Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Musical Gratitude

Talking with my 2 kids about the election today led me to go back and consider just how blessed my life has been and how many people have contributed to helping me get to this place where I realize the extent of my blessings.  In this post, I would like to explore the people who have contributed to my understanding and appreciation for music.

I have to start back in 4th grade when Mr. Hays,  my elementary music teacher at school (it was a new school for me that year), told me I had a good voice and invited me to sing in a 4th grade choir.  It was in his class that I discovered that I did enjoy singing.  That participation led to an invite to be part of a select group called the Christmas Club Singers, where I remember being able to sing on the Cowboy Bob show!  It also led to my first musical, called the Secret Garden.  I can not express my appreciation enough to that wonderful music teacher who discovered a spark that fanned to a life of passion for music that is still with me today.

This love took root as I moved into Junior High.  The high school that year was doing a production of the Music Man and needed a younger student to play Winthrop.  I do not remember how I got to this point, but was actually able to audition and was cast in this show.  I will never forget the overwhelming sense of accomplishment I felt as the curtain closed on opening night.  It was an amazing sense of elation as I realized I had given everything I had that evening and found the joy in that night!  It also led to a relationship with my high school choir director, Peter.  I never had a good relationship with this man, finding that his arrogance might only be outstripped by his ability as a teacher/motivator, but I did learn a lot about the basic foundations of singing and singing well.  Peter also exposed me to something I would grow to admire and endure- the artistic temperament.  Later in life I would meet others who shared this quirky passion for music and I believe my ability to appreciate these gifted people came from my exposure to Peter.  There was very little that I could say that was normal about Peter and his leadership of the choir, but there was much that was extraordinary and my lack of affection for him as a person (which I think was a mutual lack on both our parts) in no way diminished that through this time my love for music only grew.

In college I had a chance to sing in an all male chorus under the direction of Dr. Gilbert while at Wabash College.  Never before had I chance to sing with such a group and I found an appreciation for the many different styles of music to which we were exposed.  It also led to one of the highlight trips of my life as the Glee Club was able to tour through Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii.  I am of a small company of people who can say I sang at the Sydney Opera House (although I will point out that when I say at, I mean on the front steps outside...we did not actually sing inside the building).  It is also the source of one of my biggest regrets in that I did not return for my senior year in college to sing with the Glee Club.

My life as an American Baptist minister has also involved music- from singing in cantatas and musicals to this present day where I am one of the guitarists in our worship team.  I believe that in one case I was called to a church in southern Indiana to work with a great friend of mine who was the music minister at this church.  Our friendship endures to this day, only slightly changed by the distance between us now that we live and work in different communities. 

I also would have to mention the numerous people with whom I have shared the stage with in musical theater in Indianapolis.  My wife and I try to fit shows into our hectic family lives and our work with people such as Bryan, Susie, Buzz, Robyne and with such wonderful directors/leaders as Brian, William, and Kathleen.  These folks have furthered our journey down this road and we are blessed to know them and have them in our life.

Finally I would like to thank the people who are currently a part of our worship team at Crooked Creek Baptist.  Their gifts, and their willingness to use and share them constantly inspire and amaze me.  It is a loving and constant challenge to work with them and I value those times when we can get together and just play for ourselves.  It is with you that God provides some of the best nourishment for my own soul.

Some of the names I mentioned we have lost touch with.  Others we see on an almost daily basis.  But what this does for me is remind me of how God has blessed me with such fantastic people in my life.  I recognize that not everyone responds to music in the same manner that I do.  The fact that I do feel so nurtured in my spirit is a great testimony to the love of God, the Great Artist, and the impact of so many talented and beautiful people in my life.

Today as I walk down through my history with music, I praise God for these influences and hope that some day to pass along the great gift you, and countless other unnamed people, have shared with me.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sandy Relief

The response to the death and destruction caused on the eastern coast following Sandy has been strong and public. Federal and local responders have rushed to aid the survivors of this catastrophe and have made great progress helping to restore order and care for families affected by this storm.

American Baptists are responding to this tragedy as well. Funds from the One Great Hour of Sharing have already been committed to helping relieve some of the worst of this storm. Other organizations such as the Red Cross are also hard at work responding. Individuals interested in helping with relief can now make donations to a number of agencies involved with relief efforts.

Yet it is important for us to to be good stewards even with these donations. Before contributing to such an organization, it would be helpful to check into the organizations background to see how much of what you donate actually makes it to the people you are trying to assist. There are agencies out there that use funds you donate to cover costs of running an office, advertising and publicity, and sometimes even executive salaries. This means that sometimes less than 75% of what you give is actually used for the intended purpose.

Be informed. Ask questions. The One Great Hour of Sharing offering provides an opportunity for 100% of your donations to go toward relief of those affected by the storm. Additionally, American Baptists will not just care for those affected in the northeast, but all of those people affected in Haiti, Cuba, and the Caribbean. These areas feature many living below poverty and the savage nature of this storm can mean the difference between life and death.

Crooked Creek Baptist will be accepting gifts for the One Great Hour of Sharing:  Sandy Relief throughout the month of November.  Gifts can be marked in this manner and will be forwarded to help with both the short term and long term care and recovery of the regions affected by this terrible disaster.  Thanks to you for your prayers and support of our brothers and sisters in their time of need.