Seriously Grateful

Blog and Photos by Dale Parsons

I followed the WordPress Discovery Prompts for 30 days. The last prompt was the word grateful. Rather than writing something serious, I chose to make it light and goofy. For example, saying I’m grateful my name isn’t Sigmund. Sigmund isn’t a bad name, I’m just grateful it’s not mine. I should have taken more time and expressed serious gratitude for so many things, and people. I’m doing that now.

Grateful means one thing to me. Family. It isn’t possible to put everything family means in a post like this. Or a book. Or a series of books. People spend lifetimes putting together scrapbooks of black and white photos, then Polaroid color photos, then color photos developed by Kodak, then printed digital photos, and now they’re viewed on a tiny screen, thousands of them, stored in a little flat box not much bigger than a business card you carry in your pocket. Not only that, but you talk to people with your camera now, and you can watch TV, listen to the radio, and look up all kinds of things. The one great thing about it is that instead of your family photos being stuffed in large books on a shelf at home, you carry everything with you all the time.

I don’t know if we ever dreamed we would have eight (at this point) grandchildren, but we do. We have reached the point where getting everyone together in one place is difficult. They’re all so busy with their families and work. Life recycles. When we were younger we had to travel to see my family and my wife’s family. Now it’s happening again. We’re the ones who often travel to see everyone. We love it.

These guys are our closest buddies, just a few miles from where we live. The photo is a few years old. The one in the middle is now taller than I am, and I’m 6’3”. At least I used to be.

This is what always happens to me at some point or other. I didn’t find out until years later the little guy on the left was copying me. He’s not really sleeping!

The little one I’m holding just celebrated her 1st birthday. Our son’s family lives in the Chicago area where he is an adjunct professor of Philosophy.

This young man will carry on the tradition of model railroading. We passed the family Lionel trains to him.

The little man in my wife’s arms is the youngest of our grandchildren. He lives with his family in the Nashville area where his mom and dad are on staff at a great church.

This is so cute!!

We are so grateful for an amazing son-in-law, and three beautiful daughters-in-law. They are all incredible, talented people. We are so blessed they are all part of our family.

Stories don’t make it. Photos only try. Just one word.

Grateful.

Grateful! Discovery Prompts Day 30!

Well, I’ve reached the end of the Discover Prompts provided by WordPress. They do this every April, but since I wasn’t blogging like a fiend in April, I started using the prompts thirty days ago. So, does that mean I have nothing else to write about because no one is giving me a topic? Oh, no, my friends. I have sooo much to expound upon in literary prose that I will keep busy for a very long time.

The final prompt is grateful. There are so many things for which to be grateful, it is not difficult to begin. It will actually be difficult to end. Just when I think I’ve exhausted the list, more thoughts arise. So, here goes.

I’m thankful to have a neck. If it weren’t for my neck, my head would be attached directly to my shoulders, making it very difficult to turn when someone calls my name. Obviously, I could turn my whole body around, which I would have to do if I didn’t have a neck, but then I might trip over something that was previously in front of me but is now behind me.

I’m thankful my name is not Sigmund. I have never liked the name Dale, but I dislike the name Sigmund even more. I would have grown up being called Sig, (no one would have ever called me Mund), and that would have been very annoying. I have been called all kinds of things, many of which can’t be listed here. But I would prefer being called Dork, or almost anything else to being called Sigmund.

I’m grateful for knees. Stick figures illustrate how important it is to have knees. We should all be thankful. If it weren’t for knees, our walking would be stilted. Falling would be particularly dangerous and landing on our faces would be more frequent.

I’m thankful for tortilla chips. They are the perfect snack when I want something but I don’t know what. Chocolate? No. Milk? No. Spaghetti? No. Egg Plant? No. Tortilla chips are the go-to every time I just need something to chew. Crunchy.

I’m grateful for doorknobs. I’ve have been locked out of the house, by my own doing, and getting back into the house would be far more difficult if there were no doorknobs.

I’m grateful for paint stir sticks. When I forget to have paint stirred at the store, I have to mix it myself. I would have to use my hand if there were no stir sticks. I take so many things for granted, it’s good to remind myself about all the things I am grateful for.

I’m grate for toothbrush handles. If it weren’t for the handles, I would have to hold the bristles between my fingers. It would be so much more tedious to brush my teeth without a toothbrush handle.

I’m grateful for spoons. I do occasionally eat ice cream with a fork if I’m eating it right out of the carton. My wife prefers that I not do this, but when she’s not around, she doesn’t know. I get our ice cream at night when we’re watching our new Netflix or Amazon Prime series, so she doesn’t see the little fork marks in the ice cream. Ice cream inevitably melts as you’re eating it. So eating it with a fork would be difficult. It would also be hard to put a bite of ice cream in your mouth and take it out while smoothing the top, like everyone does, with a fork. I’m grateful ice cream is the only food we put into our mouths and then take it out.

I’m grateful for plastic milk bottles. Drinking out of a carton with the triangle opening at the top is difficult. Most often the milk pours out the sides and runs down my cheeks and onto my shirt. Drinking out of a plastic milk bottle is much easier. Not that I actually do that anymore.

I’m grateful for toast and frosted mini-wheats. One piece of toast and about ten frosted mini-wheats with a cup of hot tea is an incredible snack late at night while we’re watching TV. Of course I have to give at least one to Maggie as she loves mini-wheats. I usually take out a few extra to share because I’m not will to have less than ten. I try to chew them quietly. They can be noisy if I’m not careful.

Extension cords deserve more gratitude. If it weren’t for extension cords, our walls would be far more crowded with things that have to be plugged in. All of our furniture would have to be the height that anything electric placed on top would have a cord long enough to reach the plug. Electric items would have to take turns because there probably wouldn’t be enough wall plugs for everything.

I’m grateful for radio stations. When I’m turning the dial on the radio trying to find something to listen to, its gratifying to hear plenty of choices vying for attention before I finally decide to listen to Pandora.

I’m definitely grateful for bubble wrap. The joy of sitting and popping the bubbles in bubble wrap is hard to beat.

I’m grateful my childhood dentist was wrong. He said I wouldn’t have any teeth by the time I was sixty. I’m way over sixty and I still have my own teeth. Most of them have been repaired, capped, crowned, drilled, filled, ground and polished, but they’re mine and I’m proud to have them.

I’m grateful for taste, smells, food, drinks, coffee, mochas, water, tea, jokes, tears, yawns, sneezes, kleenex, napkins, egg cartons, Tupperware, refrigerators, ice cream, bread, butter, jam, cheese, frying pans, cinnamon rolls, deep-fried pieces of cinnamon rolls with powdered sugar icing on them, extra powdered sugar icing, sidewalks, tires, trees, flowers, ants, bees, (not wasps), wood, grass, lawnmowers, birds, squirrels, dogs, movies, music, Netflix, computers, iPads, tin cans and string, sticks, dirt, stones, asphalt, highways, dirt roads, pathways, wooden docks, donuts, candy, M&Ms, almonds, Oreos, chocolate chips, Oatmeal, Cocoa-Puffs, gum, turn signals, stop signs, “Signs” the movie, instruments, those who play instruments, teachers, doctors, nurses, neighbors, friends, police officers, store owners, gas stations, jobs, paychecks, careers, laughter, hunger, thirst, fishing poles, bobbers, empty fields, tractors, hay, tomatoes, lettuce, bacon, pepper, avocado, plastic, rubber, glass, blankets, t-shirts, dishwashers, clothes dryers, two-by-fours, nails, glasses, suspenders, pants, hats, and pancakes.

It’s impossible to list all we are grateful for. When we try, it is a powerful reminder.

There is nothing for which I am
more grateful than our family.



Dale Parsons

Discover Prompts Day 29: Lists

I believe that age is in direct correlation to the length of your lists. If you are young, your list, if you have one at all, is very small. If you are middle-age, if you use lists, you don’t tell anyone. If you’re our age, your lists are long and detailed. In fact, you have lists to tell you what lists you have. Your lists have categories so you can quickly find your list.

The detail on your list is also quite telling. Almost everyone writes a list when it’s time to go to the store. When you start writing lists to remind yourself of what to do during the day, that can be very helpful and is a descriptor of a person who is well organized. If your lists are telling you how to do things you have been doing for years, that is something different all together.

Writing a list of all the things to remember when you are getting ready to travel is a good idea. Travel is stressful. The older you are the more stressful it is. At some point, it becomes much easier to stay home. At home you know exactly where everything is and no lists are necessary. When it’s time to pack a suitcase, you have to make a list of everything in the suitcase so you don’t have to unpack it before you leave because you can’t remember what you put in it. It is also important to make a list of your suitcases and they should be numbered as well.

There may also be a time when you stop trusting that you really did what you checked off. Did I really do that? I don’t remember closing the garage door, but I checked it off the list. What if I checked it off thinking I would close the door next, but forgot. Now you are doubting your list. That’s a real problem.

Here are some simple things to help you with your lists.

1. Color-code your lists. Red – very important. Yellow – important but not critical. Green – it’s on the list but it won’t matter if you forget it.

2. Use sticky notes. Sticky notes are God’s gift to the elderly. Sticky notes are another direct correlation to age. If your kitchen looks like you are trying to wallpaper it with sticky notes, you are definitely in your middle 70s. If your bathroom is completely papered with sticky notes, you are at least 84.

3. Put shopping lists in your refrigerator. You don’t go a single day without opening your fridge, so if your food related lists are in the fridge, you will be sure to buy the food you actually need.

4. Do not, under any circumstances, put sticky notes on the windshield of your car. You will be reading them or trying to write on them as you’re driving and that’s never a good idea.

5. Your underwear drawer is another great place to keep lists, for obvious reasons.

6. Placing sticky notes on the toilet paper holder is not advisable. That prickly feeling might be a sticky note.

7. Be kind to your lists and they will be kind to you. If you forget something, it is not the list’s fault. You are the one who forgot to check it.

So many unanticipated things can happen if you do not use lists. Everyone knows you should not go grocery shopping when you’re hungry. You should also not go anywhere without a list.

Maps are to travel as lists are to living. Lists provide considerable protection from making unwise choices. For example, you go to the store without a list, intending to buy a cantaloupe, some strawberries, and a gallon of milk. Instead you come home with a new circular saw because you started thinking about a project on the way to the store and completely forgot you were going for groceries and ended up at Home Depot. Not a good idea.

If digestion is becoming a problem, you will want to make a list of the items you shouldn’t eat. Depending on the effects of eating the things you shouldn’t, you might want to allow your spouse access to your list as well. For example, if baloney affects you badly, put it on the list. If cheese becomes an effective means of stopping all forward progress, put it on the list.

There are many reasons lists are important for happy living. As your years begin to accumulate, you realize lists exist for very good reasons. One thing I don’t think I’ll ever have to put on any list is, “drink coffee.”

Dale Parsons

Discovery Prompts Day 28: Focus

Today while I was trying to gather some thoughts about the discovery prompt, I learned the Latin root of the word focus is hearth. We hear all kinds of things about the need for focus and how difficult it is with the current craziness. Everything has been turned upside down.

Before the days of central heat and air when homes were heated by a fireplace, the hearth was the center of activity. The family gathered at the hearth not just to keep warm, but for cooking, conversation, telling stories, singing, and reading. The hearth was the focus of the family.

I remember a scene in “Scrooge,” starring George C. Scott, when Bob Cratchet arrives at home after the family has lost Tiny Tim. When her husband walks through the front door, Mrs. Cratchet says, “Come and sit by the fire and have a warm ‘the Lord bless you.’” The entire family was gathered at the hearth as they comforted each other in their time of loss.

In my lifetime I don’t remember a time when society has been more splintered than now. Trust is fractured. Many do not know who or what to believe, and social media has taken the supreme role in the notion “if it’s on the internet, it must be true.” There has never been a time when the hearth has been needed more.

The root of hearth is heart. The heart represents the center, the source of life, the safe place where confidence, strength, and trust can be restored. We need to find the family hearth again.

It’s difficult to turn away from the constant noise around us, but we must if we are to find a way through the chaos. We may not have a literal hearth in our home, but every person, every family has a heart. The hearth, the focus, the heart of the family, the heart of every individual is where hope can be renewed.

The hearth draws us back to the foundational things that cannot be shaken. It’s the familiar, the memorable, the reminder of those who have always been with us.

The hearth calls us from the busy-ness of life to sit for a while. Stop long enough to breath deeply and slowly. Make yourself rest so your mind can catch up with your heart that is way ahead of the racket around you.

If you want to learn how to focus in a terribly noisy world, listen to your hearth. It’s a place of warmth and comfort always ready and waiting.

Join the Team! Discovery Prompts Day 27.

My earliest introduction to team sports was Little League Baseball in fourth grade. I didn’t own a baseball glove until our next door neighbor gave me one. He was a lefty, too.

He was a fantastic baseball player. He had seven no-hitters in high school, won championships in college, and went on to play professional baseball in the Milwaukee Brewers system. He hurt his arm and had to quit playing. He has a very successful coaching career and was elected to the Michigan High School Coaches Hall of Fame. I’m very proud to have played street baseball with him, but hitting a tennis ball in the street was the limit of my ability.

I really loved the game, that wasn’t the problem at all. I just couldn’t play it. I really liked the uniform, wearing cleats, and being on the team. I didn’t like batting, didn’t want to try bunting, and was not good at catching the ball. The coach discovered my talents early and put me in right field where no one ever hit the ball.

I knew nothing about strategies, where to throw the ball if it actually did come my way, or when to run. I knew what a walk was, and that became my goal in every game. Don’t get hit by the ball, and wait until the umpire says, “Take your base.” Most of the time he said, “You’re out.”

I was happy when my first season of Little League was over. I didn’t play the next year.

In the off season I told my dad I wanted to be a pitcher. He borrowed a catcher’s mit and a plywood home plate from the neighbor. Soon I was winding up, throwing as hard as I could, and actually hitting the mit. Sometimes. I improved with a lot of practice and I was sure I could pitch like our next door neighbor.

When baseball season arrived after sixth grade, I went to the tryouts. I told the coaches I was a pitcher and I was soon showing them what I could do. A boy trying out as a catcher said, “Hey! Don’t throw so hard! This is just a tryout!” I threw harder.

I pitched my first game on my birthday. We won 6-0. I actually hit the ball that day but the second baseman caught it. Out, as usual. I was so proud of my pitching performance I hung around at the baseball fields all day. When I went back to the concession stand later in the day the lady said, “Are you still here?”

My second venture into team sports was in eighth grade. I was tall, so obviously I was a basketball player. I wasn’t concerned about understanding the game, which I didn’t, I just knew I had to throw the ball through the hoop. Which never happened.

I was part of the 30 second squad. The coach put me in the game the last thirty seconds as long as we were ahead by forty points. It was a great season. I still have my 8th grade basketball photo.

Another foray into team sports was football in 9th grade. This story is not as long as my baseball adventures. I discovered the crab crawl, and got hit by a giant when I stood straight up with the ball and I knew I had made a terrible mistake. I was a two-day football star.

After 10th grade I decided to try baseball again. I didn’t understand the game any better than I did years before, even though I had played church-league softball for a few years. I was really no better in softball, and that should have been a sign.

I hit some of my best foul balls that summer. I never saw where they went but I knew by the reaction of the crowd I had hit them a long way. If I had been able to actually stay in the batter’s box until the ball came, I might have been able to get a hit.

I remember people yelling, “Watch the ball hit the bat!” I watched but the ball never hit the bat. I couldn’t understand it. I heard the other day that kids now have their own bats that cost two or three hundred dollars. Two or three hundred!! A bat that costs that much should come with hits attached! The only bats I ever saw came with the coach in a big green canvass bag. Some were long, some were short. None of them got hits for me.

The sports gene missed me completely. I wish someone would have taken me aside and said, “Listen. You really stink at this, so maybe you should try something else.”

Oh well, it didn’t hurt me. In fact, when I think about all the time I haven’t wasted going to pitching tryouts, I really have saved a great amount of time and grief. I still love watching baseball. I watch the pitchers carefully, and somewhere, way down inside, I still hear this voice that says, “I could do that.”

One thing I do really well is drink coffee.

Overcoming My Dam Fear

When I was very young I scooted as far forward in the bathtub as I could then quickly pushed back. All the water rushed to the other end of the tub and got really deep. It scared me.

This is Discover Prompts Day 26. The key term is hidden. I have kept my secret hidden all these years. It is going to be a freeing experience to finally release my dam fear and let it all out.

I don’t know how many experiences I have missed because of my dam fear. I vividly recall a fishing trip with a friend and my dam fear just kept coming up. Even now as I think about it I’m beginning to feel shaky. The memory is clear.

I don’t know why I’ve kept my dam fear hidden for so long. I guess I was afraid if I let anyone know about my dam fear they would laugh at me. I had terrible anxiety about being laughed at because of my dam fear.

I’m old enough to understand experience makes a person stronger and wiser. How long have I known that, and still my dam fear stands in the way. Well, today is the day. No more dam fear.

I picture the source of my dam fear in my mind, looming large like a giant, hungry, roaring, snarling lion. It’s staring at me, but I’m staring right back. I’m the one who’s roaring now. “No more dam fear!!”

I’m going to test myself and see if my dam fear is really gone. Here it is. Wait for it. Don’t close your eyes. Go ahead and look. You can do it!

Yes!! Yes!! I did it! I’m free! I can stare at this photo and I don’t feel any dam fear! Oh, that’s so great! I don’t know what took me so long! I just had to face my dam fear and tell it to be gone. Wow! I wish I had told my dam fear to get lost a long time ago!

Well, I guess I should let that be a lesson to me. My dam fear wasn’t as bad as I thought. I just had to face it, take control, and decide to be free from my hidden dam fear.

In case you’re wondering, dams really do scare me. But don’t tell anyone. It’s a hidden secret.

I need coffee.

Discover Prompts Day 24: Elixir, the Magic Potion

It really is a wonder we survived our childhood. There were all kinds of home remedies we were subjected to. From “Lucy’s Juice” to sweet nitre, I don’t know how we made it.

When we were kids, there was a bottle of “Sweet Nitre” in the back of the fridge. It was always there, like a skeleton in the closet or a ghost in the attic. If we ever said we were ill, or if anyone had a fever, it was time to take sweet nitre. My dad was the one who came up with it, I am certain he was forced to drink it when he was a kid. Why else would he make us drink it?

Sweet nitre was not sweet. It tasted like a mixture of cow urine and cat poop. I’ve never tasted either one, but I’m convinced both were in the bottle of sweet nitre. It was never my mom who served it to us. Always my dad. It was the magic vomit potion. Moments after drinking it we were in the bathroom (if we made it) throwing up everything we ate since the week before. I am certain the reason we were vomiting was that the potion was toxic. Even our little bodies knew better than to keep it inside. I looked up sweet nitre several years ago, and it had a warning in big letters saying it should never be taken internally as it was POISON. How are we still here?

Another great thing we did was eat Vicks VapoRub. Yes. I said eat Vicks VapoRub. If we had a sore throat, my dad, yes, him again, put a big gob of Vicks on his finger and made us eat it. “Just hold it in your mouth and let it go down your throat slowly” he said. Ughhhh!!

My dad’s mother was the queen of all remedies. Her term for anything medicinal (whether it was homemade or not) was “lickdob.” “Put some lickdob on it” she said. Whatever it was. Sliver? Lickdob. Flu? Lickdob. Hungry? Lickdob. Tired? Lickdob. We had to be careful because some of her lickdob was nasty.

While I was in college I worked with a professor building houses during a summer. I fell and cut my leg and it became infected. I spent a few days in the hospital with blood poisoning. When I spoke to my grandmother she told me I should have put a beet poultice on it. I thought, “You can eat the beet poultice. If this happens again I’m going back to the hospital!” No, I didn’t say it out loud.

One time when our triplet sons were sick, my aunt and grandma were going to apply some “Lucy’s Juice.” Lucy was my grandmother’s sister. She made an elixir with turpentine, kerosine, Vicks, and couple other things I can’t remember. Luckily, we found out about it and said, “No way!!”

I know home remedies have been around for generations. Elixirs of all kinds people swear by. I just swear at them instead of by them. No thanks.

The lake is a wonderful elixir that doesn’t require me to swallow anything. Listening to the water lap the shore on a calm day is magical.

A favorite of ours is finding sea glass, or beach glass. We have found some amazing treasures. Some pieces have clearly been in the water for decades. My wife recently found an intact pop bottle from 1963.

Coffee is my go-to elixir every day of every week. All day. Coffee smells wonderful, tastes amazing, and brightens my mood, without fail. A mocha, on the other hand is like heaven with a cherry on top. Love it!

The best, surest, always available, never ending elixir is family.

Family with coffee? Oh, man. Now it’s getting dangerous.

Discover Prompts Day 23: Notes

Obviously, that’s not me. When I’m sleeping I look rather hideous, so I chose to use this guy. He didn’t care. The prompt for today is Notes. I’m supposed to start a diary, which I’ve started many times and have never kept for more than two or three days.

Something else I’ve never done is keep a note about dreams. Usually, I can’t remember anything but bits and pieces, but last night I had a vivid dream and I remember it.

My wife and I were going to catch a flight to Amsterdam. I was driving us through the terminal on a green golf cart. At the gate area she got off the cart and went with a ticket agent to get a boarding pass. In the mean time, I was following instructions and driving the cart up a short ramp to the jetway. I went down into a musty dark basement to get my boarding pass. My wife wasn’t there. I went back up to the gate area and the plane was gone. I assumed I missed the flight and my wife didn’t. I found some other Amsterdam passengers and discovered I was looking at the wrong plane. I was still looking for my wife when I woke up.

I imagine some important reason we were going to Amsterdam. I was going to speak at a major conference on model railroading. Crowds of people were waiting to hear me share my notes about building benchwork strong enough to sit on. Sitting on the benchwork makes it possible to do detail work on the other side of the layout when you discover the bench is too wide to just reach across.

Another possibility for the trip is that I was going to demonstrate the fine radio controlled airplane skills I have gained in seven years of flying. No concerns about the fact I can’t fly anymore because of essential tremors. I can’t control the radio sticks well enough to keep the plane from crashing. That probably wasn’t it.

Maybe I was invited to come to Amsterdam to talk about the fine art of blogging. People want to know how to build a huge number of followers. Someone said, “You’re not a leader if you turn around and no one is following.” I wouldn’t think it would be necessary to fly to Amsterdam to talk about the vast number of followers when, at this moment, I have around one hundred. (I’m really thankful for each reader and follower. This really is a lot of fun.)

I have lots and lots of notes about all kinds of things. Now, since I can’t write with a pen or pencil anymore, I do all my writing on a tablet or laptop. So, taking notes about something and then printing it is a pain. So usually, my notes are only two or three words. More like thought prompts to remind myself of something. For example, “Dr 10:00”.

I had no idea how much I have taken hand-writing for granted. It was always there, hiding in the shadows, ready to use at any moment. For thirty years, all my sermon notes were written by hand. I knew all my scratches, arrows, underlining, explosion marks, exclamations, question marks, and doodles. They all meant something important. Not any more. When I retired I threw files and files of my notes away. When I was a pastor I never used sermon notes more than once. Certainly the same topics, but not the same notes.

Notes are important. If we keep notes we might be able to keep ourselves out of trouble. If we look back over our notes when trouble comes, we can read about what we did last time and not make the same mistakes again. Someone said, “If we don’t learn from history we’re doomed to repeat it.” That is not just true for a country, it’s true for individuals.

Ah, here’s a note I wrote to myself earlier today. “Drink another cup of coffee.” Good idea. I think I will.

Discovery Prompts Day 21: Instruments

As I said in my Discovery Prompts Day 20 post, music has always been a very important part of our lives. Music has also played a huge role in our children’s lives.

When our three sons were in fifth grade, they began playing instruments in the school band. One played drums, even though two of them wanted to. One played the trumpet because I said it would be a good instrument for him. I’m not sure why. The third played the saxophone. We purchased instruments and they played in the band through high school.

We had one other instrument in the house. It was a classical guitar I purchased for my wife as a present for our first Christmas together. One of the boys picked it up and began to teach himself to play. It seemed like no time at all and he was in his room playing along with his favorite music. He and his brothers and a friend decided they were going to start a band. The only problem was, the only instrument they had was the classical guitar.

One of the smartest things I ever did was to go into a music store and purchase a set of drums, an electric bass guitar, and an electric lead guitar. On Christmas Day, we presented the instruments to our boys and said, “There you go, it’s all up to you now.”

Our son who wanted to play drums now had his chance. One played the bass, the other the guitar. The three of them literally taught themselves how to play. In a very short period of time, their band was beginning to sound pretty good and they were getting invitations to play at church youth events.

I also surprised myself with a new Rhodes electric piano which I still play.

The boys began writing music which they performed with their band. They recorded a couple of CDs and sold them at their concerts.

When our sons graduated from high school they attended a Christian college and became involved in the music program. They traveled all four years with a musical ministry group representing the college at youth events as part of a student recruiting program. They regularly played for chapel and student events at the school.

The boys have continued to do incredibly well in music. They have all upgraded their instruments several times since that first Christmas. For five years, our son who plays guitar traveled with a Christian rock band. They performed in huge events and shared the stage with many famous groups. He and his wife are now worship and arts pastors at a large church in Nashville.

The drummer has played with various groups and often plays with artists needing a drummer, also in Nashville. He and his wife are both incredibly talented. They write music together, his wife plays guitar and sings.

The bassist plays with the worship team at his church, and often plays with other musicians as opportunities arise.

One of the greatest joys we ever had was playing and singing with our sons and daughter for two years as we led worship at our church. I took the time for granted and it passed all too quickly. When the boys left for college they left a huge hole, both in our music and in our hearts.

Four instruments. Christmas presents. It really wasn’t a lot of money but the results changed the boys’ lives and ours.

Discovery Prompts Day 20: Music

Music has always been important to our family. From my earliest memories we had music in the house. Since I have been in church my entire life, I have always been surrounded with church music.

I started playing my grandmother’s piano when I was five years old. I began taking lessons when I was seven. Slowly but surely, I began to learn how to play, but very early, frustration set in because I couldn’t play the kind of music that I loved.

My parents used to attend what was called the “all night sings”. They didn’t really last all night, but almost. The performers were Southern Gospel quartets. During those days it was usually just four singers and a piano player. No drums, guitars, or synthesizers. Just a guy on the piano who could really play. My dad bought records every time they went, and I listened to them for hours and would try to play what I heard.

The Blackwood Brothers Quartet was one of the earliest groups I heard. Another group that was very popular during the 1960s was The Statesmen Quartet with Hovie Lister. Hovie Lister was a fantastic pianist and I wanted to play just like him. I had the privilege of meeting him in person at a Christian Booksellers Convention in Atlanta many years ago. I wish I had taken the time to sit and talk with him for a while. He has since passed away.

The church we attended at the time used to invite Southern Gospel quartets in periodically for concerts. The Weatherford Quartet was one of the earliest groups I heard. In the video, the man standing on the far right, the bass singer, is a very young Armond Morales. Many years later, Armond would have a very successful career including Grammy Awards with The Imperials. The man standing on the far left is Glenn Payne, who sang for many years with The Cathedral Quartet which began its long career at the Cathedral of Tomorrow in Akron, Ohio.

As the years past, my frustration continued. Even as I was learning to play better and do more on the keys, I just wasn’t where I wanted to be. I spent hours and hours copying what I heard, note for note. While I was in college I mastered a song by The Oakridge Boys back when Tommy Fairchild was their pianist before the group became stars in Country music.

After my wife and I were married we began performing concerts together. During the late 60s and early 70s, the Jesus People movement was gaining numbers very rapidly. Andre Crouch and the Disciples quickly became a favorite, and Andre’s piano playing captured my attention. In fact, his playing, even though he passed away five years ago, still fascinates me. For many years my wife and I performed his songs including, “Oh, I Need Him”, “The Blood Will Never Lose It’s Power”, “My Tribute”, “I Don’t Know Why Jesus Loved Me”, and others. Of course, that meant, in my mind anyway, I had to play Andre’s songs just like him. I did my best.

In all of our concerts and performing in churches throughout the years, the songwriter who’s music we used most often was Bill Gaither. He has written hundreds of songs and his music is known throughout the world.

When I was very young I said one day I would play for a Southern Gospel quartet. Well, I never had that privilege. But I have had the honor of playing for my wife and I, for choirs, churches large and small, in concerts, old-fashioned campmeetings, and we have literally performed in front of nearly ten thousand people in huge conferences. All of the people I copied over all these years have helped me tremendously. They say imitation is the highest form of compliment.

Here I am, many years ago, rehearsing on a nine-foot Steinway concert grand piano at the Omni Center in Atlanta, Georgia before a conference. Six degrees of separation came pretty close when I got to accompany a Grammy winning artist, and also a famous TV preacher, both of whom will remain nameless. It was fun.

Music has been good to us, and actually still is. We don’t perform as often as we used to but we still enjoy it. My struggles with essential tremors make it very difficult for me to play in public. I miss it.

Music has been with us all these years. So has coffee. In fact, I need some now.