Neighbors

The message of Father O’Donnell one Sunday morning had hit the spot, as the old Irish priest like to say. There was more than one parishioner squirming in their seat as he explained the true meaning behind ‘loving thy neighbor as thyself’.

He had been at pains to stretch the commonly held view of the term ‘neighbor’… turning the good Samaritan story into one of race, politics, gender, age and social standing, so much so that the person in trouble could have been anyone alive today… as could the person who reaches out to lend a helping hand.

Father O’Donnell returned to his modest villa on the outskirts of San Antonio believing that he had done all he could to explain this simple but most important piece of the gospel pie.

But as we know good reader it’s not what is said that matters, but what is heard.

Mrs Jones always sat on the front row of the Church. On that particular morning she had managed to drag Mr Jones along too and it was he who gave his good wife of 30 years a nudge in the ribs at the mention of loving thy neighbor.

You see, Mrs Jones had been at war with just about every neighbor in their street… for years. It could have been an argument over a fence that was too tall, a hedge that had over grown into the Jones yard, a garden or front lawn that had gone to seed, a political sign posted in a window promoting the ‘other’ party, the noise of other people’s kids playing in the street, the wafting odors of foreign cuisine, the barking of a dog, the dumping of rubbish in the local park, a late night party or two or, anyone who smoked, drank alcohol or cussed in public.

Not a regular Church goer by any means, Mr Jones liked the message so much that he considered coming back next week. On the drive home he turned to Mrs Jones and said, “And how is it you intend to reconcile yourself with any of our neighbors my dear. Shall we be the good Samaritans and reach out…”

But before he could utter another word, Mrs Jones interjected. “Father O’Donnell didn’t mention anyone like the people on our street. Not a soul. Let’s be clear. The message was for other’s who don’t yet know how to love their neighbors. Not us! My conscious is clear on that matter. Now, what shall we have for lunch.”

Sunday Afternoon’s

A pleasant Sunday afternoon, when not gigging or on tour, is to lay down on the lounge in the living room and, read a good book. As a rule, I read just about anything, but the Sunday read has to be one of a lighter nature; a Spike Milligan memoir, a spy thriller, A Rumple of the Bailey short story or, a who dun-nit.

If the week has been overloaded with work, meetings, people visits, gigs and ‘late nights’ then I’ll read but a few pages before I fall into the best of sleeps. I think this may have been why God invented Sunday’s… so that we could drift off into that beautiful dreamy sleep world… a realm in which the sub conscious rules supreme. These are the happiest of times and I wish more days would leave me feeling as relaxed and ‘glad to be alive’ as my Sunday arvo’s do.

Like the proverbial cat, I may sleep for just a minute, before waking briefly to the sound of a passing car, the ring of telephone, the noisy upstairs neighbor, before dozing off again, returning to my favorite town of Neverland.

I don’t need more than 15-20 minutes to find that ‘all is well in the world’ feeling and, for some time after, I carry with me a notion that I have been somewhere special.

It is in the waking from these cat naps that my eyes open to the shapes on the ceiling. My sub conscious still in charge, my child like imagination sees a world unfold above me. Were the plasterers of the 30’s aware of their handiwork? Were they leaving messages for some sleepy eyed musician in the next century to interpret? Is there something I am meant to do with all this information… write a song, tweet the president… or just relax and enjoy.

Right above me I see a lion in roaring motion. Looking into the face of the roaring lion and, very much unperturbed, I must say, is Leprechaun with a very long chin and a tall pointy hat… oh maybe he’s supposed to be Merlin, for I now see a very wobbly wand in his right hand. If I told my head to the right, the Lion looks more like a dolphin with the tail of a horse. The Leprechaun already knew that I guess… which was why he wasn’t worried about the toothy snarl of the Lion… which was really a Dolphin. I think it’s a mermaid who’s under the dolphin. Well that would make sense. But the Mermaid’s tail, if I tilt my head to the left is a bird in full flight. Oh there so much to ponder and… enjoy.

I wonder, is every ceiling a stage, on which men, woman, lions, leprechauns and dolphins are merely players?

I’ve only examined but a square foot of the ceiling when there’s a knock on the door.

My delightful sojourn into my very own Peter Pan moment is at an end.

Till next Sunday afternoon.

The Wife or the Mother in Law?

I came across this sketch yesterday by William Ely Hill.

Originally published as a cartoon in a 1915 publication of Punch, the clever man titled this ‘My Wife and My Mother in Law’ with the caption “They are both in this picture — Find them”

Who do you see at first glance?

For me it was the mother in law… and apologies to Annie, God rest her soul, who was nothing like the grumpy old lady depicted here. Karyn’s mother was a woman of love, grace, country hospitality with a wonderful ‘pull your leg’ sense of humor.

There was an occasion when I first met Annie. Karyn and I had just started to date and thus, I was on my very best behavior, trying to be polite and well mannered among the potential ‘in-laws.’ We had just finished a fine home cooked meal when Annie asked what I’d like on my ice-cream.

“Oh anything you like Mrs Frankland” I said, trying ever so hard to be deferential and genteel.

“Really,” she replied… with that mischievous smile of hers.

She returned a few minutes later with a bowl of ice-cream, it’s topping, a mixture of peanut butter, Vegemite, tomatoes sauce and hundreds of thousands. I thanked her, took a mouthful and told her how yummy it was. I ate the rest without another word. We had both met a kindred soul… and there would be many more moments like this down the long and windy road of our relationship… when we could put our respective sense of humor’s to the test.

But I am off track. Forgive me.

For there is more to this sketch than the mother in law and, if you tilt your head to the left, you might well notice the profile of a pretty young woman.

My Wife and My Mother-in-Law is a famous ambiguous optical illusion in which a woman appears to be both young and old as our brain flips back and forth between two conflicting perceptions.

It is this ability to tell more than one side of the story that I’d like to become better at myself, in my songs, my stories, my teaching.

I hope too that I can learn to see a story, an incident, a news item, a scandal and so on… from many perspectives… not rushing to judge as quickly as I am prone to do.

I continue to be… a work in progress.

 

A Piece of the Puzzle

I was thinking today of the deep sense of belonging I have when, after I am able to find the quietness in me, I can be still long enough to ‘enter’ God’s presence. All I need is a moment, and the weight of the world falls from my shoulders and I remember once again who I am… and that I have some value… and an important job to do.

 

I am not sure what your typical day looks like but mine is mostly one of chaos in which I am constantly battling my way through a jungle of work, stress, finances, emotional ups and downs, fatigue, ‘getting older’, other people’s expectations of me and my own distorted view of the path ahead.

 

When David so beautifully wrote “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere…” he knew what he was talking about.
We are each designed to be an important part of a puzzle… of God’s great plan. The plan doesn’t make sense unless all the pieces of the puzzle are in place.
I need you to be you as much as you need me to be me.
We spend so much of our time not really knowing who we are or believing the lie that we don’t have anything of value to offer our community… and or we see more value in another and so then we try to be like him or her… and that doesn’t work… no matter how hard we try.This is why… the one moment alone with our “Dad’ is so imperative.
Without water we dehydrate, without oxygen we suffocate, and without some aloneness with His spirit we depreciate our own spirit, our identity and our value to each other.
So please do me a favor will you… put down your phone… and take a stroll along the beach or sit for a few minutes in the garden or hide yourself away in the attic, or turn off the car radio on your way home from the office… and be silent and try to enter that mysterious place of welcome, of identity, of permission… to be encouraged, to be reminded of the simplicity of who you are and how valuable you are to the rest of us.
I need you.
Cheers,
Chris

 

A Simple Practice of Letting Go

Cast all your cares upon him for he cares deeply about you.

Its a great little passage of new testament scripture but used more often than not as a cliche or throw away line from a ‘sincere’ care giver.

But this casting or letting go of ‘our cares and woes’ is a method that counselors and therapists  have used for centuries in the treatment of emotional and mental afflictions.

In essence, Jesus is offering to be our counselor… our therapist. An offer you should seriously consider… his rates are quite reasonable.

Here is a little prayer practice of mine that I use in my own quiet times and in larger group training sessions on identity and creativity.

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I’m Stuffed

Water-pourImagine your life as a bottle of water… full to the brim.

But you want more… more of everything…

The thing is… there is no room for anything more. You are full up.

May I suggest you pour out a little of your ‘self’ from the bottle… and make room for something new and fresh to ‘drop in’.

 

Silver and Gold

We each have something priceless, a ‘thing we do’… that we take for granted, often unable to recognize its value or worth to others.

Some of us can create a gourmet meal out of bread crumbs and leftovers, or see the potential in an old ramshackle house and turn it into a mansion, or enter a pig stye and tidy and clean it as if it were our own, or sit, listen and stay with someone who needs to download their grief or the gripes, or keep a secret and rebuild broken trust, or hug and hold and carry a deeply wounded person, or just be there for that broken soul when all seems lost.

Most of these actions of love go unheralded. Rarely do leaders or public speakers applaud the many actions of unconditional love by ordinary folk on a day to day basis. There is no big story or answer… just lots of little conversations.

I don’t have too many of the qualities mentioned above… neither do I have an abundance of silver and gold… but I can sit and strum and sing for hours to someone who needs a little peace. And regarding this small thing… I am slowly learning that, in a way, it’s my contribution to the community around me.

 

Falling in Love Again

A story of escaping the prison of professionalism after finding love inside the music.

I was raised to be a professional musician. To play all the right notes at the right time. Nothing more and nothing less. Do the job, take the money and move on to the next gig.Barry-300x300

Like a coal miner’s son I was born into a trade and a tribe that I would serve, through good times and bad for the rest of my days. They’d bury me with my guitar and my union card.

I had a dinner suit for the bigger clubs and casino shows, blue jeans, black T’s and doc martins for the smaller pubs and seedier clubs, an array of guitars and amps, skills and ‘guitar licks’ enough in the genre’s of jazz, blues, rock and country music to make a decent living. After several hundred club gigs I graduated up into the recording studio brotherhood and, as a professional I was on time, I played my parts proficiently and I got the job done.  I continued to rise through the ranks and soon I was performing on network Television.

I had made it and as much as a guitar player can be, I was model professional.

Now and then in the midst of this professional journey I would be foolish and play music for fun… on my own of course, in a room somewhere private… where no one could hear me… and I would fall upon little treasures that I didn’t understand or know what to do with… and so, I would keep them to myself and then go off onto my next professional gig, keep my head down and do my job.

But, like a child reading his first Agatha Christie novel… I could not put ‘the book’ down… or stay away from my closet musings with my guitar and these little noodlings or melodies of childlike lyrics… all of which… was very unlike the professional I was trained to be. For, without realizing it, I was falling in love… with music and these simple little musical ideas and chordal shapes.

imgres-2I would stumble upon a basic uncomplicated chord progression and begin to imagine a rock pool or a mountain stream and I would sit there and let the peace wash over me. Then I would hear someone walking down the hall towards my hideout and I would hurriedly put my guitar away as if I had been caught doing something naughty.

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