Ken Medema on music,travel,life.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Thinking About Christmas already in JULY

As I think about Christmas coming around again and the thought that I will have to put together some Christmas concerts, I am always confronted with this question; What will be my focus this year?
One of my favorite Christmas seasons was the one in which my concerts focused around the idea that everybody is pregnant. Jesus came into the world once but God is always doing something wonderful and new in every one of us. We, in the Church then, are Mary and Elizabeth coming together to comfort, strengthen, and support each other during this pregnancy.

This year there must be a new focus. I woke up this very early this morning to get ready to take an early flight. As I got ready to go and drank my first coffee, the idea came bursting into my head. I have been thinking about this for a while now without success and this morning---there it was clear as a bell! I only hope that after several days of reflection it won't sound stupid. I think I would like to organize my Christmas concerts this year around the theme of these three questions.
1. What is this?
2. Why Me?
3. Where to?
I want to play with each of these questions in the weeks ahead. If you have any thoughts that might be helpful here, I would love to hear them.

1. What is this?
Surely the various characters in our Christmas story had to be asking the question, "What is this?" As the story is recounted in the scripture, there is a visit from an angel both to Mary and also to Joseph. This certainly is not in the normal course of things and could lead one to ask the "what is" question. The most awkward timing of this pregnancy with the necessity to make the trip to Bethlehem could engender that same question. The unusual presence of those shepherds, the birth in the manger, everything about this event is beyond the comfort zone, out of the usual, and troubling to say the least. What about Elizabeth pregnant as a very old woman, and her husband being struck dumb for the length of the pregnancy? It's just too strange. How often are we not presented with a great gift that makes us want to ask that same "What is this?" question.

When I think about the gifts I have been given that make me ask that question there are several that come to mind. Of course, the birth of my children always made me wonder what radical and troubling changes will this event make in my life. When I am relieved of my job and have the gift of time to explore what it might be like to go into full time concert work, I have to wonder what this is. When the house I am renting is sold and I am given the gift of the opportunity to live in another place, I ask, "What is this, what does it mean.?" When we are given the gift of a worldwide wake-up call, otherwise known as an economic crisis, we of course ask that same nagging question.

In the days between now and Christmas I want to ask that question over and over again in reference to so many gifts that have come into my life. Some of those gifts seem so very troublesome and way beyond my understanding, but I can't help believing that my task is to try to figure out what they mean and how I am supposed to accept and learn from and become a steward of these gifts. Mary Mary, what will you do with this boy? Joseph, Elizabeth, Zachariah, Harod, what will you do with this Christmas present grace has given you?
On my next post, I will play with the next question, "Why Me?" If you have any thoughts about these things, please let me know I would love to incorporate some insights from friends in these Christmas shows.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


A dream come true.

Over the last 30 years or so I have sometimes thought about how wonderful it would be if musicians in the church had a place and a time to come together and just simply talk, play, learn, laugh, in other words all those things we never take time to do. I have always put these thoughts aside as impractical until just this year. Last fall, I spent a week with a few musician friends at a ranch near Houston. During that week, we did all those things that I have dreamed musicians could do together. We talked a lot, we played, we ate, we laughed, we shared ideas, we wept, we experienced early mornings and late nights together and left the gathering refreshed and renewed. Well, as we talked together there arose the idea of a Church Musicians' Mid-Career Retreat; a time of rest, refreshment, renewal, and recommitment to our lives and work.

Wonder of wonders--- it is happening this August. Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is the place where 20 or so church musicians will gather for the first of what we hope will be many such retreats. We will be blessed with the presence of two facilitators to guide us along the way. Paula D'Arcy is a therapist, contemplative, and fabulous speaker and writer, and Tom Pace is the senior pastor of St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Houston Texas. These two will help us make our way through the three days of retreat where we hope to lay down our burdens, open our souls find new hope, renew our love for the task we are called to do and find some laughter as we go. If this goes as we hope it will, it will be the prototype of retreats in years to come. I have even dreamed that there would be several of these each year in various places around the country. I would love to see hundreds of church musicians given the opportunity for a few days of rest and renewal in a small intimate setting where one can get beyond casual conversation and musical posturing and into the business of seeing, loving, and helping each other.

I am really excited about this and probably will write about it a few times between now and early August when it will take place. As I write this, the song "Time" from my CD "Sea Change" comes to mind again and again.

"Time to feel a thousand new emotions, time to give myself in deep devotion, time for grief and time for pain and sorrow, time to rise and face my new tomorrow".

That's what I hope will happen for us in retreat and that is what I hope will happen for you sometimes during these days of Summer. Please find a little time to be renewed, to rest, to do nothing, to hear the birds, to feel the wind, to hold somebody longer than you think you need to.