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A Misty Mountain Mornin’

There are some days, when the mountain has a mind of its own. Today was one of those days. The air felt as ancient as the granite stones that line one’s trail when ascending Grandfather. Alone, it is remarkable enough, but when you ponder the people that have claimed it as their own, it rings of an even older time. Those early settlers from Ireland, Scotland, and other Norseman-type countries, brought with them a heartiness of spirit and a willingness to survive in the harshest of climates with the most meager of supplies. Many have escaped for survival needs. The great potato famines made many leave their homeland, seeking a place where there could be hope, a promise of a better tomorrow. But, along with them, they brought a culture and a faith as old as the rocks that built their chimneys and lined their hearths. It was this permanence of spirit that flowed forth from the shrouded peaks this morning.

With each breath of life, there is a yearning to seek God in everything – nearly to the point of being obtuse. But through that seemingly endless search, there is a compulsion to love unlike before. When the instinctual sense to judge someone arises, that misguided thought is quickly usurped by an urgency to love them for who they are and not place their exterior before who they really are beneath the façade that is there for the world to see. Who hasn’t looked in the mirror and wondered who was looking back – was it the person we want to see, or are we stuck with something we’d rather not accept? The more we find ourselves immersed in Christ, the less the person in the mirror matters, other than being as clean and approachable in how someone might perceive us so that we don’t deter the opportunity to witness simply based on our outward appearance.

For this reason, we should only care about what we look like; otherwise, we are making an idol of our image, a sin as detrimental as any. In that regard, being aware of the fault of the addiction to personal beauty, one might find it more difficult to look upon that woman at church who cakes on the makeup, who spends hours on her hair and adorning jewelry as we might the homeless beggar that is covered in sores and lesions from lack of proper sanitation and personal hygiene. One has chosen to go beyond being approachable to the point that might as well have wallowed in the hog trough in the eyes of God for all the good they are doing. It is images like this that those who want excuses to avoid God use – the negative aspects of hypocrisy are sometimes more damaging to our ability to share the gospel than anything we could do purposefully to detract someone on our own accord. If we were to really think about the ancestral ties of these mountains, the rugged beauty of those women who crossed the ocean and then found a way to eke out an existence in these rugged mountains, we would find it heartening how they didn’t allow anything to detract from their worship. Their image mattered little when compared to how well they knew the Word of God.

Sitting at the jam in Blowing Rock this morning, it was with these thoughts that I watched many souls pass by. Although we were surrounded by tourists from all walks of life and backgrounds, we could still feel the ancient spirit with us. When our notes found a melody of an ancient song, it was then the world stood still – for a moment in time, notes in the air connected with the stones upon the earth, and they to those souls of days gone by, until all were one. As the shrills of fiddle strains wafted through the marketplace, spirits united in refrains as old as the hills. Suddenly, they wore kilts and woven tapestries from looms as their tam-shays tilted in the breeze. It was something to behold as the sun tried to escape the bondage of the mirth beneath the clouds.

It was in this manner that my day began. From an ancient time to the present, we are most when we are one with Him. Blessings abound in a dark world if only we take the time to notice.

Allow yourself to be approachable, but don’t go beyond that point and turn it into an obsession. There are far greater things to be concerned about within this world. The days are short as the end times approach. Make the most of every breath of life. May your day, your weekend, or even your week find nuances that bring out the best instead of the worse in all that you do and see, and in this, we can always say, “Thanks be to God.”

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The Music Returns

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”-Col.3:16

From the depths of the hollar, the strains of the melodies rise above the canopy.

Finally, within the Retreat, the purpose for which it began, the music has begun. Weary fingers, mending from being crushed, broken, and scarred through the many trials of construction still somehow remember their positions on the keyboard. Like long lost loved ones gone but never forgotten, the old songs return.

Outside, the night sounds of the forest rise from the shadows as darkness creeps up the valleys below. The air begins to grow heavy, like gravy running from the tops of the biscuit, finding the crevices through which to yield, until only the peaks of the mountains prevail. Below the mist, the music rises, penetrating the cloud, singing the praises of the Lord.

It had been nearly three weeks since there had been a break, other than Sundays. Today, bodies, worn and tired, cried for a break; so, we listened. Progress is being made on the Retreat, but there is much to do. There are still windows and doors to set in place, but for now, it is a shelter from the storms. As we took time to step back and revive our life outside of the construction zone, we reconnected to the world around us; the mountains, rivers, and forest of the Blueridge. In the process of reconnecting to God’s grandeur, so too were our spirits rejuvenated with the blessings we had so long ago put aside to pursue the many purposes for which we serve.

The old fiddle sits poignantly in the corner of the fireplace as if she has always been there. From those strings, many blessings have been provided in this life, and hopefully, Lord willing, there are many more to come.

Tonight a few minutes were taken to revisit the old friend and to once more rekindle the Spirit within. When we make music, it is as if God can speak through us. His indwelling within us only makes our spirits rise to new heights. Like those notes floating beyond the tiny hollar from where they start, their tranquil melodies become one with the all of His creation. Together, their symphony is His grace singing from our hearts.

Yes, tonight the Word of Christ dwelt richly within, and for that, I have only one thing to say.

Thanks be to God.

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Fallen Leaves Upon the Ground…

But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”-1Corinthians 2:14

Lately, there has been an awakening in my heart to the existence of the “Natural Man.” As Paul wrote in Corinthians, the natural man is unable to perceive the things which are of God, for they are foolishness to him.

Tonight, while on the “dreadmill,” the old Porter Wagoner song came on my playlist, “Fallen Leaves.” The beautiful melody began to play as the sunset out the recreation center windows bid the bitter, cold sunset adieu. It was then the voice of one spoke to me, reminding me of a natural man I had once known so long ago, and how his end was very much like those fallen leaves, “All the friends that he once knew are not around.”

It was a gray, windy, bitter-cold day. As I walked to the gravesite carrying my fiddle, I noticed there were but just three or four others walking up the hill toward me from their vehicles parked down below. We were at Oakwood Cemetery in Siler City. Preacher Bob Wachs was walking up with the others, mostly the men and women of the family that had hired the dead man to work for them. I don’t recall how I had been notified, but here I was, to do my part. When it came my time, I began to pull my bow across the frozen strings of my violin making the most awful sound. I had never played before in such bitter, cold temperatures and didn’t realize the impact it had on the tuning of my fiddle. Quickly, with nearly numb fingers, I found the proper place to recall the melody, and soon, the hauntingly fitting strains of Amazing Grace found their way onto our ears. The howling icy winds carried the sound away as quickly as it landed. The tiny funeral procession huddled, shivering against the elements while around us, solemn reminders of those gone on stood watch. Brown, withered leaves danced past as the strings played their mournful sound. The biting cold wind caused my eyes to tear up as I choked back the emotions. It was one of the hardest things I had done up to then.

Here lay in the ground, a man without friends or family to bid him adieu. It was like Porter had known the deceased man before us when he penned the lines, “All the friends that he once knew are not around. They are scattered like the leaves upon the ground.”

And so, I played one last song for my friend Robert, one more song to say goodbye.

Robert Johnson was as humble a human being as I ever knew. He lived in an old abandoned camper, the shell of which hadn’t seen the light of day in nearly half a century, so entombed was it from the dirt of the nearby chicken houses. Like the home in which he inhabited, Robert was usually as filthy from working in the poultry barns. His language was often as foul has his outer body, coloring much of what he said. He worked for a farmer as his hired hand, tending to the commercial chicken houses each day and night. Part of his pay was his housing, which didn’t account for much, but at least it was a dry place to sleep.

Our paths crossed when I began renting land from his boss on which I pastured my cattle. Often, I would pull in to the area where he lived to pick up my tractor to take hay to my cows, and there would be Robert sitting and resting in preparation for his next shift of either picking up dead chickens or checking their feed. The houses in which he worked were not up to the modern standards of today’s houses so that there was much more manual labor involved. Each time I saw him, he’d smile that big broken grin, and wave, “Howdy.” He was missing all of his front teeth. He never shared with me if they were missing from a single punch from someone’s fist or if they had rotted out from neglect. Regardless, his smile was one that you would not soon forget.

The more we spoke, the more Robert opened up and shared with me, no matter where we ran into one another. He would often hang out at the local grocery down in Goldston, sipping coffee, smoking his cigarettes, and just shooting the breeze. He told me of the old days of Siler City and how he had grown up, living on the “hill” as he called it. He would share with me some of the antics he had been known to play on folks back in the day. From looking at him, in his worn, dirty rags, you’d never guess he’d have the heart of a joker, but he did. He recalled how one time he took buckshot to a turkey shoot, and when the proprietors of the event weren’t looking, he loaded his shotgun with the heavy-duty ammo. When they gave the word to fire, Robert’s target disappeared from view, obliterated by the number two shot disintegrating it upon impact. He rolled with laughter at that point. When he told such a story, he would break into laughter, then begin coughing uncontrollably; the years of chain smoking catching up with him. It was always a bitter-sweet moment. When he had recovered, he recomposed himself and said with a smirkish grin, “They didn’t like that none too good,” and then broke into another round of chuckling and coughing.

After my family got to know of Robert, we’d make an extra plate for him on holidays. He didn’t have any family that anyone knew of, so we’d take it down to him at his shell of a home. He was always grateful for the hot plate of food. He’d smile that broken grin and hold the food up to his nose and sniff, “Mighty fine, mighty fine,” he’d exclaim, then he’d squeak out in a long southern drawl, “Thank you, …you didn’t have to do that.”

Once in a while, when I’d catch him taking a break, I’d take my fiddle down and play him a tune or two. He liked old-timey music, so I shared with him when I could. While I played, he’d rear back on an upturned five-gallon bucket in the garage next to his home. He’d close his eyes and take another draw on one of his camels, and then wash it down with a long drink of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. He’d smile that chasm of a grin and exclaim, “Mighty fine, mighty fine.” I would usually close his one-man show with Amazing Grace. He would lean his bucket back down square on the ground and solemnly remark, “That was beautiful, just beautiful.”

Robert was as much a natural man as I had ever known. His world was only that of which he cared to obtain through his flesh; his love of beer and cigarettes. Back in that day, no matter how much I offered up faith to him, he never cared to discuss it in depth. To him, the scriptures were just words written on paper in a book that he didn’t have time to open. He believed in God, but that was about as far as he would go. The natural world was all he knew. He could never break free from the simple pleasure of the flesh, no matter how fleeting their effect. Had he been able to do so, he might have found a new body, a new life, one which elicits awakenings to the glory of God. He would have found a place; a sensation that far exceeds anything here on earth. Yet, like the song, he passed from day to day, paycheck to paycheck, stuck in a life that appeared defeated. His story could easily be summed up in these few lines, “Some folks drift along through life and never thrill, to the feeling that a good deed brings until it’s too late and they are ready to lie down, there beneath the leaves that scattered on the ground.”.

On one of those occasions I pulled into the tractor shed area to pick up something from my tractor, I found Robert sitting on a bucket, looking more worn than usual. His leg had a large bandage around where something had cut through his clothing and into his flesh beneath.

“What happened to you,” I asked, curious to know what had slowed him down?

“Oh, nothing,” he said, “It’s just a cut I got on one of the feeders in the chicken house.” He continued on with something else, not worried about the wound. The thought of cleanliness and infection crossed my mind, but I didn’t give it another thought. Not long afterward, I heard that he had been taken to the hospital after passing out at the chicken house. I was told that he had a pretty serious infection from the leg wound I had seen. He continued on in the hospital for quite some time but eventually was released. I’m not sure if he wasn’t truly healed, for not long after being released he was back at the hospital after collapsing once more.

This time, he never returned alive.

We buried Robert in the cemetery located on the hill where he grew up. It was almost fitting. He had come full circle in his life, seemingly alone, but now united with the world in which he lived; the earth. The memory today matched the next few lines in the song, “Lord let my eyes see every need of every man, make me stop and always lend a helping hand, then when I’m laid beneath that little grassy mound, there’ll be more friends around than leaves upon the ground.”

One more gone that we might have never known but save that he never found a way to rise above his natural being. How much greater a journey he would have found had he not been like those leaves scattered on the ground. How much greater would his eternal life abound, had my friend’s soul been united with our Savior’s grace, and then his soul would have not been gone down, but risen with those on high, to live forever not in, but above the ground.

Tonight, I pray that on that final judgment day, Robert will have been saved by the grace of God and that we shall someday meet again. I know it’s possible, for with Christ all things are. As the scriptures say, “Even unto them that believe on his name,” may become the sons of God.

Believe on His name.

This much I pray.

Thanks be to God.

 

Fallen leaves that lie scattered on the ground

The birds and flowers that were here now can’t be found

All the friends that he once knew are not around

They are scattered like the leaves upon the ground

Some folks drift along through life and never thrill

To the feeling that a good deed brings until

It’s too late and they are ready to lie down

There beneath the leaves that scattered on the ground

Lord let my eyes see every need of every man

Make me stop and always lend a helping hand

Then when I’m laid beneath that little grassy mound

There’ll be more friends around than leaves upon the ground

To your grave there’s no use taking any gold

You cannot use it when it’s time for hands to fold

When you leave this earth for a better home someday

The only thing you’ll take is what you gave away.”- Porter Wagoner

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Stumped…

For days, I had passed over it; the unobtrusive, worn maple stump.

The tires of my tractor occasionally bumped into the hard gray knob, but it was low enough that it didn’t impede the progress of the building site. Back and forth, pushing the soft, red dirt with the front-end loader of my tractor the land began to take shape. The ground was slowly beginning to resemble the start of a foundation for the future out-building.

This wasn’t my first.

I can still hear J.W. Parson’s voice telling me, as he grinned from ear to ear, “Boy, you’re married, right?” We had paused between me trying to play the song on my fiddle he had just shown me and the next few minutes when we would begin the painful process once more. The room in which we sat was lit by one weak bulb hanging down from the ceiling. The string that you pulled to turn it off and on with lay draped across its yellow luminance. Around us implements of killing hogs hung on the walls; saws, knives, and axes. Their clean, sharp edges glowed in the dim light. There was an air of reality in J.W.’s out-building that only aged blood on wooden floors can exude. Reno Sharpe and an elderly friend of mine who had tagged along for the evening’s entertainment sat on an empty upturned five-gallon bucket nearby smiling as he probably already knew what was coming.

“Yes sir,” I replied unsure of where this was going.

“You got you an outbuilding to play in?”

“No, not yet.”

He laughed and winked over at Reno.

“Well, you better git to building yourself one if you want to stay married,” which he followed up with a roaring laugh as he slapped his knee. Reno and I joined in, for it was apparent what he meant.

In a matter of speaking, the lack of having a place to practice as a beginning fiddler was my stump back then. Before I could really go further, that outbuilding had to be built. Yet, to become the fiddler I had hoped would take countless hours of isolated study and practice.

Nothing would come easy.

Not long following that evening’s lesson, I began constructing my studio in the barn where for several years my violin would eventually sound more like that of J.W.’s, but never entirely. In that isolated home-away-from-home, we would find a retreat from which music, art, and writing flowed. It was more than just an out-building; it became our sanctuary of sorts.

To begin, it was necessary to take a step back.

That was then, this is now.

Once more, we are beginning again; starting over; seeking to find that special place where we can feel the hand of our Lord reach and speak through us. What we hope to achieve will not be easy. Yet, there is so much for which to be thankful. In this journey of faith, we are constantly reminded of the world we left behind and how we are made anew.

So, once more, we begin again.

From the forest, the opening was carved. The aged, rotting maple seemed an easy target when the trees were selected to be cut. Its stump remained all through the clearing process, never presenting itself an obstacle other than the occasional bump under the tires. It wasn’t until the land was leveled and the string lines were pulled that it became obvious; the stump had to go. The very foundation could not be set without it being completely removed. What once seemed a trivial matter now halted the entire construction process. It seemed nothing more than a grayish-mud splattered annoyance that would be gone in a matter of minutes.

Then reality struck.

When the blade of the scoop began trying to find the outer edges of the root ball, it quickly became apparent, this was a much bigger problem than first imagined. In essence, I was going to have to take a step back even further than imagined in order to extract the now, unavoidable barrier.

Last week, working with the Christian club students, we found a similar reality check.

There again was the stump; one that at first seemed to have little if no consequence in what we were planning. But as we progressed in what we had hoped to achieve; evangelizing the Word of God to the rest of the student body, it became apparent that there was something daunting sitting in the path of our progress; an unavoidable root ball of sorts; fear.

When we began to do more than speak about what we should do as Christians, when we would actually go out and witness to others, it was then that we realized how ill-prepared we really were. The very act of approaching others in order to speak to them about Christ froze our students, stopping their very progression of growth. Like those students, when we try to evangelize to the world around us, some of us quickly find our shortcomings. We hear that voice in the back of our head reminding us, “You are not ready.” It is then obvious, like the tree stump, we must go back to the beginning and start over, learning what we must do to witness as those early disciples.
Digging deep into the earth surrounding the remains of the tree we would begin to hack away at the tenuous arms that held the once massive tree in place. Like membranes of bone, the ancient arms stretched in all directions. Like embedded fears from childhood, our inhibitions to speaking to others about our faith can only be overcome when we remove the restraints we put upon ourselves; our self-imposed root ball. With time, study, and trust in the Lord, our faith will grow until we understand there is no fear in serving Him; for He is with us in all that we do.

The back-breaking work was eventually rewarded this past weekend when the massive root ball gave way. It was an enormous relief. Once the obstruction was gone, the re-leveling of the building site took only a few minutes.
Likewise, the work with the students will take time. It won’t be easy, and at times it will seem as if we can’t win but in the end, the reward we will obtain will be far greater than that of removing even the most stubborn tree stump. Once they have found their confidence, their personal stumps will be gone, leaving the ground from which to build.

Bringing salvation to the lost will be something they, and each of us will never forget, and the heavenly reward will be for all eternity.

Thanks be to God.

The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weigheth the spirits. Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established. …” – Proverbs 16

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The Comforting Soul of the Barn Studio…

2013-01-03 21.17.25-1It pretty much started back when the late John W. Parsons said to me, “Do you have an out building you can practice in?”

J.W., we called him for short, was referring to me learning how to play the fiddle and that it would be best if I had somewhere to practice, lest I drive my wife crazy with the horrible sounds of a beginner fiddle player in the house.

“No,” I respectfully replied.

“Well, you better build one or you won’t be married long,” he said, and laughed before refocusing on where we had left off in our lesson that evening.

As a matter of fact, I had already begun adding onto the original section of barn I had built years before, unsure of how it might be used. I now had a reason to make part of the new addition somewhere I could get out of the weather and perhaps practice my newfound instrument. So with the purpose of creating a room to play music in, the studio in the barn began to take shape. I purchased ship-lapped poplar from Foster Rives, who had cut it from local lumber and planed it in his own sawmill just down the road from the farm. I installed it after putting up the walls, roof and outer shell of the barn, completing what would be a welcome retreat. Over time, the poplar becamed naturally aged to the golden hue it displays today. The wood stove came later, moved up from the old cabin, making the studio complete.

IMG_20140101_084557The cold rainy days when the farm work had to be put on hold, I would eagerly retreat to the studio. There I would build a fire in the woodstove and soon, the beautiful aromas of coffee brewing in the old percolator pot mixing with that of the hickory in the fire blending with the faint smells of the sweet hay in the hayloft just outside the studio door combined to make an ambiance that would start my creative juices flowing. There in the studio, I once more revisited old talents I had unintentionally left behind; starting to paint once again after years of leaving my paint brushes in the closet. It was here that I also rediscovered my writing, after years of leaving the pen lie dormant, with the occasional story that might rise to the surface, perculating like the coffee in the pot on top of the wood stove. And, of course, I would practice my fiddle, alone and away from ears that might be bothered by the slowly diminishing sour notes that had once been produced in abundance in my early days of learning.

Inside the upstairs room in the barn, strains of music wafted from the CD player. Songs were played according to the activity I was performing which accompanied my subconscious as I worked either on portraits, landscapes, stories for my book or just playing along on the fiddle. This was my home-away-from-home. Outside the windows, the world would present itself as the farm around me lived out its daily routine, regardless of the elements. As the rain pitter-pattered down, the cows might lie lazily underneath the cover of the trees that stood near the chicken coop. The chickens would cluck and crow, scratching the ground paying no mind to the nearby bovine neighbors as they walked about their runs, safe from the world and uncaring of the weather. Their only cares being that they might find a morsel of protein wiggling about in the dark earth.

Inside the comfort of the studio, I watched the seasons pass; winter, spring, summer and fall, safe from their temperature extremes, yet thankful that each were tranquil in their own right. Eventually, when my children were old enough, they would join me in the room up in the barn to paint, play music or just warm themselves by the woodstove if the opportunity presented itself. At times, I would cook meals in the cast iron skillet on the stove top, making the room come alive with smells of fried sausage or bacon. To me, there aren’t any restaurants to which I am aware that can compare to a home cooked meal on an old wood stove. As I would sit back in the easy chair and savor the delectable morsels of food, the air would still linger with the soothing smell of fresh cooked food, wood smoke and hot fresh coffee still bubbling up in the percolator.

Yes, the barn studio is someplace I will miss once we move. It is someplace that the kids will undoubtedly never forget, knowing that it too became a retreat to which they could go to reinvent themselves and become one with their inner person. We all need a place to go where life can be left at the door, where we may once again turn our thoughts inward and be at peace with our soul; giving ourselves to the gifts with which God has blessed us.

May we never forget our studio in the barn.

See how this studio can become a welcome retreat for you by clicking here.

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JAM Camp 2013 is almost here…..are you ready?

I have to admit, I have been remiss in my blogging as of late, but there is a very good reason.

We are deep into the preparations for JAM Camp 2013.bluegrass-640x350

This year’s camp will be bigger and hopefully even better than last year’s. In addition to the great morning instrument classes (which includes lessons in guitar, fiddle, banjo, mandolin and mountain dulcimer with a host of great teachers) we are creating more afternoon activities; meanwhile, keeping the popular ones from last year.

This year, in addition to campers making their own biscuits, they will also learn how to make the preserves to put on their biscuits as well. Joan Thompson from the Siler City Farmer’s Market will teach the preserve making class and Bill and Sims Poindexter will lead the biscuit baking class.

Everyone enjoyed the pottery class last year, so this year we plan to do it again. We plan to add to our pottery experience with Jon Spoon, the Director of the NC Arts Incubator, leading the workshop. We hope to have a JAM Camp 2013 tile for everyone to take home by the end of the week.

We are excited to have Sue Wilson back for a second year. She will hold another workshop in Hammered Dulcimer, which we didn’t seem to get enough of last year. In addition to Hammered Dulcimer, we will also be offering a build-your-own Mountain Dulcimer workshop hosted by Emily Schilling, who is also our Mountain Dulcimer teacher. In this class you will build and decorate your own Dulcimer.

Also back by popular demand is Kathy Schilling and her clogging class. Kathy, a multi-award winning dancer, will be leading afternoon dance workshops in clogging. Kathy will also hold classes on how to square dance, which will be very useful at the Friday Night Barn Dance.

We are adding some new afternoon opportunities with a Native American themed activity by first building a Tepee, which we will then let the campers decorate. Along with the Tepee we will create a sundial, nature boat float and an Orienteering course. Other artistic endeavors somewhat Native American themed, will be focused on a Giant Weaving and Mural project and Jug decorations.

100_1943We will once again hold our Jug Band class on Friday, where our students will learn or be reminded of how to play the jugs they decorated earlier in the week along with the art of Kazoo. Last year, Julie Brown, Emily Schilling and myself led this class for the first time. I think we laughed more than we played music, but we found out the beauty of performing while playing a Kazoo…for sure!!! I also found out that playing a jug required a lot more air than I had anticipated, nearly passing out the first time I tried. Needless to say, we now make sure our students know the hazards of too much jug plaing. In addition to the jug, each student will get their own kazoo to play. We will perform a Jug Band song at the Friday Barn Dance show as part of the evening’s pre-Dance entertainment. Along with the Jug Band performance our students will be invited to come up and perform what they’ve learned during camp; you will not want to miss this.

Along with Jug Band class, other afternoon singing and song writing classes will be held again with Laura Thurston leading our folk singing class and Sarah Osborne hosting our song writing workshop. In addition, Jr. Counselors, Abbey Buchanon and Chloe Lang will lead a Taylor Swift song-sing-a-long session slanted more toward the Old Time/Bluegrass sound of her music.

Along with all the learning there will be lots of physical activity with the return of the ever popular 100 ft. water slide. We will add additional water games throughout the week along with various other games and activities. Zach Tomlinson will host a jump rope workshop. You have to see him in action to believe it…a double-dutch master.

Our story teller this year will be Claire Ramsey. We look forward to hearing Claire weave her tales as no one else can. In Claire’s own words, “Therefore, my first wish as a storyteller is to bring all my listeners — children, teens, and adults — to that place where they remember their first stories… where they find themselves again at their parents’, grandparents’, or babysitters’ knees, pictures filling their minds and hearts. Whoever you are, however old you are, Stories With Claire have moments of joy, excitement, and peace for you.”

We are happy to announce our visiting performer this year is Chatham County’s own iconic treasure, Tommy Edwards. Tommy will be visiting us on Wednesday afternoon starting at 2:00 PM. We look forward to hearing Tommy speak and perform for our campers; he always has lots of inspirational words of wisdom to share and beautiful music as well.TommyBoT3

The backdrop for the JAM Camp 2013 is the wonderfully restored Silk Hope Farm Heritage Park and the beautiful Silk Hope countryside. Along with this beauty we plan to include some farm related activities and learning experiences similar to last years. Farming is a dynamic lifestyle where weather always plays a major factor. So we never know for sure what activity we will be able to promote until closer to the time of the camp but we promise it will be something all the children will enjoy.

In all, this year promises to be bigger and better with a lot of learning with a whole lot of fun thrown in. If you haven’t registered it’s still not too late to do so.

For more information and to register go online to www.ChamJAM.org/SummerCamp2013.php

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Play Through Me In Spite of Me…

fiddlersWe’ve been attending the local Fiddler’s Conventions in our area lately with friends and family. While there are contests for various instruments and talents I’ve forgone any attempt in competing to win; rather, I have found it much more rewarding to use the opportunity as a platform. I know there are some who would say, “You shouldn’t waste your time going if your not going to compete to win.” Well, in a sense, I am competing to win, but not in the monetary sense.

Allow me to explain.

A couple weeks ago I watched a TED presentation on “Your elusive creative genius” by Elizabeth Gilbert http://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius.html and found her lecture spoke to me quite profoundly from my Christian background. 70532_74x56What she said that struck such a chord with me was that when we are true to our faith, we become the channel, the vessel if you will, through which a power greater than ourselves can flow.  The fallacy of so many artistic minds is that we start to believe the talents we pocess are because of us, something “We” are responsible for creating. With this responsibility comes great pressure. Once you’ve created that awe inspiring masterpiece, then everything after that becomes compared to the one that made you famous. More often than not, the vaccum that follows leaves many in such states of depression that they fall into either a dependency behaviour or take their own lives. However, all of this can be avoided if we realize the source of our talents; our inspiration.

It was from this TED talk that I was reminded of how we must give God the Glory, that everything we have we owe to him. When we try to take credit for it, we are only kidding ourselves and quickly fall into that trap of thinking we are more than we really are. So when the 2013 Fiddler’s Conventions came around, I realized I had to do more than just go on stage and perform; I had to deliver a message, even if it was brief.

So each week, before the performance, and most of the times on the way to the event, I listen for God to speak to me, telling me what I am to do, what song or scripture I will share with the audience. Some weeks he has told me in advance; others, I found out only minutes before. Such was this past week at the Seagrove Convnetion. Before we arried I had picked out a song I thought would be good enough, but on the way there, the idea of rewording the song, “House of the Rising Sun,” and playing it on my fiddle flashed into my brain. Upon arriving, I found my cohart and backup on stage in the recent weeks, a young man who is wonderfully talented and a great Christian, Tanner Henson. I presented to him the song and we tried it out but found neither one of us knew the chord progression on the guitar. I was about to scrap the idea unless I could find one of the many guitar virtuso’s in attendance. Just a few minutes before stage time, I found Harold Pickett; one of those guitar experts. I was also wonderfully surprised to find Harold a fellow Christian as well. Soon, the gig was on.

I prayed for guidance from the Lord and told the crowd before I started that I had to sing a couple lines to the song, so that they would know where I was coming from; meaning, not the original song but the new verse I had written on the way to the convention. So, with the power of the God flowing through me, Harold Pickett on guitar, Clyde Maness on bass and myself on fiddle  performed “House of the Rising Sun” but with these words as the intro instead, “There is, a House, at the end of the street, Where we go to worship God, and many a poor boy, has waited for judgment day, to accept the Spirit of the Lord.”

After that verse, we kicked the song into overdrive and the rest was a blur. I know I couldn’t have won anything monetarily, for I could barely contain the energy that swept through my fingertips as the bow nearly flew off the strings. There was a complimentary applause following our performance, but I think most folks were just being polite. I followed up the fiddle with an old Tom T. Hall song on my guiatar, while I sang and played, “Me and Jesus“. I left the stage, shaking from the adrenaline rush that had come from the fiddle performance and prayed I had not dishonored God in any way. Afterward, all I could think of was the TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert and how it was God playing that night, not me. Regardless of how it sounded, I was more concerned that I had probably ruined my chance to touch a heart. I kept asking myself, “Did I get in the way of God?” You never know until its over if what you did was respectable in his eyes, but again, I kept the faith and carried on.

Shortly after coming off stage, just as we were about to walk out the door, a young man walked up to me and said, “Now I know who you are. Your that preacher from over around Asheboro aren’t you?” I smiled and thanked him for the compliment but told him I was not a preacher; at least not yet. I told him it was a little ironic that he ask that since I was scheduled to preach my first sermon of my book ministry at the Crestview Wesleyan Church in Asheboro on April 7th. I gave him a card and invited him to come to the service. We shook hands and parted ways.

As we walked out, I realized something special had just transpired.  As we drove home that night, I felt as if I had somewhat achieved my goal; at least one heart had been touched, even if it was a case of mistaken identity… and that was all the prize I needed.

All we ask is that he plays through us in spite of us, in God’s name we pray….Amen!

ps. We were tired and there was a lot more convention left to go when we left. We rarely stay to the end to find out who won. We found out a couple days later that my daughter had won second place in vocals when she sang, “Amazing Grace.” You can bet we were proud of her, thanks be to God!

Do you find yourself getting caught in that trap of feeling like its you, like you have to do better next time? Let me know, and better yet, let me know if you’ve touched someone’s life by something you did recently.

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The Vibes at the Bean

greenbeanAs an author, I’m supposed to keep you posted as to what I am up to in the literary sense. Although I haven’t a story to upload tonight, I felt compelled to speak to you and let you know I haven’t been silent. Two new stories have emerged recently which I am not able to publish here in lieu of their entry into writing contests. I’m not much for contests, but as with all other aspects of being an author, I’m following what I’ve been told “Is a good thing to do.”

So when you finally to get to read, “My Little Buddy” and “The Farmer in the Bull” you will hopefully be doing so from a literary publication. If not, you’ll just see them on another blog of mine down the road.

In the meantime, the sequel to “Bruecke to Heaven” has been languishing until this weekend. For some unknown reason, perhaps its the lunar phase, the story has taken off again. I couldn’t stop pulling the threads in different directions the past two days until I finally weaved them into something I hope will make the reader more intrigued and fascinated than the first story. Suffice it to say, I dare not share any details at this point for fear fo giving away anything. Like a proud father, I’d love to sneak a peek in your direction, but I wouldn’t want to diminish what might be an eventual second publication.

Meanwhile, life goes on.

We had the rare opportunity to get out this past Saturday night and see two live bands at the Green Bean Coffee Shop in Greensboro, NC. We were fortunate to know a member or two from both bands, “The Zinc Kings” and the “South Caroina Broadcasters”. Each band was a rollicking blast of old time traditional music, rocking the place with amazingingly enough, energy to spare for all. The songs they performed might have been created in antiquity but their presentation of them were so fresh and alive, that one couldn’t help feel the beat well up into your soul. The Green Bean blended the rejuvenated antique building with the rejuvanated sounds of today’s youth melding together their past into the future.

I was grateful to be there to witness its forging…and yes, the music and the story goes on.

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