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When I grew up, in the ’70s, we didn’t have all of the technology that’s available these days, so we listened to music on radios. Remember those? That dial was really an equal opportunity music delivery device. It’s how I developed a diverse musical palate. If I liked the song, I listened to it. If not, I’d twist the dial and find another song.

I didn’t have to know where the band came from. What’s your pedigree? Your background? Are you from a decent neighborhood? Are you the same color as me?

No. If you sang a song and I enjoyed it, that’s all I needed to know.

Most of my friends were only into rock music and hated all other genres. Rock is great, and probably my first love, but so is R&B, and rap, and country. All of it’s good. I can think of a great song that I love from any genre.

Bluegrass? Sure thing. Alison Krauss and Union Station’s cover of “Baby Now That I’ve Found You.”

Jazz? Yep. “Moody’s Mood” by James Moody. Former American Idol contestant, Elliott Yamin’s, version is great, too.

Opera? Oh, of course. “Una Voce Poco Fa,” from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, sung by Cecilia Bartoli.

It’s a lot like life. If you shut the door to everyone who doesn’t think, look and believe the way you do, you never know what you’re missing. And listening to another person’s story can be music to your ears.

Ruth got it in one.  Social media is often a place of discord.

And I have to admit that I sometimes play a part.  You can be as clueless as you want on your own account.  But when you say something in my space, I will point out that your sources are rubbish and your logic is illogical.

King was talking about jazz when he made the above statement.  But I can’t help but believe it applies to everyone and not just musicians.

Whether you are a musician, an artist or a teacher, you can pluck choice items from the chaos and use these materials to build a masterpiece that reflects the light and love of Christ. That masterpiece might be a rap, a painting or an activity that helps a young learner channel energy in a way that enables them and all around them to learn the day’s material.

No matter who we are and what we do, we can choose to be the instruments that bring Christ’s song to a troubled world.


If you’ve never sung in a choir, you may not know what a cantata is.  A cantata combines readings and song and the ones we perform last about 20 minutes.

Our choir director generally gives us a rehearsal disk about 2 months before the performance.  Listen to the disk, sing along, learn your part.

Sounds easy?  And it really isn’t dreadful.  First you learn you part, then you rehearse with your section, then you rehearse with the full choir.

Then, and only then, do we take it into the sanctuary.

Our first run through in the sanctuary is always frighteningly bad.  No, really.  You’d think we’d never heard the music let alone practiced it.

Fortunately, Ellen, our choir director is an angel of hope.  “That was a little rough but you’ve been practicing.  You’ll have it in no time.”  And? She was right.  No matter that we missed almost every cue, forgot our parts, sang the wrong words and what was that?

In the light, you don’t need hope but it in the dark it pulls you forward, back toward the light.


Choir was a little painful tonight.  We needed to work or way through four different anthems but we spent quite a bit of time on one.  Why?  Because one section had learned their part wrong.  They had sung it wrong in the past. Our new choir director patiently had them repeat those two measures again and again. She understood that letting go of the wrong way of doing it and relearning the right way is much harder than learning the right way the first time around.

Why take so much time?  Because music is our offering to God.  It is definitely worthwhile to give him the very best we can offer.

What mistakes do you need to root out of your life?  We all have something and, although it may seem difficult, it is worthwhile if it means giving our best.



I remember my sister giving me the news (she always was dramatic): Cat Stevens had changed his name, converted to Islam, and given up music — his reasoning being that his new faith did not approve of it. I’d grown up loving Cat Stevens’ music — “Moonshadow,” “Oh Very Young,” “Wild World,” “Peace Train” — how could any child of the seventies resist him? I totally dug (to use the parlance of the times) the gentle, fairy tale quality of his lyrics, his reassuring voice, his seeming gentleness. And here he was, taking all of that back and calling it somehow wrong.

Yusuf Islam (as Cat Stevens is now known) has since seriously softened his stance, and has been performing and releasing new albums for a while now. He also contends that his rejection of music had much to do with feeling burned out, a state I can relate to. But at the time, that’s not how I heard it. At the time, someone’s religion broke a kid’s heart. That’s something religion should never do.

I didn’t grow up feeling disheartened about women not being able to join the priesthood, as it was something I never aspired to myself. But I know now that some little girls were disheartened. They grew up, and certainly some of them took their (religious) business elsewhere. Which makes the Pope’s announcement that he is putting together a committee to look into the reinstatement of women into the deaconate so important. I say “reinstatement” because women were, for many years, deacons in the Church, until the day they were suddenly and (let’s face it) inevitably deemed “not godly enough.” If the Pope makes good on this beacon of hope, it will be a sign of true inclusion for women in the Catholic Church. Not an end point, by any means, but a good start.

If I can be a part of something that undoes or prevents the breaking of a child’s heart by religion, count me in. God loves children — Jesus made this abundantly clear. Nothing that purports to be “of God” should damage, dismay or disconcert a child. Not ever. Just as someone who claims to be a person of God should do his or her level best to never cause anyone — least of all a child — hurt or sadness.

The Church has not always been good in this regard. I now know that an abusive priest called my childhood parish home, and when our pastor found out about it and went to the bishop, the bishop merely sent the offending priest elsewhere. I am certain this brought terrible sorrow to our pastor, a good and moral man. It also must have brought a lifetime of hurt to many children, who, as altar servers, trusted priests implicitly. Although I admire Pope Francis for being vigilant about this abuse, there remain hundreds of scarred hearts out there, the hearts of children who once trusted the wrong persons. Nothing can make up for that.

It makes the defection of a pop star seem silly in comparison, I know. But kids are fragile, their hearts easily bruised. It remains up to us grown-ups to remain on guard against this misuse of faith. Here’s to a future full of hope, a day when religion offers only (as a hymn Cat Stevens once covered notes so beautifully), “Praise with elation, praise ev’ry morning.”

joyful noiseIf you’ve been reading our little blog for any length of time, you probably already know that whether I’m praying or worshipping, I adore music. So it really isn’t surprising that part of the season that gives me the most joy is the music.

Until Thursday night.  That’s when our choir director introduced us to Sunday’s anthem – From Heaven above to Earth I Come.  The text is an oldie but a goodie from Martin Luther.  The music is Bach.

Ugh. Bach.

As much as I love listening to Bach, we’d tried singing Bach once before.  I don’t remember how many times we ran through it that long ago night, but it was such a train wreck that we never even performed it. It wasn’t the same song, but it was Bach.  Translation: Complexity here I come!

We ran through page 1.  Oh heaven help us.  That was bad.  Then we did it again, and again, and yet again.  By about the fourth time through, we were somewhat amazing.  That said, everyone sings the melody on page 1.

From there we broke into parts.  It was slow going as each section learned one line at a time and then we’d sing that single line together.  Line by line.

When we started to flag, Abe explained to us why he had chosen such a hum dinger. Simple music is fun to sing, but something that is this complicated gives us the opportunity to offer something up to God that requires focus and effort. It is an offering worthy of the God who gave us His All . . .  His Son . . . His Grace.

As I drove home with Bach bouncing around in my head, I thought back on the Christmas music my mother and I had most enjoyed together – Handel’s Messiah. If you’ve ever had to sing the Hallelujah Chorus you know it is anything but simple, but it is such an amazing piece that it brought a King to his feet.

Sure, I love Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole, two more Mom introduced to me, but I can truly sink my teeth into Handel.  Joy can be simple but it can also be marvelously complex.


When this appears, I’m going to be on a much needed retreat in the forests of Missouri.  It’s a working retreat with four other writers.  Two of us even have books due soon (mine is due Tuesday!).

While I’m typing and laughing with my friends —

I wish you the sheltering Grace of God.  May you feel His Love, His Forgiveness and the Wholeness that comes from Him in your life today and everyday.



In her last post, Lori wrote about having an earworm or a jingle stuck in her head.  Boy, do I know how that goes.  I’ll get one line of song stuck in my head and it plays on and on. More often than not, it is a hymn or anthem.

When we have choir rehearsal, we often work on 4 or 5 anthems.  One is for the upcoming week, and the rest will cover the coming month.  One week we perfect the notes and singing full vowels.  Next, we work on dynamics, getting louder and softer.  Then there’s breathing and getting the message across.

That last one is the toughest for me.  How do you sing a song so that you cause the audience to feel a certain way?  To a point, it has to do with the music itself and the notes you are singing.  A part of it is the words.  And of course the dynamics play a part as well.

It isn’t surprising that by the time we are done working on a song, a bit of it is stuck in my head.  And I’m not the only one.  In the ladies room, I hear someone in the far stall humming the chorus.  As I walk down the hall, I hear the men’s harmony coming from around the corner.

We each have a slightly different earworm but they are all a part of the larger message for God.  Maybe just maybe that’s why He needs us working together.  We each come way from the experience with our own earworm, our own take on the whole.  Individually, each is just a fraction of the whole.  Only together can we bring God’s message to the world.


Riots and terrorism and abuse.  How can we hope with these things in the world?

I’ll be the first to admit that it isn’t easy.  In fact, some days the world weighs me down, but I’m lucky.  I’m in the choir.

What does that have to do with luck or hope? Today we are singing Be Thou My Vision.

More than a song, Be Thou My Vision is Prayer with a Capital P.

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.
High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

Our choir director prayed this with us Thursday during rehearsal.

I’m asking You. Be my vision.
Be my vision when things are well in my world. Be my vision when things are dark. Be my vision when I am tempted by the things of this world.
Whatever happens, Lord, light my way.
May I see the world and the people in it as you see them.

Sung with this in mind, this anthem lifts your heart toward God. You lift up your listeners as well.

Through song we can share His Blessings with a broken world. Thank you, Lord.




Have a Mary Little Christmas

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