Candy blogs: The day has finally come … the day that marks the 10 year anniversary of 9-11. Like any bittersweet anniversary, we anticipate yet dread the day. I was at work like any other day on 9-11. Someone in the office heard the first news reports and we all trickled into the conference room to watch the coverage. We looked nervously at each other at first, wondering if it was going to be all right to be watching television, away from our work. As we began to hear that there were four planes, it began to dawn on us that this was a TERRORIST attack … on American soil. It felt like it had happened right in our neighborhood. It was a gut-wrenching and nauseating day.
We will never forget: Times of impact: 8:46 a.m. and 9:02 a.m. Time the burning towers stood: 56 minutes and 102 minutes. Time they took to fall: 12 seconds. 2819 dead from 115 different nations. 343 Fireman/paramedics, 23 NYPD, 37 Port Authority officers. Our hearts are broken, but our flag is still there. God bless America–the land of the free and the home of the brave. (from a post on Facebook)
The “bitter” is obvious. This attack on America wrought by hatred of all we stand for put a gaping hole in our collective hearts. And yet it is “sweet” to remember the precious souls who perished, represented by the numbers above that are all too familiar to us, and the way we became a huge, instant “community” again. We don’t like to let these deep emotions come to the surface. It hurts. But we can’t honor the souls or the event without remembering. So let’s go there.
Shock … that others could succeed with such a bold invasion of the USA. We all lived as though the USA was inpenetrable. Who would dare attack America? What?! Didn’t they know we are the most powerful nation in the world? Others don’t invade America. We don’t have wars in America.
Fear … of the realization that the huge, safe bubble around us had been suddenly and cruelly burst wide open. Our one last security had been taken from us. We might have been insecure about our appearance or our job or our abilities or our business or our parenting or the facade we put on for others but, by God, we were still Americans. Americans ruled the earth. With this one cowardly act, we were suddenly aware of our nakedness.
Grief … the senselessness, the stabbing pain, the betrayal, the confusion over how others could hate America so, the powerlessness, the sadness, the deep sense of loss.
Anger … toward those who would violate us and hatefully murder innocents. Anger that this was the thanks we got for all the good America has and does around the world. Anger for the invasion into our everyday freedoms that we used to enjoy at our nation’s airports and transportation centers and access to public buildings and public figures. Anger at ourselves that we had been caught so unaware.
Resolve … to correct the apathy and blissful ignorance that had allowed such a tragedy to happen in our country. To set the world right once again. To stand together as one to show the world that they can’t mess with America.
But there was also great tenderness at Ground Zero. Impeccable respect for the souls represented by each lifeless body that was brought out. Unashamed hugs, meaningful eye contact, incredible sacrifice and selflessness. There was a renewed sense of community and patriotism all over America. Flags flying everywhere.
I was changed … we started flying a flag at our house. I now always greet, shake hands and thank soldiers in uniform when I see them. I hesitate to travel if we have to fly because of the security and the stress of wondering if we followed all the requirements. I am more aware of the importance of independence and freedoms and consciously live my life to express that. The crazies don’t seem so crazy anymore. I think more about being prepared for disasters.
How is your life different?
As our Pastor Darrel Wiseman said this morning, our hope is in Almighty God alone. Everything about this world is subject to decay and will eventually return to dust. And as the worship team sang, our God is everlasting and unchanging and He is the only One who stays. In His holy presence, we are undone.
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-3
Everything we tend to put our hope in is temporary … our happiness, our family, our job, our possessions, our 401(k), our church, our government, our earth. Only God remains. He IS hope.
No matter what lies behind or ahead, our hope is in God alone. Joy springs from hope.
Guest blog post: I was so taken by my pastor’s message on the 4th of July Sunday that I asked him to share his thoughts, especially about joy, on this blog. I am honored that he said yes! I have loved having Pastor Darrel as my pastor for the last five and a half years. He is the real thing. I’m sure you’ll be as inspired by his words as I was. Here is Pastor Darrel Wiseman.
In 1776, 50 men signed a document written by Thomas Jefferson. Here is just one sentence from its text: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” That statement is found in what is known as the Declaration of Independence signed on July 4, 1776. And freedom has been the battle cry of this country since that day.
But unfortunately today, many in our country have a much different idea than did our founding fathers as to what this freedom is. Many in our society today are clueless as to what real freedom is. Most think that freedom is license to do whatever they want – whenever they want – no matter what anybody else thinks.
Yet the founding of this nation was based on three fundamental pursuits – life, liberty and happiness. Without these three values our country becomes just like any other people bound by an oppressive government which does not take kindly to freedom of expression. Go to any of those countries and ask them what they’re willing to pay for freedom. Most will say, “Everything.” I think we can all agree that freedom is never free.
31 Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 36 So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. John 8:31, 32, 36
Verse 36, “If the Son sets you free, you are truly free,” implies that there is a ‘true’ freedom that can be experienced in real or self-imposed prison cells anywhere in this world. The Bible illustrates this truth several times. Paul and Silas found freedom “IN” their prison experience. Shadrack, Meshak, and Abednigo found freedom “IN” the fire of a furnace. Daniel found freedom “IN” the lion’s den. God didn’t take them out of these physical prisons.
In that light, let’s look at TRUE life, TRUE liberty and TRUE happiness.
Jesus says in John 10:10 that “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” Most people would say that real life is found in pleasure, leisure and the niceties of wealth and riches. I see so many pursuing those things. But what do they see us Christ-followers pursuing as they look at our lives? Do our lives look different than theirs? While there is nothing wrong with pleasure, leisure, wealth or riches, our prayer should be that the underlying values they see us pursuing reflect Jesus: THE Way, THE Truth, THE Life. Others should be able to see our pursuit of Jesus being lived out in our life. That’s really how I want to live.
In the last one third of my life, I have learned that those things truly worth pursuing are less about what I want … what my plans are, what makes me the most comfortable, and more about what Jesus’ purposes and plans are for me … which people to help and encourage, how best to spend my time and money and energy.
Webster’s definition is appropriate here: “Having the freedom to choose, especially between ways of acting or living.” We all want to pursue liberty. Liberty is more than a statue that stands in the harbor welcoming those from afar with her burning torch. It is more than being able to climb up the ladder of prosperity. It is more than being able to choose your own spouse. It is more than being able to choose where you eat lunch today; Coke or Pepsi?
True liberty is the root of all hope. The possibility of liberty causes the prisoner to dream of tomorrow. Look at what Jesus says in Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for He has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free.” We are surrounded with people who are poor in Spirit and in bondage to their choice of prisons. They can’t even see it. True liberty is found in Jesus. He helps us make the right choices.
Happiness can come and go; it can be so temporary. Joy is the better pursuit. Abbot Coumba Marmion said, “Joy is the echo of God’s life in us.” Yet, as a pastor, I hear all the time, in justification of crazy choices, “I just wanted to be happy!” Most of the time, my only question to them is, “How‘s that workin’ for ya?” Choices that are less than God’s best for us are the ones that so quickly turn from ‘happiness’ to despair and loneliness. When we choose to live far away from God, or pursue happiness for happiness sake, it usually leads to disappointment. Cutting corners with our honesty and integrity seems to be a quick route to happiness – getting what we want, when we want it. But I could tell you story after story that would convince you it’s not worth it.
Jesus gives joy. This joy isn’t based on temporary circumstances but on the reality of God’s life IN us. Real joy comes from being the right person, for the right reasons, in spite of all the other choices.
Isn’t it amazing that the introductory song to Jesus’ arrival on planet Earth was “JOY TO THE WORLD, THE LORD IS COME! LET EARTH RECEIVE HER KING!” This was the song he chose to be sung to the earth at His coming! He was saying to us, “I am here! There is reason for joy!”
Only in Jesus, will we find true life, true liberty and true happiness.
You are loved!
Pastor Darrel Wiseman
Boise First Community Church
a Church of the Nazarene
Candy blogs: Today I take a personal point of privilege. I’ve been browsing through time, reflecting on times past, remembering young love and beautiful music. I spent the last weekend of June, 2011 at, of all places, a high school choir reunion. This was not the usual class reunion where you come with high expectations and leave disappointed. As it turned out, my expectations of this event couldn’t even touch the beautiful reality we experienced.
When I first entered the choir room after 35 years, it took my breath away. I had to stop and just look around the old, familiar room. I had spent most of my high school years in that room. I had met the love of my life there. Under the excellent and caring direction of our beloved director, Glenn Patton, I had worked hard, learned life skills and lessons like: never be late, always have good posture, listen to those around you, do what you said you would do, don’t let the team down, work hard, don’t settle for less than your best, you can do more than you think you can, take care of your instrument and, most importantly … sing and play for the utter joy of it. We traveled on buses and planes and competed in festivals and bonded with friends.
We had all felt a sense of belonging, of community, of having created something meaningful together. It all came rushing back.
A committee had been formed, a website and Facebook page were created, our music had been mailed to us. Several “Rust Removal Rehearsals”, as Mr. Patton so aptly dubbed them, were held from April through June in two different cities, each directed by our very spry 85 year old director, Mr. Patton. On the choir website, a technically talented choir “kid”, Mike McCornack, himself now a high school choir director, posted recordings of each individual part plus the piano accompaniment for each song. We had the capability of rehearsing by ourselves from our laptops! For those who weren’t able to attend any of the rust removal rehearsals, this was a God-send.
After a coffee and mingling and “which class are you?” time, we all settled into our chairs in the choir room at the very first reunion rehearsal; the anticipation was literally bursting out of us. The first song we sang together was our high school and choir favorite, “The Old Irish Blessing”. (We were the Sheldon High Irish!) The tears began to flow at the first familiar notes of the introduction and Mr. Patton’s skilled hands brought us all in, all together for the first time. Choir kids had come from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Utah, Wisconsin, Iowa, Texas and the Carolinas to experience this moment. The song begins gently and builds with stunning harmonies, only to end gently again praying that God would hold us in the palm of His hand. The thought came to me during that song that God had indeed held me in the palm of His hand through all these years and I had come full circle.
“I wasn’t prepared for the grand sound of our now-mature voices, gathering once again in that familiar space! WOW, those first few bars put a look on both of your faces that I’ll never, ever forget. Heaven on Earth, for sure. How could the tears not begin to flow?
Max Lucado once said that tears are the silent witnesses to life’s deepest emotional moments. So true. Our tears were a mixture of startling awe, humble pride, pure childlike joy, and honest thanksgiving for the truly once-in-a-life privilege to be present, and to participate in such a magical event. I know we’ll all treasure the sweet memories for the rest of our days.” choir kid, Kathie Saunders
The power of harmony and music and joy only grew with each rehearsal session. All the reasons we had come together were a joyful reality.
We gathered for lunches in smaller groups more centered around friends in closer classes in old, familiar gathering spots.
We talked of the past and caught up on each other’s families and careers. We shared and laughed and cried and hugged and took pictures.
We also made new friends. We found out we had brothers and sisters from other classes in Sheldon choirs. But there were no classes at this reunion. We were all choir kids there. We had different individual memories but we all shared the same heart and love for Mr. Patton and our musical experience. Cliques and popularity and drama were no longer an issue. This reunion was even healing somehow of some of those old youthful wounds. We liked each other even better now.
One choir kid, Mark Agerter, said it this way: “Amazing, incredible, inspiring, surreal, great music, great audience, old friends, new friends, spiritual, emotional, once-in-a-lifetime. You can write down all the descriptions you want, but they all fall short of what this weekend felt like and what the concert truly meant to all of us. No class reunion has been like this.”
Dinner & Open Mic
We enjoyed a catered dinner on that Friday evening in the cafeteria. The dinner conversation all around the room was giddy and delightful. An open mic show followed, with anyone who wanted to performing for everyone. There was everything from folk music to opera to oldies to rock to stand up comedy. It wasn’t about being perfect; it was about enjoying hearing each other perform again. The Pattons and their family had a front row table, enjoying all the accolades and tributes in many genres of music.
It wouldn’t surprise many of you at all to know that on Saturday morning I presented Mr. & Mrs. Patton with a keepsake photo album of Mr. Patton’s musical career. I had been working on it for several months. He had given me all his pictures and memorabilia and I had read and sorted and arranged everything into a meaningful photo album showcasing and documenting his life of music. It was important to me that the story of the impact of his life on his students and his fellow man was told and preserved for the next generations of his family. It was my labor of love for this great man. It was a powerful few moments in the choir room as I spoke of his life and his music and his greatness. I shall never forget it. Later, after he’d had a chance to look at it, he asked me if I had gotten information from sources other than himself for the album. I told him all the information had come from what he gave me. He had forgotten much of his early life. All the more reason for his story to be told.
The days passed too quickly and the concert was upon us before we knew it. We waited excitedly in the very hot choir room for the clock to click 6:00 p.m. We filed in as we always had, but this time to a packed auditorium and welcoming applause. The concert began with a powerful rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner”. This was why we had come. The sweat trickled down our necks and backs under the hot performance lights but our smiles never dimmed. The ten musical numbers went far faster than we wanted them to and too quickly it was over.
Why did this choir reunion, encompassing all classes of choirs, have such an impact on all of us? Even a week later we are all still basking in the glow of the experience. The FB chatter and email are buzzing. None of us wants it to be over. As Mr. Patton said in a television story of our reunion, “Music has been my life, and I think that this is an example of what music can do for people. It can still draw them together and we hope to create some beauty here this weekend.”
Music’s gift is that it can mysteriously touch places in our souls where nothing else can reach. Whatever your story, whatever your opinion, whatever your circumstance, there is a melody to express the inexpressible. Music is a quality of beauty, and beauty forces one to stop and take notice of the moment.
Beauty is powerful. Beauty speaks. Beauty invites. Beauty nourishes. Beauty comforts. Beauty inspires. The heart begins to quiet and peace begins to come. There is room for your soul; it expands. You can breathe again; you can rest. It is good. All is well. That’s what beauty says: all will be well.
– adapted from Captivating by John & Staci Eldredge
Is it any wonder then that this musical reunion captivated our souls? We always want beauty to linger because we love how it makes us feel. It takes us out of the mundane and into the glorious.
A reunion is a reuniting of segments that have previously been together. How fitting.
Thank you for indulging me in my personal point of privilege.
Friendship, music and beauty to you, my friends. May the wind be always at your back.
Candy blogs: I am grateful for time to ponder. I don’t really HAVE the time but I MAKE the time. It helps me live more intentionally. I’ve been pondering another Easter season. Time to make graham cracker cake for ‘the kids’ … time to sing some of my favorite Easter songs … time to wear my new Easter outfit … time to celebrate spring. A happy yes, to all of these. But like other holy days, the holiness of Easter seems to have been made into just another holiday. I wanted to ponder the holiness part and not get too caught up in the holiday part.
One of my favorite Easter hymns is Christ Arose. As a child I loved the change in tempo and dynamics of this song. I still do. It tells both sides of the story … the dark, bloody, violent, gory side and the triumphant, radiant, joyful, miraculous side.
Low in the grave He lay, Jesus my Savior
Vainly they watch His bed, Jesus my Savior
Vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord
Another song comes to mind. As a teenager I used to sing it as a special.
JUST TO THINK OF THE CROSS
Long ago in a far away place
Rough rugged timbers were raised to the sky
There hung a man suspended in space
And though He was blameless
They left Him to die
Just to think of the cross
Moves me now
The nails in His hands
His bleeding brow
To think of the cross
Moves me now
It should have been me, it should have been me
Instead I am free, I am free!
… and another song Scott and I used to sing at Easter
And the hammer fell, on a wooden nail
Through his flesh into the tree and they laughed at him
As he cried for them
And there he hung, the faultless one
And didn’t he live, oh, didn’t he
But didn’t he die, for you and me
Death cannot keep its Prey, Jesus my Savior;
He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!
Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes,
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever, with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!
Just to think of the Cross …
He put an end to my guilt and despair
Turned bitter hating to sweet peace and love
Even the men that put Him up there
Were offered forgiveness and life from above
It should have been me, it should have been me
Instead I am free, I am free!
Didn’t He …
Bugler, blow your horn! Now the curtain’s torn
And the battle’s won, I know
The victory’s come
Drummer, drum your drum
Now doesn’t he live, oh, doesn’t he
Now doesn’t he give, oh, doesn’t he
But didn’t he die … for you and me?
I encourage you to ponder this holy season, this holy week, this holy day. I encourage you to DO something to celebrate this holiest of days, even if your friends or family balk and roll their eyes and seemingly only tolerate your meaningful intentions. Perhaps you’re the one to be God’s mouthpiece to share what has come out of your pondering.
He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!
JOY! MY FAVORITE!
Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.
God’s word, the Bible, is where God’s statutes are contained. Being familiar with it is the most important way we can know who God is … the source of our joy. Biblical joy is rooted in eternity. Biblical joy isn’t based on what is happening around us or to us. We experience happiness when things go well. Joy comes over time. It comes after learning that God can be trusted through unchartered waters and firey trials. When you’re standing on the mountain top after a long climb, you can look down and see how God guided and protected and provided down in the valley and on the upward climb. When you can see that God can be trusted because you are stronger and more spiritually confident after the difficult journey, you’ll begin to experience joy not just on the other side of the lesson, but during the lesson. In this way, joy can always abide in us.
Joy comes as we see the results of living without being driven by fear. You can’t experience joy and fear at the same time.
Fear-driven people …
* are self-focused (I am afraid; I am unhappy; I need to be in control)
* allow pain to steal their joy
* reach out for happiness that is temporary
* fight God’s plan and purposes (I don’t want to; I won’t; it doesn’t feel good)
Joyful people …
* are outward and God focused
* allow joy to soothe their pain
* have abiding peace
* understand that God always has our good in mind in His dealings with us
Joy is more than being positive, more than a lift of the heart, more than a bubbly personality. As Christians, our joy can only be realized when we allow Christ to reign in us, alone and uninterruptedly. Joy draws people in. It brightens. It encourages. It softens. It presents a stark contrast to fear. As Beth Moore says, it cometh.
“There are souls in this world which have the gift of finding joy everywhere and of leaving it behind when they go.” ~ Frederick Faber
That’s why I always say …