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More or Less Church

Joanna Depue "DJ/Deacon J" writes original songs and liturgies, does daily Farm office work and records Barbara's eMos on The Geranium Farm. A singer and dog trainer she utilizes healing touch in her private massage practice. PLEASE share YOUR original ideas for worship, special liturgies, prayers, songs, sermons and noteworthy blogs right here.
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Friday, April 07, 2006

"What's your motivation?????"

Even if you have never taken an acting class you may have heard this phrase on the silver screen or on the flat screened plasma TV in your living room. Here's the scene:

There are 40's, 50's and 60's movies in the style of a play within a movie (or a movie within a movie). The director in his jodhpurs and riding boots, beret on head, megaphone in hand and sweeps up to the ingenue.... "Think about the character..... think about the situation.....think about your lines................ what's your motivation, honey?"

Motivation. There are moments in life of expansive motivation: justice, love of family; other moments in life of egocentric motivation: manipulation, pride.

My hair has been an issue for nearly a year now... it was completely gone and THAT was wierd enough (who knew you could be self-conscious of the topography of your own skull?)..... then it sprouted like a salt and pepper middle-aged Chia Pet. It has been a bit bushy lately(relatively speaking - in a kind of porcupine way) and very uneven.. the sides growing more quickly than the top. My colleagues @ the UN suggested I get it trimmed. Juju wanted to cut back the bushy stuff around my ears.

Today I gave in..... I thought my motivation was to look 'pulled together'. Inwardly I just wanted to look fabulous to impress. ...... now, how does that phrase go again.... hmmm, let me see....'pride comes before the fall'. You guessed it: thump!

I should have seen this coming. Nope. God is laughing all the way past every nail salon on the east side! The combination of vanity and one ca-razy stylist under the influence of way too many double triple ripple whipple caffeine delights from Starbucks.... I must have been in a daze this morning not to see all the warning signs.

Alas, my coiff was on the losing end of a battle of the scissors. It did not (as the stylist promised) turn out cute or edgy. I look like a short, fat, middle-aged female Forrest Gump. Maybe the correlation is trying a new stylist is "lack uh bokes uh chokelits" [try that phonetically]......... you fill in the rest.

I guess I got the message loud and clear - keep it simple and the hair will be the least of your problems.

That's the story for today........ tawk amongst you-wah selves...... life applications.........the dangerous if not deadly sins..................discuss.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

...getting it at cost........

Living into this 'being a writer' thing has been a challenge and the best way for me to approach it is as a storyteller. Perhaps it's a writer's lot to take the fodder of the everyday and find some universal commonality and send that out. One day that might be the morning commute or noticing how Emmy Lou gives me shows unconditional love or the daffodils in the park.

.... one thing that has not come to light thusfar in MOLC is how my imagination helps me wrestle with faith.... Truth be told, long before 'Joan of Arcadia' God has made many an appearance in my thinking in many different guises. Let me tell you of one that relates to Holy Week.

I was traveling cross-town on a bus in New York City. [Anyone who has hopped on a crosstown knows that it in no way resembles a bullet train. It stops, it squeals, it meanders haltingly trying to avoid hitting all manner of pedestrian and vehicle, including the couriers on bicycles weaving in and out of traffic and the yellow cabs streaking in front of it.] It was later in the day and the bus was uncharacteristically UNcrowded.

I got on at 1st Avenue and 34th Street heading west to 9th Avenue, having just visited a friend in the hospital. I was angry - the kind of angry you see in cartoons where the character's face turns from white to pale to pink to red to crimson... and able to cook an egg on the top of the head. My very young, talented friend was dying. The hospital was overcrowded and he had spent several days on a gurney in a hallway. I was muttering against the system, against fate, against God.

It isn't fair I heard myself saying... it isn't fair. It became clear within minutes I was taking this to a whole new selfish level. What's it worth? You invest in love and friendship and they leave you. It's a waste of energy. Let some other bleeding heart bleed. It's too much to lose anymore friends or family - it hurts too much. [At this juncture, my jaws were hurting from gritting my teeth so hard.]

As chance would have it, I looked up slowly and directly across the aisle and there sat (in my mind anyway) an older Hassidic man: black hat, black coat, black pants, black shoes, black ringlets, grey beard.
So.... what is it worth?
Excuse me?
Loving. Trying. What is it worth to you?
and what is Your point in all this anyway? You're God - supposed to be Good.
Oiy, don't drop that one on me. I am, you are. Things come, things go. Some good, some not so hot in the short run.
Is that it?? ..... I sat staring forward, just as bewildered as before, hoping the other shoe would eventually fall.
Dear, I'm not blind already! I see what's going on - my people are on it - and you are one of them.
I don't want to be. It is costing me too much to care so deeply and then having to let go and say goodbye. My travel companion listened intently to what I had to say.
Hmmmmmm....... well. Now, don't take this as a cliche.... but let's suppose I make you a deal.
Like what? What do you consider 'a deal'?
I'll treat you like family..... suppose I gave it to you at cost?
What is that supposed to mean?
I charge you what it costs me, nothing more. I'm not making anything on this deal.
HELLO.......... you're God. It doesn't cost you anything.
Such a fancy shmancy church girl. Pppppppppppfffffffffff.
He got up and walked across the aisle to me and pressed the 'request stop' button for a familiar ding, holding onto a stainless poles that flanked the exit well with the other wrinkled hand.
The bus came to a halt, he pushed the doors open and said upon exiting,
Honey, it always costs me. It cost me my Son. It will cost losing this son, too - yet he will come back to me and that is worth everything.


Most loving Creator, grant me the insight to know how much you loved, love and will love us - through our natural birth through our eternal birth and the strength to follow your example. Amen.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A Blip from Yahoo! News

Debbie strikes again!

Going to church regularly has additional benefits according to a recent article:

Keep up the spiritual discipline and it will pay off in many more ways than one!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

"Tell the Story!"

Frank Santo.

Perhaps some of you knew him. What an incredible musician and teddy bear human being! I remember Frank especially as Holy Week approaches - as choir director of an historic Episcopal Church in New York City his cup always ran over preparing for and living through Holy Week. Frank passed on to his greater reward in 1992- each year since I have felt his presence, his warmth and passion for music, his generousity of gifts, his smile at this point of the year.

Although I had been a communicant at the church for about 2 years I hadn't been particularly active. Things started to change when a member of the clergy asked me if I would visit Frank in the hospital. OK said I... but I didn't know Frank or the particular brand of enchantment he could work on those around him.

Did he have a sense of humor I asked before making my visit. Humor? Oh, Frank has humor. Alrighty then.... off I go to Sloan to pay a call to a man I had never been introduced to but had seen often from a distance... Little did I know.........

Supposedly everyone had to be gowned up to go into his room.... masks over nose and mouth and one of those universally UNflattering paper gowns. I had to break the ice, but how.

Being a Halloween princess I have plenty of odds and ends.... and a collection of animal noses. I popped a few into my pocket and off I went. Getting to the room I thought perhaps a spin on the old Twighlight Zone episode would do the trick.... first I put on the snout and then the 'protective' mask.

As I walked in Frank was sprawled out on the bed. One hand was behind his head, the other packing an IV as he looked toward the door. He looked about 40ish and a bit pale laying there. Two well known church musicians were paying a call at the same time. I asked whether I should come back another time. He was puzzled at my arrival - who was I anyway? Well, I'm a parishoner from the church and Cathy asked me to pay you a visit. "OOOkkkaaaaaaaaaaayyy"
he said with a sceptical drawn-out Brooklyn accent, eyes rolling left and right to his other friends. I noticed that neither of the friends had done the cap and gown treatment - so the spirit moved me to start taking off the 'protective' gear.

Honey, ya got the wrong room for that kinda thing he said out of the side of his mouth that guy is further down the hoooalll to ya right. 'Frank - I was sent to visit you and that's what I'm doing..... but as long as I'm getting to know you, there's something you should know about me....' at which point I took off my paper mask to reveal a rather pink snout where a nose should have been.

Are you kidding? You're kidding me, right? he grunted... and then broke into a laugh until he started coughing. We were obviously meant for each other on some cosmic level.

I visited Frank during my lunch hours every day for a couple of months. He finally returned to work. One Sunday after the service was over he entered the noisy coffee hour. Wending his way through the church business transacted and the social schmoozing he strolled up beside me, tapped me on the shoulder and said Miss Cho-aaaaaana, I hear that you sing. Come audition.

I could sing - correction, I used to sing. In a string of choirs, community, regional, summer theatre. Then I stopped singing. Cold. I hadn't sung in public in front of anyone for more than ten years.

'I used to sing, Frank. You've got a paid choir. I don't think so' Oh, just humor me. Come to the rehearsals and get me a glass o' water if I need it..... and then just sing along.

He had said his peace and sachayed away walking with a slow gate, nearly as much side to side as forward with his feet in the 'ten to two' position.

I did. I did what he suggested. I struggled with whether I belonged in the elite group of musicians, whether my torch-song voice blended with the others. And Frank won. My voice and my love of music inched back gradually at first then overcame my fears. The days of 2nd soprano were gone, but the instrument I once had came back with a new finish. He was so pleased that he was able to give something back.... not one word was ever spoken between us about what his motivation was or why I responded. It happened - in the gut it felt like the right thing to do.

Over time, Frank went in and out of hospital. He was getting progressively weaker, less robust. During preparations for the last Holy Week before his death he threw everything he had into the music. When conducting a chair was nearby somewhere between the piano bench and the music stand. He waved, he flapped, he sputtered, he cajoled, he coaxed. Sometime during Christmas he purchased ambitious pieces of sheet music that ran the gamut of style and tembre and rehearsed us with an edgy zeal. He even wrote a new piece for Palm Sunday.

One Wednesday night we were NOT 'getting it'. Frank was exhausted from conducting and periodically coming around to the piano to go over one measure or the other. Frustrated, he croaked for us to stop and sit down.

Then he sat down, crossing his legs at the knee and pumping his left leg up and down, rotating his left ankle in one direction then its opposite. His now baggy sweat pants were saturated with perspiration, and the white T-shirt beneath his plaid flannel shirt was nearly transparent against his chest. He pulled the ubiquitous oversized white handkerchief out the of fuzzy shirt pocket... wiped his thick lensed black nerd glasses ..... wiped his face and scalp and drew a long breath.

You just don't get it, do you he said in half of his trademark stage whisper - a trace of melancholy laced with sarcasm on his face .... you don't get it. You're all trying to like read the music and sound pretty and be technical..... but it won't make any difference if you don't tell the story. Tell the story. Our job is to tell the story....

Another Francis in another time opened himself to the wonder of God in Creation. His motto was to 'preach the Good News at all times - and if necessary, use words'. Whether you are a deacon in the midst of the congregation telling the story of the Gospel... or a Dad cleaning a scraped knee... or a kid sharing a Pop Tart.... or a Mom tending to a Grandmom...... the job is to tell the story in our own unique way. Coming up on Holy Week there is particular story on our hearts.

Thanks Frank. Because of the way you told the story I learned to become a storyteller.

Copyright © 2006 K.L.Joanna Depue and DJ on

Monday, April 03, 2006

Belief-O-Matic Quiz

From time to time, Debbie passes on quirky things from

Here is one of these survey/indicators you might enjoy:

Thanks, Debbie, for another "find"!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

God's Economy

Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12:15

The grain/seed stories: a sower went to sow some seed - some fell on this or this or this or that; a landowner woke up one morning to hear the hired hands losing it - there were weeds growing up in the fields along with the good wheat - someone must have sown the weed seed; look at the mustard seed - it's so tiny as is but can become the biggest bush of them all; and this one - (in effect) unless the grain is transformed it will only be a grain.

Transformation - the act of changing from one thing, one form, one mindset, one age, one marital status, one employment status - to something completely revitalized, renewed, refreshed, is an amazing and awe-some process.

one thing is required: surrender.

You can move from bitterness to peace - but you will have to surrender your anger or self-righteousness or thoughts of revenge. You will be required to surrender to Love itself and forgive.

Jesus promises that when we let go of that which we grasp so closely more, much more will be given. God's marvelous economy, pure and simple.

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