Category Archives: Music
Church This Morning: Beyond Words and into Story
I slept in and probably got the best sleep I have had in weeks. I greeted, kissed, held my wife, and told her “I love you!” (which I truly do). I had my coffee and cereal for breakfast, then caught a bit of “This Week” on TV, nothing new just a bummed and bleak outlook of politics as usual. We watched a beautiful cardinal in our back yard. Of course I took a picture! I then listened to the music portion of the worship service at our local mega-church. Good, yet I felt a bit of disconnect with cameras zooming in on the abundance of technology and aura of performance.
Since my return to Turn This World Around a few weeks ago, I created an Amy Grant station on Pandora. Well that might be some worshipful listening! I tuned in and skipped around listening to parts of a couple of good songs, once among my favorites, “I Can Only Imagine,” and “Shout to the Lord.” Actually, I skipped so many songs that the program would not allow any more skips and forced me to listen. I turned it off! Too many words and too much busy noise.
Suddenly I had this thought, like an epiphany. Beyond words! It is as if, for me, words are no longer a necessary nor perhaps meaningful mode of worship, my spirituality, or my connecting with God. Now, all of that seems to come with practicing Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.” which is not so much about being quiet and motionless as it is about letting go, releasing control, and acknowledging vulnerabilities in order that we may know God and His power in our lives and the universe. For me it is about worshiping and knowing God with and through a heart of faith.
Don’t get me wrong! I am not saying that words are nonessentials in our spiritual lives. After all, what am I doing now—writing, sharing my thoughts with words. We use words to share our stories, to connect with one another, to foster meaning and understanding with all sorts of folks in our daily lives. Maybe somewhat like the parables of Jesus. Perhaps only as we go beyond words in our personal worship and spirituality can we use words efficiently and effectively in the enhancement of God’s Kingdom on earth.
As I continued my “church,” I reached for an old journal to write about my Beyond Words! epiphany. Go figure on that one! I thought the journal was empty, and this would be the beginning of my renewed commitment to “story” and story writing and listening. However, the first several pages were filled with quotes from an old reading of Dan Allender’s To Be Told: Know Your Story, Shape Your Future. Coincidence, maybe or maybe not. I was awed as I read what I had copied years ago. Do I still have the book? Yes! I found it on the shelf between David Gushee’s The Sacredness of Human Life and Jim Wallis’s On God’s Side. A couple of quotes that jumped from the pages of To Be Told:
Nevertheless, every story given to us and every story told to another is a precious gift that has the potential to seed us with God. – page 211
It is my responsibility to own what deeply moves me and then to live it out for the sake of others. – page 68
I am passionate in my belief that everyone’s life is sacred, and as we share our stories with one another we invite greater understanding and compassion – we become portals of grace one to another. Needless to say, I will continue to share my stories and invite you all to do the same.
Turn This World Around
I tugged several of my old college literature anthologies from the bottom bookshelf yesterday. No, not to do any serious study, but to use as weight for a gluing project! A paper filled with my handwriting fell from one of the books. The writing was in verse form, so I thought perhaps an old poem I had written and tucked away. I have a tendency to do that – start a writing project and put it away not to be found until years later, if at all. But this was not my “writing.” It was the lyrics to an old Amy Grant song, “Turn This World Around.” Apparently the song had some special meaning for me in 1997 since I had taken the time and effort to record the lyrics. The song was included in her Behind The Eyes album released in September 1997 and written by Amy Grant, Beverly Darnall, and Keith Thomas.
Reflecting back on my 1997, in and of itself, it was not a good year, and September was particularly difficult. It was a year of losses and reversals in every area of life – professional, relationship, financial, and health. I could certainly relate to the melancholic melody and many passages in the lyrics of “Turn This World Around.” I was living in the midst of “broken promises and dreams” even as I struggled to carry on “in good disguise.” I needed “somewhere safe and warm” and was thankful for the shelter of friends during this stormy time in my life. I had to “turn and face (my) fears”– the fear of more losses and rejection from family, friends, and the church as I began to acknowledge my same-sex orientation after decades of living in hiding and pretense. I learned to “reach out through (my) tears” and discovered “it’s really not that far to where Hope can be found.”
After finding the paper I dug through my old CD’s. I found it! I had bought it which was something I rarely did. As I listened I recalled the solace and encouragement I had found in other songs in the album such as “I Will Be Your Friend,” “It Takes a Little Time,” “Missing You,” and “Somewhere Down the Road.” Today I look at this decades old piece of paper, read these words, and am thankful for how my world was turned around in 1997, albeit after it was turned upside down. Today I hear a more universal and much needed message for our world. The message that behind our eyes “we are all the same it seems.” We all want to be safe and warm and find shelter with others through the storms of our lives. We all need to face our fears and reach out to the other in the midst of suffering—ours and theirs. It is the reaching out and acknowledging the “hunger and longing” that we all know inside that “could be the bridge between us if we tried.”
We all know our world needs to turn around. We are headed in the wrong direction. Look no further than the death and destruction resulting from the numerous and lengthy armed conflicts throughout the world. Grasp the magnitude of gun violence, the global refugee crisis, increased human trafficking, and world hunger levels rising. We are the world! Only we, working individually and corporately with one another throughout our communities, cities, states, provinces, districts and countries, can turn this world around. Maybe one day we will turn and see behind the eyes of all our brothers and sisters regardless of race, religion, culture, nationality, sexual orientation or gender identity and see our sameness, reach out to one another, and experience the will and kingdom of God “on earth as it is in heaven.” Yes, maybe one day – maybe in this New Year!
Along the Road!
In the spring of 1998 after experiencing a series of “reversals” – that means things were falling apart and “going to hell in a hand basket” in most areas of my life — physical health, relationship, professional, financial — I took off. I needed a break. “Get out of Dodge.” Change of scenery! I needed respite, recovery, and renewal. Pulling up stakes and leaving was different for me, yet I knew I had to go. I had seen an advertisement for seasonal help wanted at Grand Teton National Park. Actually, I gave the ad to my then twenty-year-old son thinking he might be interested. He wasn’t. The more I thought about it – why not me! The twenty year old son was working part time, still living at home, and perfectly capable of taking care of himself and the house. The seventeen-year-old son was going to be away all summer performing with The Cadets, a Drum Corp International group. Nothing was keeping me there but the part time job I had at the public library. So, why not! I applied and they hired me. I took a step of faith and quit the library job trusting that I would find another job upon my return. The younger son and I left home on Saturday, May 23rd. I dropped him at the Dallas airport for his flight to New York and his summer adventure. I headed out on my journey. I was a mess of brokenness! I remember tears clouding my eyes and telling myself “Stop this, you can’t see the road,” as I headed west out of Dallas. I was excited, yet I was anxious. Could I do this? What was out there on the road ahead? All I knew for sure was that I had committed to show up for work in the Grand Tetons on Tuesday, May 26th. I had 1,300 miles ahead of me. I was on the road!
JOURNAL Entry: 8:30 a.m. Monday, May 25, 1998 – Somewhere along US Highway 287 north of Rawlings, WY
Along the Road
Not a cloud in the sky.
Not another human being as far as eye can see.
Just wide open spaces and gentle cool breezes.
The eastern sky ablaze in the morning sun.
A ribbon of road before me.
A path of life to follow.
A journey to know.
A destiny to experience.
A history behind
Rich in joy and sorrow, love and tears.
A Hope ahead and today just as rich
Filled with joy and peace, adventure and rest,
Love and sorrow.
All to be known along the journey.
All to be experienced.
Each and all a destiny of their own.
The sun still shines.
The breezes still blow.
The road still winds forward.
The daily Destiny.
The Father knows I trust –
A Heart full of Hope.
Yes! I dance and sing – YES,
Along the road!
Not long after arriving in the Grand Tetons I discovered the Dixie Chicks song “Wide Open Spaces” which became one of the many road songs that lifted my spirit and nourished my soul during the months in the mountains. Even today when I listen to it my heart swells with cherished memories, joy, and thankfulness, as well as the knowledge that I sometimes simply need to hit the road and experience again wide open spaces!!
As much as we think we know all about the turning of the seasons, this phenomenon is still, in my way of thinking, an inexplicable combination of science, the natural world, and the creative power in the universe that is truly beyond our knowing. Spring is a favorite season for me. I marvel in the renewed life that abounds in nature and in me. Spring is the evidence of things hoped for and the promise of restoration and renewal of life — especially after this winter of extremes and discontent. It is indeed a resurrection from the dead, a display of the presence of a Higher Power.
I remain in awe that the seasons do turn, turn, turn, and I am thankful!
PS: I recommend scrolling through the photos as you listen to the music.
Random Things About PS
1. I am a procrastinator. Start strong, sometimes struggle to finish.
2. I have two grown sons. I am a proud Mama!
3. I love this song!
4. I think/ponder a lot. Maybe that contributes to my procrastination.
5. I have an affinity for turtles. I collect turtles — not live ones! They are like me, or am I like them? Slow to move, but they/I eventually stick their/my neck out and move!
6. I have taught English and Spanish. I speak English okay. Spanish–not so well.
7. I enjoy reading. I am a slow reader.
8. I seek to follow the teachings of Jesus.
9, I enjoy nature and being outside.
10. I have served as a school counselor — 700+ lovely 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders on one campus. I knew all their names. I worked at it!
11. I am a survivor and I like this song
12. Did I say I have a strange sense of humor. Hey, at least I have one!
13. I have been divorced for 25 years.
14. I respect all faith traditions.
15. I love to dance and I love this song.
16. Favorite quote:
Dance as though no one is watching you,
Love as though you have never been hurt before,
Sing as though no one can hear you,
Live as though heaven is on earth. —Souza
17. I want to know and be known.
18. I am in a long term, committed relationship with a woman.
19. I enjoy the serenity of flat water kayaking. Younger days is was white water.
20. I’d rather take a hike than watch a movie.
21. I am more an introvert than extrovert, and I do love a good party.
22. Twenty years ago I was diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). Now the psychiatric community call it DID — Dissociative Identity Disorder. Yea, I would not believe it either had I not experienced it.
23. I like to eat! Hard to have a favorite.
24. I have served as a volunteer chaplain.
25. I struggle with old habits sometimes — people pleasing.
26. Did I say I like turtles? Again, maybe like me — sometimes seen as hard on the outside, but soft on the inside.
27. I love the ocean and mountains. I am humbled by their vastness and majesty.
28. I’m an adult. I like being a kid at times.
29. I can play the piano with lots of practice, but still not well.
30. I am in awe of the mystery of life and the universe.
31. I believe names are important. That’s why I worked at learning 700+ school children’s names.
32. My real name is Brenda. You can call me Brenda or PS.
Serendipity, Coincidence, Karma, Spirit??
Go Rest High on That Mountain
Serendipity, Coincidence, Karma, Spirit?
Earlier this afternoon I was walking on the treadmill as the temperature outside was/is much too cold to be enjoyable. I was clipping along at a mere three mile an hour pace and not my usual three and half per hour as I was reading from the iPad perched atop the trusty clear plastic book holder resting on the treadmill dash. The clear plastic book holder is essential as it allows me to see just how fast and how many calories I am burning as I continue my lightening speed walk. I was reading a review copy of The Gospel According to Facebook: Social Media and the Good News. I was having a bit of difficulty reading the book, none of which has anything to do with the content of the book – the PDF format and my ineptness with the iPad. Apparently, I have yet to adequately refine my tap, touch, scroll, swish, and flip skills. Touch anything anywhere and everything moves or disappears!
I found myself repeatedly having to start over and scroll through pages of content to locate where I was in my reading. Suddenly the screen again went black and I could not retrieve the book. With somewhat of a bit of frustration – not extreme because I was beginning to tire from walking – I stepped off the treadmill. However, as I did I began to hear music and was confused as to its origins – TV off, radio off, stereo off. I then realized the music was coming from the iPad, turned around, took it off the treadmill, and turned the volume up. The music was familiar. The screen was still black. As I continued to listen, I recognized the tune as “Go Rest High on That Mountain” by Vince Gill. I recognized it because it was the one song my Dad had requested to be played at his funeral. And it was played at his funeral service on October 31, 2012. It is a song that has become very special to me over the last fifteen months.
With a few more random touches and taps on the black screen the iTunes Radio app appeared and revealed an image of Vince Gill and his When Love Finds You album cover while the song continued to play. But, how did it get there? I have never used the music button on the iPad, and the only time I have used the iTunes app is to purchase a couple of kid’s games for the granddaughter. I’m still scratching my head on that one! I continued to listen to the song, thinking about Dad, and asking how and why that song. Whoa! Out of the blue, “What day is it?” Today is January 28, 2014. Dad died, passed away, transitioned – however we choose to express it – on the 28th day of the month, October 28, 2012, to be exact. Dad’s song inexplicably starts playing on my iPad fifteen months to the day after his death. Now what is going on there?? I must admit it feels just a little weird!
I really have no idea. I do know that in this pilgrim’s journey I have learned to view such unusual occurrences as more spiritual events as opposed to mere serendipity or coincidence. Whether that be true or not, the mere perception of a spiritual moment cultivates and enriches the discernment of the Spirit within me, the Spirit outside of me, and the Spirit surrounding my life. And for today, the spirit of my Dad spoke to me in a very special, unique way. For all these things I am thankful.
Now, if I can just get the book to come back up – a small thing indeed!