When I was little, a mainstay piece of furniture in our living room was our massive (it seemed!) RCA Victor stereophonic radio and record player, housed in a nearly immovable walnut cabinet. Alongside of the actual machine was a storage place for LP records of all types. To say that we “used” the record player would be like saying I “appreciate” corn on the cob. Hardly a day went by without us sitting down directly in front of the speakers, and getting bombarded with the glorious sound of the stereo. I’ve mentioned before the different albums we nearly consumed – Sing Along with Mitch Miller – which had lyric sheets in the record sleeve, so you could actually sing along, and we did – little white kids singing “Drunk last night, drunk the night before, gonna get drunk tonight like I never got drunk before…” Or, when we went to Australia, and the folks bought Aussie records, we memorized Rolf Harris’ songs, and Lionel Long, and threw in the Serendipity Singers as well.
Music was everywhere. When “we” filled up at the Esso station, they gave away promo records of most of the Disney songs, and we would make a stage, and force our parents to watch as we acted out, and mimed songs like “I Wanna Be Like You,” or “The Wonderful Thing about Tiggers…” for what seemed hours on end.
A few years later, the folks bought us record players of our own – one for the boys, one for the girls – most likely so we would play the records in our own bedrooms, I think. So we broke into the land of 45rpms, and played great hits like “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter,” singing along with our best British accents.
Later, of course, the record player became the pathway to listening to the Beatles, and the Monkees, and Ray’s favorite two-record set of the Woodstock Music Festival. I grew up on all that music and more. One by one, my brothers went off to college and got married, and I was left with the record player, still in our room. One of my school friends was an electronics whiz, and he drilled a hole in the plastic, and soldered in a jack for headphones, so I could listen for hours in my room, as loud as I liked.
I carried the record player and my collection of records, both LP and 45s, to college with me, and they carried me through the tough classes and the times when I was alone. Eventually, of course, after 15 years or so, the record player gave up the ghost, and I invested in a REAL sound system, with three foot tall speakers, and a turntable and amp.
Along the way, with kids and computers and cassette players and CD players, the records sat on the shelves, nearly forgotten. The stereo sound system ended up not moving with us when we went to Rapid City. However, one summer afternoon, we all walked up the street to a garage sale, and there, before our eyes, was a very nice system, and a pile of records for sale. The owners announced that they were “fully committed to CDs,” and were getting rid of everything.
It came home with us. The boys were in Jr. High, and their eyes and ears were opened to the sound of Styx, and America, and the Eagles, and a new generation of lovers of records was born.
The turntable eventually wore out, and we had trouble finding the replacement parts that actually worked on it, so once again, that music stopped for a while in our home. A couple of years ago, however, I got the itch, and we found a new turntable and amp, that our son was able to hook into the surround sound already in place in the house. Once again, the music did not die, but played and played. I even have pulled out the Sing-along with Mitch LP, and taught the boys that fine song…
What do you have as a foundation to your life? I mean beyond faith in Jesus, and the trust you place in God’s love. There are all sorts of things that define our lives – for some, it is gourmet cooking, and others, a great garden, or a finely tuned and restored antique car. Still others spend time finding ways to simply make money, or to take trips and vacations. I’d have to say that mine is music – among other things, like writing and telling puns. Whenever I get in the car, the radio is on, or if it is a longer trip, I’ll hook into the Bluetooth of the car, and magically turn on my Pandora on my phone, and listen to old favorites for hours on end. Whatever it is, I think it is important for you and me to identify it, and to claim it, so long as it brings life, and not pain. That is, if drinking or overeating is your life’s foundation, that’s pretty shaky, don’t you think?
However, the good things of life, that captivate our emotions and our imagination, are worth exploring and naming, as they in so many ways name us. When I shared the eulogy for my mother-in-law this last weekend, it was easy to do, because I simply named and explained what she loved, and what was foundational to her rich, abundant life.
It should be easy for others to do the same for you. Take time today to affirm or even identify what “turns your crank,” or brings you excitement and the lively spirit that should belong to you. It’s a worthwhile, intentional search, and one that others need to see in you. Blessings.
Word for the day: alembic. Pronounced all-EM-bick. This is a strange mixture of two vastly different languages. The Greek word that stands as the root is ambix, which means “cup.” The al is from the Arabian language, such as the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. It simply means “the.” So, you have “the cup.” However, it for centuries has been the vessel or container that is used to distill something, such as is in chemistry. Even a moonshine still has an alembic to it. To expand the definition, however, it become anything that is able to transform, or purify or refine something else. The more you place yourself under the discipline of an art or science, the more you will find the alembic which allows you to do what you do in a far more precise or skilled manner. It all goes back, of course, to intentionality.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.