I was recently asked to share where I saw Christ while on a Mission Trip. My answer was in all the connections we made with other people – connections to the members of our team, to the other team that was at the center at the same time, the staff and to the wonderful people we were serving. There was even a connection made to my grandfather that week! With each conversation and through the work done, I could feel God’s love moving back and forth between all of us.
I have the same sensation when working with the people in our church. The bonds created in the music ensembles are more than just friendships – they are based on Christ’s presence as we work together. Christ is in our boisterous fellowship after worship, in thoughtful study and discussions in Sunday School classrooms and can be felt when we help people through the Food Pantry and Clothes Closet. I even remember leaving a long Administrative Board meeting one night and feeling that God had been in our, at times, heated discussions. These connections tingle with the special sense of purpose that comes from Christ’s presence and God’s love.
I hope you feel that special tingle as well and look forward to making new connections, while strengthening the ones already made.
One of my favorite parts of my job is choosing music for the choirs and Praise Team to sing. I start by reading the scriptures that Karen has chosen for worship and understanding what her emphasis or theme will be for each worship service. Then I set out finding music that will hopefully deepen worshipers’ experience. Sounds pretty straight forward – sometimes it is. There are times that the obvious song jumps right out for me. More often, however, it involves looking through many songs, finding the one that has the right emphasis. For instance, consider the general term “love.” Love may well be the most sung about word in our faith. But are we focusing on God’s love for us or our love for God? Or about our Christian love for each other, Christ’s sacrificial love, Christ’s examples of love? Singing a song with the wrong focus misses the mark, but the right song can transform worship and lift the experience to a higher plain.
Why don’t you give it a try? On July 30, our scripture passages will be Deuteronomy 23:1-7 and Matthew 5:43-48. Karen’s sermon title is “Sometimes We Must Change the Rules.” What songs or hymns can we sing that will illuminate the theme?
One of the things I have always admired about the Brees Bell Choir is how willing its members are to help each other in order to make difficult passages of music work. This usually involves one player ringing a neighbor’s bell for a beat or two. However, it has on occasion meant taking responsibility for the bell for an entire piece. I have even seen them pass a bell behind someone who is ringing so it can be rung by a third ringer several measures later. The best part of all of this is that I rarely need to say anything. They discuss the problem at hand and then figure out how to make it work. I often here them ask “do you need me to take that bell?” or “how can I help?” This discussion can go on for quite a while (which can be a bit frustrating when trying to move the rehearsal forward) and solutions often evolve as we return to that passage week after week, but I know it’s what is needed to get to the desired level of performance.
This quality of the ensemble has been particularly apparent in a piece we are currently preparing. I chose it knowing we did not have enough players to get every note in the arrangement. I had gone through the lower parts and crossed out notes that I thought we could get away with not playing. This was not acceptable to one of our ringers. He recruited a former member to come back and play this one piece. It has also involved extensive negotiating with three of the players to get in all those low notes. But – they are ringing everything and ringing it quite well. My favorite part is where the ringer in the middle takes a step back so another ringer can mallet bells all the way up the table. It’s great choreography.
This got me thinking about how much our world would benefit from the example set by the Brees Bells members. What if we all simply turned to our neighbor and said “can I help you with that?” It’s surprising how often a huge obstacle for one person can be overcome by a simple “flick of the wrist” for another person. Or if we didn’t take “it can’t be done” as an acceptable answer? If we, all on our own, started discussing (not yelling) solutions to little problems as well as big ones, understanding it might take a long time and solutions may evolve as we continue to discuss, but that’s how we will get to a truly beautiful the ending.
Earworms, those songs or portions of songs that get stuck in your head, are a bit of a hazard in my job. I often have part of a choir anthem or praise song rattling around in my head – usually something either group was working on especially hard. I don’t generally mind too much. As I sing through the song in my mind, I think about the people I was with when we sang it out loud or I think of the words to the song. I often end up meditating on the words as I walk in the woods with my dog.
Today’s earworm is Speak, O Lord, a song that is new to the Praise Team. It’s got a simple melody (perfect for an earworm) and words that express a desire to hear God’s direction in our lives. We started working on it this week and will sing it with the congregation in October
Let me know if it gets stuck in your head, too.
A couple weeks ago our congregation gathered for a Sunday evening of games, fellowship, and s’mores at our outdoor shelter behind the church. While a couple people got the fire going others enjoyed a group game. There were snacks and the promise of gooey treats. There were children, youth, and and adults of all ages. While one game was finishing up I ran over to the parsonage on the other side of our wooded area to get some roasting forks. As I walked back I stopped and closed my eyes to listen to a most wonderful sound. It was the sound of talking and laughter. It echoed through the trees and it was such a blessing. Listening to the children of God being together, enjoying the moment, joking with one another, and shouting words of encouragement is even better than hearing angels sing!
(Originally published August 5, 2016)
Having been asked to share my thoughts in our church blog, I was a bit nervous about doing so. My siblings and I (eight of us) often exchange our mixed opinions with one another and, knowing blood is thicker than water, I trust that none of them will disown me. Our family bond is very real, thanks to my late parents, Ruth and Stan Arthurs.
My belief in God has evolved over my entire life. Raised by a mom whose own faith began in the Missouri Synod Lutheran church of her youth, she carried on the tradition with all eight of us, having made it clear to her husband this would be the case and expected him to be an active member in her church. (Bringing a family of ten to church was a huge undertaking every week.) My mom served as organist, children’s choir director and Sunday school teacher. She is the person closest to being a saint I will ever know.
I sang in the choir and played the piano. This led to my being drafted to take the place of our organist. As a fifteen year old, who had not found her own personal faith, this would be my first job, not a calling.
Now, many decades later, I can state that my faith became real to me BECAUSE of my years on the bench at the United Methodist Churches of Aurora, Twin Falls and now in Stow. It was in my thirties I came to understand that God had been my strength and inspiration in my own personal life. My music ministry has truly been a great and glorious gift from God.
Soli Deo Gloria,
(Originally published July 19, 2016)