Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Banners & Stole!

OK, look at 'em and covet, my friends! (Seriously, didn't I tell you they are gorgeous??)

At the left is one of our photos of the banners. But much better pictures are at the artist's studio:

Our church's new Carrot Top Studio wedding banners and stole

Now, go give Jenny some business. She truly deserves it, and you're not going to find better quality or better prices.

Monday, May 28, 2007

"Seven Things You Don't Want to Know" Meme

Sorry, Singing Owl; I forgot I told you I'd do this meme. But I'm still not going to tag anyone. But (hint, hint) if you read this entry, consider yourself tagged!
  1. I am double-jointed in several toes.
  2. I am directionally challenged.
  3. My favorite beverage with pizza (preferably sausage and olives) is milk.
  4. Even though I grew up less than an hour from Mt. Hood, I did not learn to ski until I had lived in Texas for years, and had to go to Colorado to do it.
  5. I received a commendation in Army Basic Training for "maxing" my physical fitness tests (but don't expect me to repeat the performance lo these thirty years later).
  6. My life of crime began and ended when I was about five, when I stole a pair of Barbie sunglasses from the dime store. I wasn't caught, but the guilt I felt made me keep them hidden. Poor Midge (I didn't have a Barbie) never even wore her ill-gotten booty. I still half-expect to be asked about this when I reach heaven.
  7. I am allergic to ingested alcohol, including the small amounts in cough medicine, sauces, and other foods.
There, now that you know far more about me than you ever wished to, why don't you tell all on your own blog?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Wrestling with Daddy Charles

I read this hymn of Charles Wesley periodically, and it's especially appropriate for me right now, though I prefer to keep the reason to myself. If you're unfamiliar with this seldom-sung hymn, I commend it to you. According to Charles' brother, John Wesley (the two much-beloved of us Methodist people), the hymn writer Isaac Watts claimed that this one hymn was worth all the verses that he (Watts) had written.

This entry at the Cyber Hymnal gives MIDI files for a number of tunes to which it can be sung. Myself, when I sing it I prefer CANDLER, a traditional Scottish melody.

"Wrestling Jacob"

Come, O thou Traveler unknown,
Whom still I hold, but cannot see!
My company before is gone,
And I am left alone with Thee;
With Thee all night I mean to stay,
And wrestle till the break of day.

I need not tell Thee who I am,
My misery and sin declare;
Thyself hast called me by my name,
Look on Thy hands, and read it there;
But who, I ask Thee, who art Thou?
Tell me Thy name, and tell me now.

In vain Thou strugglest to get free,
I never will unloose my hold!
Art Thou the Man that died for me?
The secret of Thy love unfold;
Wrestling, I will not let Thee go,
Till I Thy name, Thy nature know.

Wilt Thou not yet to me reveal
Thy new, unutterable Name?
Tell me, I still beseech Thee, tell;
To know it now resolved I am;
Wrestling, I will not let Thee go,
Till I Thy Name, Thy nature know.

’Tis all in vain to hold Thy tongue
Or touch the hollow of my thigh;
Though every sinew be unstrung,
Out of my arms Thou shalt not fly;
Wrestling I will not let Thee go
Till I Thy name, Thy nature know.

What though my shrinking flesh complain,
And murmur to contend so long?
I rise superior to my pain,
When I am weak, then I am strong
And when my all of strength shall fail,
I shall with the God-man prevail.

My strength is gone, my nature dies,
I sink beneath Thy weighty hand,
Faint to revive, and fall to rise;
I fall, and yet by faith I stand;
I stand and will not let Thee go
Till I Thy Name, Thy nature know.

Yield to me now, for I am weak,
But confident in self-despair;
Speak to my heart, in blessings speak,
Be conquered by my instant prayer;
Speak, or Thou never hence shalt move,
And tell me if Thy Name is Love.

’Tis Love! ’tis Love! Thou diedst for me!
I hear Thy whisper in my heart;
The morning breaks, the shadows flee,
Pure, universal love Thou art;
To me, to all, Thy bowels move;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

My prayer hath power with God; the grace
Unspeakable I now receive;
Through faith I see Thee face to face,
I see Thee face to face, and live!
In vain I have not wept and strove;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

I know Thee, Savior, who Thou art.
Jesus, the feeble sinner’s friend;
Nor wilt Thou with the night depart.
But stay and love me to the end,
Thy mercies never shall remove;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

The Sun of righteousness on me
Hath rose with healing in His wings,
Withered my nature’s strength; from Thee
My soul its life and succor brings;
My help is all laid up above;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

Contented now upon my thigh
I halt, till life’s short journey end;
All helplessness, all weakness I
On Thee alone for strength depend;
Nor have I power from Thee to move:
Thy nature, and Thy name is Love.

Lame as I am, I take the prey,
Hell, earth, and sin, with ease o’ercome;
I leap for joy, pursue my way,
And as a bounding hart fly home,
Through all eternity to prove
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

More Braggin' Rights

Oh, do I ever wish I had permission to post some pics! We just received our commissioned banners and stole from Carrot Top Studio - Owner/Artist Jenny is a RevGalBlogPal and I've got to say, she does EXQUISITE work! We could not be happier. She designed and made a wedding set for us, just in time for this coming weekend's wedding of a third-generation member's wedding. Sister Pastor and I have been turning back our wedding fees from church-related weddings (when people have insisted on our accepting them) so that we had just enough in the fund for Jenny's VERY reasonable prices, and she whipped them out in next to no time.

Super, super beautiful! If your church needs/wants either of these items (stoles or banners), you really MUST contact Carrot Top Studio! Don't go anywhere else. I mean this--can you tell?

As soon as Jenny posts the pictures on their website, I'll link to them.

(Trying very hard to remain mature here and not do the "nanny-nanny-boo-boo, we have pretty church things and you don't" dance. --GRIN!)

Sunday, May 06, 2007

So proud!

(Gush alert!)

My babies (choir children) did SO WELL today! I've never been so proud of them. Everyone loved the concert and most stayed to enjoy banana splits or ice cream sundaes with us afterward.

And the school-age children were thrilled with their end-of-year gifts: hymnals of their own, imprinted with their names. Harder to tell with the pre-schoolers, who received beautiful enamel choir pins (blue with red singing birds), nearly an inch in diameter, which they can wear each time their choir sings in the coming year. The children also presented me with a small white bear, proudly "bearing" the United Methodist cross and flame, with a collection of small business-card sized photos of each child and adult worker, double-sided (reverse sides were various photos of things like our Christmas program, Sunday morning singing, our sanctuary windows, etc.) A keepsake of our year together--something I'll treasure the rest of my life.

Fun, fun, fun!

I SOOOO love my job!

I'm going to miss these young ones this summer. Oh, I'll see them in church and they'll give me leg hugs (the youngest ones) when we meet. And some of the older ones will tell me where they're going on their vacations or their latest swimming achievements or Six Flags visits and so forth. But working with them each week, and especially praying with them (my favorite part of each rehearsal--ever heard a three-year-old praying for a sick sister or a pet who died? No guile, just trust...) yes, that's what I'll miss the most. I need the break, but my heart's already looking forward to the fall.

I don't know how I avoided crying as the older children sang "Feed My Lambs" (Sleeth) this afternoon. (It was one of their choices of favorite pieces from this year.) Somehow it took until today for it to sink in that God was reminding me of my own calling through this text:

"Feed my lambs, tend my sheep,
Over all a vigil keep;
In my name, lead them forth
Gently as a shepherd."

Thank you, Good Shepherd, for the gift of these your children in our church family. Keep me faithful to you as I help to shepherd them in your way. Let my love for them show them, in some small way, the boundless love you have for them.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

This 'n' That

I'm finally back to the blog. We hit a very busy spot at church and the day job got rather intense at about the same time. But good things have happened and continue to happen--and I pray that in one particular respect, will yet happen.

On that last point, I learned Tuesday afternoon that my day job boss lost his job. I learned this when the HR director informed me I would not be needed the rest of the week, as the company re-thinks the direction for the IT department to go. So although the acting IT director has emphatically told me that he considers my work essential and absolutely needs me back, it remains to be seen if he has any clout to make that happen. So I've been updating my resume and getting back into the job-hunting groove. I'm praying that they DO want me back--the work was ideal for my (non-church) gifts and I've enjoyed it. But I wish I had the nerve to tell them that any IT department needs at least one administrative support individual--one who's not merely temporary--and if they offer me the job as an employee, I'll take it (but not a temp assignment). I'll know what's right, when and if this or any other assignment is offered. But I *do* need to work; there's that ridiculously over-priced car that needs to be paid for and a pair of feline despots who loudly demand food in their bowl each morning.

But...on to more certain and uplifting things!

We dedicated our new piano and a number of other worship/sanctuary items last Sunday. The service was wonderful and a number of people reported having worshiped as never before. Every musical group in the church was represented, as we combined elements of a dedication recital with the service itself. Sister Pianist outdid herself! She and I played a treatment of "Ode to Joy" as the postlude (I on violin), and while my playing was not flawless, I think it went all right. The children sang like angels while Sister Pianist played Fred Bock's (otherwise rather trite) Clair de Lune/Jesus Loves Me. Our opening hymn was "When In Our Music God Is Glorified," with a handbell duet team playing the melody each verse while I added violin for the first and last verse. A male soloist sang a beloved solo from a years-ago cantata--he's my male adult assistant in children's choir, and the children swarmed him with compliments at their rehearsal later that afternoon (an echo of the way he compliments them each time they sing). Two of our liturgical dancers, accompanied by our early service music team of three singers, piano, and guitar, presented a stunning interpretation of "Above All." We had a lay reader who has a very dramatic style, read Psalm 8, from which we went directly into Fettke's "The Majesty and Glory of Your Name"; the final alleluias were all I could have hoped for from our 21 voices.

No, for the most part we weren't very "high church"; we're never very high church! But it was our best, and for our informal little (?) church, it was a once-in-a-lifetime event. We dedicated a grand piano, a Paschal/Advent candlestand (handmade by a member and GORGEOUS), an equally gorgeous handmade handrail recently installed in the choir loft for the singers' safety (made by a different talented member), new worship banners, our recently purchased choir robes, and the beautiful choir stoles made by one of our choir members. The service was followed by a catered lunch in honor of all church volunteers, with a "fair" for people to see the various ministries of the church for which we can volunteer in the coming summer and school year. A great day, great worship, and a great coming together of the generosity and creativity of our congregation!

This was two weeks after our chancel choir presented Benjamin Harlan's "Wondrous Love" as the Scripture and proclamation. Cantatas can be musical hack jobs, but I highly recommend Harlan's remarkable cantata. He had an unusally well-written, effective narration that drew the congregation into the Mark version of the Passion and Resurrection. The choir and our two narrators (latter deliberately chosen because they're twenty-something, an age group we tend not to hear from too often in our congregation but which is growing in number and faith in our church) did a fantastic job. One of the good things about "Wondrous Love" is that it doesn't force a church choir to try to sing "pop" style. The sheer number of familiar, yet not over-sung, hymns makes it very unusual in its genre. I've heard from several people that members of the congregation were singing along on a few of the songs! When debriefing the choir the next Wednesday, the consensus was that it was their favorite of any cantata they've ever sung, mainly because it wasn't "pop." They don't do "pop" very well, and they know it. And I couldn't be happier with that state of affairs! So on my to-do list is a letter of thanks to Dr. Harlan, which will include encouragement to keep writing things like this. We smaller, "legit" choirs have too few extended works that we can do with integrity and confidence. The worship of God deserves such music.

And the next week, our school-age choir was the service choir. They do this once each year and it is a huge deal for them. They sang Natalie Sleeth's "Feed My Lambs," just about perfectly. They behaved beautifully, even sitting and listening attentively to the guest pianist's postlude (Sister Pianist was away for the weekend). They understood that being in the choir loft meant that they were worship leaders for the morning and they stepped up to the challenge and did very well. I am VERY proud of them!

One more "big" thing still remains for me this spring: our annual Children's Choir Concert, scheduled for this Sunday. It's not a huge deal; all the music is the children's favorites from this choir year. It's fun, also, because we demonstrate a few of the things the congregation never sees/hears: from "Nancy the Gnat" (a little game the younger children and I play to get them to stretch their voices and learn control over pitch and volume) and "The Silly Song" (the children have the length of the song--sung to the tune of "Polly Wolly Doodle"--to be as silly and wiggly as they wish, then the "sillies are gone now") to all the verses and motions to the "Austrian Yodeling Song" (this year complete with Tyrolian hats), the concert is a celebration of many of the things we do to help the children grow in their knowledge and love of music and worship. I'm always delighted by the number of people who attend who have no children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews in the children's choirs. This church loves their children. (So do I!)

Then it's a matter of crating the handbells to send them off for reconditioning, getting ready to welcome special Sunday choirs (men for Mother's Day and women for Father's Day) and volunteer groups to sub for the choir during their July off (and arrange for two volunteer directors for the two weeks I'm taking off), and enjoy not spending 13+ hours at church on Sundays during the summer. I'm tired, and I'm ready for a little change of pace. I'm thinking about seeing if I could visit a couple of the Texas Rev Gals' churches on those weeks off. (Hint, hint)

So that's all the news that is news in Psalmist-land, where all the members are loving, all the children are angels, and all the singers are WELL above average.