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A Home Away from Home

They opened a black rod iron gate that faced the street, and in we rolled with our suitcases trailing behind, over the threshold into our home away from home, through a meeting room with white stacked chairs, and into a courtyard full of foliage.victoria-el-salvador

To the right is where a vehicle was parked each night, with two side doors, one for the vehicle to come and go, and one for us to enter and exit every day. To my left was a corridor where the men turned to their sleeping quarters, one big room with four bunk beds and three singles. These areas were tucked under the upstairs living quarters.

We women were instructed to go straight ahead and further in, past the parking on the right, and the men’s quarters, a counter and bathroom on the left – towards an outdoor washing station (where we would get our clothes washed throughout the week). The station was a flat stone surface where our friend would roll and knead the clothes with lye soap and water.

A few steps in towards the washing station was where the courtyard opened to El Salvador’s sky, with a myriad of tropical plants and vines. A sharp right past the greenery and a stand alone corner bathroom, and up three stairs. Another right turn up six or seven more steep steps, at least for we short ones. There was a railing I could hang onto, but I did so carefully so as not to disturb the precious vines clinging to the same. I noted how my friends, who were taller, seemed to take the stairs so effortlessly, and how I sometimes had to take two hops for every one, especially at the end of the day.

I loved how the stairwell shared the outside cinder block wall, and every time I reached the top I would pause and look out at the carpeted hills of green, and the place across the side street where a woman ground corn by hand. This spot also became Martin’s secret espionage station, where he would lie in wait to pummel our unsuspecting friends below with water balloons (all in good fun).

At the top of the stairs lay a row of three bedrooms, a bathroom, and then a fourth bedroom, each with single beds and bunks. The previously open eve of the roof had been sealed, perhaps to keep humans and bugs apart, or to keep us dry? Rumour had it the gecko’s liked to visit, but I never saw one. My roomy found one in the sink one morning and decided he got there first, thus her decision to brush her teeth in the shower. We were told about the gigantic bugs that resembled grasshoppers, and one of those clung to the outside of our bedroom door for most of the week. I named him Jiminy Cricket, but he never once mentioned Pinocchio.

The first couple of nights, when I awoke to use the bathroom, I would click on my flashlight and try to unlock our door as quietly as possible. I would then tip toe down the outdoor corridor hoping not to see the rumoured midnight cat robber, who came looking for bread. I’d reach my destination, jump inside and lock the door behind me, and then remind myself to breath. Every once and a while I would scold my brain for entertaining thoughts of some critter hiding behind the shower curtain.

At first, the thought of a nocturnal cat thief, snooping for bread, didn’t fizz me much, but we were soon told the said “cat” may not be your average house hold variety, but a jungle one instead? Someone may have been pulling our legs, but my quiet bathroom exits became louder in order to frighten any real threat away, hoping to keep any jungle cat from pulling my real leg.

I loved waking up to the sound of the rooster’s crow, even though their singing began around 3:00 a.m. Yes, there were several of them. Perhaps they were singing the traditional El Salvadorian welcome song? And then there were the birds that came to dance on our roof around 6:00 a.m. Perhaps they were concerned we may sleep in?

The clothes drying on the lines criss crossing the courtyard, and our railing every morning reminded me of my childhood, hanging out clothes on the farm. My eyes always drifted over the walls of the compound to a collage of red pines on yonder hill, and a ribbon of road that wound off into the distant jungle. It made me wonder what lie beyond, and conclude how big the world really is, and reel at the great deal of detail God put into Creation.

My home away from home reminded me of how much God truly cares about you and me.

“But ask the animals and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky and they will tell you; or speak to the earth and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” Job 12:7-10

Some how the words “thank you” don’t quite say enough to God and our El Salvadorian hosts.

Gracias

 

 

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Remembering El Salvador….

I never thought I’d go, and now I’m memorizing every face and every street in case I don’t get back, so I will not forget.

photo-2016-11-02-8-14-54-amThe bus climbed the green filigree mountain, up and over the winding road into Victoria’s town square. I marveled at how the driver magically maneuvered around each narrow street corner. We were living in a movie. We had entered an enchanted fairytale, surrounded by Spanish adobes, and ornamented arches with scrolled barred window frames. I felt like Lucy stepping through the wardrobe’s portal into the land of Narnia.

In Victoria, El Salvador
we found something better than a fantasy novel full of talking animals in a frozen forest. We met family in a tropical jungle of bamboo and bananas, oranges and lemons, flowers and chickens. We played with children and attempted to learn the women’s tortilla technique. We shared stories wrapped in two different languages, sweating under November’s heavy hot sun.

We built houses together, pointing, laughing, digging and pounding. We walked to tasty rice and bean breakfasts, and scrumptious Pupusa dinners in the yellow restaurant where San Salvador’s volcano can be seen smiling through the mist from the end of the street.

We prayed, and worshipped together bringing glory to the Father, and fire to our faith. We fell in love with kindred spirits and trusted when we had to tear ourselves away that one day we would meet again, whether here on earth or in eternity.

Gracias, Gracias, Gracias, to everyone of you. Many of your names are written in the Lamb’s book of life, and also on our hearts.

 

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Until We Meet Again

There had been many embraces but none like goodbye....(our team just got back from building houses with Shelter Canada in Victoria, El Salvador area).

cathedral-victoria
The Cathedral standing in Victoria’s town square, an example of El Salvadorian architecture

Even the El Salvadorian sun bent low over the white Cathedral’s spire for a closer look. The fumes from the breakfast fires, the burning garbage and endless truck exhaust no longer hovered overhead, but crowded in my last pockets of air for the departure ceremony.

I knew we had come to lift them up, but now their arms opened wide and lifted me, and pulled me close, face to face for one last slow dance. Arms wrapped firm but gently, pausing intentionally for the rhythm of our hearts to synchronize, for our gratitude to turn to salt and run together in one mighty river of life down our cheeks.

And then instinctively my eyes squeezed shut imprinting their faces on the pages of my memory – family forever – until we meet again, precious brothers and sisters across the miles.

*Not only will our team continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in El Salvador, we will remember their faces – the face of Christ. Many thanks to Shelter Canada for the opportunity they have provided for teams to build houses in El Salvador. Many thanks to Olds Baptist church and our community for the prayer and financial support, and many thanks to our team leaders.

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Understanding the Times

 

Everyone is changing their mind, or getting on the band wagon, or losing conviction, or…..and the list goes on.

So she wrote her little song on a cold winter’s day,                                             tucked the tears in her heart, sent the music to play.                                                  To fly to Jesus like a bird on the wind,                                                                          He’s coming again someday.

She knows they have their reasons for drifting away,                                             ’cause she’s caught herself in seasons of dry bones,                                                  but a change of heart is different than changing your mind,                                and the road ahead looks more and more alone.

So she strums her little song on a sweet summer’s night,                                     holds His promises close, as her whispers take flight.                                             They fly to Jesus like a bird on the wind,                                                                     He’s coming again someday.

And she contemplates the choices, the give and the take.                                     She’s no stranger to the voices man is prone.                                                          She’ll change her mind on coffee, but anchor her heart                                           on the only One who’s going to lead her home.

The hours are fleeting, the daylight is but a glow on the sea.                                   And there’s a meeting she’s keeping, she sings –                                                       He’s coming for me.

So she sings His mighty song on the battlefield line,                                                with His sword in her hand and a victory cry.                                                        They fly to Jesus like a bird on the wind,                                                                   He’s coming again someday.

And she mourns the soldiers falling, the left and the right.                                     She hears the scoffers calling to her soul.                                                                    But her heart is pressing forward and leaving behind,                                            each word that stands against the truth she knows.

Cindy Palin ©July 2016 All Rights Reserved

   The other day my daughter and I were praying, and some of her words reminded me of how I usually pray at the piano and write… Above is a word picture of a songwriter’s heart contemplating the signs of the times, and the affects thereof.

And scripture tells us…

And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:4-14 ESV).

 

 

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Your People are My People

This past Easter weekend was memorable for all the wrong reasons, and yet one phone call from a friend started the healing process, and reminded me of how powerful the spiritual bond of God’s family is.sunrise_church_198854

My family all got hit with a severe flu, and we were unable to attend a musical production, as well as our traditional Easter Service.  I was too sick to even move let alone imagine taking in the celebrations. When the dust settled, and the weekend was over – I cried, because I missed out on spending quality time with God’s family.

There are many wonderful, noteworthy organizations in our community that emulate incredible friendship, and camaraderie, but “there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24b NKJV). The family He is binding together in perfect unity with his love (Col 3:14) is beyond measure. He holds tightly to our right hand, we have nothing to fear (Isaiah 41:13). As the Father sent him, he is sending us (John 20:21) to share his love with the world.

This morning I awoke and began to sing out of gratitude for God’s presence and gifts in my life.

“Your People are My People” ©Cindy Palin, March 31, 2016

Verse 1

[clickandtweet handle=”” hashtag=”” related=”” layout=”” position=””]My rising is with you in the house of the Lord[/clickandtweet]

[clickandtweet handle=”” hashtag=”” related=”” layout=”” position=””]Your people are my people, and I am yours[/clickandtweet]

My table is with you, in your house O Lord

Your people are my people, and we are yours

Chorus

Bind us fast O Lord, for your purpose alone

Hold us tight O Lord in your arms

Send us forth O Lord, for your love to be shown

As we lift your name on high until you call us home.

Verse 2

My laughter is with you, in the house of the Lord

Your people are my people, and I am yours

My weeping is with you, in your house O Lord

Your people are my people, and we are yours

Back to Chorus

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Home of Grace (melody writing)

It may be strange to talk about the melody before I pick apart the lyrics, but for me the melody is one of the most important elements of a song. Just as the Holy Spirit is power to our prayer, a melody is power to the song. A melody brings the song alive.

When I attended RDC’s music program, my favourite class was melody writing. I discovered I was born a writer, and the melodies have been sitting there waiting for me to pick like a daisy from a field, but the class helped me understand why the melodies were strong.

Select songwriters write their lyrics first and then write a melody to them. Others may write the lyrics and have someone else write a melody. A friend of mine, Bill Scarrott, writes incredible poetry. I have to say trying to write a melody to his words is difficult, and this is why. I have always written the melody and the words at the same time. I think this method is also proof that prayer is involved.

I want to continue to try and write melodies for other’s words, but for now I’ll talk about the melody in the “Home of Grace.”

When you take melody writing in school, you talk about the structure and then proceed to put your knowledge into practice. With me, I write first and then pick it apart, just for the sake of learning, and sharing this process with others.

[clickandtweet handle=”” hashtag=”” related=”” layout=”” position=””]For example; “Home of Grace” begins very conversationally, so the melody has got to be in a “conversation” range.[/clickandtweet] When people talk, their voices are not jumping all over the map, so large intervals for the story melody will not work.

Home of Grace.mus
look at the lyric melody, not the accompaniment

Adoption is a very sacred topic. The conversational melody is gentle and rocks back and forth in a calming motion. I have included a picture to the right. Try and look just at the lyric melody line, and not the accompaniment.

In my opinion, a good song begins with an invitation. Keeping that in mind, use the same melody for at least two lines, before you build the next block. A verse is usually made up of four lines. The first two should invite, the second two should usher you to the chorus.

For example; the second line in “Home of Grace” is very similar to the first, with one or two differences to maintain interest, and build the story. Instead of starting on the very same note in the second line, the melody slightly higher. I also noted that the second line is a melodic answer to the first. Many times a question, and answer melody is great for verse format.

Home of Grace.musBefore I bore you to tears, I would suggest you shape the melody of the last part of your verse as a precursor to the chorus. It is still conversational, but invites you further in and ends on a note which paves the way for the main event – the melody of the chorus. This is the melody that is going to stream through your head all day, for weeks, if you write a powerful one.Home of Grace.mus

©Cindy Palin All Rights Reserved

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Home of Grace (every song has a story)

[clickandtweet handle=”” hashtag=”” related=”” layout=”” position=””]Every song has a story, this one was written for a family member who gave her son up for adoption.[/clickandtweet]

One of the most important elements for me when I write a song is prayer, especially when the song is about something very sacred. Adoption is, I am sure you would agree.

If I am writing a song for a specific person, I try to put myself in their shoes. I may not know all the details to a story, but as I walk in that person’s footsteps in my mind, I formulate questions like, “How did they feel when they found out they were having a baby?” “How will a new baby change their life?” “Do they feel alone or afraid?” In this case I am writing for someone who has adopted their child out. For those who have been adopted into a family, the questions may vary.

Home of Grace

Verse One

No one’s sure what’s in store as we journey

How our choices shape the future and our hearts

And it could be you, and it could be me

Who learns to build a home of grace

Chorus

There’s no better love than to give away

No better love than to take

From one mother’s heart to another’s arms

Together we build a home of grace

Verse Two

If you could see up ahead around the corner

You might fail to find the courage to be brave

But He sees you, and He sees me

and wants to build a home of grace

Chorus

Bridge

It’s a mystery this gift of life

Oh the wonder of a sacrifice

Chorus

©Cindy Palin All Rights Reserved