This Older Song Writer’s Ultimate Goal

Hopefully, friends reading the title of this blog will pipe up and say, “You’re not old. At sixty-nine, you have many good years left.” I hope they’re right.

But my outlook on music has changed a lot since I started learning to play guitar during the “folk fad” of the 1960s. After moving away from Norfolk, Virginia, where I belonged to a trio, and becoming a soloist, I continued to take music seriously. Even more seriously than before.

I recall telling someone that I wanted to transfer from my junior college to West Virginia University because traditional folk expert Dr. Patrick Gainer–how many people’s names can you still recall fifty years later?–taught there. But I wanted to major in music.

I didn’t. Go to WVU or major in music. Instead, I majored in English at Frostburg State.

I’d written my first song as a theme song for the trio in Norfolk and I wrote a few more songs in the ensuing years. Folk was on its way out–or at least it was being replaced by “folk rock,” something I wasn’t interested in trying. So what was I to write and perform?

As a Christian, that question wasn’t hard to answer. I would write Christian songs and use them whenever and wherever I could. Over the years I’ve had opportunities to sing in prisons, nursing homes, migrant camps, and even churches. My own church and other churches as well.

I also wrote half a dozen or so musical dramas, four of which were performed one or more times.

Throughout the first twenty or thirty years of my song writing, I had several goals. I was realistic enough to know I would never become a popular, well-known Christian singer myself, but I very badly wanted some of my songs to get published and–who knows?–maybe some popular, well-known Christian singer would use one or more of them.

Do you remember the first Christian youth musical Good News? It was written and compiled by Bob Oldenburg and began an explosion of other youth musicals. I met Bob at the conference center where I was working one summer and actually got to do a couple of songs on closed circuit TV for the youth one week. Bob asked me to send him a copy of that music. He was getting ready to work on his second musical and thought he might be able to use one of my songs.


Unfortunately he wasn’t able to. That was just one of many disappointments in trying to get my songs into the hands of someone who saw their value and would make good use of them.

Years later, I chanced to correspond with someone who had a good publishing friend in Nashville. He had me send a CD–okay, I admit it, it was a cassette tape back then–and he forwarded it to his friend. Nothing came of it. Not even useful feedback. Or any kind of feedback at all.

I kept writing and singing wherever I could. I recorded many of my songs at home and gave cassette tapes to friends I thought were non-Christians. The funny things is I had a Jewish friend in Australia who shared those tapes with her American boss. No telling who ended up listening to some of my music.

In 1991 I went on my first mission trip, and I’ve been on numerous other trips since then–to Australia, England, Wales, Romania, and Nicaragua. And I’ve been able to use my music there.

Now I’m pretty much limited to two musical outlets: Singing in our church’s nursing home ministry. I have to give those old folks credit. They love my songs! The other is the youngest children’s choir at church. Their director periodically teaches them one of my songs and I play guitar for them to sing with in church.

I also post many of my recordings on my website,

But what is my ultimate goal? Other than pleasing God, Who I believe is the biggest fan of my songs.

Don’t laugh. Not where I can hear you, anyhow. I would love to have one song–I’m not greedy; one will do–published in the Baptist hymnbook. Or some other hymnbook or collection of songs that are going to be around for a while.

Like many other songs in collections like those, it might not get noticed by a large number of people, but at least it would be “out there” where God could lead the people He wants to use my song to find it.

That way it will become part of the legacy I leave behind.

What about you? Have you pursued a goal that’s slipped further and further away? Have you altered your goal and changed the way you’ve gone about pursuing it? How about sharing in a comment?


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Best regards,

My Legacy


Some years ago I wrote a song called “What Will You Leave Behind?” While I don’t dwell on the subject of legacies constantly, I do think about it fairly often. Especially as I advance in age.

One thing for sure. Unless something drastic happens, my financial legacy won’t be measured in millions of dollars. Or even in the upper thousands. My wife and I have everything we need, but we’re in no way well-to-do in earthly terms. So, girls, you’d best earn your own money, since you’re not going to get rich on your mom and me.

But financial legacies are only a small part of what we leave behind. Often the least important part.

I’ve long since concluded that my most important legacy as a Christian is the books and songs I’ve written. And will continue to write as long as God permits me to.

I pray nightly for my readers–past, present, and future. I pray for God’s help in writing what He wants others to read, and I pray that His message will be clear to my readers in their individual needs and circumstances. And I pray that I will continue to improve in my writing and in writing about only what God wants me to write about.

That’s why the release of my third novel on Tuesday, November 23, is so important to me. The Devil and Pastor Gus (see the tentative cover at the top of the page) tells the story of a middle aged man determined to leave a Christian legacy in the form of a novel ridiculing the Devil for his foolish pride.

In the process of feigning friendship with Satan to get back story for his novel, Gus’s prologue is unwittingly published in a popular Christian magazine. Aware now that Pastor Gus has played him for a fool, the Devil sets out to destroy Gus’s life in every way possible. As if killing Gus’s wife and unborn baby aren’t enough, Satan tricks Gus into thinking that signing a contract for his soul is the only way he can save his church.

I won’t tell you the rest of the story, but suffice it to say that Gus knows he’s made a terrible mistake. He can’t undo it, though. The question is whether he can beat the Devil at his own game…or whether God’s mercy is greater than Gus can imagine.

Uh, let’s see…where was I? Oh, yes. Talking about my novels and songs as my legacies.

I can’t say that I have any personal experience with the Devil, but Gus and I are a lot alike in wanting to leave a legacy that will affect Christians in profound ways for years to come. I’ll write other novels if God permits me to. But The Devil and Pastor Gus is what I tend to view as my ultimate legacy. Not necessarily my best book. Not necessarily my most popular one. But the one God will use to make a difference in a number of lives.

What better legacy could I want than that?

What legacy are you leaving to your survivors? Please share a comment.


Please come back again on Sunday for another post. If you prefer to receive my blog posts by email, sign up at the lower right corner.

I have another blog, “As I Come Singing.” I use it to share the lyrics of the almost 200 songs I’ve written over the past fifty years. You may see it HERE. You’ll also find free lead sheets (music, lyrics, chords) for many of them HERE.

If you’re interested in seeing more about The Devil and Pastor Gus or pre-ordering the book, GO HERE.

Best regards,

What’s My Legacy?

(Click on pictures for larger image. But since this post doesn’t have any, please pretend hard.)

Ever since writing The Devil and Pastor Gus, a novel about a minister who wants to leave a worthwhile legacy to future generations, I’ve been thinking about that subject a lot.

Poor Gus didn’t think his accomplishments as a minister would have a very wide-ranging or long-lasting effect. As I look back at my three pre-writing careers, I can relate.

Although I occasionally receive encouragement from former students that I was more successful as a teacher than I thought at the time, what I taught them isn’t likely to touch their children or grandchildren.

Working as a counselor/interviewer in a Federal jobs program put a little money into the pockets of the participants who learned to play the system. But even if I helped change anyone’s life, the effect of that won’t last long, either.

No matter how successful I was during most of my computer programming career, my prize accomplishments were about to become obsolete–no legacy possibilities there–at the time I was transferred into something I proved highly inept at. I hope nobody will remember my failures there.

Although Kathleen will remember me as a loving husband (assuming I die first) and my daughter may remember me as a loving father, how can I continue to have a positive influence on them–much less to touch future generations?

I’ve written over two hundred Christian songs and some poems and short plays as well. But the songs have never been published or sung by anyone else and my other writings were published in newspapers and magazines that future readers will not have access to or care about.

No wonder Pastor Gus got so upset at the realization that his life wasn’t going to count for much once he was gone. He didn’t mind the thought of being forgotten. But he wanted to do something that would be remembered and accomplish a lot of good, even without his name attached to it.

Maybe that’s why The Devil & Pastor Gus, which is due out on November 25 of this year, is so special to me. Maybe that novel will prove to be my legacy.

What have you done that you think/hope will outlast you and have a positive effect on others in the future? Won’t you share that with us by leaving a comment?


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

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”–check it out HERE. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

Best regards,