Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Workplace Tyranny

Have you ever had a tyrannical boss?  A person that requires more work from you than is possible given the time allotted?  Do you feel astonishing stress because of the workload that is put upon you by this individual?  I do.  And it is worse than ever right now!

Don't misunderstand.  I love my job, and I love my place of work.  It is a near perfect environment.  I have the greatest people to work with, and they all bring amazing talent and energy to what they do.  The person that I answer to is a great supervisor.  He does not stand over my shoulder, nor does he micromanage what I do.  

"So just who is this tyrant?" you may ask.  Well, the tyrant is me!  I have given myself so much work this month that I am nearly unable to cope!

How is it that those of us who plan our own schedules and our own jobs are so much busier than those who have direct supervisors assigning specific tasks?  Truthfully, I cannot imagine any rational supervisor asking more than about 50% of what I have assigned myself!  Perhaps I am too interested in my own profession.  Maybe I am so committed to what I do that I should actually be "committed!"

But I have noticed something about those great people that I work with.  They have done the very same thing to themselves!  I'm not kidding!  We are all quite overworked, and it is because we each carry a tyrant within ourselves that expects excessive output.  It is truly amazing that we all love our jobs!

But this month, I am not happy with the tyrant that has forced me (yes) to do everything that I am doing right now.  And after some relief comes at the beginning of the new year,  he'll do it all over again in about 4 months or so.  

I've never worked this hard in my life.  Ever.  And I wouldn't trade it for anything!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Post election reaction (Am I the American I should be?)

For the last six or seven months, I have endeavored to avoid becoming publicly embroiled in all of the controversy surrounding our presidential election.  I have come to believe that my personal relationships are much more important than the disagreements that sometimes arise in political discussions.  That is not to say that I did not retain an opinion because I certainly did.  It's just that taking the opportunity to disseminate that opinion was much less important to me than the relationship with my friends.

In this blog entry I will disclose how I voted, and my reaction to the outcome.  But the conclusion that I have come to should be applicable to all who read these paragraphs, and might not even be controversial.  Let's see.

First, I must remind us all of the great concern and even anxiety that every engaged voter experienced in the final days and weeks leading up to the election.  This applies to voters on both sides of the election and the corresponding issues.

I must now admit that I was (am) disappointed in the outcome of the election.  Election night was a gloomy affair for me.  When it became obvious that Ohio and several other needed states had moved away from my chosen candidate, I went to bed.  Not that I slept for awhile, because of the disappointed feelings I had.  What to do now?

I wondered how those on the opposite side felt, and I had a pretty good idea.  It is exactly how I would feel, and I know how I (and my "half" of the country) would likely have reacted.  It is how the winners felt and likely reacted as well.  Let me describe it for you:

Had our guy won, we would have all taken a deep sigh of relief, relaxed (read celebrated) for a few minutes, and then hit the sack for a deep rejuvenating sleep.  We would have wakened the next morning with the assurance that "the adults are back in charge," and the confidence that all would now be well - many worries would be behind us.  I would have relaxed, taken a seat (figuratively), and crossed my legs, relaxed in the knowledge that a new administration would take over in January.  But should that have been my reaction?

After a fitful sleep I woke up feeling less than rested, and with none of the assurance that I might have had if circumstances had been different.  But I did ask myself "what now, how will this election affect me?"  The answer that hit me is the same that I should have found if my candidate had won the election!  And it came about as I reminded myself of something I remembered saying awhile ago. It is not the answer, but it led me to it:

       "If I am not successful in this life, I cannot blame the President of the United States.
         If I am successful in this life, the President of the United States does not get the credit."

So with that knowledge, what do I do with this election, or any election in the United States?  Of course, I do what I can to vote my conscience.  But after that, what is my "job" as an American citizen, and have I really been doing it the best it can be done for all these years?

Here's what I need to remind myself to do:

1.) Take care of my family and myself.  Aggressively!  Seems intuitive (and of course, we all want to do it), but part of that understanding comes from the fact that no other human can be relied on to do it.  No one (not even the government) is as interested in my welfare or that of my family.  In fact, no human being or organization is capable of caring for me and my family as well as I can.  And no one cares like God and I do!

2.) Be the best I can be in absolutely everything I attempt.  This means going the second mile every time, with every task, in every endeavor, and not allowing circumstance to easily derail me from that goal.

3.) Recognize the circumstances of my life that I can control (there are more than I think there are), and take control of them.  Recognize the circumstances of my life that I cannot control (there are fewer than I think there are), and put them into the hands of God and leave them there unless (and until) they move into the "controllable" category.  But of course as a Christian, I believe "He's got the whole world in His hands."

4.) Exercise serious stewardship over the strengths and gifts given to me by God.  Of course this means ensuring my financial situation is in order.  This also means I'll do everything in my power to be a good steward of another asset provided to me by the Lord - my physical body.  Time to do all those things I know to be true regarding getting healthy - diet and exercise and rest and recreation and trust in God (all these things are stress killers)!

Perhaps these things are just something in my life that I need to re-examine, and that most readers of this column are way ahead in this.  I hope so!

So what am I really writing about here?  I am writing about the fact that we still have enough freedoms in this country to be the kind of Americans that came here in the first place seeking the American Dream!

And just what is that American Dream?  I submit to you that it is not a house with a picket fence and 2.5 children, nor is it a government check nor accessible health care, nor even safety.  And certainly it is  not at all about stuff!

The American Dream is self-determination and freedom!  I am determined to do all in my power to enjoy to the full the freedoms that we have to make our own way in this country.  And if I do not, I cannot blame any president for my failure to do so.

This is the American I should be, and so many others were this way out of necessity when our country was founded!  And has that "necessity" diminished?  I submit to you that it has not!

Would I be thinking about this as much if my candidate had won?  Probably not.  It has become natural for Americans to "relax and rely."  Should it have been my response if my candidate had won?  Absolutely!

And most importantly, I am determined to give glory and honor to the One that gave to me the freedoms that this country recognizes!

God bless America!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Do Not Be Afraid

Do Not Be Afraid

I am the director of The Kinge's Quire, a group formed in 2008 to sing music from the Renaissance as well as music composed for cathedral settings.  We use young trained sopranos and altos with adult singers in order to create just the right sound.  Hope you enjoy this recording that was made at a concert we sang for the Tennessee ACDA summer conference in Chattanooga just over one week ago.  Click on the sub-title "Do Not Be Afraid" to listen.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Things that are popularly counter-intuitive . . . .

How are your natural reactions faring?  Are you strange?  Is there some pattern of behavior in your life that someone might consider to be counter-intuitive or unnatural? 

I remember reading the bumper sticker on a small car several years ago.  It made me think, and initially I did not understand it.  Perhaps you have seen one like it, or have heard the saying:  "The one with the most toys, wins!"  

It is my observation that the bumper sticker stated very clearly what many wish to accomplish in this life.  And it has become the norm for many.  Natural, and even intuitive.

So, I thought I'd make a short list of behaviors, thought processes, and actions that I believe to be popularly counter-intuitive.  There are likely hundreds more.

1.)  It is more fun, and much more satisfying to give, than to receive.  

2.)  Being "open-handed" rather than "protectionist" with assets, prevents loneliness.

3.)  Honesty in the smallest things, has the largest impact.

4.)  Building up the accomplishments of others rather than your own, brings joy.    

I consider the above list to be unusual.  At least the implementation of the list is probably unusual.  Out of the ordinary.  Less than run-of-the-mill.  Even peculiar.

Read this description of Christians from the New Testament, King James Version:

1 Peter 2:9

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.

I have compiled and worded this list, but the concepts are by no means original, especially number 1.   

With God's help, I would like to become a little more peculiar!


Friday, March 23, 2012

Internet Gnostics

Have you ever heard of the Gnostics?  They were in existence during the early Christian church.  They believed that they had "secret knowledge," and that secret knowledge provided their salvation.  But that's as far as we will go regarding the Gnostics from the early centuries of Christianity.

What this is REALLY about is the internet, and websites and the "secret knowledge" necessary to build a website.  But of course the knowledge is not really secret, it's just not general knowledge.  Most people require the services of an "internet gnostic" in order to get things done.

Well, we've found a way to be finished with internet gnostics.  For the purposes of illustration dear reader, please go to the following web address:    

This website was built entirely by individuals who know virtually nothing about website creation.  Their lack of knowledge is no secret to anyone, yet the website promoting First Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga is the result of their efforts.  The staff at the church is entirely responsible for the site.  Individuals from the music department, the children's ministry, the youth ministry, and the administrative assistant, are the ones responsible for what you see on the page.

Admittedly, there was a template, and a very user friendly interface.  But no one has to send information and photos, or video to any outside entity (websites updated "while you wait").  The site can be changed every hour if need be.  The pages can be edited from any computer at any place around the world.  No additional software (Dreamweaver, Frontpages, Notepad++, etc) is needed to edit the site.  Multiple people can edit, save, and publish separate pages to the site simultaneously.

No "secret knowledge" needed!

And since I've gone to the lengths to explain all of this, lets give some big time props to cloversites, the brilliant young firm that assists companies and ministries to create excellent websites with the extreme advantage of amazing independence.
And no internet gnostics necessary!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I Missed It!

Well I missed it.  Kind of unusual, but it happened.  And it was a birthday of a very important person.  It was yesterday, so I'm one day late.  This individual has the respect of almost every person that I know.  He has influenced millions, especially in the Western hemisphere.

Now I should clarify, that while still influential, this person is dead.  But as it will be for all of us, his "works do follow" him (Revelation 14:13).  And with great impact, I must say!

He was quite a prolific fellow.  His work and his God was everything to him, and his output of work is voluminous.  And he had 20 children!  

I am referencing Johann Sebastian Bach, who was born 327 years ago yesterday, March 21.  And his impact is still felt around the world today.  This is a man who wrote approximately 300 sacred cantata's, and we still have (and use) nearly 200 of them.  Bach's original chorale tunes and his arrangements of those from other composers can be found in most good hymnals today.  

His contribution to the world of instrumental music is phenomenal as well.  Most prominent is music for the organ.  His contribution to instrumental chamber music dominates much of the baroque period.

I am fortunate to have been exposed to the tradition of authentic performance practice while in college, and in worship.  It has been a privilege to  know people like John Brombaugh, Judy Glass, Bruce Fowkes, Ralph Richards, and Harald Vogel who have taken the steps necessary to bring JSB back to life.  This has been done through music performed on instruments built for authentic sound, and through performers dedicated to giving modern listeners an accurate experience of what Bach produced during his lifetime.

What Bach produced in his life is worthy of emulation.  And if he was here to comment about it, he'd likely state that it was only through the help of God.  And Bach dedicated all of it to his Creator.  Soli Deo Gloria!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Music and Worship

Singing is a universal expression and a very personal expression.  The instrument making the music is the human body and the act of living and breathing is its engine.  Singing creates music of beauty and inspiration that is delightful to the singer and the listener.  Choral singing is necessarily a cooperative situation.  It brings people together and builds friendships and closeness among those that may not even meet under average circumstances. 

Choral music is found in every community and culture. I work in an area that has long dominated the art:  The Church.  Choral singing has been a strong tradition of the Christian Church for many centuries.  Music in the church serves various functions. These functions include: Education of people in the music of the church;  Teaching Christian doctrine through music; Increasing active participation by the congregation in worship; Emphasizing Christian truth in a way that sparks emotion and memory.  

I believe that when humans worship, God is the audience.  Worship is not so much about satisfying church members, but about praising God and returning love to Him.  Those of us in worship leadership represent the entire congregation in corporate worship.  We must not take lightly the responsibility.   We sometimes forget that worship is important to God.  Caine and Abel had a disagreement over worship and in that case, God had been clear about what constituted worship - a sacrificial lamb.  Caine’s worship offering of fresh produce did not fit the criteria, and was not accepted by God.  Music in worship is a ministry that can play a part in opening hearts to God.  What an astonishing responsibility!
Every successful leader of worship will desire to teach the young person, and the adult person in the church to successfully participate in singing.  There is a responsibility to add to the general musical education for the children of the church. This education will offer a tonal and rhythmic foundation that can be broadened with choral activities and the exploration of hymns in congregational singing.  The result is an increased musical literacy that will add to musical integrity within the church.

Worship leaders must desire to teach the adult choir to read music successfully, to understand rhythm, and to sing confidently with no instrumental accompaniment as needed.  Choirs need to be inspired with meaningful anthems for services so that their communication through music will come from the heart.  

Encourage the choir to be its best as a group, and to individually experience success in other aspects of their lives.  We must aid the self esteem of each person that sings.  We must  nurture the weak singer so that they will see their value, and will desire to be stronger.

Building a strong choral program within a church is a process that is rewarding in itself.  Continued effort on the part of the director and the singers will plant seeds for growth of the choir program, and even growth of the entire church.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”     Philippians 4:8