I Cried In Church Today

I cried in church today.

Not that I’ve never done that before. Anything can make me do that – a song, a prayer, a hug from an old friend.

Today I cried because I saw something I rarely see: community.

We gathered in a building behind the Tim Hortons – not just me and my people, but them and their people.

Multiple churches, multiple dialects of faith, all in one spot because it’s the end of the summer and this is what we do at least once. We pile in, we sing songs that we all know collectively, and someone chosen from the community speaks a message. We drink coffee together and we leave, feeling like real connection was made in that hour. Pastors, deacons, elders, middlers, young adults, teenagers, children, men and women – anyone who has a habit of going to the Church on a Sunday morning is there in equal measure.

Today, however, felt different.

The bodies were so close, the voices were so loud. I felt surrounded by a choir. My voice joined in, weakened by tears, strengthened by the words.

One pastor stands up, introduces the mayor and two female police officers. One of them is decked in the Mountie Red, another is on duty in black. They’re all asked to share why they are here today.

The mayor takes the microphone and smiles nervously: “I am here because I believe in the power of community. I am not a man of religion, by any means, but listening to you all sing just now – I felt the Spirit of God here. It’s undeniable. Smithers will benefit because of you.”

The woman in red takes the microphone. She’s young, new to town and new to the force. She’s a police officer, speaking publicly in a church building; she is practically a modern miracle. And why shouldn’t she be?

“I came here as a police officer because I want to help people. I know everyone says that, but it’s really true for me.”

The woman in black takes the mike from her. She starts to say something, but then she pauses, putting her finger to her ear. We sit in silence, wondering. After a moment, she says, “10-4, on my way” or something similar. Then she tells us, “I’m going to make this really quick.”

A laugh ripples across the crowd.

“I am here representing Cops for Cancer. We bike across the province every year to raise money for pediatric research. And if you don’t think pediatric research is relevant here – we all know of a little boy who is in Vancouver fighting for his life right now.”

We nod, and tears fill my eyes again. One of our own, a 10 year old boy who hadn’t been feeling well lately, had discovered his body was made more of cancer than blood and flesh and bone. Just a few days ago.

She tells us what we can do to help, and then she runs down the aisle of the sanctuary and disappears, because that’s her job. Any time, all the time.

We take up an offering. I pray that it goes directly where it is needed.

And then a man from the Salvation Army comes and speaks to us. He shows us a picture of this sculpture that is sitting in Toronto at this very moment.

 

 

It’s called “Jesus the Homeless.” He is lying on a bench in a shroud, and the only way to know that it’s him, is to see his nail-pierced feet peeking out. He speaks volumes.

We are led all over the Scripture, reading portions of passages where Jesus did nothing but reach out and spend his time with the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the unclean, the addicted, the outcast and the sinner – and the religious leaders did nothing but condemn him for it.

These passages are called The Gospel, or “Good News.”

Except it’s not news.

It’s not news that Jesus was a bit of a rebel, that he broke a lot of rules, made a lot of people angry with his all-surrounding compassion for just anyone.

It’s not news that Jesus would rather have dinner with a prostitute or a tax collector than a religious hypocrite.

It’s not news that Jesus never avoided anyone for the sake of his reputation.

It’s not news that he didn’t notice skin colour or background or age or gender.

So why do we act like it is?

I wept when I saw that homeless Jesus. I’ve seen him before.

I’ve also seen the poor Jesus, the aboriginal Jesus, the sick Jesus, the hungry Jesus, the black Jesus, the addicted Jesus, the gay Jesus, the mentally ill Jesus, the prostitute Jesus, the angry Jesus, the bitter Jesus, the strung-out Jesus, the imprisoned Jesus, the orphaned, abandoned, helpless, overlooked Jesus.

And I have not loved him.

I cried in church today, because we were all there. We all heard it, we all saw it. Even the mayor knows it now.

He’s right there, shrouded in the form of our community, just waiting to be picked up, dusted off, and taken in. It’s not too late.

Because once we’ve seen, we cannot unsee.
Because maybe, if we’re more like Jesus, then more people will want to become like us.
Because we all have a story, and we are all more than our labels, our backgrounds, our denominations or our mistakes. This is not news.

I cried in church today, and I think maybe God did too.

 

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That Time Motown Tried To Kill Us All

Music.

Ahhh.

Even just the word itself holds such warmth for me. It’s always coursed through my veins, been as much a part of me as my own thoughts.

I hum without thinking about it, to the annoyance of some. For the brief amount of years I was in school, my report cards always referenced my “special” humming in some way.
If I hear someone say a phrase that has been used in a song, my brain will immediately scan the archives and locate the “file”, so I can break out in spontaneous song for absolutely no reason.

I came by it honestly. My mom always had a guitar in the house, playing her originals and teaching me how to keep a beat and hear harmonies.

At the time I thought she was weird, but now I totally appreciate both of those abilities. Also, this  vinyl record cover of hers from 1980.

I had very little formal education (one year lessons each of piano, voice and bass guitar), but I was always exposed. In the right place at the right time, up for anything.

One Christmas season, I was in 3 different choirs, learning the Soprano AND Alto parts of The Hallelujah Chorus and going on to perform it no less than 11 times. (After that, we spent some much needed time apart. I now love it again.)

I’ve done solos, duets, trios, quartets, talent shows, choreography, sign language, school choir, church choir, community choir, musical theatre. Gospel, Christmas, Madrigal, Worship, Pop, Musicals, Songwriting, Recording, and Lullabies For Children Who Just Won’t Sleep.

But until last month, I had never done…

Some friends in Coquitlam were having a Ballroom Fundraiser at the Italian Cultural Centre, trying to raise money for the St. Francis of Assisi school to build a new gym. They asked us to join one of the live bands (Steve playing electric guitar, and me as one of 3 back-up singers) and we said “sure!” BEFORE we knew the evening’s theme was “Night At The Apollo.”

We had no idea what we were in for.

For 8 weeks, we practiced. And for almost every single one of those, husband was a little, shall we say, done.

He’d been sick, had a tooth broken, had said tooth REMOVED surgically and horrifically, was teaching ukulele to children, working long days putting in floors for high-maintenance customers, and now we needed to pack up all his guitar gear for a 2 hour practice, while paying a bridge toll and driving half an hour each way. (Never fear, we were later reimbursed.)

To commit to this for music you love is challenging; for music you know nothing about is slightly torturous.

Such is the life of a musician.

The day of the gala arrived. Steve worked until 3 since we had to be at the ICC by 4pm for a sound check.

It was one of the first hot days of the year. Steve’s truck was in for repairs, so we had to take my car – the one without shocks or air conditioning.

By the grace of God and mid-afternoon traffic, we found the Italian Cultural Centre. We opened the doors to find someone we knew, and it was like swaaaaaaank.

 

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Our crowd

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Our stage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here are some cra-mazing things that happened.

1.) The two of us got all the gear inside and set up with ONLY ONE argument and mini-breakdown in the parking lot.

2.) We had a sound check, and one of the other back-up singers (Nina) asked me to “sing something from Frozen” for her little girl (Sophia) who was watching us. So, in a child-like voice, I sang “Do You Wanna Build A Snowman?” while Sophia alternated between dancing in delight and watching me carefully to make sure I got every word right. Whatever,  I nailed it.

3.) I applied my own make-up without looking like a painted whore.

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4.) Since we didn’t go on stage until 9pm, we went to Brown’s Social House for dinner after the sound check. I’d never been before, and everyone was like “Don’t order anything too creamy or weird cause it’ll mess up your voice” and I was like “screw that, I’m in a new restaurant and I’m going to ENJOY IT” so I ordered some Chipotle and Lime Chicken Fajitas with pico de gallo and guacamole and oh my gosh. To die for. (and now it’s coming to LANGLEY!!!!)

5.) As we were getting ready to leave Brown’s, the other back-up singer (Josie) told us she didn’t feel very good. We waited for her outside while she used the bathroom. When she came back out, she said, “Soooo, I probably shouldn’t have eaten that Filipino food for lunch. Can we stop at the drugstore on the way back for some Pepto-Bismol?”
Uhhh, one of our strongest singers was experiencing hard-core diarrhea mere hours before the show — OF COURSE we’re gonna get her some Pepto. She was a trooper; she survived the entire night gulping back doses of the Pink Stuff every half hour while joking, “Good thing I wore sturdy bike shorts underneath this dress!”

6.) I drank a whole cup of wine while playing poker backstage — all without flinching.

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7.) Our set of 13 songs went smoothly and quickly and rather funly. Well, except for one minor thing…you’d think it was that I fell off the stage after trying to sing and remember our choreography while wearing an itchy feather boa and high heels, but I actually survived that…

Weeks ago, our lead singer/director of the band, Tami, told us that the last time she’d been a part of something like this, she’d thanked everyone involved in the event but completely forgot to thank her husband who’d been taking care of their 5 kids the entire time. So THIS TIME, she wanted us to learn a medley of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, “Upside Down,” and “I Say a Little Prayer For You” as a way of dedication and apology for the last time.

The moment she’d been waiting for had arrived. Her husband was in the crowd, the people were listening, the band was ready.

She told the story of why she was dedicating this particular piece to him.

And then the rest of us started panicking as we realized that she’d forgotten the order of the music; it was not, in fact, time to make a dedication to her amazing husband. We started to scramble through our music; realizing her mistake, she finished her public dedication, and then told us to just continue the song order as planned.

But the crowd didn’t know how things were supposed to go. So all they heard was a touching dedication and then….

“We could have had it aaaaalllll, rollin’ in the deeeEEEeeeep….you’re gonna wish you! never had met me! tears are gonna fall! rollin’ in the deep!”

After we finished rocking the Adele, Tami goes, “And NOW it’s time to sing for my husband.”

8.)  To close out the evening, one of the school’s bus drivers crashed the stage as an Elvis impersonator. We knew he was coming, but nobody else did. For the first time that night, everyone got up from their tables and crowded the front of the stage, screaming and taking what I assume were really blurry photos. I wanted a photo with him after the show, but he ran away too fast to change out of his clothes, cause he thought he was gonna die of heat exhaustion. So here he will remain in legendary mystery.

 

9.) Steve and I didn’t break up.

 

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These are the faces of  2 people who used their talents to entertain, and help children get a gym, and who are so hitting McDonald’s as soon as they can get everything back into the sauna–err, car.

Aretha, I hope you are proud. Justa-justa-justa–justa-justa-justa-justa little bit.

Agent Button 2.0 is Born

Agent Button 2.0 is Born

Yes, we formed our team in April of 2012, but I’m calling this 2.0 because, as of last night, we are officially on Youtube. 🙂 The day when we add microphones and PA systems and cameras that aren’t hand-held, I’ll refer to us as 2.1. 😉

All joking aside…I am excited. This is so many things for us. A few of which being: getting a resolution completed, hurray for follow-through! Sharing the love of music and (hopefully-not-apparent-to-just-us) emotional chemistry with everyone else. Having fun. Being reassured that we have gifts to share with each other and others, and they’re nothing to be ashamed of. And finally – maybe most importantly! – learning how to use a Youtube account.

Like I said, so many things. So whether or not you like us, you can’t be against all of that! 🙂 We hope you enjoy our first effort, and please know there is more to come.

Cheers,

Agent Button