Gratitude List 1551

(1) Going to meet with Keva this Sunday and do some singing and maybe more recording – not necessarily all stuff from the show.   Grateful for the connection.  Just because the workshop is over, it doesn’t have to end.

(2) An idea for a new column came to me out of the blue this morning.   Grateful to have been given something new and interesting to focus on at this time.

(3) New Lenovo arrived from Office Depot.   Great computer, never read a bad review, got $220 off on the deal, everything appears to be working perfectly.

(4) I really like this town cafe, which they expanded during the pandemic.   Takes up a whole block now with two new sections, including a beer and wine bar for after hours.   Looking forward to settling into a new phase of working quietly from here — gotta finish the 4th draft vocal score, and finally begin the piano score (having left the hardest part till last.)  Then the show will be ready for whoever.

(5) And I can move on.   It’s weird when change is “trying to happen.”  It feels so awkward needing to navigate new territory.   But change is necessary — I just have to keep trusting in the One who does not change.

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer.   Always remember, you have within yourself the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars and change the world.”  — Harriet Tubman 

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Tuesday Tuneup 105

Q. Where are you coming from?

A. Drama.

Q. Drama?

A. You heard me.

Q. As in Shakespeare?

A. Come on – you know what I mean.   Personal drama.

Q. Is there a lot of drama in your life right now?

A. If there is, there shouldn’t be.

Q. Then how is it that you claim to be “coming from drama?”

A. Because that’s where I come from — by nature.

Q. You’re a dramatic person by nature?

A. A good friend of mine once told me that I treat life as though it’s a play I’m writing.   A play in which I am the main character.

Q. So you are both Playwright and Protagonist?

A. Yes.  In the Play of Life.

Q. Isn’t that a bit presumptuous of you?   I mean, that you — an almost infinitesimal fraction of the world’s population — should be the playwright of the whole shebang?

A. Presumptuous in an understatement.   Somewhere between grandiose and delusional come to mind.

Q. When did you first realize this?

A.  The night before last.

Q.  Seriously?   Only that recently?   

A.  I believe it had been brewing for a long time.   But finally yes, the night before last is when I connected all the dots.   I’ve been treating people unrealistically for a long time.  I’ve been treating them according to what purpose I think they’re supposed to fulfill in my life — rather than according to who they are.

Q.  What happened the night before last?

A.  I was walking and praying.  Praying for a couple people whom I met recently, people with whom I tried to form friendships, and then I fouled up the friendships.  

Q. How did you do that?

A. I did it because I couldn’t see who they truly were, or what their needs were.  I could only see the role that I presumed they should be playing in my life.

Q. In the Play of Life — the play that you are always writing?

A. Yes!  Now you understand.  

Q. How did you feel when you realized how you had been treating them?

A. Horrible!  I suddenly saw how selfishly I had taken advantage of them.   And each of them had respected me — perhaps even admired me.   They were younger, and they looked up to me.  I should have provided a better example, a better role model.   Instead, I used them — I tried to fashion them into these characters of my own creation.  As though I were —

Q. God?

A. As though I were God.

Q. Was it really that bad?   You didn’t abuse them physically, did you?

A. No . . .

Q. Did you call them names?

A. One of them, yes.  When I was mad.   I tried to apologize — but the apology couldn’t have taken away the hurt.   And then I didn’t know what to do anymore, to be honest with you.

Q. What did you do?

A. I just started to be nice to them, whenever I happened to see them.   Tried to start anew, I guess.

Q. What more can you do?

A. Not much, I suppose.  Maybe time will take care of it all.

Q. What have you learned from all this?

A. Something I should have already known.

Q. What’s that?

A. That I’m a playwright.  I was born to write plays.   My brain thinks in characters and dialogue.  I should write more of them.  I should write a brand new play.   If I write more plays, I will cease to act as though I am the Playwright of Life.   And I will respect the One who truly is that Playwright.  The One who created my character.   The One who wrote the whole show — from the Beginning of Time.

The Questioner pauses.  

Q. Is all the world a stage?

A. In God’s eyes, perhaps.

Q. And in your eyes?

A. All the world’s a page.   I am but a writer who writes on it.   Page after page I will turn, I will write.  Until I’ve written what’s right for me to write.

Q. Promise?

A. I promise.   

Q. But what about the people in your life?

A. It’s not my life.   That’s the whole point.   It’s just life.   I didn’t create it.   God did.   I am only to participate in it, and appreciate it.

Q. But what about the people in your life?

A. They have their own lives.

Q. Really?

A. Well – in a manner of speaking.   I can only pray that they too will be able to get the most — out of Life.     

The Questioner is silent

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Gratitude List 1655

(1) Just got the second dose of the Moderna vaccine, about two hours ago.   Fulfilled my civic duty, and we’ll see what happens.  No fluish symptoms as of yet.  Grateful for this leap onto what will hopefully be a new and better stage.   

(2) Walking into the cafe, signs of new beginnings are in the air.   People wearing masks appear to be smiling.  Customers are less isolated and more chatty.   Had a couple meaningful conversations with strangers — two ladies I’d not seen before — who gave two different accounts about reactions to their vaccinations.   Sat down in my favorite venue and composed this gratitude list.   God has been good to me today.

(3) Got a nice compliment on Bridging the Gap from a staff member of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (AKA Ashland) — someone whom I haven’t talked to since 2004 (ironically, the year most referenced in the audio cast.)   After dispelling the immediate fantasies that Eden in Babylon might be produced at Ashland, I realized that two people who usually don’t comment have made appreciative remarks toward that single talk.   That means it’s probably useful, and I pinned it to my Twitter profile.   Glad I dug it up — hope it helps.   

(4) Because yesterday was Cooper’s last day, we recorded five of his songs back to back in the sanctuary.  Liam engineered the recordings and will have them ready, he says, by Thursday.   All were done with piano only, and most included five back-up singers from the team.    Though it’s difficult to lose Cooper, I’m grateful we used his last day wisely.   (Besides, you never know — he might come back someday.)

(5) Yes – definitely – new beginnings are in the air.   I can feel it.   It’s all around me.   It’s a beautiful day in the city of my birth.   I am somehow where I’m meant to be — where I belong — for now.  

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Won’t They Ever Learn?

The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt; their acts are vile.
There is no one who does good.
The LORD looks down from heaven
upon the sons of men
to see if any understand,
if any seek God.
All have turned away,
they have together become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.
Will the workers of iniquity never learn?
They devour my people like bread;
they refuse to call upon the LORD.
There they are, overwhelmed with dread,
for God is in the company of the righteous.
You sinners frustrate the plans of the oppressed,
yet the LORD is their shelter.
— Psalm 14:1-6

Tuesday Tuneup 90

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Interpretation.

Q. Of what?

A. Of an event.

Q. What sort of event?

A. An event that contains too much synchronicity to be coincidental, but that at the same time has the feel of somebody messing with my head.

Q. Messing with your head? Are you sure that’s the best way to describe the experience?

A. Without using the f-word, yes.

Q. But are you sure it’s only your head that’s being messed with? What about you? All of you? Your total being?

A. What are you driving at?

Q. On the streets, what did somebody mean when they said that they f—-d with you?

A. It didn’t mean anything negative, not in street slang. It only meant that they were willing to deal with me. Others they may have ignored, but me they interacted with. They probably even transacted with me. It meant that I mattered. That I was important to them.

Q. So when you feel that somebody is messing with you, what do you really feel?

A. Important.

Q. Come again?

A. Important.

Q. Say what?

A. Important! I’m important enough for them to bother messing with me.

Q. There you go! Now — who do you think has been messing with you?

A. Good question. There’s a sense of omnipotence and omnipresence. So it could be God. But it doesn’t seem to have the love that one associates with God. Maybe it’s an Agent or Angel of some kind. There’s a bit of an evil vibe to it. I don’t want to think it’s the Devil. Maybe it’s merely a gnome, or a poltergeist.

Q. Poltergeist? What kind of event are you talking about?

A. You really wanna know?

Q. Why else would I have asked?

A. All right. As you know, I don’t have my MediCare card. I was in the position where I would be billed for a service if I could not provide my MediCare number. The potential creditor only had my MediCaid number.

New Medicare Cards Coming Soon

So, to obtain the MediCare number, I took the little yellow slip of paper on which I had my MediCaid number written down, and I headed for the low income clinic. I figured there somebody might know me, and they might give me my MediCare number, especially if I could prove I was me, by showing them the MediCaid number.

But when I got there, I reached for my pocket, and the little slip of paper was gone! Oh well, not a big deal, as it turned out. The nice lady there got my name and birthdate, and soon handed me my MediCare number on a very similar little slip of yellow paper.

But then, when I got home, I reached for my pocket, and the little slip of paper she gave me was gone! What was there instead was the slip I’d thought I’d forgotten at home, the one containing my MediCaid number!

How could it be? It couldn’t be! It couldn’t possibly be that the slip of paper first vanished, then was replaced by a similar but not identical slip of paper, which was then mysteriously transformed into the first slip of paper. Poltergeist! Somebody was messing with me!

So I rode back on my bicycle and requested the MediCare number all over again. Then, when I returned home, I found I had both numbers on two little yellow slips of paper, which I then crammed down deep into my wallet. Moreover, I saw on the floor a third slip of yellow paper, this one containing my MediCare number! So I wrote my MediCaid number on the new slip of paper and stuck it on my refrigerator. Now I won’t lose my numbers – but I’m sure Somebody Up There was messing with me. They were just trying to let me know that They had my number (so to speak).

Q. Did you feel like you were being tested?

A. Yeah – that’s it. I was being tested. They were testing me, to see if I would blow.

Q. Did you blow?

A. No — not this time. I usually do, you know, whenever I think that they’re messing with me. But this time I kept my cool — and I kept my mouth shut.

Q. How did that make you feel?

A. At the time, pretty frustrated. I wanted to scream! But afterwards, upon reflection, it made me feel encouraged. I felt that I had passed the test.

Q. So how do you interpret the event?

A. As an honor. Just like it was an honor on the streets for someone to care about me enough to want to mess with me.

Q. But didn’t they only mess with you because you were an easy mark?

A. That’s right. And these Supernatural Guys — they think I’m an easy mark as well.

Q. Isn’t that a bad thing?

A. Not necessarily. I survived the streets, didn’t I?

Q. Why do you think you survived the streets?

A. Because there was always something they could get from me. I was useful.

Q. What about to the Supernatural Guys? What about to God?

A. To God, you ask? It just might be — just maybe — that to God, I am useful too.

The Questioner is silent.

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Gratitude List 1621

(1) Unusually beautiful morning. Walked slowly to the church humming the song “By My Side” from the musical Godspell. Played it on the piano for the first time in forever, along with a couple worship tunes and some jazz improv. As awful as yesterday was, so is today wonderful. Isn’t that the way it always goes?

(2) Just had a really nice talk with my pastor. Cleared a lot of things up.

(3) I haven’t gotten any work done for three days and have felt like I’m lagging far behind the reasonable goal for what I’m doing. However today I feel like I can probably get a little work done (I’m having to totally revamp the Vocal Score based on what’s been learned at rehearsals) – and I also am feeling that if I don’t happen to get any work done, it’s not the end of the world and I won’t beat myself up over it, as I usually do.

(4) Slept unusually well last night — seven hours solid. When I awoke I was a new man, and what can best be described as a “medical issue” yesterday (involving extreme bodily discomfort affecting my mind) has gone away (for now). Actually feeling pretty good today.

(5) Something has changed in terms of my ability to do once again some things I used to do very well before twelve years of homelessness affected my head. I’m getting back the ability to vocal-direct and to conduct musical rehearsals. I’m also blessed with a great group of people, whose professionalism and devotion definitely help me to stay on track. But mostly I am blessed with the revelation that God loves me. He shows His love for me by permitting me to engage a joy that I had feared was long past.

In light of that revelation, it almost doesn’t even matter if the musical is never produced, or if I never see its production in my lifetime. Each day, working with those Kids — if I can even call them Kids — is a joy unto itself. God’s blessings are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness.

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Tuesday Tuneup 76

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Philosophical speculation, as usual.

Q. On what themes do you speculate?

A. One in particular.  The idea of worrying about what other people of you.

Q. Do you do this?

A. Sometimes.  Not nearly so much as earlier in life.

Unapologetic Blogging- I'm not sorry for my content

Q. What gave rise to this particular speculation?

A. The other night, someone told me that they were worried about what somebody else thought of them.  I found myself saying something I had never said before.

Q. Did you say, perchance, that “whatever other people think about you is none of your business?”

A. No, I did not.

Q. Why not?

A. Because I find that cliché to be harsh.  It’s true that what other people of think of you is none of your business.  But it can come across like: “Hey! Mind your own business!”  

And then, the recipient of that rebuke might feel like: “Geeze, it wasn’t as though I was dipping into your personal stuff, bro!  All I was doing was worrying what somebody was thinking about me, for crying out loud!”

Q. Isn’t that an pretty sensitive response to an intentionally humorous cliché?

A. I’m a very sensitive person.  Next question, please.  

Q. Very well then.  How did you respond to this person’s concerns?

A. I said: “You really shouldn’t worry what she thinks about you.  The only person whose opinion of you matters is God, because God’s the only one whose opinion is perfectly true.”

Q. How did she respond?

A. She didn’t.

Q. What happened next?

A. I thought it was odd that those words came out of me.  I’d never had a thought like that before.   So I called my friend Danielle.  And she added to the thought.  

Q. What did Danielle say?

A. She said something very profound.  She said: “It is inbred in the human condition to worry about what somebody is thinking about you.  People who don’t believe in God don’t realize that this is because God has created us to be concerned about what He is thinking of us.   People simply transfer the object of the concern.”

Q. Fascinating!  But don’t people who do believe in God worry about what other people are thinking about them?

A. Sure they do.  But that’s just the other side of the same coin.  None of us except God is perfect.  So we can’t perfectly stop worrying about what all the other imperfect people are thinking about us.

Q. Can you think of anything to add to all this?

A. Not at the moment.  Maybe my readers can.

The Questioner is silent.

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A Song Called Him

There are going to be a few changes in the concept of this blog. Due to COVID-19, I’m receiving a lot of suggestions that I provide more piano music, and less of the other stuff. The reason for this is because Music has a way of getting people through hard times. Music can comfort and inspire in a way that mere words are not meant to do.

Words have their time and purpose. Many words have been comforting and inspiring, and have transformed the hearts of men and women throughout the history of this earth. But this is a time when largely, words fail me. I don’t know what to say about everything that’s happening. But I know that when I play my piano, I’m saying something to somebody — without even having to open my mouth.

So there will be more music, and it won’t always come towards the end of the week. I’ll try to keep to the Friday schedule, but I’ll also post on whim. It just seems to be the energy of this transition that we all share. I can’t explain why. It is something I feel in my heart.

I’m in the process of preparing a new piano piece.  It’s a song by the name of “Him.” No, it is not about Jesus. I was not a believer when I wrote the song. I wrote it when I was 19 years old, and it is part of the first musical I ever wrote. It’s interesting that its name is “Him,” but I did not become a Christian until I was thirty.

You’ll note that there won’t be a youtube video. The nice man named Tom who has been helping me is not going to gather with me at the church, nor am I going to that building to prepare the piece. There may not be videos for a while, because it’s a two person job for me at this stage, and I am only one person, sheltering in place.

In my apartment, however, I own an upright piano. It’s not of the quality of the Baldwin Grand, but it has its own flavor. You may hear background noise, and I’m pretty sure one of the keys just lost its tune. The piano is almost 100 years old.  But it will do the job.

Now, if you don’t believe in God, consider this.

About two years ago, I was given a free piano by a woman I hardly knew at the time. She was moving to a new house, owned three pianos, and could not fit them all in. She knew I was a piano player, so she asked me if she could give me a piano.

Prior to this time in my life, I have never owned a piano. Now, at the age of 67, I do. I not only got it for free, but she even paid for the movers to bring it over and place it where it sits right here in my house.

The piano was horribly out of tune. The next day, a 19 year old guy from Kansas happened to be passing through town. He stopped at my church to ask if there were a piano he could practice on. We said: “Sure!”

I then proceeded to hear an absolutely dazzling rendition of the Pathetique by Ludwig van Beethoven. So I approached the young man to query of his experience. He gave me his card, and it turned out he was a piano tuner.

I had previously called the local piano tuner. But he wouldn’t have been able to get to me for six more weeks. This guy not only tuned it, he gave me a 25% discount, and came back the next day for a touch-up. Then he went his way, as he was only passing through town.

So now I had a free piano, freely delivered — and actually freely tuned as well, since a friend of a friend then offered to pay for the tuning. Overjoyed, I sat down at the piano. Something immediately seemed familiar.

“I have played this piano before!” I exclaimed.  

But I hadn’t really — I had only played one of its kind:

Howard Baby Grand piano made by Baldwin 1916 | eBay

“My God!” I shouted. “This is the same piano that Dad had!”

Not the same, of course, since my father — the ragtime piano player, Dave Pope — had converted his vintage 1921 Howard piano built in Cincinnati to a player piano.  This new one did not have the player. But it felt the same.  And more importantly, it played the same.

So I sat down and joyfully played a song called “Him.”  For a song called “Him” was composed in 1972 on the spittin’ image of the 1921 Howard upright that I so mysteriously received in 2018.

Is there a God?  Maybe not.  Could it be coincidence?  Odds are astronomically against it.  What about the Universe?   Just another name for God.   Synchronicity?   A creation of God.  Manifestation?  Even the most powerful among us powerful human beings do not have that much power.  Besides, I never asked for it, never prayed for it, and never tried to manifest it.  It was just dropped in my lap.  I had absolutely nothing to do with the arrival of that piano.

“But why does it have to be God?”

Good question.  My answer?   “God” is just a word.   Words have meanings.  Ask ten people what the word God means?  You get ten different answers.  This is why a book was created – was manifested, if you will — by the Universal Spirit Being whom in English speaking countries we call “God.”

That book is the Word of God.  God is a Word.  “In the beginning,” says St. John, “was the Word.  And the Word was with God.  And the Word was God.”

And I have found that — unlike other gods — my God keeps His Word.

Now, please enjoy the music of the amazing Pathetique — at a time when every other word has failed me.  

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Against Thee Only

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to Your loving devotion;
according to Your great compassion,
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me clean of my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against Thee, against Thee only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in Your sight,
so that You may be proved right when You speak
and blameless when You judge.

Surely I was brought forth in iniquity;
I was sinful when my mother conceived me.
Surely You desire truth in the inmost being;
You teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones You have crushed rejoice.
Hide Your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from Your presence;
take not Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
and sustain me with a willing spirit.

–Psalm 51:1-12