Sunday, August 27, 2006

Weird Question for a Weird Job

There is one week left until my work schedule is back in full swing. It's the time of year I take a good look at my schedule and try to anticipate travel time between jobs, lunch breaks, coffee and basic needs.

The phone calls are flooding in and I evaluate what new stuff I want to take on and what old stuff needs to go. I also evaluate my fee schedule, my bills and how much I need to work to cover my expenses. Once these decisions are made I am stuck until the end of May.

As I am looking at my week days I catch myself asking how many consecutive hours can I realistically sit in a backless chair? Who asks themselves a question like this? Have you ever had to consider how many hours you can realistically sit in a backless chair? Let me tell you, this question is REALLY important.

I have endured 12 hour work days in a backless chair. If I have 2 of those days in a row I lose all the feeling in my hands and can't play without pain for days. The older I get, the less amount of consecutive hours I can spend in a backless chair.

I admit, sitting with my legs crossed at the piano probably puts undue pressure on my back. I like the feeling of being at home when I am at work; so I cross my legs. Pilates helps me compensate for my Glenn Gould posture. Even still...

How many consecutive hours could you sit in a backless chair?

Sunday, August 20, 2006


1994 began my 10 years of music ministry in the church. Most of those years were happy ones as my church was a place for healing and connecting with others who walked with God.

Spring of 2004, God began to awaken my creativity in a way that motivated me to work harder than ever. He expanded my accompanying jobs to include greater challenge and I learned to understand music deeper; I craved more.

Fall of 2004 the choir did a production of Handel’s ‘Messiah’. Rehearsals were unproductive; the choristers were undisciplined, unfocused, lazy and rude. They would talk through rehearsal and didn’t retain what was asked of them. Come performance time, I was so embarrassed for them and for me to be a part of such shoddy workmanship (and people paid admission!). My standard had changed and they were the same choir they had always been.

I was leaving rehearsals angry and knew that I needed some space to sort out my emotions before they escalated beyond my ability to blow off. I requested a sabbatical of 1 month after the annual Christmas production and was denied. My embarrassment and anger grew. I felt like I was being a fraud. I was offering something to the Lord that I was ashamed of and I had no control to change it. My attempts to sort it out were met with disdain; I was blown off as being moody and selfish (there's truth to that). Needless to say, by the time the end of the season arrived, my emotion and anger was beyond anything rational and I resigned my position of chorus accompanist.

My desire to participate in church anywhere was long gone. I didn’t have clarity about the correctness of my decision; I just knew I couldn’t commit to another year with my heart the way it was. I believed that I needed to be involved in service as part of the Body of Christ. I believed that God had gifted me musically to contribute to the Body of Christ. I was confused.

Fall of 2005 I asked God for permission to not attend church for a season. I felt His approval in my spirit with the condition that Sunday was His and I was to spend it with Him in solitude. OKAY!!! In addition, God opened up an opportunity with the Calgary Philharmonic to accompany their chorus. I auditioned and was offered the position on the spot. Every week I would go to CPO rehearsal and play the finest music history had to offer with the finest musicians in the city. The work ethic was in line with my own and they pushed me beyond what I believed myself capable.

My Sundays with God were amazing. He spoke to my heart; He gave me rest from a busy week and He taught me Himself. I learned what the word Sabbath meant and He revealed my inability to earn His love; I already had it. He blessed me at a time when I thought He would punish me. He loved me when I felt I was a disappointment to Him. He affirmed me when I felt I had failed Him. He taught me that He cared more about me than getting the job done.

Spring 2006 I found myself missing church. I attended a service and the music drove me nuts. I heard bad vowels and tuning; poor color choices and diction and on top of all that…it was amplified. There are some things I just don’t want to hear through a microphone! However, I knew in my spirit it was time for me to return; and I did return. I returned every Sunday just late enough to miss the music.

God has been convicting me of my anger towards the church. He never said they were right; He just said ‘forgive’. I have repented of my anger and continue to repent of my anger, a process I will continue until my anger is completely gone. I have asked Him to replace my anger with compassion and understanding, love and patience.

Today, I was on time for church. I didn’t love it, but I love the people. Yes, I am still distracted by wonky vowels and disparity in color, but it didn’t make me want to run out of the room screaming (progress!). The message was great and I was surrounded by people who loved God. I enjoyed their presence and I can honestly say that I love them. God is changing and healing my heart.

I do believe we, as the Body, have much work to do. I want to be beautiful for my Lord Jesus. I want Him to have the very best Bride. I have a longing for the Body to experience excellence. I long for the highest standard of music that was written by the Body of Christ, to be on display in the Body of Christ, for the Body of Christ. The finest music history has to offer came from the Body of Christ. I long to use my skill in the context it was designed for; I long to come home! I am home; but not all of me.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


May the Lord give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the Lord grant ALL your requests. Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed; He answers him from His holy heaven with the saving power of His right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.
(Psalm 20:4-8)

Happy Birthday Mom.
I love you.

Friday, August 18, 2006


John, may your year be full of attentive, hard-working, cheerful, respectful teenagers; may those teenagers sing with greater accuracy and sense of pitch; may you be protected from the perpetual PITA; may you spoil your niece/nephew rotten; may you know love and hope and joy in a way that is new to you and may you be kissed by God.

Happy Birthday!
Love you!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Jeremiah is one of my heroes. I love that he says to 'pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord', and then proceeds to do exactly that. Lamentations 3 is a BRUTAL chapter in scripture. It is raw, ugly, truthful, real and it gives me permission.

Lamentations 3 also reveals how God meets us when we are real. What starts out as gut wrenching agony turns to hope and a vision of God. Lamentations ch3 was the portion of scripture I clung to at the height of my battle with depression.

In my desperation, I blurted out my own Lamentation and in the process of being real; God gave me a new name. Here is what I wrote on March 25, 2001:


I am on this journey that is too much for me. LIFE IS FOR THE BRAVE. Lord, you've allowed me to live and yet, I long for the sweet rest of death; or better yet, to never have existed at all. But to say these things is to dishonor the creator. The monotony of everyday life overwhelms me. Oh not to succumb to these gloomy thoughts of peace in death. Is it wrong to long for it? I feel like I don't know you. Maybe I never did. Up go the walls of protection, never to hurt again, never to feel again, never to live again. What is life? Is it a feeling? All that I've known to be life was nothing veiled in caffeine highs and depth of emotion. The underlying issue...a consumption with self. My outward involvements tainted with an inability to continue in the face of doubt, a powerful enemy. All I see is that you hurt me. You, my closest most trusted friend. Why do I struggle to trust you in the dark? LIFE IS FOR THE BRAVE; for those who are brave enough to believe, even after many blows in the same area of life. Forgive me as I spiral down the black hole of self-hate; that seems to be one constant.

NO! This pain IS from you. You have placed me here, allowed me to know a small portion of your suffering. What would you like me to do with this new knowledge? I think I can believe that it is possible to sweat blood in times of deep distress. My distress was deep, but miniscule compared to yours. You sweat blood; I just had blood blisters. You were brave; I deserted you the moment it got hard. You persisted; I gave up. You loved; I hated. What fool returns hate for love? The fool of self, that is who.

What is this surprise? The peace of a new vision? The battle rages still. Emotion verses knowledge; self verses you; wrong verses right; flesh verses Spirit. Can you take such a foul sinner and make even her beautiful? Would you have forgiven Judas if he had asked? I am no better than he.

You took a symbol of execution and made it beautiful. There is still hope for me. Take this wretched body, heart, mind and soul. I don't want it anymore, and yet I find myself hanging on to my perception of life. 'To live is Christ, to die is gain.' I am dying. Purge me of death; make me new. Don't heal me, replace me. Somewhere under this smut is the Cheryl you created. Make me your Beloved. I'm tired, so tired of being my own Beloved. You are stronger than flesh, win this battle for me. LIFE ISN'T FOR THE BRAVE; IT'S FOR THE SURRENDERED. Dearest Lord Jesus, it isn't much, but it's all I have and I give it to you...It's just me.


In the moment I had asked God to 'win this battle for me', a bookmark on my desk caught my attention. At the top of the bookmark was the name Cheryl and a passage of scripture. Also on the bookmark was the meaning of the name Cheryl.

Cheryl means 'Beloved'.

'In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for Help. From His temple He heard my voice; my cry came before Him, into His ears. He reached down from on high and took hold of me; He drew me out of deep water. He rescued me because He delighted in me.' (Psalm 18)

The Lord Jesus IS the lover of my soul; Lord Jesus, I love you.

Monday, August 14, 2006


Here is my prayer for you in the words of Paul from the book of Colossians,

'I ask You, God, to fill Janelle with the knowledge of Your will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And I pray this in order that Janelle may live a life worthy of You and may please You in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of You, being strengthened with all power according to Your glorious might so that Janelle may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully give thanks to You, who has qualified her to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.'

'To Him who is able to keep Janelle from falling and to present her before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy--to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.'

Happy 30th Birthday Janelle. I love you!

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Sparrow

If you are at all familiar with the economics in Calgary you will be aware of the incredible boom that is happening here. Calgary is an oil city in a province with no debt. People are flocking here by the thousands and the city is bursting at the seams. The rate of growth has caused a housing crisis and Property owners are seizing the opportunity to make a lot of money from renters in a very short time. Many of Calgary's lower income families are being forced out onto the street.

I am a musician. It is not a job you choose for the abundant flow of cash. I love what I do. I live very simply and cheaply in order to accommodate a meager income from a job that has mental health benefits in proportion to my need. I am content.

Last week there was a notice under my door of a rent increase of $200.00 per month. There is no room in my budget for that kind of increase. They might as well have raised it $1000.00.

Today, a well meaning mentor phoned and started questioning me about what I was going to do to meet my financial challenges. All of the 'What will you do if..., questions, combined with hunger and exhaustion from an afternoon with children, planted a seed of worry that grew into a full fledged weed of mammoth proportion.

After prayer and remembrance of truth, here is my response:

The question isn't 'what am I going to do?' The question is 'God, what are YOU going to do?' Your word says not to worry about what I will wear, eat or drink because you know what I need and you have promised to provide when I seek your kingdom first. Lord, your kingdom IS first.

Nothing comes to me that has not passed through you first. If I can't trust you who died for me, who can I trust?

Lord, thank you for choosing me for this challenge. I am excited to see your hand, to hear your voice and to watch you in action. In you I have riches greater than the wealthiest of earthly wealth. The world's gold is your pavement and your eye is on the sparrow.

(Don't you just LOVE a good weed pulling?!)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Story by Beth

Once there was a girl named Jenny. She always wanted a dog so when her mom and dad were eating dinner she asked, “Mom dad can I have a dog? Please! Begged Jenny “Well we will have too think about it”. So Jenny finished her dinner and ran upstairs to her room to get her piggy bank. She empted her piggy bank and she counted all her money. But she only had $30.00. She asked her mom if she could baby sit but she was only nine years old so she tried to think of what she could do to earn money. Then her mom reminded her that she was a fantastic painter then she thought she could sketch some mountains. So she asked her mom if they could drive out to Banff “can we please mom please!” Maybe we can tomorrow ok?” Sure that would be great mom. What time should we go? She asked. Ummmmm, Maybe 8:00. So you should go to bed early tonight, so you get lots of sleep and can explore the mountains tomorrow. And you should get your sketch pad together because we are going past lots of mountains like the Three Sisters. I bet you could sell some of those paintings,” she explained.

So her dad put her to bed but she couldn’t sleep because she was so excited about earning money for a puppy.

The next morning her mom woke her up at 7:00 to get ready. So they got all their stuff and got into the car. It only took 1 hour to get there. She got her sketch pad ready and when she came up on a mountain she wanted to sketch she told her mom to stop the car. She quickly sketched the mountain and then they were back on the road. Then they went past the Three Sisters and her mom stopped the car and took some time sketching the mountain. When they were in the town of Banff they looked for a hotel to stay in for 2 days. They went to the hotel room and there was a great view of the mountains from the window. So, Jenny sketched lots and lots of mountains. Then it was time to go to bed. And her mom said that they would explore more mountains tomorrow. They explored lots of mountains and Jenny sketched them.

When they got home, Jenny painted her sketches and set out to sell them. Lots of people in her neighborhood loved them and bought them. They were $10.00 each. She sold 5 paintings. Then she had enough to buy a puppy.

Her mom took her to the pet store the next day and she looked at all the puppies. Then she picked a cute one and named it Gracie. She bought it and took it home. It was a Border collie cross. She loved it forever.

The End

Story by Emily


For those of you who don't read in tongues the story is about a princess and a monster and a very sharp sword. Then there is another monster who enters the scene, but he is good. His name is Cookie Monster. He LOVES cookies...and bananas apparently.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Photo by Emily

The eye behind the camera is 5 years old.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Brook Cherith

I know God is trying to tell me something when I come across 3 or more references to the same passage of scripture from completely different sources.

When those sources all pointed to Elijah's Brook Cherith it got me thinking...

Elijah would have spent close to a year at the Brook Cherith. What would that have been like? No TV, no Internet, no friends, no society, complete solitude, food covered in bird saliva and a diminishing brook. What did he do? Train for the mad dash that would lead to a good chariot butt kicking? Did he feel useless or lethargic? Impatient and frustrated? Lonely and abandoned?

In Brook Cherith fashion, God has given me extended periods of solitude this summer. When there is nothing else to look at you can't avoid the mirror God places in front of you.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) observed,

There is your world within.
There rid the dragons, root out the sin.
Your will is law in that small commonweal.

God has given me time to see myself and where my own will/law doesn't match up with His. In His grace and mercy, He didn't leave me to clean the mirror myself; He picked up His own solvent and rag and began to scrub.

Cleaning the mirror is brutal labor. It is a kind of death; death to self; death to flesh; death to pride; a severing of flesh from bone. It takes more than a little bit of Windex and a super-absorbent paper towel (sorry Mr Clean, this job is too big for you). No solvent apart from the blood of the Lord Jesus can make the mirror shine the way He intended.

The end result? Again, the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins,

Hope holds to Christ the mind's own mirror out
To take His lovely likeness more and more

As much as I hate the pain of it, I am grateful for the Brook Cherith; God meets me there. To have more of His likeness and to hear the sound of His voice is a reward that far exceeds any kind of pain endured.

No pain comes to me that has not passed through Him first. I can trust the man who died for me. If you can't trust Him, who can you trust?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Jokes by Emily

As you all know, jokes and five year olds are inseparable. Emily makes up jokes ALL the time. Here is one of her spontaneous silly joke moments.

Emily: Why did the doughnut cross the road?

Auntie Cheryl: I don't know. Why?

Emily: Because the chicken ate it!

(followed by copious amounts of little girl belly laughs and an Auntie Cheryl who is killing herself laughing because that one was actually funny!)