Tag Archives: music

FREEDOM

cleft aIt is about this time when the quietness of night begins to enter the weariness of my body, and I rejoice in its peace. The neighborhood has long since closed their windows and tucked the little ones into bed. While chimatic tones caught by the breeze dance through the windows and pull my eyes toward the windows. The moon is larger tonight. Passover and Easter so close.

“My dove in the clefts of the rock,
in the hiding places on the mountainside,”

This is when Our Father speaks most clearly to me. He seeks me out. His dove. His child. He pushes away the sin of this day – just as He has pushed away the legions of sins in my past – and finds my hiding place – a small cleft in the mountain of shame.

“Show me your face…”

We humans tend to weigh our sins. Lies less than murder. Fresh fantasy less than actual adultry. Lofty logic less than inventive idolatry. Once up a time, I did not understan Grace…did not truely understand the gift given by a Father and His Son. Knees bruised. Tears racking the body. I walked away from His blessings and hid in the cleft of the mountain. I still have a tendancy to do that.

He sought me out in that mountain cleft then just as He seeks me tonight, “Show me your face…”

The words echo in the stillness as Light of His righteousness pierce the cracks in my fingers. Blood hues fill the cup of my hands. My eyes dare to open. I’m such a sad witness of His grace. How can I face Him again? How can I fall – time after time? Impatience…anger…pride…judgmental thoughts…lust for past idols haunt me, and I close my eyes tight against the Light once again.

“…let me hear your voice for your voice is sweet…”

I wander to my piano and let my fingers find familiar notes. Cracking at first, my voice echoes my weakness. Light fills the room and harmonies weaves peaceful waves in my ears. Blessings of grace fill the room leaving no room for the faulty choices that led me up the mountain in the first place. Mountain forgotten. Light touching every part of my being; I curl into the cleft of His hand rather than the hard cleft of rocky shame.

“…your face is lovely.” ~Song of Songs 2:14

I have been freed from my sins once again. Love. Freedom. Two major foundational stones of my faith and of this night. The geese have awakened for one reason or another. Their cries echoing up the from the lake and in through our window as I prepare to rest. It has been a long day of flitting here and there…human busyness that interupted and tried to divert. But He sought me out and Grace reigns.

Holy Week. A time to remember our frailties. A time to contemplate the Light of a Son’s gift to us. A time to remember that we are forgiven of our sins – totally… completely…eternally.

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Piano

ap photo charlie Neibergall 2I read a very sad fact today, and it made me sad to realize that I knew beyond a doubt that it was true.. When I was little, stopping at piano stores was a fact of life. I would followed mom and dad as they picked out music for the minstrel or just music for themselves or for church or for me. It was always an adventure I loved. Upright pianos.
Grand pianos.
Baby grand pianos.
Sheet music.
Broadway piano scores.
Records.
What else could a kid from a musical family want? And when I was allowed to touch a grand piano my heart fairly hammered the keys without even bothering with my fingers.

The article said that piano stores are dying. The ones that are closing down can’t find anyone who wants to take the business into the next centruy. Do you remember when every mall had a piano store? Do you know the location of any new you? Sadly, I don’t know of eveb one piano store anywhere in my new state. I’m sure there are some out there – somewhere. When I need sheet music, I order it (or find it if it is copyright free) from the internet. When I need records… oops…CD’s… oooppss… digital music stored in the cloud, I turned to technology again. Even my husband found the Clavinova that sits in my music/writing room on Craig’s List after our house fire.

According to the article, the best year for piano sales was 1909 but with the advent of radio, TV and now unending technology, sales have plummeted. Who needs piano when you have constant entertainment at the touch of the remote button? Add to that, less and less kids are taking piano lessons and pianos are becoming a dinosaur There are lots of reasons being thrown around for that one: sports, society (piano’s aren’t cool), expense of the instrument, etc. I think about Bach playing the church organ, Mozart composing masterpieces a child prodigy. My mom trying to teach herself to play from my piano books.She got better, but it was always a frustration to her that she couldn’t seem to master it.

Things change. I understand that. We’ve certainly seen a lot of changes during the 20th century. But…there is something about the piano that I will miss, if it does indeed disappear even more than it has. Yes, I know the dulcet sounds can be recreated by a computer. Yes, I know that music will continue to be made without such an instrument. But I will miss walking in the mall and seeing someone sitting at the piano, trying it out or just playing for the sheer joy of sharing music with the world.
Pounding out frustration.
Daydreaming note-by-note.
Crying between the cracks of the keys.
Letting the dissonance of the white and black keys ease my own.

I wish the article was wrong, but I fear it’s not. I know my life would not be the same without the blessing the piano brought to my life. For me, the piano is praying without words.  It is touching the hem of His garment at a different spot and being healed or forgiven once again.

“As they make music they will sing, “All my fountains are in you.” Ps 87:7

(AP photos/Charlie Neibergall)

ap photo charlie Neibergall

2 of 7: JOY

Johann-Sebastian-Bach-Quotes-32 of 7: JOY. Christmas brings all types of JOY. For me one of the most enJOYable aspects is the music. Raised in the traditional church and in a musical family, a mosaic of music was being created internally before I was born. The unusual thing (I was to find out later) was the depth of my exposure to all kinds of genre. Gospel, country, bluegrass,pop, classical…didn’t matter…we had it all, and I absorbed all those little colorful tiles and created an even larger internal masterpiece.

“Jesu, JOY of man‘s desiring,
Holy wisdom, love most bright;
Drawn by Thee, our souls aspiring
Soar to uncreated light.”

As I was starting to write tonight an old memory that I hadn’t thought of for years popped onto my visual screen. Thursdays were always Loudonville United Methodist Church choir practice nights. Even after a long day of delivering dry cleaning, mom would bundle me up and off we would go. In the spring or fall, we would sometimes walk the couple of blocks to church (if dad needed the car). Christmas practices were – however, the best. They were often longer and more intense. The church would be decked out in its greenery, a little chilly perhaps, but never for long. The altar light, the choir loft’s lights, sconces on the walls, the rolling vibrations of my God mother practicing the organ, the soft laughter and conversation of adults enjoying time together would roll over me as I lay on the padded bench reading a book, writing a letter to my pen pals, or just thinking. Wrapped in my mother’s seal skin coat (that she got from her mother, and that I still have stashed in my closet), I would nestled down – warm, content and filled with JOY beyond understanding..

“Through the way where hope is guiding,
Hark, what peaceful music rings;
Where the flock, in Thee confiding,
Drink of JOY from deathless springs.”

As I look back at it tonight, I realize this memory was one of heaven’s touchstones in my life.. Rev Merlin Vining coming out of his office to sit beside or on a bench in front of me…sometimes talking, but mostly, just listening…soaking in God’s JOY…together. When I was alone, I just thought about God, the stain glass windows, the harmonies, the words or the background information that J.M. Day (high school band director at the time) would give about the music. Sooner or later, I would drift off to sleep, and mom would be waking me up. Still bundled in her coat, she would hustle me to the car and to bed once we got home. It is this deep JOY that continues to feed my soul and shines outward through my internal mosaic.

“Theirs is beauty’s fairest pleasure;
Theirs is wisdom’s holiest treasure.
Thou dost ever lead Thine own
In the love of JOYS unknown.” translated by Robert Bridges (1844-1930)

(Google images)

Attitude of Gratitude #1-7

Thanksgiving is all about the giving of thanks.  As we approach the holy days of Advent, November seems to be the perfect time for An Attitude of Gratitude.

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Gratitude #1: Just remember – everyone doubts themselves at one time or another. In 1509 while working on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo wrote: “My work does not seem to go ahead in a way to merit anything. This is due to the difficulty of the work and also because it is not my profession. In consequence, I lose my time fruitlessly.” Just smile, keep looking up and doing what you love. God reaches out constantly – you just have to reach back. I am thankful. Let the holiday season begin.

Gratitude #2: “Remember the Sabbath…” I LOVE Sundays. I love being Rabbi Bradley Shavit ARtson pic“commanded”(#4) to relax and observe this sacred day. I love a church that reminds me I’m not alone in a storm because Jesus walks out to be with me, so “DON’T BE AFRAID!” (Matt 14:22-27). I love when the Grands call me three times because I’m taking too long coming over to see their tent or read the dinosaur counting book we made last spring or play “This is the way the farmer rides – hobble-de-hoy” or leave so they can play WII with mommy and daddy before bedtime. Sundays are “holy observances” in Jewish tradition. Sundays are the blessing that start my week. Sundays remind me to be so thankful to have Sundays.

Gratitude #3: The sweet things in life. Left over, frozen,Halloween candy in the form of miniature Reese’s cups. A husband planning a surprise mini-trip to the beach. Puppies, who are not so minature, curled up on the couch with me when I need a mini-nap. Grands that scream and jump up and down when they see me sweet-things (2)walking up to their school or curl into me as we read stories. Laughter of a kid who understands a new concept. A Savior who embodies “Amazing Grace”. Sweet!

Gratitude #4: Thankful for the the Republic of the United States of America. So thankful that our fore-fathers knew the difference between a republic and democracy (even though we seem to have forgotten it). Thankful for all the responsibilities of researching, gaining knowledge, seeking spiritual guidance, and making the effort to vote. Thankful for those who have made sacrifices so that I can express my opinion in the voting booth. Thankful to VOTE.freedom to vote

“The genius of a nation strikes but once in its history. It is its glory and its immortality in the annals of men. It is aristocratic, discriminating, radiant and selective, and abjures all that is mediocre, plebeian and mundane. It is regnant. It is spiritual. It is the flame emanating from the core of the Universe, which is the generation of life. It is the lightning which sets fire to the small spirits of men, and raises them above the field and the plow, the house and the hayfield, in a sudden revelation of grandeur. It is, above all, masculine, for the aristocracy of the soul is purely masculine and never feminine, which is concerned only with petty matters and insistent trivialities. It transcends the humbleness of daily living and stands even the least important of men upon Olympus for a brief hour. It is never democratic, for democracy is a destructive thing, conspired in the inferior minds of envious men.
“If that nation which would survive in glory would cultivate only the masculine principle its name in history will be written in gold and blaze through the centuries.” ~Zeno of Elea, The Glory that was Greece as quoted by Taylor Caldwell in her foreward of Glory and the Lightening

Gratitude #5: Ocean. The immense power and beauty of the ocean never fails to download (1)amaze me. It is little wonder that Rabbi Yeshua used the seas and storms in so many of His parables. The storms’ wildness that calls to our own natures. The harmonies that sings 24 hours of the day. The habitat that it provides to a world downloadbeyond my knowledge. His essence is still singing through each wave, melding His love a little deeper into my soul…I am, indeed, thankful.

Gratitude #6: Music in my head. For about a week, I have been waking up with songs in my head. They sing me awake and stay in my mind for the first few hours of my day. Sometimes they are the hymns that have swirled around my head since before I knew what they were. Sometimes, they are simple phrases from Praise songs that I sing on Sunday or listen to in my car. And some of the best are the ones sung to me in my dreams with words I don’t know, but harmonies that echo in my heart and head all day. Blessings abound when we are thankful. This one was the way I woke up today.

Gratitude #7: Children. Children have a way of looking at things that change us on a daily basis. They see the invisible and believe in the magic that lives in between here and there. They dance to music that only they can hear. They laugh when rain falls on their face and hide under the covers when the thunder gets too scary. They are constantly watching and modeling the things they see around them. And – they remind me that I need to be the best I can be in this world, because – one day – they will be the ones that new children are following, and I am relying on in my old age. I’m grateful that I still have children in my life because every day I’m around them—-I learn something new. So thankful for children. “If we experienced life through the eyes of a child, everything would be magical and extraordinary. Let our curiosity, adventure and wonder of life never end…” Akiane Kramarik

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photos: Google images and Akiane Kramarik

 

A Living Epitaph

A Living Epitaph – sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it?

Death surrounds us.  We lose family, friends, acquaintances, loved ones, pets, co-workers, even celebrities (those people we don’t really “know”, but are somehow a part of our life), and in my case…sadly, former students.  Just a part of life throughout our journey upon this muddy sphere of life.  Our periods of mourning varies depending on the person and their personality.  For me, cutting my hair, music, crying buckets upon buckets of tears, building a memorial, and spiritual introspection all seem to be part of my mourning process.  Don’t ask me why, it is just me.  Maybe it is also why I am fascinated by epitaphs – although there is nothing special on our own family stones.  

George Washington:  (1732-1799) – Looking into the portals of eternity teaches That the Brotherhood of Man is Inspired by God’s WORD; Then all prejudice of race vanishes away. 

I tend to think that music is the Light that is always in my transitory hallway of mourning.  It echoes down that darken space where the lights are almost non-existent and scary shadows stretch up the walls.  It beckons me forward when I really don’t want to move.  If I listen, it encourages my steps, inch-by-tiny inch. Its harmonies, melodies, accompaniments, harmonic overtones, dissonances waft around me until I am ready to open a new door in my life and walk through.  When my father died, I filled my life with classical music.  Requiems – masses – in particular, the B-Minor Mass by Bach and Bernstein’s Mass.  My college choir sang the B-Minor Mass  just a few months after Daddy died and “Simple Song” from Bernstein’s Mass resonated in my soul constantly – and still does.   I spent a long time in that hallway before my steps reached the right door to open.  Many years later, that transitory hallway appeared again when my mother died.  This time it was filled with spirituals…specifically the recordings of Moses Hogan choirs: Swing Lo, Sweet Chariot and Gonna Ride.  It was a shorter hallway for some reason, but still a very dark one.

Benjamin Franklin: (1706-90) – The body of B. Franklin, Printer, Like the cover of an old book Its contents torn out, And stripped of its  lettering and gilding, Lies here, food for worms. But the work shall not be wholly lost, For it will, as he believed, appear once more, In a new and more perfect edition, Corrected and amended. By the Author. 

Since the time my father walked me through my first graveyard and pointed out special family markers, looking at tombstones have always been fascinating to me.  Walking through old, old cemeteries is always one of my favorite things to do. Especially taking the time to read the Epitaphs.  Epitaphs are a way of summing up a person’s life.  Some of the great ones are written by the deceased before their passing.  Some are blank.  Some are short.  Some are erased by weathering over the decades.  Now there are even pictures and computer chips that can be activated by cell-phones. Epitaphs are as varied as the people that walk upon this earth.

Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Junior: (1929-1968) – Free at Last, Free at Last Thank God Almighty I’m Free at Last. 

I watched a movie this weekend.  In it the protagonist was challenged to change his life.  In the climax, the protagonists sits in a graveyard and writes two lists.  One was a list of lies that he has always believed; the other, a list of truths that he has found to be true.  He buries the lies and then writes a living epitaph for himself using those truths as a guide.  Those three words stuck with me all weekend.  A Living Epitaph: a sentence that describes who we want to be from here on out. We don’t have to wait till we die before we are “free” or “re-written” or “inspired”.  Because of Grace, we can be all of these things today.  We can bury the “lies” we believed about ourselves and become  – A Living Epitaph.  It is just a simple action of opening up the door and walking into the Light.

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;” Jn 11:25

Remain Calm

Yesterday, when I was putting thoughts to paper, I used a quote from one of my favorite movies.  In fact, I used this movie in the classroom every year.  The boys would groan (at first); the girls would fall in love with Jack; and Disney would profit because most of them ran out to buy the movie so they could watch it again.  Tonight was a Newsies type of night.

Davie:  “Alright — everyone remain calm.”  

I watch the news, and I can hear Davie’s words in my head.  I wish I could follow his advice, but my heart hurts.  My friend sends me an e-mail that he got from one of his friends in Iraq asking for prayer.  The UN has fled the area.  ISIS is just outside the gates, but the Christian Relief group is staying – trying to comfort the fearful and encourage their faith in this desperate time.   Jews in France being attacked, threatened and a few…killed.  People of all faiths in Ukraine are fleeing.  Jews in Israel being told the missiles are pointing toward Tel Aviv once again.  I guess that means the cease fire will be over tomorrow.  Evil is a foot – big time.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Deut 31:6

We tend to shy away from that ancient term:  evil.  Even the church doesn’t mention it much anymore.  You can feel the uneasiness swirl around you if you happen to say it aloud.   evil.  The Bible mentions it often, but these days…it offends us.  It isn’t logical the knowledgeable argue.  Bad things happen, but that is because of up-bringing, societal pressures, environment, abuse……  You’ve heard them all, I’m sure.  An educated laugh and the joke is on us.   Like the sheep we are, we have fallen into line silently behind them.  Avoiding the messiness of debate that might hurt someone’s feelings; enjoying the quiet of our neighborhood where sirens don’t pierce our evening meal; the easy routines not being interrupted by a terrible sword slicing them to shreds; reading, T.V. shows, a night at the bar, playing our games on the computer, tomorrow’s lesson plans, cuddling our children, facebooking, twittering…

“For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”  Jude 1:4 

Did you ever notice and wonder about the little things?  ISIS is spelled the same name as the Egyptian goddess from Roman times.  Russia is no longer a sleeping bear.  China is being awfully quiet.  The second blood moon is coming soon (Oct 8th) on the Jewish holiday of Sukkot (the harvest festival…hmmmm…). Prayer is making a resurgence into our vocabulary.  Miracle stories are being recounted over and over by the people under attack.

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Lk 18:7-8 

Tonight as I kneel by my bed, I think my prayers will be tossing and turning like the waves of that Galilean sea that our LORD walked across so long ago.  I will pray for my husband, my children and grandchildren; my extended family of relatives and students; those grieving; a baby being born; a brave soul enduring yet another surgery in the battle with a super bug infection; my troubled nation, my brothers and sisters in Christ/the Jewish nation at large, and finally, I will ruminate on that last sentence in Luke:  “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”  Then I will lie down and sleep because: “I know that my redeemer liveth.”  Job 19:25

Hopefully, when Christ does return, He will find faith upon the earth.  It is my prayer that He will find it in me and others who are stumbling along this same path.  My life has been blessed with music from the day I was conceived and could listen to my mom and dad sing to me (mom used to say they sang to me even before I was born).  It is where I turn when my mind is troubled, and I need comfort.  Newsies or The Messiah or lullabies sung by the angels around me; I am singing my prayers tonight for His mercy and grace, and hope that your songs will add harmony to mine.