Monday, May 30, 2011

The Unofficial Start of Summer is Here!

Hope you have all had a great Memorial Day with family and friends.  If you're like me at all, you have had too much to eat, laughed a bit too loudly, and began making plans for the summer ahead.  What kind of relaxing plans are you making?

I love to travel, but with gas prices right now being so high, I don't foresee being able to hit the road as often as I have in years past.  That just means I will have to travel in a different way -- through reading.  Summer is always a welcome respite from my sometimes crazy life when I can find a little more time to read books simply for the fun of it.  This year, it seems as though the insanity is going to be around a little longer than normal.  I am having to think of new ways to get in all the books I want to read this summer.

That's where audio books come in.  I know, I know -- those are the books that grandparents "read" as they fall asleep in their rocking chair in the retirement home.  Of course there is another commonly held description for these recordings as well -- BORING!  I have held these same views for some time as well, but when I finally gave recorded books a try, I was pleasantly surprised. 

During my recent travels to Oklahoma, I decided to take in a couple of books to help the time pass a little more swiftly.  Over the course of the 10 hour journey, I completed two novels and walked away thoroughly entertained.  When I began to think of the amount of time I spend in my car already, I realized that I wasn't using that time as wisely as possible.  Rather than listening to talk radio incessantly, I have decided to catch up on some reading while driving by using audio books.

What am I listening to?  Nothing too heavy or that requires too much brain power from me.  When I read books of that nature, I generally like to have a pen in hand with minimal distractions.  What I'm "reading" in the car is what would typically be classified as "beach reads."  Where do I find the CDs?  Many libraries have wonderful selections of audio books that are relatively inexpensive to their patrons.  My local library does not have such offerings, so I am relying on Cracker Barrel.  It's a bit expensive for the first book since you basically purchase the CD set, but becomes more cost effective as you continue.  You are charged a weekly fee for the CDs; the rest of your deposit is returned when you return the recordings or can be applied to your next book rental.  Be prepared.....many of the Cracker Barrel employees rarely rent the audio books to patrons, so you can expect the transaction to be a little more time consuming than normal as they will probably need to ask for a manager. 

Enjoy the beginning of your summer!  I'm off to do a little reading now.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Worth All the Effort

This summer, the church that I work for has decided to conduct multi-generational Bible studies for our mid-week time together.  Initially, it doesn't sound like too big of a deal.  When you begin to look at the students though, the difficulty of trying to speak into the lives of children, teens, and senior adults at the same time can be a bit overwhelming.  Sadly I have found no effective curriculum that addresses this perplexing problem.  Our solution for the summer is to take a solid curriculum for children and figure out ways to involve the older groups.  So far, I think the effort has been fairly successful and a lot of fun for kids, teens, and adults alike.  (Now I'll put in a short commercial.....if you attend AGM and haven't checked out this summer's WOW series, I think you'll find that it's not Bible study as usual and definitely enjoyable.  You'll even learn something you didn't know before!)

Despite the success, it is easy to become tired and weary when preparing the lessons from scratch.  I missed last week's WOW session due to family vacation and had gotten out of the routine of gearing up for the session.  With trips to Texas and Oklahoma in the past 1 1/2 weeks, I had not found adequate time to prepare as thoroughly as I would have liked for last night's lesson.  Add in the fact that I was already nervous about the potential for severe weather in the area and you can imagine that my mind was torn in a million different directions.  I was ready to throw in the towel and simply go home.

Before last night's session, I was greeted at the door by one of my students -- who just happens to be my youngest niece -- with a huge hug and a broad smile.  I was expecting to be buttered up for some favor honestly.  The reality was much different;  she told me how happy she was that I was back to lead the WOW session and that she was ready to learn!  Did she proclaim that I was the most incredible teacher in the world?  Not at all!  Was she suggesting that I was the only one who could do this?  Nope....she has sat under several gifted teachers in our congregation.  What she was saying loud and clear was that our efforts and labor were making a difference in her life.  Talk about an encouragement!  I found a new energy and excitement for the evening.  I quickly found a quiet place to thank God for the renewal that was delivered from the mouth of a child and asked for His anointing and guidance in the study.  In the end, I was thrilled with the way the lesson turned out and believe that people heard the Word of God in a clear way that can be applied to their lives.

I am blessed to be in a church that constantly provides affirmation to me in all areas of ministry.  For that I am thankful.  Now I'm looking around me to see who I can affirm in the days ahead so they will know as well that their hard work is making a difference in my life.  It is my prayer that it will come just at the right time to give them a needed boost of encouragement.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


The hope for new tomorrows -- both good and bad days -- is what keeps life exciting.  Today, I have been looking forward to the next few weeks with anticipation.  Do I know what is coming?  Not entirely, but I do know what's on the calendar and I am definitely starting to get excited.

Next week will see the beginning of the summer session of classes.  I always enjoy getting to start a new class and am excited about some changes I am making this summer to my class.  As though that weren't enough, I'm also in crunch time preparing for this year's Music Camp at Abundant Grace.  This year's musical for students in grades K-6 is Acorns to Oaks.  I've had this musical on my list for several years as one that I want to do;  this year, I'll finally get the chance to bring this powerful message to the stage with the kids of AGM.

There are some things coming up much sooner that demand my immediate attention.  Tomorrow evening will be the fourth session of the multi-generational Bible study I'm leading.  We'll continue our journey through Joshua and focus on the battle of Jericho.  Surprisingly, I've had a lot of difficulty preparing this session.  I think the problem has been our familiarity with the story as well as all my recent travels.  I've got a lot of work to do -- and a lot of praying -- to hopefully come up with something exciting and moving for those who will be there.

Once again, the Mid-South is bracing for another round of severe weather tomorrow.  With the storms that have plagued Joplin, Missouri and Oklahoma City this week, we are certainly not enjoying the anticipation of damaging storms, but it is a reality that we deal with in the nation's midsection.

Both the good things and the things that are making me a bit anxious are reminders of how much fun life is.  If everything was predictable, I would become bored.  I thrive on rolling with the punches that come and striving to be the best I can be in all circumstances.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Portion of Route 66!

In 1994, I was first introduced to the vocal arrangement of Route 66 by the Manhattan Transfer and fell in love with the song all over again.  I suppose part of my connection to the song was due to the fact that the historic route paralleled my annual journey to and from college. 

Today I found myself traveling those familiar roads once again as I made a last minute trip to Oklahoma City.  All alone in a car, I thoroughly enjoyed the time to meditate, pray, sing, and listen to a book on CD.  Mostly, I found myself remembering lots of great friends and laughter that accompanied me along Route 66 over the years.  A wonderful roommate who helped me drive a junk pile cross country....and didn't complain TOO much when the engine overheated in the New Mexico desert.  A fraternity brother who accompanied me on an insane round-the-clock drive to OKC (and me into Memphis alone) to surprise our families during the Thanksgiving holidays.  A funny red-head that kept me in stitches when it finally came time to leave the security of southern California and face the difficulties of graduate school. 

With such wonderful memories, why would I ever want to leave the splendor of Route 66? Here's a great video of the song that holds a special place in my heart for many reasons.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

On the Run

It's been a busy week!  Who am I life has been extremely busy for the past few months, but I don't want to dwell in the past.  Just got home from Texas a few hours ago.  My parents and I visiting family in Conroe, Texas was the "official" reason for the trip;  my second performance with the Collage ensemble was an excellent side benefit.

Collage is an ensemble spear-headed by Jere Douglas, an exceptional clarinetist in Houston.  Jere and I met last year during the inaugural performance in the series.  Since we enjoyed working together, we opted to present another recital this summer.....and that was just performed last night to rave reviews from our audience.  The program featured sonatas by Poulenc and Saint-Saens in addition to works by Schubert, Schumann, Vaughn Williams, Finzi, and Barber.  Discussions are already under way for another recital in the Houston area with repertoire by Barber and Beethoven.  (Could it be an all "B" night?  Who knows?)

Since I knew I would be in rehearsals with Jere daily while in the Houston area, I persuaded by parents to travel by plane this year instead of driving to our destination.  The roadtrip is roughly an 11-hour adventure that ends in total exhaustion.  My mother was the one I really had to convince since she has never been a fan of air travel.  As we drove home today from the airport, I asked if she would consider flying again.  You can't imagine how elated I was when I heard her reply of "YES!"  (As a side note, Mom had already begun investigating other locales serviced by Southwest Airlines.  The one that has her most excited?  VEGAS, BABY!)

Summer school starts in a week, so I need to finalize my syllabus this week.  However, I learned on Wednesday afternoon that I am needed in Oklahoma City for an audition on Monday morning.  I'll provide more details about this later -- right now, I want to keep things under wraps.  Sadly, there are no economical airfares that fit my schedule tomorrow, so I'll set out on Interstate 40 tomorrow afternoon immediately after the morning services at Abundant Grace Ministries in Collierville, Tennessee.  It's been several years since I've made a major road trip and I am surprisingly looking forward to the journey, yet dreading it all at the same time.  Oh least I'll have some new stories from the road!