Musing on Music

“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.”— Maya Angelou

I love what Maya Angelou writes of here and I wish I had thought of music that way over the past five decades.  Instead, I’ve tended to wallow in music.  When I am going through tough times – times of loss or sadness – that is when I really turn to music to first create for me a space to wallow, then to lift me out of that sacred sad space.  That is all good, though, if you think of it like Angelou – realizing that the writer of the music that resonates so within you must experience something like you experience means you are not alone.  A common chord is struck. Someone knows you.

But I also use music to set my mood.  Sabbath for me requires restful and/or melodic classical music, such as Satie’s Gymnopedies (favourites), or Debussy’s Clair de lune.  Maybe in the mid-day, I’ll move to some Brazilian music such as this Putamayo album.  And then in the evening of a restful day, maybe some Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar music or this Hapa album of Hawaiian music.  Or perhaps some lovely Italian soft opera likeAndrea Bocelli’s Romanza.  And to completely wind down, Shirley Horn’s Here’s To Life.

If I need to clean, I need old familiar music that I can sing to, such as Natalie Cole.  Other favourites for this task oriented need are Etta James’ album Her Best and Harry Belafonte’s The Far Side of the Hill and Delia (samples from an album I have).  

When I want to raise up childhood memories, I think of my Dad and the albums he would play in the late nights when we lived in Falls Church, Virginia, with the veranda doors opened to the front porch and beyond.  Favourites from that era included Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (the original from 1969 – this is just one song from the album), West Side Story, Al Hirt’s Man With A Horn, Joan Baez’s In Concert Albums which included Barbara Allen, Mary Hamilton, Queen of Hearts, Tears in My EyesManha de Carnaval as well as some of her protest songs such as With God On Our Side (which I am sure all my conservative friends will adore, but hey, I’m just sharing the memories).  There were many others of hers as well, but not enough space here!

Road trips call for an eclectic mix of keep-me-awake music, such as Poi Dog Pondering (yes, I went through a phase of this kind of Alternative Music), Raul Malo (he also helped me rehabilitate my knee!), Back to the Island (Raggae from Martha’s Vineyard – this is just one song), Joni Mitchell’s My Secret Place and Cool Water, Sonia Dada’s album Lay Down and Love It Live, Zap Mama’s A Ma Zone, Eddie Vetter’s anything (how about Hard Sun just for a start)…..and the list goes on and on.  Yup, a broad range on a road trip – want to come with??

One special road trip – my first trip to Edmonton – when I met Christ and committed my life to him found me enjoying music from an album called A Woman’s Heart – Irish women artists.  Some excerpts – To Ramona (ironically, a Bob Dylan song written about his relationship with Joan Baez) by Sinead Lohan, Eleanor McEvoy’s Please Heart, You’re Killing Me (no youtube for that song), and Allison Krause’s As I Went Down To The River To Pray.

I’ve always liked gospel music, but after meeting Christ, a whole new world of music was opened up to me!  Michael W. Smith’s Cry for Love and Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus were a couple of the first songs I loved in this genre.  But I really do gravitate toward gospel music, such as Kirk Franklin’s album Rebirth which has this song on it – Always.  I found a group – Red Mountain Music – that found old hymns and put them to music – here is one I adore: My Raptured Soul.  When my friend Oralee passed away, a song by Jon Foreman – The House of God Forever – was played – love it!  Josh Garrels is an amazing independent artist – I think he is the Christian Bob Dylan – here is his Zion and Babylon.  Two of my favourite singers are Kristen Fersovitch and Kennedy Ramirez (sisters) – here they are a few years ago:  This is Life.  There is a great album of their music called Songs From Home – if you want it, you’ll have to contact North Pointe Community Church in Edmonton, Alberta.  Worth it.  Another group you will often see at North Pointe is the HOLLE Band – an all-girl band, the heart of which is founded in their service to the King – in real, tangible ways (no youtube videos).  Found this next little gospel gem online some time ago and I listen to it on a regular basis – Ride On King Jesus.

We’ll have to save favourite Christmas albums for another day….now you know ALOT about me, but not near everything.

God Bless You.

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The Wallet

The wallet was on the kitchen counter where he left it as the police took him away. It looked pathetically slim. I opened it up. Only seven items inside:

2 business cards of a counselor

1 old voter identification card

1 fishing license

1 pocket calendar

1 “Call Before You Fall” Alcoholics Anonymous card

1 Dr. Scholl’s One Step Corn Remover

That’s it. No money, no credit cards, no library card, no pictures, no other evidence of 40 years of life. There were many things about this situation that made me angry, but his wallet just made me sad.

If We Were Having Coffee Right Now…

If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you how I came to move to Edmonton from Detroit.  How it was the prayers of many people for whom I am very grateful that laid the foundation for that move.  And how it has not been easy, but it has been what God desired for me and has resulted in me being a more satisfied and complete person than I ever imagined I would be.

If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you about many beautiful women that I have been privileged to get to know over the past three years.  Women who have had all the odds stacked against them and yet still radiate with the love of Jesus.  Women who have had all the odds stacked for them and yet still radiate with the love of Jesus.  Women who love, nurture and encourage each other as we all travel on a journey to Jerusalem.

If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you about my sisters, whom I grow to love more and more each day – hmmmm….is that because we never see each other and absence makes the heart grow fonder?  I doubt it.  And about my nieces, all of whom are special to me with their unique gifts and personalities.

If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you about how I seem to have been attending school for about 50 years now (literally, 50 years!), and that I enjoy it still.

If we were having coffee right now, I would ask you for your top five book recommendations and then share mine.  A Prayer for Owen Meany, Tattoos on the Heart, Cold Sassy Tree, The Insanity of Obedience and Crazy Love being among mine.  I would want to know what music you like and share my favourites as well.

If we were having coffee right now, I would share the hard times I have had over the past few years as well as the good times.  In all the sharing, I would try and make you laugh as many times as possible because I love to hear people’s laughter.  It used to be that my laugh would change to match the laughs of whoever I was hanging out with the most.  It was annoying and embarrassing to me that that would happen, but there seemed to be little I could do about it – it just happened!  Now, it seems I retain my own unique laughter which I quite enjoy and appears to be contagious.

If we were having coffee right now, I would want to find out if there is anything for which I could offer you prayer.

Finally, if we were having coffee right now, I would thank you for spending time with me. For listening.  And for sharing.

Dear Sugar

Dear Sugar (pronounced “sugah”) –

Goodbyes are always hard, and this one is no exception to that rule.  I know we have been together a long, long….long time, but it has to end.  We have not got along well for so long now, it is hard to remember a time when we did!  Morning, noon and night you were my companion, and I loved you for it.  You gave me comfort when things went wrong in my life.  Good grief, you filled a void.

I think that is what makes this so very hard.  We were close, tight inseparable even.  And yet, it is time for separation.  Sometimes, it seems, some things do not go well together. This is one of those times.  We are much better apart.

I know we separated once already about a year and a half ago, but you have snuck back into my life in oh such insidious ways.  Dropping in here and there.  Just giving me a little taste of your sublime essence now and then.  Leaving me wanting more and more and more…

This must stop.  There is now a restraining order – you are not allowed near me anymore. Stay away.  I simply can’t deal with you in my life.  You are poison to me.  You come in so many different forms and I find that deceitful and manipulative.

Please find someone who is less susceptible to your evil characteristics – stay away from those, like me, who are hurt by the likes of you.

Regretfully and finally,

Your Former Greatest Fan

 

 

Listening

When you listen more than you talk, you will see what you need to see.
–  Dr. Henry Cloud

I knew early on in my in my walk with Jesus a gift I would be bringing into the kingdom – the gift of gab.  Seriously, I love communication of all sorts, but chatting with people is a particular favourite.  Planes, trains and automobiles are great places for me since they often present opportunities to share with absolute strangers who I am, and also to learn who they are.

But just as important as the gift of gab is the gift of listening.  I remember connecting with a highly ranked officer of the Army on a very turbulent airplane experience, and because I listened to a problem he had with a contractor, the firm I worked for had an opportunity to do business with him.

Dr. Cloud’s quote, though, is speaking to me today.  I need to discern a path forward. Perhaps the gift of gab needs to take a backseat for the time being.

 

Choice

“Choice” is an interesting word and an interesting concept.  Here in North America, we certainly seem to have the epitome of choices available to us.  When I was a child, I was asked often “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  As I was going through my final year of high school, we took aptitude and preference tests to help us to determine what the best possible career(s) would be for us as we entered university.

I know we do have some choices, but I wonder how much of a choice we make when we do the things we do.  I remember reading a story about a detective or a cop who was determined to learn how to disarm someone should he be approached by someone with a gun.  He found a partner and over weeks and months, he practiced disarming him over and over.  He would disarm his partner, then give back the gun, and they would do it all over again.  Over and over.  Then one day, the cop was actually approached by a guy with a gun. His practice paid off – he disarmed the guy immediately!  But then he gave him back the gun….. That’s right, because he practiced disarming and then handing back the gun to his partner, that is exactly what he did when he faced the real thing.

Fortunately, he immediately disarmed the man for good right away.  But he could have faced a seriously dire consequence for his action of returning the gun.  Clearly, he did not choose to give the gun to the man – at least, not in the usual sense in which we think of choice.

We are creatures of habit.  It takes intentionality – a plan – to modify or change habits. Just like the cop in the story, though, your life may depend on changing the habits that put the gun in someone else’s hands.

Things I’ve Learned

I am participating in a writing exercise for at least the next month.  Today’s (or yesterday’s) task is to write this list, so here goes…..

(1)  I’ve learned that being a follower of Jesus does not guarantee a life of ease or convenience or complacency or entitlement.

(2)  I’ve learned that being a follower of Jesus pretty much entails challenge and suffering and hardship and inconvenience and unsettledness (no place to lay one’s head) and sacrifice.

(3)  I’ve learned that being a follower of Jesus is very, very satisfying journey despite (and perhaps because of) the challenges, which result in growth.

(4)  I’ve learned that I have a lot more flaws than I originally thought.

(5)  I’ve learned that God has more grace for me than I thought possible.

(6)  I’ve learned that others often have fewer bad motives than I sometimes think.

(7)  I’ve learned that God often wants to express grace through me.

(8)  I’ve learned that there is beauty in the suffering we endure.

(9)  I’ve learned that we are beautiful to God who created us in his image.

(10) It may sound trite, but I’ve learned that there is much more to learn…. and that is very exciting to me.