Watch Floyd

Watch Floyd.

Or…Look Up.

Or…Fix Your Eyes.

Or…”Then Let All the Living.”

I can’t decide on an appropriate title for this blog. There are so many good choices.

In just under two weeks time, the Marquette Choral Society will be performing our spring concert. I can’t wait to tell you about it. I think I love this music even more than I loved the music last spring. I feel connected to this program for a few different reasons, but I won’t bore you with those details tonight. In two weeks, I promise to share my thoughts about the concert, the material, and (best of all) my Floyd quotes from the semester. It hardly seems like we can be so close to performance…

Anyway, I had something of a revelation last night during rehearsal. We are singing several incredible (and difficult) pieces of music (those Germans know how to write a hymn, yo). We were working on a piece from one of my newest favorites, Heinrich Schutz, entitled, “Dank sagen wir alle Gott”–or, We Offer Our Thanks. It’s a beautiful hymn in a sort of flowing 6/4 time.

At least, the first page is. I confess that I’ve been struggling with measure 11. It’s right there on the page, easy as can be–a half note (two beats), then a quarter rest and half rest (three beats of silence), and a quarter note (one beat). It doesn’t sound hard, does it? The two notes are even the same pitch, so there is absolutely nothing about this measure that should be difficult. All semester as we’ve worked on this, I’ve chided myself: “If you were able to sing the 7/8 song last semester, and Zadok with the organ the semester before that, there’s no way you aren’t going to master this simple measure.”

Yet…I struggle. Why?

Well, I could tell you it’s because of the page turn. That could be part of it. I’m not turning soon enough. I could also tell you it’s because this nice flowing piece of music, beginning with that last quarter note of the measure, suddenly moves. And I could tell you that I’m not being diligent about counting my rests, so I’m not hitting the quarter note with anything that could be mistaken for confidence. It could be that I’m still feeling “new” to the piece, and the movement of the next page still catches me off guard. I could tell you that I’m not breathing when I should. All of these things, I suppose, are true; but none of them (individually or together) are the reason I struggle with this measure.

And I realized that quite clearly last night when I did everything right–the counting, the breathing, the page turn, the expectation of the next page. I had it, folks. I was there, I was ready, and still–I missed it. How did I miss it?

I know I wasn’t the only one because Floyd stopped us and made us do it again. And as I sat there, wondering how in the world I was going to conquer this measure–this stupid little measure that was half silence–I had a brilliant idea. “Stop trying to figure it out,” I said to myself, “and just watch Floyd.”

The amazing part about it is that even as I forced myself to not look at the music, to turn the page a measure earlier than normal and fix my eyes on Floyd, I have to confess to you that there was an enormous part of me that didn’t expect anything to happen. I’m embarrassed to tell you that it surprised me when Floyd gave me my breath, and my cue, and by gosh, if he wasn’t movin’ to the rhythm of the page turn in expectation of what we were barrelling into!

It shocked me.

It shouldn’t have.

Poor Floyd, who tells us week after week, “Watch me.” Poor, poor Floyd. Hahaha.

I just had to laugh at myself. Of course the answer is to watch my director. What’s really amazing is that I knew it all along. I pride myself in watching Floyd, in paying attention when he’s talking, in following his lead. But me, in my pride, in my folly…do I trust him when I am faced with something I am struggling with that I shouldn’t be struggling with? Nope; I decide I’m going to conquer it alone, rather than trust the man at the front of the room who really knows where we’re going.

It reminded me of the verse in Hebrews that tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. How often do we try to conquer situations and emotions on our own? Even when we have all the particulars analyzed and figured out, even after we’ve counted every beat of silence, we blunder; we step without confidence; we don’t anticipate the page turn. Christ knows exactly where He’s leading each one of us, and if we could but turn our face toward Him and trust Him to lead us, we would excel through the most difficult situations.

“Then let all the living, then let all the living join with the angels’ shouts of thanksgiving, thanksgiving.”

God bless you this week as you learn to fix your eyes on Christ.

Pax Christi.
Sarah

I Make No Promises

I apologize. I would be lying if I said that time “got away from me.” I knew very well that I needed to blog. For weeks, I’ve been thinking about it, but I’ve been unable to commit to it. For allowing a month to pass since our last encounter, I apologize.

As I begin this blog, I am waiting on the arrival of my brother’s family for the Easter weekend. I also seem to be having trouble with my “s” and “g” keys. So…I make no promises about the spelling of words containing those two letters, or about the length of this post.

I haven’t much to report, anyway.

Choir is still wonderful.

Work is still a great fit for me.

Writing is still important.

Piano is still therapeutic.

I’m doing alright, yanno? I can’t complain. God has blessed me so richly. I’m considering a lot of big topics right now, and I can’t even begin to address them, so I’ll just list a few of them: Adoption, Theology of Music, Letter Writing, Affirmation, New Dog.

Believe me, these are ginormous topics. I covet your prayers as I tackle them one by one.

And…that, folks, is it. Just a brief update.

Easter blessings to all of you!

Micah

It’s all about perspective.

These four words have become one of the Great Lessons of my life. It seems simple. It seems hokey. It seems almost flippant. Unfortunately, I have come to believe in the truth of this statement quite desperately. It comes, I suppose, from years of observing the Great Lakes Freighters on Lake Superior. It can be difficult to tell where a Freighter is in relation to, say, the dock, or the breakwater, or another Freighter. You may drive along the highway and see her as long as a Summer Day, but turn down Lakeshore Boulevard and be staring at her face-on. It’s about perspective.

I’ve tried to apply this to my life and to situations that stump me, but honestly–that’s when the words seem flippant. When you’re struggling through loss or hurt or frustration, hearing, “It’s all about perspective” is seldom comforting. It’s usually annoying, if you want the truth.

Annoying, but no less true.

Sometimes it takes years to see a situation from a different perspective. Sometimes it takes an enormous amount of willpower to see things differently. As true as I find it, it is none too simple. I struggle with this daily, seeking not just a new perspective but a God-perspective on life and the world around me. I am not too proud to tell you that I fail more often than not.

But last night, in a mustard-seed attempt at changing my perspective on a ridiculous situation I’ve been feeling suffocated with recently, I threw my head into my hands and whispered, “God, what are You doing with me here?”

I woke this morning to this song we used to sing at the Tab, Micah 6:8. Though I love this passage and think of it regularly, I haven’t thought of the song in years. It’s been on my heart all day. It’s a simple song, a simple verse, a simple (and excellent) answer:

What does the Lord require of thee?
But to do justly,
And to love mercy,
And to walk humbly with thy God.

So here I am, in the midst of circumstances that I cannot change, and the answer is (as always) to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with my God. That’s the answer. That’s always the answer.

We mistake the world around us, I think. We assume that everything that happens in our lives is about us, is about our happiness, is about our desires being fulfilled, is about our contentment, is about our success. Guess what? It’s not about us. Not like that, anyway. If it’s about you and me in any regard, it is simply this: That we are the Body of Christ, His hands and feet to a broken and confused generation that desperately needs Him; that we are being made into His likeness. Rich Mullins (I think) once rote about love–how we mistake love as something that we do to changes others (i.e.: If I love my enemy, it will convert him); in reality, love is our obedience to Christ, and when we act in love, it is WE who are changed.

Maybe that’s the perspective. God is changing me. I think. I hope. I pray.

May He Micah 6:8 you, too.

Pax Christi,
semmie

Proud to be an American?

I don’t often feel like words fail me. Words have always been an abundant resource for me, a manner of communicating my concerns and convictions.

A few years ago, one of my best friends from high school was visiting and we were out to dinner. She has had something of a difficult life, and has always struggled (I think) to find her identity. When she joined the National Guard, she gained a confidence and self-respect I’d never seen in her before. I can’t tell you how proud of her I was and am. I digress. She was visiting and we were eating dinner. An older woman approached our table and put a twenty-dollar-bill on the table. She told us that whenever she and her husband see a serviceman or woman out in a restaurant, they pay for her meal. They had been doing this for many years (I think she said forty years, but I don’t remember). The truth is, I don’t remember much of the woman’s words. What I remember–what I’ll never forget–is the look on my friend’s face. She looked humbled–not humiliated, but humbled–and honored.

I remember thinking about it all night. She didn’t enlist so that strangers would pay for her meals. Without exception, I have never met someone serving in the armed forces who acts like or says others need to show them special treatment. They do what they do for a reason–and it’s not for attention.

Why am I telling you this?

Yesterday morning, I was refilling my coffee in the break room, and I caught just a glimpse of something on the television. Lee Greenwood sang that old song that used to bring tears to our eyes and then a group of individuals placed their hands on their hearts and–following one young man–recited the Pledge of Allegiance. They were becoming naturalized citizens of the United States. One gentleman said it was like he had been “born again.”

Those who’ve been a part of the Christian community know how powerful those two words are. We don’t know the name of the emotion, but we know it sweeps over us every time we hear those words. To think–everything past is past, everything is new, we are born again. That’s an incredibly powerful feeling, and it struck me that a newly-oathed citizen of the United States would describe the experience in those words.

And then it embarrassed me. Just a little bit. It has become so easy to distance ourselves from the patriotism of our fathers and grandfathers. Many of us were born into freedom. We have always known the security of belonging to this great nation. We don’t remember the threats our ancestors faced. 9/11 is the only moment in recent history when we’ve questioned our security, our future. It brought us together in a surge of American pride–rightly so.

I thought about this all day yesterday. And somewhere in the midst of it all, I remembered the face of my dear friend, humbly accepting a free meal of gratitude from a complete stranger.

How blessed we are–still–to live in a nation of freedom.

How blessed we are–still–to be individuals and pursue our passions.

How blessed we are–still–to be governed by laws and not by kings.

How blessed we are–still–to be healthy and happy and productive.

How blessed we are–still–to freely worship in the manner in which we find our conviction.

How blessed we are–still–to be the United States, not the Wanting-to-Peacefully-Secede States.

How blessed we are–still–that men and women sacrifice their time, their energy, their relationships, their careers, their health, and their very life’s blood to defend our freedom.

How blessed we are–still–to be a nation that strives to promote freedom to the oppressed around the world.

All this, and more, I can still see in my mind in the face of my friend that night at the restaurant. I am so blessed. I am so proud. I am so thankful. Of all the places in the world I could have been born, I am so thankful I was born in these United States of America.

As I spent the day thinking about all of this and remembering my friend’s face, I thought about what a difference that woman made. I wondered if my friend remembered her (I bet she does). I wondered if anyone has ever paid for my sister to have a meal. I wondered if anyone else out there pays for our servicemen and women. I wondered if anyone would dare to join me in this conviction.

I can’t pay for every military person I encounter. And I may not be able to pay for them every time I see them. But it’s my new commitment–to myself, to my God–to show my gratitude for my freedom by paying for a meal for a soldier whenever I see them out. I realize that not everyone is in a place financially to do this, but if those of us who could made it a habit–just like that woman and her husband–think of how honored our military would feel. Think of how appreciated and loved they would feel.

What do you say, folks? Anyone else game?

And…for anyone interested…or for anyone who’s forgotten how emotional it is to be an American, here is part of the ceremony I saw yesterday.

Empty

I’m not sure what’s wrong with me. Maybe it’s all psychological. I’ll be honest—I’m just empty. I’ve run out of steam. I feel like I push myself hard for work, for family, for friends, for everyone and everything. It is rewarding in its own right, but what I’ve failed with is finding a balance in life where I can chase after the things that make me “me.”

We are all under the same plague. You have no more hours in a day than I have. But somehow, I have felt those hours slipping—wasting—away from me, precious moments that cannot be recaptured, opportunities unpursued. I have lost something crucial to myself, and I am struggling to find it again. I am praying about it more than I want—it’s difficult to admit (yes, even to my Creator) that I care so much about this, about my life. I like to fancy myself self-less and unconcerned about self’s pursuit. Yet, I remain—aching for time and space to enjoy and to become the person God created me to be. I feel so foreign to myself! It’s not supposed to be this way.

So I return to the basics, the things I need: Music. Writing. Study.

I have to make time for these things in my life. I feel good when I do. I feel rotten when I don’t. It’s as simple as that.

So today, I return to Komae. Someday, I promise you, I will finish this story. It’s just as much about my own Becoming, apparently, as it is about the characters’.

A Story About A Girl: A Random Sunday Memories Event

Grab your popcorn! Get comfy on the sofa!

Just kidding, it’s not that exciting. ;)

I haven’t been blogging my Sunday Memories this year, mainly because the prompts focused on some specific parts of our family which I felt were best kept separate from the great big interwebs. Being my birthday last Sunday, however, the prompt was to write about, well, myself, which I found incredibly difficult. Here’s what I came up with.

There’s an awkward moment when folks find out that I’m trying to write a novel. They ask, “What’s it about?” What’s it about, indeed! Experienced writers encourage amateurs like me to come up with a one or two sentence summary of our plot and memorize it so we’re prepared to answer this question. Of course, breaking a story down into one or two sentences is no easy task. So far, this is what I have:

It’s a story about a girl…

Pretty lame, eh? I’m just not sure how to summarize what’s happening in my story. I don’t know which morsels to reveal to try and interest people; I don’t know which secrets to hide so I don’t give everything away. All I know to say is that it’s a story about a girl.

I feel a very similar awkwardness when people ask me about myself. I could tell you a lot of things about myself, and it would never tell you who I am or what I am passionate about. So far, the only thing I know to say about my life is that “it’s a story about a girl,” and I’m that girl.

But there is one word that describes me well, I think: Longing. I am longing. I am always longing for something: Christmas, music, time to write, to speak with someone, to walk around the island, to finish a novel, to travel, to study, to read more books. I am constantly longing.

I think it comes across as unhappiness, sometimes. It’s not. It’s just a recognition within myself that I am not finished yet. A.W. Tozer talks about Christianity, and this strange phenomenon we see, where our expectation is that we make a decision to follow Christ, and suddenly everything in life falls into place. We are happy, we have clear direction, we have impeccable morals, we are faithful to our churches and to each other, we stop sinning, we stop even wanting to sin, we stop looking for fulfillment in other areas of our lives.

The truth is, it is right for a Christian to long for Christ. It is right that we should desire His presence in Eternity. It is right that we should feel a bit unsatisfied with this world.While He is the Giver of “every good and perfect gift,” that He blesses us with mercies that are “new every morning,” we also stand in an awkward awareness that no blessing on this earth can compare to the fullness and joy of being united with Christ. Our hope is not merely for an easy go of this life, but of the life eternal—which is what we were destined for.

I’ve heard it said also (by C.S. Lewis, I believe) that “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”We think that this life is what it’s all about, but it’s really just the pre-game event. What we are created for, what we are being refined for, is to dwell in the presence of God Almighty for eternity—to live in rightness, to live in wholeness, to live in worship, to live in communion with Christ and with His Body.

It is right that we should long for that.

It is right that we should long for those things that make us more into His likeness.

It is right that we should feel a bit unfulfilled and unsatisfied in this world—it is that grace that keeps us seeking hard after Christ, reminding us how small our brains are, how little we actually know Him. He is, after all, beyond our comprehension. Or, as the Proverb says (chapter 25, verse 2),

“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.”

So that’s me. That’s Sarah. It’s a story about a girl. Longing.

Forget About It

Forget it. Just forget it.

We forget so many important things. We forget the name of the person we just met. We forget where we left our keys. We forget what day the rent comes out of our checking account. We forget whether we’ve had a tetanus booster recently (though I always seem to remember having it more recently than I actually have). We forget birthdays, anniversaries, special occasions. We forget to write letters. We forget to put a check in the mail. We forget to pull our clothes out of the dryer, and then they get all wrinkled. We forget (admit it, you’ve done it) to brush our teeth before bed. We forget to put on deodorant. We forget to pray before meals. We forget to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. We forget our cell phone numbers. We forget to reply to that text we received when we were at work. We forget whether Kathryn Russell was our fourth or fifth grade teacher. We forget the exact wording of our favorite passage of scripture. We forget which Wesley was the hymnist. We forget how to drive in the snow. We forget to return library books. We forget to check the air in our tires. We forget, we forget, we forget.

We forget so many things. And yet, when it comes to the things we need to forget (more for our own sakes than anyone else’s), we can’t do it. We can’t forget the harsh word someone spoke to us forty years ago. We can’t forget how hard it was to grow up without one of our parents. We can’t forget the time someone stole from us–money, purity, time. We can’t forget the person who cuts us off in traffic or in line at W@lmart. We can’t forget that one time we lent money to someone and they never paid us back. We can’t forget when someone snaps at us, argues with us, or makes us feel insecure.

This is on my mind today because I am remembering a person and a situation that I honestly thought I’d let go of. So tonight, my prayer is that Christ would continue to recreate me into His likeness and character, that He would teach me to forgive, that He would teach me to forget.

Pax Christi.