Saturday, April 23, 2016

Desperation can sometimes breed/bring Inspiration!

We were living in San Antonio, Texas in the early 1980's where I served as Education Counselor in the Stake Relief Society. I desperately needed a special musical number that enhanced our theme of Excellence for Stake Leadership meeting I'd been planning for weeks. There simply wasn't anything to be found that sent the message I so desperately wanted to present in a way that music can only do.

My husband needed something from Austin, up Interstate 35 about an hour. I had been praying fervently, pleading for inspiration, and I really didn't need to take these precious hours for a trip up and and back when I needed to be working on the meeting. But I went, praying all the way. Suddenly the words began coming into my mind - with a melody to go with them.

I grabbed a piece of paper and pen from my purse and scribbled frantically while I drove. I repeated them over and over and the melody just flowed. By time I returned home, I was able to go to the piano and write down the notes. But then, I am not a composer and the accompaniment was another matter.

To add to the problem, I needed an interlude between the pleading tone of the first part and the answer that came to the pleading that was a totally different tone and key. Yes, I even changed the key signature. I am a simple pianist - I never had training in all the wonderful parts of music and how they work. I simply took piano lessons as a child and then never quit practicing so I didn't lose my knowledge of how to play - I just never progressed beyond being able to play the hymns and some simple accompaniments.

This was total inspiration - revelation that came in answer to my need to serve and meet the needs of my sisters. But the heavenly help didn't stop there. A seminary and institute teacher in our ward was well versed in music and I asked him to write the interlude. He did. Then I asked another sweet member of our ward with an amazing voice to sing it and another talented sister to play for her since I was conducting the meeting.

To hear that heaven-inspired message in that meeting was something I'll never forget. It was the perfect channel through which the Holy Ghost could touch hearts and embed the message of the meeting. I know God hears and answers prayers in sometimes very unexpected ways. He can work miracles through the weakest and simplest of us when we are on His errand. The song was never performed again and I even had to dig through stacks of music to find it to be able to share the words.


Where am I going? Why am I here?
Please won't you make all the answers more clear?
How can I be all you know I can be?
Help me, dear Father, Please help me so see.

When my world is so frantic -
When my calendar's full;
When everyone needs me
All I feel is the pull!

When there's no time for learning;
When there's no time for me
How can I be all you need me to be?

Take one step, Stretch yourself, Reach up high!
Set a goal, struggle hard, reach the sky!
Excellence! If you strive for Excellence,
A Celestial Excellence is what you'll find!

Thank you, dear Father, Now I can do
All of the things that you need me to do!
Now I can be all you know I can be!
One little word - Excellence is the key!

Thank you, Cheri, for your last post that reminded me of this totally forgotten little faith-promoting episode from decades ago. I may dust it off and give it to my talented daughter and granddaughters to perform just for me.

On a related note, because I kept practicing the hymns and never gave up playing when called upon to help with music, I was asked to be the ward organist. You've got to be kidding, I said! I was barely a qualified Relief Society pianist, hiding behind the piano so no one could see my red face when I made mistakes. I was too shocked to say no to the calling. I kept stuttering "But I'm not an organist! I don't know how to play the organ!"

Amazingly, many do not seem to know there is a world of difference between playing an organ and playing a piano. The bishop promised as I was obedient and accepted the calling, the blessings of learning to play would come. And they did. I've been ward organist for nearly 20 years - still just barely getting through the hymns each Sunday and agonizing over making mistakes that will jar the congregation from their worship, but the blessings have come. Including keeping my arthritic fingers from freezing and stopping working altogether. Obedience and prayer - and desperation definitely bring heavenly blessings.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Are The Stars Still There?

It seems like our valley has been hit from every direction in recent days. Most people are enduring trials of some nature--heart-rending challenges that overwhelm. I woke early this morning, troubled by some of the things taking place. It doesn't help that today marks the anniversary of a tragic loss in our family. I found myself staring out the front room window at the bright stars still visible, and it triggered a memory of another time when life was less than fun. I'd like to share a journal entry I wrote then:

 November 5, 1996

". . . A few weeks ago, I had been feeling quite discouraged. I think we all experience times like that in our lives, moments when we wonder why life has to be so challenging. I don't feel that way all of the time, but for some reason, at that particular instance, despair seemed to creep inside my heart. One night when everyone else in my family had gone to bed, I wandered outside. Sometimes listening to the night sounds brings comfort and so I sat on the porch and listened for a bit. I remember silently praying, asking why I was feeling this way. The thought came to mind, "There is still beauty in the world." I agreed, but still wanted to know why things seemed so bleak. I had been having some challenging health problems and there were several trials taking place with some of my extended family members. As I wondered why everything had to be so hard, I stood and glanced up at the sky. It was one of those star-filled nights--the entire sky was lit with stars. Again the thought came to mind, "There is still beauty in the world." As I gazed at the stars, I noticed that clouds were moving in. This is something that has probably occurred millions of times, but for once, I was watching as it happened. Within minutes, every star was covered. As I stared at the sky, I was so amazed by how quickly the clouds had moved in. Another thought came to mind, "Are the stars still there?" With that thought came the peace I had been seeking. Other thoughts came, "Is the Church still true? Does your Heavenly Father love you? Did your elder Brother lay His life down for you? Are all of these things true despite the discouragement, despite the challenges, the heartaches, the pains of life? Are the stars still there?"
The lesson I was taught that night has been such a comfort. Every time I start feeling a little down, it comes to mind: "Are the stars still there?"
To make a long story short . . . [I had an impression that] I should write a song based on that theme . . .  Here are the lyrics:

                                                         Are The Stars Still There?
By: Cheri J. Crane

Dark were my thoughts--all around were storms of heartache and strife
All those tests that sometimes just go with life
Mountains that seemed too steep to climb.
I walked outside--to clear my head and ask my Father, "Why?"
My inner peace had dissolved for a time
Where was the faith that was mine?

Staring at the star-filled sky--my heart revealed its inner cry
"Father, if You're listening help me know the reason why."
A thousand tiny twinkling lights were covered, hidden from
my sight
Grey clouds veiling light that once had shone so bright.
Darkness seemed to fill the night as every star was veiled
from sight
Yet peace crept in my heart and comfort eased the black despair
As the question came, "My child, my child--Are the stars still there?"

Now when dark thoughts come and some nights seem too long
I remember the words of this song
When everything seems to go wrong
The answer to my prayer--the night I struggled with despair
The night my Father heard my silent prayer
And reminded me the stars are always there.

Our Father's love is always there--through layers of grief and care
Hope is shining brightly through the clouds of dark despair
A thousand tiny twinkling lights--though covered, hidden from our sight
Grey clouds veiling light that once had shone so bright.
Though darkness seems to fill the night--And every star is veiled from sight
Peace and love seep through to ease the black despair--
Remember the question--"My child, are the stars still there?"

Monday, April 4, 2016

Still cleaning out!

Every once in a while I go back to my stack of files to sift through and toss things that are no longer pertinent: sayings that touched me at one time or another; a scripture with a wonderful illuminating comment; a story that had meaning.

Today I leafed through a file and decided it was time to toss a bunch more things that are good but that can now be found on line at the click of a mouse.

Then I came across the little message below. I had included it as a President's Message one of the many times I served as a Relief Society president across the United States while we were in the Air Force. It is still pertinent today:

"If something is impossible, but if you want it bad enough, it can happen!" How do we accomplish the impossible? According to Elder Larry Lawrence, these are the steps:

1.  Choose a righteous desire (a desire is something you want with all your heart - not just a wish or a dream.)
2. Be believing - not half-heartedly hope it will happen, but have no doubt in your heart or mind that you can accomplish it with the help of the Lord.
3. Plead your case to the Lord - pray vocally, unceasingly, having the goal in mind the entire time. Think about it every minute your mind can spare to focus on it.
4. Be totally committed to the goal - preoccupied with it, with an overpowering desire to accomplish it. Commitment means to go the extra mile - maybe give up a bad habit to show that you are so totally committed to this goal that you will sacrifice something to get it.
5. Know your faith may be tried. You may taste the agony of defeat before you find the thrill of victory.
6. Expect the Lord to perform! Know that as you do your part in accomplishing this righteous desire of your heart, He will help you.

Guess it must be time to apply this to finish editing Too Many Ghosts and find a publisher. I really do want to get that done......but apparently not enough to follow the above steps.