FAITHFUL LIVING: Summer's developing

Summer’s graceful as lace,

gently ties me in place —

The Lady has strings on me.

Summer’s stronger than steel,

oh what a pleasure to feel—

The Lady has strings on me.

-- Kenny Rankin

from the album, “After the Roses”

If you have not had the opportunity to lean your ears toward the distinctly stylized sound of Kenny Rankin, you really must do so. I was first introduced to him during college, at the insistence of a friend living a couple of doors down the hall from me in the dorm. She thought I might enjoy listening to her new LP that featured an acoustic guitarist, and she was right.

Little did I know that young Kenny Rankin had already reached celebrity status in the mid-‘60s during his 30 or so appearances on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson. I could not have predicted that his music would enjoy genuine staying power, offering me continued pleasure from one season of my life to the next.

Best known for his simple lyrics, a unique blending of folk and jazz, and streams of scat singing easily recalled in his interpretations of the Beetle’s “Penny Lane” and Blackbird,” his sounds so intrigued me I am sure I drove my patient roommate crazy as I played that album over and over again.

When I first began listening to Kenny Rankin, remote controls and compact disc players with convenient repeat buttons and headphones had yet to be developed. I had to walk across our room and reset the needle on my record player if I wanted to hear a song again. I can only wonder just how many times I lifted myself off my bed, briefly stepping away from my studies, to repeatedly take in the sounds of “Peaceful” and “Haven’t We Met?” and “When Sunny Gets Blue.”

It is Kenny Rankin who came to mind this week as I contemplated author Rick Warren’s notion that God creates each human being with a unique and unrepeatable set of skills, passions and drives—all for the purpose of serving Him and enriching the lives of people around us. In his book, The Purpose Driven Life, Warren refers to this godly “packaging” as one’s SHAPE, and Kenny Rankin is a prime example of someone who came to understand, develop, then apply his unique talents. Turns out that by focusing on his unique style of singing, Rankin has been able to enjoy musical success and longevity in the competitive field of music.

Rankin’s song, “Strings,” is another one of my favorites and in it he describes the way love can bind the hearts of a man and woman, giving merit to that old notion that one can feel like a puppet in the hands of a new and enchanting love relationship. As days lengthen and sunshine warms me deeply, I realize summer months have a way of enthralling me, too. They are months filled with opportunity and the great possibility of growth.

It is my theme as I look ahead and make summer plans for my family. I want my kids to avoid the temptation to simply turn on the television when the intensity of school time schedules stops and they are unsure what to do next when there is little they have to do. I want the amazing possibility of summer to tie us in place and lead us to choices that will add meaning and depth to our lives. I want our choices to create memories worth recalling and connect us in positive ways to people for whom we love and care. I want to look back as each summer day closes and be left with the notion that it was well spent. I have no doubt these things can happen if we daily apply the talents God has given us.

God gives us many ways to live faithfully, but the temptations to live half-heartedly abound. The latest fascination in watching what I call voyeuristic TV — as seen in such shows as “The Osborns” and “The Bachelor” comes to mind. I am not opposed to television viewing and am known to sit down in front of the tube on occasion. But I refuse to set the course of my family’s schedule based on what is featured on TV.

Instead, I want to acknowledge that our lengthening and warming days are God’s gift, filled with opportunity. Let’s not care more about what is going on in the strangely orchestrated homes of other people. Let’s strive to apply our SHAPE — our own unique giftings — so we will sing our own beautiful songs.

Freelance writer Joan Bay Klope’s e-mail address is

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