Sunday, December 30, 2007


Let's see. The most recent Friday Five asked us to list five memorable moments from 2007. I am not sure I can remember 5 but I'll give it my best shot.

1) The gall bladder attack that put me in the hospital overnight last January. It was at a rural hospital, and I swear the surgeon wanted to cut me open then and there. But I made them wait.

2) The ensuing April surgery to remove the offending organ. I went back to work too early and slowed the healing process, but some changes I had been making throughout the year helped it all go smoothly.

3) Saying goodbye to yet another senior class.

4) Taking up golf again, and remembering what a great game it is and how I love it, and why I stopped in the first place.

5) As a result of the golf, renewing my friendships with some of the finest people in the world over at The Valley.

I did better than I thought.

I wonder what 2008 will bring.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Free Rice

So I was emailed a link to a really fun site - for those of us who like words. Check out Free Rice to play and donate food to the hungry.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

And Just Like That...'s almost two weeks gone by. What is it about this season that gets people so busy? Good intentions, I think, with the shopping and the parties and the special events. And, to some extent, a "job hazard" for any kind of musician, music teacher, or clergy member.

Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Had any? I have. In spite of not having time to blog, and spending much time running, my inner peace is intact. Because busy doesn't have to mean not peaceful. There is a such thing as "good busy," in my opinion. I enjoy shopping for gifts for friends - so long as I have some idea about what I am looking for. And I like parties. Small ones, where I can talk to a few people at a time for something more than small talk. And special events are fun, even if I seem to be in charge of them a lot.

But it sure does make the time go by fast. As they say, time flies when you're having fun.

Wishing peace to all of my friends, from the Prince of Peace Himself.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Friday Five - Rejoice!

This week's Friday Five is about the third week in advent.

Can you believe that in two days we'll be halfway through Advent? Gaudete Sunday: pink candle on the advent wreath, rose vestments for those who have them, concerts and pageants in many congregations. Time to rejoice!

Rejoice in the nearness of Christ's coming, yes, but also in the many gifts of the pregnant waiting time when the world (in the northern hemisphere, at least) spins ever deeper into sweet, fertile darkness.

What makes you rejoice about:

1. Waiting?

Realizing that there is something worth waiting for.

2. Darkness?

That it isn't actually a thing - just the absence of light - and at some point, dawn breaks through.

3. Winter?

The reminder when it snows that my sins have been washed whiter than snow.

4. Advent?

That we are celebrating and preparing for Christ's coming.

5. Jesus' coming?

That He is coming back.

Monday, December 10, 2007


The Yankee Swap. I think in the midwest it is called the White Elephant trade or swap or something.

By some people it is basically seen an excuse to regift unwanted items. Why anyone wants to hang onto unwanted items jsut to inflict them on others is beyond me.

I really don't like the Yankee Swap. In fact, I have seriously considered revising my answer on one of the Friday Five - Grumpy Edition questions from a couple of weeks back. Question: "Tradition you hate." Answer: "The Yankee Swap."

But I am a good sport so I will participate for the social aspect of it, and laugh at the stupid things people open, and play the game.

Even if I do end up with a Bugs Bunny Chia pet.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Sometimes I can't resist.

You Are Apple Pie

You're the perfect combo of comforting and traditional.
You prefer things the way you've always known them.
You'll admit that you're old fashioned, and you don't see anything wrong with that.
Your tastes and preferences are classic. And classic never goes out of style.

Those who like you crave security.
People can rely on you to be true to yourself - and true to them.
You're loyal, trustworthy, and comfortable in your own skin.
And because of these qualities, you've definitely earned a lot of respect.

Friday Five - Preparation, Preparation

For this week's Friday Five, Sally wrote:

This has been a difficult week for me, the death of a little six year old has overshadowed our advent preparations, and made many of us here in Downham Market look differently at Christmas. With that in mind I ask whether you are the kind of person that likes everything prepared well in advance, are you a last minute crammer, or a bit of a mixture.....

Here then is this weeks Friday 5:

1. You have a busy week, pushing out all time for preparing worship/ Sunday School lessons/ being ready for an important meeting ( or whatever equivalent your profession demands)- how do you cope?

I am great at avoidance, and my house tends to be less cluttered and my blog more up to date when there's lots to do.

But seriously, I will do whatever is next, and leave the rest until that is done. Or, whatever is going to have me in front of people will come first.

2. You have unexpected visitors, and need to provide them with a meal- what do you do?

I do not have unexpected visitors. My friends know never to come to my house unannounced. It has become a running joke. I am a ball of stress when anyone is in my house, because my perfectionism makes me worry about every detail - is it too hot, too cold; do they need something else to drink, is what I have in the house adequate to offer; yada, yada. It just is not fun.

Because my job as a music teacher requires me to be in charge and entertaining all the time, my friends are very graciously sensitive to my need for my house to be my shelter and hiding place.

Three discussion topics:

3. Thinking along the lines of this weeks advent theme; repentance is an important but often neglected aspect of advent preparations.....

And it's something we should be practicing all the time. I don't know about the rest of you, but I keep doing things I have to repent of. Pesky sin nature. The cool thing is, God's forgiveness has no limit.

4. Some of the best experiences in life occur when you simply go with the flow.....

I went with the flow with a vendor the other day and ended up getting about $800-$1000 of free equipment. Sometimes keeping your cool and going with the flow pays off in unexpected ways.

5. Details are everything, attention to the small things enables a plan to roll forward smoothly...

I try to be vigilant about details, and my department generally functions at high efficiency in this area. But it is easier to catch all the details when you are working with a good team.

Bonus if you dare- how well prepared are you for Christmas this year?

Not. 'Nuff said.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

You Tube - Potential Object Lesson?

There is such ease nowadays with filming things and sharing them. Everywhere we go, we should start making the assumption that someone with a cell phone could capture us doing whatever we are doing, and post it to You Tube, and, voila, everybody sees what we did.

Makes me want to make it good, just in case.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Rebuilding Eden

In all my contemplation of needs and wants and choosing to be content, it dawned on me. Ever since we got kicked out, we have been trying to find ways of rebuilding Eden in our image. We've got all kinds of things to make our lives easier and more fulfilling. Most of it just makes us more isolated and annoyed, and doesn't bring the contentment we were meant to have.

Contentment is, at least to some extent, a choice. Hebrews 13 says, "Be content with what you have, because God has promised, 'Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.'"

The best part of Eden - intimate communion with God - is still at hand, through the greatest gift of this season. Maybe I will choose to be content with that part of Eden and wait for God to rebuild the rest of it when He's ready.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday Five - Grumpy Edition

Will Smama returned to the RevGals for the Friday Five, and put out a whopper of a good time. She wrote:

Parishioners pushing for carols before you digested your turkey?

Organist refusing to play Advent hymns because he/she already has them planned for Lessons & Carols?

Find yourself reading Luke and thinking of a variety of ways to tell Linus where to stick it? (Lights please.)

Then this quick and easy Friday Five is for you! And for those of you with a more positive attitude, have no fear. I am sure more sacred and reverent Friday Fives will follow.

Please tell us your least favorite/most annoying seasonal....

1) dessert/cookie/family food

Fruit Cake. Anything that has to be soaked in bourbon to be edible isn't actually edible. Besides, I prefer to do my soaking in Sapphire.

2) beverage (seasonal beer, eggnog w/ way too much egg and not enough nog, etc...)

The punch that is served at the extended family holiday party. It has pulp. There is something wrong with punch that has pulp.

3) tradition (church, family, other)

I can't think of anything. Which is kind of amazing.

4) decoration

I agree that those huge blow-up things are...uh...unfortunate.

5) gift (received or given)

A gift certificate for half a theater ticket. Nope. Not kidding.

BONUS: SONG/CD that makes you want to tell the elves where to stick it.

Do You Hear What I Hear. Oy. No, I don't.

And the MercyMe Christmas CD. It is musically disappointing.

On a more positive note, I can recommend the Point of Grace Christmas CD, as well as Diana Krall, Avalon, and Harry Connick Jr.'s "When My Heart Finds Christmas." All have some great arrangements.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Needs, Wants, and Contentment

I am speaking this week at a Saturday morning tea, and have been thinking about this topic for a while now.

I find myself saying things like, "I need a new set of golf clubs."

Now, if I am going to play golf and make any progress in my game, updating my clubs would be a good idea.

But I don't actually need a whole new set of golf clubs. I just think I do.

Much like I think I need anything else in this advertising-saturated society. I need a Rolex. I need a Mercedes.

I need another guitar.

Why? I can only play one at a time.

And when you play golf, and if you read golf magazines, or watch golf tournaments on TV, you find out you need all of the more expensive things. Because those are the advertisers for golf, because that's who they think plays golf. People that need a Rolex. Or a Buick Lucerne like Tiger's.

No wonder golf is so expensive. You need all this stuff to go with it.


See, I think we were created for relationship and community. With God first, but also with others. And not with stuff. But we were also created with the freedom of choice. So we get to choose the way in which we fulfill this need, and we often choose things rather than God.

As I enter the craziest season, I want to make sure I don't confuse my needs with my wants. Because I know I will only be truly contented when I find my rest in God.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Post Thanksgiving Friday Five

Singing Owl wrote:

Ah, the day after Thanksgiving--groan! Fortunately, I love Thanksgiving leftovers.

Thanksgiving is the American holiday when the greatest number of people travel somewhere else to celebrate. I am posting this from my son’s home in Minnesota where we are recovering from the food shopping and the preparations and the meal and the clean up. It is difficult to think of anything requiring much energy today, and I am enjoying my sweet baby granddaughter, so I will keep it simple. For those of you not in the USA, I apologize for the nationalistic tone of this Friday Five!

1. Did you go elsewhere for the day, or did you have visitors at your place instead? How was it?

I went to Mom's after the annual football game. (I'm the band director.) The brother (and family) who just moved back from overseas was there, and it was great!!

2. Main course: If it was the turkey, the whole turkey, and nothing but the turkey, was it prepared in an unusual way? Or did you throw tradition to the winds and do something different?

Traditional all the way. My mom's stuffing is my favorite, and she always does "homemade" whipped cream to go with the pies. Mmm Mmm good.

3. Other than the meal, do you have any Thanksgiving customs that you observe every year?

Can you call it a custom that I work the game every year with the band? I haven't had Thanksgiving off in 20 years...

Actually, we go out to dinner the Saturday after to celebrate the beginning of the shopping season.

4. The day after Thanksgiving is considered a major Christmas shopping day by most US retailers. Do you go out bargain hunting and shop ‘till you drop, or do you stay indoors with the blinds closed? Or something in between?

I am home with the coffee and the blogs, and, yes, the blinds are down. Love it.

5. Let the HOLIDAY SEASON commence! When will your Christmas decorations go up?

If I get to them, they will go up sometime. It's different every year, because it isn't a big priority.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


We are in 1 Peter in our current sermon series, and today we talked about the inheritance that will never perish, spoil, or fade.

When we think of an inheritance, we often think in terms of things - and appropriately so, when we are talking about earthly inheritances from human relatives, I guess.

I was thinking today, though, that maybe God wants me to inherit from Him a few items that are not "things." His compassion for the suffering, His care for the widow and the orphan, His provision for the needy - His character and nature.

If I am His family, should I not inherit that? If my identity is in Christ, then his character is my inheritance.

May I show it to be so.

Friday, June 29, 2007

What goes around comes around...

I have been involved in several conversations lately which have been about the deconstruction of, redefinition of, or lament about the word "evangelical." It seems to have picked up some baggage along the way, as all words do, really, and it is not always seen as a positive label, even among Christians.

Once upon a time, declaring yourself an "evangelical Christian" was a way to say that you were about a faith that was your own, that wasn't just your family heritage, and that being a Christian was more to you than going to church on Sunday. Keith Green's thing about the fact that "going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than going to McDonald's makes you a hamburger" was part of the idea of "evangelicalism." It meant that you took the Bible seriously.

To many of us twenty-five or thirty years ago, the "evangelical movement" was the answer to the "problem" of being what one might call a "cultural" Christian, where you were considered a Christian if you went to church on Sunday.

Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, that word gained all kinds of subtext, much of which was a result, or maybe a cause, for it being usurped by a political agenda. Now, when someone uses the word "evangelical" it means "pro-life, pro-capital punishment, anti-welfare-loving, Republican." It means you are part of some weird churchy subculture, full of people that thought life was better in the 50's and wouldn't it be great if we could go back there. It means that your faith is little more than the answer to the question, "Do you know for sure you'll go to heaven when you die," a form of eternal fire insurance.

Too bad, because etymologically doesn't it actually mean something about bring a message of good news?

I think the original point of the evangelical movement was that our faith is supposed to permeate all areas of our lives. And that we are supposed to try to live like we are citizens of the kingdom, thereby doing something to bring a little of the kingdom of God to this earth. Now.

So what went around once is coming around again.

I go back and forth on this. I, too, am frustrated with the reputation which the "evangelical movement" has gained in the world. But I am equally frustrated by those that seem to want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and sit back criticizing "the church" and taking pot shots at "the church" instead of becoming part of the solution for the church.

There is a balance to be had. I believe I am in a place that has achieved some measure of that balance.

But the best thing would be if we would all stop looking at what's wrong and just focus on moving forward into what's right, learning from what's gone before but pressing on into what's ahead, exchanging small minds for big hearts.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


We are fond of "culturally contextualizing" the tougher teachings of Jesus.

But what if He really did mean we should sell all of our possessions and give to the poor?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Post Summit Redux

Interesting is the word I would use for this year's Summit. Thursday night and Friday were normal. We started with the whole needing to unwind thing, and then Friday had some great small group time.

Then I went to the emergency room after dinner Friday night. And they admitted me and I was there all day Saturday, as well. So I was gone for this big chunk of the Summit.

God answered the prayers of the group, and me, and I was back for Saturday night. But it was weird not having been there the whole time.

I led worship Sunday, and that was good. And the great thing is that I heard from God, and it confirmed what I had been hearing all along. Simplify, live more generously, and live more communally. Thank God I have friends who will help with the latter.

The clear message I have been hearing since we started talking about planning the Summit was "Rise, take up your mat, and go." As in, how often do we know the path we are to take, and we stand there looking at it instead of walking it?

Jeremiah 6:16, "This is what the Lord says: Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient path; ask where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls."

It is when we start walking, that we find rest for our souls.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Prayer Summit

This weekend I am going away with my church worship team for a prayer summit. This will be our sixth. Each one has been a unique experience, and God is so faithful to always meet us there.

I am going this year in a pretty good place, but with some things on which I have been challenged by God in the last year or so. A friend commented on one of my earlier posts and mentioned that she is discussing some of the same things I have been thinking about. Her group's discussion questions are great:

1)What if a fragile world is more attracted to God's vision of interdependence and sacrificial sharing than to the mirage of independence and materialism?

2)What does it mean to live incarnationally?

These are probing questions. Between this and the recent "Calling all Peacemakers" series by Rob Bell from Mars Hill, there is much to consider. What if America just up and gave clean water and sanitation to the entire underdeveloped world? We could do it for somewhere between 16 and 23 billion dollars. For a country as rich as ours, that isn't so much, I think, considering we spent 9 billion on Christmas gifts in one day - Black Friday.

Anyway, for me there are two questions. One is, "Am I living simply enough to give enough away?" And the other is, "How can I live more communally?"

I'll be thinking about it at Summit '07.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Belated Friday Five

How appropriate that this belated Friday Five is about birthdays. I always seem to be the one wishing belated wishes! On with it now...


1. "It's my party and I'll [blank] if I want to..."Favorite way to celebrate your birthday (dinner with family? party with friends? a day in solitude?)

I love dinner with friends and something musical of which I am not in charge. Several years in a row the friends and I have done this very thing.

2. "You say it's your birthday... it's my birthday too, yeah..." Do you share your birthday with someone famous? (Click here to find out!)

Drew Bledsoe, Florence Henderson, and Jack Benny, among others.

3. "Lordy Lordy look who's forty..."Milestone birthdays: a) just like any other birthday--they're just numbers, people; b) a good opportunity to look back/take stock; c) enjoy the black balloons--I'll be hiding under a pile of coats until the day is over; d) some combination of the above, or something else entirely.

Definitely b, but also d - an excuse to have an entire "birthday season." If the "holidays" can be a month, why can't I have at least two weeks? And, last year when I turned 40, I did. Three parties, six cakes, flowers, dinner, a pub, and a limo. Whoo-hooo! Let's be 40 every year.

4. "Happy birthday, dear... Customer..."Have you ever been sung to in a restaurant? Fun or cringe-worthy?

Well, I am the wrong person to ask. I am not the least embarrassed, but I usually cringe at singing. Especially since when my high school band sings it is beautiful four part harmony.

5. "Take my birthday--please"Tell me one advantage and one disadvantage about your particular birthday (e.g. birthday in the summer--never had to go to school; birthday near Christmas--the dreaded joint presents)EDITED TO ADD: This could also simply be something you like/dislike about your birthday (e.g. I like sharing a birthday with my best friend, etc.).

It's Valentine's Day. So people steal my thunder. Plus I am not all that fond of Valentine's Day.

Wired for Community

I am listening to the most fascinating book on my iPod right now. It's called Blink, and it is by Malcolm Gladwell. You could check it out here on Amazon. The book explores that thing that we do when we "thin slice" input and come to decisions that we would call "going with our gut."

One of the studies Gladwell mentions is about autism. Studying the brain through focused magnetic resonance imaging shows that we use a very sophisticated part of our brain when we are recognizing faces, as compared to a much less sophisticated part of the brain which engages when we are recognizing object. This is why we remember the faces of our friends many years later, but will spend half an hour searching for our luggage at the baggage claim.

Later, I was reading an article in a magazine. Did you know there is actually a special hormone that gets released when we are around people that gives us the "warm fuzzy" about being with our friends? This same hormone turns down the hunger message. It's almost like when we are hungry, part of that hunger is not for food but for family. Think about that feeling you get when you spend time around the table with your friends or your family. That feeling is hardwired to your physiology. Cool, huh?

All of this should not be the least bit surprising to a Christian. God created humans to be in fellowship - with Him and with each other. We are meant to live our lives in community - we are wired for it, specifically.

The next time you feel yourself becoming isolated, make an effort to connect with someone. It's what our Creator intended.

He wired us for community.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

The beginning of a new year always feels hopeful to me. I look forward to what good things will happen, have that sense of expectation, always make a couple of private resolutions.

This year I have no resolutions, actually, because I had already started making some changes in my life. I really feel like 2007 is going to be a good year. And I know that whatever happens, God has it all in hand and "all things will work out for the good." So I guess in a sense, it is almost impossible for any year to be anything but good when you can depend on the sovereignty of God.