Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Oh no, not again...

I'm having serious, serious flashbacks to an incredibly negative situation that happened 6 1/2 years ago at another church. Definitely the biggest wound I've ever sustained. I'm terrified that it's happening again.

I'm having a very difficult time believing God right now. I want to hear Him, but I hear a lot of clanging stuff going around that's making it really hard. I was absolutely certain that I'd heard God as to the "theme" of the year for me and felt like it was confirmed by my pastor, only to see it being absolutely shut down in musical worship. Instead of finding a middle ground, where some are encouraged to grow in maturity and others to grow in patience, the choice is to play to the lowest common denominator, which is "stay where we are." Instead of encouraging discussion and relationship, directives that aren't to be questioned are being given. An opportunity is being not missed, but instead, IMO, being identified and shot. And, once again, it seems that I'm stuck in the line of fire.

I've been in kind of a daze for the past few days. Mostly because I'm really super tired from working late and waking early for the kids (that changes on Saturday, as I move to a 7am-330pm shift -- w00t!), but partly because this issue is just weighing so heavily on my mind. At BFC, anything done well in music was labeled as "performing" and I'm seeing hints of the same being started up here. Why is it that when a musician does something well it's performance (and always said in that way that indicates that it's a bad thing), but when a speaker does something well it's encouraging? What is it about the arts that inspires a near automatic questioning of the authenticity of the gift?

I just can't do this again. The last time I shut down pretty much every artistic impulse I had for 5 years and I can't do that to myself again. It's not who God made me and part of loving God is loving what He made in me and allowing that to be used to glorify Him. And while I might expect to fight against the world in that pursuit, I do NOT want to fight against the church or my pastors.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Murder Trial

Last May I wrote about a murder that happenned in our area. The couple that was killed and the son who was also shot attended my in-law's church and were very good friends to them. The trial was this past week, and it was really hard for everyone. Dale Eagle was found guilty of first-degree murder and will serve out his days incarcerated.

Below I'm including Bob Jr.'s testimony of that day. This was not a man who thought his parents were the greatest after they were taken from him -- he loved them every day. Please pray for him as you're led. He's got a lot of healing to go through in the future. Please forgive the length of the following. I'd link to it, but the story won't stay up for long and I want to have this here.

FAIRMONT — Robert T. “Bobby” Slatt Jr., then 31, remembers seeing Dale A.
Eagle Sr. walking easily across the fields in front of the Slatts’ two-story
wooden farmhouse in Four States last May 16.
Eagle was carrying a rifle on his shoulder, “and he was just looking
around, checking everything out,” the junior Slatt told a jury Wednesday.
“Then I thought to myself, ‘Oh, my gosh, he’s coming after me,’” said
Slatt. He had just come downstairs after running upstairs to his parents’
bedroom to call 911 for help.
He was at the door to the porch, ready to go back outside and check on his
badly wounded father, Robert Slatt Sr., he said.
At that point, the memories became too much, and Bobby Slatt cried on the
witness stand.
His testimony about what he saw of the last minutes of his parents’ lives
and how he said he escaped death by playing dead as Eagle later shot him
repeatedly at close range with birdshot in his parent’s bedroom capped the
state’s case against Eagle.
Chief Detective Doris James of the Marion County Sheriff’s Department
followed Slatt to the stand and was the last of the state’s 17 witnesses.
Prosecutor Patrick N. Wilson then rested his case against Eagle, 63.
Eagle is charged with two counts of first-degree murder for fatally
shooting Robert Slatt Sr., 56, and his wife Tanna Slatt, 52, at about 2:30 p.m.
on May 16. He is also charged with shooting and wounding Bobby Slatt in the same
attack.
The younger Slatt is now blind in his right eye. Tiny birdshot entrance and
exit wounds resulted in a detached retina, he said. James B. Zimarowski, Eagle’s
defense lawyer, told the five-man, seven-woman jury in his opening statement
Tuesday that Eagle would testify in his own defense.
Judge David R. Janes said the trial will resume at 9 a.m. today with the
defense case. Janes told Eagle on Tuesday that the defendant alone will decide
whether to testify.
Even if Zimarowski were to counsel him to stay silent, Eagle can still
decide to testify, the judge said.
He also has the right not to testify, since it’s up to the state to prove
beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant is guilty as charged, Janes
said.
Bobby Slatt needed nearly a 10-minute break Wednesday afternoon when he
lost his composure.
His father had grown up on the 117-acre farm, set on a plateau one steep
ridge away from the Four States County Road. Back then, it was a working farm
with horses and pigs, Slatt said.
“Aunt Mary” Slatt — she was a spinster cousin of his father’s — owned the
farm. She was a surrogate mother for his father when his father’s mother died of
cancer when he was only 4, Slatt said.
His family constantly visited Aunt Mary and the farm when Slatt’s father
later got a job in a Ford factory in Lorain, Ohio, near Cleveland.
When Aunt Mary died in 2002, she left the farm to his father.“Dad’s dream
was to restore the farm back to the way it was” as a working farm, he said. His
parents didn’t want horses or pigs, feeling that was too much work for them,
however, he said.
They chose to raise alpacas. Slightly larger than a sheep and with a longer
neck, alpacas are a domesticated version of the South American vicuna. They are
valued for their fleece, according to Wikipedia, an on-line encyclopedia.
His father had retired from the Ford factory shortly before Aunt Mary died,
Slatt said. His mother, a travel agent, had also retired from her job.
He himself was taking classes at the University of South Carolina. His
parents, particularly his mother, wanted him to come live with them, he
said.
His father offered to pay his tuition and let him live rent free if he
would help with the farm and with the remodeling of the farmhouse.
He agreed. Slatt enrolled for a semester at West Virginia University before
transferring to Fairmont State University. He is majoring in political science
with a minor in public administration.
On that fateful Tuesday, he was following his usual routine, running and
working out. He also was finishing up a 30-second video on the just-released “Da
Vinci Code” movie for a church class.
His mother went down the narrow, one-lane drive to the Four States Post
office to pick up the mail.
When she returned, she told him she was going to make chicken and rice for
dinner, and that she and his father were going to the store. He could come with
them, she suggested.
He declined, telling her about the video he wanted to send to a fellow
church member.“They kissed me, they hugged me and told me they loved me, and I
watched them go out the door. I went upstairs and got on my computer,” Slatt
testified. He was “clicking away” on the computer keyboard.
“The windows were open ... I heard our vehicle go down the road. Then it
got quiet. There was a short pause. Then I heard two loud shots.”
In his opening statement, Zimarowski said Eagle said the vehicle was racing
at him and that Tanna Slatt “opened her (front passenger) door ... she was
yelling, screaming, cussing” at him, the defense lawyer said.
Asked Wednesday by Wilson if he heard any yelling or screaming, Slatt said
no.
He didn’t want to believe he had heard gunshots. They had just had a new
natural gas line to a well installed and “maybe it was just a ‘pop’” or two, he
rationalized.
He went downstairs and went out on the back porch.“I saw our Explorer
coming back (in reverse),” he said. “It went straight ... then it went into the
ditch.”
He ran down to it, approaching it on the passenger side. “I could see
something blue and white laying in the road” some distance ahead of the where
the vehicle had stopped. He said he knew it was his mother.
“ ‘Dad, what’s going on? Dad, what’s going on?’” Slatt said.
His father was slumped forward over the wheel in obvious distress. Heaving
himself back up against the driver’s seatback, his father’s last words to him
were, “Call 911, call 911,” Slatt said.
“So, I looked up at the end of the road (where his mother was lying on her
face), and I looked at him,” he said, in obvious distress.
He raced back to the farmhouse, thinking briefly of looking for one of the
portable phones before racing upstairs to his parents’ master bedroom on the
second floor and their landline.
He called 911, telling the dispatcher “Dale Eagle shot my parents, and we
need help.”
When he left his father, “Dad was trying to get out (of the Explorer). I
was hoping he would make it back to the house. I went out on the porch and I,”
and that’s when he lowered his head to his lap and started sobbing.
When he returned to the stand, Slatt said he could see his father lying on
his back in the graveled one-lane drive. “He was laying in the driveway face up.
He wasn’t moving.”
As he had first gone upstairs to call for help, he had heard two more
“pops” or gunshots, he said.
When he spotted his motionless father, “I just said, ‘No.’”
Eagle crossed in front of where he was standing on the porch. “He didn’t
even notice me.”
That’s when he realized Eagle might be coming after him, he said.
“I went in the kitchen. I grabbed a knife,” he said. He was trying to find
a place to hide. He went up to the master bedroom and looked in a back closet.
He found it packed with some baby ducklings.
“ ‘This is great, I have no place to hide,’” he thought to himself, smiling
wryly about finding the baby ducklings.
He thought about running, but “Dale Eagle is a very good hunter.”
He thought if he could find a confined space, Eagle might be discouraged in
attacking him. He decided to go to his bedroom and drag some bookcases out and
spill them across the floor, Slatt said.
But on his way out of the doorway to his parents’ bedroom, he saw “Dale
standing at the foot of the stairs.”
Slatt froze. “I just stood in the doorway. The next thing I know there went
a ‘pop,’ and I go backwards. I fell back into the room.”He sank to the floor. He
started crawling. “I was on all fours.”
There was another “pop” and “I felt something burn my back.”
“I hit the floor and I just laid there.”
He thought if he just laid there and stopped moving, “maybe Dale will leave
me alone.” Slatt was now feeling “a massive burning on (the right) of my
head.”
“He never said a word. After he shot me (again) on the (right side) of my
face,” Slatt said he sensed Eagle leaning over him, bending toward him.“ You
think you can intimidate me? You want to make fun of me now?” he heard Eagle
say, Slatt said.
He remembers hearing four shots during the encounter. Police have said
Eagle was using birdshot or buckshot in a .38 caliber pistol. Slatt said
Wednesday he was wounded only three times.
He heard the phone ringing and ringing, but he was afraid to answer it
because he felt Eagle was still in the house and might hear him.
As the moments passed and the pain set in, growing in intensity and he
started to become lightheaded from the loss of blood, Slatt moved
cautiously.
He looked out a second-floor window, and “I saw my Dad laying there ...” He
started thinking about his younger brother Chris who was living in South
Dakota.
If he didn’t make it, Slatt said, he had to tell Chris what had happened.
He called Chris and left a voice mail, telling his brother Eagle had done it,
and that their parents and he loved him and to “always remember that.”
Slatt said he then started getting angry. He went in the bathroom and
wrapped his bleeding head in a towel. He told himself to keep moving, and he
started calling 911 for police help again and again.
He waited to leave the house until he heard voices in the fields around the
farmhouse talking on CB radios.
He asked paramedics and police several times about his parents. “I said, ‘I
want to see my Dad.’” They told him to sit down so they could start treating his
wounds.
Eventually, they told him “they didn’t make it,” he said.
Crying again, Slatt told the jury he then had this urgent need to tell his
dead parents something. He left unsaid that he knew how much his parents had
loved him and Chris.
“I just wanted to let them know I was OK.”

Thursday, January 25, 2007

*sigh*

It's no wonder the turn-over rate at these big call centers is through the roof. In addition to switching our shifts to the midnight shift, they're also asking everyone in the center to work a 6th day for the next two weeks and they've told us that we can't keep anything personal in our cubicles. I mean, this is a pretty crappy job as it is, but I like having my little Homestar characters sprucing up my cube. :::grumblegrumblegrumble::: Really, it does kick morale in the butt when you're asking people to give up their good shifts, work over-time and do it all in a grey, dirty cube. Certainly not conducive to a happy work environment (especially when you're getting yelled at by people mad that their cable doesn't work when they don't even have their TV turned to the right station!!!!!!!). Fortunately this makes me feel happier. We had a computer blow up last week, and I think this is pretty much how it went down. ;-D

Speaking of explosions, it looks like we're going to have a bit of an explosion on our praise team. I know of at least two new people who would like to join, including a guitarist! w00t! I've been praying for a guitarist for a while, so this is super cool. With some growth on the team, I've been working on some standards for all of us. I've sent it to Rich & Sharon and am waiting to hear back from them. Once they're nailed down, I'll post 'em.

That's about it. It's supposed to be super-cold tonight (single digit kinda' cold), so I'm not too excited about driving home at midnight. Yuck. If you think about it, shoot up a prayer for me!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

More changes

The all-powerful "they" called me (and 16 other folks) into the office on Friday afternoon and told us that we'd be switching campaigns. We knew that they needed us on another campaign, but really, it's all just cable, so no big deal. What we didn't know was that they also needed us to switch shifts for 2 weeks. So instead of working my nice day shift where I get to see my family some, I'm stuck back on the late shift (3:30-midnight).

It's not ALL bad, because Bubba and Faith really need me around the house some lately (with Jason's funk and my lack of being home much, they've been having a rough time for the past couple of weeks). So I get to spend a lot of time with them right now, which is good for all of us. However, moving back to this shift, I rarely get to see James & Deborah, which sucks. It's just temporary, but even so, I'm not going to see a couple of my kids for those two weeks.

All of this has strengthened my resolve to cut back to part time in the next month or so. Things are starting to fall apart around the house some, and I just need to be here more. The job has been great at helping us get out of some debt and getting on top of our bills, and I'm really thankful for that. Overall, it's been a pretty positive move. But once all of our credit cards are paid off (probably by the end of February), I'm going to ask to move to 30 hours. I'm going to sit down with the powers that be and let them know what I can do (I'm thinking five, 6-hour days -- probably 4 week day mornings and one weekend evening). As long as I can move back to full-time pretty quickly if things go badly with Jason's job, he's on board with it as well.

In other news, I talked to the letter writer last night. It was a good conversation and I think we both understand one another better now. Those things are so flippin' hard, but it's just so good when you get to the other side and have better understanding! As much as I hate the confrontation part of it, I need to remember how much better the resolution side is when it's over. I'm so thankful that we're all growing in this. It's just so healthy for the Body.

In the next few months, I'm hoping to add more drama to the worship. Whether simply a reading something or actually doing a dramatic presentation, I want to see the arts expanded in our church. I want original writings, more original music, more dance, more visual art, all that stuff. The Church has let this stuff be completely passed over for too long and it's time to reclaim it! I know it will be a small start, but I want to get started. There are still things I want to do with music as well, but I think we're going to stay the course musically for a while (until God brings us a guitarist, anyway!) and try to make some headway in other areas of the arts. Good stuff!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Criticism

Criticism sucks. Just in case you didn't know.

Got my first "here's what you're doing wrong as worship director" letter today. Those are always a treat.

Honestly, I do want to be open to what folks have to say. Really and truly I do. But at what point does criticism move from helpful to just complaining? How much weight are we to give to personal preferences (mine included)? If something sounds spiritual, does it mean that it is spiritual?

I've been reading a few books about handling criticism and I hope that I'm not just reading what I want to see on these. I definitely need to take some time to pray before I talk to the letter writer so I make sure that I'm truly hearing what she has to say and to make sure that I'm not responding out of a need to simply defend, but to actually grow a relationship and to see our congregation mature in worship. Simply doing what we've always done and allowing any change to distract doesn't strike me as maturity. IMO, most distraction that we encounter in a given church service is a reflection of our own lack of maturity. When we worry about how we're feeling instead of what is being said/sung/taught, we've turned the service into worship of ourselves, rather than worship of the only One who is worthy of our praise. And I say that as much for me as for "others."

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Quick thoughts

Church: Had our meeting with Rich & Sharon on Saturday morning. Felt better after talking to them. We've still got some stuff to figure out and it's probably going to need to be a running dialogue, but I feel a lot better now than I did on say Friday night. We're staying put now, and I'm glad about that. In the meantime, we're hoping to find a creative outlet for Jason so he doesn't dry up waiting for our church (or any church! LOL!) to be ready for his art.

Family: Took a trip to PA to visit Keek. He had a mini-stroke on Thursday, and went into the hospital on Friday. We went up Saturday after the meeting to visit him. He's got a blockage in his kidneys that is causing blood pressure problems. Also has a blockage in his carotid artery, but without fixing the kidney, they can't fix the artery problem. His motor function is better, but he's still a bit altered. He'll be talking to the specialists today to weigh his options. It's hard to say what he'll choose, but either way, I'm sure he'll be supported by those of us who love him.

Work: I talked to Jack Bauer on the phone the other day. Nice guy. Generally pays his bill on time (and I'm guessing the times he was late was because of terrorists or something).

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Burninator is at our house

I spent my Christmas money on the instant fan combo at HomestarRunner.com. I haven't had a chance to really get into it much yet, but holy crap. What I've had a chance to enjoy so far is absolutely brilliant. I mean, I've enjoyed Strong Bad for a while now, but the Strong Bad sings cd is so much better than I could have ever imagined. The stuff that I've listened to online is really good, but this just takes it to a whole new level.

I also now have a Burninator bumper sticker on my minivan. So even though it's a minivan, it's unbelievably cool.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

First Snow

We woke up to the first snow on the ground today. Not much, but something! Enough that I had to scrape the car when I was taking the kids to school. Even though I've enjoyed the mild temps we've had this winter, it's still nice to see a little of the white stuff coming down. It really just is pretty.

I'm still in a bit of disbelief about the situation at church. I'm hoping to have a minute or two to talk to Rich tomorrow before or after practice. If not, he's coming over here on Friday night. I just really didn't think we were going to be encountering the issue of performance due to well-done (at least, as well done as we can do it) worship again. We did this 6 years ago and I just don't feel like doing it again. I've never made any secret that I want to see our team pursue excellence because I believe it's the right thing to do. I want to see our team stretch themselves beyond their comfort zones and I want the same people who have been worshipping in a contemporary church for at least 5 years (and most of them at least 10 years prior to that) to grow up and stop blaming everyone else for being "distracted" during worship. Not distracted by bad theology or vain repetitions or by the sin of one of the members of the team, but by someone singing a little louder or by a switch from one vocalist to another.

I want to be open to constructive criticism, I really, truly do. But so far I've not received anything constructive -- I've just been given ultimatums which basically amount to doing things exactly the way they were done prior to me taking over as music director. :-(

These are the times I really wish I had some kind of relationship with some of the other worship directors in the area. If this is something I continue to do (I'm praying that we'll get through this and not just revert back to what's safe and comfortable), I'm going to make an effort to do more with the other worship leaders in the area. One of the things I've gained from "The Heart of the Artist" has been the need for artists to develop more relationships, and I think relationships with other artists can only benefit all of the churches in the area. I've wanted to see a weekend retreat-type thing on the worship arts done in our area for a long time. If we get through this season, I'm going to be more proactive about hooking that up. We need to see one another as friends and fellow artists, not as competitors. I hope that this is something we could actually DO, not just dream about.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

New year, same crap

*sigh*

I feel like I know why the writer of Ecclesiastes started out his writing with "Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!"

Why do Christians allow the Enemy to use music as such a divisive issue? Why do we still argue over petty garbage like how "straight" hymn is sung and how loud the drums are and how out of tune the singers are when the lyrics are plainly talking about the majesty and glory of God? Why do we allow ourselves to be distracted by the meaningless in the midst of the divine?

*sigh*

I'm reading "The Heart of the Artist" by Rory Noland. Very good book, but even as it encourages me, it frustrates me.

It's just been a difficult week to be a worship director.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year '07!

Happy New Year!

We had a nice evening. Deborah stayed up all night with Jason and me (well, not me -- I fell asleep on the couch some time around 10pm!) and we watched the first two Harry Potter movies. She's been reading the books and we figured if she was old enough to read 'em, she was old enough to watch 'em. She thoroughly enjoyed them. We ate wings and cheese and pepperoni and crackers and shrimp and all kinds of stuff that's not good for us! It was a fun evening.

Now I'm getting ready to watch the Mountaineers in the Gator Bowl (in between getting caught up on laundry -- ugh!). Also need to bake a cake for Faith's fifth birthday. I can't believe my little girl is five today! Goodness gracious!

Anyway, hope you all have a great 2007. God bless!
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I'm a wife to an amazing man, and mom to four incredible kids. I'm a Christian woman who sometimes struggles with doubt. I'm a musician and a writer who is sometimes afraid to play and write. I'm trying to be more authentic every day.
 
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