Sunday, January 25

Tread Softly

Sunrise in Marble CO by Jerry Begly
This evening I ran across the lovely poem by William Butler Yeats, "Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven." What a delight to discover it is also beautifully set to music by several current day composers. Do you know the poem or one of the compositions?

This discovery reminded me of something Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said:  "A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul."

How many of us take that advice to heart even on a weekly basis? I would add that the beauty of nature, such as a sunrise, the song of a bird, the laughter of children at play, and so on are part of this "sense of the beautiful" too.

This concept was expanded in beautiful depth, many years before Goethe. The apostle Paul wrote with a flourish of rhetorical anaphora
"Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Philippians 4:8)
And so I offer this lovely poem and its modern compositions as a golden whatever for this day, a way to keep alive the "sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul." 
Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven
by William Butler Yeats 

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Yes! Jesus help me to tread softly on my loved one's dreams!



Photograph by Katherine Micks

Tread
softly
because
you tread
on my
dreams. 







~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
MUSIC LINKS


The poem read by Anthony Hopkins

Karl Jenkins' setting for soprano solo and orchestra

Bradley Ellingboe's setting for choir 

Martin Sedak's setting for choir

A Different Take  

Saturday, January 24

Cross Country Hearts

Marti with Grandson
Yesterday something on my Facebook wall caught my eye; beautiful stained glass heart figures by an artist I've been following for some time, Jay at Sticky Fingers Glass Works in Knightdale, NC. I am leaving in a few days for a visit to see my sister-in-law Marti, brother Jerry, and four beautiful children in the high Colorado Rockies. Looking for a gift to take along for her had not yielded just what I was looking for. Until I saw these hearts.

Marti is a vivacious, beautiful woman of deep Christian faith. An amazing mother of seven beautiful children, she has joyed to see two daughters walk down the aisle in marriage, and follows a college son with delight and cheers.  Teaching all seven, not just as a home-school mom, but much music, and so many life-skills has kept her happily busy for many years. Her soprano voice has soared in beauty over many people's ears and hearts in places all across the country. 

The current chapter in Marti and Jerry's life includes a hard challenge. In the past year, Marti has sung a new, difficult song as she bravely fights the battle of cancer. Her faith and honesty throughout this journey has inspired so many, many people.

My last visit was in the spring of 2014 right after she was diagnosed and had surgery. During my stay, the pastor at the church there in Marble welcomed me from the pulpit as Aunt Mary Poppins. With four children at the house to love up in a big way, it was an experience that changed me in profound ways.

When I saw these hearts yesterday, I knew this would be a lovely piece of art to hang in one of the windows at this family home which they aptly call, "The Chalet."

Here is a photo of the heart I ordered, and following that is the beautiful post the artist posted this morning on Facebook. Made me weep, but they are tears of love where there are no words to say what's on one's heart. 

"Chalet Hearts" collection from Sticky Fingers Glass Works


Jay says:  'When I found this heart design, and adapted it to fit my needs of lots of color, I had only one ideal in mind, making some money during my slowest business time of year. What I got in return touched my own heart. I had made a dozen or so before I began to sell, I started getting messages about price, shipping, colors etc as soon as I posted the pictures. 
Then the very first one I sold, made them much more than that, much more than a simple money maker, sold to a woman here in NC, a lady I do not know, going to a sister in law in CO battle [battling] cancer, a simple colorful glass heart, filled with love. A simple act of kindness that happens every day, but with it boxed and shipped, a piece of my heart will be sent today to CO to become a part of some one else. 
My work has never been a million dollar money maker, but more of making people happy, so with this being what it is I feel honored to name my newest project "Chalets Hearts". Thank you Nancy Gerst for making me remember.'

If you are interested in purchasing one of these hearts, which is about 5" high, (or other stained glass work by this North Carolina artist) you can find him on Facebook by searching for Sticky Fingers Glass Works or at this link. Thanks Jay for your beautiful work and for such a caring response to my order!

Thanks to all who remember my sister-in-love Marti, brother Jerry, and the children in prayer.  

See what great love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God!  I John 3:1


Marti and me at the Raleigh Rose Garden a decade ago

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
MUSIC LINKS

The Lord's Prayer - Malotte, sung here by Marti with me accompanying her.

Greater Love Hath No Man - John Ireland, a song about the greatest heart of all, God's love for the world.

Friday, January 23

Here She Comes!

On the Horizon - Katherine Micks

This week I had the privilege of serving as organist for the funeral of a new friend, Eleanor Dunn. I never met her until the day of her memorial service. At age 99, her life story was rich and so compelling. I found myself wiping away tears over someone so joyful, so full of Christ, who touched everyone she met with beauty and meaningful conversation. I wished with all my heart that I had known her.

Mrs. Dunn, happily married for many years, lived more than a decade after her husband’s death. She selected the following poem to include on the last page of the printed Order of Worship for her own funeral. 

Dr. Mel Wines read this poem with depth of feeling at the end of his sermon. He had spent many hours visiting this dear parishioner. The friendship that developed shone in his reading. She always refreshed him more than she did him, or so he said, even praying for him every visit after he prayed for her. What a lovely, faith-filled practice.

Written by American clergyman Henry Van Dyke for his wife, these lines are a beautiful picture of the Christian’s transition from the edge of earth's shore to heaven’s welcoming port . . .


Gone From My Sight 
by Henry van Dyke

I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship, at my side,
spreads her white sails
to the moving breeze
and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until,
at length, she hangs like a speck
of white cloud just where the sea and sky
come to mingle with each other.
Then, someone at my side says,
"There, she is gone."
Gone where?
Gone from my sight. That is all.
She is just as large in mast,
hull and spar as she was when she left my side.
And, she is just as able to bear
her load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me – not in her.
And, just at the moment
when someone says,
"There, she is gone,"
there are other eyes watching her coming,
and other voices ready to take up
the glad shout,
"Here she comes!"
And that is dying...

Isn't that so beautiful? "Here she comes!" "Here she comes!" Wow. I look forward to hearing that someday, don't you? 

May the God of peace . . .  preserve us whole and entire, spirit, soul, and body, irreproachable at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. 
(I Thessalonians 5:23

Photo by Katherine Micks


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
MUSIC LINKS

The Call (Come, My Way, My Truth, My Life) - Ralph Vaughan Williams

Shall We Gather at the River - Copland's setting, sung by Marilyn Horne

Going Home - sung by Bryn Terfel

How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place - Johannes Brahms (sung in English)

Pilgrim's Hymn - Stephen Paulus 

The Road Home - Stephen Paulus

I Shall Know Him - new setting of Fanny Crosby's text by Ben Everson


Thursday, December 25

Why Christmas Touches Everyone So Deeply

Why does Christmas seem to reach out arms that embrace and touch people all around the world? 

There are certainly lots of reasons, but, as we were eating a late brunch and listening to "Fantasia on Christmas Carols" (Ralph Vaughan Williams) I realized that at Christmas the world is especially, remarkably, uniquely touched by heaven...

Friday, December 12

Joy of the Season

During the busy season of Advent and Christmas, it's a unique and special thing to spend time alone in beautiful spaces preparing one's part. Here is an excerpt from a recent practice session at Winthrop University. Byrnes Auditorium is home to a very special Aeolian-Skinner. Even though spaces like this are often cold (and it was true to expectations, especially during our recent cold snap), and scheduling at a busy music conservatory can be a challenge, all went well. I bundled up and spent some happy hours here. 

This accompaniment features the marvelous string and celeste stops on this fine instrument. It just blessed my heart to hear these in this space and imagine the choir singing words that are beloved and precious. 

You can see the entire clip of this accompaniment (if you're interested in using this anthem) at this link on my youtube channel. This video here is a shorter sampling ...

video

He Taught the World to Sing



Here is a poem for the season of Advent or Christmas. The stanzas move through the retelling of the birth of Christ to his work of redemption and coming again. The first line reminds us that the story of Christ's birth is our story, too, because of the succeeding chapters in his life and work. If you are unfamiliar with the entire story of Jesus Christ, the Gospel of John is a great place to read about it.

May be sung to the tune: IT CAME UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR


The Christmas story is our own
It is our story of peace
When hearts were troubled, love unknown
God’s love, our own increased.
In humble birth, in family tree,
We see the way to know
How love can be a mystery
Yet bloom in time and grow.

A manger bed, an angel’s voice
Announced the baby was born
In Bethlehem they knelt, rejoiced
When Love came down that morn.

Monday, December 1

Tippy's Private Sermon



I started out my career in church ministry as an itinerant Baptist evangelist preacher. While I only preached one sermon, my memory tells me it was a pretty good one, even for a six-year old. 

One bright summer day found me standing tall in my mother’s high heels, with her hat, jewelry, and gloves, a little pocket New Testament opened and held just right in front of me. My airy pulpit paralleled the side of the garage where the snapdragons bloomed in
Granddaughter by my petunias.
riotous profusion. 


Waiting in full regalia, I just knew that rugged, rebellious sinner-man would show up soon.  I was ready for him, ready to smack him between the eyes with fiery rhetoric that would surely have him on his knees in anguished, tearful repentance.

A flash of fur and wide, wild eyes brought Tippy, the maverick neighborhood junk-yard dog, to an abrupt halt right in the first row of my imaginary country church.  I stared him down until he took his place like a gentleman, cleared my throat, and holding his puzzled gaze, proceeded to share my six-year-old version of the gospel with him.

Saturday, November 22

Practice Tips from a Pro and St. James


LOVELY Christmas decorations are already in place on the light poles along the streets of Pineville. Driving through this quaint downtown, I mused that, although some lament that Thanksgiving isn’t even over before the December bombardment begins, any church musician worth their salt has been Christmas-ing away for months now.

Practice in the Spring of 2013
Church organists will confirm that this time of year finds them putting in extra hours at the bench in preparation for all the beautiful music to come during Advent and Christmas. Practice. Practice. Practice. Repeat until it’s not just okay, but excellent. (Don’t go into a career in music if you can’t stand long hours by yourself in repetitions of minutia that might drive many sane people crazy.)

This morning while meditating on a section in the book of James, a lovely “a-ha bolt” struck me. Here staring at me was a bold encouragement for my own organ practice. How so, you ask. Here is the section that got my attention:

Friday, October 3

She Responds in Kind




One evening last week while we were clearing up after dinner together, Larry pulled his head out of the pantry (where his cookies hide) and cheerfully commented, "You make my life so pleasant." "Aww, thank you Larry! What a nice thing to say."

I've thought about that off and on since then. That kind little offhand remark made me feel like gold. You know the feeling? When someone says something small in a complimentary way, but your heart hears it as if it were a proclamation...it just makes your world seem ripe with juiciness and meaning. 

A couple nights ago I was restless and couldn't sleep, so I got up and wrote poetry. Here's the poem that was born of that pleasant comment and a 2 a.m. meeting at the computer keyboard...

Sunday, September 14

Intersecting Planes



In the arborestum. Noting a flower up above.
 
She walked along the 
   heightened ridge
While I took a meandering path

Through thickets and 
   deep pools

Of reflected dusk 
   and dying days

Where shadows 
   offered bittersweet

Comfort of familiar ways,

Memories and the 
   years of my life.



Tuesday, September 2

Math and English Lessons



School has begun in our country, keeping many of us busy with all that the start of a school year entails. Here a few lessons from real life that need to be highlighted loudly while we go about the daily business in our own corners of the world.

Recently our President announced to the world that his administration does not yet have a plan for how to deal with the terrorist group ISIS. In few days since then, while he’s figuring out what to do, how many people in Iraq have been killed, slaughtered, massacred with brutality and relish by these terrorists? On August 6, 2014, nearly 1,000 people, Christians, were slaughtered in Gwoza, Nigeria by the militant terrorist group, Boko Haram.
 
And Iraq and Nigeria are not the only places in the world where dire circumstances envelope thousands (millions?) of innocent people--all caused by aggression and oppression by evil leaders. 

Shouting here . . . these events call for a wise, collective, clarion response by the wider world community. Not silence. Not indifference. Not paralysis. Action. Now.

So the math lesson:  One thousand is the story problem number for only a few weeks in the months of ISIS’s teaching the world how to count and relearn important words.  

Here’s a reminder of how many 1,000 is. Each skinny, insignificant-looking, far-away-from-my world number represents a person made in the image of God and endowed with the right to life. But these lives have been cut off, their place on the world stage only a memory . . . 


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1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 +
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 +
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 +
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 +
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 +
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 +
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 +
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 +
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 +
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 +
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 +
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 +
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 +
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 +
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 1,000



The answer to this math problem is 1,000. 

The answer to how many people have been slaughtered by ISIS is "many more than this." 

The real, human problem is that these are people, not obscure, identical numbers on a blog post. Each of these numbers represent a real person, infinitely unique, someone with hopes and dreams, laughter and tears, stories and family and much more.

What is the answer to stopping a representative story problem like this from even being written, or new ones being formulated in the coming days? 



Words associated with this math problem are taking grotesque shape and coming alive right under the collective eyes of the world:



Houlocast:  



1.  the systematic mass slaughter of European Jews in Nazi concentration camps during World War II (usually preceded by the).

2. any mass slaughter or reckless destruction of life.






1. The deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group.






Adjective

1. morally wrong or bad; immoral; wicked:  evil deeds; an evil life.

2.  harmful; injurious:  evil laws.

3.  characterized or accompanied by misfortune or suffering; unfortunate; disastrous:  to be fallen on evil days.

4.  due to actual or imputed bad conduct or character:  an evil reputation.

5.  marked by anger, irritability, irascibility, etc.:  He is known for his evil disposition.

Noun

6.  that which is evil; evil quality, intention, or conduct: to choose the lesser of two evils.

7.  the force in nature that governs and gives rise to wickedness and sin.

8.   the wicked or immoral part of someone or something: The evil in his nature has destroyed the good.

9.  harm; mischief; misfortune: to wish one evil.
10. anything causing injury or harm: Tobacco is considered by some to be an evil.

11.  a harmful aspect, effect, or consequence: the evils of alcohol.

12.  a disease, as king's evil.

Adverb 
13. in an evil manner; badly; ill: It went evil with him.

Idioms

14.   the evil one, the devil; Satan.



It all tastes like gravel in one’s mouth, doesn’t it, to say these words and repeat these numbers? Gravel-spit stories are occurring not just in Iraq, but in other places too--Ukraine, Syria, Gaza, across the continent of Africa to name several others.

I pray to God that the destruction of innocent people will stop. Now, not later. Now as the result of strong and good leaders acting in incisive, deliberate, strong ways to silence the voice of aggression and evil.   

I pray that our President would awake from his stupor and use the full weight and resources of the United States to come to the aid of these desperate people. We cannot stand idly by and say it's just not our problem.  

May we as a free people remember the mantra’s of Auschwitz and Rwanda . . .


”Never Again.
What You Do Matters.”


What can you and I do? All Christians need to pray. Not just a brief little, "oh yeah, and please be with those who suffer" once a week. 

What else? We all need to pray about that too, that God would give us wisdom to know what our part is.

I don't apologize for harping on this same subject in recent weeks, or being one who "focuses on negative things" or who "focuses too much on politics." I fear too many of us have been silent when we should have spoken up, whether to God or to our leaders, or to others we know, or family or friends. 

Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison.
Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.
~ ~ ~ 

OTHER MUSIC LINKS

GoreckiSymphony No. 3 "Sorrowful Songs" - from "HOLOCAUST - A Music Memorial Film from Auschwitz".

A movie based on a true story about a famous pianist who survives the Holocaust by hiding out in animal-like existence in the rubble for several years.
 
N E V E R   A G A I N ?
The Roman Vishnaic Collection, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Refugees on Mount Sinjar in Iraq August 2014




Nigerian Girls Abducted by Terrorists in April 2014 - They have not been found as of this blogpost


James Foley, American Journalist Killed by Terrorist Group ISIS, August 2014


Steven Sotloff, American Journalist Killed by Terorrist Group ISIS, September 2014

August 28th was the anniversary of this slaughter in Ukraine in 1941. Today, this region of the world faces renewed threats to the people groups who live there. 

Is there no hope? Is there no peace? Ultimately, yes in our Lord. In the meantime, hope and peace flourish in pockets here and there, and this is something we need to pray for and work for in all ways humanely possible. 

May our Lord comfort those who have lost loved ones recently in all these cruel conflicts.

Lord, Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace