". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Mega-Rehearsal!

I wish I could get close enough to capture faces, but I am usually chained to the piano. The expressions of joy, concentration, and faithfulness on people's faces are sights to behold. One lady who plays brass, rings bells, and sings with the choir in our congregation was there Tuesday night as long as Cantor (6:00-9:00). To everyone attending Holy Week services, give your faithful musicians an extra pat on the back this week. Even better, send chocolate. And pray for them, that they may have strength and health and protection from the attacks of Satan, who likes nothing better than to go after pastors and musicians right before Christmas and Easter. God bless you as we enter the Great Three Days, and soli Deo gloria!

 Rehearsing "Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed."

 Our wonderful choir and director.

Our "oboe" player for Good Friday.  


"You part the waters like this."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Why I Love Holy Week

There are many reasons, of course. But one big one is the lack of ambiguity. From one day to the next, I don't have to think about what to do because it's already decided. I don't have to wonder what it all means because I already know. The focus is clear, the to-do list pre-determined, and there is nothing left for me but to submit. It's like Sunday, writ large. Liturgy, how I love thee!

"Go to dark Gethsemane,
All who feel the tempter's pow'r;
Your Redeemer's conflict see,
Watch with Him one bitter hour;
Turn not from His griefs away;
Learn from Jesus Christ to pray."
Lutheran Service Book 436, Stanza 1


Le Saintes Femmes au Tombeau
William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905)

A 10-Year-Old and a Gentleman

We went to the mall yesterday, our first time since moving to Oklahoma. Mall shopping is a rare event for this family, something only done when the neighborhood stores do not suffice (read: every couple of years). On this trip we were shopping for several items for Caitlin, who will be attending a prom next week, and for Evan, who needs something decent to wear for Easter. (He is down to sweats and a few pairs of almost outgrown pants.) We had fun! It's a nice mall and it wasn't too crowded yesterday. We ate Dippin' Dots for the first time ever. There was a Dillard's! (I don't think I've been in a Dillard's since we left Texas.) I was reminded how much more there is out there than just what Kohl's and Target carry.

I was also reminded that more is not always better. As we finished our shopping and were retracing our steps to leave the mall, I noticed that Evan was keeping his head turned sideways, avoiding looking to his right. He explained, "There are ladies in their underwear, Mom. They shouldn't be in the mall. There are children here." I looked over to see--what else?--the Victoria's Secret boutique.

Indeed, Evan. There are children in the mall. And some of them have more sense than the "grownups."


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Bada Bing

Yesterday, while making lunch.

Evan: "Mom, sometimes I feel sorry for you. You work so hard."

Me: "It's okay, Evan. It's what moms do. It's why we appreciate getting pampered on Mother's Day."

Evan: "What's 'pampered'?"

Caitlin: "It's what you are right now."

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Humility

Evan: "I'm nervous about my Good Friday solo. I don't know if I can sing all alone without the piano. What if I make a mistake and embarrass myself?"

Caitlin: "Of course you can do it, Evan. Trevor did it when he was younger. I did it, too. If we can do it, you can do it. You're just as good a singer as we were at your age."

Evan: "Really? Mom says I'm better."

Friday, April 4, 2014

Maybe this is why there's a plastic pirate in my suitcase.

It's one of the little pieces of the past still scattered around my house that I can't bring myself to get rid of.

I found it years ago, tucked in a side pocket. I remember when it was purchased. It was part of a set I bought at a chess tournament in which Trevor was competing. At the time Evan was a baby in a stroller. How many chess tournaments I dragged him and his sister to! We would hang out in hotel lobbies or malls or libraries while Trevor played, and I would do my best to occupy the non-chess players for the day. I don't know what happened to the rest of this set, but somewhere along the way this lone guy ended up in my suitcase. For years now that's where he has remained, a symbol of a time long past. He has gone on lots of trips with me over the years. I forget about him between trips, but when I go to pack I reach into the pocket and there he still is, and somehow there is comfort in his being, and remaining, there. I think he may stay there always, and some day accompany me when I pay a visit to Evan and his wife and children.

But for now, like the author of "The Last One," I will treasure these days of still having a boy who, even in his ten-year-old bigness, wants to crawl up on my lap, put his arms around my neck, lay his head on my shoulder, and whisper in my ear, "I love you so much, Mom." He's not quite grown up yet, Mr. Pirate Man. And somewhere inside him there will always be that little boy who repeatedly dropped you from his stroller and reached his arms up to me, begging to be lifted out. Together, we'll hold on to the memory.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Repeating History

Right now in history Evan and I are studying the seventeenth century. Our text is Susan Wise Bauer's The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child. Several days ago we read about Oliver Cromwell and the Puritan Revolution. One passage left us laughing so robustly that Evan demanded it be read again and again:

Now that Parliament had been dissolved by force, Cromwell and his army generals appointed a new Parliament, made up of 139 men "fearing God and of approved fidelity and honesty." This Parliament became known as the Barebones Parliament, after one of its members, a Puritan minister named Praise-God Barebones."

Sounds like something out of Spongebob Squarepants, doesn't it? No wonder Evan loved it.

The experience of reading alongside my child, laughing and learning with him, is one of the best things about homeschooling. I knew about Oliver Cromwell. But reading about him again with Evan, I learned some things (such as the fact above) that I never knew before. More important, as I revisited that period of history, I was struck by how familiar it all sounded. Consider this passage, just a few paragraphs after the one quoted above:

Cromwell still called England a commonwealth, but now it was being ruled by his own hand-picked men, not by the people of England. Six months later, this Nominated Assembly of men loyal to Cromwell passed a new bill. This bill announced, "Parliament now gives all of its powers to Oliver Cromwell, to act on behalf of the people of England!" 

Oliver Cromwell had become the new king of England.

He was never called "king." Instead, he was given the title Lord Protector of England. And he was supposed to call Parliament every two years and listen to what the members of Parliament advised him to do.

But Cromwell certainly seemed like a king. He moved his family into the royal palace. The ceremony to make him Lord Protector looked an awful lot like a coronation ceremony. His advisors often called him "Your Highness." And when Parliament refused to do exactly what he said, he scolded its members, telling them that he spoke for God and that they were opposing God Himself when they opposed the Lord Protector. "I undertook this government in the simplicity of my heart and as before God . . . to do the part of an honest man," he explained. "I speak for God and not for men." When Parliament continued to oppose Cromwell, he announced, "I think . . . that it is not for the profit of [England], nor for [the] common and public good, for you to continue here any longer. And therefore I do declare unto you, that I do dissolve this Parliament." 

No doubt you have heard the Santayana quote that those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. More and more, I think that even those who do know history are doomed to repeat it. The older I get the more it seems that there are a few basic storylines that repeatedly play themselves out on the human stage, whether on the world level or in our little, everyday lives. Still, I think it's important to study history. But maybe the point of doing so is not because we realistically have much hope of affecting it, but so that we can better understand our place in it. And what is that place? I am beginning to think it is nothing more than to hold on for dear life as God tries, time and again, to show us the hopelessness of trusting in rulers, or institutions, or learning, or money, or even dear loved ones, more than in Him and His love for us. We have to function within the framework of all of those things. But our nature is to make each of them into little gods that we turn to as sources of meaning and progress for our lives. I know I keep doing that and I don't know how to stop myself. But reading stories from history that remind me of the futility of such misplaced faith tends to put the brakes on, at least for a time. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Something Has Changed

Thirty years ago one of my favorite things to do was to take a piece of literature and pick it apart in that way that so many high school students despise. It was what led me to follow up my music studies with undergraduate and graduate degrees in literature. For a number of years I put those English degrees to good use, teaching first high school, then college English, and sometimes I even stumbled on students who seemed to enjoy the subject as much as I did. But the longer I taught English the more discouraged I became at the shocking unpreparedness of many of my students as well as the socio-political agenda that seems to drive many college English departments. I ultimately left English teaching behind and returned to my first love, music. 

For the last ten to fifteen years I have worked much more in the musical than the literary realm, and the older I get, the more I think I want it to stay this way. These days when I read I just want to read. I have little desire for the sort of close, analytical approach I learned in my English classes. It's hard enough just to read! I also can't help wondering whether something has changed in me beyond the length of my attention span. There is something about literary analysis that seems inherently destructive. That is not to say there isn't value in it for the deep understanding and appreciation of a work. Sometimes to truly understand something one must take it apart. But I think I may be at a time in my life when I am much more interested in building up than in tearing down. And music is about nothing if not building. Whether it's the practicing, or the composing (which I don't do), or the putting together of all the parts within an ensemble, the goal is synthesis, the creation of something beautiful. In literary analysis, all the effort is in the opposite direction, towards taking apart rather than creating.

Maybe that's why I have also continued to blog. Even if I didn't have the few of you reading that I do, I would still get the satisfaction of creating something, however small. Maybe one of these days I'll write something bigger than a blog post, or maybe I'll learn a new musical skill. Then again, maybe I'll just do more cooking. . . .