Remembering spring...

Remembering spring...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Somewhere Along the Way

This past weekend, about 140 former members of the Westminster Youth Choir at Oak Cliff Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas, gathered for a reunion.  The director, William C. Everitt, who served as the volunteer director for 37 years, led us through a three hour rehearsal on Saturday afternoon, Sunday morning worship and a Sunday afternoon rehearsal and concert.  At 87 years old, he led (standing for most of the time!) with the same gifts of excellence, love and sparkling sense of humor.  I'd like to know what kind of vitamins this man takes!

The poem below is my humble attempt  to capture the impact that the youth choir had on so many young people for almost four decades.  I am grateful beyond belief for Mr. Everitt and for this formational experience.  I  simply cannot imagine who I would be without my four years as a young alto in this 100 voice choir.  

For Mr. Everitt, with love and a grateful heart...

Somewhere Along the Way

For almost forty years
you led young people
through the wilderness
called being a teenager.
You guided hundreds of us
with patience and love
through those turbulent times
of confusion, 
and exploration,
and raging hormones;
those times of being overwhelmed
by after school jobs,
too much homework,
and broken out faces.
Years when we fought with, 
and questioned,
our parents,
the Establishment
and even, or perhaps especially, God.

For almost four decades
you gave us
the chance to gather
in ways that mattered;
you challenged us to rise up
to meet high expectations
while much of the world
was "dumbing down" its offerings
in an effort to entertain us,
or equating teenagers with trouble.
Instead, you believed in us
and gave us a voice
to share in something bigger than ourselves.

And often we did not even know
that it was happening until later.
Sometimes, much later
for even now, the gifts continue to unfold.

Oh, Mr. Everitt,
you were creatively
and delightfully
in the best sense of the word,
as you introduced us to Handel
and Mozart
and Marshall,
oratorios and anthems
shaped by the Word
and carried on melodies
and harmonies
of the highest quality.

Of course, at first,
we joined the choir
because it would be such fun
to meet with our friends,
all one hundred of us,
(including those of the opposite sex)
even on school nights
for hours at a time,
twice a week,
without fail.

For many of us,
by the time it was our turn to sing,
the Westminster Youth Choir
had grown to legendary size
in numbers and reputation,
and we wouldn't have been
anywhere else on Sunday afternoons
and mid-week evenings.
Our parents,
stunned by our commitment
when we begged to cut short
family weekends at the lake
so that we wouldn't be late for choir practice,
were pleased with
our religious devotion
and newfound spirituality.

But the truth,
at least on the surface,
was that we wanted to be with the boys.
Before rehearsals,
and during breaks,
we girls primped in the bathroom
preparing to make our entrance
to the choir room,
wondering about which basses and tenors
we would see on the risers
in the back of the room.
How we tried to be casual
as we walked in the door
and crossed over to the cubbies
to retrieve our black folders
before settling into our own section,
soprano or alto.

I'm told that the boys
watched just as closely as we entered,
those same boys
who seemed so confident,
so sure of themselves,
sat hoping for a smile from us,
or at least a glance in their direction,
looking for some acknowledgement
of their worth or existence.

Oh, Mr. E,
you gave us a safe place
to explore so much more than music.

And somewhere along the way
after a season, or so,
of rehearsals and radio recordings,
of thanking "Little Ladies"
in four part harmony
for homecooked meals,
of traveling by bus on a Spring trip
or summer tour;

Somewhere along the way
while filing into the choir loft
to help lead worship,
or sitting with friends
in the chancel area
listening week after week
to preaching and prayers,
or standing in blue robes
with straightened white stoles,
all eyes fixed on you
waiting for the lift of your baton
so that we, 
in turn, 
could lift our voices;
somewhere along the way,
something shifted within us and
we were changed forever.

For you led us with your heart
as much as with your hands,
and somewhere along the way
we experienced a Light
both holy and radiant,
as the source of every life.

Somewhere along the way
we felt our eyes fill with tears
and our souls with the Spirit,
as we looked into your face
and sang in hushed tones
of our love for 
an eternal king
we could now claim as our own.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Beginnings and Endings (prompt from Max)

I'm on Day 13 of a 50 day on-line writing course.  Each morning, among other things, we receive a prompt from our coach and encourager, Max.  I'm posting some of my work on Clearing Spaces.  Seemed a good way to keep my commitment and practice the art of blogging at the same time.  They are rough pieces...we're not supposed to write the "perfect piece", just approach the blank page on a daily basis.  

Here's today's offering, 

Beginnings and Endings

Beginnings are birthed from endings,
which seems backwards
but it's the age old "which came first?" question
that bothered us as kids.
As did its cousin
"How far does the universe really go?
And if it stops, what's on the other side?"
Such musings filled our third grade conversations 
as we wondered and wandered
around the playground 
of John W. Carpenter Elementary School,
contemplating eternity.
I smile at the memory.
Never underestimate 
the thoughts of an eight year old child.

Even the creation story
with its "In the beginning..."
reminds us that the earth
was a formless void
filled with darkness,
and God
who was already on the scene
(for there is no beginning or ending to God...
always an exception to the rule)
a wind over the face of the waters
and spoke
the light into being
putting an end to total darkness.
And God called it good.

As I sit at my computer
on this Monday morning in September
watching another night end and a new day begin,
I still wonder and wander,
this time on the playground of a backlit keyboard.
And as I do,
I am ever so grateful 
for the space
to think and question, 
explore and express,
as a child long ago 
and today as an adult.
But even as I write these words,
I am aware that some children
and women
and men
do not have such freedom.

So I pray that God will continue to
over the face of creation
and speak
the Light of love into being within our hearts,
so that the darkness may end once and for all
and that God
and the whole world
will smile 
and call it good.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Broken (writing prompt from Max)

Interesting prompt to find
on this ninth anniversary
of the day our
and hearts
were broken.

On that day
everything shifted.
We turned from
and public places.

I admit I still wince
and hold my breath
when I see an airplane
flying near the city skyline.
Crazy, I know,
but fear is rarely rational.

We grieve the loss 
and horror that will forever
be embedded in our memory.

But even as we grieve
we also trust
that out of brokenness,
as we begin to pick up the pieces
one by one
we find glimpses of grace
and love
and hope.

We remember that
the one who created
(and still creates)
weeps with those who weep.
That the one who created
(and still creates)
can take the worst
that the world has to offer
and shape it into
new possibilities
for tomorrow's dreams
even after yesterday's have been shattered.

Some things remain constant
in this ever changing world
and for that I am grateful.

So, on those days
when we feel broken,
when our core
quakes at the thought
of facing the day,
when we feel lost
and want to cry,
by busy-ness,
or sadness,
or fear;
when we forget to be still
and know that God is God,
let's help one another remember
that the very brokenness we feel
just may be the channel through which God will work,
for the one who created
still creates.
The one who created
scoops up her children
and fills in the wounds
of a broken heart
and broken world,
scarred perhaps,
but strengthened
as we move toward 
healing and wholeness and peace.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Promises Kept

We sat in her office
three friends waiting out the storm
delighted to have this gift
of a morning together;
an unexpected pleasure
in the middle of a week.

Our talk turned to writing,
a passion for two of us.
The third more often
expresses herself
in the visual arts.

"You need a blog",
she said.
I'd heard it before
but fear, 
(of what I'm not sure)
and procrastination...
always procrastination...
kept me at a distance.

the rain blew horizontally
across the parking lot
and lightning flashed
as the storm continued to rage

I felt a storm of a different kind
begin to rise in my stomach
as she persisted
with her words 
so full of 
and laughter
and love.
So we gathered
around her computer
and she led the way.

She said it was easy.
Of course, I believed her.
So I promised
that I'd create one that night,
later, of course,
from my own computer.
is a clever girl.

But when "later" arrived
weariness overcame me
as the shadows darkened 
the corners of our home.
I fell asleep.

But tonight,
just one day off,
here I am,
doing something 
that scares me
as I publish my life 
out there in the world.
I am ever so grateful 
for friendships formed
around a table of prayers
and desires of the heart,
and for promises kept
to myself and dear friends.