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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Spring Time at the Middle School

The car line creeps slowly up the street by the middle school in the afternoon, giving me ample opportunity to observe middle school springtime society in full swing. The trees are green, the grass is lush, and the energy level is high.

The first group of kids hanging out in small clumps are the eighth graders. There are lots of couples, and the flirting is intense enough I can feel the hormone surges from inside my car. Then there are the groups of girls giggling and the boys leaned against the building looking cool.

Next, I drive past the 6th grade boys. They have laid claim to the wide open field and a football. They are oblivious to the romances being played out around them. There are only tackles to be made and a ball to possess. Girls just get in the way of the important things in life.

Against the main building I like to watch the 7th grade boys. These are the kids in transition. They are too cool to play football out front, but I do see them doing crazy things like bush diving. The boys back up, run at full force, and fling themselves into the bushes. Then they act surprised to be injured. A few of the 7th grade boys at this time of year are starting to lean against the building and check out the 6th grade girls on the other side of the sidewalk.

The 6th grade girls are in herds. They completely ignore the boys. "They are just soooo immature." There is lots of giggling and the band girls have out their instruments playing around together.

As I watch the kids each afternoon, I remember those days of seeking to find myself. I remember trying to fit in and decide what sort of person I would become. I remember the strength of the strange emotions hitting me as hormones surged through my inexperienced body. I look at those kids in the afternoons, and realize that even though clothes are cooler and hair is flatter, really, life hasn't changed that much at all. As I drive by to pick up my two oldest, I try to remember how tough those years were and look and listen to my own children with a little more compassion and a little extra respect.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Norah LIVE

Last night we dropped the kids off with some friends and headed down to Music Hall at Fair Park in Dallas to see Norah Jones in concert. I was so excited about this as she is my favorite artist. (see last post). On the way down we were a little pushed for time, so we just swung through the drive thru at Arby's. I do love my curly fries!

The venue was superb. I had never been to Music Hall before. I loved the elegant, aged atmosphere of the building. Entering I could almost hear the echoes of decades filled with spectacular music and productions. I enjoyed browsing the building and seeing the fountain and huge chandelier. Even though the seats and the carpet were a little worn, there was something about the elegance of the building that filled that same niche in my soul that enjoys a nice hotel and dinner at a restaurant where the waiter sweeps away my bread crumbs.

The opening act was Sarah Jaffe. Shawn really enjoyed this guitar driven vocalist more than I did. She was talented, but I was anxious to get on to the real reason I was there. I spent this portion of the concert checking out the people around me. Sitting behind me was an Elvis impersonator. He had on the white disco suit, the scarf, the big sunglasses, the blinged out rings, and the huge sideburns and greased black hair. I found it very challenging not to stare and giggle. The rest of the crowd was very mixed. There were lots of couples there, and the age range was interesting. I saw old couples shuffling down the aisle and teen couples gripping hands tightly. I was surprised by the strong Lesbian presence at the concert. I didn't realize that Norah would draw in that many same sex couples. Shawn used that as an opportunity to tease me a bit about my musical tastes.

I absolutely enjoyed every moment of Norah on stage. It was interesting seeing her play to her hometown crowd. She pointed out where her family had season seats at the Music Hall when she was a kid. Then she apologized to all of her piano teachers in the audience that she would primarily being playing guitar in the show. She also did a shout out to students from the art magnet school she graduated from.

Norah primarily did songs from her latest album, "The Fall." It was very interesting to see all the instrumentation involved in the songs. Running with her music on the earbuds, I have often tried to figure out what instruments were playing and been very confused. Instruments were swapped often last night. I saw a huge variety of guitars, 4 different keyboard/synthesizers, a xylophone, two different sets of drums, a large tin can and a wooden box that were used in percussion, an accordion, a cello, and of course the piano. The piano was of special interest to me. It was an upright, tuned to sound just a bit tinny - reminded me of the pianos in the little churches I grew up in - or maybe like a piano in a honky tonk.

I had assumed that Norah played the piano for her songs, but most of the night she stuck with the electric guitar and her keyboard player did most of the piano work. I love that bluesy jazz sound that he played under her sultry vocals. I would love to be able to play those chords. I know Shawn expected me to be all turned on and snuggled up against him, but actually from our 7th row seats, I had a great view of the piano keys. I had to lean slightly to the left (away from Shawn) to be able to watch the keys closely. Of course I was carried away in the music and fascinated by the chord progressions on the piano. All too soon the music ended, and the magic was gone. I was disappointed that Norah did not do my all time favorite, "Turn me On." But she did cycle back through several of her other hits.

I had a great evening. I appreciated my husband knowing that this concert was something that I would enjoy and making the effort to secure excellent tickets. It was amazing for a couple of hours to be held in the spell of amazing music.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Norah Jones

6 years ago, my marriage was in recovery from complete and total ruin. That summer, Shawn and I supervised a youth trip to a church camp where the speaker just kept talking about this awesome make out music that he and his wife enjoyed by Norah Jones. Anxious to try anything that might bring romance and passion back into our marriage, I bought an album when we got back home. It was love at first listen.

For me, music invokes intense emotions. Norah invokes a strong sense of my womanhood. Her husky voice and incredible piano stuff always makes me feel beautiful. For the last 6 years she has maintained a #1 status at the top of my playlist on the iPOD. It has been the soundtrack behind lots of slow dancing in the kitchen, amazing hungry passionate nights in the bedroom, and most recently - late night runs when I need to recover from the stress of being a teacher and a mom all day. Late night running with Norah on the iPOD just makes me feel absolutely alive. Human again after a long day. It helps me reconnect with my soul that gets lost in the chaos of life.

Today we were sitting at Sonic when my husband grabbed his phone and started frantically dialing. I was stunned, thinking someone had been rushed to the hospital or had died. Nope. He had been listening to the radio station playing over the radio speakers outside and heard they were giving away Norah Jones tickets for Tuesday night. He didn't win, but before an hour had passed, he was online and had tickets ordered for us. He knows how badly I have wanted to hear her in concert.

I am stoked out of my mind. I am crazy excited. I can't wait for Tuesday night.

Monday Morning Update 5/3/10

Pulling into the parking lot this morning, I felt an overwhelming burden to pray for our services before we even started unloading the truck. Shawn and I sat onstage and prayed for our people, our ministry, and God's presence to fill the place. I was so glad that we had spent some time in prayer, cause things got a little squirrely today during set-up.

Our sound went crazy - probably the worst problems yet. As in large amounts of intensely loud random static, stuff acting absolutely nuts, all kinds of problems that couldn't be corrected. At 10:24 (services less than 10 minutes out) we had no sound. Robby solved the sound issues enough that we were able to start on time. We still had no background vocals, but at least the loud static stopped. The playstation would not plug in and function either, so the rockband portion of the service had to be cancelled, and a fast download made of today's song.

Shawn did a great job with the message. He used "Carry on Wayward Son" as a hook into the message today. He completely just rolled with the whole playstation not working and handled the technical difficulties gracefully. Shawn talked today about living life when you are losing hope. He talked about continuing faithfully in your walk with God and staying connected with other believers. When we are discouraged, it is easier to pull away from the people we are close to rather than to deal with our painful issues. We are like a wounded animal that crouches in a dark corner, licking our own cuts. It is always easier to avoid and run away from our problems and stay miserable than to work through them and find true healing.

Galatians 6:9 hit me this morning, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Here's my honesty part - Friday night I was ready to give up. I was miserably sick which never helps lend true perspective to any situation. Shawn and I had a minor disagreement which meant I couldn't sleep, so I sat in the kitchen till 2 a.m. grading papers. I was so frustrated and discouraged that my life is flying by, and I have passions and things that God has placed in my life that I don't have the time or energy to fulfill at this time. The being sick lead to me feeling pretty overwhelmed by all the stuff that urgently needs to get done. Overwhelmed by the crazy juggling act of trying to be on my game and prepared to teach, trying to parent our kids, needing to put our house on the market, ministry needs at The Crossroads, and then needing to be fully surrendered to what God's call is on my own life. There are days when the mountain is too tall to be climbed. Galations 6:9 reminded me that God has the proper time all figured out. I only have to be faithful with the hours of today. Then with tomorrow when it gets here, then with the tomorrow after that. If I am surrendered and obedient with each tomorrow, I will eventually arrive at the destination God has planned for me. Great encouragement today.

Also loved Hebrews 12:1-3, "Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Weary. I often feel so weary. It is good to be reminded that focusing on Christ will renew my strength and give me a fresh perspective and a new heart.

Want to hear something funny? After services we stayed late to try to chase down and problem solve the sound gremlins. We unplugged everything, plugged it all right back in - worked just fine. No loud buzzing or static, no strangely muted mics or instruments, no cracking monitors. All just fine.

One last word. Auditions for the worship team were announced today. When it was announced that all positions were open for auditions, some of my friends were not happy with the idea that I might be replaced. I appreciate all the kind words, but here's how I feel about that. I want whatever is best for The Crossroads musically. I have always, frequently told Robby that as much as I love being on stage, I always want us to use the best (or maybe "right" is a better word) people on stage. Best does not always mean most musically talented in a worship situation, and that's why spiritual health will also be a part of the audition process. Unless we open the doors for auditions, we may not ever know what talents are in our midst. If there is ever a professional level pianist who is broken and humble and seeks to be totally surrendered to God's will and would fit well with the band and would do a better job than me, I would be absolutely and completely honored to step aside and watch from the audience as God takes our music to an even higher level. The idea behind auditions is not to exclude existing band members, but to allow God the opportunity to bring musicians out of hiding that could be used in worship - for example we don't even have an electric guitar player after all. We are all hoping there's one in hiding somewhere in the audience. So no more grumbling, okay. Thanks for the love, though.