Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tomorrow May Mean Goodbye

Even as a lad I was keenly aware that death arrives unexpectedly and too soon. My grandpa died when I was only nine years old.  Mr. Bowdie, a close family friend died just a few days before my seventh birthday.  Both of these deaths profoundly affected me.

child_cryingWhen Mr. Bowdie died, we were supposed to spend the weekend fishing, just like the week before when I had caught my first fish ever.  It was almost a miracle that anyone could catch a fish that day. Mr. Bowdie had a worn-out boat and motor that refused to start that day.  Dad stuck a cane pole in my hand while he and Mr. Bowdie wrestled with the old Evinrude. The boat was half in the water half on the bank. We were making more noise than any fish would brave being around. Somehow a huge old carp happened to swallow the tomato worm on my hook.  I pulled him in with shouts of joy and pride over my first trophy.

Mister Bowdie laughed and jumped up and down more than I did. He promised that the next weekend he would have the motor fixed and we would learn what it was like to catch a whole boatload of fish, together. Sleep didn’t come easy that week as I visualized everything Mr. Bowdie promised.
When the phone rang, I was lying on the floor near dad’s chair watching “Gunsmoke”.  I could tell from dad’s hushed tones that something was wrong.  When he told us that Mr. Bowdie was dead my whole world went dark. I could feel the tightness and lump in my throat. Tears poured uncontrolled down my cheeks.  My tender little boy heart broke for the first time, leaving the harsh promise of many more breakings to come.
I knew there would be no more sitting in the boat with Mr. Bowdie. There would be no more watching him saucer his coffee, no more digging in his huge tool box. There would never be a time to sit in his lap listening to his fish stories. Mister Bowdie was gone. We would never have those special times together again.  Anything we planned to do could never be done because death stole our future.
Fast forward a few years and my world would be vastly different. My parents divorced. My sister and I moved to Illinois with our mom.  We lived in a few rooms above our landlords the Elluel’s. They owned a telephone and we did not.  We had to go downstairs if we ever got a phone call.  Usually, that only happened on birthdays and Christmas. Phone calls from Texas were precious and seldom came.  I treasured every talk with my dad. My feet didn’t  touch the treads as I leaped down the stairs to the lower floor landing. When I got to the phone I heard the same voice that announced death once before. Dad told us how, “Grandpa had been very sick and just wasn’t strong enough to recover from pneumonia.”  I could feel that familiar ripping of my heart, the heavy cloud of darkness overshadowing me. Oh, how I wanted to run and hide from Dad’s sad voice and the words he spoke.
This time the pain was a little different. At nine years old, I had time to make plans to go to Dickens, Texas and help Granny and Grandpa. I even dreamed about shining his shoes and taking him squirrel hunting.  I promised Grandpa in the summer that I would come help him take care of Granny who was unable to walk any more.  This time I had made the commitment that death would break.
Death is a robber of future plans. Death comes at the worst time and steals our dreams and intentions. Death is certainly cruel but fair in that it hurts everyone it leaves behind.

I’d like to say that I learned not to put off the important matters in life. I wish I could say that I’ve made the memories, fulfilled the promises and lived the dreams I have with my loved ones. I haven’t. Like most every person I know I am leaving undone the simple things like saying I love you, taking my nieces and nephews fishing, writing that special note to someone I know I hurt in the past but have been too stubborn to ask forgiveness.  Today would truly be the time to do those things.
Someday a little boy or girl is going to hurt because I am gone. Will I at least leave them with a completed promise, dream or desire?  There is a song we used to sing in the old country church that reminds us of the suddenness of goodbye.
Tomorrow may mean goodbye
We never, know when or why
God calls us away, when life seems so gay
Our bodies in dust to lie

Tomorrow our souls may sigh
For beauty we let slip by
Oh, listen to me today
Fall down on your knees and pray

Cause tomorrow,
May mean goodbye
–J.B. Coats

Now that I am a man, death’s tragedy hurts just as much as it did when I was a boy.  I have learned that there is a tomorrow where the “saved and the blessed”  join a heavenly family, united together where death will never part.  My decision is to live my life making certain that I’ll be happy on that day.

“And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.” (1 John 2:28).

Friday, October 16, 2009

Thoughts on My Mother's Death

Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!

Zinnia15(Psa 39:5-6)

It has been thirty years now since my mother passed away.  I've lived past her age when she died.  Although the intensity of the sorrow has diminished with time, there is still a void in my heart and life that will never be filled.  This time of each year is always sadder for me because of the memory of losing my mom.  There are a few things that I am driven to think as I recall this event in my life.
    Life can change drastically in minutes. Tragedy and Joy can happen without an announcement preceding it (James 4:14).  My mom was in the prime of her when she suffered a massive brain bleed and died within a couple days.  She wasn't sick prior to this.  I am not saying we should be terrified to live for fear of dying.  Rather we all need to be living every moment to its fullest (Job 9:25-26).  Take the needed time to enjoy your time here, make the most of the joy-filled days you have. 
    We will leave a legacy behind (1 Cor 15:58) Our families and friends will remember us with fondness or with aversion.  How we treat others is the key to how others remember us.  Each of us leaves a part of ourselves in the lives of others.  Our interaction with others molds who they are.  Make sure that we are building up and not tearing down.  
    Life goes on. Sorrow is a powerful emotion.  It has been thirty years and I still hurt.  I can cope with sorrow much better now than at the beginning.  It has been the same with other sorrows that I've experienced.  It is never easy and each sorrow impacts me a little differently.  In each case life keeps happening.  Other people won't feel your pain like you do and they mean no harm by continuing their lives while you are hurting.  Eventually you will learn to cope with your pain and be able to join the rest of the world again.

I miss my mom and have many unresolved emotions that won't ever have closure.  I suppose every year about this time I'll relive my hurts and in some ways I think that is good.  The sorrow brings with it other memories too.  Each year, at least for a few weeks, I remember my childhood; happy and sad times, kisses and spankings, all the pieces of life that my mom fabricated into me.  I am also reminded that soon I'll be leaving my loved ones with a sorrow they will bear.  I hope I give to others more fondness than hurt.

Joseph D. Chase
Missionary to Jamaica

(940) 536-3325
subscribe to Worship Thoughts by clicking on the banner below.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Mister Brumley's Emily Post

I learned a lot from Mr. Brumley.  He tried his best to be a surrogate grandfather for a boy growing up without a father in the home.  He was great at teaching me music appreciation, the value of working hard, and being respectful of my elders.  He was really a wonderful grandfather.  I miss him a lot and think often about the many lessons he tried to teach me. 
Mr. Brumley was unbending about proper table manners.  He quoted from his own copy of Emily Post’s “Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home” He would read a snippet or two at every meal we had at his table.  We had to take seriously his lectures on napkin placement, order and use of eating utensils and proper dinner conversation.  Those of us at the table were usually more interested in Mrs. Brumley’s fried chicken; which brings me to the scar on my right index finger. 
After one of the lengthy lessons on etiquette my childish patience was drained.  My stomach was growling in opposition to its emptiness.  After the lecture and the amen to the prayer I greedily reached across the table for the juicy drumstick calling my name.  Before I could pull back my prize, Mr. Brumley jabbed my hand with his fork.  I yelped more from surprise than pain.  The real pain came when I had to read 100 pages from Mr. Brumley’s Emily Post.  I was forbidden to eat until I had consumed every letter of the 100 pages.
I guess I learned my lesson; I don’t reach across the table anymore.  I still know to work from outside to inside on the eating utensils.  So Mr. Brumley instilled some of the etiquette pretty deep into the fabric of my life.  Even more important than all those lessons learned I’ve come to know that Mr. Brumley really loved me enough to care about what kind of person I would become.  All that time he invested in me was a selfless act.  I’m privileged to have had this kind grandfather in my life.
Today it is my turn.  I need to love someone enough to help them.  My Jesus taught us to help the less fortunate.  James spent a goodly portion of his writing on taking care of the poor, the fatherless and the widow (James 1:27; 2:2-6, 2:14-16).   I guess Mr. Brumley’s real Emily Post was his Bible because he lived it even more than that book on good manners.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Is My Job as a Worship Leader to Lead or Follow?

Sometimes we get so caught up in thinking we are leading everyone into the "Throne room of God" that we forget that our real purpose is to "Follow the Lamb where ever He goes" (Revelation 14:4). Remember if you are not worshiping then you can't expect the assembly to worship with you. It is too easy to get caught up in the technique, the music, the practicum or something else that we are not focused on the whole reason we assembled in the first place.

Having our hearts right goes a long way in helping others to worship. It matters not if it is singing, praying, or preaching when a worshiper's heart is focused on heaven people will know. The opposite is true too. It is pretty easy to spot the insincere, ungenuine or faker when it comes to these things. People will forgive mistakes in technique, skill level and ability. However, they will quickly judge and tune out the pretender.

As an example, I know a preacher who was using a lot of "canned" sermons and illustrations out of books or off the Internet. One Sunday he actually plagerized a story that happened to someone else. He put himself into the story as if it really happened to him. It was pretty obvious when he couldn't pronounce the places or the names of the people in the story. On Monday a college student called his hand in by showing him the freshly printed story off the Internet. The preacher lost a lot of credibility, ethos and pathos from then on.

Your leading should be nothing more than a model of you approaching God in worship. It must be transparent and genuine. That is by far easier than trying to be someone else. When you are following the Lord you're going to attract a lot of people who want to go with you.

Joseph D. Chase
Missionary to Jamaica
subscribe to Worship Thoughts by clicking on the banner below.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Perking Up Our Prayers-Supplication Brings His Supply

“…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (Eph 6:18)

This is the last in our series on prayer.  We have discovered how much better prayer becomes when we extol the qualities and nature of God through adoration.  Then we looked into the need of confessing our sins and dependence upon the God of heaven to help us.  We noted how adoration and confession lead us to thankfulness.  Now we turn to the quality of supplication.  Supplication is asking humbly and earnestly in prayer.  It carries with it the idea of persistence.  Some define it as beseeching or begging. 

Most people learn that how we ask for things can make the difference in receiving our request.  Humility and earnestness are keys to opening the door to our prayers to be answered favorably.

There is a chasm of difference between nagging and pleading.  The attitude of the heart that nags is arrogance, harassment and greed.  The pleading heart is humble, and unassuming.  Look at the difference in the Pharisee and tax collector (Luke 18:9-14).  Supplication is realizing a great need in our lives and seeking God’s help and grace in a time of need (Hebrews 4:16).  Badgering or annoying the Father will not bring His justification to us.  Pleading and supplication coupled with thankfulness will (Philippians 4:6).

When we plead we might persist in a request.  Asking more than once in a humble way is not frowned on by God.  Paul went to God three times about his thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:8).  There is a clarifying character to asking for things more than once.  It helps us see if something is truly a flippant desire or a true need.  But even more importantly it reminds us of our inability to provide for ourselves.  This is not to speak on why God delays clear cut answers to our pleadings, it is foolish to think we can speak for God’s reasoning. 

Jesus taught in a parable about a woman who repeatedly besought a king for justice.  It was because of her persistence that she was granted her request.  We all can learn a lesson from this woman.  Prayer should come often, and God doesn’t tire of hearing our earnest requests. 
This series on prayer brings us full circle.  Seeing God’s goodness and nature drives us to our knees to confess that we depend on Him for all things.  We then humbly approach Him to ask for His kind providence. 

Joe Chase
Missionary to Jamaica
Please check us out on YouTube and Twitter

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

To Help You With Your Key Signatures

In our last post we looked at pitching songs.  I thought I would give you a simple tool for learning all the keys by sight for those who might want to use it. 

Major Keys With Flats

Notice the order of the flats B E A D G C F.  If we turn that order around we will have the order of the sharps.

Major Keys With Sharps

You are welcome to memorize these signatures or use the method described in the blog post on pitching the song.  As a Worship Leader you need to do everything you can to be certain that you can start a song in a range that the average singer can reach.  That makes knowing how to read key signatures vital. 

Pitching songs too high or low will hurt the participation in singing.  It can also create other problems.  Pitching songs too low will nearly always lead to dragging in tempo.  Low pitched songs  take on a dark or depressing feel.  Guess what?  Songs that drag also cause singers to drop in pitch.  So a vicious cycle can easily take over your song when pitched too low. 

Songs pitched too high can physically harm vocal anatomy.  When John Que Average church member shows up to sing he will seldom have his vocalizing muscles and apparatus warmed up and ready for a work-out.  Jumping into a song pitched above  his range will cause strain to his voice.  You could be responsible for a lot of collateral damage if you frequently pitch songs too high.  High songs tire singers quickly and will deflate participation for the remainder of the service. 

A good rule of thumb is to stay within a step up or down of the written key signature.  Pitching songs up (within reason) sometimes will brighten a song.  There are a lot of songs that lend themselves to a key modulation up a half step or whole step on the final Chorus or final Stanza. 

Sometimes songs that have notes in the far reaches of the vocal compass need to be lowered a bit to save the voices of the singers.  This is especially true if it is the first song of the day.  Be aware that most church sopranos and tenors will not be able to sing above Fs and Gs before they are warmed up. 

Pitching a song correctly is a big part of your role as leader.  In fact in the short list of most important it ranks in the top 3 things a leader must do right.

Practice; study your songs carefully for notes that are high or low for singers to reach.  Adjust your pitch carefully to aid participation of the whole group. 

Establish Pitch Before You Start The Song

Starting a song on the right pitch in the right key is necessary for worshipers to be able to particpate without distraction.  A capella worship leaders need some way to establish the keytone in their mind before they start the song. 

Use of a pitch pipe, tuning fork or some other form of reference tone is a must.  Very few are blest with perfect pitch or pitch memory, so we have to depend on these devices to help us find the key and then the starting pitch. 

You will have to spend some time training yourself on how to recognize the keys.  There are several methods which are pretty simple.  One is to memorize all of the key signatures. Not impossible but difficult for the beginner.  There is a far easier method for learning the name of a key signature.  First you need to memorize two key signatures C major has no sharps or flats in the key signature.  F major has one Flat.

Finding The Key When the Signature Has Flats
For key signatures with flats you only have to look at the second to the last flat and that is the name of the key signature.  Here we see a signature with three flats, reading from left to right B-flat, E-flat and A-flat.  The second to the last is E-flat which is the key signature name.  Remember with flats you always look at the second to the last flat and that is the key signature name.

Finding the Key When the Signature has Sharps

For signatures that have sharps we look at the last sharp and go up one half step, and that will be the key signature name. It is really that simple.  If the last sharp is on the F-sharp then go up a half step to the G and that is the key name.  In the example to the left you see the last sharp is G-sharp go up one half step to A.  That is the key.  This is really simple but so vital to pitching your songs correctly that you should spend time learning how to do this.  Learn to do this quickly so you are not wrestling in your mind wondering what key to blow on the pitch pipe.

Just having the correct key does not mean you have the correct starting note.  Not every song is going to start on the key tone of the scale.  You might have to sing up or down the scale to the starting note.  Practice this often.  Fortunately, most songs in your hymnal will begin either on the key tone (Do or 1), the 3rd (Mi or 3) or the 5th (Sol or 5) of the scale.  Learn to sing the simple arpeggio: Do, Mi, Sol, Mi, Do or 1, 3, 5, 3, 1.  This will aid you tremendously when it comes time to pitch the song and start it quickly.  

The congregation you lead will appreciate you for spending the time learning to correctly pitch and start songs.  It will eliminate the distraction that comes from straining to reach notes that are too high or low in the the poorly pitched songs. 

Joe Chase