short, sweet, and to-the-point — by Keith Elder

Archive for the month “March, 2013”

“Claypool, Bigger Rooms, and the Way We Grow”

If I had to sum up the life journey in a few words, I think I would choose hope (what keeps us in the game)…then transformation (growth)…and ultimately, holiness (peace with God, neighbor, and self).

My experience and observation would suggest that the transformation/growth part happens in stages.  We go to a seminar or a seminary or retreat.  We meet or lose a special someone.  We read an earth-shaking book.  We are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.  However it happens, we wake up in a different place.

I was at a seminar in Birmingham. The speaker/presenter was the late, great, John Claypool.  Having converted from a childhood in the Baptist Church to the Episcopal Church, Claypool became known for his appreciation of grace, his buttery-smooth delivery and his piercing insight.

Insight for the day (in paraphrase):

“You know, we all start out in a little room—our mother’s womb. It is warm…safe…comfortable.  All our needs are met.  But one day a traumatic event occurs—we are thrust into a bigger room…the delivery room to be exact.  Bright lights, noise, cold.  We cry, “We want to go back!”  But in time, we adjust   We get used to “the new digs”…accustomed to a world of Mom’s nursing and Dad’s knee bouncing and siblings’ sparring.  Life’s good.  But then the day comes when we are yanked out and thrust into yet a bigger room—school. It is strangers and books, lunch and recess, and teachers and homework.  Yikes!  But, over time, we adjust….”

Claypool talks of other rooms—leaving home, marriage, work, retirement, and inevitably Heaven.  His point: that growth is a process of moving from smaller rooms to bigger rooms.  Call them chapters or stages, but the move from one to the next will be uncomfortable at best, excruciating at worst.  It’s a trauma… a new perspective…a gnawing dissatisfaction.  But something makes the old status quo unacceptable.

What room are you in at present?  Does it light your fires and bring you joy?  Maybe you’re in a new room with a mix of discomfort, excitement and fear.  Maybe you are in transition.

Wherever you are, count on it: there will come a time when you have to change rooms.  And that’s not a bad thing.  It’s just the way we grow.

Keith — 3/16/2013

“Picking the right song….”

One of my favorite parts about living in the Nashville area is the songwriter venues. For fear of neglecting one or showing preferential treatment to another, I will talk in general about these relatively small settings where songwriter-singers come nightly to bare their souls and share their songs with any and all who will listen.  

Now, any writer would like to pen the monster hit that pays off the mortgage or underwrites the songwriting addiction for years.  But the primal satisfaction comes in articulating a slice of life in such a way that people feel a connection. No easy task.  Religion (re-ligio), in the literal sense, is something that “ties us back together.”  We are fragmented in too many ways to mention, and religion is ultimately about bringing us back together. (Good luck with that.)  A great song is a religious experience.  It’s very cool when you’re in a room and you realize the room has become one around a song.

A songwriter “round” usually includes three to four writers sharing three or more songs each.  Fun, serious, familiar, brand new—song selection is totally up to the writer.  For me, the challenge of participating in a writer’s round is not the performance—it’s picking the right songs.

Factor-in the room.  Is it a focused listening venue where people come to hear songs, or is it a restaurant/bar setting with lots of distractions?  Consider the other writers.  Are they singing all ballads or all up-tempo pieces?  A little variety might be nice for the listeners’ sake.  Think about the audience demographic.  Is it old, young, college, other  (key question: what do they have on their i-pods…or their 8-track tape decks? :)) Now pick your songs.

A monster hit in one room may well be “da bomb” in another–and not in a good way.

The song selection process can be a cool metaphor for life.  Picking the right word for the right moment.  Knowing what conversations to have with which people.  Cultivating friendships that will be in the best interest of all.  Picking the right college…the right vocation…the right place to raise the kids… the right church or faith community…the right dream.

The magic is in the song selection…

So, choose wisely, Grasshopper.

Keith — 3/11/2013


“Not-not…Who’s there?…Me by process of elimation…”

What prompted this post was seeing a Facebook pic of a fellow singing with great passion into a studio microphone.  Eyes closed. Fists clenched. Red-faced with veins popping-out on his temples. (By the way—where was Solomon’s temple?… same place yours are…on the sides of your face.)  Mr. Microphone was obviously pouring his all into it, and I say good for him.  But I’m not that guy.

I’m sort of guarded—even a little self-conscious and I tend to play it safe on stage.  No flashy costumes. No streaked or especially stylish hair (though I am glad to still have a few).  I don’t have any signature moves or lip-curls and, Lord knows, I don’t dance.  Besides the seismic tremors, it scares pets and small children.   (Ever see Elaine dance on Seinfeld?…well, it’s not that bad–but it’s close.)

Each year, thousands of people move to Nashville or L.A. with the dream of being the next big thing.  The next Carrie Underwood or Taylor Swift.  The next Bruno Mars or Dave Matthews.  I don’t know a lot, but I do know that they’ll never be the next big thing by being the last big thing.

I think it’s safe to assume that I will not be the next Adele. (The hair’s not right, and I’m not wild about the dresses she wears to accept her Grammy’s.)  I’m “not” Adele, so by process of elimination, I am one “not” closer to who I actually am.

Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) lives by the credo, “It all begins with a song.”  That is, the entire industry—the concerts and publishers and studios and number one hits, the bazillion side-industries–hinges upon someone sitting down with paper and pen and writing a lyric and a melody that tap into the hearts of people.  I like that.  Feels like home.

I’m not a country artist like Trace Adkins or Brad Paisley.  I’m not a worship leader like Chris Tomlin or Darlene Zschech.  Not, not, not, not—that’s four more “not’s” closer to figuring out who I actually am.

In Proverbs, it says, “A man’s gift makes room for him.”

I like that too…and I’m counting on it.

Keith   3/07/2013

“Expiration Date… NA (not applicable)”

It was a picture-post on “The Idealist” facebook page.  A sky with birds hovering over a tree…in a boat…with a light in a window on the trunk of the tree (shades of Keebler elves)…and a girl standing at the bow of the boat gazing into the future.

Caption: “Your dream doesn’t have an expiration date: take a deep breath and try again.”

I REALLY like this. Being a Boomer who’s taken a few tumbles and had many a doubt as to whether I will ever see my potential realized, this reminds me to hope.  The idea shows up all over the place.

“It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.” –anonymous

God called an already up-in-years Abram and Sarah to pull up roots and go to a new place—and start a family.

God called to 80 year-old Moses from a burning bush and said, in essence, “It’s time to do your thing, Moses.  Go tell Pharoh to let my people go.”  The Red Sea, water from rocks, manna from heaven, and forty years of wilderness wandering—all came after Moses turned 80.

God kept old Simeon and Anna alive long enough to realize the hope of seeing the Messiah come.  (Luke 2:21 ff.)

And it’s not just about age.

Jesus used little kids, disenfranchised women, greedy tax collectors, fiery zealots, and a foot-in-mouth-prone “Rock” (Peter) to make the kingdom magic happen.  He even used a few rich people.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live.”  Paul wrote, “If any person is in Christ, he/she is a new creation.  Old things have passed away, behold the new has come.”

I wonder how many of us have given up on our dreams or ideals because it (whatever “it” is) got hard. Because we sinned and fell short of the glory.  We’ve thrown in the towel on a job or a call or a person or a love or a dream—or ourselves.  News flash—the past is prologue, folks.  The clock’s still ticking… the game is still on!

Remember: “Your dream doesn’t have an expiration date: take a deep breath and try again.”

Keith   3/06/2013

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