Did I Tell You How Three Idiots Kept Me From Missing My Flight?

My husband and I were happy it was finally time to leave on our trip to Santa Fe. We hurried to the airport early one recent Wednesday morning. As we made our way down Lexington Avenue, not one – not Two – but THREE cars turned in front of us into the EZ Air Park lot. Our tempers flared as we spit barbs and insults about these idiot drivers’ low IQ’s and murderous intentions. Then as we pulled safely through the intersection turning left onto Hwy 55, a reflective quietness blossomed in our car. “What if the parking lot at the airport is full? Is that why all those people are hurrying to the EZ Air Park lot?’

A quick visit to the MSP Airport parking site confirmed our suspicion. “Those idiots are trying to catch a flight just like us!” A well timed U-turn allowed us to join the ranks of our now peers attempting to turn into the EZ Air Park lot against an onslaught of oncoming traffic. This twist in identity, this sudden flip in consciousness changed me. Suddenly my world was redefined. Drivers all around me were no longer idiots but fellow travelers with a common destination.


Why are we so quick to judge, categorize, minimize, dehumanize those we do not know? Why is everyone driving slower than us an idiot and those driving faster maniacs? Why am I a daughter, a mother, a wife, a neighbor, a friend as I drive down 494 but everyone else is just traffic? If we could slow our reactions long enough to see the driver next to us as a human soul experiencing anxiety, grief, joy, worry, pain and fatigue, how would that change us? How might that change how we interact with each other, experience the world and the people in it?

Do you remember when it was common practice to raise a hand in gratitude when a car allowed us to merge or change into a lane in front of them? I started practicing that again – waving to those stopping for me, allowing me into a lane, waiting for me to pull away. Some don’t seem to recognize my gesture of gratitude. That is okay. I know my intention and that changes everything. It is a small change but I believe it is making a difference.images

My patience was tested on another early morning recently. I waited behind a woman in a large white pick-up truck blocking the right turn lane I needed. After several attempts to get her attention, she noticed me behind her then inched over just enough to let me pass. Instead of giving her a nasty look or simply turning my back to her, I smiled and eagerly waved my arm in a show of greeting and gratitude. As I stopped along side her to check for oncoming traffic, she rolled down her window, leaned down to meet my eyes, grinned and wildly waved back to me. Instead of getting angry we acknowledged each other as human beings; messy, imperfect people allowed to make mistakes and still be loved. My entire day was lifted by our exchange. I am hoping hers was too.

Dear Lord, Help me to demonstrate the love, acceptance and forgiveness I have experienced through Christ to others in both large and small ways. Help my actions, my hand waves of gratitude, to spark a renewal in the spirit of others; a hopefulness that allows them to pass kindness and acceptance on to even more people. Shine a holy light on our journey God. Deliver us safely and lovingly to our destinations. (Wave!)  Love, Jean

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words and slander as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”   -Ephesians 4:31-32

Sing and Pray Twice

Music is a prayer the heart sings.Music is a prayer

My soul has been surrounded by music the last several weeks while on a break from real life. We attended a wedding with a reception that was music and fun filled, celebrating a young love and strong family ties. The new husband and wife slowly moving across the floor, eyes and smiles only for each other as a love song serenaded the start of their new life journey. A great nephew danced with his aunt to an Elvis tune, both of them caught in the sheer joy of the music and each other. A brother requested a song for his sister who had recently lost her husband of decades and then danced her through another step of grief.

“He who sings, prays twice.” St. AugustineHe who sings prays twice

The cousin who hosted us has been the organist and pianist for her church since she was 14 years old, a nearly 50 year relationship. She also was the musician to many cousin sing alongs in my childhood. Listening to her practice on her baby grand and her still clear voice reaching the sky was balm for my weary body vessel. She teaches other little girls how to play the piano, encouraging them through the hard parts, cheering them through the stretch and correct placement of fingers on chords and giving them the gift of music making and praying.

Rabbi Quote“To sing means to sense and to affirm that the spirit is real and that its glory is present. In singing we perceive what is otherwise beyond perceiving.” Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Singing has always taken me to places that I didn’t know I wanted to go or could go.  It transcends the words in my head and pulls straight from my heart.  I can’t remember not singing.  As a child, singing in church was always my favorite part.  Even now, when I’m in a different church than Easter, I will peruse the hymnals and make notes of songs that reach out and pull me closer.

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow, praise him all creatures here below.” I stood in the Presbyterian church of my Doxologyconfirmation and sang these words by heart and from my heart, my hands on the same wooden pews I rested them on as a child. This song, above all others, has always filled me with a sure faith even when life events caused my child heart to question. With stained glass story windows surrounding me, I remembered the bell choir I had once white gloved played in, glorious clear notes rising to heaven with our praise to God and glee we hit the right notes in the right time.

Colossians 3:16 “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”Col 3 16In a VFW hall in a small town, the room is packed with hundreds of people for a benefit for my nephew who refuses to quit in an epic battle with cancer. Music backdrops the community outpouring of love and hope. Elementary aged grandsons tearfully testify to the goodness of his grandpa and pray for healing. All of this for a man who unendingly serves his community, boldly loves his family and loudly praises God. When he asked the room, abounding with love, to stop and listen to the song, “My Wish“, we listened as a communal prayer beaming from each heart, the unity of the words and music seeking the ears of heaven.

Jesus Loves Me

“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

The words are nestled in the brain and soul of any person who was a child in Sunday school. From our youngest days, we prayed and praised through song. A song is a thoughtful pause of prayer, a lilting cadence to accentuate our heartfelt desires and praise.

Today, pray twice. Sing. Loudly. Boldly. Badly. Pitch perfect. Tearfully. With joy. Alone. With others.

What song do you sing that pulls you closer to God?


My Life Goes On in Endless Song

Since I am a pianist it probably won’t surprise you that music is at the foundation of my faith. Just the idea that God takes different vibrations and turns them into pitches–which create a musical language, which expresses emotion–bolsters my faith. Add inspirational text, for example Handel’s Messiah, and suddenly you have a complete miracle. Music is no accident of the universe. Music is one of God’s greatest gifts to us.

At the lunch table ten-year-old Mary asked a question from church this morning. What does consecrated mean? It came from the hymn “Take My Life and Let it Be.” Both kids started singing it right there at the table. Many Sunday afternoons I catch my family humming or singing songs from the service. Since I accompany the choir those anthems can stay with me for a very long time. What a high class problem–to get those pesky songs of faith and love stuck in your ear for the whole week! I believe that is the Holy Spirit at work. . .

I love all kinds of music–but I’m especially fond of old music. Old music feeds my faith because it anchors me to the faith of the past. When we sing “Great is Thy Faithfulness” I remember that it was my grandfather’s favorite hymn and I think about the legacy of faith that he handed down. One of the last moments I had with my dad was sitting on the edge of his bed and singing through the LBW. After a mild stroke he couldn’t speak, but he could sing that bass part loud and clear. Now, when I hear those hymns I also hear my father’s voice. Music connects faith from generation to generation.

At the lake, the Messengers sing “The Spirit Intercedes for Us.” With sighs too deep for words to express. Music is part of that Spirit. Sometimes when things are so tough we don’t know what to say or what to pray–all that is left is to sing. The comfort of familiar melodies and harmonies gets us through to God when words alone fail. When even our faith fails. Once when I was having one of life’s little faith crises I overheard my son, Calvin, at the piano singing “God of Wonders Beyond Our Galaxy.” You are holy. Holy. It brought me back to whole. Back to holy. Sometimes we can sing for ourselves, and sometimes someone else has to sing the song for us for a little while.

My prayer is–wherever you are in your faith and whatever is going on in your life–that Easter and Easter’s musicians help sing the song for you a little every week. God bless.

Sara Stephens Kotrba