Happy Thanksmas to you – As it seems in modern times Thanksgiving and Christmas have formed into the same jello mold. Some people, even Christians, protest this for various reasons. I dont mind so much. Both holidays are distinct in tradition and meaning, however, I think the “spirit” is the same. Our family’s Holiday traditions have a Godly spirituality at their core – Giving thanks, feasting together, helping those in need, giving of gifts, feasting again, memories of Holidays past, looking to a new year with prayers of happiness, good health, peace, and prosperity. It all kind of runs together naturally. I say – let it. Merry Thanksmas to all and to all a Happy New Year. Cheers.

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Jack-O-Lanterns

Stokes Jacks-O-Lantern

When I read that there was a comet named Elenin hurling through our solar system and it could reek havoc on our planet, ending life as we know it, I was concerned to say the least. I researched every perspective on this thing. Yes, I’m embarrassed to say, I even prepared a 6-week, grab-and-go supply of food and water – just in case.

Elenin came and went. It entered as a mysterious ball of something, and exited a harmless cloud of dust. (If you’re not familiar with all the drama of the Comet Elenin event that just blew over, Google it. It’s pretty entertaining.) Whether you expected the end or got tired of conspiracy whack-jobs posting their science fiction all over the internet – we can all breath a sigh of relief. We’re still here.

I do, however, disagree with those who say the comet passed through with now effect on Earth. Elenin did have an influence – on me. It changed life as I know it. It helped me refocus my priorities in life and to realize – All we really have is today. The past is there to teach us, but we can’t change it. The Future is there to inspire us, but we can’t touch it either. Today is what’s ours – to have and hold and touch and feel and live. The now is where all our powers of influence are. To create, to love, to help someone in need. To counsel a friend – to call a parent. To write a few paragraphs that someone may read and learn from.

With this fresh life perspective, I made it a point to carve jack-o-lanterns this year. Tammy and I did it our first Halloween together with the kids and their cousins. We had so much fun and made a wonderful memory. We skipped carving jack-o-lanterns the next two Halloweens for some reason. Life was too busy I guess. This year, we picked it back up. What a fun night with my most favorite people on this planet – this safe and present planet, at least for now – the now we should all be making the most of. Happy Halloween from the Stokes Family.

This weekend we (Shenandoah) headlined a festival in Jena, LA called “Howdy Neighbor Day.” Not long after we pulled in, perched in the front lounge of the bus, I began people watching. The first person I noticed was an old man, 60+, full beard, boots, jeans, wind breaker, and ball cap. He was quite, just hanging out, all day, perhaps watching folks himself. He seemed real interested in the sound equipment and the stage area, almost like he used to do that in a previous life.

We played at 8pm to around 2000 people I guess. It was a beautiful night and a great crowd. Fast forward to last note of the show, “Thank you Jena!”, he immediately appears at stage edge with a big smile and “you sang your a** off!” I offered the usual fist bump and thank you. As he walked away I thought to myself – mission accomplished.

I make the music I make for others. God gave me this gift, and I think he expects me to distribute it accordingly. When a listener smiles in return, that’s all I’ve ever wanted. A paycheck is just a bonus. This may sound corny, but this is really how I feel about what I do. It brings me great joy to make people smile. In the studio, on the stage, on the screen, giving people a moment of enjoyment is what it’s all about.

Ronnie is his name. He came back around to the product table to say again how much he enjoyed the show. I handed him my set list and autographed it, as did the other guys.

I passed the boy’s mother as I made my way into the men’s room. She was waiting, somewhat nervously, for her son to return from his expedition of independence. I stepped in and found a young man, who could not have been more than five, glancing over his shoulder at me from the urinal. He had a proud, confident expression as if to say “Look, what I can do. I’m all grown up just like you.” I’m sure in his mind he was bravely and flawlessly performing this manly rite of passage. He could have done his deed, washed his hands (hopefully), and no one would ever have guessed that he was anything less than a urinal veteran, except for one small breach of etiquette. This ambitious, young urinator had his pants around his ankles and his Green Lantern Underoos on display for the world to see. I couldn’t help chuckling to myself.

This is the first of what I intend to be many blog entries. I hope some of my words will entertain, inspire, and provoke thought. I’ll be sharing thoughts on life, love, music, fishing, and God. I long to be insightful. I yearn to portray wisdom. I hope to share a little joy with all of you. I strive to be relatable and honest.- More likely, however, I’ll end up showing my Underoos to the world while thinking “Look what I can do. I’m all grown up just like you.” I have a tendency of “discovering” things that are blatantly obvious to others. I tend to stretch metaphors to the max in order to make my point. I’m laying all this out at the beginning so I can spare myself the embarrassment of having it come out a little at a time. So please take my words with a grain of salt, gently correct me when I’m wrong, and on those occasions when my pants are at my ankles and the Green Lantern is shining brightly from my backside…just chuckle to yourself and move along.

faithI have questions in life. Who am I? Why am I here? Who or what is chewing up my underwear? These are common to most people. As a living, breathing, growing follower of Christ, I’m increasingly asking tough questions of myself, my faith, and my God; Questions that challenge MY very definition of truth and faith. This is a very personal quest I’m on. Second-hand answers rarely connect with me. I’m a skeptic – a realist, even in matters of faith. This may be to my detriment. I imagine I’ll never satisfy the answers to these questions I struggle with in this life. Perhaps the struggle is the answer. Not the winning, but the running of the race that matters. I’ll pace myself – enjoy the increments of enlightenment along the way. Gentleman, this is why I’m here, openly engaging with each of you in a conversation with many topics and chapters. I trust your perspectives. I look forward to running along side each of you.