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My goodness, so much angst of late!

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things.

The Steadfast Love of the Lord* never ceases

His mercies never come to an end.

They are new every morning~new every morning

Great is thy faithfulness, O Lord;

great is thy faithfulness!

*Link to terrific choir rendition
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“Great is the glory of the Lord!  Great is the glory of the Lord!                                                            The Lord is exalted, yet the lowly He sees, and I will sing of the ways of the Lord.”

Such begins one of the exuberant songs we sing in the People of Praise, not just here in the Northern Virginia branch but throughout the 21 branches and various other places where the community members are.  Today, in NoVA, you might say we experienced a hearing of the wind of the Holy Spirit.

We had gathered as men and women leaders, musicians, and sound technicians for a music workshop.  The purpose was to revisit four of the talks given first at a Community-wide Music Conference in 2008 in order to apply the concepts more fully in our Branch.  Of course, singing was sprinkled throughout.  “You send us out to be Your sons and daughters.  You send us out as Your new creation.  For You have given us Your own beloved Son, and with this love we can … change the world.”

Those who are serious about following the Lord’s call (I can only speak for myself that I have spent my adult life trying to do so), must continually grow, to move forward toward unity in Him.  At this workshop, leaders in our Branch were making new connections between lyrics, song themes, song leader’s demeanor, group worship, and the role of meeting leader in all of it – connections that will allow us as a Branch to be more who we are and do more what we should be doing – “Sing out your praise, sing out People of Praise!”  Further, we were growing in the understanding of why we do what we do and why we sing what we sing.

We are the People of Praise!   To whatever Branch we go, we will be able to praise the Lord with our common repertoire of worship songs.  “Oh, hallelujah, Oh praise the Lord!”   By ensuring that all can worship with a common body of songs, we put more of our lives in common as brothers and sisters in a ‘family of families’.  “We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’d first begun.”

May the name of the Lord be praised!  ~Job 1:21

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(To listen while reading, right click link below; then click on Open Link in New Tab)

A Taste of Honey -The Beatles (British invasion … very appropriate)

It is a sad day in Annandale, Virginia.  The last bit of honey is clinging to the bottom of the special jar Brenda gave me to take home.  Brenda is my former neighbor from the house next-door to Blackhedge Farmhouse where we lived for almost 11 months.  Brenda kept bees and collected their honey.  She also collected honey from her son’s bees.  Then she would uncap the frames (removing the wax the bees had put there to store the honey), put the frame into a cylindrical shaped extractor that uses centrifugal force to get the honey out of the frame, and catch it below where it flowed down in a large bowl.  Then Brenda would sieve the honey through cheese cloths until it was purified of the wax bits and other impurities.  She showed us Elliotts the process.  The final product was put into jars, and if it was of good enough quality, a proper label proclaiming it to be Cotswold Honey would be applied to the jar.  Every step of this process was done by our darling 82-year-old friend.  She also kept the equipment and cloths in good order and clean.

Somehow, seeing what a private beekeeper/honey processer goes through makes it taste so much better.  It certainly looks different from the really clear and uniform honey “bears” in our groceries.  I don’t know why exactly, but it seemed to taste better as well, “a taste of honey, tasting much sweeter than wine…

How can the honey be gone?  Isn’t it hard enough that we are gone – I mean we have left our beloved Cotswold home on Leckhampton Hill?  “I’ll return, I’ll return, I’ll come back for the honey and you” …

Cotswold honey

… Britannia …

May the name of the Lord be praised! ~Job 1:21

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January 6, the day after the 12th day of Christmas, has been known in Christian tradition as the Feast of Epiphany.  Epiphany means “to reveal” or “to show forth”.  The idea is that the Christ child was revealed to the World by the arrival of the Magi or wise men, who though not Jewish as Jesus was, still were acknowledging that he (Jesus) was the fulfillment of prophecy.  Their actions pointed to his birth being of such import as to affect the very stars – as heard in one of most famous Christmas carols:

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star

(Chorus)
O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy Perfect Light

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign  (chorus)

Jesus was the “King” being acknowledged by an act of worship of Gentiles (the Magi) and revealed to all people symbolically at that time.  Thus, the event was an epiphany!  I can’t help but think it a shame that the song says, “we three KINGS” as nowhere that I know of is it proven that the Magi were actual kings.  Whenever there is a little discrepancy like that between what is known such as the Magi’s visit, and what is not known, ie. whether or not these fellows were royal, it casts confusion upon matters and gives the tongue waggers fodder for their nonsense.  But, on to more weighty matters…

What is going on in the news today?  Congress is debating the health care bill.  Abortion is the law of the land.  Many people of good will are lamenting these things and their connection, namely that if the Senate has it’s way, abortions will be federally funded via imposed nationalized “health” care.  I read an absolutely wonderful speech that addresses this horrific travesty by pointing out facts, and nothing but.  It was a homily, a sort of sermon, given by the Roman Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Arlington, Paul Loverde, on Saturday December 12 at a Mass that celebrated two important events:  1) an honoring of Jesus’ mother Mary under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and 2) the Diocesan monthly Respect-for-Life Mass.  What in the “name of pete” does any of this have to do with January 6 and Epiphany?

Well, listen to what Bishop Loverde had to say (all italicized words were reprinted with permission from the December 17 issue of the Arlington Catholic Herald).

In God’s loving care, in His Divine Providence, Our Lady of Guadalupe and the cause of life are intertwined. Why do I assert this? Because, in the image on Juan Diego’s cloak, the Blessed Virgin is depicted as a pregnant woman. The black belt which she is wearing is the symbol in the Aztec culture of a woman with child. And Christ is neither a young boy nor an adult, but rather a helpless, defenseless child in the womb of His mother Mary. So, the apparition of Our Blessed Lady on Tepeyac Hill proclaims that life is present within the mother’s womb: human life, a human being! The horror of abortion is that a pre-born, innocent and defenseless human being has his or her life unjustly taken away. Even the advances in technology confirm this since at ten weeks or even earlier, what is visible is a child within the womb, not a mass of cells.

Again, the Bishop connects Mary and the necessity to respect preborn life and promote such respect, when he continues, A second reason for asserting that Our Lady of Guadalupe and the cause of life are intertwined is rooted in the fact that Mary “appeared on Tepeyac Hill at a time when human sacrifice was part of the native Aztec culture. It has been estimated that one out of every five children was sacrificed to the Aztecs’ gods” (The Word Among Us, Advent 2009, p. 32). The apparition of Mary, depicted on Juan Diego’s cloak, conveyed an important message to the Aztecs: this woman, revealed as one belonging to the God whom the Spanish missionaries were proclaiming as the one true God, was pregnant with the Son of God, the author of all life. Again, what is present within the womb is human life, indeed, a human being. Mary’s apparition “caused millions of natives to be converted to Christ and to abandon the practice of child sacrifice” (Ibid.).

The lesson first conveyed to the Aztecs is as important today for us: in our country alone, millions of unborn children “have their lives unjustly taken away through abortion. No, the bodies of these children are not thrown down the steps of Aztec pyramids but instead they are placed in garbage cans, incinerated or used for scientific research” (Ibid.). Once again, the horror of abortion is so evident!

Finally emphasizing the connection, and speaking authoritatively, Bishop Loverde explained the problem of the Health Care bill in Congress:

We bishops are absolutely clear in stating that any health care reform legislation must explicitly prohibit federal funding of abortion or the use of federal funds by private citizens to procure abortions. Referring to the amendment which the Senate rejected by tabling it, the bishops stated: “Like that amendment, [that is, the House amendment,] it does not change the current situation in our country: Abortion is legal and available. But no federal dollars can be used to pay for elective abortions or plans that include elective abortions,…This amendment does not restrict abortion, or prevent people from buying insurance covering abortion with their own funds,…It simply ensures that where federal funds are involved, people are not required to pay for other people’s abortions.” This statement clearly indicates that we bishops are not introducing new provisions, but we insist on keeping what has already been approved in federal legislation. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who has said he opposes abortion, voted to table the Nelson amendment, saying, “This is a health care bill, not an abortion bill. We can’t afford to miss the big picture.” No, I would respond, abortion is not about health care; health care seeks to protect life; abortion destroys life.

You can read the whole homily (and I urge you to if you want to get fired up for the March for Life in a couple of weeks) at http://www.catholicherald.com/bishop/detail.html?sub_id=11958

The Bishop ended his homily by quoting Pope John Paul II in saying that we can be “people of life and for life” and tell everyone about it.  Now THAT’S an Epiphany!  “Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills, and everywhere …”  Or otherwise – call, write, or email your congress representatives and senators now, daily, and until they start to listen.

May the name of the Lord be praised!  ~ Job 1:21

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Call me…

… whatever you want.   Mrs. Elliott, lady, young and beautiful, old and decrepit, just 50 for heaven’s sake, consumate musician :), crummy pianist, Carlos’s sister, Marijane’s daughter, Daddy’s little girl, a penquin, good sport, grudge carrier, disciple, not too disciplined, believer, blogger, jogger (NOT), friend, lover (in the general sense of the word), Mom, every(wo)man, Trekkie, Patrick Stewart fan, traveller, and companion.   No doubt you could call me more things.  Of course, in our house, name-calling is a no-no.  That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, just that we “know” we should “no” do it.

Meanwhile, whatever you do, don’t call me IRRESPONSIBLE.  Unless you are Michael Buble.  It is undeniably true that I am mad over this song – have been since Sinatra sang it.  Michael does an amazing job as well.  Oh yeah, you could just call me…  (ya know, like ring me on the phone?)

May the name of the Lord be praised!  ~Job 1:21

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There was this song several years ago – Merry, Christmas, Darling (Carpenters), that was sort of melancholy but with a very memorable tune.  The words were so apropos to how I have been feeling lately . . .

I wish you Merry Christmas
Happy New Year, too
I’ve just one wish
On this Christmas Eve
I wish I were with you
I wish I were with you

2009, the last year of the oughts, was our second year to live on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.  Whoever thought of calling it the pond hasn’t a clue!   Wading across that “pond” takes one into a whole new world – people, attitudes, practice of courtesy, health and wellness or it’s lack, the experience of wealth or poverty, and faith in God.  On the U.S. side of the pond, the “rank and file” are either unaware or misunderstand how different the cultures really are.  I know I did not realize until I arrived.  On the Britain side, there seem to be two prevalent views – both lacking in substance.  One is that Americans are all wealthy and somewhat selfish and the other is that they have incredibly high ideals and are the best hope for saving the world.  Depending on where you are when you read this, you will see the inaccuracies of both of these views.

I think the first view is much closer to reality.   There was one lady we knew in Britain who was mentally challenged.  She was the least functioning person I ever knew (on both sides of the Atlantic) who was out and about in society.  She sort of latched on to our family and me in particular.  I thought she wanted to be friends for whatever reason.  It took me the better part of our stay to realize that what she really wanted was for me to give gifts to her family members on the birthdays and other special days.  I was not hurt in the slightest by this revelation, yet it showed me that I had been stereotyped as the rich American.   People who do not view you as a person are not so difficult to leave.

But the other people, who had become our friends and brethren in Christ, leaving them was and is difficult.  We had really invested in a common life by going out to them at Church, by calling on, phoning, and praying with them, by joining committees and working to build the Kingdom of God.   We attempted to live the life of the People of Praise with our friends in Britain.  I guess you could say we succeeded to the extent possible.  But keeping up with the relationships is much harder when you know that you have stepped back over the “pond” and now you are in a wholy different life.  Again.

Maria - Annandale to Cheltenham and back...*

Whenever I see a photo or receive a letter or email, I feel a twinge.  It is hard to love and leave or be left.  Today, my life is back where it started and where it needs to be for now.  It is time to move on from the “Oughts”.  In fact, I ought to be focussing on our life here in NoVA with John and our family (all home in Virginia) and our branch of the People of Praise with all that involves.  I would like to say I will not forget, but I know that life has a way of sorting our memories, and as time passes, the older ones sift further and further down.  But from September 11, 2008 to July 17, 2009, what a wonderful group of mates we had in Cheltenham, Glos and environs!

I hope your 2010 will be a year of loving and community and an ever-growing life of holiness building the new heavens and new earth wherever you may be.

*cool photo taken by J.T. in Edinburgh during Hogmanay celebration 2008

May the name of the Lord be praised.  ~ Job 1:21

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How delightful it is to attend a school program that is actually musical and pleasurable!  This was the happy state of affairs on Thursday evening last, when Jane and Brad participated in the annual Fine Arts Night program concluding a semester of musical preparation and rehearsal.  How I appreciate the Trinity Schools curriculum that assumes all students are capable of learning to play, hear, compose, sing, and appreciate serious music and even excel at it.

The program was eclectic, interesting, appealing, and well-presented.  Jane, who was in two vocal ensembles, worried aloud that they had not done as well as she would have liked.  Tho’ I am particular, I was able to assure her that much of the program was excellent and all of it enjoyable.  All things weren’t perfect.   But music has the delightful aspect of being a time-art that is enjoyed in the moment; if something goes wrong, it passes quickly.

In the case of the Fine Arts Night, the felicitous moments far outweighed the less-than-stellar moments.  First, the program moved smoothly, a tribute to good preparation and planning.  The recorder ensembles were the highlight for me.  Far from being screechy or tiresome they performed with precision, surprisingly good tune, and excellent blend.  The decorum exhibited by the students, who were seventh and eighth graders, was impressive and was not accidental or coincidental – it was due to Mr. Dusenbury’s thorough instruction.  Naturally, I thought that Brad’s group played well, and I was proud of his melodic lead in one of my personal favourite carols “What Child is This”.  His group worked very hard on a technically challenging piece and succeeded admirably.  I can honestly say that every other group was just as good or even better.  Bravo recorder players!

The choirs were also well-rehearsed and put forth spirited performances.  The Men’s Chorus – Tempest in a Barbershop was a joy to watch and hear.  Young men blending and singing joyously is one of the finer things in life and not the common high school experience.

The Trinity Chorale began strong with a Bach chorale sung very well and persevered through two more pieces including the early American “Bethlehem” by William Billings, whose “New England Psalm-Singer” of 1770 was the first collection of music all composed by an American.  The choir ably sang through the solfege of the first section (Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do) before singing the rest of the lyrics.  This would have been difficult enough, but they did so in four-part harmony – outstanding!

The Chamber Choir, Jane’s select group, was the vocal highlight in my opinion, maintaining excellent pitch and blend, and sounded quite angelic.  Their first number “Emet Ata” was absolutely thrilling and could have only been improved with a translation of the Hebrew to enhance our understanding of the text.  Even the young children in the room were rivited, and I was well aware of the curly, dark-haired moppet in front of me.   But nothing could disturb the prevailing atmosphere in the room, of beauty, harmony, and peace – what more could any audience hope for?

I wish the photos I took could carry some of the musicality that we all experienced, but as they say, you had to be there!

Tempest in a Barbershop

Brad, Daniel, Ben, Aaron - What Child is This

Chamber Choir - Jane

Trinity Chorale

May the name of the Lord be praised!  ~ Job 1:21

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