Sunday, March 30, 2008

Almost Done

This is a picture of my daughter Robin, flanked by her trumpet professors Ronald Romm (left) and Michael Ewald (right). Yesterday Robin gave her senior recital in Smith Recital Hall at the University of Illinois. It was a wonderful performance. She selected beautiful music and played with professionalism. Mike and I are very proud of her!
Robin is our youngest.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Civil Rant About Incivility

"As Christians, we never have the option to speak about or treat others in a way that diminishes their worth as human beings. As Americans, we should know better."

This quote is lifted from an open letter published by the Tuscon Citizen on 2-27-08, authored by Dr. Tim Kimmel of Family Matters; Pastor Sandy Mason, senior pastor of Desert View Bible Church; and Pastor Billy M. Thrall, senior pastor of Neighborhood Ministries. All are from Phoenix. They wrote to plead for civility in the debate about immigration. They did not take a particular point of view regarding the issue itself, only sought to remind the community that some of the rhetoric being used was indeed toxic, and some of that rhetoric was coming from people of faith.

I, too, would like to address the issue of civility in public debate. Not that I haven't been guilty of letting my tongue flap in an unpleasant way myself! But folks, lets call ourselves on it. And I think we should refuse to listen to it as well.

Often my husband and I will stay up a few extra minutes to listen to the opening monologue of one of the late night talk-show hosts. It was a way to end the day with a few chuckles. But lately, we've just given up that habit, because the humor around the political candidates has become so nasty and belittling. All three candidates currently in the race for president are United States Senators who have devoted themselves to a life of public service. Do we really need to give them derogatory nicknames? Mock their personal lives? Play "gotcha" with every slip of the tongue they make on the campaign trail? Does the president of our country- any president, of any party- really deserve to be discussed as though he is some kind of drooling cretin? Do we need to have open season on Hispanics, Muslims, pastors of black churches, members of the party we disagree with, environmentalists, oil corporation CEOs, or whoever the scapegoat du jour?

I realize that comedians have always gotten laughs at the expense of others, and I actually do have a sense of humor. I realize bloggers and those who comment on blogs have the right of free speech in this country. I am exercising that right myself at this very moment. But I also, in writing a blog about about leading a God-honoring life, would like to challenge anybody who reads this to think about who they listen to, and who they might emulate when they speak. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, "Let us consider how to stir up others to love and good deeds..." That's what the above quoted pastors were attempting to do. That's what I'm attempting to do.

Recently a group of high schoolers challenged their town to attempt a week without swearing. They thought about just having it be the high schoolers themselves, but they realized they needed the people they live with to help them in this effort, too. Surprisingly, the townspeople came on board with the idea. In the end, many reported that they think it was a good exercise, and that our collective manner of speech had taken a serious turn for the worse, which they realized needed to be corrected. Now, a lot of the people I know don't do much swearing (I do work in a church!), but there are other things that can be said, or even tacitly agreed with, that are just as unpleasant.

I hope that some of you will think hard about that talk-radio host you listen to, or check that nasty, belittling comment you might make in your workplace break-room about the candidate you don''t like, or perhaps remind a friend who is talking that way that this isn't constructive discourse, and we can do better. I hope we can be inspired by those high school students, who finally got fed up with the bad example the adults around them were setting, and challenged their whole town to do better.

Friday, March 28, 2008

A Future Song Leader

Is this our future song leader?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Today I left the Honda in the garage and rode my bike to work. I do this most days when the weather is reasonable. It's a round trip of only 3 miles; easy-breezy! It takes only about 8 minutes to get down there, hardly more than it takes to back the car out on to our busy street and drive there. I got a little moderate aerobic exercize, enjoyed a beautiful spring day, and saved on gas. What's not to like?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Cathedral Building

In the Middle Ages, the Church, in it's desire to glorify God, went on a sort of building spree. Today, as much as a thousand years later, we can still see the results, in the form of the beautiful cathedrals that are scattered throughout Europe. Most of them took a century or more to complete. The finest craftsmen, along with the most innovative architectural minds, were put to work, some for their entire lives, to create these edifices. New technology was created on the spot, as needed, for earth-moving, stone cutting and lifting, along with improved design elements to allow the buildings to soar higher without sacrificing strength. While the progress may have appeared slow to the casual observer, tremendous technological advances were made behind the scenes that laid the groundwork, and are still referred to today, for the building of skyscrapers.

Recently, Ray Pierrehumbert, professor of Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago, equated the lifestyle changes and technological innovations required to be good stewards of our environment as equivalent to that era of cathedral-building. He said, "Changing our personal carbon emissions is almost an act of devotion. It's like putting a brick in a cathedral. We're working on a spiritual edifice we are leaving for the future."

Now, he made these remarks to students at Lutheran Theological School. He did not mean to imply by them that we are to worship the created world, any more than we would worship a cathedral. What he meant by them was that we must be willing to tackle a huge, seemingly impossible task, that we may not yet fully understand how to do, in order to leave something God-glorifying for the next 1,ooo years, just as the cathedral builders did.

We may not know how to do it, but we must start anyway.

His encouragement to the students, who are not scientists, is to start with your own life: how you transport yourself, how you manage your home, how you treat the surrounding wild lands and farmlands, what you send (or don't send) to the landfill. Every Christian must start someplace, to build this "cathedral" for our descendants: a sustainable, livable, beautiful earth to live on, to serve God on.

So, from time to time, I will tell you a little something about what I'm doing to add bricks to the cathedral. I'm not going to do that to toot my own horn; I will do it to keep myself accountable, and perhaps to encourage someone else to try something for themselves. I may not live to see the finished product, but, if we all help, I'm sure it will be glorious.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Excitement

Today's service included:

Christ Arose
Christ the Lord is Ris'n Today
Crown Him With Many Crowns
Because He Lives
He Lives! He Lives! Christ Jesus Lives Today!
The Hallelujah Chorus-The Messiah

We used the pipe organ, piano, violin, three trumpets (including piccolo trumpet); not all at once!

As I left the church, many people were very kind about the music, and we all agreed: there is no music like Easter music! It is hands-down everyone's favorite service of the year.

But really, the highlight of the day-week-month is the baptism that occurred today. We have started offering Mandarin interpretation of our sermons, because in this university community there are about 3,ooo people for whom Mandarin is the first language. And this month, March 3rd to be exact, a man who is here from China visiting his family, came to faith in Christ. He was the one baptized today. Boy, was there a celebration! That's how we started the service, and the energy never flagged after that.

I recently read that some people call a traditional service like ours a "stand up, sit down, listen, and leave" service. The implication being, I guess, that there isn't anything very exciting about it. Wish they'd been there today!

Friday, March 21, 2008


Good Friday is a day of repentance. This is the day when Christians think about Jesus' willingness to be punished, not for things He did, but for things I do. So I don't have to be punished.

Since this is a blog about living a God-honoring life, I think it's worth thinking about areas where we need to repent, on this Good Friday.

This year's presidential primary season has, especially in the past week or so, brought to light once again the issue of racial prejudice that we have in this country. Now, before I go any further, I want you to know that I am not about to tell you who to vote for, or who I'm planning to vote for. We have a curtain on the voting booth for a reason. But the controversy generated by the video clips of Mr. Obama's pastor has proven that this issue runs very deep, even in the church, and that we are equal-opportunity racists. And, as Christians, we all know we need to deal with it.

It's a matter of allowing God to root this rotten stuff out. Confessing it is the first step. Remember, Jesus hung on the cross for this sin, too.

So I'll tell you my little story:
I was raised to believe racism was wrong, and I truly believed I was not prejudiced until I was hired to work as a lunchroom and recess supervisor at my children's grade school. As I worked with the children, the Lord began to show me that, in very subtle ways, I was not giving the African American children a fair shake. In every little playground squabble, I tended to believe they were guilty until proven innocent. It wasn't fair, and God was showing me that.

There was one little girl who was just a terror on the playground. She was very heavy and very black -guess what?-two prejudices rolled into one! Every adult in the building had had unpleasant dealings with her. One day the Lord just told me very firmly that I needed to reach out to this very difficult child. As I was walking her class out to the playground, it suddenly dawned on me. We shared the same first name! I came up beside her and said, "Hi, Joyce! Did you know we are name-twins? My name is Joyce too!" She gave me the first smile I had ever seen on her face. Next thing you know, she was holding my hand. I realized we had all been demonizing this little seven-year-old girl. And here's the rub-my own daughter was seven at that time! From that time on, I determined to treat this child the way I would want my own little girl treated by any adult, with cheerfulness, fairness, and respect.

This was a huge breakthrough for me. Since then I have tried to be very conscious of any biases I may have. The Bible says we are to "take captive every thought for Christ", meaning, don't just let your mind go any old place, but be willing to give it correction. We are also to "think of others as better" than ourselves, meaning, don't project on to others your own sinfulness, but assume the best about them. Both of those things speak to this issue of conquering racial prejudice. My mind still wants to head down the path of prejudice, so I need to pray for the Lord's help to overcome it, daily.

I know confession is hard. Is there anyone out there who would like to share what God is doing with them in the area of racial bias? We can all learn from each other and pray for each other.

Remember, Jesus died so that we might be dead to sin, and alive in Him.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

How Deep the Father's Love For Us

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give his only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss;
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many saints to glory.

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders.
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life.
I know that it is finished.

I will not boast of anything;
No gifts, no power, no wisdom.
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer.
But this I know with all my heart:
His wounds have paid my ransom.

-Stuart Townend, 1995-

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Dedicated Life

Twenty nine years ago tomorrow, it was the first nice day of the spring after we had received a record-breaking 100+ inches of snow in the Chicago area. It was a Sunday, and after church Mike and I decided to go for a walk to our friend's house, since the sidewalks were finally clear. I was pregnant with my first baby, five days overdue, and you can probably guess the rest. By the next morning, I was holding Matt in my arms.

All that long winter preceeding his birth, our Sunday School class at First Baptist of Park Forest had been praying for the baby. In those days, you didn't know if you were having a boy or a girl, but whatever we were having, the class was praying for someone who would devote themselves fully to serving God. I've lost track of most of those people, which is really regretable. They would love to know that Matt chose to answer the call of ministry.

When Matt was ten, he came in from delivering papers one day and said, "Mom, I've been thinking. This summer, instead of playing Little League, I want to get better at swimming. Because, if I become a missionary, I might have to swim across rivers to get to the people who need to hear about Jesus!"

When he was in high school, while everybody else was up to the usual high school shenanigans at lunch time, Matt was leading a prayer club he started.

In college he chose to live in a Christian co-operative house. He was a good student, and had plenty of options open to him, so he started off studying engineering. But his heart lay elsewhere, and he changed curriculums to better prepare himself for ministry. Then, he went to seminary.

Now, he is in his first pastorate. It's a small church, and it has all the usual small church issues, along with some that are unique to that congregation. It hasn't been easy. But recently a man from that congregation was liscenced to preach. A number of people have been baptized. A young boy who was in a world of trouble has been completely turned around. So, the spirit is working. For that church, I would like to send this verse:

Joshua 3:5-"Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you."

The prayers our friends lifted up during that snowy winter have been answered.

Happy Birthday, Matt!

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Time of Giving

Right in the middle of our weekly worship service there is a little section that is listed in the bulletin as "A Time of Giving". That's all it says.

Until very recently, that part of the bulletin said something like:

Prayer of Dedication

Recently, the worship planning committee took a hard look at that little list. Did we need to write all that out? The congregation would not be confused if we condensed it; most of them know the drill, and those who are new to our church may very possibly not even know what those "church-y" terms really meant. Losing them would not hurt anything. In fact, to an unchurched visitor, it might be less intimidating if we just collapsed all that into the simple title "A Time of Giving".

So, what exactly is supposed to happen at that point on Sunday morning? There is one woman I know who's husband's favorite excuse for staying away from church is all about "A Time of Giving". "See," he says, "there they are with their hands out for money again! That's all churches ever want, is to empty our pockets!" He's not the only person I've heard of that thinks that way.

But that little nugget of time is so important to each of us spiritually! It's not at all about enriching the church, and, though we certainly care for the needs of the world, it's not even really much about that. It's actually about acting in the opposite spirit of greed. When we give, we defeat the human tendency to hang on to it all for our own perceived good, and behave in a way that more closely resembles the unlimited generosity of God toward us.

First, we sing some sort of song that offers thanks and praise to God -a doxology.

Then, we pray, telling God that we recognize His goodness to us, and we want to honor him by returning something that can be used to work out his will here on earth.

There are a lot of things we can give, of course, but at this particular time, we give money.

And while that is going on, a musician, or perhaps several, offer up a gift of music.

If an individual comes to this part of the service with thoughtfulness about it's meaning, they will actually find themselves growing in their ability to put material things in perspective and recognize a growing sense of gratitude. I have experienced this in my own life. Recently I read an article by Laura Rowley, in which she cited some research that has been done at UC-Riverside by Sonia Lyubomirsky. Subjects were asked to write down five things for which they were thankful. Some did this several times a week, some once a week, and some once a month. The ones who did this exercise once a week reportedly experienced a significant rise in their sense of gratitude.

Kind of like the what we can experience by weekly participation in "A Time of Giving"! If, as the offering plate is being passed, we focus on the things for which we are grateful, things we know ultimately come from God, our sense of gratitude grows, and our feelings of greed will diminish. Christians have been experiencing this phenomenon long before it could be scientifically "proven". It is an opportunity designed for us by God, to help us become more relaxed, joyful, and at peace; to give us a sense of belonging in the work He is doing.

I have added a link to Laura Rowley's website and blog over on my Blog Roll. She writes about money and materialism from a Christian perspective, and I admire her for putting her expertise out into the secular world for all to learn from. Give it a look, if you have time.

Meanwhile, give some thought to how you will approach "A Time of Giving" in the coming weeks. God has his best for you in this part of the service.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Tale of Three Palm Sundays

Dozens of children paraded around the sanctuary waving palm branches this morning while the congregation sang "Hosanna, Loud Hosannas", "Blessed Is He That Comes In The Name of the Lord", and All Glory, Laud and Honor, To Thee Redeemer King". What a celebration of the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem!

But, it's a bitter-sweet celebration. Jesus accepted the accolades of the crowd, knowing they were short-lived. The perfect Lamb of God was going to the slaughter, but not unwittingly, like a real lamb. He knew what was coming.

We have a week now to contemplate that.

I remember that as a brand new believer, not at all well-versed in the Bible, I thought Jesus somehow got tricked into being captured and killed. Then, later, when I read the verses from Psalm 22, quoted by Jesus as he hung on the cross, I was confused again. How could those words, written so long before the time of Jesus, tell so exactly how everything would come about? I asked a handy adult to explain this to me. I was told that Jesus knew the Old Testament so well he was able to engineer things to fit the scenario from the Psalm. I was told that he did that to convince people he was God!

Thank goodness, I had the Holy Spirit to give me discernment! Even at that young age, when I was told that, it somehow felt "off". It didn't ring true. If Jesus was just some guy who was trying to make himself look like he was God, well, then, there was no sense in believing in him at all! But lots of people did, and, for some reason, I did too.

There was nothing for it; I would just have to keep reading the Bible until it made sense. And that's what I did. Finally, a few years later, I found a church where there were also people who had read the Bible until they understood it, and they gently helped me put things together.

All that time, I was a believer. Just very confused about a few things. But one thing I did know: Jesus is who he said he is. I hung on to that, and the other things began to clear up.

Is it any wonder that my favorite hymn is "I Know Whom I Have Believed"?

"I know not how God's wondrous love to me He has made known,
Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love redeemed me for His own.
But I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I've committed unto Him against that day!"

The Bible says that if we seek Him with all our hearts, we will surely find Him. That's what happened to me.

Forty years ago, on Palm Sunday, I publicly professed my faith in Jesus Christ. I was baptized the following Sunday, Easter.

Thanks for hanging in there with me all these years, Lord Jesus!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Different Sort of Challenge

Grant's comments yesterday got me thinking about some other green bloggers that I have been reading. They seem to be mostly American ones, and I think they are not particularly interested in religious matters as a group, although I could be wrong about that. The buzz word is "challenge". They are banding to together to challenge each other to live better lives. It's really very exciting to read about.

There are a significant group of people networking to encourage each other to reduce their consumption of "stuff". The book "Affluenza" has been an influence here, as well as the well publicized year of personal environmental discipline detailed by Colin Bevan in his blog "No Impact Man" where he tries to live in New York City without making a negative impact on the environment. There is a group who are involved with "The Compact", where, among other things, they agree to buy nothing new; another group called "Riot for Austerity" also pledges to make lifestyle changes for the greater good. They often list personal rules for how they will go about disciplining themselves to spend less, reduce their environmental impact, and completely re-think the way they do everything. Austerity is a virtue.

There is also, in the last month or two, a group that have challenged each other to take a day off each week from all media/electronics. This seems to be less about going green and more about recognizing the way media, particularly the internet, has become too consuming in their lives, taking them away from rest, family, and the natural world. If you are involved in this challenge you can choose any day of the week to do this. Just pick one and try to stick with it.

When you step back to look at these discussions, it becomes pretty clear that human beings continue to wrestle with all the same issues that have always been there: How can we keep our lives in balance? What is "enough" and what is "too much"? How can we balance the need to work with the need to rest? What is real community, and how can we nurture it? Why save the environment if we never get a chance to walk in the woods or dig in the dirt? When is there a danger of important work becoming an unhealthy obsession?

These deeply felt yearnings are built into our very nature, I believe by God Himself. He ordained a Sabbath for us to rest. He provided an awe-inspiring Creation for us to revel in. He gives His blessing to family life, creating helpmates and deeming children a"blessing and reward". He encourages us to gather together regularly to think about Him and encourage each other. He prompts us to act in a unified way, as His body on earth.

The old-fashioned, mundane Sunday, devoted to church and family, is still appropriate today. Maybe Christians should revisit it, rethinking everything the way the bloggers are doing. Maybe, without becoming too judgemental of others, we should "challenge" each other to make that day one where we turn off the media, buy nothing new, leave the briefcase in the trunk of the car, and just have a Sabbath. Go to church. Have family and friends over for lunch. Take a walk. Talk over the fence with your neighbor.

Anybody with me?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Green Believers

I have been having a lot of fun dinking around in the blogosphere, discovering and becoming blog buddies with people all over the English-speaking world. Somehow, through an interest in gardening and composting, I have branched off into converstion with folks who are very interested in environmental issues, and there is just a huge range of discussion going on out there on this subject. For months I "lurked" around these sites, meaning I read them, followed up on their links, and generally got to know which ones I enjoyed and which I could do without, but now I have gotten up the courage to comment on some of them, and a few have been kind enough to repond, either on their on blog or over here on mine.

I'm sure, if they pop over here to Tallgrassworship, they wonder what in the world a Baptist church choir director has to do with them and their concerns! It must seem like a real stretch.

First off, let me say there are an awful lot of ordinary, middle-aged women out there who are concerned enough with leaving a clean, healthy, beautiful world to their children, that they are making changes, both small and large, in the way they live. These are the people I most enjoy reading. I certainly don't know where most of them stand on spiritual issues-probably all over the map, would be my guess. But for me, I like to think about what Pastor Rob Bell recently was quoted saying: "The way you treat the Creation says something about what you think of the Creator." I guess you could liken my environmental stance to the way I think about gifts I've recieved-someone gave me something they thoughtfully chose for me, and I should value it, use it, enjoy it, and preserve it's function as best I can. It's an act of thankfulness and appreciation.

And, on the theme of worship, thankfulness and appreciation, are certainly part of what we do on Sunday morning. "Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; praise him all creatures here below..."

One thing I stumbled on this week was a group of folks in the UK who are attempting to produce zero waste for a week. The UK is facing landfill issues, and this is a hot topic there. And, to my surprise, many of the people attempting this have framed it as part of "Lenten fasting". They are using the tradition of giving up something as an act of spritual discipline, to "give up" wasting resources that they had been sending to the landfill.

Generally speaking, American Baptists don't talk much about Lent. We traditionally haven't followed the church calendar very closely, with the exception of Christmas and Easter. I'm not going to sit here and tell you why we are like this, because I'm not sure I know all the ins and out of it, but I have never heard about Lenten disciplines being discussed in my church. We do, however, see fasting on occasion, as something that is done for a certain person spiritual purpose-say a special season of prayer.

But I was fascinated to think about folks using this form of personal worship as a chance to change, perhaps permanently, some personal habits related to caring for God's Creation. It counters the concerns that some Christians have had that environmentalist worship the created, rather than the Creator.

So, good for you, all you Anglicans! Thanks for sharing these thoughts on your blogs. This central Illinois Baptist is with you in spirit!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

An Ordinary Day

Just for the record, this was the first day in, oh, about three months, that I was able to ride my bike out to the church. I just won't do it when there is the potential for hitting a slick spot. It was a beautiful sunny day, and it smelled like mud, which I love.

When I came home, I noticed that the front yard, snow-free for only two days, now sports several little snow-drops. How in the world did they pop up so fast?

This week is all about nailing down the details for the upcoming Holy Week services. Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and two services on Easter Sunday. Lots of musicians to rehearse, lots of bulletins to proof read, logistics about the kids and their palm branches to work out with Ellen, thinking through the decorating of the Sanctuary for the various services-it can feel a little overwhelming.

As much as I love Christmas season, and all the music that goes with that, this is the Big One, folks. It's all about the Cross!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

They Have Decided!

We had three more baptisms this morning!

It has become a new custom for us to sing "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus" after the baptisms. This is simulcast into the Crossing service so that they can see the baptism and sing along with us as we celebrate. I find this really emotional, and I have a tough time getting through the song without breaking up. Occupational hazard, I guess. But not one I want to give up!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Keeping Together

Possibly you saw news stories recently reporting on the New York Philharmonic's concert in Pyongyang, North Korea. This event was viewed by many with hope that it would lead to a thawing of relations between the U.S. and it's long-time enemy.

I had the good fortune to see the video of this concert on our local PBS station. One of the most interesting things to be seen was the faces of the audience members, which were masked with reserve at the beginning of the concert, melt into expressions of warmth, even delight, as the concert progressed. It was another example of the way music has the power to connect with the human soul in a way that is almost unheard-of in any other medium. It made me wish I was there!

I'm sure great care had been given to the selection of the repetoire for that concert. Apparently, has been difficult for most North Koreans to have any access to contemporary Western music ever since the '50s, and the concert included quite a bit of this music. It must have sounded a little strange to their ears, which were still tuned to the ninteenth century!

One of the most interesting and moving moments in the evening was when the NY Phil played the overature from Leonard Bernstein's "Candide", one of those pieces that the North Koreans would have found very modern sounding. Of course, Bernstein himself had been the conductor of this orchestra for years, and it is apparently a tradition for them to honor his memory by playing this piece with no one on the conducting podium, inviting the audience to imagine him still up there directing in spirit. How did they do it?! It's NOT an easy piece by any means, with multiple meter changes and complex rhythms through out. It was certainly a gamble, because it could have been a disaster, but it was not. I personally was in awe of these fabulous musicians. Apparently the North Koreans were, too, because, despite the unfamiliarity of the piece, it was at that point that I began to see the thawing occur. They could not help but admire the musicianship on display!

In general, I don't think any of us would expect an unconducted large ensemble to stay together.
Certainly, we would rather not risk the consequences!

In this past year, our ensemble of musicians in the sanctuary service has grown in size to approximately 30 singers and instrumentalists on most Sundays. We have about twenty-five singers on a good day, an organist, a pianist, a violinist, and a trumpeter. Occasionally, for a big holiday piece, we might have even more than that. In past years, when we did not have the good fortune to have so many people involved, it was possible to get by without the songleader directing. That would be inviting chaos now! I have heard from some folks that it is uncomfortable to them to have someone directing. I'm not sure why, exactly. Maybe they are just uncomfortable with change, in general. It is, after all, the more traditional service, and this directing thing has not been our tradition!

To me, it just makes sense to make sure we all stay together-after all, we're not the NY Phil! Beyond that, I love the fact that we have now found a way to involve even more musicians in praising God. The "big "hymns, like "Wonderful Grace of Jesus", "Victory In Jesus", A Mighty Fortress", etc. are so much fuller and more powerful. The quieter, reflective hymns like "It Is Well With My Soul" and "The Longer I Serve Him", are so beautiful with only the piano and violin as the accompaniment. The choir is powerfully singing all four parts behind me, the congregation's 200+ voices are singing towards me, the instrumentalists suround me on the platform, and I think I am the luckiest person in the building to get hear "surroundsound" worship!

Just like Heaven!

In All Things, Give Thanks

There are two really great things about having four inches of snow on March 4th.

1. It covers up all the dirty, not-green-yet stuff.
2. It will all most likely melt off within a day or two.

And that's my "looking on the brighter side of life" comment for the day.