it a year.”  So I rented a place (in a gang infested ‘hood — oops!) and started playing around town at various “open mics” and went to the Bluebird Cafe to audition when I could.  In December of 2007 a lot of people had left town (to go back home for the holidays) and I was playing somewhere in Nashville almost every night.  Slowly, but increasingly, I was getting to know some of the other writers in town.  Almost everyone was from someplace else — hardly anyone was from Nashville.  My ear was good, so I could tell/discern who was a *good* songwriter.  I could distinguish the good from the *very* good.  I began working with some of the best talent in town (and therefore, in the world!).  Nashville is a “talent magnet” and most people who come to Nashville think they are pretty darn good . . . and many of them ARE.  So, one could say the city attracts artists of high caliber.

In July of 2008 the manager at one venue asked me if I would like to host my own writer’s night . . . he said he noticed I was ‘good’ at ‘networking’ and ‘taking photos’ and what-not.  I had not considered the idea before, but jumped at it!  Pretty soon I was hosting TWO weekly shows (at two different venues) and the list of strong songwriters I would invite to play my shows (some of them hit writers) was growing by leaps and bounds.  At any given show I would book about 12 writers . . . each writer doing three songs.  I would usually perform at these shows as well.

Residence-wise, I did not feel *safe* in my initial rental property (Nov. 2007) and so in short order decided to *buy* (so I could get into decent digs at an affordable cost).  After about six weeks of looking I found a small house (1330 sq. ft.) not far from Opry Mills Mall and the Grand Ol’ Opry in a subdivision built in 2001 that was formerly farmland.  I *was* in the 100-year or 500-year flood in Nashville in 2010.  It essentially forced me to remodel.  It cost about $35,000 to get back in my home (and going into debt with the federal government — I did not have flood insurance).

Now here it is May 2016 and the only show I host these days is a monthly show at a coffeehouse in E. Nashville.  All the other places I’ve hosted at (all told, about 10 – 12 different venues) all “let me go” after about a year because they said I was not bringing in “enough business.”  Even though in October 2012 the readers of the Nashville Scene magazine voted me as having the 2nd best Songwriter Show in Nashville — right behind the Bluebird Cafe!  I had one venue manager tell me, “I don’t care if you book the worst of the worst, so long as they bring people in who will spend money.”  Ugh.  I found this quite discouraging.  Nashville *is* a town where “most people” play/sing “for free”. . . the venues are accustomed to getting quality entertainment for nothing (or next to nothing).  That’s just the way it is.

I hosted a talk/interview radio show on Radio Free Nashville from Dec. 2010 – June 2015.  It streamed (live) over the internet and also locally on FM.  Some of those songwriter  shows, as well as many of my venue songwriter shows, can be viewed on my YouTube page:

I am presently working on my 5th CD project.  All four (4) of my prior/current CDs are available wherever music is sold and/or downloaded online.  All of my recorded and released music is also available via Spotify.  I did my first professional CD in August of 2012 (That’s Just the Way That It Goes); my second in December of 2013 (Don’t Go To That Well); my third during 2014 (If Thoughts Still Cost a Penny), and my most recent one last spring and summer (Burnt on One Side).  I hope to release my current project this autumn.

In addition to the above, I have about seven *independent* cuts on other people’s musical projects — mostly those I have co-written with.  For example, Haley and I will write a song and she will put it on her new CD project (and also play it around town or around the country at live shows).

I think of all the things/people/opportunities/etc. I would’ve missed had I not moved to Nashville!  I would’ve missed them and not even known (I was missing them)!  And my life would’ve been ‘less’ (for having missed them).  This includes the church I’ve been attending since January 2008.  Besides excellent teaching and preaching, when I was flooded out of my home for 14 weeks in May 2010, the amount and quality of general assistance and support from my church body was truly amazing (and quite exemplary).

Nashville truly IS a place to grow and develop (as a writer and musician . . . and as a Christian pilgrim).  However, I *love* getting back to Springfield to spend time with family and friends.  Thanks for taking time out of your day/night to read this!

Christian ‘hedonism’?

I started this post today (May 22, 2016) to begin to get/keep a handle on how I’m doing spiritually — as a spiritual being STILL clothed  in a physical body . . . still CAPTURED inside a physical body of flesh (which is NOT how I will be in Glory).  Well, not exactly anyway — still in the flesh but, different.

I  got home from church about an hour ago.  I left early, right after the sermon (before the Lord’s Supper).  Why did I do that?

I’m not entirely sure.  I usually don’t — usually stay for everything.  But I was not feeling ‘authentic’ enthusiasm for being there (at church).  While I like/enjoy/appreciate/relish and  welcome the Word of God, and what God has revealed to us (in nature and by  His ‘special’ revelation) I often don’t feel particularly ‘gung ho’ when it comes to saying “Amen” to what all gets said.  In fact some of the displayed ’emotion’ turns me off (for lack of a better way to put it).  And even that (statement) does not quite hit the nail on the head.  I’ve never been one to sit around and exclaim, “Wow!  Isn’t this great!”  Even when it is.  Talking about it somehow (sometimes) takes away from the experience (for me).  Perhaps like the hit song, “You Say It Best When You Say Nothing At All.”  It’s like when a novice songwriter says to me (with a song I haven’t heard before), “You are going to LOVE this!”  THAT sort of thing (for me) potentially sets up some kind of psychological resistance to where I may very well like the song LESS than I would’ve had they said nothing at all — no brags . . . no claims.  Same thing with all the hype surrounding a movie (or any celebrated event).  LOTS of people are saying it’s “must see” (or whatever), which is sometimes a backfire or a misfire, when enticed people do go and return with something less than effusive praise.

What IS my experience?  It’s like I don’t want to be there (at church) merely to fulfill some ‘obligation’ I feel.  In some ways I don’t feel on the ‘same page’ with many Christians (in my opinion) and am not *like* most Christians (in my estimation).

I do (at some level) want to be ‘fed’ by the Word . . . but any/most Who-Haa stuff (to borrow a military phrase) is not where I’m at.  And maybe that’s okay . . . no one has advised otherwise.  But, I’m listening to a sermon on feeling more passion and emotion and joy and ‘hedonism’ (for God) and feeling rather unaffected (except to say, tacitly), “Yeah, I know.  I agree.  What time is it?”   What!?

Now, why would I do that?  What IS (actually) going on?  THAT’s what I’m trying to figure out (partially by blogging here).

To put it another way, via bullet points:

  • I’m sometimes at church but not really *wanting* to be there.  I’m there because I’m ‘supposed’ to be there and because I said I’d be there.
  • I’m not feeling the same kind of and/or level of emotion as those who preach and/or teach at RBC . . . indeed, sometimes their display of emotion seems so contrary to mine (or my lack thereof) and perhaps even ‘too much’ (too over-the-top-ish).
  • I can hear this or that and say AMEN to it and rejoice (in my own way) in the Truth of this or that but still ALWAYS feel like a wretched sinner and not anywhere near close to an exemplary Christian . . . or holy . . . or all the other ways I ‘think’ I’m supposed to be thinking and feeling and being, etc.
  • I sometimes feel the only reason I’m at church is because God said so — not because I really want to be there.  I’ve noticed (and have LONG noticed) that I seem to only want to do this or that when I “FEEL” like doing this or that.  This is true from writing a song to taking out the garbage to cleaning my house to working out for fitness to accepting a social invitation to whatever.  And THAT just makes me feel like a no-good s.o.b. — which I don’t *think* is how I am ‘supposed to be’ feeling (w/ respect to God and church and religion, etc.)  And thinking that — what/where does it get me?