Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Reach Out Benefit Concert

I am excited for tonight's concert. If you get the chance we would love the support at Pleasant Grove High School at 7pm. Doors open at 6:30. If you are unable to attend but would be willing to spare $5 please go donate that money at the donation page. If you can't make it, and either are unable to donate $5 or don't make it a habit to donate cash online please ask someone how they are doing and stare at them long enough until they know that you are actually interested in an honest answer, whatever it may be, without judgement or prejudice. And if they hesitate for a second before they say "fine" take your right hand and place it on their left hand, or shoulder, or arm, and ask them again. And if they give you a funny smile and look away just sit next to them for a while enjoying the quiet togetherness until they feel like talking about it, or don't. And when you see them next time ask them again.

It's been good to be able to lend my talents, small as they are, to such a worthy cause.

If you don't know what I'm talking about search "Reach Out Benefit Concert" on Facebook

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Having a son... why?

My wife's cousin asked a question on her Facebook page that led to this response from me.  

We were married for a long time before we got too stressed out about it, then it wasn't happening. We had to decide to work for it. My wife had to go through horribly invasive medical examinations, take drugs, and have our personal lives invaded by people calling themselves doctors who were blatantly horrible people. While going through it there were times we had to learn to live with the possibility that it might not happen. I had to put up with people who said really stupid things belittling our situation whether intentionally or not. There came a time when we chose to sell our house to save money so we could save up for more medical procedures after a doctor stole our last money we had saved up. We spoke about adoption, but it never felt right for us, or we were just scared. I accidentally found this photograph online of a little toddler standing behind a gauzy curtain next to a window. It instantly focused the feelings I had been having lately. The reason it was fine to sell our house. We stopped wanting to have a baby and started feeling like someone was missing. That sounds too cheesy, but it was real. I would look around the corner or turn around and feel like I had misplaced something. Like someone was standing just behind a curtain. We found a doctor who told us we had been being lied to, that there were easier things to try first, and the second try worked, for about one tenth of the money other doctors were trying to squeeze out of us. Two of our friends have gone to that same doctor and have their babies now. Nothing I can say will sound new about meeting our new baby. When he came three months early my wife's family was out of town and we ended up having some of the most spiritual together time of our lives as we had to let go and rely on others. People kept saying how great we were handling it, but we knew it was all working out perfectly. The fact that he looked just like me was honestly one of the biggest joys of my life. I learned to sleep with my hand on his chest in case he forgot to keep breathing after the NICU, my hand was faster than the alarms. I'd do it all again while drinking acid and walking on broken glass. He is part of me. I have never experienced this kind of love before. I knew I would be a great dad, and though I'm not close to perfect, I'm feeling pretty awesome. We have a blast. I love his personality. I love seeing the world through his eyes. I think I knew we were going to be ok either way. I learned that living a good life was possible without children. I learned that spirituality was not synonymous with having children. I learned that too many people took it for granted. I think it helped me respect the power of procreation and having a son helped me love God more since I can understand better what it means to love someone like your child. I couldn't have done that if I hadn't had thought it might not be possible, or if I had never watched my son sleeping in his incubator, tried to walk around the living room trailing oxygen tubes and monitor wires or held his hand walking across a parking lot, or had him fall asleep on my chest, or had tucked him in, or or or..... I don't think I would be the loving person I am if I didn't have some short little guy's laugh reminding me how important it is to find joy

Monday, March 3, 2014

Nervous for this next week, I'm feeling anxious more and more lately...

I am trying to last a little longer than normal with some of my goals.  I am a starter, but a horrible finisher.

Painting my desk is hard... but I want to finish it.

I had to write some new stuff to be able to post for the 5th week on my story blog... I did.

Here's what I posted on FB...

So how would you react to waking up on top of a pile of bodies floating in the ocean?  Want to read my 5th post in my story blog?


But my house is in disarray... and that bugs me...

This is going to be a hard week.  Some really big stuff happening at work that I don't feel ready for... but I think I would've felt worse going into it if I hadn't written on the blog...

Friday, February 21, 2014

Rough Talk so far - pre editing

I never say exactly what I write, but this is what I have so far for my talk on music and worship for church this Sunday.  I'll probably find a scripture or two.. maybe...


My dad can't sing.

That seems like a logical place to start.

Now, I didn't say my dad doesn't sing... there is a distinct difference.  I grew up with the joke that Dad is tone deaf even though he loves to sing.  When listening to the radio in the car he always seemed to sing the line after the person on the radio had already sung it... I never understood that.

But in church, we all always sang the hymns. Everyone did.  It's just what you did.  My dad was usually the loudest, not at all concerned about not being the best or prettiest. Because my father will praise God, every opportunity given him.

I think it had something to do with living in an area where we were certainly not the majority.  I can't promise that's true.  At the time I only knew Michigan.  I only knew being in a weird religion that no one else at school understood.  

I remember being sad I kind of made my sixth grade teacher feel bad by looking at her like she was insane when she asked me if I celebrated Christmas.  I loved my teacher, but said yeeeeeessssss in an exaggerated and confused way.  She looked down and was embarrassed and I tried to undo it a little. Friends thought we had to grow beards and wear all black, and that I wasn't allowed to go to parties or date.

Then on Sunday you got to go where you were the majority, and singing was part of that, where we came together the most.  Regardless of age, income, race, gender, cool group or not, we all sang together.

I especially loved the hymns where the men and women don't sing the same part. Count your many blessings name them name them one by one..  My dad didn't always pull it off, but my mom could.  So at my request she would lean down next to me and quietly sing the men's part so I could sing along with her.  

In fourth grade I started playing instruments and learning more about music and figured out that our "tone deaf dad" joke wasn't true.  He wasn't tone deaf, he wasn't singing monotone, he just didn't know how to read music and couldn't sing high enough to sing the melody. He got better and better at it.  Once during college my mom nudged me while we were singing and said "show your dad how to do that"

He still sang his heart out, happy as could be, it wasn't about his skill set. 

When I entered the MTC I was at a complete loss.  I came right out of high school, had never been to Utah or understood how the MTC worked, had always been a bit of a loner and didn't get the companion thing, and I missed my home.... alot... 

but the hymns were the same, it was one of the ways I gained my testimony of the truth of the gospel, regardless of the local leader, or size of the congregation.

When it was announced sometime in our first meetings, I rudely told my companion we WILL be going to choir.  He didn't know music, but liked singing.  Through the MTC he became a very talented singer and is to this day.  He appreciated my decisive choir attendance later... at the moment he wasn't so sure.

I got to be part of the most heavenly choir.  I cried every time we sang I was so moved.  I mean come on, hundreds of young people with their hearts intent on serving God, excited and singing about it... it was too much.. amazing.  I had a lot to learn.  My high school didn't have boys in choir.  I only learned from community theater programs that boys even sang in choirs.  So I had to learn parts.  In high school twice a popular girl and another told me they thought I had a nice singing voice.... so clearly I was never going to stop singing... even if I didn't know how to do it, so I was happy to learn.

Every week we got to sing a new piece or two in the MTC choir.  We always got to record ourselves at the end of the mid week rehearsal.  Those of us with tapes would stand in front of the massive choir on chair and hold our cassette recorders in the air.  I still have that tape and still tear up when I listen to it.  An apostle once in a meeting called our choir director a miracle worker and pointed out the challenges of having a choir that literally never had the same members twice in a row but always brought the spirit so perfectly.  To prove it, right there in his talk he issued a challenge for the choir to sing a piece they hadn't prepared as a closing number.  At the end of the meeting the director stood up, told us which hymn, and about 15 instructions in about 30 seconds and we sang it key changes and all, having never practiced it.  We even stunned ourselves.  It was incredible.  Everyone was so keyed in to the spirit we were like an army of voices... I get chills thinking about it.

While I was in the MTC those learning the same language were in the same district.  So, we held meetings and sang hymns in our future languages.  I was learning Italian.  Every night many Italian elders ended the day singing a few Italian hymns by our rooms before bed.  There's a reason Italian is a popular language for opera, it just flows and sounds beautiful to music. A newer district than me came in and all happened to be very gifted singers.  They kind of turned themselves into an a capela group, practicing the hymns a lot, with no accompaniment.  They invited me to join in and I quickly felt out of my league having no training at all.  I needed help finding my part, and couldn't do it very well without a piano playing so I stopped practicing with them.

At another meeting another Apostle mentioned music and inspiration.  I don't remember who it was...I blame bad journal keeping..

He said that he had often felt, and did so that day, inspired to ask if anyone had a musical number prepared and if they would be willing to share it.  There was a pause and way in the back a hand slowly raised up.  One of the elders of the talented acapela district asked sheepishly if it was ok if the number wasn't in English, as this was a large MTC meeting full of everyone going everywhere.  The apostle assured him it was great and they stood up and started making their way to the stage area.  As they passed me they grabbed my shoulder and asked me to join them, I grabbed my companion who had been doing great at choir, and was very talented.  A few other talented singers from the Italian districts were grabbed on the way up.  I Need Thee Every Hour will now always have a very special place in my heart.

The newbies got 10 seconds of instruction on the arrangement and we sang Bisogno Ho di Te santissimo Signor (Need I have of thee holiest Lord) acapella in front of a huge group.  At the end there was that stunned silence.  That quiet that only happens after something special.  When people aren't just talking, they're not moving.  The Apostle quietly said... "and I am always proven correct, angels stood and sang along your side Elders".  

It was one of the most spiritual moments of my MTC.  There's nothing like singing with an angel or two.  

Music was always special to the Italians I was lucky enough to serve.  Again, maybe because they were severely in the minority.  The Innario is thin with only so many songs translated from English to Italian.  They are translated wonderfully, but sometimes say things in a way to fit the music.  The italian language uses many more syllables than English and phrases things differently.  Except O, Creature del Signor, Oh, creatures of the Lord, it was written in Italian and here we sing the translation All creatures of our God and King.  The original is better, it is special to the Italians.  It sings of creatures and creations lifting their voices in song to praise their creator.... It is a masterful hymn that we almost get to enjoy written by San Francesco D'assesi, St. Francis, an Italian Friar who would eventually found the Franciscan order.  He believed that all of nature reflected God, would call the birds his brothers and sisters, and was the first to encourage the Italian people to pray to God with their own voice, instead of Latin.   The Italians love that hymn.

Not too long ago the then bishop Bishop Clayton called me in to his office... never a good sign.  He said he had something to ask me and it might be out of left field and to not be offended or anything... we then proceeded to chat and he asked if I would be willing to serve as the ward music coordinator and we chatted a while longer and then I paused and asked.   "I'm sorry, what was the out of left field thing you wanted to ask?"  He said... well, it's the ward music coordinator... 

I'm pretty good at hiding.  I didn't realize how well I had been hiding.  I didn't realize that the then Bishop Clayton didn't know that I had been playing music since fourth grade, been in a bunch of musicals, sang in the most heavenly choir in the MTC and throughout my mission or that I had had the opportunity to serve as the choir director in two seperate wards for years at a time.  He didn't know.  It was a cooler moment than he realized for me.  It was one of those moments that you realize you are loved by your heavenly father, that he knows you.  That he knows your talents and that hiding doesn't work very well.  It was a testament to me of the power of inspiration and the ability of our leaders to follow that inspiration even when it feels out of nowhere, or at least left field, it was a testament to the importance of music, that it warranted inspiration like that, that I warranted inspiration.

I am an average musician and vocalist at best, I don't wave my hand and say look at what I can do.  But I'll be singing the hymns every week.

Before I knew I would be speaking today I knew the topic and quickly chose All Creatures of our God and King as the closing.  

It's what we do.  We unite and raise our voice in praise to God. There is something spiritual deep and ancient about the power of music to add sincerity to a thought.  To me, not singing feels insincere, lukewarm... sitting on the side lines.  I was taught that to not pick up the hymnal and to join in the song was equivalent to not saying Amen and not being part of the prayer. 

It never  mattered if my mom felt a little funny singing the boys part, whether my brother and I were trying to kill each other or laughing too hard with other, we sang, tone deaf or not.

I was back in Michigan not too long ago, my wife and both mentioned the singing later.  They sang.. chests out, voices loud.  It was an area meeting, so it was a big group.. and I imagine that meeting in a big group is still a big deal in Michigan, where being Mormon is still a little weird.. and singing about it with your brothers and sisters makes it a little better, a time to revel and to praise.

My dad is in a church choir and a community choir back home now.  He said he is old enough now and has enough vibrato that he is at least hitting the right note half of the time.   I'm guessing that Heavenly Father doesn't hear him that way... I think he listens to my dad's heart.

I know my Father in Heaven hears me, because I have felt closest to Him while singing praises to him mid-hymn. I do need him every hour... and it feels more sincere when it is sung from the heart.

I am thankful my mom wasn't too busy tending me to not sing with me.  

I am eternally thankful for the brothers and sisters who have stood next to me in various choirs and shared a tear or two when the spirit got strong.  And I am thankful to those who pick up their hymnal every week, and praise God with me, so I know I'm not alone.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Nerd alert

Why am I this excited? I just signed up for a service that very cheaply sends you non name brand razor blades every month.  I'm trying the most expensive blade and will pay $9per month... that's the expensive one!  There is a $6 one that is a little better than what I use right now, and then a $1 version. They sealed the deal when I found out that they send you a free handle.  DONE... here is a link.  If you sign up for this, and really I can't understand any reason why ANYONE would not sign up for this... anyway, if you click through this link they give me a free car or goat or something.. ok, probably free blades...

click here... seriously... I am way too happy about this....


OR DONT!  I sound like I am marketing, I'm just excited

Sunday, February 16, 2014

post 3 on my story blog


Friday, February 7, 2014

Post two on my story blog


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