May the Beauty of God utilizes the beautiful prose from John Birch to create a song of praise. I learned about John Birch while I was searching for poetry that I would like to set to music. I found his work at www.faithandworship.com where there is a bit of a bio and access to a huge collection of prayers. Birch describes prayer simply – a conversation with God. Sometimes his words are in the form of conventional poetry. Other times it appears to be an intimate conversation with the Creator. His website offered the prayers for use in worship, so I contacted him to ask for specific permission to set his music for choral performance. He graciously offered his permission for me to use any of the prayers available on the site.
I loved the image he painted of the love of God dwelling in other people’s faces, works, words, and love. In addition, the love of God displayed by us can therefore impact others so that they also can believe. The song ends with the words that all might see, and seeing believe.
It seemed to me that the musical setting required movement to match the joy and optimism of the words. I particularly love the energy that a hand drum can add to a choral work, so I added an optional drum rhythm. The composition would be appropriate as an introit, benediction, or orison for use in worship.
To see the complete piece, please click HERE or send me a message on this site.
Showing Up is one of those expressions that seems to be used more now than ever before. Frankly, I’m not a fan. When I ask people what they mean when they say they want to “show up” they usually can’t really explain it. Labels and expressions such as this one seem to interfere with self expression and communication. Since most people I talk with can’t describe showing up I decided to dig into it a little bit more.
What does it mean to show up? At the most obvious level it means being in a specific place. Woody Allen is famously noted to say that 80-90% of life was just showing up. I don’t know for sure, but I think he was talking about this level of showing up. According to thesaurus.com synonyms for showing up include arrival, presence, manifestation, actualization, and emergence. Antonyms include departure, absence, leaving, and end. Melmagazine.com writes that showing up means doing what you say you will do and not flaking. OK. That wasn’t helpful. www.mindful.org may get a bit closer. They say that showing up means being intentional, open, and acting skillfully.
Team Tony (Tony Robbins) says that showing up is about participation. This includes being fully present and really being focused on the other person (in a relationship) instead of focusing on the past. I think we are getting even closer. Kaitlin Kindman LCSW, describes “showingupness” as reliability, empathy, care, intentionality, thoughtfulness, and embodiment of “just being there” that someone demonstrates.
So why are so many people using this expression? I suspect there are many different answers. One is that it is thrown around a lot on social media platforms and has just seeped into common discourse. Also, people are genuinely yearning for deeper connections with others as our lives become more distant and fragmented. If you are going to be in the same place at the same time and for a limited amount of time, you want it to really matter.
I think showing up could just as accurately, and possibly more accurately, be expressed with the words mindful and intentional. Instead of saying I want to show up, I could express that I want to engage with you fully and intentionally. I don’t let my mind wander to things from the past or skipping forward to concerns of the future. I want to be in the here and now and feel whatever is going on NOW.
One of the activities I use when working with therapy clients is the Personal Mission Statement. Clients frequently use this expression when writing their Mission Statements. In the personal mission statement exercise they often use showing up to mean not dwelling in the past or worrying about the future. People instinctively know that either of those is not the pathway to joy or contentment. Their answer lies in remaining fully present in the here and now. Although this can be difficult, the effort can be worth it.
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Bah Humbug. Poppycock. Rubbish. I am proud to call myself a lifelong learner. As an old dog, I am committed to learning new tricks in a variety of subjects.
I have spent a large part of my life in formal education. From kindergarten through graduate school I think the total is 22 years. In addition, there were many years of piano lessons, ballet lessons (very briefly), and martial arts lessons. I also took a few classes in conversational Japanese. One might think I would have tired of school but in reality I love learning and I love school. Currently I am taking lessons in Gaelic, choral composition, and voice. Based on my career path I also am required to do continuing education classes. I don’t necessarily include those in my personal definition of lifelong learning. Those classes aren’t based on my curiosity and desire to know and understand something. Instead those are based on what somebody else wants to me to know.
Lately I’ve seen quite a few articles on lifelong learning. Brian Fairbanks posted an article for Phoenix University (August 2021). He defined a lifelong learner as someone who seeks continuous development and improvement of knowledge and skills for employment and/or personal fulfillment. This would include both formal and informal learning opportunities. I’m focused on the personal fulfillment aspect at this stage of my life.
Emma Parkhurst, Extension Assistant Professor at Utah State University, wrote that lifelong learning may include returning to school, taking stand-alone workshops, or using an app to learn a new language or cooking skills. Emma also noted that the important component is that the activity is useful, interesting, meaningful, or enjoyable. I’m not sure how useful my Gaelic lessons are but they are definitely interesting and enjoyable.
Many articles cite benefits of lifelong learning. These often include:
increased self esteem
improved cognition and memory
decreased risk for dementia
increased social connection (expanded base of like-minded people)
positive feelings of accomplishment
That sure sounds good. I have noted several of these benefits, particularly the increased self esteem, increased social connection, and positive feelings of accomplishment. As for the decreased risk of dementia, I am an “old dog” so only time will tell about that.
Have you ever wanted to learn a language, explore cake decorating, play a musical instrument, or learn the tango? Why not give it a try? Join the ranks of lifelong learners. Experience the pleasure. Reap the benefits.
My God Accept My Heart This Day was written by Matthew Bridges (1800-1894). According to songsandhymns.org he was born in Maldon Essex and raised in the Anglican church. He later converted to Catholicism. After residing in Canada for a while, he moved back to England. He then lived at the Convent of the Assumption at Sidmouth Devon until his death.
According to wikipedia.org he began his career as an author at the age of 25 with a poem named Jerusalem Regained. He later wrote The Roman Empire Under Constantine the Great. Bridges also wrote several hymns. One of the most well known hymns by Bridges is Crown Him with Many Crowns. I really like that one.
I found My God Accept My Heart This Day in Songs for Christian Worship (1950). What I liked most about it was the image of offering myself to God to be a part of God’s family. The hymn does not shy away from the fact that we are sinners and require God’s assistance to live a life that would be pleasing to God. I later learned that there is a 5th verse to this hymn that was not included in my hymnal. Verse 5 references the Holy Trinity. All Glory to the Father be, All glory to the Son. All glory, Holy Ghost, to thee, while endless ages run.
In this composition I considered not only a vocal range that would be accessible for nonprofessional singers but also a melody that reflects the lightness of heart one would enjoy after giving over their life to God. I really like a tune that sticks in your head or that you might hum as you leave worship. I think the flow of this piece accomplishes that.