Month: July 2016

The bridge: “out of my hands”

Jessica_Claus

This is part 2 of my “Christmas in July” post on Robie Lester’s song, “My World is Beginning Today.” If you missed part 1, read it here.

The bridge of the song has a very light, “retro feel” trumpet score underlying. Listen again here for that. Ah, so nice! It brings to mind songs by B.J. Thomas from the same era. And the flute is great, too.

SCiCtT song lyrics trippy flowers

Things happening that are “out of my hands” – we need this!

In the bridge lyrics there is a neon-yellow, flashing, impossible-to-miss parallel to the movement of God we need and long to see in our confused and violent day. Things beginning to happen that are “out of my hands” and “without any plans” (that I made) is a monumental reminder of what the power of the Holy Spirit is, and of how the life of faith is lived.

Note, please: I am energized by the reminders I get from this song, but it is what God’s word says that guides what we believe about our prayers and His work. Some of what the Bible declares about God’s response to our prayers can be found here.

“When God’s people pray”

I dream of a grassroots, spontaneous outbreak of prayer like none of us have ever witnessed. Don’t you agree these many mass shootings are already starting to spark that? Lines in a pair of songs by Life Action Singers* help me to visualize what many of us long to see happen in and around us: “Businesses stopping so thousands can pray; all through the nation it’s just the same way” and “nothing moves the Father like His children on their knees.” Put those habitual relaxation activities aside long enough to walk into a different room of the house, bow your head, and ask God to move in a way that all of us can’t help talking about as enthusiastically as about football recruitment or the lives of famous people.

When? Well, pull up your device’s Reminders or Calendar and set it up. Thursday night? Saturday morning? There is a window for this in your week, I promise. You can find it. Oh, happy place that I assure you you want to be found: not continuing to shove Jesus aside in order to spend ALL AVAILABLE FREE TIME enjoying idols and working toward temporary dreams.

Since joining my church’s intercessory prayer team and committing to a once-a-week vigil over published prayer requests, I find my appetite for prayer obeisance whetted. Private, exposed-heart prayer and unashamed “where two or three are gathered” prayer. It’s nothing more than pride, complacency, and disobedience that stops you and me from going to a Christian coworker or family member or neighbor and requesting a few minutes of prayer together.

I promised to include comments on pretending to be God (in a good way), but that’s next time. It’s another subject and I’m out of space.

*Workaday World and When God’s People Pray, tracks on CD “Send the Fire Again”

The voice: Robie Lester

It all started when I flopped into bed very early on Friday evening. These days, I do my best to sleep unapologetically when sleep is ready to happen – though this can get tricky during a long sermon – and to get up when I feel awake. So, after a solid seven hours on Friday night, I got up at 2 a.m. and went upstairs to sew. The antique Singer handed down from my mother’s aunt, Zona, strategically faces our last remaining non-flat-screen TV, which is connected to our last remaining VCR. By 9 a.m. on Saturday, a new dress was virtually finished and I’d watched the four videotapes represented below.

VHS montage
That Darn Cat, The Glass Slipper, The Farmer’s Daughter, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town


“Christmas in July” again
And now we have the “Christmas in July” tie-in. I love a lot of things about the 1970 production by Rankin Bass, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town: the voices of Mickey Rooney and Fred Astaire, the first names of the Kringle toymakers (Bingle, Dingle, Zingle, Wingle…), and Keenan Wynn, one of my favorite character actors. But, my go-to scene is the music video sequence aptly called “trippy” by one Youtube user. “My World is Beginning Today” is sung by Miss Jessica, the schoolteacher of Sombertown. Robie Lester, who voiced the character, is also credited with writing this song.

A little background on Robie Lester and my envy of beautiful singing voices. In one of the seven original poems I successfully “snuck” into my collection of 366 prayers in Pause: Everyday Prayers for Everyday Women (Revell, 2004), I suggest that “Superwoman” is a soprano soloist while I am merely “an adequate alto in the choir’s second row.” I am so wistful in the presence of a beautiful singing voice like Lester’s. Go to iTunes store and preview the songs that come up with her name. She did a voice in Disney’s The Aristocats and the catchy Siamese cat song in Lady and the Tramp.

I’m not taking space here to provide the lyrics to the song in question, but I invite you to view them here and to listen to the song, complete with “trippy” video, here.

New love; new attitude. The attitude you and I need every morning before our feet hit the floor, “my world is beginning today,” may not be prompted by a newfound love like Jessica’s for Kris Kringle in the fanciful video tale that proposes to “explain” American Christmas traditions.* Even if being in love is a strong energizer currently, a lifelong sense of newness each morning can’t be based on one’s significant other, no matter how wonderful that person is. It just can’t. It must be based on something more permanent.

What relevant insights from this song just now?

For starters, “my” world (as opposed to “the” world) reminds us everyone’s world is different. Life may be wonderful and beautiful to some, terrible to others. To the same person, it may seem scary one day and carefree the next. What each person’s world is like depends on varying circumstances and a few basic truths.

Next, there’s an obvious parallel between spiritual transformation and the song’s message about seeing life with new eyes. 2 Corinthians 5:17 declares, “Old things have passed away; look, all things have become new.” Miss Jessica sings about having walked a certain path for a long time and having never seen “the things I see today.” This is a great exercise to attempt deliberately instead of waiting for a brand new viewpoint to take you by surprise. (You may be waiting a long time for that.) Try closing your eyes and then opening them, pretending you’re seeing your house or your desk or a very familiar person for the first time – as if you’d just awakened from a coma or snapped out of amnesia. My house has clutter I’ve gone “blind” to. I need to see that clutter with fresh, critical eyes so I will be more appalled by it. What do these new eyes see that needs to go? What that needs to stay and be used more and showcased better?

My world is beginning today is a call to action. This is the day the Lord has made. See a place or a person you’re around every day with eyes moved by the heart God wants within you – the heart that’s unselfish, compassionate, shrewd, wise, and… holy. That will give rise to a new attitude that will be so much healthier for you – let alone how it will benefit others!

Little cares, little worries disappearing – don’t we wish?

What a great line in the song, about “the little cares” disappearing with yesterday! If you don’t need a reminder to let the “little” worries go, then congrats. You seem to have 9 toes inside heaven’s gate. The rest of us need reminding that Jesus lovingly told us the Father’s tender care is meant to free us from fearing and fretting about insignificant things. I love on-the-mark lyrics; a very few words aptly assembled: “all the little cares…have disappeared with yesterday.” I wish I’d written that!

And don’t miss the word “picked,” as in the image of bending to pick flowers. The writer seems to suggest that we have the option of walking past worries or of actively stooping to pluck them up and carry them with us. If not a worry “picked” like a flower, then a worry “picked,” as in chosen, by us. Either way, we lose by taking hold of a worry with our own hands. A clever point made in one good word.

Next up, in the conclusion of this post:

  • Things happening that are “out of our hands”
  • Shoving Jesus aside
  • Pretending to be God (in a good way)

 

*Traditions like hanging stockings above the fireplace to be filled with toys. That one is a real “stretch” – and I hope you get that pun if you remember how the cartoon stockings looked when filled, stretched very obviously over the shapes of wooden trains, tops, and such. It’s just silly that the inspectors and the mean, old “Burgermeister Meisterburger” of Sombertown didn’t see that the stockings were hiding illegal toys!

 

Christmas in July: stellar “Secret Santa” thank-you note

I never saw a more thoughtful handwritten note.

And I had no idea that my “main” gift at the end of Secret Santa week would be, as he called it in the note, his first “tie” tie. I see now that that was a big deal for a seventeen-year-old boy. A rite of passage. In fact, my memory of the whole experience is so vague now. His probably is, too. So, you see, it’s terribly fortunate, and so important, that he wrote that note in 1977 and that I have kept it until 2016.

1977_note_excerpt
December 27, 1977 NHS band Secret Santa thank-you note

This high school classmate wrote that he was impressed by my thoughtfulness and effort as a Secret Santa. Thirty-nine years later, I am focused on his thoughtfulness and effort in having given me this permanent record of his feelings and experience. I apologize right now to anyone offended by the implication that this level of maturity is unexpected from a seventeen-year-old, then or now. It shouldn’t be unexpected. It should be standard practice for normal, literate, well-brought-up people, no matter their age or “life stage.” Subtext: People aren’t too busy to write thank-you notes. They’re just too lazy. And saying “people no longer expect it” is absolutely not an excuse.

How much can a handwritten note mean? A lot! Yes, it’s manners and it’s protocol. It can be politics. But, set all that baggage aside for a moment and remember that the note your gift-giver deserves from you means appreciation. It means you don’t take lightly the time that person spent to make or to select your gift. It means you understand that he or she did eye-straining, mind-bending or back-breaking work in a suffocating cubicle or in a dusty factory to earn the money spent. Gift recipients: Please “get this” and write those notes. 

Why do letters and other artifacts seem to acquire more value over time? Why are antiques more special than last week’s factory output? Here’s why: History. Preservation. Heritage. Heirloom. Family legacy. Items made with personal artisanship – or written with one’s own fingers on actual paper – often grow to mean more later because, as time has passed, we have changed. We feel different things. We understand life and other people better. We’ve forgotten what other stuff was pressing on us at the time we received the note or the item. We treasure things that last because we see so much that does not last. Possessions. Lands. Lives. Relationships.

I’ve told my children (and here I’m reminding them) that we have a file folder upstairs labeled Thank-you Notes Received. When it comes time for you to oversee the writing of eulogies for myself and your father, this is a place I want you to look. What others remember of us (and take the trouble to record) is our legacy.

So…

Write them. With thoughtfulness. Read them. Keep them. Read thank-you notes again when you are older and when some details in that correspondence have taken on new meaning in light of what has happened in the world. These pieces of paper are what the historyphiles call “primary sources.”

Psalm 50:14 reads, “Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High.” To be honest, I was looking for a very simple “be thankful” verse, but I found in this one a great reminder that, just as when we sin we do so foremost against Godwhen we express our thanks to someone for a gift, we are also acknowledging the Giver of all good gifts!

 

Closing with a little red and green for Christmas in July…

Postscript 1
I am grateful for my friend’s permission to publish this article. He was a leader, scholar, friend, and band Captain back then. Now, in roles that include physician, husband, and father, he continues to serve as Christ’s ambassador. In May of this year I met a younger woman who went to our high school and turned out to be a mutual acquaintance. My friend once served as her youth camp counselor at church. #smallworld

Postscript 2
To the person(s) who decided “we need a little Christmas” in the middle of the year: Thank you. (Even if it is primarily about ratings for your feel-good TV movies and about reversing downward trends in retail sales.) I’m down with #ChristmasInJuly and I even have my hot chocolate, sweaters, and mittens in use! (Well…maybe not mittens.) #coldnatured #airconditioningisamixedblessing