Tell Me Christmas Are We Wise

 

Merry Christmas! Yes I know it’s the day after Christmas. It’s time to firm up our plans for New Year’s Eve and start putting away the Christmas decorations. Christmas 2019 was great but Father Time keeps moving on and so must we. In just a few nights we’ll be welcoming in the 3rd decade of the 21st century. Can you believe it? It seems like just last year we were all partying like it was 1999. Time does indeed move on. And quickly.

So what did you do this day after Christmas? Did you do some gift returning or exchanging? Did you stock up on sale items for Christmas 2020? Did you spend one more day with family before heading out tomorrow? Did you binge-watch the final day of Christmas movies on Hallmark, Ion, Lifetime, and Netflix? Or did you spend this day sitting at home, doing pretty much what you do every day, spending it alone?

This afternoon a friend and I went to see the Trans Siberian Orchestra (TSO) performance of Christmas Eve and Other Stories. Let me tell you the rock and roll road show still exists and man was it fantastic! Awesome guitar licks. Glass shattering vocals. Music that really did rock my socks off. And a light and pyrotechnics show that was better than anything I saw in the 70s. The TSO musicians are true rockers and they made this 60-year-old guy feel like he was 20 again this afternoon. Yes, we went to the matinee performance – I am 60 you know.

You can google the history of TSO to see how Paul O’Neill and his collaborators brought great rock musicians together in the late 1990s to create an entertainment explosion of song and stage. I get goosebumps whenever I hear their music and think about how they took classical music compositions we pretty much all know and rocked them out to reach into another genre. If you haven’t heard them before you should give them a listen. And if you have never seen them on stage, you really need to. Get ready to see the longest hair you’ve seen since Cher in the 60s. And that’s just the guys in the group!

Christmas Eve and Other Stories is the weaving of basically three stories. The original Christmas story of our Savior coming to the earth. The story of God sending an angel today to see if the spirit of Christmas still exists in the hearts of humankind. And the story of a run-away young girl trying to get home to her father who longs for her return. The music that brings all these stories together is beautiful. Each song tells a story within itself and when the songs are put together it’s very moving

There’s one song that always moves me. It’s called Old City Bar. That’s right, in the midst of a Christmas performance there is a song about a bar. Remember this is rock music.

This song tells the story of the run-away girl trying to find a way to get back home on Christmas Eve. It’s sad and inspiring at the same time. It’s a song about how we’re all connected, especially on Christmas Eve, and how we all share the same hope for love and belonging. I’ll include a link to the song at the end of this post. Maybe it will talk to you and maybe it won’t. Maybe this style of music isn’t for you. But the central message of Old City Bar, as well as the entire Christmas Eve and Other Stories performance, is a message for all of us to think about not just on Christmas Eve but every day of the year.

That message is pretty much summarized by this one verse:
If you want to arrange it
This world, you can change it
If we could somehow
Make this Christmas thing last
By helping a neighbor
Or even a stranger
To know who needs help,
You need only just ask.

Change the world. We all have ideas on how to change the world to make it better. But better for whom? For a neighbor? For a stranger? For ourselves? The story of Christmas is perhaps the greatest story about change that has ever been told. You can choose to believe it or not. That’s your right and privilege. But I suggest to you that no greater change for a better future has ever been given to humankind than that which occurred on that first Christmas. If we want to make this Christmas thing last, this spirit of Christmas, of peace and goodwill towards men, then perhaps it is as simple as just asking if someone needs help. Even if that someone is ourselves.

The other song that always moves me is called This Christmas Day. It’s the song the father sings once he learns his daughter is on her way home after receiving the help of the bartender of the Old City Bar. If you’ve ever had a child or other loved one that’s been struggling away from home, you will relate to the father’s words.

Here is the first verse:
“So tell me Christmas are we wise
To believe in things we never see
Are Prayers just wishes in disguise
And are these wishes being granted me
For now I see the answering
To every prayer I’ve prayed
She’s coming home this Christmas Day”

Just as this father saw his wish, his prayer, being granted, I think we too will see the answering to our prayers for those we love. To believe in things we never see. I believe we are wise to place our hope in Christmas and to live out that hope every day of our lives. Think of the joy that would give our Father and the peace we will experience.

Here’s wishing you a Happy New Year friends! I hope you give a look and listen to the Old City Bar link below. Check out the entire Christmas Eve and Other Stories if you can. It will rock your socks off and more than likely bring you the peace of Christmas in a light show pyro-technic sort of way.

I’ll see you down the road in 2020….

Home For Christmas

“The sun is shining, the grass is green
The orange and palm trees sway
There’s never been such a day
In Beverly Hills, L.A.”

“But it’s December the 24th
And I am longing to be up north….”

Okay I know it’s only December the 13th and I’m in Frostproof, Florida, not L.A., but the lyrics above have been stuck in my head all day. Thank you FM radio stations!

Do you know which Christmas song these lyrics are from?

When I was a kid, one of my favorite Christmas albums had the song White Christmas on it. Not by Bing Crosby but sung by Robert Goulet. If you’re under the age of 50 you probably don’t know who he was but as an adolescent boy going through the voice change of puberty, I envied Mr. Goulet’s deep resonating voice. Especially on his version of White Christmas. I still prefer his version over Bing’s.

And I would bet, most folks don’t know that White Christmas included the opening lyrics above. There’s debate where the song was written. Some feel it was started in Southern California and then finished perhaps in the New York Catskills mountains where Irving Berlin’s family had a home. If that’s the case then including lines about orange and palm trees make sense. Plus I don’t remember seeing any of those trees swaying at the Pine Tree Lodge in Vermont in the movie White Christmas.

Honestly, I’m not dreaming of a white Christmas at all this year. In fact I’m trying to avoid the snow as much as possible. But if old man Winter decides to drop a few inches in Ohio while I’m home for Christmas that will be okay. I have grandkids to play with in the snow now and they make everything more fun. Except for maybe driving in the muck and slush. And certainly not in a one horse open sleigh. The shuttle craft is AWD and stays much warmer.

This will be the first time in my sixty years of living, that I have ‘gone home’ for Christmas. I’ve always been at home for Christmas as well as most holidays, so this year is a bit different for me.

I’ve been on the road, fulltime RV living, for almost five months now. Hard to believe that much time has past by already. And to be honest, with the holidays, especially Christmas, coming up very soon, I’m feeling a little distant from my home, friends, and kids. Both in miles and even in spirit a little. It was just today that the Christmas spirit kicked in for me. I stopped playing Hits from the 70s and made the switch to Christmas music. Most of that Christmas music is also from the 70s or before but it’s music that I’ve heard many, many times and always brings a smile to my face and a lift in my mood.

So on one of the local FM stations down here, I heard the Robert Goulet version of White Christmas. I was singing loud and clear for all to hear while driving down US27 today and received a thumbs up from another driver while at a stop light. At least I think it was his thumb. As we pulled away from the light, White Christmas finished and another of my favorite Christmas songs came on…

“I’m dreaming tonight of a place I love
Even more than I usually do
And although I know it’s a long road back
I promise you”

Ah, Johnny Mathis! His version of I’ll Be Home For Christmas is a classic and I think it too is the best version of the song. It was also on that Christmas album from my youth. I think I’m becoming that old man that thinks the only good music comes from the 60s and 70s. Maybe early 80s too. Today’s music just ain’t got the same soul. Name that tune if you can.

I love the opening lyrics to I’ll Be Home and this year they are a perfect fit for me. It will be great to celebrate my favorite holiday with the kids and grands. Our Christmas for the past two years has become quite different from the previous couple of decades. Without Barb, the holidays especially Christmas, just aren’t the same. But don’t misunderstand me. Things are different but still good. The love that Barb built within our family has remained intact and even grown stronger as we miss her. That’s part of her legacy and I plan on continuing that over the years ahead.

I remember the first time I heard I’ll Be Home for Christmas that first Christmas in 2017 without Barb. I was again in my car, driving home from work, when the song came on the radio. I had to pull over until the song finished. The words took on a new meaning for me. I couldn’t sing along. I couldn’t drive.

Barb was home for Christmas. Did she have snow and mistletoe? I don’t really know but I knew then and know still today that she is most definitely home. Sure, not at home with me and the kids but she had made it to her ultimate home. Can you imagine what Christmas is like in heaven? I try to but I’m sure I don’t come close to comprehending the beauty of it. The joy in celebrating His birthday with Him. What a party that must be. The true White Christ Mass.

Today I could sing along with Johnny and even tried to harmonize a little with him. Music brings peace to the soul and I’m thankful it does. Songs bring back memories of loved ones we miss and gives us the encouragement to keep going. To dream about the good times in the past and the good times to come. Until I, we all, are home for Christmas.

Friends, may all your days be merry and bright this Christmas season.

See you down the road….

The Seasons Change

Autumn is my favorite time of year. Always has been and always will be. It seems to connect with my soul in a way that the others simply do not. Are you like that? Which season connects best with you? Why do you think that is?

Each brings its own uniqueness and beauty to our world. Winter’s beautiful snow falls and long restful nights. Spring’s reemergence of life and the lengthening of daylight. Summer’s thrill of thunderstorms and the longer hours of warm sunshine. And Autumn’s transition of beautiful colors and the glow of bonfires at the end of the shortening days. Each in its own way is special. Each brings its own joys and challenges. Each shows us that our world is at constant change.

And so are our lives. Over my nearly 60 years or 240 seasonal transitions, I’ve experienced many changes. Moving from one season of my life to the next. Many seasons were fantastic times in my life while others were horrible. Most memories I cherish while others I dread recalling. And a few I wish to never experience again.

But I can honestly say each season of my life brought to me something special. Something to learn from. Something to share with others and something to experience just by myself. Something that has become a part of me and has helped shaped me into the person I am today.

I’ve experienced the long nights of darkness and cold with the passing of those I’ve loved. I’ve enjoyed the birth of new life through my children and grandchildren. I’ve thrilled in the times of family vacations and road trips with friends. And I have found great joy that I can now look back to and see that what I experienced, as easy or difficult it may have been, was just part of the transitions that must occur in life.

The world and our lives were not made to stay the same. Everything around us and in us is constantly changing. Growing, dying, and coming back to new life. Just as we see nature shine and dim through the seasons, we too experience the same shining and dimming in our lives. The world goes on and so do we.

There may be seasons where we feel it’s our last and eventually that season will come for each of us but until then I say let’s roll with the changes. Let’s make the most of each season. Experience it. Take it in. Let it change you. Let it become a part of you that is special and unique.

At the end of November, I will turn 60. Just another number and actually I’m way more excited than apprehensive about this change. Just like yours, my life has not always been easy but transitioning into my seventh decade, I’ve accepted the fact that I cannot control much if anything in this world. So I choose to accept what comes and live both in the current season and look forward to the next.

As Autumn comes to me, I’ll be admiring the beautiful colors of my surroundings in both nature and in the people I’ll meet. And I’ll be enjoying the warmth and light of the bonfires where ever I find them over these days ahead. And probably some roasted marshmallows as well.

Live well during your season my friends and see you down the road….

Who Says You Can’t Go Home

Over the years I’ve lived in seven different houses or apartments. All of them were home in one way or another. Some were ranch style, some were two stories, one which was the most recent was an apartment. Although the shape and size of each was different than the rest, they all felt the same because they were home.

Be it marriages, kids, family, neighbors, friends, parties, illness, or deaths, each occasion, each happening that occurred made that building, that place, feel more like home. So I guess the saying ‘Home is where the heart is’ is true. You take home with you no matter where you go.

The Terra, the new RV home for the Doodle and I, makes the eighth home for me. We’re three weeks into RV living and other than a few maintenance issues and one oops on my part, all has gone pretty well. Both of us seem to be adapting to waking and sleeping in the Terra. Our schedules and activities have already slowed to a calmer pace. There’s still been stress in making and breaking camp at each location and some anxiety for me in driving this 38 foot condo on wheels, but really for the most part, we’re doing well.

Case in point, yesterday morning. When pulling out of the KOA in Coshocton, Ohio, I had forgotten to lower the TV antenna on the top of the Terra. But no worries, a few of the stately maple trees along County Road 10 reminded me that the antenna was still up. There was a loud scraping noise and then leaves flying in all directions. I pulled over to inspect the damage and thankfully the antenna didn’t break and still worked great. It just shifted a little from the experience. And the trees came out just fine too, although a few leaves where missing.

Have you ever had an experience like mine? You forget to do something and that leads to an unexpected situation or problem? I would bet all of us have and most likely we all still do at times. Or perhaps it’s the other way. We do something, either intentionally or by chance, that causes discomfort in either our life or in the lives of those around us. I used to get angry at myself when I would put myself in these situations. How could I be so dumb! What was I thinking! Oops, I did it again! (Britney’s song just popped into your head didn’t it?)

Our experiences, be they good or bad, do cause us to shift a little. Sometimes we come away with just scratches and sometimes we loose a few leaves. Maybe we mend and maybe we don’t. Each experience changes us from who we were to who we are. Hopefully for the better but not always and that’s a truth I know about myself. How we live life afterwards is all up to how we respond to the shift, or scratch, or loss.

Yesterday was a wonderful day as I got to visit with some long time friends. Note that I did not say old friends. Age is just a number and its really how old we think and feel that matters. After the cold beers last evening, I’m feeling a little older this morning.

I had the joy of having lunch yesterday with six of the ladies from the Great 78. All of us were members of the greatest class to ever graduate from Coshocton High School. The Class of 1978. Yes I’m a bit bias but I really think we were the best class as we still have great relationships. Our class reunions every five years are so much fun and everyone that attends has a great time catching up. It doesn’t matter if we ran in the same circle or not back in high school.

The years have shown me and life has taught me that who we were then was just the beginning of who we are now and today our circles cross and over lap and blend almost into one at times. I’m so thankful for how my relationships with my classmates has deepened over the years and as such, I can now truly call everyone friend. Our reunions and get-togethers feel like home and for that I’m very thankful.

Lunch yesterday on the patio of the Old Warehouse in Roscoe Village was very nice. We talked about things currently going on in each of our lives. We talked about our kids and grand kids. We talked about our marriages, divorces, current relationships, illnesses, and deaths of those we loved. We shared some laughs and hugs and memories of the good times. Even a few tears. I felt honored to have been invited to join the ‘girls’ for lunch.

Last evening, I was able to meet up with more high school friends and one of my nieces and her husband at the Wooly Pig Farm Brewery near Fresno, Ohio. It was a beautiful evening sitting outside on the Pig’s patio enjoying their local brew and chatting for a few hours. The beer is really good and a nice selection for such a small brewery. But even better was the time we spent together talking and laughing about our past and current lives.

I hope to get home like this again during my journeys over the months ahead. I know I’ll take yesterday with me no matter where I go. It will be home.

Bon Jovi sang the song ‘Who Says You Can’t Go Home’. The last verse and chorus of the song, hit me last night as I was sitting in the Terra.

It doesn’t matter where you are
It doesn’t matter where you go
If it’s a million miles away or just a mile up the road
Take it in
Take it with you when you go
Who says you can’t go home?

Who says you can’t go back?
Been all around the world and as a matter of fact
There’s only one place left I wanna go
Who says you can’t go home?

Home is where you’ve been and it’s where you are. And more importantly it is a place you will always have with you. No matter where life takes you, in your mind and heart, you are home.

See you down the road my friends, see you at home….

The Rocks and Stones

When Jesus Christ Superstar came out around 1970, I was just 10 years old. Through my teenage years this musical perspective of the days leading up to the Christ’s death on the cross, the songs from the musical, especially the lyrics, led me to want to learn more about the story.

I’ve always loved rock music and the JC Superstar production is one thing, possibly the main thing, that led me to read the Bible, talk to God, and 15 years later at age 25 accept Jesus as savior and begin to follow Him.

I’m still following and trying each day to live my life to the fullest. Not always easy and many days I fail in following Him. But because of the grace God has given me and the sacrifice the Christ made for me, I go on.

There’s really nothing in this world that can change that. Many things have tried but no pain, no sadness, no success or failure, not even death can stop the shouting in my soul of my thankfulness to God.

The song Hosanna from the musical has the following lyrics, which I believe for all of us that are followers of the Christ, really convey the joy we feel.

Why waste your breath moaning at the crowd?

Nothing can be done to stop the shouting.

If every tongue were stilled

The noise would still continue.

The rocks and stone themselves would start to sing

As we walk through this week leading to Easter Sunday, it is my hope and prayer that each of you are intrigued by some aspect of the story and the mystery of the Christ.

And that you explore what Easter is really about.

And who this Christ really is.

Happy Easter Friends.

See you down the road….

Merry Christmas Eve Eve

December 23rd.

The night before the night before Christmas. Not the most significant day of the holiday season is it. Maybe you spent it doing some last minute gift shopping or purchasing all the food for your Christmas meal. Perhaps it was spent traveling home or getting the house ready for friends and family to arrive. Or maybe you’ve been alone all day, just like you will be tomorrow, and on Christmas.

It could be a day that’s different each year. Perhaps last year things were going well in your life and you were happy but this year it’s been one problem after another and there just isn’t much to be happy about. The tree is decorated and presents surround it but there’s still an empty feeling. There’s someone you miss or you are concerned about. Or maybe you’re waiting on a lab report to come back after the holidays.

At Christmas we all like to have the holiday spirit but some years it just doesn’t come that easily. We try to be merry, cheerful, and glad but underneath our smiles, we’re hurting. And if we were honest we would say that the Christmas season really isn’t always the most wonderful time of the year.

The past four December 23rds for me have been just about as diverse as they come. A holiday rollercoaster ride if you will with tremendous ups and downs.

Dec. 23, 2015 – it was just 4 months before that my wife Barb was diagnosed with brain cancer. She had undergone surgery to remove as much of the cancer as possible and had recovered pretty well from that but in early December a follow up MRI indicated another surgery was needed. So the Christmas of 2015 was spent by our family being thankful for the support many were giving us and also preparing for another unknown outcome. We would spend New Year’s Eve in the hospital with Barb celebrating with her as she recovered from what we hoped was her last surgery.

Dec 23, 2016 – the past year had seen Barb not require any further surgery for which we were very thankful. She had completed her radiation treatment and had been receiving chemo treatments for a number of months and was surprisingly strong and doing well. It had been 16 months since her diagnosis. It was our first Christmas with our granddaughter and even in the midst of uncertainty, we celebrated the season and thanked God for His love and gift.

Dec. 23, 2017 – this was our first Christmas without Barb. In January of 2017, the cancer began to grow again and Barb made the decision to not try any other treatments as there were none that were viable and would give her a good quality of life. She declined quickly and went to her heavenly home on March 7. It was the lowest of times for me. I had never felt more lost in my life. But as the year went on, I came to understand that even in the midst of my grieve I could still celebrate the Christmas season and be thankful for all the years I shared with Barb and the way God walked with us through both the good and tough times.

Dec. 23rd, 2018 – today. The present. Another Christmas just two days away. This holiday season I’ve been missing Barb, again. The kids and I are continuing our traditions of putting up the tree, baking sugar cookies, and having our family Christmas eve dinner but each of these still have a feeling of incompleteness. Not really sad but just not the same as before. That will probably always be the case. And that’s okay because our traditions were made with Barb. So I will celebrate and honor those memories as I thank God for where He has brought me and how He continues to love me. And for who He is bringing into my life.

I don’t know where Christmas Eve Eve finds you this year but let me encourage you, if you are down, to not give up but to look up. And if 2018 has been good to you, I encourage you to lift up those around you that are feeling down.

In good times and bad, God’s love for us and His gift to us does not change. He is always there. No matter where we go or what we endure, He is with us. Look for Him. You will find Him. Emmanuel is right beside you this day and every day. And He loves you.

I pray that this Christmas you may experience the glad tidings of the good news that the season is really all about. Look beyond where you are now to where God can take you. Where He will go with you.

Merry Christmas my friends and see you down the road….

A Funeral For A Friend

Ever since I was a teenager, Elton John has been one of my favorites. His music in the seventies was new and unique and combined piano and rock in such a way that it connected with me deeply. Your Song, Candle In The Wind, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, and A Funeral For A Friend to this day still move me when I’m listening and singing along.

Sir Elton is currently on his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour and I’m planning on going next Friday night here in Columbus. I’ve never seen him in person and I’m excited as a teenager to get this opportunity before he stops touring. And let me take this opportunity to apologize in advance to all those that will be sitting around me for the raspy singing you’ll be hearing. From me, not Sir Elton.

Rock music has always been my favorite genre. I’m a child of the seventies so I guess that makes sense. I have many friendships that began listening to this music. Cruising Main Street on a Friday or Saturday night, windows down and 8 track speakers cranking out the tunes. Singing loud and sometimes dancing around the car at the stop lights. Great memories of great times with great friends.

The song Funeral For A Friend holds special meaning for me today. This morning I was among many who celebrated the life of a dear friend. Richard was a brother in Christ and he made his final journey home. He had a long struggle with illness and finally, thankfully, he found his rest.

There’s a mixed blessing at a funeral you know. Feeling both sadness and joy at the same time. I felt that today. A sadness in the missing of him which we will all feel for a long time and the joy in knowing that he lived his life to the fullest, called all strangers friend and loved his God with all his heart. He was truly a good man. My prayers go up for his family and all of us that were blessed by his friendship.

Today brought back strong emotions of when my wife finished her journey home. Hard to believe that it’s been eighteen months since Barb completed her race on earth and went to Heaven. I miss her still and always will but knowing that she, Richard, and other family and friends are together now in Heaven gives me great comfort and peace. I’ll see them again and that gives me an even greater hope. Death is not the end.

So after today’s memorial, I was back in my apartment and remembered the song Funeral For A Friend. I asked Alexa to play it. In its own rock way, the song, which starts as an instrumental, took me to a place of peace in my mind. It allowed me to flash back to memories of wonderful times. I found joy in playing my air piano and air guitar along with the song. Don’t laugh. I know most of you play air instruments too and let me say we’re all pretty good at it! Rock On!

Anyway, the second half of the song is actually called Love Lies Bleeding. I believe it’s about a romantic breakup if you follow the lyrics. But for me, on this day, that title holds a different meaning.

The main line in the song is ‘Love lies bleeding in my hand’ and today those lyrics took my thoughts to another person who both Barb and Richard knew very well. The person that truly did have love bleeding in his hands. The one person that did what no other could do for a friend and our world. God himself giving his life in our place. ‘The’ Funeral For A Friend.

Tonight as I sit here in my apartment listening to the rain, I’m thankful for the love Barb and I shared. The friendship Richard shared with so many. And the sacrifice made by the One for all of us. Yes, there is joy to be found in a funeral. I felt it today and still do tonight. It will remain.

If you’re on Sawmill Parkway in the days ahead, don’t be surprised if you see me dancing around my car and singing ‘It’s a little bit funny, this feeling inside’. Just put your car in park and join me. And be sure to bring your air guitar or piano too.

Rock on my friends and see you down the road….