little bit of lagniappe

reflecting on everyday grace

Archive for the tag “music”

Breathless Choir

While I confess that I am not an avid or active news-watcher, it’s been impossible to not hear about and be affected by the events that have erupted in our world recently.  Mass shootings. Terrorism. Senseless violence. Innocent lives lost. Millions of souls looking for a place to call home. Seemingly, each day, the news seems to smolder with horror and tragedy – both far and near, and in its wake, it’s hard not to feel fearful or angry; it’s hard to find hope.

Yet, here we are – planted right in the middle of the season of Advent – the seedbed for hope, for new life – the reminder that even in darkness, light does and will shine.

In the midst of these bleak headlines that appear in our news and in the beautiful mess of our own personal lives, I believe there is always reason for hope…for love…for peace. Those are the very forces we must use to fight against the fear, anger, and despair that can so easily paralyze and corrupt us. Those are the strongest forces there are.

Just this week, I happened to stumble mindlessly into an ad (of all things!) that reminded me of the beauty that can come from tragedy and the hope that survives when the sun sets.

The ad featured “The Breathless Choir,” a New York-based group of 18 men and women from the ages of 12 to 92 with severe breathing problems. They were brought together this past September and taught to sing again by an acclaimed British choirmaster named Gareth Malone. Yes, these people, many of whom are on ventilators and breathing machines, have been taught to sing again.

Any further words I could attempt to offer about this inspiring group would pale to what and who they actually are, so all I will venture to say is that their music not only consoles and heals but also it literally breathes hope into this fragile gift of life.

Enjoy this miracle of breath, song, and hope:

and Happy Advent.


Orchestral landfills

I just read about and watched this moving piece about music springing forth from bits and pieces scraped from a landfill in Paraguay.  It’s a must share and a must view.

This is a masterpiece, and I cannot wait to share this beautiful lesson with my students this upcoming year. May it teach us to be more aware of our own daily waste — our treatment of trash. More importantly, may it compel us to be more aware of, as the video states, our treatment of people…ALL people.

God calls us to…

Bring in the “garbage.”

Make use of the neglected.

Pick up the forgotten.

Love the unloved.

Believe the unbelievable.

And dig our hands deeply into grace.


Midsummer Musings…with a new set of strings…

Disclaimer:  I am SO very grateful to be a teacher (or as my papa says, an “educator”) and to be entering my twelfth year this August (whoa, Bessie, pull them reigns!).  The school year is both demanding and exhausting, and yet, it feeds me each day through the relationships I enjoy and through the day-to-day happenings that can be so unbelievably exciting, humbling, and soul-filling.  Furthermore, there is real beauty and purpose in pausing at the end of each school year to reflect, rest, recharge, and prepare to return again, hopefully with fresh eyes and a renewed spirit (for both teachers and students!).  And, so while I am deeply thankful for the school year, I am increasingly grateful for sweet summer time…this summer space, this summer pace.

(yes, I’ve clearly gotten over the “empty classroom syndrome” and those lonely birds I wrote about back in May.)

Today is July 1st.  Really?  How did you arrive so fast, friend?  Well, while I confess that I may not be initially tickled pink to welcome in this new month already, I feel the need to give thanks for what has come and gone and how it has helped shape today.  Man, over the first month of this glorious summer, I have learned a LOT.  As the first summer in eleven years of teaching that I have not taught, coached, or tutored, I have learned a lot about letting go and about welcoming in (sorry for ending with a preposition; it’s summer mode, folks; forgive me!).  So far, it has been a summer of HEALING, and that healing has come in the form of quite literal healing in twice-a-week physical therapy, but also in cultivating friendships, enjoying family time, embracing music in a fuller dimension, exploring new parts of the ATL, writing poetry, devouring books, giving myself permission to rest, and taking risks to, again, let go and welcome in.

First, the letting go.

It has been difficult to let go of  what I’ve been used to for so long; how easily we get sucked in and often addicted to our routines.  For example, it’s been an adjustment to let go of doing anything related to teaching, tutoring, or coaching this summer, AND let go of the guilt that initially accompanied this reality.  What will people think?  Am I letting others down…my students, their parents, myself?  Bah…

I have also let go of confining schedules and demanding routines that used to own me throughout the year and even into the summer, never allowing me to fully rest. Granted, these were my own choices to run, swim, bike, and work out obsessively every morning, but now that my body cannot do what it used to, I am grateful to God for renewing who I am beyond those strivings — beyond those identities I had constructed for so long and from which I still panted, obviously still thirsty…

So, this past week, I took a deep breath, and I let go and sold my bike, my beloved “Bluebird.”  I am so thankful for the past 6 and a half years with her and for the commuting rides we shared to school for 3 of those years, but it is time to move on and to realize that physically, I’m in a place where I cannot do that anymore.  It ain’t easy to say that out loud, nor to act on it, but it’s necessary.

Letting go…

and then welcoming in…

and so, I’ve traded my handbars for pirouettes along the fret board —  a flutter of fingers over a steel-stringed shore — a reconnection with my love affair with music and a dusty guitar I’ve had since I was 13.

While I’ve been able to play a few tunes here and there over these past twenty years and do know basic chords, having learned from my musically-gifted papa and friends along the way at camp and in high school, I’ve never officially taken lessons.  And so, on June 4th, I had my first lesson, and I have since looked forward to every 30-minute session per week.  My teacher is patient, kind, funny, and unbelievably talented, and our musical tastes harmonize beautifully, as we introduce each other to new tunes and artists each week.  While I’ve only had four lessons at this point, I cannot even begin to express all that I have learned, both song-wise and music-wise, but even in ways beyond my beloved 6-stringed guitar (by the way, “Debbie” is her name, for she is a Gibson (Epiphone) guitar, and for those of you who grew up in or knew the 80s, you know what I’m talkin’ ’bout).

Each session uncovers more and more about vulnerability, the hunger for challenge, and the importance of practice, and along the way, I’ve learned quite a bit about myself.  Indeed, this teacher has become a student again, and in an area in which I’ve lacked confidence, especially when my calluses have gone away and the guitar sits lonely and waiting in the corner, and I think to myself that I just can’t play like I used to…

Hmmm, I wonder how many of my students have felt this or feel this.  How important is it for me to put myself in their shoes and take on a new challenge — one that demands practice, respect, perseverance, and humility?

It is vital.

It is vital to remember what it’s like to mess up and fail AND to do so in front of somebody, and have to start over again and practice more.

It is vital to feel passion towards something creative AND to be able share it with others (I have shared more “sing-a-longs” with friends and family in the past month than I have in the past 15 years!).

What’s beautiful, too, is that while this guitar playing is absolutely vital for my soul, it is also assisting my physical healing; in fact my physical therapist considers it a boost to the healing process in my left elbow and arm.  Who knew that what I always put aside for athletic pursuits would pull me back home and help me feel whole again?  Who knew that a debilitating injury would actually give birth to this rekindled love in my life?  Thank you, God; You knew.

And so, on this 1st of July, I look back in appreciation and thanksgiving for the healing that has taken place and for the light that emerges from the dark, and I anticipate a song-filled road ahead. Will you sing with me?

p.s. any requests or ideas for songs to learn?

The Piano Guys

A few weeks into sweet, sultry “summah time,” I am grateful to say that the lonely birds have nested elsewhere, and I’ve found the summer stride — thanks be to God!  Peace reigns.  In fact, I stumbled into this video yesterday while cleaning out email (amazing how our digital mail builds after only a 5-day vacation!), and it ushers and celebrates such peace and joy in my heart.  It’s a piano/cello cover of Phillip Phillips’ “Home,” and while I normally love to savor song lyrics (“just know you’re not alone,” coos Phillips in the chorus), there’s something here about the simple, moving conversation between cello and piano that is transforming. Often, words are not needed, or perhaps the music alone transcends them?

Click below to enjoy a little love from The Piano Guys.  Turn it up and close your eyes.  Maybe you’ll find “home,” wherever you are.

What do you think?

Music has always been a central part of my life, but recently its chords have been plucked (he he he) with more power and meaning.  And passion. And vulnerability.

More on that in another post…

A week of grace…

I wish you continued thanksgiving blessings, friends…may we cultivate an attitude of gratitude each and every day and not just save it for “special occasions”; EVERY DAY is a special occasion!

As I mentioned in my previous post, this past week has been one of tremendous challenge, but also of amazing grace.  Indeed, it’s often through the challenges that we see the deepest hue of grace.  So, thanks be to God for every challenge — every moment of adversity or pain.  May it draw us closer and closer to our Maker.

Here are a few of the simple, grace-filled joys of this past week.  Maybe these moments, mundane and real, can help you, too, look back and see God’s grace in the little, the big, the trivial, and the significant — nothing is too big or too little for God.

1.  Surprising Papa at Trader Joe’s last Sunday, completely out of the blue!  I cannot tell you the joy it is to see his face when he first sees me and/or mama — that look and gasp of shock that instantly melts into that warm “Poppy” smile.  I also love to watch him like a fly on the wall (or a banana in a grocery sack?!) as he treats his customers with love, appreciation, acknowledgement, and respect. It’s no wonder they all adore him – our beloved “P Funk”!

2.  An unexpected, nearly 7-hour visit to the ER on Monday night/Tuesday morning for this silly, re-infected elbow of mine.  While certainly scary, it brought far more blessings — bonding with new friends and gaining perspective with every ticking minute and with every opening of the automatic entry doors to Piedmont’s ER.  My loving mama never left my side, and all night/morning, friends and family were praying and sending messages of love.  That’s grace.

3.  Learning to ask for help with the use of only one good arm (man, this is tough — but essential — and SO very humbling!)

4.  Turning 33 years old — and being astonished by having lived this many years.  Thank you, Lord, for another day of waking up and of loving.

5.  Birthday messages (and a massage!), blessings, cards, and visits.  I am overwhelmed with gratitude and thanksgiving for the love that has punctuated every day of  my life and for all those I’m blessed enough to call family and friends — near and far — from childhood through my “adult” life (will I EVER really grow up?!).  I LOVE YOU.

6.  Mama washing my hair in the kitchen sink on Thanksgiving day.  She is God’s angel on earth — in every possible way.  I could feel the love pouring from those kind, gnarled hands that were made to serve and made to love.  My mama’s touch is like a lullaby.

7.  Clean hair (after a number of days)…isn’t it amazing that if your hair is clean, you magically feel new and sparkling all over (or maybe it’s just me)?!  Who needs to shower anyway?

8.  Reading Mary Oliver’s newest book of poetry A Thousand Mornings on Thanksgiving Day.  Her imagery and words leave me gasping for breath…

9.  Finally sleeping through the night.  Hmmm, the gift of sleep and good rest — may we not take this healing gift for granted.

10.  BOOMING Amy Grant’s The Collection for the first time since the 80s and 90s…and, oh, baby, there’s nothing like dancing (as best you can) and singing out loud in the presence of NO ONE but God!

11.  Learning and feeling how inter-connected our body is; may we savor the gift we have in MOVEMENT – reaching, extending, lifting, pulling, scratching, pushing, leaning, hugging, etc…!

12.  Red beans and rice, steamed shrimp, and veggies for Thanksgiving Day — our vegetarian feast!  Thank you, mama and papa, for being so amenable to your daughter’s funky dietary restrictions — yet freedoms!

13.  Sweet treats in the form of coconut milk ice cream and raw apple pie from R. Thomas.  Oh.  Sweet. Lord.  Thank you.

14.  Reading in the basking sunlight and enjoying 70 degree temperatures (even for a little bit!) during an Atlanta November…

hmm hmm hmm!

15.  Watching an intricate wound heal, day by day, and waiting in the process…

a perfect prelude to ADVENT, as we wait for the coming of our Savior!



Joyful Hymn of Praise

I woke up this beautiful new morning feeling unbelievably thankful.  It’s been an interesting week of unexpected challenges and glorious grace.  God’s love shines in the darkness.

While I want to go into much further detail about the above, my heart is too full for words right now.  Instead, I’ll cut and paste a favorite hymn that was sung at the Cathedral on Sunday, where mama and I shared in a glorious Thanksgiving service with a medley of different congregations around Atlanta.  The combined choirs echoed like throngs of God’s angels, and if you close your eyes, maybe you can hear them, too, as you read and meditate on these simple, powerful words…

For the beauty of the earth,

For the beauty of the skies,

For the love which from our birth

Over and around us lies:

Lord of all, to Thee we raise

This our joyful hymn of praise.


For the beauty of each hour

Of the day and of the night,

Hill and vale and tree and flower,

Sun and moon and stars of light:

Lord of all , to Thee we raise

This our joyful hymn of praise.


For the joy of human love,

Brother, sister, parent, child,

Friends on earth, and friends above,

For all gentle thoughts and mild:

Lord of all, to Thee we raise

This our joyful hymn of praise.


For each perfect gift of thine

To our race so freely given,

Graces human and divine,

Flowers of earth and buds of heaven:

Lord of all, to Thee we raise

This our joyful hymn of praise.


-words by Folliot Sandford Pierpoint (1835-1917)

-music by John Rutter (b. 1945)

A joyful, grace-filled, and purposeful  Thanksgiving to you and yours.  May we offer thanks with our lips and with our lives!

*Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I found this glorious version of this hymn on youtube…LISTEN


Please watch this:

Happy People Dancing on Planet Earth

What did you notice?

What struck you?

Last week, my sweet daddy sent me this video featuring a fascinating fellow named Matt Harding and his “Dancing around the world”  (I think after his 3 weeks at Trader Joe’s, this is also a mirror of my papa’s rejuvenated, jubilant spirit!).  The joy in this video is infectious and contagious (did you see the faces?  the body language?  the freedom?) and it reminds me that in the midst of the chaos, the busyness, the pain, the uncertainty, and the noisy exhaust fumes of this world, there is ALWAYS a deeper layer of beauty to seek and find; there is ALWAYS something for which to be thankful.

My prayer today is that we as a human race may dance together — wherever we are — and lose consciousness in the abundant and full reality of GRACE.

DANCE friends, DANCE, for the Lord of the dance has overcome the world!

John 16:33

When was the last time you played an air guitar?

“A child playing air guitar plays no wrong notes.”

I love this quote, which comes from a book called The Music Lesson by Grammy-award winning bassist Victor Wooten.  My dear friend Pam gave to me recently, and I am still deep in it, digesting and savoring its little bits of wisdom page by page…

Today, may we play our own air guitars like a wild child…

no fear, no worry

just faith and freedom.

Belting it out for our America…and this gift of life

We have SO much for which to give abundant thanks…every single day.  On this day after our Independence Day, I am in a very reflective mood, and while Pandora’s classical music station fills my room and heart space, I feel the need to write down this thanksgiving list on this here glorious 5th of July.

I am thankful for…

1.  Family.  No matter the tangles, thorns, the hurdles and challenges, they are my life’s heart beat.  My mama and pops have sacrificed so much for me and loved me unconditionally.  I love them with all that I am.

2.  My faith in God.  I’m not sure where I’d be right now without faith.  God gives me hope in the midst of storms and reminds me that light always emerges from darkness and that Love endures forever.

3. This silly infected elbow of mine.  While it’s been an uncertain, frustrating, and often painful journey over these many months — and still continues, I am learning more and more about the power of trust, perseverance, prayer, friendship, true healing, patience, and rest; grace is EVERYWHERE.  “Consider it ALL joy, my brothers and sisters…” -James 1:2

4.  Perspective.  Often when I feel like throwing myself a pity party, the power of perspective takes hold and shakes me out like laundry that needs to dry.  I am so very blessed:  I know love, I can laugh until it hurts and cry cleansing tears, I have my faith that gets me over all hurdles, I have an incredibly close family, I have magnificent and beautiful friends, I love being a teacher (with the summer O-F-F!), I have a sweet home and mode of transportation in “Miss Vicky,”  I have health, and even when that’s murky, it’s better than the reality for a whole lot of folks.

5. Books and the author’s minds who have so miraculously written them.  I have been digesting some amazing books this summer:

Last Child in the Wood by Richard Louv, Animal Farm by George Orwell, I Am One of You Forever by Fred Chappell, The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay

Next on the docket:  Hinds’ Feet in High Places, The Kite Runner (I know, I know…I can’t believe I haven’t read it yet either!), Born to Run, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

6.  Quiet.  As it says in Ecclesiastes, there is a time for everything, and a season for every purpose under heaven” (3:3).  And so there’s a time for movement (dancing!), for music, for laughter, for chatter, for all that wonderment, but there is also precious time for quiet, solitude, and rest, and goodness gracious, the summer has afforded some delicious doses of this natural remedy and gift.

7.  Music.  (oh, the irony…see above)  I ADORE music – both listening to and playing it, and I’ve been thankful to recommit myself to playing my guitar each day and to swallowing my pride and trying to dust off the old keyboard to remember some little ditties.  Scott Joplin, do you remember me?  Recent melodies/artists I’ve been turning up ALL THE WAY: Bonnie Raitt, Bach’s Brandenburg concertos, Joe Cocker, Van Morrison, and Peyt’s wedding mix.  🙂

8.  Whole Foods.  These are what God gave us to fuel, nourish, and heal our bodies.  I really cannot imagine putting anything else into my body, nor do I want to!  Yesterday’s 4th of July feast consisted of grilled peppers, onions, and zucchini alongside steamed shrimp and black bean salad…hmmmm…Lord, have mercy!

9.  Having a pen pal.  My dear friend Mary and I write to each other every day, and while it’s not in the old-fashioned letter form that I so adore (we live in the same city!), it’s still real and special and genuine.  While our writing is cherished, I am looking forward to visiting her again soon in person!

10.  Early mornings.  I adore getting up early, and yes, even in the summertime…  snuggling and burying myself in the covers…listening to the birds chirping…watching sweet rays of sunlight…tasting that first sip of coffee…journaling and reading to the symphony of quiet…and realizing how blessed we are to have another day.

11.  Postcards.  Ah, the unexpected treasure!  I just received a postcard from my dear friends Erin and Brent during their travels in Rome (with quite the attractive local gent on the front!).  Something so small can mean the entire world.  Hmmm, I think I’ll send somebody an ATL postcard…just ’cause…

12.  Our America.  Our Freedom.  I, for one, take this so for granted.  God Bless our United States and for all those fighting to keep us free.  May it not take a holiday for us to remember…

From Nathan Angelo’s heart to mine and yours, listen to this:  America, the Beautiful

O Sacred Head, Sore Wounded

Today is Good Friday, and in me stirs this old, magnificent, powerful hymn, whose lyrics speak to what today means:  the horrific reality of Jesus’s suffering and death on the cross that offers and enables the hope for eternal life to come…the one that comes to us in Easter’s empty tomb.

Thanks be to God for the grace of God.

O sacred head, sore wounded,
 defiled and put to scorn;
 O kingly head surrounded
 with mocking crown of thorn:
 What sorrow mars thy grandeur?
 Can death thy bloom deflower?
 O countenance whose splendor
 the hosts of heaven adore!

 Thy beauty, long-desirèd,
 hath vanished from our sight;
 thy power is all expirèd,
 and quenched the light of light.
 Ah me! for whom thou diest,
 hide not so far thy grace:
 show me, O Love most highest,
 the brightness of thy face.

 I pray thee, Jesus, own me,
 me, Shepherd good, for thine;
 who to thy fold hast won me,
 and fed with truth divine.
 Me guilty, me refuse not,
 incline thy face to me,
 this comfort that I lose not,
 on earth to comfort thee.

 In thy most bitter passion
 my heart to share doth cry,
 with thee for my salvation
 upon the cross to die.
 Ah, keep my heart thus moved
 to stand thy cross beneath,
 to mourn thee, well-beloved,
 yet thank thee for thy death.

 My days are few, O fail not,
 with thine immortal power,
 to hold me that I quail not
 in death's most fearful hour;
 that I may fight befriended,
 and see in my last strife
 to me thine arms extended
upon the cross of life.

Words: Robert Bridges, 1899
Music: Passion Chorale (Herzlich thut mich verlangen), St. Christopher
Lyrics found on the following website:

My favorite stanza was actually not included in this version, but here it is from the 1982 Hymnal of the Episcopal Church:

What language shall I borrow?

to thank thee, dearest friend,

for this thy dying sorrow,

thy pity without end?

Oh, make me thine forever!

and should I fainting be,

Lord, let me never, never,

outlive my love for thee.

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