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 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.

Monday, September 1

Prayers for the Work Day

Potato Planting - Van Gogh, 1884
Most of us spend the largest part of our days working, at employment and also in our homes caring for them. Here are two beautiful, practical prayers on the theme of work from the heart and pen of a pastor who has taught me through his writings, Rev. Peter John Cameron. 

The first group of petitions in this first prayer ask for protection, a beautiful example of how to use the petition in the Lord's Prayer, "and lead us not into temptation" as a seed for our prayers. The second group of petitions ask for grace, a fleshing out of the petition, "give us this day our daily bread."

Prayer to Sanctify Work1
In a spirit of sacrifice, we consecrate our work day to the Lord and pray:

R:  Lord, protect.

From the temptation to be listless and lazy: R              FROM TEMPTATION

Saturday, August 30

Stay with Us for It Is Evening

Who will we invite to stay with us this night?

From Luke 24 . . .
So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.
Stay with us
For it is evening
And the day is now far spent.

Bleib bei uns
Denn es will Abend werden
Und der Tag hat sich geneiget 
Set here is an exquisite a capella choral setting by Josef Rheinberger (1839-1901), Abendlied (Evening Song), Op. 69.

The text comes from the story of what is called "The Walk to Emmaus" where following the crucifixion of Jesus, two disciples were joined by a stranger as they walked to a nearby town. They didn't recognize it was Jesus until sharing a meal later that evening. As they approached the town, they urged their fellow traveler, with whom they had fallen into deep conversation, "stay with us." He stays and their evening meal becomes one for the history books as they say.

Tuesday, August 26

Against the Darkness

There is a line in a hymn by Ronald Klug, “Rise, Shine, You People” that plays often in my mind since I first heard this stirring 20th century hymn. In recent months, it has become a constant reflexive refrain for me to the disturbing news-of-the-day . . . 

               “Your songs and prayers against the darkness hurling.”

Many ask in light of all the escalating troubles in the world, “What can I do about it? Little old me? Just one person living on a quiet street in Your Town USA?” Here are two important things we can do . . . 

Saturday, August 9

Table Prayers

What a joy it was recently to have our dinner host ask us to stand at table and hold hands, asking my husband to pray before our shared meal “as is our custom.” I woke with that scene shining in my mind in the wee hours of this morning. How profoundly simple prayers said in peace at meal time shape our lives.

Here is the prayer my husband prayed on that occasion, one he learned as a child and holds dear to use in our home. It is followed by a simple prayer our granddaughter loves to use. Following these are partner prayers for before and after meals...

Friday, August 8

All the Crayons in the Box

Do you see those two boxes of crayons on my conductors stand? One a box of eight fat big ones, the other the largest box of regular size crayons with all the colors, even gold and silver.

I like to use those boxes as an illustration to inspire the singers to use all their resources to make the music as excellent as possible. After going through a section, I may hold up one or the other box of crayons and they smile, knowing what I'm getting at. "Use all the crayons in the box, not just one or two." . . .

Monday, July 14

Declines, Inclines, and Happiness

What does this report from the Barna Group mean? 
Global Poverty is on the Decline
But Almost No One Believes It
Do more people care now? Less people care? Are there more resources to go around? Less resources?

Has the little bit that our household shares made a small dent? One or two lives are a small dent in millions, but to those one or two who are fed, clothed, etc. it means the world.

Monday, July 7

Stretch Out Your Hand

Do you like stories of intrigue, with endings that mix triumph and sorrow? 
Those who find the music of Arvo Pärt deeply meaningful will want to watch this video which tells that kind of story.

Monday, May 12

A Place Called Home

Only four letters but they contain the world,
A place where one is their truest and most real.
The locus of life in its widest berth,
Where body, soul, and spirit
Shine in their brightest, most radiant hues.

Home is a simple place,
Where the sights, sounds, and smells
Pile upon one another over the years
Forging memories that remain strong
And motivate us in the outside world-
Whether for good or ill depends upon
What occurs in the ticking minutes and days
Of life in this captured space of intimate living...

Thursday, May 1

Tea Time

Monday I chatted with my friend

While we wrote poems

And sliced life into

Bits of cake with tea in old china cups;

Sparking memories that

Sweetened our friendship

With warm looks from

Gentle eyes

Steeped in loving thoughts

That grew fragrant

With the delicious ritual

Of conversation.

Nancy Gerst, © 2014