The content of this blog is the author's personal view. I am not a theologian, writer, or photographer. The views in this blog are based on personal experiences and not a judgement of what others are doing.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Merry Christmas!
Shepherds (the ones that watch sheep and never take a shower) are dirty and smell.  They have bottom of the ladder jobs.  According to Wikepedia: The duty of shepherds was to keep their flock intact and protect it from wolves and other predators. Shepherds also lived apart from society, being largely nomadic.

I am always amazed by the Christmas story when I actually think about it.  If I don't think about it, it becomes a glazed over religious tradition that gets stuck in the middle of Christmas shopping and cooking and cleaning, etc.  But when I actually think about it, just the fact that the shepherds were the first people to hear about the birth of Jesus is pretty amazing since they were nobody to society.  The fear and awe of seeing angels in the dark sky with the glory of the Lord shining on them would be pretty weird, crazy and just plain awesome.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

But the angel said to them,
"Do not be afraid.
I bring you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you;
he is Christ the Lord.

This will be a sign to you: 
You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel,
praising God and saying.

"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on
whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another,
"let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened,
which the Lord has told us about."

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby,
who was lying in the manger.
When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,
and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
The shepherds returned,

glorifying and praising God

for all the things they had heard and seen,
which were just as they had been told.

Luke 2:8-20

David Crowder Band is one of my all time favorite Christian Artists.  He doesn't have an angelic voice.  He doesn't speak 'Christianese'.  He just exudes joy.  Joy in the form of a guy with hair sticking out all over and funny glasses and a quirky sense of humor (My son-in-law Dan looks like him!). 

I downloaded his Christmas album (for $6.99!) from itunes this past week.  At first listen, I hear just the same old Christmas tunes.  But as I listen further, I start seeing the genius in his music.  I don't think this is a genius of himself.  He is letting God have his way with his music and it comes out well, very unconventional.  I like how David Crowder 'mixes it up'. 

Silent night, done very worshipfully with just guitar (oh my! how non-churchy! It was done that way the first time, when the organ broke) with everyone singing together in corporate worship.  But it ends in a jam-session.  Like the joy of the song telling the birth of our Saviour just can not be contained and he breaks out in song.  O Holy Night ends with a simple 'Alleluia' being sung.  Alleluia means "Praise the Lord".  Carol of the Bells seems to be a rock opera (without the words) of which instrument can praise God the loudest.  Kind of a dueling Wishing You A Very Merry Christmas.  Wouldn't we be surprised if when we got to heaven the angels were doing a kind of dueling rock opera praising God kind of thing! 

When I downloaded this, I clicked on some arrow and thought I messed up the order.  When an artist makes a CD, I don't know if you realize how much thought is put into the order of the songs.  Well I don't think I messed it up because there is a flow from the birth of Jesus, to the angels appearing and so on. Last on the CD  is Angels we have Heard on High.  It is a polka.  It is a hoe-down.  There is banjo and fiddle.  I am wondering if he meditated on the story of the shepherds and this is his rendition of what it maybe was like for the shepherds.  I love it.  The same story, but told maybe just a little differently.  Because we are all just a little different and according to the story, it is good news of great joy for all people.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

O Come, O Come Emmanuel with Agnus Dei

I want to apologize right away for my squeaky pedal.  When I play, I usually can't hear it because I am concentrating on the piece.  I had it looked at, but it seems worse now. 

I have been practicing hard trying to spend time every day rehearsing Christmas songs.  After many years, you end up with quite a repertoire, but that doesn't mean that you can play all of them in one sitting.  I have chosen a handful to practice.  Some for Advent and some for Christmas day.  Other years I have enjoyed more secular selections, but am sticking to just what I need to perform for this year.  I find practicing very physically tiring and sometimes I don't have the strength in my arms that I would like.  When I first saw me on video, I was very surprised because it didn't show my shoulder pain that I have to work through while playing. 

So "O Come O Come Emmanuel" seems to be a more popular song in the Christian Contemporary world.  Like it is being re-discovered.  I think that is neat, because it keeps things fresh when artist's do something old and make it new again by adding their own touch.  We have been doing this song in church  well probably since I was little.  But I know for sure that since I've been an adult, it is a huge song for Advent, the preparation time before Christmas.

I love it that the song isn't new to me, but I also love to hear it done differently.  Putting old with new, minor key with major key, old testament with new, I love how music can be used to help tell a story.  I like to point out to my students all the Christmas songs I can that are written in minor keys.  What I have noticed is that they are usually mysterious and sometimes longing, like we are waiting for something that we haven't seen yet.

In this piece, Philip Keveren takes O Come, O Come Emmanuel in a minor key and pieces it with Agnus Dei, which is major.  The longing for the messiah and the joy of the messiah being here with us.  Wikipedia has an interesting write-up on the song and it's origins:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O_come,_O_come,_Emmanuel

O Come, O Come Emmanuel
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times did'st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel. 

Agnus Dei

For the Lord God Almighty reigns
For the Lord God Almighty reigns
Holy are You Lord God Almighty
Worthy is the Lamb
Worthy is the Lamb
You are holy
Holy are you Lord God Almighty
Worthy is the Lamb
Worthy is the Lamb

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Turks Weather: Do NOT Play in the Leaves

Need I say more?

A Frosty Walk

A Frosty start to our morning walk

Feeling rather tall this morning

There is a church way off in the distance on the highest point
zoomed in
dogs rolled in the frost and then were looking for deer
This is where we have seen them in the past weeks

Waiting for me
I had to throw a bag of dog poo away

There is a very small layer of ice forming on the creek

sea gull fishing

Ice on the canal by the mill

A final roll in the frost

Friday, November 18, 2011

The War of the Gingerbread

Gingerbread Wars
Woke up this morning to see what has probably been happening all week.  Gingerbread Wars.

Turk stole his Christmas present out of my grocery bag a week ago (Naughty Boy post).  He carried it around all week.  Within a few minutes he had the squeaker 'killed'.  That's why we don't buy them many toys.

I gave Tazer her gingerbread 'lady' to make it even.  She always hides her 'babies' outside in a hidden spot to keep them safe.  I didn't really catch when she brought hers out.

But somewhere during the week the war broke out.  From what I see, Turk knew that Tazer still had a good squeaker in her toy.  It was probably hidden in a safe place and Turk must have found it and is claiming it because it has a squeaker in it.  Squeakers make our dogs act like animals.

Turks forlorn gingerbread
Carrying Tazer's gingerbread everywhere today
To piano lessons
Still has it in the evening
Not sure how this will end except that Tazer always seems to get her way in the end.  She will let Turk do his thing and then she just does what she has planned all along.  But Turk will probably not give up until the squeaker is dead.  I probably won't find out until next spring after the snow melts and I start my spring gardening.  Then I will probably uncover a lady gingerbread man that has been safely hidden all winter.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I just read the book "My Grandfather's Blessing".  It is making me think about how much I love blessings.  How I love to receive them.  How I want to bless my family, my husband, my children and my grandchildren with them.  Strangers too.  It is making me think about how we can bless others and how we can refuse to be blessed.

I remember as a child and to this day, my favorite part of Sunday morning service is the blessing at the end.  Not because church is finally over, but because, I guess as a child I remember thinking about God's face shining down on me and I liked that.  I still do.  I have almost missed playing the "Amens" on the organ because I was so engrossed in receiving my blessing.

I was thinking about this for a couple weeks and something bothered me.  We all know blessings are a good thing.  But to just take, take, take seems a little selfish.   I used to have a hard time taking something from someone when they offered.  When they were trying to bless me, I refused it.  No, no I can't take that, or I can't let you do that for me.  But somewhere along the line, I started realizing that it was necessary.

At the coffee shop in town, I get to witness how it should really work.  Frank is a 70 something man that is an icon there.  He is there just about every morning.  I walk the dogs to the coffee shop a few times a week (are you surprised why I named the walk the 'Frank Walk' to my dogs?).  Frank comes out and gives the dogs a dog biscuit and when I mention that I am going to stop by later, he always says "I'll buy you one!" 

I know that Frank doesn't have a lot of money.  I do not want to take his money.  If anything, I should be buying him a cup.  A couple hours later when I am back, he is up getting me a cup of coffee the second he sees me.  And he serves it to me exactly how I like it.  It is humbling to receive this act of service.

I know this is something he has to do.  I also know that if I don't accept his blessing of giving and serving, that I will stop the flow.  What I see happen at the coffee shop is that somehow Frank always has a free coffee card or a buck or two in his wallet.  Sometimes I get to sneak something to him.  Sometimes he lets me bless him with a cup of coffee before he can get to me first.  But I know that people that come and go there will pass along free coffee cards to him.  So it comes full circle.

In church this week, the sermon was about stewardship.  The readings were about the Parable of the Talents.   It put the final piece of the puzzle in place.  We are all blessed.  How we take our blessings, be they talents/gifts, money, and what we do with them is what makes this come full circle.  So if we take our blessings from God with a closed fist and just keep them for ourselves, nothing happens.  Eventually you will be stuffed full of blessings and there will be no more room for anymore.  But if you receive your blessings with an open hand, willing to receive and willing to give away, there is a flow.  God gives and because of these blessings, we are free to give them away.  This brings glory to God which is what we were made for.

The Lord Bless you and keep you,
the Lord make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you
and give you peace.

-Numbers 6:22-26

Monday, November 14, 2011

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing - piano solo

Come, Thou Fount of ev'ry blessing, Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing, Call for songs of loudest praise.
While the hope of endless glory
Fills my heart with joy and love,
Teach me ever to adore Thee; May I still Thy goodness prove.

Here I raise my Ebenezer, Hither by Thy help I've come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure, Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger, Wand'ring from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger, Interposed His precious blood.

Oh, to grace how great a debtor Daily I'm constrained to be;
Let that grace now like a fetter Bind my wan-d'ring heart to Thee:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it;
Prone to leave the God I love,
Here's my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.

Oh, that day when freed from sinning, I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in the blood-washed linen, How I'll sing Thy wondrous grace!
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry;
Take my ransom'd soul away;
Send Thine angels soon to carry Me to realms of endless day.

I have been wanting to share this as a song of the week for a while now.  For a couple reasons.  First I absolutely love this hymn and since we have gotten new hymnals at our church, they have included this hymn in it and we sing it more often.  Then I got a piano solo version arranged by Brian Chung.  I had gone to a workshop in Green Bay a couple years ago that he presented.  I bought his books and ever since I have wanted to thank him for blessing me with his arrangements. 

I got to meet up with him at the National Music Teachers Convention this past March and got to tell him personally.  He is a very talented and humble man.  He thought that I might be having trouble on another song in the book (I was) and he ran to a piano and showed me how it went.  He said the editors went back and forth on it about the counting, but that it really wasn't that hard.  I now have to learn For the Beauty of the Earth just because I was shown personally from the author of the arrangement himself!

Back to this song though.  The reason I love this arrangement is how he mixed it with Gymnopedie No. 1 by Erik Satie.  I don't know about you, but I first heard that song on a car commercial.  I like the way he mixed the two.  I don't think it was by accident.  Gymnopedie has a kind of traveling sound, like you are moving through life at a peaceful pace.  Probably why it was picked for the car commercial.  When I first started practicing it, it reminded me of Psalm 1 which is about the way of the righteous.  So the arrangement starts out just moving along peacefully and innocently.  I also noticed after many times of playing it, that the melody is solo without any harmony.  I don't know, but sometimes I feel like I am in charge on my walk with God and I am moving along at my own pace, innocent enough.

With the first verse of this hymn, the pictures that are drawn with words I think is what draws me to this hymn.  Right away: Tune my heart to sing your praise.  My heart needs tuning every day.  And being a musician, it has maybe more meaning because you realize that tuning never stays.  I just had my piano tuned the other day.  It took 2 hours to work on the piano (well we talked too), but just knowing the constant tuning of any instrument gives you an awesome picture of God constantly tuning our hearts.

My favorite verse is verse 3 where it talks about binding us with God's grace like a fetter.  I love the word pictures.  And my favorite: Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; Prone to leave the God I love.  I guess when younger I thought walking with God was walking with God and you never strayed from that.  But I have learned now that I'm older and getting a little wiser that we are the biggest deceivers of ourselves.  In the piano solo, the music gets stormy - in the music it says to play with increasing passion.  I believe this is matching the words of verse 3.

After playing it many, many times I wondered if the last section is written with a certain purpose.  Either known or unknown by the author.  As we learn to be bound to God and learn to walk with Him, it's still not perfect.  The music goes into 4th's for harmony, which I have always considered pretty, but dissonant.  I wonder if that is his way of portraying this.  We are walking along, in step with God, slightly off but somehow making beautiful music together.

One more note on this.  We sang this in church this week.  Our Pastor's daughter is maybe 3 years old.  She LOVES to sing.  I have noticed there are certain hymns she loves and will belt them out at the top of her lungs.  This is one of them.  She can't read yet, but has many of the hymns memorized.  If she doesn't know the words, she sings la la la.  Loud.  It fills me with so much joy to hear her singing without any reservations.  Seems she has had her heart tuned to sing His praise!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Naughty Boy

Today I went grocery shopping.  Trying Friday instead of Saturday.  But the dogs don't care.  They know the routine.  I come home from the store and Tazer supervises me carrying in the groceries and Turk inspects the bags.  I probably don't realize how fast he checks them.  Until today. 

My husband was home for once to help unload groceries (I always want to bring a bagger from the grocery store home) and by the time we brought the last bag in, this is what we saw...

I asked Turk where he got it, but he wouldn't tell me.  He wouldn't look at me.  The Piggly Wiggly had their new Christmas doggy toys in and I decided to buy a couple before everyone got them.  At $1.99 I couldn't go wrong (dog toys are way too expensive). 

Turk, do you know the song "I'm Gettin' Nuttin' for Christmas"?

My grocery bag of Christmas toys
Very guilty

He will be showing every piano student
his toy for the next week

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Turks Weather: Snow Angels-everywhere-must do

The Plow

He got really fast by the end of the walk- it was hard to catch him
...but we just about hit every house!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Turk's Weather: Ye Haw!

Turk dives into frost as if he is saying "Ye Haw!"
I actually say this when we see a snowbank. 
Whenever I say Ye Haw! he will dive into a snowbank

Tazer copies (again).
Going to vet today for a possible stubbed toe?
But she is walking better today so we went around the block

Turk loves frosty weather.  Maybe because he knows snow is right around the corner.  Maybe because he knows Ragweed season is over (he has a terrible ragweed allergy).  But while we are all groaning at this frosty weather, Turk is celebrating!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Where Can I Go?

Psalm 139: 1-16

O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.
You hem me in -- behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depth, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,"
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

For you created my inmost being,
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Thankfulness in Pictures

For the month of November I will be doing a Thankfulness Journal in pictures.