Lessons from a Piano Lesson

Just over two weeks ago, as I listened to my youngest son grace the keys during a piano lesson, I learned a new (to me, at least) word.

I am quite sure that without the help of Webster or Wikipedia, I would struggle to define the word.  Nevertheless, even as one whose half-hearted piano days included complaints about practicing and fingers never straying far from Middle C, I now know that hemiola is a musical term which refers to the alteration of the rhythm in which the composer intends the musician to play the composition.  The one mastering the keys imposes duple time upon triple time.

Imposing one rhythm upon another, while beautiful in a piece of music, can cause disruption to other pieces of life.  Seeing the word "disruption" usually brings visions of confusion and memories of uncomfortable experiences to our minds.  However, disruptions - while at times painful and pointless - just as often bring new starts and fresh perspectives to our lives.

What areas of your life could use a bit of disruption?  Where could you alter your pace a bit (or quite a bit)?  Where could a hemiola adjustment bring beauty into your life?  Perhaps you would benefit from slowing down a little so you can enjoy a stroll on a path and an exit from the fast-paced race.  Perhaps your life would be enriched by speeding up a bit so you lose the burden of slothfulness and embrace well-paced living.

Just as with our planet, you and I experience seasons.  At times we live in a season of high-demand planting (starting a new job, raising toddlers, preparing for a significant presentation).  At other times we enjoy a less-demanding harvest (finding our groove at work, graduating from diapers, soaking up sun in Hawaii).  Through it all we have access to a gift from the Creator of time itself that, when received, brings beauty into all of our seasons.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)

Find your rhythm in His rhythm.



"And I awoke in the house of God."

Those words, rather than coming from the mouth of one who fell asleep in church and awoke at the sound of his inadvertent snore, belong to the late Rich Mullins.  They serve as a portion of his lyrics to the song, "The Color Green."  Mullins, an appreciator of God's nature, intentionally dedicated time to noticing - to paying attention - to the majesty of the Ordinary.  The rain that falls.  The winter wheat.  The hollow of the oak.  The wrens. 

Long before Mullins, another musician likewise took time to ponder.

1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
    Lord Almighty!
2 My soul yearns, even faints,
    for the courts of the Lord;
    my heart and my flesh cry out
    for the living God.
3 Even the sparrow has found a home,
    and the swallow a nest for herself,
    where she may have her young—
    a place near your altar,
    Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
    they are ever praising you.
Psalm 84:1-4 (NIV)
The psalmist, noticing the sparrow and the swallow, longs to dwell with God.  People of God long to dwell with Him; they also long to see Him.  God, knowing our longings, offers glimpses of glory divine.  We can delight in those glimpses when we dedicate time to noticing.Those who commit to living their Ordinary lives to the glory of God do well to notice. 

What can we notice when we pay attention?  Just over the past few days I have noticed . . .
  • the sun setting and coloring the sky
  • an eagle riding the wind
  • a moose calmly making his way
  • the beauty of voices in our singing to Almighty God
  • the sound of children's laughter
  • the clear way in which God communicates through His Word
  • the taste of fresh fruit
  • the smell of baking bread
  • the pristine white of snow
  • the mysterious complexity of the house of God
What do you notice?


Animals Change, Not God

Last week Americans went to the polls to cast votes.  Elephants voted red, donkeys voted blue, and those of some hybrid filled bubbles of various hues. 

Today, some voters are joyful while others count the days until they can try again. 

Election day stands outside the Ordinary days of life.  Yet on November 7 (this year), Ordinary days resumed.  The joyous and the saddened alike arose from sleep, grabbed a warm mug, combed their hair, and met the new day.  Just like every other day, diapers were changed, classes were attended, and dentures were set in place.  The young, the old, and the "in between" returned to life as usual.

Speaking through the prophet Malachi, God challenged and assured the Israelites ("descendants of Jacob").  He said . . .

 “I am God—yes, I Am. I haven’t changed. And because I haven’t changed, you, the descendants of Jacob, haven’t been destroyed."
Malachi 3:6 (The Message)

Borrowing those words to personalize them, we can feel their challenge and comfort.

“I am God—yes, I Am. I haven’t changed. And because I haven’t changed, you,(your name here) . . .
     can carry on."
     can rest assured."
     can trust me."
     can know that I am in control."
     can know that I know you."

Election days as well as public office holders (Hopefully, each lives up to the title "Public Servant.") come and go; and through it all, God remains the same.


What Time Is It?

What did you do with your extra hour?  If you live in the United States (except Arizona and Hawaii), you gained an hour on November 4th. 

If that is news to you, you're welcome.  Now you know why you seem to be early to every meeting and your favorite TV shows seem to be on at the wrong time.  Go ahead - take a moment now to set your watch or clock.  Then continue reading.

As a pastor, I much prefer the end over the beginning of Daylight Savings Time.  Since the clock-changing times always occur on Sundays, the ending of DST allows for even the late-risers to make it to church on time or, at least, closer to on time.

Several years ago (long before we carried computers, aka smart phones, in our pockets), we could not depend on electronic reminders of the nationwide hour change.  So, on one Sunday, my wife and I commenced with our morning routine of readying ourselves for church and then drove to the church building where I served as Minister to Students.  To our surprise, the only person there was the Building and Grounds Manager who was unlocking doors and switching on lights.  I did not recall any dispute or member-uprising from the previous Sunday that would have caused a Sunday morning boycott.  The helpful manager, noticing the confusion on our faces, offered a grin on his face and then kindly asked a question to which he knew the answer, "You forgot to set your clocks back, didn't you?"  I cannot recall how we spent our extra hour; I hope I helped him ready the building.  Whatever we did, I do remember thinking how grateful I was that our forgetfulness had not occurred in the spring.  It is not a good thing for the Minister to Students to arrive late to minister. 

Ever since that day, I change our clocks about midday on Saturday - just to be safe.  I do so in order to avoid a repeated mistake. 

Some mistakes result in more harmful consequences than arriving to church one hour earlier.  How can we avoid those more costly mistakes?  We can take steps that are similar to setting clocks at midday.  That is to say, we can take preventive measures such as . . .
- Count the cost.
- Say "I'm sorry."
- Say "I forgive you."
- Don't judge a book by its cover.
- Keep your promises.
- Don't set unreasonable expectations (for yourself or others).
- Train your children in the way they should go.
- Listen to your parents.
- Listen to Lady Wisdom (see Proverbs).

Those nine actions are but a small sample of the near countless steps you can take to avoid costly mistakes.  Each step you take will draw you closer to God and, therefore, to a life well lived.