Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The "we" message of the "i" people

My Dear Friends,

My most sincere apologies to you for my not having written anything on this site for a long time. You who know us---and keep in touch with what we are doing--- have been so faithful and supportive, expressing interest in our lives and our work through all these years. Before I share some of my thoughts, I wanted to share my feelings; feelings of gratitude to "all y'all," (as we say here in Nashville) and heartfelt wishes for the fullness of all the blessing our God has for you.

In regard to the long duration between "blogs", I must tell you that recent circumstances have affected me more than I could have imagined they would.

Sending our one and only daughter off to college, having to put our dog Maggie to sleep, mourning the untimely death of our good friend and long-time producer, Tom Howard---not to mention the problems I've had with my eyesight---have all conspired to put me a bit "on hold" this last little season. Once again. I'm sorry---and I so appreciate your patience, prayers and understanding.

Anyway, here we go.

After that build-up, I hope you won't mind the brevity---and randomness---of these musings of mine.

So, Jennifer and I were chatting after our morning prayer time. We were wondering aloud about "this new generation"---(how's that for old fogey speak?)---and talking about how many young folks have embraced "social justice" thinking and a "one world-progressive" mentality. (And this was all on our first cup of coffee!)

As we spoke, I resisted the temptation to cluck my tongue and grouse about how the world was going to hell in a hand basket and how much better things were when we were young and how our generation...blah, blah, blah...

It then occurred to me how our generation---(aging baby-boomers to be specific)---spawned so much of what we observe---and often bemoan---in these perplexing days.

It seems just a moment ago that we were ushering in "the age of aquarius"---peace, love and all that jazz! That era morphed into a time characterized by the "me" generation, which indulged all the "freedoms" unleashed years before in the tumultuous 60's. Fast forward through disco, punk, grunge-- eight tracks, cassette tapes and cd's---(to keep things in a music vein)---and we find ourself in a--virtually-- new world.

Like an agrarian society yielding to the industrial revolution, our civilization has been technologically transformed. It happened gradually--almost imperceptibly--but it's advent has seemed sudden and overwhelming to those of us who were unaware and unprepared.

I find myself--- (though I hate to admit it)---feeling often like a stranger in a strange land, scrambling to learn new languages and unfamiliar ways, trying desperately just to keep up! I'm making very SLOW progress!!

Back to our morning conversation. As my daughter Misha sat on the couch, recuperating from "wisdom tooth" surgery and my wife began planning her day, I reflected on the fact that we would all, later that day, be using sleek, efficient machines, adorned with an interesting logo; an apple with a bite taken out of it. (Where else have we heard of a piece of fruit having been bitten into?) Hmmm?!

Jenny expressed the opinion that this current generation appears to be quite self-centered. I opined that we were, as well; but we didn't think so because we were concerned about "the war" and other social concerns.

In addition, we have passed through many different permutations of the faith we embraced in the 70's---a belief in Jesus---Yeshua---as Messiah and Lord.

Some of those forms were less---or more---than the gospel of the kingdom. Many of them encouraged a self-oriented, "I can have everything I want 'cause I'm a king's kid" kind of thinking.

I do believe Jesus' words; that "it's (the) Father's good pleasure to give (us) the kingdom". (Luke12;32) However, much of our preaching and teaching seemed to emphasize personal aggrandizement while neglecting "weightier matters" such as loving your neighbor, caring for the poor, rejoicing in suffering and expecting trouble in this life "as sparks fly upward". (Job 5:7)

The deficiencies in our worldview are not lost on today's young people, it seems.

At the risk of generalizing or dealing with issues with which I am not fully conversant, permit me to say that I find myself often shaking my head in amazement as to where our world is heading; and that includes the faith community in which we find ourselves.

A current commercial on TV is an iconic representation of where things are these days. Down a busy city street walk two separate individuals, gazing down at their "hand-held devices", completely engrossed in their screen-sized world, ignoring everything around them, never looking up, even for a second. (One only has to walk through any modern airport to see how true to form this image is!)

Everyone---or so it seems---is on their i-pod, i-phone or i-pad. The observation is not original with me, I'm sure: we are in the midst of the "i" generation. It's all about "I", isn't it? OY!!

Yet, the message of the young is a "we" one; the current mindset being one of equality for all, social justice, concern for the poor---all noble aspirations, to be sure. Because of the "collective" and "community" oriented nature of this ethic, it seems to be envisioning a "better" society: wealth redistributed, boundaries broken down, history redefined, everyone equal, everything environmentally friendly; a truly "smart" and "green" world.

Consequently, the aforementioned "I" obsession is obscured---but it's there---big time! and it's not new!! It's as old as the proverbial bite out of the fruit. As a matter of fact, that's where it all started, isn't it?

I can relate. Through my most recent trials, I have become aware that I don't simply have an eye problem; I have an "I" problem! Yes, indeed!! I can sit in judgment of no one, no how!!!

Still---I know there are things happening today that demand our attention and require our response. During our morning time, Misha had us read a prophetic word delivered by a powerful woman of God; a word that exhorted everyone to---WAKE UP! She exhorted us to see current crises as wake-up calls, urging all with "ears to hear" to fast, pray, vote wisely in upcoming elections and---most essentially---to not turn away from Israel!! Amen and amen!!!

I write this on the heels of a return from New York City. I love it there; walking the streets and looking up, seeing sights unseen in any other place. I've included a photo from a recent stroll there.

In the midst of all these things about which I've mused, it serves as a reminder to me---and to anyone who might be simpatico with anything I've shared---to think about what was said many years ago by someone we love, whose words are supremely relevant to us today:

"And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up,
and lift up your heads; for your redemption draws nigh."
(Yeshua in Luke 21:28)

Another TV commercial---(please forgive all the media references)--says, "Take the scary out of life." A good way to do that? Remember the axiom: "things are looking up!"

That's what I'll be doing.

Even so, come Lord Yeshua.

Thanks for looking us up!

Love and shalom,
Marty and his family

Friday, February 12, 2010

"I Love you, Tommy!"

"A good name is better than precious ointment, And the day of death than the day of one's birth; Better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, For that is the end of all men; And the living will take it to heart." (Ecclesiastes 7:1-2)

The phone call came, as all such calls do: suddenly, unexpectedly, unnerving. My wife answered and screamed, "No, no, that can't be!", stomping her feet and shuffling backward; wide-eyed, as if she were attempting to flee from something horrible. And indeed she was.

On the line was John Coates, who wanted to know if we had heard about Tom. We had not.

John informed us that Tom Howard, our mutual and beloved friend, had suffered a heart attack and passed away. We didn't think he was lying---but we didn't want to believe him.

Jennifer rushed to the computer and checked Tom's facebook page. Already, there were postings of condolences and words of sympathy to his family. We were shocked and saddened. We still are.

In the midst of an ordinary day---Jenny and I were cheerfully making our bed when we got the news---our world was shaken. It's still shaking.

In fact, I haven't even been able to write anything about it. Even now, I feel inadequate to express myself in a way that would, either sufficiently express my heart, or properly honor my buddy, Tom. Allow me to simply share a few thoughts.

For two weeks, (he passed away on Friday, January 29th), there has been a hole in the soul of Nashville, Tennessee, at least for the many here who knew and loved Tom. There is a palpable sorrow in the hearts of his friends; they are bewildered by this sudden and tragic loss. In the days following the news of his death, we have shared much with his family and friends; an evening of remembrance, a Sunday service at the church where he served as an associate music minister, a moving memorial service and numerous conversations, recalling life with Tom---and contemplating life without him.

Jenny and I already miss him. Tom was a bit of a night owl, Many evenings he would drop by our house, just to talk and eat and laugh. Often, my wife would go to bed and Tom and I would stay up late, discussing anything and everything; arts, family, politics, popular culture, theology. Sometimes he would fall asleep on our couch and I would stay awake until he awoke and I could send him home!

Any time spent with Tom was a joy. He was hysterically funny, deeply thoughtful and amazingly insightful. He had the soul of a poet and could paint vivid pictures with his words, leaving you in awe at his eloquence---then crack you up with some goofy remark, accompanied with some strange, indescribable vocal affectation! When he would leave our house, I would always feel grateful for such a friend. However, I must admit, there were times when I would tell him I was too tired to get together. Fortunately, he had numerous others with whom he could hang out. Still, I would give anything for one more impromptu visit.

For you who know us and the work we do, you will miss him too, whether you know it or not. You see, Tom has been producing and arranging our music for over twenty years! We were friends in Los Angeles and our first project together was "I Call You Friend." Jenny and I were amazed at what Tom was able to do. We never ceased to be amazed.

Jennifer says he was 'the music behind my songs.' He invested himself so completely into everything we did. An inspired pianist and composer in his own right, Tom orchestrated and conducted our recording sessions as if the songs were his own. One of our greatest thrills was going to the studio and waiting for that first downbeat. With a wave of a baton, he would create a masterpiece around the sketch of my compositions, filling them with color--- and us with excitement.

He would accomplish all this, seemingly effortlessly, quietly going about his business with skill, excellence and loving care for the music. That is something I will miss so much: the love he had for what we were doing and the passion he expressed in helping bring it to fruition.

Tom was an encourager. He would give me insights into my own work that I either didn't see or fully appreciate. He made me feel that I was an important artist with a significant contribution to make to the world. (Often, I didn't share that opinion but his eloquent affirmation had a way of trumping my own insecurities!) That gift he gave me is precious and irreplaceable.

There is no other way to say it. This is a huge loss, not only to Jenny and me, but also to everyone who knew and loved Tom. His memorial service was packed with friends, family, artists, musicians, all fellow travelers with this most unique, inspiring and lovable man. The sanctuary at St. Bartholomew's was filled with beautiful music from the choir and various artists with whom Tom worked---including yours truly; I sang Psalm 23.

What was particularly stunning---and moving---was the music that Tom had written himself, underscoring the entire service. It would have brought a smile, (or embarrassment, knowing Tom), to hear the people whom he loved--- and who loved him---singing his songs. It was as if he was with us---yet, conspicuously absent.

In the fellowship hall afterward, there was a slide show of his life accompanied by yet more of his music, the sharing of stories and tributes, and a nostalgic rock and roll set by some of his brilliantly talented buddies. When it all wound down and came to a reluctant end, we all dispersed into different groups, talking late into the night about Tom, not wanting to say a final goodbye.

Tom is still alive in his wife, Dori, his daughter Katie and his son, Joseph. Their words for him that day were a beautiful declaration of his success as a husband and father. He would have been so blessed to hear that. No one was more dedicated to seeing his family prosper in every way; yet he struggled with his own ability to accomplish that. They, of course need your prayers.

He is alive in his music: his solo piano recordings, the gorgeous string arrangements he provided for countless artists and projects, and, of course, our albums. We will, of course, continue to produce our music; but we don't yet know how we will do it without Tom. (You may pray for us, as well.)

It's snowing here in Nashville as I write this; it was snowing the day Tom died. I spoke to him that morning. We were experiencing a rare snowstorm which was turning everything white, an unusual occurrence in this part of the country. I commented to Tom that it looked like Minnesota. Tom and Dori were from Minnesota, and decided that day it would be fun to go for a walk in the park with some friends. Tom never returned from that walk.

We like to think that God provided a touch of home for the day of Tom's going home. Wouldn't that be just like our Father?

Jenny tells me that, at the end of my phone conversation with my friend, on what would be his last day with us here, I said before I hung up, "I love you, Tommy!" I will be forever grateful that I said those words!!

Tom deserved to be loved---and he was.

We will not see his like again.

And yet---one day---we will! I'm looking forward to that.

Thank you, Lord, for our brother, Tom Howard.

And thank you all for allowing me to tell you a little bit about him.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Goodbye to a Good Friend

Dear friends and visitors,

I wanted to share with you a sad event in the life of our family.

Today, a short while before writing this, I, along with my wife Jennifer, had to put our little dog Maggie to sleep. She had been suffering for a long time with a collapsing trachea, a condition common in small white dogs. We had taken her twice to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville to help us decide how to treat her. We considered surgery, but opted instead for a less invasive treatment with special medicine, processed by this top-notch veterinary hospital. It worked for a few years and we were thrilled with how she was doing on what, to us, was a miracle drug.

However, just this last week, she began to gasp for air almost constantly. She wouldn't eat and, when she did drink water, she would spit it up. She was miserable and listless; her sleep, (which was all she was doing), would be interrupted with frequent coughing spasms. It was awful---and upsetting!

We took her almost every day to her wonderful veterinarian, Dr. Woody, at the Animal Health Clinic in Franklin, Tennessee. He-- and we-- tried everything we could to help her. She got shots, pills, steroids, and all kinds of medicine; but it eventually became clear that Maggie was suffering greatly, without any hope of relief.

Dr. Woody told us to consider a thought in the heartbreaking process of deciding what to do. He advised us to ask ourselves this question: are you doing all these things "for her--- or to her."

After one tortuous night for our dog, (which was also emotionally excruciating for us), we knew what we had to do.

We brought her in to what had become her second home, due to our many travels. They love her there; and we were greatly comforted to know that her last moments would been spent with folks who had shared so much of her little life.

They were almost as upset as we were to see her go; but go she did.

The other day at the clinic, after discussing, at length, Maggie's dwindling options, I asked---whimsically: "Well, Dr. Woody, do dogs go to heaven?"

He said, thoughtfully, "I'll answer you with a paraphrase from Will Rogers: 'I don't know if dogs go to heaven but, wherever they go, that's where I want to be!'"

My wife, Jennifer, my daughter, Misha, and I, mourn the loss of our good, good friend, Maggie Mae Goetz. She was a Bichon Frise who would have been 14 years old on January 29, 2010.

We first said hello to her when she was two; shared with her twelve wonderful years; and said goodbye to her today, January 14, 2010.

Thanks for listening.

Love and Shalom,

Friday, January 8, 2010

Let It Snow!

"Well, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful...", goes the well-known song. It's the perfect tune to accompany this first week of 2010! Happy New Year to all of you!!

Throughout America, at the dawn of this decade, there have been records set for low temperatures, snowfall, and other climate related occurrences. (Could this be the result of increasing, man-caused, global warming? Hmm?)

My wife Jennifer and I live in Nashville, Tennessee. We hardly EVER see snow. We did this year; and it has been EXTREMELY cold. Our daughter Misha is visiting us from sunny, southern California on her college Christmas break. We have spent most of our nights huddled by the delightful fire as we experience together the frightful weather. (Maggie, our very old dog has to go outside periodically...for obvious reasons!)

I happen to like the snow. This morning, as I write this, the flurries resemble little sprinkles of sugar falling from heaven. They seem to speak silently about the sweetness of G-d's love for the world He has created. (Thank you, Father!)

Of course, we have had what is called a "dusting." I don't know how I'd feel about -20 degree temperatures and huge snow drifts bringing life to a standstill. We had one of those storms a few years ago and it was rough.

We hope this wintry season has not been too difficult for "all y'all!" I send this brief greeting to wish you and yours a blessed, prosperous, healthy and happy new year. May the sweetness of our Lord's presence surround you like blankets of freshly fallen snow...except much warmer!

And to paraphrase the afore-mentioned Christmas ditty, (written incidentally by two Jewish guys on one of the hottest days of the year):

"...as long as (He) loves us so, let it snow, let it snow, LET IT SNOW!"*

Shalom, Peace,
Marty Goetz (and family)

*"Let It Snow" composed by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne: 1945