Shine A Light: Leon Russell

I was watching the re broadcast of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony. Elton John was inducting Leon Russell, and it  was a great, sincere and most honest induction. Elton reminded us of Leon’s phenomenal session career. I will give you a brief glimpse, because if I list all of the artists’ records he played on, I might lose you. Here ya go, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Everly Brothers, Del Shannon, Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers in the night”, that was Leon. Oh yeah, The Byrd’s “Mr. Tambourine”, that was Leon. Every single Beach Boys record, Bob Dylan, Joe Cocker, Herb Alpert, George Harrison and B.B. King. His timeless song “A Song For You” has been cut over 4o times and was a hit for Willie Nelson in the movie, “Honeysuckle Rose”. Leon was in Phil Spector’s house band, and that meant he played on every song that Spector did. Look up Phil Spectors career if you aren’t familiar. That alone will blow you away.

Leon is one my cousin Cyndi’s favorite. I love her and her love for Leon turned me on to his music a long long time ago.

You’ll remember Leon’s hits as an artist as well. “Tightrope”, “A Song For You”,”Delta Lady”, “This Masquerade” and my favorite “Lady Blue”. It’s good energy for Elton to call Leon and do a record with him last year called “The Union”. Mighty fine group of songs on there. But more, I think it did wonders for Leon’s spirit and hopefully put some much deserved money and attention on this great artist. Go check him out. Buy his music. He is just a click away!!

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Reading List: Falling Upward by Richard Rohr

Ok, so maybe I shouldn’t be writing this post as I’m only half way through Richard Rohr’s new book “Falling Upward”, but that’s just how good it is ! Rohr doesn’t miss much and his books and teachings should be a part of anyone’s life and spiritual survival gear.

As the subtitle “A spirituality for the two halves of life” suggests, it is a beautiful window for those of us embarking on the second half. But I like the line in the forward, “People at any age must know about the whole arc of their life and where it is tending and leading”. It makes me think of us parents trying to teach our children that they way they think now, and choices they make now, will affect them later on. That all of your life is connected.

I love his quote from Desmond Tutu who said “We are only the light bulbs, Richard, and our job is just to remain screwed in”. To me that says to be present as much as we can in our lives. To see the beauty in everything. To find God in everything. To remain open and aware that nobody has all the answers.

Here is another moving quote “Transformation is often more about unlearning than learning, which is why the religious traditions call it “conversion” or “repentance”. For me the unlearning goes hand in hand with letting go of all my junk. Letting go of my prejudice , my small inclusive thinking, and that my culture holds all the answers.

Rohr always challenges me to expand and let the love of God do the work. His words always ring true in my heart, perhaps my best barometer. Let me know what you think.

Traveling Light

I’ve always felt that one of my tasks as a parent concerning spirituality, was to give my children the least amount of baggage possible while creating or nurturing, I should say, a craving for that connection to our Maker. No small task! As I get older and begin this process of chipping away at the clutter in my  life, it brings to light how vital too much baggage is. Traveling light is better for me.

I’ve had to come to a comfort level with letting go of some things. Like beliefs that were handed down to those that handed them down, that handed them down to me, was the first place to start. I revere my heritage and I honor the ones that came before me, so letting go of some of those beliefs wasn’t whimsical by any means. They were passing along the best information or view they could possibly hold with what they knew. I will be doing the same thing. Perhaps one difference is that I see my faith constantly shifting and shaping, growing and questioning along this journey. This is the culture I live in. It wasn’t always that way.

But the way it was, isn’t the way it always was. Right? Does that make sense? We don’t really do anything like it was done 100 years ago. I doubt we’d recognize any practices of our ancestors from 1000 years ago. I’m just saying that we seem to look through a small window when we speak of tradition. The tradition then sadly becomes as vital as what it was supposed to support.

Speaking for me only, some layers of tradition can work against me, creating baggage. That baggage gets in the way of me being open to the endless possibilities of how God can appear, and how I can be shaped. I’m just saying I think we have to give ourselves “permission” to let go of things that get in our way. That putting more “stuff” between us and our Creator doesn’t help us. It happens in all of our lives and we are rarely told that it’s ok to let some of that go, for they were never the point anyway.

I am a Southerner and we love our traditions. I have many that I love and hold dearly, but when they get in the way; when they become counter productive, I believe the Maker is saying, “let it go, you only need me”.

I hope that’s some of what I can pass along to my children. Travel light. Bring the things that serve you well. Bring only the things you need.

Shine A Light: John Denver

75 and sunny here in Nashville. Seems like the perfect day to shine a light on one of my favorites, John Denver. Anyone that could describe coming alive in this world, an awakening to all that’s sacred, if you like, with a lyrical line like  “He was born in the summer of his 27th year- comin’ home to a place he’d never been before”. Well to me, that’s just brilliant. “Left yesterday behind him, you might say he was born again- might say he found a key for every door”. Commericial, touching, organic and spiritual all at the same time. Say much, with so little. Quite a trick in the craft of writing. Few get it.

So, with 5 songs, really, it seems like John Denver was shaping way ahead of his time the spirit of which many of us live in now. “Sunshine on my shoulders”, “Leaving on a jet plane”, “Rocky Mountain High”, “Annie’s song” and “Country roads”. Now not that he didn’t have other great songs, but these seem to be the framework of the “organic generation”. Those of us looking for simplier, quieter and sweeter.

John Denver doesn’t need a lot of words spoken on his behalf. His own words speak loud and strong enough. He left us too soon, but what he left, his songs and his unwavering spirit of things being free and true to themselves, will live on.

The Experience

 

Growing up in a traditional American, Southern, Christian culture, my way of relating to God, was through prayer, church attendance, listening to my elders and reading the Bible. Those were the paths of connection offered. That is how we showed love, gratitude and need, to and for God. These ways were given to me in honesty and a strong sense of faith. My forefathers, and foremothers were giving me a kind of accumulation of understanding that they had. I do believe those are ways of connecting to my Maker, I just no longer believe they are the only ways for me. Not bad, but not enough.

I believe I have had some true experiences of God. I really do. There were times so holy and beyond my mortal comprehension, that I just don’t believe it could be anything else but God. When I’ve been in the breadth and width of those experiences, I don’t believe anyone could tell me anything about God that I wasn’t experiencing. That’s one of the best parts of the “experience”; it leaves no room for doubt, no room for words that divide or debate. No philosophies to shake out and no right or wrong. How do they say it?, “It’s the peace that passes all understanding”. Well, I guess that pretty much sums it up. Peace is a pretty good tree to sit under.

I am just shy of 51 years old and my back trail isn’t littered with “experiences” of God. When I look back, I do think it’s been a journey covered with questions, missteps, strides and close calls. My journey though, when I’ve been honest and reached out has put my spirit in the right frame to connect. That connection on occasion leads to those brief glimpses, those experiences.

One thing I think was key for me was allowing the connection to come through a wider conduit. To really believe that God is in everything. For one thing it helped shift the focus off the negativity and how others weren’t doing it right. In my culture, we were pretty much the kings of that kind of thinking. I found it easier to connect if I just accepted that I really don’t know much of anything, and that others might have some insights I could use.  It allowed me find my Maker in things I never thought possible.

I live and long for those brief glimpses. As C.S.Lewis said, and this is not an exact quote, “When the garment is pulled back just ever so slightly, so I can reach for and maybe touch the hand on the other side”. It’s kind of like surfing in a way. You watch the winds, the pace of the sets, and then you line up right, paddle like crazy,  hoping that wave will slide behind you lifting you for a glorious ride. A ride where only the experience of that moment counts. Where that “moment” is all there is.

Where do you find your connections that lead to experiences? When I don’t watch the winds and I don’t line up right for a wave, then I miss the ride. I hope that even though I miss the ride sometimes, that I stay in the water, watching, paddling, searching for even that is a part of the experience.

I like my friend Aaron Manes’ posts where he tells about music that helped him shape the blog. With his “advance permission”, I’d like to mention some of the music I was listening to as I wrote this post.

Bob Marley- “Three Little Birds”, Jack Johnson- “Banana Pancakes”, and Steely Dan “Hey Nineteen”.

Also helping shape this post, David Dark’s book “The Sacredness of Questioning Everything”

 

Shine A Light: Bruce Springsteen

A favorite story of mine involving Bruce happened at Live Aid. The story went that Tom Petty was about to follow Springsteens set. Petty was in the wings with Jackson Browne, and the crowd was screaming and screaming BBBBRRRRUCE….Jackson told Petty, “don’t worry, they aren’t booing you, they are saying Bruce, to which Petty says dryly “what’s the difference”!

It’s really hard to explain to folks who weren’t there just how big Springsteen was in the early 80’s. When “Born in the USA” came out, it was beyond big. Of course the old “Boss” fans felt he was selling out and it was too commercial. Springsteen was just traveling on his own musical journey and to prove it, the next record was recorded at his kitchen table. The record “Nebraska” was dark, haunting, and yet beautiful. Stripped down and bare, real and raw.

Springsteen has done this many times, with hip LA records like …….and another stark story in the form of “The Ghost of Tom Joad”.

There is a long road of Springsteen music to choose from. Hard Jersey barroom, Pop rock, singer songwriter. He is the Boss. A True American, believer and searcher of truth. He has great things to share in his music. Give him a try.

Shine A Light: Van Morrison

They say “Moondance” is the record to start with if you are checking out Van Morrison. I admit he is a little tricky to understand sometimes what with that Irish brogue, and yes sometimes he goes on a little too long with ad libs, but at the core, Van Morrison is a deep, wonderful artist with great songs.

Songs, that you’d have to be living under a rock for the past 30 years to have missed. Songs like “Wild Night” (Tupelo Honey), “Moondance” (Moondance), “Stranded” (Magic Time) and of course Brown Eyed Girl” (Blowin’ Your Mind).

Here is Van Morrison singing the beautiful “Someone Like You”


Belfast born Van, now lives in California, but believe me, he hasn’t lost any soul living in the land of the sun. Morrison spans the gamut, with rocking songs, reflective songs, and as a friend of mine used to say “good ole belly rubbin’ music”!