Sunday, July 31, 2011

More lessons from singing

Actually, this is a continuing study on the same subject. 

The blessings of being open to suggestions ("Whispering Hope," with someone joining in on harmony for the choruses and final two verses)  and challenges (the key in which it was written) continue to whisper hope that positive results are possible in all areas of my life if I will seek God's guidance, do my best to surrender, trust and  obey, and give Him all glory, honor and praise.

May I continue to seek to carry the lessons of worship and praise through song into all areas of my life.  

Sunday, July 24, 2011

5 good things

I'm still in what I hope is just a summer slump. I know the answer is just to get busy, put one foot in front of the other; take one step and then another.  But something is blocking me.  

I'm praying for willingness and faith to know and do what God would have me do, to His glory. But the results still seem nil. 

My daily reading from the United Methodist Upper Room offered this suggestion: Make a list of five good things God has done in your life recently. 

Why does even this seem hard? Everything God does in my life is good. He does so much. And I guess I take a lot of it for granted. Plus, right now, there's the issue of thinking He could do so much more in my life if I didn't get in His way. 

Five good things ...
--He's given me encouraging words to share at church, in my family, at work and in other interactions.  Yes, even in my "meantime," I think most of my negativity is focused inward so I can still see and express much that is good. 
--He's given me faith not to give up even as I struggle. 
--He's given me awareness that keeps me from overeating when I'm frustrated or in a slump. (That would only make things worse for me.)
--He's faithful every day.  Great is God's faithfulness:  morning by morning, day by day, new mercies I see. 
--He continues to bless me with His love and the love of family and friends. 

Sigh. That didn't work either! Or so it seems. 

Words of encouragement I've received this weekend: 
--God loves us just as we are. We don't have to earn His love. He knows our needs, our hurts, our dreams, our frustrations and our passions. He knows our hearts. 
--"Whispering Hope." It's the song I'm working on for next weekend. The words provide comfort, guidance and, yes, hope. May I take them to heart. 

And, yes, I am still avoiding the real issues. Maybe next time. Sigh. 

OK, another powerful suggestion just came to mind, this one from today's anthem: "O sinners, let's go down, down to the river to pray." Before and after the anthem, I was thinking I needed to spend some time in prayer. Not at the river, but maybe the altar. And then I got caught up in talking with people after church and didn't take that time. But there's no reason I can spend some time on my knees now.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Trust and never doubt ....

Checking in with thoughts and reflections from the weekend ... 

--A precious new great-niece was born Friday. I really wanted to make the couple hour drive to Texas to see her and all the family but just couldn't do it. I'm thankful for phone conversations and pictures and comments on Facebook.  I hope to get to see her in person in two weeks. 

--"Trust and never doubt. Jesus will surely lead you out. He never failed me yet!" The choir's rousing Gospel anthem is part of why I stayed in Oklahoma instead of going to Texas this weekend. Our director has us singing with joyous hearts in ministry to God. And the director did a stunning solo of "Give Me Jesus." The sermon and Sunday school and fellowship were good, too. 

--I went to a piano recital last night by  a friend who is chasing a dream as a concert pianist. She'll be in Washington, D.C., this week in a big competition. Her playing is beautiful and soul-stirring. And her passion inspires me. I wish her the best. 

--The "Friday Night Lights" TV show officially ended Friday night. I haven't gotten to watch this Texas-based drama, which is built around  high school football but includes so much more, as regularly as I would have liked, but I've watched when I can and feel sad about it ending.  There are so many things I could write, but I'll just leave it at this for now: I don't like that it ended with Coach Taylor in Pennsylvania. What is Tami thinking? Certainly a Texas college will lure her back to be its dean of students so Eric can get back to coaching Texas kids. I just don't see how they can be happy in Pennsylvania!  Yes, I know it's a tv show, but as a native Texan in her 29th year living in Oklahoma -- and that's just one state away -- that just did not resonate as a happy ending for me. Just as I believe in my heart I will finish out my days in the Great State, I would love for that show's creators to revisit it in a couple of years as the Taylors, like so many before them, come home. "Texas forever." 

--There is probably more worth writing about,  but considering that just 30 minutes ago I had about decided not to post anything, I'm gonna be satisfied with this. I keep intending not to wait until "deadline" to write, but I'm still not having much luck with that, as continues to be the case with many of my other intentions. But there also continues to be something positive about "checking in on deadline," just as there continues to be much positive about doing whatever right thing I can even when it seems like I miss so many opportunities to act. I remember when it was worse. I believe it can be better. I trust God to show me His way. And He's never failed me!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Matters of timing

It's blog time. I was going to write about tricks of the trade -- techniques I've learned that seem effective in some areas of my life -- along with musings about why I can't seem to find such techniques to apply in other areas.

But the topic crowding my mind is timing. For everything there is a season ...

What brought it to the forefront was the tragedy at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Thursday, when 39-year-old firefighter Shannon Stone, who was at the baseball game with his 6-year-old son, Cooper, died after apparently losing his balance and falling over a railing and hitting his head on concrete after catching a foul ball he had asked All-Star and MVP outfielder Josh Hamilton to toss to them.

How can there be a season for something like that? All involved seemed to be engaged in life-affirming, family building, fan-friendly, innocent fun pursuits -- and such an unthinkable result occurs.

The game went on, eventually resulting in a big win for the Rangers. Players and other fans had reason to hope for the best regarding the father's condition (there were reports he was alert and talking, asking about his son) until they were informed after the game that he had died. And then what? How do you celebrate a victory when a child has just lost a father, a wife has lost a husband, a mother has lost a son, and countless others have lost a friend, comrade and hero.

Another game was played Friday, and even though they won decisively, the victory again was somber for the Rangers. Would it ever seem OK to really celebrate a win again?

I guess the answer came Saturday, when the Rangers were unlikely winners with a 2-out, 2-run walkoff homer by Josh. The team and fans -- and Josh, who'd been tormented by his part in the tragedy -- celebrated with the smiles and innocence of children.

I still can't wrap my mind and soul around how such a celebration seemed appropriate then and not the nights before. Many writers referenced Ecclesiastes -- For everything there is a season ... For a moment, it was time to play ball and celebrate.

I hope and pray that it was appropriate, and that family and friends of Shannon Stone -- and his wife and son -- somehow shared in the celebration. Reports had said Josh was Cooper's favorite player, and he and his dad had bought a new glove on the way to the ballpark, and their goal was go catch a ball from Josh. How does a child process that? How does a family?

Josh's response has been that he's just praying and praying. He's praying to know how and when to reach out to the family. In my mind, it seemed like maybe he already should have, and certainly that he should have said in his postgame comments he was thinking of the father and son as he rounded the bases. But his comments were just about baseball. That surprised me. But I believe him when he says he's praying hard for that family and about his response. And he expresses faith that God does have a plan and a hand in what's happening, even if we don't understand. I guess that makes sense.

But it sure messes with my mind. I want to believe that for everything there is a season, and I want to believe that I live by faith. But a Sunday school discussion today reminded me of what a worrier I am, and how worry really isn't compatible with faith. I pray and pray to know how to handle a situation -- or life in general -- but in reality, instead of truly trusting God to guide my steps (whether to work, play, serve or celebrate, etc.), I keep worrying and trying to figure out the right thing to do. And while I'm worrying and trying to figure out, I miss learning that a recently widowed friend was in town Friday night on a visit from Ohio. I don't know why I wasn't aware she was here. I would loved to have seen her. If only I kept closer contact with church friends ...

If only ...

I lack a good sense of timing -- what to do when. And it often leads to regret. Somehow, as events of this week made me even more aware of that weakness, they also reminded me that none of us can change the past. We can just choose our next action. Right now, I don't feel like I'm doing that very well. I'm stuck again in habits -- past actions. That's part of what the other topic would have addressed: "tricks of the trade" to change patterns and achieve better results. But that's for another time.

I've been praying as I've been writing, and the best I can come up with is that, for now, it's time to post and log off. And I do feel strengthened in my faith that God will show me what this is all about -- or use it to His glory anyway -- in His good time.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

God shed His grace ...

It had been a while since I'd done a solo at church, and I was beyond ready. So I expressed to the new choir director my willingness and desire to sing at the early and late services. He suggested I do it when he was on vacation in July, so we would have special music without the choir having to sing an anthem.  Although I was a bit disappointed he wouldn't hear me sing, I knew it was a good plan. 

The Sunday of his vacation turned out to be July 3, so in the spirit of the Independence Day holiday, I decided I would sing something patriotic rather than what I had planned. "America the Beautiful" was my choice. 

At choir practice that Wednesday, I was surprised when we started a new anthem selected because we would have Communion on Sunday. It wasn't until choir practice was over that I knew for sure that the choir director had had a change of plans and would be there to lead us in this very worshipful anthem. I was glad. 

But I began to have second thoughts about singing "America the Beautiful" as a solo. I'd chosen an arrangement with a key change and that ended with a soul-stirring flourish, but I was really doubting my ability to carry it out. It was a higher key than I realized, and I also wondered whether some of those words sounded very melodic when they emerged from my mouth. I prayed as I practiced, seeking guidance and even assurance regarding how to handle this. I  worried it would sound thin or screechy. Some of the techniques our director has shared in his short time  with the choir came to my mind, and they were helpful as I practiced and tried to figure out how best to approach some notes, words and phrases. I practiced with increasing faith, even as confidence continued to elude me. 

As far as the key, God was able to remind me that I am a soprano and have the ability to sing those notes,  so I could just pretend I was singing with the whole choir. 

More lessons I took to heart from the new director: Work on technique. Practice and practice. Then let go and worship. It seemed like that happened the first service. But the second service, it seemed different, maybe less connected spiritually. And my mind or spirit couldn't seem to recall the idea of pretending the choir was singing along. But then a wonderful thing happened. At the start of the final verse, "Oh beautiful for patriot's dream ...," after the pianist played a brief fanfare, members of the congregation and choir started to stand and then join in singing! The power of the song. The power of the spirit. The power of patriotism. The power of freedom. The power of God!

How humbled and grateful I feel to be allowed to have a part in such a moment of worship and praise.   Again and again, God sheds His grace on me and all who seek Him. I pray to never stop seeking and praising Him.