Music Memories

I was just working around the house earlier today with one of the cable music channels on, when, suddenly, I heard a song that instantly brought to mind a very vivid memory.  I was transported to the mid-90’s when the Girl’s Cross-Country team I was coaching was having a team-building meal at my house the night before an important race.  In that memory, they were all singing along with “The Rose” by Bette Midler.  And, yes, I was singing right along with them.  I don’t know why that song had become our team song (nor did I know why I ever started singing along with them), but it did.  And I don’t know why a 1979 song was still popular in the mid-‘90’s, but to the girls it was.  Hearing it today brought back that, and many other, happy memories of coaching and running with the girls.

This was not the only time this kind of experience has happened to me.  I like listening to “oldies” music—and, for me, that means the ‘50’s to the ‘80’s—not like what kids today consider “oldies “music.  But that’s a topic for another day.  Anyway, I had an “oldies” station on in my car when “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor came on.  Once again, an image instantly came to mind.  This time, instead of the sweet sound of Bette Midler’s voice, it was the hard-driving guitar blasts of Survivor that caught my attention.  Maybe it was because it was written as the theme song for Rocky III.  The song was released the day after the movie opening-1982 and later used for Rocky IV (1986).  But for whatever reason, it became the theme song for my Cross-Country teams of the early to mid-‘80’s.  The specific memory is of being in the school weight room doing a workout designed by one of the runners.  “Paul’s Tour of the Weight Room” became legendary for all the running teams ( male or female) for years after.  I can still feel the sweat, the strain, and the pain of that workout.  Worse yet, I can hear Paul’s voice in my head “encouraging” me by telling me what a wimp I was if I couldn’t finish.

Music has always been important and has had some amazing results when directed by God.  At one point, the Israelites were trying to capture the city of Jericho.  God gave them some specific instructions which involved marching around Jericho’s walls while playing trumpets.  Sounds like a silly way to conquer a city, doesn’t it?  This is what happened:  “So, the priests blew the trumpets. As soon as the people heard it, they gave a loud shout, and the walls collapsed. Then all the army went straight up the hill into the city and captured it.” (Joshua 6:20)

Got any walls to bring down?  Any battles you need to win?  Find the song God wants you to sing, sing it with all your heart and might, and you’ll live to fight another day.  And every time you hear or think of that song, you’ll have the memory of what it meant to you.  And, if you can’t sing,

3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, 
4 praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, 
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. (Psalm 150:3-6)

“Why me, Lord?” (Kris Kristofferson, 1972)

Not too long ago, I posted how our extended family has been going through some difficult times–extending roughly over the past 10 years.  There were deaths too numerous to mention and health issues that none of us ever expected.  I know we’re no different from other families who probably have gone through similar situations.  But that doesn’t make them any easier to deal with.  People say that whatever doesn’t kill them makes them stronger.  Then we must be one incredibly powerful family.  It just doesn’t always feel that way.

So, here we were planning and looking forward to starting the new year with a fresh and positive outlook.  Well, so much for that idea.  Our nephew passed away unexpectedly on New Year’s day, leaving 4 sons (including an infant), his partner, and all of us.  Following that, there were unexpected issues with custody of his baby.  Then there’s an unexpected health issue that will require surgery.  Some of the non-family responsibilities we have are now requiring a lot of our time dealing with very stressful issues.  And January isn’t even over yet.

I said (wrote) all of that to say this:  In the midst of all that (and whatever else may be coming down the road), I need to remind myself:

Psalm 147:3   He heals the broken-hearted and bandages those wounds.

Matthew 5:4   Those people who are grieving will find comfort from God

And, it’s true.  He does and they will.

Step out the boat.

Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!  ”Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?” Matthew 14:29-31)

Ever notice how the Christmas season seems to amplify the hassles and complexities of our lives?  Health issues seem more debilitating.  Finances seem to overcome our wallets.  Relationships seem more fragile.  In my own family, we suddenly needed a hole in the roof patched (probably needs to be replaced in the spring), our refrigerator died ( just after the warranty expired), our front brakes needed to be replaced (where we discovered that we needed four new tires) and our alternator light went on (we hit a deer on the way to the repair shop).  Add in a cardiac catheterization and things were looking pretty bleak.

Remember the expression, “up the creek without a paddle,”? (Some of you may remember a slightly different version.)  Well, our boat seemed to be taking on water fast.  At similar points in our lives we all have a choice to make.  Do we go down with the boat, or do we step out in faith, believing that God will help us to walk on the water?  Those remaining in the boat will try to convince us to stay and not take the chance.  After all, who can walk on water?  Since I was going to get wet anyway, I decided I might as well step out.  Since I have, we have managed to keep up with our finances, the heart procedure showed no major problems, the car is still running, the roof isn’t leaking anymore and we’re learning how to direct our grief over losses into helpful ways with our family.

Life is never easy, but it’s far better when you step out of the boat.

The Master’s Hand

Now may the God of peace….equip you with every good thing to do His will. (Hebrews 13:20-21) 

Wishing to encourage her young son’s progress on the piano, a mother took the small boy to a Paderewski concert. After they were seated, the mother spotted a friend in the audience and walked down the aisle to greet her. Seizing the opportunity to explore the wonders of the concert hall, the little boy rose and eventually explored his way through a door marked “NO ADMITTANCE.”

When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin, the mother returned to her seat and discovered that her son was missing. Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway on stage. In horror, the mother saw her little boy sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” At that moment, the great piano master made his entrance, quickly moved to the piano, and whispered in the boy’s ear, “Don’t quit, keep playing.”

Then leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached around to the other side of the child and he added a running obligato. Together, the old master and the young novice transformed a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience. The audience was mesmerized.

That’s the way it is with God. What we can accomplish on our own is hardly noteworthy. We try our best, but the results aren’t exactly graceful flowing music. But with the hand of the Master, our life’s work truly can be beautiful. Next time you set out to accomplish great feats, listen carefully. You can hear the voice of the Master, whispering in your ear, “Don’t quit, keep playing.” Feel His loving arms around you. Know that His strong hands are playing the concerto of your life. Remember, God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.

– Author Unknown –

Dem bones, dem bones…

May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. (Psalm 20:4)


“To succeed in lifeyou need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.” (Reba McEntire, actress, singer)

Wishbone: Dream big and shoot for the stars.  Never let anyone or anything discourage you.  Some people are born with tornadoes in their lives, but constellations in their eyes.  Be one of those.

Backbone: Be strong enough to know when you are weak and brave enough to face yourself when you are afraid.  Be proud and unbending in honest defeat and humble and gentle in victory.  Stand up in the storm and learn compassion for those who fail.

Funnybone:  Have sense of humor.  Always be serious, but never take yourself too seriously.  Be humble and remember the simplicity of greatness, the open-mindedness of true wisdom and the meekness of true strength.

Bones to live by.

Lifetime Love


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.

Kiss Me Good Night

Our future looked bright—a new way of living.

We learned how to love—a new day was dawning.

Before we were two—now that would be changing.

You’d kiss me good night—and kiss me each morning.

We two became one—our lives interweaving.

We started our lives—a brand new beginning.

We gave up ourselves—by constantly sharing.

By kissing good night—and kissing each morning.

We moved on through life—with everything changing.

Each one of us grew—our interests expanding.

Together we loved—and just kept on living.

As you kissed my goodnight—and kissed me each morning.

We never had kids—no little ones playing.

The sadness we felt—was often dismaying.

But even while filled—with emotion and feeling,

You kissed me goodnight—and kissed me each morning.

We learned to give help—to those who were needing.

In church, school and sports—and sometimes in singing.

But no matter what—the help we were giving,

You kissed me good night sand kissed me each morning.

We both left our jobs—to begin our retiring.

And made all our plans—to start all our traveling.

But no matter where—we ended up sleeping,

You kissed me good night—and kissed me each morning.

Through sickness and health—we never stopped loving.

In good times and bad—we kept on surviving.

‘Til all that was left—I kept on believing,

You’d kiss me good night and kiss me each morning.

It seems now we’re old—the years have been passing.

Our lives have slowed down—our memories fading.

One day it will end—yet I’ll keep on praying,

To kiss you good night—and kiss you each morning.

Happy 46th Anniversary, Betty.  I love you more with each kiss.

Miss U….

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saint. (Psalm 116:15)

Last night was the Greater Gardner Relay for Life.  It was a special time for us as my wife walked for the first time as a survivor.  It was also bittersweet because it was the first year that my late sister-in-law was not a member of one of the fund-raising teams.  This was always an exciting time for her and important because so many of her siblings and other family member have died of various types of cancer.  It brought to mind some of the many things we are missing since her death Christmas Eve.  Here are just a few of them in no particular order:

She would host Super Bowl parties at our house (while we were away vacation).

She would call in the middle of the night to let me know that the Red Sox had just done something great.

She would call in the early morning of every birthday and sing Happy Birthday.

She loved making puzzles at our house–whether we were there or not.

She visited and became my mom’s best friend in the last years of her life.

She transferred those visits and friendship to my sister, who had lived with my mom for those last years.

She would go on vacations with us and various other family members ( her sister, nephew and family, my sister, etc.).

She took pictures for every holiday and family gathering–and sometimes just for the sake of taking a picture.

She would play Scrabble with her cousins and my wife (and Dominoes, too, with the cousins).

She would clip news and sports articles from the local paper for every friend, relative and neighbor for miles around.

We would join her in celebrating her 29th birthday year after year after year.

There were so many ways that she impacted our lives, and each day we remember another.  And each time it hurts like an emotional wound that has reopened.  And, these are just a handful of memories that I will always have of the woman who became my sister when I married her sister.  There are many, many more.

Dining Room Memories: Part 2


The remembrance of the righteous is a blessing…(Proverbs 10:7)

Going back to my dining room…

Kindergarten was not required or even offered universally back when I was five years old.  I was already learning to read because my folks wanted me be as ready for first grade as possible.  So, my mom sat down at that dining room desk and used our black bakelite rotary to find out how to enroll me in the trial program that was being offered for pre-first graders.  After several phone calls, we discovered that the program that was being offered was limited in number and that there was no room for any additional children.  I was crushed.  I know that I must have cried many times as I was growing up, but this time I remember being heartbroken that I couldn’t “go to school.”  Imagine that…wanting to go to school that badly.

The final memory I want to share is special one to me because it involved my dad.  He had always smoked as a teenager and as an adult.  Mom never made a big deal of it, though she never smoked and didn’t like that he did.  This was right around the time that the public was beginning to become aware of just how serious a health problem smoking was.  And there were indications that second-hand smoke could be harmful, too.  When he learned that, he simply stopped smoking–cold turkey.  He couldn’t continue, knowing that his smoking could hurt, not only himself, but his family.  My mom was also glad that she could change the curtains and wash the walls that had acquired a brownish tint over the years. Unfortunately,he stopped too late in life and he would eventually die of lung cancer.

I don’t know that I consider myself all that righteous, though I try to be.  But I know that God has allowed me to have many good memories of my past and of my family–even those that didn’t seem all that pleasant at the time.  And, for that, I will be eternally grateful.


Dining Room Memories: Part 1

The remembrance of the righteous is a blessing…(Proverbs 10:7)

When I was growing up, our home had an old-fashioned dining room where we ate our Sunday suppers and where any family gathering was held.  It was relatively small, with an expandable, four-chair table, a hutch and a desk where my parents worked on the family budget and made phone calls on our black, bakelite, rotary phone.  There were two windows, one facing west and one facing north.  Three doors led to the kitchen, living room and laundry-cum-bedroom (mine).  My mom’s coat/dress closet also opened into the room.

One of my earliest memories was of that coat closet.  I couldn’t have been more than six or seven years old at the time–just old enough to realize that Santa was not going to come down our closed up chimney sometime between Christmas Eve and when I woke up Christmas morning.  So, a few days before the big day, I began to secretly search the house.  The last place I looked was Mom’s closet.  Bingo!  There were the gifts all wrapped and stacked for Christmas morning.  I was so proud of myself for my detecting skills and prouder that I never let on to anyone that I had found the present stash.  Now I wish I would have told her.  She would have gotten quite a kick out of it.

An even earlier memory was not such a pleasant one–at least at that time.  My mom was preparing to bake something in the kitchen by greasing the cake pan with butter.  I was so impressed with the idea of spreading butter like it was a crayon that I decided to use it like one to draw on the dining room wallpaper.  I had pretty much finished a creative 3×4 foot “canvas” when Mom walked into check on me.  Considering how much work and how long it took to get the grease out of wallpaper and the plaster behind it,  I’m amazed that I didn’t get more than a stern talking to.  In fact, with time, it became one of her favorite stories–right after the one about me taking my baths in the kitchen sink.  At least I was able to confiscate all of the photos of those.

It may not have been very fancy or sophisticated, but that little dining room held a lot of great memories.  It was what family was all about.

This Is Going To Hurt Me More Than It Hurts You (Not!)

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an  imperishable (I Corinthians 9:25).  Train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (I Timothy 4:7-8).

I was reminded this morning that I would never be able to coach today’s young athletes the way I did 40, 30, 20 or even 10 years ago.  My teams believed that football players were kids that couldn’t cut it for distance running.  On days of races, we would run the entire course and then race the other team.  Up until the end of the season (When championship races were held), we would hold extra-long distance practices the day before our races, so that we would be extra sharp when we would later race with rest.  That was part of the intimidation routine that those teams wanted to generate.

My job was to give them the physical background, the means to improve during the season and the ability to succeed when the pressure was on.  But that was my cross-country job.  My real job was to try to set an example and to lead them to lives that would make a difference–not just in their sport, but in their lives–both then and in the futrue.

So, while it might not be politically correct in today’s society, some of the best examples that changed some of my runners lives were, on the face of it, tortuous.  Their was a young man, who thought it would be clever to “moon” the opposing team as our bus was leaving the school we ran against that day.  Everyone went silent, as they waited to see my reaction.  I just told them all, “wait until tomorrow.”  Needless to say, the culprit was sweating it out for the next 24 hours until we met again for practice.  So, at the start of that practice, I gave the entire team the lecture of how they were representing their school, their team and, probably most important, themselves.  So, I asked him and the team to decide what sort of workout he should have to help to “remind” him to think before he acted in the future.  He and the team decided on a session of repeat hills that we had practiced before.  We didn’t decide on how many times he should run up that hill.  We let him decide.  He ended up running that hill until he literally cried.  And his teammates voluntarily ran each one with him.  It was a painful lesson, but one that stuck.  He ended up serving as a Senior combat Medic in the US Army and as a Field Agent for the Counter terrorist Unit in both LA and NY and is a proud husband and father.

In one other brief situation, one of the male members of the team purposely did something that embarrassed one of the female members of our team.  Oh, yeah,..the guys and the girls trained together everyday.  That would probably be politically incorrect today, too.  Just think of those poor guys who might not be able to keep up with the girls.  What a terrible shock to their fragile egos.  And, to expect the girls to do the same workouts as the guys was surely putting too much pressure on them to keep up.  Anyway,…one of the male co-captains decided to create a weight room workout for the offending individual.  We had a 10 station workout that we usually did.  So, we started him with 10 reps at the same weight as the girl could do for each station.  Sounds easy?  Then he had to do 9 reps on each, then 8, then 7 and so on.  Once again, we suddenly had a guy who appreciated all of his teammates and who showed respect to everyone.

I’m not implying that we should physically challenge a person for every indiscretion.  But sometimes tough love works.  And in my situation it did–more often than not.  Most are now having a positive influence on their family, their job, their community and, in many cases, their church.

And, to this day, these team members are still in communication with me.  And many have become my adult friends.  And for that I’m thankful.  And I’m thankful that I coached in an era that allowed me to influence lives in ways that lasted.