Are you playing notes or playing music?



I was an unusual kid (in some ways). For one, I liked classical music. Blame it on Looney Tunes, I guess. Bugs Bunny as The Barber of Seville is a classic! Whether or not that was the genesis of my interest in classical music, I did develop an amateur appreciation for classical music. Granted, I never learned to play an instrument, so I am missing out on some of the finer points of refined listening. I may not fully understand the technical complexities of music, but I do know what I like and I know if it sounds good or not.

Over time, I have discovered the difference between playing notes and playing music. Playing notes is the foundation of music but it does not necessarily equal playing music. I can finger the notes perfectly on an instrument but it may lack “flow.” Flow is what makes music beautiful. Flow is when the musician effortlessly plays each note and creates a beautiful experience. He is one with the instrument – in fact, the instrument is just an extension of his being, a different voice with which he speaks and sings. Flow is when the musician loves his art and tenderly expresses himself in his wonderful, melodic language. Love of music drives the musician and his love is passion, understanding, and expression rolled into one.

When I listen to music, I don’t hear notes; instead, I hear weeping and joy. I experience the music instead of just listening to it and this transcends the passivity of being in the audience; I am brought into the moment with the musician. Although I cannot feel what he is feeling, I can at least understand what he is feeling and I am made richer for the experience.

Everyone plays music of one sort of another. In the symphony of life, we have many things to do. Of course, we can get through life, punching the clock, doing what is required, doing what is expected. But that is only doing the minimum; it is the difference between “have to” and “want to.” I suppose “have to” can be satisfying, in a way, but it does not satisfy the soul. We can do our work and make busy, or we can perform our work and make meaning. It is the difference between getting the job done and doing the job well.

Our calling, whatever it may be, is our music. Don’t be satisfied with just playing the notes.

Plan for tomorrow’s foundation, not tomorrow’s results

Credit: Florence Lilly,

Credit: Florence Lilly,

Usually, we tend to think in concrete terms. For example, if I want to go to Niagara Falls next summer on vacation, I will make plans. I will decide which days I want to go and will then work to arrange those days off. Next, I will estimate what it will cost and will start saving money (no, don’t put it on the credit card!). I have a precise destination in mind and I’ll make sure it happens.

However, with so many things in life we can’t determine a precise destination, but we are still better off making plans. When I graduated high school, I had no idea that in the distant future I would be a college professor living in Florida. To me, Florida was only a place where my family once took a vacation; it was certainly not my destination over three decades in the future. Likewise, I do not know precisely where I will be in the coming years, but I do know with certainty that I will be “somewhere.”

So, if we cannot plan our exact destination, is it worthless to plan? If we don’t know where our exact location will be then why make plans to get there? And that brings me to my point. Even though we don’t know exactly where we will be, we know that we will be somewhere; therefore, the question is which direction do I want to take and how will I get there?

Last year I heard a young preacher and his wife who are on deputation for domestic missions. The preacher did a great job presenting his work and preaching a heartfelt sermon. After the service, I remarked to his father-in-law about what a fine young man he is and that I knew he was proud of both his son-in-law and his daughter and of their decision to be missionaries. Then, the father made a very profound observation. He said, my daughter decided to marry a fine young man and serve as a missionary not because of what we did as parents but because of the choices she made. All they did, according to her father, was to instill the right values in her by modelling that in the home and at church. She had to take it from there.

There was no way they could foresee what she would be doing with her life, but they planned and prepared with a direction in mind. The direction was to serve God with a glad heart and they made plans to bring that about. They raised her in a godly home, they took her to a church with a commitment to missions, they demonstrated service through their own missionary work, and they taught her how to be a godly woman. It’s no surprise that she followed that direction (e.g. train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it).

No, they did not know her exact destination, but through diligent planning and preparation, she was able to arrive at a good destination. God only knows where she will be in 10, 20, or 30 years, but she can rest assured that it will be a good destination if she continues to plan and set her sights in the right direction. Planning and purpose are more important than place.

The Power of Passion

Nicolaus Copernicus Credit: Public Domain

Nicolaus Copernicus Credit: Public Domain

Copernicus wasn’t an astronomer. At least not by training. He also wasn’t a mathematician – by training. By training, Nicolas Copernicus was a canon (church law expert) of the Catholic Church. And he collected rents on church-owned property. A lawyer and rent-collector.

But, his passion was to decode the heavens, so he became a self-taught mathematician and amateur astronomer. Today, we know him for his passion, not his day job. What is your passion? What are you known for?

New Harper Lee Novel to be Released

To Kill a Mockingbird,

To Kill a Mockingbird,

To Kill a Mockingbird,[/caption]

Just saw online that a newly re-discovered Harper Lee novel will be released in July, 2015. According to online reports, it is titled “Go Set a Watchman” and is set 20 years after the ending of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” as Scout returns to fictional Maycomb, Alabama. Ms. Lee supposedly wrote this book first, then the famous “To Kill a Mockingbird” but this is considered a sequel due to the setting, not a prequel due to the timing of the writing.

Of course, some people are questioning the authenticity of Ms. Lee’s intent to release the book since she is known to be a virtual recluse and is reportedly in ill health.

In any case, her fans, including me, eagerly await publication of the book. Only time will tell if this new novel breaks the spell of To Kill a Mockingbird or opens up the story line to a whole new generation.

Links to Original Stories reporting the release:
Be Suspicious of the new Harper Lee Novel

Who Says? It pays to check sources.

Abe Lincoln Internet


I enjoy reading Denny Hatch’s Blog, a regular feature of Target Marketing Magazine, a respected trade magazine in the direct marketing industry. Denny is pointed, direct, insightful, and sometimes irreverent but most of the time he is “spot on.” Granted, he is somewhat of a curmudgeon, but curmudgeonly advice is sometimes the most profitable.

In his January 2015 article he decries the lack of persnickety fact checking found in all kinds of written work. He singles out Wikipedia as a frequent source of misguided information but is harder on the lazy writer who quotes Wikipedia and other sources without checking the facts.

Frequently, I remind my students of the importance of not plagiarizing. In a day when information can be sourced so easily on the Internet it is tempting to copy and paste an assignment.

However, there is a world of difference between sourcing information and creating content. Creating content involves sifting through information, discerning what is good, better, best, or not worthwhile at all, and then bringing it together in a coherent, convincing piece of prose. Copy and paste is a commodity (and moral hazard), but creativity is a specialized good. More value will always be found with intelligence and creativity.

If you would like to read Denny’s original article, you can find it HERE. He gives some great advice but is also a gifted wordsmith. Just remember, when reading a work with quotes or other source attribution, it pays to check it out. With the reader, like the consumer, caveat emptor is an apt warning.

It’s like Abraham Lincoln once said, “you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet.”

Greg L. Lowhorn

Are you serving servers or serving customers?

This evening, I had some family members visiting from out of town. We went to eat at a popular family style restaurant and were seated quickly. However, we were taken to a booth. I said to the waitress, “I’m sorry but you can’t seat 7 people at a booth, there isn’t enough space.” Without missing a beat she replied, “oh, we can’t push two tables together because we don’t have a waiter that can serve two tables.” I looked around and saw four empty tables; any two of them could have easily been pushed together and the same waiter could have taken care of us. She then walked away and left us to scrounge up an extra chair to put it in the aisle while 3 persons each squeezed in on each side of the table in the booth.

And then it occurred to me, she is serving servers instead of serving customers. Her main concern was that a server was not permitted, or not available, to serve two tables. But, as a retail establishment, it isn’t the customer’s responsibility to conform to the needs of the business, it is the business’ responsibility to serve the customer. And, if the business cannot fully accommodate customers, then don’t seat them in the first place. Put a “CLOSED” sign on the door.

Or, better yet, push two tables together and assign the same waiter. It was only about four steps away. When serving customers the first thought should not be, “how can I NOT serve you?” Instead, it should be “how CAN I serve you?” Find a way, its not that hard when you want to. After all, a restaurant is a service business, so excel in serving. Its the only opportunity you will have to really set yourself apart and make a difference.

Read my related post of an organization that excels in service HERE.

Greg L. Lowhorn

The irony of age. Or, the importance of memories.

When I was a younger man, I worked in the long term care industry, first as a 16 year old dishwasher in a nursing home, then an orderly, and later, after college, as an administrator. Later I went to work for a hospital where I was the long term care administrator. I spent all of my young professional life perpetually surrounded by 80 year olds, who were losing their memories and running out of time.

Then, one day, I switched and became a college professor. So, as an older man I am now surrounded by 20 year olds, who have yet to make memories and seemingly have plenty of time.

What a contrast in role and age reversal. But one thing I’ve learned with both groups, memories are what life is made of. Make as many good ones as you can and hang on to them for as long as you can.

How to End Service Myopia

Banquet Table

Photo Credit:

I recently read a blog post by Seth Godin in which he wrote about banquet tables. Yes, banquet tables. According to Seth, it seems that banquet tables are the epitome of efficiency, designed to hold ten guests with plenty of space for table service, food, and elbows. However, the inherent weakness is that banquet tables are not conversation friendly. If a guest talks to his neighbor on the right, his neighbor on the left is left out. If he wants to connect with the neighbor across from him, he must shout, destroying conversational intimacy, to say nothing of privacy and discretion.

The problem is this, banquet tables were designed by people who put on banquets, which is to say people who need to seat plenty of guests and serve plenty of food. But what about the guests? First, it is inconvenient to reach into the center of the table or ask others to “pass” things. Second, it’s horrible for conversation, and good conversation is one of the benefits of having dinner with friends. So, it seems that banquet tables are designed to accommodate the banquet servers, not those being served. There is something wrong-headed with that kind of thinking.

Usually, it is left to those in ministry to design and deliver the ministry, and that is the problem. When we only see what is close-up we get ministry myopia. If we are not careful, we develop the opinion that ministry is about those who serve, not those whom we serve. It’s a take-it-or-leave-it approach. After all, we are sacrificing and we are serving; suddenly, before we realize it, His ministry has become OUR ministry. God’s people become my people. God’s glory becomes my glory.

I am familiar with a new church plant that recently rented a building for their growing congregation. One of the first things the members did was add two nurseries. It would have been much simpler to have only had one nursery, but many children in the same room means more noise, more stress, and less personal attention for the children. At first, the nursery directors were working 9 out of 12 services a month and some volunteers were working 4 services a month. Over time, the directors asked more volunteers to serve and the load was reduced for each individual worker. Also, during that time dozens of volunteers worked painting the building, installing lighting, building walls, repairing plumbing, cleaning the facility, and doing countless thankless tasks, all without complaint.

When the time came, the church hosted its first community outreach and over 20 visitors came. The hard work was put in so that the building would facilitate worship, not hinder it. Yes, they could have made do with what they had, but it would not have been as effective in reaching the community they wanted to serve. That’s when the church members decided to forego their ministry and exalt God’s ministry. I think Jesus was pleased.

Read my related post about an organization that missed an opportunity to serve. Read it HERE.