When Music Was King

I caught a Journey concert in Houston from 1981 on PBS. It was back when the band was in their prime, when Steve Perry was at his peak as a vocal performer.

But man, they weren’t exactly GQ, were they? Neil Schon had some interesting facial expressions while playing guitar, including some that looked like breathing exercises. Steve Perry had the whole head tilt to the right whenever he went for a high note. And they all looked like they were wearing Mom jeans.

But none of that mattered because the music was great.

Lately, it feels like image is everything and the music has become secondary. The result is that you get a lot of ear candy pop music that is utterly disposable and instantly forgettable.

There’s a reason why a lot of great bands in the 70’s didn’t have videos or their faces on their album covers. They weren’t exactly the prettiest people in the world, but man did they make some great and lasting music.

I still think the best decade for music was the 70’s, even though I’m a child of the 80’s. Just thought I should state that for the record, in case you were wondering.





Wednesday Wisdom

“Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God ’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all.
Run to God! Run from evil!
Your body will glow with health,
your very bones will vibrate with life!
Honor God with everything you own;
give him the first and the best.
Your barns will burst,
your wine vats will brim over.
But don’t, dear friend, resent God ’s discipline;
don’t sulk under his loving correction.
It’s the child he loves that God corrects;
a father’s delight is behind all this” (Proverbs 3:5-12, The Message)

It turned out to be a nostalgic kind of day for me. I had an old Bourgeois Tagg song from 1987 stuck in my head all day. Here’s the link to the song if you’re not familiar with the name of the artists. They weren’t exactly household names back in the day, but they made at least one fantastic song.

I also made the trip back in to the land of The Upside Down by revisiting Stranger Things Season 1. At least the first episode. I still get the same warm fuzzy nostalgic feeling that I did the first time. I also want to head over to the mall for Cinnabons and some CDs from Camelot music. It’s available for streaming on Netflix with a new season just around the corner.

I think I get nostalgic for the 80’s because life was much easier then (as it should be when you’re a kid). I recognize that I can’t go back, but I have to live today in the place where God has planted me.

As always, I recognize that I’m very much in need of wisdom. Yet at the same time, I seem to forget most of the time that for me to gain wisdom, all God asks of me is for me to ask for it. Not in a half-hearted, one-time prayer, but in an everyday, persistent, keep-asking-keep-knocking, as-if-my-very-life-depended-on-it kind of prayer.

Lord, grant your children wisdom to be able to navigate this life and live out the hope you promised so that others become envious of that hope we have and want to know more about it.


More Magic Movie Moments from the 80’s

I finally got around to this 80’s classic. It only took 30 years, but I found this little gem on Netflix and decided to take a break from Sons of Anarchy for a trip down Nostalgia Lane.

The movie features a young Patrick Dempsey, better known to most people these days from his role on Grey’s Anatomy, and Amanda Peterson, who sadly passed away in 2015. It also stars the red-headed kid from The Burbs, but in a much less creepy role.

What I expected was a bit of light romantic comedy fluff done 80’s style. What I got was a lot deeper and more meaningful treatise about the price of popularity versus the ultimate freedom in being true to yourself.

The movies I like and tend to gravitate toward are movies I can relate to, and I could certainly relate to this one. Patrick’s character starts off as a bit of a nerd, buys his way into popularity, loses himself, and eventually . . . well, I’m not big on spoiler alerts, so you’ll have to find it on Netflix to find out what happens.

There’s something magical about a good 80’s movie. I can’t put my finger on it, but I know that it’s missing from most of the newer movies I’ve seen. Maybe it’s that 80’s movies have a kind of fantastical quality that, if not completely realistic and believable, is fun to visit for a while.

I just may be forced to break down and buy this one on blu ray to add to my already ridiculous movie collection.


Pumpkin Spice Lattes, Dwight Yoakum, and The Facts of Life

I had my first Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season, courtesy of the good folks at the Starbucks on Franklin Road in Brentwood, Tennessee. Never mind that it was 90+ degrees outside and I was sweating like the soon-to-be-Thanksgiving-dinner turkey. It was still the advent of autumn for me (though fall doesn’t officially start until September 23).

I even ran into an old friend I hadn’t seen in a while. That was an unexpected God-wink moment that reminded me that God is still able to work all things together for good in any situation.

Driving home, I listened to Dwight Yoakum and was reminded of what REAL country music sounds like, as opposed to 90% of what you hear on present-day country music radio stations. I didn’t hear anything about “pickup trucks from where I grew up” or “girls in Daisy Dukes.” I did hear some pretty great music.

I bookended all that with a marathon of one of my old favorite TV shows, The Facts of Life. I had forgotten that George Clooney was a regular cast member (and that he apparently used to jiggle his head a lot). I didn’t forget how much I loved Blair, Jo, Natalie and (my personal favorite) Tootie. It was like travelling back to the 80’s.

I still find it ironic that Labor Day is all about rest. Maybe they should change the name to Rest from Labor Day. According to my research, it celebrates the modern labor movement, as well as the fact that most of us no longer have to work 12-hour days 7 days a week anymore (unless you’re a doctor or a nurse).

Heck, it could be celebrating my big toe and I’d take it. Any excuse to be able to sleep until almost 9:30 on a Monday morning is good by me.

I am thankful for those who paved the way for me to be able to get paid fairly for a 40-hour week. I’m thankful for those men and women who fought and died so that I could live free. I’m thankful for a Savior who thought I was worth dying for and redeeming and calling one of His own.

I may not have everything my heart desires, but I have God and that will always be enough.



Summer in the 60’s


First off, I wish the temps here were in the 60’s. That would be better than in the 90’s with ridiculous humidity. It’s like walking into an oven.

What I’m referring to is the fact that most of my musical choices lately have come from the great decade for music, the 1960’s.

Personally, I think the best decade for music was the 70’s. There was so much diversity of styles and genres. You had Led Zeppelin, James Taylor, The Bee Gees, David Bowie, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Al Green, The Allman Brothers, Sly and the Family Stone, Chicago, Santana . . . . the list could go on for days.

But lately, I’ve had a lot of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix playing in my car. Not to mention The Moody Blues, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, and the The Beach Boys.

For me, 60’s music seems best when played in the summertime. And country music was way better back then than it is now. At least in this writer’s humble opinion.

For the record, I’m an 80’s child. That was the music of my growing up years and is still the music that brings back the most vivid and poignant memories. Put on an 80’s song and I will probably be able to tell you where I was and what I was doing the first time I heard it.

But I am a fan of all the decades. I literally have music from every single decade of the 20th and 21st century. I even have a couple of CDs with music from the 1890’s.

As I’ve mentioned a few times before, I have music in my head all the time. I do mean All. The. Time. I’d probably be really good in a job where I picked songs for movie soundtracks because just about every situation will inevitable remind me of a song.

So that’s your music update from me for the month of June. Maybe I’ll update you again in July. Maybe not.




Christmas Decorations


One of my favorite parts of Christmas is decorating the ol’ family Christmas tree.

Most people have ornaments from places like Pier One and Hobby Lobby and all those trendy places, but most of the ornaments on this tree are anything but trendy.

A lot of these ornaments look like they were crafted by kids, because a lot of them were. Leigh (my sister) and I are represented on the tree by lots of those paper ornaments that probably wouldn’t mean anything to anyone else. But they mean a lot to me.

Many of the decorations have the year on them from when they first became a part of the infamous Johnson Family Tree. Some go back to the 80’s. A few even go back before that. Some are even older than I am.

We have ornaments for all the dead pets, too. That amounts to three dogs and one parakeet for those of you who are keeping score.

Each one taken individually, they are not really all that pretty. But each one holds memories that can’t be bought, so to me they are priceless.

Somehow, when they are all put together, they look beautiful.

I guess that’s kind of like the Church. Individually, we may not look like much. We may not even amount to much in the eyes of most people. But put together, we become something amazing and beautiful and powerful. We become the very hands and feet of God. We are the very body of Christ present to the world.

What most people would look at once and throw in the garbage, Jesus takes and makes into something grand. Ephesians 2:10 says that we are heaven’s poetry etched onto human lives.

All that from some old decorations. Wow. Maybe I’ll look at those old ornaments differently this year.


Things I Love 28: ‘Cause It’s The End of The World As We Know It . . . And I Feel Fine

island hammock

“When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. How can this not be the best thing for the world? For us?” (Ann VoskampOne Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are)

I think part of joy is being okay with not knowing the answers or how any given story within the Greater Story will end. It’s having peace in the midst of so much that remains unresolved and unexplained. And if that doesn’t work, eat a cookie. That always makes me feel better. So here we are coming down to the last few blogs of the series, starting at #801.

801) That a colossal and epic fiasco such as King David could be called later “a man after God’s own heart,” proving that what matters isn’t so much how big your failure was, but how great God is to turn even that into something praiseworthy and good.

802) The avocado lime ranch dressing I had on my Cobb salad tonight at Chick-fil-A.

803) The fact that Aslan a.k.a. Jesus isn’t safe but He’s good.

804) The amazing illustrations by Alan Lee in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit commemorative editions.

805) When in the middle of an already fantastic Buddy Miller/Jim Lauderdale/Patty Griffin concert they brought out Robert Plant to do a few songs. Only in Nashville.

806) Walking in downtown Nashville at night in the rain.

807) How the love of Abba Father for His children will never come to an end.

808) Looking through old high school and college yearbooks.

809) The Neverending Story.

810) When my church celebrates those rare couples who have been married 50 years or longer (and how much collective wisdom is in one room at one time on those nights).

811) Thinking about a particular song and then hearing it on the radio.

812) Tuesday nights.

813) Nights that turn into mornings, friends that turn into family, dreams that turn into reality, and likes that turn into love (borrowed from a Facebook post).

814) The episode of Friends with the couch– “Pivot! Pivot! Pivot!”

815) Reading through the Catholic Bible in 2013 (or as I like to call it, The Director’s Cut of the Bible).

816) That if I love God with everything and love my neighbor as I love myself I fulfill the Whole Law.

817) That Jesus already fulfilled the Whole Law in my place and traded His perfection for my poor efforts.

818) Heaven being described as that feeling you get on the first day of summer break from school and knowing that feeling will last forever.

819) The neverending possibility of God breaking through into my life at any moment.

820) Cheese crackers.

821) Having a car with 127,000 miles on it.

822) Being left-handed (at least when it comes to writing and eating).

823) The way Mike Glenn used the lyrics to a Jackson Browne song so effectively in his sermon last Sunday.

824) Marvin the Martian and his tennis shoes always wanting to blow up the Earth.

825) Not being married to any of the Kardashians.

826) The occasional scary movie.

827) Everything Elvis ever recorded at Sun Studio.

828) Johnny Cash’s autobiography (the one called Cash).

829) The way my cat looks at me sometimes as if to say, “Seriously, dude?”

830) The recent fact I learned that every face you dream about is of someone you’ve seen before, even if only for a fleeting moment.

831) Mustard-sized faith that moves mountains.

832) Just about all the movies Tom Hanks made in the 80’s.

833) Always having a second chance because of Jesus.

834) The movie Clueless.

835) “The Living Years” by Mike + The Mechanics.

My Sports Career



I haven’t talked much about my athletic prowess, mostly because there’s not much to talk about in that department. My sports career was sad and short-lived, but at least I had fun. Mostly.

I tried gymnastics, which lasted all of maybe three sessions. I lost my love for it when I got the wind knocked out of me by running into the pommel horse and not timing my jump just right. The last straw was the rings, where I realized that I was indeed very much afraid of heights and not about to go upside down while I was 15 feet up in the air. Not on your life.

I’ll skip t-ball altogether, other than to say I was probably the first conscious objector to the sport, not leaving my sandbox to join the other players.

Soccer was fun, but it was mostly a spectator sport. Which is sad when you’re on the team. I don’t think I played much and when I was in the game, I observed from a great distance most of the time.

Ditto for basketball. I think I scored all of two points in my church league career, both of which came on free throws when a player from the other team, for some completely insane reason, fouled me when I got the ball. Did he think I was really going to go all Michael Jordan on him and dunk in his face?

Now I tend to spectate more than participate. I admire people who are really good at sports, good enough to make a living at it. I realize that probably only one tenth of one percent of all athletes make it to the pros. The other 99.9% greatly exaggerate their careers and boast about how they could have dunked on Michael Jordan.

Now if there had been organized badminton leagues when I was growing up, I would have totally ruled. Unfortunately, that was the 80’s and I can only wonder what might have been.