life: acoustic & amplified

poetry, quotes & thoughts about life

Archive for the category “Newsletter”

sometimes memories sound like a melody










let us count gifts today

New Newsletter up on the website!

We are given many gifts
over our lifetimes.
Gifts are heaped upon us.
Every day we receive.
The way we acknowledge these gifts,
the way we receive,
the counting of gifts,
awareness in each moment,
is our most important choice.
This one insight brings us life as
grace or prison.
Heaven or hell
is bound up in gratitude.
I have had many strange and wonderful gifts
received over my life,
so far,
this knowledge,
the ability to see,
to choose to see
the good in all I receive,
has been the best gift
of all.
My cup runs over.
My path is lined with diamonds.
My sky is bright with twinkling stars.

AL 7/26/1335b21034a277a5d90d8e23d892524060

the painter

these clouds of5
pink and blue cotton candy
all mixed and fluffy
the sky is
heart stopping
I lose my ability to concentrate on driving
pull my car over so I can stare
breathe it in
this full bloom
colors so
intense across the massive sky
extravagantly piled onto
this extreme canvas
this moving masterpiece
with oranges and burgundies
moving into a living pallet
night slowly absorbing the colors
leaving diamonds in
the shifting colors of blue
leaving me full
even wordless for a while
absorbing this masterpiece
in awe of this painter
of the world
the glory so displayed
for our moments
if we will just take a moment in return
to receive
to breathe
to give thanks
to feel glory
for the extravagant and luscious gifts
from the painter of the sky
so beyond our scope
the one who creates beauty
of such magnitude
it drives to my knees
in gratitude for being able to see it
on a July evening
as I pay tribute with a few
of these words
I have been given
to that something so magical
the miracle
which we have named
in our language:

AL 7/5/13
photo by Matt Halverson aka The Storm, Cincinnati, OH

And then I woke up to this from Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience












New newsletter posted on my website


poetry is a gift

Last issue of the year – Songs from the Valley newletter (a gift for you) over at


This World Is Not Conclusion
Emily Dickinson.

this world is not conclusion
a species stands beyond –
invisible, as music –
but positive as sound –

it beckons, and it baffles
philosophy – don’t know –
and through a riddle, at the last –
sagacity must go –

to guess it, puzzles scholars –
to gain it, men have borne
contempt of generations
and crucifixion, shown –

faith slips – and laughs, and rallies –
blushes, if any see –
plucks at a twig of evidence –
and asks a vane, the way –

much gesture, from the pulpit –
strong hallelujahs roll –
narcotics cannot still the tooth
that nibbles at the soul –
Public Domain

A day without sunshine is like, you know, night. –Steve Martin


The Winter Solstice
This year Winter will start on December 21 at 6:12 – the earliest since 1896!

Winter inspires both joy and woe. Some people can’t wait for the cooler weather, snow, skiing and ice skating, curling up by a fire, and the holiday spirit. Other people dislike the frigid temperatures, blizzards, and wild weather.

The word solstice comes from the Latin words for “sun” and “to stand still.” In the Northern Hemisphere, as summer advances to winter, the points on the horizon where the Sun rises and sets advance southward each day; the high point in the1a Sun’s daily path across the sky, which occurs at local noon, also moves southward each day. At the winter solstice, the Sun’s path has reached its southernmost position. The next day, the path will advance northward. However, a few days before and after the winter solstice, the change is so slight that the Sun’s path seems to stay the same, or stand still. The Sun is directly overhead at “high-noon” on Winter Solstice at the latitude called the Tropic of Capricorn.  In the Northern Hemisphere, the solstice days are the days with the fewest hours of sunlight during the whole year.

New Newsletter issue on Winter over on the website, to get you in the Holiday mood!!! –

Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t. ~ Jerry Rice

For the past 5 years I have published a newsletter called Songs from the Valley. I really had no idea how to do it, or what the result would be, I just enjoyed creating the first issue so much I committed to creating it for one year.

The first year was a time of figuring out what this publication would become. In March, of 2008, I featured my first artist, in April, I decided to publish two issues a month. By May, it began to take shape around a subject, rather than putting in random hodge-podge inspiration and in December, I decided that I would continue to create and publish it – that it truly was one of the best things I had ever done in my life. In 2010 I started a website and on March 18, 2011, I started this daily, poetry and quotes blog, to go along with the 2 issues a month.

I have been asked many times how I do it, how I find time. As I look back over the past five years, I see the actions that are reflected in the quote above. I made it happen by living my life in a way that others haven’t. It’s not about me being right or wrong, it’s just about what you want. I want to be all I can be and not aim low. When I started the newsletter, I wanted to create something good that my children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren, could find one day, and know who I am, what I loved, how I live my life, what I stood for and what I learned about life. As I look back over the body of work, I am so blessed by how I have spent my time, the hours were well worth the effort! I am extremely grateful for what I have accomplished.

As this year of 2012 comes quickly to a close, I feel the time for something new is happening. It is time for things to shift and I am not sure the newsletter will continue to be the same. There are new things being born, and I feel the end of this particular publication may be ending, to make way for something new and exciting. I am not sure exactly what it will be, as of yet, but I feel things stirring around in my heart, in my imagination. Inspiration is bubbling and brewing and my music is coming to the forefront of this next phase of life upcoming. It is exciting and feels important. I ask for your prayers as I figure these things out and begin to incorporate new areas of discipline into my going, and begin to accomplish my highest calling from a heart of love. for current issue on Place featuring artist  Beverly Erschell

When you welcome your emotions as teachers, every emotion brings good news, even the ones that are painful. – Gary Zukav



The path we take makes all the difference!

Vulnerability is the path to intimacy and peace in every area of life.

It’s hard. It takes awareness and then making the choices – every time! Keep showing up. Don’t numb it, don’t apologize for it, don’t fight it. Just feel it all fully and allow it to be. It is what it is. And now make the choice to honor it. And to allow it to make you stronger, better, more fully yourself and more fully aware of how this connects us all together. We are one. When one suffers – we all suffer. That’s human, animal, the planet. If we want to end suffering, we must not want anyone to suffer. We must heal ourselves of these things so that we can truly heal others. Let it flow. Choose to look for and find any beauty right where you are. Choose to embrace the glory in the gray. Choose to speak words of life.


we are the story

The story of lives lived. That is what makes up the world. It has brought us here to this time and place. Poet, Jon Sands, puts it so well in The Wake of What I Love: A Commencement Address. It was the 2010 commencement address for the Bronx Academy of Letters – A charter school in Bronx, New York, founded on the concept that, “students who can express themselves clearly in writing can do better in any path they choose.” –

Class of 2010. Here we are. 27 years, 6 months, 26 days, 7 hours since Michael Jackson released Thriller (which is still the best selling album in music history). 143 years since Christopher Latham Sholes invented the modern typewriter. 46 years, 9 months, 28 days since Martin Luther King Jr. told a crowd of over 200,000 that he had a dream.  And, 36 years, 4 months, 6 days, 8 hours since my own father – after dropping out of his second year in college – decided to take a computer class to make more money than was possible at his construction job. And with a clear Manhattan morning waiting outside the glass windows, he asked the foxy lady wearing big glasses – who would turn out to be my mother – if the seat next to her was taken… and here I am.

All of which is to say, there are many paths that have brought us to this room today. Stories which led to stories which lead to right now. There is no person in this room without a great, great, great, great, great, great grandmother. Or more accurately, 128 great, great, great, great, great, great grandmothers. Beautiful ladies (I’m assuming) with favorite foods, dreams at night, who lived entire lives, and created lives that have led specifically to you… which has led you – here. We are in this room because an incredible line of history said, “yes,” when it could have said, “no.”

In 2003, my Uncle Don was practicing law in New Jersey. Don taught himself to play guitar when he was in high school, spent years covering other people’s songs at parties or reunions. Every so often – he would write a song for a funeral. Always, it would land with precision on what that person actually meant to each of us, individually. At 47, he decided his guitar made him happier than nearly anything else. He sunk an incredible amount of everything he had, financially and energetically, into creating an album; contacted professional musicians with samplings of his work, to ask if they would join him. Now there are maybe 1,500 people outside of my family who have this remarkable CD – someone I love doing what they love. Eighteen months after the disc was released, my uncle was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. After a strikingly short 5 months, he passed, leaving behind a wife and three children (ages 13, 15, and 17).

When we miss him. When the people who love him need to spend time with him – they skip photo albums and old videos, and instead go to a CD. To the documentation of him doing what he loved. Not to be a millionaire. Not to be famous. But to give this world some account that says, this – this right here – is what it feels like to be me.

Each of us entered this room – as we do any room – carrying many labels. Which is to say, today, you are high-school graduates. There are 64 of you. Two months ago you may have been the kid freestlying battle raps outside McDonald’s with three friends who couldn’t stop laughing, or the quiet girl in the back of a library – her nose glued into a 3.8 GPA.

I spend a significant amount of time being the crazy dude who came to someone else’s classroom to talk about how poetry is amazing. Right now, I’m the commencement speaker. I promise, in three hours, I’ll be the guy who looks uncomfortable in a tie on the downtown 4 train. The way it feels to live a life that can only be yours is never as clean as whatever label this world attaches to you. If you are alive  — Is every person here alive?… If you are alive in this world, you can attest. What it feels like to be you is more complicated than what it looks like to be you.

So, is there ever a time you are more yourself than when doing what you love – with the people you love? Who you are exists in what you love. It is how you tell the children you have yet to bring into this world the person you were today. To tell the you who will exist 20 years from now what it felt like to close the locker door on your high school years.

We are all here because today is important. A chance to reflect on the way our lives are changing. We are also here – to celebrate – the choices you have made that led to your caps and gowns. I think we can take a minute to blow the roof off for that.

But, you will have many todays. No one else can decide how they will look. Michael Jackson, when recording Billie Jean, could not have known the way our ankles would pop for decades. Martin Luther King Jr. chose to ascend the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, not to become a cultural icon, but to communicate the vision he had for a nation. My Uncle Don could never have known what his artistry would mean to his wife, his nieces and nephews, his parents, his three children. He made music because it was what he loved. It was who he was. A choice to say, “yes,” when he could have said, “no.”

We have been afforded the opportunity to write our own chapters in the story of this life because millions of people, over thousands of years, have said “yes.” It is not feasible for me to tell you what is possible in your life. History has written you here, the next chapter is yours. Here is the news: It’s supposed to be fun. It’s not supposed to be easy (the juiciest stuff rarely is). It is supposed to be yours. And what better news can there be?

Very well said!!!!

To read more about Jon Sands check out his website at

New issue of Songs from the Valley newsletter!

be inspired by art journaling

I am excited to give art journaling a try very soon. I have been studying it for a couple of years now and, I must admit, I have been a little intimidated by it, but here I am ready to try it!!!
Check out the new issue of Songs from the Valley on Inspiration!


Who is my neighbor?

“Love your neighbour as yourself” the Gospel says (Matthew 22:38). But who is my neighbor? We often respond to that question by saying: “My neighbours are all the people I am living with on this earth, especially the sick, the hungry, the dying, and all who are in need.” But this is not what Jesus says. When Jesus tells the story of the good Samaritan (see Luke 10:29-37) to answer the question “Who is my neighbour?” he ends the by asking: “Which, … do you think, proved himself a neighbor to the man who fell into the bandits’ hands?” The neighbour, Jesus makes clear, is not the poor man laying on the side of the street, stripped, beaten, and half dead, but the Samaritan who crossed the road, “bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them, … lifted him onto his own mount and took him to an inn and looked after him.” My neighbour is the one who crosses the road for me!

– Henri Nouwen


Last week Ann Voskamp, and her son Caleb, were in Haiti for Compassion read her blog posts about this experience – if you are not moved to action, you must be dead!

Check out the newest issue of my newsletter at – it is a very personal one. At the preent moment, I am in the middle of a big faith walk, so please pray for me today as God calls me to your mind.

I read Martin Luther King, Jr’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail yesterday and one sentence especially jumped out at me – ‘Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively.’

What are we going to do with our time here? It is always our choice!

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