Merry Christmas

602759_10151135667487062_971409166_nIn a stable
filled with the noises of God’s creation
a gift was given.

A child was born–
a child who came
to bring peace…
healing of relationships…
wholeness…
and God’s shalom.

Not a one-time gift,
but an ongoing gift of presence…

May you sense that gift
whoever you are…
wherever you are.

May you be blessed
with the Peace
that came to earth
that Christmas night.

Magic Carpets!

I used to dream about being able to fly away on a magic carpet…seeing new sights and having wonderful new experiences. Of course, as I grew older, I realized that the kind of magic carpets the movies sang about don’t exist…but there are magic carpets available to us. All we have to do is read!

This year my public library had a “6 in 12” contest. Could I read six books in twelve months? I looked at that question and laughed. Twelve months to read only six books?? I read that many (at least) in one month!

If you look at the right side of my blog, you can see book recommendations from the last three years…one (or occasionally two or three) per month in my “What I’m Reading” list. There’s also another list of books I’ve read for a review site, “Blogging for Books.”

The library contest only counted books actually checked out from their library. As we reach the end of the year, I really kind of wish I’d kept track of the books I’d read this year, but I didn’t. I do know that they covered a wide range of topics: classics, historical fiction, science fiction, autobiography, biography, classics, crafts, religion, essays…(I’m probably forgetting some topics here). But they’ve taken me many different places and times and allowed me so many new experiences I would never have had the opportunity for otherwise.

So in 2013, I’m going to keep a running list of all the books I read, regardless of where they come from. I’ll still continue to do my “book of the month” recommendation, but because I’m curious about just how much I read and what different magic carpets I ride, I’m going to put them all down.

Want to join me on the journey? There’s a whole new world just waiting for us!

We have to do something…

newtown-shooting-victims

Now that a few days have passed and we have moved from the initial horror of the tragedy in Connecticut, the responses have become what one could have almost predicted. Polarized…different groups asserting their rights and blaming other groups…wringing of hands…

But isn’t there more we can do? more we must do?

I believe there is. But it’s going to require all of us to let go of our sacred cows, to be willing to work together…to realize that what we are currently doing as a nation isn’t working…and to do it before we have yet another mass shooting.

“Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” True. But easy access to some kinds of guns (i.e., assault rifles and huge clips of ammunition) make it easier for people to do the killing. I do not have a problem with people owning guns for hunting–or even for protection (although I don’t want a gun in my home). However, who needs an assault rifle for self protection? Those guns are designed for one purpose–to kill as many as quickly as possible. There may be a place for them in war, but not in our homes.

“Nobody’s going to take away my Second Amendment rights!” I am a firm supporter of the Constitution. However, it seems to me that the way we are currently functioning in regard to guns does not ensure our security, but rather makes it less secure. See my thoughts above about gun ownership…

“If you take away my guns, then only criminals will have guns.” Again, see my statements above about gun ownership. And yes, I realize that criminals seem to always be able to find a way to get the weapons they desire. But do we have to make it so easy?

“He was mentally ill.” Possibly–but as a nation we have slashed our spending on care for the mentally ill and made it difficult for them (or their families) to find help. I understand that we cannot always determine if or when someone is going to snap, but surely providing more options (rather than homelessness or incarceration) would make it possible for individuals and their families to get some of the help they need. And it’s important to realize that mental illness does not necessarily equate with violence!

Twenty families are going to be without their little ones this Christmas. More families will be without mothers/sisters/aunts/grandmothers.

Will this be the time that we will work to come together to protect individuals’ rights to gun ownership while at the same time figuring out what we can do to make our society safer? Or will it take another shooting…and another…?

Heartbroken…

This is a season when we should be enjoying the excitement of children…and yet…

The news reports today of another mass shooting. While information is still sketchy, there are a significant number of casualties from a shooting in an elementary school in Connecticut. Children–who should have been in a safe place–instead found themselves running for safety from yet another individual who went on a killing rampage.

Why? Why?

There have been too many incidents like this…too many times when “safe” places have turned out to be anything but safe.

Yes, in each of those situations there have been people who have forgotten about their own safety in order to try to protect others. And yet…there are still shootings.

I am heartbroken for the families who again today are impacted by these horrible losses. Those who have lost loved ones–the students’ families, the school principal’s family, the school psychologist’s family…will have empty places in their homes this holiday season. The students who survived will always carry with them scars from this event. The first responders–those carrying out children and trying to bring healing as well as those trying to make the school safe again–will have memories they would prefer not to. And yes, the shooter’s family is also among the victims–both literally and in other ways as well. His mother is dead as is a brother–and those family members who survive will be asking themselves “Why?”

Were there warning signs? Was there anything that could have been done to have prevented this shooting?

We can debate that question in so many ways–with each of us having our own ideas and own responses.

But for now…I would simply ask that we remember in thoughts and prayers those who are dealing with the aftermath of this tragedy.

What did they ever do?

Being a child in England gave me an ongoing interest in medieval times…a somewhat romanticized interest, to be sure–but I think that’s true of many of us. After all, no one ever says that they would love to have lived as a peasant (or perhaps even lived in a previous life that way). No, they’re always princesses or queens, kings or princes–or at the very least, some member of the aristocracy.

But even living that way has made me wonder recently (especially since I apparently ate something that at least mildly disagreed with me)… What did they ever do without bathrooms?

I know–I’ve seen the “in-house outhouses” in the castles…felt the breezes coming up. I’ve felt the wind blowing through the windows and shuddered to think what it must have felt like in winter.

I’ve used outhouses before–when I went to church with my grandparents in a rural area of Iowa. Not too bad in the summer, but such an incentive to “hold it” in the winter!

But what about when you absolutely can’t “hold it”? when your body says “Go now!” and doesn’t give you any choice?

Or what about when your body is trying to empty itself of a problem at the other end? and you have to find somewhere to throw up?

These prosaic bits of life are rarely if ever discussed in novels (or even histories) of the time. And they certainly don’t seem to figure into any of the romanticized versions we hold of the Middle Ages. Normally that’s okay. It’s perhaps more information than I really want to know…except when I’m dealing with those issues myself in this day and time–appreciating the indoor (and warm!) facilities in my home…and I wonder.

What did they ever do?

I did it!

In my last post I talked about a deferred dream that was going to come to pass…

Well, it did!

Last week was a wild week–I felt like I was meeting myself coming and going…and when I wasn’t rehearsing, I was sleeping. Four rehearsals in two days, followed by three performances, is a lot to take in…especially when you don’t get the music for your part until the first rehearsal!

It was fun!

Was it perfect on my part? No…I bobbled some places in each of the performances, but I was able to recover and continue without messing things up.

And how do I feel now? Exhausted…feeling like I’ve been run over by a truck…but delighted. I don’t know if I’ll ever get the chance to do it again–and that’s okay. I’d love to…but I’ve had a chance to live my dream.

During the week, though, I also realized that this chance didn’t come about merely “by chance.” It was the confluence of several things:

  • Years of playing piano in all kinds of activities
  • A piano teacher who insisted I learn how to sightread well
  • Several years of serving as a rehearsal accompanist for Messiah
  • The recommendation and support of a good friend
  • Prayers from many friends in the choir who recognized the amount of energy this experience was going to take–and who were also concerned about how it might impact my health
  • A supportive husband!!

“Lucky chances” usually don’t come out of a vacuum. They become available because of years of preparation–even though you don’t know that at the time you’re doing the preparation.

Now…I wonder what other deferred dreams are still waiting? Hmmm…

Me at the portative organ I was playing (a self-contained portable pipe organ)

Me at the portative organ I was playing (a self-contained portable pipe organ)

Deferred dream…come to fruition

For many years, my church sponsored an annual performance of Handel’s Messiah (around Thanksgiving) at our world headquarters at the Community of Christ Auditorium in Independence, Missouri. It was accompanied by an orchestra composed of professional musicians who were hired as well as church member professional musicians. The organ (a marvelous Aeolian-Skinner) and the harpsichord were both used as well…and I used to think it would be so much fun to be able to play one or the other of those parts, especially during the years I served as rehearsal accompanist.

However, it wasn’t to be.

Instead, I became the house sound manager–helping to regulate the balance between the choir, harpsichord, and soloists. It was fun…and I did it for many years, including through the first years of our collaboration with the Kansas City Symphony and Kansas City Symphony Chorus, with the performances still at the Auditorium.

Last year the performances moved to the new Kauffman Center in Kansas City. It’s a beautiful new building with marvelous acoustics.

Rehearsals are still primarily at the Auditorium, and so I’ve continued to have some responsibilities there–but am no longer directly performed with the performances.

Until last Sunday…

I received a phone call, wondering if I’d be available to play a portative organ for the performances this week! The conductor wanted 3 keyboard players–one on the big Casavant to assist the choir, one on harpsichord, and one on the portative, splitting some of the recitatives and arias between the portative and the keyboard.

Big gulp…and then an excited “yes!” I thought I’d be playing maybe half or so of the performance. But at our first rehearsal, I discovered that I would be playing somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4 of the pieces! Wow!!

We’ve had four rehearsals in two days…first one with the conductor (David Lockington) to basically start the pieces, setting tempos. The second one was the first one the choirs had with the orchestra, so we went through the choruses. The third one was with the soloists…and the last one was the dress rehearsal–the first time we went through the whole oratorio in order.

Now there are three performances–all of them sold out.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was a bit nervous. It’s taking a lot of energy–both emotional and physical…and I figure I’ll crash on Monday. I’m trying to make sure I stay rested so that I have the energy to stay on my feet for the playing and that my MS doesn’t create problems. But I’m also excited.

It’s been a dream deferred…but no more. Messiah….here we come!!

Me at the portative organ I was playing (a self-contained portable pipe organ)

Me at the portative organ I was playing (a self-contained portable pipe organ)