Monday, December 14, 2009

Learning More About the Power of Prayer

Prayer is something one can always learn more about.

Recently, my parents went to visit an elderly couple from our church who are now in an assisted living facility. One summer day several years ago, we had this couple over for dinner (in part of an unfinished campaign to entertain all of our church family). Other than the fact that we were eating outdoors under a tree (with a table and chairs, of course), there was one specific thing I remember--the gentleman's blessing of the food. He prayed like he knew God, and I could tell he spent a lot of time on his knees. He spent around five minutes blessing our food and addressing the various needs of our families, church, area and nation. It made an impression on me. I've always aspired to pray like that--it seems to be a taste of the way Jesus prayed--intimately knowing the Father, and never uncomfortable or rushed. Their visit reminded me of his prayer, and exhorted me again to a higher level of prayer.

I have been very nervous about this past weekend for some time. Saturday morning was our first practice of the Christmas Pageant I wrote, followed closely by a piano recital with my new teacher (Mr. Cook). Then on Sunday, the Choir (which I'm leading) was performing the hardest piece of the season. In the evening, I directed the Instrumental Ensemble (playing my music) and instead of directing the choir like I usually do (Mom stepped in, thankfully), I played the piano (our regular pianist was at a concert at the Wharton Center).

If you knew me the way God knows me, you would know that when I get nervous, I start praying (like I should have been doing before I started the whole project). Any number of things could have gone wrong. However, after almost everybody arrived on Saturday morning, and we started reading through the script, I could feel God's hand on the production. We have three narrators who have the first two pages of reading. As they were reading through the scriptures and my responses, it was awe inspiring.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the word was God...
The Word of the Lord came against the serpent...
The Word of the Lord came to Noah...
The Word of the Lord came to Abram...
The Word of the Lord came to David...
The Word of the Lord came to Isaiah...
The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us..."

The reader's voices were exactly what I had envisioned, and did a beautiful job on their first time reading together. Another highlight was the choreographed falling of the shepherds around a mic. The light (the glory of the lord) flipped on and they fell like dominoes (not into each other, though!).

I admit, I was pretty enthused as we rushed home, right up until I started practicing for the recital (which was in less than an hour). My music was still fairly rough, and I knew it. Nervousness started setting in for the second time that day. But, that didn't stop the rush to the recital. I was the last to play, so I got to sit through stunning performances by three of Mr. Cook's other students. Even as Noah was playing soothingly, my heart was pumping faster and faster. Now, I've performed in front of people before--a lot. This was a new kind of music for me, and a crowd I mostly didn't know (and some people I knew and wanted to make a good impression on, like the Mayor of Charlotte), but that shouldn't have been a big deal for me. Praise the Lord that it was, though. Did I mention I had to give a speech (albeit short) about what I was going to play? Anyway, Noah couldn't play forever. Then it was my turn. I gave it all to God, and I reiterated my Key Word Outline more conversationally than I had done before, and played my pieces better than I've ever played them. Did you know that Jesus is a spectacular pianist?

Today, the choir performed their most difficult piece of the season. We started practice a little early, and nailed the hardest spot the first time. Did I mention I was nervous about this? During the performance later in the service, one of the sopranos and I (Mrs. Carrie) were cracking up at each other, which in turn kept a smile on most of choir's faces. (Choirs sing better in tune when they're all smiling, it emphasizes the words, and certainly makes the carols sound funner). We sang it the best we've ever done. The guys even (mostly) sang their part on 'Joy to the World'! Did I mention I pray when I'm nervous?

Then this afternoon, (I was coming off my praise/adrenalin high), we were looking for a light to help do a scene in the Christmas Pageant and couldn't find it. The scene is a silhouette--the first of three nativity scenes. I went out to the work bench, and when I couldn't find the desired lamp, I reevaluated my objectives. Did I want to do the scene because it'd be really cool, or because it would bring people closer to God? Once I got my priorities right I prayed, looked up, and there was the light hiding on the peg board.

It reminded me of the time (another prayer that really made an impression on me) when Mr. Butler (conductor of HSMA's symphonic band) prayed a simple request over a broken CD player, and within the second it started working.

On the radio this morning, the meteorologist was calling for freezing rain before and during my last Instrumental Ensemble practice. I got up and was reading in Mark where Jesus calms the wind and the waves--so I asked that he would calm the freezing rain. Within the minute, Mom came to tell me that the computer (including a verifiable radar map) said that the freezing rain had already passed earlier in the morning.

I think God's trying to tell me something. My guess is He either wants me to be nervous more often, or to do more praying when I'm experiencing other emotions.

Thank you, Father, for caring enough about me to teach me. Give me grace to learn from your lessons. But most of all, thank you for caring enough about me to send your Son to earth--that the communication lines with heaven could be open.

May God bless all of you as you prepare for this Christmas season.

In Christ,


Friday, December 11, 2009

November Already. Make That December Already.

To the dear and faithful readers who still peruse this blog on occasion, here's some of the recent (Editor: or not so recent) happenings at our place.

Matthew has a new (Editor: or not so new) truck! It's a dark green 1996 Ford F150 North Woods limited edition (#364 of 2500) in excellent shape. Therefore, he was able to return the old, rusty, beat up (not that any of those things are necessarily bad in a farm vehicle) brown truck to the W. family. The new truck's primary purpose will be transporting Matthew to Alpena and back (for linesman training next year--have we told you about that?), and accordingly gets better gas mileage than the brown truck. (Editor: he's got a post started about his journey to North Woods #364--knowing us, it might get published some time in the next decade)

Contrary to the assumed weather (from the last post), the weather has been quite balmy so far this season (yesterday it pushed 70!) (Editor: or at least it was...), though the sun hasn't been as prominent as we would like. Farmers here are just finishing soy bean harvest (usually done a month ago), and Matthew has planted garlic for next year.

Speaking of planting, I should mention that Matthew has secured (rented) the ~1.5 acre plot across the road for his garden and chickens next year, so we aught to be able to grow a fair amount of produce.

Have we told you that Matthew now has a part time (paying) job (Editor: we just asked you that question on the last post)? Actually, the farm he's working on is less than a half mile from our house, but since the road doesn't go through at this mile, he has to travel about 3 mi. to get there. Not bad, considering how far he travels to get to the W. family farm. He's actually working with another sheep farmer, and has learned how to shear.

In my news, I'm pretty much in charge of Christmas music at church this year. So, I have organized an instrumental ensemble (13 pieces, including pretty much every possible skill level [while we don't have a real professional musician, we've got some pro-sumer's :-) ]), and written the music for it. I called my arrangement of Angels We Have Heard on High, While Shepherds Watch Their Flocks By Night and We Three Kings with Joy to the World and the Hallelujah Chorus (the latter two as motifs): 'Joyful Visitors Cry, "Hallelujah!"' Also, I'm writing a piece for our kid's choir (Do you hear what I hear, the Birthday of a King & Go Tell It On The Mountain) which I'm calling 'Have You Heard It's The Birthday Of A King?' On top of that, I'm directing our Christmas choir and (apparently) chairing a committee of 3 who are organizing our Christmas play. This on top of two piano recitals, our Homeschool band concert, and all my regular work.

That was as far as I got in November (it was approximately the 15th). Life intervened, and now it's December 9th--deep in the heart of Christmas season. And the weather finally looks like it!

I actually ended up getting the piece for kid's choir done too late to perform this year, so it's being postponed. To make up for it, however, I had to write the Christmas Pageant script, which I finished on Sunday. Our first practice is on Saturday (the 13th), then we practice next Saturday (the 19th) and perform in the morning (the 2oth).

Here's the choir arrangement for your enjoyment:

My first piano recital was canceled--it was supposed to be at the local Medical Care Facility, but due to the H1N1 pantophobia no one under 18 was allowed into the building (which includes all mom's student's but me). The second recital (with my new teacher) is scheduled for this Saturday at 1:00. That gives me about an hour to switch gears from Christmas Pageant director to pianist.

Our Instrumental Ensemble is coming along quite well, and we definitely make a joyful noise unto the Lord! Conducting is more of a challenge than I had anticipated (Mr. Butler [who conducts the homeschool band] makes it look so easy!), but I'm getting better. We will be performing on the 20th (same day as the Christmas Pageant), which means we only have one more practice.

This video is of the computer playing the arrangement. I expect the live version to sound much more realistic and also much worse. :-)

The Choir performed their first piece last Sunday, and did very well. We had a really good turnout of guys this year, and even though most of them aren't very good musicians (in their own words), they make us sound a lot better. The hardest piece of the season is scheduled for this week (the 13th), so we should be home free at our practice on Sunday night. On the 27th, we'll be leading congregational singing for the entire service. On the 20th (the same day as the Instrumental Ensemble and the Christmas Pageant), we'll be performing a medley of angel carols (Angels From The Realms of Glory, Angels We Have Heard on High, and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing), and leading the congregation in a new song that we want them to learn. The other congregational carols are all interspersed between things that I'll be directing, so I'm just going to direct that music, too.

Winter preparations are in full swing on the home front, as well. This afternoon, we're canning some carrots. Matthew has yet to bag a deer, but he only recently discovered that his sights were off about 2 feet at 100 yards. After re-sighting the gun, getting a deer shouldn't be a problem. We've moved the old, dead red Chevy out of the garage (and cleaned that side of the garage, which was a 5-day, ~15 man hour project) so we can move the second van inside. Across the road, we have ~10 cords of wood stacked, ready to be incrementally moved into the basement. While that's not enough to keep us supplied all winter, there's plenty more where it came from.

We returned home from cutting wood under a sterling blue sky (Editor: this paragraph was written on Nov. 14 after the said wood cutting)--around 4:30 the clouds began to roll in, like gold capped chariots leading an solid front of blue warriors. The energy source of life split into pastel rays passing through the atmosphere, and moved behind the clouds to light another day elsewhere. Heedlessly, the work in the field progressed. After the sun's full retreat, when only the light of the headlights from the trucks and skid-steer illumined our labors, we estimated that the stake truck bore a solid 9 cords of split wood into the barn. Additionally, many piles of unsplit wood destined for other wood burners remained in the pasture. The genial farmer (from whom we were getting the wood) and his family finished the day with us by indulging in chili and warm conversation--then it was to home. A good day. A productive day. A day of hard work. And we will appreciate our stockpile in the cold of winter (if it comes [Please Lord!!!], maybe with snow?), when a warm fire in the furnace will warm our weary bodies and sooth our battered souls. Then, we will praise the Lord and his provision.

About a week ago, Mom took really sick. It was an unusual bug, because it only immobilized her with crippling dizziness and mild nausea. Nothing major unless you had planned to do anything during the 5 day duration of the sickness. However, during her incarceration she watched a cooking show that inspired her to make a large meal tonight (Editor: 'tonight' being today, December 9). The meat is a bottom round roast, seared in a cast iron pan and slow roasted in a elevated rack to seal in the natural juices. This is accompanied with mashed potatoes, carrots, raisin brown bread, and a strained broth gravy cooked with mushrooms and vegetables. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

I have big plans for January, in the way of entrepreneurship. My piano teacher (who happened to be a vice president for Family Christian Bookstores for 30 years) and his business partner (who happens to be the current mayor of Charlotte, MI) have offered to help me get a business plan, figure out financial strategy, etc., pro bono! However, I'm waiting till January because of everything I'd already committed to for the Christmas season.

(Editor: time passes, 'today' becomes December 10)(Editor: and more time passes while I'm still working, and it becomes December 11)

Of course, other things are happening, too. Both at home, at work, and at play. And, as usual, we have opinions on many, many topics of which we have only scraped the surface of here on the blog. But, I think that's most of the major things that are happening here (none of us are running for office, yet). And, since (Editor: at the time of writing) you haven't even heard the things I've enumerated above, I'm going to wrap up this post.

Thank you for your patient endurance.

"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee." - Isaiah 26:3 [KJV]

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
In him was life, and that life was the light of men.
The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
(John 1:1-5)

God blessed male and female, and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."
(Gen 1:28, 2:17)
But at the prompting of the Serpent (Satan), Adam and Eve ate of the tree from which the Lord had commanded them not to eat. And the world was cursed.

The word of the LORD came against the Serpent:
"I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."
(Gen 3:15)
God promised redemption.

The word of the LORD came to Noah:
" I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. But I will establish my covenant with you."
(Gen 6:13,18)
The flood waters came, but Noah and his family were safe in the ark.

The word of the LORD came to Abram:
"Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
(Gen 12:1,3)
God established his covenant with Israel through Abraham.

The word of the LORD came to David:
"When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish His kingdom. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.' "
(2 Samuel 7:12,16)
The Messiah would come from the line of David, a king after God's own heart.

The word of the LORD came to Isaiah:
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulders: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end,
He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
(Isaiah 9:6-7a [KJV], 7b [NIV])
" The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him-- the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD--and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
(Isaiah 11:2,3 [KJV])

The word of the LORD came to Noah:
The word of the LORD came to Abram:
The word of the LORD came to David:
The word of the LORD came to Isaiah:
"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."
(John 1:14)

[And Christ Jesus], being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
(Phil 2:6,7)
He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--
(John 1:11-13)
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2:6-11)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
(John 3:16 [KJV], 17-19 [NIV])

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
(Isaiah 9:2)

(Editor: the beginning and end of my Christmas Pageant, verses from NIV unless noted)

And now for some quick housekeeping:
As a rule, I don't participate in various pyramid information notes (as in tagged questionnaires, etc.). I was recently tagged in one such post---while I'm not going to participate, I will, however, return the referral: Man of Courage.

While I'm recommending blogs, checkout John Moore's online abode: Life, by John. He doesn't post much anymore (must have more important things to do, like Life [along with being the director of an nationally acclaimed independent film {The Widow's Might}, and trying to produce a follow-up]!). However, some of his recent archives are well worth reading.

Speaking of bloggers who post sporadically, I would like to suggest that the easiest way to keep up with PotterVilla Academy is to use an RSS reader: just look for the link about 1/4th of the way down the sidebar. I would recommend the Google Reader, as it's the only one I've had experience with. Or, you can use Blogger's built-in "follow" functionality.

We have recently started being spammed! (that means that something found us on the search engines!) In the interest of not having to spend more time deleting comments than we spend writing posts, I have disabled "do follow" (Editor: that was enabled a while back to encourage commenting). So posting a comment will no longer get you an SEO hit from our blog. However, we still like hearing back from the thoughtful people who appreciate our work (or even anybody who reads our work!). The comment section is still down there for discussion and response, and moderation is still disabled.

In Christ, Fidem Servate, Ad maiorem e Solem Dei gloriam,