Delta Music

My taste in music is fairly wide, definitely eclectic, and probably a bit strange.  First, anything live is attractive.  It’s magical when a community forms around people expressing themselves through sound and motion.  I have a tremendous interest and respect in music which is technically “good”.  When it comes to music genres, ah…worship, classical organ, jazz, electric guitar, and most things acoustic are quickly at the top of my list!  As wonderful as any and all of these are, there is something which seems to transcend it all.  I find the “best” music from the southern states, especially Alabama and Louisiana.  The mix of sounds – country, delta, and blues works its way into my soul in a way like nothing else.  It is wonderful, raw, beautiful, painful, and hope filled in a way I find more “real” than any other sound. 
 
Recently I listened to a first generation Cuban American woman play an acoustic set.  She was authentic, touching one’s soul with life’s experiences.  As she approached her final song she announced she was going to do it in a new “style”.  I caught myself talking to my heart, commenting on the difference in how I previously heard the song.  As she neared the end her comment was simply, “this is *&^%, I need to do it right.”  What followed was a pure Louisiana Delta. 
 
In that moment I understood Isaiah’s comments when in the presence of God.  “Angel-seraphs hovered above him, each with six wings.  With two wings they covered their faces, with two their feet, and with two they flew. And they called back and forth one to the other, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy is God-of-the-Angel-Armies.  His bright glory fills the whole earth.’” (Isaiah 6.2, 3) 
 
Today is one filled with new beginnings.  I imagine a world filled with Isaiah and Delta type moments; wonderful moments when we are connected with each other and God.  You and I have the opportunity to be part of this.  The keys are in our hands.  We know them as compassion, mercy, relationship, love, and unconditional acceptance. read more

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Dated

I grew up knowing I could estimate someone’s age by their hair style.  The science doesn’t hold today, but in my youth it was an easy process.  Each high school senior class developed their own style and look.  As hard as each class tried for individuality, it always appeared as if each year went to the same hair stylist and barber.  If you wanted to calculate the age all you needed to do was look, reflect, subtract eighteen and you were within a year of their birth year. 
 
I still find myself dating key events by the traumatic events of a given year.  In the year this president died, this event happened.  In this year this _________ (celebrity of your choice) ___________ (event of your choice) a different event occurred.  Usually the link is to give the listener or reader a reference point so the unknown or unseen event can be more easily understood or at least put in context.  The process isn’t new.  Writers for generations have used the tool.  One prophet referenced a vision by saying “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Master sitting on a throne—high, exalted!—and the train of his robes filled the Temple.” (Isaiah 6.1) 
 
This year is marked with several events some will long remember.  Gifted actresses, actors, sportsmen and women, as well as many others who touched our lives have passed.  I wonder how I can reference these events.  Will I note them to something that is strictly personal or will it be related to touching the lives of others.  I already have a long list of personal events I will easily remember.  I know I have at least one event where I have touched the life of someone else. 
 
Imagine a world where we dated our lives by the ways others were touched.  The stories are not driven by ego or the need to be recognized.  They are moments to be remembered and celebrated!  These are the real achievements of human experience.  These are the results truly worth striving and dying for. read more

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Postures

I love watching people, especially the way they walk.  Everyone has a natural stride.  Everyone has something embedded in their step – a movement, swagger, slide, hip twist, or personal way of being uniquely ramrod stiff.  It is as if our walk tells part of our story.  Each is unique in its own way.  Even as one denies the story’s existence the wonder of what we have told others haunts us long after our words have disappeared.  
 
In New York one finds the walk augmented by hats, coats, shoes, purses, and even the occasional pet.  It is incredible!  People out on display, telling their stories, unaware of how inconsistent their personal view is from what you and I see, here, and understand.  Across the city the stories vary.  From the flash in the Bronx, to the stereotypes of Queens and Brooklyn, to the varieties found in the different neighborhoods of Manhattan.  I know there are incredible varieties in the four boroughs outside of Manhattan; I find myself overwhelmed by the stories found in the neighborhoods I spend most of my time.
 
New York’s Lower East Side is a mix of old and new, young and old, traditional and those exploring the far boundaries beyond anything we might call norm.  It many ways the scene is energetic.  If one approaches if from traditional norms it is easy to reach the conclusion that “they'll roar and roar and roar on that Day, like the roar of ocean billows.  Look as long and hard as you like at that land, you'll see nothing but darkness and trouble.  Every light in the sky will be blacked out by the clouds.” (Isaiah 5.30)  Yet there is more to the story than meets the eye.
 
I have, and continue to find incredible example of grace, mercy, and unconditional acceptance.  I am trying to see if there is something shared in the personal stories of these examples.  I also wonder if my story is another example of the beauty I find.  Regardless of yesterday’s history, today is a new opportunity to paint a picture. read more

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Passion

I love knowing passionate people.  Something about the intensity, focus, and depth of his or her emotion on a particular subject or area is both compelling and attractive.  Passionate people feel deeply.  Passionate people care about something.  Passionate people are engaged.
 
When I think of passionate people I think of the arts, photography, relationships, goals, and expertise.  When I look at the great memories I treasure, passionate people are always involved.  It is as if you need the level of intensity to create the special moment.  The best experience came as I was given the honor of sharing a moment with someone living to the maximum in the present.  These individuals, occasionally communities, know what it is to live, at least on occasion.  The attraction is compelling.
 
I recall music on the beach, music where we shared a dialogue with God, and music where the collective human experience with shared values and priorities came into focus.  I close my eyes and find myself sitting in the experience nurtured by a piece of art created by someone I know.  I find myself lost in a photograph, telling a story both personal and corporate, again by someone sharing a relationship with me.  Their passion is beautiful and awe inspiring.  Their passion tells a story with hope.  Their passion creates the potential of life sustaining energy.  What happens next is different because of the peace of their hearts captured and shared through their passion.  It is as if I find myself captured.  “Roaring like a pride of lions, the full-throated roars of young lions, they growl and seize their prey, dragging it off—no rescue for that one!” (Isaiah 5.29) 
 
I find Divinity’s Spirit reaching out to each, encouraging and inspiring passion in your life and mine.  Today is a canvas on which you and I can paint.  Everything is possible.  We will meet others longing to experience our passion.  There are incredible opportunities yet to be written, captured, and experience.  Our passion can be part of the collective experience.  The quest is real.  We choose what others find. read more

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Countdown

When the moment approaches, a “big” one, the preparation starts early!  Parties are planned well in advance.  Key reservations are made at our favorite restaurants well into the future.  Even hotel reservations are usually made with weeks and months to spare.  When we are excited we get ready early.  It is interesting to reflect on what “we”, individuals and communities, find exciting.
 
New Year celebrations and New York are linked in a special way.  One anticipates and experiences the ball dropping at Times Square with overwhelming and pulsating crowds.  It isn’t hard to imagine; millions watch and experience the scene in the virtual world in which we find ourselves.  There are special celebrations the world over on this day!  Preparations begin well in advance and yet it is the special moments spent with those close to our hearts which we hold most dear.
 
When one thinks of other occasions, a romantic weekend, an anniversary, and many other special celebrations, one recalls the moment as well as the events leading up to the special moment in time.  I find myself recalling periods of reflection, planning, and laying everything out in minute detail.  I recall the time invested in shopping, preparing, and orchestrating so the experience for everyone involved could and would be perfect.  When others were involved the teamwork holds its own special place in my heart.  I recall a band playing on the beach, hanging art for a show under duress, and even times sitting, talking, and preparing.  In each case our metaphoric actions were the same.  It was as someone recorded our efforts with the following words; “Their arrows are sharp, bows strung, the hooves of their horses shod, chariot wheels greased.” (Isaiah 5.28)  We were prepared.
 
As a new fold in time emerges, I find myself imaging a world where we put the same type of energy and focus into individual moments and acts of compassion.  Using the same intensity, passion, and willingness to work in harmony with others, we, you and I, bring mercy, love, and acceptance to individuals in the moment.  Incredible. read more

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Gifts

As someone who enjoys watching the human adventure, I find several reactions which we hold in common.  When we are in the presence of something, anything, truly special we behave differently.  The reactions include a change in our body language, a shared sense of excitement, often a sense of quiet anticipation, even a buzz of uncertainty, and a growing sense of anticipation and preparation. 
 
The fact is that when there is a special moment it is as if metaphorically “none drag their feet, no one stumbles, no one sleeps or dawdles.  Shirts are on and pants buckled, every boot is spit-polished and tied.” (Isaiah 5.27)  We want the moment to begin!  Even as exhaustion, fatigue, and the impact of the early adrenaline rush wears off we find ourselves restless and energized.
 
When I reflect on the events that create these reactions within I find my soul remembering great music, beautiful scenes, and most of all great friends.  Relationships of all kinds permeate every memory.  It was as if I gave permission for the individuals to write their stories on my heart and soul.  When I close my eyes I remember as if it was yesterday.  It could be an abandoned airstrip in a long forgotten place in India, a vista found at the turn of a road which isn’t marked the map, or even just a conversation in a wide range of settings; under a moonlit sky on a beach in South India, a dock in San Francisco, sitting in the hot mineral waters of Hokkaido, walking with a friend in Florida, or even in the shadow of a tall building in anyone of a incredible list of cities.  In each and every situation I found myself anticipating something special.  My soul carries the record.
 
I found myself in the midst of new memories.  Carli, Whitney, and Cherry have reminded me that home is anywhere we are together.  Friends have given me the gift of friendship, regardless of my contribution or lack.  Family continues to stand by. 
 
What you and I have received, we can give. read more

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Holiday Season

Many in the world celebrate holidays around the Christmas.  For some the reasons are grounded in a variety of stories from the past.  In other cultures the celebrations are founded in traditions which have long lost their origins in the mist of time.  Whatever the reason there is a common thread which prevails across cultures, times, and place.  We celebrate a holiday centered of gifts from one to another, usually without thought of compensation or recognition. 
 
There are exceptions, cultural and individual, however I believe the thread of what we share tells a greater story.  I find every soul thirsts to know others care.  We experience this sense of caring by the gifts of relationship, material things, and in compassionate action.  It really doesn’t matter how and what we receive as long as we receive the heart knowledge of caring and love.  Presents are not always measured by their monetary value.  The best presents have our “names” on them.  Actions are not always considered valuable, except from the person who is on the receiving end of things.  Even Madison Avenue acknowledges the priceless value of relationship and the actions between human beings.  You can purchase many things, virtually anything except the gift of love.
 
When one sees, experiences, or finds love, the sense of hope, wonder, and energy is beyond description.  It is as if God “raises a flag, signaling a distant nation, whistles for people at the ends of the earth.  And here they come—on the run!” (Isaiah 5.26)  We want, need, long for this!  In many ways this is the heart of what it means to be alive.  This is something worth living for.  This is something worth fighting for.  This is something worth dying for.
 
Yet this is a gift one person can always give to another.  It doesn’t matter how difficult or painful our situation is.  It doesn’t matter how much or little we have.  It doesn’t even matter if we celebrate the holiday.  We can always give the gift of love to the person who is next to us. read more

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Reaction

There are two possible reactions to any situation.  One is ugly.  The other catches me by surprise, even as I hope it might be the action of choice.  Ironically, many choose one as the “right” perspective for every situation.  I would like to suggest something different.  Both reactions can be applicable in a given situation.  Our, mine for sure, natural reaction tends to be on one extreme, however the alternative is often far more effective.
 
I’ve witnessed extreme road rage in New York.  It is easy to sit on the sidelines commenting on how the slight didn’t matter.  One thought he or she had room, knew why they were in a hurry, and needed for one reason or another to be first.  The other clearly believed they had the right of way; thought courtesy had its limits; and expected others to give them the same space they had given others.  
 
Responding to this crisis is never easy.  Nobody will listen to reason!  “That's why God flamed out in anger against his people, reached out and knocked them down.  The mountains trembled as their dead bodies piled up in the streets.  But even after that, he was still angry, his fist still raised, ready to hit them again.” (Isaiah 5.25) 
 
In contrast, I carry the memory of the man lying in the street on a dark, cold, and wet night.  A van full of people, a bicyclist, and a person simply walking by were all helping.  It was extraordinary!  There was little on the surface shared by the players in this vignette.  The van with young Oriental people dressed to the hilt.  The bicyclist appeared to be a local resident getting take-out food.  The passerby could have easily been a tourist.  The victim looked like he had hit the pavement before.  The one thing everyone shared was and is a compassionate view of those they met sharing life’s journey.  Hope filled the air.
 
It is easier to respond with force but compassion touches everyone more deeply.  We carry a choice in every moment.  I pray for Hope. read more

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Impact

Evil has and continues to touch your life and mine.  Clearly evil comes from all sides.  One can identify the enemies part of the time, however there is much in life escaping our analysis.  Who is the source of this pain?  Who will hold the unseen enemy accountable?  Who will fight what cannot be seen?
 
Whatever the answer is, remember there is a sizable portion of your hell and mine which came from the decisions and choices we made.  Often this realization is difficult.  I find myself in denial; of its existence, the ways I nurtures its ongoing survival, and how responsible I am for the pain I find myself in.  Concurrent with my struggle to identify and confront the evil without, is the quandary of how to deal with the actions of my soul.
 
In the season of giving there are three important points to remember.
 
First, the God I know understands the quagmire you and I are in.  God knows, is filled with compassion, and is acting accordingly.  The result of this action is accountability and restoration blended in a wonderful balance.
 
Second, it is important to realize we and “they won't get by with it.  As fire eats stubble and dry grass goes up in smoke, their souls will atrophy, their achievements crumble into dust, because they said no to the revelation of God-of-the-Angel-Armies, would have nothing to do with The Holy of Israel.” (Isaiah 5.24) 
 
Third, whatever the good and bad fills our history, this moment represents our window into the future.  We carry the opportunity to give others the compassion God gives us.  Who are sources of hope?  The answer is simple; you and I.  Who are agents of compassion?  Again the answer can be you and I.  Who can touch lives, confronting evil in the process?  This is our mission and purpose. 
 
The world has enough evil for multiple generations.  You and I represent force to confront, contain, and eliminate the pain and anguish all around us.  The force, power, and impact which comes, is under our control.  It’s time. read more

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Blues

As you know, I love Blues, especially early in the morning.  It’s energizing to see life clearly; beauty and ugliness, the spectrum of good and bad, even the awesome colors found in the dawn and passing of night.  I know much isn’t beautiful in itself.  Yet for me the presence of it all brings hope.  I find opportunities and a sense of mission and purpose.  I find others reaching out and I know I’m part of a great community!  I also find challenges, within and without.
 
In the midst of this clarity, which often fades as the day gets complicated and messy, I see myself caught between two realities.  I’ve no doubt of my desire and aspiration.  I want to be one of the good guys, reaching out, delivering compassion and hope to those in need.  Yet more often than not I am coming out of a place in life where I have compromised good, promoting the grays which confuse everyone, including myself.  The scene is not pretty.  There are many in this camp, shuffling along, working to convince others to join them in this quest.  To everyone in this camp I find an old writer’s condemnation fitting; “Doom to you [evil peddlers] who think you're so smart, who hold such a high opinion of yourselves!  All you're good at is drinking—champion boozers who collect trophies from drinking bouts and then line your pockets with bribes from the guilty while you violate the rights of the innocent.” (Isaiah 5.21-23) 
 
To those aspiring for good I offer the following advice.  See and understand life for all that it is – good, bad, beautiful and ugly.  Be an agent for change.  Divinity offers each the opportunity to be involved – in small ways and big, in easy times as well as times which are difficult.  Stand up for Hope, Compassion and Mercy.  In the midst of life’s pain, we can be the quiet voice of the blues.  We can see and reach out, we can struggle and climb, and we can walk along side others and share the load. read more

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