Aren’t you amazed at what tiny, seemingly insignificant things can excite a puppy? Here’s a very early scene from my soon to be released book, “Toby”, when he is first taken in as an orphan:
From the corner of his eye Toby notices a small tear in one of the blankets he’s sitting on. He turns and looks more directly at the frayed threads ringing the edges of the tear. He shifts his weight and the blanket moves. Immediately he pounces and attacks the edges of the hole, grabbing a mouthful of the loose threads. Growling, he shakes the blanket furiously. Pushing backward with all four feet he tries pulling it toward him. When it doesn’t budge, he lets go of it and bounces at it with stiff legs while barking at the same time. He stops and waits to see what will happen. When nothing moves, he eases forward and sniffs of the saliva soaked tear. Just as he does, his foot causes the blanket to barely move. Believing his quarry is still alive, Toby jumps backward and barks as ferociously as his puppy voice will allow him.

(release date is July 26. Pre-order your copy today from Amazon.)

 

I am an unabashed patriot. In spite of all our flaws and problems, I believe that The United States of America is the greatest country in the world. It is in that spirit that this year’s spring concert of The David Johnson Chorus will be a celebration of America.

The first half of the show will feature popular American music that has been sung around the world.

  • A medley of song’s from Disney’s “Frozen”
  • From the 40’s: Oscar & Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” combined with “Climb Ev’ry Mountain”
  • From the 50’s: a medley of Ray Charles’ most famous songs
  • From the 60’s: a rousing 10-minute medley of songs by The Four Seasons (whose music enjoyed a resurgence after the musical “Jersey Boys”)
  • Also from the 60’s: a pulse-driving medley of The Beach Boys
  • And from 1969 an unforgettable arrangement of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”

In the second half of the show, we will feature songs about America’s greatness.

  • We’ll begin with a medley of Irving Berlin’s music that concludes with, perhaps his most famous song, “God Bless America.”
  • Following the bombing of the World Trade Center on 9/11, Joseph and Pamela Marten composed “Song For The Unsung Hero” that salutes all first responders.
  • “American Anthem”challenges us to look at where we’ve come from and raises the question are we going to carry forward that legacy into the future.
  • After Celtic Woman toured America they recorded “O America,” a song that celebrates America as beacon that draws people to it.
  • “America, the Beautiful,” by Katherine Bates and Samuel Ward, is the quintessential patriotic song.  We will be singing all the verses of this wonderful song.
  • Mark Hayes is one of the most talented arrangers of choral music. He takes My Country, ‘Tis of Thee, America, The Beautiful, and This Is My Country and weaves them together in a gospel style that is mesmerizing.
  • And we will close out the show with a medley of all the fight songs of each branch of the military, followed by God Bless America.

If you celebrate the greatness of America as I do, you won’t want to miss this show.

Come join us at one of these venues:

  • May 14 – Union City (TN) (Cumberland Presbyterian Church)
  • May 21 – Senatobia, Mississippi (The Baddour Center)
  • May 21 – Cordova, TN (Covenant United Methodist Church)
  • June 4 – Dresden, TN (Dresden Elementary School)
  • June 11 – McKenzie, TN (McKenzie Church of Christ)

I have long “preached” to clients, and anyone who will hear me, about the importance of being “in the moment” and being “present.” One of the things that gets in the way of our doing that is all the technology at our disposal.

Christopher Willard has written a thoughtful article on the topic in which he says in part, “There’s nothing inherently bad or good about technology. Technology just is. How we relate to it and what we do with it are what matters. But our phones are not designed to be neutral, they are created to keep us hooked with texting, shopping, and sharing data with marketers, corporations, and even government agencies…oh, and our friends and family, too.”

Take the time to be “in the moment” and read his entire article at the link below.

Source: The Joy of Missing Out – Mindful

Be A Warrior!

March 25, 2016 — 1 Comment
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     If you are one of the millions of young people who are about to graduate from high school, college, or technical school, I have three words of advice for you:  Be A Warrior.
     There is nothing kind and gentle about the world you are entering, and it will eat you up and spit you out unless you tackle it with the tenacity of an NFL linebacker. 
     That piece of paper you will be given upon graduation won’t mean a thing when you show it to a prospective employer unless you look them in the eye and prove to them that you are worthy of a chance.  Neither that employer, nor the world at large, owes you anything.  You have to earn it, just like you had to earn your degree.
     You need to grab life by the front of the shirt and shake it.  Be a warrior.
     This is no place for the timid and shy.
     “But I am timid and shy,” you say.  If you are, quit using that as an excuse.  Many a soldier has entered the battlefield with terror in their heart, but they refused to give into the terror.  Rather, they pushed their way through it, and you can, too – if you have the mentality of a warrior.
     Do you have goals and aspirations for your future?  Then YOU have to make them happen through hard work. 
     My eight-year-old grandson told me he wants to be an All-Star in Little League baseball.  I told him, “Then you have to practice harder and longer than anyone else.  You have to try harder than anyone on the field.”  He thought about that for a few seconds, and replied, “Oh, so that’s how it works.” 
     Absolutely, that’s how it works.  Even at age eight, he needs to have the heart of a warrior if he wants to get to where he wants to be.

 

     Whatever excuses are lining up in your head about how you can’t get this or achieve that, set them on fire, burn them up, and trample their ashes under your marching feet.  Excuses are shackles that keep you imprisoned in the world of “I can’t.”  The world doesn’t care one twit about your sorry excuses.  The world is looking for warriors.

     I’m over sixty years old (yes I’m going to play that card on you), and every commencement speaker I’ve ever heard always talks about “the changing world that you are facing” as if it is something new.  Hey, the world is ever-changing.  So what?  All that means is that opportunities are constantly morphing into something new – but there are still opportunities.  What you have to do is to be that warrior who runs them down, pins them to the ground, and demands to be given a chance.  Don’t take no for an answer.
     So what will it mean if you try and fail?  It will mean nothing more than that – you tried and failed.  No warrior goes undefeated.  But a warrior doesn’t give up and quit just because they fail.  They sharpen their sword by looking for lessons to be learned from the experience, and then they eagerly enter the fray again with redoubled zeal.
     I congratulate you on your achievement and approaching graduation.  But you’re not finished.  You’re just getting started.  Put on your boots.  Strap on your armor. 
     And be a Warrior!

The playgrounds of my childhood always had two things to play on – a swing and a see-saw.

The see-saw was an extremely long board fitted perpendicular to a piece of large pipe that it pivoted on. The only way to hold on and ride it was to grip the sides of the board. The more advanced see-saw featured two pieces of pipe fashioned into a t-shape securely attached to the end. Those didn’t come into fashion until a few years later.

By today’s standards there was nothing safe about it. There were multiple ways to incur an injury. One of the favorite “tricks” to pull on someone was when they were up in the air and you were on the ground was to jump off and let them plummet to the hard-packed soil. No doubt this resulted in multiple spinal compression injuries.

The See-saw also worked as a catapult. If you pushed off the ground with all your might and your friend on the other end braked hard when he touched the ground, no matter how tight your grip, you could be dislodged. Your trajectory resembled a broken-winged quail as you sailed across the playground, landing in a cloud of dust.

One of the problems involved the weight differential on each end. The twelve year old bully who was still in third grade required two to three classmates on the other end to counterbalance the board. If he pointed you out to come sit on the other end of the board, you were caught on the horns of a dilemma. If you refused, he’d beat you up. If you joined the other victims on the board, you knew he would eventually either catapult you or let you drop like heavy stones into a mangled heap of knees, elbows, and heads striking each other and the ground.

What you needed to make the see-saw work perfectly was the perfect partner. My perfect partner in Kindergarten was Jane Foote. Jane and I were the exact same size. Her being a tomboy didn’t hurt either. We made, and kept, a promise to never jump off the see-saw when the other was at the apex.

As simple as it may seem, marriage is much like a see-saw. Just like the see-saws from my childhood, there is nothing safe about marriage. There are innumerable opportunities for injury, some self-inflicted and others perpetrated on us. Betrayal, neglect, abuse and affairs cause the most harmful injuries – a broken heart, a broken spirit and a broken mind.

The most important safeguard against being wounded by the marriage see-saw is finding that perfect partner, someone who brings balance to your life. Someone you can look at across the see-saw from a position of equality. For a marriage to work, both people need to make a commitment to never bailing out (jumping off the see-saw) when the going gets tough.

The reason see-saws have been a staple of children’s play for hundreds of years is because it’s fun to ride a see-saw! That dizzying feeling in the pit of your stomach when you suddenly descend rapidly; the joy of watching and listening to your partner’s laughter; the skill it takes to create that balancing act when you are sitting level; the challenge of holding on through the bumps; the relaxing feeling of a gentle ride; the exhilaration of a rapid ride; the excitement of finding that perfect partner.

Marriage can provide the same types of thrills. It’s ok to be afraid of marriage, but don’t let that fear keep you away from the most exciting toy on the playground.

And don’t settle until you find that perfect partner.

No one believes in the power of prayer more than I do. It is the avenue that puts us in direct contact with the ultimate power – God himself. And God can do things for us that we never dreamed possible. I truly believe that because I’ve seen it happen in my own life many times.

But sometimes our expectations of God set us up for disappointment and frustration because those expectations are in direct opposition to an important principle, and that is this – God won’t do something for us that we can do ourselves. Starting with Noah, in the Old Testament, the Bible reveals this principle over and over again.

Noah and the ark. Everyone is familiar with the story. But did you realize he and his sons worked on building the ark for 120 years?! You think you work long hours at your job?!

The interesting thing to me about that is in the twinkling of an eye God could have given Noah an ark – complete and furnished. Instead, God had him labor over a hundred years on the project.

I have to believe that Noah and his sons learned many valuable lessons over that span of time while working together to accomplish God’s will.

The Kingdom of God is not some kind of welfare state that rewards people who sit on their hands and do nothing.

So if you are frustrated in your prayer life because God is not giving you what you ask for, then perhaps you should look within yourself and ask if there is something you should be doing.

 

2016 is just a few days away! 

Everyone is usually focused on making those New Year’s Resolutions.  But before you make those resolutions, be sure you’ve gotten rid of these four things first.

  1. Regrets – You know all those mistakes you made in 2015?  The things you should have done or said and the things you wish you hadn’t done or said?  Quit dwelling on them!  Mistakes are part of life.  Dragging around regrets will slow your progress in life.  Apologize (if needed), make amends (when you can), and move on.
  2. Negative people – Hanging around negative people is like sitting down to a meal with cannibals.  Their negativity will devour you by sucking the life and energy out of you.  Ditch those people!  Throw them to the curb!
  3. Bad eating habits – How you eat has a direct impact on your mental health.  Too often we treat our body like a garbage can, throwing any and everything into it.  Stop having that two-doughnut breakfast!  Treat your body like the temple that it is.
  4. Excuse making – Do you realize the main reason you didn’t accomplish the goals you set on January 1, 2013, is your big “but!”  How many times did you say, “I would have gotten that done, BUT……”  “I promised I’d do that, BUT…..”  “I know I said I would, BUT…..”  Wake up!  Get rid of your big ol’ BUT.

2016 will be what you make of it, but you are more likely to be successful if you’ll get rid of these few things first. 

So get busy because you don’t have much time!

(This scene is from Tucker’s Way, the first book in the Tucker series. I find it to be a particularly touching scene and enjoyed writing it very much.  I hope your Christmas Day is filled with magic, just like Tucker’s was.)

Following the Christmas meal, Ella says, “If everyone’s finished, let’s all go into the living room.”

Tucker and Maisy sit down beside each other on the couch and March and August form bookends for them. April sits on her knees beside Ella.

“Now that it’s getting dark outside,” Ella says, “August, why don’t you plug in the Christmas tree lights, and March, you turn out the overhead light.”

As if practiced and choreographed, March switches out the lights at the very instant August plugs in the lights of the tree. The effect is dramatic. Red, green, white, and blue lights send their beams across the ceiling and floor.

“Oh man…” August says softly as his head turns round the room to follow the tails of the colored comets.

March is transfixed. After a moment, he slowly walks toward the tree and stands beside it.

Tucker whistles low.

“It looks just like the tree in my apartment,” Maisy says. “Except that mine is – ”

Tucker cuts Maisy off with an elbow to the ribs. Through her clinched teeth Tucker says, “This ain’t about you.”

Rubbing her side, Maisy shoots a mean look at Tucker but says nothing.

Pulling a chair up to the side of the tree and sitting in it, Ella says, “August and March, you come sit in the floor by the tree.”

The normally boisterous March moves cautiously to join his brother at the base of the tree.

Ella clears her throat and says, “Now, I’ve done something without asking permission, and I don’t want anyone to get upset about it. I did it because it’s what I wanted to do. It’s what I enjoy doing.”

Everyone’s attention is glued on Ella.

“I’ve got some surprises for you,” she continues. “Will you help me April?”

Smiling, April stands.

Pointing to a present under the tree, Ella says to April, “Give that one to August and that red one to March.”

“Presents!” March yells at the top of his lungs.

“Wow,” August says quietly.

“Now just a minute – ” Tucker begins, but Ella cuts her off.

“Shush right there Tucker. I just got through saying that this is something I wanted to do and no one is stopping me.”

Tucker exhales and eases back into the couch. “It’s your right t’ do what y’ wanna do, I guess.”

August and March are sitting on their knees and looking at Ella, their unopened presents in front of them.

“Well what are you waiting for?” she asks. “Open them.”

March jerks and tears at paper and bow like a Tasmanian devil. August unties the bow and then breaks the hold of the tape on the paper. Identical boxes are exposed underneath the colorful paper. They open the boxes simultaneously and pull out sheepskin denim jackets. With eyes as big as their open mouths, the boys are speechless.

“Oh my lordy,” Tucker exclaims. “Put ‘em on, boys, ‘n let’s see how y’ look.”

Standing up, the boys slide their arms into the sleeves and pull the jackets over their shoulders. August stands tall and looks down at himself. March spins around in front of everyone.

Maisy says, “Don’t my boys look handsome?”

Handing two smaller presents to April, Ella says, “Take this one to Tucker and this one to Maisy.”

With a wide grin, Maisy grabs her gift and opens it quickly. She pulls out a long scarf. “How pretty.” Standing, she wraps it around her neck and prances across the floor. “Don’t I look beautiful?”

Tucker opens her present slowly, her thick fingers fumbling with the paper and bow.

“What did you get Tucker?” August asks.

“Give me a minute,” Tucker says. Finally getting it open, she pulls out a pair of leather work gloves. She puts them on and admires her gloved hands. “Now them’s some fine gloves right there. I ain’t never had none this good. Thank y’ Ella. Boys, whatta y’ say?”

“Thank you Miss Ella,” March says.

Walking to Ella, August puts his arms around her neck and says, “Thank you Miss Ella.”

Tucker thumps Maisy’s ankle with the edge the sole of her boot. “Ouch,” Maisy exclaims. “Watch where you’re – ”

Catching Tucker’s eye, Maisy stops and says, “Thank you Ella. This scarf is lovely.”

Looking very pleased, Ella says, “Now April, why don’t you go get your Christmas present and put it on so everyone can see it?”

Smiling, April runs to her room.

Reaching behind the tree, Ella pulls out her autoharp case and lays it on her lap. As she begins unbuckling it, August says, “I’ve seen that before. That’s where you keep that thing you played when we were here after the tornado. What’s it called?”

Opening the lid, Ella reaches in. “It’s an autoharp.” Lifting it out of the case, she says, “Move the case for me, will you March?”

March quickly obeys and Ella places the autoharp on her lap. She pulls out a pick and strums it a few times. The notes float through the air like the seeds of a dandelion.

“How pretty,” Maisy says softly.

“You just wait, mama,” March says. “She’s really good at playing that thing.”

“What about Jingle Bells?” Ella asks her audience. “Anyone in the mood for Jingle Bells?”

Clapping her hands, Maisy says, “Yes, yes. That’ll be fun. We can all sing together.”

“Okay then,” Ella says. “Here we go.”

She attacks her autoharp with relish and begins singing with the same verve.

Maisy immediately joins in.

March and August gape at their mother and swap looks of amazement. Shrugging their shoulders, they join in as well.

As they head into the chorus the second time, Maisy says, “Come on Tucker. Sing with us.”

Looking embarrassed, Tucker smiles almost shyly.

“Yeah,” August encourages her, “sing with us.”

March darts over and begins dancing in front of her. “Sing Tucker. Sing.”

Softly at first, Tucker begins singing.

“We can’t hear you!” Ella calls out excitedly. “Let ‘er rip Tucker!”

Finding a voice she hasn’t used in decades, Tucker throws back her head and sings lustily with the others.

Maisy looks at her mother with wonder.

August moves to take his mother by the hand and pulls her off the couch. They dance in circles.

“Come on, Tucker,” March says. “We can do better than them.” He tugs on her with all his might.

Laughing, Tucker rises to her feet.

Soon the four of them are holding hands and dancing while Ella continues playing. When she stops playing, they turn to look at her.

Standing beside Ella is April dressed in a red dress, white tights, and red shoes. Her golden hair is pulled back and held in place by a red bow. Rhinestones on the front of her dress catch all the colors from the Christmas tree and reflect them into every part of the room. It’s as if she is plugged in, too. She smiles broadly at her family.

Tucker, Maisy, August and March continue holding hands, but seem too stunned to move.

“If you would,” Ella says to them, “please sit on the couch together. April has a present she wants to give to all of you.”

Still appearing shocked, the four step backwards and squeeze onto the couch, March sitting on Tucker’s lap.

Looking at April, Ella says, “Are you ready?”

April smiles and nods.

Ella looks down at her autoharp and begins slowly strumming and picking.

The notes of the song touch a memory in Maisy. She looks at Tucker, who has had the same memory stirred. Whispering, Maisy says, “Isn’t that what you used to hum to me when – ”

“Shhh,” Tucker says gently. “Yes it is.”

They turn their attention back to Ella playing. As they look, April takes a deep breath, opens her mouth, and in a voice as clear as crystal, sings –

Amazing grace how sweet the sound

that saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost but now I’m found.

Was blind but now I see.

As April continues with the next verses, Maisy openly weeps and lays her head on Tucker’s right shoulder.

August’s bottom lip begins to tremble as he lays his head in Tucker’s lap.

March leans back as Tucker tucks him into her right arm.

And Tucker? Tucker puts her right arm around Maisy’s shoulder and hums along with April.