Friday, February 16, 2018

My Heart is Confident in You

Ok... It's time to be more confident.

Since beginning retirement, I have been reading (slowly) a Bible that my friend Dotty gave to me about 15 years ago. It's had a very nice spot on the shelf all 15 years, untouched. It is a One-Year Bible in the New Living Translation set up to read some Old Testament, some New Testament, a Psalm and a bit of Proverbs each day. In 365 days, I will have read the entire Bible because it's broken into 365 sessions. This particular One-Year Bible is for women, though I don't see anything particularly woman-y about it. The word 'women' on the cover kind of irritates me.



In May, I started at the beginning with the first day: January 1. Of course, this Bible starts with Genesis and of course, I have read that book many times. Who hasn't? For the last couple of decades, my New Year's resolution has been to read the Bible straight through.  I start at the beginning (Genesis) and get to about Genesis 19, lose my enthusiasm, and quit. So this time, even though Genesis is extremely familiar, each day adds a bit of Matthew, Psalms and Proverbs and... I'm perking right along. Ok. Fine.

Today, I read the passages for March 15 and as you can tell, I'm not reading every day; I read when I can. Who knew retirement would be so busy!

I've read about one fourth of the way through this One-Year Bible. It's not that I don't read the Bible regularly, I read snippets here and there and even meditate and enjoy it. This is just a different way to read, a different setup. It works for me.


Today, I read the story of Balaam and the donkey. This story is hilarious. I must say it's very well written and full of surprises. I've read it before, but today it struck me. It struck me in a New Living Translation Way. I'm serious when I say that in the story the donkey speaks. The donkey and Balaam have a conversation. (Numbers 22 and 23) It kind of makes me want to get a donkey to hear what it has to say. To me!

And today, as a result of my reading, I decided I need to feel more confident.

If God can use an ass to speak His Truth, He can use me. Really.

I can just see God on His mighty throne leaning over to Jesus and saying, "Wait for it... In the 2018, this little 'donkey speak' episode is going to give Janet Collison confidence that I can use her. Hang on to Your crown... this is going to be good!"

Today's Psalm reading included this verse about being confident:

Psalm 57:7 My heart is confident in You, O God. No wonder I can sing Your praises.

No wonder... No wonder I can trust and can be confident in Him. God is the Mighty One and He can use anyone or anything He wants to speak His Truth. Donkey, move over... I'll do this job.

Dear Reader, I know you have a heart for the Lord or you would not be reading this. I urge you to get yourself into reading this fascinating book that is living and true. I encourage you to read a translation you have not read before. Don't start in Genesis as you have perhaps done before but dig into Numbers or something that sounds interesting to you. Do it. Don't wait until you retire.

The Bible will speak to you. It will bless you. It will teach you. It will answer your questions and doubts. It will spark interesting conversations, perhaps not with donkeys.

In December, as part of my daily reading, I was slogging through Leviticus which is the book with all the Jewish laws. That very same day, I had a delightful dinner party conversation with a Jewish man about the laws concerning bodily discharges... yes, that is in the Bible. We laughed together and I'm sure he was quite taken with my witty conversation... Who would have thought reading the Bible would make me charming at a dinner party?

I pray a great blessing on you that the Holy Spirit will spur you on to read your Bible. Get it open and put your eyes on it. It will be interesting. It will guide you. It will inspire you. It will speak to you. It will make your faith larger and make it easier to believe. There are great blessings to be had. Do it.

Don't wait for an ass to tell you... just do it.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Out with the Old?

Look at this sign!

   I could not help but laugh when I saw it up at church yesterday. 
(well actually, it was more of a snort...)

    What!!! 
            No hot chocolate!!! 
                      No cappuccino!!! 
                                  Are you kidding me!!!!

This was absolutely a great decision... Let's get rid of something that gives the church a warm and hospitable feeling in the cold month of January. Let's get rid of this machine that is easily accessible  to anyone coming in off the streets looking for a bit of sweetness and rest. Let's offer a mint instead. Great idea!

It was too old.

It was not used enough.

It needed too much maintenance.

It cost too much.

I have seen entire youth groups gather around that machine like it was their job. I have benefitted from the sugar high that machine puts out when burning the midnight oil up at church. I have persuaded my 5-year-old to attend church because of that machine. Hot chocolate and a donut! Breakfast of champions!

Who doesn't like the hot chocolate/cappuccino machine!  Don't all churches have one??? I would guess it's required equipment!

But then... but then I thought...YIKES!     

I AM TOO OLD.  
           I AM NOT USED ENOUGH. 
                     I NEED TOO MUCH MAINTENANCE. 
                                 I AM TOO EXPENSIVE. 

            And praise God... He didn't get rid... of me.

I mean.. really... 

I've gotten older... and older... but God uses older people all the time. Look at Abraham and Sarah having a baby WAY too late in life. Look at how old the people in Genesis got! Into their 900's! Noah built the boat when he was 600 years old. Certainly I'm not too old to be useful to the Kingdom. Thank Goodness!

I told my daughter that even if I'm really old and really bed ridden and can't really talk, I will still be really praying for her. I'll actually have more time then and less distractions. I promised her...                        I. WILL. BE. USEFUL.

It's true I need a lot of maintenance. I need forgiveness... and blessings... and love... and healing... and the Holy Spirit... I need constant communication with the Father... I need that branch connection to the Vine each and every day.... I need His encouragement... I NEED. But the Father loves to give His children whatever they need. Right?

And yes, I was/am/will always be very expensive. Jesus gave His life for me - that was the ultimate given by His Father. God the Father gave His only Son for me. Jesus died my death to forgive my sin. Oh my... what a cost. Jesus paid it all...

So I praise God and thank Him each day. He thinks I am the 'apple of His eye.' (Ps. 17:8)

And you are, too, dear Reader.  He delights in you. You are the best. You are loved. You will not be thrown out like an old, useless, expensive, high-maintance hot chocolate/cappuccino machine. 

You are never too old...

You are being used by the Kingdom for big Kingdom stuff...

You are being well maintained... Our Father in heaven loves to give us everything we need.

You have already been purchased at a very high cost. 

You are a delight.  His joy.  Valuable.  Prized.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Tarnished

Since retirement in 2017, I have joined the Bell Choir at church. The group is called the Alleluia Ringers for a just reason: we truly do say "Alleluia" when we have successfully played a song from the beginning to end during a worship service. We rehearse weekly during the school year and present an anthem at worship once a month. We also do other things like ring at nursing homes and have snacks and chat and laugh and pray and tell jokes. Mostly, we want to glorify God with our musical ringing... that's the main thing.







Our Director is excellent and VERY patient and the most talented and Spirit-led pianist I know. She can play anything the first time through and instantly reinvent more explosive endings on the spot (and I mean this as a high compliment.) She can do all of this with 100% accuracy. If she were a Ringer, she could play a cool dozen bells with one hand behind her back. Accurately. That's who she is. Patient Talent Extreme with Accuracy.









The Ringers, however, are not so accurate but we are working on it. Oh, we have a couple of Ringers that top the talent chart; some of them have played for years. The local high school head band director chooses to play with us and he can ring a couple dozen bells at one time without breaking a sweat (he's young; no hot flashes there.)  A couple other Ringers also know what they are doing and which bell is up. These people even out the Ringers that do not entirely read music. That's true... in a group of musicians where reading music is a prerequisite, some Ringers do not readily read music and rely on their God-given ears to hear the melody and know when to ring. Hear me out, folks. THAT is a real talent....






The Ringers have other talents, too. They can pray like storm troupers. You have an issue? We pray. You don't have an issue? We pray anyway. We pray about everything. We are family and we are all. about. it.









This past week, we Ringers had an additional job to do. We polished the bells. This is an annual job which takes minutes and is performed in perfect coordination amidst much laughter.  The bells are whipped off the tables, long pieces of plastic are whipped on over the tables, the gloves, polish and rags are distributed and the smearing begins:
Step one: apply smelly pink metal polish on bell.
Step two: let dry a bit.
Step three: wipe said polish off with a clean rag until it shines so clearly and brightly that woo's are heard. Seriously, who needs light when these bells are shined.






These bells, which were purchased in 1978, "shine like the top of the Chrysler  building" when they have been redeemed by the polishing cloth. I mean, they SHINE!




But wait... you thought the bells were shiny before we polished them?  Yea, me, too. The blackness on our rags proved the bells had tarnished. A lot. An amazing amount of black came off the bells and onto our trashed rags. The tarnish didn't affect the sound... and no one knew the tarnish was there... but... IT WAS THERE... plain as day... on our rags. Black.

Reading in Philippians 2, I came across the word 'shine.' Here are verses 14-16:

Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you SHINE like stars in the universe as you hold out the Word of life.



I cannot help but think black tarnish unfolds in my life as complaining and arguing... to name a few of the tarnishing tactics I employ on a daily basis; yuk stuff that I do that affects my 'shine.'  A whole lotta black accumulates on my daily timeline that must be polished off, cleaned up, confessed, forgiven, wiped clean.





Thank You, Jesus. You are the Great Polisher (sounds like a song title!)  Seriously... even if I can hide my tarnish from the people around me, You see it. You gladly polish it away when I confess and ask.

Psalm 51: 10 - 12 (with my added words in parenthesis)

Create in me a clean (untarnished) heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Do not cast me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy (shine) of Your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.

Renew me.

Shine me up.

Redeem me and let me shine like 'the top of the Chrysler building' (any Annie fans out there?) for You. I want to be Your blameless and pure child in this crooked and depraved generation.

Hide me under a bushel NO! I'm gonna let it shine.

And the good news is, Jesus puts my sin... my dirty, black, tarnished rags... in the trash... never to be picked up...  looked at...  or remembered... again.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Irrigate My Soul

Oh my! It's been more than 2 years since I've written anything about anything. You might think that I've fallen off the planet or that nothing has happened in 2 years but that's just not the truth. Many, many things have happened and I'll see if I can resurrect some of the more lofty events. But for now, I  will share a story about a failed garden and a need for irrigation. (Notice I did not say 'irritation.')

I have been thinking about it.

John (the husband) and I have a home high on a mountain in Estes Park, CO. I realize it's an extreme privilege to own this and spend time there. A wonderful meeting up happens out there: our grandson arrives (along with his parents and uncle) and when he gets out of his carseat, he stamps his feet as fast as he can and shrieks and flaps his hands when he sees us. Oh, the joy of seeing all that joy!

(Perhaps that's what I will do when I see Jesus face to face... stamp and shriek and flap...)

There are days when John and I are at the house without family and guests to feed and we take on home-owner projects. This past trip we tackled the garden. It's not large, but it's not small either. The garden has been a special challenge because it is not located in Iowa with Iowa soil and Iowa rain and Iowa seasons; I have the Iowa thing down...
But this garden is at 8500 feet elevation with weather that is terribly Colorado unpredictable.

It has a 6 foot wire fence around it to keep out the deer and elk. Last year, 3 deer jumped the fence and lunched on the delphiniums. I duly chased them out yelling, "What were you thinking?"

Last year, I failed to take seriously the desert-like rainless quality of the summer and my plants died a slow, dry, painful death.

This summer, we fired up the existing irrigation system and watched to see what would come up. Most everything grew well but bloomed not at all. It was a garden full of weeds. I pulled out everything I didn't like as I discovered how ineptly this and that bloomed. Except for the poppies and 3 delphiniums, the garden grew weeds the best.

On one of our hikes this past summer, I dug up about thirty lovely blooming plants on a very remote trail in Rocky Mountain National Park. I gently tucked them into my backpack during the hike and then into the garden ASAP. Every plant immediately died. How rude. I later found out it is terribly illegal to dig in the Park.. it's a no-no.

There was one thing that grew exceedingly well - 2 giant mulleins. I found out through a neighborhood newsletter that mulleins are a terrible nuisance and getting rid of them is a priority. There went THE most beautiful and tallest grower in the garden; the one plant that grew really well was a terrible nuisance with no respect.

My only success: a small patch of poppies and 3 scraggly delphiniums.














Well... I have a dream! I have a goal of filling this garden with colorful beauty and I'm not giving up. We will see who wins this cause - the Colorado environment or me.

Step one: check the existing irrigation system. Does it work? Well no... Mostly it leaked. John dug up all the tubes, pipes and sprinklers for inspection and improvement. Most everything was replaced with new parts and given new locations. The goal was to irrigate every square foot to give all thirsty plants a fighting chance at life.


Step two: plant bulbs. I ordered over a hundred alliums and grape hyacinths and dug them in. Alliums are in the onion family and I'm counting on the tastebuds of deer and elk to reject these beauties. My grandson helped and it took hours to accomplish. Oh, we have... high hopes!
















As I was fixing and planting and planning and digging, I couldn't help but think of my current spiritual life, the garden of my soul. It seems to be growing weeds as well. It's been neglected. It's been too dry. It needs cultivation and irrigation.

I need to plant some good stuff like God's Word... and some prayer cultivation would help me bloom. Regular irrigation by the Holy Spirit would nurture my heart into a more loving relationship with Jesus. It's not that I have given up my faith, it's there. It just needs to grow and do the bloom thing.

I WANT my faith to grow. I want to hear that 'still small voice' and feel the nudges of inspiration from the Spirit. I want to tackle each day with a dose of worship and praise, followed by labor that produces Kingdom blooms and Kingdom beauty. Oh, the joy of it! Abundant joy!

So come, Holy Spirit.

Help me see You at work in my life. Help me to grow and bloom. Pull out those weeds. Cultivate my heart. Plant Your Word. Irrigate my soul.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Escaping the Country of the Blind

My pastor, Craig Luttrell, brought this devotion to our staff meeting this past week and I thought I'd post it for all the world to see - starting with you!  Enjoy!

Escaping the Country of the Blind
by Kyle Idleman from his book"40 Days"

Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your law.
Psalm 119:18

The British author H. G. Wells is most famous for his science fiction novels such as The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man and The Time Machine. But he also wrote short stories, including one called "The Country of the Blind."

It's a story about a fictional village in Ecuador, nestled high within the Andes. This village had been cut off from the rest of the world and long forgotten. And in this place, everyone in the village was blind.

The blindness had begun long ago due to a disease that caused all the children to be born blind, and it had continued through more than fifteen generations.

One day a lost mountain climber stumbled into the village. He had fallen down a remote peak and miraculously survived without major injury.

It didn't take the climber long to discover that he was the only one in the valley who had sight. No one even understood the concept of sight or had any idea of what seeing meant. These people had long forgotten what it was like to see the majestic mountains around them or the sun washing the clouds with color overhead. There was no descriptions passed along through the ages of what it might be to see. It was not something they understood. The people had no explanation for what their shriveled eyes were or why they were there.

Initially the foreigner tried to describe sight to them and help them understand the concept of sight. But every effort was futile. They didn't understand. In fact, they thought he was crazy and defective. If this man wanted to stay in this land, something had to be done.

And the man wanted to stay. There was a young lady there who had stolen his heart. But a marriage to this insane foreigner was unacceptable to her father and the rest of the village - unless…

A doctor there felt confident he could cure the man with a simple surgery to remove the man's eyes. It was his eyes, after all, that were affecting this man's brain, the doctor declared.  And everyone in the village said, "Thank heaven for science."  The surgery was scheduled.

On the day of his surgery, the man went for a walk. He simply planned to go to a lonely place where the meadows were beautiful and wait until the hour of his procedure. "But as he walked he lifted up his eyes and saw the morning, the morning like an angel in golden armor, marching down the steeps," Wells wrote. "It seemed to him that before this splendor he and this blind world in the valley, and his love and all, were no more than a pit of sin."

So the man kept walking, and he looked up at the mountains with renewed vision and began to see gullies and chimneys where he could climb back through the towering gorge. And soon the man who could see escaped the country of the blind.

Escape
We live in the country of the blind. We experience awakening. God opens our eyes. We're able to see, but it doesn't take long to realize that there are people all around us who think we really need to be cured of our sight.  

We come to church on weekends, and our eyes are opened and conviction comes in our hearts. We know God has spoken to us, but Monday comes and we find ourselves back in the country of the blind.  Everyone thinks we're a little bit crazy; we've taken this too far; and what would really be best is if we would go back to being blind.

Or you come back from church camp after a spiritual awakening. Things are going to be different. But you find yourself in the country of the blind, and the people all round want to cure you of your sight.

This is where we live. And we must continually open our eyes. We must focus on the heights above and press toward the beauty where God wants to draw us.

We must continue to pray David's prayer, that God would open our eyes - each day - so that we might see what God wants us to see even in this country of the blind.

To do
Change your perspective. Plan a retreat. Block off a weekend on your calendar. Or a day. Or an hour, if that's all you can do. The key is to break out of your routine. The goal is to go somewhere to look and to listen, to see the Scripture, to open your eye s and refocus on your heavenly Father. Start now with a walk around your block and pray as you go.

Do you live in the country of the blind?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Communion Faux Pas

So…  Today is Maundy Thursday or as it's also called, Holy Thursday.   I looked up the word Maundy and found it comes from the Latin word mandatum which means commands.  For those of us who celebrate Maundy Thursday, we are reminded that Jesus washed his disciples' feet and commanded them (us) to do likewise which means, in modern terms, our lives are to be full of putting others before ourselves in loving service to them.  Very little foot-washing happens in our society, but there surely is plenty of other things we can do for others that is an expression of love.  This blog today isn't really about that topic, though it probably should be…

Another event that is celebrated on Maundy Thursday is the Last Supper.  This is when Jesus spoke to His disciples and told them to share in His body and blood.  Jesus passed bread (His body) for them to share.  He also passed a cup of wine (His blood) for them to pass and from which to drink.  They (we) were commanded to remember what Jesus did for each of us as He gave His life,  paying the price for our sin, so we can be with Him forever.  Praise God!  My whole life (?) is focused on this fact.

Well, I'm wondering how that Last Supper went.  Was it as smooth as our verses in the Bible make it sound?  How full was the cup?  Did the disciples slosh it about?

The act of taking communion offers an unusual array of experiences in our current times.  It seems every church has its own way of celebrating the Last Supper or Lord's Supper.  Some experiences even have a bit of 'slosh' factor.

My husband John, our son Jack and I attended a different local church one Sunday for no special reason… just because.  I had a Sunday with no responsibilities and as this is rare, we jumped at the chance to see what another church here in town is doing for worship.  I call it continuing ed.

The music was really really good and really contemporary and the message was really inspired.  The pastor is  obviously an excellent teaching pastor and walked the congregation through a description of the temple and how this is foreshadowing of Jesus.  It was terrific!

Next came communion.

This particular church served communion by passing trays of crackers and tiny thimbles of juice in the pews.  Easy, right?  Right out of the chute, I saw this was going to be a problem because the two trays were passed at the same time.  The tray of tiny bits of cracker was handed to the end pew-sitter, followed quickly by a huge tray of thimbles of juice. This meant I would have to juggle the bread tray in one hand and take the next tray of little tiny sipping thimble cups with the other, then take a thimble cup and pass the trays on.  Three hands were needed and I only have two.  I watched other seasoned veterans around me nimbly handle all of this and followed their lead.  John, however had a major problem.

When John took hold of a tiny little sipping thimble, it it didn't budge from the tray holder.  He tried another which also didn't move.  Determined on his third try,  he grasped the tiny little sipping thimble firmly… too firmly... and exploded it right then and there… between his fingers…  in the tray…  in the pew. Displaced juice flew onto Jack, onto the kid in front of Jack and onto the person two rows to the north. They were all sprinkled by the exploding juice.  We saw spots of it on shirts, jackets, and purses and wooden pews.  How such a tiny bit of juice could make such a splash defies logic.






And… of course... we got the giggles right then and there as we were visiting another church here in town… pew-shaking scene-making giggles happened right when we were supposed to be respectful and reverent and remembering.





Much explaining and many apologies were exchanged after the service concluded to those splashed upon with juice sprinkles.  The chances of long-term stains were slim and all were graciously received.  Thank you, gracious church members, for making this communion faux pas a bit easier to live with.

(As a side note, John has trouble with spilling red liquids as written in The Great Spill. 
OH WHAT A MESS…)


The next day, during my Bible reading time (something I'm trying to do more often) I came across a verse in Hebrews that describes the juice sprinkles perfectly:

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.  Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He (Jesus) who promised is faithful.  Hebrews 10:22-23


Those juice sprinkles are such a visual!  My heart is sprinkled clean - I experienced it!


Communion juice stands for the blood of Jesus and to be a bit graphic, when He was on the cross, His blood fell out of him and splashed and sprinkled onto those around Him.  Literally.  This verse from Hebrews says that as we are believers in Jesus and confess our sins and trust Him for forgiveness, our hearts are sprinkled clean with His blood.


His blood cleanses my sin.  I need this and I welcome this and the clean conscience that results. Bring on the sprinkling!


Now, dear readers, on a serious note, we all need this blood, for without it, things will not go well for us.  Seriously, there is nothing you and I can do to get rid of sin in our lives.  Nothing.  No amount of right-doing will erase the wrong-doing. You cannot earn it or buy it or use someone else's life or hope enough to be rid of sin and the guilty conscience left in our life because of sin.  It's only through Jesus and His sprinkles of blood that you and I are rid of sin - yes, I know… this defies logic.


 Heap your (my) sin on Him and let Him pay the penalty which He did when He died on the cross.  Pray for this and believe.

So tonight, as you celebrate the Last Supper, remember what Jesus has done - that is our mandatum.  See Jesus' act of service in the washing of feet and do likewise (perhaps don't exactly chase someone with a basin of water - but do something in love) - that is our madatum.

The spilling and giggling?  That's not such a good idea….



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Messiah 2014!

So…I'm conducting our community's production of Handel's Messiah 2014!  I still can't believe it!

This Messiah thing has been (insert tune) "a long… and.. winding... road" and I'm gonna take a few minutes to jot it down.  I hope you are encouraged by this "long and winding road" story;  our stories encourage and should be heard, so here goes mine.  I promise I'll make a point.

"Let's start at the very beginning…"  (peppy little tune from "The Sound of Music.")

A good friend of my mom's (Peggy) keeps me posted on my hometown's news and recently informed me that one of my classmate's father (Wayne) died.  He was a trustee in the small country church I grew up in (a trustee was a bigwig.)  The news of his death got me thinking about Wayne and the time he came to my house and how it impacted my life:

1974:  I was 16 years old when Wayne and Art called and asked if I was home and could they come over and talk to me.  This was before email and cell phones, in fact, it was almost before computers and cool-whip.  They came and actually sat down on the couch (!) and I'll never forget what they asked:  they wanted me to pull together a choir of adults at the church to sing for the big anniversary shindig coming up in the summer.  Our church had had a choir (until that director died) and they could think of no one else but me, at age 16, who might  do this.  I was floored….  stunned, even….  but of course I said yes.  Oh, I was scared to death! I remember my high school vocal teacher helped me pick out music from the high school files and loaned me the risers and robes.  All 22 of us (22% of the church membership) rehearsed down in fellowship hall and sang with all our might in 4-part harmony.  It was a grand occasion and successful - at least in my mind it was.   I situated Art and Wayne up on the top row of the risers (you ask why I put creaky old Art on the top riser???)  We were the Mormon Tabernacle Choir right there in Lotts Creek, Iowa.  All 22 of us farmers!

We went on to present a couple of successful cantatas with the 22 at Christmas time until I left for college.  I can remember pulling out my coronet and playing while the choir (donned in the borrowed robes from the HS) processed in and out at the beginning and end of the cantata.  I was the only person who played an instrument in the whole church.  Frankly, I was a terrible coronet player but it had to be done...

1978:  When I was 20, the pastor of a church I was attending in Aberdeen, South Dakota asked me if I would start a contemporary singing group out in Custer State Park.  He was sending 10 high school student singers to a ranch in the Park and would I head them up, rehearse them and take them out to play gigs and spread the love of Jesus.  I was scared to death but, of course, I said yes.  I would even get paid about 20 cents an hour!  It was quite a summer!  We lived in a barn that lacked electricity, used an outhouse and took a cold shower under a hose.  We sang and gave testimonies all over the Park to folks in RVs and churches; we even sang on stage at Mount Rushmore!

I will never sing those songs again… I am still sick and tired of them…

After college, I taught elementary and high school music in several schools and started choirs large and small:  swing choirs, standing choirs, good choirs and not so good choirs, some choirs that the audience raved about and some that should not have had an audience.

1980:  I can remember at Green Mountain High School, there were only a handful of students who were not in the choir.  We packed that choir into that tiny room - the site of my notorious faux pax as I shouted (yes, shouted) out over the rehearsal room loaded with HS singers, "Get it up, boys!"  The entire choir howled as I turned red…  I was young - 22, to be exact , and was saved by the dismissal bell.

1992:  I stopped teaching when our second child was born; with 2 kids to wrestle to the sitter in the morning it seemed a good idea to be a stay-at-home-mom, which of course is a good idea if you actually stay at home.  As the kids got into Sunday School, of course, I had to teach the music and then, in 1994, one of the pastors at my church asked me to start a contemporary adult choir.  I didn't want to do it and I was scared to death… but I knew I should and did and am still directing this same choir today at First United Methodist Church here in good old Marshalltown.  On a good day, we fill the 32-seat loft and we still do cantatas, but I don't have to play coronet as there is a fine trumpeter who loves to play and plays well.  Thank You, Lord!

2014:  This past September, I received a phone call that made my stomach do the flip:  I was called by Gail who is the chairman of the Central Iowa Choral Society here in Marshalltown and she asked me if I would conduct the community's Messiah presentation this year.  After saying no, I said yes and I was scared to death.

To say that I've had very little experience with Messiah is not completely true:

1965:   I was about 7 when I was exposed to this great work and incessantly begged for a recording of it for Christmas.  I don't know where or how I first heard it - it must have been my kindergarten teacher (hurray for teachers!) as our black and white TV only got 2 channels and the probability of it showing Handel's Messiah was slim.  I played that recording over and over, conducting my stuffed animals and dressed-up cats (alive) who were set up in soprano, alto, tenor and bass sections in my bedroom.  (They were a rowdy bunch.)  I remember being fascinated with the thought of Handel's obsession when writing it locked up in his tower (is this true??) as I was passionately conducting up in my secluded bedroom.

1978:  In college, I was the accompanist for the choir's presentation of the Messiah.  I was a terrible accompanist but at least I listened and paid attention to the conductor.  I picked up many tips for how to conduct it... but probably not enough...

1980:  While teaching high school music at Green Mountain, I had the choir sing a couple of songs from Messiah as I thought every student should be exposed to this great work.  We made it through the songs in a lively manner.

1998:  We lost a doorbell because of the Hallelujah Chorus.  My mother was babysitting the kids for a long weekend during which a violent thunder storm swept over our house.  A close bolt of lightening must have hit something on the house causing our electronic doorbell to play it's selected tune of the Hallelujah Chorus over and over and over - each time at lightening speed - nonstop.  This of course happened in the middle of the night and my mother grabbed a chair, jumped up on it, reached up and grabbed the doorbell speaker off the wall, leaving a hole but successfully stopping the deafening chorus…  We have since replaced it and a joyful 'hallelujah' still rings out as someone hits our doorbell.

2002:   I entertained friends by sitting on the floor with my back to the piano keys, arms crossed behind my head with my hands on the ivories and played Hallelujah several times… I think alcohol had something to do with it... Those were the good old days - this chickadee will never be that flexible again.

While these said Messiah experiences are vast and unusual, they are hardly preparation to conduct the community's presentation and… I am scared to death.  Ok, maybe I'm not scared 'to death' but I'm definitely nervous, not confident, unsure, unprepared, unequipped, and I'm definitely out of my comfort zone.  The effort needed to learn the music and put this forth to the public is vast and will need countless hours of prep and energy and sleepless nights.  You should see my stack of books and CDs, my notes and study aides… and I've been listening, listening, listening…  I'm not actually sure I can do this….

And that's right where my attitude should be as I start this thing - I CAN'T do it, but with God all things are possible.

If I thought I could do this on my own, that I didn't need help and thought I was the world's best conductor, I would not need God.  I would get the glory, so to speak.  But knowing that I can't do this on my own, that I need God's help, will give testimony to how gracious and real God is and He will get the glory.

This is a good idea!

I do believe I'm called to conduct Messiah 2014.  It's been one big circle:  I started conducting Messiah in front of attentive stuffed animals and alive cats… and now, I'll conduct in front of singers, some attentive and all of them definitely alive.  Philippians 1:6 says:

"I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you (me) will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

I have to believe that God prompted me to conduct my stuffed animals and unruly cats nearly 50 years ago.  He started and instilled that passion in me.  And I have to believe this invitation to conduct is also prompted by God… The next step.

You have been called to do things, too.  You've been called to do things that make you feel nervous, not confident, unsure, unprepared, unequipped and out of your comfort zone.  You may even be scared to death…

Will you trust that God can lead you?  That He can make the impossible possible?   That doing this impossible something is His plan for you?

Countless folks in the Bible have felt this way.  They accomplished all kinds of stuff in God's strength.

So have you and so have I and so will you and I continue to do so.  There's no way around it.  God calls us to do things that make us rely on Him.  Our response is to go and do stuff for Him - go and sow some seed - even if you are scared to death.

It is not lost on me that I'm asked to conduct this community Messiah choir 40 years after my first invitation to start a choir when I was 16 at Lotts Creek.  This is my 40th year of conducting and this astounding opportunity has been laid into my waving arms.

All I can do is trust.  I can prepare.  I can study.  But the real conducting and the best ideas will be a result of my trusting in God to get this done.  I'm trusting that I'll have the wisdom, strength, discernment and ability - all to God's glory.

Messiah is all about giving God glory.

Handel wrote on his original score, at the very end, after the last "Amen:"

                        S. D. G.

               which stands for 

                       Soli Deo Gloria


               And it means:

                    To God be the Glory


 I have written it at the end of my Messiah score.

In fact, I suggested the entire chorus write S.D.G. at the end of their scores…  Let us all be of one mind...

Truly:

                    To God be the Glory