Phoebe and Sophie and The Circle of Life

A Christmas Day Picture of My Favorite 4
KellyFamXmas13
Couldn’t decide which pic so uploaded both

It’s taken me quite awhile to want to pen some of the more sobering happenings at the Kelly House since I last blogged.  I do better when the muse inspires me to write, whether in song or in story form so to come to the table without that help isn’t my favorite.  I’ve even had a hard time journalling since September when our family was hit with some changes that have been difficult to process. When I realized I’ve been going though the stages of grieving, I decided not to fight the inability to write or create.  I decided to go with the flow and lay the pen down, and my music down, and just try to rest in the fallow ground.  Ironically, since I made that decision, I’ve been able to play my instruments again on a more consistent basis; at least a few songs at a time on the days that I can, but I choose not to sweat it if I can’t.  If I don’t get to it because I’m planting this year’s herbs and watering the flower pots, so be it.  And today I’m finding the ability to tell the story of at least one of the changes that has brought us both grief and joy, so it’s a start anyway.

One of the griefs was the letting go of our beloved chocolate lab, Phoebe, over the autumn and winter months of 2015.  We finally had to make the decision to have the vet put her to sleep on December 12th, a cold and rainy Saturday.  People say pets are like family members and there is a reason for that – they really can be to some of us.  We attach ourselves emotionally to them, project our feelings onto them, take what we think is their feelings onto us.  We take care of them hopefully in all the ways they need; take them with us wherever we go, if we can.  Lots of us let them sleep in our rooms at night on a comfy cushion on the floor by our beds.  Sometimes even on our beds.  The bond is a tight one.  Pets are such a beautiful gift.

In the case of dog life, my only regret is their lifespan is too short but I’m sure there are reasons for that too.  One reason I can think of is we are given the chance to learn to let go of someone we love, grieving as we do – the pain is like losing a human, almost.  We learn to go through the valley of the shadow of death – like practice – for when we are forced to say goodbye to our favorite humans.  Not that it will make it any easier to lose a human loved one, but at least the releasing process is familiar if you’ve done it before.  And then after we passed through the valley of coming to terms with the finality – that we will not see them or hold them again in this earthly life – in time we learn to open our hearts up again and take another chance on love.  Not only is this good practice too, it’s essential for a happy heart which contributes to a healthy life.

Saying goodbye to Phoebe was an ongoing process.  We were seeing signs in early Autumn of her back legs giving out.  Then a shortness of breath developed over the months.  Once she was gone in mid-December, we were sure it would be awhile till we could open up our hearts and home to another dog but we knew we would eventually.  We thought maybe the following summer, then moved that up to April, then maybe even March.  But unbeknownst to me, Stan had already begun to peruse the classifieds in the paper in January. He was missing Phoebe so much and could barely stand how quiet the house was when he came home especially since he came home after the work day before I did.  When he found a litter of Labradors that would be ready for their new families in early February, he shared the news with me and confessed that there was an email from Stephen from Fairfield (Moon Creek Labradors) with a picture of a little brown puppy I needed to see.   Even as I protested – “I thought we were waiting!” – I made a beeline for the computer and sure enough, there was a photo of a little 2-week old puppy staring at us – she looked so little and vulnerable.  Of course, waiting till March or April went out the window for both of us.

Sophie - 3 wks
First picture we saw of the little brown girl at 17 days
Little brown dog almost 1 month old
Little brown dog almost at 1 month

We obviously said yes and Stan met with Sonja the breeder when she come to town and put some money down so she would be ours.  Then it dawned on us we would have a puppy after 13 years and we are 13 years older then the last time we had a puppy!  No daily help from our kids who are now grown and live in their own homes, or from TigerDog who was our Golden Retriever who helped us raise Phoebe when she was a pup.  Only us.  Could we do this?  It helped stave off the panic when we started checking things off the puppy check list and reading up on Labradors again.  Our breeders’ website pointed to some great websites and books.  I ordered 2 of the books from Amazon.  Loved reading about it but wondered if we would have the discipline to raise another dog.  We had become a bit spoiled in the free time area in this season of our lives and that was about to change big time. But we kept moving forward as our breeder sent us pictures and videos of the litter – so adorable and helped with the preparation.  We started thinking about names – looked some up online – discussed ones we both liked.  I even posted on Facebook asking for suggestions – and had a ton of great feedback.  We ended up choosing the name Sophia Olivia – Sophie for every day.  Even though Sophie was on the 2015 list for the most common female dog names, it still felt right.  Then the day finally came when Stan swung by Fairfield with our friend Kevin on his way home from a job in Sun Valley, and brought that little puppy home.

Little Sophie on February 10, 2016
Little Sophie on February 10, 2016

More to come on what it’s been like between then and now more than 2 months later.  It’s like having a new baby and toddler at the same time!  There are times when Sophie reminds us so much of Phoebe but she is also her own person – er, I mean dog – who is very spunky, alert and intelligent. And quite the chewer.  Like I said, more on that in another post.  A happy thought occurred to us that before we even had to say goodbye, a new hello was in the making.  Sophie’s birth date was December 21st and Phoebe left this earth December 12th.  Stan said it’s like Phoebe sent her to us.  But we both know that the One who first created animal companions for Mankind is the One who knows us and is sensitive to our needs.  Perhaps it was His Spirit who pointed us to a new little dog to help us move forward from out of our loss into the blessing of embracing a new life.

Strange Things are Happening…Inside Too!

This post is part 2 of Strange Things are Happening

Inside Venue Music
Inside Venue Music

 Inside venues have their share of distractions too. Coffee shops with espresso machines whipping up frothy drinks when you are in the middle of a song or a drumming circle performing outside the door of the furniture store I played at for First Thursday in downtown Boise (That store is gone now.)

Of course, the strangest happenings aren’t usually caused by the venue itself but the people who come in.  There are those who want to help musically whether they are gifted or not.  Drumming on the table is a good thing as long as the person can keep time, lol.  Or if MY timing is off, what a cluster.  And how about the guy who walks in and asks to play along with you and has the instrument waiting in the car?  That would be fine if he had practiced with me before hand.  I guess he hadn’t thought it through that I’m hired to provide music background, aka entertainment as the heading ‘live music’ implies, so a jam session isn’t necessarily part of the deal.  Maybe it’s just a need for enlightenment, or a matter of not picking up on social cues.  If I knew without a doubt he could back me up with minimal pitchiness or wrong notes, then I could say, yes come sit in with me.  Not that I play flawlessly by all means, but I do need to run through the songs with someone first. :-)

On another note, I was completely flummoxed when I showed up to a venue one evening and one of the wait staff was acting frosty towards me. Usually the venue is happy to see me because I’m pretty friendly and, after all, they are the ones who invited me to come. But this time my cheery hello did nothing to quell the vibe I could feel as I proceeded to set up. “This is not good”, I mused, as I wracked my brain to figure out what I could I have done to cause bad feelings. Lest you wonder if I’m overly sensitive – no, in this case it was not the case; the hostility was palatable and certainly not conducive for merry music making. About a half an hour into my set, I finally decided to approach the server privately and ask him if anything was wrong. After all, I’d rather know what I did and try to fix it rather than suffer the entire night.  Turns out the waiter and the cook thought I was someone else who had called the venue repeatedly that week with questions about the house sound system which to them felt like harassment. Once realizing I was not that person, they laughed out loud and the waiter and I even hugged in relief! He filled me in on all they had endured and we agreed that the person had called too many times for what’s appropriate (another case in not understanding acceptable social norms).  After that, the whole night changed – hallelujah – and a nice time was had by all!  Good thing, because family and friends had turned out to hear me and to try out their wonderful menu!  What a bummer it would have been if there was something lingering in the air to make them uncomfortable and not want to return to the venue. :-(

Like I mentioned in Strange Things Part 1 precious children of a young age often want to come up and either dance or sing in front of me during the song or want to come help play the keyboard. This happens wherever children are.  I’m always grateful for parents who assess the situation and intervene.  The dancing and singing I don’t mind as much just because they are so cute! But touching the keys is off limits which most parents know.  On the other hand, there is the parent who plunks a really shy child down in front of the keyboard, and me, and tries to get them to sing or dance.  Or gives a slightly older child money to put into my tip jar from afar and instructs the shy child to walk the plank to where I am.  Sometimes a little drama ensues while I pretend not to notice 😮

Speaking of parents, you’ve gotta love the proud mother who sees a live musician as an opportunity for her child to perform.  Last month one such mother approached me in between songs and asked “If I put a few dollars in your tip jar would you accompany my daughter on What A Wonderful World?”  I told her I didn’t have that songs prepared on the piano but that did not detour her.  She said “Oh she can sing lots of songs – she’s really good!”  I said with friendly voice and face, “Wow! I bet she is!  But you know what? I’ve been hired to provide live music for today so I better get back to it.  If you are interested in talking to the gal who books the music here, I’d be glad to introduce you.” For some reason she didn’t take me up on that.  Hmmm, I wonder why?  But I do declare, some people have boundary issues!

Aside from all the weird stuff that occurs while playing music out and about, it’s really fun and I consider it a privilege to play for others.  The alternative is to keep my gifts to myself and stay home.  I guess these types of strange happenings add color to the experience and make me realize humanity is quirky and lovely at the same time.   And that’s why I even feel to sing my songs out in public – aside from the compelling desire to get out of my living room and be heard – it’s because I love the hilariously quirky us and you have to admit, it is anything but boring!

Strange Things are Happening…

Art & Roses June 2014
Playing music at Julia Davis Park

When I play my music in public, strange and funny things happen to me that either put me “on tilt” or to throw me for a loop. Since there are so many I’ll divide this blog between outdoor and indoor happenings, so let this be Part 1.

Funny things can occur when playing music outside in a park or farmers market. Nice people walk over to me to start a conversation, which would be great if I wasn’t in the middle of a song! So I usually just smile and nod – and keep the song going – hoping they will realize – “oh ya, she can’t talk yet”. Last week when playing at Julia Davis Park by the Rose Garden, the nicest gentleman came up to give me a large bag of popcorn while trying to tell me something, but I was singing. I did the smile and nod thing so he kindly set the popcorn down in my CD tote. So generous and sweet of him to give so openly and freely! Later I absent-mindedly ate a little of it between songs remembering too late that dry stuff gets stuck in a dry throat. Thankfully I had some water bottles on hand! When the Stuart Family came by on their bikes, I shared the popcorn with the 3 teenagers! Yay, a chance to pay it forward – a gift that keeps on giving!

When I first started playing out I’d get cotton mouth and my lips would invariably stick to my teeth before the song was over. After time I became more comfortable and now so it’s not so bad. However, I’ve learned to hydrate more than usual the day of the gig and try to avoid too much coffee. Also vitamin B12 helps AND I am now never without my trusty chapstick!

The same park day of Nice Popcorn Man, while singing my song Dark Night of the Soul, I kept hearing little bursts of whistling behind me – little staccato notes. At the songs end, I turned around to a beautiful little sprite that looked like what Joni Mitchell must have looked like when she was a girl. I told her “Wow, you are a really good whistler; I wondered who was doing that! If you had been off key I would have had to ask you to stop but you were actually pretty spot on!” She smiled sprite-ly and whistled again for me but her parents may have talked with her because after that she only danced through my songs – even the slow ones :) I should have taken her picture!

Speaking of children, I’ve had some burst into my space to help me play the keyboard which doesn’t work out too well. Scanning the crowd for the parent, I explain to the child that it’s MY turn to play right now. For the most part, parents are great about retrieving the child once they see what’s happening!

Kids are great though. Depending on their personality, they will either stare at me with big round eyes without blinking, or will clap and sachet through a song. It’s really cute to watch, but can be a challenge to stay on beat when the clapping is off. This is when I could use a percussionist by my side, lol.

Another incident at the gig by the Julia Davis Rose Garden was when tiny white worms were falling from the canopy of trees above me into my space, which was just a little creepy. The duo who played before me warned me about this upon my arrival. I asked if the worms bite and they said “no biting, but they are annoying.” Thankfully I had worn a hat that day, but I did worry about the creatures damaging my keyboard which led me to think seriously once again about learning to play guitar. Guitars aren’t as heavy as pianos either. Anyway, as I set up, I watched the little critters plop onto my keyboard and amps. They were so small that no one but me noticed, but a distraction nevertheless; when one would land between the piano keys, I felt compelled to try to fish it out without making mistakes in the song. Finally I just ignored it and hoped for the best. When loading my gear back into the car, I noticed the ones on my amp had died and dried up so I was thankful our home wouldn’t be inundated with unwanted house guests. Since then I haven’t noticed any piano keys sticking or anything so no lasting effect I guess.

Flies, during the season of the little black fly, can be an annoying distraction while trying to keep a song going. I was playing for 3 hours at a farmers market last year and the flies were landing on my arms and legs – yes I did shower that morning – even landing on my mic windscreen (the cover for the mic that helps with noise etc). I was a little worried I’d inhale one accidentally, but fortunately I didn’t. Bees – yellow jackets – also can be a nuisance. I’m glad I finally outgrew the crazed fear I had of them when I was a child. Still, if I ever randomly scream into the microphone just know I’m not venturing into hardcore punk, but something terrible has happened.

That’s all that’s coming to mind today, but stay tuned for Strange Things Happening Part 2 – more wacky details of my music life – indoor happenings. Next time you enjoy a musical offering whether it be inside or outside, just think, more can be going on than what you see and hear!

By the way, if anyone else has a peculiar incident to share whilst playing live music, please feel free to comment. I’d love to hear from you so I can be encouraged that I am not the only one who goes through this stuff!

Chrysanthemum

I came across this song by Amber Rubarth after hearing her for the first time when she opened for Emmylou Harris in Boise this summer. I fell in love with the honesty in her writing and flair for a pretty melody. Huffington Post hails her as “part of the new old-soul generation”.

Having just read the Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, I looked up the meaning of Chrysanthemum at the back of the book which Vanessa lists as “truth”. Other meanings found online are optimism, joy, cheerfulness, long life, the light of hope in dark times. Chrysanthemums are the November birth flower, the 13th wedding anniversary flower and the official flower of the city of Chicago. In Japan, there’s even a “Festival of Happiness” to celebrate this flower each year.

For this song, though, I like the meaning Truth. Dictionary.com lists truth as “the true or actual state of a matter”. This can easily be found in Amber’s lyric. She sings about planting a flower in a little soil in a pot and her mood lifts to “yellow”. In verse 2 she tells about a boy who struggles with depressesion and what his parents do to help him. Each scenario leads to the chorus:

“And it goes to show that there’s a natural way,
Of healing what we’re feeling inside.
It goes to show that before we prescribe,
We should first try a simple smile.”

What a sweet reminder to embrace the simple ways and allow them to heal us. They can lift us out of the grey even if they don’t make us soar like the wild ride of an addiction can. The question is can we be content with a balloon ride if we are craving the speed of a jet? Either way we face the grave truth about gravity – what goes up must come down. I guess it depends which way you’d rather return to reality. Nothing wrong with excitement – we all need a sudden jolt from time to time – but a life in balance can benefit from all degrees of elevation, not only the instant gratification kind. Healings, even small ones, are gifts to be appreciated that bring us into balance and focus.

Take a minute to listen to Chrysanthemum – I’ve uploaded the record version above and the live version below. Couldn’t decide which one to include so added both since I love the strings accompaniment on the album version but love the inflections of Amber’s voice and the bells Alex plays in the live video.

Have you ever experienced a simple pleasure that turned your day to yellow? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below the live video – I’d love to hear!

One Song at a Time

singing bird

The journey to understanding what I want to accomplish with my music has been an evolving revelation.  My goal to  “brighten the world one song at a time” releases me to be who I am, an individual who processes life through creative expression and finds joy in sharing what I see, but in bite-sized pieces.  Sometimes what emerges is a collection of pieces as in record production or live performances, but it all starts with one song.

When I decided to establish a web presence in 2003, I just wanted a place to post my music where it could be heard by whoever happened by.  Peter, the IT guy where I worked created my first website for me, the theme of a happy flower where each petal presented a different page.  It was fresh and sweet, representing my essence well.  However, Peter was the only one with access so when I wanted to input or change content I had to wait till he had a moment.

A change came when I produced my Vessel CD in 2004.  A musician friend, Georgette Dashiel, let me know I could sell my CDs on CD Baby (an online music store specializing in independent music) which led me to also sign up with HostBaby (webhosting for independent musicians, authors and artists) where I have happily thrived since.  Hostbaby outfits you with tools that are fun, easily learned, and affordable for anyone on a budget! 

My next steps were MySpace, FaceBook and Twitter, Instagram/Webstagram – in that order – where I began networking with other musicians, artists and people of all types.  The web is certainly a learn-as-you-go experience and you can’t help but wonder how we ever navigated without it.  It’s definitely connecting us to one another globally.  (Another blog entry for later lest I digress …)

All this to say, my web presence, with all its honing qualities, is helping me discover who I really am and what I’d like my purpose to be.  I’ve heeded some advice posted by social network bloggers along the way, and though I’ve used what works for me, I’ve noticed some of it doesn’t apply to my goals.  To determine my goals, I’ve learned to live with an honest assessment of my strengths and weaknesses which has come through trial and error, not just on the web, but in the real dimensional world as well. 

This journey to my true purpose has revealed to me there’s a fine line between believing all things are possible and discerning who I am and what I am meant to do.  And for now, I believe it’s to brighten the world, one song at a time. 

And with that, feel free to chime in what you have learned in your journey along the way.  I’d love to hear from you!

Small Matters

This song was inspired by a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson which I include in the song: “What lies behind us – what lies before us – are small matters compared to what lies within us”. Song concept is that what lies within us is worth fighting for – to take time to process what’s past for a hopeful and brighter future. C 2011 NancyKellyMusic

Heart of a Friend

This post is the song-story to Heart of a Friend – a continuem on the topic of True Friendship. The lyrics are annotated within the video.

INCIDENT AT THE PARK 

I once knew a man who made public statements about his Good Friend So-and-So who happened to be a famous musician, as well as how he hung out with other great friends who were in prominent positions. But when you delved a little deeper into his world, you found that he was stretching it a bit about his friendship with them. In fact, ‘acquaintance’ was a more apt description of their relationship. He did this so often that we began to suspect he had some sort of insecurity disorder. Since it became obvious that none of us were important enough to be his friend, why did he even feel the need to prove his worth (to us) by proclaiming his friendship with celebrity types? 

One time back in the mid-90’s, we were all on our way to a park for an event. The above-mentioned man was attending too, but when he saw us as we were walking into the park, he walked right by us without even a nod. We know he saw us because we made eye contact! Apparently he was on a mission that didn’t involve us, but to not even bother to say hello was hurtful and unecessary. It was insulting because we assisted him with his lofty goals during the routine of our daily lives and he had led us to believe we were in relationship with him.

For some reason, this particular event was to become the defining moment in realizing the truth about our relationship with him.  We supported his ideas and teachings of community which turned out to be in theory after all was said and done.  In reality, we were in his life to help him with his dreams and goals yet there was no forum to even mention our goals because it turned out to be all about him. He had a way of making you feel that nothing was important as what he was doing. His rude behaviour of practically shunning us in public was to become typical of him, especially when we went out of town. We noticed it didn’t just happen to us however, but to all who were subservient to him (the exception being his golden person of the moment, and his family, of course).

Being treated like a stranger in the park by someone I mistook as a friend sparked in me a resolution to define true friendship and dignify what it is not. I could no longer tolerate the name-dropping about his fantasy friends while he overlooked those who treated him with the respect he hadn’t earned, at least in the area of friendship. In contrast, I thought about my true friends and how we treat each other and my appreciation for their friendship soared. 

Eventually, I penned this song, Heart of a Friend. When I wrote it, I was compelled to look at myself through the lens of a person unworthy of my friendship.  Some of what I saw was true.  But in facing what I didn’t have, I could also see what I do have – the ability to be a friend. It occurred to me that the very essence of who I am – a person with a heart of friendship – was being overlooked by someone who only talked about friendship but didn’t know how to be a friend.  How ironic.

In the end, I came to realize this man was never worthy of my friendship. I discovered that what I don’t possess may be what contributes to what I do have, which is the heart of a friend who is valuable only to someone else who has the heart of a friend too.

True Friendship

FriendshipHeart-1

I have a Facebook and MySpace profile and I Twitter. I try to keep up on my blog and music website.  But the overuse of the word friend has been bugging me lately. . .

 

When it comes to true friendship, do you really care about a person’s social status and genetics? Not that you don’t appreciate where your friend comes from or what she looks like, but is that the criteria to what makes her your friend? What is friendship in this age of social networking where the very word ‘friend’ is used so frequently and haphazardly – sort of cheapened by the minimum requirement of parking a one-dimensional picture of yourself on another person’s social profile, along with hundreds of others who have also been ‘approved’ for friendship. (Thought to self: “HELLO MR SOMEBODY! Holy cow, he has a trillion friends and twitter followers, he must be a real somebody – if I link to him will I be a somebody too?”)

 

If you dare peek at the insecurities you might be hiding from the world, you may find yourself admitting to feelings of inadequacy based upon comparing yourself to someone else i.e. your social status and genetics versus another’s.  When a profile picture is supposed to represent the sum of who you are, so that people who pass by can click on, stay on, or move on based on how that picture affects them, shouldn’t that give us pause? Not that we can really change anything about that, but we want to at least keep it in perspective and not feel bad or too good depending upon the results. I’m also wondering if the number of a person’s online friends factors into whether that person is added as a friend or not. (I’m sure there’s some way to track that!)

 

Without veering too much into a diatribe on how shallow we are allowing ourselves to become, I’d like to plug the need to rescue the word friend from its superficial fate!

 

Webster’s definition of friend: “A person whom one knows well and is fond of; intimate associate; a person on the same side in a struggle; one who is not an enemy or foe; an ally; a supporter or sympathizer; helpful, reliable” 

 

When you consider the true meaning of the word friend, you can see how a social networking mindset has highjacked it, minimizing its profoundness.  

 

It’s pretty easy to keep a superficial relationship going online and think we have more friends than we really do. Conversely, we can be led to believe we don’t have enough friends and beat ourselves up over that.

 

Bottom line, we can’t let this popularity system of measurement define us.

 

FRIENDSHIP BEYOND THE COMPUTERS. 

It’s unrealistic to embrace huge groups of people as close friends in the world beyond computers because of logistics and time restraints. But it does make sense to have a few intimate friends and then other types of friends of varying degrees. My good friend Sharon talks about it in terms of which tier category a friendship falls into. Sort of pyramid in shape (yet not in concept), it makes sense to say your closest friends are Tier 1 and your acquaintances are the bottom tier being the largest. She has also mentioned that friendships have seasons and how wisdom tells us to let certain people go and it’s ok to move on when it becomes necessary. And I have found that to be true.

  

I think the important thing to remember is if you call a person a friend, there’s some responsibility with it. Your time, effort, your heart are all involved. In the end, you are present for that person through the highs and lows of his life. You may not always be able to be physically present, but you can pick up where you leave off, showing you care, knowing your friend cares too.

 

It‘s nice to say hi and catch up with our online acquaintances, but what really matters in the dimension of the real world is cultivating a few true friendships with people who genuinely care about us and what happens to us – to be there ‘in person’ for each other.  It’s healthier and it will probably help us live longer! We can only hope!

 

My Precious Life

We all want to make a difference in this world and experience success in some way. Sometimes other people’s success can be intimidating when we measure our success by theirs.  Hopefully self-doubt rehearsals of the brain will only momentarily trip us up if we turn to a place of positive reinforcement to replenish our energy so we can maintain our flow and move forward.

I hope this post and ‘My Precious Life’ song can contribute to that in some way.

(lyrics are included in the video)

The other day I woke up to feelings of insignificance and intimidation in the area of my musical gift. Not sure exactly what brought it on, but I recognized the feeling because it sneaks up on me me periodically. It’s funny how you can ride on the heights of possibility one day and the next wallow in the depths of nothingness.

Since we can’t rest on our laurels, as the old saying goes, when it comes to making a place for our art (or whatever it is you want to make a place for), I guess we do what we have to do to keep ourselves moving forward.  It doesn’t seem to matter how much has been accomplished, there’s always the next step to take; and the next step often carries with it the realm of improbability.  Seems like the voice of intimidation whispers to you when you are most vulnerable, but there’s got to be a way to downplay its power when it comes.

What exactly is the effect of intimidation?  Doesn’t it question our ability to do what we do as if we don’t have a right to be doing it?  If we were only to look at all the reasons why we shouldn’t do something, why we don’t measure up, and how the odds are against us, we may as well just stop. But since stopping isn’t an option (to the compelled and passionate), why not look at the entire picture and tally up why we shouldn’t stop? After all, we are holding a gift in our hands to give to the world, even if it is (in my case) one song at a time, and in yours, one (_______) at a time. Bottom line is if we quit, we miss out on the giving and then, of course, no one can receive either, and ultimately intimidation wins.

Whenever I feel stuck like this, I turn to some sort of positive reinforcement to get me out of the funk. One way I do that is to pour a cup of morning joe (into a cute mug), light a candle, sit in a favorite chair and open up my Bible to the book of Psalms. I like Psalms because I can understand and identify with the writers’ honest expressions of their feelings, both high and low, about the events of their lives, both positive and negative.    I like the way they turn to God in need and find solace in worship no matter what the circumstance, returning to him like a touchstone.  Even though written centuries earlier, the material is relatable to what we go through today.

Back to my particular day, the phrase “my precious life” stood out to me in two different verses in two different Psalms (Ps. 35:17 and Ps. 22:20).  I read the verses in context to get some perspective and it was interesting to see that the writer, David, was at a point in his life that he felt insignificant to those who didn’t understand him – like people didn’t get what it was he had to offer.  He was actually hated by enemies who were in pursuit of his life.  (That part I can’t relate to since I don’t have enemies as far as I know.  But I do have an enemy of my soul that can interupt the pursuit of making my music available to whomever.)  When David was pleading to God to rescue his precious life, it sounded more life and death than any of my situations, but then when I look at my musical creativity as a precious life, I can pray the same way – please rescue my precious life from death.  And in a round about way, if my music dies, a big chunk of me dies with it, so you get the picture.

Part of the intimidation for me is I’m getting older and finding out my options have become more limited.  The older a person gets in our society, the more overlooked one can feel, especially if you don’t fit in with the typical glossy product that seems to stir the masses.  If I tried to emulate that, (as if I could…LOL!) it would come across unauthentic and contrived.  My best bet is to stay true to who I am and give what I have with the vessel it comes in.  Part of my offering exists because I’ve lived as many years as I have.  I wouldn’t have been able to say what I say now when I was in my 20s…   So, I’ll keep saying what’s on my mind one song at a time and bring reassurance to one person at a time; and what’s so bad about that?  In the end, if my gift is doing what it’s supposed to be doing, that is success.

I guess I felt such an affinity with that phrase because for my entire adult life I’ve felt I had something precious to give but my journey of giving it away hasn’t been what you’d call typical.  That day when I needed reassurance, yet again, the ‘my precious life’ phrase whispered to me that God sees my life and gift as precious and indeed has a place for it even if it’s uniquely tucked into the nook and cranny places only seen by those who are supposed to see it. I have to ask myself if I am ok with that.  To be honest, that’s where my vulnerability to intimidation comes in.  Sometimes I’m content with that, but not always.  But when I get a glimpse of this perspective, the pain of feeling invisible to the world diminishes, at least for a little while, and makes way for a new surge of energy to keep on keeping on.

So with all that, I decided to sit down at the piano and turn the yearning I felt into a prayer for myself and for anyone else haunted by the the fear of invisibility.  The song that came is my offering. In this case, (what I perceive to be) God’s whisper overcame the insideous whisper of intimidation.

Think About You

This is an original song I wrote back in 1993! I was inspired to do a flip video of it for my spiritual blog-a-song category because of the painting in the video which was created by my mother-in-law, Phyllis Kelly-Bouza, and is a replication of a stained glass window in one of our churches in Boise.

The song has also inspired me to blog about what a picture of Jesus causes people to think about and a commentary about separating Christ from the Christian subculture that has morphed into ‘quite the thing’ as the years have gone by.  I’d love to hear what you think too, so comments are welcome (but, as always, no pressure)!

Think About Him

When you see a picture of Jesus what do you think about?

A guy with long brown hair and flowing robes?  An ancient teacher-prophet who spoke often of love and mercy?  The Passion of Christ movie? 

Perhaps you think of a kind neighbor or relative who is a follower of Christ, who touched your life when you were once in crisis.  Or maybe someone iconic comes to mind, like Mother Theresa.  There’s no doubt that many followers of Christ are good people who truly help others.

More often than not, though, when you encounter his likeness (or what we think is his likeness), your thoughts can turn quickly to recent unsavory scandals in Christendom.  We’ve all heard about the epidemic of Catholic priests who betrayed the trust of their parishioners by preying on their innocent children.  Then from the Protestant side there’s Ted Haggard, the former leader of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and now ex-pastor of a mega church in Colorado, who fell from grace when it was found out he paid a gay man for sex and methamphetimine use over a 3 year period.  It was the hypocrisy of his public stand against homosexuality while he participated in his double life (extramarital homosexual affairs) that caused an outrage outside the Christian community. 

In addition to scandalous affairs, how about something closer to home?  With a quick click of a remote you can see a man in a suit on TV earnestly encouraging (begging) you to send him seed faith money in Jesus Name, to ensure you receive from God all you need.  Not quite sure about the logic behind giving him our money to make us close to God, but he will tell you this 5 minutes into his TV show! 

I’d be remiss not to mention the latest female celebrity from the Bible Beltway making the circuit around the US, sporting a business suit, chic short hair cut and million-dollar smile.  She would like to send you a free signed copy of her latest book after you send HER an offering check.  Her books seem to be well distributed in every Christian Book store in the USA which begs asking BOOKSTORES, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING??  Don’t you guys screen what you sell? Have her books been scrutinized beforehand for theological validity?  Oh that’s right, forgot about the bottom line – she apparently sells LOTS of books.

I’d rather call to mind the caring, unassuming neighbors, thank you.  They would be the ones there for me in my times of trouble if I needed them.  Suit Guy and Bible Belt Blonde Girl might be able to pray for me through a TV screen (by laying hands on my check!) but that’s not going to help me in crisis.

I have yet to mention the personal experience within a church or religious community that can affect how we feel towards Deity.  How we are treated by people within our social sphere has a huge impact on whether we remain open or not.  Anytime there’s human interaction there’s potential for affirmation or hurt in varying degrees.  We all need to try to take great care in how we treat each other yet there are so many factors on why we do what we do, or don’t do.  Perhaps that’s why Jesus emphasized love when asked what is the greatest commandment in the Law: (Matthew 12:37-40) Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”          

If you wince when you come across a Jesus picture or painting, do you think it could be that those who behave badly in his name are the cause of your uneasy feelings?  Although there are many fine, compassionate people who claim Jesus as their own, it’s the ones who distort who he is who seem to get the most press these days.  And that does affect our opinion of Christ himself.

The next time you come across an Image of Christ, I challenge you to picture him as the one who existed long before the Christian SubCulture morphed into what it is today.  When you strip away the religious rhetoric, the long list of do’s and don’ts and fancy incantations, along with the human hypocricy, Jesus stands amazingly on his own merit.  Don’t let the spirit of who he is, and what he did for mankind, get lost in the hype and the clutter of misrepresentation.

Simply think about him and what he can do for you.