Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sing! Conference, Part 2

I think perhaps there was another Bach piece played (Arioso) before D. A. Carson spoke.

And here are my notes from that message, though I'm sure not half as full and accurate as the real thing:

Mark 12:28-34 (The first--and second--command.)

As people think in their mind, so are they. You are what you think.

Philippians 4:8 - Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

"Mind" is often the best translation of heart. Our text does not mean just more study. It is on loving God wholly.

"The Lord is One" (not many gods) - so we must give Him our whole heart. If we kept this one command, we'd never sin.

Lev. 19 - The 2 commands are intertwined.

Deut. 6 - Three "with" phrases - Matthew has 4. Heart and mind - Mind is added because it was bound up in Hebrew, and Greek wasn't the same.

Ps. 1 - "on His law he meditates day and night." 

Joshua 1 - Deut. 8  - More important than daily food.

1. Give a high priority of the reading of God's Word. Resolve to. . . . It's more important.

2. Give high priority to reading of Christian authors.

Section about music:

1. Remember that many Christians learn the structure of theology through music. 

We should be seeking excellence in music. And the best thing to be singing corporately.

Send writing for critique to 2 or 3 people who don't like you. 

2. Develop a list of songs that cover various periods of life and history.

3. Explicitly connect song, reading, preaching with singing.

4. Never think that because you're leading the singing that you are the worship leader.

5. Prepare your own heart with devotion.

I found Norah again, and since we both had some time off volunteer work, we went to a Breakout Session led by Matt Merker, on composing congregational hymns. It was quite good, though we had heard a lot of the info before. As it was only Part 1, I understand. Next we went to Piano Accompaniment 101, or something like that. It was fun, though I apparently missed the neatest part at the end, Norah said, when there was an accordion and harmonica duet (Jeff forget-his-last-name and Buddy Greene). I had to leave to go to help in the little bookstore.

There was a new man in a black shirt there (manager or assistant manager) named Will, who gave me a high five and was very chatty about family, hobbies, etc. He talked to a lot of the customers, too, asking about their last names and such. I wish I had some of that outgoing nature, but it doesn't come at all easily. Just smiling and speaking a few basic words is hard enough for me at this point. But I felt joy in breaking out even that much--out of my little-girl shyness that often goes with me, out of my place at the wall, eyes downcast, voice barely audible, scared to sound like an idiot, even if I am sometimes. That's not how I always feel--I've gotten better over the years, but there are still times like that.

"Good save!" Will said as I punched in a number to exit the wrong screen.

One good thing out of many bad things I'd done, yet it was commented on. How different would I have turned out if this had been the norm all my life instead of criticism and focus on my problems?  I think I would be more confident and willing to try new things--willing to fail in order to get things right. But I can't let myself dwell on that, be dragged down by it, when I know often such criticism is meant to be helpful . . . and I tend to over-criticize, as well. I have tried to be more positive and encouraging to others lately, but still have a long ways to go.

After a while, another manager/assistant manager said maybe I should go get supper, since it was pretty quiet at the moment and there might be a rush after supper when I'd be needed.

So I went, asking Norah when I saw her if she was getting a meal, too. She had heard the line was really long, so she didn't want to go. But I went, anyway.

This meal was different. We had meal tickets for the meal trucks outside.  I had chosen the Vietnamese meal truck, Bahn Mi. I found the right line by asking. A young woman with a baby in a stroller came behind me. She had wavy brown hair, big gold earrings, and a sweet air about her. I asked her name (Audrey), and we chatted for a while, having some things in common. She said she had been homeschooled for the first nine years, then went to public school. She was glad for the homeschooling, and thinks she would not have been as close to her siblings otherwise. That closeness was shown when she talked with her brother on the phone for the next twenty minutes or so. I felt a bit lonely at that point and worried about Norah. Then I looked at my schedule and realized I had something to be doing inside. But I was already over half-way through the line, and was hungry. The lady volunteer in front of me said most people were still outside, so it should be okay.

It was quite dark by the time we got our meal from the window of the truck. My meal was two shrimp spring rolls, rolled with edible rice paper, and with a peanut dipping sauce. I sat and chomped them down in a hurry, feeling guilty for still being outside. But the little meal tasted so good, so fresh and light and complimentary.

Inside, I tried to figure out the lanyard color code for the evening. Then I went to the front of the worship center. Probably three quarters of the people were in, already.

I saw Norah and asked if she had eaten. She had had a protein bar and was pretty exhausted. She had taken a bit of a nap earlier, though. After being such a trooper, she deserved it! She had driven for over an hour to get there, moved heavy boxes, run around the huge building, helped figure out the system and direct people, set out a lot of books, answered questions, and more. She asked how late I was supposed to stay for volunteer work, which was 10:00 pm.

In the meantime, we sat in the Worship Center--I spotted Norah later sitting in the back by the wall.

The meeting began with IJM talking about its outreach to kids in slavery around the world and the story of one little boy they had rescued.

We sang "Indescribable" with Liz Story playing the piano and leading.

Joni Erickson Tada

Then Joni Erickson Tada spoke. I didn't take notes, and there are no words that can really come close to seeing her in person. Her story--of depression, hardships, yet praising God for her trials and how it drew her to Him--so touching. Every so often she would ask if we could sing a hymn, one of which her friend had sung to her so many years ago, used by God to start to bring her out of her depression: Man of Sorrows. I sang it now with tears streaming. No accompaniment, just raw, pure voices with various vocal parts praising God all over the auditorium. What a glimpse of heaven it felt! Here my selfishness was seen in its ugliness; here God was seen in His infinite beauty and worth! How I wish that feeling would stay with me every day . . . !

We sang other hymns, as well, and it ended, by Joni's request, with "Blessings" by Laura Story.

They were soon to show the pre-release copy of Tortured for His Faith, but I had to go work in the break or later--so no movie. Would it even be bearable to see?

I headed to the bookstore, but things seemed to be wrapping up. I might have done a little more work, but can hardly remember. I asked if they would be all right without me tomorrow, since Norah wanted to go home--really needed to get some rest. They thought they could manage.

Norah was nowhere to be found. I waited and asked a few people.

The cashiers were covering the tables with black cloth, like death shrouds. They thanked me for my work and said it was good to meet me, which cheered me up a bit. Then they said good night and left.

I felt like my little-girl self again, ready to panic, feeling forgotten like that one time as a child . . . but Norah wouldn't forget me, I didn't think. No, she must be here somewhere, and it was usually best to wait in the place where someone knew you were, or else you'd end up both searching and not able to find each other. So I sat down by the wall, knees folded. Voices were muffled and far-off.

There went the young girl and her father, whom I waved to or said goodnight to. . . . But wait. The impulse struck me--they might have seen Norah. I jumped up and jogged after them, then asked. They hadn't seen her, but a short while later they came back to where I waited and said she was up by the Registration Desk. How nice to hear!

I headed that way and saw her stacking books on tables at the front.

"Another job, huh?" I asked, and lent a hand until it was done.

We picked up our bag of freebies and soon were in the car and headed out of the city.

I had to call home, as it was unexpected for me to be home that night. Matthew picked me at our prearranged place.

Volunteering for the conference, though not easy, was something I'll remember gratefully for a long time to come.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Sing! Conference - Friendships, Flubs, and Freedom - Part 1

This post cannot convey all of the event, and some of the sequences may be out of place, but it will tell at least part of my experience....

I asked my friend, Norah, if she would like to go to the Getty's Sing! conference as a volunteer. A free event for a little work, right?  She said yes after some thought, and so I did a happy dance inside myself and waited for the event.

I was a little nervous, not knowing what part of the volunteering I would be a part of, but I was looking forward to the speakers and music. Then I found out author Douglas Bond would be there, and I wondered if I would get to meet him.

Norah was the chauffeur for the trip, and we arrived early for the training session on Lord's Day evening. We sat among the people, which was a buzzing hive, and we barely talked to one another. Two introverts among a cluster of mostly gregarious people. Eventually an Asian American woman sat next to us. Her name was Helen, and she smiled and shook our hands, asking questions. Our first friend was made.

Next we got in the line for our supper, which were beef and chicken tortillas with rice, beans, cilantro, lime, and onions--plus an odd-looking piece of corn on the cob coated in something fermented. It tasted good, however unusual and messy it was.

Then we listened to a young lady tell about the volunteer work and we were handed papers with our assignments listed. Not everything was clear, but things would probably be shown us. Near the end, they announced a special visitor to our little room, and it was none other than Keith Getty. He thanked us and told us the importance of music, gave a few funny stories about his kids and talking with John MacArthur.

I left the meeting a bit early to go to the bookstore downstairs. Most people helped set out books on the tables, but I was left without a leader, so I asked in the adjoining hallway what I should do, and the man there said I could help him set out T-shirts behind the counter. We grouped them by size, writing them on the boxes and all.

Once all that was done, I was free to go, and I went to find Norah. I think she had had another assignment that night like putting out giveaways for people on the seats (AKA chair drops).

It was pretty late when we left, and even later when we got to Norah's house.

We woke at 5:00 the next morning, Norah taking iced coffee along with us at 5:30.

Once we reached the big church building, I went to the bookstore, where they showed us various things about the cash register and how to put the codes in. It pretty much went flying over my head. I had to leave for another job, so I put my fears on hold, hoping cashiering would be easier than it looked.

The main bookstore--cash registers were outside the room.

I went to Hudson Hall, where an older man was sitting and waiting for our assignment. Finally I asked someone about it, and one of the team leaders, Matthew, came along. We went to get the items to be given out. I had been in the wrong room, since I was reading my chart incorrectly. They stacked and wheeled the piles of wrapped Bibles to the correct place, the Worship Center, and we began. Norah and a few others were there to help, but a few more would have been helpful. There was a teenage girl with pigtails and her father, there was an older man with a cane, and there was Matthew, Norah, and me. One or two others, as well. We began in the balcony, cutting boxes, ripping off the paper, stacking the Bibles, then distributing them to the seats. Up and down stairs, faster, faster. Would we finish in time? We felt bad for the man with the cane, who kept at it faithfully until he had to take a break. We had little time to talk, but we enjoyed hearing two excellent violinists practice Bach.

After all the pews were dotted with a Bibles and all the paper was tied up in plastic bags, Norah and I went up to the Volunteer Hospitality room to get a snack. Having had no breakfast and working hard made us hungry. I loaded up on fruit.

Then I headed to my other assignment at the cash registers in the hallway.

A tall, burly, and bald manager helped me get set up with my own number password, then helped me figure out what to do. Dozens of times I forgot the sequence, I forgot to hit enter, and I felt flustered. The manager (not sure of his name) said I was hurrying too much. Most of the people were patient, and one nice older lady said, "We're always new at something." Another said they knew how it was, having worked as a cashier. "Good luck," another said, smiling.

I worked until a bit after noon, and felt I was finally getting the hang of things. It was the debit cards that mainly got me off, since they weren't taking debit and the customer had to push Cancel instead of putting in a pin number, and then select Credit. If they started putting in their pin number, I had to tell them to cancel, then I had to select F4 again and they had to re-swipe their card. So it was probably frustrating to everyone in those cases. I did enjoy using the scanning gun, though it occasionally needed a whack on the palm to get it to turn on.

Norah came by and asked if I was going to get lunch. The managers said I could go.

Our lunch that day...I'm not sure what it was--I think perhaps a turkey sandwhich for me.

I wandered, not sure what to do next, then found myself sitting in another room watching the screen showing the meeting going on in the Worship Center. Keith Getty gave a similar speech to the one we'd heard the previous evening, but longer. Kristyn Getty/others sang a piece or two for us to sing with, and then we heard the gorgeous Bach piece with two violinists and accompanying strings. I wept at the sheer beauty and expression of it. No set of drums and guitars could come close to it, in my mind! Then Alistair Begg was introduced. The same Scottish brogue I'd heard on the radio emanated from the screen above me. He told a joke about Scotch vs. Irish authors, etc., but the message was about singing, focused on Psalm 100. Why this oft-used psalm? It was the last thing his mother ever wrote to him. My memory is hazy about most of the message, and I did not have anything to take notes on. But I remember he said that "making a joyful noise" was not any old noise. He recommended taking classes on singing if you think your singing may be disturbing those around you (spoken in a humorous way). I believe he also mentioned other psalms of David, songs of lament, saying we should sing such things today, but noticing that David resolved to praise the Lord at the end of the psalm--not because he felt like it, but because it was right.

At 3:00 there were more hand-outs to do. At first it was not clear what I was to do, so I looked around a bit. There I saw Mr. Douglas Bond standing inside the door, looking down at his phone. I took the opportunity to walk over and say hello, though perhaps it was rude of me to interrupt. I was too excited.

"Hello, Mr. Bond," I said. "I'm Melissa." The only one on the planet? I thought he'd recognize me, I guess, since we had conversed on Skype before--plus I was wearing a name tag, although it might have been turned the other way around.

He looked up. "I'm surprised you found me among all the people."

"I saw you at registration last night, too, but couldn't stop because I was busy."

He nodded and asked something like, "Have you enjoyed it so far?"

"Yes. Alistair Begg was really good."

He agreed and said his mother loves to listen to Mr. Begg.

"And the Bach was beautiful," I added.

"Will you get to sit in on any of the breakout sessions?" he asked.

"I don't know."

"Still figuring it all out, huh?"

I think I smiled and nodded. If he only knew! I asked if any of his family was there.

"No, they couldn't make it this time. . . . Are you here with any of your family?"

"No, just my friend Norah."

He also asked how far I lived from there, and I told him, saying it was rough going back and forth every day.

Then I asked if he minded if I had a photo taken with him. I dug through my encumbered purse, pulling out a bag of potato chips and a zipper pouch. First I got out the phone, but remembered the battery was dead. I finally found my little camera, and asked a passerby if she minded taking a photo of us. She took a couple of blurry ones, and then I tried to turn the flash on. But in my haste I must have turned it off, and it must have been on auto to begin with. So the next one was blurry, too.

Mr. Bond said something to the lady like, "You probably have to be somewhere."

"No, it's okay," she assured.

Mr. Bond said to me, "Why don't we move over to this black background?"

"Yeah, that's better," I said.

Finally I got the camera setting right, embarrassed by this time. The kind lady took one more shot, which I looked at and said was better. Though it's not great (my smile slipped), I didn't want to take any more of their time than I already had. I hope I wasn't too much of a bother! Here's the photo.

He had to leave, but said maybe we'd meet again. I had thought of asking him about my last short story entry and what could have been better about it, but didn't have the time now, and I never saw him again.

Back to my job--I stood by the doors of Hudson Hall, smiled and said "You're welcome" a hundred times or so as the people took a magazine about congregational singing. I wasn't sure this was even what it was all about until later, and was unable to answer people's questions about it. There were two or so other ladies with me.

I got to sit in on that talk, which was by Matt Merker (whom I later found out is a lyricist and composer). He spoke of teaching new hymns to congregations, yet not so many that they can't handle it. I heartily approved of his suggestion that congregational accompaniment might want to tone down so that the congregation can hear themselves sing. I'm sure there was much more of value in his talk, but again my brain is fuzzy.

After it was over, I went out and asked if I could take one of the left-over magazines. They said, "Sure, take two--take five!"

So I did...but later lost them somewhere, sadly.

I'm trying to remember what I did next. Perhaps I went to help Norah, or perhaps went to eat supper. We had a delicious Greek salad, chicken, rice, etc. in the Hospitality room.

Though we had free tickets to go to the Grand Ol' Opry hymn sing, we decided not to go, since it was late enough, and we wanted to get a better night's sleep. It would have been neat, I suppose, to go, and I had been looking forward to it...but some things are just more important.

So we went back to Norah's house, chatting on the way about various things in our lives.

Mr. and Mrs. R. were sitting in their armchairs, and they asked about our time. Their son Caleb came and listened a bit, too. They looked at Norah's purchases of some lovely calligraphy prints of Bible verses and her new student hymnal.

I couldn't remember much about Alistair Begg's message, but I told about the Bach violin piece.

Another gorgeous sunrise

Next day I had two places to be in at once on my schedule, but as it was flexible according to the highest need, I went with Norah to help put out more books on seats. This time they were little green books by Alistair Begg about Christmas songs--ones from the Bible, like Zechariah's song. We worked with an older woman volunteer (forgetting her name) who very sweetly offered for us to stay at her place that night, since it was much closer. We planned to take her up on the offer.

We worked with other people in the main sanctuary (Worship Center), and got it done in a bit better time than before since there were more helpers.

I checked to see if I was needed at the small hallway bookstore, but most people were in the Worship Center meeting listening to David Platt, and they said I could go and enjoy. I didn't know if I could find a seat there, so I sat in a comfy chair and listened to the cashiers and one of the head honchos. They were talking about how many people were watching online, so it was interesting.

I did go and listen to the last five minutes of David Platt, but it didn't make much sense without the context of his story.

I listened to the next speaker, Paul Tripp, and enjoyed it. He joked about his mustache, but his message was very serious on the whole, and a great encouragement to sing to one another. His text was Colossians 2:12-16: 

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." (v. 16)

I did get notes for this:

The passage builds to a surprising crescendo. 'Put on...kindness, etc.' The character of Christ. At all times and places we are to represent Christ. Our relationships belong to Christ, that His purpose and presence would be known.

People are often at church for a show, not as a commitment.

We hear other people's problems for a purpose.

Represent to your children His grace and character. Not selfishness and anger.

Some people think only some go into ministry, or certain times. "Your. life. is. ministry."

The only place to find a true sense of identity/well-being is through Christ.

You never get your capacity to love from the people you are called to love.

People need more than your opinion. They need the Word. It's the truth that sets you free.

Does the peace of Christ rule your heart?

Are you better at declaring your own opinion than the gospel?

You don't need people around you to love you to cope.

Every believer has been redeemed to a teaching/counseling position. . . .You couldn't have a functioning army if only 5% worked as an army.

Look at things from the vantage point of the gospel.

If all your children needed is a set of rules, then Christ would not have needed to come.

Look at the world and yourself through the lens of the gospel.

We need a constant admonishment all our lives.

Stop asking your job or other people to give your worth and identity!

The method to do the admonishing here is through song! Thankful song. The soundtrack of your heart comes out.

Surrender the song of your heart to the greater song of the Redeemer.

Sad songs about sin, so kids know that true danger is in the heart.

Sing of God's grace and God's love to your spouse.

Sing of resurrection to those who lost a loved one.

Sing of God's provision to those in need.

Sing of hope to one who is ready to give up.

Sing! Sing! Sing

Many thought-provoking questions there, and things I needed to hear. Christ is sufficient! He ended the message in a touching way, telling about his mother's death-bed. She couldn't speak, and she had Alzheimer's, but she squeezed his hand when he sang Great is Thy Faithfulness. And then, at the last, her mouth was moving, mouthing the words but with no sound. Her singing was heard in heaven by God!

Norah thought I should stand by the doors at Baskin Chapel to answer any questions people might have and shut the doors after them. But later she came back and told me it was a greater need at the Worship Center upstairs. I was supposed to direct people to a different room if they were not wearing blue or gray lanyards--there were different rotations for each color.

I sat down on the floor by the doors, waiting for the correct time to open the doors. A talkative, curly-haired woman reading a red book stood there, helping me know the time and telling people we weren't open yet. I was so tired I wished I could take a nap and let the lady (Lisa) take over. She asked me questions and told about her music ministry. She was one of those sweet, never-met-a-stranger type of people, but she knew when to stop talking, as well.

I opened the door and let people in at half past, but they filed back out, saying they were told to wait outside for another 15 minutes. Oops! Finally, after most everyone had gone in, I went in to find a seat way up in the balcony. There were several places left.

Dr. D. A. Carson was the speaker here, which we heard after some singing.

I will continue on this later, so you don't feel too overwhelmed by my mini book. :)