CARRY ON

It took me several years to realize the spiritual roots of two songs that the rock group Kansas released in the late 1970’s.  In fact, their two biggest hits both written by band member Kerry Livgren.  On both occasions, the band had completed rehearsals for recording an album and Livgren brought in these two songs that actually defined him as a songwriter and made the band a big hit.  Here’s the info on both songs from Wikepedia.  Also following each description are some Bible verses that support the song.

Carry On Wayward Son” is a song recorded by American rock band Kansas for their 1976 album Leftoverture: written by band member Kerry Livgren, the song became the band’s first Top 40 single, reaching No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the spring of 1977.[4]

 “Carry On Wayward Son” was written after the band had completed rehearsals. Livgren, who perceived the song as being “beamed down” to him en toto,[7] in 2004 stated: “It’s an autobiographical song. Parallel to my musical career I’ve always been on a spiritual sojourn, looking for truth and meaning. It was a song of self-encouragement. I was telling myself to keep on looking and I would find what I sought.”

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He Who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Hebrews 10: 23-24

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3: 13-14

 “Dust in the Wind” is a song recorded by American progressive rock band Kansas and written by band member Kerry Livgren, first released on their 1977 album Point of Know Return.

The title of the song is a Bible reference, paraphrasing Ecclesiastes:[3]

I reflected on everything that is accomplished by man on earth, and I concluded: Everything he has accomplished is futile — like chasing the wind![4]

A meditation on mortality and the inevitability of death, the lyrical theme bears a striking resemblance to the well-known biblical passages Genesis 3:19 (“…for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”) and Ecclesiastes 3:20 (“All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.”) 

Kerry Livgren devised what would be the guitar line for “Dust in the Wind” as a finger exercise for learning fingerpicking. His wife, Vicci, heard what he was doing, remarked that the melody was nice, and encouraged him to write lyrics for it.[5] Livgren was unsure whether his fellow band members would like it, since it was a departure from their signature style. After Kansas had rehearsed all the songs intended for the band’s recording sessions of June and July 1976, Livgren played “Dust in the Wind” for his bandmates, who after a moment’s “stunned silence” asked: “Kerry, where has this been?”[9][5] Kansas guitarist Rich Williams would recall that Livgren played his bandmates “a real rough recording of him playing [‘Dust in the Wind’] on an old reel to reel. [He] just kind of mumbl[ed] the lyrics, [but] even [hearing it] in that bare form…we said: ‘That’s our next single.'”[10]

[5]Livgren was born again July 25, 1979, and as of 1980 recorded primarily as a Christian rock artist.[8]

I think sometimes rock music gets a bad rap (pun intended).  I believe these two songs were given to Livgren during his search for meaning and his “spiritual sojourn” and made the way for his salvation experience in 1979.  And I think the songs have impacted many others including me as we press on toward the “prize”.

“Carry on my wayward son; there’ll be peace when you are done.”


BEAUTY FROM ASHES

I was out for a bike ride a couple of days ago listening to some music.  Pretty normal activities for me; but a song caught my attention.  In the aftermath of Carter’s death we kept praying, wishing and hoping for beauty from ashes.  And it occurred to me, “we’re there.”  We are now enjoying the fulfillment of those prayers, wishes and hopes and I am so thankful for that.  At times it didn’t feel like it would happen; it’s just another instance when our timing doesn’t necessarily align with God’s. 

A DIFFERENT MOTHERS’ DAY

For the first time in my life I can’t go see Mama on Mother’s Day or call her on the phone.  I’ve always had the opportunity to do one or the other, just to talk a bit and tell her I love her and I’m so thankful for the hard work she did to raise two rowdy boys into responsible men.  Being a good parent is hard work; but I think being a good mother is another step up the ladder.  It’s a delicate balance between love and discipline (which is really just love in a different wrapper), protecting and letting go and the wisdom, knowledge and experience to apply the right mix for each individual child.  I’ve seen expressions of love, exasperation, frustration, and disappointment on Mama’s face all stemming from my own behavior and the last three are still burned into my memory.  But mostly I think about her look of love (in spite of the circumstances), see her smile and hear her laughter.

Since Carter died I have tried to be more intentional about telling my family I love them and following that up with actions.  I think often about the lesson Carter left behind- take nothing for granted.  None of us have the promise of tomorrow so we must act today as if we will not have another chance to share our love.  So, on this special day if you still have your mother go see her; put your arms around her and tell her you love her, sit and talk with her for a while.  And if you can’t do that, at least call her, talk for a while and tell her you love her.  Thank her for putting up with you when you were a brat.  And if your relationship with your mother needs to be repaired, today is the day to make that happen.  It doesn’t matter whose fault it was (chances are pretty good you were both at fault).

So, make the drive or make the phone call.  I would love to have that opportunity one more time.  Happy Day to all of you Mothers and thank you for the job you do!

“IT’S NOT FAIR…”

We’ve all heard and perhaps said these words as we were growing up when we perceived some injustice toward us.  It’s a common phrase and has been around for a long time.  Even in sporting events, we hear it a lot.  In baseball, there are line and foul poles and if the ball goes beyond those line or outside the pole it’s not fair, or it is a foul ball and out of play.  Football has a clearly defined playing field and if the ball is caught out of bounds it is incomplete and the play is dead.  Or if someone jumps offside, it is a penalty and a dead play.  There are rules for everything we play or pretty much everything we do.  Breaking the rules can lead to a penalty in sports; breaking the rules in life can lead to serious injury or even death.

I watched a video a few days ago about a young man who, at the age of 23, took the life of a young woman.  He described in detail the events of the evening; he told how many drinks he’d had at the bar that evening and by his own admission was really drunk.  He assured his friends he was not going to drive, but when the party moved to another location the 28 year-old mother of two tossed him her car keys.  So he did drive and he hit a tree resulting in the death of the young lady who was not wearing a seat belt.  He served a prison sentence and was speaking to audiences about his experience trying to warn others of the dangers of breaking life’s rules and the sometimes catastrophic consequences.

At our weekly Bible study tonight we’re going to look at a case study in “it’s not fair”.  Jesus’ parable of the vineyard workers describes it.  A man hired workers for his vineyard early one morning; he hired others at lunchtime, still others at mid-afternoon and finally some when there was only about an hour left to work.  Yet when he paid everyone their wages, all were paid the same.  Those who were hired first said, “It’s not fair” and I can’t argue with their position.  They had worked all day in the heat and no doubt were exhausted.  Yet they were paid the same as those who only worked an hour.

The fact is life itself isn’t fair.  Even if we follow the rules, we will still have pain and heartache because we live in a fallen world.  But the best we can do is to follow the rules and try to minimize the trouble we will face.  Life is hard enough without intentionally doing stupid things.

THE PRESIDENT AND FIRST LADY

On February 22 our country’s first president was born 289 years ago and our family’s first lady was born 90 years ago.  Mama shared her birthday with President George Washington although they lived in different times and circumstances were vastly different.  Both performed their respective jobs with excellence and both have been recognized for the way they lived and the principles for which they stood.

I choose this day to remember what we had and not what we lost.  Our family was so blessed to have Mama as its matriarch.  She quietly led our family toward excellence, but when she felt it was necessary she would speak her mind and it was usually not a “beat around the bush” conversation.  She would say what she felt she needed to say directly and to the point; more times than not she was right on the money.  Maybe not every time, but I think her assessments and comments were well above average for being correct and her ability to sense something was not right was just uncanny.  I believe her walk with God gave her insight into sometimes hidden things in our family and she did a great job of listening for His guidance on when to speak and when to remain silent.

She and Daddy formed the strongest team I know to build a family and raise their children and it was based on their bond with each other and with God.  My brother and I learned some hard lessons; many times because we didn’t listen to Mama and Daddy’s advice and didn’t take advantage of their wisdom and lessons they had already learned.

Mama’s love for her family was intense and we all knew it.  Others found out about it quickly if she perceived an injustice toward someone in her family.  She was not confrontational unless someone mistreated her family, but she would spring into action if that happened.  She loved doing things for us, sometimes I think to her detriment.  She made sure that everyone had their favorite dish to eat at each family gathering, and as our family grew it became a big job to fix all of the dishes required.  She did it anyway and I never heard her complain about it.

I miss you terribly, Mama; but thank you for loving me when I didn’t deserve it and for all the memories you left with us. 

BIRTHDAY NUMBER FOUR

Thursday, Feb 4 will be the fourth anniversary of Carter’s birthday.  We’re planning a little celebration in his honor.  As is our custom, we will drop some flower blooms in a stream and have a meal with our daughter’s family (the nearby daughter).  I’ve spent some time the last few days reading some of this blog’s early posts and relived some of the trauma during the week of Carter’s death.  That wound is still very much present in our lives but reading it again really drove in how deeply we still hurt. 

The only way I know to describe it is to compare it to a deep cut on our body.  The cut will eventually form a scab to stop the bleeding but it is still sore and if you pick at the scab, it will start bleeding again which starts the healing process over again.  After enough time has passed the cut heals and leaves a scar and sometimes the scar even hurts; especially when you look at it and the memories of how it got there rise to the surface again. 

I’ve had a fresh look at this scar and felt the pain again.  I’ve been in the hospital room again both the NICU and the PICU; I’ve been in the meeting room again with the hospital staff and I’ve been in the room again when the ventilator was removed from Carter.  I’ve been to Clam Bayou when his ashes were scattered and I’ve seen the anguish on my daughter’s face again. 

But we will celebrate his birth Thursday, and we will give thanks for his short life and the time we had to spend with him.  He was truly a gift from God.

THANKSGIVING DAY GRATITUDE

Despite all the madness in our world right now and what I consider to be a rough November for us, I’m still thankful for so many things.  We are in the middle of selling our house and buying another one and there is a lot of chaos involved with getting prepared to pack and move our entire household.  Mama’s unexpected passing early this month still weighs on our mind and attitude.  Having Darby put down less than a week ago still hurts.  And hovering over all of us is the threat of Covid 19.  All of this together could certainly put a damper on Thanksgiving Day, but I refuse to let that happen.

Our immediate family (us, our kids and grandkids) are together in St Petersburg at our oldest daughter’s house.  Later we will gather around a huge table of food prepared by Joshua, the girls and Robin; they have already been cooking for two days.  Mama’s influence has already been felt on this Thanksgiving Day; Katie has made biscuits using Mama’s recipe and Rachel has made Mama’s “world famous” pecan pies.  But I’m truly thankful that we could all be together when there is so much anxiety about being together due to the virus.  And I’m thankful that my dad will spend the day with my brother’s family in Huntsville instead of sitting at home by himself. 

Despite the uneasiness in the world right now, we can find peace in our heart and soul by knowing that a loving trustworthy God is in control and is working all things for good for those who love Him.  Sometimes it takes a while to accept that but I think I’m there.  Happy Thanksgiving Day to all!

REMEMBERING DARBY

For the past twelve years we’ve had a little “shadow” named Darby.  We found her on the internet in Ft Walton Beach, Fl where she was living in a foster home.  The foster “mom” said she was quiet, looked like she had been mistreated by some bigger dogs, but had a great personality.  As we got acquainted, we found some strange things about Darby leading us to believe something in her past must have impacted her significantly.  For instance, when we tore off a sheet of aluminum foil Darby ran out of the room.  She didn’t like to be hugged or squeezed or kissed and would even snap at you if you were brave enough to try. She was playful and had a bounce in her step as walked around the back yard.  Her tail was usually curved up over her back and her ears perked.  She had big brown eyes that seemed to stare into your heart.  She didn’t like children after they got big enough to walk around and chase her so we had to lock her up when the grandchildren came to the house.

The vet estimated she was about two years old when we got her so she was around fourteen years old.  Her health had began declining; she had a significant heart murmur that caused her to cough frequently and then she started having seizures.  We put her on medication for that thinking maybe she could stay with us for a while longer, but she didn’t do well on the meds.  This morning she had two seizures while on the medication and really over the last two weeks or so her condition declined rapidly.  So, after today’s seizures and watching her stumble around trying to walk we knew it was time for Darby to leave us.  She had been by our side for years, so we wanted to be with her when she was put to sleep and it was tough.  But it would have been an injustice to keep her with us in misery so we’re all better off (or we will be when we get over losing her).

Thanks for the memories and good times Little Girl!

A LOOK BACK: VISITS TO THE BEACH

By far one of the best things we did when our daughters were growing up was visit the beach; it was essentially an annual ritual when the girls were young.  We often went with another couple who had a daughter the same age as Katie.  Robin and the male friend were classmates in school so we had a string friendship already.  One of the rituals of our beach trips was sculpting a large sand display- not a castle, however.  I wasn’t creative enough to build a castle, plus I think the Gulf beaches’ powdery white sand was the wrong building material for a castle.  We made animals.  I can remember making a turtle, an octopus, maybe an alligator.  We made a mermaid and maybe a sand-woman lying on the beach.  The girls did most of the heavy work hauling pail after pail of wet packable sand but it was a family project.  Once we had a big pile of sand we’d go to work on our agreed-to work of art. 

Our normal destination for these trips was Orange Beach or Gulf Shores, Alabama and another ritual of the trip was multiple visits to Sea-n-Suds, a local seafood restaurant built on poles over the Gulf waters below.  More often than not we ate fried blue crab claws, and they were delicious.  If you went for lunch you could get out of the hot sun for a while, avoid the huge dinner crowds and watch others frolic on the beach while enjoying your meal. 

Although I’ve tried to block two experiences from my memory, I have been unsuccessful.  We often took the kids to an amusement park in Gulf Shores and on one particular visit Katie wanted to ride the Sky Coaster.  On this ride you are strapped into the equivalent of the rock strap of a sling shot.  Then you are winched up backwards until the people below look like ants.  The operators count down “3…2…1…fly” and you (I) pull a rip cord that begins a free- fall down, down, down; then up, up, up the other side.  After that you just swing back and forth until the pendulum stops.  The other adventure was parasailing behind a boat driven by what appeared to be young teens.  These seem like enjoyable things to do EXCEPT I’m afraid of heights.  So, for these two adventures I plead temporary insanity and I’m so thankful Rachel never asked me to ride the Sky Coaster with her.  I will point out that Robin and the girls have parasailed together and they really had a great time but for me- I think I’m “one and done.”

Once the kids were gone Robin and I continued our beach trips when we could, but not every year.  We switched destinations to Pensacola Beach, Fl.  Our fried crab claw obsession is satisfied by Peg Leg Pete’s in Pensacola and the beaches in the Gulf Islands National Seashore are some of the most beautiful I’ve seen; particularly towards Ft. Pickens. 

I have so many great memories of being at the beach; napping in my chair, walking on the beach at night watching the sand crabs scamper in front of you, looking for figures in the white fluffy clouds, playing cards with Robin, watching the sun set over the gulf waters…

As comedian Ron White quotes his dog, Sluggo, “It’s going to be good day Tater.”  And the bumper sticker pretty well sums it up: “A bad day at the beach is better than a good day at the office.”

A LOOK BACK: INDIAN PRINCESS

The YMCA sponsors a program called “Indian Princess”/”Indian Guides”.  The program is a father/daughter or father/son program designed to bring dads closer to their children with activities for them to do together.  I went through the program with both of our girls and have many fond memories of being with them.  So this is the first of a series of look backs – favorite memories of times together with the girls. 

Our Indian Princess program consisted of maybe seven tribes which made up our nation.  We were in the Navajo tribe along with another 8-10 girls and dads.  We met monthly at someone’s home and the host dad/daughter made invitations to send to the other members and also came up with a craft of some kind for that meeting’s activity.  There were also set activities for the girls to do to earn badges for their vests and stones for their necklaces.  Once they completed a level they earned a feather for their headband. 

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These photos show some of the crafts we made together and also show the vests headbands and patches and feathers that Rachel earned.  We had Indian names for each other: Rachel was Setting Sun, Katie was Rising Sun and I was Thunderbird. 

A couple of times a year we had a nation campout weekend at the Y’s campground on Lake Guntersville.  Each tribe had its own cabin and we all ate in the camp cafeteria.  On Friday night, the first night of camp, we all gathered at the open campfire spot and had a HUGE bonfire.  Our tribe usually had responsibility for getting the fire prepared for Saturday night’s fire.  We soaked rolls of toilet paper in kerosene and wrapped them in wire.  Saturday night’s fire began with the nation chief and medicine man rowing to the shore in a canoe with their torches lit.  They walked to the trail in front of the cafeteria and lit the torches of each tribe’s chief then we all marched silently to the bonfire site.  Selected dads and daughters slowly beat drums as we walked up the trail.  After the big bonfire we all returned to our individual cabins and built small campfires where the girls roasted marshmallows and made ‘smores.  The girls played and played until finally bedtime rolled around and we crawled into our bunks and listened to the dads snore; it was often hard to get a good night’s sleep.  Sunday morning we had a church service at the amphitheater after breakfast, and then loaded our stuff to come home, take a shower, change clothes, and share our weekend adventure with Mama.  We also had a float in the annual Christmas Parade.

I don’t know if the program still exists; our participation was in the late 80’s to mid 90’s.  The program could have fallen by the wayside for being politically incorrect.  It was certainly never meant to be that; just a way to promote dads and daughters being together, drawing closer and sharing memories.  And today, I’m so thankful for the memories we shared and the good times we had.  Rising Sun, Setting Sun, your Thunderbird loves you and thanks you for those memories!