A Communicable Dizzy-ease

I told a little friend of mine, who will soon turn eleven - "Sweetie, you will draw more people TO you when you smile!"

She looked at me dumbfounded and said, "I can't draw people too good. I can draw trees and horses better."

I got it. I laughed.

My favorite story recently was posted on Facebook by a gal attending church here in the Nashville area. When she "checked in" and wrote a status update, she inadvertently checked in to Hooter's Restaurant, which was right across from the church. That's funny in itself. She wrote, "In His Presence" - at Hooters. (I'm dying over here!) But the best response was her friend's comment under the status update. "Girl, you better cross that street!"

Now THAT"s funny right there!

I love the comedy network on Sirius radio. Without it, I'd be in a ditch somewhere off a major highway. It keeps me in stitches, laughing, even when I'm bone tired from late-night driving. Keeping me awake is the goal. That's a good thing. A comedian said yesterday; (Husband in his eighties yells to his wife) "What's it like outside?" She says, "It's windy." He responds, "No it's not, it's Thursday." She says back, "Yeah, so am I - what do you want, water or tea?" (I'm dizzy with laughter! Love it!)

I have since decided, since most of you who follow me know - I have a communicable funny dizzy-ease. It's infectious, transmissible and comes by being in direct contact with someone who is dizzily in love with laughter, goofy stories, and spontaneous kid-like frolic. People will be drawn to you, like a horse drawn to water. (Literally though, my glass is half empty right now, 'cause it fell off the table! But that doesn't mean that my attitude is half empty. it just means I got to get up again from the table and fill my glass back up with cucumber water... and clean the mess on the floor. I need Mr. Ed..)

For all my social media friends and experts out there who post on a regular basis, let me help you with something: Don't be God. Don't be judgmental. Don't express hatred through sarcasm. Invite others in the conversation. Applaud, praise and comment on posts that are worthy of your stamp of approval. Be communicable in the best of ways. Share in the "dizziness" and ease of your shortcomings. You never look better to the world than when you are real and vulnerable. I ain't horsin' around with this. :/

Jesus reminds us all, "Everything I have is yours." (Luke 15:31) It's a contagious and communicable "ease" (without the dis), knowing that you can have this gift called everything.

Share it. Sing it. Speak it. Write it. Live it. Draw it. 

BTW, my little friend drew a picture of me. When she handed it to me, I looked like a horse. I laughed. She laughed. Then she said, "I 'drew' you, right?"

Yes, baby girl, you drew me alright. :)

From My Perspective: Our Days With Sammy Hall

I was sitting on a beach in New Jersey when Mike, a friend of mine who was running the snack shop, walked toward me said, 

“Your mom’s on the phone.”

 

Now in those days, this wasn’t unusual, especially since there was no other way to connect. Find a community pay phone, park by it and give your mom the phone number. That’s what the Salem County Sportsmen’s Club Snack Shop/Beach phone had become: A community. Everybody used it to find their kids.

 

My mom said that Sammy Hall called and was offering both Jeff Duffield (my then boyfriend) and me a job. I gathered my stuff and jumped in my ’73 Plymouth Gold Duster and headed home. I’m thinking during the drive, “Who in the world is Sammy Hall?” 

 

Jeff had a prior knowledge of Sammy after hearing him perform in Atlanta around 1971. I forgot I recorded one of Sammy’s songs, “Jesus Is the Man For the Hour”. Wow. That song was from one of my favorite Oak Ridge Boys albums, “Light”. But still, I knew nothing about Sammy. We said yes.

 

This was a huge step for these two yankee kids who just graduated from high school. We soon make the trek to Sevierville, Tennessee and join a group of rock ‘n roll ruffians who learned to play gospel music! What an eclectic group. Lenny Stadler, on bass, came from a hard rock music background. Mike Cain, drums, was playing clubs when he got the call. Row Jennings was a young Church of God girl. And together with Sammy, Jeff on keyboards and me on vocals, we rounded out a whirlwind of over 400+concerts in a year. Sometimes we’d sound like ‘The Mamas & The Papas” and other times we’d sound like a cross between contemporary Christian and southern gospel.

 

Sammy recently went home to be with the Lord and Lenny passed away also from cancer. But the legacy of these two will live on. Weekly, if not daily, I receive messages either on Facebook or by email from people who found God at a Sammy Hall Crusade. Our music at the time was years ahead of most. It was also hard to pigeon-hole Sammy into a venue. One week we’d do a series of Orrell concerts in the mid-west, then the next week, sing in High Schools all over the south, doing more of a British rock flare.

 

I had the privilege to sing for Sammy’s home-going service. I sang Elmer Cole’s classic, “Ten Thousand Years”. This was a signature song for us in the ‘70s and one that Sammy graciously gave me the lead. 

 

I’ve just spent ten minutes of your time telling you facts. Some you may have known. But now, let me just share a piece of emotion that I’ve probably never shared before.

 

We left the group the next year. We didn’t leave because we didn’t agree with the philosophy of Sammy’s ministry. If anything, that alone could have kept us there for decades. We also didn’t leave because we weren’t getting the industry “looks” and accolades. We got plenty. And many top record labels were offering Sammy and his “new” group a chance at doing some great things. Gary S. Paxton, for one, grasped the concept and talent of this band. Jeff and I didn’t even leave because we thought our specific talents weren’t focused enough. No. Truthfully, I always thought that we had way TOO much focus. Jeff was the first American gospel keyboardist to play a Mellotron, a Clavinet and a Wurlitzer electric piano - all at the same time on stage. And I was featured way too much vocally. We also didn’t leave because we had difficulty with getting along with band members. No way. Rick Sandidge, who drove the bus for us, still remains to be one of our closest friends. And the connection piece has always been there with all the band members. We really had no clue how much we had.

 

The reason Jeff and I moved back to New Jersey was to start our own ministry. We could barely make it on $99 a week back then. So, soon after we were married, we began a music ministry in the northeast. Forty-plus years later, we are still in that ministry. It has taken on all kinds of dimension and changes, but I have to say, if it wasn’t for Sammy Hall and the gift he gave us, I doubt we would have taken such risk. Ironically, we moved back to Tennessee four years ago..

 

It’s a different world now. Groups come and go and change personnel like dirty socks. But for one very brief moment in time, Sammy Hall’s group, the one that turned heads, still continues to be discussed and written about. We saw this energy at his funeral. It was a surreal moment for me, because back in the day, I didn’t really think anyone paid attention. And maybe that was a good thing. God was protecting all of us from letting it go to our heads.

 

Sammy later traveled internationally doing huge business events and other outreach venues. But still, as far as I’m concerned, he was at his best when we all shared one cause, one voice, one band, one hope, one mission: To reach young people for Christ. And to do it well - musically.

Pool Over And Abide By The Rules

Hotel rules and ticky-tack regulations could cause me to be arrested. I know that they have to jump through ALL kinds of hoops and regulations to please both the city and state. Some of their policies operate on the side of caution. I know this.

I check into a well-known chain hotel and I receive the following notice. (Verbatim. It's attached to my key sleeve, with a rubber band wrapped around it.) Here goes:

 

In accordance with our state's Health Department Regulations and for your safety,

it is important that you are aware of our pool regulations:

1. There is no lifeguard on duty.

2. Never swim alone

3. There is no substitute for adequate supervision. Children under 16 MUST be accompanied by an adult or guardian.

4. In an Emergency pick up pool area phone and dial #9.

5. No alcohol or glass around pool

6. No running, diving or horseplay.

7. Swim at your own risk.

 

The gal at the front desk says I have to sign a form stating that I have "read" these pool regulations and that I will abide by them. I'm laughing to myself thinking - this is NOT a problem. You see, it is March and it's New York and it's 29 degrees outside. Dumb. Save it for summer, for cryin' out loud.

So, in reality, these guidelines for protection weren't applicable right now, wouldn't you say? I think so. It's much like reading from the scriptures - words that don't really pertain to me right now - but later on, you find that they "fit" just right.

I remember reading a passage from Proverbs 31:25-26 when I was a teen, thinking, "This really doesn't apply to me. I'm not an old woman."

She is clothed with strength and dignity,
    and she laughs without fear of the future.
26 When she speaks, her words are wise,
    and she gives instructions with kindness.

"She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.

When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness."

 

Maybe now the age old ice is melting and I'm ready for an arctic swim. No running or diving, mind you, but you can bet - there'll be some horseplay! That's just who I am. "Pull the icy tarp off! I'm ready for a plunge!"

So, the next day I check out of the hotel. I smile at the manager and mention, "You know, I had a good laugh over your rules and mandatory agreement for your pool - especially since it's sub-freezing outside!"

He laughed too. Then said, "You know we have an indoor pool too, right?"

(Silenced, I drop my head in embarrassment.)

Yes, I laughed out loud without fear of the future, knowing that one day I'd tell you this story. "When she speaks, her words are wise." (When exactly does this happen? Swim and speak at your own risk. I need adequate supervision...)

Also posted on "Sue-biquitous!"

This Speaks Volumes

There are very few songs that really move me. Does that surprise you? Probably so. But as a singer and musician, it's both a blessing and a curse to think, live, eat and dream musically. It's just the way I process. So amidst the clatter and pseudo-music-forms that most of us are content and presented with, I sometimes (and oft times) choose to go outside my chosen venue and clear my internal song-cluttered governor. It's like a cleansing of the palette. 

Today I'm reading about "being content in all things". The Philippians 4:11-13 passage speaks volumes when you have nothing. But it really speaks like a cruise-ship horn, when you "think" you have it all. I meet people every day who have volumes of stuff but no volume of space for the thing that means the most. I'm sure if we asked anyone in Moore, OK what matters most, doubtfully they'd say it's their possessions. Just being alive is their volume.

So Frank? I think you nailed it today. "All My Tomorrows Belong to You". And for me? I'm aware of what matters most: My relationship with God, my family and my friends. Anything else really doesn't matter much to me. Paul's secret of contentment really shouts the loudest, not just to those who have nothing, but to those of us (and even Frank in his day) who seemingly have or have had it all. Take a few minutes today and be thankful for what you have, and not what you don't have. Know that you are able to face anything by the One who makes you able to do it. All your tomorrows are His tomorrows too. And that speaks volumes...

.

             

         Songwriters: Davies, Ivor Arthur

Where's The Safe House?

This will be an unspecified and ambiguous post. No real details of location, times or names. I'm protecting my new friend and her family. But "Jane" has given me permission to tell her story. After a women's event, Jane, a beautiful and shy young woman, approaches me in the foyer of her church. This is her first words to me.  

"Sue, you know when you were talking about women who are stuck in a lifestyle that they just don't know how to get out of? Well, I'm one of those stuck women. I was abused physically early in my life by a friend of my father. I tried telling my parents about it but they didn't believe me. Later, in High School, I became infatuated with a boy who I thought cared about me. Instead, he put me in horrific situations (sexually) with his friends. He told me that if I didn't do this, he would tell my friends, hurt my mother and ruin my father's name. I was 16 then. Now I'm 28. Sue, please tell these women who are trapped in unsafe houses, that there is hope and that there are agencies and safe places they can go. I lost my childhood innocence. And later, when fear gripped me along with doubt and disregard for my own body, I just caved in and prostituted myself to make money. All the while I was doing this, I still went to church. I'm the pastor's daughter."

Jane, your word is out. I never ever once think that all women I speak to have it all together. If anything, I know that many women come with dark secrets. Some I may never know about, but all have a chance to uncover their hidden heart to an embracing forgiving Jesus. I try very hard to make these events a safe place. A safe place to laugh, cry and share our stories.

It doesn't stop here. When they're willing and ready, the process of healing and restoration for these women and girls begin at that moment of confession. Jane has been referred to a women's counselor and is working her way back to health, physically and spiritually. Her father now knows and he too is getting help for his neglect.

You see, even as a pastor's daughter, Jane is not exempt from the cruelty of the dark side. If anything, her face told me, "I've been bruised and battered twice - once by these men and boys. And again by well-meaning parents who refused (for fear of their own reputation) to believe me."

My ears and eyes are wide open. The heart of Christ is her safe house. This is only the beginning of the uncovering. Pray. 

(On a side note: I wrote this story a few months ago, but waited until the right time for the reveal. Today is the day, especially after the breaking news story of the three women rescued from a Cleveland house where they were held hostage.)

Two completely different houses - both unsafe. One in Cleveland and one in a reputable neighborhood with a little white church.

 

For more information and details on how you can be a Certified First Responder (CFR) through W.A.R. International, click here.

Can I Bring My Children To A Women's Retreat?

 

I'm not the one making decisions for who can or can't attend a women's retreat. Surprisingly, once I had a man ask me if I thought it would be OK if he could attend. After clearing my throat and trying not to laugh, the comment begged for a question:

"Sir, why would you want to come to a women's retreat?"
He quietly responds.
"My wife is handi-capped, and she rarely goes anywhere without me. She saw the topic of the weekend, looked at me with her big blue eyes and said, 'Can you take me?'"

After I pulled my foot out of my mouth, I say, "Yes, you surely can come."

I spoke for a retreat with a different flavor. In all of my retreat years, I've never encountered this. There were several young moms, not only bringing their infants, but also small toddlers. I have never been a proponent of bringing babies/toddlers/children to women's retreats. I just know that (as a mom), you'll be spending more time in the hallways than in the sessions. I also know that many other women who paid equally to come and get away, can get quite offended by the squabbles, the crying, and the disruptions. I really can't blame them. It's also very hard as a speaker to work with all the distractions.

The other side of the story, however, goes like this: Many of these young moms wouldn't be able to come without bringing their children. Some by self-induced choice; others by the fact that anyone they would remotely trust to watch their children for the weekend, are already here with them at the retreat!

So what I encountered in Clarion, PA happened so quickly and so divinely that I don't know quite how to write it. Courtney, a precocious two year old, is quite a hand full. Her mom, who I grew to love instantly, IS spending more time in the hall ways and her hotel room than in any of the sessions. She has all three of her children with her. Her life is in a crisis mode and many around her know this. I do not. At least not yet.

Courtney was in the back of the ballroom just being a typical two year old. I have to admit I was very close to frustration myself, knowing that the other women present were a little fatigued with the interruptions. I just started to sing, "Amazing Love" and I watched as Courtney separated herself from her mother and started walking slowly up the center aisle towards me. I saw her immediately. I kept singing and slowly walked towards her. I got down on my knees and sang directly to her. Face to face. She didn't move for over five minutes. I was staring into those gorgeous blue eyes, while at the same time stroking her hair, her shoulders and her hands. It was a divine interruption.

Every woman in that ballroom had tears in their eyes. I knew it was a sacred stop. I knew that the Holy Spirit had an agenda and it was up to me to flow with it or lose it. Someone captured this on video and I surely hope to pass it along here when I get it.

Courtney, her mom, her family and their situation needs a major miracle. It was in that sacred pause that I believe God showed me how to quit. To quit trying to make things work. To quit trying to force stuff. To quit being the orchestrator and let God direct the symphony.

Courtney never moved a muscle, looking deep into my eyes. After the song finished, we all sang "Yes, Jesus Loves Me" and Courtney sang with me. She was a different child from that point on. So was I.

I'm still not a proponent of bringing kids to a retreat, but I've got to say - this was a superb picture of what Jesus would do. To be "interrupted" by children, is to see the hand of God. I'm not that smart, but I knew better. This would turn that ballroom into a sanctuary. And it did.

How do you handle the interruptions in your life? Wouldn't it be amazing if you allowed yourself to flow with God-ly peace, even when it's not in your plan?

The child in me says, "Yes. Because Jesus Loves Me."

 

This post also on Sue-biquitous!

 

 

Hymn-Singing With Ann Downing

 

She travels and sings. I travel and sing. She’s from Mississippi. I’m from New Jersey. She lives in Hendersonville. I live in Hendersonville. I’ve known about her since I was twelve years old. She’s only known me for the last four years. But the fast friendship simply began by meeting Ann at a local Hendersonville restaurant with friends. It went like this: 
“Hi Ann. You don’t know me, really. But I could have been a Downing years ago...”. She throws her head back and laughs. I laugh. It’s true.
That simple first encounter has led to an unusual and rewarding relationship with Ann Downing. She comes equipped with solid friendships, both inner circle and casual, plus an arsenal of fans. So it wasn’t in my frame to even try to invade any of those areas, like a groupie or something. This was different right from the start. And yes, we are SO different. But in the things that truly matter? We are crazily alike. Ann has a renewed passion to take it to the next level, both spiritually and musically, to a new generation. So do I. That’s what friends do. They find the commonalities, the drive, the treasures, and they run with an “iron sharpening iron” cadence.
Later, a casual conversation over a Starbucks coffee (and many meetings since), creates this inspiring chit chat into a surprising mentorship. And probably not what you're thinking either. We're both experiencing the amazing and unpredictable transformation of ministry on the road. I’m the perpetual student of reformation, studying new paradigms and doing my homework on relevancy in music and ministry. And sometimes that relevancy pushes me to look back. Ann, the singer/songwriter, allows herself to be the student this time. And somehow, I’ve been blessed to be the teacher.
“Ann, have you thought about recording a hymns project?" I ask, fumbling over my words while eating a chocolate strawberry. 
"I know that Jeff and I could do this for you.” 
Bold. Spicy. Out there. That’s what has transpired after a four year relationship. She knew this wasn’t a hard-sell, “trying to get a record deal” kind of discussion from me. This was straight from the heart. Timing and trust is everything. 
Later, as we prepare to record at Oak Tree Studios in Hendersonville, TN, I ask Ann why she picked the hymns she's selected for this project. She answers:
“I had a few songs in mind from the beginning of the plan, then picked up my hymnal and started thumbing through, stopping to read each lyric. The words of the hymns just jumped out of me... the songs I feel I’ve lived with Him.”
Ann’s earliest recollection of standards like “Footsteps of Jesus” and “Blessed Assurance” comes from being that vivacious little six year old from Oldtown Baptist Church in Mississippi. 
She tells me, “I think one major thing I’d like audiences to hear from these classics is a journey back through their lives. To remember the points along the way. Beautiful songs with more than just a melody, but music that reflects a real encounter with God.”
“The hymns have stood the test of time... not just because of familiarity, but because of deep truth and about one’s walk with God. Trusting Him for the future, “ Ann adds.
Ann, in her own right, is an exceptional songwriter. But this time around, she’s allowing the pen of these former inspired writers to minister to her as a listener first. Then, the “Statements Of My Faith” (the album title) simply translates as it declares: “All That Thrills My Soul Is Jesus”. That just about sums it up.
Jeff Duffield is producer, arranger and orchestrator of this project. Jeff is no new-comer to gospel music, with over 500 albums to his credit. As his wife, I walk a delicate balance here, not to be obnoxious with kudos and promos, but just wait til you hear this. We all sat in the studio and cried, sensing God’s presence in the room! This is what matters. I’m honored too, to sing with Ann on a few songs as well.
For more information on Ann’s new “Statements of My Faith” Hymns project, check her website: www.anndowning.com. For more information on Jeff Duffield Productions check his website: www.jeffduffield.com. And if you have any time left and you’d like to add a few comments to my banter and “Sue-biquitous” way of writing, speaking and blogging, I welcome you at www.sueduffield.com or by following me on: www.twitter.com/sueduffield. 


No Hiding What The Hyacinth Does

 

This is a picture of my $4.99 "on sale" after Easter purchase: three beautiful white hyacinth blooms in cheesy yellow paper and a plastic pot. It's my welcomed house guest, sitting on my counter. Her aroma is dancing in every crevice of the downstairs. In every corner. But not just in the house, but in every part of my heart and brain..

 

"It smells like a funeral home in here", says my husband.

 

"No it doesn't. It smells like Easter Sunday morning; spring walks through Longwood Gardens; Grammy Allen's pungent perfume; Aunt Myrtle’s dancing thru the hallways with all five of her purses; it smells like the side yard of my childhood home on Dixie Drive; the Philadelphia Flower show; black patent leather shoes; the Wilmington Flower Mart in Rockford Park with the kids; K-Mart's Lawn & Garden section; it smells like Gangy Link's dinner table... and it smells like my life story," I whisper to myself.

 

"It still smells like a funeral home to me...", he adds.

 

"No it doesn't. It smells like sweaty runny-nosed children laughing; Pop Pop singing his dumb-ditty songs; Annie's "peety jesses" (pretty dresses); and windows wide open with the stereo blaring. It smells like melted chocolate peanut butter eggs; week-old marshmallow ©Peeps; it smells like sitting in the bleachers watching David's roller hockey games, or the fragrance of crescent roll chicken baking; it smells like Phillies opening day baseball games; fresh cut grass clippings; pot roast simmering in the Crock Pot; Little Tykes plastic toys all over the yard; and my dad’s Honda Gold Wing in the driveway. I think it also smells like singing "Up From The Grave He Arose"; a Sunday School filled with little Bibles and chalkboard dust; a Chevy convertible top-down drive on route 47 to Cape May; eighth grade graduations and proms; little bow ties (that I refuse to let go of); trips to Vineyard Lake in Michigan; school buses with squealing kids and brakes; skateboards and kid-built wooden ramps in the cul-de-sac; neighbors laughing while sitting on their porches; it’s the smell of fresh earth-dirt and me (dressed in my hat, goggles and mask) chasing old Barry with a fired up weed-wacker!”

 

“It smells like the times in my life when I cried at loss and felt my stomach wrenching while trying to sing at my dad's funeral; it smells like standing motionless in a florist showroom, trying to pick out the right flowers for my mother's services.  And yes, it even smells like losing a friend while my heart and heels sank in the soil at the cemetery. That's what hyacinths smell like to me," I whisper under my breath.

 

"You smell ALL that in those flowers?", he says.

 

Yes. I smell it all; the balance, the dance, the death, the joy and new life of - a hyacinth.

 

 

2 Corinthians 2:14 "....an aroma redolent with life."

The B-I-B-L-E

My friend, Kelly Burton, is my featured guest-blogger today:



"Blessed are the Christians who challenge The Bible Series in its Biblical correctness yet be the same ones who sing scripturally incorrect gospel and worship songs." -Sue Duffield

 

 

We watched The Bible five Sundays in a row. Our church, like many, made it an event. We had in-home viewing parties, our pastor tied it in with his sermons, and we Facebook'd it like the Oscars or something. Basically, Christians who also happen to be fans or followers of pop culture get Excited when Christian-based entertainment is offered that is not cheesy, cheap, or that panders. It is rare. I grew up watching the 1977 miniseries Jesus of Nazareth and the classic Ten Commandments. In my little world, those were the gold standards of Biblical representation on film, and both have stood pretty well against the test of time. Then in 2005, Mel Gibson gave us the phenomenal The Passion of the Christ. That movie was so challenging to watch, so raw and beautiful all at once, but alas, it showed only a portion of Christ's life and a sliver of the whole Bible. I know I am one of many who wanted more.

bible memes

 

jesus

The Bible miniseries is extra culturally-relevant because of the explosion of social media that has occurred since those other films were made. And from the night the very first segment aired, the debates began:

   
  • Why didn't 'they' show Joseph's coat of many colors, or Elijah and Elisha, or Ruth and Naomi, or _____ (other favorite Bible story)
  • Why are there LIQUOR commercials?! My eyes! My eyes!
  • Why is Jesus so good looking (/smoking hot/etc)? {Really, people? He is the King of Kings...why not?}
  • So and so did not say that at such and such a time. What gives, Touched-By-An-Angel Lady? You are going to mislead millions of people! (I especially enjoy this article... and pose to this author: Any of these 'kingdom' issues? Does it really matter if King Saul was peeing or pooping in the cave? REALLY?!)

I think it is safe to say that many, many Christian viewers missed the point. And that got me thinking: maybe this series wasn't for us. I mean, if "we" are such experts on what the absolute correct details of the whole Bible are, and the order of importance of each, we don't need to see a series. And if "we" are so sensitive to what we watch that a Jim Beam commercial is going to send us straight off our holy high horses on to a bender, then by all means, we should avert our eyes. {I'm not talking about people who struggle with alcohol here, either... I'm talking about the pious} I choose, rather, to participate in the dialogue. I don't know "who" outside my circle was watching The Bible. But I do know that between 11 and 14 million people were watching it for 5 straight weeks. And what did they see?

  • God made us 
  • we are flawed  
  • God loves us anyway  
  • God gives us amazing things, like children when we are infertile, strength to slay giants, protection from fires and floods and hungry lions, and second chances. And third chances. And many more chances... - 
  • God came to Earth in the form of a man, His son Jesus.  
  • Jesus served humbly, loved politically-incorrectly, ministered supernaturally, sacrificed completely, died painfully, resurrected miraculously, and ascended to Heaven after leaving us a Spirit to comfort and empower us.  
  • The Spirit of God visited the followers of Jesus after His ascension, showed off by causing them to speak in different languages, and gave them power to Do His Work.  
  • God continued to speak with, inspire, and enable His followers to preach the good news and live in service to Him.

I saw someone today call the last two hours of The Bible a "weak and almost unidentifiable Gospel presentation." I am not sure what he was watching. In particular, the representation of the "Upper Room Experience" (the different tongues, from Acts 2) was surprisingly 1) not offensive, 2) cooler than even I imagined it, 3) fairly self-explanatory. In my own opinion, majoring on the minors is the tragic flaw of the mainstream Christian churchgoer. Literally *millions* of people saw The Bible series and heard the gospel. As a result, they might accept it, reject, research it, argue it, love it, balk at it, understand it better, care about it more, debate it, or pass it on. But chances are, they will not forget it...because when God sends out His Word, we are unable to ignore it. Regardless of what details went askew (and I am willing to bet most of the quibbles are based on denominational theologies, but that's just a guess, and that's a whole other post...), 14 million people saw and heard that God created us, Jesus loves us, and that He is the way, not to mention that He calls, equips, heals, and walks with us still today. I'm feeling pretty excited about 14 million people hearing that! That they saw it with modern special effects and attractive actors is a method, not a new gospel. Today, I visited my favorite entertainment website and saw they had finally paid attention to the series (and will mention here that it was the back page ad of their weekly mag a few weeks ago - prime real estate):

 

EW on The Bible ratings

Along with this, celebrities Tweeted their congrats to the producers... some of the same celebs who showed very little regard for Mel Gibson's work in 2005. Columnists from a variety of outlets are reporting on a hunger for 'religious entertainment' and a new interest in Bible stories. A game app has been developed, and there are already talks of spin-off that will focus on Jesus. Maybe it will all end up a twisted mess, or maybe, these pieces will continue to break barriers and speak to people who won't, just won't, pick up a Bible or go to a Bible study. Let's at least agree that turning their eyes toward Jesus is a good thing... The Bible - the book, not the miniseries, is available to read for free at many places on the internet. Check out YouVersion or Bible Gateway. Coming Thursday: "The Top 10 Details That May or May Not Have Been Completely, Documentary-Level Accurate But That I Totally Loved About The Bible Miniseries."

(Comments are welcome) For more of Kelly Burton's writing, click here.   

Manic Mannequins!

Stay with me here - I think I may have found possible employment for my comedic future: Become a "real life" mannequin. Well, the truth is, when I first read this story circulating about the new thrust of truth in advertising, I was like, "Wow - I could qualify for that!" Then I realized that the story was about the mannequins and not real LIVE women BEING the mannequins. Then I laughed. But here's proof a nerve has been hit from one of the comments made on a picture from a Facebook page -

The lingerie-clad mannequins, displayed in one of the stores in Sweden's Ahlens department store chain, have fleshier stomachs and fuller thighs than are typically seen in stores. Both are far from overweight, as many people have noted in comments about the widely circulated photo.
“Those aren’t mannequins, they are real women, and they are gorgeous,” wrote one of more than 3,350 commenters on the Facebook photo posted March 11 by Women’s Rights News.

"The lingerie-clad mannequins, displayed in one of the stores in Sweden's Ahlens department store chain, have fleshier stomachs and fuller thighs than are typically seen in stores. Both are far from overweight, as many people have noted in comments about the widely circulated photo. “Those aren’t mannequins, they are real women, and they are gorgeous,” wrote one of more than 3,350 commenters on the Facebook photo posted March 11 by Women’s Rights News." -by Eun Kyung Kim for Today Style

Real women. Gorgeous. Real life mannequins, which is quite different than real LIVE mannequins. OK. I got it now. But even so, I could qualify as a stunt double for a real life mannequin. Kind of like being a mannequin for a mannequin...swarming cellulite, rolling belly lines, "very-gross" veins, flabby filler - but a huge smile! Yeah, that'll work! But you won't find me in the lingerie aisle. Nope. I'll be more than happy to be the plump and flashy modest model for the tarp, tent and outdoor arctic gear section of Cabela's. I'm no dummy... :)

There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds. Matthew 5:26

Also posted on "Sue-biquitous!"

I'll Leave It All Behind

 

 

My travel hap-hazard trademark: Leave a little bit of your belongings behind. Wish I could say I "leave a little bit of my behind behind", but that never works. :) Of course I left a newly purchased Clinique eye pencil in the hotel room at the Gaylord Texan over the weekend. My roommate "thought" she left her entire make-up case behind, but found it later hiding in the billowing mounds of her suitcase. Good for her. I approach the Lost & Found at the Texan and they suggest, after their eye-rolling sigh, that I just call back at another time. You see, they are FLOODED with items left behind. They let me take a brief tour through their section of the hotel where items are stored that are left behind. Everything you can imagine. Someone even left a "Left Behind" book behind. I had to laugh at that one. Finding my eye pencil in a box of mascaras, lipsticks, purses, eye shadows, brushes, nail polishes - was like wading through the discount containers at a flea market. Mine would still be in the Clinique box, since I didn't take the eye pencil out yet. But there was no box; and there was no reason to waste another minute to excavate a $12 purchase. (Chocolate brown eye-liner, in case you're feeling generous)

Can you imagine being on a recovery team of Lost & Found at a resort like this? I can't comprehend it, even after what I saw. Coats, hoodies, cameras, books, bras, magazines, ©Pam Cooking Spray (this one bothered me for a while), watches, rings, curling irons, vitamin containers, earrings - you name it. I only saw this arsenal of a holding tank at a glance, but I was in utter horror over the things we (consumers) leave behind in hotel rooms. I asked the woman at the counter, "How long do you keep all this stuff?" She responded, "Well, we're instructed to keep it until someone claims it." You're kidding???! Who in the name of Tim LaHaye is going to claim their left behind ©Pam Cooking Spray??

Blissdom 2013 was incredible in every way. Writers/networkers/creatives - real living breathing women - come from all over everywhere. And the truth is, I not only left my chocolate brown eye-liner pencil behind, but I left my heart there too. I left my heart and twitter name with new friends, new inspirers, and new visionaries. I also left my heart behind with my peers and seasoned friendships, to blend with theirs, creating more community than ever. I was a student in the hallways, elevators, late night table-talk and carpet conversations at the Gaylord Texan as much as I was in the sessions. Maybe more. 

You see, "behind" every great writer is a heart left behind. And this time, it's a good thing. Lost and found. Both.

(this post also on Sue-biquitous!)

Footprints of Faith On The Beach

 

I walked in faith believing that a weekend with these special women would be life-changing. It was. But it also came with a fight. A fight that later reveals the struggle is so worth it. If you've ever felt, thought or experienced any of the following before or during a women's retreat, well, girl - you fit right in.
I had a fight with my teenager right as I walked out the door. 
I fell and twisted my ankle.
I have a piercing headache. 
The traffic delays are awful. 
The stress of leaving a husband, house and kids behind is mind-boggling. 
My baby is sick at home. 
No extra cash to buy anything once I  get there..
Can't fit in the clothes I packed. 
The suitcase zipper broke. 
The gal I'm rooming with is not my first choice.
My sister begged me to come, so I gave in.
It's gonna rain all weekend.
I just lost my husband, and I don't know if I can do this.
I was just laid off from work.
My friend and I don't even go to this church.
The meeting room is either hot or cold.
And the coffee? What about the coffee? Where's the hot water for tea??
You can't believe what I had to accomplish before even getting here...
My daughter is diagnosed with a terminal disease.
I don't even DO women's events.
I prefer not to retreat with anyone but my husband, really.
Is this going to be another one of those cryin'/confessin'/exposin' retreats? I can't do that.
Why was this location selected?
I've never been to a retreat before.
I can't sleep in those hotel beds. 
I should have brought my own pillow.
I lost my wallet.
What is the speaker going to speak on anyway?
The Advil was left on the kitchen counter.
This food better be good.
My kids keep texting me.
Seems like there'll be quite a generation gap, with the widening ages of women coming...
The younger girls are planning it this year.
I'm sixty-eight, and wondering, "Do I fit in anymore?"
Probably the best time of the retreat (for me) will be the free time.
I hope they won't be making us do anything that's uncomfortable..
If the women had a clue of what's going on with me, I would SO not be accepted..
Then Jesus arrives. We have a room reserved for Him. It's called the ballroom. Our welcomed, somewhat unexpected guest makes His presence known. We prayed that He would come, but truthfully, we were too busy thinking of all the distractions, the pain, the guilt, the organization, the details, the anxieties, the comforts - to even realize - that once we felt His presence, nothing else would really matter.
I know many women who don't "do" women's retreats. It's just not in their bone marrow to desire a weekend away with unfinished, unmade, imperfect gals. I understand that. But I keep thinking, "If you knew, you would come." A sweet and salty sisterhood has a way of exposing our greatest strengths and our greatest weaknesses. All our differences actually make us the same. And all of our anxieties and imperfections encourage us to grab in desperation for the kraspedon (hem) of Jesus' garment.
We now know. It's in desperation we find healing in Christ. All our inhibitions and worries seem foolish right now. The sabbath we've been looking for has been with us all the time... Jesus IS the sabbath.
So, we walk, we run and we stand - for truth. And yes, we even sink our toes in the sand once more.

 

I walked in faith believing that a weekend with these special women would be life-changing. It was. But it also came with a fight. A fight that later reveals the struggle is so worth it. If you've ever felt, thought or experienced any of the following before or during a women's retreat, well, girl - you fit right in.


I had a fight with my teenager right as I walked out the door. 

I fell and twisted my ankle.

I have a piercing headache. 

The traffic delays are awful. 

The stress of leaving a husband, house and kids behind is mind-boggling. 

My baby is sick at home. 

No extra cash to buy anything once I  get there..

Can't fit in the clothes I packed. 

The suitcase zipper broke. 

The gal I'm rooming with is not my first choice.

My sister begged me to come, so I gave in.

It's gonna rain all weekend.

I just lost my husband, and I don't know if I can do this.

I was just laid off from work.

My friend and I don't even go to this church.

The meeting room is either hot or cold.

And the coffee? What about the coffee? Where's the hot water for tea??

You can't believe what I had to accomplish before even getting here...

My daughter is diagnosed with a terminal disease.

I don't even DO women's events.

I prefer not to retreat with anyone but my husband, really.

Is this going to be another one of those cryin'/confessin'/exposin' retreats? I can't do that.

Why was this location selected?

I've never been to a retreat before.

I can't sleep in those hotel beds. 

I should have brought my own pillow.

I lost my wallet.

What is the speaker going to speak on anyway?

The Advil was left on the kitchen counter.

This food better be good.

My kids keep texting me.

Seems like there'll be quite a generation gap, with the widening ages of women coming...

The younger girls are planning it this year.

I'm sixty-eight, and wondering, "Do I fit in anymore?"

Probably the best time of the retreat (for me) will be the free time.

I hope they won't be making us do anything that's uncomfortable..

If the women had a clue of what's going on with me, I would SO not be accepted..


Then Jesus arrives. We have a room reserved for Him. It's called the ballroom. Our welcomed, somewhat unexpected guest makes His presence known. We prayed that He would come, but truthfully, we were too busy thinking of all the distractions, the pain, the guilt, the organization, the details, the anxieties, the comforts - to even realize - that once we felt His presence, nothing else would really matter.


I know many women who don't "do" women's retreats. It's just not in their bone marrow to desire a weekend away with unfinished, unmade, imperfect gals. I understand that. But I keep thinking, "If you knew, you would come." A sweet and salty sisterhood has a way of exposing our greatest strengths and our greatest weaknesses. All our differences actually make us the same. And all of our anxieties and imperfections encourage us to grab in desperation for the kraspedon (hem) of Jesus' garment.


We now know. It's in desperation we find healing in Christ. All our inhibitions and worries seem foolish right now. The sabbath we've been looking for has been with us all the time... Jesus IS the sabbath.


So, we walk, we run and we stand - for truth. And yes, we even sink our toes in the sand once more.

 

A Tempting Savory Snack Attack

 

I grabbed the green bag of wasabi peas and put a handful on the table. At the same time, I grabbed a few kitty treats for Annie's teacup chihuahua. Yes, that's right: Lola loves the kitty treats more than dog biscuits. And it's apparent that I must love the kitty treats better than the wasabi peas, because I accidentally put them into MY mouth TWICE! A handful of kitty treats in my left hand; a handful of wasabi peas in my right hand. And the kitty treats win this juggling act. Again...Arrggh.

I posted this incident on Facebook and friends were responding, "Oh, the poor dog!" Poor dog - nothin'! She never even tasted a mere morsel of the wasabi's. Nay, I say. But "I" surely crunched a few ©Whiskas Temptation Treats (seafood medley flavor!) long enough to chew and spew (by pyloric valve, catapult-style) across the room. Very impressive. All those years of spittin' pomegranate seeds across the hedge from my front porch, pay-eth off-eth. :)

I wish I could say that I immediately respond (or spit out) quickly the things that repulse or defile me as a holistic and spiritual believer. To say I've been known to "chew the acuity fat" is a bit obtuse (Obtuse. I learned that word from Andy DuFresne!). It's not in good taste to join the ranks of off-color jokes and laugh along with the Hollywood-mindset and their raunchy ways. But isn't it interesting that I invite it into my house, as if an honored guest for the evening, whenever I turn on late night television, Netflix, or RedBox. You could say it's just in the background. The obscene language, vulgar improprieties, and shocking lewd filth. (There. I named it for what it is.) But is it enough that I am greatly offended and spew it out of my mouth or throw the controller out the window? I hope so. 

I'm more sensitive than ever to the things that feed and sustain my soul vs. the things that turn my stomach and make me spiritually sick. This is what happens when you feast on good food and understand it's life-giving force. You know the difference. Quickly. And at first taste of the gross stuff, just stand back and hurl with me. I'll be right beside you. Kitty treats and all!

 

Psalm 19:14
There’s more: God’s Word warns us of danger and directs us to hidden treasure. Otherwise how will we find our way? Or know when we play the fool? Clean the slate, God, so we can start the day fresh! Keep me from stupid sins, from thinking I can take over your work; Then I can start this day sun-washed, scrubbed clean of the grime of sin. These are the words in my mouth; these are what I chew on and pray. Accept them when I place them on the morning altar, O God, my Altar-Rock, God, Priest-of-My-Altar. 

Psalm 19:14 ...God’s Word warns us of danger and directs us to hidden treasure. Otherwise how will we find our way? Or know when we play the fool? Clean the slate, God, so we can start the day fresh! Keep me from stupid sins, from thinking I can take over your work; Then I can start this day sun-washed, scrubbed clean of the grime of sin. These are the words in my mouth; these are what I chew on and pray. Accept them when I place them on the morning altar, O God, my Altar-Rock, God, Priest-of-My-Altar. 

I also find it whimsical too that the treats are called "Temptations". I LOL over that one for a while...

The Chick-sterhood!

Drive By Devotion #30 "The Chick-sterhood!" featuring Toni Birdsong... In the trenches with devotion to ministry, women's needs and being moms of prayer. That's what we do.

 

 

 

Capital Gains

I noticed this gracious man, chatting with one of the restaurant workers. He catches my eye because he randomly shouts out the name of a State, and then someone from the other side of the room will yell out the corresponding Capital. Funny. Reality TV-like.

"Vermont!", he says.

"Montpelier!", she responds.

"Oregon...!"

"Salem!"

"Montana...."

(pause)..."HELENA!"

Then there's a long pause because he see's that I'm paying attention. I'm a new audience to this impromptu sitcom-in-the-making. I'm also slurping my bowl of chicken barley soup.

"You wanna play?", nodding to me from his table. He orders the Lentil soup. "These girls get tired of me after awhile..".

"Sure", I say. "But I don't know if I'm as good as I used to be on this stuff."

"OK - here you go - NEW HAMPSHIRE!"

(I pause, but pausing's a good thing. I just booked a women's retreat in NH, so I know this..)

"Concord".

"Good! See? You're good at this!" (actually he said, "at dis,"), then he laughs.

"No, I cheated. I just talked with a gal from New Hampshire yesterday, so it's fresh in my mind."

"Yeah", he says. "Not a whole lot is fresh in my mind these days. But that's why I play this Capital game. I don't think the girls here like it much when I do it, though."

I smile. Then I get the "look" from one of the waitresses, shaking her head and mouthing quietly to me, "He comes in here all the time and does this stupid little game with everybody. Hope he's not bothering you...".

That would be no. He's not bothering me at all. In fact, I now take the intiative..

"Maine!", I shout out loudly.

(silence) Everybody in the restaurant looks at me..

Then my elderly friend says, "Uh oh, that's a toughy. I sometimes get all those New England states mixed up. Wait a minute, I'll get it........  (long pause) (I wait)

"Augusta!", he shouts.

"YAY!", I respond and clap. "You got it!" Now both waitresses walk away and shake their heads at us.

Then he says, "Do you know that the nickname for Maine is the Pinetree State? Did you know that Maine is the number one producer of blueberries in the US? Did you know that about 40 million pounds of lobster is caught yearly off the coast of Maine? (I'm getting set up here..) "Did you know that Augusta is the most eastern capital in the US?"

"Wow. You sure do know a lot about Maine, and here - I thought we were just playing a capital game."

He looks down at his soup, and kind of mumbles to himself, "Yeah, that's what I thought too, until you brought up Maine. I like Maine. A lot. Haven't thought much about Maine until today."

I get up from my table, smile at my new friend and thank him for a wonderful conversation. As I got to the register to pay my bill, I hear him yell from the back of the room...

"Tennessee!"

(I shout back, turning my head) "Nashville!"

Then his quieter voice says, "I figured you should know that one - I saw the tag on your car. You don't talk like somebody from Tennessee."

"I'm from Jersey."

"That figures."

"And you don't talk like somebody from Virginia either."

"Yeah, I know. I grew up in Maine......... HEY - VIRGINIA!"

"Richmond!" 

 

What a capital conversation. I had everything to gain. Nothing to lose.

 

(also posted on "Sue-biquitous!")

No Right To Bare Arms

More and more, I see women my age wearing sleeveless dresses, blouses, shirts - you name it. It's one thing if you're a size 2 and 25 years old, having firm, toned, targeted triceps... but many I see, don't. (Please cover them up. It's not pretty!) I also don't think the 50+ boney looking types look good either.. I don't get it. 

At one time in my life, I had very firm athletic guns. Very proud. I could throw a softball through a window 30 yards away (and did, a few times!). But now? I have appendages resembling my grandma Ann Beatty's fluffy wingspan. Ugh. I have to say though, I miss her embraces; those enveloping cushiony hugs that felt like a warm blanket. 

So, just as MLB spring training is right around the corner, I've decided to break out the weights. I'm even going to pack them in my suitcase and take them with me. They're only 2 lbs. each, but feel like 20 lbs. at this point. My goal is to turn these flabby upper-limbs into two sexy, sleek, firm branches. The trunk of this tree needs work too, but I'll deal with that later.

I have no right to bare arms just yet, but I will soon! :) I found this great site called eHow mom. Good stuff on getting the arms in shape! The better to hug with! The better to wave, praise and flag down a taxi - without knocking someone over. Who's joining me? :)

Laughter is a Habit

 

We're standing together in the Southwest A-List line. I'm A-22, she is A-23. She is talking on her phone when suddenly this astounding laughter burst forth cleansing the air! She has my attention. Sister Ann was wearing her habit; I was in my Phillies cap, telling her I had a "habit" too - at home - consisting of a pair of "holy" gray worn-out stretchy pants and I couldn't wait to get into them. Sister Ann laughs out loud, throwing her head back. Again - what a contagious laugh it is! All around us, travelers snicker and smile, thinking we're long-time friends. That would be no. We just met 2 minutes ago, but somehow the instant connection we feel comes from the sacredness and sarcasm of an infectious laugh. Sisters...

We knew each other, without knowing each other. I call this the merriment magnet. A good laugh can turn a boring moment into a sanctuary of healing. I asked Sister Ann to sit with me on the plane and this was her reply, "Oh boy, we better not. We might make a scene!" She was right. This flying nun and I must be separated. Too much at stake. One hundred and forty five passengers would be our audience, and we all know what a drug that is! We aborted a potential Sister Act! :)

Whatever You Bury Inside, Buries You

I heard Dr. Janet Maccaro say on a network show, "Whatever you bury inside, buries you." She is the author of “A Woman’s Body Balanced by Nature.” Sounds like a book every woman should read. A woman in balance. A nature balanced woman. A woman I know very well, comes immediately to mind. I'm planning on ordering this book for this woman. Her name is Sue. And she is me. :)

You might think of your year in seasons like, winter - spring - summer - fall. This sugar-addict-turned-holistic-attempting-dried-fruit-nut, used to categorize my year this way: Valentine candy hearts, Girl Scout Cookies, Easter peanut butter eggs, candy corn and Christmas cookies. That's my definition of the seasons. And since I'm aware of my insatiable desire for sweets (no matter what it is), I bury all the reasons why I have such an addiction to begin with: Sugar tastes good. It's an instant fix, an instant high with a deadly future.

I haven't completely deleted all sugar from my so-called diet or way of life, but I'm not eating nearly as much as I used to. There's an irony in this process too. While not giving in to my palate's desires while guarding the intake of "sweet", I uncover some unfinished business in my spiritual and emotional reality. How can this be? How in the world can something so simple as deleting sugar expose a raw nerve or a discovery about my inner self.

Health professionals are in agreement: Sugar is in just about everything you eat. It covers up anything that (on its own) doesn't taste good. Keeping that in mind, it takes great discipline to read labels, to learn what foods (natural or not) are low in a glycemic index, and to keep the sugary processed stuff out of your mouth. I'm not an expert but I read labels and I also see the huge difference in my body and disposition when I just stay away from the sweet stuff.

"So, what is this really about, Sue??"

I deleted the sugar (the fluff, the addiction, the cover-up) to find that there's no replacing what the power of the Holy Spirit can do.

I deleted the sugar (the trends, the competition, the rat race) to find out that God is more concerned about what my real motives are.

I deleted the sugar (the pride, the need to be right, the controlling spirit) to find out that my knees need to bow daily to Him and not the intoxicating toxin called ego. All along it's been the sugar of my own gospel that's been hiding all this stuff. 

It's a good thing to overcome an addiction. Don't get buried in a sugar bowl. 

Ironically, I speak and sing for events around the country called "Chocolate & Chuckles!" (I eat the strawberries!) And my latest album is called "Sweet Life". But the real teaser and twist to it all is - nothing, absolutely nothing - is sweeter than a real relationship with Jesus Christ. Now that takes the cake... No cover up here.

Crown Her With Many Crowns

I just spent a small fortune on my hair. Ironically, there's no real or definitive "wow" to worthy such a ridiculous sum of moolah. Oh, it feels great; the color is natural; about seven shades of light brown... the cut is nice. But I keep thinking about the mouths I could have fed with this outlandish expenditure on my coiffure. Man. It bugged me for days. Finally, I just said to myself, "Well, at least you feel badly. That's a good sign. And you'll never do that again, will you?" Nope.

I have a few friends losing their hair due to cancer treatments. They have NEVER looked more beautiful. Bald. Shiny. Bold. Stylish. Coping... Without walking in their brave shoes, I have no right to even try to comprehend their feelings of loss. But most assuredly tell me, "It's unnervingly freeing - to not worry about my hair anymore! There are many other issues that are worry-worthy and hair is the least of these!"

I agree. I pray diligently for my courageously gorgeous friends who have accepted their cancer challenge in stride. There ARE so many other things that are more "worry-worthy" than just what's happening folic-ly.

Survival. Joy. Connection. Living. Breathing.....to name a few.


So, as I read 1 Peter 5:4, "And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away...", it all makes more sense than ever.

The glory crown. On a head with or without hair. And the best part is it's not like modern hair color, dyes or pigments. This glory crown will never fade away. Trust me - this glory crown costs a whole lot more than a sitting in a salon chair. It's price-less.

But at the hand of the master-stylist, it's also free.

 

(also read here on Sue-biquitous!) 
 

The Sun Makes A Difference

Seasonal allergies don't even compare with seasonal depression, I'm told. Well.... I'm more than "told", I'm a victim at times too. We went over seven days without sunshine recently, and I was ready to go buy one of those sun lamp thingys. But then, the big ball in the sky made its appearance, and I just stared in the face of this unusual but welcomed light. I felt the warmth, the clarity, the orange through my eyelids. Happy. Smilies. Deep breaths. Even the sky looked bluer than ever. 

Think how much greater it'd be if we continually kept our face towards the Son. Never letting a day pass without putting our face in His Word. The true Light. This far surpasses any physical attribute of the sun. For if we stare into the sun, we can become blind. But staring into the Light of Lights only purifies our vision. I "see" that now more than ever. Clearly. 

Ooooh! She Said A Bad Word!

(True story!)

A friend told me that her little boy came home from Sunday School (what's that??) and tried to tell his mother that his teacher said a bad word. She tried not to make a big deal about it, but probed a little and asked a couple questions.

"Are you sure? What did she say?"

"I'm not allowed to say the word, mom. You told me I couldn't."

"Well, in this instance, Joey, it's OK to tell mom what the teacher said", she quickly responded.

Sitting on the stool in the kitchen, swinging his feet in the air, he blurted out, "It's the bad word that Daddy says a lot."

How could she not smirk? She looked away, then with a little composure came back to gaze at her 5 year old's face.

"Honey, you can tell me what she said. You won't be in trouble."

"Well, it's a good thing. How come daddy doesn't get in trouble when HE says it?"

"Joey, daddy DOES get in trouble when he says it, with me, anyway. But you still haven't told me what she said."

"OK, we were talking about camping and being outside and stuff, and she told us that Joshua in the Bible before he camped out and crossed over the Jordan, they left their "Shittim" home.

I'm sorry, but this is funny. :) LOL!

Read Joshua 3:1

Sing With Me

In a much simpler time, my New Jersey family (the Crane clan) gets together at Uncle Elmer's house. We gather around the piano and sing until the wee hours of the morning. This is where I learn to sing harmony. This is where I feel the inborn connection of singing from the heart and not just from the vocal cords. My grandmother (Anne Crane Beatty) insists that I learn how to sing alto. This is a command that I treasure to this day. She not only bangs out the notes on the piano for me, but she sings the part. She smiles and raises her head up and down, as if to flow with each note. Then she says, "Don't worry. You'll feel it. Listen to the melody line first and then listen for the part underneath the melody." I hear it.

My mother always sings the melody. She's a soprano. Sometimes Aunt Ruth finds her spot too, singing whatever part is left. So, I am determined and destined to fit in somewhere. I search and find my home - the alto part. My voice is deeper than most little girls I know. I am so happy to find my place in the lower timbre. I am nine years old. And it is 1964.

Patti Page, Rosie Clooney, Marian Anderson, Nancy Wilson, Ethel Waters, and later - Ann Downing, Jeanne Johnson, Gloria Elliott, Kathy Triccoli, Marilyn McCoo and Oleta Adams would round out some of my favorite early and present influences. Great women with beautifully deep voice ranges. And all great enunciators too, never questioning lyrically what they're singing about.  

So where am I going with all this in 2013? Here it is:

The greatest compliment a singing artist can have (in my opinion) is when a listener says, "I love your singing. I love your tone and texture. I understand every word. But I especially love that you sing in a register where I can sing along with you too!"

There it is. The key. Many worship/inspirational/contemporary songs are difficult for most women to sing. Too high. But when they are keyed down to a lower register where a worshipper (musically inclined or not) can comfortably sing, YOUR song then becomes THEIR song. And if your ministry in music is truly about others like you say, then this should register with you.

Sing your songs; do it with excellence. But get around the piano again. Teach, reach and enunciate and by all means, sing your songs so others can sing along with you. Together.

Listen here for Sue's sample of singing "alto"... Give Me Jesus

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