Notes that Matter

What would life be without the piano?

I have been thinking about this as we welcome a new pianist to our church–Yulia Roubtsova is a highly talented Russian, trained at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. Her husband also is a pianist, teaching in the Music Department at Virginia Commonwealth University.

My husband also is an accomplished pianist, having played in piano bars in New York, and at Art 6 in Richmond and also at our church.

grand pianoWe have been without the services of a regular pianist for about two months (we did have a couple of great subs, but mostly we went without).  Until Yulia played for service recently, I had been bravely pretending we were okay. But just hearing the first notes Sunday morning brought tears to my eyes.

Today, in 1763, the first piano was built in the United States. It was a sign of growing sophistication in the colonies.

I took the piano for granted, until we didn’t have it. I am glad we will receive our weekly dose. Funny how some things make such a difference.

Life is better now, note by note.

You Are the Light of the World

Attitude is key.

  • I can allow myself be a victim of circumstances or I can see difficulty as an opportunity for creativity and transformation–at least of me.
  • When I feel overwhelmed by others and their needs, I can choose to cherish the intimacy they offer and find God in what we share.
  • When all seems lost, I can grab the chance to go to God in need and prayer, and be grateful for God’s presence in my life.
  • When guilt or shame seems ready to wipe away the rest of me, I can remember that I am created in God’s image.

Sure, changing attitudes can be tough, especially when we need it most. But it is worth the struggle.

sunshine outLife with a positive attitude is so much richer, more whole, than the other way. What kind of person do you want most to be around, and to be?

God gives us the free will to create our own attitudes. And God gives us enough gifts every day from which we can fashion a good, if not great, attitude.

Let the light shine through you today.

“NO!” to Hate

Another gay man has been brutally murdered in Jamaica. John Terry, 65, was a British diplomat living in Jamaica.

His crime? Being gay, and being active in helping the local LGBT movement gain strength. For that, he was severely beaten and a cord was tied around his neck.

This is why we call attention to the singing of Buju Banton, the reggae singer who spouts homophobic lyrics that include death threats against “batty boys” (Jamaican slang for gay men), and oppose his singing in Richmond and Norfolk.

The National cancelled his appearance in Richmond, but now he is scheduled to appear at The Hat Factory (formerly Toad’s Place) in Shockoe Slip in Richmond.  You can call them to register your request that they cancel the show, 804/788-4281.

And check out this video from Sunshine Cathedral MCC in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, where the pastor, Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins asks for prayers for the LGBT folks of Jamaica. The global MCC movement, through staff from Sunshine Cathedral, provides ongoing financial, spiritual, and leadership support to the LGBT rights movement in Jamaica.

God calls upon all people, and certainly people of faith, to speak up against hate–and to pray for all kinds of love.

What Are You Doing for Women and Girls?

Today, I am celebrating Rev. Antoinette Brown Blackwell–the first woman ordained a minister in the U.S. on this date in 1853. Tomorrow, I will celebrate the 33rd anniversary of the Episcopal Church deciding to ordain women. Both good reasons to celebrate.

Rev. Antoinette Brown Blackwell
Rev. Antoinette Brown Blackwell

Women. More than half the human race. But still denied full equality by many.

We recoil in horror at reports of female genital mutilation, at girls being forced to marry old men, at educational opportunities denied on the basis of gender, of parents killing children because they are not boys. In our own country, many cannot yet accept the idea of a woman being president, let alone priests and pastors.

Rev. Dr. Carter Heyward, my friend and mentor and one of the first 11 Episcopal woman ordained
Rev. Dr. Carter Heyward, one of the first 11 Episcopal woman ordained

Why do we trip over gender? Not to mention varieties of gender identity and expression?

We must redouble our efforts to end the social stigma attached to women, and seek to change law and/or religion that enshrine such prejudice. We have made great progress, but for too much of the world being a woman means being denied full human dignity.

I commit to doing something every week, if not every day, to challenge gender-based bias. What about you?

No waste

My compost is working. One of these days, these lawn clippings and kitchen scraps will be wonderful organic matter to put in my garden.compost

I can compost my life, too. I always have scraps of leftover happiness and hope, and even anger and sadness.

Some of it needs to disappear. I let God have that. I imagine God will make something good out of it–God uses everything for good.

But some parts I can use. When I layer some of the scraps in my heart in a prayerful marinade of love and thanksgiving, I am helped to create new behaviors, new attitudes, a stronger focus on what truly matters in my life.

Nothing in life goes to waste.

Beloved of God

Eight years ago, Jonathan and I were, along with our daughters, steeling ourselves for the death of my ex-wife, their mother. Eight days after 9/11, she died.

I have jumbled memories of terror and acrid smoke in New York (where we were living), the long, torturous train trip to Michigan for the bedside vigil at the last days–the planes were not flying–and the outpouring of grief at the funeral for a good woman. Hundreds of people came to the funeral, which was tinged with the grief of a nation.

blessed are mournersLove never dies. But neither does grief. There always is a spot in our hearts for those we have lost.

The spot aches. Then we feel the hotness of anger (why, God?). We deny. We rage. We cry.

If we attend to all this with gentleness and honesty, eventually the ache is touched by grace. We never stop missing them, but we also begin, memory by memory, to feel a glow around the ache. We remember the joy we once shared, and it becomes real again in our hearts.

And if, as in 9/11, we may not have personal memories of those lost, we learn stories and see pictures and know that these, too, were beloved of God, and of us.

Casting Out Fear

I woke this morning with a lot of anxiety. My To Do list is pretty long.

But my anxiety is also fueled by the fear I feel all around me. The country is afraid. I feel it in what seems like irrational behavior in public discourse (people carrying guns to town meetings to be safe, claiming the President is a Nazi, etc.).

Fear. It is lethal, when you let it run your life.

Eleanor Roosevelt, said, “You must do the things you think you cannot do.” She knew about fear. She grew up afraid, and conquered fear, and became one of the great figures of the 20th Century.Eleanor Roosevelt

We can overcome the fear that is eating us alive–and I suggest the way to do it is to trust God (and thus trust ourselves and each other).

Ironically, when the Bible speaks of trusting God, it uses the word fear. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Psalm 111). This fear is not to be afraid of God, but to revere God, to worship God.

How do we show reverence for God? Emmet Fox says, “By seeing God everywhere, refusing to recognize anything unlike [God], and by living the Christ life.”

God means for us to love, not fear, one another.