Sheptock, Rudy

Pastor Rudy Sheptock.

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Nostalgia has always been in style. No matter what day and age we might live in, there is always a contingent that looks fondly on the good old days and has a tendency to make that stroll down memory lane better than it was.

In the early 1970s, there was a sudden fascination with the 1950s, evidenced by movies such as "American Graffiti" and television hits like "Happy Days." Even radio stations began adopting the oldies format, only playing the records from the roots of rock and roll. While knowing where you have come from has always been wisdom to help navigate where you might be going, sometimes the old adage is also true - “You can never go back there again.”

One individual who discovered that reality was Ricky Nelson. He grew up in the public eye, both on radio and later on television, as a member of his iconic family that included his parents, Ozzie and Harriet, and his brother, David.

It was sort of reality media long before that genre took on its own life. One truth is known, and that is Ricky Nelson never felt comfortable having his life observed in that kind of intrusive fishbowl.   

Yet, hesitantly, when Richard Nader hosted a rock 'n roll revival concert at the legendary Madison Square Garden Oct. 15, 1971, Ricky Nelson and his Stone Canyon Band were part of the all-star lineup meant to celebrate great times and the memories of yesteryear. Chuck Berry was there, and so was Bill Haley and his Comets. Bo Diddley showed up as well, and Frankie, Fabian and Bobby Rydell, too.

Even Pat Boone and his iconic white shoes made their way onto the stage. Almost every performer gave the audience what they came for. Everyone looked like they were frozen in time, singing all the hits that had made them famous in the first place.

Unfortunately, Ricky Nelson didn’t get the memo that nothing new was welcome for this gathering. He came onto the stage, with his long hair down to his shoulders, wearing bell-bottom jeans and a purple velvet shirt. Harriet obviously didn’t dress her youngest son for this outing.

While his set included his top 10 songs, like "Hello Mary Lou" and "Traveling Man," they didn’t sound exactly like everyone remembered them. He gave them a '70s sound, when this was strictly a leave everything as they were celebration. It turned ugly when Ricky and his band began playing the Rolling Stones hit "Honky Tonk Woman." The audience got ugly and began to boo profusely, so much that Ricky not only exited the stage, but along with Elvis, he vacated the building.

A disaster like this might have ended another’s career. At the least, it would have sent them looking for therapy.

I always admired how Ricky Nelson responded to his less than positive surrounding circumstances. He wrote a song about the whole experience. He was able to express his frustration on paper and using his guitar, mix in a little sarcasm and a huge dose of refreshing honesty.

What might have knocked him out only caught him off guard, but he came bouncing back fighting. His effort tuned out to be a huge top hit in 1972, entitled, of all things, "Garden Party." When life gave him a thumbs down, he rewrote it with the response being overwhelmingly positive.

If you are like me, you still remember the words to the chorus: “But it's all right now, I've learned my lesson well. You see, you can't please everyone, so you've got to please yourself.” Then, there is my favorite line of the lyric: “If memories were all I sang, I’d rather drive a truck.”

This was a nod to Elvis Presley, who was told in his earliest days to stick to truck driving because he was never going to make it as a singer.

The reason I write about this is because we have all been dealt a hand of cards that we didn't want. Last year, nobody said, “I’m hoping that we all get quarantined from normal life for months and months in 2020.” There might even be the temptation to become obsessed so much with yesterday or so focused on what will be tomorrow that we miss the life that is right in front of us.

This may not have been the way we planned it, but I know God will help us make sweet music, even using some of the sour notes on our scale if we refuse to lose perspective that every day is a gift. Could there be a hit song in our making, even if the melody isn’t close to how we hoped it would be when we first set our pen to paper?

When it comes to a mess, you can choose to clean it up or slowly become part of the scenery. I’m not someone who quits easily. Realistically, the fire in my belly gets more overheated when someone tells me that a situation can't become positive and will only get worse.

God is all about redeeming the grounds the locusts have attempted to destroy. We can either start rolling around in the mud or plant a garden where we have discovered ourselves in a time like this.

I love that God gives us room to complain. One needs only to read the Psalms to understand this trait of humanity. Once we get our eyes off what isn’t and start to value what is, then we are ready to write that song, remodel that heart, regain that relationship, and seize the opportunities we have, rather than waste our moments worrying about the doors that might be closed to us right now.

If I have a word for us this week, it’s to create our own "Garden Party." What can you turn around for good that might otherwise end ugly if you don’t intervene? Where can you add vibrant color to the ugly black and white of this poisonous pandemic?

Who needs words of life, rather than just being booed off stage? Who needs to hear beautiful music instead of the news channels' endless noise? Who needs to be instructed of what they are allowed to do, rather than hear never-ending lists of everything we are forbidden to participate in?

Decide today to not be afraid to get your hands dirty so that you may plant your seeds and set your stage for your own "Garden Party."

ED. NOTE: The author is the senior pastor of The Lighthouse Church, 1248 Route 9 South, Court House.