". . . 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)

Monday, February 28, 2011

Birds in Church

Yesterday at church the Hymn of the Day was "Consider How the Birds Above" (Lutheran Service Book 736). Our bulletin contained the following note on the hymn:

"The Hymn of the Day is a contemporary hymn with words by LCMS pastor Stephen Starke and a tune by Daniel Zager, an LCMS church musician and doctor of musicology at the Eastman School of Music. The text is rich with Scripture, drawing not only from today's Gospel reading (Matthew 6:24-34) but also from 1 Timothy 6:8-10 and 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. With or without the music, this hymn provides a wonderful spiritual exercise, reminding us of God's loving care for us in our daily lives that we may be kept mindful of His grace and trust His promises: 'For He who faced for you the cross will give you strength to live each day.'"

When it came time to sing the Hymn of the Day I heard a few high notes from the organ, then silence. My first thought was that the Cantor must have made a mistake--maybe he started to play and then realized he had the wrong registration and stopped to fix it. Or maybe he just hit a few stray keys by mistake. It happens to the best of us. :-) But then it happened again: random-sounding high notes played in various combinations and rhythms that didn't seem to be connected. Then as I listened the randomness disappeared and it all began to make sense: BIRDS! I'm hearing birds! The bird sounds continued intermittently as the hymn introduction began in earnest and as the congregation sang the first stanza:

"Consider how the birds above
Feed day by day with carefree ease--
Does God not keep them in His love?
Are we not worth much more than these?"

Once I figured out what the organist (a.k.a. my husband) was up to, I leaned over to Evan, my 7-year-old, and called his attention to it: "Evan, listen! Birds! Do you hear them?"

He did, and his eyes lit up as he listened. I then showed him the title of the hymn and told him that it was about what we had just heard in the Gospel reading: how if the birds see no reason to worry we don't need to either, since God loves us even more than he loves them! Evan smiled with understanding, and when it came time to sing he joined me and made it through almost the entire hymn without a loss of attention. (Such is not always the case.)

I share this story to demonstrate how the tiniest detail can focus the mind and spark the imagination, not just for children but for sleepy grownups, too. The "birds" in the Hymn of the Day turned something abstract--the words on the page--into something concrete. Suddenly we weren't just singing about birds--we were hearing them! And that hearing led us to give more attention to the words of the hymn and consider its message and connect it to the larger theme of the service. It was such a small thing, yet it accomplished so much.

If you're a parent trying to teach young children to worship, keep your antenna out for things like this--things in the service that appeal to the senses that you can utilize to draw your children in. Don't be afraid to talk to your children during church and point out elements of the service that they can easily grasp because of their concreteness, and then use those things to discuss the larger, more abstract picture of what is going on in worship.

And if you're a pastor or musician, look for ways to highlight what is happening in worship in a way that illuminates the message for those in attendance (both young and old). It doesn't take a high level of skill, but it does take planning, which in turn takes time. But if our worship is as important to us as we claim that it is, doesn't it deserve a measure of both?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

House Progress

Much progress was made this week! I know you've been breathlessly awaiting new photos, so I will avoid lengthy commentary and get right to posting them.

Built-in bookcases complete with crown molding

Close-up of crown molding

Sliding glass door with new trim - Door still needs to be stained

Far end of family room as seen from kitchen. We have a new TV! (My mom has our old one in her room.) We decided to have it mounted so as to save space AND be able to point it in any direction easily. The mount slides left and right, tilts horizontally and vertically, and even allows the TV to come out 12 inches from the wall. We first toyed with mounting the TV over the fireplace but settled on this arrangement, which allows it to be seen from the kitchen (great for parties) and also preserves valuable bookshelf space. If we had mounted it over the fireplace I would have lost shelf space to various electronic devices. By the way, the metal cabinet that is right now standing in the middle of the room is not going to stay there. It just doesn't have a home yet.

Here's a close-up of the piece I found to store all our movies & games and such in. It was purchased secondhand at a local antique & used furniture shop. A few scrapes and dings and one stubborn drawer, but cheaper than all the much less roomy new units I spent a few weeks looking at. I'm not sure what this originally was--maybe a buffet?

A shot of the opposite corner of the family room. I'm not crazy about the seating arrangement. Eventually I would like to get a L-shaped sectional sofa to replace what you see here. But that will have to wait a while.

A few close-ups of the desk you see in the above shot. It was my father-in-law's.

A few more shots of the room from different angles. Overall we are very pleased. The ceiling was repaired and painted as part of this project so now, of course, I want to paint the walls. Probably a pale shade of green. But that and the fireplace will have to wait a bit longer. For now, at least we can finally enjoy our family room!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

BJS Conference Extras

Excellent blog post on the conference by Rev. Thomas Messer

Blog post on the Cantor's presentation by Rev. Al Collver

Audio links for presentations and the conference Divine Service

And a few pictures:

Pastor Fisk with three of his fans

Cantor Magness presenting on Witness

President Harrison speaking at the banquet

Trevor Magness providing pre-dinner music

Monday, February 14, 2011

And it tastes good, too!

From my 2011 Forgotten English calendar, here is part of the entry for Monday, February 14:

"In William Coles's Adam in Eden (1657), a love potion is mentioned: 'The confection made of cacao called chocolate, or chocoletto, which may be had in London at reasonable rates, is of wonderful efficacy for the procreation of children for it not only vehemently incites to Venus but causeth conception in women . . . . Besides that it preserves health, for it makes such as take it often to become fat and corpulent, fair and amiable.'"

Bet you didn't know your chocolate was doing all that! Go eat some more! (If you're married, that is--it is clearly only suitable for the hitched.) And have a happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

BJS Conference

The Brothers of John the Steadfast conference exceeded my expectations in more ways than one. I think much good came out of it, both in front of and behind the scenes, and I am proud to claim the head of the group as my pastor and the worship planner/musician for the conference as my husband! I met several people in person that I had previously only known online, two of whose efforts to teach the pure Gospel are an ongoing gift to the world: Rev. Jonathan Fisk of Worldview Everlasting, and Rev. James May of Lutherans in Africa. Wow. What excellent work they are both doing. I was also pleased to meet award-winning composer Terry Herald, who is a Lutheran church musician as well as the president of his BJS chapter and who is also the newest composer to be added to the Liturgy Solutions catalog!

My husband was called in as a last-minute substitute speaker for the conference. He presented on "Witness," the second of LCMS President Matt Harrison's threefold emphasis. As a member of the LCMS Board for International Mission and one who last fall went to Brazzaville, Congo to teach hymns and liturgy, he was well-suited to the topic. I bet it won't surprise you to hear that he made some connections between "Witness"--our confession to one another and to the world--and worship and liturgy. You can see a photo of him in action here. Continue checking the BJS site over the next week for more wrap-up and posting of podcasts. I also have a few photos that I hope to soon post here.

If you haven't attended a BJS conference, consider it for next year. They get better all the time!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Where did it go?

The week, I mean? I don't really know. But obviously blogging took a back seat, and for the next few weeks will probably continue to do so, as Solo & Ensemble season is upon us and I will be looking to fit in practicing and rehearsals for the 40 or so junior high and high school students that I am accompanying at contest this year. Add in four junior high choir concerts (plus the necessary rehearsals for those) and a conference at our church this weekend, and it will take all I can muster to keep up with much of anything beyond the absolutely necessary. It's like this every February. March isn't much better. Maybe I will be able to stop holding my breath in April.

Speaking of breathing, I have been having trouble doing so lately. Just can't seem to get enough air. Has anyone out there ever experienced this? I feel as though I'm in constant need of a yawn, but I can't seem to succeed in getting one. I have had this sensation at other times in my life so wonder if it's just stress. Then again, maybe it's allergies, or the chlorinated air that I have been breathing several times each week since I started attending a water exercise class, or the carrot I accidentally inhaled last week. Who knows--I'll just be glad when I can breathe again.

Anyway, the piano calls, so in lieu of more lengthy blog posts on the topics that have been on my mind of late, here are some pithy comments:

The Super Bowl halftime show was pathetically bad. I am aghast at what has become of our popular culture.

That Ronald Reagan was one of our greatest presidents has become a truism. Everybody acknowledges it, even those who opposed him when he was alive and would oppose him now if he were still with us. But after watching the Reagan 100th birthday tribute on Sunday and then viewing with my husband and children a documentary about his life and presidency, I have been reminded anew of the reasons for his greatness. And while I am saddened to see how far we as a country have traveled from the place that he took us to, I am also encouraged to remember how much he managed to accomplish in his eight years as president. It gives me hope that if we as a nation can find and elect the right leader we can reverse our current course and return to the path that he put us on.

Finally, if you homeschool in Illinois, you need to be paying attention to this. Really, if you homeschool anywhere I think you will want to watch how this effort plays out. With apologies to John Donne, "Any homeschooler's loss of freedom diminishes my freedom, because I am involved in homeschooling. Therefore, never send to know for whom the educational despots grasp; they grasp for thee."

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Blizzard Videos

Evan is surprised by his dad, lying in wait in the snow.

Surprise! - Blizzard of 2011 from Cheryl on Vimeo.

Shiloh catches snow fever.

Frisky Beagle - Blizzard of 2011 from Cheryl on Vimeo.

Blizzard of 2011

Some shots from the Blizzard of 2011, in no particular order.

Back yard with snow touching bottom of granny swing
Snow drift on front steps

View out the front windows

Front yard

View out the front door

Shoveling a path for the beagle

The driveway is done, but the front steps await!

And the shoveling begins

Our neighbor helped.

Almost done!

Front of the house

There are some steps under there somewhere!

View across the street

Phillip standing in a snow drift in front of the neighbor's house.

Snow piled up in front of the garage.

Collapsing before he even began.

Staying warm with love.

Shiloh exploring

Back of the house (no sunroom!)

Phillip sitting on the swing with his arm buried in the snow.

It's a snow recliner!

Me and Evan

Building a fort for the snowball fight