Category Archives: music

Another Sunday with the Littles

I got to spend time with The Littles at our country church in Slower Lower Delaware this morning.  The class has the same four children, but this morning I looked into their faces and saw how much they have grown up in the four short months that they’ve had another teacher.  Katie and Judah have a new baby brother, which got discussed thoroughly and delightedly.  Jamison, far more verbal than he was four months ago, joined in the conversation with feeling and much expression.  Charis, the oldest, was thoughtful and participant, but the only one without a brother (or even a sibling for that matter) was quieter than usual.

We sang the song that we had used to open class time last year, and they all remembered and helped along.  My heart warmed to hear each of their four voices soar in the familiar words and tune.  The story we were covering today was the story of Jesus coming to John the Baptist for baptism, and I laid the background of what John’s mission was, and desert lifestyle and diet and his message to the people of his time, and there were appropriate expressions of disgust at the garment of camel’s hair, and talk of “throwing up” over the locusts and wild honey.  (Especially the “grasshoppers” business.)  And then we got to the part about Jesus being baptized by John.

The teacher’s manual provided a cutout that made a dove “spinner” to emphasize the dove that descended upon the head of Jesus, and each of them had their own spinner and a chance to try it out.  Also suggested was using ribbons for blessing and praise.  I had made each of them a “Blessing Stick” by attaching ribbons to a 12″ dowel stick, and after speaking a blessing over each one of them, I told them that we were going to use the sticks with singing a song.  They gathered, excited and gloriously distracted and yet eager to sing.  We sang an old children’s song that I learned many years ago, using the sticks in different motions for the two different phrases.

Hallelu-, hallelu-, hallelu-, hallelujah!  (Shake sticks in front of you)
Praise ye the LORD! (Wave in a wide arc over head)
Hallelu-, hallelu-, hallelu-, hallelujah!
Praise ye the LORD!
Praise ye the LORD!
Hallelujah!
Praise ye the LORD!
Hallelujah!
PRAISE YE THE LORD!

About the third or fourth time through it they really got into it, and there was much waving about of the ribbons and the words were intelligible and they even got the standing up and sitting down motions that we were using.  But time was getting a little short to finish everything up, so we went back to the table to get the coloring pictures and take home papers and one last activity from the home papers.

“Pra-a-a-a-i-i-i-i-s-e-e-e   y-e-e-e-e-e–e–e–e—e the L-o-o-o-r-r-r-r-d” warbled Charis in a vibrato mode as she pulled her chair back up to the table. “Ha-a-a-l-l-l-e-e-e-e-el-u-u-ujah!”  She was really putting her soul into the music as she sang with pronounced showmanship.

After a time or two of this, Katie looked at her with puzzled disdain.  “Charis,” she said with a hint of annoyance, “why are you singing that song like a goat?”

Charis looked at her pityingly.  “That’s opera!” she said and resumed her song.  It went on and on.

“Charis,” I interrupted.  “Do you like opera?”

“Oh, yes!  I love it!” And she resumed her song again.  I listened as she sang and could hear the “opera” in her rendition.

“I think you could be an opera singer some day,” I told her.  “You seem to have the voice for it.”

“Really?” She asked excitedly.  “I would really love that!”

“I think you could,” I told her, “but you would have to study hard and get a trainer and all of that.  But I think for now, maybe we’ve had enough opera.”

“Okay,” she said agreeably, bent her head to her papers, and started to sing again.  Then stopped.  “Oh, dear!” She said impatiently.  “Now I got that song in my head!”

I think we all did.

And I smiled to myself as I thought about this class of LITTLES.  They are growing so big and it’s happening so fast.  Life is moving right along and the happenings of our world are impressing themselves on their minds and hearts.  They live in a world that is divided by hate and bigotry and mixed messages and uncertainties and so much division in the Family of God.

And I’m trying to sing a song to this old world.  It’s the Story of Jesus and His Love.  I would like it to be vibrant and full of harmony and joy and hope and love.  I would like it to catch on with the people around me.  I would like it to stick in their minds and I would like them to wave banners of light and beauty and blessing.  I would like them to “jump out of their chairs” at the right moments and I’d like them to do it with unity and peace and courage — but mostly to bring His Love to the rest of the world.

I’m singing it the best I can.  I’m singing it with all my heart.  I’m singing it when I’m thinking about it, and I’m singing it when I’m not.  Because it’s stuck!  Not only in my head but also in my heart.

And it’s my fervent prayer that no one wonders why I’m trying to sing like an old goat. I do make mistakes in the music.  I sometimes jumble the words.  I sometimes even forget them.

But the basic melody of JESUS, friend of sinners, hope of the world, SAVIOUR — This, I pray will be heard.  And whether the listener likes opera or classical or modern or country, may it fill their ears, stick in their heads and find its way to their hearts, inviting them, drawing them into The Family.

“Oh, LORD JESUS!  May it be so!”

 

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Filed under Christian Living, Laws Mennonite Church, music, The LITTLES Sunday School Class

Christmas in my Heart

It has been an eventful week.  The house is quiet today, for the first time in four days.  The four grands are precious, indeed.  They are smart, cute, verbal, affectionate and engaging.  They are not quiet.  I remember how I wanted so badly to play the piano at my Grandma Wert’s house and how My Sweet Mama always (and I do mean always) said “No.  It will get on Grandma’s nerves!”  It made me almost frantic to put my fingers on it and make a glorious noise.  However, I knew better than to disobey.

Here I am, 61 years old, with four grandchildren.  Three of them are in a family that has a very loud daddy as well as a very musical daddy and here is this Delaware Grammy who isn’t at all anxious for them to try their hands at the piano.  Fortunately for me, it is one (of many) things that their wise parents have made off limits for most of the time.  Actually, this weekend, I don’t know of a single time that they were playing on the piano.  That did not stop the noise and the busy-ness.  Most of the time, the noise was glorious, in that it was not fighting or scolding or screaming or sassing.  It was just little boy and little girl play and little boy and little girl talk and little boy and little girl noise.  How I loved it!

(How I am enjoying this quiet after the storm.)

But that makes me a bit pensive when I think about the silent piano this weekend.  Were their parents sneaking around and shushing them with ,”NO, you may not play the piano!  It will get on Grammy’s nerves!”  I hope not, but I cannot say with any confidence that I KNOW they didn’t use that excuse.

It has been a good season for our family.  We have much to be thankful for, and I rejoice in God’s Gift to the world that long ago night.  A Savior.  Christ the LORD.  Above all else, we followers of Jesus have reason to celebrate.  But I would be less than truthful if I were to act like this season was without its share of pain.  Our world has so much pain.

Last night, I gathered the grands around me one by one and we picked out gifts from the Compassion, Int. Christmas catalog.  Charis was first. She is the oldest at 5.  She wanted the children to have some thing to play with. “Some toys for the poor children, Grammy!”  She picked out some “safe playground equipment.”

Simon, although younger than Charis by almost six months, is also 5.  He crowded in beside me and thoughtfully looked at the pictures.  He was extremely saddened by the picture of the little boy, obviously malnourished, eating rice.  It was one of the first pictures in the catalog, and he came back to it, looking with deep concern at the little guy.  It didn’t take him long at all to decide that his part of the gift would be food for hungry little kids.

“Don’t let nobody else get that,” he said.  “Just me.”

“Well, Simon,” I said to him, “Let’s just see what the others want to do.  I have a feeling that all of you will want something different.”  And he was good with that.

Liam (4) was very serious as he looked and looked at the possibilities.  He wrinkled his face and thought long and hard.  He finally chose seeds for growing vegetable gardens.  “I like seeds,” he said happily.  “I help Mommy in the garden and plant seeds.”  Which, I found out later, is one of his favorite summer things to do.

And then Frankie.  He’s three.  A great conversationalist, and always thinking about what he can get into next.  I went through the catalog with him and explained everything.

“I want to buy SCHOOL BUS!!!”  He insisted. I explained patiently that there was no “school bus,” and that these people didn’t even have cars to take them where they needed to go.

“Look, Frankie,” I told him.  “They do have bicycles.”  He looked at the picture that had two people on a bike, with a basket that was full of parcels, while the people also had bags on their backs.

“Dey should put backpack in dere,” said Frankie, pointing at the basket.  “Backpack in dere!”  He studied the picture seriously, considering buying a bicycle over a bus.  Finally, with his Grammy’s encouragement, he was convinced that maybe he would settle for a bicycle, and our choosing/planning session was over. (Whew!  That was a relief.  I was pretty sure that Grammy wasn’t going to be able to afford a school bus!)

And it did this heart good.  The season has carried a great deal of memories for me, of other years and happier times.  On Sunday morning, in our Christmas program, the carols and Christmas hymns swirled around me, making it difficult to sing as the poignant memories flooded my heart.  Probably the setting we were in had something to do with it.  Daddy and Mama started attending at Laws Mennonite Church when I was two years old.  With the exception of the ten years we spent in Ohio, every single Christmas program has been in that church.  And though I know we have much for which to be grateful, and the accommodations are pleasant and adequate, it just isn’t the same.  And I was homesick for the old white church on the corner of Canterbury and Carpenter Bridge roads.

Especially sharp this year was the missing of people who have gone on before.  As we launched into “Silent Night” there was this pause at the end of the first line — at a place where J.R. Campbell always added an extra bass trill.  I waited, half expecting to hear that clear, full voice chime in the extra notes.  But there was nothing.  And no one filled in for him.  It made me think about J.R. and the essence that was so uniquely him and while my thoughts were those of thankfulness to him for his foresight and careful attention to detail that has blessed us so immensely as a church in this fire, I missed him!  The music, the laughter, the philosophizing, the attention to detail, the artist, the dreamer.

And I missed my Daddy.  It was nine years ago that he went home to Heaven on a night that we had a Christmas program.  It was the Sunday night of December 18th, 2005.  I had taken him to the hospital in the morning, and they admitted him.  He thought they would take some fluid off his lungs and he would go home.  When they admitted him, he encouraged Mama and I to go home.  There was the Christmas program, and he didn’t want us to miss it.  Shortly after we were in the service, a phone started ringing somewhere.  I was aggravated that someone wasn’t paying closer attention to their cell phone, but it stopped and we were singing the carols of Christmas when someone came and got me and said that my Daddy wasn’t expected to live through the night.  We got to the hospital in record time and soon after 9 pm, he smiled his last smile, breathed his last breath and went on home.

I always think about it, but it has been harder this year.  Maybe because of losing Frieda so recently.  Maybe because of other losses in my family.  Maybe because My Sweet Mama’s health is so precarious.  For whatever reason, it has been a little tougher this year than sometimes.

But for all that has been difficult, I’ve still have it so good.  I have enough food to fill the tummies.  I can grow a garden from a vast variety of seeds or little plants.  My trusty mini-van isn’t dependent on me pedaling it to get it anywhere, and the children have safe recreational activities available on all sides.

There is hope for the hollow, empty eyes.

I am only one, but I am one.  I cannot do everything but I can do something.  The something I can do, I ought to do. And by God’s grace, I will.

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Filed under Dealing with Grief, music

. . . and the sand keeps sliding through the hour glass

We came home last night to the farmhouse at Shady Acres after being gone for about 33 hours.  We crammed a lot of living in those hours, and had a wonderful time tromping through Lancaster, taking in MOSES! at Sight and Sound, visiting some of our favorite shops, and just enjoying some time away.  The only money we spent for food was for tips, as we had gift cards for everything else.  Motel 6 was extremely clean and comfy and we couldn’t have found nicer accommodations for $67.00.  I had such a happy time with that man that I love most.  The colors were beautiful in Lancaster.  When we were traveling up on Monday, it was raining.  I told Daniel that if we had some sun Tuesday, we would see some pretty spectacular trees.  I was right!

IMG_0190

When we came home, it seemed like things had fared pretty well while we were gone.  Laundry was caught up, the kitchen was straightened, my ladies were fed and contented.  But then it was mentioned that our trusty Miele dishwasher was not working, and that the dryer had taken three hours to dry the last towel load.  H-m-m-m-m-m. I need to see about finding myself a repair man, I guess. Oh, and my experienced eyes warned me that Blind Linda didn’t seem to be doing so well.

The illness and the coming Homegoing of my sister in law, Frieda, seem to be ever with me.  Sometimes it almost seems wrong to have happy days and laugh.  But then I remember that she doesn’t want us to be gloomy and it doesn’t help her any for us to mope about.  So I shed my tears and I grieve and pray, but I’ve also had to laugh, had to eagerly anticipate upcoming events, and have kept these hands mostly busy.

The seats we had for the Moses! presentation were up in the upper level.  By the time I had climbed the several flights of stairs, I was wishing that I had taken the elevator.  When we found our seats, there was a rather portly couple on the end by the aisle.  For some reason, they thought it best to stay were they were and just compact themselves together as best they could to let us pass.  This left a narrow ledge for me to manuever my rather portly body past them to my seat.   There was no hand rail, the backs of the next row of seats was somewhere down close to my ankles.

I’m more than a little bit afraid of heights.  I can have a sturdy wall that is up to my waist between me and the Royal Gorge and still have to stand back a few feet to be comfortable.  No leaning on the guard rails for me!  I get this strange sensation in the back of my legs and it feels like the abyss is pulling me to itself with hungry tentacles.  For years I wouldn’t fly because of how terrified I was about getting my feet off the ground, but there came a day when I realized that my fear of flying was affecting my relationship with my husband and I decided that I would fly with him, even if it killed me.  (Which I was pretty certain it would!)  There was much prayer, much shutting of the eyes and just not looking, much faking of enthusiasm when a Certain Man who was in the window seat (always in the window seat!) would exclaim, “Look, Hon!  See how clear it is!  You can see clear down to the ground!  Right there is the Mississippi River, and if you look close, you can see the big gateway arch in St. Lewie.”  Oh, how my stomach would lurch as I dutifully leaned over him and tried to see.  But I’ve done it often enough now that the terror has been replaced by a general dislike, and is at least manageable.  But I digress.  I only went on that rabbit trail to explain how terrified I am of heights, and believe me, the upper deck of the Sight and Sound Auditorium is definitely “heights.”

So, I looked at those seats, five in, and breathed a quick prayer, scrunched myself together and scooted past the couple who were exclaiming things like, “Do you have enough room???  Can you make it???”  while occupying their space, but pulling their ample stomachs in and leaning back.  I wanted to say, “No, I don’t have enough space, but if I could just hang on to your shirt/blouse while I pass by, I could maybe walk across Niagara Falls on this three inch board!”  But I desisted.   Once past them, I could reach my hand out to the backs of the empty seats and steady myself and, more importantly, lean in the direction of not cascading down the interminable mountain of seats in front of me.

Whew!  Settled at last.  With 20 minutes to spare.  I wondered what I was ever going to do if I needed to use the restroom during the presentation.  Age and Lasix and four babies that averaged close to ten pounds apiece make this a consideration of import.  So I prayed that I could safely sit until intermission and immersed myself into the production.  And all was well.  At intermission the couple stood up and stepped out and there was no danger.  They repeated the favor at the end of the intermission and I gratefully returned to my seat.  The production of Moses! was well done end engaging,  and Certain Man and I enjoyed a wonderful time together.

We came home through the deepening Autumn afternoon, noted the clouds that were spotting across the western sky and wondered at the coming storm.  We came into light and home and warmth and family and a beloved Love Bug at the top of the ramp to welcome us.  This morning, the storm has still not broken, and I put on the CD of “Songs my Father Taught Me” by the West Coast Mennonite Chamber Choir.  The  kitchen window was cracked open a few inches and I played the song, “No more fear of Dying” twice as I thought about Frieda and her unchanged, eager anticipation of Heaven. She sleeps, talks with her family, sleeps some more.  My heart faltered as I considered the sadness of these waiting days.  Then I heard a wren, outside the window, singing her heart out along with the music that was swirling out into the morning mist.  I thought about Frieda, like a wren, living the praise in the face of dying, yes, but also in the light of Eternity.  The wren’s cheerful song  lifted my heart and made me think about things other than the broken dishwasher, delinquent dryer and even the fever that Blind Linda developed in the morning hours.

Heaven. It’s on my mind.  And thanks to the events of this last week, it isn’t a “heavy” even though parting is a sorrow.  Listen here and be blessed.  My heart gives grateful praise.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LcQXZOMCNF8

Lyrics:

Jesus has arisen, joy and hope are given
Those who call upon His Name.
He shall be exalted through the endless ages;
Name above all other Names.

No more fear of dying – no more need to doubt.
Every one shall answer, every knee shall bow.

Jesus has ascended,
Not like He descended – in a low and humble way.
He has been victorious, lifted up and glorious
Now He holds His rightful place.

Jesus is returning, joy and hope are burning
In the true believers heart.
King of all creation, come with celebration,
May we never more depart!

No more fear of dying – no more need to doubt.
Every one shall answer, every knee shall bow.

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Filed under Dealing with Grief, home living, music, time away