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Pinnacle Presbyterian Church

Echoes Blog

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The body of our Lord Jesus Christ keep you in everlasting life…
Wish there was someone here I knew. It’s lonely being a stranger. I thought George and Sue said they came to this church. I guess not; I don’t see them anywhere. Come on, pay attention. You’re here to worship.

Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you…
Peace…that’s a laugh. My job is evaporating, the kids are driving me crazy, and I’ve never felt more lonely or frustrated. I really need to talk with someone.

The blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be upon you and remain with you forever…
Maybe I should leave during the last hymn. It would be easier. What if nobody says anything to me after the service? It’s hard being new in a church full of people you don’t know.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord…
Relax, this is a church, the place where people are supposed to care about you and want to know you. Still, I wonder…

Thanks be to God…
Strange way to end a service. What do I do now? Awkward to be standing here where I don’t know anyone. What happens next?

 And how am I to face the odds of man’s bedevilment and God’s? I, a stranger and afraid in a world I never made. --A.E.Housman

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“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13

Whether it is leaping a tall building in a single bound or hitting the game-winning shot, we all have dreams about being the hero. Even before Superman hit comics in 1938, there were people like Flash Gordon, The Lone Ranger, Zorro. Go back even further to 800 B.C., and you have stories like Beowulf and Homer’s fabled heroes Achilles and Odysseus. In the next three months we will have three new superhero movies hit the big screen, (Captain Marvel, Shazam!, Avengers: End Game) and five more coming out by the end of the year. Marvel Studios has taken our love and desire to be heroes to a whole new level making over $17 billion bringing heroes to life on the big screen.  So what is it about heroes that draw our attention? Is it their superpowers? Overcoming great odds?  Maybe it is saving the day? Or is it something more? 

When I was a kid growing up playing both football and baseball, one of my heroes was Bo Jackson.  I had everything Bo, from baseball cards to football cards, to posters on every wall, and I still have them. Bo could do anything…there were even Nike ads that confirmed it.  I mean Bo knew not only baseball and football but racing, polo, basketball, golf, surfing, track, soccer, and even hockey.  Bo wasn’t a superhero per se, but Nike liked to portray him that way. In fact, in the ’80s there was even a cartoon where Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky and Bo Jackson were, in fact, superheroes with superpowers that saved the day. 

Often heroes are people we look up to but know there is no way we could ever be like them. The same is often true when we read the Bible.  We hear stories of Noah and the Ark, Moses freeing God’s people from Egypt, the mighty Sampson. We hear the stories of Mary, the mother of Jesus, faithfulness, how Peter, Andrew, James, and John left everything to follow Jesus, and even Paul who was persecuted for his beliefs in Jesus and we think they are extraordinary people and we can never be like that. However, what if we could?

In one of Marvel’s movies a Mutant named Colossus talks about being a hero, he says:

COLOSSUS: Four or five moments. That's all it takes. 

DEADPOOL: To?

COLOSSUS: Be a hero. Everyone thinks it's a full-time job. Wake up a hero. Brush your teeth a hero. Go to work a hero. Not true. Over a lifetime, there are only four or five moments that really matter. Moments when you're offered a choice, to make a sacrifice, conquer a flaw, save a friend, spare an enemy. In these moments, everything else falls away.

What if it is really that simple. Four or five moments. What if Peter had been too busy the day that Jesus walked by and turned his request down. Moses literally tried to talk his way out of doing what God wanted him to do, but to no avail. If we only have four or five moments that will help shape who we are, how people will remember us, we have to make those moments count. 

Today marks the beginning of Lent, our journey towards the cross. For the next six and a half weeks I encourage you not to give something up for Lent but take something on. Do something that will make an impact in the lives of those around you. At least until we get to Easter, I encourage you to do something every day, that will make someone else’s life better or easier. Lent is not supposed to be a time about us, but a time we think about Jesus, what better way to prepare for Easter than spending the time leading up to it showing sacrificial love for someone else. 

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With my first blog post I would like to say hello to you all. I am thrilled to be a part of this community! It will take me some time to get to know you all, but know that I am putting an effort into remembering your faces and names. I am eager to learn your stories, so please share them with me. And thank you for your warm welcome - I felt at home on the very first Sunday!

It was over a decade ago when, in the first month after my move to Phoenix, I went out to North Scottsdale to see the Richards, Fowkes opus 14 at Pinnacle Presbyterian Church. I was awestruck when I played it for the first time, and until this day I love every minute I get to spend at this organ. In my view, there are not many pipe organs in Arizona that match the quality of this instrument. 

What makes it so special? Ralph Richards and Bruce Fowkes put a lot of effort into studying the craftsmanship of old European masters, especially the Dutch. They traveled to see and hear many of the existing 17th and 18th century instruments, took measurements, photos and sound samples. Richards and Fowkes, as well as other pioneers in this style of organ building, went back to the basics and applied some of the older techniques in their workshops. It involved copying historical measurements, material composition and scaling of pipes, less use of machines and more manual labor.  All to deliver higher quality of pipework and thus sound. The outcome is such that every pipe and every stop has a uniquely beautiful quality, and altogether they blend into a powerful instrument that is capable of touching the Sublime. 

Another reason which makes this organ so special is its tracker action. Tracker action means that every key has an instant physical connection with a pipe through a wooden tracker. Depending how a key is pressed and released, it will affect how a pipe is going to open to speak and how the sound will end. It takes years of practice to make any organ breathe and phrase as if it was a human voice. With precise finger control on a tracker action a trained organist can make the sound edgy or round, lighter or heavier, softer or louder. This is almost impossible to achieve on a typical 20th-century pipe organ with an electric action, where a key is connected with a pipe through a wire. In this case there are only two options of opening and closing the pipe: 0 and 1, on or off, and nothing in between.   

I take pride in being the organist of Richards, Fowkes opus 14, and a member of the well-established music program at Pinnacle. I am excited to share my passion and energy for performing, directing and teaching, and I cannot wait for what is ahead! 

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The month of February brings my heart to the joy of love.  I have wonderful loves in my life, and one in particular comes to mind.  My grandmother, Patricia Ann, showed me what true love feels like.  She loved her husband through laughter and glances that we would all catch just by being in the same room as the two of them.  She had 6 children, the oldest, my father, and she loved each of them uniquely.  She had 25 grandchildren, I the oldest girl, and I admire the way she loved each of us.  She was kind and smart and worked very hard at everything she did.  She was tall and thin and sometimes I can still hear her voice and smell her perfume.  My dear Grandma Pat died when I was in college, but she instilled the compassion and love I try to share today.

When I think of true love and how that love makes us feel, I remember 1John 4:19; We love, because He first loved us.  Jesus taught us how to feel love and how to give love.  We share love through our actions, using His spirit to touch others.  Recently, I visited UMOM with a group of Pinnacle Women’s Fellowship members and we saw true love.  Staff and volunteers serve homeless families in our area and the love we felt was overwhelming.  155 families living in the short-term 120 day shelter housing which offers meals, shelter, training for job skills, money management, and compassion. 

Serving the community offers true love.  Giving, sharing, listening, and learning is a wonderful way to feel love.  My prayer for you today is to remember, feel & share true love.  Lots of love from me today, and always.

Life Long Learning

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“Education is a powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”  This sentence is written by the celebrated Nelson Mandela which perfectly describes the importance of education.  Our education starts with the first question asked and ends with the last question asked.  Which means that learning lasts a lifetime or at least it should, but it doesn’t seem to be something that we talk about as busy parents while so focused on getting through the day.  “Hey, Ryan, what did you learn today?”  What if I asked my husband this question each day?  It’s something we ask our kids every day, but as adults we don’t think about our education much anymore.

The truth is that our personal education impacts our personal growth, which impacts our relationships and career success.  By enriching our brains, we have new and valuable information that improves the way we think, our ability to analyze, process and relate.  One of the insights I have heard from a neuroscientist is that learning is not just a brain activity, but a whole-body activity.

Over Christmas break I went to the Phoenix Art Museum to see the Mexican artist, Carlos Amorales’ famous installation, Black Cloud. He was inspired by the annual migration of monarch butterflies from Canada to Mexico and out of that he conceived a work of 25,000 black paper moths and butterflies hanging from the walls and ceilings of the museum.  One can only imagine the whole-body experience felt when in a stark white room full of three-dimensional butterflies coming out of the walls while a group of musicians are moving about freely improvising with their various instruments.  Everything each musician played independently was magically woven together like a knitted shawl and the evening was absolutely enchanting. 

Besides being such a lovely evening, it was an educational encounter that touched all the senses.  What I took away from it wasn’t that I wanted to hang butterflies in my living room to imitate the installation, but I wanted to create.  I was inspired.  It also made me realize that I need more of this in my life…  “this.”  When we are moved as I was or have the experience of a “light bulb moment” we thirst for more learning, more growth, more knowledge, right?  What I am contemplating is the idea of being completely immersed in something to emerge with a new sense of wonder.

A sense of wonder of what keeps us alive; keeps our brains curious and full of amazement.  I feel it’s as important to invest in our minds as it is our bodies.  However, it takes self-motivation.  As a busy working mom I have to make it a habit to learn and to engross myself in experiences such as the butterfly installation.  Every day, each of us are offered the opportunity to pursue intellectual development in ways that are tailored to our learning style.  We can take online classes, sit in a Bible study, read a newspaper cover to cover, watch a Netflix documentary.  So why don’t more of us seize that opportunity? We know it’s worth the time, and yet we find it so hard to make the time.

While few studies validate the observation that lifelong learning has a profound impact on our well-being, I’ve noticed in my own interactions that those who dedicate themselves to learning and who exhibit curiosity are almost always happier and more socially and professionally engaging than those who don’t.  Hmmm… Have you ever had a personal “snow day” and finished a great novel in one sitting?  Do you remember the fulfillment you felt when you knew the answer to a difficult problem or understood something that others were struggling with?  Have you ever created something truly spectacular and stood back to take a long look?  These experiences can be electrifying.  And even if education had no impact on health, prosperity or social standing, it would be entirely worthwhile as an expression of what makes every person so unique.  And with everything we learn, we become more extraordinary because of what we are giving ourselves… we have that gift of knowledge.  Hey, what have you learned today?