Sunday Singin’

I have been involved with church music my entire life. Still am. I started taking piano lessons when I was seven years old, and from the beginning, dreamed of playing the piano for a southern gospel quartet. Never happened. That’s okay, I never pitched for the Detroit Tigers, either.

I played my first trumpet duet in church when I was in 6th grade. I sang a solo for the first time when I was in 7th grade. “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise, when as his mother, Mary, was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.” I still hear the melody in my head. It was a small clip in a Christmas Cantata entitled “Born A King.” I sang in the church choir until 10th grade when we moved to a different town.

After we moved, I played piano for the choir at our new church. I think playing for the choir got me out of a moving violation from a police officer. One night I sped up to get through a light before it turned red. The officer who pulled me over said I didn’t make it. When he asked where I was going I said, “I’m going to church to play the piano for choir practice.” He told me to slow down for yellow lights in the future.

I played my first piano competition when I was 12. I received a second place trophy simply because on the last chord of the music I lifted my hands before I let go of the sustain pedal. I played in many other contests and never got higher than second place. I hated competing because I was always so afraid my mind would go blank, which made my mind go blank. After the last one when I was 15, I said, “Never again,” and that was it.

Crazy, but I can still play the song I performed in that last competition. It is “Springs of Living Water,” arranged by Ted Smith, who was the pianist for Billy Graham. I just won’t play it in front of anyone.

I continued playing the piano for church but I started faking it. I played the music like I wanted rather than what was on the page. That way, if I blew it no one would know. I still don’t play written music in public more than fifty years later.

Music in church has changed drastically in my lifetime. It used to be hymns only, then hymns plus a “prayer chorus,” then a couple hymns and a few choruses, then no hymns at all. That’s okay, to each their own. But some folks have had a difficult time adjusting.

In one church I pastored, my wife and I led the music as well. As soon as we sang something that wasn’t in the hymn book, there was an old man in the front who quit singing, folded his arms and stared.

I don’t want to be that old man. I am an old man, just not that one.

Saturday Snackin’ and Sippin’

I’m convinced coffee is as much feeling as it is taste. Coffee is an experience. Some coffee experiences are better than others. I can’t remember having a cup of coffee that was so bad I couldn’t drink it. There have been lots of cups that were less than hot, making the coffee more difficult to drink, but there is something wrong with wasting coffee. Cold coffee is better than no coffee.

When I was young, after arriving at home from school I went around the house to find the coffee cups my mom left during the day and finished the cold coffee she left.

For a short time when I was in high school, I stayed with an older couple who lived in the town to which my parents were preparing to move. They were kind and loving folks and they made sure I felt right at home. With an in-ground heated pool in the back yard and a pool table in the basement, it was difficult to feel anything less. Because of their religious beliefs, they did not drink coffee. They drank Postum, which is made of roasted grain. It was actually very good and many years later I bought a jar just to try it again.

I obviously prefer real coffee, as opposed to instant. You might argue that instant coffee is real coffee, and I can’t offer a convincing rebuttal. But instant coffee doesn’t provide the aroma that fills the room when coffee is being brewed. Even Keurig coffee cups release a wonderful fragrance. I have, however, had some memorable experiences with instant coffee.

On a vacation, I used instant to fill a thermos with hot coffee every morning before I went fishing on beautiful Houghton Lake, Michigan. That was nearly forty years ago and the memories are still vivid in my mind. Not so much for the fish we caught, but for the thoughts and feelings about the experience I still enjoy. Instant coffee was right in the middle of it.

The company I worked for in my first job supplied instant coffee for employees. I was the janitor, so it was not only my job to set up the coffee stand, but to drink some as well, then clean up at the end of the day. There were also times the boss provided donuts, although not many.

I was privileged to have my grandparents living in the same city where I grew up. Many times after church on Sunday, I went home with them for Sunday dinner. The main entrance to their house was in the kitchen. Every Sunday, rather than changing clothes and returning to the kitchen, my grandparents put the coffee pot on the stove to reheat the breakfast coffee, sat down at the kitchen table, and enjoyed a hot cup of coffee before preparing dinner. I will never forget the sound of them gently stirring cream and sugar into their coffee. It was some of the best coffee I’ve ever had. The Pyrex coffee pot in the photos is exactly like the one my grandparents owned.

Here’s a question for you. Have you ever noticed that when you eat a York Peppermint with coffee it tastes like cigarette ashes smell? No kidding!

The snacks enjoyed with coffee are important, but not as much as the coffee. Good coffee doesn’t need help. I have to admit, drinking coffee makes eating snacks more likely, as in, “I don’t really need this but I’m going to eat it anyway, to go with my coffee.”

Biscotti is wonderful. Although, successfully eating biscotti is an art form. If you dip biscotti in your coffee and do not withdraw it at the right moment, it will disintegrate into mush, floating on top of your coffee like debris from a boating accident.

Have you ever heard of Tim Tams? “Tim Tam is a brand of chocolate biscuit introduced by the Austalian biscuit company Arnott’s in 1964.” (Wikipedia) They’re little chocolate covered cookies about one inch by two inches. You first bite both ends off, then hold the biscuit in your coffee and use the Tim Tam like a straw. As soon as coffee hits your lips, pop the biscuit in your mouth. Some people love them. To me, the experience was a little like eating a warm piece of chocolate covered Melba Toast. No offense to Tim Tam lovers.

Honey roasted peanuts are a great snack to eat with coffee. You have to keep an eye on the peanut jar or it will be empty before you finish your coffee.

Chocolate chip cookies. Nothing else needs to be said.

The number one snack to enjoy with coffee has to be Peanut M&Ms. Done. Peanut M&Ms and coffee carried me through an entire master’s degree program which took three years.

Well, there it is. Saturday sippin’ and snackin’.

What kind of snacks do you enjoy with coffee?