Passing by Home?

In my novel ROSA NO-NAME, the lead character ponders several times about what “home” is. In regard to the title of this post, I might be pondering that same thing myself.

When I was a kid, from approximately eight to twelve, I lived in Durham, North Carolina. It never felt like home because I’d had to leave the only home I’d ever known when my parents and I lived in Farmville, Virginia. So, when we later moved to Norfolk, it was a relief.

My wife and I drove back yesterday from the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in western North Carolina. Just as we’d done going to the conference, we skirted Durham on Rt. 85. I usually just casually think, “I used to live here,” but yesterday I started remembering some of the things I hadn’t thought about in years.

Even at that early age, Duke University played a role in my life. My father used to take me to a barbershop at Duke for our hair cuts. No idea why. I remember a fountain outside that building, one that we could frequently see a rainbow inside or through. (Okay, so I’m a little hazy on details.)

Although I wasn’t big on admiring flowers, my parents liked to visit the extensive gardens at Duke, and even though I wasn’t very interested in Handel’s MESSIAH then–I’d love to go back to that now–they took me to a presentation of that work every year. I may not remember the music, but I recall being fascinated with those huge columns inside the Chapel.

I recall walking to my elementary school and passing by a little neighborhood store–anybody remember when there were still a number of those around? I recall one day when a bigger kid across the street from me yelled an obscenity at me. I was too naive to know what he was talking about.

I can’t forget how big a part tobacco played in Durham. Our next-door neighbor even used it to fertilize his lawn. Although I think unsmoked tobacco sometimes has a pleasant smell, I hated playing outside and having to smell that every day.

Speaking of tobacco, one of our church members gave my father and me tickets to attend some very special, tobacco-related yearly show. The actor who played Joe Friday’s sidekick on Dragnet was an entertainer that year. I had to ask my father the meaning of a vulgar joke he told.

Durham wasn’t all bad. The problem was my inability at that stage of my life to adjust. Being put on the safety patrol and going with that group to Washington, DC, were two of the better parts of my life there.

Home, though? It still didn’t seem like it. Would I like to go back and visit sometime? Maybe. If I can forget the worst of the past.

Thanks for letting me journey a bit through the past today. If you have comments, I’d love to have you share them.

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Best regards,

Worship Time at the Writing Conference

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This past Sunday I told you about the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference (BRMCWC), which I just returned from . Not only was it a time of learning and inspiration, but a time of fellowship with other Christian authors.

Although Christian writers have certain things in common–their writing is clean and Christ-centered even when it’s not overtly Christian–one of the most amazing things is that they are not competitive to a serious extent. When one of them gets a book contract, everyone rejoices. When someone receives a rejection, everyone commiserates.

Ah, but I’m sliding away from my topic, and for that I make no apology.

At each big group meeting–seven times in all–we begin with a time of worship through music. Over the years we’ve been led by quite a variety of worship leaders: Promise, Testify, Janet Roller, and Rachel Hauck. Each person or group wonderful and unique.

But this year’s leaders were among my favorites. A husband-and-wife duo called “Russell and Kristi”–Russell and Kristi Johnson. They’re in their late thirties or early forties and vibrant in their music.

Russell plays keyboard–I learned he plays guitar, too, but didn’t do so at Ridgecrest–and both of them sing. Although they use some of their own original songs–very good ones–they also use other music, including familiar hymns. I loved the way they tied a particular theme between an old hymn and a contemporary song.

I didn’t talk to everyone at the conference, but the feedback I got was, “We want them again next year!” That’s how I felt.

But I bonded with Russell and Kristi in a way no one else had the chance to do. I asked if they had time for me to share a few of my original songs with them. That’s something I try to do with each year’s worship leaders, and I usually only have time to do one or two.

But Russell and Kristi were good, thoughtful listeners, and I just kept on going till I ran out of steam. More than once, I saw on Kristi’s face how much my songs had moved her, and that made it hard for me not to break down right then and there.

And they both had an idea–the same one. They thought a combination book and CD of some of my songs would be wonderful. While I’m not sure who would want something like that by an unknown like me, I really appreciated their idea. And who knows? Just because I feel uncertain about it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a God-idea.

I plan to send Russell and Kristi a CD of some of my songs. I’m not sure when I’ve ever received so much encouragement, especially from professional musicians.

Incidentally, one additional reason I’ll never forget them is that my daughter is Kristi–spelled exactly the same way.

Have you ever received such special encouragement that you’ve never forgotten it? How about sharing it with a comment?


I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website. Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Family Christian Stores. Go HERE for links to those places.
Best regards,