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October ending 2018

October is two days gone and I’m already behind. It’s like being on a speeding locomotive, the months of this year moving so quickly. Before I twirl around a couple of times I will have whizzed through Thanksgiving and Christmas, and it will be next year. Stop! Slow down, please.

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Kentucky weather is interesting if nothing else. I had to grab my corduroy coat, complete with scarf, hat, and gloves for my morning walk in October. Maisie wore her purple “Woof” sweater. It was way too soon for both of us.

woof sweaterThe few days that were warm enough for me to sit on the deck with a cup of coffee were especially enjoyable, maybe because they were rare. Isn’t it like us to finally appreciate  what we’ve had a-plenty but now long for? We become satiated and lose the enjoyment of the abundance we possess.

Having dismissed the yard work for the season, I did plant a couple of tiny trees in my cousin’s yard. It’s what I can do for her and her husband after a summer of dealing with illness and recovery. I’m praying those little saplings dig their roots deep into the earth and flourish next spring. New life speaks the language of hope.

Sometimes in our enthusiasm, we want to do great things for God, large and far-reaching. With the wisdom only living gives, I perceive it is in doing the simple and ordinary that we descern the pleasure of God. “Do what is in front of you.” “Do what you can with the gifts you have.” “Do the small things well with love.” Yes, that is the guidance presented to me.

I got to visit my younger friend in an adjoining county. Going alone this time, I was quite confident with my trusty Gypsy (GPS) telling me where to turn. Even at her directions, I passed the drive to my friend’s house, which happens every single time. The trees and telephone poles all look the same along that stretch of highway.

Arriving at her house, she showed me her latest project. She’s always got one in progress. Her home is comfortable and beautifully decorated. We ate and chatted about family, faith and things familiar to us until it was time for me to go. I’m so thankful she reached out to me a couple of years ago, just a message on Facebook that lead to a connection and friendship. God does amazing things when we are open to His leading and then open our hearts.

The book most impacting me this month was Hiding in the Light , autobiography by Rifqa Bary. Her story was in the news in 2009, a Muslim teenager who found Jesus as her Savior, with the resulting conflict in her family. It was a gripping story, a glimpse into a different faith and a young woman’s courage, and a striking contrast of God’s grace. Highly recommended.

Sweet William and I played old hymns at a dinner for the widows at church. It was an elegant and detailed event to bless the women and show them love and support. The songs stirred up memories for all of us, I think.

It was satisfying to be at the keyboard and guitar once again. There were years Sweet William and I joined the band every single Sunday, playing loud, playing long, worshiping God with the gifts He gave us. We reminisce about those good years of serving, how our hearts were tuned in to the worship, how the Lord showed up in our praise and blessed as the Spirit moved among us.

There’s one song I’ve been remembering and singing. My favorite version of “Ain’t No Grave” is by Russ Taff. His excitement is contagious, and I want to celebrate with him. I notice that when I talk of my age I’m speaking in decades now. My years are adding up swiftly, and I’m trying to come to grips with its brevity.

My body feels the affect of living long in a broken world. I move slower. I am concerned about balance and the risk of falling. I pray to stay strong and for my knees to last. I do things I hope will keep my mind sharp. I don’t want to forget what I’ve learned through books and experience.

If Jesus tarries coming for His bride, one day my life here will be over and I will go by way of the grave. There’s no fear or concern in that. I’ve rested my hope in a risen Savior who defeated death and handed that victory to me. It will be glory. And there “ain’t no grave gonna hold my body down!”

Bible study has been a major part of the last two months.  The women who gathered at our table each week, have no idea how they bless me. We are hungry to know God, stretching our faith to Believe Him. I’m coming out of this study richer for the fellowship as we journeyed together. We bond as we open God’s Word and share our hearts with each other.

The month of October has been busier than usual. I’m still trying to figure out why, hoping to plan a quieter, less stressed November. I think it is possible, even in a culture that presses me to believe enough is not really enough.

Time has limits, the same as my body, my finances, my resources, my years.  Autumn reminds me to slow, to observe, to turn loose, to draw upon the blessedness of my existence and believe my Creator has it all in His hands. Contentment continues to call me with an alluring voice. “Come, be filled with joy in the abundance of God’s bountiful gifts.”

He is good. He is strong. He is enough.

 

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For the love of music and people

It’s recital time, one of my favorite activities.

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Three years ago I was the director of an arts academy with almost 90 students. Instructors prepared their students for recital twice a year, in the fall and spring. It was the busiest, most stressful, and hardest weeks of the year as I planned and prepared details to showcase the students’ work.

And it was the most rewarding.

There is nothing quite like listening to young and older ones progressing on the instrument of choice, seeing them grow in stature and in artistic ability. It was a happy weekend.

I retired from that position and now only plan a recital for piano students who come to my home. While it is not nearly as large an event, it is still a busy time. This was the weekend.

I make lists and plan out my strategies. I purchase supplies ahead as much as possible. I delegate when I can, but the week of recital is always busy. I try to keep the designated day free of any other obligations so I can focus on this one thing. The day ends late and I am exhausted when it’s all over.

But the sweet return for my hard work is indescribable.

Years ago I held a corporate position, a demanding job with responsibility and staff to manage. It was one of those goals I had written down years before and it somehow came to fruition. And then one day it was over and gone. Budget cuts eliminated my position, and within a week I was out the door wondering what had happened and where this road was leading me now.

On that day I didn’t have a clue that I would find myself a new career, that of a piano teacher. My love for music led me to share it with others. My fledgling endeavor started slowly, grew by word of mouth, and I’ve had many people sit at my piano through the years. Some didn’t stay long, but some did, the ones who become musicians not just students.

I got a thank-you note this week from a young man to whom I had sent a graduation gift. He was my student for a number of years. His words were so kind, remembering the weekly session we shared at the piano in my living room.

“Sometimes I will sit down and play the piano and think of all that you taught me . . . I will always remember coming to your house on Wednesday afternoons to learn how to play the piano and read music.  Thank you for being patient with me and guiding me as a young man.”

Tears sprang to my eyes as I read. You mean I taught more than note reading and theory? You mean those thirty minutes each week were important to his growing up? I am stunned.

And I am thankful. Thankful for the opportunity to share the skill someone else patiently taught to me. Thankful for that job loss that gave me something completely new. Thankful that God took my meager efforts to make a difference to someone.

Recitals are musically beautiful to me, but they represent something more. There are children growing into teens heading toward adulthood who may remember the treble clef lines as “Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge” or the meaning of allegro and andante. They might be able to play a minuet or a sonata or a pop tune.

More importantly, will he remember that I cared about the person he was?  Will she know I encouraged the person she was becoming? I hope so.

Teaching music is a skill I learned through practice, just like playing the piano. Learning to love people is a life-long undertaking that requires patience, acceptance, forgiveness, understanding, genuine interest and concern.

I haven’t always done it well. I want to do it better.

Having been loved well by people God put in my life, I know how it works, how it continues to affect me. I will keep practicing until I get it right.

 

 

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Be still

I am taking my thoughts from a song playing at the Wright House today.

Make no mistake, music is a powerful force.  It can be used for good.  It can be used for something else all together.  It stirs our emotions, reminds us of an experience, speaks to our hearts, calls us to action, gives strength to go forward.

This day I am doing spiritual battle with these words to my heart:  Be Still My Soul.

I can cease from my own efforts to set things right.  I can trust my God who knows the way that I take and has gone before me.  I am plunging headlong into the rivers of His grace.

I don’t have to be in control.  My trying is futile.  I will rest in the unhurried rhythms of grace today, releasing the worries of my mind, knowing He is in control.

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Photo by Kelly Hay.  Visit her site for more beautiful pictures.

If you want some stillness, come and join in the song.

Be Still My Soul by Don Moen

Be still my soul, Be still my soul
Cease from the labor and the toil
Refreshing springs of peace await
The troubled minds and hearts that ache

Be still my soul, God knows your way
And He will guide, For His name’s sake
Plunge in the rivers of His grace
Rest in the arms of His embrace

Be still my soul, Be still my soul
Though battles round you rage and roar
One thing you need and nothing more
To hear the whisper of your Lord

Be still My child
I know your way
And I will guide
For My name’s sake
Plunge in the rivers of My grace
Rest in the arms of My embrace

Sounds of grace

Sing and make melody in your heart to the Lord.  I hear it deep in my spirit, admonition from Holy Writ.  Very Word.  Very God.

* *   Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus  * *   Blessed Assurance   * *   What a Friend We Have in Jesus   * *

How Great Thou Art   * *   My Hiding Place   * *   Rock of Ages

Praise lightens the load, brightens the outlook.  Praise drives away the demons that torment with their lies and their threats.

Praise is comely, beautiful and pleasant on the face of the saint saved by grace, the one who trusts and lays all doubt at His feet.  Gloom and despair are not the expressions of she who is completely, utterly loved.

Music fills the air, fills the heart and lifts the eyes heavenward to the One and only God whose love is extravagant, the One who gave Jesus to the world, the One who sent the Holy Spirit to comfort in times like these.

I begin to sing and my voice joins the throng of those who worship.  My heart is lighter as I look to Him and Him alone.  Let no other face or foe or fearsome enemy cloud my vision.  It is the Lord who leads the procession of triumph in the fiercest battle.

Fixing my eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith, I see Him in His strength and power.  I know and believe He is all and in all.  He is not shaken nor confounded.  He is faithful and true.

He is Captain of the Lord’s host and the battle is His.  He will be victorious.

Sunday grace friends.

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Music, music, music

Last week was what I call “recitals week.”  Thus, the lack of any blogging.  My time and attention were spent focusing on the details of preparing for 40 plus Little Flock students to show off their musical accomplishments at three separate recital events.  Eleven instructors teach seven different instruments and voice at Little Flock Academy of Arts, and they work hard to prepare their students for moments like this.

As it so happened this year, my home students had their spring recital on Saturday afternoon, after all of Little Flock’s recitals were completed.  “Busy” was the word for the week. 

My heart pumped fast while the adrenalin flowed unrelenting.  There were lists to check and duties to accomplish, things that can only be completed the very week before.  My days went by fast and furious.  A good night’s rest was required when I could get it.  And I tried to give myself that necessity.

I am one of the fortunate few who gets to show off my work on a regular basis.  Recitals are such times. 

However, my part in recitals is not to be compared to the hard work done by the other instructors and the at-home-work the students do daily that can only be called what it is – practice.  The 30 minutes shared by instructor and student is only a portion of the picture.  What is done after the music lesson, at home,  is what shows on stage during the performance.  

Getting to share the excitement of each students’ accomplishments is the reward of recitals.

I noticed so many times this weekend, how a student looked to his/her instructor when the performance had ended.  It was a look of “Did I do it well?  Are you proud of me?”  I realized how much influence an instructor holds on a young life.  An instructor significantly impacts each student they teach, not only musically but in areas of work ethic, integrity, and self-esteem.  I am proud to work with the group of instructors at the Academy of Arts.  They are a cut above the average.  They take their role seriously to impart their own love of music as well as to encourage students to be the best they can be. 

Sometimes a child just needs someone to believe in him.  An instructor can be that person who makes a difference in a life.

Recitals week is hard work, intense concentration, and wearying on my body.  At the same time it is one of my favorite times of the year.  Seeing and hearing a student accomplish a new technique, move to another level, finally get that rhythm correctly is a kind of joy that is hard to describe.

I count myself blessed to be part of the beauty of sharing music with my own students.  Along with that is the joy of being part of the Academy of Arts and working with such dedicated instructors who share my passion for music and for passing it along to the next generation. 

As one of my sweet young students said last year, “Music is for life.”  And I could not agree more.

“Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre, sing praises to Him with the harp of ten strings.  Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully with a loud and joyful sound.”  Psalm 33:2-3

You are welcome to share your musical expressions here.  I love reading your comments.

Wedding bells

 

I attended a wedding last week, smack dab in the middle of December. Actually I played the organ for the ceremony. This sweet young bride had picked some very classical and traditional songs, Canon in D, Bach’s Prelude in C, Bridal Chorus, and Wedding March. She knew what she wanted. I had to wonder if this bride had dreamed of a Christmas wedding since she was a little girl.

There is an electrical tension in the air the hour before the service starts. The photographer caught a few candid photos along with some specifically posed shots.  The videographer (now that’s a 21st century word) set up the tripod in preparation.  The wedding coordinator was a flurry of activity.

The groomsmen were ushering in guests, and the groom himself nervously paced about. I had to imagine the room where the bride and her court were making final touches to make up and hair.

The music started, the candles were lit, and it was now or never for the bride and groom. The bridal party marched in. The four children came down the aisle and performed their parts perfectly. They went to sit with their parents during the remainder of the ceremony, a wise decision. Children can steal the show with their cute, childish antics.

The color theme was red, of course, with bridesmaids dressed in beautiful red satin dresses. The church’s holiday decorations of Christmas wreaths and seasonal greenery blended beautifully.

The bride marched in on her father’s arm and the groom’s eyes were on her and her only.  The mothers dabbed their eyes with a tissue.

From my vantage point on the organ bench, I usually have a bird’s-eye view of the couple as they stand at the altar and repeat their vows. They have stars in their eyes, looking dreamily at each other as they repeat things like:

for better for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.”

If they are anything like I was at my wedding, I expected that there would never be another really bad day. After all, we were entering into wedded bliss, and just like the movies, we would live happily ever after.

Not!

The bridal couple never expects “worse” or “poorer” or “sickness.” They expect the path to be paved with rose petals, endless meaningful conversation, and romance every evening. They don’t count on bad hair days, sour moods, angry words, in-law problems, or where to spend the holidays. Who even expects the exorbitant cost of car repairs, a maxed out credit card, or the rising price of groceries and gasoline.

It’s probably best we don’t know the future, or we would gasp in fear and run the other way. God in His wisdom keeps our future a secret known only to Himself, promising His grace and His presence for the journey.

As I sat listening to the young bride and groom confess their love for one another and make a commitment for life, I prayed they would fight for their marriage, that they would not give up when it got hard, and that God would help them remember their promises.

Marriage is not to be entered into lightly. It is a covenant we make before God and these witnesses to love each other no matter what.  It isn’t easy to do.  But it is worth it when we arrive at those 10th, 20th, 30th, 40th anniversaries.  A committed marriage is a legacy we leave our children and our children’s children.  It proves to them it can be done and that they can do it too.

 

There are no final words I can give on marriage. But there are a few things I’ve learned during my almost 39 years of marriage to my Sweet William.

  • Forgive and ask for forgiveness – often.
  • Pray for one another daily.
  • Go to church together.
  • Seek godly counsel when necessary.
  • Try to understand the other person.
  • Love with deeds when the warm fuzzy feelings are missing.
  • Hold hands and laugh a lot.
  • Don’t let anything or anyone come between your hearts.
  • Keep only to each other.

And ask God to help you love like He loved you. It’s the only way it can be done.

Immanuel – The strong God with us!

I love listening to Christmas songs whether it be on the car radio, through the computer at work, or on the stereo system at home. I have an eclectic collection of Christmas CDs. I begin playing them soon after Thanksgiving – but not before. You know how I am.

Some of my favorite Christmas songs are the ones that declare the name of Christ as Immanuel (sometimes spelled Emmanuel). You can probably hum and few bars of your favorite song right now.

Do you recall this one? O come, o come Immanuel, and ransom captive Israel.

One carol made popular by singer Amy Grant says,

Immanuel, Immanuel, Wonderful Counselor

Lord of life, Lord of all.

He is the Prince of peace, Mighty God, Holy One.

Immanuel Immanuel!

Matthew 1:23 tells us, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’).  (NIV)

Immanuel, God with us. I can rest in that proclamation, lie down and sleep peacefully, walk with courage during the day knowing my God is with me.

I love discovering new things in God’s Word, nuances to meanings of familiar passages. Recently I found out the word Immanuel literally means “the strong God with us”. Now that gives it an interesting twist.

The strong God came to be with us through Jesus.  At the same time, He showed His humility, strength under control, by taking on the nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, and found in the appearance as a man, so says Philippians 2.

  •  The strong God, able and willing to provide salvation – yet coming in the form of a helpless infant child.
  • The strong God, not afraid to call a hypocrite a hypocrite – yet letting the little children come to Him.
  • The strong God, fearlessly clearing the temple of buyers and sellers – yet allowing Himself to be touched by bleeding women and prostitutes.
  • The strong God, speaking the Word of God with authority – yet speaking not a word in His own defense at the mockery of a trial.
  • The strong God, calming the stormy sea – yet having to be awakened from sleep because His humanity was weary.

The strong God, Immanuel, is with me, with you even now through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. I am encouraged and strengthened by His grace to carry on.

Fellow traveler, the strong God is with you today.  And whatever you tomorrows may bring, the strong God will be with you there also.

Let us walk in the faith and confidence that this one Word, Immanuel, promises.

” . . . And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age,” (Matthew 28:20 – NIV).