Friday, March 25, 2011

A New Teacher

Eric and his daughter Emily
I shout out about my brother frequently. His band, Maida Vale, makes great music. I'm proud of him but apart and aside from all that, he makes great music, and I appreciate great music.

I've always been proud of the work he does through his local church as well. E3 is a thriving community of believers in Tallahassee. They live out their faith in the community in very tangible ways, make excellent coffee and celebrate together on the weekends. It's one of the most authentic churches I've experienced, filled with real people on real faith journeys.  Eric is on staff there as a pastor, with his primary role being music and worship, but more and more frequently as a teaching pastor.

I watch and listen, support and encourage. We're family; we've got each others' backs. That's what we do. It goes without saying and it's absolute unchangeable: I think he's awesome. He thinks I'm awesome. We both think the others' respective spouses and kids are awesome. We're each others' biggest cheerleader and best sounding board.

But something curious happened today; while I cleaned the bathroom, I listened to Eric's most recent teaching at E3, a message that dug into the Lord's Prayer. I've been in church for years; how many messages have I heard on this topic? Too many.


Yeah, he's my brother, so I'm going to tell you he's great every time, because I always believe. But this time, it's different. He blew by his status as my brother and became my teacher. In 30 minutes, he schooled me with gentleness and grace and a powerful interpretation of scripture and fatherhood and prayer. So just like I recommend music and books and other various and sundry things, I am strongly encouraging you to take a half hour of your life and listen to this message.

You'll get something good, and I might even wager you'll pray differently from this day forward.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Brawney, Syrupy And Flashy: A Renewal Of The Spirit

Last week I was voicing my angst to a friend.

"I feel so stifled. I don't feel like I do anything creative anymore. I feel so stuck."

Imagine that; I have the immense privilege of making music almost every week, with a fine group of musicians. It's an incredible dance - the art in my soul expressed through the ancient words and more contemporary words and rhythm of the spiritual. I do "church music", but it is woven in and around opportunities for artistic expression that are quite far away from many of the stereotypes - whether those that lean towards the notion that "church music is boring" or those that suppose "church music is derivative and lacking passion". It's an incredible job, and a great privilege that rolls around every week, without fail. I love music, I love to play, I love to sing, and I love the local church. I believe in Jesus. And I get to wrap myself around all of those things I love, each and every week.

I have that opportunity. And yet still, seasonally, I get stuck. It gets boring. Redundant. Rote. Hard to believe. Difficult to admit. But true.

The cycle of creativity is still a mystery to me. It breathes deeply in collaboration but also soars in isolation. There is no set routine. It comes and goes. And recently, it's been gone. I gave voice to my discontent, and then waited for things to change, as they always do.

First a two-hour concert that focused exclusively on spiritual music - but not the boring kind. It left us completely, utterly spent - physically, emotionally, musically. But it started a recharge, a rekindling, and I felt some things stirring.

And then came Adele.

I began to soak in this new album on Monday morning as I drove around to various meetings, and with repeated listenings I grew more and more amazed. And grateful. This record* just filled me up, stirred my soul, as art will do. And out of that stirring came a new passion and appreciation, a desire to create.

Let me tell you this one thing: I became particularly entranced by a song called "I'll Be Waiting". Soulful, with something besides a typical run-of-the-mill chord progression, smooth horn punches and a brilliant piano riff. I kept hitting the repeat button. In my head, I couldn't help but consider the progression, figure out the key and trace out the changes. I just absorbed every bit of it as I drove down Route 60.

I pulled in the driveway. I walked in the door, went to the piano and played the entire song out of the depths of my head, right then and there. First time. BAM! Which made me happy and proud. Which might sound weird, but I had this great appreciation of the gift I had been given: First, the music, the song and the singer and the musicians playing. Secondly, the ability to recreate it, to claim and channel it as my own.


If you buy ANY record this year, make it this one. I don't care what style of music you prefer - this is music that matters.

Here's what Frannie Kelley says, from NPR's website:
Adele is a 22-year-old woman from London whose voice sounds as if it's being yanked out of her chest through the throat of someone much older; someone shouldering more painful stories and a far larger chest cavity. She says that both of her albums — 2008's 19, for which she won Best New Artist at the Grammys, and this one, 21 — are about boys, two different ones. The stories she tells about them are average, familiar, normal. The voice she uses to tell them is a force of nature. It's brawny, syrupy and flashy at the same time.

"Brawny, syrupy and flashy." And brilliant. I couldn't have said it better myself. Do yourself a favor and get this music. Buy it here or on iTunes.

Then come tell me what you think.

*By the way, for the record (ha), I will always call these recorded things "records". I don't care if we're at the point when the music is encoded on chips in our heads. To me, they will be, forever and always, records. Just because. It's a nostalgia thing. Deal with it.

Friday, March 18, 2011

He's Not Above The Law

You should be outside enjoying this beautiful, gorgeous sunny day (at least if you are in RVA). But later tonight, when the sun's gone down and the moon is leaning in close to the earth (even closer than usual, tonight...), then take a look at this.

You're welcome.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thursday Evening Brain Dump

Rambling thoughts....
  • My knee hurts, but I'm going to pronounce the surgery a success. My energy has returned, I'm just a bit sore and I still have two stitches in me. Next Wednesday I'll see the ortho doc and move on to the next thing. 
  • While flat on my back last week, I learned how to let go. I've had a good work week; not without its challenges, but I got a mental shift that has helped me re-enter the tilt-a-whirl in a more healthy manner. It won't last, but I'm glad it's here for a while.
  • My husband is awesome.
  • My kids are terrific.
  • I threw fish sticks and tater tots in the oven for dinner. Syd and David complained. David wanted steak. Daniel said, "I LIKE fish sticks!" Tony texted me afterwards and said, "That was a gr8 dinner."
  • When I was a kid, fish sticks were a luxury. There were three meals that felt luxurious: fish sticks, salmon patties and spaghetti. All these things were not on my dad's list of Good Things To Eat, so Mom cooked them for Eric and I only when Dad was out of town. I missed dad, but I loved fish sticks, salmon patties and spaghetti. Still do.
  • The cable is out. Comcast is sending someone tomorrow. Woo hoo.
  • I got a subscription to Martha Stewart Living. Don't be hating. One day, I want to do all that stuff.
  • (All that stuff meaning, clean, decorate, re-decorate, make crafty table decor and cook unique, unusual food.)
  • While in recovery last week, I had two very distinctive dreams. One in which I was nursing a baby on the couch, another in which I was actually in the process of giving birth. Weird.
  • No, I'm not pregnant. I know because they ran a test before they scoped my knee. Why? Not sure. Took me by surprise when the nurse said, "Oh, by the're not pregnant." Duh. I didn't know that was part of the knee surgery territory.
  • I downloaded the Kindle app for my Mac so that I could impulse-buy a book. Granted, it's one I HAD to read for work, but it was enough motivation to cause some action. It's extremely cool.
  • I called the Apple Store to ask about iPads. They answered the phone like this: "HELLO -THANKYOUFORCALLINGTHEAPPLESTORE WHERE WE CURRENTLY HAVE NO IPADS INSTOCK". Interesting. I found out that if I show up at 7AM tomorrow and wait until they open at 9AM, I might be able to buy one. If they get any shipped to them. Which they won't know until 9AM.
  • I am somewhat seriously considering this course of action. Someone gave me a gift over the holidays and said it was for me to buy an iPad when the new version arrived. I kind of want one.
  • I have to admit that some part of my motivation is simply this: I want to carry an iPad around. And I think I'd better confess that I have a feeling I'd look awfully cool carrying an iPad around.
  • Maybe I'd better stay home tomorrow morning.
On another note - it's a weekend of music for us. Saturday evening we're hosting a worship concert. We'll be recording a live cd (available post-production) and offering our best music in a relaxed atmosphere. We are selling tickets for this event; it's a fundraiser for our building. Consider yourself invited - 7PM at PCC's Powhatan Campus. I - and my gimpy leg - will be there. It's worth the price of admission just to come in and see how long I'll be able to jump up and down without crutches...

That's all.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Are You Busy Saturday?

I am crawling back to the land of the living. Managed a few hours in the office today and reconnected with my co-workers. I get locked up in my house and in my head and forget about the unbelievable level of coolness of the PCC staff. Great today to see Angie, Brian, Susan, Sammy, Lori, Dustin, Cheryl. I still had to come home and collapse, but their coolness rubbed off on me and I felt better.

And then Brandee showed up with cookies. And then my mom and dad showed up with homemade vegetable soup (is there anything better than A Mother's Homemade Soup? No. I don't think so.) And brownies.

So I'm thinking more coherently now, and realizing that I haven't been talking about The Concert. I haven't been thinking about The Concert, because I've been off in lala land.

Now I'm thinking. Now I'm talking. I am so excited!
Guess who's coming back to sing this weekend? But ONLY Saturday night...

This weekend, we're hosting our annual  PCC Concert. In years past, we've leaned into doing more radio songs for this event - some of the special, pop-culture tunes we do throughout the year. And we'll probably put together a second event later in 2011 to focus on those tunes - bring back the Pink Floyd and the Roy Orbison and Eminem and the country songs and everything else. But this weekend?

Worship. This year, we're focusing specifically on worship. It will be a worship experience, and it will be recorded. We have a great line-up of musicians and a terrific song list, and we're dedicating ourselves to preparing an environment for worship.

So - get the word out. Invite your friends and neighbors. Come have church with us. Be part of the first live recording - later, when you get the cd, you'll be able to say, "I was there!" This event will NOT be streamed - you will want to be there in person.

Call the PCC office for tickets - don't wait until Saturday, because the price goes up. Remember that the proceeds go to the building fund, so that we can utilize this property in the ways God has called us, for our community. We're focusing on getting that parking lot paved. We want you there on Saturday!

I can't wait!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What It Means To Be Me

Day five post-surgery. I ventured out this morning, having aimed all along for Church On Sunday as my first day out. Regardless of my physical condition, I intended to get out of this house and get to church.

Last night, I had second thoughts. This morning, it seemed a wise course to opt for the Westchester Campus. Less people, closer to home, easy to get in and out. True, that - especially when Tony jumped the curb and drove the Suburban right up to the door of the theater.

I stood and sang with the crowd during the first song. Halfway through the second song, I found myself thinking, "Maybe I was a little optimistic about being so completely recovered..." Once we sat down, I was okay, but grappling with a little nausea and icky feelings. The "lift my hands and spin around" did me in.* It was a great service, but when it was all over I wasn't feeling too great.

So I'm home now, grumpy, parked on the couch. Again. Tony's off doing All That Needs To Be Done, and here I sit. We had some tense words earlier, because I just don't know how to let somebody else make decisions and handle things and I'm too controlling and too protective and whatever.

About a week ago, I was longing for a few days like this; time to sit, to think, to regroup. Now I've got it, and all I can do is sulk. And feel disappointed in myself.

Wednesday was the first day of Lent. I decided to give up chocolate for the next 40 days, to abstain from something that I crave deeply and seek to fill those cravings with something of a spiritual nature. But people started bringing food over, blessing us with homemade gifts and treats. Of a chocolate nature. Homemade truffles, a huge container of chocolate/Oreo ice cream from Brusters, Rachel Huff's chocolate eclair dessert...I caved. I dug in. And I'm disappointed in all that I cannot do, which includes the willpower and self-discipline to deny myself the one food ingredient I determined to forsake, in observance of the pivotal sacrifice of the faith I follow.


Epic fail.

I am not feeling too good about these things today.

But as I perused some blogs this afternoon, I stumbled upon something that Sammy Williams wrote. He included this excerpt from Frederick Buechner's Whistling In the Dark, on Lent. I will plaster it here in its entirety, confessing that it smacked me between the eyes. Good for me, perhaps also for you.

Emphasis is mine.
In many cultures there is an ancient custom of giving a tenth of each year’s income to some holy use. For Christians, to observe the forty days of Lent is to do the same thing with roughly a tenth of each year’s days. After being baptized by John in the river Jordan, Jesus went off alone into the wilderness where he spent forty days asking himself the question what it meant to be Jesus. During Lent, Christians are supposed to ask one way or another what it means to be themselves.

If you had to bet everything you have on whether there is a God or whether there isn’t, which side would get your money and why?

When you look at your face in the mirror, what do you see in it that you most like and what do you see in it that you most deplore?

If you had only one last message to leave to the handful of people who are most important to you, what would it be in twenty-five words or less?

Of all the things you have done in your life, which is the one you would most like to undo? Which is the one that makes you the happiest to remember?

Is there any person in the world, or any cause, that, if circumstances called for it, you would be willing to die for?

If this were the last day of your life, what would you do with it?

To hear yourself try to answer questions like these is to begin to hear something not only of who you are but of both what you are becoming and what you are failing to become. It can be a pretty depressing business all in all, but if sackcloth and ashes are at the start of it, something like Easter may be at the end.

I find some relief here; perhaps the question is not so much of self-discipline and willpower, but of a closer look at what it means to be Beth. Rather than define the next 40 days by what it is I can deny, perhaps I can choose what it is I will embrace.

This is a good word, one my mom suggested a few days ago as we talked about the traditional sacrifices of Lent. One worth hearing. One worth putting into practice. Even if I'm stuck at home on the couch on a beautiful sunny day. Maybe that's my sackcloth and ashes.

*Note: I did not actually lift my hands and spin around. I just sang it.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Somebody Wrote On My Knee

The bandage is off (temporarily). I've found the incisions and the initials left behind on my kneecap. Mine, I remember from right before they gave me the "This-Will-Make-You-Relax" medicine - I scrawled "BB" on my kneecap (yeah, I forgot about the new married name again...) and a smiley face. At some point, somebody else wrote the word "YES" and signed their initials as well.

On my knee.

It's all a little weird, isn't it? It's the whole anesthesia-out-of-control thing. My family is reminding me of things of which I have no memory since Wednesday. And somebody wrote on my knee. And I don't remember.

Lindsay and Melissa stopped by today with Brusters and Starbucks treats and big hugs. Lindsay and I work together at PCC on the Creative Arts team. I asked her, "So what's happened in the last few days?" She replied, "Well, not much. We missed you. But that's all."

I looked up. She was cheery and relaxed.

"You mean the world didn't stop spinning without me?"

No, indeed. It did not.

As I've weaned off the Percocet and spent a bit more time with my wits about me, I've struggled to reorient myself to this: doing nothing. Just being still, honoring the healing process, letting people fetch things for me. Just being.

Why is this so hard for me?

I finished a book - not a deeply introspective spiritual tome. Nothing related to creativity or the new social media revolution. Mom brought by Jan Karon's latest, In the Company of Others. The most recent addition to the Father Tim series of stories about a priest, his late-in-life love and the people he encounters. It's simple and true and honest and just plain good.

I cried when it ended. I cried when I watched footage of the earthquake and the tsunami in Japan. I cried watching Nadya Sulemann get reamed out by Suzie Orman on Oprah Winfrey.

I wondered if I had been home alone too long, or if Percocet had some sort of latent crying side effect.

Here's the thing: I'm alone, the house is still and quiet and I feel like I am just now, after three days of forced stillness, starting to grasp what it means to be. Just to be. I've laid here and wondered what I do with every breath, with every moment of my life that seems so crammed full of busyness that all I do is go go go go go go go. Until I collapse.

I'm missing some balance. And I've been here before. Grateful for the quiet of this very moment, I am going to lean into this stillness and wring out of it...absolutely nothing. Because it is enough to just lay here on the couch, prop up my knee and be grateful that the pain has subsided, and wait. Soon enough the door will fly open and Shannon and David will burst into the house. The stillness will be broken.

I want to remain whole. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

When I Woke Up This Morning, My Knee Hurt

Funny how quickly the minutes and hours pass by when you assume they're going to stretch out endlessly before you. Time flies when you're lying on the couch looking at the dust on the ceiling.

I didn't sleep too consistently last night, but I was comfortable. However, when I finally decided to get up around 8:00AM, I realized that my knee hurt. All the meds wore off and ow.

So I took more meds.

I'm reading two books simultaneously; The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, which is extremely well-written, and Jan Karon's In the Company of Others. Say what you will, but I love that series of stories about Father Tim. Yum.

The Book of Common Prayer includes the following in every daily morning prayer: "Come, let us bow down and bend the knee; let us kneel before the LORD our maker." I always say this prayer out loud. Today, I got to the "bend the knee" line and laughed out loud. NOT TODAY! 

Listening to my brother sing "I've never been good / never been good / never been good / for you at all..." Pretty cool when your brother is a famous rock star. I sort of feel like I can hear from him even when we can't connect on the phone. You might read that as passive-aggressive indicator that it would be nice for my brother to call me since I just had surgery and I'm temporarily an invalid, but only if you're my brother. In which case, you might be too busy, and that would be fine.

Anyway, you ought to buy their record - my brother's band, that is. They are called Maida Vale. Don't ask me why. Somebody asked me why and I didn't have a good answer. I think it's mysterious, or at least it's supposed to be. Anyway, if you don't want the entire record (it's called "Signs of Life"), you should at least buy "Never Been Good". It's a very catchy pop song.

It's weird, how my brother and I are both musicians and we're both in ministry. The next question is always, "Were your parents musicians? And in ministry?" And no, they weren't, and I've no idea really why the two of us ended up on such similar paths. Except it is different; my brother leans hard into being creative. He's a good songwriter. I'd like to do that, too, but I never find the time. He's more adventurous than me, I think.

I think I take myself too seriously. I would like to be more like my brother.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pistachio Salad

I survived surgery! The world didn't end!

Doing okay, listening to music, listening to the rain, weaving in and out of the drug-induced post-surgical comfort. Surprised by how many times I've wanted to hop up to do something - and realized that I can't.

That's an interesting predicament.

My kids, my husband, my mom and dad are good nurses. Gail Love brought wonderful dinner, with the best pistachio salad I've ever had. Though I don't know how you can call something like that "salad". I mean, it's got Cool Whip all over it. It tastes like candy! Is that salad?

This requires some investigation. Since I have a little time on my hands, let me do just that.

A few moments later:

/ˈsæləd/ Show Spelled[sal-uhd]
a usually cold dish consisting of vegetables, as lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers, covered with a dressing and sometimes containing seafood, meat, or eggs.
any of various dishes consisting of foods, as meat, seafood, eggs, pasta, or fruit, prepared singly or combined, usually cut up, mixed with a dressing, and served cold: chicken salad; potato salad. 

Well, then. There it is. (Does anybody else get that? I don't know a lot of references from movies, but I watched Amadeus about forty times. That was a great line. There it is.) No Cool Whip. Unless Cool Whip is a "dressing".

This proves my point. Gail, I love this stuff. I could eat an entire bucket. But I think we gotta come up with a different name.

As part of my investigation, I asked Tony what he thought about this situation. Having just arrived home from putting a tarp on the top of his house down the road (in the rain) (in the dark), he seems rather disinterested in my opinion that this salad mislabeling is of great importance.

Oh, well. So it goes.

I'm not allowed to make any important decisions for 24 hours. I'm not allowed to shower for 48 hours.

I wonder if, at 24 hours, I could decide to shower?

This post brought to you by Percocet, my new bff. And Pistachio Candysalad.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Take The Strain And Stress

Occasionally, I think I've figured myself out. I know that I understand a heck of a lot more than I used to.

At my age, I have arrived at a certain sort of maturity that is quite welcome. Most of the time, I've got it together.

But I have control issues. I know this. And yet, when this rather inconvenient and overdeveloped sense of self-importance rears its little head, I act surprised.

I am anxious tonight. Not because of fear or worry, but because tomorrow I have to relinquish a great deal of control. And I am yet unsure of the days that follow tomorrow.

It's minor, really - in the grand scheme of things, it's so unimportant. It's a minor knee surgery - arthroscopic removal of a torn piece of cartilage. Tony will be with me all day. The kids are covered. Somebody is bringing dinner. My mom will be around Thursday morning. Work is covered.

But I will be at the mercy of the doctors, of a broken body part, of the healing process. At some point tomorrow I will be unconscious while the surgery takes place.

And this makes me feel very, very bad grumpy anxious frustrated out of control.

And this is a problem for me. The lack of control leads to a lot of anxiety.

Which leads me to believe that for all my maturity and my old-age wisdom and everything else that's good, I'm reduced to a five-year old when I can't have things my way. My entire world feels upside down.

And the entire thing is so minor that I feel like an idiot.

I worry about a lot of things that I cannot control. Is it that I am worrying about those things, or concerned about  who is going to run the world when I cannot?

I'm an idiot. But God loves me, I know this. I have friends who love and care for me and my family, and they don't seem to mind that I am an idiot at times.

I am listening to this lyric from Tim Hughes, and learning more and more about letting go. It is not an easy lesson for me. But I am learning.
Take from our souls the strain and stress
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Your peace
The beauty of Your peace

Friday, March 4, 2011

Today's Prayer

From A Liturgy For Ordinary Radicals:
"Keep us from self-pity, Lord, and stir us to rise each morning expecting to encounter you and be caught up in your work. Amen."

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ordination Service

Just realized that they taped Sunday's ordination service. It's online here.

Go on, take a look. You gotta push through the first seven minutes of waiting - but dial it in about 7:30 and check out the amazing band. For those of you who have known our family for a long time, you can hear Sarah, Shannon and Syd sing together on "Here I Am To Worship"; and you can imagine the swelling of my heart. Daniel played percussion throughout the entire service.

Proud mom.

And proud friend. Major props to Walter Felton for a killer guitar solo on "Brighter Day", to Patrick Parkins for bringing the jumping energy, to Todd for brilliant drumming, to Travis for being an exceptional musician. To Sarah, for being Sarah and using that incredible voice to worship God. And to Lindsay, for all that she is - beautiful woman, excellent musician, amazing vocalist and great leader.

I love this band. And I loved everything that happened Sunday night.

Hope you check it out and find yourself blessed.