Brighter days are coming

A new year brings the promise of starting over. After 2020, we could all use that!

Many folks see it as a point to make a resolution to complete or change things in their life. Perhaps coming out of the Christmas season gives them hope to make their lives better.

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Lights are flickering and the halls are decked

Flickering lights shimmered in the breeze hanging from trees, light poles, porch eaves and buildings as I drove around my hometown last week.
It is such a heartwarming sight to see the efforts made both by our city staff and individual property owners to raise people’s spirits during this Christmas season. For me the warmth generated within by the beautiful decorations helps to make my hopes swell watching to see the goodness and kindness that so many exhibit during the season.
Many years ago, I wrote a song called “Let’s Live Every Day Like It Was Christmas.”
The sentiment for me still rings true today. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the charity and good will that we see shown in the weeks around Christmas were part of our lives each and every day?
I have been blessed to know so many people in every walk of life, rich and poor, well known and unknown, mean-spirited and generous beyond measure.
I have seen some of the greatest of charity come from those who have the least to give.
I have seen some of the kindest actions given by those who are otherwise detestable.
Each year I watch countless individuals gathering toys to change the lives of children in our community. I saw my parents do this time and time again trying to encourage families who needed more than we did.
I have watched our church family gather to provide food and supplies to hundreds of families that would otherwise have a less merry season.
I see people smile more by the twinkle in their eyes; they stop to open a door for someone with an arm full of packages, or allow another driver an opportunity to go before them.
Now that is not to say, there aren’t those who selfishly push their way around the season trying to get what they want without consideration for others. Many times, unfortunately,
these folks do live that way all year around.
It would not only be nice to live every day like it was Christmas but to remember that the greatest gift shared with us during the season was God’s love for all of us through the gift of His son, Jesus Christ.
Peace, love for one another and hopes for a greater tomorrow is within our grasp if we only strive for it within our own lives, our own families and our own communities. When we put them all together, wouldn’t the world shimmer in the glow of Christmas lights that each of us might hang to raise spirits.

“Let’s Live Every Day Like It Was Christmas”

It was just over 30 years ago when two-time Dove Award nominee Mark Wheeler of the Marksmen Quartet and I created a Christmas song beckoning listeners to do just that – “Let’s Live Every Day Like It Was Christmas.”
Millions around the world have heard songs or tunes I penned for radio, movies or television but none has had the widespread impact on listeners that it did.
Perhaps it was the simple message based in experience and the easy reminder that Christmas is about “the baby king who gave us all a chance.”
For me, I always get caught up in the sentimentality of the season, the lights, the songs, the parades, the church services and programs. They always seem to take me back to my childhood and the excitement that mounted as Christmas day drew closer.
That anticipation of what surprises would be in store under the tree.
Since becoming an adult my focus changed upon those who might not have anything under their tree or no one to share the season with.
Even as a boy, my parents taught me to create gifts by hand such as cookies and cakes to share with the neighbors, especially those who were by themselves.
We also gathered up old toys throughout the year, fixing them and making them like new for children who had little or nothing to find under the tree.
For many the Christmas season brings a reminder of especially how lonely things can be.
Folks tend to visit more but once gone the silence can be deafening as it can be throughout the year.
In the song, I wondered why we wait until Christmas to visit our loved ones because loneliness abounds throughout the year. The season seems to make us more giving but people are just as hungry in July and there are still needs to be met in which we could make a difference.
Christmas is a wonderful time of year but wouldn’t it be wonderful if each and every day we carried with us the spirit of Christmas.
What if, we had a kinder word for our neighbors, every day?
What if, we saw the good in those we meet, every day?
What if, we put others before ourselves, every day?
What if, we made a difference in someone else’s life, every day?
What if, we walked in the way we would want the baby king to know, every day?
So, let’s live every day like it was Christmas and if we do, what a wonderful world it could be.
If you would like to catch a video of my vintage top-10 country vocal collaboration of this song with Grand Ole Opry stars the Whites, Jesse McReynolds and Jerry Douglas, simply visit Randall Franks TV on YouTube or donate for its CD “Christmas Time’s A Comin'” with the cast of TV’s “In the Heat of the Night” at to benefit drug abuse prevention efforts.

A Teacher’s Gift

Have you ever watched a child cast one toy aside and reach for something else? A friend of mine once told me he had watched his grandchildren open gifts and cast each one aside looking for the next one while spending no time with the one they just opened.
He shared with me that at that point he knew his grandchildren had come to expect too much, wanting more and more — rather than being satisfied with one gift, they wanted to rip through dozens and then simply cast them aside.
I looked at my watch as mother drove by the old Colonial Grocery Store saying, “Hurry, Mom, we are going to be late.” Of course we were not going to be late. The piano store was just next-door. I picked up my books and rushed inside. I was always amazed at a store filled with pianos — I really wanted to get there early so I could go through and try out several of them while I waited my turn with piano teacher Jean Stiles.
I do not know what made me want to go from instrument to instrument playing. Perhaps it was the same desire that made those children my friend had described ripping through more and more presents. Although the pianos were not mine and would not be.
The talents of gospel pianist Hovie Lister, Eva Mae LeFevre and classical pianist Victor Borge intrigued me. Several of my cousins had the knack to play piano along with their singing, so I had hoped the gene passed to me as well.
Of course, as a child of eight, my repertoire was a bit slim. In spite of the best efforts of my teacher, I was not the most proficient student who worked through “The Minuet” and “The Entertainer.”
No matter my deficiencies, I had a true desire and my mother supported that to no end. She worked overtime to afford a walnut Currier Spinet piano and pay for my lessons.
One day while sitting in my elementary school room, the entire course of my life changed. Dr. Donald W. Grisier (1918-2008), DeKalb County orchestra teacher, came into the room and played Ervin Rouse’s “Orange Blossom Special” on the violin. I have not been worth shooting since.
I had heard my great Uncle Tom Franks play the violin like his father had done before him at family gatherings, but now there was someone willing to sit and teach me.
After convincing my parents that I wanted to learn violin, I signed up. My mother once again went out of her way to see that I got the opportunity by renting an instrument. I also continued my piano study, but eventually it did fade away in the shadow of the fiddle. I realized I was not going to be the next Hovie Lister or Victor Borge. The fiddle would stick and lead me to some amazing places.
Dr. Grisier was someone that took great patience in sharing the string instruments. I applaud the foresight of the school system I attended in allowing him to travel between elementary schools building a base of students that would one-day form an orchestra when they reached high school. Just like with the piano, I really wanted to learn to fiddle and slowly passing through the basics and into the classical masters such as Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach was tedious for me. My early training actually relied on my ear as I mimicked what I heard the others play. I did so well, it took a while for Dr. Grisier to catch on and then make me buckle down to learn to read music.
Because of the gift of knowledge he gave I stayed with the orchestra all the way through high school, eventually scoring well in countywide competitions. My heart however was with the fiddle and it was through the common link of Dr. Grisier though he didn’t teach me to fiddle that gained me the invitation into that world. One of his other students was John Daniel. John was what I could call a voracious fiddler, consuming all that came his way. His father inviting other youth together at their home began the environment that fostered my growth as a musician and my creating my first act from those youth. 
While I would never consider myself a pianist, the knowledge I gained while learning about the instrument has served me extremely well in every musical endeavor. The experience prepared me for a lifetime of lessons in almost every pursuit I’ve chosen to follow.
So, while at times children may be spoiled by piles and piles of material gifts that simply get laid aside, if a child shows interest in music, even if the child has absolutely no talent for it, and may someday lay the expensive instrument aside for other pursuits, remember as the child’s practicing causes the paint to peel in the family room, love of music is a gift that will last a lifetime and can span the generations.

Seeing through the masks

Have you ever wondered what is beyond the face someone is showing you?

Is there another series of thoughts running through their head that is different than the words coming out of their mouth or the expression on their face?

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