Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

into poverty and need,
sin and greed,

The Holy One
in flesh and bone,
becoming one
with humankind.

Amid the
beasts stirring,
Virgin laboring,
stillness of the
small, heedless,
sleeping town--

A Child draws breath,

And Creator joins
with creation:

The Almighty
is doing a
new thing!

The Ancient of Days
in the trough.

Copyright [Psalmist], 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

Published again!

Another anthem utilizing one of my texts has just been released. Because this publisher markets well and includes authors in their online search options, my name actually pops up prominently for the two versions of this new title. For that reason, I won't link to those pages...I do value my privacy and safety in this crazy online world.

Anyway, it turned out quite nicely. The composer anticipates very good sales, and we have a good deal with the publisher, so eventually I may see a little income from it. And it's nice to have a text receive positive feedback, which has come both from the composer(obviously, since he chose to use it) and from the arranger. The arranger in particular is well-known in the business and carries a fair bit of clout.

Finally, I've also signed the contract for another anthem collaboration with the same composer and arranger/editor. And the composer is asking for two more texts, one of which is for a commissioned anthem for a mutual friend.'s supposed to be about grace! What an inspiring theme! So I'm attempting to commit something good to paper. Yet I'm pop-in blogging...that's what happens when the words aren't coming along very well, I guess.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Of Silver Stars and Ingrates

Warning: Those who deny that women should be serving in the U.S. armed services, don't watch, on danger of being proved wrong...

Watch CBS Videos Online

Once I read on an infamous blog about an ungrateful male soldier who, after having had his life saved by a female medic -- one who just happened to be awarded the Silver Star for the heroism involved in saving his and another male soldier's life --had the ingratitude and tunnel vision to give as his sole comment for the story "Women have no business being on the front line," I simply had to watch the clip for myself. I hope you will watch it, too...but be sure to watch it all.

Then-Private Monica Brown saved the lives of two fellow soldiers at considerable risk to her own life. We laud male soldiers who shield their fellows with their own bodies and tell of their heroism decades and generations later. Yet one of the two men she saved, seemingly thinks she shouldn't have been there at all. And that, because it supported his misogynistic opinions despite the overwhelming witness of the other parties in the story to the contrary, is the only thing Bayly quoted from the entire story.

I'm not sure I'd trust the opinion of an ungrateful, badly wounded junior soldier over the witness of Private Brown's unit's Sergeant Major and brigade commander; they had somthing very different to say about this woman, who served with conspicuous bravery to save her fellow soldiers' lives. I think he -- actually, the soldier AND Bro. Bayly -- is really showing a highly stubborn, egotistic, sinful attitude: "I'd rather die than be saved by a woman."

Jesus offended many in his parable about the Good Samaritan for precisely that kind of reason. The Samaritan was the hero of the story, and the priest and the Pharisee were revealed for the self-righteous, callous sinners they really were. "Good" Jews would rather have died than be saved by a Samaritan, and for telling that parable, Jesus showed that the "good Jews" among his listeners would rather have died in sin than be saved by a Samaritan-loving Jew like Jesus. (Overly simplistic observation, perhaps, but one worth considering.)

Just who, I wonder, would you or I prefer to die than to be saved by?

Meanwhile, here's an old Army veteran and fellow Texan who wishes she could salute Specialist Monica Brown. I'd say she ought to wear her Silver Star proudly, but she's self-effacing enough that she maintains she was only doing her job. And isn't that the sticking point, really? She WAS doing her job, the job she was trained to do, and going above and beyond it in order to save lives under enemy fire. Despite certain blowhard misogynists' bigoted opinions, I suspect that an awful lot of women can relate to serving other people selflessly and at great personal risk. Perhaps much better than said bigoted blowhards can...

(Classic dogface sound-off here)
Monica Brown, you are indeed a hero. Long may your valor be remembered!

Checking back in

Hello to those who stop by.

Medical issue is in the myriad diagnostic tests and procedures phase right now. Surgery still seems likely sometime early in the new year, but how extensive depends on some more imaging and some pathology reports.

Move still isn't done, but slowly progressing. I had *better* make significant progress this weekend (I tell myself, sternly)...

I was briefly checking my Bloglines, and my least-favorite patriarchs-in-pastors'-clothing brothers are at it again concerning women in the military, this time in support of an ungrateful wounded soldier's denouncement of the heroic woman who saved his life.

I'll post about that next. Amazing...

A blessed mid-Advent to all.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Happy New Year!

I'm breaking my self-imposed hiatus to wish a blessed beginning of the new Christian year to those of you who observe Advent. (To those who don't, the first Sunday of Advent--Advent being the season beginning the fourth Sunday before Christmas and ending on Christmas Eve--marks the beginning of the liturgical/Christian year.)

A brief update for you:

I did indeed see my new doctor. I have a significant medical problem that will almost certainly result in surgery, probably after the first of the year. Right now, I'm being poked and prodded and anticipate more of the same, in order to determine what exactly we're dealing with and to rule out for certain any of the scariest (remote) possibilities. Several other more mundane conditions are being medicated again after all this time, and I'm starting to benefit from the results. Most of my "stuff" is a function of the aging process--happy looming 50th b-day to me--and being overweight (about which I'm making some progress). But I'm grateful beyond measure for the blessings of health coverage and an excellent physician. May I never take these gifts for granted!

In the midst of it all, I have begun living at my new apartment, in a much more spacious unit in a very much safer complex. Meanwhile, the old apartment still holds the majority of my belongings, which I'm (too slowly) sorting through and carting the 3 miles to my new place. Jenny and Rosie, my two aging kitties, have handled the move quite well, though Jenny freaked when I brought my friend Stacey in today in the process of the two of us moving a couple of pieces of new-to-me furniture (Stacey's old recliner and a cute floral loveseat finally taken out of lay-away at a nearby antique mall). She's such a chicken when it comes to having anybody but her mama in the house with her! To say I didn't entertain much at the old apartment is an understatement.

My kitchen is mostly set-up now, in crisp red and white to go with the funky retro cabinets; I'm cooking nearly all my meals now, which is a switch for me. My new bed is dressed in pretty pale blue sateen in my new quiet, peaceful bedroom, which was a very good thing to have ready when I had to spend a couple of days last week mostly in bed. The bathrooms (one for the cats, and one for me) are at the ready with a white-on-white theme, dressed up with some lovely blue-and-white pieces to hold various bath necessities, and of course the ever-present "cat box" in the girls' bathroom.

I just received a plea from my dear composer friend with whom I've collaborated on three published or accepted for publication anthems. He's asking for two more lyric texts, one for a commission he has received from a mutual friend for an anthem in his youngest daughter's honor; it will be a text focused on "Grace." The other is for the "senior song" he writes each year for his youth choir to premier on their summer choir tour, in honor of that year's senior members. He has used my texts the past two years and both have been picked up by a good publisher that markets their anthems well (unlike our first collaboration; Abingdon does nothing much in the way of marketing; my last royalty check was for 30 copies!)

Church is doing well, and well into the swirl of activities inherent to Advent. Our sanctuary is nearly all decorated, except for placing the chrismons on the tree. This will be done at our Hanging of the Greens service tomorrow night, after which we'll all repair to Fellowship Hall for a rice and beans supper and a "fiesta" to gather, sort, and prepare to transport the gifts we're all bringing for our annual mission trip to the Rio Grande Valley (both sides of the border). The choir is presenting two anthems per week in lieu of an extended work this Advent. I wrote a simple drama for the children's choirs, and the children are hard at work on it, learning the songs and their lines like champs. We're taking it easy this year; no "bathrobe pageant"--the children will wear regular clothes and even bring their school backpacks as part of the story line. The theme is gifts, and at the end, each child will place a gift box or bag under the Chrismon tree as symbolic of the various gifts they can give the Christ Child. Then it's off to the Hall for a Christmas party, with a certain jolly old elf making an appearance once everyone has had the chance to decorate a gingerbread house. Fun traditions.

I'm still really liking my administrative job. I've really got the best boss ever, a fine Christian man with impeccable ethics and a genuine humility rarely found in C-level executives. He, along with our CEO and now a brand-new COO, are interims. I am praying that he and the CEO become permanent in those positions, or at least as permanent as anybody is in any job in these troubled times. I'm proud to work for my boss, and especially proud to be a part of a hospital and health network that remembers our primary mission: serving the poor of our county with excellent medical care.

Well, this has turned into a LONG entry, hasn't it? A lot has happened and is happening. I don't anticipate getting back into regular blogging until after Christmas, but I didn't want you faithful few readers to wonder what has become of me. I'm where I've always been: in God's providential hands, and those hands have poured out an extra measure of blessings on me lately. I am content.

Happy Advent and Christmas to you all!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Psalmist on Indefinite Hiatus

Hello, my dear blog friends.

As the calendar shows, it's been well over a month since my last entry. Given that I'm only making this once because I'm home sick, I think it's best if I concede at least temporary defeat to the tyranny of a two-job, about-to-move, stressed-out life and cross blogging off my never-finished "to-do" list.

I'm especially disappointed that my Lectionary music feature won't continue, but there just isn't time or energy to do it for now.

Bright spot: Finally, after far too long, I have a doctor's appointment in less than a month. My benefits have kicked in!

Bye for now, and may the light of God's countenance shine upon you all.


Sunday, September 07, 2008

Bulletin Blooper

Since our church's administrative assistant does not read this blog, I'm going to blog about a hum-dinger of a blooper from this morning. And ultimately, I share the blame for it making it to print, since in the pastor's vacation absence, I was the official bulletin-proofer.

We print our hymn texts in our bulletins. Today's final hymn was "Nothing But the Blood." Leading verse 3 in the bulletin was this gem:

"Nothing can for gin atone . . ."

Well, that IS true . . .

Music for Sunday, September 28, 2008

20th Sunday after Pentecost, Year A
Proper 21 (26) - Ordinary Time

Exodus 17:1-7
Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16 (UMH 799)
Philippians 2:1-13
Matthew 21:23-32

What will your congregations and choirs be singing? What will you or your other instrumentalist(s) be playing?

Please share your thoughts, plans, pleas for help, bright ideas, and anything else that might encourage us all to excellence in making music to the Most High!

For a display of the Scripture texts, as always, I recommend the Vanderbilt RCL resource for this week. It can be found here.

Music for Sunday, September 21, 2008

19th Sunday after Pentecost, Year A Proper 20 (25) - Ordinary Time
Exodus 16:2-15
Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45 (or Psalm 78) (UMH 828, UMH 799)
Philippians 1:21-30
Matthew 20:1-16

What will your congregations and choirs be singing? What will you or your other instrumentalist(s) be playing?

Please share your thoughts, plans, pleas for help, bright ideas, and anything else that might encourage us all to excellence in making music to the Most High!

For a display of the Scripture texts, as always, I recommend the Vanderbilt RCL resource for this week. It can be found here.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Music for Sunday, September 14, 2008

18th Sunday after Pentecost, Year A
Proper 19 (24) - Ordinary Time

Exodus 14:19-31
Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21 (UMH 135)
Romans 14:1-12
Matthew 18:21-35

What will your congregations and choirs be singing? What will you or your other instrumentalist(s) be playing?

Please share your thoughts, plans, pleas for help, bright ideas, and anything else that might encourage us all to excellence in making music to the Most High!

For a display of the Scripture texts, as always, I recommend the Vanderbilt RCL resource for this week. It can be found here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


At LONG last...a permanent, full-time job!

I accepted an offer today for the position I've filled as a temporary since mid-May. The pay rate will be over 50 percent higher than what I've been making as a temp. I will be eligible for most benefits immediately, including very good medical and disability benefits. I begin banking paid time off immediately and can begin requesting the banked time off after 90 days. I start on August 25th.

There is much rejoicing among Psalmist and her friends. If it would not have been an unacceptable breach of office propriety, I would have shrieked my delight so that this notice would not even have been necessary! However, since I received the job offer in the middle of the work day, I had to let a few very discrete phone calls and several e-mail messages suffice at the time.

But now:


In all seriousness, praise be to God. And much gratitude as well goes to my boss, who reveals himself a man of remarkable character and goodness more every day. He made this happen, though he has told me that it's my own hard work that led him to do so. (See...he's even humble!)

Several readers and commenters have told me they've been praying for me in this regard, and I do very much appreciate those prayers--and you who offered them on my behalf.

Now, I'd better get home and to bed (I've been working at my OTHER job, the one that's kept me from being homeless these last four years--serving my dear church). Tomorrow holds a very important board meeting, and I have to be in early for it.

Thanks again, dear friends, and thanks be to God for this great blessing in my life. I pray--and invite you to join me in that prayer--that God will guide me clearly in how to use this blessing to, in turn, bless others. Blessed to be a blessing...that's what it's all about, no?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Music for Sunday, September 7, 2008

17th Sunday after Pentecost, Year A
Proper 18 (23) - Ordinary Time

Exodus 12:1-14
Psalm 149 or Psalm 148 ( for UMs, that's UMH861 in the Psalter)
Romans 13:8-14
Matthew 18:15-20

What will your congregations and choirs be singing? What will you or your other instrumentalist(s) be playing?

Please share your thoughts, plans, pleas for help, bright ideas, and anything else that might encourage us all to excellence in making music to the Most High!

For a display of the Scripture texts, the most excellent Vanderbilt RCL resource for this week can be found here.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

And now, for the Day Job news

It's about to become a "permanent" day job.

My new boss told me Monday that he wants to extend a job offer to me as soon as he and our HR department can work out the details. He considers it an issue of fairness, because he's confident I'm a good fit for what he needs in an assistant, and he doesn't want me without benefits any longer.

Friends, I've been waiting for this since I got laid off from my LAST hospital job in 2003. While I've considered/been considered for other kinds of jobs (including full-time church positions), nothing's worked out. As Arsenio Hall used to say, "It's TIME!"

Since it's not a done deal yet, I was hesitant to post anything. But this really is good news. When I actually accept the job offer, however, I doubt I'll need to post an update; y'all will hear me clear around the hemisphere, I suspect.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Music for Sunday, August 31, 2008

16th Sunday after Pentecost, Year A
Proper 17 (22) - Ordinary Time

Exodus 3:1-15
Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45c (for UMs, that's UMH 850 in the Psalter)
Romans 12:9-21
Matthew 16:21-28

What will your congregations and choirs be singing? What will you or your other instrumentalist(s) be playing?

Please share your thoughts, plans, pleas for help, bright ideas, and anything else that might encourage us all to excellence in making music to the Most High!

For a display of the Scripture texts, the most excellent Vanderbilt RCL resource for this week can be found here.

Music for Sunday, August 24, 2008

15th Sunday after Pentecost, Year A
Proper 16 (21) - Ordinary Time

Exodus 1:8 - 2:10
Psalm 124 (for UMs, that's UMH 846 in the Psalter)
Romans 12:1-8
Matthew 16:13-20

What will your congregations and choirs be singing? What will you or your other instrumentalist(s) be playing?

Please share your thoughts, plans, pleas for help, bright ideas, and anything else that might encourage us all to excellence in making music to the Most High!

For a display of the Scripture texts, the most excellent Vanderbilt RCL resource for this week can be found here.

Music for Sunday, August 17, 2008

14th Sunday after Pentecost, Year A
Proper 15 (20) - Ordinary Time

Genesis 45:1-15
Psalm 133 (for UMs, that's UMH 850 in the Psalter)
Romans 11:102a, 29-32
Matthew 15:(10-20) 21-28

What will your congregations and choirs be singing? What will you or your instrumentalist(s) be playing?

Please share your thoughts, plans, pleas for help, bright ideas, and anything else that might encourage us all to excellence in making music to the Most High!

For a display of the Scripture texts, the most excellent Vanderbilt RCL resource for this week can be found here.

Music for Sunday, August 10, 2008

13th Sunday after Pentecost, Year A
Proper 14 (19) - Ordinary Time

Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b (for UMs, that's UMH 828 in the Psalter)
Romans 10:5-15
Matthew 14:22-33

What will your congregations and choirs be singing? What will you or your instrumentalist(s) be playing?

Please share your thoughts, plans, pleas for help, bright ideas, and anything else that might encourage us all to excellence in making music to the Most High!

For a display of the Scripture texts, the most excellent Vanderbilt RCL resource for this week can be found here.

New Focus for The Psaltery

For a long time now, the reason this blog is called The Psaltery hasn't been much in evidence. Oh, the references to getting handbells serviced and being proud of various choirs are a part of my work as a music minister, to be sure. I don't intend to stop posting blurbs of that nature. However, both the discipline of weekly worship planning and the practice of the art of sacred music have been discussed very little here.

That's about to change.

I'm "back in harness" after two weekends away and now two Sunday mornings' worth of worship services. My adult choir -- our church's regular loft choir -- will resume rehearsals on Wednesday. And true to form, I'm L-A-T-E in getting 6-8 weeks' worth of music planned for us to rehearse!

My proposal: To offer to my fellow worship planners (clergy and musicians alike) a "think tank" for planning worship music. This might evolve, if enough people get involved, to include other worship arts and perhaps acts of worship such as litanies and responsive readings. Think of the RevGalBlogPals' "Lectionary Leanings" and "11th Hour Preacher Party" features, but with an intentional focus on music.

Right now, I will be using the United Methodist version of the Revised Common Lectionary as my starting point. I will create a different entry for each week. The title of each of these entries will be a Sunday of the liturgical year, but identified by actual calendar date (such as this coming Sunday, August 10). I will post the UM Scripture references (though not the texts themselves, as I wish to honor copyright law for my preferred translations) and invite comment on what hymn, anthem, solo, and other musical resources I and others plan to use for the week. If you're in a different tradition that uses other texts for these days, I hope you'll participate anyway. If I can manage to keep up with an index feature, this could, in time, turn into a very helpful resource.

Want to play? (Sorry; I couldn't resist that worn-out pun!) Please jump right in and let's spark some creativity in one another!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Something Good to Write About!

(A summary of my mini-vacation originally posted to a good friends e-mail list)

I had the BEST time in Kerrville! Anybody know James Avery jewelry? I went to the workshop, though it wasn't working hours for the craftsmen. Bought a discontinued pendant to put in our Lord's Acre auction in October; couldn't afford the pieces that could only be purchased there, as they were all in gold. But discontinued is the next best thing; I wanted to get something that was made there and could be purchased only there, and I'm sure it will sell better because I got it in Kerrville.

My little B&B cottage was all I could have hoped for. I spent some time hiking (slowly and leisurely) through the various gardens: herb, bamboo, sculpture, and some without names but lovely as could be. There were wind chimes all over the place, and there's always at least a light breeze. The sound was scrumptious! It was a long drive, and I was tired, and I had my first ever jet tub bath. Total relaxation! Comfy bed, VERY quiet at night. Because it was outside of town and Kerrville isn't very big, I got that totally dark night sky that I've missed since moving to the metroplex (Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area). Woke up on my own Sunday morning, ate more of the fresh fruit the proprietors provided, enjoyed a cup of tea, packed, and then headed for church down at the bottom of the long hill from where I stayed.

THAT was the only blot on the weekend. I had called ahead and decided to go to their 11:00 service. The drive down took longer than I realized it would, so I was a minute or two past 11:00 when I got to the parking lot. There were NO spaces! I nearly turned around and left then, but went around again and finally found one. By now, it was about 6 or 7 minutes after 11. Went inside, and they were already a third of the way through the service! And wouldn't you know it, there were no easily accessible seats to slip into. An usher asked a couple on the end of one pew if they'd shift to let me in, but they just stood there. I'd already tried the one end spot I saw, and people had put purses and bulletins and Bibles in the three spots' worth of space. I'm not proud of myself, but I slipped back out and left. I've NEVER done that before. I understand better what some of the "experts" mean about being visitor-friendly. That service HAD to have begun before 11:00. Ours does, too, which is why all our literature and recordings say 10:45. We make sure that end seats are available, especially in the back. (It's easier for us, because we generally don't have capacity attendance, but still...) All in all, it was a humiliating experience and I'm going to do whatever I can to be sure my church doesn't let that happen to people who visit us.

So, I headed back up to the other side of town, into another country road area, to pick up the handbells. They look like brand-new! Loaded them in the car and headed to Fredericksburg, a touristy town on my route home. Had lunch in one of their cafes. It's a heavily German-heritage area of the state, and I had some half-decent German potato salad with my sandwich, along with an overpriced, so-so serving of that Texas staple, peach cobbler with Blue Bell vanilla ice cream. It's peach season here, and I thought for sure the cobbler would be made with fresh peaches, but no such luck. But I got one more auction item in the Christmas Store (which everybody said I just had to check out) - a European-style nutcracker (wooden figure) decorated as a cowboy. We're big on cowboys 'round here! It will get some attention in the auction hype because it's from the Fredericksburg Christmas Store. Then it was back in the car to take the "scenic route" home, and I went through a bunch of little towns I'd only seen on maps. Dropped the handbells off just as youth group was letting out, and talked to the pastor for a while. One baby born while I was gone and one due tomorrow, a downright miraculous good diagnosis for a very sick member, two of our older saints having some medical trials, youth director and several of our junior-high youth gone on a mission trip, Jurisdictional Conference over with three new bishops elected (one being assigned to our area)...all having occurred since I left on vacation. Took a while to catch up. I told her about my experience at the church in Kerrville, and I felt better when she said she'd have left over the parking problem!

ANYway, I'm back and getting into the routine again. The weekend needed to be more like a week away, but that was what I could manage. Too bad handbells need to be machine-cleaned only every 8-10 years! (The church gladly paid my mileage, since it amounted to far less than if we'd paid to ship the bells.) VBS starts Sunday night, and we music folks have a workshop to drill the new music this Wednesday. And my adult choir resumes rehearsals after having July off, on the 30th. Summer is definitely coming to a close soon. And I will love having all my groups back up again after Labor Day.

(I would love to go back to Kerrville again, and stay at the same place, for several days in a row. Perhaps when I get an honest-to-god real paid vacation from the day job, I can do that.)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

On not writing

I've had a rare weekend of vacation this weekend, with another -- involving a short trip -- next weekend. It's been a time of rest and relaxation for me, though with an indisposition (upon which I won't elaborate) which resulted in my not attempting to visit another congregation for worship. I even managed to sleep through broadcast church services!

It's been strange to me that I've had nothing to say here on the blog. Not that I didn't want to, but I still really don't have anything I wish to "put out there." Other than to update my few readers on the goings on here in Psalmist-land, I just don't have words to share.'s the update!

* I recently signed a contract with a major sacred choral music publisher for the publication of an anthem for which I provided the lyrics. I'm pleased that there is a well-respected editor, and that both SATB and two-part editions are in the works. The respected release date is Spring 2009, and potential royalties at least a year out from then. But unlike my first published work, this publisher markets well and this is also less of a "niche" text. I anticipate that it will sell well among youth choirs and in school markets open to religious texts.

* My secular work situation is fairly promising, if a bit of a roller-coaster right now. I have been on a temporary assignment as (senior) administrative assistant to the CFO of a major hospital network for about two months now. It was only announced last week, though I had known for several weeks, that my boss resigned and a new interim CFO appointment has been announced. This occurred only a few weeks after our CEO was asked by the board to step down, and an interim CEO was announced. He (the interim CEO) went out of his way to tell me that he had received excellent reports about, and seen for himself, the good job I've been doing; he was very much in favor o fmy staying on the assignment indefinitely, if I wanted to. Though it has been very difficult to handle the uncertainty involved in an about-to-resign and completely absent boss -- one I truly liked and enjoyed working for -- I realized I'd be a complete fool to leave. Had my first boss stayed, all the signs were there for me to be hired permanently. Well, now that I've met and worked with my new boss just a little, again I see signs that he would like for me to stay as long as I wish to; he stated that he has no desire to bring in anyone else for the position and he values my input as far as procedures and perceptions of how we can best get the CFO's duties done well. SOOOO...all that to say, I'm in a pretty good situation, for a temp! It's the temp part of it that I want to see change. I'm still in that limbo of being unable to take any time off to see a doctor, and there's just too much that I've put off for too long. Not that I couldn't afford the visit, but the tests and the meds would bankrupt me. I've been that close to the financial edge for that long.

* Church continues to go well. I missed "my people" this morning, but I need this time away as well. I worked lots of extra hours so I could be ready to be completely gone for two weekends in a row, and in the wee hours of Saturday morning, I finally made it back home and hit the sack. I've decided, and have the pastor's blessing, to limit my schedule to two nights per week as much as possible. This will mean combining my youth and adult handbell ensembles, probably on Tuesday nights, and continuing with my adult choir on Wednesday nights. Between gas prices and the official number of hours of my employment, to say nothing of running myself ragged with three nights per week, I think this will be better stewardship of my time and energy. Meanwhile, once I return from vacation, that next Wed. night I'll be meeting with my team for VBS music, then we kick it off the next Sunday night. I'll have to ask to leave early from the day job Mon - Thurs of that week, which is a lot for a temp to ask for. Fortunately, my new boss is a Christian and I think will understand and concur, as long as I get my work done. We (the day job) have a budget workshop that next Saturday, for which I have to prepare lots of the materials, but I don't actually have to be at the workshop. It's always something. At least I'm not bored.

*To the several who have been interested in hearing about the "romantic relationship," it's ongoing, but very low-key. There is significant geographic distance involved, and neither of us, by mutual agreement, is planning any travel to be together for the time being. He's been through some seriously difficult family issues lately, and we've been drawn close in prayer about them. You're welcome to pray, too, if you're so inclined. Names and specifics are not important; God knows all concerned. :)

*And so, I continue to walk by faith and not by sight. Just reviewing what I've written shows that other than my part-time church position, nothing could be considered "stable." After all these years of instability, I'm not sure what I'd do with a suddenly "stable" life. (Isn't "stable life" for horses?) God always has been, and remains, sufficient. And perhaps that's why there isn't more to write. What more is there, really, that needs to be said?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Happy Belated Second Blog Birthday to the Psaltery!

The actual date was last Friday -- yes, the 13th!

Guess I was too busy to mark the day, or even think about it, until today. And with me too sick with a tummy bug for real cake, I guess this is the closest I can get to enjoying a treat in honor of the occasion.

Thanks for continuing to read, my friends.

A little vacation coming up!

I'm going to be here for too brief a stay next month.

Just thought my few and faithful readers would be glad to know I'm getting away for at least one of my three weekends off this year, and maybe even envy me a bit.


Saturday, June 07, 2008

Romanticized Notions of Warfare and the Military

Recently I got involved elsewhere in what I will loosely call a discussion about the military, specifically about women who serve in the military. Having done so myself some years back, I have an interest and some knowledge about this subject.

The interchange was based on a couple of points raised in reaction to the Baylys' Memorial Day slam against women in the military (see the entry below this one).

I ended up dealing with some highly inaccurate, romanticized notions of what warfare and military service entail. There is, for one thing, the idea that there are or can be secure, segregated sleeping facilities for men and women. While that is a given in permanent and secure deployment situations, it cannot happen when the mission involves extended movement or when the unit is taking hostile fire. As I tried to explain, sleep happens when and where it can, fully-clothed, and if anything, illicit or felonious interaction between male and female is less likely than in those supposedly secure, segregated quarters. In other words, the mission overrides the need for sleep, or at least seriously intrudes upon it. You catch a few hours here and there in the vehicle, your improvised cover (be it standing or dug-in), or wherever/however, in uniform, your weapon at the ready, instantly alert. Sex is NOT on your mind, whether you're male or female, or if it is, it's one of those fleeting thoughts that does not get acted upon.

But no. There must be secure, segregated sleeping quarters in ALL circumstances, with the added "precaution" of removing any women from combat, where incidents of sexual assaults are an increased risk. Right. Remove the women, that will solve the problem. More of that romanticized idea that sexual assualt is primarily about sex. More resignation to the idea that it's normal behavior for men to assault women (sexually or otherwise), so remove the threat by removing the potential victims. Oh, but no! Just remove the women in addition to clamping down on the men who commit the crimes, because "many" of them do.

I was chastised for daring to say that I believe such an opinion does a disservice to men and women in uniform. Well, I still fervently believe that it does. We continue to cast military personnel in the guise of the last way we saw them prior to their enlistment: as hormone-plagued teenagers who will "hook up" if we give them the slightest opportunity. We discount the idea that they can and do mature (very quickly!) past that spoiled, immature teenage state into disciplined adults who are not "distracted" by the presence of the opposite sex. We either want to say that the right to defend their country should be denied to women altogether, or we somehow want to create artificially "safe" situations in which women will never be threatened by sexual assault or by war wounds or, God forbid, death in combat. It's based on a myth that is absolutely unfair to the good, law-abiding personnel who serve in our armed forces.

That's where another romanticized misconception is revealed. "Combat zones" are essentially the entire theater of conflict in modern warfare. There are no longer "front lines" and secure "rear areas." And as plenty of National Guard and Reserve personnel have discovered, if you enlist, you are subject to active duty service in an area of conflict. Probably several tours' worth of service. If you volunteer to serve, you volunteer to put your life on the line. Thankfully, most who do volunteer know this, even if the civilians back home refuse to recognize it.

The fear-driven "what-ifs" came up in this "discussion." What about if we fight a "real" war (apparently Iraq and Afghanistan aren't real enough), because if we do, the enemy will set up brothels of POW women if we don't wake up and stop allowing women to serve in the military, or we don't at least keep them in "safe" places. By all means, we must radically change military policy in order to plan against the most improbable and horrific fantasy that a civilian can conjure up! All I can say about such a ludicrous idea is that it's a good thing some civilians don't have a say in policy-making. It's obvious the man who put up this "proof" that women don't belong in the military, has never been trained in the military. Personally, I hope someday he (and people who think like he thinks) is in a position for a military woman to protect him. Because he's the civilian, for all his grandiose talk about the inadequacies of women to serve in the military.

Along those same lines, he brought up the "unfairness" of the different score requirements for men and women for military physical fitness evaluations. He apparently thinks that it is a military necessity to be able to do 70 push-ups. (Hint, fella: not all military men can do 70 in two minutes.) That's a critical military task, right? He appears to be unaware that it's called "physical fitness" for a good reason: the physical fitness tests measure an individual's PHYSICAL FITNESS. I'm well aware, despite his false charge, that men and women are built differently. One of those differences is in where the strongest bones and muscles in the body are located. It doesn't take a genius to recognize (and most human beings seem to appreciate) that a man's greatest bone and muscle mass is in his chest and arms, while a woman's is located in her pelvis and thighs. Men are built so as to make it EASY to do push-ups. A woman who can do, say, 50 push-ups in two minutes is actually far more fit in terms of her upper body, than a man who can do only 50. The requirements for sit-ups, the PT critic failed to mention, are roughly equal for men and women. Is he going to cry "unfair" about that, too? Of course not. And given a woman's slightly smaller lung capacity and shorter stride, the time requirements for a two-mile run are slightly faster for men than for women. The point, of course, is that the military has for years now tested and refined its test parameters in order to ensure that an easy-to-administer, low-equipment physical fitness test actually does, accurately, test a military member's physical fitness. Having been in a test unit for the first establishment of the three-event test for Army women (it used to be a silly seven-event test reminiscent of junior high gym class), I do know a little of the history and the rationale behind the three-event test as it is administered to military women. And believe me, a woman who "maxes" her PT test is an extremely fit individual, just as is a man who "maxes" his. And there's little mercy if you don't make the minimum on a PT test. Bottom line: If you want an army of push-up doers, you will require men and women to do the same number of push-ups. If, however, you want a physically fit army, the current PT standards are an excellent measure of that fitness.

Other silly things got said, but I'm tired of this. I couldn't qualify for military service anymore even if they did want me (and to date, I've received no recall letters). I happen to honor the men and women who set aside their dreams in order to serve their country in uniform. I respect them immensely for going where they're sent, doing what they're superbly trained to do: protect freedom and engage the enemies of freedom. I don't care if a military member is male or female, as long as he or she has been trained well and obeys the law. And if ANY servicemember breaks the law, I expect (as should any loyal American) that he or she be prosecuted. There is no place in the American military for the "boys will be boys" blind eye expectation that sexual (or any kind of) assault against fellow members or civilians is regrettable but inevitable. We DO do our forces a disservice to state that it's better to remove women from combat zones because the men are just too likely to commit crimes against them. Military service is not safe. Criminals are criminals. War is war. And misogyny is misogyny, and has no place in the armed forces or anywhere else in civilized society.

Final statement: I believe in the ideal of peace in this world. Most military personnel pray fervently for peace, because they know they will pay the price when we fall short of that ideal. And because we, as a society, have made it our policy to fall short of that ideal, we need the best and most capable personnel we can get to volunteer for our armed forces. We don't need the rhetoricians hearkening back to a time that never really was, telling us our woes would be lessened if we just prohibited women from serving in the military. (They don't know how perilously close the U.S. came during Korea and Viet Nam, for instance, to DRAFTING nurses. No women, except when we couldn't get the job done without them, I suppose.)

But that's the thing about America, and one of the things that our military protects for us: the right to expression of our opinions without fear of governmental retaliation. While the Patriot Act does threaten that right, still by and large, we have it, and do we ever exercise it! And my opinion is, whatever we bloggers say or how odiously we say it, we need policy-makers who rely more on logic and law than on emotions and religious proof-texting to regulate our military. Women ARE doing the job, and doing it well. And if they're uniquely threatened by unlawful behavior, then eliminate the unlawful behavior, not the women. We can't afford to lose good military personnel, especially not to the "friendly fire" of criminal assault.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Mindless Braying

Some time back, I mentioned the braying of a couple of non-veteran so-called men of God who declared women unfit for military service.

At that time, I declined to give their blog further traffic by linking to their mindless writings (see the title of their blog if you think this characterization is harsh).

But now, on Memorial Day no less, they open their mouths to bray mindlessly yet again against female veterans.

"Gentle"men, the right for you to spout your historically uninformed, reactionary, religiously-popular yet biblically proof-texted nonsense was won for you by men and women in uniform. Your obvious disrespect for the women who have served and continue to serve our country in uniform is your constitutional right to express. This, however, was not the day to express that profound disrespect, especially given your failure to post any evidence that you honor even male war dead. I realize it's asking too much for you, who never wore the uniform, to honor female veterans and heroes; in fact, it would be lying for you to do so, after your anti-woman rhetoric so many times over on your blog.

God forbid that this country, especially your community, should ever be threatened such that you would have to accept protection from a woman in uniform. She would honorably extend that protection to you, as she would to any other citizen. If such were to happen, perhaps you would finally understand that it is not the gender of the warrior, but her selfless sacrifice--a sacrifice you declined ever to make--that would be the important factor in your protection as civilian citizens of the United States of America.

I am proud to be an American, and proud to be a veteran. I am, however, ashamed of you, as fellow civilian citizens and as brothers in Christ. Would that you had the grace to be ashamed of yourselves for your misogynistic attitudes and the horrible timing of your disrespectful, dishonorable rant. Keep your so-called "compassion" to yourself. You owe all the veterans who protected your freedom, your profound gratitude and respect. If you couldn't be bothered to express these, then you ought to have had the grace on Memorial Day to keep to yourself your self-serving rant against the women who served.

Edited: The Baylys' dishonorable, disrespectful diatribe against female veterans (written to blast certain Presbyteries that support the law of the land that provides for women to defend their country) still stands. However, they did add a short entry purporting to thank those who served and are serving, as well as the families of those who gave their lives, late on Memorial Day evening. To these, they say they are "deeply grateful."

To My Fallen Brothers and Sisters

Today, I honor you.

I, who served in peacetime.

I, who lived to enjoy the blessing of freedom for which you gave your life.

I, who say a prayer of gratitude today for your selflessness and patriotism.

You took enemy fire.

You faced starvation, torture, and imprisonment.

You died on land, in the sea, and in the air.

You died doing the duty you promised to our country.

You never returned.

You paid the price.

I served, but you served and died.

I honor you.

I will never forget.

May eternal light shine upon you,
and upon the memory of your sacrifice.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Finally able to breathe!

It's good that summer has essentially arrived. Good for my sanity, that is.

Don't get me wrong. I adore the musicians I lead and our ministry together. I'm simply very tired. The frenzy of activity in the month of May was enormous this year. I'm making a promise to myself to not ever again attempt a major multi-group concert in May, ever again, even if the holidays coincide well for it. (We presented our every-musical-group-in-the-church-does-a-patriotic-bash-concert last Sunday evening, the day after Armed Forces Day and the weekend prior to Memorial Day weekend.) The concert went extremely well, despite some marked under-rehearsal on the part of several of my groups, and was well-received, but it was TOO.MUCH for this time of year.

My school age children did very well as the loft choir the Sunday before the concert, which was Pentecost, and also the observance of Mother's Day. That was also a coinciding of two "heavy" days that I'm glad doesn't happen very often.

Oh, and I started a new day-job assignment the Monday prior to the patriotic concert, one that my agency didn't tell me had an end time of 6:00 p.m. every day. Mind, I had a 7:00 down-beat for final rehearsals on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights. If I'd known about that requirement, I'd have turned down the assignment or else negotiated a 5:30 p.m. end time (which is, this past week, how it did get negotiated, after it became clear that I was expected to donate a full hour of unpaid overtime, eating at my desk or in the conference room and answering all the calls that came in). It's an assignment supporting the CFO of the county hospital, and entails a fairly high stress level, especially here at the beginning. I don't know the end date of the assignment. A candidate for the permanent position turned it down, they don't have an answer from their other permanent candidate yet, and if she turns it down, they have to start from scratch. I actually meet all the desired and required qualifications, so it's not outside the realm of possibility that I could end up being considered, in which case I'd have to temp through a contract period and then be hired. But that's unhatched chicken territory, so I'm not thinking too much about that. I'm doing a pretty good job. The 7-month temp prior to me kind of made a hash out of a lot of the job, and I'm getting the office more organized. I acquitted myself well at a Board of Managers finance committee meeting on Thursday, a major hurdle. Major stuff is happening, including the CEO being replaced; we had a new boss after the Board meeting Friday afternoon, and Tuesday morning (early) it's all getting laid out for the C-level and VPs.

But anyway, my rehearsal schedule is d0wn to one evening rehearsal per week and one more per month. We take July off for both those groups, too, and I'll be taking two back-to-back July Sundays off; much needed. I'm hoping to take a weekend in Kerrville to get our handbells reconditioned. The tech came on-site last fall and this is a once-per-five-year-or-so thing. He's got a neat deal set up, where he has modest accomodations for those who bring their bells to him. Drop them Friday night or Saturday morning, spend the night, and leave Sunday afternoon with your shiny, reconditioned bells. It's one of the loveliest areas of the state, or so I'm told; I've never been there. (If you like James Avery's jewelry, that's where his studio is, too.) I haven't had a get-away vacation in nearly ten years, and finally I'll have enough money niched away to afford the lodging (the church has already agreed to pay my mileage, which is a bargain compared to the cost of shipping handbells).

So, a saner pace, a mini-vacation to look forward to, and

(trumpet fanfare)

A romantic relationship developing. Not going to say much about that at this time, but it's been WONDERFUL to my heart. He's a fine man who's genuinely attracted to me as a human being and as a woman. We're taking things very slowly for the time being. "And that's all I'm going to say about that."

God is good.

Friday, May 09, 2008

For the Motherless and the Childless

empty arms

empty heart

empty hole in the soul

seeking she-who-is-not-here

and child-who-never-came

only a white rose to wear

for the one-who-was-incapable-of-mothering


no one to rise up and call me blessed,

or wear a red rose for me

Lord, how I love my sisters

and their children!

but you know,

in my deepest silent honest place

how empty my arms are

and how my motherless heart weeps

and how my soul aches

on this day

dedicated to



who gave me first and second birth,

wrap your everlasting arms

around me once again,

and around all those whose

arms are empty

and whose hearts long to nurture

and whose souls cry out



Please note that, like all my blog entries (except where otherwise attributed), this entry is my original writing. If you would like to link to it, you are more than welcome to do so. Please do not copy it for reading or distribution elsewhere without my permission, which I will be happy to give, provided you request permission in the comments. Many thanks!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

I spoke too soon.

I am no longer being considered for the church staff position I mentioned in the last blog entry.

The senior pastor of that congregation called today--the day of the interview, and with me already dressed for it and at work on a short-term assignment--to tell me that the committee with whom I interviewed last Thursday had decided not to recommend either of their finalist candidates to the Staff-Pastor-Parish Relations Committee, so tonight's interview with them was cancelled. The other committee (Children's Ministry) simply doesn't know what they want. That was obvious from several of the questions they provided for me to answer last week.

As was the case with the church that did not hire me last summer, it's probably ultimately a good thing that it didn't go any further than this.

Still inhales, though.

(Interpret that as you will.)

Monday, May 05, 2008

Coming up for air

No, I haven't dropped off the face of the earth.

No, Jenny the Righteously-Angry hasn't taken me hostage.

No, I haven't given up blogging for the latter part of the Easter season.

I've just been engulfed in real life.

I'm in the middle of being considered for a full-time staff position with a church almost an hour away and have gone there twice for interviews; a third is scheduled for tomorrow night.

I've just finished working many hours at the United Methodist General Conference (like so many other UMs who live relatively close to Fort Worth). In my case, I spent nearly all that time editing verbatim transcripts of sermons and plenary legislative sessions. (Can you say "terminal headphone hair"?)

'Tis also the season for much serving when one is engaged in music ministry in the local church. My children's choirs' year-end concert was last Sunday, my school-age children's choir is scheduled to be THE service choir next Sunday (Pentecost AND Mother's Day--wheeeee!), and all the church's music groups will be performing for "A Patriotic Celebration" on Sunday evening, May 18th. Most of those groups (that is, all the ones I lead) are decidedly under-prepared, so we're just this side of frantic right now.

Oh, and I'm still between day-job work, General Conference ($12/hour) and a few one-day assignments here and there notwithstanding.

But other than that, nothing much is happening.

But yes, there is, actually. However, it's not something I'm ready to blog about just yet. But it's big, or at least has the potential to be big in the near future.

And THAT is all that's happening at Chez Psalmist. Well, no, there is even more than that, because God is truly good and merciful, but there aren't words.

I'm OK. Truly. Just very, very tired.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Guest Blogger: Jenny

by Jenny

My human slave has grossly overstepped her boundaries and dared to bathe me. I do not intend to forgive her, perhaps for a very long time.

It is not my fault that "stuff" got stuck in my "fluff" in the panties region. I am a long-haired cat. Such things, annoyingly, happen.

If my uppity human slave had not intervened, I would have taken care of the problem. She has no concept of how cats must cope. She is essentially hairless and has such innovations as a commode and toilet tissue. Truly, she has no clue what is entailed in having to deal with permanent long-haired panties, clay bits in a box for a toilet, and being no more than one foot off the floor except when jumping or hanging out in high places.

She places more value on keeping her furniture and belongings free of "cat stuff" than she does on my autonomy and self-bathing. It is intolerable.

Yes, I am outraged at my human slave. Were you in my place, you would be too.

Never mind that my panties region is "stuff-free" now. I'd have got around to it eventually.

*#%^&@$+! human.

P!$$3d off,

Saturday, April 12, 2008

I knew better...

Yes, I did.

But I did it anyway. I really had no choice.

I will spare you the worst of the mental image. Suffice it to say that my sweet fluff girl Jenny, who is pure white with long silky hair and two different colored eyes (gold and copper), let some *stuff* get stuck in her *fluff*, around her luxuriant "panties." It had apparently been there since early this morning, and was thus dry. It was NOT pretty.

So I did what any good cat mama would do: First, I cut off a bunch of the "stuff," resulting in a significant loss of "panties" fur. Then, I put some gentle shampoo in some nice warm water in the bathroom sink, and I gently carried my darling in there, and I scruffed her neck just so, and I soaked and eased the nastiness from her fur.

Now, I must say, my darling girl was very good. Though she throatily cried bloody murder, she only lashed out once (at least once that she actually connected), and gave me only the smallest of scratches (through my shirt!) on my upper arm, near my armpit. I guess she thought turn-about was fair play. And she even stayed put while I ran more nice warm water to rinse her off.

But alas! My sweet girl escaped while I was toweling her dry. I now have wet cat foot- and body-prints all over the apartment. She hisses and growls and aims sharp scratches at me and will not let me near her. I can't say as I blame her. (NOTE: Image is not Jenny, but embodies her attitude about being bathed by her human slave quite well.)

But she *does* have nice clean "panties" now. I can stand to look at her from the back, which is good, because she keeps turning her back on me. Cats are like that.

I would not be surprised if she gives you her side of the story sometime soon. Like the "stuff" in the "panties fluff," I'm sure it will not be pretty, either.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

The "Winnie the Pooh" Quiz

Your Score: Rabbit

You scored 15 Ego, 15 Anxiety, and 15 Agency!

IT was going to be one of Rabbit's busy days. As soon as he woke up he felt important, as if everything depended upon him. It was just the day for Organizing Something, or for Writing a Notice Signed Rabbit, or for Seeing What Everybody Else Thought About It. It was a perfect morning for hurrying round to Pooh, and saying, "Very well, then, I'll tell Piglet," and then going to Piglet, and saying, "Pooh thinks--but perhaps I'd better see Owl first." It was a Captainish sort of day, when everybody said, "Yes, Rabbit " and "No, Rabbit," and waited until he had told them.

You scored as Rabbit!

ABOUT RABBIT: Rabbit is generally considered Clever by his many friends and relations. He is actually a much better reader and writer than Owl, but he doesn't consider it worth mentioning. Instead, Rabbit's real talent lies in Organizing Plans. He organizes rescue parties, makes schemes to reduce Tigger's bounciness, and goes on missions to find out what Christopher Robin does when he's not at the Hundred Acre Woods. Sometimes, however, his Plans do not always go as Planned.

WHAT THIS SAYS ABOUT YOU: You are smart, practical and you plan ahead. People sometimes think that you don't stress or worry, but this is not the case. You are the kind of person who worries in a practical way. You think a) What are my anxieties about and b)what can be done about them? No useless fretting for you. You don't see the point in sitting around and waiting for things to work out, when you could actually work them out today and save yourself a lot of time and worry. Your friends tend to rely on you, because they know that they can trust you help them work things out.

You sometimes tend to be impatient with people who are less practical in their ways. You don't have much patience for idiots who moan about things but never actually DO anything about them. You have high expectations of everyone, including yourself. When you don't succeed at something, or when something goes wrong despite your best efforts to prevent it, you can get quite hard on yourself. You need to cut yourself some slack and accept that everyone has their faults, even you, and THAT IS OKAY. Let yourself be faulty, every now and then, for the sake of your own sanity.

Link: The Deep and Meaningful Winnie-The-Pooh Character Test written by wolfcaroling on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Cheap "Grace" and "Forgiveness"

Every so often I come across the idea--written, spoken, and expressed attitude--that grace is a duty and forgiveness can be demanded. I've been thinking a lot about both lately, and here's what has yet again been made clear to me through the Scriptures and my own considerable efforts to put them into practice.

First of all, grace is a gift. It originates from God and, apart from a vital relationship with God, is not a "natural" part of human living. We're too selfish, left to our own devices, to offer one another much grace. Grace is a lavish, wholehearted, selfless showering of godly love upon undeserving fellow sinners. It's neither ours to demand nor even expect. If it were, it would not be grace.

Forgiveness is one expression of grace. Similarly, it is a deliberate and wholehearted decision, specifically not to be bound by or to another's sin against us. If we have sinned against another, we have no right to demand that he or she forgive us.

Christians too often cheapen both grace and forgiveness. The "demand" for forgiveness cheapens the cost of sin; it glosses over the effect our sin has upon the other and seeks to absolve us of any responsibility for repentance and reconciliation. It short-circuits the restoration of true Christian community when we, the sinner, insist that the one we sinned against owes us his or her forgiveness. Which of us would dare to tell Jesus, "You HAD to forgive me; that was your duty"? None, I do hope! Yet there are Christians who stand firm in their unrepentant sin and loudly demand that those they've wronged, forgive them. No amends, no repentance, just ongoing sin--and the demand that it be forgiven because it's their Christian duty to forgive those who have sinned against them.

To me, that sounds an awful lot like the argument Paul refuted to the Roman churches (Rom. 6), that somehow they thought it was good to sin so that more grace would abound. No; instead, Paul showed that sin damages both the sinner and the body--the community, and it grieves the Lord who gave his life that we might no longer be slaves to sin. We ought to be outdoing one another in dying to our sins, not continuing in them even while demanding that those we sin against forgive us!

Grace is cheapened when it is expected. Forgiveness is reduced to a poor imitation when it is formulized and demanded. The sinner should deal with his or her own sin, with God's help, rather than meddling in the alleged lack of grace or unforgiveness of others. Each of us has plenty of sin to keep us busy repenting. We do not need another's forgiveness or grace in order to stop sinning and repent (turn another way) from it. We DO need to pay close attention to the leading of the Holy Spirit on what we ourselves can do to restore relationships broken by our own sin. And as mature Christians, we have a bitter lesson to learn: there are some relationships that may remain broken in this life. That can be a consequence of our sins against others. If we have consistently and unrepentantly torn into a brother or sister, he or she may not be able to trust us. It's going to take a lot of work on our part to become trustworthy, and we only prove our untrustworthiness when we demand "forgiveness" from him or her when we haven't even bothered to express regret or remorse for our sin, or stopped engaging in it in the first place.

The sham of blithe "I forgive you" statements TO people WE'VE sinned against, is especially cheap. When someone shows us that we've sinned against them, we ought to take that very seriously and stop doing it! If we're arrogant and proud in our continued sin against them, they are hardly sinning against us to tell us so. That pride in our sin is, itself, more sin on OUR part, not theirs. And even if they're not completely innocent in terms of sinning against us, we can only control our own behavior, not theirs. Claiming we're forgiving THEM, especially if we throw in a habitual insult in the statement, without ANY evidence of our own repentance, is meaningless. The most it could possibly do is deceive us into thinking we're without sin.

The other person's forgiveness of us, or lack of it, should have no bearing on our repentance. We ought to have repented and sought forgiveness long before they can even offer it. If our sin was unintentional, it's still ours to own and deal with once it's been shown to us. We who were bought at the price of the Lord Jesus Christ's death, can ill afford to deny the sins we commit against others. They may forgive us, but we're still dead in that sin if we deny we even committed it! The forgiveness frees the one we sinned against; we're choosing to live outside that forgiveness. It's no wonder that the self-righteous strive for outward perfection; "whitewashed tombs" was Jesus' description of such denial of sin.

Forgiveness demanded is the height of self-righteous delusion. A truly repentant person acknowledges that he or she has no right to expect any such thing. And in the upside-down paradox of God's economy, it is the truly repentant person who finds true forgiveness and grace, from God, if not always from others he or she has sinned against. One thing is certain, however: The one who insists on another's forgiveness and grace has a heart shut tight against the real article, for that one is still dead in his or her own sin. Repentance must precede acceptance of any forgiveness that may be offered.

Finally, it should be noted that many times, genuine forgiveness takes hard work. It can take time, and it is always a matter of choosing to forgive. It's like submission: if we're in a sinful system that demands it from us, it is no longer the real thing, but merely an outward behavior compelled by one who presumes to control us. That is not how Christians behave, not according to the Scriptures. None of us is in control over another adult believer, nor do we have any right to demand or compel premature forgiveness from another. Our own eyes' planks should concern us much more than the other's eye speck.

We are to take the "one anothers" of Scripture very, very seriously; how we treat one another, according to Christ, is how we treat the Lord himself. If we would not continue rebelliously in open sin against the Lord, we ought not to give even the appearance of doing so against others. If we wouldn't refuse to seek forgiveness from the Lord, we ought to rush to seek it from the brothers and sisters we've wronged. If we would be horrified to say "You deserve my insults" to Jesus, we should repent from insulting another.

If I want forgiveness, it's not mine to demand. I'm much more likely to get it if I do the hard work of ceasing to sin against my neighbor and seeking true reconciliation humbly, as the sinner I am. If I want real relationship with my brother or sister, I need to show myself trustworthy. If I want grace, I need to extend it--real grace, not saccharine words that bely my actions--to the other.

It's not easy to practice (especially if we're immersed in this world's "Me First" mentality), but it's simple. Even the world "gets" it, though it's not widely practiced. I even heard it in Basic Training: "What goes around, comes around." Jesus once again was right: "Do to others as you would that others do to you." I rather doubt that those who so loudly demand forgiveness from others while continuing in their sins, want to have forgiveness demanded from them by unrepentant sinners.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

How I'm Doing (for Paisley)

Hi, dear sister, and thanks for asking!

It's very late, and I should be sleeping, but we had a bit of a crisis at church this afternoon (a minor sought refuge with us because her mother was beating her--police involvement, then my rehearsal and the pastor's youth activity night...I stayed late debriefing with the pastor, then I had to go to my least favorite place--Wal-Mart--for something I was completely out of and can't find anywhere else--YUCK!) ---- ANYway, I'm kind of hyped up and can't sleep.

I'm finally working again, such as it is. So-so pay. It's a little distance from me, but in the light-traffic direction from where I live. "Fur piece" from church (as we say around here), though, on those nights when I have to go straight from one job to another. It's for a local government office. I accepted the assignment as a temp-to-hire, administrative assistant position. But it's a straight temp assignment, not longer than four months, as a cashier. NOT what I signed on for, so I'm putting out feelers again even as I'm continuing to work. I really despise the deceit that's so rampant in much of the staffing industry. Clients deceive the agencies, and both clients and agencies deceive the temps. Why not? We're expendable.

But again, I am glad for the work. I was out for nearly three months and things got pretty desperate financially.

Church is very good. Give me a little longer, and I'll try to post an entry about Easter worship. It was VERY good.

So all the things that really matter are going pretty well. I'm down tonight, but trying not to stay there.

Actually, I'm now going to try to get to bed.

Thanks again for asking, Paisley. I'll drop by your place and ask you the same question, or if you beat me to it, I'd love to hear how you're doing.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Resurrection Day (Easter)

Scripture: John 20:1-18

"Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. . . But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. . . . 'They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.' Jesus said to her, 'Mary!' . . . Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, 'I have seen the Lord' . . ."

Hymn: "Christ Jesus Lay in Death's Strong Bands," UMH 319
Martin Luther, 1524, trans. Richard Massie, 1854

". . . So let us keep the festival whereto the Lord invites us;
Christ is himself the joy of all, the Sun that warms and lights us.
By his grace he doth impart eternal sunshine to the heart;
The night of sin is ended! Alleluia!"


You're alive! You stand before me, and call me by name. Lord Jesus, you're alive!

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

My Lord is alive! Listen, everyone: I have seen the Lord! He is alive!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Lent: Day 40 (Holy Saturday)

Scripture: Psalm 22

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? . . . For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard me when I cried to him. To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down . . . and I shall live for him. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the LORD, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it."

Hymn: "Ah, Holy Jesus," UMH 289
Johann Heermann, 1630; trans. Robert S. Bridges, 1899

"Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay thee,
I do adore thee, and will ever pray thee,
Think on thy pity and thy love unswerving,
Not my deserving.


Crucified and buried Lord, grant me the faith to believe that the grave is not the end, that death has not won, that hope is not dead.

As you sleep the short slumber of this life's ending, wrestle death on my behalf. Conquer the tomb, and break the bonds of human sin and death.

Grant me a heart that waits trustingly for resurrection, Lord Jesus.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Lent: Day 39 (Good Friday)

Scripture: Mark 15

"And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take. It was nine o'clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read, 'The King of the Jews.' . . ."

Hymn: "Go to Dark Gethsemane," UMH 290
James Montgomery, 1820, 1825, alt.

". . . Calvary's mournful mountain climb;
There, adoring at his feet,
Mark that miracle of time,
God's own sacrifice complete.
'It is finished!' hear him cry;
Learn of Jesus Christ to die. . . .


"Crucify him!" Oh, dying Jesus, the screams echo in my ears. My Lord, my Savior, my Teacher, the very Son of God, you do not deserve this--yet no one else can do what you do here before my grieving eyes.

It is for me, it is for us all, that you die alone and in pain. There is nothing I can do to ease your anguish. You do it all.

I think I could die of this sorrow, Lord. Yet I will live, and witness, and watch for the sign of your promises. For I know this cannot, will not, must not be the end.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Lent: Day 38 (Maundy Thursday)

Scripture: Mark 14:17-25

". . . While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread . . . Then he took a cup . . ."

Hymn: "One Bread, One Body," UMH 620
John B. Foley, 1978

". . . One bread, one body, one Lord of all,
One cup of blessing which we bless.
And we, though many throughout the earth,
We are one body in this one Lord. . . .


You share the table with me, Teacher -- though I don't deserve it. You know what is in my heart, what I plan, and yet you pass the bread and the cup to me, and you tell me the gift is for me! I can't bear it.

For I have been Judas, and I have been Peter, and I have been the squabbling sons of Zebedee, and the doubting Thomas, and all the rest: slow to learn, quick to anger, and so frail in faith that I will deny you yet this night.

But still you love me, and give yourself to me. My shame bids me run out of the room, yet my love compels me to stay by your side. And so we sing our thanks to God, then depart for the garden.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Lent: Day 37 (Wednesday of Holy Week)

Scripture: John 14

". . . I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. . . . Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. . . . Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. . . ."

Hymn: "Hymn of Promise," UMH 707
Natalie Sleeth, 1986

". . . In our end is our beginning;
In our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing;
In our life, eternity.
In our death, a resurrection;
At the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season,
Something God alone can see."


Send your Holy Spirit, Lord Jesus, for I know it will be impossible to face life without your presence. I need the comfort of knowing that this coming anguish is not the end, but the beginning of new life.

Speak past the darkness of my doubt, and teach me about the coming resurrection.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Lent: Day 36 (Tuesday of Holy Week)

Scripture: Philippians 4:4-9

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. . . . Finally, beloved, . . . if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. . . . and the God of peace will be with you."

Hymn: "Rejoice, the Lord Is King," UMH 715
Charles Wesley, 1746

". . . Jesus the Savior reigns,
The God of truth and love,
When he had purged our stains,
He took his seat above.
Lift up your heart,
Lift up your voice,
Rejoice; again I say, rejoice. . . .


I shrink from rejoicing today, Lord Jesus, but you call me to it. No matter what awaited you, you trusted in God and gave thanks in all things. And I want to be like you, Lord.

No matter what the circumstances I face today, I will rejoice and thank you, Jesus.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Lent: Day 35 (Monday of Holy Week)

Scripture: Ephesians 6:10-18

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. . . . Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication."

Hymn: "Lead On, O King Eternal," UMH 580
Ernest W. Shurtleff, 1888

". . . Lead on, O King eternal,
We follow, not with fears,
For gladness breaks like morning
Where'er thy face appears.
Thy cross is lifted o'er us,
We journey in its light;
The crown awaits the conquest;
Lead on, O God of might.


The darkness is closing in, O God, and the cross is near. I want no part of it, yet my Master embraces your will. I fear the dark hill; I want to fight my way back into the light.

Help me to know my enemy, Good God, and how to use the powerful weapons at my disposal. Your truth and righteousness, peace and salvation, will never fail me; it seems all I lack is faith. Help me to trust you and to remember that the war is already won--only the battles of my own sin need to be fought. Victorious God, stand by me.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sixth Sunday of Lent: Palm/Passion Sunday

Scripture: Psalm 24

". . . Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory."

Hymn: "Hail to the Lord's Anointed," UMH 203
James Montgomery, 1821

"Hail to the Lord's Anointed, great David's greater Son!
Hail in the time appointed, his reign on earth begun!
He comes to break oppression, to set the captive free;
To take away transgression, and rule in equity.


King Jesus! Blessed are you; you come in the name of the Lord!

But Jesus, there are tears in your eyes! Tears for your beloved Jerusalem, a city of fickle treachery, even now welcoming the Savior whom they will put to death in five short days.

Not I, Lord! I will stand by you. I will -- I swear it! But my heart stops cold at my own words, for even in the brightness of Sunday's midday, I can already hear the crowing of Friday's dawn.

Jesus! Oh, Jesus! Give me grace to face this holiest and darkest of weeks as I trace your path. Even now, the cross casts its shadow.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Lent: Day 34

Scripture: Isaiah 6:1-8

". . . 'Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.' . . . Then I heard the voice of the LORD saying, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here am I; send me!" . . ."

Hymn: "The Voice of God is Calling," UMH 436
John Haynes Holmes, 1913

". . . From ease and plenty save us;
From pride of place absolve;
Purge us from low desire;
Lift us to high resolve;
Take us and make us holy;
Teach us your will and way.
Speak, and behold! we answer;
Command, and we obey!


Holy, holy, holy God! With the host of Isaiah's vision, I can find only this ancient heavenly cry to give words to my heart's fullness.

But you, holy God, require holy people and holy obedience. Can I be your messenger? Only with your help. Lord, burn away all that is unholy in me, and give me bold courage to go where you send me.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Lent: Day 33

Scripture: Galatians 5:22-25

". . . And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. . . ."

Hymn: Breathe on Me, Breath of God," UMH 420
George Matheson, 1890

"Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what thou dost love,
And do what thou wouldst do. . . .


I want to bear fruit for you, Lord Jesus, my Vine. I am your branch. Why do I try so often to grow apart from you? What could I possibly be without you?

Let love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control grow among all your people, dear Lord -- but especially, let them grow in me.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Lent: Day 32

Scripture: John 8:2-11

". . .'Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.' . . .'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?' She said, 'No one, sir.' And Jesus said, 'Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.' "

Hymn: "Amazing Grace," UMH 378
John Newton, 1779

". . . ''Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed. . . .


Alone with you, gracious Jesus, I cannot meet your eyes. No one else remains to condemn me, yet I condemn myself with the memory of my shame.

Yet you lift my face to your gaze, and I find love there! You, who are without sin, have no stones to cast at me. My Judge becomes my Savior. I have been set free!

You expect and trust me to "go and sin no more." Go with me, Lord, and keep me close to you through the power of your Holy Spirit. I want, with all my heart, to keep myself from sin.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Lent: Day 31

Scripture: Mark 5:21-43

". . . 'Daughter, you faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.' . . . 'Do not fear, only believe.' . . . And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about . . ."

Hymn: "When Jesus the Healer Passed through Galilee," UMH 263
Peter D. Smith, 1979

". . . The death of his daughter caused Jairus to weep;
'Heal us, heal us today!'
The Lord took her hand, and he raised her from sleep.
'Heal us, Lord Jesus!'"


Great Physician, I need your healing. Though the ailments of my body are annoying and irritating, my soul needs your healing far more than my body does. I fear there is wasting in places, and deadly growth in others. It is malnourished, unclean, and unhealthy.

Touch me, healing Lord. Give me the faith of Jairus and the desperate woman; let me look only to you, placing my faith entirely in your life-restoring hands.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Lent: Day 30

Scripture: Philippians 2:1-15

". . . Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus . . . you shine like stars in the world . . ."

Hymn: "Jesu, Jesu," UMH 432
Tom Colvin, 1969

"Jesu, Jesus, fill us with your love,
Show us how to serve the neighbors we have from you.
Kneels at the feet of his friends,
Silently washes their feet,
Master who acts as a slave to them.


Lord Jesus, Servant of all, I want to follow you. Just as you humbled yourself for my sake, humble me for yours. Show me yourself in my brothers and sisters when they need your love shown to them. Teach me how to serve as you serve.

Even if it means your holy hands, washing my sinful feet, Lord, I want to learn. Please, give me feet to wash for you.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Lent: Day 29

Scripture: Luke 24:13-35

". . . When he was at table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to one another, 'Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?'. . ."

Hymn: "O Thou Who This Mysterious Bread," UMH 613
Charles Wesley, 1745

" . . . Of thee communing still, we mourn,
Till thou the veil remove;
Talk with us, and our hearts shall burn
With flames of fervent love. . . .


O Lord of Bread and Wine, I can't thank you enough for the gift of yourself that we receive in your Supper. Just as the two disciples knew you in the breaking of the bread, somehow you reveal yourself to me, new, each time I eat and drink with my brothers and sisters.

Lord Jesus, open your Scriptures to me just as you explained them to the travelers on the Emmaus road. As I approach Jerusalem with you, help me to understand what you did and how you obeyed the Father's perfect will.

Lord, I love you. Thank you for this precious sacramental sign of your love for me.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Scripture: Psalm 131

". . . But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me. . . ."

Hymn: "It Is Well with My Soul," UMH 377
Horatio G. Spafford, 1873

"When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul. . . .


I am too frantic and too busy, dear God. Quiet my soul. Soothe and calm my fears; settle the spoiled little child that I so often let myself become. Draw me close to you, and let me hear your reassuring voice.

Your love, gentle God, is all that I need. Nothing else matters, compared to the love that gave me life and keeps me in your sight. Call me home to your heart often, dear God.