Music, As Something We DO ~

I feel sorry for this generation, and for my own. My generation, and perhaps that of my parents, were among the first to regard music as Mere Personal Entertainment. My generation was the first to make music highly mobile and very private. At least my parents had to turn down their small transistor radios, and stuff them under a pillow at night, in order to listen to The Devil's Songs. My generation gave birth to the ancestor of the i-pod - our small, portable cassette players, strapped to an arm or waist, with earphones blasting Journey, Boy George, or (in my case) Joe Jackson.

There was a time when music was what you did. There was no recorded music. You played it or you sung it best you could. It was physical, in the way that only things immediate can be. There was a time when, if you couldn't play an instrument, or sing with any ability, you at least listened actively to others who could play and sing. It was all folk music, then.

Music wasn't remote. In most cases, you'd have known your musicians well. They would be members of your own family or church family, and you'd wait days on end just to hear your friend or collegue play your favorite song. The night of that festive gathering, as you tapped your toe or danced or hummed along, you could watch the very eyes of the ones making the music. You could feel their delight. You knew that the fiddle player was creating such magic after a long, hard, hot day on the farm. Or the lead vocalist had a colicky baby, and you heard from the pianist that she had been up all night with it. Poor woman. No wonder her voice cracks now and then - but no matter. You love to hear her sing! You took the music home with you, in your very bones. Music was soul nourishing, and very much a product of community.

To this day, that is what music is, in Harvest Church. It is completely a product of community, and worship is played and sung by the people we know and love. It is not professional. There is excellence, but professionalism for the sake of stage performance is frowned upon. Keep it real - even when it hurts. Sometimes it does hurt!

Occasionally, at our home, we have what are known as celidhs. (pronounced "Kay-lees"). The word is Gaelic/Scottish, and means "gatherings where there is great food, music, and story telling."

It is not an evening where you have a chain restaurant cater the food, and a hired DJ play the popular tunes and talk to the crowd to "warm them up". That is a soul-less, misshapen facimile of a real party, I don't care if you try to call it a "Wedding Reception" or a "Retirement Party" isn't celebration as God envisions for His people.

We have evenings where we are the entertainment. We whip up a few simple, hearty dishes of food, we tell hilarious stories from our beginnings as a church, and my husband sits down with his Maton guitar, my daughter at the piano, my son with his guitar, and my other daughter with her guitar, and, though my youngest son can sing quite well, he's reached his "I'm Too Cool To Sing" stage, so you won't hear from him for a couple more years.

If you come to my house on one of these evenings, you'll find none of it scripted. Some songs will be begun, but tossed quickly because someone isn't sure how to play it. Other songs will be lingered the presence of God sweetly envelops each person in the living room, or outside on our back deck. We had one of our best celidhs on our front porch, one evening this past year, with a pastor-friend from Virginia. That man, Bo Stewart, sang in his very booming voice, and played the guitar with animated gusto - all our neighbors could hear him, and we didn't give a darn. They were welcome to join the small crowd on the porch.

But no....though invited, they didn't come join us. They preferred to pull one earbud out of their ear, while washing their SUV's and listening to their i-pods, to stare at us for a moment, in shock and awe. Music as something people do?! Do people really just sit down together to sing anymore? Why do that, when everyone can retreat to the isolation of his or her favorite music and earbuds?

I mentioned the book "Delight" by J.B. Priestly on last night's blog. (Among other things. Ahem. Percocet does make one speak in strange tongues...) Here's a snippet from another chapter. He calls any sort of live music-making "chamber music". So wherever you read those words "chamber music", substitute "jam session", and it will make all the sense in the world to you!

"Chamber music (read: "jam sessions") at home are delightful. Not for everybody of course; mere listeners, passive guest-types, may have a hell of a time with it. (Let them go somewhere else, and switch on their automated music). No, this kind of music is delightful for actual performers, and for those who are loitering round the edge of performance, waiting to be asked to join in, and for those women - and a few wise men - who enjoy seeing the persons dear to them happy, let the notes fall where they may. There has always been to me a sort of cozy magic about it. You are at home, all safe and snug, and yet are also wandering in spirit, through lost kingdoms, with the music. Even the best string quartets and trios will not always survive the atmosphere, chilly with determined culture, of those horrible little concert halls given up to chamber music. (read: "professional concerts"). We forget that a lot of music has been written for fun.

What a difference when you bring in firelight, armchairs, tobacco, and a tray of drinks! The execution - as it often is with us - may be sketchy and even downright murderous, but you can catch the mood of the masters, whether they are looking for the Holy Grail, or a pint of wine and a helping of roast goose. You wish you could do it better, but you are delighted to be doing it at all.

But I need not perform myself, nor be in my own home, to know this delight. As I write this, many rooms come flickering back, in Bradford and Cambridge, a Lakeland cottage, a studio in Chelsea; half-forgotten, mysterious apartments abroad; and firelight and candlelight play tenderly among the instruments; and Mozart and Haydn, Brahms and Debussy, move among us again; and within the ring of friendly faces, ghosts these many years, the little worlds of sound shine and revolve like enchanted moons. Why - bless our bewildered souls! - every time a violin is taken up to the attic, or a piano is carted away, and in their place is a gadget that turns music on and off like tap water, we move another step away from sanity and take to snarling harder than ever."

Live music, played and sung by ourselves or those we know and care about, has such persuasive influence. When music becomes entertainment, rather than an active part of our lives, a passive amusement, rather than something we do, we indeed become more petulant and victimized and angry. When we move away from Anything As It Was Created To Be - whether that be sexuality, church-life, or music - we supress our own human-ness, and joy leaks out.

"...we take to snarling harder than ever..."

SING, people! SING, this Christmas time. Don't let Bing Crosby or even James Taylor do it all for you. (Though James Taylor has indeed made my all time favorite Christmas CD!)

Music should also be "DIY"...for fun....for delight. Please, make your very own joyful noise this season.

This and That and The Other Thing...

My Night-stand, At the Moment...

Here I sit, in pajamas, and eyeglasses, alternately listening to A Scottish Christmas (soulful, fantastic CD), popping a pain pill, sipping a chocolate milk shake, and reading Various and Sundry Things. I'm not in near as much pain as yesterday...the hours immediately post surgery are Not To Be Written About. I wish to expunge them from memory.

Just what does a Percocet-befuzzed brain read, on the Day After Surgery? Everything and nothing at all. Things great, and things quotidian. I've chosen to share with you bits from This, bits from That, and the recipe for the best chocolate milkshake in this world - which obviously qualifies as being The Other Thing.

There's the book "Delight" by J.B. Priestly, first published in 1949. He wrote it, chapter by chapter, as a list of the only things in this world that bring him delight. He also wrote it as proof that he was not so melancholy as folks supposed.

From the Preface:

"...I have always held that a fine grumble makes things better. If, for example, a hotel gives me a bad breakfast, I have only to grumble away for a few minutes to feel that some reasonable balance has been restored: the grumble has been subtracted from the badness of the breakfast. If I have not had a good breakfast, at least I have had a good grumble.

Another point for my defence is that I have always looked and sounded much worse than I felt. Often when I am feeling merely annoyed, a little put out, I appear to be blazingly angry or lost in the deepest sulks. The appearance is larger than the reality. I may not have been enjoying myself, but at least I have not been suffering as intensely as the rest of the company imagined."

Chapter Thirty-two:

(I delight in...) "Lying in a hot bath, smoking a pipe. People still say to me, "The way you work!" and behind the modest smirk, I laugh secretly, knowing myself to be one of the laziest and most self indulgent men alive. Long after they have caught the 8:20, opened the morning mail, telephoned to the managing directore of the Company, dictated yet another appeal to the Board of Trade, I am lying in my hot bath, smoking a pipe. I am not even soaping and scrubbing, but simply lying there... a neighboring room, thrown on the floor, are the morning papers, loud with more urgent demands for increased production, clamouring for every man and woman to save the country. And there I am, lost in steam and the fumes of Latkia (a sort of tobacco) and the vaguest of dreams. Just beyond the bolted door, where the temperature drops to nearly freezing, are delicate women, who have already been up for hours, toiling away. Do I care? Not a rap...."

Isn't that hilarious? I was told by a dear friend that, for this brief time of recovery, I should learn how to be a "bystander in my own life" and just rest. I think I have managed to do just that, for all of 24 hours so far. I could do without the pain, but the experience of "letting go" has been lovely, I do admit. I don't think I've been this disengaged, ever. Not even when having children (via C-section, three times). I always came home ready for work, and wanting everything to just be normal again. I have always had intense dislike for the concept of "recuperation". I want to skip it. Takes too long.

I can't claim to have mastered the Art of Zen after a mere 24 hours, but it has been a start...and Priestly's amusing prose has put a smile on my swollen face. Makes me want to smoke something.

Then, there has been this lovely new book "Seeking the Face of God", recommended by Lynne Bruce, of the "Beehive" blog. ( What a jewel. What a treasure. It finally came in the mail, not long ago:

"In a very real sense, then, Christian spirituality talks about what we receive, more than what we achieve. Our potential and activity are entirely dependent on God's prior work in our lives. If we set out to be achievers, rather than receivers, we have not begun to follow God. Achievers call attention to themselves, whereas receivers lead others to appreciate the Giver.

If we insist on being achievers, seeking God so that others may admire our faith, our committment, or our dedication, we become God's competitors..."

So much for those with a competitive spirit. I never could relate to that attitude anyhow. Now I see why. I've always seen myself as a receiver. Who can boast in that?

I've also been perusing a couple of Christmas magazines - my favorite being "Cottages and Bungalows" - full of sumptuous pictures of halls decked with boughs of holly, in the Craftsman Tradition. I love no other home design better than a Craftsman Bungalow. I don't live in one, and might never. But I've always been content to sincerely admire what I don't possess, whether that be a Craftsman home, or some lovely trait of personality, or a half way decent car. (My dream car is either a vintage VW Beetle convertible, or an older-but-pristine black or white Volvo wagon. Psychoanalyze that, why don't you!)

And don't go out and buy one of those, now that you know. I'll know that you're copying me.


Never have been one to want an "image car" - or, worse yet, some expensive red vehicle (won't name a make or model) that screams, "I'm Over Forty, but I Want You to Think I am Still Hot". Or, "I Bought This Because I Can." Gah. Spare me.

I may regret blogging whilst on pain medication.

Last, but not least, my husband's own recipe for His Wife's Favorite Milkshake, as dictated to me by said husband:

a bit of milk
a bit of ice
a lot of Hershey's syrup
a few scoops of Breyer's Vanilla ice cream

...all in the blender.

I will be fat as a house, and won't have eaten a solid bite of anything. Oh well - he has taken the grandest care of me. I hope he still loves me when I am wearing on my hips, all his Convalescent Milkshakes.

So much for both the competitive personality, and surgery helping me to shed a few pounds...


It'll be a few days before I am able to post again, here on my blog. I had to make an unexpected trip to the dentist today - and he scheduled me for immediate oral surgery tomorrow morning. I have a wisdom tooth that is both impacted and somewhat infected. I've been in quite a bit of pain for three days now.

I covet prayers that the surgery will go smoothly, and recovery will be quick and easy. I am an absolute weenie when it comes to things like doesn't bother me in the least to admit to that!

Thank you so much, and I'll "see" you soon!

An Exclusive Preview !

You read it here first! Finally...your exclusive preview of our long overdue Harvest Church Website! Many thanks to Paula Lynch, for her hours upon hours of artistic endeavor. Though still a work in progress, I think our new website is also a work of art. I hope you agree.

Rejoice with me - I'm thrilled at the thought that Harvest Church is joining the 21st century!

And of course, if you are ever in the Knoxville, Tennessee area, do come see us one Sunday. You'll find our worship to be passionate, the atmosphere one of relaxed hospitality, and the preaching of the word is best described as "grace on fire". God so loves to do the impossible, by using the imperfect. At Harvest, we are continually about the business of being imperfectly perfectly His, and doing impossibly possible things.

Harvest is as much a lifestyle as it is a church. You really do have to experience it to know what I am talking about. You are warmly invited...

A Triumph, If I Do Say So Myself...

I have a recipe to share with you…one that is my very own.

Each year, I make several loaves of cranberry orange bread. Each year, I’ve never been quite satisfied with the results…until this year. (In previous years, the bread was always either too dry, or not orangey enough to suit me, or not sweet, or always something that wasn’t quite right.)

I finally tweaked all the various recipes I’ve used over the years, and came up with what is truly the best cranberry orange bread. Um - in my ever so humble opinion.

This one is worth making just for the smell of it, when you are mixing it all together. The freshly grated orange peel, combined with the fresh cranberries (I’d always used dried cranberries until this year) is an intoxicant. The orange peel is the biggest hassle to grate – you have to be careful not to get the white “pith” part, just the surface orange part – but so well worth it. Have fun with this one, and feel free to tweak THIS recipe….make it "yours"....but, if you have not made cranberry orange bread before, I recommend that you make it exactly as follows first…then, make notes as to your opinion of the results, and if it needs something different, you then tweak it to your taste the next time you bake it.

I upped the sugar, upped the salt, changing it to coarse salt, which I vastly prefer. When you use coarse salt, you need more…if you use regular table salt, reduce the amount listed by half, to about ½ a tsp.

I drained and then pureed a can of mandarin oranges instead of the usual plain orange juice, used fresh cranberries rather than dried, and because of that, reduced the amount of cranberries. Fresh cranberries are bitter, and I prefer the bread to be a little more sweet. I also omitted all spices such as clove or nutmeg. That is enough of a “tweak” to make this my own recipe.

Also, I could have said something like "1/4 cup vegetable oil" instead of 5 T. But I just added the oil, by tablespoons, until it all "looked right". The count was 5. So sue me. I went with it.

2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 - 3/4 cup sugar, to taste
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp coarse salt, if desired
4 tsp grated orange peel - this takes about 2 good sized oranges to obtain
1 – 11 oz. can mandarin oranges, drained and pureed in the blender, enough to make ¾ cup orange “juice”
5 T vegetable oil
1 egg
1 heaping cup fresh cranberries, sliced in half or coarsely chopped (I also just stick these in the blender and “chop” them that way…)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)

1. In a large bowl, stir together the flours, the sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

2. In another bowl, whisk together the oil, orange peel, mandarin orange “juice”, and egg. Add this mixture to the flour mixture, stirring the two mixtures just enough to moisten the dry ingredients.

3. Fold in the cranberries and nuts, and pour the batter into a greased 9 X 5 X 3 inch loaf pan, or several mini loaf pans, filling half-way.

4. Bake the bread in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour (about 45 minutes if you're using mini loaf pans). Cool before slicing.

Happy Holler-days

Isn't my man the most handsome? (fanning myself...)

Yours truly, and Pastor Tim, and Rambo-Beenie

I'm not a huge fan of "the holidays". I've been known to call them "holler-days". I've even been known to remark....ah...something along the lines of the "homogeonized, depersonalized, soul-less commercialization of what could otherwise be simple and beautiful."

Something like that.


But I'm not a "bah-humbug" by a long shot. Each and every year, the Lord and I manage to pull off a 'whacking' celebration (I'm told that means "large, big") complete with deep thoughts, tears of joy, and some secret desire of my heart met in spades. This inner celebration happens in my heart, in spite of all the blow -up synthetic Santas in this world, my teeny tiny gift shopping budget, and every wretched "pretty boy band" who has ever destroyed a traditional Christmas carol. In my mind, odds like those just mentioned are darn-near insurmountable, but with God all things are possible. He simply gives the best gifts, not the least of which is a merry heart.

This world needs to see believers who can enjoy every day-ish sort of life. Um, for that matter, believers need to see believers taking delight in living out an ordinary day. Any moron can enjoy the mountaintop, but it takes a soul set free to enjoy a Monday morning...or a Wednesday afternoon, in the rain, wearing pink rubber boots. This past Sunday, during our time of worship, the Lord spoke to me and said, "In this season of your life, I want you to wake up every morning and ask yourself, 'What would I most enjoy doing today?' ~ and Daughter, that is what I want you to do. I, even your God, will yet enlarge your capacity to enjoy ordinary life, because it is what I want everyone to see. Serve me with outlandish gladness, Dear One."

I got the point. It seemed too good to be true. Wake up, and do what brings me joy. Oh, I still teach my youngest son in our home school, even when he makes me want to bite the head off a bat. I still do laundry. But somehow, deep down, I am learning that I am completely free to have fun in the face of every grief, obstacle, messy job, and what might otherwise become mind-numbing routine. God prepares a table for me in the presence of my enemies.

And when I am done eating my fill, my goal is to daintily wipe the corners of my mouth, push my plate away....

...and then get up on that table and dance!

Merry Christmas, ya'll!

Short and To the Point...

"People talk of the pathos and failure of plain women; but it is a more terrible thing that a beautiful woman may succeed in everything but womanhood." ~ G.K. Chesterton