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 . . . 

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.