Monday, September 1, 2014

Reconsidering Martha: On Musicians at Mass

Mary and Martha. We're all familiar with the story in Mark's gospel. Martha is rushing about, serving guests, while Mary sits at Jesus' feet. Martha says to Jesus, "tell her (Mary) to help me!" Jesus says no, she has "chosen the better part, and it will not be taken from her." The end. Right?

The point has been made before that Jesus' rebuke of Martha was not that she was serving their guests, but that she was "anxious about a great many things." It occurs to me that Jesus would not send Mary off to the kitchen to share Martha's hustle-bustle anxiety, but would instead draw Martha into his presence in the midst of her tasks. We as church musicians are faced with the same challenges in our ministry. Our "Martha" is seen in managing sheet music, watching the progression of the liturgy to know when to lead hymns and responses, being attentive to traffic and to the details of the action of the priest as they play out over time....  it's easy to get wrapped up in the details and grow anxious. What page is next? Parts or unison? Diction, pronunciation, how many verses? Are the ushers in place? Is there a second collection this week?  Father A walks fast, Father B walks slower...and on it goes. We forget that we must, first and foremost, be present with Christ at Mass, just as he is present with us. We still have to sing and play. We still have to pay careful attention to what's going on at the altar and in the congregation and adjust to any number of variables. The challenge is to do so while fully and actively participating in the the sacrifice of the Mass and giving ourselves fully to the sacrament itself. It is only too easy to become a door keeper - holding the door open while everyone else is ushered in, but remaining outside ourselves.

And perhaps a final point (or tidbit of advice) is important to consider. We need to take opportunity to be Mary, too.  This is unbelievably difficult for some who are committed to the music ministry in a parish, but I submit that it is absolutely essential to sometimes "choose the better part." Attend Mass with no responsibilities. Sit in a pew. Meditate. Pray. Go to communion and return to your seat and be fully mindful that you have received the living God, body and blood, soul and divinity. Sit at Jesus' feet and remain there. Don't rush off to help because someone is "anxious about a great many things." It will not be taken from you!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Heritage of a Praying Mom

This was posted by my aunt on Mother's Day this this year.  For whatever reason, I didn't see it that day.  Instead, it came across my news feed today, when my nerves were a bit ragged and my patience with teenage boys was thin.

Okay. I admit it. I was losing my cool, and I was giving  better example of what NOT to do than what to do when you're frustrated.  But this little essay did a few things.  First, it reminded me of how blessed I have been by a heritage of praying women. Alma was my (biological) paternal Grandmother, and even though I was very small when she died, I was always aware of how strongly she had impacted my own mother. Her prayers and loving, Godly influence, along with those of my maternal Grandmother and my adoptive paternal Grandmother laid a foundation in which my mother stood, prayed, and loved me. Not only that, but in spite of unconventional circumstances, those who remembered and had been profoundly impacted by her life are very much a part of my early memories of extended and church family.

Second, it reminded me of the mom I WANT to be for my boys. I never want to rob them of that heritage. Furthermore, I want to help uphold the women they marry with my prayers, as they will provide the heritage of a praying mom for my grandchildren. My mother-in-law was a beautiful example of this, and I am so grateful for her heritage of prayer that has shaped my husband. She drew me under her wings on her prayers from the earliest days of our dating, and her prayers cover us still as we raise her grandchildren. 

Raising children is a humbling and daunting vocation. Every day I am faced with the choice to purposefully get on my knees or be driven there by the burden, but keeping a clear vision of passing a heritage of prayer is of eternal importance. Kyrie, eleison!

And it is now my privilege to share...

The Heritage of a Praying Mom

As Mother's Day was approaching of course I began thinking about my mother, Alma May Lovejoy,who was killed in an auto/motorcycle accident when I was only eight years old. Because I was so young a lot of my memories of her are actually based on the memories of others that have been kind enough to share stories about her with me. I am so thankful for that because I love to hear about her and it makes me feel close to her. I can remember some special things shared with my Mom though, like her making sugar cookie dough and telling my brothers to stay out of it while it was chilling in the refrigerator. I also remember her giving me two specific dolls she bought for me. One doll was Mrs. Beasley. She took me to Hill's Department Store where she found there was only one doll left and a gentleman had to get a ladder to get it down for her. I loved that doll and remember losing it in Kentucky while visiting my grandparents. It seems like I can remember my Mom and Dad saying the dogs must have taken it to the woods after carrying it off the porch. Everyone was searching for that doll. As I got older I began to wonder if because I was so attached to the doll that was their way of getting it away from me. Any of my siblings have any confessions they'd like to make? The second doll was a Chrissy doll. She had red hair and you could pull it out to make it long or pull back in to make short. Oh I wanted that doll so much, and I remember opening Chrissy for Christmas. I was so excited and happy I lunged into my Moms arms thanking her over and over. I don't really remember what happened to that doll sadly enough but I love the memory of that Christmas morning with my Mom. 

I can remember riding home from our church on Ronald Drive, pretending to be asleep and my brothers would say, "She's not asleep, I see her eyes moving." And my Mother would say, "Yes, she's asleep, now don't you wake her up." She never let on that she knew I was faking! I remember her singing to my brother, Tracy, a little silly song that went,"Tracy's mad and I'm glad and I know what 
will please him, a bottle of ink you make him stink, a bottle of wine to make him shine and a pretty little girl to hug and squeeze him". Not quite sure if I remembered all of that correctly but its close I think? I remember riding in the middle of the front seat and as she came to a stop her arm automatically stretched out across my chest to keep me from going forward. I remember one time we all wanted to go swimming but my cousin that was at our house didn't have a bathing suit so my Mother took one of my body suits, you know the ones that used to snap in the crotch area? And she cut the sleeves off of it and let her wear it as a bathing suit. I remember many neighborhood teenagers being at our house, many calling her Mom and my Dad, Dad. Oh, I remember one time she had just put a cake in the oven after taking some of my siblings to church, but then she got a phone call from one of the youth who ended up needing a ride to church. My mother took the cake out of the oven and out the door we went to drive that young person to the church.  I remember her going out in the neighborhood inviting people to church. My Dad drove the church bus but my Mom made sure there were children to pick up for Sunday School. I remember her singing, making up her own songs and yodeling! She would yodel just to aggravate my sister Barb, but I loved it! 

I remember sitting next to her on the church pew watching her write notes and scriptures, sometimes they were to my Grandmother asking for gum or a mint"(big smile)".

I even vaguely remember some of time we shared the day she passed away. Eating lunch at the park, which I think we ate Long John Silvers? Her speaking about how she would give her life to the Lord to see all of her children saved. I remember the accident and the passerby driving me to the hospital while the ambulance took my mother. I remember telling the nurse at the hospital my sister and her husbands names and the passerby happen to be friends of my brother- in- laws family and knew exactly how to get my family notified of the accident. I remember him asking me if there was anything he could do and I said can we pray for my Mommy? And we did. These are memories that I treasure and I'm sure there are a few I'm even forgetting to mention, but there's one memory that's my most vivid, most loved memory and that's of my mother praying. 

I can remember standing in the hallway listening to her pray. Quietly squeezing the door open just enough to peek in and see her knelt before the Lord. Oh, how I love remembering that. My mother wasn't always aware that I was listening and she may not have realized what effect her prayers would have on her children, or maybe she did? 

After my mother passed away I remember I could be playing in the yard, I could be at school or anywhere and when I would hear an ambulance I would associate it with the accident that took her life and I would stop and pray for whoever or whatever the ambulance might be for. Even at such a young age I began praying as my mother did. I remember her passion for the Lord , her love for prayer and praise. The joy she had that came from the Lord and the way she loved and served others.
Sadly, I drifted away from the Lord as a young adult and had some pretty " wild days" but I can honestly say that during that time I knew where I needed to be and God continually tugged at my heart. I'm sure it was my "mothers prayers" being answered that led me to rededicate my life back to Jesus.

I now find myself in amazement of the heritage she, and my Dad left to us and my number one prayer is that I can leave it for my children, and to their children, generation after generation. I encourage you if you have children or grandchildren not only let them hear you pray, but pray with them. We pray with our two year old grandson and if we happen to forget he reminds us. "Pray," he says. God has so richly blessed me in so many ways and I'm especially thankful for the heritage my mother and father left for my family. In the eight short years I had with my Mom, she left a lifetime of memories and a heritage that would not only impact my life here on earth but also lead me to receive the promise of everlasting life. I have to ask, what more could you possibly leave for your children? "Thank you, Mom (and Dad), for the godly heritage you gave to us, not so much in the things you said but for the examples you were by the way that you lived."

May 2014

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Funny thing about the bread of idleness....

"She watches over the affairs of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness."  --Proverbs 31:27

Funny thing about the bread of idleness:  it's often craftily disguised as needed rest or earned down-time.  At least for me, what I mean to be a five-minute break turns into a 30-minute exchange on Facebook or finishing a book instead of just a chapter.  I can spend a night out with my DH, and suddenly I'm looking for other opportunities to slip away with him for a cup of coffee or running errands. I think I'm going to scratch out a note or two, and the next thing I know, I have outlines for a half-dozen blog posts, a list of ideas to study and research for a book, and an itchy brain that will keep me awake all night. Meanwhile, the children are chasing fireflies in the rain-soaked back yard nearly an hour past when I meant to send them to bed. *sigh*

It's the same story, different day. It's about balance. It's about being diligent in what is before me today, and trusting that tomorrow will come with it's own provision for its tasks. It's about cherishing and nurturing the vision of what's ahead without squandering today's blessings. It's about focus...on my DAILY bread as it is provided.  Because when I'm being fed by that, I don't have much appetite for the bread of idleness.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

What do YOU think of?

Almost a year ago, I posted the following note to my Facebook page. I got some interesting and compelling responses, but I feel the time has come for a broader forum.  Would you please leave me a comment below?  Or if you prefer, email me at  I am particularly interested in the responses of those who are of other (non-Christian) faiths, and those who do not practice or identify with any faith or religious tradition.  I welcome ALL responses, so long as they are honest and respectful.  PLEASE SHARE THIS PAGE!  The more responses, the better! Thank you so much!!

Dear Friends,

I have been reading and thinking a lot about a particular statement made by St. John of the Cross: "In giving us His Son, His only Word, He spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word -- and He has no more to say ..."  

So I'd like to know...from whoever is willing to share their thoughts on the matter...what does that Word mean to you?  What do you think of when you hear or say Jesus?  I'm tagging some friends whose opinions I know are very different from mine, and some friends whose religious and spiritual leanings I don't know much about, and some whose faith and religion I know well.  PLEASE, comment, even if I didn't tag you.  Share with friends.  The broader the forum, the betterI'd love to see as much of the whole spectrum represented as I can.  Just keep it civil.  I'm not looking for a battle or a thread full of insults, just a referendum of ideas and experiences.  Thank you!!

What does the word "Jesus" mean to you?  What do you think of or feel when you hear it or say it?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Called to Prayer

I love this prayer.  I pray it often, share it regularly, and pray, too, that the desires of my heart truly be conformed to the sentiments it expresses. 

Prayer for Ordering a Life Wisely
O, merciful God, grant that I may
desire ardently,
search prudently,
recognize truly,
and bring to perfect completion
whatever is pleasing to You for the praise and glory of Your name.

Put my life in good order, O my God.

Grant that I may know what you require me to do.

Bestow upon me the power to accomplish your will as is necessary and fitting for the salvation of my soul.

Grant to me, O Lord my God, that I may not falter in times of prosperity or adversity, so that I may not be exalted in the former, nor dejected in the latter.

May I not rejoice in anything unless it leads me to you;

May I not be saddened by anything unless it turns me from you.

May I desire to please no one but you,

Nor fear to displease anyone but you.

May all transitory things, O Lord, be worthless to me

And may all things eternal be ever cherished by me.

May any joy without you be burdensome for me

And may I not desire anything else besides you.

May all work, O Lord, delight me when done for your sake

And may all repose not centered in you be ever wearisome for me.

Grant unto me, O God, that I may direct my heart to you

And that in my failures I may feel ever remorse for my sins and never lose the resolve to change.

O Lord, My God, make me

submissive without protest,
poor without discouragement,
chaste without regret,
patient without complaint,
humble without posturing,
cheerful without frivolity,
mature without gloom,
and quick-witted without flippancy

O Lord, My God, let me

fear you without losing hope,
be truthful without guile,
do good without presumption,
rebuke my neighbor without haughtiness,
and -- without hipocrisy -- strengthen him by word and example

Give to me, O Lord God,

a watchful heart, which no capricious heart can lure away from you
a noble heart, which no unworthy desire can debase
a resolute heart, which no evil intention can divert
a stalwart heart, which no tribulation can overcome
a temperate heart, which no violent passion can enslave

Give to me, O Lord my GOd,

understanding of you
diligence in seeking you
wisdom in finding you
discourse ever pleasing to you
perseverance in waiting for you,
and confidence in finally embracing you.

Grant that with your hardships, I may be burdened in reparation here,

that your benefits I may use in gratitude along the way,
that in your joys, I may delight by glorifying you in the kingdom of heaven, you who live and reign, world without end.


--St. Thomas Aquinas 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Plan of Attack

Lent is upon us...or will be in a few hours.  I've thought about my life and my habits, and about what I'd like to change over the course of this penitential season.  I've thought about my "idle", thanks to an article at Fallible Blogma.  I've considered habits, priorities, and things around me that need particular prayerful attention. It's a humbling realization that 40 days might only scratch the surface of my faithless heart, but I'll just have to pray for the grace to continue on the path of salvation with the same resolve that I feel today.

**I'm not giving up Facebook...completely.  I am going to log out on my phone so that I don't just wander there out of habit.  Fast days, I won't be on at all. I'm going to try to fill those "just a couple of minutes" times with work or prayer, and hopefully learn to value those moments more.

**I'm going to set aside some things in my diet that rob me of my energy and my health, since my good nature (ha!) and patience go with it.  Soda, sweets, afternoon coffee...buh-bye.  Hello again, Friday fasting.  Discipline in one area translates to discipline in other areas, and discipline and diligence are two virtues that I need to develop.

**I'm going to make a point of following some things that the Lord has placed heavily on my heart and in my mind the last few weeks, in prayer and study.  I'll  write as I go, and pray for the grace and fortitude to be bold, to be wise, and to be courageous.  "...courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the breaking point."  --C.S. Lewis

I wish you all a blessed, fruitful Lent that bursts into Easter joy, finding your soul ready to receive the blessings God has for you!

Sunday, February 5, 2012


It’s been a challenging couple of weeks for my brain.  The political world has squarely taken aim at some of my fundamental beliefs about human life, and has declared null and void the right of Catholic institutions to adhere to those beliefs as a matter of conscience.  It’s gotten personal.  

Naturally, the ensuing discussions have displayed the full spectrum of political and spiritual convictions, leaving my head spinning on more than one occasion.  In the course of one exchange, a friend was ardently defending Planned Parenthood.  I was completely shocked by some opinions she holds, even though we’ve known each other for 20+ years.  What really sent me reeling, though, was the assertion that she, a Methodist, should not be expected to “feel the same as [another denomination] just because [she’s] a Christian.  …[W]e share the same BASIC beliefs.”  I was completely stunned.  If you, as a Christian, believe that a child has no right to be born because it is unwanted, and an organization like Planned Parenthood has a right to exist on the dime of taxpayers in this nation, then what basic belief do we share?  **Later discussion clarified her position:  she is PERSONALLY against abortion, but doesn’t feel that she can tell another what is right for her.  She considers Planned Parenthood to be something of a necessary evil because of the non-abortion services they provide.  

Christianity is not an acknowlegement of a set of historical facts about a guy named Jesus. Christianity calls us to look at that set of historical facts and see in them an interaction between creator and creation, bridegroom and bride, redeemer and redeemed, and be consumed in love.  It calls us to open our eyes and see what God sees, and love as God loves.  So what are the basics?  And how does faith have any relevance in secular politics?  Be still, my aching spirit....

God desired Humanity. (Gen. 1:27)  Humanity sinned, and destroyed the innocence that God had given.  God, in response, protected humanity by closing the way to the tree of life. In His mercy, He would not allow us to live forever, separated from Him. (Gen. 3:22-24)  God set before Adam and Eve the forbidden tree (warning them that if they ate of it, they would die), and the tree of life. Interestingly enough, in Deuteronomy 30:15, He is still offering the same choice.  In 1 John 5:12, the choice is the same.  He desires us, and wants us to desire Him.  How humbling a truth!  Behold, what manner of Love...!  The Psalmist, in pre-scientific wisdom declared the truth: we are wonderfully made, known as we are knit together in our mothers’ wombs (Ps. 139:13-16, et al.).  From the time of Moses, the law protected the unborn, with penalties for even an accidental injury to an unborn child (Exodus 21:22).  From the time we are conceived until the time of our last breaths, our Heavenly Father desires us.  He calls us by name (John 10:3).  We are His people; the flock He shepherds (Ps. 100:3).  We are members of His body (1 Cor.12:27), His radiant Bride (Rev.19:7, 21:2).  It is such very basic - God desires us and loves us unto death (Phil. 2:7-11) - but infinite, unfathomable truth.  No human life, from its scientific beginning (conception) to its last breath in this world, is exempt from this love.  Who are we, mere men, to determine that a life is unwanted? inconvenient? too burdensome?  Who are we to say that it is mercy to “free” a tiny human from a life of poverty or disability?  Who are we to decide that the course of a woman’s life is more important than that of her child? That one has more right to exist than the other?  Who among us could stand before the Author of Life and tell Him that a life that He desired into being was not welcome?  Oh, be still, my aching spirit!

The founding principles of this nation included a set of basic rights, afforded to us by our creator.  Among them were the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  These rights were not to be compromised by any law, and the rights of one were not to be held superior to the rights of another. Somewhere along the course of our history, the Declaration has been deemed inapplicable to those who had no voice of their own.  In 1973,  it was the unborn.  The right of Jane Roe to live her life without a child in tow was deemed superior to the right of that child to ever draw breath. Since that time, others have decided that their right to be childless (and grandchildless) superseded the right of a child to be born.  Or that one child in a womb had a “better chance” than another, and therefore should be allowed to continue to develop while a brother or sister was, quite literally, ripped from his or her side.  Or that a child in the womb was imperfect, and therefore should be “mercifully spared” this cruel world, a life of disability, or the indignity of burdening a family.  Since 1973, it has happened 52 million times.

In 2005, it was Terri Schiavo.  She became the public face of countless private battles.  Her life was ended by a court order, not a divine one.  Her heart was beating on its own, she breathed completely without assistance, and because she could not speak for herself in a way that was deemed “meaningful,” she was left to starve, dying of dehydration over the course of 13 days.  The aged, the infirm, the handicapped, are all vulnerable to such de-valuation in our current culture.  In other places, in other times, great crimes have been committed against humanity because of this same decision in its basic form:  I have the authority to decide that you must cease to exist, not because of harm you have done, but because of who or what you are, or because you are not useful to me in achieving my personal goals.  Be still, my aching spirit.

These examples fly in the face of our founding principles, but they also find conflict in the legal halls where they claim asylum.  If a pregnant woman is killed, the responsible party is held to account for the loss of two lives.  If that same woman walks into a medical facility to terminate that pregnancy, she is “within her rights,” up until the time that the child’s head leaves the womb. If she should die as a result, there will be no charges filed.  Two lives lost, just a part of the “accepted risks” of a “surgical procedure.”  If the child should be born alive, it will be denied care or comfort.  It will be abandoned to die alone and in pain, because we are a civilized nation that “respects the reproductive choices of women.”  Be still, my aching spirit.  

I believe in freedom.  I believe what I believe, and I believe that you are free to believe what you believe.  I want all others to have that same freedom, to the fullest extent possible.  If those beliefs constitute a complete, vehement rejection of all that I hold dear, then so be it. Until our convictions lead us to undermine the rights of ANY citizen - the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness - we are free.  The moment the government protects the rights of any group over those of another, the seed of tyranny is sown.  Unchecked, it will be the death of liberty in any nation.  Oh, be still, my aching spirit.