Politics and Religion

Politics and Religion – Are these two topics not the ‘poison’ of agreeable and delightful conversation? I am not sure what it says about me but these are two of my favorite topics to discuss.

I won’t delve too deeply into controversy here as I believe the two points I want to share here are pretty close to being ‘offense-free’ as any that would fall under this potentially polemic category.

Politics – I use to be consumed by politics. By that, I mean I use to study, research and read all the latest goings on in government. Spend countless hours online debating and discussing the issues of the day. I would call, write and visit my representatives in Washington, DC. Then I decided to become ‘blissfully ignorant’ (See blog entry below by the same title)

Several years ago, our local school board did something that I believed was wrong. I believe they violated Georgia’s ‘Sunshine Law’ and put an item on their agenda that was hidden in its meaning in how it would affect the parents and students.

This was enough to make me truly realize the value that ‘all politics should be local.’ I set up a meeting with the School Superintendent to discuss what I though was an unfair tactic on the part of the school board. This got me no where.

This led to my getting involved in creating a community awareness group that focused on monitoring what the school board did and helping keep local citizens more informed.

Before long, an opening on the school board came up and we knew we needed to end the years and years of unanimous voting by the school board, basically, ‘rubber stamping’ the Superintendent’s agenda.

This lead me to meet and get to know an incredible man named Mike Dudgeon. Mike stepped up to the plate and ran for the open seat. To make a long story short, Mike won and has served us proudly over the past four years on the Forsyth County School Board.

Now, Mike is running for the Georgia House in District 24.

I am so very proud to call Mike a friend and would like to take this opportunity to whole-heartedly endorse Mike’s campaign. You can learn more about Mike on his site:

www.votedudgeon.com

Religion – of the two ‘taboo topics’ religion is definitely the more sensitive in my opinion. My entry here is to share with you about a meeting I recently had with a couple, Joe and Andy Fambrough. Joe and his wife Andy have been a part of a ministry at our church for right at ten years. Their ministry is called ‘Alongside Her’ and it supports the widows of our community.

The Bible is very clear on how we should take care of the widows and hearing Joe and Andy’s story was not only touching but inspiring as well. The amount of love, blood, sweat and tears they have put into this is not only an inspiration to me and Lane but also has prompted us to do what we can to help.

You know me, I am not big on asking for anything or pushing an agenda but I would like for you to prayerfully consider doing what you can for Alongside Her. In the short amount of time Lane and I have known Joe and Andy, we already consider them to be very special friends and their passion for what they do has proven to be infectious.

To learn more, visit their site or let me know.

www.alongsideher.org

The site is new and we are working on upgrading it ‘as we speak’ but if you have any questions, just let me know.

Christmas Cards

As the year coasts to a stop, I am happy to find some ‘alone time’ early on a Sunday morning. I have some fresh coffee, a delightful fire roaring and Sophie is snoozing next to me.

This will be the first time in my adult life that we did not send out, en masse, Christmas cards with either a picture and/or family letter…no one to blame other than a hectic schedule and maybe Facebook.

Christmas is less than a week away and I have yet to venture out to one single retail location. I am proud to say that I should have four large boxes awaiting me at my business address full of goodies via the wonderful Internet.

Nonetheless, I still feel compelled to share with everyone the one thing I have put at the end of every family letter since I have had my own family. In spite of the fact that Thanksgiving gets ‘robbed’ each year with the Halloween displays being replaced by Christmas ones the first day of November, Christmas still holds some magic for me and I attribute it all to the following:

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And that’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.” – Linus Van Pelt.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Red & Black

I was born in Mobile, Alabama and was always proud to cheer for Paul Bear Bryant’s team. Though our family had no direct connections to the University of Alabama we, like thousands of others in the same position, called the Crimson Tide ‘our team’.

I ended up moving to Georgia when I was just seven years old and as a young football star wannabe, I still rooted for ‘Bama and was proud to be a fan. I can still remember the ache from the ‘Punt ‘Bama Punt’ defeat by Auburn. Jon Pierce and Randy McCrae, Auburn fans and classmates, reminded me daily for a year of that 17-16 loss.

I ended up attending, and graduating, from the University of Georgia because I wanted to get my degree from the Terry College of Business, the south’s oldest business school. I remember when I told my friends about my decision to go to Georgia that they would never hear me say, ‘How ’bout them Dawgs!’ as I was still a Tide guy.

That was before I realized that my first quarter at UGA was also the first quarter for a guy named Herschel Walker.

The next three years was football bliss and it did not take long for my blood to turn from Crimson to Red and Black. It has been the same ever since.

I don’t follow UGA sports as closely as I always thought I would only because of the time demands of running a business and being a husband and father. Yet, I sill keep an ear to the ground on what is going on in Athens and am proud when I find little gems such as this:

http://sports.espn.go.com/broadband/video/video?id=3663225

T’was The Night Before The Night Before Christmas

Even at my age, this is an exciting time and I don’t care what the astronomers and meteorologists say, tomorrow is the longest day of the year.

This summer, Anna and Katie learned the lowdown on Santa. After ‘true confessions’, the result of a poorly hidden ‘Santa Apparatus’ (Long story) the truth came out in an impromptu family meeting.

Anna admitted she doubted the logistics of the entire trip around the world/all those toys in one bag scenario but kept her poker face ‘just in case.’

Katie found out while neck deep in her belief. It was not pretty…much like yanking a Band-Aid off of a skinned knee, fast and painful.

With that sense of wonderment gone, things seem just a little off kilter this year. No letters to Santa, no preparing of Christmas Eve snacks, no tracking his lift-off from the North Pole and most of all, no one to ‘impress’.

We have had a pretty good year business-wise, not at good as last year but it could have been a whole lot worse. We know we have been immensely blessed and in spite of the newfound awareness here in the Darnell household, it is still going to be a great Christmas.

Tomorrow will be fun.

Regardless of our new Santa status, the anticipation of what Christmas day will bring will not change much. The girls will be little bundles of energy, knowing that somewhere under this roof are the presents and surprises to be delivered by a surrogate Saint Nick in less than 24 hours.

There will be much to do. My ‘Santa’, the UPS guy, made a key delivery this afternoon so, for the first time in a while, I will not be making any 11th hour dashes to the store as is my typical routine. Well, maybe one small, short trip.

Fortunately, this year there is nothing to assemble. Everything will be wrapped and ready to slide under the tree after visions of sugar plums are dancing down the hall.

While I am counting on that bedtime fatigue to kick in at the same time it does on school nights; that remains to be seen. I am pretty confident that anticipation will prevail at least an hour or two beyond our typical ‘lights out’ hour, which is expected.

The girls will be full of joy, anticipation, expectancy and hope. I will feed off of that knowing we are just hours away from magic and one of the most important roles I have as a father will soon be completed for another year.

Yes, tomorrow will be the longest day of the year, not just for our gals but for me as well.
Even at my age, this is an exciting time of the year!

That For Which I Am Thankful

My wife has a cousin (many, many cousins actually) who sends out a list each year itemizing that for which he is thankful. Wheeler Davidson is a great guy, a patriot, a veteran whose blood runs red and black.

He inspires me each year with his list to count my many blessings and here they are, in no particular order.

I am thankful for each sunrise, hot coffee and news on the Internet.

I am thankful for my wife who makes me feel like a celebrity being married to her.

I am thankful for my beautiful daughters and the joy they give me.

I am thankful that I am an American and for the remaining freedoms we enjoy, maintained only by eternal vigilance and the willingness to sacrifice.

I am thankful for my Blackberry.

I am thankful for Vogel State Park.

I am thankful for our movie room, blankets and video projection technology

I am thankful that today, we will enjoy, yet again, another feast of Mimi’s cooking.

I am thankful for those Americans in our armed forces, willing to risk it all for our country.

I am thankful my brother and parents live so close by.

I am thankful my in-laws don’t. (Just kidding!)

I am thankful for my sister and her family and for the amazing success of her business!

I am thankful for our movie room, blankets and video projection technology

I am thankful for Diet Coke.

I am thankful for William Lane Craig and his ministry.

I am thankful that God gave us dogs.

I am thankful for a wonderful 30th high school reunion this past summer and that I still keep in touch with so many of the class of 1978.

I am thankful there will be a new Pat Terry album out any day now.

I am thankful for the work that I do.

I am thankful for Perimeter Christian School.

I am thankful for my health and the health of my family.

I am thankful for good sushi and sashimi.

I am thankful for a list of friends that is longer than I deserve.

I am thankful I have not to been in the Atlanta airport in months!

I am thankful for Ravi Zacharias and his ministry.

I am thankful for online banking.

I am thankful for online shopping.

I am thankful for rediscovering music after a long absence.

I am thankful for guitars.

I am thankful for our gas grill.

I am thankful for our screen porch.

I am thankful for having One to be thankful to.

Happy Thanksgiving all

Every Once In A While

I have loved music since I can remember. My earliest memories involve me as a young child falling asleep to the music my parents played on their Zenith turntable. The would stack several LPs on the machine as the day coasted to an end and I would drift off to sleep to the sounds of Eddy Arnold, Jim Nabors, Nat King Cole and Johnny Mathis.

If you are familiar with the song ‘Sweet Music’ by The Pat Terry Group, then you will know pretty much how music has influenced my life.

I have been fortunate to have been able to meet, and in some cases know, the musicians that really had a major impact on me musically and personally. I have also been fortunate to have witness some amazing musical events and when looking back, it seems as if it has been years since I have experience anything musically that I would consider even remotely above the ordinary.

That all changed yesterday.

To put this all in perspective, allow me to share a few of my most memorable music events, in no particular order.

Phil Keaggy – Jesus 76, Orlando, FL At that time, Phil had just one Christian album, ‘What A Day’ and he was not very well known. He was not even ‘major act’ on the venue but rather was ‘filler’ as he and Ted Sandquist and Paul Clark would come out and play in between the more well known acts of the day. Though they were listed on the schedule, most people were asking, ‘Who are these guys?’ Until…some magical happened, Phil Keaggy played a solo. There was something special about the little guy in the middle.

At that time, I was just 16 and had been playing guitar for two years. Even then, I knew enough to know that I was witnessing something beyond normal. Phil Keaggy, at that precise moment, changed me forever. Not just musically, but also the way he loved the Lord in his sincere and humble nature.

Ron Thompson – July, 1967, Perry, GA Ronny Thompson is guilty of being the one who got me hooked on guitar. I was just seven years old when I moved from Mobile, Alabama to Perry, GA and Ronny lived across the street from me. He was seven years older and he had, and could play, an electric guitar. He possessed an ability that, like watching Houdini escape from his famous water torture trick that made me think, “I want to know how he does that…and I want to be able to do it too.” I still keep in touch with Ronny and he is still playing and I will love him forever for the influenced he and his Hagstrom guitar and Kent amp had on me…an influence that lives today.

The Del Lords – Summer 1983, Athens, GA At this time, I was playing in a band called ‘Big Suntan’ and ‘Athens Music’ as it was coming to be known at the time, was making quite a splash. R.E.M. was nationally known, as were The B-52’s and it was quite the time to be playing music in a city that will forever hold my heart. I saw the Del Lords play and knew very little about them but that one concert, in a sweaty little club was the personification of what rock and roll is all about. I could not have named two songs they played but each one sounded like something I was familiar with. (To me, the quality of a great song.) There could not have been 70 people there but that night, they were rock and roll perfection.

Wow…there so many more special moments that stand out in my mind; the Jimmy Buffett Coconut Telegraph Tour at the Atlanta Civic Center when he opened up for himself with an acoustic set with just him and an electric piano player before bringing out the band. There was the night I got to have dinner with The Phil Keaggy Band during their ‘Emerging’ Tour on their stop in Atlanta; Flying to Ohio with one of my best friends, Jon Pierce, to see a reunion show of Glass Harp, Phil Keaggy’s rock and roll band. There are quite a few more but as I mentioned, it has been many years since anything came close to ‘knocking me out’ in a music sense until yesterday when I heard The Peasall Sisters at the Chapel at Roswell United Methodist Church in Roswell, GA.

I ‘discovered’ the Peasall Sisters through my new favorite thing http://www.pandora.com, an internet ‘radio station’ where you can enter an artists name and it ‘creates’ a station for you playing their music mixed in with similar artists of the same genre.

I created an Alison Krauss station and was enjoying her tunes, The Barn Owl Band, Ricky Skaggs and then, suddenly, like someone took a spotlight and shined it directly into my eyes, it was the harmonies of the most amazing sounding trio I have ever heard. A quick click of the mouse and I saw ‘The Peasall Sisters’. It took me just three songs before I hit their website and then iTunes where I purchased their ‘Home To You’ album. For the next three weeks, I played those tunes over and over and over. Had it been a vinyl LP, I would have to go get another one by now as I surely would have worn it out.

About a week ago, I decided to hit their website again to see if they were on tour when low and behold, they would be at Roswell UMC in less than 10 days. I don’t care who was going with me, I was going to be there, front and center, which, unfortunately, I was alone as my gals had eye appointments and could not change them.

I arrived early, way early and was, as I planned, front and center. The Chapel at Roswell UMC is a beautiful building, lots of wonderful wood and the perfect setting for what I would call a religious experience.

When I walked in, the three sisters, Sarah, 21; Hannah, 18; and Leah, 15 were doing their sound check. I have no idea how long they have been there but I did hear them say, “Let us do two more songs and we should be good to go.”

The next dozen or so minutes will stand out in my mind like the first time I saw Herschel Walker break out for a long run, Jack Nicklaus, well, just standing there being Jack Nicklaus, Phil Keaggy asking me to pass the salt, the Grand Canyon, Mount McKinley, The eruption of Mount Spurr.

I am not kidding. What I heard at that moment was straight from the gates of Heaven…God doing a little ‘showing off’ through His creation.

The music was not the only amazing thing I witnessed from the Peasall Sisters. Their humility, grace, intelligence and obvious love for the Lord was equally as appealing and also a breath of fresh air. It has been almost as long from being amazed musically as it has been for me seeing what I would call genuine Christians.

I am too poor of a writer to come close to expressing how wonderful yesterday was. I bought their DVD and when we I got home, I played it for Anna and Katie and Lane was able to watch most of it. We are definitely all going to be together the next time they are even close to Atlanta. Right now, I kind of feel like the guy who claims to have seen ‘Nessie’…all words fail the description.

There are some things you just have to witness for yourself.

Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

I was 14 years old, just learning to play guitar to a book called ‘The Music of John Denver Made Easy For Guitar’…which I still have…when I ‘discovered’ an album with a funky cover and, for a young Christian, first heard the most amazing music of my young life.

We were at an event for our church youth group at our pastor’s house and while everyone else was playing games, laughing, eating and have a blast, I sat at the end of the sofa and listened to that album three times, both sides.  (LP vinyl…remember?)

The album was the eponymous, first custom album by The Pat Terry Group, and to say it had an impact on me would be more than an understatement. 

Like many young Christians of that era, especially in the south, The Pat Terry Group definitely had a larger than life sense about them.  World class in what they did yet very approachable.  Going to see The Pat Terry Group was an event those of us who cherished Pat’s songs marked on our calendars and counted the weeks and days with anticipation.

I lost count how many times I saw them in concert.  I remember seeing them in Macon at Mulberry Street United Methodist; the Atlanta Civic Center, backed up by the string section of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra at the debut concert for their ‘Songs of the South’ album; some funky outdoor festival in the middle of no where, Kentucky; the Jesus Music Festivals of 1976 and 1977 and lots of places in between.

Somehow, along the way, I got to know the guys in the group…mostly through their graciousness and patience; answering a million questions of a young guitar player wannabe fascinated by the wonder of their music.

I am grateful to have way more memories than I can count that were born from that night, sitting at the end of the sofa. 

Sonny Lallerstedt; for some reason, I was able to make him laugh and we connected first.  One of my favorite memories with Sonny and his wife Becky was the time I rode a Greyhound bus from Perry to Marietta to spend the weekend with them, as Sonny was going with me to help me pick out my high school graduation present; a new Fender Stratocaster guitar.

He got me a beauty!  Sonny, with musical gifts beyond anyone I have met since, loved the way that guitar sounded and looked and I remember that night, sitting in his music room, holding that guitar and trying to play it where he could not hear me. (kind of like, a swine before pearls thing.)  It was about 10:00 PM when the phone rang. It was my parents calling needing directions to Sonny and Becky’s house.  It seemed that my trip was cut short as I had to take the SAT’s in Macon the next morning and that ‘minor task’ slipped off the radar. 

The Pat Terry Group actually used that guitar on two songs on their ‘Heaven Ain’t All There Is’ album.  That guitar was rocking cool but was stolen during a move between apartments when I was living in Athens, GA.  (Sonny helped me get another Strat, which I still have today.)

The Pat Terry Group has a big impact on the music of that time.  Pat’s songs were recorded by just about ever major artist in that genre and after half dozen albums or so and umpteen years of touring, marriages and babies, the group disbanded.  Sonny and Randy (Bugg) formed ‘Twelve Oaks Recording Studio’ and became ‘Nine to Fivers’ while Pat began a solo career that lasted for three albums and since then has continued in music doing what I believe he does best…writing songs. 

I still stay in touch with Sonny and Becky and count them amongst two of my dearest friends ever.  Pat and Pam are the godparents of our youngest daughter, Katie and ‘honorary’ godparents of our oldest daughter Anna.

Pat has never stopped writing.  In the years since he last recorded he has continued to write some of the most thoughtful, profound and brilliant songs I have ever heard.  In the time that has passed since ‘The Silence, Pat’s last solo effort, I have been gently ‘selling’ him on the concept of a new Pat Terry album, that the world needs more of his music, played by him, sung by him.

Today, I am please to announced ‘I closed the sale’.  Actually, the deal was closed a long while back but between his regular trips to Nashville, making a living with his songs being recorded by the likes of Alan Jackson, Tanya Tucker, Kenny Chesney, Travis Tritt, The Oak Ridge Boys, John Anderson and more, the album taken a while to complete.

So, I am happy to share with you that the new Pat Terry album is finished.  Laugh For A Million Years’ is done, mixed and being produced as I type.  Look for it in early December on iTunes and via Pat’s Website www.patterryonline.com.

If you ever owned a Pat Terry Group album or one of his solo records, ever heard him in concert, ever heard anyone else record one of his songs…get his new CD.  I am confident that you will agree, good things do come to those who wait. 

Enjoy…

Bobby “D”