The Church Music Debate and My Funeral

Over the past few years, I have seen many articles written about churches and what churches ought to do to get with it or what churches need to quit doing to get with it. One of the most controversial issues has been about the singing/praise part of church service. I certainly have joined the fray with my facebook comments. I have aggravated some and encouraged others. I definitely have put my opinions out there.

Many want to have a loud, hand-clapping, hand-raising, swaying experience much like when they attended rock concerts when they were young. They carry on about attracting the young and being real and on fire and with it. 

On the other side are the ones who want only traditional hymns which tell a story or teach a lesson. In other words, singing and praise with hands lowered, a slower tempo, and an overall more serious feel to the church service. This group espouses the idea that all the loud noise and repetitive phrases are distracting and not true worship.

The loud group espouses the idea that the young want to be in an environment where the band members all sport tattoos and wear modern clothing. The young want to fit in. They claim that no one ever left the church because it was too loud, but many had because it was too quiet. This group feels that they are authentic and really worshipping. 

I grew up in a quiet church. No clapping. No swaying. In fact, we made fun of those who did raise their hands and clap. We wondered where in the world they had been raised to act like that in church. And we were OK to think those things because we were in the “right” church.

Now, I attend a church full of tattooed young people pounding out the rhythm on drums and guitars and singing at the top of their voices. I raise my hands and for a while I played drums on the stage every Sunday morning. I loved it. I have attended a church where the music evolved into a bluegrass revolution every week with the crowd clapping along. I loved it.

I love music. I love loud rhythms. I don’t mind the repetitive phrases because I can always close my eyes and pray until they quit singing. I also love old hymns sung accapella. When I do my dishes or work around the house I find that I hum the old hymns while I work. When I quilt I listen to the hand-clapping, ear-banging versions of church tunes and sometimes I revert to Neil Diamond or John Denver. They don’t sing church songs, but I like their music.

My concern with the church musical issue is not that it is an issue – I am a believer in good, mind-bending issues – but rather that it has almost become an either/or issue and it is going to directly affect me in the future. I like old hymns and I like them to be sung with no instruments. I believe there is a time and a place for this type of music. I like the new, repetitive, rock concert style music and I believe there is a place for this type of music.

My worry is selfish I know, but I worry about who in the world will sing at my funeral. I have traditional hymns picked out. My husband knows which ones. Hopefully, I won’t need them for a while, but I am thinking with all this shift in church music there won’t be anyone who knows how to sing the hymns that I want. I know I shouldn’t worry because, truthfully, I won’t actually be there, but I do think about it now and then.

I really, really like some of the old songs but perhaps they are more comforting for me here, now, rather than in the distant future. Perhaps I should go out with pounding drums and cymbal crashes. It might reflect my life better than solemn hymns sung with fervor. At any rate, there might not be any singers of old hymns left on the day I go.

I thought it might be wonderful to have the Gaither’s sing at my funeral, but I am not certain that they will still be here on that day. They might have already auditioned for someone with higher authority. I thought that we – the funeral planners actually – might use CD’s of my favorite singers but quickly realized that CD’s might have gone the way of the 8 track and my current favorites won’t be able to be played.

And so, I have decided not to worry about the church music debate. I like all kinds of church music. On the day I depart I hope there is music playing behind me and music welcoming me to come on in. And if I am lucky, maybe I can catch a glimpse of the Gaither’s when I get there.

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Advice: In Case You Need It

I had a very young lady in my office last week. She was crying and upset because her car hadn’t started, and she was a few minutes late to her appointment. She was shaking so badly that I didn’t think she would be able to sign the papers. All she could talk about was being a few minutes late and that her car had trouble starting and THEN she had to call to find the office. She was so embarrassed.

I tried to console her and make her feel better while sitting in an office with huge fans blowing and thick electrical cords hanging down from the ceiling. Over the weekend our office had flooded because the office above us had a leak or a pipe break or something that caused it to rain all over our reception area and front desk.

We had signs pointing all patients to a side door, with a quick route through the kitchen area, and on into my “new” office. It wasn’t ideal because the credit card machine and the scanner/printer were still hooked up in the front area. For me to print, scan, or take money I had to go through a zippered plastic protector thing, perform my tasks, and then back through the zipper to my desk.

Men were coming in and out and I was listening to the kitchen door to see if a client was perhaps traipsing through the kitchen looking for us. I heard the young girl come in and steered her to my office space. I handed her a clipboard and asked her to fill out a few forms. I took her ID and insurance card and ran copies. She said, “Do you need my payment?”

I said “yes” and told her how much it would be.

She flopped into the chair and bawled and said, “I may have to cancel my appointment. I have to call my dad.”

I agreed and worked on other things while she called her dad. She was visibly upset and did not understand the basics of how insurance worked. She had never heard of a deductible and was not sure her dad had either. I assured her that her dad knew what a deductible was. I suggested that perhaps her dad had always taken care of any medical bill that was not fully covered by insurance. She got really upset at this and said, “I pay my own bills, he does not pay for anything.”

I was looking at an insurance card taken out in the dad’s name with her name listed as a dependent. Hmmm…I thought. Maybe you don’t pay for everything.

I tried to reassure her and told her that I would file the insurance and see what they would pay but I thought with it being a new year she would eventually have to pay the full amount because not a penny had been used of the deductible for this new year. She told me that I didn’t understand and that she already paid for things a little bit at a time.

Maybe I shouldn’t have, but I said, “I do understand. It is OK to have to pay for things little bits at a time.” She blew into her tissue and I added, “Life is hard, and you are very young. It will get easier.” I don’t think she appreciated my free advice because as she was called to the back she threw out under her breath, “What an interesting way to meet someone.”

We WERE, after all, sitting in a flooded office making do the best way we could that morning.

I have this same story every week, several times a week. I feel for these young ones, but I also can’t help but wonder how does one get through life without expecting some hard knocks along the way? Are parents not teaching their young ones about the practicalities of life? When I got married at a very young age and our parents said that we would have to make it on our own, they were not kidding. And it was difficult much of the time.

Life is hard, and life is complex, and I am all for helping my kids, or other kids, along but I am also a big believer in sucking it up and moving forward.

Here is some good, parental advice, in case you need it.

  • You will have to work more than 15-20 hours per week to make it.
  • Everything is taxed. Car, property, food, clothes…
  • Insurance is mandatory, and it costs. School, car, kids, property, office space, homes…
  • The newest phone/laptop/notebook are NOT necessary to survive
  • Go to work everyday even if you think you have a headache. Make the effort.
  • Learn your own business. What is the deductible on all your insurance policies? What does that mean? What does it mean to be overdrawn at the bank? Yes, cars must be inspected yearly to get a registration tag. Find out how to do that.
  • Keep records.
  • Don’t use credit cards except for emergencies.
  • Notice that there are many others in this old world. See what you can do to help them.
  • Get back up and do it again each day.
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Winter Freeze

 

I hope everyone survived the winter freeze that seemed to run rampant across the country last week. I saw a film from a swamp in North Carolina that showed alligators, and maybe crocodiles, with their snouts frozen and sticking up out of the water. Several, including myself, have had frozen water pipes and some even went without electricity for a bit. And, of course, there were many jokes about climate change and the earth melting. So, I guess winter is off to a good start!

We did try to entice the dog into the house one evening. He lasted about twenty minutes and then shot out the front door and back into his man cave. We had some old carpet and put carpet on the floor of his little house and then we bought an extra blanket and swirled it around in his little bed. And the whole contraption sits on the covered porch. The cats spare it a glance now and then, but generally walk by as if it does not exist. 

The chickens don’t mind the cold and do their best to pester both the dog and the cats. They hop on anything and everything, poop, and then sing about it. We have a diverse backyard with an evolving pecking order. We got the dog before the cats were born so he was king of the yard for a bit. The cats got bigger and tended to ignore him. He can bark and run in circles all he wants but when tired of him, they jump over the fence – which makes him even crazier because he knows they are on the other side!

Last summer we added some dark red hens. At first, they were tucked away in their little house, but as they grew we added fenced-in areas for them to forage. The dog would sniff his way around their pen multiple times a day, strutting and charging them. He felt so safe. Finally, the day came when I thought the hens were big enough to be set free. I opened the pen and let them out into the yard. The dog was brave until a hen looked at him and ruffled her feathers. He took off for his man cave on the porch.

The fall went well because the hens stayed pretty much around their pen. The cats come and go, and the little dog can jump onto the top of his house and pretend that he is ruler of all he sees. And for a while, all was at peace. Early on, the little dog would eat out of the cat food bowl and ignore his own bowl. The vet told us that is because dogs prefer cat food. So, we had a bowl of cat food for him on the ground and a bowl of cat food on the outdoor table for the cats. All were happy.

When we have scraps or bones I divide it between the bowls. But alas, we have a shift in the order of things. The chickens, not content with their scratch, all the bugs in the yard, or their laying pellets, have ventured to the porch!!! All manner of barking with not dissuade them from hopping up onto his sacred terrain. They squawk and cackle and he barks and acts like he is going to run them off the porch. The chickens have circled his bowl and are eating his cat food and there is nothing he can do about it. 

So, now I feed the chickens first on their side of the yard. I feed the dog second, so he can eat while they scratch and hop through their corn, and I feed the cats last because they can do what ever they want. This morning I had several bowls of leftovers and I decided to divvy them up.  I tossed the green stuff to the chickens and went around to take some old spaghetti to the dog. He sniffed and licked and OK’ed my selection. No sooner did the first drop hit the bottom of the bowl than there was a hen tilting her head, waiting for a taste. I shooed her away and moved the bowl to the back fence. He gulped down a few bites and then there were six others. I was surprised that the hens would eat spaghetti. One grabbed an old noodle and it was hanging out of her beak. She ran in spurts around the yard while the others chased her. I suppose they thought she had a juicy worm.

As I watched the animals in our mixed up back-yard world, I thought about how mixed up and crazy our human world is, because there ARE days I run around like a chicken with a noodle in my beak. I go here and there, and I feel as if I am not getting anywhere. There are days I feel like the dog. I bark and bark and no one listens. There are days I am like the cats. I saunter by with a haughty attitude, fill the tub, lock the door, and ignore the world.

On the days I wake up and find myself living in a crazy mixed-up world that I don’t understand, I am thankful for friends my age who understand my confusion. I am thankful for my kids who will listen and try to steer me down new paths of understanding. And on the days I wake up to find that the water is frozen solid in the pipes, I am thankful that at least the electricity is still on. 

Happy Winter! Bundle up and stay warm!

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A Good Year

Looking back is so easy isn’t it? We definitely have the internal filters to see what is great about a previous year or what is not so great about a previous year. We humans love to organize and categorize events and their implications to suit our own needs. I suppose we do that as a way to survive the world in which we live.

I tend to see things from a brighter perspective than some, but I do have gloomy days as well. I just don’t dwell on the gloomy things as much. I mean, who wants to always remember the yucky parts about life when there is so much good. Life is tough and complex and ever-changing. I prefer to bring forth good memories rather than continue to bash the bad ones. Unfortunately, not all have the same preferences and for some reason the ones who love to pounce on others’ troubles are very vocal.

True, 2017 was filled with many negative events and the naysayers had a ball with each and every event. Doomsday was the lead story on many days throughout the year, while the good and positive news languished in the background. However, there were also many good things to come about during the past year.

Social media continues to be an aggravation in some areas, BUT in the past year I have prayed more or congratulated more because of social media. I got to remember birthdays of folks I had forgotten about. I received notes of encouragement from others through the Messenger system. I kept up with or reconnected with some old friends and I get to see others’ successes on social media.

I don’t read every link that is sent or posted, and I certainly do not believe all that is posted but, for me, the idea that we can now share in a stranger’s grief or joy is absolutely wonderful. When a post comes up about a baby going into surgery or an accident with fatalities, I get to add my two bits to encourage the family if I want to. I received a message from an old acquaintance one day telling how nice my son, a policeman, was to him during a recent accident. That little message made my day. Hopefully my little bits on other’s pages will make their day.

During 2017, I gained the promise of a new daughter-in-law. She is delightful, and I know our oldest son will be blessed with her in his life. We will celebrate their marriage with them in the future. It is good to see young couples committing their lives to each other and making sacrifices to/for each other.

We made some big decisions in 2017 and started up a new business. We have had agonizing days and stressful times, but here we are at the end of the year preparing to go forth into the new year. I am feeling blessed that still in America a couple can decide to start up a new business one day and begin jumping through hoops the next. No one said it would be easy, BUT no one said that it was forbidden either, and for that I am grateful. We can still open a business in America if we have the energy.

Last year, we attended the church of our choice, sent one to college, met with friends at will, and survived knee replacement surgery. We also spent hours on the phone with insurance companies, prayed for family to survive different hurricanes, and watched in horror the reports of various senseless killings. Through tragedies we also saw communities pulling together to rebuild. We saw countless people across the world donating time and money to help strangers. Prayers were sent up for all as we struggled to understand and deal with the realities of being human.

I want to end 2017 in a thankful manner because there was much good that happened in 2017, and I want to say that my hopes for 2018 are for more kindness and grace towards each other. I would also encourage more forgiveness and less selfishness. If we could add in some humility and less offended folks, I would be OK with that as well.

May you remember your last year in a positive manner and may your coming year be filled with opportunities to love others, show forgiveness, and enjoy life.

 

 

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Happy, Sappy, and Glad

Merry Christmas to all! My youtube channel is piping out Christmas songs as I write this. I love to listen to Christmas songs and the first thing I do each day, once my computer is on, is to click on iHeart radio or youtube and find Christmas music to play as I work. At home we have about ten CD’s that we listen to non-stop. Not only do I love the beautiful music and the words, but I also love the hope that Christmas songs bring.

Christmas music brings back memories as well as hope. I tend to faithfully cry through some songs year after year. Some touch me in the heart and I immediately stop and say a little prayer for my blessings. The Christmas band concerts can often be the most difficult to sit through as I think back through the years at the children I have watched clomp on stage in their stiff dress shoes, or new high-heels, and grin out into the audience. Oh, what hope we place on the shoulders of our children.

We hope that they will be able to grow up and learn lessons that we did not learn. We hope that they do not have to face any suffering in this world and we hope that they are happy and successful. We hope that they listen a little and love a lot. We hope that we have done a good parenting job and that loads of grace will back us up when things don’t go as planned. Hope is a great commodity to have at Christmas.

One of the reasons I watch the Hallmark movies – and YES, I know they are all the same – is that each one is filled with hope and goodness. Fake as they are, they pluck my heartstrings and make me try a little harder at Christmas to encourage others. Other Christmas movies are just as good as helping us to see our blessings and not focus on what we don’t have.

In our crazy mixed up world of accusations, allegations, and the systematic dismantling of everything and anything, it is nice to see movies and hear songs that evoke the beliefs of goodness and hope. And the sad thing to me is that nearly everyone, including myself, sees it as fake. Why don’t we go caroling around our neighborhoods anymore? Why don’t we help the stranger new to town? Why don’t we have community events that save a church or other entity? Why do the movies have to be fake?

Seemingly, nothing is sacred anymore and every word or note in every piece of music or movie can be turned into some diatribe against some minority with the author being reviled for having even thought about it in the first place – even if it was nearly a century ago. If you don’t believe me, look up the animated Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer movie on the Internet or read through comments on articles on the Internet.

Recently, there have been a number of accusations against men for a variety of sexual misconduct behaviors. One celebrity – Matt Damon – spoke out calling for common sense. He states that not all men are sexual predators and that there is a vast difference between sexual harassment and sexual assault but that in the current context ALL misconduct is being treated as assault. He is being vilified by others and is now seen as the bad guy. Without getting into the fray over the harassment charges, isn’t he right? Not all men are bad. Not all women are bad. 

BUT in our politically correct culture seemingly EVERYTHING is bad. Every situation can be deconstructed to the least molecule and something bad can be found. And so the battle lines are drawn between sexes, between races, between religions, and we all live in fear of the other, and goodness goes out the window.

And that is exactly why we need Christmas and Christmas songs and sappy Hallmark movies. Not EVERYTHING is bad or evil. We still have good in this world. We still have hope in this world. We just need to be reminded. We have a choice. 

My choice is to be happy and sappy and glad. And I choose to wish you all a Merry Christmas – even the scrooges. I hope you each get to be with family and friends and eat too much and play games. I hope that Christmas in your house is the REAL Hallmark movie.

 

Merry Christmas!

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Five Years of Stories

Five years ago, I contacted Tammie Toler to see about publishing some family stories. She agreed and in December of 2012 I started publishing stories about family life and life in general. As I begin my sixth year I want to say, “Thank You” to all of you who have written to me or commented either through email or my blog. I also want to say thank you for letting me share the ups and downs of a large family in our crazy, mixed up world.

As most of you know, Tammie is a wonderful person, and I have the privilege of writing to her every week to turn in my story. I couldn’t ask for a better editor or mentor. When I write something less than positive, Tammie writes and commiserates or encourages and always, always makes me feel better.

My column started many years ago when our children were very little. I would write a story during the day and read it aloud at supper to entertain the kids and to make them feel special. They were always eager for the story to be about them. Some of the stories sound fantastic but I have learned over the years that the old adage “Truth is stranger than fiction” is certainly correct in a houseful of children.

There are times I look back and wonder how in the world we all survived. The stories started out as “Six” in the morning because there were six children every morning to dress, feed, and get into the van for school. We have added one to the herd, and for about fourteen years our grandson lived with us, so we count eight. We are down to three in our house BUT have now added GRANDchildren to the mix.

When our kids were little, we started the numbering system. We counted them leaving the house to make sure no one was left behind. We counted them after church to make sure no one was left behind. We did lose one at church once. Everyone was helping us look. Turns out he had gotten into the wrong van and was asleep on their seat! I hate to admit but in those counting years, I also left one at school but was reminded by another astute counter, as I turned into the driveway that I had forgotten someone.

Counting systems also worked when we wanted to discuss someone and not let them know. “Your # 3 got into trouble at school today.” Unfortunately, it didn’t take them too long to figure that one out, so we turned to pig latin for a few years. Once the older ones figured that one out they taught the younger ones and it was no longer effective except to make someone laugh.

And we did laugh over the years. Our holidays are filled with stories of how the old rooster chased # 6 around the house screaming or how # 5 was going to be a sportscaster and practiced on every event in the day. Or how #’s 2,3,4,5, and 6 went out to cut the dead snake to bits to feed the ants way out in the ditch down the road and # 1 danced her way over hot coals in the backyard. ONE time. The others declare that #’s 7 and 8 are totally spoiled and they are – exactly like #’s 1-6 were spoiled.

I have a sign in my kitchen that reads, “Having children is like being pecked to death by a chicken.” I can’t really add to it because it is so true. One either laughs or cries. I have always found it easier to laugh over absurd things that happen in a house full of children. Not that I haven’t cried. I have cried buckets and nearly worn out my knees talking to God.

God is a big part of our lives and my constant source of comfort. The teen years were/are trying but I think we are all going to be fine. # 1 has her own company selling real estate and mothering three of our grandchildren. # 2 is finishing college and engaged to a wonderful girl. # 3 is an amazing mother and photographer. # 4 has returned to us for a short while and is aggravating # 8 for us. # 5 is protecting others in west Texas. I totally support our Policemen. # 6 is in college and blossoming. # 7 is back living with his parents. AND # 8 is keeping us young with his DAILY trombone practice.

Our world is changing, and I don’t always feel as young as I once did. I get discouraged and think all is going to ruin but then, I attend a band concert and see the smiling faces of 53 Jr. High kids blatting and shrieking out their first Christmas concert and I realize that as long as we have family and God, nothing else really matters that much.

Thank you for letting me share our stories with you for the past five years.

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Dumpster Checking

Thanksgiving flew by and now we are waddling towards Christmas. Our visit with our children was great, but as usual we all ate too much. It didn’t help that our oldest son saw a picture on the front of a magazine that showed a pie plate with a different type of pie for each slice. He thought it would be grand to take home a pie just like the magazine cover. We all agreed to help him so on thanksgiving morning we got up early and started making pies.

We made pumpkin and German chocolate pies first because they took the longest to cook, then we slipped a pecan pie in beside them. While I worked on the cornbread dressing he peeled apples for an apple pie. His biggest shock came when I informed him that the recipe for the Wonderful Pumpkin Pie that I make all the time came from the back of the can. As we worked together in the kitchen, we got in each other’s way a bit, and had loads of fun.

I have been cooking and baking for many years, but our son is a TV trained Chef and has pointed out on previous visits that Gordon Ramsay (British celebrity Chef) would do things differently. Of course, when he corrects my cooking techniques he does so in a pompous, dodgy British accent. “Oh, mooothhherrr, Goordddoonn does not whip his eggs with a simple fooorrrkkk.” He sniffs and we all laugh.

At one point I turned to him and said, “Oh, Gordon, do you brush egg and water on the edges of your crust?” To which he replied, “Of course not Mother, Gordon does not concern himself with pie crusts, he is not a pastry maker.” I nodded and said, “Of course, silly me.”

Between our son and his fiancé – she is also TV trained –  I got many words of advice on how to properly bake my pie shells before adding the wet liquid, how to properly add flour to water to make roast gravy, and the pros and cons of every spice in my spice cabinet. At any rate, we all ate too much, and number one son went home with plastic bowls full of food and a round cake pan full of four different kinds of homemade pie.

And because of the plethora of pies over Thanksgiving, we are now waddling towards Christmas. Literally. BUT hubby has reinstated our diet plan. We started this plan back in early October and it has been somewhat helpful.

Our new office complex is a bit out of the way, so a bagged lunch works perfectly into the diet plan. We have three rotating lunch ideas. First, we buy those tiny little packages of tuna which costs about a dollar and contain about a Tablespoon of tuna. He counts out six crackers to accompany the tuna and there are times, I freely admit, that I peel open my tuna packet and lick the inside. The second rotation is a little plastic cup of natural fruit – 100 calories – and about ½ a cup of cottage cheese. And, naturally, six crackers. The third rotation involves stopping at the grocery store on the way to work and getting ONE salad bar salad. We split it. The six crackers add a salty, crunch to the entire effect.

I can’t really say that either one of us are losing a lot of weight and we talk about feeling better and doing what is right for our health and so on, but I must confess that I do sneak a piece or two of the chocolate candy from the reception area while he is busy seeing patients.

And I don’t feel bad about it either because of the exercise portion of our daily routine. When we began working at our new place we parked close to the building and it was easy to carry in our drinks, lunch sack, purse, and other things we needed such as office supplies and so on. BUT in all his brilliance, hubby thought we should get a little further out in the parking lot.

AND so, we did. A little further each day. Now we park next to the dumpsters, out where they make the early morning drug deals. Seven hundred and thirty-two (732) steps to be exact from our spot by the dumpster to our office door. Seven hundred and thirty-two steps at least twice a day and on the days the scale doesn’t agree with him we walk out to the dumpster during lunch to “check on things.”

I bought some soft, squishy shoes just like my mother wears for these walks and I am seriously thinking about adding a headscarf like my grandmother wore if the scale doesn’t change soon.

This might sound bad, but I am truly thankful that the TV chefs will be going elsewhere for the Christmas break and the skinny minnies will be coming home for Christmas because, well, checking on things way out at the dumpster in January really, really pushes the boundaries of a long, safe marriage.

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