For Musicians Only

ID-1009202When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, so many lessons for my Christian walk are brought to mind!

First, may I say that this collection of hymn arrangements, In Remembrance are absolutely beautiful.  (Dan Forrest has also put out a CD by the same name, and includes all the pieces in this book.) At first glance, they don’t look to be that difficult.  There aren’t the tedious running arpeggios that you find in Fay Lopez’s arrangements (also beautiful, just difficult!).  It just doesn’t look as though there are that many notes; HOWEVER, Dr. Forrest says plenty with few notes!  He manages to sneak in little counter-melodies all over the place, and unless you really practice, they will be missed, and the music loses a lot of meaning!

He also uses beautiful mixtures of harmony, creating wonderful splashed of musical color! Anyone with a bit of piano skill can play this music, but unless you really pay attention to every note, a lot will be missed!  For example, it always fascinates me that by changing one note, an F chord is now an a minor chord–big difference in the key of F!  The Tonic (I) or key note chord becomes the minor Submediant (vi) chord!  If I play the F chord, it will sound alright, but if I play it correctly as an a minor chord–BIG DIFFERENCE!

But then I think, is it really a big difference to the average listener?  I can hear you out there shouting, “No!  I don’t even know what you’re talking about!” Well, I suppose that’s true; however, who am I playing this offertory for anyway?  Is it for me, or for the congregation, or my Lord Jesus, or all of the above?  Obviously,the answer is: all of the above.

There are times when I wonder if it’s really worth all the practicing.  I mean, if we have seventy-five people on a Sunday, we’re thrilled! My heart continually reminds me of two things:

  1. All those dear folks in the pews that I love so much deserve to receive my best.
  2. My wonderful Lord and Savior is the primary receiver of my worship, and He deserves my best!

But there is another lesson to be learned.  As I practice and study and analyze, I gain a better understanding of the music, AND I love it more!!! You know where I’m going–all too true about the Word and the One who gave it to us!!! The more we read and study and analyze the Bible, the more precious it becomes!

The practicing enables me to play with confidence; but more than that, it enables me to put my heart into the music.  Reading God’s Word enables me to live with confidence: but more than that, it enables me to put His heart into my life!

GREAT VERSE FOR PIANISTS: “Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight” Psalm 144:1

GREAT VERSE FOR LIFE: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should hew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” 1 Peter 2:9

The Ten Commandments and Monopoly?

Tom and I just returned from a wonderful time away.  This time of the year, before the rush of spring activities begin, we often take a few days and “come apart for a while,” so we don’t come apart!  Our favorite get-away place is called Frosty Hollow–a beautiful Bed and Breakfast snuggled into Sweden Valley near Coudersport, PA.  (It really is true that there are more deer than people in Potter County!)

While there, we decided to play a few games that were on the shelf: Tom picked Monopoly.  I cringed!

“But when do we ever get enough time to really play Monopoly,” he asked.


And so we pulled down the beautiful Millennium edition of this timeless game and began to play.  Memories flooded my mind: playing it with friends, playing with our children, and playing it as a child.  Funny how some memories are lodged in our brains forever!  As a child, we’d often play the crazy thing for days and leave it set up in the living room.  One very cold morning, we had some of the neighbor kids come and wait for the bus inside our home.  That night, we discovered that some of the playing pieces were missing, never to be found!  (If you knew me, you’d know how I HATE missing pieces of anything!  That’s probably why the memory sticks!)

Anyway, I wasn’t holding out much hope for enjoying the game, but I have to admit–it was fun!  Tom would say that it was because I won, but as I kept thinking about it, I realized it was because we applied the Ten Commandments to the game!

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

That includes yourself!  As mature adults 🙂 we both were concerned with more than just winning or having a great time–we were focused on keeping a right spirit and testimony, even though no one else was watching!  God first, always, even when playing a game!

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.

IT’S JUST A GAME! Our own gloating can become an image that we worship!  Because we were having such a great time, we were able to see our own gloating and laugh; but when someone is busy building their own graven image of themselves, it is hard to stomach. How often do we set up the image of success before anything else: our spouse, our children, our church, our God?

Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain;for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

This really had no application to us and Monopoly, but I couldn’t help being reminded of the Master Club’s hint for children to remember this command: WATCH YOUR WORDS!  Obviously, we should NEVER use our God’s name vainly; however, we also need to watch other words and reactions.  Because we were applying the other commandments, this one was not an issue.  I didn’t get mad when I landed on Boardwalk, and Tom didn’t pout because I owned all the railroads.  Healthy banter, yes, but IT’S ONLY A GAME!

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

I suppose we really didn’t apply this one either, but then maybe we did!   Even before Tom was a pastor, we kept Sunday for God.  I can only remember once that we had to travel on a Sunday and missed church.  How Satan has tricked us on this one into thinking that we can’t do otherwise!  Don’t get me wrong, there are times when this is true, but beware: LIFE IS NOT A GAME!

Honour thy father and thy mother:that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

I love this verse and the promise that it holds!  But for us and our Monopoly game, perhaps it should read: Honor each other that thy game may end well!  That’s what we did.  Our relationship was much more important than winning a game.  Isn’t that true with life?  How often do we sacrifice the relationship to get our own way!  We’re worse than children and as blind as bats!

Thou shalt not kill.

Murder on the Monopoly board–that’s what we do!  We just love to kill our opponents one overwhelming rent-due at a time, and thrill in our victory!  This a relationship killer; as is an unforgiving spirit or a lack of mercy towards those we live with.

Thou shalt not commit adultery.

 And how does this fit in with the game?  I’m not sure!  If nothing else, looking at them all together has shown me that many of these commandments are built on the same issue: selfish pride!

Thou shalt not steal.

Have you ever had to play with a cheater?  It’s so frustrating because the rules are null and void. However, there’s another sense of stealing that often happens in Monopoly.  We steal another’s victories by grumbling and pouting.  I’m not writing this for children! Adults are just better at masking their grumbling and pouting! Then again, maybe not! 🙂

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

Liar!  All three of these last commandments go together.  When playing a game, it takes away all the fun–the main purpose for playing a game in the first place, at least in our home.  When living life, lying is possibly the greatest destroyer of all relationships.  When you lose trust, what is left?

Thou shalt not covet… thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s hotels, nor his Utilities, nor his Railroads, nor his Community Chest, nor his Get Out of Jail Free card, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s. 🙂 

In our house-rules, after all the properties were sold, we would negotiate in exchanging properties so that all players would have sets, trying to be as equally fair as possible.  We actually did a bit of an experiment:  Because I owned the railroads and the utilities, I ended up with three sets and Tom have five, generally well distributed; however, he did own one whole side (the red and the yellow for you Monopoly enthusiasts).   We weren’t sure if it was equal or not, but I won!  You must throw in that thing called chance.  I seemed to be in jail more than I was playing.  Tom really loved Pacific, especially after a put a hotel on it ($1275!); and he LOVED riding my railroads at $200 a pop!  Somehow I seemed to be able to tiptoe through his red and yellow right to “Go to Jail!”

Life is not a game, but may the Lord help us to see life and His commandments through the eyes of a game!  Sometimes, these timeless truths just need a new focus!  So, whether we are playing a game, or living life to its fullest, don’t forget to apply the Ten Commandments.  They don’t save our souls, but they will bless our homes!

Let the games begin!




Say “I Love You”

ID-10014180On this special day, our thoughts are on love, and how we can show our loved ones that they are special to us.  Probably the simplest way is just to say it; however, sometimes we hesitate to say those words.  On the other hand, can we say them too much?  Our family has been accused of that, because our children, now grown and out or on their way out 🙂 of the house, often end our phone conversations by saying, “I love you.”  I always thrill to hear those words!!!

Ron Hamilton captures a wonderful truth about love in his song, Say “I Love You.”

Moments quickly pass, and our loved ones soon are gone;

Thoughts of love we feel reach the heart but not the tongue.

Words we speak in anger tumble out and bring regret;

Words of love are often never said.


Life is but a vapor, quickly vanishing away;

Wait until tomorrow and your chance may flee away.

Give a fragrant flower while its beauty still can charm;

Give a kiss to warm the longing heart.


Say “I love you,” while the heart can feel;

Say “I love you” while the hurt can heal.

Make a heart rejoice, give your love a voice;

Speak the words while you can say, “I love you.”

Thoughts of love–do you remember those first days when you realized that he was the one?  Do you remember the thrill that went through you when he walked into the room?  Do you remember how your thoughts were constantly on him: What’s he doing now?  I wonder if he’s thinking of me?  Oh, he’d love that card!  Should I give him a call?

It takes time, effort, forgiveness and a whole lot of love to keep thoughts of love in a marriage, but it is possible!!  If you are blessed to have a husband who still kisses you good night, thank God.  As the song says, “Life is but a vapor, quickly vanishing away.”  At the risk of sounding like an old geezer (if you must know I AM ONLY 54!), life does pass quickly!  And how are we living it?  Are there relationships that need to be mended?  Do your part to MEND THEM.  Are there words that need to be said?  SAY THEM!  Are there words that shouldn’t be said?  DON’T SAY THEM! Are there people you should visit, or a letter you should write, or a cake that should be baked and taken to a neighbor,  or a child to be hugged?  Take the Nike challenge:  JUST DO IT!  Life is too short to keep putting it off.

Once again, I quote my favorite movie: Ever After.  At the very end, the descendant of Cinderella who is telling the story (you might want to check out my blog: “I WILL NOT YIELD” for more lessons from that movie), ends by saying something like: “And it’s not that they lived happily ever after, but that they lived!”

Live, and let love live in your heart and life; and in so doing, you let God live in your heart and life, because…

“God is love.” 1 John 4:8

A Lesson from my students

ID-100220921I just finished teaching a piano lesson to a young girl who is the fourth child in her family to take lessons. When I first taught her brothers, it was soon obvious that written music was not a part of their lives.  They were great students, but so many things that I take for granted that people would know about music was not a part of their understanding.  What a thrill to teach them all!

However, as I watch this youngest sibling, I am amazed at her progress and her talent.  In fact, each sibling has gone further and learned faster than the last!  Is there a reason for this?  I believe it is called ‘exposure.’  Because she has been exposed to three other siblings who have diligently practiced the piano within her earshot, she breezes through the books at an amazing pace.  Is she more talented than the others?  I don’t think so.  They have all been excellent students.  The difference is what she has been exposed to!

And what a wonderful application we can make as Christians!  Does it make a difference in our children’s lives what they are exposed to?  Will they be affected by what comes across the television screen…or the stereo… or the computer?  Will they learn anything by our actions…our words…our attitudes?

We have so much influence on our children!  If we allow bad habits, endure them, knowing that they are wrong but never taking the time to allow the Lord to help us win the victory over them, so often our children come at us with the same glaring habits blown to epic proportion!

Oh, where would we be without our Balm of Gilead?  The sweet perfume of His presence influences every time we draw nigh to Him!  We would be lost, literally and figuratively, without the goodness of God.  What a privilege to be able to ‘expose’ ourselves to the goodness of God as often as we choose.

 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness…

Romans 11:22

“That Still Small Voice” or “Lessons From a Trash Can”

On Friday, I was subbing as a secretary at our SMALL local  high school.  It was a bit of a hectic day which ended in a flurry of activity: One of the buses had broken down, which meant that we needed to keep the students an extra twenty minutes – on a FRIDAY!  However, ‘alls well that ends well,’ and by three-thirty, everyone was on their way home, except me:  I needed to stay until four.

I usually take along my thumb drive, so that if there is any extra time, I can get some of my paperwork done.  That day, I was very pleased with what I had accomplished, but I was looking forward to a quiet night to finish proof-reading my next book.  What does that have to do with the trash can or a still small voice?

I am habitually forgetting something when I leave: my water bottle, my travel mug, etc. So, I was very careful to look around and gather all my things.  Five minutes before I was ready to leave, a call came in: This woman’s son didn’t get off the bus, but the neighbor children said that he was on the bus.  I’m not sure what she wanted me to do, but when the clock struck four, I was ready to be out the door!

I pushed in my chair and knocked over the trash can under the desk.  Perhaps I am a bit too transparent – I really hate to admit this next part: I thought, the custodian will get it.  Nothing spilled out.  It’s not a big deal.  But, that still small voice quickly rebuked me, and as I reached under the desk to get the can, I noticed that my thumb drive was still in the computer!  Had I left it, I wouldn’t have been able to do any of the work that I was dying to do when I got home.  (I have found that I could spend all day and night writing!!)

What a lesson!  What a rebuke!  What a time of rejoicing that my precious Lord was so piteous to me, a filthy rotten sinner!  It wasn’t that big of a deal – it was just a matter of doing what was right; and for that little act of obedience, God greatly rewarded me!

If we don’t listen to that still small voice in the little things, we will totally miss the two by four God is sending our way when we are bent to destroy our lives!  Never let Satan deceive you into thinking anything is too small to matter!  Others may laugh , but you will be blessed for your sensitive spirit!

 A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself:

but the simple pass on, and are punished.

Proverb 22:3