Merry Christmas 2016!

To all who visit my website and blog:  Merry Christmas!

Putting on the 5th Voice Lifted at Christmas concert two weeks ago was a highlight of my Christmas season.  As always, it was a delightful experience for me to be with so many family members, relatives, friends, community members, visitors, returning audience members, and those coming to one of my concerts for the first time.  I am uplifted by being together with you all and having the opportunity to share my music with you.

I came to this year’s concert in a more peace-filled and joyful place, and I’m hearing that this came across in the show.  In addition to my red dress and red music stand, I chose to sing some more familiar carols and joyful, upbeat pieces.  It felt good.  I felt the best after this year’s concert than any of them so far.  I had fun on stage: performing my solo pieces and collaborating musically with Tom Flamini, Emily Barrett, and Mark Denchy.

A great article was published in the Pottsville Republican on the day after my concert.  I am grateful for that coverage, and I’m happy that the news article will spread the word to others who may be interested in attending a future Voice Lifted at Christmas concert.  Next year’s event will be on Sunday, December 10, 2017.

I’ve been more quiet this year on my blog, not having written and posted as often as in previous years, but I plan to do more of that in 2017.  I enjoy this connection to all of you.  Please feel free to leave comments on my posts – that will encourage me to show up more and share more.

In offering to everyone a Christmas message this year, I invite you to connect with your inner child and to allow yourself to be present in the celebrations in which you take part and in the difficult moments, too.  The holiday season is really, for most of us, NOT picture-perfect…but there is amidst all of that, so much to really celebrate and to be joyful about.  Jesus and Mary clearly struggled at many points throughout their lives, and they did not hide it or put on a face that masked their pain…but what they did was know that the holy God within was far greater than the human challenges they faced.  God is not external and distant.  We can allow ourselves to touch and hold God and to be touched and held…by simply going within and breathing in the love that is both the holy infant and the divine power inside.  May we allow Christ to be born within us today, and may we experience joy in that birth.

All photos by Andy Leibenguth – www.tamaquaarea.com

Thank you, Andy!!

 

Merry Christmas 2015


Merry Christmas!

I offer my sincere wishes to each of you on this Christmas day for peace, joy, and love.  May you experience and know abundant blessings.

My heart feels expansive at this moment after some significant shifts within as I remember who I am as a child of God…an extension of God…a reflection of God, and as I allow God’s bright light / my bright light to be seen & then to stand in gratitude and awe of this same light in everyone around me as I soften to this beautiful world, breathing in the supreme, divine perfection of all.

This year’s Christmas benefit concert was an opportunity to join in community and to celebrate the sacred that was, that is, and that always will be.  I found meaningful connection in gathering with those in attendance and sharing our spirits and energy.

As I shared at the concert, there is indeed much pain in the world;  sorrow and sadness can be amplified during the holiday season when there seems to be an expectation of perfect families and jolly activities.  There is also much to celebrate.  There is peace and love underneath the heartache, and the peace and love can be arrived at when we release resistance and accept our present realities with authenticity and care.  I have come to see that it is all about remembering…remembering who we are and accepting our roles as co-authors of our world.  Along with God, we are constantly co-creating a world in which hope, peace, and love can thrive and endure.  I believe in more than Christmas.  I believe that every day is Christmas: a day of birth, of promise, of peace, and of understanding that what might seem imperfect to the naked human eye (a lowly manger / our seemingly broken lives) is to the holy heart perfection and the wellspring of bliss.
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Christmas Eve – Subject to Change

I have served as the church musician at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lansford for over 10 years now.  Our church has always had an 8:00 pm Christmas Eve service. Last night, snow squalls and black ice prevented us from having our traditional Christmas Eve church service. Some unexpected snow led to accidents…which led to road closures. My father and I attempted to get to the church, but we came to a point where the police directed us to turn around; a portion of Route 209 was closed. Our pastor also was unable to make it to church, as part of Route 443 was closed. While it was disappointing to not be together with our parish family celebrating Christ’s birth through prayer, Scripture, song, and communion, it was much better to play it safe and stay off of the slick roads.

 

There are those things in life over which we have no control. Most of us are quite good at planning. We organize, design, create, and put structure to our homes, our work, our days, our gatherings, our lives. And then…life happens. Often times, life has other plans. And often times, we don’t understand them. But I think that’s part of God’s plan…to remind us to let go & realize that we are not in control. Our job is to be our best selves and make the best choices with what we are given…just like Mary and Joseph did on that holy day in Bethlehem.

 

If Mary and Joseph were to choose a time and a place for the son of God to be born, I am certain they wouldn’t have named a tiny stable in Bethlehem on a cold winter’s night as the ideal conditions for Jesus’s birth. They were not prepared and didn’t want the blessed birth to turn out like that. But the circumstances were what they were…and things turned out okay…even better than okay. Mary and Joseph did their part and trusted and prayed. And that’s what we can do, too.

 

So often in life, we shape and sculpt our environment and have very neatly packaged visions of how we want everything to flow. Sometimes things flow as we have predicted and planned, but other times the weather, timing, other people, and so many other factors change things around, and we must go from there. But the good news is that on many occasions the outcome is better than we could have ever imagined.

 

Many times, the shift in plans leads us to enjoy it all more. We relax our shoulders as we let go of the rigid blueprint we had been holding. We laugh at how our serious and well-intended game plan was turned upside down. And we take joy in the connections we make with others as we bond over the unpredictable circumstances. Something about uncertainty brings us together, as we realize that none of us have it all together & we all can bring a lot to each other’s lives as we support each other in this unpredictable and sometimes crazy life journey. Besides, memories are made out of missed flights, unannounced visits, improvised recipes, detours, creative alternatives, unscheduled stops, and those minor mishaps that keep us on our toes. I’m convinced that God has a sense of humor.

 

A belated Christmas liturgy is still possible, and silent meditation and reflection has power. There are so many possibilities, but what matters is that the Christ child was born…not where or when or how he was born. And he lives in our hearts if we are open to His power, His plan, and keeping the faith, including all of the vulnerability and mystery that is inherent in faith.

 

Merry Christmas!

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Above is a photo of the Christmas tree at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bowmanstown, where I played a later Christmas Eve service (after roads re-opened.)

Not Seeing…is Believing

 

During my recent trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico, I went on an evening/night excursion to kayak at the bioluminescent bay in Farjado.  Before going on the trip, I read about this area, and I found it fascinating.  A high concentration of microscopic organisms called dinoflagellates thrive here.  When they are agitated, they glow in the dark, and anything that comes in contact with them also glows.  In order to preserve this fragile ecosystem, swimming is no longer allowed in this bay, but if a person did swim, it would appear that the person was glowing.

 

I found it worth going on this trip in order to experience the bioluminescence first hand.  Unfortunately, it does not come out well on photographs, but I can assure you that the water really does light up and glow when the kayak paddle comes in contact with it, when you scoop your hand into the water, and whenever a fish goes by.  Sometimes the advertisements for a tourist attraction are much more exciting than the actual place, but in this case, the experience really does live up to the claims that they make.

 

This was the first time that I had ever been out in a two-person kayak.  It was also the first time that I ever kayaked at night.  One of my favorite parts of the trip was going through the narrow channel that was completely tree-covered.  It was pitch black;  it was only possible to see the tiny little glow ring on the kayak that was in front of you.  As interesting as it would have been to see this new area and take in the natural beauty of this tropical environment, it was thrilling and surreal to know that I was in the middle of a channel off of the Farjado Bay in the tropical rain forest biome…but to not be able to see any of it.  I knew that I was traveling through the mangrove forest into the lagoon, surrounded by tropical foliage, and even knew that mosquitos were likely flying all around me…but could not actually see anything.  Yet, I felt it all in my body, and it was powerful and peaceful.  My inability to see it with my eyes but my general knowledge of what was surrounding me in this environment allowed me to experience this on a different level.  It reminded me of faith – not seeing, but believing.  In other blog posts, I’ve written about letting go of control, accepting that we don’t have all the answers…and trusting.  This late night kayak excursion allowed me to experience the comfort that comes when I let go of knowing.

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kayaks ready to go out on the water in Farjado