Name That Tune

“All of her days have gone soft and cloudy, all of her dreams have gone dry.
All of her nights have gone sad and shady. She’s getting ready to fly.
Fly away, fly away, fly away, fly away. Where are my days, where are my nights? Where is the Spring? I wanna fly, I wanna fly…”
(1975) “Fly Away” – Recorded By: John Denver & Olivia Newton-John Composer: John Denver

Photo: Singing in Buffalo, NY (2005)

Music has been my life. It’s been my joy, my friend, my tool of praise, my vocation. I fell in love with music before I could speak, so I’ve been told. And it’s no wonder.

Music is an incredible creation. You will not find it listed among the created items in the beginning of Genesis, during the six day event we know as creation. Do you know why? Because music belongs to eternity past, prior to the universe display. Simply, it’s a Divine attribute. It belongs to God Himself.

Music has immense, long-lasting power. The human, and animal minds are its slave. The music staff, when filled, literally navigates the brain. Indeed, music has the strength to change a life, a wavelength, a thought. Even its soundwaves can destroy a glass, a wall, a notion. It is even a giant in the realm of therapy, to build up.

You might have bought a hamburger due to, “You deserve a great today, so get up and get away to McDonalds.” You might have purchased insurance due to hearing, “Wherever you’re driving, and wherever you’re bound, like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” Do you still smell chicken in the air if I reminded you of, “… Goodbye ho-hum. Say hello to your family. Come on everyone. At Kentucky Fried Chicken, have a barrel of fun.” All written by, Barry Manilow during his hungry years.

Who could forget the TV theme song as Dick Van Dyke trips over the ottoman? If I wrote the lyrics, “Now come listen to a story about a man named Jed…”, would you suddenly see Buddy Ebsen shootin’ at some food? And if I mentioned, Andy Griffith and Ron Howard walking toward a pond with fishing poles, could you immediately hear the whistle of the theme song? I bet you’re hearing it right now. Am I right? If not, you are now.

That’s the long arm of a couple of bars of carefully crafted music notes within a time signature. Tones and arithmetic together can be called, magical.

Recently, it became an urgency to move my mom into our home. Her dementia cognitive levels are causing her personal leaves to fall. Over the past year, it became very clear she could no longer live by herself. She officially moved in with my wife and I the week of Thanksgiving of 2021. Although I watched her be a 24/7 caregiver to her mom, for about 13 years, it is so vastly different to actually BE the caregiver. There is a great learning curve to it all. We also have learned a lot about ourselves. We even learned how we must guard our marriage very carefully during the turmoil of caring for a dementia patient.

I am grateful my mom still has much of her mind still intact with some precious memories which have yet to let go of their branches. Still, names, places, and simple words go missing in the fog of cognitive struggles. However, there remains one large leaf clutching its branch with a strong grip, much like a boat’s anchor on a rope.

When my mom feels the time is right to take her walker to her bedroom for preparations on laying her head on the pillow for the night, I can always count on one thing. My wife follows her there each night as she faithfully assists in bed prep. As I began to do the same on the other side of the house, soon two lovely voices are adrift in the air, reaching my awaiting ears.

My mom looks forward each night to singing a selected hymn from her days gone by. She was, and still is, a terrific soprano. In fact, as I was growing up, she was a much sought after vocalist wherever we lived, singing mainly for churches, weddings and funerals. When I was about 9 years of age, we began doing duo work.

Photo: My mom & I. April 1963.

Nightly, the two of them agree on a hymn, and ring out a duo as my wife tucks her in. (A footnote here. My wife was raised Nazarene, and my mom was raised Baptist. Often, the two denominations did not share hymnals. The two of them decide which hymns to sing, Therefore, many are found to be unknown to my wife, as well as my mom, but they both can read music and have great ears.) At times, I will hear a hymn coming from her room I haven’t heard in five decades, or longer. But each time, I can still recall the melody, harmonies, and most of the lyrics. Music does that. I hate to “spiritualize” everything, but I will say, especially sacred music. Yes, there’s a God-thing going on.

My talents come from my mom, and her mom’s side of the family. They were an artsy clan. My mom has invited me to come make a trio out of the late night serenades, and maybe soon I will. But for now, I enjoy the smile it brings to my face whenever the familiar vocal, which once calmed this child, comes dancing through the air in search of my ear.

I know what you are thinking, and it’s okay. Just know that I know, these bittersweet days are precious. There is a song in her heart because she is simply preparing to fly away.

Your song of the heart can be found in fuel for the race.

The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)

A Great Fall

“Don’t go jumping waterfalls.
Please, keep to the lake.
People who jump waterfalls,
sometimes can make mistakes.”
(1980) “Waterfalls” Written & Recorded By: Paul McCartney

The cover photo above was taken by my daughter, Megan, last month on the American side of Niagara Falls. Not fully frozen this year, but capturing the late night beauty of the falls is always worth it. At that time of night/overnight, they shut off the colored lights washing over the falls. In this cover photo you can see how it looks naturally at night.

We lived in that region for five years, Megan was the only one of the five of us who stayed. Never did I tire of standing by the majestic Niagara Falls. Only once did we venture out in zero degree air to see the falls in its almost frozen form. Not only does the beauty, and the piercing frozen mist of the frozen falls, take the breath out of you, but the muzzled roar is deafening. Also, in April, you often can watch the breakaway icebergs as big as houses go over the brink and crash in the lower Niagara.

Niagara Falls in winter. The hurricane viewing deck is encased in ice.

My personal favorite location to view the falls is on the Canadian side where the Horseshoe Falls is the most photographed. Below, my daughter, and my future son-in-law, are perfectly happy in the late night hours on the American side.

Megan Brown and Kevin Sampson on the American side of Niagara Falls.

The thundering roar of the falls can amaze you. The fact you can hardly hear your own voice the closer you are to the crashing waters can astound. The rumble beneath your feet from the vibration of the shear weight of the falling waters of the Niagara will raise your eyebrows. While approaching the bottom of the falls in a tour boat, decked out in your plastic raincoat and hood, you can feel the hull shiver and quake from the power of the collision of the millions of gallons from the mighty Niagara.

My late half-sister, Renea & I on the Maid Of The Mist near the bottom of the falls in 2007.

The tremendous wonderment of such a creation has caused presidents, kings and queens, the elite, the ultra famous, the most powerful and wealthy humans on the planet to stand in awe at the might of God’s artwork of Niagara Falls. Yet, its beauty comes with a dark cloud, a stigma.

It’s difficult to shade anything dark upon the majesty of such a place of history and enchantment. The truth is, this wonder of the world is also scarred by many deaths. Niagara Falls is known for being one of the most sought after locations by those who commit suicide. It’s a sad footnote to such a marvel, but true. Multiple deaths recorded there were accidental, as well. Take a look at the picture below taken from the Skylon Tower on the Canadian side from an old friend.

Niagara Falls, Horseshoe Falls.

The upper Niagara, feeding the falls, is several miles in length, reaching the Buffalo Harbor where the mouth of the Niagara begins as it meets the northern end of Lake Erie. This lengthy stretch of the Niagara River is often missed by tourists. It rushes through Buffalo, then splits around Grand Island, NY, and intersects again on the other side of Grand Island, heading with force toward the great falls.

The straightaway from Grand Island to the brink of the falls caught my attention as a kid while watching the 1953 movie, “Niagara” with Joseph Cotten and Marilyn Monroe. They were the two headlining actors, but the star of the movie was the Niagara itself.

I still have the VHS video. The story is of a crime drama with a couple of twists. Sure, the script wasn’t the best, nor some of the acting, but the scenery surrounding the falls is stunning. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but I need to get close to the brink of it for this post. There is a horrific, nail-biting scene featuring a couple in a stalled motor boat adrift on the upper Niagara, headed straight for the fringe of the falls. The authorities do all they can to rescue those in certain peril, and the drama causes you to grit your teeth. There, I didn’t give you all the details. If you see the movie, you’ll thank me later.

I thought of that scene the very first time I visited the falls in April of 2003. My future boss took me on a quick tour of the falls that day as we negotiated a contract for me to move to Buffalo to take over a radio show. He drove me down the street, which parallels the banks of the upper Niagara, before reaching the falls. He pointed out a section of the river, just about a mile or so before the falls. There, as the river raged more and more as it rushed toward the falls, were ominous warning signs and bright colored buoys. The closer we drove, the easier they were to read. All the way across the half mile wide river, alarming signs alerting boaters to halt and reverse course immediately. There was no way anyone with eyes could miss the warnings. They detailed that if any vessel went passed that point, it would be the point of no return, literally. Other signs also signaled the fact that the waters were non-negotiable for first responders, including the Coast Guard. It was clear, due to the force of the river, and the rapids scattered about, the force would take its victims to the brink of the falls without remedy. Reading the warnings sent chills up my spine.

Robert Long might have visited the falls, but I can’t say. Maybe he should’ve seen what I witnessed along the road leading to the brink. Have you heard of him?

Robert Long, a kid in his 20’s, made horrific news recently. In a red light district of Atlanta, he shot and killed several female sex workers at three message parlors, and also a male bystander walking past one of the establishments. He then drove toward Florida to unleash another shooting rampage at similar businesses of sex trafficking. He didn’t resist arrest when he was apprehended. Without incident, he was cuffed and questioned. When asked why he did what he did, he gave an interesting answer nobody could guess. He admitted to a driving sex addiction which had overtaken his life and this was how he wanted to take out the people who fed his addiction.

Those who worship the politics of the day, will tell you he was hunting people of Asian decent, blaming it all on white supremacy. Keep reading.

The investigation into the shooting spree continues, but from what has been reported as of now, this kid in his mid 20’s has been a sex addict since he was at least 14 years old. At that time, his Christian parents placed him in a facility for people with addictions. Apparently, the boy was too overtaken to succeed in a clinical treatment of that nature. Even his roommate at the facility reportedly told the authorities how Robert Long was crazed by this sexual addiction.

Scripture says God has a love for His creation. So much so, He calls the stars by name. I imagine a place of His handiwork, like Niagara Falls, holds a great love in God’s heart. Even so, He loves you and I so much more. In fact, he loves the sex worker on a 12 hour shift at a place of red neon. He loves the traffickers who sit on piles of dirty cash while arranging transportation for pre-sex workers. And, he loves Robert Long, who was tricked by the Adversary, into choosing to look at online porn at 14 years old. We know this because He came to earth to offer Himself as a sacrifice to free us from our sins that wrangles and dominates us.

From what I have heard about his parents, a former youth pastor, and church worker and volunteer, no doubt they twisted in their sleep for years over this addiction created for their son. There is so much pain involved for everyone.

Sin comes with a tripwire. It’s like a snare set up to trap a rabbit in a cage. One pull of the string, and “snap“, the rabbit is imprisoned. Along with a tripwire, sin comes with a warning sign. Dire words are given, given again, repeated again, and again, and again.

They are words like, “GO BACK”, “REVERSE COURSE NOW”, “HERE, AND NO FURTHER”, “BEYOND THIS LINE, THE POINT OF NO RETURN”. These words flash in bright, reflecting colors, day and night, night and day for all who travel too close to what will wash boaters down stream to the brink.

Someone once wrote:

“Sin will take you farther than you wanna go,
Slowly but wholly taking control.
Sin will leave you longer than you wanna stay.
Sin will cost you far more than you wanna pay.”

The fall is a long way down.

Warnings of affliction, and a way of escape, are blinking in fuel for the race.

“Do not long for the night, When people vanish in their places. Be careful, do not turn to evil, For you preferred this to misery. Behold, God is exalted in His power; Who is a teacher like Him?” Job 36:20-22 (NAS)

Starry, Starry Night

Photo: Egil Sjoholt

“Starry, starry night
Paint your palette blue and grey
Look out on a summer’s day
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul…”  (1971)  Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)  Composed and recorded by:  Don McLean

Some time ago, in my childhood, I fell in love with the full moon.  In fact, recently we just observed what is called the Harvest Moon.  It was beautiful as I wallowed in its rays through the blinds of the bedroom window washing across the bed sheets.  Moreover, I love the wintry full moon glazing the virgin snow as it ricochets off the sparkling surface, lighting up every corner of the thick darkened wood.  All in all, it is the light from the full moon which brings the awe and wonder to the world of evening.  No manufactured light bulb has yet been able to come close to matching its tone.  Isn’t it amazing what the reflective lunar surface can do with the sunbeams vacant from our direct view?

Moon and snow Pixabay

Photo:  Pixabay via Pexels.com

Not long ago I was flipping through TV channels from my remote and stumbled upon a well-done documentary on The Discovery Channel.  Although the title of the documentary slips my mind, the main focus had to do with the mysteries surrounding the black holes in space which vacuums up all matter within its vast reach.  It’s all so terrifying, yet an awe of it moves me.  It truly is a fascinating study.  In another life, (Using another brain, obviously.) I would’ve been an astrophysicist, or maybe a NASA scientist.  Space has always taken my heart with its truths marrying my imagination.  But alas, I am a frustrated, amateur star-gazer with a cheap telescope on a tripod.

telescope science discover world
Photo by Jaymantri on Pexels.com

Not ten minutes into the program, I realized I had been caught-up in a mini-series of astronomical documentaries.  To this day I am unsure how many episodes I missed, prior to the one I was currently enjoying, but it only bothered me for about five seconds.  My eyes and ears were glued to the screen.

At one point in the episode they began an “attempt” to explain black holes.  (The theory is, stellar black holes are believed to be imploded stars, causing a supernova, resulting in exploding bits of the star spewing into the universe.)  I say, “attempt” only because astrophysicists are learning something new as observation and research continues.  The facts, much of what we know concerning deep space, are mostly based upon conjecture, tied with what the world’s telescopes can currently reach.  Often times, scientists have to rewrite theories as new technology aids in ongoing research.  The numerous revision levels of textbooks can attest.

With that said, we also know there is much in the factual realm of investigations being done as hard evidence assists past texts of studies in Theoretical Astronomy.  This is why you often hear narrators reading from the script’s carefully written sentences which begin with, “Some scientists believe…”  or, “It is a widely held hypothesis that…”  or, “Many in the field of astrophysics feel that…”  They’re wise to construct the text in this way if the facts haven’t come together for complete conclusions by way of the updated evidence.  Unfortunately, too many educators, and textbooks, avoid the word “theory” as subjects are prematurely considered fact.  Yet, as stated prior, there are some factual pieces of evidence that can be eye-opening.  I have an example from this particular documentary that I want to share with you.

Buckle-up.  I am a creationist.  There are “Young Earth Creationists”, as well as, “Old Earth Creationists”.  Here I will not take time to explain the differences due to their heavy and long definitions.  As for my view, I am not settled in either camp just yet.  God invites the thinker to join Him in reasoning together. (Isaiah 1:18)  And because He is so understanding and generous, I have taken Him up on it.  I am not one who plugs up his ears to other leanings of school of thought.  I want to know what is being taught.  To see where others bake their ideas is truly helpful in unpacking belief systems for understanding and points of reference.  I enjoy finding why and how people base their faith and casual beliefs.  Frankly, when I do, it strengthens my personal faith.  All of that to say, I come from a biblical world view, which includes the book of B’reshith (in Hebrew) or Genesis, when translated from the Greek.  It literally means ‘The origins of…” or “Beginnings of (before time…)”  Without the celestial bodies, clocks would not exist.

Clock-N-Wood

An astronomer was being interviewed in this documentary concerning the sequence of events starting with the “Big Bang”.  For those who may not have studied the Big Bang Theory, here it is in condensed form.  At some point when there was nothing but vacant velvet black in what we now call “space”, an explosion occurred.  It was massive, beyond human experience.  In fact it is described as gargantuan, so much so, we have no device to measure the cataclysmic force of this mysterious ejecting of rock, gases, and magma.  The hypothesis dictates it was less than a split second ordeal.  Literally the detonation was quicker than the sparkle in your eye.

Cosmology has yet to be able to explain where the original material came from in the Big Bang, or how the ignition of the cosmic blast started, or where the interstellar force of energy came from.  If I light a fuse to a stick of dynamite I must have purchased it from a dealer.  The dealer, most likely, purchased it from a whole-seller.  The whole-seller purchased bulk dynamite from a manufacturer.  The manufacturer purchased paper, cardboard, caps, fuses, and blasting powder from other OEM’s,  Those OEM’s produced their materials from various sources created from chemicals and minerals from the earth’s resources.  This is one way crimes are solved as investigators follow the evidence left behind by the perpetrator of a bombing.  Let’s not forget, I was the one lighting a fuse.  It doesn’t light itself.  In this case, if there was nothing prior to the blast, there should be nothing of origin creating it, from the energy to the materials.  The biblical record has the answer to this.

For now, in the press conferences from the halls of the PHD’s in Astronomy, it simply is a mystery unexplained.  Scientists assumes the “Big Bang” was the B’reshith, the beginning before time.  That is because honest, vetted scientific theoretics will not travel past it.

According to what we have discovered thus far, through this cosmic vehicle, the vast universe was born.  The immenseness is such that even with the technology we have, we still cannot discover the edge of it (the universe).  Picture a pea-sized Styrofoam sphere being dropped in the middle of the Pacific.  That is just a snapshot of thoughts harnessed to explain the earth inside the universe as we now know it to be.

sky space dark galaxy
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The interview with this scientist continued as he described the darkness of the universe as the planets took their orbits and rotations.  Here I will attempt to write his exact words which punched me right in the gut.  He said something like, “After the Big Bang, there was what we call the ‘Dark Age’ in space.  Nobody can truly calculate how long this ‘Dark Age’ existed.  At some point, SOMETHING caused light.  Stars began to shine, gas giants were then showing their colors, quasars, etc.”   I WAS STUNNED!  I almost choked on my popcorn.  I don’t recall hearing about this Dark Age in the creation of space when I was in school, then again in those days the Big Bag Theory was still being debated among scientists from dark smoky rooms.  Astrophysicists made the first public announcement about the evidence of the Big Bang in April of 1992 based upon new images and digital measurements by way of satellite telescope technology.  It was an enormous jump in discovery.

So often archaeology, biology, oceanography, and geology reveals new discoveries which either match or align with various biblical text.  Narratives begin to change as new discoveries are being made all the time now, much of which never make it to print from major news outlets.  The same is true concerning selective discoveries in space.  The above spells out two of them.

After a major explosion is detonated by the hands of intention, an alert rings out in the departments of serious investigators.  A modern-day Sherlock Holmes would tell Mr. Watson to follow the source of the power and the design at ground-zero.  Usually the result would be the arrest of the actor involved in such a crime scene.  Although my faith has found its resting place, I do want to follow the evidence which leads to the culprit.

 “The heavens declare the glory of God,
 and the sky above[a] proclaims his handiwork.
 Day to day pours out speech,
 and night to night reveals knowledge.” –  Psalm 19:1-2 (ESV)

“By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” – Hebrews 11:3 (NIV)

The Big Bang, The Dark Age, and the universe lighting up from darkness is documented in the Genesis account.  Follow me on this.  Read the text itself.

According to the original Hebrew text, in Genesis 1:1 , there was an instant where the vast universe was put into place.  One theologian and scribe described it as a “Flinging of elements”.  This “flinging” was done in an instant, just as described in the reveal from 1992 of the Big Bang.  Unlike someone detonating a boulder in the Arizona wilderness, with all its chaos, with all various fragments of shapes and sizes just laying still in all different directions, the opposite took place.  When this Big Bang spewed, to layout the cosmos, its heavenly spheres began to rotate, revolve and align in a clockwork sequence with precision which continues to this day.  You can set your watch by it…oh, yeah, we do.

Genesis 1: 2 describes the darkness, even on our own planet covered in H2O only.

Genesis 1:3 is curious.  In reading the account in Genesis chapters 1 and 2, there are sections of summery which can trip you up if not careful with the context.

“Let there be light”, He said.  Thus, even God testifies to what we call the “Dark Age” of space.  This is a mysterious light.  Some creationists believe this was an illumination from “outside” of the newly created universal arena, since the Designer came from outside His creation project.  Think of it as someone sitting at a brightly lit table building a miniature model of a ship inside a dry bottle.  Light appeared, but the sun had yet to be a factor.

Genesis 1: 14-18 describes the universal “Dark Age” ending for the expanse as God applied lights from the celestial subjects themselves from earth’s perspective.  According to the account, He then created them to dictate times and seasons for earth, just as we know them today.  An example would be the North Star, which has guided travelers and ship captains since the dawn of migration.  It’s the one star you can count on for true north.  It’s always there for you and your compass.

Imagine an ant looking up at the Empire State Building and claiming to know how it was built.  And so the astronomer, from the documentary, would clearly state, “…there was what we call the ‘Dark Age’ in space.  Nobody can calculate how long this ‘Dark Age’ existed.  At some point, SOMETHING caused light…”

So, yes, Vincent van Gogh, paint your Starry Night.  When artistically falling short of it, one can turn mad if not filled with fuel for the race.

“He counts the number of the stars and he calls all of them by names.  Great is our Lord and he is strong in his power and there is no end to his understanding.”  Psalms 147: 4-5   (Aramaic Bible Translation Into Plain English)