There are many things Phil could have chosen to do with his life. With his great musical talent, he could have been an entertainer. With his knowledge of history & current events and his marvelous speaking ability, he could have been a political commentator. With his wacky sense of humor, he could have been a comedian.
But the Lord had different plans for Phil, calling him instead to the noble profession of cantor. No one takes more seriously that role, which is to lead God's people in singing His word. And for the almost 20 years that Phil has worked in that capacity, I have been doubly blessed to be not only his wife but also a member of the congregations in which he has served. I have watched as this classical and jazz pianist has taught himself to play organ, learned choir directing through on-the-job training, and composed music as needed to serve the liturgy and the assembly. And I have watched him grow in all of those areas to the point that others now turn to him for instruction and advice.
Yet I know Phil would say that even more important than his vocation of cantor is his vocation of husband and father. And he approaches that vocation with a truly sacrificial attitude, loving his family "as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (Eph. 5:25), working tirelessly to provide for our needs and taking to heart his charge to keep his family's eyes fixed on the cross of Christ.
A few weeks ago my Lutheran homeschooling friends were sharing "how we met" stories online. At the time I kept mine brief, stating just the facts: Phil and I met at music school when I was 18 and he was 19 and married when I was 22 and he was 23. The truth is, I can't remember the very moment Phil and I first laid eyes on each other or even the very first time we talked. But I do remember clearly when I fell in love with him. It was at his junior piano recital. A few friends and I had volunteered to provide refreshments for those in attendance. After the reception, when everyone else had left, Phil and I went back into the recital hall, and instead of playing Beethoven or Bach or Mozart, Phil played and sang to me Elton John's "Your Song":
It's a little bit funny this feeling inside.
I'm not one of those who can easily hide.
I don't have much money but boy if I did
I'd buy a big house where we both could live.
If I was a sculptor, but then again, no
Or a man who makes potions in a travelling show
I know it's not much but it's the best I can do.
My gift is my song and this one's for you.
And you can tell everybody this is your song.
It may be quite simple but now that it's done
I hope you don't mind, I hope you don't mind that I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you're in the world.
I sat on the roof and kicked off the moss.
Well a few of the verses well they've got me quite cross.
But the sun's been quite kind while I wrote this song.
It's for people like you that keep it turned on.
So excuse me forgetting but these things I do
You see I've forgotten if they're green or they're blue.
Anyway the thing is what I really mean
Yours are the sweetest eyes I've ever seen.
Well, I was hooked. And still am. Happy birthday, Phil. I love you.