reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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his palette. [d.r. thursday]

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we really never know what it takes to do someone else’s job.  we don’t know all the tools used, the research done, how training and experience play into it, how someone perceives their own work.  we can only guess and, often, fall desperately and even arrogantly off the mark.

walking into d’s studio my eye is drawn to the easel standing in the far corner.  closer to me, though, is an old cart with an old wooden box holding paints and brushes.  there is another cart and on that is this palette – layers upon layers of color and texture, clay pots of water standing next to this widely-understood symbol of “artist”, often associated with the beginning of the process of painting.

now, i’ve painted a few paintings in my life.  i bought very large prepared canvases and dug around in the basement for leftover acrylic house paint to use on my creations.  without a palette, i brushed and re-brushed and threw paint until i knew each painting was done.  and then i hung them on the walls.  in one case, i painted right on the wall and put a clearance frame around the section of wall that i painted – a nod to a painting without the cost of canvas.

all of this, however, does not make me capable of really understanding how d paints.  for i do not know all the tools, i do not know the process of mixing color or the technique of stretching canvas he uses, i do not know the tricks of the trade he has accumulated over decades of honing his expertise.  nor do i know the knowledge base he brings about other artists, other painters and paintings, the use of light and dark space, the way the viewer’s eye sees, the very technical details and the very heart-based intuitions he has learned through many, many years of study and practice.  i can’t understand or even try to predict the amount of time it takes or doesn’t take for him to conceptualize, to explore, to create, to review, to assess, to adjust, to re-create.  i can respond to his work but i cannot define it, nor would it be meritorious for me to even try to do so.  out of respect for his work, something that is one of the very things that defines him, i know that i really have no idea.  what i can do is appreciate his talent and every last thing that he has done to bring him to this place where he paints beautiful paintings and it seems to take no effort whatsoever.

with regard to anyone and the work that they do, i would hope we could each remember – with humble respect – that we really have no idea.  we can just be grateful that we are each a spoke in the wheel on this good earth.  our palettes, the places from which we begin, are different.  and we can’t do it alone.

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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ukulele sip ‘n strum! [two artists tuesday]

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about six years ago i was in the sweet downtown of nashville, indiana browsing with linda and bill.  we stopped at a music store and i fell in love with a little black ukulele.  i bought it and played around with this tiny instrument, a lot lighter to tote around than a piano.

a little over five years ago i decided to offer a ukulele band at trinity, where i am the minister of music.  thinking that perhaps four or six people would sign up, over the years we have sold 50-60 ukes!  we have a consistent band that rehearses year round and plays at least once a month in the service.  it’s a blast!  and it’s a way for people who maybe have had no prior musical experience to play an instrument.  i read that “the ukulele is a portal through which only happy people can pass.” (uke muster)  personal experience makes me add that there is no way to play the ukulele and not smile.  they go hand in hand.  what’s not idyllic about that?

under the umbrella of two-artists-making-stuff-for-humans (which includes doing stuff with or for humans), recently we decided to move this glee out further into the world.  we held our first UKULELE SIP ‘N STRUM last friday night at a local winery.  in the same vein as a ‘paint and sip’, people registered for a lesson and a glass of fine wine; they ordered their ukulele in their favorite color and, with the help of pacetti’s – our favorite downtown music store –  we delivered them that night.  it was a blast!

we are booking the next dates and are taking the SIP ‘N STRUM out – all over – into different venues, people’s homes, even corporate events.  the chance for people to learn and smile and play music and sip wine and sing is what we offer.  as virtuoso ukulele player jake shimabukuro says, “if everyone played the ukulele, the world would be a better place.”  we couldn’t agree more!

so let us know if you want to book a UKULELE SIP ‘N STRUM.  we’re ready!  pick in hand!  and we promise – it’ll be a blast! 🙂

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click here to learn more about the UKULELE SIP ‘N STRUM and check back for dates

read DAVID’S thoughts on the SIP ‘N STRUM!

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always an honor.

img_3625.jpgi played for a funeral today. the family celebrated the life of a beautiful young woman who i didn’t know, but who, through the stories told, sounded lovely. the sanctuary was full and boxes of tissues were numerous throughout the pews. my heart hurt for them; i was upstairs in the balcony, separated from this family, but joined in the feeling of what grief can do.

someone asked me if it was hard to play for funerals, if i would prefer not to. completely opposite of that, i am honored to play for a funeral. it is the last public celebration of someone’s life; it is sobering to think that you can play a part in maybe, just maybe, providing something that might be comforting to people in pain. as a minister of music i often play for funerals and for weddings as well; both are gifts, reminders of holding on to the people we love, letting these people know we love them. trite, maybe. but sitting in a balcony gazing down at those who have gathered to celebrate the coming-together of two lives or the time a person has spent in their midst cuts to the core of my soul and i always find myself weeping. i am fortunate to work with an amazing pastor whose extra-tall physical presence belies his soft heart. his voice cracks in emotional response in these difficult times. i feel lucky to be around someone who has so much empathy and compassion; our world truly needs more pToms.

years ago i played for my brother’s funeral. in recent years, my dad’s and my sweet momma’s. they were devastatingly hard to play for, but i wouldn’t have had it any other way. i chose music i knew my dad and my mom would want, hymns that were their personal favorites, melody and lyrics that have meant something to them. i played a song i wrote for each of them. it was an unbelievable honor to have this important role in the celebration of their lives.

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my big bro and me. way too long ago.

today is my big brother’s birthday. wayne would have been 67 today.  i have often spoken of him in my writings. i don’t think there is a day that goes by without my thinking of him. i miss him. i say that each year. it never changes. grief is like that. it’s just there. the desperate moments, well, they ease up. but the i-wish-he-was-here moments – they keep coming.

today i sat on the organ bench and, in a moment of overwhelm, dug my phone out of my bag. i texted d…that this young woman was so…young. and that it took my breath away. it made me want to hug both of my children that very moment. impossible, with the girl in the middle of a move from one mountain range to another, and the boy in the middle of a beautiful boston day. so i texted d, who i knew understood all the layers of heart that playing for this service today touched. hard. not my favorite thing to do. but always, always an honor.


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the view-master

a couple sundays ago i had the honor of speaking for a few moments to our church congregation.  normally, the hat i wear at trinity is a minister of music hat, but i was happy to speak a few words (ok, maybe more than a few…i am not the most succinct person on this planet) during that service.  the service was called “a joyful noise” sunday and it was day dedicated to a hymn sing.

taking into account the lessons to be read during the service and expanding on a recent writing, i prepared a few words on Joy.  a couple of  people have since asked me to publish this here and so, this is what i said:

IMG_0021This is a view-master. It’s pretty old-school.  Each time I push the lever a new snapshot is available to look at, to ponder. I recently realized that this is the way I write. And so, with respect, I’d like to offer a few viewmaster moments that make me think about joy.

It’s that time of year. There are pictures in the Kenosha News of students moving into campus at Carthage. Any day now there will be pictures of the first days of school at Unified. Nine years ago, right around now, i stood on the University of Minnesota campus. We had packed up the little Scion till you couldn’t even fit a Snickers bar into any of the spaces left. The entire car was glowing pink. The girl – that’s my daughter Kirsten – and her roommate were decorating in pink. Pink everything. Pink comforters, pink bins, pink rugs, pink shower pails. We unloaded into the dorm….traipsing with everyone through the halls, lugging huge futon boxes and armloads of clothes. Organizing the dormroom through the day I struggled to keep finding tasks, maybe to delay my leaving for just a little longer. We walked outside and started to stroll on campus when she turned to me and said, “I think I’m going to go.” “Where are we going?” I asked. “No,” she said, “I am going to go – to the union.” I realized it was time. Every word of wisdom I had wanted to relay to her dropped out of the synapses in my brain and I stood staring at her. I told her to go be her, to be amazing and I loved her. She walked away, with great anticipation, grace, excitement. With great joy. I stood and watched, tears in my eyes. My cellphone buzzed. There was a text from her. It read – “Don’t be sad, mom. Be ecstatic. I love you.” I drove home – alone. When I got there I put on laundry, cause that’s what my mom did when she was upset. In the putting on of laundry, I had to move one load into the dryer. I took out a dryer sheet and out of the dryer sheet box flew an index card. It read, “Thinking of you. With love from Minnesota.” The girl had hidden 31 of these around the house. Bringing joy.

Be ecstatic. Joy. Joy is our right. Joy is our responsibility.

My momma was rushed to the emergency room. Because we were there in Florida visiting her, we were able to meet her there at the ER. She had fallen and was in tremendous pain. At 93 a fall was dangerous and there was worry about her hip. For hours we were in the little examining room, waiting, watching, reassuring. It was the middle of the night and the attending nurse was obviously exhausted. She was a capable young woman, but had little patience and wasn’t friendly or smiling much. My sweet momma, in her pain, gazed up at her, smiled gently and said, “I wish I had your beautiful smile.” That moment. The moment that she brought joy to someone else, changed everything. The nurse was deeply affected by her words, which changed everything in the room, and, I suspect, in all the concentric circles that reached outward, including ours.

Joy. Our right. Our responsibility. Doesn’t one lead to the other?

When I interviewed for the job of minister of music here at Trinity they asked me several questions. Then they asked me if I had anything I wanted to add. (As you would suspect) I said that I did. I wanted to add that my mission as minister of music had formed through about 25 years of work in churches and with people volunteering to be a part of the music programs in those churches. The most important thing to me to tell them was that I feel deeply that the music and the music program in a church is about JOY. It is not about perfection. Like any musician (or anyone for that matter) I love when things go perfectly. But if perfection is the mission that they wanted at Trinity, I was not the right person. I have found if you expect perfection, you lose joy. If you expect joy, you find perfection.

We worship together and sing in community. Each of the songs we sing is a moment in time that we bring to worship, whether it is in a traditional hymn or a contemporary song. We offer songs of praise and songs of love and songs of yearning and songs of hope. We don’t come here expecting to get joy. We bring joy. And that? That begets joy. Our right. Our responsibility.

We were walking through Menards (like Home Depot, for those of you not in Menards-land)  and passed a sign that read “Happiness is not a destination. It is a way of life.” This immediately made me think of my best friend since the time I was three. This saying was what she had chosen to put in her yearbook under her picture. Somehow, forty years later, because I am ridiculously thready, I still remembered this. What was really funny was that when she and her husband visited this summer, she didn’t remember this at all. (I believe she just set about to live it.) These days we are surrounded by sayings and words of inspiration on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Menards. Sometimes they feel trite. But that’s only because they are so prevalent. They are no less real. No less worthy. They just flatten out because we see so much of them. We tend to not notice as deeply anymore. Happiness is not a destination. It is a way of life.

Sally’s momma’s farmhouse is for sale. Although, with a deep root there, she is able to find her way around the rooms, she doesn’t recognize it as hers anymore because she is in the throes of dementia. So when they were there, Sally said her momma saw the for sale sign and told Sally she’d like to buy it. Sally explained that then her momma would be far away – hours -from her grown children and they wouldn’t be able to be with her. She asked her momma what she would do all day. “Play the piano,” she said. “I’d play the piano.” Joy is not really complicated.

I read a striking CNN article about Hurricane Harvey and a man named Mr. Harding. I want to share part of it with you:
One of his sons is an avid piano player and was concerned the family’s piano would be destroyed by flood water. When Mr. Harding found the water hadn’t covered the piano, he sat down and began to play. “I decided to take a moment and play and take it all in,” he told CNN on Thursday. He posted the video of the moment on Instagram with the caption, “I think it’s all finally sinking in a little. What we used to have going as a city is gone. I really think God is going to do something completely new here. I am excited to see the new beauty in the suffering.” Joy.

Early yesterday morning we sat in bed, sipping coffee, early morning sunshine streaming in the windows, a cool breeze crossing the room. We could hear the birds, the squirrels, the sounds of our sweet neighbors John and Michele clinking silverware and plates, making breakfast. Babycat and Dogdog laid on the bed snoring. IMG_0024No matter the worries or sadnesses, challenges or problems that would befall us in the day or days to come, that moment was a picture of JOY.  A view-master snapshot of what is in our very fibre if we notice. Our God-given right. Our God-given responsibility.

 

 

 

 


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be brave. make a difference.

brave-poster-jpegabout a year ago our church community made a decision to state in no uncertain terms that it is a “reconciling in christ” church. this was a momentous occasion, a brave declaration; the closest church of the same denomination that is also RIC is in the next town north, a location maybe a half hour away.

the language used to enter into the church bylaws was: “We acknowledge that throughout history the Christian church has at times condemned and excluded people because of race, culture, age, gender, economic status, disability or sexual orientation. While the church has made progress in being open to many groups, there continues to be condemnation of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons from the community of faith, or at least, a tolerance of such condemnation and exclusion through silence. We believe such actions are inconsistent with Christ’s teachings. Trinity is a community of faith-keeping and faith-seeking people who affirm that every person has worth as a unique creation made in the image of God. We recognize, celebrate and give thanks for the many diverse gifts of God among us. We declare ourselves to be a Reconciling in Christ congregation, welcoming into the full life and ministry of the church persons of every race, culture, age, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and economic status. We commit to model a community of faith and spirit that works toward openness and understanding, offering justice, healing and wholeness of life for all people. We believe that through our diversity, all can grow and practice a unity of faith that transcends our differences.”

and i am so proud.

but it brings to mind some questions for me. this inclusivity and acceptance that we are “officially” announcing seems like a no-duh (for lack of a better term; it seems incongruous to me to attach flowery language to something so very basic) for a church community. it IS my understanding of a church community. what else could be more important than acceptance? what are we Actually learning from any religious organization’s underpinnings? why does it require bravery?

before i took the job of minister of music at our present church, i inquired about the attitude(s) around LGBT membership and involvement, within the church general membership and within staff and clergy. it was important to me – no, not important – it was vital to me that i would be at a place of inclusion where people did not draw boundaries because of race, sexual orientation, financial status… i would not attend a place where my own child would be looked down upon because of homophobic attitudes (read: fears.)   even now i find it incredible that i would have had to ask this question, but i know better than to think that all churches are about loving all people. why do you have to be brave to say this?

some of my friends will leave this week to march in the women’s march in washington dc, taking place next saturday. i am unable to go to this, although i will march in my mind with them. i do feel like i step in this march everyday, however, because i believe in the equality of gender, the equality of people’s sexual orientation choices…equality period. as the mom of an amazing son who is gay, (see previous post: the right place) i wholeheartedly embrace his happiness, his inclusion, his bravery to live authentically, anywhere he goes. i embrace this for both of my children. why would i not generalize this to all people?

carol suggested that i enter my design using david’s painting and the text “women. we’ve got backbone.” for poster usage at this march. (see previous post: women. we’ve got backbone.) although this poster is not among the posters that will be distributed at this march, i do believe that this backbone is what will help grow and change the world in times moving forward. the active pursuit of what we feel is right. the active pursuit of what we feel is just. as women and as men who want to be proponents of equality and opponents of hatred we need to stand up – with backbone – and make sure that we are not voiceless.

that starts at home. in our own families. in our communities. in our churches. in our states. in our country. oh yes. in our country.

you make a difference: iTunes: kerri sherwood

brave.  for products that reinforce your bravery, click here

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