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

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

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

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

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 ...


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 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 . . .