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A Prayer to Our Father

Our Father in heaven
who is, was, and forever will be
The essence and source of all

We are in awe of your infinite majesty
We thank you for life and for your loving kindness and beneficence.

We pray that your Holy Spirit will be within us
guiding our thoughts, our words, and our actions.

We ask that you bless us with discernment to know good from evil,
wisdom to choose the good,
strength to turn away from the ways of wickedness,
so that you may guide us in the path of righteousness.

Help us to be humble and contrite
so that we may not succumb to pride, arrogance, and self-deception.

Teach us when to listen, when to ask questions, and when to speak.

Free our hearts from lust, greed, anger, resentment, and selfish gluttony
so that, with pure and grateful hearts,
we may experience your presence
and delight in your blessings.

Let us know when to be still and when to move
so that we may feel your peace and manifest the power of peace in action.

Help us to forgive one another and to reconcile our differences.

We thank you that you have enabled us to become your true sons and daughters
and pray that you may guide us to be loving brothers and sisters,
honorable men and women,
tender, caring, supportive husbands and wives,
and good, wise and compassionate parents.

Emmanuel, God with us and within us
We pray that working together with your heavenly hosts
we may bring forth your sinless kingdom of truth and love
in our community, our nation, and the world
on earth and in heaven.

We pray this in your Holy Name

Amen

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Traveling in the Mainstream of Love: The Life and Music of Alex Colvin

An essay by Catherine Morton

Alex in Baltimore ca. 2005

Local folk musician Alex Colvin has been drawn to music since he was a young boy growing up in Montana in the 1960’s. I met Alex six years ago, in my small town of Fall River Mills, CA when he was performing at our local pub. From there, I was fortunate enough to be able to watch him perform several times, often late at night, after all the other patrons went home. He would pick up his guitar and start strumming before settling in for a variety show of folk music, blues, tin-pan alley, and my personal favorite, cowboy poetry. He is an unassuming, kindly looking gentleman with an easy smile. With just a guitar, harmonica, and a folksy-blues style of vocals, Alex’s music emanates a comfortable sincerity with every note. He is mostly self-taught but well-educated on his musical roots and a natural storyteller. John Alexander Colvin, 68, of Burney, CA is man with passion, soul, and depth. We sat down to talk about his musical background, influences, and philosophy.

Alex grew up listening to his mom’s favorite music which included her favorite jazz albums. “Louis Armstrong and the Hot Five as well as other jazz musicians from the hot jazz era have always been a favorite. That style of music (carried on through Louis Prima and Brian Seltzer) has a recurring timelessness. I also like the old tin-pan alley songwriters who, by the way, were also an influence on Paul McCartney and the Beatles. My mom and aunt’s also used to sing a lot of the songs from the thirties and forties kind of like the Andrews Sisters. It was a lot of fun and laid a foundation for me that music was fun.” (Colvin)

As a child, Alex discovered a love for singing through his mother’s example and through participating in church and school choirs. He particularly loved singing old hymns and began to study piano. The piano lessons gave him a brief introduction to reading sheet music and music theory. The piano lessons did not stick, but when he was 15 years old, Alex picked up a guitar so he could accompany himself singing. After briefly studying music theory at the University of Montana in the 1970’s, Alex became a lay missionary. “In my early 20’s I was writing a lot of songs and wanted to play to influence the world, convey a message of love and peace and make enough money to survive. When I was 23, I became a missionary and for years played primarily to accompany worship or uplift although I continued to write songs for self-expression.” (Colvin)

When asked about his musical favorites and inspirations, Alex can list such a wide range of artists that it is easy to understand why his musical talent has so much depth. Like, I suspect, most young people with a guitar, Alex challenged himself to learn and play as many songs as he could. He told me at one point, he knew over 300 cover songs. His goal was to learn songs he liked, try to make them his own, and play them from the heart.

The concept of playing from the heart has been a cornerstone of Alex’s musical philosophy all along. Almost 20 years ago, he experienced a type of rebirth as a musician and found that he still had a passion for performing. “About the age of 50, I began playing music publicly again as a singer-songwriter. I went through a new period of songwriting and interacting with other artists, poets, and songwriters. I hoped to make a living doing it and hoped that my songs would become known. I also wanted to help encourage and foster other musicians so I participated in and hosted open mics. Then I spent a period of time when I concentrated more on art and painting than music. Subsequently, I have focused on just gaining wisdom and using my talents to uplift, unify and edify people.” (Colvin)

Alex at Hat Creek Beer and Wine Fest 2017

Today, Alex can be found living a peaceful life in a rural mountain community where he routinely plays at the local senior center. He performs at small, local festivals, fundraisers, and hosts a monthly sing-along at a local mental health facility. Through his music, he embodies his philosophy of always trying to lift people up. However, he is not without wit or humor as can be found in his repertoire of music. His original songs include titles like; Traveling in the Mainstream of Love, Don’t Think About It, No Reason for this Conversation, Pink Underwear, and Sitting by the Lake, and he lists Get Together by Jesse Colin Young; Just Like A Woman by Dylan; Be My Baby by the Rondelles, Me and Bobby McGee by Kris Kristofferson as some of his favorite oldies to play. The rest of his selected playlist was broken down for me by genre. In jazz: St. James Infirmary by Cab Calloway; Blues: Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out by Eric Clapton, Stormy Monday by Allman Brothers; Western: Don’t Fence Me In and Back in the Saddle Again by Gene Autry; Rock: Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits; and Gospel: Just a Closer Walk With Thee, Sweet Sweet Spirit, and It is No Secret.

When he performs, Alex’s musical influence and eclectic tastes are apparent. He mainly plays guitar and will sometimes accompany himself on harmonica. In the past, he has played mandolin and a little slide guitar but not so much anymore. “Sometimes,” he says, “I like to play bongos for fun.” Alex’s performances can be described as simple in that he doesn’t have a big set up and requires very little introduction. A singer-songwriter Yamaha Stagepass 300 system for guitar and microphone is all he needs to fill a room with his music. I asked Alex about how he approaches his performances because, as I have seen firsthand, he moves so seamlessly from one song to the next that it feels like a conversation with a friend. The stories in between and the transitions feel organic and always fit the mood and event. On the subject of planning he said, “I usually have a prepared set list that I have worked on but I always go with the flow. I like to combine conversation, story-telling, and even philosophical speculation with the musical performance.” (Colvin)

The influences in Alex’s musical journey have blended together to give him what I would consider to be a unique style all his own. “The first songs I remember hearing on the radio were Travelling Man by Ricky Nelson and I’ve Told Every Little Star by Linda Scott. I also liked Hey Hey Paula by Paul and Paula. And then of course I was a baby boomer of the sixties so I was strongly influenced by surfer music, the Beatles and British Invasion, early Bee Gees, Donovan, Barry McGuire and folk music. Folk music lead me into Woody Guthrie and also into blues artists like John Lee Hooker, Leadbelly, and Mississippi John Hurt. Other primary influences were Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Jesse Colin Young, Neil Young, and Quicksilver Messenger Service. Early county influences were Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Buck Owens, and Kris Kristofferson. All of these musicians and singers have inspired me and shaped my own music.”(Colvin) Alex said he would label his style of music as American Folk, New Orleans Jazz, and Blues, so it’s a combination of music derived from European and African American sources (Titon, 2009).

Alex is passionate about spreading his message of love, peace, and hope in his community. He may lack formal musical education but has more than made up for that with his desire to fulfill himself and the lives of others with a positive message. He said that nowadays he loves to simply play with and for friends in homes and small get-togethers. He is a talented artist with no discernible hubris who believes in using gifts to serve. Our interview ended with me asking him about what impact he hopes his music has on the community. I will close with his answer because I honestly cannot sum up what this man and musician is about better than he does.

It was truly a pleasure to spend time with him for this project. ” I think that there has always been a meaningful aspect to my music that people have related to, combined with an element of humor and fun. Some of my songs are a bit goofy but there is always a message that has the potential to change people’s lives: to help them introspect, discover themselves, come closer to God, and live better lives. I hope that some of my songs live on and help to create a better world.”

References:
Colvin, Alex. Personal interview. 8 Dec. 2018.
Titon, J.T. Worlds of Music: An Introduction to the Music of the World’s Peoples.     Schirmer/Thomson Learning, 2009.

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Public authority and civic responsibility

Responding to those who quote Paul ‘s words such as “be subject to the governing authorities” in Romans 13:1-7 in order to deflect criticism of the unrighteous words and actions of Donald Trump, his adminitstration, and other elected or appointed officials:

Thomas R. Schreiner says:
“This text is misunderstood if it is taken out of context and used as an absolute word so that Christians uncritically comply with the state no matter what is being demanded. What we have here is a general exhortation that delineates what is usually the case: people should normally obey ruling authorities. The text is not intended as a full-blown treatise on the relationship of believers to the state.”

Also, Charles D. Myers Jr. writes:
“The Apostle Paul’s admonition to “be subject to the governing authorities” (13:1a) on the grounds that “those authorities that exist have been instituted by God” (13:1c) has caused much needless suffering and much misery even in the 20th century. This passage seems to lend support to ,existing government, regardless of how tyrannical or how corrupt, and any governmental policy, however repressive or unjust. This passage has been invoked by Christians to put down revolt, support war, and justify genocide. In fact, many Christians in Hitler’s Germany appealed to this text as the decisive biblical warrant for obedience to the Nazi regime. And it has been regret over the Church’s alignment with the Nazi regime that has forced a reconsideration of these verses, particularly by German biblical scholars.”

As a citizen, I am subject to the authorities, but that does not mean that I need not criticize them. In fact, as a citizen and a person of faith it is my civic duty to exercise my conscience and use my rights of free speech and assembly to speak out against iniquity. Also, as a citizen, it is my responsibility to use the legal powers granted to me to censure or remove unfit people from office.

The Bible is full of examples of righteous people standing up to oppose leaders who are abusing thier position. To give just one example, “When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” 18 And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals.” 1 Kings 18:17-18.

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12 Disciples at the Last Supper

This is just one section of a lovely Maundy Thursday Service at the Fall River Methodist Church. A very interesting and instructive characterization of the possible thought of the 12 disciples at the Last Supper reflecting on their life and ministry with Jesus.

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Conversations with the world – Peace

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Conversations with the world – Korean Reunification

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Three Artists discuss Creative Space on Late Night Poetry Jam

On Friday afternoon November 24, I was invited by host Pam Spoto to participate on one of her Late Night Poetry Jams on KKRN 88.5 Radio in Round Mountain along with fellow guest Craig Boyer.

The title of the show was Three Artists discuss Creative Space on Late Night Poetry Jam. It aired on Saturday night November 25.

Pamela Spoto is a talented poet from the Redding area. Her weekly broadcast, Late Night Poetry Jam, offers “uncensored poetry which is passionate, timely, engaging and powerful.” Each week features a different guest author.

Craig Boyer is a poet, songwriter, and music connoisseur. Craig hosts “Dig This! Music With a Message” once a month on KKRN. Acknowlging the power of music to change minds and hearts, he uses music in his social work practice with Stroke Support, Parkinson’s Support and Alzheimer’s Support Groups.

During the course of our discussion, we discussed the sources of inspiration and themes of our poetry and then shared some of our work. Here is the link where you can listen to the entire broadcast: http://kkrn.org/broadcasts/2126

I also set up a small camera to make a rough video of the recording session. This is a playlist broken up into areas of discussion and performance.

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