Thanks, Joe Cocker. I Needed That

Major props to Cole Phillips who blogs and pastors a church in Kyle, Texas. He posted this on his blog (I’m doing church research – I’m WORKING!) and I am ever so grateful.

I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time.

Joe Cocker fans? You’ll get it. Young folks? Well, there was this guy, see…and there was this big festival in New York, see….

Ah, never mind. Just watch it, because you’ll probably laugh anyway.

You’ve gotta hang in there past the first verse.

What do you think?

Study Break Pictures

Here are a few pics and some random details about last week’s study break. It was all too quick, but it sure supplied a lot of bang for the buck! I really enjoyed the time away, for a multitude of reasons. Recently I’ve been reading Ruth Haley Barton’s Invitation to Solitude and Silence and reminding myself how amazing and incredible mere silence can be. We are so busy with ourselves that the concept of being still and quiet and simply sitting is almost inconceivable. I experienced some of that – not nearly enough – but it was a great reminder of the power of presence– not mine, but God’s! Barton says that it takes us getting out of the world, completely disconnected, simplified and reduced to no activity, no productivity, in order to recognize the truth about who God is. ‘Cause He ain’t me. And I need to stop thinking that I’m in control of everything.

Anyway, it was a great trip. The photo at the top is for Syd, my own trombonist. This guy was stunning. I caught him, pre-show, out back warming up. He was among a group of stellar musicians who play just for the love of the music. It was wonderful.
Aside from my awesome time wandering in the woods, I was so blessed to sit at this Steinway and play for several hours. I approached it, alone in the 300 seat auditorium, with reverance, understanding that it was something like a holy moment. Indeed, I just wanted to be with God, after silence, by expressing something through my fingers. So I played….I started with ‘Be Thou My Vision’, one of my favorite melodies of all time, and I cruised through jazz and pop and blues and worship songs and complete improv stuff and whatever floated through my head. It was cathartic and almost surreal. The longer I played, the more I felt as if I “knew” the piano; I was very aware of the relationship we developed as it responded to my touch. It was really cool.

I took a break for lunch and then went back to play some more, and when I came back in and threw the lights, it was a different experience; not new, not awe-inspiring, just comfortable. I found that very interesting. I brought some pieces to play and dug into a bit of Mozart, which I find a great blessing. The man knew beauty – he wrote the most stunning melodies, and then wrapped them in their simplicity around complicated harmonic and rhythmic interplay to produce masterpieces. I love Mozart sonatas….
When I left, it was a good drive. Through the mountains, no cell service, so I cranked up the iPod with some Martha Munizzi and got ready to relax with my cran-water and drive. I cruised right along, until I encountered the pinnacle of small town excitement – a parade! I happened along at the tale end of the event – in fact, it was as if I was in the parade, because folks still lined the streets as I rolled over horse dung and followed the sound of the band. I rolled my windows down and said ‘hi’ to folks as I sat, parked, or moved, at 5 mph. It was surreal, truly. One guy threw a piece of candy into my car and said, “Enjoy the parade!” Another guy was offering cans of Coors to everybody who drove by; I declined and he drunkenly howled, “Hey! You look like a teacher!” To which I smiled. It was a very interesting half hour….and later in the trip, before I arrived home, I got in at the beginning of another parade. Just a good weekend for small community celebrations, I guess.
I stopped at a road side park in the National Forest to take a break. I hadn’t had time to do my journal and Bible reading that day, so I decided to do it at a picnic table in this setting. It was special and a memorable – and beautiful – time. Of course, I kept fighting off thoughts like, “Woman Traveling Alone Disappears From Roadside Rest; Nothing Left Behind But A Bottle of Cran-water and A Bible”. It was a little freaky.
I went closer to the stream, reliving my childhood when I could have spent hours playing in any source of running water – the ditch, the spring behind the house, the river. It was beautiful and melodic, the water running and dancing over rocks and fallen trees. I kicked off my shoes and stood in the midst of it all, saying prayers of gratitude to God for such simple beauty.
Coming out of the mountains, I never cease to be amazed at the beauty of the valleys and hillsides. I find myself wondering about those who live, surrounded by rolling meadows and mountains in their backyards. It is a world far-removed from that in which I live.

I want to get there more often, even if only in my head, my own stillness and centeredness.

Estelle Getty died today. She was always my favorite Golden Girl, I think. Innocent, yet feisty enough to hold her own. It made me sad to hear of her passing. I loved that show, and always associated it with my grandmother; there were bits and pieces of her in every character.

And who could forget these great words, penned by Andrew Gold?

“Thank you for being a friend
We’ve traveled down the road and
back again

Your heart is true, you’re a pal and a
confidante…”


Tell me – who among you knows the next verse?

~~~

I thought so.

~~~
By the way, forgive me if this offends, but dudes and dudettes: I have lost EIGHT FRICKIN’ POUNDS!!!! Can I hear an ‘amen’????

There’s something about the Diet-That’s-Not-A-Diet that works. Maybe it’s the supplements, maybe its the cran-water – maybe it’s just not eating so danged much. But I feel good in terms of the former snugness of my garments. And even better, I feel really good inside – like HEALTHY kind of good. Like I’m living the way God made me to live. Like I’m taking good care of myself.

Seriously, mentally, physically and spiritually, I feel more alive and like myself than I have in a long time. I told someone today that trying to alter my eating habits through this “Fat Flush” thing was the best decision I’d made since I came to work for PCC.

Amen.

Worship Confessional 7-20-08

So yesterday was a pretty good day. Still in the ‘Big Stories of the Bible’ series, we were raring to go with some good music and two skits.

The most exciting part is the way our team is expanding to include live music in our Power Jam kids’ service. The band that plays the big room one Sunday goes on to do PJ the following Sunday, and so far, so good. There’s a bit of a strain on our tech resources in terms of people, but we’re managing and learning and working out the kinks as we go.

We all gather at 9:05 – no matter what – to pray. (Yesterday, ‘what’ was the middle of our tech run – but we stop and pray regardless of what’s happening. We hope to have finished the tech run by 9:05, but thus far it hasn’t happened.) It’s awesome to see a big team gathered to pray…

Anyway, yesterday’s message was ‘The High Cost of Standing Your Moral Ground’, on the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife. Again, Brian stepped away from the podium and did his message unscripted, which is a huge step out of his comfort zone – but one that is bringing great results.

Here’s what we did:

T-R-O-U-B-L-E – Travis Tritt. Yeah. First time I’ve ever heard ‘you’re a sweet-talkin’ sexy-walkin’ honky-tonkin’ baby’ in church. It was risky, but we had a disclaimer to ‘pay attention, and it’ll all make sense’, and it did, more or less. Of course, we’re talking about Potiphar’s wife. Trouble. Get it? One of our acoustic players, all-around-great-guy did the vocal, and he killed it. That’s a lot of spelling in one song.
Everywhere That I Go -Israel Houghton. We love it. This song was especially powerful for me as I got up and ready early in the morning. I listened while I was getting dressed, and the chorus really dug into my heart and gave me strength for the day. ‘You promise me/you’ll never leave/you promise me/I’m never forsaken/I believe/your goodness and mercy will follow me, surrounding me where I go/everywhere that I go’. I just needed that yesterday.
O Taste and See – Brian and Jenn Johnson. Another blog find; great tune. First time I actually got to play it, and our girl Gina rocked the house.

We transitioned with a short skit about small groups, home-grown and funny. Out of that one of our small group leadership team members did a short welcome, and we continued. During the offering, we’d showed pics from last week’s Mega Camp (VBS) and played ‘I Am Somebody’ underneath.

The message was excellent; he led us into a skit, The Ring (Willow Creek) in a very subtle fashion. As he finished, talking about the cost of sin, Brian just walked away and the lights came up stage left on our actor, a table and coffee cup. We found a track of coffe shop sounds on iTunes, looped it and played it during the skit, which set the perfect ambience. The piece worked well, with just two actors – the point was that the male character had cheated, and the female character was giving his ring back – but it was extremely subtle. Highly recommended for any services on adultery, betrayal, commitment, the cost of sin, etc.

As the skit ended, the female character walked away. We faded the lights on the man at the table and began the piano riff from Rebecca St. James’ version of Forgive Me (Scott Dyer, from Willow Creek). A lone male singer did the first two verses, as the ‘voice’ of the male character; after a creative key change, we brought the rest of the vocals in for the third verse, where the lyric changes tense and perspective:

“Lord, we come to honor you
We are forgiven
We bring our praise and thanks to you
We are forgiven now
Lord, we praise you for your grace
Before you we are raised…..forgiven”

Christian sang the final word – ‘forgiven’ – alone, and it was powerful. Then Brian returned to share the truth about forgiveness through Christ, and as he did, I played underneath, a little noodling that built as his words increased in intensity. He quoted Romans 7, and when he got to Romans 8 – ‘There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus‘, the crowd erupted in spontaneous applause. We kicked it hard and the band launched into the chorus of ‘Amazing Love’:

“Amazing love, how can it be
That you, my king would die for me
Amazing love, I know it’s true
And it’s my joy to honor you”


Then everybody went home. It was a good day.

Study Break 08

In spite of the fact that I had a great two weeks out of town, on vacation and ‘sort-of’ study break (I did some good reading), something in me has been saying that I needed to really have a study break. Part of my job includes study break time, and I either use it or lose it. For me to get away, it’s imperative that I know the kids are settled somewhere, rather than leaving them alone or farming them out to somebody.

Because of everybody’s schedules this summer, it’s been hard to find that time.

But I grabbed a few days this week, before David comes home on Sunday (the other kids are going to camp), and I headed to the mountains. It’s too short, but I figured it would be better than nothing.

And wow.

I have met with God. He has shown me ‘signs’ that are almost funny, which does something amazing to my heart. I feel like I have a relationship with my Father that is growing and expanding and becoming truer and more intimate daily. I have no doubt that the primary reason is because I’ve taken seriously the call to spend time reading the Bible daily. I’m using the journal we made available at church, and knowing that so many of my friends and PCC family members are doing the same has really helped.

Last night, I listened to three hours of amazing music, performed by some of the finest ‘hidden’ musicians in America. Lots of old time cowboy music, which is not necessarily a style I love, but when you hear music done with excellence and passion, it’s good no matter the style. I heard some incredible western swing music performed by a master. It was a good evening.

And today, I had the best day of the summer thus far. It didn’t seem to consist of much in the details, but overall, it was tremendous and restorative. I took another ‘walk in the woods’ and had a great conversation with God, although the devil must have gotten ticked and sent mosquitoes. Eventually I had to bail.

I played the finest piano I’ve played in years for about two hours, a beautiful Steinway; just improving and messing around, actually working on a transition for a tune we’re doing on Sunday, and then playing some Mozart sonatas. I’m reminded that I am a musician, and not just somebody who plays in church. It was very healing.

I have walked quietly and smiled at people and said, “Hi”, but refrained from relational challenges. I have thought a lot about who I am and where I am, and what God is calling me to do next.

I read the rest of the book of Acts and enjoyed every minute.

And for a while, I just sat. I was still.

And I was with God.

There is nothing better.

Currently Listening To…


Jakob Dylan has escaped my attention for most of his career. I’ve heard a few songs from the Wallflowers, and of course I know who his daddy is – but I’ve never listened to his music with any intentionality.

A few days ago a friend sent me a sample tune from this record, and tonight while I was looking for something at Barnes & Noble, I heard the song again – but I couldn’t place it! I texted a sample of the lyric to myself so I could hunt it down, and then had a brilliant idea; I ran to the music department.

“Who is this?”

It was Jakob Dylan – the same song I’d received, ‘On Up the Mountain’. Beautiful, evocative lyric that really moved me.

I came home and found the song on iTunes; ended up downloading the entire album. It’s incredibly good.

I feel like somebody just told me an exquisite secret.

Check it out.

My brother gave me some good advice regarding dealing with my difficulties. I thought I’d share it:

“I was reading the gospels and the thought occurred to me that the more we focus on the wide open spaces of the Kingdom of grace, the smaller our problems become. As humans we PREFER to focus in our difficulties like a large man focuses on buffet signs (sorry, it’s the best metaphor I could come up with). But LOVE never shrinks. His love is limitless, and ever-expanding, which means it can be as big as we need it to be, in order to dwarf our problems.” ec

God’s love literally dwarfs our problems. That’s an active verb. He acts on our behalf. It’s not just my struggle to see things clearly or to figure stuff out, or to apply what I know of grace to the situation. He acts for our good, for His glory, on His terms.

Isn’t that awesome?