Be the light, be the change

Kitty Williams, Director of Music Ministries

My mind is about to explode with frustration of not knowing what to do!

As I watch the news and hear about situations within our own community, I’m helpless to remedy the problems.

So what am I to do? Where is the love?

Originally, I was planning to post the video of the character Oliver singing the song Where is Love? from “Oliver! The Musical.” 

But I came across this 2009 video of Where is the Love? by The Black Eyed Peas, which better expresses my feelings.

(I hope you have time to listen.) 

Sometimes the world situation seems like a big, tangled mess. However, there is hope.

Anyone who has successfully untangled ropes, hair or jewelry knows that you start on the edges and then you can work your way through the tangle to get things right.

Here is a positive “re-tweet” of what I plan to do. I invite you to do the same. 

Postscript: It’s time for Running 4 Clean Water

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Forever thankful

Give thanks to the Lord, our God and King, his love endures forever. 

This is the opening lyric of Michael W. Smith’s Forever, one of our ‘go to’ songs back when I sang with the praise band at St. Nicholas Episcopal in Flower Mound.

I sang the lead. The Michael W. Smith part. Not that I was ever mistaken for him, but that didn’t matter.

The band loved it. The congregation loved it. It’s upbeat. It has lots of energy. We sang it with passion. And the message – from Psalm 118 and 1 Chronicles 16:34 – is wonderful.

I’m reminded of this as I give thanks for the many blessings I enjoy. 

I’m thankful for another year of health and happiness. 

I’m thankful for my family. Especially for Marcy, my wife of 36 years.

And for my 85-years young mother Eudella, who with any luck will bless us with her world’s-best banana pudding when she visits this Christmas. 

I’m thankful for my church family at First United Methodist Garland. 

I’m thankful to be in ministry with Senior Pastor Valarie Englert and a dedicated, professional, passionate and spirit-filled church staff. 

And I’m especially thankful for a vocation that allows me to provide for my family while serving God’s kingdom. 

I’m thankful to live in a country where I’m free to worship as the Spirit moves me. To disagree with my friends and neighbors and still love them. And be loved by them.

I’m thankful for those working tirelessly on behalf of the less fortunate. In our city. In our country. On our borders. And around the world.

Most of all, I’m thankful for a God who loves me for who I am. And in spite of my faults.

Thankfully yours … 

Of memories and psalteries

I will sing a new song unto thee, O God: upon a psaltery and an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee. Psalm 144:9 (KJV) 

It’s been old home week for me of late. Old home weeks, actually.

It began on a somber note. A bittersweet weekend with aunts, cousins and old friends at my dear Aunt Gerry’s funeral July 27 in Pittsburg, Kansas.

A much happier occasion followed. Off I flew to Chiefland, Florida for a few day’s vacation and my mother’s 85th birthday celebration on August 21. 

Last weekend, it was a much shorter trip. An hour’s drive north to Denison to see my brother Chris, his wife Linda and their new home.

Yesterday I had lunch with a few old friends I haven’t seen in years – co-workers from my 22 years with Nortel Networks.

On Wednesday, my cousin Steve and I met for lunch. And for the hand-off of a gift for my wife Marcy – a psaltery. 

At various times Marcy has played the guitar, the dulcimer, the French horn and the recorder. She even jumped in on a washtub bass one Christmas Eve at First United Methodist Garland. Her real gift is playing and teaching the piano.

And now the psaltery – or psaltry (also a correct spelling) – has been added. 

A psaltery is “an ancient and medieval musical instrument like a dulcimer but played by plucking the strings with the fingers or a plectrum (pick).” (lexico.com/en/definition/psaltery

The psaltery is mentioned 17 times in various translations of the Bible, understandably in reference to playing and singing praises to God. (By the way, our pew Bibles – the New Revised Standard Version or NRSV – do not reference the psaltery, but rather the lyre.) 

The psaltery is, of course, related to the word “psalter,” which refers to the Book of Psalms, or “a copy of the Psalms, especially for liturgical use.” (lexico.com/en/definition/psalter)

Those of you who attend our 8:30 Service of Morning Prayer and Communion on Sunday mornings are familiar with the psalters we sing and recite each week from The United Methodist Hymnal

Tomorrow morning’s service is particularly Psalm-heavy (Psalter 756, Psalm 25:1-10; Psalm 121 and Psalm 139:1-18) as Senior Pastor Valarie Englert closes our “Holy Rhythms” worship series with “Night.”

I find this particularly comforting.

In times of sadness as well as times of joy and fond memories, I often turn to music to lift or capture my spirits. What better way to do so than praising our Lord and Savior with the psalters and the psalms.

I don’t yet know what Marcy will choose to play on her psaltery. But whether it be psalters, classical music or classical rock, I’ll enjoy it. They’ll all be reminders of God’s blessings and God’s grace. 



Holy rhythms

Kitty Williams, Director of Music Ministries

As your ministry staff, we discussed “Holy Rhythms,” the theme for our next worship series as we move from a wonderfully unstructured summer into the routine of the new school year.

We contemplated how each season has its time and purpose. How both structured and unstructured times are important. How all times are holy.

Ecclesiastes 3 comes to mind. 

Everything Has Its Time

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

A time for war, and a time for peace …

In July, a group from our Chancel Choir went to France to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Invasion of Normandy.

In L’église de la Madeleine, we sang a memorial concert with other choirs from the United States.

More than 800 people came to hear the concert. Over and over we heard, “The people of France are thankful to the allied forces.”

Although I learned about D-Day in a classroom, the magnitude of the consequences of this day did not sink in until our visit.

Our tour guide Andreas told us he would not be here if it weren’t for the commitment of those soldiers. 

In Normandy, we visited the American Cemetery, Point du Hoc and Omaha Beach, where on D-Day, June 6, 1944 about 6,000 American servicemen died.

(And that figure does not include all the allied forces that were lost.)

While on Omaha Beach, I imagined the blood stained surf and beach.

I imagined how I would feel if I were the mother of one of those soldiers who fought that day, which was the beginning of a movement that would reclaim Europe and restore it to a more justified and peaceful existence.

Our moods were somber. We were on sacred ground.

However, on this day in July 2019, the sky was blue, the air was cool and the water was almost turquoise. This time, the day and the place were beautiful. 

As we walked the beach, it finally happened!

Our young traveling companion couldn’t contain herself! Margaret Noll literally frolicked on the beach, running and kicking up water.

I reminisce about that day with Caroline Noll, Margaret’s mother and our Pastor for Children and Families. Wouldn’t that be what the soldiers desired – someone playing on that beach? 

At the cemetery, there is a bronze statue called Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves. When I watched Margaret, I thought, “How fitting – the title of that statue.”

I’m thankful for parents like Patrick and Caroline, who teach their children the importance of the past and the joy of the present day. 

As this season begins, let this daily prayer remind you that each action and moment are of holy worth: 

Christ beside me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, King of my heart:
Christ within me, Christ below me
Christ above me never to part.

Christ on my right hand, Christ on my left hand,
Christ all around me, shield in my strife;

Christ in my sleeping, Christ in my sitting,
Christ in my rising light of my life.

The better part

I don’t read as much as I should.

Not sure why that is. I read a lot as a kid. Won a prize in second grade for reading 100 books.

I used to inhale science fiction voraciously. Robert Heinlein. Isaac Asimov. Arthur C. Clarke.

Ray Bradbury. Fahrenheit 451. The Illustrated Man.

But I no longer read as much as I should.

Not sure why that is, but I have a few theories.

For one, I grew up in an age where color TV was just past the novelty stage. I loved it! And I spent much of my discretionary time in front of the TV rather than reading.

Which leads to another theory.

I’m something of an impatient person. (Cue the eye roll!) Hence I often prefer a two-hour movie to reading the book.

I’ve also come to realize as I get older that sitting or laying still and reading a book often puts me to sleep. Probably some sort of disorder I should get checked out.

Of course, I read the sports page.

And I have a stack of books at home purchased with every intention of reading them. It just seems I never get around to it. For whatever reason, I just don’t make time.

I did listen to an audio book once on a long car trip. Tom Clancy’s Red Rabbit. (I’m a big Clancy fan, too, by the way. The Hunt for Red October is one of my all-time favorite books. And movies.)

I may pick an audio book this morning as I head out on the road to Pittsburg, Kansas for my aunt’s funeral.

Which leads to another admission. I don’t read the Bible as much as I should.

One good thing about being the Director of Communications at First United Methodist Church Garland is that I’m more or less ‘forced’ to read at least two Bible passages each week – the scripture lesson and the message text for Sunday’s worship service.

I’m reminded of my aunt – Geraldine Buford – as I read Luke 10:38-42, the lesson preceding Senior Pastor Valarie Englert‘s message “Little Icons” this coming Sunday:

Now as they went on their way, [Jesus] entered a village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying.

But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to [Jesus] and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work myself? Tell her then to help me.”

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

In many ways the Martha in this story is me. Absorbed and engrossed in, preoccupied and distracted by the many things I have to do.

On the other hand my Aunt Gerry was the epitome of Mary.

She was not worried about or distracted by the things of this life. Her “one thing,” her focus on “the better part” – a deep, abiding love for Christ.

Like my Uncle Charles, who passed in 2013, Aunt Gerry was unequivocal, unwavering in her faith and her love for the Lord.

She never missed an opportunity to share the story of God’s grace with anyone who would listen, nor did she ever tire of sharing it.

Aunt Gerry and Uncle Charles loved to sing. They would strike up an old, traditional hymn at a moment’s notice.

And as my cousins, myself and many more family and friends whose lives she touched gather to celebrate her homegoing, we are secure in the knowledge that she and Uncle Charles are leading the heavenly choir.

Musical diversity

Eldred Marshall Artist-in-Residence and Associate Director of Music Ministries

While planning the music for the July 7 worship services at First United Methodist Garland, I reflected on Senior Pastor Valarie Englert‘s message “The Gift of Diversity” (from our Summer Worship Series on “The Gospel According to Mister Rogers” and what that would entail, musically.

As Pastor Valarie shared, Mister Rogers did not teach “tolerance,” but rather that we embrace the different people around us – all our neighbors. In this, our lives, our expressions, our experiences would be forever enriched.

Interestingly, music does this sort of embrace far more easily than the people who create it.

Hence, I chose to highlight piano pieces that bend the genre in which they reside or thoroughly incorporate musical diversity, opening the musician and the listener to a new musical world.

For the prelude, I chose to make a personal arrangement of Richard Smallwood’s most famous gospel anthem Total Praise, with stylistic embellishments.

Even though the music is rooted in traditional Black Church musical expressions, Mr. Smallwood is a classically-trained pianist and composer who never hesitates to incorporate Western classical tradition in his compositions and improvisations.

In this respect, Mr. Smallwood and I share a common, and unique, musical language.

For the offertory at the 8:30am service, and for the first work in the 10:50am communion service, I chose to play Gershwin’s Prelude No. 2.

Gershwin felt most at home in his era’s popular musical forms: jazz, blues, rag-time, stride, etc. However, he loved classical music and strove to find ways to incorporate what he learned from that genre into his own musical language.

The piano prelude is a bluesy meditation that mixes the best of Romantic-era “absolute music” traditions of Brahms and Rachmaninoff and Tin Pan Alley.

For communion at both services, I played the Forlane movement from the piano suite Le Tombeau de Couperin.

Firstly, a forlane is a French baroque aristocratic dance, commonly performed during the time of Louis XIV. Ravel maintained traditional baroque forlane characteristics (triple meter; ABACADA+Coda form), but chose to update the musical language to his present day.

Around this time, Ravel befriended George Gershwin and became intimately familiar with American jazz. By incorporating the new music and art forms around him, Ravel embraced the “gift of diversity.”

As a result, we have an entire suite of music that is a special mix of 20th century French impressionism, early American jazz, and 16th century French dance music.

In this acceptance and appreciation of his neighbor’s music, Ravel managed to become the first French exponent of a sub genre called neoclassicism, which would take hold in Western music long after his death.

Be it Billy Ray Cyrus and Lil Nas X’s blockbuster 2019 hit song Old Country Road, or the frequent collaborations between southern gospel artists like Bill and Gloria Gaither with the late Andrae Crouch back in the 1970s and 1980s, music has always given us a living example of the fruits of diversity.

May we be inspired to follow its lead – and reap the same rewards.

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