One of my all-time favorites.

An exquisite song, singer, arrangement, and performance, by a troubadour who left us all too soon . . . .




Yesterday, I turned fifty. It doesn’t seem possible, but it’s true. I’ve been told that 50 is the new 30. Not quite sure what that means. I am certain it doesn’t mean I have the body of a thirty-year old. Perhaps it implies that I will live longer. That would be okay. But if it means that I have the mental maturity of a thirty-year old, I think I’ll pass. I only wish I knew at thirty what I know now. Still, I often feel the older I get, the less I know.

I haven’t posted to this blog in a while, and I wish I kept up with it more, but I thought in honor of this milestone, I would post fifty things I have learned thus far in life. Some of the things listed are original, some are paraphrased, and others are borrowed. They are loosely ordered, but all of them reflect the man I am at this point in my life.

I have learned  . . .

  1. I am made in God’s image.
  2. My aim is to know myself and be true to who I am.
  3. I should trust my heart, gut, and intuition, in spite of popular opinion.
  4. I must be the man I am, not the man others expect me to be. That is true integrity. Anything less is a lie.
  5. Honesty is the best and only policy.
  6. True love is unconditional.
  7. Everyone wants, needs, and deserves to be loved.
  8. True love is a rare and precious treasure, yet oh so hard to find.
  9. It is better to be hated for what you are, than to be loved for what you are not.
  10. Human chemistry is elusive, undefinable, and irreplaceable.
  11. People give you gifts they want.
  12. Many blessings are disguised.
  13. Travel cures myopia.
  14. Karma is a witch. (my paraphrase)
  15. There are some things you will never understand until they happen to you.
  16. An open mind is a terrible thing not to have.
  17. Big boys don’t cry, but men do. (Thanks, Dr. Phil!)
  18. The most important things in life aren’t things.
  19. Less is more.
  20. Change only comes when courageous people take a stand. If no one speaks out, nothing changes.
  21. First impressions are often dead wrong.
  22. I no longer tell it like it is. I tell it the way I see it.
  23. Speak the truth in love.
  24. Two people can view the same thing and see something totally different. Perception is not reality.
  25. The right to be angry gives you no right to be cruel.
  26. Forgiveness brings freedom.
  27. The older I get, the more liberal I become.
  28. Diversity makes the world a beautiful place.
  29. Tolerance means we put up with diversity. Acceptance means we embrace it.
  30. Apathy kills. Empathy heals.
  31. Grace is truly amazing.
  32. When people show you who they are, believe them! (Thanks, Maya!)
  33. If they’ll do it with you, they’ll do it to you. (Dr. Phil, again.)
  34. Every word that comes across a pulpit is not gospel. (I learned this one the hard way.)
  35. God did not create religion. Man did.
  36. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.
  37. Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.
  38. Nobody can pray for me like my mama and daddy.
  39. There is no place like my Mama’s table.
  40. Being Nathan’s uncle is my greatest joy.
  41. Family is where I belong. Friends are my family, too.
  42. My colleagues are my heroes. My students are my angels.
  43. I cannot live without books and music.
  44. Autumn in the mountains is one step away from Heaven.
  45. Paraguay is a wonderful place with no reasons why.
  46. To Kill a Mockingbird is the best book ever written and the best movie ever made.
  47. Dogs are really angels in disguise.
  48. Fear not. Do not be afraid. Let not your heart be troubled.
  49. This life ain’t all there is.
  50. Jesus loves me, this I know!

There is so much I don’t understand, and so much I have yet to learn. I hope I never stop learning, and never stop being a seeker of truth.  I know there are some things I will have to take on faith. By default, faith indicates there will be unanswered questions. At fifty, I don’t know it all, but I’m grateful for what I’ve learned.

I think I first heard In the Bleak Midwinter on Dan Fogelberg’s 1999 project The First Christmas Morning. If you don’t have this CD, go buy it now. It has a distinct acoustic old-world sound that takes you back to Christmases past. Later, I heard James Taylor’s rendition of the song on the 2004 Hallmark release A Christmas Album. The same cuts, plus or minus a song or two, were released by Columbia in 2006 as James Taylor at Christmas. You should go buy this CD as well. Dan and James both give moving performances of this old carol. I believe the lyrics included here are the original verses. The artists on modern recordings have revised or omitted certain lines or stanzas in order to make the language more current. Either way, they are lovely lyrics set to an equally lovely melody.

In the Bleak Midwinter
Lyrics by Christina G. Rossetti, 1830-1894
Music by Gustav Holst, 1874-1934

In the bleak midwinter, frost wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, Whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, Whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But his mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshiped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give him: give my heart.


Wikipedia: In the Bleak Midwinter



If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should see sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.

–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

This song has been one of my Christmas favorites over the years. Guy Penrod’s lead vocals and David Phelps’ soaring tenor on the recording are the type of singing that in the past easily moved me to tears, even when I didn’t fully understand the words. When I listened again this week, I decided to check out the lyrics in the CD insert, and what I read was pure poetry. Suzanne Gaither Jennings is quite the lyricist, not unlike her mother Gloria Gaither. What a powerful anthem to the Sender and the Sent.

The Hand of Sweet Release

Come thou long expected Jesus,
Come illuminate the mysteries of life.
Come redeem us from the refuse,
Bring an end to endless suffering and strife.
Be the star that shines so brightly
That it draws our weary eyes to the sky,
to Heaven’s sky.
Dearest child of new beginnings,
Be the start of something beautiful, I cry.

There’s an end to all the waiting,
There’s an answer to the “who?” and “where?” and “why?” . . . tonight.
All the years anticipating,
Are surrendered to a tiny baby’s cry.
There’s a dawn to follow darkness,
There’s a face to fill the title, “Prince of Peace.”
What he promised, he delivered

I am saved by the hand of sweet release.

In this war I’ve been a captive,
Just a sinner seeking life and liberty.
But these hands that hold me tightly
Are the hands that set my shackled spirit free.
Blessed Jesus, meek and lowly,
You have come into my life and made it new,
Now I’m new.
Out of bondage into everlasting light,
I owe everything to you.

Words by Suzanne Jennings. Music by Guy Penrod and Michael Sykes. ©1998 Townsend and Warbucks Music and Saddlebred Music (adm. by Gaither Copyright Management) Mal N’ Al Music (adm. by ICG)/ASCAP. All rights reserved.

 Maya Angelou

When people show you who they are, believe them.

—Maya Angelou

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

—Maya Angelou

Many of you know I have been in the process of painting my house inside, and it seems like it is taking FOREVER! But I’m very happy with the way it is turning out. While I’m painting I have been listening to my massive iTunes library where I have ten days worth of music and podcasts stored. I just put it on and let it play whatever comes next.

I remember I was standing on a chair painting my bedroom last weekend when Jimmy Wayne’s song I Love You This Much came on. My friend David from Ohio had sent me the .mp4 months ago, but I barely remembered playing the song. Before I knew what had hit me, I was bawling like a baby. Later, I read a bit about Jimmy Wayne’s childhood and songwriting online, so I ordered his CD which arrived in the mail today. I also found the video to the song on his web site and youtube.

I give you Jimmy Wayne and I Love You This Much . . . .