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the soul of barney. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

Barney

as barney ages in our backyard, he clings to his original form – he is a piano, first and foremost.

barney has spent the last four years in our backyard.  his presence is inspiring.  rescued from the dark church basement boiler room he had been in, the light of the sun and weather he now endures have brought nuance to his life as a piano.  no longer serving his original purpose, he has a new destiny.

but barney’s soul remains the same.  you look at him and you know he is a piano.  no ifs, ands or buts. and he is cherished.

there is a different kind of power in his spot in the backyard.  it’s not one of crescendo-ing music.  instead it is now one of steady quiet.  it is one of a history of service and workhorse reliability.  it is one of a history of the dawn of creative moments and the dusk of amens sung in sunday school classrooms or weekly meeting rooms of committees or choirs. his piano-soul now resounds in the chirp of every bird or chipmunk, the sound of the wind and the rain, the glint of the sunlight deepening the wrinkles of his keys.

barney is retired.  but he is not silent.

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY

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the simple line. [d.r. thursday]

the sketch

yesterday, while i sketched moments on various keyboards, both pipe organ and piano, d sketched on paper.  and he somehow captured how i was feeling.  the lifting of eyes to the universe, the imploring of the heart.  his scribblings on paper, my scribblings on keys.  two artists, expressing.

the telling of the story – through music, through painting or drawing – does not demand complexity.  sometimes it aches for simplicity.  a pure line of melody, unadorned.  a few fast pen-lines, unfinessed.  the telling of the tale, honestly, pitch by pitch.  not the skirting of the story, the fancified version sung by an vocal acrobat.  instead, the straight-up carole-king-richard-diebenkorn-versions, sung note for note, painted line by brushed line, color by color.  intense in their clean simplicity.

the more complicated things get, the more i list toward simple.  less is more.  my piano left hand has always been a virtual non-stop accompanist to my right hand, arpeggiating  ad nauseum.  in recent years, i’ve asked it to calm down, to allow room for the delivery of the right hand, to allow breath, to allow lift.  together, they have given space for the real scribblings, the true expression.

if you have ever been to a taize service, you will have experienced the wisdom and power of repeated simplicity, a line of music that will take you to your knees.  nothing advanced or embellished.

if you have ever held a child’s drawing in your hand, you will have experienced the wisdom and power of innocence, art that will take you to your knees.  nothing advanced or embellished.

it’s the simple line. both ways.

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read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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nonplussed. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

nonplussed definition

i am nonplussed.

some of you will think i am ‘bewildered, confused, perturbed, disconcerted’.  some of you will think i am ‘not disconcerted’, that i am ‘unperturbed’.  wow.  how would you know?  particularly if i only say, “i am nonplussed by this.”  language!  it’s nonplussing.

context is everything.  it is the arrows pointing to clarity.  it is the measure of the meaning of someone’s words.  it is the scale of importance given to a statement.  it is the framework within which to assess, to understand.

to be in a mature conversation, a mature communication, we seek out context, a fair understanding given the circumstances around a statement.  we look for truth and transparency in words spoken to us, searching for a place we can meet on common ground and really talk.  we provide context to others to clarify our point, to clear-stream muddy waters and avoid misunderstanding.  context is everything.  indeed.

but for right now, i will just say i am nonplussed.

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY

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everyone is a messenger. [merely-a-thought monday]

*everyone is a messenger

we are all guilty.  we speak before thinking.  we spew before thinking.  we condemn before thinking.

my sweet momma used to tell me if i couldn’t think of anything good to say, not to say anything at all.  my dear friend linda taught me that if i couldn’t think of a worthy response to, let’s say, situation/thing x, to say instead, “now THAT’S a situation/thing x!!”  both are generous people who have abided by the golden rule and have remembered that they are indeed messengers, anywhere they are.

we are ambassadors, everywhere we go.  we take our partner with us, our family with us, our workplace with us, our community with us, our country with us.  we represent.  we can choose to be messengers of goodness, of grace, of kindness, of fairness, of positive and supportive words spoken about others.  or we can choose to be messengers of negativity, cynicism, apathy, denouncing places or another person or peoples.

i recently overheard someone demeaning their workplace.  the message was clear and their words of disregard served only to discredit the person speaking.  a-messenger-wherever-we-go is a responsibility, sometimes a true test of our maturity.  we need be careful.   my sweet momma would say, “think before you speak!”  i would add – not only because you could be overheard, but because it is the right thing to do.

we are all guilty.  but we keep trying.

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the wheels of change. [two artists tuesday]

wheels of change copy

the tread matters not.  the wheels of change are constant.  fluid.  ever-rolling.

we have watched bristol woods change.  we hike there often and have gotten to know trees and turns in the trail personally.  many months ago we knew a decision was made to build a high ropes “adventure” course in part of the park.  we have watched its birth; we have witnessed the change.  the big machinery is out there.  gravel roads are cut.  trees have been removed.  tall poles have been installed and ropes are now hung between them.  the county’s position is that this will be a good thing, generating revenue that would go back into “upkeep and improvements”.

all this remains to be seen.  it would just be my hope that they haven’t lost sight of the simplest reasons for this place to exist, the quiet reasons, the pure reasons.  what is that expression….”penny wise, pound foolish.”  sometimes cutting corners or chasing the shiny new thing isn’t the wisest move in the long run.  you lose the sure foundation, not recognizing what it is you are losing, the steadfast movement underestimated, the maturity of the woods undervalued.  the wheels of change keep going and the concentric circles of impact widen ever-further out.  david’s mom uses the expression “ever-forward” when she signs an email.   sometimes forward is forward.  and sometimes forward is not so forward.

i can feel the wheels of change.  the tread, and therewith the pace, is not yet so evident to me.  i’m not sure if it’s road-bike-tire-thin or monster-650-tractor-tire-thick, but they are there, turning, turning.  ever-forward…

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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maturity in season of life. [two artists tuesday]

maturity with background

this came across my desk last week. “maturity in season of life.” part of a minister of music job description, i was struck by the unguarded language, the bow to what only time and experience can teach.  i have never seen this written as such before.  it was bracing in every GOOD way.  it was appreciatory.  it was a breath of fresh air.

in a society that seeks to remain youthful and puts less emphasis on maturity in season of life than on staying young, we need remember there’s a place for everyone.  some places require youth, fresh and breathing hard from the sprint.  other places recognize the need for the steadfast wisdom of the ages, a decision-maker-doer who brings a lifetime of positive and negative experiences and knows how to differentiate between them, has an intuition built on time and the ever-growing wealth of lessons.  the seesaw has room for both; the fulcrum can only balance with both.

as two artists living together, we are more than aware of the challenge of ageism, the challenge of time spent in our artistry and how that relates to value.  more than a thousand times we have each been admonished for thinking we need to be paid when we should be grateful for the “exposure” we are being “granted”.  more than a thousand times we have each been in a place where we have had to explain why our artistry needs to be financially rewarded just like anyone else’s work.

indeed, pay scales have been built to reflect time spent and job descriptions use verbiage like “pay is commensurate with experience.”  experience.  maturity:  “the ability to respond to the environment in an appropriate manner.  being aware of the correct time and location to behave and knowing when to act, according to the circumstances and the culture of the society (read: job) one lives in (read: one works in).”

i recently was having a written messaging chat with a hard-working young adult whose job is in the arts.  with these challenges facing him every day, he said that people do not realize that “they’re paying me to know what to do if things don’t go well.”  intuition.  working on the fly based on training, knowledge and an ever-building bank of experiences.   he will continue to face that challenge; it will only deepen.  how is that maturity measured?  how will he be paid for that maturity, for that which he cannot describe and for which others cannot fathom?  for some reason, in this society, it is easier to answer that question if you are doing a numbers job, something seemingly more concrete, more measurable, more quantifiable.

but maturity in season of life touches others as well and we have dear friends who have been ‘let go’ from their jobs simply because of their age.  now, their companies would never testify to that and are careful to avoid such language – for that would set them up for all kinds of legal problems – but it has been clear to our friends, struggling to find a new way in later days of their lives.  few and far between are those who are able to benefit by pointing out the error of their ways to the company that is undervaluing a later human-on-this-earth season.  other friends are fortunate enough to be working somewhere that has deeply valued the long time they have spent in their work and these friends have retired with spoken words of gratitude and wishes of continued good living.  where is the fulcrum?

in this particular document that came across my desk, the whole phrase read, “maturity in season of life and maturity in ministry experience.”  shockingly, they are seeking this as a qualifier and they are willing to pay for it.  speaking directly to that qualifier that beautifully honors the wisdom of the ages, there are things that, as a minister of music at 19 i did not know.  there are things that, as a minister of music at 32 i did not know.  likewise, as a 30-years-as-a-minister-of-music at days-away-from-60, of course there are things i do not know.

what i DO know is that every experience i have had as a minister of music has built upon the last.  instead of a chasm where learnings have dropped rapid-fire into an abyss, i have learned what the important stuff is and how to attempt to keep those things foremost.

like anyone in any job, mastery is commensurate with time spent, with growth in that work, and yes, without exception, with maturity in season of life.

“take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.” (desiderata)

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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when push comes to shove, don’t. [merely-a-thought monday]

civility 2 copy

my sweet momma always said that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.  although she stood her ground, she rarely pushed back.  well, maybe at my dad…i certainly heard her push back in that relationship.  she was a woman before her time, struggling to be seen and heard…in relationship, in work, in the world.  nevertheless, she lead with kindness and generosity.

recently i surprisingly found myself in a situation where i felt the kind of civility that is needed to accomplish anything was lacking.  instead it was aggressive, pointed, antagonistic.  “when push comes to shove” implies escalation and this, indeed, was the case.  instead of actual conversation, it was a push-shove back-and-forth.  instead of communication, it was a shining example of what-not-to-do.

we drove past a passiton billboard on the way up north that read these words:  when push comes to shove, don’t.  civility is in you.  what does a boorish push or a retorted shove accomplish other than an establishment of immaturity, a driving desire and play for power and an uncooperative non-collaboration?

civility is not that hard.  it should be what we lead with.  respecting others and their place in their world.  we each get the same air to breathe and we each breathe in and out the same way.  instead of escalating to shove or pushing yet harder, how might we fill our lungs with responses of peacefulness, thoughtfulness, fairness, appreciation, intelligent consideration, magnanimity, grace, even reconciliation.  why must push come to shove?  it needn’t.

just don’t.

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY

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