Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year Resolutions & Good Wishes

Many of my friends make New Year's resolutions and are quite successful at keeping them. I'm not all that self disciplined, so past resolutions were often forgotten by the time the excitement of the New Year ended. This year I'm hoping to change that. My best bud, JS, has made two resolutions that are inspiring, and I find myself wanting to make one too. It's been a few years since I partook in this tradition and I think I'm going to go about it in a different way. Instead of making a brand new change to initiate, I'm going to take a change that is starting to occur naturally and make a resolution to continue it through the year. On reflection, I think this is the method JS used to choose her two, so perhaps it's a better method because I always admire her careful and considerate actions.

For the past few weeks I've been feeling tense. This is especially noticeable in my shoulders and I find myself rotating them, my neck, and even grinding my teeth, none of which is good for you and often looks really weird. To try to alleviate this I've been getting down on the floor and doing 10 push ups, 10 leg raises, and 10 crunches. It seems to be helping, plus just doing it makes me feel better. I know that if I keep this up I'll be healthier and do more for my looks, self esteem, and general mood. Yay!

So this year my New Year Resolution is to continue to do those things and perhaps add in something else during the week that contributes to physical fitness. Thanks JS!

Happy New Year all! May it be the best you've ever had. May all your hopes and wishes for it come to pass. And may you be successful in keeping your resolutions.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Season for Miracles

Sunday's service and scripture readings reminded me that it is the season for miracles. The readings and sermon took us back to the night when Mary said, "Yes!" to an angel and became the mother of Christ. That bit about miracles always gives me a sense of wonder. Perhaps that's because miracles are so unexplainable or often answers to desperate needs. Whatever the reason, when we are the recipient of one we are as delighted as a child opening presents on Christmas day.

I happen to believe in miracles. Not just because the scriptures tell us they happened or the fact that a virgin gave birth to the son of God, but because I've been the recipient of a couple. They happened many years ago when I was just into my 30s and only recently come to believe fully. In an earlier post I told of how I came to believe and how I feel that was a miracle. I probably didn't call it such, the word miracle often engenders words of scorn from those who don't believe. But feeling the Holy Spirit pouring into you and establishing that connection with God surely classifies as one.

The church I came to full faith in was a small nondenominational church, Calvary Chapel of Corpus Christi. There were only about 40 members and 30 or so were regular attendees. With two services a week, a weekly bible study, and fellowship night on Friday's we became like family. And like any good family we enjoyed doing things together. During my time with that church we took 2 trips.

The first was a church retreat to Garner State Park. We weren't part of a huge network of congregations, so our church leaders called the park and reserved a group of campsites for us to use. Just about everyone left work early that day and got up there by late afternoon, but not me. I needed to finish my shift. My car was already packed with clothes and any supplies I had deemed important. So at 4:00PM I got into my car and headed out of town.

It's about a 6 hour trip to Garner, so by the time I got in it was dark and the park office had long since closed. Not having been foresighted enough to contact the group leaders, I didn't have any idea where the campsites were and driving around the camp in the dark seemed a bad idea. I checked the camp bulletin board and learned that if I parked my car near the office I could pay my camping fee in the morning when they opened. It was already after 10:00 PM and that seemed the most reasonable option. But as I set my car seen into recline to sleep the night there other vehicles started coming in and camping near where I was camped. They didn't all look like nice cars and some of the folk getting out of them looked less than reputable. I was getting sort of scared.

Just as I started to think about moving my car, up drove the truck of one of my church family and the owner and his son got out. I got out of my car and greeted them joyfully and with much relief. They knew the campsite number, had been there since just after night fell, and had been trying to find the campsite for a really long time. Over 4 and 1/2 hours in fact. They'd come to check the park map one more time before calling it quits. I got into their truck and we headed for one more trip around the circuit. And just after we started on the dirt road there it was! The very first campsite on the right! We pulled in, grabbed the camping gear and set up the tent at almost midnight. They let me share their tent so I had a safe place to spend the night.

Come morning we all talked about that night and looked at the camp roads again. They weren't difficult to navigate. Nor were the signs hidden from view but right there along the edge of the road. No reason we could come up with explained away the fact that they hadn't found the campsite location for over 4.5 hours. And I think that was the miracle. The site was so easy to find and I was so lost that we decided that God had "blinded" them to the location until they had reunited with me. I had one more wondrous experience while we were there that weekend. On Sunday morning just as we started service there in the sky was my first double rainbow.

The second trip was to the San Antonio Zoo. Corpus Christi isn't that far from San Antonio so we made a day trip of it. We left town really early in caravan style and got up there shortly after the park opened.

We had tons of fun wandering around looking at the different animals. Many of the church family had children, so the mothers and kids tended to stay grouped together as we went through the park. Steve Phillips and I were discussing prayer languages and speaking in tongues. Steve had experienced this but I hadn't and was curious. So on a pretty bridge overlooking a waterway, we stopped to talk about it.

We were so engrossed in our conversation that we didn't realize that the others had gone on without us. They hadn't noticed us stopping either, so they didn't tell us where they were headed for next. So, when our conversation finished, there Steve and I were looking around confusedly and checking our map to see if there was anything that looked likely. We didn't have a clue. Being mindful of the reason we were there, we did what any good Christian would do in such a situation; we started praying. Suddenly I got this immense urge to move, and in a specific direction. I didn't know where I was going, only that I had to go and which way. I grabbed Steve and hauled him off with me, explaining what I was feeling along the way.

So sure was I of my direction that we were moving really fast, not even checking the park map. As we raced across what was seemed like half the park Steve decided to check out a side building, but I didn't wait for him. He quickly decided to rejoin me and caught up with me just as I was headed through a pair of gates. Once through the gates we found ourselves in the Children's Petting Zoo and there they were. We were so happy to find them that it was a very joyous reunion. If Steve and I had tried to logic our way through that situation we might have eventually come up with the Children's area, but young singles are often clueless about what would motivate marrieds with kids. So heaven only knows if we would have ever come up with the right location. We could have wandered around for hours trying to find them.

Now when I think of a virgin giving birth to the one person who could reconcile our accounts with God, bringing us back into full communion with him, I tend to believe the stories we tell every Christmas. The rest of the world seems to want to believe in miracles too. Why else would we work so hard to help the needy or give desperately sick children and their parents the gift of joy and hope. So this year when you see the stars in the sky, and on top of your tree, I hope you'll join me in letting the wonder of the season fill your heart and believe.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Running Like Mad, then Screeching to a Halt

Most of last week seemed to be spent at church. Preparations were underway for a huge weekend of activities and momentous events. We were gearing up for the ordination of our Assistant Rector and the celebration of our 40th Anniversary as a church. Volunteering for the liturgy planning committee for the 40th Anniversary festivities got me the job of coordinating a fellowship walk to be held on Saturday and a streamers in the garden activity to be done after the celebration service. This was my first time being involved in something like this. It was exciting! It was also stress filled! I gained a lot of awareness of how things work around the church and how much work goes into some things. For all the help I got I'm very thankful!

The idea of streamers came during a planning meeting and it's purpose was to let people share what they found of value and happiness by being a part of our church. They would write a word or phrase on a brightly colored paper ornament and hang it in our prayer garden. Our Sexton, Esther, helped me set up the streamers in the garden activity. We picked out colors of paper, decided on 3 shapes (circle, rectangle, and star), chose decorating materials, and then saw to the printing of some of them. Our Parish Coordinator, Priscilla, got the rest printed. Esther also gathered the ribbons needed for hanging them; our other sexton, Eduardo, hung string between trees so that we had somewhere to hang them (we'd just trimmed the garden trees losing all the lower branches in the process). But the work of assembling them still needed doing. So, on Friday, the wonderful folk of the bulletin folding crew and I, cut out the ornaments, punched holes in them, and attached ribbons. I showed up at the start of bulletin folding and helped with that too. On Sunday the garden was very festive looking with colored paper ornaments fluttering throughout.

Friday afternoon's folding and ornament set up finished at 4:15 PM. Since I am in the choir I needed to be back at 6:00 PM, so I raced home, cleaned up, dressed in celebratory fashion, and headed back to church. The service was at 7:00. We robed for this event and looked pretty good in our red and gold. Extra choir members from other churches who wanted to share in honoring Matt arrived. With the extra voices we sounded better than ever. We sang a huge Handel number, Zadock the Priest, which had lots of vocal challenges to it.

The whole service was so exciting our attention hung on every moment. Matt's best friend from college gave the sermon and it was wonderful. He kidded Matt, and made good points about being a good priest in the process. The point of the sermon was that Matt was called to extra ordinary measures in his service. The camaraderie exhibited by them gave the whole service a warm friendly feel. The attendees got to step out of the normal role of congregation as we were invited forward to join with the priests as they placed their hands on Matt while the Bishop was ordaining and blessing him. When the service was ending Matt's first official function was to say the blessing. Then we went to Brown Hall for a really great reception. When I got home about 10:00 I had no problem falling asleep even though I was keyed up from all the excitement.

Saturday morning I was scheduled to celebrate Morning Prayer, so I got to the church about 6:45 AM. This is a wonderful way to start your day! You get scheduled time alone with God in the place where you worship him and do things that really focus you on Him. I'm thinking I'd like to do that more often.

After Daily Office was finished, I went home and made my sack lunch for the 10:30 events. A Fellowship Walk, picnic lunch, and Remembrance Altar build that had been Paschal's ideas were the events for the day. Those of us who showed up had a good time walking to St. Mary's Hall, which was where we held services before we had any structures on the 5 acres we bought to build our sanctuary on. Janet came along and told us all she could remember of the early days. Our church was started back in the 60's, a decade filled with turbulence, but our founding members had a vision of the future that included everyone that wanted a church home. So we deemed ourselves "reconcilers to the world" and became the Episcopal Church of Reconciliation.

Here we are on the Fellowship Walk, strolling down Starcrest. The day was nice and the company was the best!

This is the sign at the back gate of St. Mary's Hall's campus. We'd hoped to go inside and look around, but that would have needed more planning and coordination than we did.

When we got back we started right in on the altar build. That was a lot of fun, and we now have a lovely arrangement of memories on tables in our South Narthex. There are pictures of past priests and members, things from the children's classrooms, and too many symbols to list. I've only been at the church for 6 years and the only thing personal I'd thought to put on the altar was my Book of Common Prayer which I'd received when I was received into the church in 2003. I didn't because when I looked there were already two very appropriately historical versions already on it. Thinking about what I love about this place I realized that most of all I value the fellowship I've found there, so I went to the kitchen and borrowed a coffee cup and spoon to add to the altar.

Here's the Remembrance Altar in all it's glory. The painting on the side was done by Gordon West, a long time member of our church, for our first rector. The one behind the alter is the work of Tina Karagulian, wife to Paschal.

We ate our picnic lunches in the church library and enjoyed getting acquainted with Tina's family, playing a game with Paschal and Tina's son, and hearing more stories about the church and our newest priest. Both before and after these events I noticed lots of activity in Brown Hall. The dinner/reception committee and many volunteers were setting the tables and making the hall ready for Sunday's dinner. It was absolutely amazing! I headed home mid afternoon, and relaxed as much as I could, knowing that I needed to be back at church early for the choir practice and any additional setup needed for the streamers activity.

Here's what all the activity in Brown Hall created for us, a lovely dining room complete with banners hanging above us, to show off the trappings of our sanctuary through the seasons. We were set to handle 250 people.

This closeup of the place settings may give you an idea of the lengths gone to for this service and dinner. Those table runners were made at the church by a member who brought in her sewing machine for the day. By the time we sat down to eat, pine cones had been added, fresh rosemary stems for fragrance and remembrance, and the candles were all lit.

When I walked into the church on Sunday morning I noticed our rector, Robert, sitting on a bench in his street clothes, reading over the service for the day. It sounded like he was rehearsing. That seemed comforting somehow, and I found myself enjoying the idea that he practices like that before every service. I beat the choir director to church, heck, I beat most people in getting there. I had time to look around, find a cup of coffee, and get a hug or two from friends. Hugs seem to help me relax. You put your arms around someone warm and comforting, squeeze them together thus tightening the muscles, and when you let go, your muscles relax further than they had been pre-hug. I grabbed as many as I could.

The service went off beautifully! One of our members, James, had made a multimedia presentation that was awesome! In it, while playing old songs from the 60's, the times were remembered, the mission of our church, and it's history as it has grown. At one point the choir sang, "I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry". The visuals finished with pictures of all the priests who'd been our rectors and the young priests they had helped get through seminary and become full priests at our church. One of our concerns when setting up the service was that we wanted the children to be involved. So Robert held a children's sermon. He got them to think about our beginnings as a church and how the founders were thinking of their future. He finished it by asking them to hug the founders in thanks and then stand beside them as he blessed them all. The sermon was by Sam Todd who was our second rector. In it he tied our first service celebrated on our new campus with the Christmas season (it had been on Dec. 24th, 1968) and our name, Reconciliation, with the advent of Christ and how he came into the world to reconcile us to God.

When the service was finished we all processed into the garden and remembered those of our members who had passed on but been remembered for their help in building up our community. Then we did the ornament activity and went in to eat a very nicely catered lunch. The whole meal was set before us by members who had volunteered to act as servers. We had 250 people in attendance and it was a three course meal so this was a lot of love being given out. While we were enjoying the wonderful food, Robert was up on the stage honoring those who helped accomplish all of this. He received a surprise or two himself, as the community had put together some things on its own. One of our members had gotten the artists among us to put together an album, to be added to through the years, of some of their works. There were some beautiful examples of art in it, including a full page of calligraphy complete with illumination. Our body had also commissioned a new hanging for the church in Robert's honor to be hung behind the altar. There was much symbolism in it. It was a cloth replication of a work of art by an artist he greatly admires. The painting it was based on is called "Finger 2". It's green, navy, and purple swirls looked like finger prints. The symbolism in the finger print is that through action and ministry we've all left our mark. Robert has certainly left his mark on our church and we are so blessed to have him as our rector. He's taking a 6 month sabbatical this year, but will come back refreshed and ready to take up the reins again and help us grow even more. And during his absence, our newest priest will be taking the reins in his very creative and capable hands.

After dinner was eaten, everyone who noticed how hard all the servers had worked stuck around and helped clean up. We cleared tables, stacked chairs, gathered in table cloths, and sorted out ornaments that had been used. When I got home just after 2:00 PM I felt a sense of contentment, but also the fading of the high energy that had been needed for the week. When I'd dropped everything and plopped into my chair, I called Mom and gave her a fairly full report. It's amazing that all of that only took 15 minutes to tell. That evening I talked to JSD and retold her as much as I could remember. Guess I needed the retelling to finish winding down.

Now the feeling of controlled chaos is over. The next week is started. The tension is not quite out of my shoulders, but I'm no longer running back and forth to church and calling or emailing people. After all of the activity high, it is sort of a letdown and I look forward to the next spurt, probably in preparation for the Christmas eve services. The picture at the beginning of this post is of the Fellowship walkers being goofy with our new church sign. Guess no one will ever call us serious now.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Jury Duty

This is the Bexar County Courthouse, a historical building still in use in Downtown San Antonio, TX.

If you live in the USA, every so often you get called for jury duty. Monday was my day to serve. I'd already postponed it once because of work so I didn't think I should try again. Mind you, this day happened right after a very busy weekend where I traveled away overnight, attended a dinner at my rector's home, and even managed to make an offering for the table. So this added a lot of stress.

The jury summons isn't the easiest of documents to read, but it's clear enough in its instructions. It tells you when to get there, 8:00AM, and to not be late. It tells you where parking can be found. Then it tells you that parking is expensive and hard to find even if you do drive into downtown San Antonio. Last time I was on jury duty I drove my car and parked in the parking tower across the street. This time I didn't want to deal with the heavy traffic and I hadn't been downtown in quite a few years so I was no longer familiar with its streets. The city in its wisdom sent a bus pass along with the summons so I elected to use it.

I've ridden buses before but not in San Antonio. To accomplish the mission of getting to court on time I had to research the route. Of course, I didn't do this till Saturday and the bus offices are closed on weekends. I had to use the website. It had a handy utility that allowed you to plan your route. By using it I was able to discover that I needed to take bus route 17 and that I was to meet it at the Randolph Park & Ride. Then I looked up the bus schedule for that route and the location of the Park & Ride. Even with a map the website didn't have an address for the Park & Ride so I had to google it. Then with directions in hand I decided to take the 7:00 AM bus which would get me there before 7:30. It was an express bus so the ride only took 18 minutes inbound. The outbound trip was more like 25 minutes.

I'm the kind of person who gets incredibly nervous on streets and areas I'm not familiar with. That's because I can get incredibly lost. My cell phone has functioned as a navigation aid in getting to work more than once when detours rerouted me. So, I got driving directions from Yahoo. I carefully printed out the route, the schedule, even a map of the downtown bus stops. I stuck this all with my summons and the bus pass and into my purse they went. I set my clock for 5:00 AM so that I could get up and be fully awake when I tried to find a new place in the dark. My body protested both going to sleep and getting up. For sleep I took a pill and for waking I trusted the sounds of Credence Clearwater Revival blasting from my CD radio.

Jury duty is boring. You sit in a huge room with a lot of other people. Knowing this I brought several books to read, some sudoku, and a bottle of water. I also packed a couple of pop tarts figuring that I didn't want to pay for lunch at downtown tourist prices. The Park & Ride was not as hard to find as I'd feared. The bus was already there when showed up. The driver told me he would tell me when to get off. So I sat down near the front and off we went.

When I got off the bus the Justice Center was across the park from where I was so I had about half a block to walk. Once there the doors were manned by security guards with metal detectors and scanners for your bags. These security measures were put in place back in the '90s because someone brought a gun into a courtroom and shot someone with it.

The jury room is in the basement and once there we had to line up in the hall where they took our filled out surveys which had been a part of the summons. Then we walked single file into a room with over 400 chairs. I found a seat near the front and was happy with that. The lady next to me turned out to be a grandmother who had a daughter that was close to giving birth. She also had other grand kids to babysit but she was there anyway. We had nice chats all morning long, interrupted occasionally by periods of intense listening while they read off a list of names. Those people who were called would then be taken to a courtroom by an officer and there serve their duty. Or not.

By noon I hadn't been called so the grandmother and I decided to go to lunch outside. The woman on the other side of her got invited too and we discussed where to go. They elected to do Bill Miller's which is a barbecue chain. I said that was fine and had intended to just eat my Poptarts. The new lady decided that wasn't good and bought me lunch. We took our food to go and went out to sit in the park. There was one table left that I could see and we made a beeline for it.

When we sat down it turned out there was a band warming up in the corner across from us. They played in a Latin style and the music was pretty good. So was the food and the company. Once the eating was done I took out my camera and took some pictures.

This is a picture of the band as they were playing. Occasionally someone from the listeners would get up and dance around in front of them to the music.

These are my dining companions. The lady in pink is the grandmother and the professionally dressed lady was the one who bought me lunch.

From where we were sitting you could see a good bit of the surrounding area. The park is in the midst of the oldest part of Downtown and is taken care of zealously by the City Parks Division. This building was pretty far away but the tower is famous for its gargoyles which you might be able to see. They are those little projections off the side at each level. There's a stature up on tome too but I don't think it shows in this view.

There used to be huge trees filling the whole park. Recently they discovered that all the trees were diseased and most had to be cut down. The city put in these fountains which are nice looking and there are some decorative tiles placed throughout the park. What was missing was all the grass and squirrels that inhabited the ancient live oak trees.

It being Christmas season the city is putting on the ritz. The Riverwalk is bright with lights through all the trees and this was the tree that had been placed and decorated for the park. It looks like they hired a decorator to do it. Behind it you can see the front of one of the oldest churches in town. I think it is Anglican but I may be wrong. San Antonio started as a Mission community so there are several churches in the downtown area.

Update: Paschal tells me this is a Roman Catholic church and is the San Fernando Cathedral.

Here's an unimpeded view of the church architecture. These were taken while strolling and I wasn't in the best of positions to get pictures of the entire building at once. So I took the next shot.

Here you can see the height of the church and a better view of its architecture. I'm not sure but I think it is Gothic style of some sort.

I wanted to show you the spires on the courthouse. I think they are rather interesting in their different styles. The building is so old that there have been some carefully done renovations on it recently. But old as it is, San Antonio still loves it and it is in full use.

Here's a better view of the entire courthouse. It's pretty big. The Justice Center which is right next to it is even bigger and while pretty enough for modern buildings, no where near as interesting.

My name was called for a panel at 1:45. This was the biggest panel they called and the request was for 50 people. The judge told us she only needed to call 32 but knowing how things can run she called for 50 and they were glad they had. It was a felony case. That's about all I can tell you right now. I was not selected for the jury for which I was grateful. They let us go at 4:45 and we raced down to the jury room to get our passes and make sure that everything was in place to show we had served our day.

I went outside to locate the bus stop. It turned out to be about a block away. The bus returning was not as full as the morning bus had been but the conversation was more lively. The ladies who rode this one were used to taking it home together. One of them was knitting and quite accomplished at it. She was making a tank top for herself. The whole ride was pleasanter for her friendly conversation.

When we reached the Park & Ride a nice gentleman told me the best way out of the lot which was very helpful because the traffic at 5:30 was intense. I made it home safely and except for a dirty car was none the worse for wear. The cats were glad to see me and were eager to eat. I managed to stay up and even played a game of Scrabble with Sandi.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The 7 Unusual Things About Me Tag

As I told San when she tagged me for this, I've spent more time trying to fit in and be usual than unusual. So this is going to be a bit awkward as I dredge through years of personal history to find 7 things. Some of them may not be that unusual.

1) For the 3 months after I was born I would not allow myself to be put down. If my Mother, Grandmother, or Grandfather tried I screamed until someone picked me up again. During this period Dad went off to fight in the Korean War. Can you imagine the round the clock shifts of parenting this took to keep me calm? Guess it was a good thing I was born in the upstair bedroom of Grandmother's house. There were loving arms ready to help Mom survive her post natal stressor, me.

2) Because I was cross eyed as a child I never developed depth perception. Not even after corrective surgery in 5th & 6th grades. My eyes work independantly of one another and my brain ignores the one not pointed directly at the object I'm looking at. So it goes off to look to the side. That affects peripheral vision too. I have less than the normal range. This makes many things more difficult. I'm terrible at most sports, especially those involving balls moving towards me. But for marksmanship it works out pretty well as you only use one eye to sight along a rifle barrel.

3) When I was in elementary school, this would have been in 5th grade, I became a human ball. I was so slender and light that the other kids would gather around me, pick me up, and throw me from one group to another. Or toss me in the air and watch me land. I got pretty good at using my legs as springs to take up the shock.

4) When I went through bootcamp I was happy and at peace with my world for the first time. That sounds weird even to me. Bootcamp is supposed to be hard and often a miserable experience. Instead I knew exactly what was expected of me and that worked so well for me that I found myself mentally singing happy songs while marching in formation.

5) My voice has a much greater range than I can actually use when performing with the choir. It all depends on who I'm following and how relaxed I am. When following a soprano I can sing most of the way up to the top of second soprano. When following the altos I have the full range now, that wasn't the case as a teenager in high school. When I have a really strong tenor voice right beside me I can now follow him partway down into that range. I've even tackled some of the higher bass notes. I discovered I could do this while singing along with the choir director at Krueger Middle School. Even he was impressed.

6) I tried out for a broadway style musical in college by singing a Korean War Song. It was Hut Sut Ralston on the Rillarah. The director was amazed and I got a part in the chorus. Here's a video clip from the Fibber & Molly Magee show of a quartet singing it.

7) I know songs from 4 wars. That probably isn't that unusual for people my age but I think it is kind of interesting. My grandparents taught me WWI songs, including Good Morning Mr. Zip. My Dad taught my sister and me stuff from WWII and the Korean War. I grew up during the Vietnam War so all those popular numbers from Hello Vietnam were familiar. And now I guess I have to add songs from a 5th war to my musical repertoir, the War on Terrorism. Who doesn't know that song by Toby Keith, Couresy of the Red, White, & Blue.

Monday, December 01, 2008

A Really Beautiful Service

Sunday, November 30th, was the traditional day for the start of the Advent Season and is honored at my church by holding a Lessons & Carols service. Even though there was no communion, it was a fairly complicated service with 7 different readings, 14 hymns and anthems, a flutist for some of them, and full recordings both video and sound. All in all things went really well.

The choir had been preparing for this service for weeks. Some of the pieces were pretty challenging, including 2 in different languages and one in old English. On Sunday morning we were handed copies of all the hymnal pieces to add into our notebooks.

We have a new choir director, Cindy, who did a really good job getting us ready for this. In addition to lots of practice on the more difficult sections of each anthem, she made practice CD's for the altos and basses so that we could make sure our parts were learned. I'm sure that hadn't been her original plan as many of our members are very experienced and some are professionally trained musicians. But I was new, nervous, and holding back when we'd come to a part in a number I didn't feel confident of. So she planned on making one for me. I mentioned my gratitude for her generosity to some of the other members thinking that they would agree and never expecting them to feel they needed one too. Oops! So I made copies of mine and Cindy made another set for the basses. Man, that really helped. I'd play it at home and sometimes find myself waking up with a melody in my head.

The choir wore robes for the first time in my experience. Ours are red with a white/gold stole. The robes had been borrowed by another church and not returned promptly so we had to get them back. Then, because there were several new members, we had to do a trying on and organizing so that each person had their own robe and knew where to find it. It all worked out well and the one really short, almost car coat length, robe turned out to be for our member who is on a scooter the entire service. Being physically challenged is no deterrent to joining our choir.

Saturday I was sitting at my computer practicing with the CD and up popped a slider from Facebook telling me that our Assistant Rector was headed to Lessons & Carols practice. "What practice," I cried? Then being unable to reach anyone in the know I got in my car and raced over to the church to be sure I wasn't missing an important session. Turns out it was for the readers. One of our Adult Education classes these past few months has been "Drama of the Word" taught by our Assistant Rector, Matt, and a new member, Sam Gilliam, who teaches drama at Trinity University. She is the second drama teacher we have now, the other one being Stacey Connelly. Looks like Reconciliation will have a lot of drama in its future. This really excites me because I studied drama in college and love getting involved in things like that.

When I got to the church it was obvious I wasn't needed for the rehearsal, but Altar Guild was also there setting things up. Since I am on that I decided to help. All things work to the good for those who love the Lord! We changed fair linens, put up the altar hangings, changed out candles, and replaced the wicks in the lighters. We even found where the steamer was so that we could get the folds out of the hangings. They'd been in the closet too long.

When Sunday morning came around we hurried to get our robes on, our music organized, and practiced getting up on the stage once. Suddenly it was time and we were in the middle of the performance. I wish you could have been there to see and hear what I was hearing from my chair in front of the altar. The readers were behind us taking different voices during the readings. The acoustics are awesome under the rotunda so the choir was clearly heard and I could hear and match my voice to my choir director's, she sings alto too. One of the readings had this echo affect where every one of the readers echoed each other in gathering succession with a phrase. It sounded like the angels in heaven crying out, praising God over and over again.

Robert told the congregation what "amen" meant and that he knew they wanted to say one, so the entire church said, "amen" and applauded the choir and readers. That was so nice and something I like about my church, they give you a lot of support and appreciation when you are involved in things.

After it was all over and I was headed down the hall, I overheard our choir director telling another member that she, "didn't know any local choirs, not even professional ones, that could do what we had just done." That made me laugh, because she had been telling us over and over again that this was all, "pretty basic stuff." Now that's a good choir director! After hearing that my confidence is up and I'm really looking forward to the 3 big services we have coming up: 1) Matt's Ordination, 2) our 40th Anniversary service, and 3) the Christmas one.

Post Script: I was hoping to start this post with a nice video of one of the songs we sang for Lessons & Carols. But the one I wanted to post had the greatest voices but a heart rending image of Christ carrying his cross. The painting is probably famous, but I just could not bring myself to post that image on this joyous season. So, with that warning, here are links to 7 of the songs we sang yesterday. None of these videos are of us. If I get access to one I'll try to fix that and post it instead. Until then I hope you enjoy these. And if you want to avoid the video with the Christ carrying his cross image during a season when we are celebrating his birth I totally understand. It's the second one. But the group that sings that one is Vocal Point of BYU and worth hearing. Your choice.

Hanacpachap cussicuinin

E'en So Lord Jesus Quickly Come

Every Valley (Not Handel's Messiah but same words)

Prepare Thyself, Zion by JS Bach

One Perfect Flower (this is just a clip of the solo)

Maria Walks Amid the Thorn

Ave Maria by Franz Biebl