Perfect

There’s still nothing better than good music playing in the car with the windows rolled down as the sun is going down. A good song can transport you into a place of calm and peace and make you feel good all over.

I’m still old-school when it comes to my music. Occasionally, I will plug my iPhone into my car stereo and play a random selection of all my downloaded music. Usually, I have CDs.

I know that some people are content to turn on the radio and leave it on whatever station they find. I’m not judging, but I find that I am less and less of a radio person the older I get. I’m less and less of a top 40 songs kind of guy.

What music are you listening to in your car? I really want to know. This isn’t a question meant to take up space on my blog post so I’ll have a bigger word count. I’m always open to broadening my musical horizons, to discovering new artists and new kinds of music.

PS If you want to find me on Facebook, look for Greg Johnson. My profile picture is of my geriatric feline doing one of her sleepy poses. I welcome friend requests.

 

Things Everyone Should Have (or Do)

I’ve decided there are a few necessary things everyone should have in order to make their lives better. No, you won’t cease to exist without any of these, but they do make your existence (particularly on Mondays) more bearable:

  1. Everyone needs a place to escape. My place is Radnor Lake State Park. It’s as close as I’ll probably ever get to Middle Earth this side of Heaven. It’s hard to believe this panacea is probably about 10 miles from where I live.
  2. Everyone needs a geriatric pet who loves to cuddle. I’m partial to my 16-year old feline, but I love older dogs as well. It’s nice to have a furry friend to come home to.
  3. Everyone needs some good music for the road. You may let the radio do the picking for you, but I prefer the path less travelled. I have my vast CD collection and (on occasion) a considerable playlist on my iPhone.
  4. Everyone needs a good novel. Right now, what I’m reading doesn’t technically fall under the category of novel, but it’s worthwhile reading nonetheless. I’m working through Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
  5. Everyone needs a good shower. I prefer mine in the morning to help me wake up, but I’m all for those who like a steaming hot shower just before bed. Either way works for me.
  6. Everyone needs something bigger than themselves to believe in and hold on to. I choose Jesus because He’s the only one strong enough to keep all the pieces of my world in orbit and hold me together.
  7. Everyone needs chocolate. Or vanilla if you’re one of those weird people who don’t like chocolate. The end.

The Five Longest Minutes

I tried an experiment on my second visit of the evening to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. I set the timer on my phone for five minutes, and I spent five minutes in silence, not reading anything, not saying anything, not looking my phone. It was just me sitting in a pew in semi-darkness for five minutes.

Five long minutes.

It’s amazing how society has conditioned us to need almost constant stimuli from the radio, television, tablets, internet, and smart phones. Our attention span is so much shorter than it was even twenty years ago.

It’s good for the soul to be silent.

I think of it like rebooting a computer every so often. It helps it to run more smoothly and to reset the equilibrium when things get a bit off-kilter.

We need rebooting periodically. That’s what silence and meditation are for.  That’s what prayer and fasting are for. That’s why God instituted the Sabbath as a day of rest, although historically His people haven’t been very good at using that day for the purpose of which it was intended.

I’m not very good at any kind of silence. That five minutes seemed a lot longer to me than five minutes. It definitely seemed a lot longer than five minutes spent on Pinterest or Instagram. I’ve been known to waste way more than five minutes scrolling through the posts on Facebook at the end of the day.

Silence takes discipline, something that the culture around us seems to treat with disdain. You don’t see or hear many advertisements extolling the virtues of discipline and self-denial. Usually, it’s quite the opposite.

So there I was in that quiet space for five whole minutes, not saying anything, not reading anything, praying as I felt led. It was refreshing and soul-cleansing. I felt more relaxed and less anxious. I felt at peace with myself and with God.

I should probably do that more often.

 

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.

 

 

More Music for Under $1

Tonight, I popped in a CD that I picked up from McKay’s for 95 cents. The CD was An English Ladymass by Anonymous 4. I’ll give you what the CD cover gave me– it reads on the front “medieval chant and polyphony” and on the back it states “13th and 14th century chant and polyphony in honor of the Virgin Mary.”

I’m not exactly sure what polyphony is, but it sounds nice. The whole thing sounds nice. It’s very relaxing,detoxifying, destressing music after dealing with the madness of 5 o’clock traffic.

Plus, it’s the perfect antidote to the monotony of much of what gets played on the radio, especially in top-40 formats.

The best part about having musical tastes that are outside the norm is finding bargains all over the place, especially if you know where to look.

In the life of faith, the best parts often will come from unexpected places at unexpected times and won’t be the parts you were anticipating the most. The best people will be the ones who you never would have thought would be in your life, but hey, there they are.

Life is good and God is great, as a friend of mine says all the time. My life has a soundtrack that I’m adding to all the time. That makes it even better.

 

A Moment of Nostalgia

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Recently, I went to Memphis for the funeral of a friend’s father. On the way, I stopped off with my mom at the Wolfchase Galleria and walked around while she looked for a wedding gift for a friend of the family.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a FYE Music and Movies store. I thought those were all but extinct. Needless to say, it made my heart happy.

Best Buy and Barnes and Noble are all good and well, but I miss record stores, especially those in the mall. I can’t tell you how many Saturdays I spent looking through the cutout bins for a great deal. I got my first taste of bluegrass music in a record store.

I’m old school. I like for my books and music to be tangible. Nothing beats the musty smell of a book that’s been well used and well loved. Nothing beats the feel of a compact disc or a vinyl record in your hand.

Don’t get me wrong. I have my fair share of digital music that I listen to on my iPhone. But sometimes at night when I can’t sleep, I’ll hunt down the perfect CD for my mood, find my headphones and portable CD player, and drift off to music that was created by real people playing real instruments.

The Bible is replete with music. It’s a way of remembering your heritage. Just look at the Psalms and see how King David marked every kind of occasion, happy or sad, with a song.

Even now, a song on the radio can conjure up an old memory like nothing else can. It’s like a time machine to a defining moment in my past.

I hope that music store in Memphis can survive. Maybe one day soon I can go back when I have more time to kill.

 

 

Music for the Drive Home

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When most people want music, they turn on the radio and pick out a favorite station. They pick music suitable for tuning out, background music that won’t demand too much of their attention. I am not most people.

I think that even a night drive deserves a worthy soundtrack. Like for tonight after I helped a friend move some of his belongings into storage. I needed music that would set the perfect mood for driving home at 11 pm.

There are three kinds of musical tastes as far as I’m concerned: 1) people who only like one kind of music, i.e. Christian or country or hip-hop, 2) people who like a variety of styles and artists, and 3) good Lord, they should make pills for this. Guess which one I am. Though I prefer the terms eclectic or eccentric. Crazy cat lady music. And why isn’t there a male version of the crazy cat lady yet?

For me, there’s nothing better than the right song at the right moment to evoke the right mood. You don’t necessarily want speed metal at 5 am or frenetic music late at night. At least I don’t.

I’ll give you a sampling of what my playlist might look like on any given drive:

1) Come Undone – Duran Duran

2) Found Out About You – Gin Blossoms

3) Keep Us- Peter Bradley Adams

4) Air that I Breathe – The Mavericks

5) Runaway Feeling – The Thorns

6) Thank You – Alanis Morrissette

7) I’m a Believer- The Monkees

8) Billie Jean – Michael Jackson

9) The One I Love – R.E.M.

10) Save It for a Rainy Day- The Jayhawks

It’s a bit of everything. To me, listening to the same kind of music all the time is like eating the same meal every day or wearing the same clothes all the time. While that might work for some, it would drive me nuttier than squirrel poo.

So there you have it. That’s probably way more than you wanted to know about my musical tastes, but I like oversharing. It makes life interesting.

elizabethtown movie poster

 

 

Things I Love 9: This Series Is Getting Completely Redonkulous

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I apologize for those of you who were anxiously awaiting the next installment of this series. Both of you.

I got off track in more ways than one, but now I continue this seemingly neverending series with #192.

192) A cool breeze on a hot and humid summer day.

193) Any time I get free food, even if it’s just a free dreamcone from Chick-fil-A (one of the perks of having the app foursquare on my iPhone!)

194) Knowing that even if the worst case scenario actually comes to pass, God’s taking care of me and everything will be fine in the end. If it’s not fine, it’s not the end.

195) The absolute magic of Fred Astaire dancing with Ginger Rogers.

196) Homemade bread.

197) Sweet potato french fries (I recommend Pucketts or The Pharmacy).

198) Knowing my family and friends are praying for me as I write this.

199) Being able to pray the prayer that never fails– Your will be done– and sincerely mean it.

200) Being okay after having my heart broken in a very failed attempt to take a friendship to the next level.

201) That the best things in life really are free.

202) GPS for those like me who are directionally-impaired.

203) Ice cold water on a hot day.

204) Unexpectedly seeing old friends at Kairos.

205) Having peace even in the midst of spectacularly blowing a friendship to smithereens.

206) When technology works like its supposed to.

207) Getting all green lights on my way to church.

208) That I am an heir with Christ and no longer a slave to fear but now possess a spirit of adoption and can cry, “Abba, Daddy” to the God and Maker of the Universe.

209) That low sexy voice you get when ever you have a cold or hay fever.

210) Hearing a favorite song at just the right moment.

211) The effortless artistry of Ella Fitzgerald’s voice.

212) That God hears my feeble prayers– and even my sighs and groans when I don’t have the words.

213) That God can use messes like Moses, Abraham, David, Peter, and (most amazing of all) me.

Things I Love Part 2: The Most Unimaginative Blog Sequel Title Ever

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In continuation of a blog I wrote earlier called “Things I Love,” I present you with the horribly titled follow-up called ‘Things I Love Part 2.” I think I stopped with #32 so I’ll start with #33. How very creative of me.

33) Being able to enjoy moments and relationships for what they are and not constantly worrying about what they may or may not become in the future.

34) The smell of freshly-cut grass on a Saturday.

35) Candles and potporri around the Christmas season that always make me remember my childhood and relatives who are no longer with us.

36) Really old books that have that musty smell and have worn covers from being read so much.

37) When a plan comes together, like on the A-Team.

38) Being able to rejoice for my friends when they finally find their true loves.

39) The feel of soft grass on my bare feet at night.

40) Unexpected and encouraging texts from family and friends (all the more since my love language is words of affirmation).

41) My nephews and my niece.

42) Sand volleyball with good friends on a Sunday night.

43) Knowing deep down that I am forgiven and free from any condemnation.

44) Watching my cat curled up in my lap and sleeping soundly.

45) Any episode at any point from the TV show Friends.

46) Actually stopping and smelling the roses wherever I find them.

47) Knowing that in a world of constant change and turmoil Jesus Christ is truly the same yesterday, today, and forever.

48) Audrey Hepburn.

49) Singing a favorite song and turning on the radio to find the same song playing in the spot where I was just singing.

50) Being able to encourage a friend with just the right words whether through text or in person.

51) Breathing in the crisp cold air on an idyllic autumn day.

52) Bonfires and hotdogs and smores on a chilly autumn night.

53) Sitting on the patio of The Frothy Monkey in downtown Franklin, sipping on a White Monkey Mocha, and watching people all around me engaged in all sorts of conversations.

54) A good hike around Radner Lake.

55) The salty smell of ocean air when I’m near the beach.

How much do I love Jesus?

The topic at tonight’s Kairos Roots was fasting and how we are commanded to fast from food, media, etc. Basically anything that creeps in and starts taking priority over God in our lives. We fast for God’s direction and guidance, when we are mourning, when we are embarking on a new venture, and when we want to hear from God more clearly.

I remember something I read from John Piper that says in essence that fasting says, “This much, O God, I desire You.” More than the food I’m not eating. More than the facebook that I am not logging into. More than the TV or radio I am leaving turned off.

But how much do I really love Jesus if all these things take priority over him? I will confess that I have days that I have very good intentions to read my Bible. . . . . after this episode of Friends. After I’m done checking everything out on Facebook. After I post this blog. The funny thing is that I never actually get around to reading my Bible. Sadly, some days I forget I even intended to read it.

That says that Jesus is not my first love. All these other things rank ahead of Him in my life.

Maybe fasting is a way of saying: I love you Jesus more than these things I am giving up. I am making an effort to love You, because love is ultimately not a feeling, but an act of the will. Through Your grace, I am demonstrating love put into practice and praying that this will increase my love for You.

I do know this. Jesus is worthy of my fasting and so much more. He is worthy of everything I have to give and a million times more. When I see things right, I am so very grateful that what really counts is not how much I love Jesus, but how much He loves me and how that Love is changing me to be like Jesus.

Amen and amen.