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Blog – Page 2 – Sing-Play-Pray-Be Fearless…

Just me.

From my tiny corner of the world, this little table, there is the view of the fountain outside, the Barista making coffee and the trash can. I hear the conversations around me- some intense, some laughter, people sharing what they are doing, what they are planning to do and all of the political news of the day. Here is where problems are solved, crisis are averted, stories are shared.
I am aware of the fact that the longer I sit here the more I become a fixture in this place. One of those people who uses the coffee shop as their office of sorts. Do I really want to be that predictable? Not really.
I dream of one day being one of those mysterious people. Behind my sunglasses, observing the world, writing great and mysterious things that people are commenting about or sharing with each other. “Did you see what she wrote today? ” “I wonder where she gets her inspiration?” “She must live an exciting life.”
My problem is that I’m not that person- I’m just me.
That open-book kind of person. What you see is what you get. Never very good at concealing things or being sophisticated or wise.
I look at others and wonder, how did they figure things out so easily while I stumble and bumble along?
And while I am here confessing things- let’s just lay it out on the table. My dear friend had to tell me recently that I had come out in public with my sweater on inside out. This is the life I lead. While the rest of world seems to exit their homes with sweaters on correctly, I’m walking around inside out.
The other day I had lunch. Well, actually, I have lunch most every day, but this particular day after I had lunch, I got up to put my nearly empty dish in the sink, got distracted and went down the hall to my bedroom instead. Set the bowl on the table by the bed, but realized that I had forgotten my phone in the kitchen, went back to get my phone, but on the way I got distracted again and ended up in the music room playing a song on the piano for a few minutes but then realized I hadn’t gotten my phone. I headed back to the kitchen but then the timer on the washer went off and don’t you hate when you forget a load in the washer and it gets all smelly and you have to wash it again and there’s a drought going on? So I had to take care of that.
Then I saw those black sandals on the dryer and I remembered that I had gotten some super glue to glue those black sandals that I love, but a piece is a bit torn on them and I didn’t want it to really rip, so I had to rummage in my purse to find that little bag from the store with the glue in it.
But you know, my purse was a mess, so I cleaned that out and found that I had forgotten to mail this bill that needed to be paid. It was almost time to go pick up #3 child from school, so I jumped into the car and headed to the post office. I was a little late picking up the kid but she was so sweet about it that I decided to get her a treat at Sonic. Ever had a lime slush there? Yum- kind of a grown up snow cone.
Anyway, when we got back home I could hear big dog in the bedroom chewing on something. We usually close all the bedroom doors when we are gone because who knows what she might discover that needs dragging out and chewed on, but I hadn’t done that… obviously.
Dogs do smile, and mine is so good at it. She didn’t even have the sense to look guilty laying there chewing on that empty bowl. Where did that come from, I think to myself? And then, like a flash back in one of those movie scenes I see it all laid out before me and I wonder… did I put the ketchup bottle in the dryer?
And what kind of day are you having?
Peace, God’s grace and blessings my friend.
Next week is Holy Week- don’t forget to stop by and visit God’s house and say “thanks” for Jesus.
We’ll talk later,

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Noah- a movie review (kinda)

I’m not going to give you a spoiler alert. I think it’s safe to say that we all pretty much know the story.
But we’ve been planning to go see the new Noah movie for quite awhile anyway.
I’m not sure what we expected- Let me just say that it was interesting.
Don’t you think it’s a little dangerous and, let’s face it, interesting to see what Hollywood is going to do with a biblical character?  After all, this is one of the first stories that we tell the little Sunday school children. It’s a story we can tell without reading it. Whether or not we believe that it happened exactly as written or if we think of the story as a kind of metaphor, it’s foundational to the way we think about our relationship to the Creator. We look in the sky and see a rainbow and we’re reminded of the covenant God made and continues to make with us about how God will care for us in this place.
Here is what I enjoyed.
I liked the “realness” of the characters; the conflict on the ark between the people, their doubts, their questions, their mistakes, their obvious faith, their strength and their courage.
What I didn’t particularly like.
Perhaps I’m ignorant,  but I think Hollywood added some extra characters. I liked the characters, but I think they might have confused the story a bit. Heck, they confused me!
If I think about the “facts” of the story, the things spoken of in the bible, I wonder if the point of the movie misses God’s point almost entirely. Because I think the point of the story is how much God loves us.
Wouldn’t it have been easier to wipe out everything and completely start over without the people. Sure, you see Noah conflicted in this way in the movie but it’s his thought not God’s that resolves the conflict.
Oh, one more thing I liked.
I liked that I was compelled to go home and reread the story in a variety of translations and discuss the movie with my friends and family. I liked that it may stir up conversations in other places, with different people and opinions. Maybe if we get to talking about these things it might lead to conversations about other important things. Maybe we can stop shouting at each other across the aisles and let a little light into the dark places.
Go see the movie Noah even if you don’t think it’s biblically accurate, even if you think the bible is myth. Start a conversation. You can talk to me here. Let me know what you thought about it.
We’ll talk more later,

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The Sweetest Spot

I’m giving a friend a break from conducting the church choir during Lent & Easter.
This choir is much like every choir I have conducted in my life. They are wonderfully enthusiastic, committed to being there, like to laugh and love God and their church. People who sing in choirs usually are all these things. They may come into rehearsal after a long day at work tired, spent physically and emotionally but they managed to drag themselves to practice.
Here are a couple of things I’ve learned in 28 years conducting a church choirs.
1. If an adult gives up a free evening to come and sing, this is a huge thing. Never, ever, ever take that for granted.
2. Be early to rehearsal. Nothing says “you are not my priority” like making people wait for you.
3. Be over prepared. The thing you thought was going to be hard, isn’t and the thing you thought would be a breeze has the choir looking at you like you’re nuts.
4. Be ready for that person in the choir who always has an opinion, helpful advice, instructions for everyone, and is sure you are doing it wrong. They are not your enemy, but they can distract others. Gently, lovingly, carefully thank them for their help and contribution and then- do it the way you had planned. (Be sure you HAVE planned though- weakness provides opportunity.)
5. Laugh- at yourself.
6. Pick the music you like, tell them why you like it, give them background for why you chose it, and enjoy what they do with it.
7. Your choir rehearsal is never the place to talk about: the money you are paid to do this job, negative things about the pastor (or anyone else for that matter), or politics. Yikes!
8. Get to know the people you serve and be careful with their souls. Adults have a ton of things going on in their lives and they may need prayer or a shoulder to lean on. Singing can bring this “stuff” to the surface. I have been aware many times that something we have sung has moved someone to tears and they need a moment to collect themselves. Let there be space for that.
9. Don’t be afraid to look at music resources from a variety of other denominations, and churches. Mix up what you are singing with the group- classical, contemporary, jazz, world music, gospel….
10. Music is prayer. The choir leads the people in music. We are called Liturgical churches which literally means “the work of the people.” It is not a performance. That being said- you should treat each moment of music like it is a performance, planning to not be a distraction but to aid the people in worship.
11. Pray- every rehearsal and before every worship time. There is no better preparation tool then asking God to hang around and bless the music and the people singing it.
11. Once the music begins it doesn’t belong to you (or the choir) any more. It is a gift for an audience of One.
In the Presbyterian church, one of my favorite parts of service for people who are being ordained to serve in leadership is when they are asked:
“Will you pray for and seek to serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love?”
If you cannot answer with an enthusiastic “yes!” to these questions  with regard to directing your church choir, don’t do it.
As the director, you stand in the very best spot in the room- the sweetest spot. You can hear every voice and the blend, balance and harmonies are at your fingertips.
Have a great day! We’ll talk more later.
Choir director


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The Assyrian Monks Sold Olive Bread

Saturday morning ritual- up before the sun and head down to the farmers market.
First let’s discuss this daylight savings time nonsense. I will just take the position right now that I hate it and refuse to set my watch to the “new” time for at least another week. There. Enough said.
Farmers market- you really must get up early to see the best stuff. Look, I know it’s Saturday and this is your only day to sleep in, but you’re not going to be there that long. You can go home and crawl back into the sack if you must! Quit complaining!
In my neck of the woods, if you want to see what’s grown locally you have to go downtown, “under the bridge.” Well, it used to be a bridge but now it’s the freeway, but basically, you’re under a road, so don’t quibble.
I always take my all-knowing cooking friend with me to ask questions (I’m a little shy that way) and because he’s strong, to carry the bags- take your own grocery bags or if you really want to go “pro-mode,” one of those wheeled carts and bring small bills.Maybe, if it’s very early, take a flashlight.  By the way, if you don’t know what something is or how to cook it, go ahead and ask. Usually the answer is “sauté (stir-fry) with garlic.”   It’s the same in every language. I think garlic is truly the most international, cross-cultural food.
This is not your frous-frous market. This is where the real people shop.  Things brought home today: cabbage (you haven’t seen heads this big- ever), beets, $1 a bunch, spinach, also $1. a bunch, and lovely, lovely brown eggs. Let me stop here and praise the eggs. If you don’t go for anything else, go for the eggs. Yum! Oh, and snap peas- fresh, fresh ones.
There is also a row of fish vendors. This can be daunting. If you know what you’re looking for, you’re in good shape. If you don’t, skip this row.
I’ve bought red spinach under the bridge. I could not believe the color… or the flavor. Unbelievable!
Fresh local honey, fruit of every variety, many you haven’t seen before. Rainbow chard, kale, peanuts, taro. Sometimes there is a girl there selling tuberoses. Amazing, sweet fragrance. Onions are another reason to go- as my good friend describes them: red, green onions- long green stems, red and white bulbs. Too good.
On the south end of the market are several bakeries. Stop here last.
Look for the earnest young man with a beard in the long dark robe and head covering. Try everything on the table- they have samples of it all. But take home the Kalamata olive and garlic bread, or the onion and garlic herb bread or the cinnamon bread (great with that coffee you’ll get on the way home). If you have a few minutes, stay and talk awhile. Lovely people.
You are going to feel so good when you finish your excursion here. Trust me when I tell you this.
Go home and make breakfast. Enjoy the beautiful day.
See you there next week- We’ll talk later.

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Getting Up Gracefully

It’s Lent- the Christian season of preparation before Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday and continues for 40 days prior to Easter (Sundays are not included in the count). Lent is a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. The idea is that we will spend more time thinking about Jesus Christ and less about the world and ourselves.
I found this great poster awhile back:
Texture from Mayang's Textures
All of this looked great on paper, so I decided that this would be my goal this Lent- to live by these “rules.”
Day 1: I got up. Got angry at myself for sleeping late, worried about the oil leak in my car, tried to do too many things, lingered on some stuff someone said to me, complained to a friend about it, took a handful of Advil instead of taking a walk for a headache, went to church- decided it was ok to start over.
Day 2: I got up. (so far, so good) Stumbled over big dog laying in the hallway and said an especially colorful word, dropped the shampoo bottle on my foot in the shower and repeated the colorful word, was cranky with a family member who didn’t have time to help me do something, ate two biscuits at dinner when one would have been enough, stayed up too late watching the “idiot box.” Finally went to bed, determined to start over in the morning.
Day 3: I got up. Spent a little time asking for help from “the One Who is Not Me” (thanks Anne Lamott!), smiled at the youngest who was preparing for a great day at school, was running late but tried not to yell at other drivers, and here I am talking with you. So far, so good, but then it’s only 8:18 in the morning. Still plenty of time to mess things up.

Here is what I know- you and I are an unfinished canvas, a work in progress. Our lives are an uncharted course, where we get to choose the direction to go. A friend said to me that he doesn’t believe in a myth (Christianity) that has started so many wars and done terrible things in the name of religion. Here is what a favorite author of mine says: “Think of people you consider fanatical. They’re overbearing, self-righteous, opinionated, insensitive, and harsh. Why? It’s not because they are too Christian but because they are not Christian enough. They are fanatically zealous and courageous, but they are not fanatically humble, sensitive, loving, empathetic, forgiving, or understanding—as Christ was.” Tim Keller, The Reason for God.
So- we keep trying, we ask for help, we let ourselves be open to hear feedback from friends and family. We try to recognize grace when we see it, and when we try it on for ourselves. Tomorrow I will get up in the morning (God willing) and start over.
No matter how badly I mess up today I am given the grace to begin again- as are you.
You are a beloved child of God.
We’ll talk again soon,

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