Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving is Simple

Thanksgiving is the best holiday of the year. It is hands down my favorite and has been for many years. You want reasons?

1. Thanksgiving is so simple as we focus the entire day on gratitude. I like to think of Thanksgiving Day as one big marathon of conversation devoted to saying thank you. It’s not hard to be filled with gratitude for all the blessings heaped on my life.  Be thankful. Say it out loud. Tell God. Tell your people. This is simple, basic stuff.

2. The agenda is straightforward; have a sit-down feast, preferably serve up turkey. The meal planning and grocery shopping is done in a flash because it’s the same as last year. In fact, if you change the menu, expect some grief. Do not try smoking the turkey unless you really know how to do it (I did not and had to microwave the bird another 2 hours - I’m still hearing all about it 32 years later.) Do not deep fry it either (another lesson learned the hard way.) This is not a meal that should be handled with creativity. Cook what you cooked last year and the year before that and the year before that. Bake the bird just like your mother did.

3. Since Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday, this holiday turns into a 4 day weekend. It’s true that retail is in an uproar over this particular weekend but many offices are closed. School is out. There is time to kick back a bit and get reacquainted with relaxation. Go outside and experience some nature. Resist the pull of retail if you can.

4. Decorating is a breeze for Thanksgiving. Put something Fall-ish in the center of your dining table and call it good. For an all-out splurge, pick up some napkins with the words “Give Thanks” and your decorating is complete. The napkins serve as a reminder as to what the day is all about. Flash them about if the conversation turns to politics.

5. There is no big music thing at Thanksgiving. Our hymnal at church features “Now Thank We All Our God” and “We Gather Together” but that’s about it. I have never had a harp gig or any kind of gig focused on Thanksgiving and I never will. This is a musicians’ holiday. Play Pandora.

And finally...

6. Enjoy the full moon. This holiday is scheduled when the moon is so big and bright it will make you gasp in wonder! Have you experienced the moon on this day? It shines like a spotlight! It is bright! Brighter than headlights! Brighter than anything! As that spotlight moon makes its way around the house and shines into our bedroom window, it is so bright it wakes me up.  My reaction (90% of the time) is worship and awe and praise and I’m again in thanksgiving mode.... even in the middle of the night.. This reminder of God’s Presence is so strong...

Perhaps I should celebrate Thanksgiving every full moon. Perhaps we all should. A sense of gratitude and thanks would put this life in correct perspective.

Ok, I’ll say it. Perhaps every day should be Thanksgiving Day, minus the turkey.

So, gather up those loved ones on Thanksgiving Day if you can. Roast up a turkey the old-fashioned way. Keep it simple. Celebrate. Have a marathon conversation with the Spotlight-Moon-Maker Who longs to make His Presence known. Be grateful. Be blessed.

Monday, September 3, 2018

The Concert

It's been 4 weeks and I'm still quite delightfully surprised, nearly giddy, actually... about my harp concert at the Leonard Grimes Amphitheater. John and I are going to another concert out there tonight and I'm having all these wonderful flashbacks about my event as memories are flying through my thoughts. I must give witness to what happened and how I felt.
The new Leonard Grimes Amphitheater at Grime Farm, just west of Marshalltown.

Here's my statement and I'm sticking to it:  God made the impossible possible.

While being honored with the invitation to play,  I was also worried and scared. To say I was filled with fear is a pathetic understatement. I WAS SCARED. My friend Carrie invited me to play a concert at the Amphitheater built in honor of her father. She said, "I really want to hear your harp here." I was touched and in a moment of weakness, I agreed to play; a date was set for an hour long concert. I was to be the 2nd concert of a 4 concert series at the Leonard Grimes Amphitheater.

The first concert of the series was successfully played by the ever-popular Bob Dorr Blue Band who has a large following here in Iowa  I got that awful feeling in the pit of my stomach as John and I walked into that concert; the place was packed. People came. There was no place to park. People were dancing and truly enjoying the event. How could I, a lonely harpist, follow this?? It seemed like an impossibility.

I knew from the start a lonely harpist was not going to cut it so I invited my harp teacher to join me. She immediately turned me down wanting no part in this outdoor venue an hour and a half from her home in August, her slow month. So I asked Judy, a local flutist, to join me. And... I asked some friends to waltz to one of my songs. They didn't want to do this, but agreed. Boy, do I owe them... At the last minute, I invited the Jubilee Accordion Trio to play. Yay!

Be reminded, dear reader, that all this time, I. Am. Scared. I'm praying and praying and praying... for skill, for wisdom, for ideas, for HELP... even for rain to cancel the whole event... for this would get me out of this impossible.

I'm all about playing the harp as ministry. I can play a funeral or play bedside for someone in pain or play under prayer and communion all day long. These are worship and ministry settings and my heart is all over these situations. I jump in. However, a CONCERT setting is a whole new ballgame. Generally, it is not ministry; it's more a show of skill and talent and a certain amount of entertainment is required. Will people listen? Should I tell jokes??

I kept reading the same passages from Luke 12  in my New Living Translation Bible day after day:

"Jesus said, "Don't worry about everyday life - whether you have enough to eat or clothes to wear. For life consists of far more than food and clothing.... Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Of course not! And if worry can't do little things like that, what's the use of worrying over bigger things?"

Ok, so I shouldn't worry... yea right... But then He goes on to say this:

"These things dominate the thoughts of most people, but Your Father already knows your needs. He will give you all you need from day to day if you make the Kingdom of God your primary concern. So don't be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom."

Ok. I need to bring in the Kingdom; that's who I am: a Kingdom-bringer-inner.  I can do that. I would play "Always Praise" and explain what it means and the process of how I wrote it. Hello Kingdom!  Ok. One song is possible.

2 weeks before my concert, a tornado hit our community. I was composing a song on my blue electric Camac harp as the sirens went off. I thought I'd write some oddly modern composition about a sunrise for the concert. Change of plans. I'd write a tornado song after our electricity comes back on (5 days later.)  More about that in another blog as this one is getting too long...

The concerts that are the most fun, in my opinion, are the ones in which the performer speaks to the audience in witty repartee... There lies another BIG ISSUE! When I speak in front of people, I lack the witty part. I stumble. I say odd things. Sometimes I cackle at odd moments. There is nothing natural in me when it comes to speaking to large groups of people. This is a HUGE ISSUE and I embraced being scared and worried over this impossibility.

But I must bear witness that this passage in Luke 12 is true:

"When you are brought to trial in the synagogues and before rulers and authorities, don't worry about what to say in your defense, for the Holy Spirit will teach you what needs to be said even as you are standing there."

I was not on trial, but I was defending the beauty of the harp and my ability to perform on it. I was defending my heart's intent on bringing the Kingdom and sharing my motives for songwriting. I was sharing my soul right there in front of everyone... so I wasn't on trial, but I was being judged.

So...  The concert happened and all went well! I spoke well! I played well!  My hands did not shake....  The audience listened intently; most all 230 of them were quiet and hanging on my notes and words.  My friend Carrie cried with happiness over how successful the concert was. I must say the fear melted off and I relaxed into it and flowed; or I should say the Spirit flowed... He was witty! He used me to speak and play for this audience. It was everything I hoped...

Why why why did I worry so? Why was I so scared? Why did I lose so much sleep? Why did it feel so impossible?

Forgive me, Lord, I didn't trust as I should. You showed me in plain sight what Your Word says. You were right there; this is Your MO.  You cared. You made a way. You are calling me into a higher level of trust. You are teaching me through this concert to lean back into you and trust for the impossible.

How can I possibly thank you enough! It will take a lifetime of thanks and praise! All glory to You as you made my impossible possible. Oh that the audience would think back about the concert and be reminded of You and how great You are.

"For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom." 

This picture of Father God being happy to give me the Kingdom is beyond my imagination.... seems impossible.  How intimate it feels to have God, THE GOD, care about me like this. It fills me with happiness... it gives me great happiness to give You great happiness! That's exactly what I want to do! I'm going to believe this impossible is possible... that it's true.

It's true for you, too.

I'd love to hear how God made something possible for you that seemed impossible... I'd love to hear your story...

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...)

            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 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


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.