Good Days…Bad Days With Maureen Pratt

Good Days…Bad Days With Maureen Pratt

Tips for the Caroling Coward

posted by mpratt
Image courtesy of nuchylee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of nuchylee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Are you the one who hangs back in the crowd, hoping that no one can hear you croak as others carol?

Do you pretend to not be able to find the right page in the hymnal as others are singing all around you in church?

Have you ever feigned laryngitis so that you didn’t have to take your turn at karaoke?

Fear not!

Or, rather, take a different approach. You, too, can make a joyful noise!

I’ve been a church musician for many years, and I love singing, especially to facilitate prayer during services throughout the year.  I’ve heard many people tell me they “cannot” sing, or that their voice is “terrible.” I’ve seen so very many people stand throughout a long hymn, their mouths shut firmly, their expression a mixture of terror and embarrassment (perhaps they’re thinking of how terrible they’d sound if they tried to sing with everyone else?)

And, yet, I don’t know anyone in the family of believers who does not like music, especially Christmas music. So, for all the Caroling Cowards out there, here are some tips to encourage you and help you join in, even a little, the next time a Christmas song sounds brightly at church (or elsewhere):

o  Much of singing – in fact, the greater part of singing – “on key” and with others is listening. Listen for pitches, tones, changes of dynamics (loud/soft). Think about matching the sounds you hear around you – hear others around you more than you hear yourself.

o  Think of the words and emphasize them. As you listen to the pitches around you, focus on the words of the songs. Songs of faith are songs of prayer – and so, bring out the words more than the music. Connect the sentences. Feel the message of these powerful songs in your heart and keep them soft and sure on your tongue.

o  Have fun!  Remember, the phrase is “Make a joyful noise” – and this is what all the fuss is about when it comes to Christmas caroling. If you are very unsure of singing in a group, ask to be the one to carry the jingle bells or strike the drum. Smile, extend warmth and welcome to those for whom you carol. Be part of the festivities and feel your insecurity fade.

o  Understand your voice. Your voice is not “good” or “bad,” it is part of you – and part of what God made when He made you. How can it be anything but wonderful? So, understand what you are capable of in terms of using it. Can’t solo? Enjoy being part of a choir? Self-conscious in a crowd? Practice singing to a recording in your home or car to gain confidence. Listen. Reflect on the prayer-that-is-song. Feel that joy in your heart from God’s love bubble up so strongly that you cannot do anything but sing!

As much as people have said it, I haven’t met anyone who truly could not sing. Each person has a voice – a God-given voice – and you have only to find yours in order to go from Caroling Coward to Christmas Song Singer!

Blessings for the day,

Maureen

The greater the cheer, the greater the pain?

posted by mpratt
Image courtesy of nuchylee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of nuchylee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you have felt great loss this year, or if your health challenges are weighing heavily upon your spirit and life, the “cheer” that accompanies this season can be particularly difficult to be around.  In fact, the great the cheer around you, the greater might be the pain that you feel. Much like rubbing salt into a deep wound.

Perhaps retreating seems like a good idea about now. You want to avoid further hurt, and even the faintest Christmas carol can stir up your pain to the point of you breaking down.  But family commitments, work responsibilities, and other externals are powerful and important – and you can’t just curl up into a ball and wait out your extra pain until January.

What do you do?

Your medical team is a tremendous support for you, now. For those of us who live with chronic pain and illness – health challenges that can flare terribly during this Season – we sometimes forget that the “intangibles” matter, not just the rashes and other tangible manifestations of our illnesses. So, do not hesitate to talk about how you’re feeling with your doctor.

Also, understand that God is walking with you. Sense Him beside you, and sense that He wants to comfort you. Reach out for this comfort in prayer; you are no failure if you are hurting at a time that is supposed to be happy. You are uniquely, profoundly you, and God loves who you are now, in your present. Feel no guilt for sorrow, but let your tears wash and cleanse that sorrow and bring you through.

As we harbor pain in  our hearts, it’s important and helpful to remember that others hurt, too. Perhaps your whole family is dealing with a significant loss, or perhaps a friend is. But even if they are not, there are many throughout the world who are. And, if you cannot actively participate in volunteer activities, if you cannot be where those hurting are, you can be a powerful prayer warrior this season, turning your supplications toward the heavens on behalf of those who might be too weak, too low, too hurting to do so for themselves.

Advent is a season of waiting, but it also calls for us to become new – new in the spirit, new in our lives. Our losses make this hard to do because we remember those who were and that which was. It’s hard, but not impossible, to forge new traditions and to fold our losses into that which we celebrate at this time. Consciously work to bring your loss into this Season in a way that remembers, but also acknowledges that the present is blending into a future that need not always be so crushing. Light a candle for your loved one, relate cherished stories, and move ahead, seeking a joy that is within you because of faith, God’s love, and unwavering hope.

Our losses will undoubtedly bring tears, especially at this time of year. But we can work with them and through them, for there is still much to be thankful for, much to rejoice in, and much more life in which to feel God’s love – sure, true, and wondrous love.

Blessings for the day,

Maureen

 

 

A Different Kind of Advent

posted by mpratt
Image courtesy of nuchylee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of nuchylee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Prepare the way! Advent is here – four weeks of waiting and watching and listening…and doing all manner of things to get ready for Christmas.  Because Advent comes every year, we’ve probably memorized all of the Scripture readings, song lyrics, and steps to making a beautiful Advent wreath or food basket.  About now, we rummage through recipe boxes and websites to find the traditional recipes we make each year.

Yes, there is much familiar about this Season – and wonderfully so, when it comes to family and other traditions that we cherish and want to pass along to loved ones.

But, ideally, Advent is also a season of spiritual development, a time when we reach a deeper understanding of God’s presence in our lives and the import of the Gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. Yes, ideally, come December 25, we should be noticeably different from the people we were today, as Advent dawned.

Far from the “same old, same old,” Advent is, at its very core, a time to reach for newness, to add something significant to our spiritual selves, and to embark on an adventure of prayer, reflection, reaching out, and looking in that leads us to places of the spirit and of life that we never could have imagined without Our Lord’s guidance.

Where this Advent will lead each of us is for God to know and us, individually, to discover. But if we keep our focus on this Season of light, love, and preparation, we will be able to move through each day guided by His hand and inspired by His heart – a heart that knows us each by name and has bestowed upon each of us wonderful gifts just ready for the discovering.

Blessings for the day,

Maureen

Peace at home is peace at heart

posted by mpratt

CrecheforblogSoft rain is pattering against the roof, punctuated by the occasional seagull screeching in flight.  The Christmas music is on. The tree is lit. It’s a fittingly quiet day after a very good Thanksgiving – and a blessedly peaceful one, too.

Outside, today and throughout the weekend, according to the news, people will be traveling, shopping, and moving to and fro. Traffic will undoubtedly be thick in many places. There will probably be a fracas or two in stores where shoppers are elbowing their way toward “BIG” bargains.  You might be part of the crowds, the early holiday energy and festivities (hopefully not part of the fracas!). Yes, even as you – we – still grapple with significant health challenges, holiday activity (and sometimes tempers and stress) enter into our world.

All the more reason to hold peace closely and carefully – at home.

For some people, this might be very difficult. Home might not be the obvious place of warmth and comfort, nor the center of familial harmony. Yet it is this corner of the world over which we have more control. Traffic, store lines, angry outbursts from frazzled fellow shoppers – these are things that move and exist beyond our control. But home? It’s so very important to keep it simple, serene, as health-filled as possible, and uplifting after long days outside, out there.

How can we achieve this harbor of peace if it does not now completely exist?

Start with a corner, even a small one. Make it a place to where you can turn when things get tough. Keep a Bible there, a cherished photo, a candle. From that corner, work outward to other parts of your home. Place reminders of the spiritual aspects of this Season – a manger scene, an angel,  a brightly colored bow. Pray as you go, especially for calm and peace. insist in your heart that this homespun harmony can flourish, will flourish, with God’s good grace.

I once asked a friend whom I greatly respect and whose work is 24/7 and highly stressful, “How do you  manage to stay so positive and strong with the heavy burdens of your job?”

“I don’t allow any conflict at home,” she said.

Leave the stress out there. Cultivate goodness and encouragement at home. Strengthen a prayerful presence at home. For, truly, peace there is peace at heart.

Blessings for the day,

Maureen

Previous Posts

This is the day
Imagine if you gave a good friend a present, all wrapped up and shining in the light. What if that friend, instead of opening the package, set it aside. He or she tells you,

posted 5:37:36pm Jul. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Vietnam War: A Memory for Today
Tucked in a box amid other QSL cards that I found after my father's death last year is a single, fading reminder of a powerful way to pray today. If you're not familiar with what they are, a QSL card is a record sent from one radio ham operator to another that confirms the contact that the two ma

posted 2:11:02am Jul. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Chronic Illness: How do you describe it, exactly?
Time often flies by when you're living, and when you have a chronic illness, time passes sometimes in odd ways. Slowly, in some measure, because living with pain is especially, well, painful, and the more pain you feel, the slower time seems to move (just think of waiting for a med to kick in, for e

posted 8:25:10pm Jul. 22, 2014 | read full post »

Chronic Illness: Managing the Munchies
I really, really, really like chocolate. Chocolate and almonds. Or, just chocolate. And yet, I know how bad it can be if I over-indulge. Extra weight on lupus-arthritic joints

posted 8:10:25pm Jul. 20, 2014 | read full post »

Chronic Illness: Managing the Usual with the Unusual
I'm typing this with a sore arm and a couple of month's journey - again - to determine "once and for all" the reason why I don't hold onto iron. For years, I've dealt with iron levels that get lower and lower until, finally, I have to have an infusion. And, for years, the reason for this, or, rather

posted 7:44:26pm Jul. 18, 2014 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.