Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Thinking Big

This book, originally published in 1959, is still motivational today. After all, the human condition doesn't change. And David Schwartz had some good insights into the human condition. Here are some examples:

"Success is determined not so much by the size of one's brain as it is by the size of one's thinking." (p.2)

"Belief is the thermostat that regulates what we accomplish in life." (p.14)

"All confidence is acquired, developed." (p.50) -- For those of us who always lack self-confidence, this is practically a revelation.

"Confident action produces confident thinking." (p.69) -- In other words, just act like you're confident and you will feel confident. Act the way you want to feel.

"Look at things not as they are, but as they can be. Visualization adds value to everything." (p.84)

"The price tag the world puts on us is just about identical to the one we put on ourselves." (p.88)

"Believing something can be done sets the mind in motion to find a way to do it." (p.101)

"There is no limit to self-improvement. Capacity is a state of mind." (p.125)

Schwartz writes extensively about the importance of having positive attitudes and thoughts about yourself. In other words, you are what you think you are. Once again, for those of us who incline toward the negative, this is huge.

"Refuse to let others prejudice your thinking." (p.203)

"Don't waste time and energy being discouraged." (p.210)

Our speech, of course, is important as well: "Put vitality into your speaking. ... When you put life in your talk, you put life in you." (p.174) And "get the 'speak up' habit. Each time you speak up, you strengthen yourself." (pp.228-229)

"Action feeds and strengthens confidence; inaction in all forms feeds fear. To fight fear, act. ... The saddest words of tongue or pen are these: it might have been." (p.221)

He also is a major proponent of setting goals and planning ahead. "Nothing happens, no forward steps are taken, until a goal is established. ... Get a clear fix on where you want to go." (p.252) Because "energy increases, multiplies, when you set a desired goal and resolve to work toward that goal." (p.260) I've found that to be true, haven't you?

He even offers some investment advice: "The biggest and most rewarding kind of investment is self-investment." (p.270)

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Great Pumpkin Patch


The Great Pumpkin Patch is located about two miles south of Arthur, Illinois, in the heart of Amish country. Yesterday it played host to the 5th Annual Chet Kingery Memorial Bluegrass Festival.


A large crowd turned out on a beautiful late summer day for some good Amish cooking, live bluegrass music, jamming, and community -- all in a peaceful country setting. The host band, Mackville, kicked off the festival at noon.


Bluegrass Express, from northern Illinois, soon followed. This band features three generations of Underwoods: Gary; his son, Greg; and his grandson, Jacob. Joining them are Caleb Erickson on lead guitar and Nate Burie on mandolin.


The Harmans, from Shipman, Illinois, were next. This family band includes papa Mike, banjo; mama Stacy, vocals; and their three sons: Mark, Jeff, and John. Midway through their set it was time for the mandolin workshop, held in the nearby schoolhouse.

Wayne Benson, fine mandolinist for Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, was scheduled to lead this workshop. However, due to Russell Moore's recent surgery, the band canceled its appearance. Therefore, Benson was replaced by Darin Aldridge.

Hailing from North Carolina, Aldridge cut his teeth with the Country Gentlemen prior to forming a duo with his wife, Brooke. Good friends with Benson, he is a fine mandolinist in his own right.

The workshop, in the schoolhouse's only classroom, was well attended and quite enjoyable. Aldridge played "East Tennessee Blues" to demonstrate playing the C scale in several different positions. He also answered some questions about technique and then accompanied a workshop attendee as the latter played "Dusty Miller."


Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper were on stage when the workshop let out, singing that classic bluegrass tune "Too Late for Goodbyes" by that classic bluegrass songwriter Julian Lennon.

Michael was having a good time in his trademark purple shirt, even referring to his mandolinist as Nathan "Pumpkin Head" Ivers. (Inside joke, I guess.)

After their set, I walked around the grounds some, seeing some goldfish in a nearby stream and stopping to listen to some "parking-lot picking" on the front porch of the Sweet Shop, where I purchased a bag of snickerdoodles.




Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Case for Christ

Lee Strobel, once a legal reporter for the Chicago Tribune, plays the role of the skeptic he once was in this book that features interviews with 13 of the world's leading historical, archaeological, and Biblical scholars. He challenges them to provide convincing answers to many of the standard objections to the Christian faith, such as "Are the New Testament texts reliable?" and "Is the resurrection of Jesus a historical fact?"

He challenges each, in effect, to make their best case for Christ, to present the credible evidence (eyewitness, scientific, corroborating, circumstantial, forensic, etc.) that Jesus is who he said he is -- the one and only Son of God.

In effect, God is "in the dock" (as the English say), and we are the jurors. It's our responsibility (ultimately) to reach a verdict, to weigh the evidence and come up with the best possible solution based on the facts. It's a decision we all must face, with eternity hanging in the balance.

After facing the avalanche of evidence offered in this book, though, don't be surprised if you discover (as Lee Strobel did) one of the great ironies of life -- that it requires much more faith to maintain our skepticism than to believe in Jesus.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Starvy Creek 2017


I first went to this event July 4th weekend, 1996. Though I've been to the September festival since, this is first time I've been back to the July event. Wow -- 21 years! My how time flies!

I arrived on Friday afternoon to see the Roland White Band. Roland, one of the few bluegrass legends remaining, turns 80 next April. These days he sits on a stool while performing with his band that includes his wife, Diane; Richard Bailey, banjo; Brian Christianson, fiddle; and Jon Weisberger, bass.

Roland White Band

Jim joined me Friday evening for an extended performance (an hour and a half) by Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver. Another bluegrass legend, Lawson will turn 74 next April. And he's still going strong, with a great band accompanying him.


Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver

A pleasant evening, musically and weather-wise, was followed by a fine morning. Jim and I and Buster went to Hidden Waters Nature Park in nearby Marshfield.


Jim and Buster at the park

Saturday afternoon was clear and bright at the festival, not too hot (unless you were in the sun). We saw two Missouri family bands -- the Punches Family and the Bluegrass Martins -- and Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper.

Punches Family

Lee Martin of the Bluegrass Martins

And, later in the afternoon, the Gibson Brothers (Eric and Leigh) from New York state took the stage with their fine band.

Gibson Brothers

 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Sleepless in ... Osage Beach and Jane

Well, not necessarily sleepless ... less-than-adequate sleep, you might say.

Leaving Springfield on Thursday afternoon, my plan was to stay at the Golden Door Motel in Osage Beach, Missouri, near the Lake of the Ozarks. Thinking it would be easy to find, imagine my dismay when the sign on Highway 54 read, "Osage Beach next 6 exits."

Six exits! I thought Osage Beach was a small town! After driving around for a half-hour or so -- and seeing some stunning lake views along the way -- I never did find the Golden Door. But there are plenty of other places to stay, so I pulled in at an Econo Lodge and got a pet-friendly room for the night.

It was a warm and pleasant evening -- the last pleasant weather we would see for a while. I took Buster for two walks, then ordered a Hawaiian pizza from Imo's and settled in for the night. I wanted to get an early start for Bella Vista, so I went to bed early.

I woke up a few hours later, practically sweating. It was very warm in the room, and try as I would, I just couldn't seem to get it to cool down. I turned the fan on the heating/AC unit to the high position, but it didn't seem to make much difference. At least it made enough noise to drown out any outside noise which always is upsetting to Busterboy, my traveling companion.

Eventually, I did get a little more shuteye. I woke up to a rainy morning. Just a light rain, though, as I continued westward on 54 to Nevada, Missouri. That's where I picked up Interstate 49, heading south. I ran into a deluge around Joplin, and it never let up the rest of the way to Bella Vista.

I met up with Mark and Robyn, friends from Portland, at Jim's crib. I hadn't seen them since my last visit to Portland a few years ago, so we had some catching up to do. We drove down to Fayetteville in the rain and spent the rest of the afternoon driving around the University of Arkansas campus.

Plans were to take in a Naturals game (the local minor league team), but that was washed away in all the rain. Instead, we supped at an authentic Mexican restaurant (El Cunado) in Springdale before heading back to BV.


That evening I checked in at the Booneslick (or Boones Lick) Lodge in nearby Jane, Missouri. Quite rustic, as the name implies. Adequate accommodations, though, if not a little noisy. That, and another warm room, interrupted my sleep for a second night in a row.

Saturday was cool and overcast, with intermittent spits of rain -- very Oregon-like, making Mark and Robyn feel at home. We did some shopping in Bentonville after a stop at the library, then lunched at Zaxby's, one of Jim's favorite places. Later, back at the crib, Jim and I did some jamming until it was time to eat again -- pizza at Gusano's.

We closed the cool, damp evening with hot chocolate at Jim's, then it was back to the Booneslick for another sleep-interrupted night. But it wasn't the temperature in the room this time, but the inhabitants in the room above. It sounded like they were moving furniture all night long. Crash, bang, boom! This lasted until 3:30 or so.


Sunshine and a cloudless blue sky greeted us on Sunday. What a welcome sight! We attended service at Calvary Chapel of the Ozarks in Rogers, then lunched at a nearby Freddy's. In the afternoon, Jim and some of his guitar students gave a performance at the Crystal Bridges art museum in Bentonville.

Buster and I then hit the road. I was determined not to spend another night in a hotel, so I drove straight through, with only two stops, arriving home around 11 p.m.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Chesterton Strikes Again!






"We open our mind for the same reason we open our
mouth: to find something solid to close it on."

--G.K. Chesterton

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Saturday at Shorty's

Kent and I drove up to East Peoria yesterday for the 12th annual Shorty's Strickly [sic] Bluegrass Festival at the Stoney Creek Inn. The rustic inn is located along the Illinois River, and right next door is a seafood restaurant named Jonah's, where we ate lunch.

Sounds of bluegrass slammed us the moment we entered the inn. The lobby, with a quaint stone fireplace, was filled with jammers. There was also a jamming room up on the second floor. We walked back to the conference room where the stage shows were happening and bought our tickets.

Shortly thereafter, Highway 15 took the stage. From St. Louis, this band currently features Kenny Kuhn on bass and dobro, Mathew Mitchell on banjo and guitar, Danny Isom on mandolin and fiddle, and Terry Lewis on guitar.

After lunch, we returned to catch most of the Bluegrass Martins. Ozark siblings now based in Jefferson City, the Martins were decked out in matching purple and black and entertained with a variety of traditional bluegrass and country tunes ... and even some clogging by bassist Anne. Janice, banjoist and emcee, introduced the Porter Wagoner-Dolly Parton duet, "The Last Thing on My Mind," like this:

"I'll be Dolly Parton ... use your imagination."

Then, after forgetting some of the lyrics, she said at song's end, "To get all the words, you'll have to listen to Dolly and Porter's version."

Brothers Dale, guitar, and Lee, mandolin, really get after it on their respective instruments and Larita plays a solid dobro. This is a really talented bunch, and their parents are justifiably proud. Dad, Elvin, even got up on stage and sang a number with them.

The River Ramblers

The River Ramblers followed. We've seen this band for two decades now, and it's just as strong as ever with the additions of Don Randle on dobro and Steve "Doc" Hatfield on banjo. The latter burned it up on "Shuckin' the Corn" and the Ricky Skaggs' instrumental "Amanda Jewell." The Ramblers also did nice renditions of the Eagles' "Seven Bridges Road" and "Amazing Grace." Self-effacing band leader Duane Patterson, ever-present long gray beard hanging down, was up to his old tricks when he introduced the band members and concluded, "And I'm Porter Wagoner."

The Punches Family from Fredericktown, Missouri, brought the afternoon session to a close. Mom, Bobette (bass), and Dad, Bruce (mandolin), have four kids: two boys and two girls. The boys, Graham and Owen, were formerly in the group but are now busy with school and work. That leaves twins Emily and Brooke to take up the slack. And they do a fine job. Particularly outstanding are Brooke's vocals and her licks on the dobro. As proud papa Bruce exclaimed after she burned it up on "Fireball Mail":

"She plays the fire out of that dobro."

The Punches did nice covers of "Delta Dawn," Little Green Apples," and "Tumblin' Tumbleweeds." But they're real strength is bluegrass gospel. They even did a contemporary Christian song that Bruce said "grasses up" real well. One fan in the front row was singing along happily, and Bruce described him as "smiling like a mule eating cactus."

That described yours truly as well.