Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Saturday, April 7, 2012
Friday, April 6, 2012
For me, the experience of conducting is simultaneously one of suspended animation, dance and deeply analytical, multi-layered thinking. At any given moment, I'm immersed in rhythm, pitch, motion, melody, harmony, textual interpretation, phrasing, articulation, vocal technique, conducting technique, classroom management, collaboration with singers and accompanist, learning styles, teaching styles, how to ask a question, how to phrase a directive, how to paint with my arms and hands, facial expression as teaching tool, where to inject a bit of humor and where to push harder.
It's deep engagement with people, a task, an experience, art.
It's about interpreting a composer's road map, fostering my singers' abilities and inspiring something fresh. It's about inviting and leading; offering and receiving; pointing and looking; diagnosing and demonstrating; understanding and explaining; wondering and deciding.
It's choreography, storytelling, question-asking and getting people to use their heads, hearts, instruments and pencils.
It's play, prayer, proclamation, lament, exultation...in short, a deeply internal yet total out-of-body experience. Sound mysterious? It's shared alchemy that can turn black dots on a page into an experience of the sublime.
I'll let Robin Williams close, with a line from Dead Poets Society:
“We didn’t just read poetry, we let it drip from our tongues like honey. Spirits soared, women swooned, and gods were created, gentlemen. Not a bad way to spend an evening, eh?”
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Friday, July 2, 2010
I want to be part of a church that is prayer-filled -
A church that is resourced and sustained by the Bible,
A church that can offer hope even in a credit crunch,
A church that can live well with difference and diversity.
I want to be part of a church that welcomes the wealthy, those who have power and influence -
A church that knows how to party and celebrate life,
A church that acknowledges death and speaks boldly of resurrection,
A church that doesn’t pretend to have all the answers but encourages all the questions.
I want to be part of a church that throws parties for prostitutes -
A church that welcomes those who seek asylum,
A church that longs and yearns for justice,
A church that listens to those no-one else wants to listen to.
I want to be part of a church that believes in transformation not preservation -
A church where all who are lost can be found,
A church where people can discover friendship,
A church where every person takes responsibility in sharing the good news.
I want to be part of a church whose hope is placed securely and confidently in the transforming love of God -
A church that engages faith in its communities,
A church that makes and nurtures disciples of Jesus.
A church where the story of God’s love is at the centre.
I want to be part of a church that offers outrageous grace, reckless generosity, transforming love and engaging faith.
This is God’s story Transforming Love: Engaging Faith.
My prayer is that by the power of the Spirit of God at work amongst us, it will increasingly be our story.
I want to be part of that church too, and at the danger of trying to add to such a wonderful litany of dreams/ visions and prayers I wonder which five things would you echo from or add to this. What kind of church do you want to be a part of in the 21st Century?
Bonus: Is there a hymn or a Bible passage that you would make your inspiration?
I want to be part of a church that is
- humble–that can find a different standard of belonging than dogmatic “right” and “wrong.” That can be fully in conversation with people and institutions whose ideas, strengths, commitments are different from its own, for the betterment of all. That can admit when it’s wrong by its own standards, repent and do better next time. That cares less about its image in the world than its effectiveness in the relief of suffering and of spreading (or, at the very least, not impeding) the love of God. Talk with me about babies and bathwater all you want; I’m pretty sure that genuine love is the fulfillment of the Law. I want a church that isn’t so comfortable that it has all the right answers; that’s a kind of living death. I want a church that will recognize its own “-olatries” and work to tear them down. And could we maybe even (dare I say it) laugh at ourselves sometimes?
- engaged in a positive way–that truly sees the suffering/injustice within its walls, down the street, and around the world (which will require a good dose of characteristic #1, particularly in first-world environments) and wants to provide that cold drink of water to a child more than it wants to preserve itself. That seeks out the gifts of its body and brings them to bear on the problems it finds. However, the church should act within the political system of its country more as a voice of conscience than as a political power in its own right; it should be about raising questions about how we are to live together, instead of seeking power for its own sake. And–hear me now–its methods are every bit as important as its results. Scapegoating and scaring people into thinking they’re losing their grip on everything they hold dear so that they’ll support a particular political engine is hypocritical, reprehensible and, in the end, counter-productive. Witness the treatment of GLBT folks in the last twenty years as just one of many examples. We should be about tikkun olam.
- awake to the unfolding beauty of the world–that observes, listens, ponders and responds creatively. Where beauty is taken seriously as a characteristic of the Divine. Where the planet is celebrated and protected as our astonishing home. Where spirits open in song, art, dance and story, in response to the unbelievable gift of being alive and together under the sun, in God’s gaze, as part of the ongoing story of God’s people. Where, as the hymn says, “through the church the song goes on.”
- un-self-conscious about holding love of God and neighbor as its highest values. Period. Worship is vibrant, fresh, the central practice/equipment to the life of faith for all people–and I do mean ALL people–so that they may be sent out to love all the world. Not to convert them, just to love them. It must be extravagantly welcoming to everyone, as if love really does cast out fear. Doctrinal agreement and social conformity are not defining characteristics of this community; for once, it’s more about “us” than about “me.” And–don’t get me wrong–I’m not talking about a squishy “we are the world” sentiment here; I’m talking about honest, vigorous, creative, brave, get-your-hands-dirty love. Not onstage; in the trenches. And sometimes, we are the ones in need of help and teaching. Two-way relationships.
- hopeful, faithful, confident and patient enough to pour itself out as Christ did.
And let me just say this; it’s easy to talk about it on this level. The hard part is when we try to answer the question, “But how, then, shall we live?” Because working all this out is messy. Feelings get hurt. Dignities are affronted. Turf is impinged upon. Scabs are pulled off. Put your helmets on, people; this is a contact sport. But if those things don’t happen, from where does the growth come? Truly, if we’re not changed by the experience, what are we doing? And this is where the good stuff always comes–where we can be surprised by grace, by joy, by love.
Oh, and my answer to the bonus question? Albert Bayly's wonderful hymn does it for me (sung to BEACH SPRING):
Lord, whose love in humble service bore the weight of human need;
who, upon the cross, forsaken, worked your mercy's perfect deed.
We, your servants, bring the worship not of voice alone, but heart;
consecrating to your purpose every gift that you impart.
Still your children wander homeless; still the hungry cry for bread;
still the captives long for freedom; still in grief we mourn our dead.
As you, Lord, in deep compassion, healed the sick and freed the soul,
by your Spirit send us power to your world to make it whole.
As we worship, grant us vision, till your love's redeeming light
in its height and depth and greatness dawns upon our quickened sight,
making known the needs and burdens your compassion bids us bear;
stirring us to ardent service, your abundant life to share.
Called by worship to your service, forth in your dear name we go,
to the child, the youth, the aged, love in living deeds to show;
hope and health, goodwill and comfort, counsel, aid and peace we give,
that your servants, Lord, in freedom may your mercy know and live.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
- (Art is) the beauty that is there in the world; things that, being part of the movement of life, elevate us...grace, beauty, harmony, intensity.
- Most people, when they move, well, they just move depending on whatever's around them. At this very moment, as I'm writing, Constitution the cat is going by with her tummy dragging close to the floor. This cat has absolutely nothing constructive to do in life, and still she is heading toward something–probably an armchair–and you can tell by the way she is moving that she is headed toward. Maman just went by on her way to the front door. She's going out shopping, and in fact, she already is out, her movement anticipating itself. I don't really know how to explain it, but when we move we are in a way destructured by our movement toward something. We are both here and at the same time not here, because we're already in the process of going elsewhere.
- What makes the strength of a warrior isn't the energy he uses trying to intimidate the other guy by sending him a whole lot of signals; it's the strength he's able to concentrate within himself by staying centered.
Friday, June 18, 2010
As I opened up my computer this morning, I directly went to my blog and RevGals to see what the newest Friday Five would be! Nothing was here, which seemed odd. Then I went to look at the calendar and counted the Fridays, and it is the THIRD Friday! How did that happen so quickly? It's my turn, so here's a quickie:
1. Do you tend to be a late person or one who is timely, arriving on time or earlier?
I'm used to being the one who runs the meeting/rehearsal/event, which means that I take being prepared and punctual seriously–it's a matter of respecting those good souls who have volunteered their time and effort for that which I've asked. It backs up on me sometimes, though:
- I'm (unreasonably?) irritated by lateness. I know that life sometimes gets in the way, but I have a hard time not seeing habitual lateness as a sign of disrespect.
- I drive Beloved nuts when we're going somewhere together–I'm the little bouncing animal gasping "Are you ready? Can we go? We're gonna be laaaaaaate!" She is gracious about this. :-)
3. Is procrastination your inclination? Why or why not?
4. Do you like schedules or spontaneity? Which works best for you?
5. How do you stay on track with the various things you need to, people you must meet, etc., etc.?
BONUS: Whatever comes to mind about forgetfulness or lateness.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
- by daring to be both gay and Christian,
- by daring to be both divorced and Christian,
- by daring to be both mentally or physically ill and Christian,
- by daring to be both homeless and Christian,
- by daring to be both broken and Christian,
- by daring to be both doubtful and faithful,
- by daring to admit that sometimes the only way to God is through a pig sty, or, in short,
- by daring to admit our brokenness and to reclaim our core selves in the company of the body of Christ.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Monday, November 30, 2009
Compassion is the key.
(All the major religions) have come to this conclusion
not because it sounds good, it sounds nice, but because it works.
We are at our most creative when we’re ready to give ourselves away.
We are at our most sterile and dangerous when we seek to have ourselves and more so,
and to use religion to enhance our sense of ego.
--Karen Armstrong, to Krista Tippett
I listened today to a podcast of an interview done for the program Speaking of Faith--it resulted in a show entitled “The Freelance Monotheism of Karen Armstrong,” but what I heard was the unedited version, and it was terrific.
Karen Armstrong is a former nun, a religious historian/scholar, and currently leading the Charter for Compassion. I first heard of her 15 years ago or so when she was part of Bill Moyers’ Genesis discussion, and she struck me as a truly fresh voice, and won me with the line “Religion is at its best when it asks questions.”
That comment sparked a new chapter in my own faith life, and I’ve kept her work on my personal radar ever since. I recently linked to her TED video (which is related to her winning a TED prize for the idea of the Charter).I commend this interview to you; it’s available here. In it, she tells the story of her own journey through Roman Catholic religious life, through amused/bewildered atheism, to her present orientation as a person of faith not tied to a particular faith tradition--or, rather, lightly tethered to many and adept at finding their points of commonality.
The quote about compassion with which I opened this post captured my imagination today. The charity necessary for true compassion could be a truly powerful (holy!) force, were it fully unleashed in the world. She spoke of charity not in the sense of pity, which locates the charitable above the other, in the center; rather, charity is the force that gets us to willingly vacate the “center” position and put someone else there...to see the world through their eyes. Whether we like them or not. Whether we agree with them or not. Even if they drive us nuts. Even if they’ve done Bad Things.
This isn’t new thinking. What got me was her assessment that this kind of generosity of spirit is the most creative of forces. That sings somewhere deep in my soul.
She also discussed the Western/Christian tendency to be hung up on doctrine--to focus first on believing rightly--in contrast with the Eastern/Muslim/Jewish orientation toward living rightly as a path to the Divine.
(We do spend a lot of time and energy arguing, do we not, fellow Lutherans?)
What if, instead, we tried this (Karen’s quote, again):
If we do what Hillel says (do not do to others as you would not have done to you), if we lived by that, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute--and it’s no good going straight on to Osama Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein when there are people in our own immediate entourage who we find difficult to get on with--the Buddha always said you have to radiate compassion to all four corners of the world, but you’ve got to deal first with the people who are right there around you: that difficult sibling, that annoying colleague, that rival, your ex-wife. (When) you can extend benevolence, wish them well, this starts to break down the hard shell of ego.
If, every time you attempted to say something horrible about one of these “enemies,” (you stopped to consider) how you would like it said about yourself or a loved one and refrained (from doing so)...in that moment, you would have achieved a transcendence of ego--and that would be a religious life, I think. Hillel was right to say that that’s the essence of religion; that’s the Torah, the rest is commentary. Confucius uttered a version of this golden rule 500 years before that; Buddha taught a version of it.
I think lots of things would change if we learned from our co-religionists instead of fearing them, judging them, and focusing on why they’re “wrong.” I think part of the reason we argue so much is that it’s substantially easier and more immediately gratifying than it would be to live in the simplicity of genuine compassion. We like to be right, and don’t want to spend more time with the Other than we absolutely have to.
I had a Zen class in seminary. The view of “what’s next” expressed in that class frightened me at the time--it was about attainment of enlightenment via complete emptying of the self (oooo...sounds like Jesus); about a "goal" of finally sort of being absorbed back into the web of life that hums all around and through us. This is a contrast with most of the funerals, most of the conversation about death I’ve been part of in the Christian world--you know, harps, clouds, lots of anthropomorphizing, a “reward” for a life well lived (yikes!).
What if this whole journey IS about breaking down ego, about emptying the self to find the Divine? What does that change in each of our lives?
What if we Christians took Jesus more seriously than Church/Tradition/Doctrine?
If we try to live our way into the answer via compassion as depicted above, it seems to me that we’d all be changed for the better, regardless of our dogmatic location.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
1) Did you ever have a crush on a teacher?
2) Who was your first crush?
- In times of stress, sometimes you have to pare down to the essentials as a family. Being able to say "No, thank you" is a critical survival skill.
- Remembering to do something sweet and surprising during such a time can have extra impact. Beloved got me a "real" version of this piece of art, had it beautifully framed and gave it to me on Thanksgiving. Ummm...wow. I get a bit weepy just thinking about it. The Ruth passage it references was read at our wedding.
- Ask for help when you need it. (I know...duh, but I'm still working on this lesson, after years of Life's gracious re-presentation of opportunities to learn it.)
- Speak your truth, even when it's difficult. Sometimes the only way forward is through.
- Love is all around. Look for its impish grin peeking at you around corners and beckoning you.
- Finally, from Meister Eckhart: if the only prayer you say in your life is "thank you," that would suffice.
- Instead of worrying about what might be, we see what is.
- Instead of focusing on the material (and its potential for loss), thankfulness rightly locates us in the abundance of God's mercy and love.
- Instead of ruminating about "I," we find ourselves in relationship with "Thou" (and "thou," and "thou," and "thou...").