Friday, November 30, 2007

thoughts from the trenches

What I set out to do, what I hoped to accomplish, and still hope to accomplish is not what we did. We did not reach that lofty goal that everyone warned me was too big, to far reaching to reach in one project. Well, at least not for the whole congregation. What I hope to do, hope to influence at whatever congregation God has placed me is to teach the members that worship can be vital, life changing, spiritually deep, welcoming to new believers and seekers, sustaining of long time followers and ultimately pleasing and glorifying to God. It is rather distressing to hear from people who have come to worship the last 5 weeks complain about things they ‘didn’t like’ or comment that worship is supposed to be one way or the other. It is disheartening that I have been unable to teach every person who walks through those doors. But, that’s not what God has called me or anyone to do. It’s not by large numbers and masses of people that the word of God is spread, not by easy formulas or a particular worship order; the right hymn coupled with the right prayer, enhanced with the right symbol or other visual aid. It is through relationship and community. One person sharing with one person about God, faith, worship, the work of the people. I shared with 13 people throughout this project my passion for God’s worship, for the work of the people. Perhaps 13 people have come to understand more fully that “every congregation has the potential to worship in a way that is vital to the lives of those who participate: worship of spiritual depth that encourages the growth in faith of its participants, reaches out to and welcomes new participants into faith, and sends people out as the Body of Christ to transform the world.” (The Work of the People, Gilbert, 3.) I know this project is specifically about participation and that is what I will be measuring. But, I cannot think about this project, write about it, proceed with it without keeping in mind a hope for the future. It is more than participation. That is one piece to this amazing and complicated puzzle.

As I write these daily reflections to spurn on my creativity and writing, I will keep coming back to this idea. It is so much more than participation. I will not stifle my thoughts about that here like I will have to in the paper.

Perhaps after this project is finished, I will continue to study and write. If I do, my next project will be specifically on the order of worship – it’s history through the church, how it changed in events of the Protestant Reformation, the American Frontier, the Modern Era and now into the Postmodern Era as the widespread and ecumenical worship renewal has changed the face of worship for almost all denominations and sects.

In the readings I’ve done for this project and in fact for this whole degree there is this amazing sense of hope and positive outlook for worship, for bringing in new and old ideas, for worshiping so completely as the Body of Christ. But, in the trenches, it’s a different story. Here in the day to day, Sunday to Sunday world of planning and leading worship services, not everyone is happy and hopeful. Not every idea takes off and touches peoples lives and lifts people to deeper faith and action. Many ideas and choices leave people feeling alienated and alone, grumpy and needy. I can preach all day long that worship is not about us, it’s about God and that we should be concerned about what God wants and what is good for God, instead of our selfish selves. But, that will never change the fact that the people of God are hungry, just like the rest of the world and needs do need to be met. If we can’t meet needs in the Body of Christ, people (myself included) will look elsewhere. How do we balance this need for spiritual nourishment and love with the need to serve God and the world above ourselves? No matter how beautiful and perfectly crafted a liturgy is, when someone walks out of worship feeling alone, alienated, frustrated and upset for whatever reason, we have failed.

God of light and love, of worship and liturgy, of our lives and very being, come quickly, come. We desire so much to serve you, even if we don’t really know it. But, at ever turn, we fail, we falter. Keep picking us up and pushing us on so that we may strive to do your will. We’ll never be able to do it perfectly in this world, there will be tears and seas of tears until you come again. But that doesn’t excuse us from trying to reach your goal. Show us glimpses of your kingdom so that we may continue to trek on to that great and glorious day. Forgive us for alienating and hurting our brothers and sisters along with way. All this we pray in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

Friday, November 23, 2007

Five Things I'm Thankful For Meme

Sally tagged me to do this meme. Five things I'm thankful for, and this week being Thanksgiving Week, it is a timely post. There are many things I'm thankful for, so it's hard to narrow it down to five. But, I'll do my best:

1. I'm really thankful for my family, and especially my dear sweet husband. I tried finding that perfect mate on my own, and was wholly unsuccessful at that pursuit. When I finally let go and left it up to God, Jack walked into my life. God was pretty smart when He came up with that idea :).

2. Cool, crisp fall days. Really, the cycle of seasons. I love the natural cyclical changes in weather. Texas never really had four distinct seasons, and Oklahoma is only slightly better. When I lived in New York City, there were four beautiful, distinct seasons. I really miss that. A friend of mine used to live in Hawaii, and I was so jealous. I thought there could be nothing better than living where the weather is beautiful all year long. But, he told me that he thought the same thing too until he lived there for a few years. He said that not having a regular cycle of seasons really messes with your own cycles.

3. The Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies. This program has been life changing for me and I will be ever thankful to Tim for introducing me to it, to my church for financially supporting me in this endeavor and to all my instructors and classmates for countless, unnameable gifts.

4. Music - without it, my life would not be.

5. Worship - God has given us such a gift in worship, and especially in things like Baptism and the Lord's Supper. I know that worship is first and foremost for and about God, and not what we want or get out of it. But, when it really is first and foremost for and about God, then what we do get out of it is beyond anything we could every think of to want for ourselves.

There are so many more things to be thankful for, and I hope that I can remember that every day. My life would be so different if I really did live a more Eucharistic life each and every day. So, I will try again today, and hopefully remember to do it again tomorrow. Perhaps over time I'll get better at it - only through God's grace.

I'm not sure there are 5 bloggers who read my blog regularly, but I'll try :). I tag Val, Jack, Tripp, Lisa and Ann (Ann, I don't know your blog address, so you'll have to give it to me). Ok, now you five need to post your five thankful things, let me know here at my blog when you've done it and then, let us all know over at Sally's blog so we can see all the many things we're thankful for

Post Thanksgiving Day Friday Five

Singing Owl brings us this tryptophan induced Friday Five:

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? My husband and I traveled on Tuesday to Houston (we're still here) to spend thanksgiving with Jack's Parents. Jack's dad is a minister at a Disciples of Christ church down here. Dan (Jack's brother) and Tiffany and their precious little girl, Maya, is here too. We're having a grand 'ole time, doing puzzles, playing with the baby, laughing at all the dogs, sleeping and generally being wonderfully lazy. I've got the best in-laws in the world!

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? I've actually never had such wonderful, juicy turkey in all my life. Jack comes by his cooking talents very naturally. We had turkey with turkey gravy as well as a pineapple gravy; cranberry sauce, stuffing, sweet potato souffle, ambrosia, corn on the cob, carrot salad, rolls and homemade pumpkin pie. Then for dinner we ate popcorn at the movies. I'm sure lunch today will be turkey sandwiches.

3. Other than the meal, do you have any Thanksgiving customs that you observe every year? Well, before I married Jack, we always spent Thanksgiving with my dad's family which was not a whole lot different than yesterday. We just sit around and eat and talk and nap and watch football, etc. Jack's family has an added tradition of looking through all the newspaper adds for the specials on Friday. We sort of did that here. But, we also did a puzzle - I was up until 2am last night finishing it. I LOVE PUZZLES!

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 really don't like to shop, and so the thought of shopping on the same day as the rest of the United States kinda makes me shiver with fear, loathing and indignation. So, instead today, I'm going to participate (albeit alone) in "Buy Nothing Day."

5. Let the HOLIDAY SEASON commence! When will your Christmas decorations go up? I've done it on the day after Thanksgiving Day in the past, however, since we're here in Houston and I doubt the dogs and the dog sitter back at our house are going to be decorating, we will be waiting till sometime later during Advent to do all that. I kinda wish the tradition was still around where you don't decorate until Christmas Day. But, alas, the cultural tide, driven by our consumerist society has pushed the Christmas holidays back to mid September. We'll probably get a tree next weekend or something like that. I think our decorations will be rather slim this year.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Ok, I'm mad at blogger

So, all this time, I thought I had posted every day, but I'm discovering as I look back through my blog history, that posts are not showing up every day! I was very confused, because I've been very contentious about it. Early in the month, I pre-wrote a few because I knew there would be those days that posting would be difficult. So, I would write them, and save them. Then, on the busy days (like yesterday OMG!!!) I would post them. Well, blogger didn't post them on that day! Blogger is predating them - posting them under the date that I wrote the blog. Well, all I have to say about that is "CRAP!"

Well... that's it

This morning was the 5th and final Sunday of the project. Frankly, though, I don't feel like I've actually finished anything because there is still plenty to do. This morning went very well, though a little long. So, before the 11:00 service, we decided to cut a few things (middle hymn, some of the prayers of the people, etc.) because we had to end on time. At 12:00 we had a Thanks-Giving lunch to culminate the Stewardship Campaign, so we really couldn't go long. So, we cut stuff, but then Bryan did not arrive, so we had to sing part of the middle hymn afterall. Then, he didn't cut his sermon at 11, he actually went 2 min. longer. So, all the time we saved (well, the 4 1/2 min.) we lost so we were still 8 min. over. Oh well. I hate the fact that we have to time everything to the second. I don't know how to avoid it though, with the two services running concurrently. Someday, perhaps we'll figure out something different. I hope.

This morning was the final Sunday of our Stewardship campaign, and the day to bring our pledge cards for 2008. So, after the sermon, while Mary played Be Thou My Vision, people walked forward to put their cards in the baskets at the front. However, they were not just bringing pledge cards. During the sermon, Bryan instructed people to write thank you notes to God on strips of ribbon they were given as they walked in the sanctuary. Along with the offering and pledge cards, people brought the ribbons. Then, after each service, two of the team took the ribbons and attached them to a wreath with a big red fabric cross in the middle. It really turned out beautifully. I'll try to take a picture of it and post it sometime this week. The wreath was then on display as people left the luncheon and then will also be used in our Thanksgiving Eve service on Wednesday and on display next week. Anyway, the ladies who came up with the idea really made a beautiful piece of artwork. I'm very excited about it. It was a good, tangible, way for people to express their thanks individually, but also corporately as one Body, united in Christ.

This week is Thanksgiving week, and I am planning to take a break and enjoy the time with family and friends. I'll still blog each day for NaPoBloMo, but they will probably be short and sweet - place holders, shall we say. Then, when I return from my respite, the writing will begin in earnest.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Songbird brings us today's Friday Five:

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8, NRSV)

Friends, it's nearly Thanksgiving in the U.S. and it's the time of year when we are pressed to name things for which we are thankful. I want to offer a twist on the usual lists and use Paul's letter to the church at Philippi as a model. Name five things that are true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent or worthy of praise. These could be people, organizations, acts, ideas, works of art, pieces of music--whatever comes to mind for you.

1. Well, you all know by now that I'm rather mushy when it comes to my husband, so I have to say that he is one of those things that are at the top of my list. He is certainly not perfect, but he is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise.

2. There is nothing so true and noble as a good dog, and we're blessed to be able to share our house with two. Trent and Meg. I think they're the best dogs in the world and few things make my heart smile quite like these two. Trent's mom was a shelty, but we're not sure what his dad was. Some have said perhaps German Shepherd, but Jack thinks he was a coyote. Sometimes, I think he's right, cause Trent is a crazy crazy dog. Meg, we're pretty sure is all border collie. We got her from a border collie rescuer. Apparently she was on the table at the pound, and they were about to put her down since no one had claimed her. But, then Meg looked at the technician with her big black eyes that will melt your heart and the tech couldn't go through with it. So, she called our friend who rescues border collies, and then we got her. She's the sweetest dog you'll ever meet!

3. Children's voices in worship. Periodically, we'll have the children sing in church, and even sometimes, they'll sing one part of a familiar hymn along with the congregation. And, let me tell you, there is nothing in the world like hearing 50 young voices singing Give Thanks at the top of their lungs! Or, even better, at Christmastime, they always sing the first part of the refrain to O Come All Ye Faithful by themselves, and that's enough to send me straight to heaven!

4. Making music together, whether it's just me and one other person, or in a group of thousands. The sound of voices and instruments all working together to create beauty is such a blessing from God. Last weekend, we had a concert where we performed Randall Thompson's Testament of Freedom. It's not one of my favorite works, but it was quite an experience when it all came together. On top of that, my mom was at the organ with me. We do this from time to time. A couple of years ago, we played the Durfle Requiem (now that IS one of my favorite pieces of music ever!) together as a duet. When we play togehter, we can get so much more of the orchestration and play so many more colors on the organ, than if we played it alone. And, it's really a joy to collaborate on stuff like that with my mom. She's pretty special!

5. There are too many things that fit this description to only name 5. God created all of them. So for number 5 I'm going to have to go with God.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Criticism - I suck at taking it

Over the past few weeks, I've been asking members of our congregation to fill out questionnaires regarding the worship services. I was very careful to ask pointed questions to get very specific answers. I wanted to know, very specifically:

#1 Did you participate in worship

#2 Were the elements in the worship service helpful or hurtful to your participation.

What i didn't want to know was "I don't like this, or I don't like that." However, I found there were two kind of answerers:

#1 People who are filling out the questionnaires because I've asked them to and they want me to get a good grade on my paper

#2 People who don't like much of what we're doing ("Why can't we do it like we used to when Mike [previous pastor] was here [over 10 years ago]?") and so take the opportunity to write down how much they don't like certain things that we have planned.

So, I read these questionnaires and about 80% of them check all the nice answers, circle the highest number possible, and just generally say 'yes' to all the open ended questions, with a couple of really nice responses ("I just love the music!") And then about 20% of them are rather negative: "Bongos belong in a bar, not a church," "Worship should be quite and reverent - not loud and boisterous," "Why do we have to change the words to the Apostle's Creed," "I'm Presbyterian, and we don't have to show off our faith, my faith is quite and only for me." etc.

All I hear are these negative responses and they're just ringing in my ears and I take it all personally. I know that I cannot take them personally, because the changes and things that we've made to our worship over the past 3 years have not just been my choice - they've been made after serious deliberation among many people, and many people support these changes. Certainly there have been some elements that the Worship Planning Team planned for these 5 Sundays that in hindsight didn't work as well as we thought they might, and in the future we'd do something different, but they were decided on by the team and not me. So, why do I feel as if every negative comment is directly pointed at me? why do I feel it in the bottom of my gut as if someone were telling me that the way I wear my hear is rather ugly and prevents them from worshiping?

Oh, this is so hard for me. Why am I so fragile?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Between Times

In our church, the Contemporary Service and one of the Traditional services (oh how I hate those labels) run at the same time. So, Bryan preaches early at the Contemporary service and then leaves to come to the Traditional service to preach. I think it's a phenomenon common to many churches. I'm not crazy about the arrangement, but that's a discussion for another time. This video was made for our Contemporary Service as a joke to show what Bryan does when he leaves that service. I think it's absolutely hilarious! Enjoy:

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sunday the Fourth

Which was actually the 11th. The 4th was the third :). This past Sunday was the 4th of the 5 and as I wrote on Sunday morning, we didn't do too much to this service. In fact, I had a hard time deciding what to include in the questionnaire for this week because there wasn't a whole lot to ask about. We did do the Apostle's Creed in Q/A format, so I asked about that, and the Call to Worship was a rather boisterous affair, but other than that it was a rather calm, and quite beautiful Sunday morning. I was quite pleased with how everything came together and such a nice respite after 3 weeks of a certain level of chaos. Now, the chaos (and I don't mean that in a bad way at all) of the previous 3 weeks had as much to do with the time of year and happenings in the church as with what the team planned for worship services. They would have been somewhat chaotic anyway, with Reformation Sunday, All Saints Sunday, coming back into the Sanctuary after having been out for 4 months, Sanctuary Dedication, baptisms right and left, etc. etc.

Here's a rundown of this past Sunday's service:

Prelude - my mom was in town so she played an improv on Let All Things Now Living (Ash Grove)
Gathering Song - same one we've been doing - with somewhat mixed reaction
Call to Worship - for this call to worship, Kerry, the DOM led the congregation. Using part of the text from the opening hymn, the congregation stood facing each other (north side faced the south side) and we said (some of us yelled!) Alleluia back and forth to each other and finished with Praise the Everlasting King. It actually worked pretty well
Hymn: Praise My Soul the King of Heaven
Prayer of Confession
Assurance of Forgiveness
Response of Praise - normally we've been singing Give Thanks at this point, but this week we sang one verse of Be Thou My Vision (Riches I head not...)
Apostle's Creed - in Q/A format
Anthem - Jesus Paid It All (The title makes it sound like a bad choice for a Stewardship Sunday, but the next line after that is "All to Him I owe" so it works great)
Prayers of the People/Lord's Prayer - the liturgist at 8:15 and at 11:00 included a veterans remembrance in their prayer)
Offertory - I sang, with my mom at the piano and one of our members on guitar and singing as well - Turn Turn Turn (Pete Seeger).
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Baptism - two this morning - the cutest babies you can ever imagine! (I think that clock in my head is getting rather loud)
Children's Message (11:00 only)
Prayer for Illumination
Scripture: Luke 12:15-21
Sermon: It All Goes Back in the Box - it was a good sermon, and one that I needed to hear. Certainly not a 'feel good' sermon.
Closing Hymn: Be Thou My Vision - not the 3 verse version in the Presbyterian Hymnal, but the 4 verse version found in most other hymnals
Postlude: Praise My Soul the King of Heaven (can't remember the composer right now)

It was a nice, calm, Spirit filled morning - which I certainly needed because the rest of the day was rather crazy. But, that day is finally past. The concert went really well but way way way too long. I actually made it through everything without falling off the organ bench. Seriously that was a concern :). The Ives didn't go as smoothly as I would have liked, but the Testament of Freedom went great! As did the 12-tone organ duet my mom and I played. I gave a brief theory lesson to the congregation so that they would know why it sounded like we were playing all wrong notes. So, onward and upward

Monday, November 12, 2007

Congratulations are due

Two of my classmates have finished the long race. Val and Jim are now Dr. Val and Dr. Jim. Congratulations my brothers. The journey with you has been rich and rewarding. Thank you for your love and support. I will not soon forget our time together and hope it doesn't end here.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Today will be the 4th of the 5 Sundays, and frankly, we didn't do too much to this service. I don't remember it being so normal when we planned it. Normal isn't such a bad thing and since the last 3 Sundays have been rather far flung because of all the different seasonal things we were dealing with, it might be nice to have a quite Sunday. At least for me. I won't be running around with my head cut off this morning. Nope, I'm saving that for this afternoon.

As I look through the questionnaires for these services (and surprisingly I've gotten quite a few back), I'm beginning to wonder how much information I really will get from them. Participation is a tricky thing, you know. Many of the questionnaires indicate that the person participated as fully as is humanly possible and everything in the service helped them to that end. I'm a little inclined to believe that they are just trying to be enthusiastic for my sake and that they're not taking the time to really think about what it means to participate in worship. Then, there are those (few in number but loud and clear) that indicate that they don't care for much of what was planned and "why can't worship be like it used to be when Mike (former minister) was here?". With these people (who also have said things like "that song belongs around a campfire, not in a church"), I wonder if there is anything that could be said or done to get them to possibly look at something from a different angle. They are very decidedly set in their ways and want things a certain way, the rest of the world be damned. A friend warned me about these questionnaires, that they have a tendency to be answered by two extremes of people - those who really liked the service and those who didn't like much at all. The problem is that I don't really care about whether or not someone liked it or not, I just want to know if they participated and what helped/hindered them in their participation. But, if we're not all on the same page as to what participation means, then what's the point anyway?

These are all things I'm sure will be dealt with in chapter 4 and I'm glad that I'll have other stuff with which to measure the project. Oh, it's gonna be a long few months....

Friday, November 09, 2007

Friday Five: Extravagant Unbusyness

Sally brings us this weeks Friday Five:

I am writing in my official capacity of grump!!! No seriously, with the shops and stores around us filling with Christmas gifts and decorations, the holiday season moving up on us quickly for many the time from Thanksgiving onwards will be spent in a headlong rush towards Christmas with hardly a time to breathe.... I am looking at the possibility of finding little gaps in the day or the week to spend in extravagant unbusyness ( a wonderful phrase coined by a fellow revgal...

So given those little gaps, name 5 things you would do to;

1. to care for your body - There are so many things I could do differently to care for my body because I apparently don't take care of my body enough. So, here are a few things - get 8 actual hours of sleep each night; eat less fast food; regular massages with my fabulous massage therapist, Karen; attend Karen's Qi Gong class; use more moisturizer.

2. to care for your spirit - observe sabbath rest. I just don't know how to do it and still get everything done. I tried it last week, and on Sunday morning, I was a mess because there were a number of hanging details that plagued me all through the services. Ugh. I told my pastor about my experience trying to take a sabbath (it was his insistence that I take one) and he kinda laughed at me and asked how I feel when I go to the gym for the first time in a long time. Kinda hurts, doesn't it? Well, same thing here, it takes some getting used to.

3. to care for your mind - Oh, my mind already gets lots of attention. I think too much already which is why the rest of me gets neglected. So, perhaps to take care of my mind, I should turn it off periodically.

4. to bring a sparkle to your eye - spend all day in bed with my husband. Really, spending any time, any where with my husband brings a sparkle to my eye :). Just thinking about him right now is causing me to grin like a silly little girl. Ok, you can stop gagging now. I'll stop, I promise.

5. to place a spring in your step - more dancing! I can always use more dancing in my life. Nothing, other than my husband, puts me in a cheerful mood more than dancing. Hmmm... dancing WITH my husband, now that would just put me immediately on cloud nine. Expect we can't do that in our house because our dog, Trent, is Baptist. The moment either one of us starts to dance, alone or with each other, he goes ballistic! I have no idea why he does this. The only explanation we can come up with is that he is Baptist. Our other dog, Meg, could care less if we dance, as long as we pet her.

Enjoy the time to indulge and dream.... and then for a bonus which one on the list are you determined to put into action? I'm determined to figure out how to observe Sabbath each week. But, it will have to wait until next week... no time right now. I'm off to practice with my mother for our concert on Sunday.

Ahhh... procrastination

Your Inner European is Italian!

Passionate and colorful.
You show the world what culture really is.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Facinating video

Tripp, over at conjectural navel gazing, posted this video on his blog yesterday (thanks, Tripp). I found it to be very interesting and it will probably find its way in some form into my paper. I'd love to hear your thoughts on how this talk relates to worship - particularly participation and non participation in worship.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Ten, Twenty, Thirty Meme

Oooh! It's my first time to be tagged for a meme. Thanks Sally! I hope I do it right. I was going to add pictures, but alas I don't have any pictures on this computer before 2001, and don't have time to find old ones and scan them. So, sans pics, here goes:

1997: I was living in Urban, Illinois. My sister and I moved there in 1996 after I finished by BM from TCU. Sallie was working on her MM from UofI in Piano, and I was going to begin working on my MM in Vocal Performance. But as it turned out, I needed some time off. So... I ballroom danced for 2 years! It was quite awesome. I really got into it, competing and even beginning to teach. The summer of 97 I traveled with a group of singers from UofI to sing in a tiny opera house in Humbach, Germany (about an hour train ride south of Munich). Try to find that town on the map. I dare you :). But, there was, believe it or not, an opera house in a barn there, and it was filled every night. And all the men were wearing their Lederhosen. It certainly was an interesting summer. That time in Illinois with my sis was rather cozy. I was also working as a nanny for a great family - 3 kids. The two younger ones (twins) I think are close to college now, and that really freaks me out.

1987: My family lived in Ft. Worth in the Berkley neighborhood. I was a freshman at Paschal High School and little did I know that one of my classmates, Jack, would be my husband one day. I would have laughed really hard if you had told me that little fact back then. He was a band geek, and I was, well just a geek. That fall I was in the school play, Voices From the High School, and had to kiss a boy on stage. It was my first stage kiss AND my first kiss period. I was so freaked out! And, again, who knew that the boy I had to kiss would one day design my wedding invitation!

1977: My parents were in school at the University of Illinois in Urbana for the 3rd time. My mom, I think was teaching at this point and my dad was working on his DMA in choral conducting. I was 4 years old, had an older brother and sister. My little sis wasn't even a twinkle in my parents eyes. That was a charmed time for our family. Really, the only good word to describe Urbana is cozy :).

Ok, now I tag: Lisa, Jayare, and Leah Sophia.

Funny Cartoon

I saw this cartoon on Sally's blog and just had to post it here as it is basically a perfect snapshot of me trying to work...

cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Oh yeah, $100 bills

Yesterday I included in my post subject line "$100 bills," and then forgot to mention them. Sorry 'bout that. The scripture on Sunday was Matthew 25:14-29, the parable about the master who gives talents to his 3 servants and then goes away. When he comes back, two of them have doubled what the master left and one has just buried it in the ground. To illustrate that passage, Bryan invited volunteers to come up to the front to go on an 'adventure' with God. 3 for the 8:15 service, 5 for the 9:30 and 11:00 services, and I'm going to guess 3 at the 10:45 service and at 11:00 4 of them were under the age of 12. Anyway, these people had no idea what they were volunteering for. Bryan handed each of them a $100 bill and told them that this money was not theirs to spend any old which way. But, it was God's money with which they should go out and do God's work. They each have 3 months to turn those $100s into something good, something that God is calling each of them to do. One of the volunteers told me that after the 9:30 service, someone walked up to her and handed her a check for $100 to add to her money! Wow! So, in 3 months we'll hear back from these 16 people to see what they did with the $1600. I can't wait.

What a cool idea!

Oh, and the money was given by one person in the congregation. Bryan had shared the idea with the man and he pulled out his checkbook right then an there. I'd love to be that wealthy to do that sort of thing. Then, again, I've seen what else wealth can do to people and I'm not sure I want that much temptation...

Candles, Communion, $100 bills, Super Long Worship services

Yesterday's service was really good and really frustrating all at the same time. All 3 services ran late - I'm not talking 5 min. late. I'm talking 25 min. late!!! For some people, an hour and 25 min service is kinda short, or par for the course. And, I've been to many services that long, and didn't mind the length at all. Frankly, I've been to some 45 min. services that seemed to last an eternity. Anyway, the problem with services running 25 minutes over at our church is the Sunday School and Child Care people then are stuck with their kids 25 minutes after they've completed their lessons and are left hanging. That's really not a good thing. So, here's why it was so long:

1. Communion Sunday - since we don't do it every week (which I think we should!) we have to calculate into the hour, at least 15 min. for communion, which means something else needs to be cut

2. All Saints Sunday - we took about 2 1/2 minutes to read the names of those who had passed away in the last year, 39 in all.

3. 3rd graders got their bibles at the 11:00 service. Bad Sunday to schedule that on, but it was put on a long time ago and anyway, it couldn't be changed.

4. The offertory took a little longer because it was a Youth Choir anthem and it took them a little while to get into place before we could start singing.

5. Stewardship speaker - was supposed to be 3 to 5 minutes but was actually 7 mins.

6. Sermon - 25 mins plus 3 mins for a longish Scripture text.

7. We actually cut a lot out of the service - the only hymns were the opening hymn (only 3 verses at that) and the Lord's Prayer sung at the end. No middle hymn, no closing hymn. We didn't have a Prayers of the People because supposedly it's 'covered' in the Communion Prayers (though it rarely is, those communion prayers get shorter and shorter every time).

Add that all up and you get an hour and 25 min. service.

Timing aside, it was a beautiful service. Some things didn't happen the way they should have, but that happens every week. For All Saints observance, we read the names of the people who had passed. Then, the choir sang For All The Saints (Vaughan Williams - though the bulletin read Vashaun Williams) while a candle lighter lit 38 candles that were on a table at the front. Then, during communion, as people were walking back to their seats they were invited to participate in the candle lighting by lighting candles themselves in memory of and thanksgiving for anyone in their lives that had passed. We had some extra tables with candles down front and to the sides and all along the window sills all the way to the back. Let me tell you that working out those logistics was a BIG. PAIN. IN. MY. REAR. But, all worth it. I had some help from a few guys on the team we dubbed "the pyro crew" so I wasn't all alone in the process.

So, 3 down, 2 to go.

I do plan to post every day this week (well, every day this month, really) but some of my posts this week may be rather short and sweet. Next Sunday is our fall concert and I'll be locked in the sanctuary most of the week getting ready for that. On top of that, Mom, Dad and my lil' sis are coming into town this weekend, so at some point, I've got to whip the house into shape... Oh, I need a clone right about now... no, wait, that's a scary thought.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Sunday morning prayer

Heavenly Father,
give me the words to say what needs to be said. You are Lord of all, of all those places in my heart that I try to hide from you. Help me to give those places back to you - the rightful owner. Take this thesis from me Lord and do with it what is your will. I cannot go it alone.

be present in our worship this morning, for we are seeking you. "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." That is still true today. Lord, we wish to see you, to worship you, to love you. Because you first loved us. All of us.

Lord, we wish to see Jesus.


Friday, November 02, 2007

Friday Five: Interviews

Mother Laura brings us this weeks Friday Five about Interviews:

Songbird just had an interview for a "vague and interesting" possibility, and More Cows than People is doing campus visits for doctoral programs. There always seem to be a few RevGals applying for new positions, and I just got my first call for this year's preliminary interviews for college teaching jobs at the American Academy of Religion meeting in San Diego coming up in a few weeks. It's for my dream job among this year's offerings, and I am flipflopping between excitement and nervousness. So please keep your fingers crossed and say a little prayer for everyone facing such conversations, and share your thoughts on the wonderful world of interviews:

1. What was the most memorable interview you ever had? The only interview I can really think of right now was for the job I currently hold. It was a rather lengthy process with lots of different sections. The great thing about this interview is they allowed my husband to be a part of it. I was a little afraid it might come across as bringing my mommy along with me, but in actuality it allowed the search committee to see that Jack and I work as a team and that if you hire me, you're getting two people in the bargain. The whole thing was a two day process. They flew us both in (I was coming from NY and Jack was coming from Texas, we were not married yet, just engaged) and put us up in a hotel (separate rooms, of course). We had lunch with the committee, then had a speaking interview. Then, I played organ and piano for them, including hymn sight-reading. Then, they wanted to see me in action directing a children's choir so they put together a small group of kids and I worked on a piece of music with them. There was a party with the choir and the session, and finally a talk with the personnel team about money and such. Overall it was a fun experience. I really appreciated being able to have my husband there. He was really good and helping me remember names and knowing whom to ask what questions, etc. I do have a funny anecdote from that interview. I was asked if I know how to improvise and I said that I want to learn how to be better than I am at it, but that I do know how to noodle when needed. The committee laughed so hard and I couldn't figure out what they were laughing about. Apparently, my definition of noodling (playing around on the organ to get from one key to the next, or to just fill dead air) is different than the Oklahoma definition, which is catfish fishing where you reach down into the mud and grab the catfish and pull them out - apparently a rather dangerous activity.

2. Have you ever been the interviewer rather than the interviewee? If so, are you a tiger, a creampuff, or somewhere in between? Come to think about it, I don't think I ever have. Hmmmm. But knowing me, I'd probably be a creampuff.

3. Do phone interviews make you more or less nervous than in-person ones? Less, I think, because I can stand and walk around, or even dance if I want to, and they don't know over the phone. But in person, your body is on the spot as well as your voice.

4. What was the best advice you ever got to prepare for an interview? How about the worst? Honestly, the only advice I can think of that I got for an interview was "say your name clearly." I really can't think of any other advice than that. That was more for an audition, really.

5. Do you have any pre-interview rituals that give you confidence? Take a deep breath and remember that what is supposed to happen, will.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Sabbath thought

My pastor shared this thought with me the other day. We were talking about how I'm headed straight to burnout and if I don't take sabbath rest now, I won't make it through this Thesis. And I was arguing with him that I understand intellectually what he is saying, and know that it is true, but that doesn't make it any more possible to do. Then he said this:

Life is based in 7 day cycles - the Bible begins with a 7 day cycle. God rested within that framework of 7 days. If we don't take sabbath rest within each 7 day cycle then we are basically saying that we are better than God. How eternally arrogant that is to say that I am better than God, that I don't need to rest. God did, but I'm better than that. Well, if that's not sin, I don't know what is.

Day 1 - Wish Me Luck

So, today is the first day of November which also means it's the first day of NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, and I have agreed to write EVERY DAY. We'll see if I can pull it off.

To start, I'll give a brief recap of where I am at this point in the thesis process. The Worship Planning Team came together back in August and had 6 weeks of study and worship together. That part went amazingly well. It's hard to believe that I'm on this side of things. After those 6 weeks, we met again for 2 weekend 'retreats' and one extra Tuesday morning to play the 5 worship services of the Stewardship Campaign: Oct. 21st through Nov. 18th. As you can see by the date, we've made it through 2 of the 5 Sundays. I have yet to have any negative responses, which isn't necessarily a good thing. I've created (well, and am creating as we go along) questionnaires for people to fill out after each service with directed questions about the service. I was careful to ask questions that do not ask "Did you like it?" but ask "Did you participate" and "What in the service helped or hindered that participation?" After the 5 Sundays, I'll meet with a few people for one on one interviews in addition to these questionnaires. Then, I'll have the very difficult task of evaluating all this data.

For this week, I still have some details to iron out, but we're close to ready to go. On Sunday, I'll post an overview of the service. I think I'm also going to try to post PDFs of each of the bulletins. I'm not sure how to do that, but I'll try.

I am hoping to get a lot of writing done this month on Chapter 2 specifically (Biblical, Theological and Historical Foundation for the project). However, the next week and a half is pretty much a loss because on the 11th we have our fall choir concert (which has a Veteran's Day focus) and once again, I've agreed to do too much! I have 1 week to learn (or get back into my fingers) and register on the organ the following:

1. Randall Thompson's Testament of Freedom (my mom and I are playing the orchestra part as an organ duet)
2. Charles Ives' Variations on America (this has a KILLER pedal part in the final movement)
3. An organ duet titled Variations on Yankee Doodle Visits New York City (again, my mom and I, and I can't remember the composer right now)
4. Highland Cathedral with flute, percussion, organ and lots of bagpipes (I can really play the plain old version of this piece in my sleep which is what we played last Sunday. But this version is a 9 minute version that I transcribed off an old recording that requires a lot of registration and nimble fingers)

Each of these pieces are a blast to play in their own way, but a lot of work must be done before now and the 11th. Which means I have to sacrifice my study time tomorrow and next Friday. However, especially since I won't have my Friday study day for 2 weeks I'll be focused especially strong on getting in at least 1 hour every day.

If you're in the Oklahoma City area, I invite you to come to our concert on November 11th at 5:00 pm. It will be a fantastic concert with lots of variety, featuring our Chancel Choir, our Agape Seekers Youth Choir, the Westminster Pipe Band (these guys win national competitions and the director is a member of our church), My mom and I on the organ and the OU Brass Quintet. It's a free concert. If you need more information, you can visit the church website: Westminster Presbyterian Church.

See you tomorrow...