Saturday, July 30, 2011

21 Years

For twenty one years her light has fought my darkness. Her flesh has healed my hurts. Her eyes are the skies that keep hope breathing. We rise again to the surface for another breath of cool, clean air. And she laughs anyway.

For twenty one years she did. And she still does. Having and holding is second nature now. It’s where we are. With three glowing gifts slowly reaching out, with beauty, into the world. They reach out with the same quiet fire that she possesses. The spirit of perseverance.

For twenty one years we have been carried across impossible places, through empty, lonely spaces, against the crowd and a world of growing discontent. We hold tightly, like a little child, to the hand of the Holy One. Trusting.

He has us. He will not let go.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

McCartney in Detoit

My brother in-law, Dan, called a while back to have us set aside the night because he had gotten tickets to McCartney at Comerica Park in Detroit. This is the same bro in-law that got tickets for the Rolling Stones a few years ago. Yes. Dan is awesome.

I’ve never been much of a Stones fan, but I recognize the talent and the influence.They are a piece of history from a musical perspective, so it was fun to see them and be able to say, “I’ve seen the Stones.” I can also say, “I’ve seen Stevie Ray.” “I’ve seen Queen.” (Yes, the Freddie Mercury Queen.) “I’ve seen E.L.O.” “I’ve seen Buddy Rich.” “I’ve seen Chick Corea.” "I've seen B.B. King." I could go on, but the point is that I've seen a lot of elemental, essential musical acts over the years. And now I can say, “I’ve seen McCartney.”

And boy have I. This show, I have to say, was unbelievable. Paul is in his late sixties, but he kept going and going like the Energizer bunny. It had a kind of Springsteen gung ho about the whole thing. And he took the time to talk to the crowd. He had gone to see the Motown museum during the day. Which, I have to say, is a bit embarrassing to me because the Motown Museum should be a huge, well put together, amazing attraction. Instead, it’s a bit of a dreary and uninspiring thing, almost entirely because no one seems to want to invest any real money into it. But I digress. I’ll post about that tomorrow so I can finish getting it off my chest. McCartney was kind in not saying anything bad about the museum. He just went on to play hit after hit after hit after hit after hit after...

I’m not kidding. He had a very tight band that played with a lot of energy. And I think he could have still been playing his hits as I write this the next day, but he had to stop because he had played for three hours and people had to get up for work in the morning.

It was interesting to me that people really enjoyed this show on a purely visceral level. It was an event. It was packed with, I don’t know, around 70,000 people? The atmosphere was up and expectant. And the sound, compared to the Stones a few years ago, was great. The Stones show was kind of cavernous and muddy, which I wrote off to the huge outdoor venue. But McCartney’s crew demonstrated clearly that you can produce good sound in the stadium. Not great, but good. I’m not sure great is even possible. They played their butts off and they played all these great songs that most everyone knew. People sang together and laughed at his every little joke and when he did the song “Live and Let Die,” with fireworks popping off all over the place, people were really charged up, and it was all a lot of fun.

But let me tell you what got to me.

Here’s this guy. His name is Paul. He’s a middle class kid living in a middle class town in England. And he really likes pop music. Buddy Holly. The Motown sound. Elvis. That kind of thing. One day he gets a guitar and starts to learn how to play. Then he meets a friend named John and they start writing songs together. John is extremely talented. A little more serious. Paul has better chops but he likes John and John is more of a push things ahead kind of guy. Together, they really have an ear for chord changes and the blending of different genres. They get a band together and play everywhere they can. They start putting a few of their own songs in with the covers at their shows. Eventually, some guy sees them playing, and while they’re pretty rough, not very accomplished, they have a certain energy that he likes, and their songs do have a sense of craft about them. So they get a manager, then a record deal and they release an album that in it’s day, market wise, was the equivalent of the Jonas Brothers releasing an album. They were a “boy band.” But within a few months, their song writing chops, their blending of styles and harmony, all of the careful listening and emulating, started to pay off. Their songs began to take on a very high quality of craftsmanship, lifting them out of the boy band crowd. And, for six years, they recorded those songs. Six years of massive output.

Then McCartney and the others went on to keep writing and recording. And they all had their strengths and weaknesses. But, from a craft standpoint, from the standpoint of being a dedicated and careful writer of popular songs, none of the others came close to McCartney. And the concert last night confirmed this in a huge way. People can argue about this, but the evidence is clear.

As a song writer, it is very humbling to sit through hour after hour of such craft and dedication and talent. And then, when it’s over, you realize he could have kept going with his songs, for many hours. Some lighthearted melodic writing with simple words. Some complex, movement oriented pieces with cryptic lyrics. Some very poetic things with strong counter point and thoughtfulness. All written by an extremely talented songwriter who never learned to read melodic music notation.

There is a reason Paul McCartney is the most successful and wealthy song writer in history. Some estimates are that he is “worth” around 1.5 billion dollars. Which is no fluke, it’s no accident.  It’s easy to see that, as an artist, he doesn’t care so much about the money. In the end, it’s the songs that matter to him. The man can write songs that stick to people like BBQ sauce sticks to ribs.

I enjoyed the show a lot. But, more than anything, I was moved by the sheer song writing talent. This is what can happen when a person, any person, gets passionate about art, develops it and respects it as a craft, and shares it with others.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Saturday, July 23, 2011


 My youngest daughter still has a few words that she gets wrong, and we’ve learned not to make a big deal out of this kind of thing. I actually enjoy it. They get it figured out in the long run. But when they do, when the particulars of childhood are left behind, it makes me sad sometimes.

The current word that I love, that she gets wrong, is when something grosses her out. She says, “That’s exgusting.”

Frankly, I think it’s a better word than the original. It has a little more bite to it.

There are lots of things that you hate to see go with the kids as time passes on. The way you can hold them when they’re really small. The way they mangle certain words and make faces and laugh about certain things. The moments when they first try to be funny. Those cute little baby teeth, all lined up so perfectly straight and even, which get ejected and replaced by over sized, out of place teeth that are way too big for their current faces. And sometimes it seems to take forever for some of the gaps to fill in their smile.

You realize that kids lose so much as time goes by. Sweet things, like the ability to hide under small tables and watch the feet of the grown ups go by or fitting completely in the arms of your mom or dad, wrapped up with your head tucked under, feeling safe. Or the simple joy of playing with an empty card board box or the feeling of running on the grass, barefooted, with the belief that you are the fastest creature on the planet.

Sometimes we also lose trust in the people we look up to at way too young an age, which can be very hard to get back. And sometimes, unfortunately, we lose our innocence.

When I stop to consider all of the loss, all of the things we can lose as we leave childhood behind, frankly it’s kind of...


Matthew 18:2-4

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Squishing Out Songs

Late last night I was in the basement mixing a song that I’ve been working on. It’s a painful process in some ways. Some people compare it to giving birth, but that’s stupid. I have watched my wife give birth and suggesting that writing a song is comparable to that effort is the height of ignorance. But there is a kind of squishing, pushing, shoving, working to get this thing out of your mind and have it “work.” That’s my word for it. Some things “work” and some don’t. They fit, they click, they fill in the missing pieces: however you want to put it. There is this element of craft that is built on discipline, but it really blooms with the heart.

As I work on my songs, I have to compensate a lot for my weaknesses, and that can take up a lot of time. But things still come together. And when I hear them coming together, it makes me weep. I’m not kidding. I know it’s pathetic, but I have been a long time getting to this place.

Crafting songs is a challenge. I don’t think I would ever be totally satisfied, no matter what. I suppose I could have a world class producer, a multimillion dollar studio and a lot more ability than I have, and I’d still find things that just aren’t what they need to be. It’s kind of a curse. But I’m trying hard to learn to be satisfied, especially with my radically low end set up.

So far, I have three church songs that are basically finished. They need to be mastered, which I don’t know how to do. I also have a country song that’s been done for a while, but I frankly am not sure what to do with it. People I play it for like it, but I know nothing about the country market. And I have about 6 songs in the pipe, being developed and chipped away at, along with about 30 demos and some other pieces of things that aren’t whole yet. And then there's the backlog of probably 40 or 50 more songs that I haven't even started getting organized. Interestingly, so far they are all very different in a lot of ways. I don’t have a “sound” but I don’t especially want one. I’m not particularly looking to perform these myself. I’m hoping to have others do that.

When I say “craft” I really mean it. Not in the Harry Potter sense, but in the skilled trades sense. Like a carpenter. Like an artist who carves statues. Like a teacher trying to shape the mind of a student. Music and writing and a lot of other arts are, at their core, a craft that has to be developed and nurtured. Which takes time and patience and massive amounts of commitment.

Even the most absolutely pathetic pop stars are usually surrounded by excellent craftspeople. They wouldn’t ever release any music if they weren’t. I’ve got some people helping me that are way more than I deserve. Very gifted and willing to be there to get things done. Without them I’d probably only have one song up by now. And even with the great musicians, few of them have it all in themselves to get great things done.

Squishing out songs is a team effort.

Peace to you.
© LW Publishing 2011

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Everyone says it, everyone seems to believe it, in business, church work, teaching and communications: relevance is what matters. And it seems clear they’re right. If you aren’t relevant, then what are you?


Webster’s defines “irrelevant” as: not important or relating to what is being discussed right now.

All well and good. But the problem is, this is often used in a completely shallow and subjective manner, as if we’re discussing relevance on the Jerry Springer show. Businesses, churches, schools and non profits of every stripe sense that they need to be relevant. But there are some questions we should ask if this is going to get us anywhere. The first being...

1. Relevant to who? And why?

Relevance is extremely relative, and can be horribly short sighted. For example: A lot of younger people today have a hard time watching older, black and white movies. They think these films are irrelevant and, on a surface level, they make it true by their own preferences. It’s not intrinsically true, it is practically true for them. And the result? They miss out on over fifty years of film history, including some of what are arguably the best films ever made. It’s like going into an art gallery and saying, “I don’t like photos that are in black and white. Ansel Adams sucks.” Many things these days are dismissed out of hand, with no thought for, or serious attempt at, appreciation. And the individual responses must be what? Fate? Destiny? How about stupidity? I do know this: dismissing things out of hand because they don’t fit your narrow paradigm is a clear path to ignorance and mediocrity. And we can feed that mediocrity with blind catering to relevance.

And there are other related questions:

2. What if “what is being discussed right now” is a self indulgent, self aggrandizing pulp of cheap values? What if “what is being discussed right now” completely misses the point of life? What if we mistake relevance for meaning or value?

Trust me, you are surrounded by people who mistake relevance for meaning and value. It is how too many people do life right now. Paired with Materialism, it is the curse of the modern world.

The concept of relevance can be a powerful tool, or a very destructive force. Relevance can help you be heard, but it can also cause people to stop thinking. When you only hear what you want to hear, you stop thinking. Relevance is often the realm of the incorrigibly incurious.

And beyond these things, what if what matters to the Creator is not relevant to us anymore because we simply don’t care? What if what could really make a difference, to make the world a better place, isn’t accomplished in the world because no one thinks it’s important? What if we fill our lives with what we think is relevant – so much of which is driven by selfishness or self pity or hedonism or pettiness – and it ends up being a path to...


Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Eastern Market

Went with my buddy, Joe, down to the Eastern Market today in Detroit. If you’re not from around here, the Eastern Market is one of those big outdoor set-ups for the sale of produce, flowers, meats, and all kinds of things. An over sized farmers market, with lots of restaurants and street musicians and so on. I mostly go there for spices and coffees, and sometimes a few veggies. It’s pretty cool.

It’s kind of changing though. It’s becoming more and more like a specialty market, where things don’t necessarily cost less, but they’re supposed to be better for you or better quality. A guy was selling some mushrooms for twenty two dollars a pound. They were Morels, so I get it, but still, twenty two dollars? Someone else was selling organic chickens for around sixteen dollars a pop. But the prices start to drop at the end of the day, of course. Sometimes drastically.

There is this lady there who sells corn on the cob. She calls herself the “Crazy Corn Lady.” She doesn’t act very crazy, but that corn, man, you have to taste it to believe it. It is so tender and juicy you could literally, and I do mean literally, eat it without cooking it. It’s about four bucks for five ears, but it’s mighty good stuff. Mighty mighty.

I also picked up some coffee, some berries and some specialty cooking oils. And some onions. And some smoked trout. And that’s it. Honest. Unless I'm forgetting something.

The Eastern Market is a good reminder that Detroit is still a very cool city in many ways. It has huge problems, but it also has some amazing stuff going on all the time. The area surrounding the Fox Theater, with the ball park and all of the show theaters, it’s all great. The waterfront area at the end of Woodward Avenue is great. The area surrounding Wayne State University is great.

It’s all great, and it all seems so divorced from the madness going on politically in Detroit. The politicians would like to take all the credit for what’s going well, but the fact is that most of the good stuff is happening in spite of them.

But good stuff it is.

Peace to you.
© LW Publishing 2011

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


I just noticed that I’ve done around 200 posts. Yikes. This is getting serious. I must be really, really seriously serious about this. Which is funny because I don’t feel all that serious about it. It’s just something fun I like to do that helps a few people get to know me a little better. Seems to me that 200 is kind of a lot, considering I don't really write about anything in particular. Or non particular, for that matter. This isn't exactly what you could easily call a "definable" blog.

Like I’ve said before, I’m hoping that, someday, my kids will have this to read, and maybe even grand kids, who can say. I hope it helps them to understand me in some ways. I’m hoping it will show them my heart to some degree. There’s a lot more of me in these posts than you might guess at first.

I don’t know. Maybe my kids will find some encouragement here. Maybe they’ll be a little less critical about me when they realize I’m just a well meaning schmo doing what I can to love God and love people and make some kind of meaningful difference in this world.


Let me just say this to be clear.

I love you.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011


When I was working on my undergraduate degree at Eastern Michigan University, I had a writing class with a lit prof who was from Trinidad named Brenda Flanagan. She was an artistic type, a bit scattered, unpredictable, which goes with the territory, but she was also good at inspiring students to write something creative and real.

By “real” I don’t necessarily mean a heartrending saga of hopeless heroism. That’s what most people seem to think of these days when you say “real.” To be taken seriously you must be some kind of tortured soul. Which is fine, but it’s also very limiting. There is so much more to “real” than that. The word “authentic” is better. Joy, curiosity, laughter, simplicity, and so on and so forth. It’s all real, as long as it’s . . . authentic.

When we would present stories in class, Dr. Flanagan would listen, and she would comment in the margins of her copy, with simple words like “yes,” or “”what?” or “I don’t believe it.” The point was that it was either connecting with her or it wasn’t. It was seeming “real” to her or it wasn’t.

The thing I remember most about this prof was her love for the sound of words. She heard the spoken word, I think, like some of us hear music. And that was inspirational to me. I had already had a taste of this mind-set with the writings of Ray Bradbury, when I was younger, as well as Toni Morrison and E.L. Doctorow. Dr. Flanagan introduced me to Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison. It was like discovering treasure. She showed me that “real” is about the totality of a person coming out in what they write. It’s about the characters not being true to the author, but being true to themselves.

The reason she has come to mind is because, a while back, I stumbled onto some videos of her on youtube. She was doing some cultural exchange trips for the state department in former Soviet controlled countries, reading some of her poetry and I suppose doing workshops on African American lit. It was cool to see her doing her thing. After that, I went on Amazon and found a copy of her first book. When I knew her, it had been published in England, but not the States. I found a copy printed by the University of Michigan and I’m reading it now.

It has lots of flave-ah. The words roll around in your head. Smooth like.

And it has all made me think about how someone who is passionate can influence others in so many ways. It all adds up, these people who care enough to talk things through and make us think outside the box.

I’ve known people who kept spouting off about how they were going to change the world, but they were not doing much to change the life of one single person for the better. Helping one person seemed to be beneath them in some way. At least according to their own way of thinking.

I’d trade a dozen of those arrogant, so called “world changers” for one or two humble and influential life changers any day.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Freedom and the 4th

Almost everyone I talk to is going away for the weekend. I guess that’s what the 4th of July is kind of about these days. Getting away. Spending time with family. Maybe seeing some fireworks. It’s all good.

Hopefully we can remember that we have the freedom to do these things because we live in a country that embraces the God given right to freedom. Which is the third of the inalienable rights, you know, that our nation is founded on. First is right to life. After that is the right to liberty (freedom). Third is the right to pursue happiness. The second and third rights make no sense without the first. The third makes no sense without the first two.

I hope you really understand the implications of that.

I remember when I was a kid, they would set off fireworks for the 4th at the Jolly Roger Drive In, which was just a few blocks from our house. We’d sit in our front yard and watch them go off in the distance over our house. It reminded me of the Disney World commercials that you’d see on TV at the time, that always had fireworks going off as they told you about this wonderful place that you weren’t sure you’d ever get to see.

Just because you were free to see it didn’t mean you had the money to go there.

Freedom is complicated. When we over simplify it, or over complicate it, we do stupid things.

My family is not going away for the weekend. We’re staying right where we are. There’s a lot to do. And we have a vacation planned for end of summer that we’re saving for anyway. We’ve skipped every other thing this summer so we can go there. We’ve been doing garage sales to help raise money for it. Saving every penny we can.

It’s a place where they have fireworks.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011