Track 1: Speak, O Lord

When you record an album, you get to choose the songs which will go in it.  For this first one, my criteria was pretty simple: I chose things I like.  My musical tastes are pretty wide-ranging (you can find rap and country in my iTunes library, right up next to all those classical pieces), but I tend to gravitate toward piano pieces which express emotion.  I like to play songs which have good lyrics.  Though I cannot sing*, I think about the words as I play the song and try to communicate the message. “Speak, O Lord” begins the album because it expresses my desire to be open to God’s teaching.  In addition, the arrangement is just the best!

*Trust me on this.  I have to remind myself not to sing along with the choir as I direct, lest the Facebook livestream of the church service lose viewers.

Verse 1

Speak O Lord as we come to You
To receive the food of Your holy word
Take Your truth plant it deep in us
Shape and fashion us in Your likeness
That the light of Christ might be seen today
In our acts of love and our deeds of faith
Speak O Lord and fulfill in us
All Your purposes for Your glory

Verse 2

Teach us Lord full obedience
Holy reverence true humility
Test our thoughts and our attitudes
In the radiance of Your purity
Cause our faith to rise
Cause our eyes to see
Your majestic love and authority
Words of power that can never fail
Let their truth prevail over unbelief

Verse 3

Speak O Lord and renew our minds
Help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us
Truths unchanged from the dawn of time
That will echo down through eternity
And by grace we’ll stand on Your promises
And by faith we’ll walk as You walk with us
Speak O Lord till Your church is built
And the earth is filled with Your glory

CCLI Song # 4615235

Keith Getty | Stuart Townend

 

Letdown

This last month, my life has been a whirlwind of activity. Generally, that’s just the way I like it. On top of work, I led a workshop at the Missouri Christian Convention and threw a bridal shower fullsizeoutput_1962for my niece who’s getting married next Sunday. In between those two events, Bob and I finished editing Streams for the Soul, and I submitted it for publication and distribution, which involved learning all sorts of things we hadn’t done before—or even knew needed to be done.

And now all that work is done. I have no more speaking engagements on my radar, the leftovers from the shower have been eaten, the CD is out on the Interwebs. I can sit back and watch CD sales soar—or amble leisurely along the trail, which is more accurate. I have time to knit and read, maybe write a little.

But I don’t want to. I’m suffering, I think, from adrenaline poisoning, that feeling when a frenzy of activity comes to a complete stop. After so much activity, sitting and reading don’t provide the frenzied stimulation I’m used to. It’s going to take some discipline to slow down and rest before I begin a new project. One of my daughters said, “The problem is, Mom, that you don’t know how to do anything halfway.1” “Go big or go home” might be my life philosophy.

So this week I plan to be still. The rest of April will be a blur as school winds down and we suffer/endure/enjoy2 the visit from the accreditation team for the College. We have a granddaughter’s first birthday, fullsizeoutput_190da wedding, and graduation before May rolls around. Rest is a really good idea.

Besides, God often speaks in a still, small voice. Too much activity and you’ll overlook it. I don’t want to miss what God might be trying to tell me.

1Not the word she actually used

2No way to know which verb is correct until the team gets here.

Good Friday

Beautiful waterfall in Upstate New YorkToday is a good day. Streams for the Soul has been released, at least in downloadable form.  We’ve had a day’s respite from the rain, and we finally see the sunshine.  The dog is finally eating the food she’s ignored all day, and we have time for a nap.

Of course, Good Friday is good for more than just the fact that we are seeing sunshine. It is, after all, the day that we commemorate Christ’s death. Even though our church isn’t holding Good Friday services, the day always puts me in a contemplative mood, and that makes me turn to music.

Here is a song I recorded this afternoon: “What Wondrous Love Is This” and “Were You There.” 

 

 

The Day Judas Changed the World

Most of us dream of changing the world.  We may volunteer for worthy causes—or send money to them if we can’t serve; we protest injustice; we urge others to vote, even if we don’t vote ourselves; we hit “share” on Facebook when we see a post we think might advance a pet cause. However, few people succeed in making a large impact on the world.  Most of us are not rich enough or famous enough to gather sufficient influence to affect more than our small corner of the world. Jesus’ disciples were no different. They followed Jesus because they were convinced that He was the Messiah—or at least a good facsimile of the Messiah. They knew the Messiah would change the world, but they didn’t understand what sort of change it would be. Perhaps they were plagued by impatience.  Why didn’t Jesus get on with it? Why didn’t he declare himself to the masses and set up the kingdom?  Why didn’t he change more than Galilee?

It was nearing Passover, a time of celebration.  It had been a busy week for Jesus.  He knew he wasn’t welcome in Jerusalem, especially after he clashed with the temple salespeople. He knew, even as he taught the crowds in the temple courts, that the movers and shakers of Jewish society did not welcome him. He knew they were waiting for him to slip up and say anything that could be interpreted as blasphemy or treason, and they actively tried to trap Jesus by asking loaded questions. But as the week came to an end, it was time to prepare and eat the Passover meal.  That was the day Judas changed the world.

We don’t know a great deal about Judas.  He was not one of the inner circle of the disciples, and seems to be mentioned as an afterthought most of the time, sometimes with the tagline of “the betrayer.” John tells us that Judas was in charge of the moneybag, the treasurer of the disciples, and a thief.  He liked to help himself to the disciples’ funds, all the while criticizing the way others spent their money, pretending to be compassionate toward the needy (John 12:1-6). Was it greed which prompted the betrayal? Perhaps.

I think Judas knew that Jesus was the Messiah. Judas probably thought that if Jesus was arrested, he would reveal himself, vanquish Rome, and set up his own government.  Then, as one of the chosen few, Judas could use his relationship with Jesus for his own gain. Judas intended to change the world—for himself.

Luke tells us that Satan entered Judas, who was already predisposed to Satan’s influence.  Judas went off to find the chief priests and the temple guard to make them an offer to betray Jesus—if the price was right. How much to buy a Messiah? Thirty pieces of silver, worth several weeks’ wages at the time, but in God’s kingdom, worth less than pavement. The plot was accomplished; with a kiss Jesus was betrayed.

And here Judas’s cunning plan went wrong, as cunning plans often do.  Instead of Jesus revealing his power, he was sentenced to death and crucified.  That was not what Judas thought would happen, not what he wanted.  This was not the change he sought.

Matthew tells us that Judas, overcome with remorse, tried to return the money, and threw it at the chief priests.  Then he went out and hung himself.  He never knew that Jesus was about to overcome death.

The crucifixion, for which Judas was the catalyst, ended in the resurrection.  So, you might say that Judas changed the world for the better—more than he ever dreamed!

Let us rejoice in God’s perfect plan to change the world!

Give Me Patience! Now!

I homeschooledPatience Meme our daughters, and I teach college-level developmental courses (that’s remedial reading and English for those who don’t know the lingo).  People remark, “Oh, you must have so much patience!”  Nope. Anyone who has known me longer than ten minutes would know that patience is a virtue I lack.

I must admit, I am tired of listening to songs and editing.  I know that editing makes things better, but it’s slow, and I want to be done. I want to be finished with listening and move on to the fun part—sharing—but hurrying the process will lead to regret later (not to mention lost sales).

The Bible is replete with examples of those who lacked patience. Sarah, longing for the fulfillment of God’s promise of a son, introduced a third person into her marriage and altered the course of history (Gen. 16). King Saul, impatient because Samuel was late, offered a burnt offering himself and forfeited his kingdom (1 Sam. 13). Peter, always the impatient one, wanted to build shelters to worship Moses, Elijah, and Jesus, rather than waiting for God’s plan of salvation to be completed (Luke 9:28-36).

Peter later reminds us that patience is one of God’s qualities. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9, ESV). I’m sure that since he loves us, God wants us to be with him right now, but he waits to give as many of us as possible a chance to repent and renew our relationship with Him.  If we wish to be like God, we develop patience.

The Apostle John, at the end of his life, knew that patience was not easy.  In fact, the English Standard Version of the Bible translates John’s words as “patient endurance” four times in the book of Revelation. When we are patient, we are waiting, putting up with circumstances until Better comes along.

It’s time for me—and all of you—to remember Solomon’s advice in Ecclesiastes 7:8: “The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride” (ESV).

Small Decisions, Big Impact

We never really know when a small event in our lives turns out to be something significant. Small choices, over time, come to define our lives. Visiting the camp cook lets you meet a young man who turns out to be the love of your life; a casual conversation with a flippant comment leads to your dream job; going to chapel when you don’t feel like it leads to a new friend and a bucket list project.*

It was Thursday.  I didn’t want to leave my office for a sermon.  My rocking chair beckoned. A good book was begging to be opened. I had a Keurig and a cappuccino pod. The only thing that could get me out of my office was the thought that professors should be an example of the conduct we expect from students.  My body went to chapel, but my head and heart were elsewhere.  We had a guest speaker, and frankly, I was not the most attentive listener.  I was curious, but not moved. At least I had my knitting.

Then he mentioned his Steinway and how much he loved it.  He told a story similar to how I found TOM. I perked up. I stopped knitting. He talked about writing and recording and using your gifts to bless others.  I thought, “I’ve always wanted to do that!”  I heard a voice in my head which said, “Take him home and show him your piano.” I decided that I would invite him and the college president’s wife to my home for a quick demonstration.  My house was a mess, and the only things in the house for lunch were tortillas and cheese (I was out of salsa), but the music seemed more important.

Eric Elder and Carol Stine came into my disheveled house, but all we cared about was the piano.  I began to play, and they got teary-eyed.  Eric even asked if he could stretch out under the piano so he could feel the vibrations (I play loud; there must Eric and Ibe a LOT of vibrations!). Eric played the piano so I could listen while Carol and I fixed a simple lunch.  We ate, and made it back to the college just in time for Eric to speak that afternoon.  This time I paid attention.  Eric was no longer just a visiting speaker; he was a friend who understood my love of my piano.

We made arrangements for Eric to visit and help me record my music.  He’s been an invaluable helper as Bob and I have worked on my album project, Streams for the Soul.  The small decision to go to chapel led to a new friend and new opportunities.

God often speaks in the still, small voice.  If we listen, we may find that a small decision can change our lives.

 

*All of these are absolutely true for me.

TOM and I

I am a pianist.  Any musician will tell you that the relationship between an artist and their instrument is a special one, and the relationship I have with my Shigeru Kawai SK-6 is no exception. Just like all couples falling in love have a story, most musicians can tell you exactly how they got their instrument.  This is my story.

Four years ago, my husband and I went out for a leisurely Saturday breakfast.  Sitting over pancakes and coffee, he asked me what I planned to do that day.  “I’m going to buy a grand piano,” I said.  To his credit, he didn’t spit out his coffee like the person at the next table did, overhearing us.  Bob asked how I intended to pay for it, I told him, and after picking up some music at home, off we went.

I already knew what sort of piano I wanted, and about how much it would cost.  I knew why I wanted it: I’ve always wanted a grand piano, and my 60th birthday loomed.  “I’m not getting any younger,” I said.  “If I wait much longer, I won’t have much time to enjoy it.”  My dream piano would be at least a six-footer, shiny black, with a bright tone that sounded like bells.  I had always loved Kawai pianos, so that was our first stop.

In the store, I sat down at a model which looked like a good candidate.  It was the right length, and the price was just about what I thought it should be. It was nice, but the salesman thought I should play several more, especially one in particular.  I fiddled around on other instruments in the showroom, then he ushered me into the empty recital hall.  I sat on the bench in front of a Shigeru Kawai SK-6 and fell in love.

From the first notes, I knew that this one was mine.  It was responsive, the touch was just right, the tone sounded like angels singing.  I played the whole song.  At the end, there was applause.  The front two rows were filled with retirees who were arriving for their group organ lesson.  I hadn’t even noticed them come in.  I stood up and looked for the price tag. I was crushed—I didn’t know that pianos could cost that much, at least not the ones that weren’t 9-foot Steinways destined for Lincoln Center.  I tried to put that particular instrument out of my mind—it was so far over my budget there was no point in dreaming.

The salesman and my husband (who already knew that the budget was about to go out the window) took me to the wonderful piano’s little sister.  It was nice.  It was the right size, the right finish, the right touch, and only twice my budget. When I played it, though, it sounded like a really good operatic soprano—not angels.  I was happy, but not ecstatic.  However, Shigeru Kawai pianos come with a set-up by one of their awesome piano technicians, and the salesman assured us that the technician could voice the piano to reproduce those singing angels.  I put money down to hold it, and we left.

Over the next week, I played lots of pianos.  Yamahas, Steinways, Baldwins, Bosendorfers, Kawais, Shigeru Kawais—you name it.  If there was a piano in the city I thought would be comparable, I played it. I took a student with me to listen.  At the end of the quest, the student told me which one he preferred for himself, and then said that the Shigeru SK-6 that I loved just sang when I played it.  All other pianos just hummed.

That afternoon I had a chat with the music store manager about financing and delivery dates.  I told him I would have the money for the piano by the weekend, but the piano I really wanted was the beautiful SK-6 in the recital hall.  He said he’d see what he could do.  Fifteen minutes later, he called and said that he wanted to be sure I was sitting down and had a pencil.  I was, and I did.  He said the store owners had agreed to sell me the angels’ piano for only $3000 more than I would pay for the smaller one.  After I recovered from my faint, I called my husband, who again did not flinch (a strong man, that one). He said, “I guess you’ll be dropping by the music store on the way home, then.” Yup.  That’s exactly what I did, and within two weeks the amazing piano was sitting in my living room.  We call it TOM, short for “The Other Man.”

I play it for hours nearly every day. It still sounds like angels.  In fact, the first time people hear it, the reaction is usually tears. My dream is to let everyone hear TOM, and now I’ve made a recording.  Watch this space to see how you can hear him, too. Public service warning:  Sit down, and keep a tissue handy.  You might need one.