More Bob Dylan on the Brain

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“Oh, the tree of life is growing
Where the spirit never dies
And the bright light of salvation shines
In dark and empty skies

When the cities are on fire
With the burning flesh of men
Just remember that death is not the end
And you search in vain to find
Just one law-abiding citizen
Just remember that death is not the end
Not the end, not the end
Just remember that death is not the end” (Bob Dylan)

I’m still on my Bob Dylan kick. By now, I’ve listened to all my Dylan CDs up to Oh Mercy, the Daniel Lanois-produced 1989 album that marked a sort of artistic comeback for him in the eyes of many.

I also know most people consider this a low point in Dylan’s career. If you go to amazon.com or any other music site, you’ll find that most people revile such albums of his as Empire Burlesque, Knocked Out Loaded, and Down in the Groove.

I don’t think they’re bad albums. I have to admit the songs aren’t quite up to the standards of his amazing output in the 60’s, but I think that if these albums had anybody else’s name on them, they might be looked at differently. I also think that part of the problem is that the CDs are poorly mixed (in this writer’s opinion) and Bob’s vocals get buried in the accompaniments sometimes. I definitely think remastering these albums would help immensely.

But I also think that many of these songs, although they are good, aren’t just that memorable. They don’t linger in my mind like “Blowin’ in the Wind” or “My Back Pages” do.

I’d say that there is still a fair amount of spirituality in these albums. It’s not so overtly stated as in his Christian albums, but it’s there for those who know what to listen for.

Oh Mercy is probably my favorite album he did in the 80’s, largely in part to one Mr. Lanois who knew what he was doing when he produced this album.

I still have eight albums to go. I also must confess that I don’t own every single album of his (gasp!) I’m actually missing albums entitled Self-Portrait, Dylan (not the one with the red cover), one or two live albums, and the newest release– Strangers in the Night, an album of standards made famous by Frank Sinatra and others.

More to come later. Stay tuned.

 

 

Random Thoughts on a December Friday

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I think I mentioned a few posts back that I was tired. I still am. That’s what working 10+ hour days will do to a person. Especially when you’re talking six days a week of those long hours.

The good news is I have a job and I have money. I’m no Donald Trump about to go buy another island, but I can pay my bills and not have to worry about the next meal. That’s what I call blessed.

I haven’t forgotten that half the world’s population lives on $2 a day or less. Most of them will go to bed hungry, malnourished, and sick from water-b0rn illnesses caused by drinking unsafe water. Half the world’s population has never made or received a phone call, something I take for granted on a daily basis. Who am I to complain about working a few extra hours here and there?

When I get tired, I get cranky. Sometimes, I get sarcastic, although I very rarely let those kinds of comments out into the open air. I’d probably have way less friends and even less of a chance of dating than I do now.

I also get way self-absorbed and a little paranoid. I don’t think so much that people are out to get me, but rather they’re out to abandon me at the first opportunity. Fears that seem irrational during the day can seem very real at night. In the same way, thoughts that I would never entertain for a second when I’m well-rested seem to take root when I am exhausted to think clearly.

It’s a good thing God loves me in all my moods and in all my phases of life and through all my ups and downs. His grace covers it all. That same God that meets me where I am and loves me where I am won’t let me stay there. I’m thankful I’m a lot less self-centered and fearful than I used to be.

I get to sleep in tomorrow. It may not seem like such a big deal to you and normally it wouldn’t to me, but when you’ve had to be at work at 6 am for the past three Saturdays, being able to sleep past 8 am is a welcome change.

I love that when I wake up in the morning, God’s mercies will be new and His faithfulness will be just as fresh as that dew on those flowers in the spring. God is good like that.

For Brandy and The Worst Day of Your Life

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I know we’ve only spoken two or three times. Four at the most. I know I don’t really know you all except for your first name and that you have long brown hair and wear dark rimmed glasses.

You seemed quiet and kind. At least to me. You also struck me as being very pretty. Not the kind of beauty that shouts and parades itself, but the kind that often goes unnoticed by most. But I saw it.

You’ve gotten into deep trouble. Your shame was broadcast and published in a tawdry little rag for thousands to witness. By the way, your mug shot doesn’t do you justice. Not by a long shot.

I want you to know two things:

First of all, I am still your friend. You were kind to me when others weren’t and always spoke to me, even though for you it was the end of a long day for you. I’m still praying for you and hoping and wishing the best for you.

Second, I want you to know that Jesus loves you right now, where you are and just as you are. He sees your mistakes and bad choices and has chosen to love you amyway.

He came to the world for people like you and I. People who just can’t seem to get it right. People who so often want to do good but end up doing the very things they hate.

All Jesus is looking for is the smallest place in your life to start something amazing. Who knows? Maybe one day this most embarrassing and shaming moment will be the first part of your testimony of how God rescued and redeemed you.

His birth in a messy manger proves that there is no mess too ugly and no place too dark and dreary for Him to go to find people loke you and me.

I’m thinking of you, rooting for you, praying for you and as blessed as ever to consider myself,

Your friend

Greg

For When You’re Too Tired

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I didn’t think I could be this tired and not be asleep. I’ve actually been so tired that I have trouble sleeping, as weird and wrong as that sounds. Plus, I’ve been having some very David Lynch-esque dreams.

I’m reminded of a few things that it’s good to think about when you’re tired.

Everything’s more annoying and I have very little patience with people. I truly “vant to be left alone” as Greta Garbo was always famous for saying. Maybe she was sleep deprived, too.

It’s easy to make comments– or lack of comments– seem much more than they really are. What might have been an oversight suddenly seems like an intentional snub. What is probably just an offhand remark comes across as an insult or a put-down.

It’s easy (at least for me) to think the worst of people when I am super-sleepy and even easier for me to want to give up on them. That monster called Woe-is-me rears its ugly head and makes you think that nobody REALLY cares about you, that eventually they will all desert you.

Fears become amplified and worries take on almost superhuman overtones. You can feel overwhelmed and defeated by the smallest details of your life when you’re tired enough.

By the way, this iPad that I normally love is annoying the crap out of me by not typing what I want it to. Or more truthfully, it’s supposed to read my mind instead of going with what my very sleep-deprived fingers are typing. Duh.

God is good when I am tired and He loves me when I am grouchy. His grace is sufficient for the sleep-deprived and restless (even if they aren’t so young anymore).

I am still growing in grace, which means I make allowances for me to be less than perfect and mature all the time. I know just as I understand when my friends and family have less than stellar moments, those who truly care about me will allow me to be Oscar the Grouch on rare occasions. Just as long as it’s not too often.

I’m thankful on this Thanksgiving Eve for comfy beds, good friends and family, and God’s promise to give sleep and rest to those He loves and cherishes. Which includes you and me.

So good night and sleep tight and don’t let any of those bedbugs bite. And may you hear once more the song of peace and joy thatvyour Abba Father will sing over you again tonight.

Those Times

I’ve been living my miracle. I’ve been counting my blessings and finding joy in the everyday minutiae of life. But sometimes . . . .

You know the feeling. It happens when you’re tired or hungry or by yourself– or all three. 

You feel like your friends will all eventually abandon you. Little things, like someone not responding to a text or someone else who usually liked and commented on your posts not having done so for a few days, seem like proof that you’re not really wanted or desired.

You find it’s much easier to wallow in that old mire of self-pity and entitlement than to fight for the joy and to consciously bring to mind the blessings. Sometimes it does feel good (but not in a good way) to feel sorry for yourself and believe that no one truly understands or cares about you. Lies are sometimes easier to believe and more comforting than the truth. Well, most of the time.

It’s at those times when you want to lean on what you’re feeling as a gauge for how you’re doing. It’s times when you want to use your understanding as a crutch for figuring out your life at that particular moment.

But just remember this familiar verse:

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“Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding [or feelings]. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6. Amplified)

I added that part about feelings, in case you wondered. But it’s implied in the Hebrew. 

Trust God, not in how you feel or what you think. Those things (thoughts and feelings) aren’t always trustworthy. But God is.

And I know from experience your friends aren’t nearly as ready to abandon you as you think they are. Sometimes, they just get caught up in life, their own pain, crazy work or school, etc. They haven’t forgotten or left you.

Remember even if one or two has left you, God never will. He’s promised with an oath as sure as Himself to be with you, no matter what, not only up to the end, but beyond.

That should help you get past those times.

 

Joy on a Rainy, Yucky Sunday

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I had an amazing time dining at Chuy’s with some friends old and new. And by that I mean friends that I’ve known for a while and friends I met today. Compared to me, they were all young whippersnappers.

I had my standard taco salad with both chicken and steak. I had my water with both lemon and lime. I figure why should you be an either/or person when you can be a both/and person? Life’s much more fun that way.

Life’s also more fun when you see the sun behind all those grey clouds and joy in the midst of difficulties and hardships. It’s not like the sun went AWOL during all this rain. It’s still there, behind the clouds and waiting to be unveiled at just the right moment.

Joy’s like that. It’s always there. There’s never a moment without a blessing or a place with no joy to be found. You just have to see with eyes of thanksgiving and gratitude to find the blessings and the joy. Even in the darkest of times, you can always find light if you know where to look.

Later on, I’m celebrating Thanksgiving with some more friends. This year, it’s more than a lot of turkey and dressing. It’s about being truly alive and counting all my gifts that I once took for granted. It’s about celebrating the people in my life who are helping me find and love out my miracle.

Truly, life is good, God is great, and I am still blessed.

Mo-vember Madness and More

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It’s officially “Mo-vember” and this time I am doing my part (or at least trying to). I am attempting to be all manly and grow a beard. So far, it’s going . . . very slowly.

This Mo-vember, or November as it is called by the non-bearded populace, has been cold. As in “I can see my breath” and “I can’t feel my hands” cold. That made for a shorter than usual downtown Franklin night.

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I started it all off with some fantastic Lobster Mac and Cheese at Grey’s on Main, the swanky new dive on Main Street. It was pricey, but the atmosphere is very hip and trendy. Like me. 😁

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I visited my usual favorite spots: Frothy Monkey, St. Paul’s, and Sweet CeCe’s. I took in all the very early Christmas decorations (does anybody remember that little holiday in November called Thanksgiving? Anyone?)

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I almost forgot to mention one of the best sunsets I’ve seen in a while. I tried to capture it with my iPhone but the real thing was much better than what ended up on my screen. No matter how good camera technology gets, nothing will ever beat seeing sunsets with your own two eyes.

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I took quite a few pictures of the festive decorations and multicolored leaves. I got a great shot of the lit-up Grey’s sign from my table right at the second floor window. It looks like something out of one of those old 40’s film noir classics. Except it’s in color.

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Life is so much better and so much more fun when you focus on what you have and how much you’re blessed. I think Ann Voskamp said something to the effect that gratitude makes what you have enough. While comparison kills joy, gratitude makes it blossom and grow.

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I’ll be back in downtown Franklin next Thursday, so look for more pictures and more life lessons learned and more hijinks and antics shared.

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Broken and Shared

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A friend of mine wrote these words: “Unless grapes and grain are broken there will be no bread and wine. Unless the broken are shared there will be no communion.”

Elisabeth Elliot wrote, “If my life is broken when given to Jesus, it may be because pieces will feed a multitude when a loaf would satisfy only a little boy.”

Sometimes, in order for God to use me, I have to be broken before I can be shared.

No, I take that back. EVERY time God gets ready to use me He starts first by breaking me. Every single time.

I don’t mean every time I completely fall apart and lose every possession and wind up destitute. I mean usually a dream of mine dies. Or a friend lets me down. Or I find myself overwhelmed by life.

It’s the day to day stuff that I stumble over most often. The big crises find me more calm and trusting in God’s strength and provision. But the small details get to me.

Dying to self isn’t always as grand and dramatic as taking a bullet for someone you love. It means dying a thousand times in a thousand small ways every day. It means dying to self-rights, to pride, to vanity, to my own way of seeing and doing things. Those are the hard deaths.

If you are going through brokenness, take comfort in this. God will bless so many more with your broken life than He could with your perfect life. Everything you’ve lost, God will restore a thousand fold, in the lives of a thousand people who find the hope of God’s provision in your story of ruin and redemption.

I still don’t like pain. I don’t like discomfort or inconvenience. I get impatient in front of the microwave, for crying out loud.

But I trust God’s leading. I trust His heart more than my own feelings, my own perceived need for comfort and safety and calm. Trusting that the bridge built with planks of thanksgiving and joy will hold up until I get all the way Home.

Downtown Franklin, Fall, and Other Random Stuff Thrown in For Free

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My blogs sometimes feel like one of those boxes of assorted chocolates. You know. The ones where you pick a chocolate and hope for the best. Which for me is the creamy chocolate filling, which makes me go 😆.

Sometimes you get the pink ones, which are😐. Or coconut, which for me is 😖. You me never know unless you pick one and try it. Unless you cheat and look at the diagram on the box. 😱

So, I did my weekly Thursday visit to downtown Franklin. I visited my usual places, saw some of my favorite people, including Amanda at McCreary’s and my new friend Courtney at Sweet CeCe’s. It was a beautifully crisp fall night, the kind where you went to curl up in a cozy arm chair next to a roaring fire with a good book.

Being in my favorite place during a perfect night in my favorite season makes for a perfectly happy me. My wish is that someday some of you might join me and share in my joy. 😊

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I took a picture of a classic example of why I love fall. The tree still had most of its leaves in a wide range of yellows and oranges that would have made Ansel Adams switch to color photography on the spot. Yeah, they were that pretty. 😍

This doesn't come close to capturing the wide range of colors.

This doesn’t come close to capturing the wide range of colors.

So I once again extend my invitation for you to join me in Downtown Franklin. I offer a personalized guided your of all my favorite spots, complete with wildly inaccurate facts and figures and completely irrelevant asides. It will be fun. 😁

So, until next Thursday (or tomorrow when I write another blog), I wish you all the sweetest of dreams and the soundest of sleeps. And may you all have a lap dog or a lap cat who will show you the true meaning of loyalty, affection, and devotion. 😻

Until next time, keep living the dream!