". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Did you go to church today?

If so, did you sing?

If you answered yes, thank you. Because if you answered yes, you blessed your brothers and sisters in Christ, and you blessed me. If, on the other hand, you didn't sing, but only sat while those around you did so, you missed a God-given opportunity to encourage and build up, and be built up by, the Body of Christ.

Faithful church folk often give thought to how they might serve their neighbors in the congregation. Typically, they think of things like providing meals to those in need; getting involved in church governance; volunteering in the church office; serving as ushers, greeters and Altar Guild members; teaching Sunday School or VBS; or setting up for coffee hour. The list could go on. Maybe you do some of these things, or maybe you do something else. But if you aren't singing during church, you are overlooking one of the most basic callings you have as a member of a Christian congregation.

It is also one of the easiest ways you can serve, requiring no extra time on your part. You're in church anyway, right? And you have a functioning larynx? That's all you need. Contrary to what you might think, singing in church doesn't require any special training. God doesn't care whether you have a beautiful singing voice or whether you can read music and sing the right notes and rhythms, and neither do I. All that is required for this most important work is faith, the faith that was given to you in Baptism and the faith that is nourished each week as you hear the Word and receive the Sacraments. It is that faith which sings. It is that faith which cannot help but sing.

Please, dear friends. Sing. I need to hear you. My child needs to hear you. When his mind and his eyes wander, and he starts looking around the sanctuary, he needs to see not only his parents singing, but the people around him singing, with gusto. He needs for the Word of God to dwell in those around him so richly that he hears it coming at him from every corner of the room. I try my best to sing every stanza of every hymn and every line of liturgy, but sometimes I falter. Sometimes my voice cracks, or I run out of breath, or something in the hymn causes my throat to tighten and tears to well up so that I am unable to make it through to the end. That's when I need to hear you--behind me, beside me, in front of me--carrying on. That's when my family needs to hear you. And when you can't keep going, then it will be my turn to carry on for you. Together, only together, are we able to sing through to the very end.

I am a trained musician. But when I am in church what discourages me is not wrong notes or off-key singing. What discourages me is lack of singing. When you don't sing, not only do I miss out on what your voice has to contribute to the song of the assembled saints, but you miss out, too. When you passively sit while others sing, you are not experiencing the words as richly as you otherwise could. That is not to say that the Word is not having its way with you. But you are denying yourself the opportunity to have those words enter and take up residence in your being in yet another, God-given manner. And that is a grievous thing.

As the wife of a church musician, and as a church musician myself, I have heard lots of singing in church. And the truth is that some who might be tagged as the "worst" singers have over the years most beautifully sung faith into my heart. Why? Because they don't hold back. They don't worry about how they sound. They sing, from the depth of their being, because they can do no other. And in doing so, they testify to the faith they have been given and thereby build up those around them.

Along with the prophet Jeremiah, let us not just gaze upon and smell the great banquet of Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs that our dear Father has provided for our nourishment. Let us swallow them down ravenously and come back for more. Let us serve them up in abundance for those who join us at the table, passing the plate around, one to the next, sending it back to the Chef to get reloaded, and passing it around again. It's a feast meant to be shared, and there's a place for you, no matter how messy an eater (or singer) you may be.

 Your words were found, and I ate them,
    and your words became to me a joy
    and the delight of my heart,
for I am called by your name,
    Lord, God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16)

Here are few more Bible verses that speak of the singing nature of the Christian faith.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Last Lasts

Yesterday on Facebook I saw this.

It reminded me of a blog post I wrote a few years ago along the same lines. As parents we experience countless "lasts" with our children. Sometimes we know going in that it's the last time; sometimes we don't. Sometimes the "last" is a momentous event (graduation, confirmation); other times it's trivial (tying shoes or applying a bandage). Sometimes, while it's the last time for one child, we know there are others waiting in the wings to do the same thing. But if we're on our last child, there are all sorts of lasts that are specific not only to him but that are the last time we'll do that thing with any of our children, ever.

Yesterday something that came up in a conversation with Evan, my 10-year-old, prompted me to start reciting from the book One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss. How many times I have read that book over the years, starting with Trevor (now 22), then with Caitlin (now 19), and finally with Evan. It has to have been hundreds! No wonder I can still recite large portions of it from memory. Sometimes when I do I can hear in my head the exact way it sounded on my children's lips. So it was a sweet and serendipitous surprise last night when Evan asked not only if we could read the book at bedtime, but if he could read it to me. (I am really glad my 10-year-old still likes Dr. Seuss.) We sat together, and he read, and we laughed, and I remembered. . . . and wondered whether this was another last last.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Since I Last Stopped By

Oh, my poor, neglected blog. I bet you thought that I had left you for someone else. But I would never do that. I have just been busy.

These days in addition to all the usual mom/daughter/wife stuff, I am tutoring at Sylvan Learning Center about three half days per week, accompanying two church choirs, and spending one day per week accompanying for a local middle school. My insomnia, which seemed to have gone into remission for a while, is back. Why is it that rest is hardest to come by when you most need it? I am reminded of this cartoon I have seen a few times on Facebook (please note that "laying" in the last frame should be "lying." But I digress.):

Um, yeah. The other day Evan (my ten-year-old) told me, "Don't worry about school today, Mom. You need your rest." Since I do need my rest, I almost took him up on it, but my Responsible Self won out. Nice try, honey.

Our homeschooling year is progressing pretty well so far. We are loving the handwriting curriculum. We have not worked in a swimming class yet. I need to get that done.

My big kids are thriving and blossoming and doing amazing things away at college, and I am thrilled for and proud of them beyond words. This is what parenting is all about--seeing them soar. If anyone ever asks me what good I ever contributed to the world I need only point at my children. They are, all three of them, better people than I, and that makes me happier than I can say.

My mom has been diagnosed with a squamous-cell carcinoma on her foot, also known as Bowen's Disease. A new journey begins.

It was a beautiful summer in Oklahoma, and is shaping up to be a beautiful fall. We are thankful.

I started reading The Hammer of God.

Peri-menopause is rough.

Forgiveness is hard.

Life is good.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Delicious Irony

It just dawned on me that the piece I wrote for The Federalist has a rather wonderful ironic twist to it. In my article I took issue with the position held by Ezekiel Emanuel  that it is best for a person to die before he starts to experience a steep decline in health, mental acuity, and usefulness. As part of his argument, Emanuel cites research suggesting that most people peak in their forties:

. . . by 75, creativity, originality, and productivity are pretty much gone for the vast, vast majority of us. . . . Dean Keith Simonton, at the University of California at Davis, a luminary among researchers on age and creativity, synthesized numerous studies to demonstrate a typical age-creativity curve: creativity rises rapidly as a career commences, peaks about 20 years into the career, at about age 40 or 45, and then enters a slow, age-related decline. There are some, but not huge, variations among disciplines. Currently, the average age at which Nobel Prize–winning physicists make their discovery—not get the prize—is 48. . . . Simonton’s own study of classical composers shows that the typical composer writes his first major work at age 26, peaks at about age 40 with both his best work and maximum output, and then declines, writing his last significant musical composition at 52. 

For the record, the year your humble blogger turned 50 is the same year she sold her first article to a national magazine. Take that, Emanuel.

De quoi écrire
Hermann Fenner-Behmer (1866-1913)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Can Anything Good Come of Insomnia?

Apparently so. Two nights ago I was having one of those nights when my brain just refuses to turn off. I have learned that if I can't get to sleep in half an hour it's not going to happen for a while and I might as well get up. This time instead of turning on Nick at Nite and watching Friends (my go-to non-medicinal remedy)  I decided to write. The next morning I sent what I had written to one of my favorite online magazines. Imagine my surprise when several hours later I got an acceptance letter. Woot. My article went up on the site today (talk about fast turnaround!), so here it is in case you missed it and would like to read it.

Why I Want to Live Long and Burden My Children