Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas 2014

  This Christmas letter will be a kind of “take off” on the old “good news--bad news” shtick. In light of my hospital visit and what I went through during the Thanksgiving season, it’s a concept that’s fresh on my mind. (For the gory details you can e-mail me or call me but I’m weary of rehashing it by now.) Suffice to say that December 5th was a banner day for me – it was the day I realized I could play the guitar again. Up until then I didn’t know if I’d have the strength and I’m not ashamed to admit I wept out of sheer joy and relief.  And I can truthfully say that next to my heart surgery a few years back this has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to deal with.
But as I write this, I’m on the mend, on the way back to being myself again.
   So … are you thoroughly fed up with hearing about my woes? Well, if you’re not, I am.
   Here’s my version of “good news/bad news” – more good than bad, happily.
This year I’ve had moments of both – Highlights on the good side – Going to see Tony Bennett with Ms. Hackett, Jazz Vespers at Wilshire BC, Jesters Show, Charlotte trip, “His Story … My Songs”( Soon to be a CD, I hope), Birthday celebrations both local and in Vegas, “Phineas Peabody’s Magical, Musical, Circus”(My return to do a drama/music workshop in Winnsboro, TX),  Recording session in Cisco, TX with Dave Washburn’s group, Steve Martin concert, Reunion with St. Augustine group in Birmingham, Trip to New England and NYC and of course all the various gigs with the groups I play with – AChord Trio, DW ¾ Fast Jazz Band, Mark McKenzie Quartet, Singapore Slingers, Pocket Sandwich Theater, Nobles of Note, Dallas Banjo Band, Wilshire Winds. And in addition there’s been some new songs.
    As for the bad news --- this recent medical bout was an unwelcome intrusion. I planned to go to visit Wes and Heidi Turner in Columbus, OH, for Thanksgiving but that didn’t happen. However, that particular occurrence is a nice segue into the whole “good news/bad news” balancing act.
    Bad news --- I didn’t get to go to Columbus. Good News – I caught the problem before I left on the trip. Had I been on the train and this stuff would have happened then that would have been a disaster of huge proportions. God’s timing was much better than mine, as per usual.
    And throughout that ordeal I had numerous people to be thankful for – I was well cared for. That’s some darn good news.
   Okay, Gagliardi, thanks for the update on your medical journey but what does this have to do with Christmas.
    Let’s try this on for size, shall we. Think back to the first Christmas and imagine what was going on in the lives of those involved in the now familiar story.
Bad News -- Here’s King Herod who marshals all the might and power of his kingdom to find a couple of teenagers (More than likely the right age for Joseph and Mary) and kill their baby son, Jesus. Good News – God sees to it he doesn’t succeed.
   Or let’s imagine one of the shepherds, we’ll call him Sam, was hoping to be at home asleep on that fateful night but he got “night duty” and had to be there. For him that probably seemed like bad news but  look at what he would have missed --- A massive display of heavenly pyrotechnics with light, sound and more than likely one heck of an orchestra announcing the best news the world had ever heard or will ever hear.
   And let’s not forget Joseph who is told by his soon-to-be wife that she’s pregnant and guess who the Father is? For a young man to hear this would have been “bad news” indeed but the good news is he believed her, he trusted her, he trusted God. You know he didn’t have to. He could have been well within his rights to denounce her and abandon her but he didn’t.
   So this Christmas as you move through the season and you have your share of “good news/bad news” moments just remember it’s always been that way. Even so God has been and is faithful – at least that’s my belief.
   May you have more “good news” events than bad during this season of really “good news” and may God grant you the ability to cope with those bad news moments.


George Gagliardi

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Merry ... Easter?


 Okay, raise your hands if you prefer Christmas to Easter when it comes to choosing your favorite holiday? Right. I’m betting quite a few of us may have well raised our hands in favor of Christmas. Because … well, that’s what the next bit of creative license is about. Read on, if you dare.
Let’s imagine, if you will, that Jesus has agreed to take a meeting with an ad/marketing type guy regarding the popular appeal, or rather lack of such, when it comes to Easter as a holiday.
( For the sake of brevity the Ad Guy will be referred to as AG and Jesus as “J”)

 (We join the two already well under way with their “meeting”)

AG: Let’s face it Jesus, your people have not done a very good job on promoting Easter. Compared to Christmas, it’s a wash. I mean look at the differences –
Christmas – you got your Santa Claus, your Christmas songs, your red and green displays, your children all wide-eyed and expectant – and let me add here you can never go wrong when you bring kids into the picture. People just respond well to “kid appeal”, they just do.
   Now take Easter – you’ve got several days when you’re supposed to give up stuff and if that’s not enough of a downer you’re giving it up to remember how much a certain someone had to give up – no offense – and well, that’s just not appealing, what can I say. Sure you’ve got the cuddly Easter bunny, but that’s pretty weak when compared to Santa Claus, his reindeer and a sleigh full of toys for the little ones. You gotta admit between Santa and Peter Cottontail, Santa wins hands down.
  And … I mean no disrespect, but I think your people need to tone down the blood and beatings and ridicule. Mention it, but keep it short and get on to the good part.
   Let me give you a better idea of what I’m thinking here (goes to the chart at the front of the room). Okay, here you’ve got the number of people who always celebrate Christmas, whether they believe in you or not – what’s not to like about Christmas. I’m betting even some die hard atheists have fun during that holiday. (Flips the chart – we’re in a pre-digital universe here) Now look at this – A much smaller of percentage of folks who actually celebrate Easter. It doesn’t even come anywhere close to the other numbers. So I’m suggesting …
(Jesus stands up and walks over to AG, puts His hand on his shoulder, looks him in the eye, smiles and says …)
J: Using your vernacular – You just don’t get it, do you. First off, did you realize that holiday is short for “Holy day?” Did you further realize that when something is holy it’s set apart, different, not something you can buy or sell or even readily understand?
   The business of making a holy day a holiday is not something me or my Father came up with. You did. Knowing how you guys operate we weren’t surprised. Even when you brought the Easter bunny into the picture we didn’t stomp our feet and rain down fire and brimstone because of it. I’ll admit I was disappointed but then again if you recall I’ve seen all of you at your very worst. Now think about that for a moment.
   I’ve seen all of you at your very worst, not your best, your very worst. But I didn’t let that keep me from going through what I went through. I was willing to go to the cross and die to demonstrate how very much I loved all of you – the best, the worst, the believers, the non-believers. To take on the absolute ultimate weight of pure evil and shame and hang there until it was over.
  Popularity? I’m not after popularity. I’ve had that – true it was brief, it was false and in the long run it didn’t matter too much when it came time for me to be crucified. But I’ve known what it’s like to be cheered, hailed as a king, put on a pedestal and all the rest that goes with it.
   Frankly, you can have it. It’s worth about as much as – to borrow an image from your favorite holiday – the tinsel you put on the tree and later toss in the garbage.
AG: Well, as I said earlier, I meant no …
J: Let me finish. Every thing I went through for you and the rest of the world would be at best a horrific, inhumane, tragic event in history if my Father had not raised me from the dead. Raised me from the dead.
   Ponder that a moment, my friend. I died and I came back. Nobody else has done that since have they? No, they haven’t – because they can’t. Only my Father can do that.
   So if my coming back from the dead and not just coming back but offering the same kind of gift to all who want it – a gift of life eternal starting here and now is not enough to compete with Santa Claus and Christmas – well then, I guess there’s not that much I can do about that. Don’t forget there’s the business of free will. You get to choose what or who you value the most. And though many a time it grieves me, I wouldn’t have it any other way. If I have to force you to love me or believe in me – Well, I’m just going to do it. Love that’s forced isn’t love.
    I’ll grant you some things in life are more appealing than others – Chocolate ice cream versus broccoli, cleaning the bathroom versus lying on the beach and Advent versus Good Friday. But I’m prompted to suggest that you ask yourself – “Is only that which is appealing worth embracing? How does one really grow in life without learning how to handle suffering? Is there as much to be gained from challenging ones Faith as there is to simply believe without questioning? If I hadn’t died and risen again would Christmas mean that much in the long run? Would it really have the power to change whole world?”
AG: (A long pause) That’s a lot to take in. I ... I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer any of that.
J: Of course you are. And how you answer will indicate how and what you think of me. It will determine just how significant it is that Christmas may have more “pop” appeal than Easter. More importantly it will determine whether or not that’s even a question worth fooling with.
  I would strongly suggest a better question would be – What do I do with Mary’s little baby boy? -- now that he’s grown up, had his 3 years of ministry and been crucified for all the good it did? Moreover, I’ve been told he rose from the dead? What do I do with that? What in the world … do I do with that?
AG: (Silence)
Indeed, friends. What in the world … do we do with that?

George Gagliardi, April, 2014

Monday, February 10, 2014

To the Gals in My Life – All of You, Young and the Young at Heart

  So think of this as my version of Julio and Willie’s song, “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before … sort of. Big difference, it’s not merely past tense but present as well. It’s meant to be a special Valentine tribute to “my ladies”  -- a way to say how much you’ve meant to my life, each in your own way – and still do.

You brought real beauty to my life, not the store bought variety
Or the kind you get from the gym
(Though of course some gals often spend
A lot of time thinking about their shape)
Me Too!
But I digress … as I’m known to do
For I must confess
If that was all you had going for you
I could say, “Hey, you look great” or another phrase that flatters
Leave it at that, as if that’s all that really matters
Of course if I did then I’d hardly be sending this e-mail
To someone who’s simply just another female
Nope, there’s a genuine, wonderful loveliness inside
That makes the outer beauty mean so much more
There’s all the laughter, the magic, the honesty
The kindness, compassion, sheer delight and almost
At times, childlike spirit of each of you,
Just being who you are
And that of course frees me up
To be the man I want to be
The insecure one, at times, who lives there inside of me
No need to pretend with you
I know I can depend on you
To love me anyway
Despite my flaws and “off-the-wall” style
You accept me and support me
Though you can’t tell it
(Since I’m not exactly the Cheshire cat
When it comes to expressions like that)
My heart is wearing a great big smile
Indeed, knowing you has made all the difference
Made this journey of mine so worthwhile
You are the fairer sex, so the cliché declares
Truly with you I’ve my fair share of moments
When you showed
(And not by words alone)
How much you cared
A gift like that, you can’t mass produce
You can’t demand, you can’t buy
Nor can you fully express your thanks
Though with this bit of verse
I’m giving it a “Gagliardi” try
I’m just your “not so average, slightly weird, prone to poetic
Inclined to speak his mind and gush a bit
Kind of guy”
Who prefers ten words when it comes to three
But you know well enough
How much I love words
Putting them here, putting them there
Making them fit in creatively
Yet to break this all down
It’s a simple thing
(And by the length of things
Probably overdue)
Time to pause and say on this Valentine’s Day
To each and every gal of mine

George Gagliardi, February, 2014