“What My Dad Said”

When my dad retired from the Army, we moved from Ft. Benning, GA to Center Point, AL (a suburb on the NE side of Birmingham) where he opened a barber shop and cut hair and held court with his friends who happened to be customers. I was maybe 4 years old. This would have been around 1965 in the Deep South.

Center Point at the time had one major intersection in the heart of town, cornered by Civitan Park, the Capri Theatre shopping center, a gas station, and the first Jack’s Hamburger joint.

One day, Dad and I were going somewhere and we were pulling up to this very intersection. That day it was hopping with activity. Guys in white robes were on each corner, holding signs and extending buckets toward the stopped cars. Hands would drop money into those buckets. I remember more folks giving to these white-clad people than those abstaining.

I distinctly remember when we passed by our bucket opportunity, Dad mumbled something to the guy I didn’t quite catch. I could tell he was angry about something. I meekly asked “who are those guys in those robes…?”

“A bunch of GD fools…”

He didn’t use the abbreviation.

My dad was a merchant marine as a teenager, and sailed around the globe  a couple of times before serving his country in the Army as a member of the Corps of Engineers. He was one of the first teams in Japan during the aftermath of war-ending atomic destruction. He was in the Korean conflict, and did tours in Europe long enough to have some of us kids born in France and (then) West Germany.

The point of this rambling post is that in his travels, my rural Bama-born father learned that racism and hate are the byproducts of “GD foolery” and taught his kids that all lives matter, long before any slogan.

Under the skin and under the sun
We are all the same

So if you ask what I think of haters marching with torches, declaring their superiority over others, you already have my answer.

What my dad said…

“Empty”

It has been a quiet Holy Week.

Tomorrow the Christian world will sing and shout praise to God made Man and Resurrected, and the incredible story of the sacrifice of the Father and the love of the Son willing to lay down his life will be told yet again.

In my own way, I will offer up my sacrifice, as my need for Grace and Mercy is ever present. I am thankful that he loved enough and loves still.

But tomorrow for some will be a day not filled with joy and glory, but loss and loneliness and pain. My own sister lost her husband today, and now this Easter and all to come will be a reminder of the day a woman became widow, and children lost their daddy.

For some, the memory of wounds inflicted by those who profess to represent the Resurrected One will reopen yet again. I know this pain, and this stone is unmoving. No angels rush to roll it away.

Resurrection Sunday is a glorious day, so sing and shout and weep and pray. The tomb is empty. But be mindful of those who stand bound by hurt and pain and loss.

There is no shame for those who are empty, and mourn and lament even on Easter.

“Reach…”

You wake up with a mild sense of dislocation, for a moment wondering where you are and when you are.

Loss today takes on a new meaning that’s all too familiar; at a loss for words.
With that slightly unbalanced feeling of an ever-growing need to express, and being unable. And not even knowing where to begin.

“Do you write?” I was asked today, the question framed in the context of words and music. While probably only a beat, my answer of “yes” came after what felt like a lifetime pause.

Yet that simple one word reply burned on my tongue like a coal of fire. It wasn’t a lie, but honest to God felt like one. I stumbled through the rest of the conversation with the grace of a wounded animal, but in the human way of mask in place to hide the fade.

I play music every week. I listen to music every day. I read about it, watch documentaries and shows and films filled with it.

But the disquiet (a polite way to say horribly empty unrest) is there, a constant companion who sticks closer than a brother.

Music feels out of reach.

Time sprung forward today to accommodate the coming longer days of spring and summer. Yet it feels like I’ve leapt forward to a time where music lies behind.

“Call unto me,” the scripture says, “and I will answer…”

Is the silence an answer?

I will sit here in the quiet and unrest and wait…

“All Things New”

After 55 plus years, the shadow cast by life is growing long (and seemingly longer every day). New is a word rarely if ever you apply to yourself.

July 2009 found me on the road in the Midwest with a few hours to myself. I ended up in a bookstore outlet where I discovered an excellent book by U2’s Bono about the plight of African orphans. The images and ideas presented were powerful and moving, inspiring me to write a song that pretty much came into the world fully formed.

A year or so later, my band was involved in a concert to benefit missions in Letsotho, Africa (the very same area captured so vividly in Bono’s book), and this new song was the central theme of the event.

Another year or so passes, and I am producing an EP for Birmingham artist Rebekah Gilbert, and this same song finds its way onto the project.

Time and distance grants perspective. It took stepping back from this song, to see and hear it through other eyes and different interpretations to discover it’s true nature.

What started life as a cry about the unseen, unwanted and abused in the world was revealed to be something more.

It’s not about orphans. It’s about me…

Look through those eyes
Walk in their shoes
How does it feel to be unwanted?
How does it feel to be abused?

Carry that weight
A heart of stone
How does it feel to be so hopeless?
How does it feel to be alone?

43 years ago today I was made new. Years have passed, and the shadows of life, loss, and lostness are still long. But in a season of reminders, for this moment I remember Grace and “All Things New.”

Then mercy comes calling
Grace brings good news
Love wraps its arms around you
And makes all things new…

“Rivers of Loss”

This has been a week of loss; facing and being reminded of losses past and present…

How do you deal with this thing called loss? Even the word itself, when spoken slowly sounds like sand slipping through fingers. No matter how tight your grasp, grains will find a way to fall.

You can wrestle with loss. But at best you walk away with a permanent limp, and scars to show when your tribe gathers at the end to sing the story of your life.

You can ignore loss, or shrug it off with an “oh well” sigh. It has a tenacious way of slipping past the outer defenses, even straight through to the heart in moments when you expect it least.

Wall up your loss, lock it away. Build a strong tower to contain it. Yet you’ll find that you walled yourself in with your loss, like a sad tale from dear old Edgar Allan…

Some will make an effort to simply replace what is lost. It certainly feels better when the void is being filled. But I am reminded of Job in the Old Testament. After losing everything, God restored lands and wealth and even blessed him with a new family. While restoration takes many forms, people can never be replaced.

Loss is a wide river to cross. After time the surface can be calm, but dangerous currents run fast and strong in the deep waters.

You don’t get over loss. You simply live with it.

Praying this day for peace and comfort for all those crossing the rivers of their loss.

GV

“A Week of Years”

It’s been a week of years since I saw you last.

An eternity on some days, a mere blink on others. Two thousand five hundred fifty-seven days since your passing, seven years and a day since we said farewell, the needs of life pulling me away from your side one day too soon.

You weren’t perfect. You had your demons and your darkness like all men.

There were those years where not much passed between us, falsely secure that time wasn’t our foe.
But time kept slipping, slipping toward a future without you, without my dad.

Like you, I am far from perfect, and fall far short of the man you were.

But I love and miss you…

I wish I had stayed to see you cross the river.