Posted by: Abe's Blog | March 28, 2018

Death by Piano

Reposted 3/28/2018

The rain falls. Constant. A misty drizzle. The streetlights are halos in the drifting spray. The man hunches his shoulders and drifts through darkness. Washing away the filth, he thinks. Washing it all away. His hat is oiled duck cloth and smells of wax and wisdom. He tilts his head forward so the water can drain and watches as it streams onto his boots. His coat is oiled too, and long. The rain is a sound on his back as he walks.

Heidi’s Haus of Coffee sits glowing and warm between O’Bannan’s Pub and The Book Shack. The man walks through the standers in front of the pub without meeting an eye. Removing his hat, he pushes open the glass door of the coffee shop and nods to the barista. She is busy with the customers of the evening, but lifts an eyebrow his way.

The man steps behind the line of customers and makes his way to the corner of the large serving room where an upright piano stands, its mahogany wood polished and shining. Inviting. Warm. The man touches the finish. Gently he lifts the hinged cover from the keys. He removes his coat, still watching the light play across the oiled wood. The coat he lays beside the bench, one hand trailing across the worn ivory keys. The piano is worn, but cared for. Tuned and melodic. The bench squeaks lightly as he sits and closes his eyes.

A few of the patrons have noticed the man at the piano and the sound of chatter quiets in anticipation. Some have come to hear him play. Others are here by chance and smile at one another in acknowledgement of their good fortune on this drizzling night. A few turn their chairs slightly that they will be able to watch the man at the piano. His eyes are still closed as he places his large hands upon the keys.

He breaths in. And out. Heart slowing. The physiology of his soul already beginning to change before a single note is played. His left hand drifts, fingers sliding over white and black before settling over a G key low on the board. He leans in and opens his eyes as he touches the single note. And a beat. And again. And the accompanyment is in his head. The sound waves resonate from within the rich wood and pierce him to his core. As they always do. The single note. Played once, and again, and again, and again. A metronome of a deep G, which becomes a minor with the addition, so softly at first, of a high B flat note. And there is the D note and the chord is complete. And he is transported.

The watchers sip their coffee and listen to the sound. To each soul, a different picture is formed. Some see the ocean, ever-present in this small coastal town. Others see a deep forest, water flowing over rocks. A storm that has swept in from the south, bringing promise. And heartache. But the man at the piano plays only for himself. His vision, seen behind lidded eyes. A woman. A child. And flashes of love. A past to be forgotten, but too painful to let go. His sins too great, he believes.  This is his cry. His meditation. His connection with the Higher Power.

He is far away from his body. Floating. This is the way. To the light, to the light, he thinks as his hands play on. The tempo has risen as has the pitch and he plays in the upper registers before pounding back down the bass, a sound like thunder emanating from the old piano. Here is his prayer, his only connection. He thinks of the sound, drifting up like the prayers of the saints, to petition the throne of the Holy.

Next door, in the colored neon light of O’Bannan’s Pub, two men stand from a booth in the back. They are fit and grim. As they walk out the front door, the sidewalk smokers part in deference. The men stand for a moment, looking into the coffee house, noting the man at the piano. Then, pushing open the door, they walk into the room.

At the piano, the man has begun to slow his tempo. His fingers glide in slowing caress and his hands drift far apart from one another. He slows until all that is left is the low G note that began this melody. And then this too is but an echo. A scattered applause sweeps through the room and the patrons return to their drinks and their quiet conversations. The man sits quietly, his fingers still resting on the keys. From behind him, he hears the voice of The Viper.

“Jack,” I always loved to hear you play. The Viper stands with his partner, feet apart, arms hanging at his sides. Relaxed and alert. “It’s really relaxing, man.”

Jack does not turn around. He thinks of his coat beside him and of the cut-down Mossberg 12 gauge shotgun strapped inside. He envisions the movements he will need to make in precise and instant steps if he is to survive. He pictures his finger squeezing the trigger, his left hand pumping the slide. He hears the sound of the blasts and predicts the movement of his enemy.

“Jack,” The Viper’s voice is calm, soothing, and full of menace, “you knew we would come for you. You knew we would find you.”

And this is true. He did know. He always knew. He could not protect the woman. Nor the child. He nearly died trying. But it wasn’t enough. Nothing will ever be enough. He thinks of the connection he has made. Can the spiritual transcend the physical? He has seen his share of death. He has dealt it in excess. He has bloodied his hands and taken vengence that was not his to take. He thinks again of the oiled shotgun just inches from his feet.

Behind him, he hears the sound of The Viper pulling the slide back on a Glock 17, chambering a 9 milimeter round. He lowers his head. He places his fingers on the keys and begins to play, a rolling sound of light in the key of A major. His hands are steady and strong. He closes his eyes and he thinks of David, the ancient song-writer, whose life was a disaster, who was loved by God. Slay them not, lest my people forget: scatter them by thy power; and bring them down, O Lord our shield.This song he plays is his song of joy. It has not been played in such a very long time. He can feel each note. With his eyes closed, he can see them–the notes are colors, drifting like scattered rainbows across a cyanic sky. They move in harmony and dance upon the wind. The notes have wings. And hands. The hands reach down for him and lift him up. He is floating now and still the music plays. This song of joy. The light is here and brighter than ever. To the light, to the light, he thinks. “To the light, to the light,” the flying notes reply.

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Posted by: Abe's Blog | May 9, 2015

Better to Remain Silent and Be Thought A Fool

One of my favorite sayings is this:
“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

This saying is often attributed to Mark Twain or Abraham Lincoln, but it most likely originated in its modern form by author Maurice Switzer as a verse in his book, “Mrs. Goose, Her Book”.

There is a similar sentiment expressed in Proverbs 17:28: “Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.” Good words! (Proverbs if full of nuggets for life.)

In the age of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets, the temptation is to publicly and instantly express your righteous indignation at situations you observe. In times past, the same situations would:
1) Be much less visible and would pass by without your important input, or 
2) Require you to actually converse either face-to-face or at least voice-to-voice, or to put word to paper which would need to then be transferred to the object of your outrage.

Times have changed. It is much easier to look like a fool. It is much easier to allow yourself to get dragged into a mire because of your emotions. Mires are muddy and smelly.appolyn

As a child, I read the classic John Bunyan book, The Pilgrim’s Progress. John Bunyan wrote this Christian allegory, originally titled The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come; Delivered Under the Similitude of a Dream, in 1678, while imprisoned for holding unauthorized religious gatherings. In this tale, Christian sets off for the Celestial City. He finds that the way is narrow and that few that walk it will stay the course. Christian is joined by his friend Pliable. The two of them fall into the Slough of Despond, which is a mire – a boggy swamp. They sink into the swamp, dragged down by their doubts and fears and their condition as sinners. At this point, Pliable abandons Christian after getting himself out of the bog. Christian is saved by Help who sets him on the course to the Wicket Gate.

The mire is nasty. Falling into it unawares causes Christian to become trapped in its filth. Help, who has heard his cries, explains to him upon rescue: “True, there are, by the direction of the Lawgiver, certain good and substantial Steps, placed even through the very midst of this Slough; but at such time as this place doth much spew out its filth, as it does against change of weather, these steps are hardly seen, or if they be, men, through the dizziness of their heads, step besides; and then they are bemired to purpose, notwithstanding the steps be there; but the ground is good when they are once got in at the Gate.”

Wow. If the shoe fits, use it to stay on the stepping stones that have been placed carefully throughout the muck. And as I feel the temptation to react with emotion and potentially declare myself a fool, I consider the mire, the path, the narrow way, and the consequences of an unbridled tongue.

Posted by: Abe's Blog | May 2, 2015

The Point System – Excellent and Free Marital Advice

Today, I offer free marital advice for men.
– THE POINT SYSTEM – Get Points for Doing Good Stuff; Try to Get the Most Points
I am often asked about this system. “How does it work?” guys ask me, their eyes wide with wonder, “Can I try it?”

To which I kindly reply, “Yes. I will tell you. Give me five dollars.”

How does it work? The Point System is simple. Do good stuff. Each good deed has a point value assigned to it. But the Point System is also complicated (sound familiar?). The same deed may have a different point value at a different point in time, depending on the history of your performance of said deed, and depending on the value of said deed in the eyes of your spouse. “WHAT?” You may be shouting, “You expect me to understand this?!” First, stop shouting before you get hauled off in a straight jacket. Second, give me a sandwich and I will explain. Let us consider the simple task of taking out the garbage. Let us assume that the garbage can in the kitchen is full.

– Scenario 1. You notice the garbage is nearly full. Without being asked, you take the garbage outside and deposit it into the outside can. How many points is this worth? First of all, you are a nerd. Now let us consider the value of this one deed.
5 points – If you always do this because you are a nerd. (Hint: If one of your wife’s friends comments that “they wish their husband would do this”, your point value is adjusted upwards. But your wife’s friend’s husband will think you are a nerd, so… yeah.)
10 points – If you never do this but for this one time. (CAUTION! You are entering a danger zone. WHY did you do it this time? Be prepared to answer. Incorrect answers result in negative points. There are no correct answers.)
12 points – If you occasionally do this. Trend towards the ‘more often than not’ and you will find these points adjust upwards over time.

– Scenario 2. The garbage is overflowing. You have been asked to take it out. (Hint: You are now in the negative. Tread carefully or you will need to restart this level.)
0 points – You say, “It’s not really full,” and you smash it down (I call this ‘compacting’). Then you repeat this performance for 2 more days until the can is full of goo, at which point you take it outside while grumbling about how nasty it is.
0 points – You take the garbage out now. (It’s too late for points. You were told. Nice going.)
-100 points – She takes it out herself. Yes, that is a (-) minus sign. Danger. Danger. Alert. Alert. Dive! Dive! You really messed up. Sorry, dude. All of your points are gone. Restart the level. And this time, try not to be such a doof.

As you can see, the Point System offers real opportunity for growth in a marriage. Not to brag or anything, but I have 40 points right now. Soon, I will catch up to my wife who has 1,375,998 points.

Posted by: Abe's Blog | January 18, 2014

The Dirt King

Rehashing old stories to get my juices flowing for new ones.

Abe's Blog

Harlow looked up from his cooking fire as a flock of Canadian geese ascended from the lake. Their honking a cacophony, their wing beats a testimony to chaos theory before their patterns merged and they became a single instrument, wings beating in unison as they stretched into their familiar V pattern. He had heard them come in late at night, after the frogs had ceased their singing, but before the coyotes began their mournful wails. Harlow stirred the beans in his pot. In truth, he had been eating nothing but beans and rice for the past two months. He didn’t mind. Food was food.

The sun was just begining to brighten the sky. This was the best part of the day, Harlow thought. The coyotes were winding down, the air was crisp and cold. In fact, it was difficult to sleep through the chill of the early morning so he…

View original post 798 more words

Posted by: Abe's Blog | January 17, 2014

The Pathway To Joy

This deserves a repost – originally written a few years ago. I am glad I read it again! And the journey continues!

Abe's Blog

In 1690, John Locke published An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, in which he wrote “the highest perfection of intellectual nature lies in a careful and constant pursuit of true and solid happiness”. This philosophy was incorporated by the writers of the United States’ Declaration of Independence and described as an “inherent right” of all.

And yet, it seems to me that our country is filled with those who have lost their will to pursue happiness. Some have been crushed for so long that they accept that their lot in life is to suffer in misery or to endure in complacency. Many turn to substances to drown out the voices of defeat. Others chase ghosts, thinking they see the answer, only to find themselves against the wall at the end of the road.

But happiness is real. Joy can be found.

I had joy as a child. Then I lost it…

View original post 455 more words

Posted by: Abe's Blog | July 23, 2012

If We Don’t Have Love

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but I don’t have love, I am just a loud and meaningless sound – a clashing cymbal…

Excuse my paraphrasing, but I woke up to this. We can be the coolest, most awesomest dude around… but without love, it is meaningless.

We can preach at you and tell you how to live and how to be… but without love, we are nothing but noise.

Without love… that is love from us to you – from me to you. This love is not a sappy, drippy love; it is not a lustful, self-serving feeling. It is a respect for you as a fellow human, created as I, for the same purpose, I am no better than thee. 


This is the love that will stop you, turn you around, and walk you back to the man who is filthy and ‘dripping of stink’ and give him your coat and your last dollar, when your mind is telling you that he somehow deserves to be standing here and it is none of your concern. 


Love is in your heart, sometimes in direct opposition to your mind.


I am preaching to myself now! This is the love. This is the love. This is the love that is not easy to conjure, when the world is nasty and full of hate – full of darkness – full of evil and we just feel like it is washing over us in a dark tide.


Love is the light.


Love is. 

Love is a choice.

Love is an attitude.


Love is a command.


Love.

Posted by: Abe's Blog | July 19, 2012

Good News for the Soul!

Good News? Yep! Good News for the Soul – that is the title of my new CD. Described as Gospel / Christian / Soul music, this CD will include a collection of songs I have written over the past few years and have been performing for live audiences with my band, The Rising. They run the gamete from fun to fantastic and from soul to salvation – and they all are about Good News! This CD will include my song, The River, which is a song about the seeking humility and purity while drifting down the river of life. Also included will be the new song co-written with my wife, Jolene – Blessed Be, a song that pulls no punches while describing the saving grace of the Heavenly Father – He came for the down and out, the dirty and the down.

I don’t want to talk about it. I… I… I want to sing! And singing I will be, with my band, The Rising at the upcoming Oakland Gospel Music Festival. July 28 and 29 in little, historic Oakland, Oregon. I hope you will be there. I really do.

Do you love Good News? Do you need some for your soul? Do you love helping people accomplish positive things? Great! You can help me! I am accepting donations in exchange for promises of CD’s and great events.
Your donation will help produce this CD! 

  • $  5 – gets you Good News for the Soul in MP3 format
  • $10 – receive an autographed CD
  • $25 – above, plus a ticket to the CD release concert
  • $50 – all of the above, plus dinner with the band after the CD Release concert!

Now that your heartstrings are humming, you can go to my website, scroll down, and donate to this cause. Here is the website: www.jethromantle.com

Picture

Do you know how much I appreciate you? Seriously.


Let’s do this thing! Everybody can use some Good News for the Soul!

As a 7 time FOTY Award Winner (Father of the Year), I offer my annual installment of free parenting advice:

This year – Raising Boys – The Most Annoying Creatures Ever Made

Thinking of having kids? Think harder. Do you smile when you see little boys running around and shouting for joy? There’s something wrong with you; you need professional help.

Here is the hard reality. Boys are annoying. They are loud. If there isn’t noise coming out the front, then it is coming out the back. Half of the time, you cannot tell which end the noise is coming from. Boys make sounds that I can’t even spell. At this moment, my young son is making sounds to the tune of music that only he hears. Let me give you a sample of this wonderful music:

“WEE WHADA WHADA. WHADA. Bleer bleer bleerdee. OOKACHOOKA WUSSU!!! DI DI DI DI DIIIIIIIII DER DER!!!!!!”

(Make sure you turn the volume up all the way until your ears bleed so you can experience this in stereo pain)

Not only are boys annoying and loud, but they are also hard of hearing. Perhaps this is because they have deafened themselves. A boy’s response to nearly every question will be, “What?”
(At this point, I must offer the following important disclaimer: A boy’s hearing loss is selective and applies only to questions posed directly to him. If you and your spouse are discussing issues of a sensitive nature and you are certain that your son cannot hear you because he is in the furthest corner of the house and is singing at the top of his lungs, you are wrong. He will hear you and will shout, “What does ___ mean?” This is a sacred law of nature, like Gravity, and cannot be violated.)

I hope I have made my point. If not, let me reiterate here: boys are annoying. At this point in my speech, I must pause to answer your eagerly shouted questions. “Abe! Honorable Sir! If boys are so annoying, why do people keep having them? Sir, if you please?”

The answer is not simple. Nor do I know it. Here is my theory. We are human. As such, our brains are designed to forget pain quickly. Pain is erased by something I call “Goodness”. Goodness erases pain in an exponential manner. In fact, I have deduced the mathematical equation for this phenomenon:
M = P + (A1 + (A2 X 0.6)) x G x 0
Where M = Memory, P = Pain, A1 = Mother’s age, A2 = Father’s age, and G = Goodness.

“Honorable King Abe! Please define ‘Goodness’. Please sir, and may we have some bread?”

No bread for you! But let me see if I can define Goodness:
When the noise stops. When the mouth farts cease. When the last echoes of horrible chipmunk voice screeching fade into silence. When the boy turns and smiles at me and says, “Dad? I love you.” When he climbs on my lap and hugs me tight; when he climbs in bed on a Saturday morning and snuggles while we watch cartoons together; when his face lights up as he opens a gift; when his joyful laugh echoes through the trees as we walk the trail together; when he makes me feel that I am the luckiest man alive…
This is Goodness.

And this is why we continue to produce the annoyance which is Boy.

To you fathers who are striving to win the FOTY Award, keep trying. You’ll make it. Don’t give up and feel free to pay me for my advice. They say ‘nothing is free’ but that isn’t true. I don’t get paid anything for this blog. Case closed.

Posted by: Abe's Blog | May 2, 2012

More Blessings for Brianna

My past few posts have been in regards to Brianna Wheaton – a teen who suffered severe brain damage following complications from a MRSA bacterial infection. Last month, my wife and I streamed a special internet concert to help support Brianna and her family. We called this Gospel and Praise for Brianna. While the broadcast raised some funds through Brianna’s Give Forward site, I  believe the concert blessed my wife and I most of all.

I know that there are many who have been praying for Brianna throughout her ordeal. In the past couple of weeks, it appears that those prayers have begun to be answered. Doctors had told her family that she would remain in a vegetative state – that the only part of her brain functioning was that keeping her heart pumping and her lungs breathing. But then Brianna began to laugh.

 On April 11th, the following update was posted on Brianna’s Give Forward site:
“A miracle!!!  Brianna started laughing and smiling yesterday!!!  Although laughing is a brainstem function..Brianna is laughing at jokes and funny faces and especially at stories that everyone else laughs at.  Her doctors are amazed!!  This is a huge step for her and the only real “breakthrough” since her accident in January!!  We are jumping up and down with excitement!!!  We have spent the last 2 days finding ways to make Brianna laugh just to see her beautiful smile over and over again!!!  Check out the videos and see for yourself what all the prayers and thoughts for Brianna have accomplished!!!  She is going to beat this brain injury!!!!”

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=337209542994590

I hope the link above works – it shows a video of Brianna laughing and responding to her daddy. I can’t watch it without crying…but I am kind of a sap like that.

On April 26th, Brianna was holding her own head up for physical therapy. I believe a miracle is happening. Amazing.

 Keep praying for this young girl. If you have not done so, visit her Give Forward site – give what you can and if you cannot give financially, give her a “hug” by leaving a message of encouragement for her family. And follow her progress as this amazing young girl fights to emerge from this injury.

Thank you and God Bless!

JAM
http://www.jethromantle.com
 

Update as of November, 2014: Sadly, Brianna passed away a few weeks after our streaming concert. She was much loved by her family and the community. This blog post will remain for now as an honor to her memory. We will see you in heaven, sweet Brianna.

Posted by: Abe's Blog | March 7, 2012

Piano Music for Tornado Relief

A scary tornadoOnce again, the mid-western US has been hammered with deadly tornadoes. Worldvision reports, “Severe weather continues moving northeast from Mississippi, pounding Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois, states that are still cleaning up debris, having taken a beating from storms that hit earlier in the week.” Entire communities have been wiped out, and the season has only just begun.

Last year, we held a special gospel concert in Roseburg, Oregon and raised money for tornado and flood victims. I want to help again, and this year I am going to try something a little different. I will be broadcasting a live solo piano session via Ustream. The stream will be viewable on my website: www.jethromantle.com .

I will broadcast live on Sunday, March 11th, beginning at 6 pm, Pacific time. It will be free to view. From now through the broadcast event, I will be accepting donations on my homepage: www.jethromantle.com . In addition, I will donate a portion of every Ready to Wait solo piano CD or MP3 sale during this time. Funds will be donated to Worldvision’s US Disaster Relief Fund for tornado relief

Please spread the word, friends. It has been exciting to see sales of my piano music across the world, including Korea, Portugal, and Hungary! I would love to attract a world-wide viewing audience to this and future streaming broadcasts.

Ready to Wait is also available on Amazon and iTunes.

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