Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tickling the Ivories

Photo courtesy of Photo Bucket

I filled in this morning for our regular piano accompanist at church. Several times a year, she asks me to do this and, for some reason, I always agree. I never know why. Every single time, I ask the same questions: What have I gotten myself into? and Why, oh Why, did I say yes?

First of all, let me tell you that I physically DO NOT do well when I play. My hands become clammy, my eyesight seems to go bonkers, I become hearing impaired and I am unable to self-regulate my body temperature. All-in-all, I become almost paralyzed because I have to focus and pay close attention. My mind CANNOT wander. And, believe me, it is not easy to play the piano with wet hands while wearing wet clothing. And, it's embarrassing. I mean, seriously - you would think this physical reaction would be bad enough; but, I know that other things can happen and usually will.

I've had some incredibly interesting experiences playing the piano in church. I used to accompany my brother-in-law every year when he sang the same solo during the Christmas season. Every single year something would go bananas. The first year he just decided, willy-nilly, to skip a verse without telling me. The second year, I truly believe he must have been overcome by the Holy Spirit - for what other reason would he add a verse where no verse belonged? This was in addition to the verse he left out the first year. And, the following year, one of the deacons decided to turn off the lights mid-performance. This was great. I could not see the music and neither could my brother-in-law. We were pitched into total darkness. So, I quit playing and he just sang la, la, la, la, la until he could find a way to end the song. It's pretty funny now and, to be truthful, it was pretty funny, then, too. I really find it ironic that the name of the song is "I know now..."  Really, if I knew then what I know now, it wouldn't have been half the experience because I would have talked someone else into doing the job.

It's not just my brother-in-law, though. My girlfriend has an exceptional voice and was asked to provide the special music at a neighboring church. So, I went along to play for her. Little beknownst to me, the entire service was broadcast "live" on the radio. Janice gets up to sing, we are tooling through the song and all of a sudden, she decides to go rogue - forgot to tell me she was going to repeat the chorus a few times more than it was written in the music. She had to sing some of that A Capella. It's my rule, when in doubt - stop playing and let the soloist figure out how to end the song. It's the real reason it is called a solo and it usually works pretty well - people most often just think it's in the plan and, when they see me smiling like a Cheshire cat and biting my bottom lip, they get all goosebumply and think I must be having a "God" moment. There is something about quiet distress that moves people, I guess.

I've had other frightening experiences. One time, someone turned on a fan and it blew my sheet music off the piano and completely out of reach. That time I had to stop, chase the music and start over with a shrug. I've had music turned upside down. I've had to ad lib my way through a page turn when the page refused to turn - these are all terrifying moments in the life of an accompanist.

As you can tell, this all adds to the hilarity of the moment and I am thankful that God must have a sense of humor since He rarely complains. I'm sure He is aware that it is hard to worship when I am nervous. I'm thankful He gives me a break and a chance to laugh at my silliness - even though the laughter doesn't come until after the fact.

I guess I take it to heart, though, because I feel music is the connecting force during the worship experience. It is what makes the service flow smoothly and what transitions the atmosphere from praise and worship to prayerful contemplation. It allows the words and the sounds of worship to seep into my soul. I'm always so afraid I'm going to mess that up for someone else.

This morning, we ended the service with "Give Thanks" and I was able to put aside all of the worry and stressful anxiety. I was finally able to lift my heart to God with thanks and in prayerful response to Him. I was able to express myself through the keyboard and it felt really sweet. I'm hopeful it was a joyful noise of praise from my heart to His.

So, until the next time... In between, I have to figure out a way to keep my hands dry.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Changes, Changes and more changes

Photo courtesy of Photo Bucket

I start my new job tomorrow. I am so ready to begin this next part of my journey. It has been an interesting six months. God has presented opportunities for me to learn many things - a lot of things about myself that I wasn't sure I was ready to learn.

I'm thankful for this time I have had. Often, people ask me if I am glad my "vacation" is over. I always get a kick out of that. I can tell you that being unemployed is not a vacation. There is not a single day that goes by that does not require some frustration, tenacity, diligence and a lot of prayer. It's hard work. It can be defeating and exhausting - mentally and emotionally and, yes, at times, even physically. What I do know for sure is that it has strengthened my faith. It has also taught me to be a better listener.

Tomorrow is a new start. Little did I know that this year was going to be filled with so many new beginnings. Changes abound - and, most of them, are very good.

By far, I know that God provides - in his time, in his way and in our need. His timing is always right - even if we don't realize it.

Tomorrow, I begin a new job. I know it will be filled with opportunities to make a difference, opportunities to utilize my skills and knowledge, opportunities to learn new things that will stretch and challenge me. And, I know I will have opportunities to share God's love with the people I will be working with. It is my prayer that I am able to be a vessel that God will use to make a difference in someone's life. I would not have been ready for this in quite the same way six months ago.

I am a little apprehensive, a little scared and, a little bit tired. Tonight, though, I'm just going to let go of all this for a while and let my mind rest of worry over all of the "what ifs". All the badgering self-talk that defeats me of the joy of living where I am - right now!

Tomorrow - a new day, a new beginning full of new opportunities. Pretty sweet.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Beacon of Love

Joe and I belong to a special community of believers that attend St. Michael’s Episcopal Church. 
Joe and I first visited St. Michael’s six years ago and it was an interesting experience. Joe was raised Catholic and I was raised Southern Baptist. How we ever ended up being married is truly a wonder. But, God knew our hearts better than we did and chose to help us find one another.
While we were dating, we visited many different churches of many different  denominations. We both knew that we had to ground our marriage in a place where we would be surrounded by love and nurtured by prayer - a place where we could grow together in God’s love. Yet, we also were pretty firmly rooted in our own faith traditions - not so much theologically and more, perhaps, in the way we were taught to express ourselves. Joe is much more conservative and I, on the other hand, have no quarrel with offering a hearty Amen and tapping my foot and clapping my hands to a good Gospel tune.
Joe quietly refused to really get involved in a Baptist church and I, on the other hand, flatly and loudly refused to go to the Catholic church. So silly, really. We each had our reasons for standing firmly on the principles we thought we needed to defend. However, we both knew this situation was not healthy for us. So, we found ourselves at St. Michael’s. Again, God knew our hearts better than we did. I’m always amazed by that.
I’m telling you this little church is a beacon of Love. Not many realize it - not even many members of our own congregation. One of the things that completely astounds me is how freely and easily the people of our congregation love each other and love the Lord. It happens every day and in the most ordinary ways.
Of course,  there are the different ministries of the church - places where people expect to meet God and usually do. I’m talking about the other stuff - I like to call them whispers of love - things like a phone call, email or personal note that are reminders that someone is thinking of us, praying for us, loving us. And, most often, when we need it the most. I’m talking about the times one of our members goes out of their way, each Sunday for close to a year now, to give a ride to one of our other members that does not have a car. I’m talking about the times someone has brought donuts to Christian Education - just because; or, the times someone has weeded a garden to make something beautiful out of a bug and weed infested bit of chaos. I’m talking about the many ways the people of our church say “yes” to whatever is asked of them - even if it means they have to sacrifice or go beyond their familiar to do what is requested.
I’ve been the recipient of those whispers of love more often than I can count. I know all I have to do is shoot an email pleading for help or a “circle the prayer wagons” request and, immediately, I am being prayed for and the need is lifted to the God of Love. It is such a comfort to know that “help” is on its way. It’s like finally hearing the ambulance siren getting louder and louder as it rumbles its way through the neighborhood and to my front door. Usually, the request is soon followed by a phone call or two, a warm hug waiting for me the next time I am at church - or someone grabbing my hand and hanging on tightly during the Lord’s prayer. No words usually spoken and all acts of love.
St. Michael’s is a beautiful place and not only because of its physical structure. It’s a place of God, a place of worship and, for me, a place where I can love and be loved - freely and abundantly. I’m so thankful that Joe and I found this little church - a place where we would be surrounded by love and nurtured by prayer - a place where our hearts continue to grow together in God’s love and through His grace. Yes, God knows our hearts better than we do. He directed us to this beacon of love - It continues to amaze me.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Been Busy

 A quick update to say I have been kind of busy. I am starting a new job on Monday. A blessing and we are very thankful. And, this week, I am helping with Vacation Bible School and a women's event on Friday. All of this to say, I haven't had a chance to update my blog. I have a lot to share - lots of lessons learned and will be posting it all soon.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Closed Doors and Open Windows

Today I am thinking about how God continues to move in my life in so many unexpected and incredible ways.

I am grateful. I am humbled. I am astonished. And, in the midst of these emotions and many, many others, I am wrapped in His sweet, sweet love.