Monday, August 29, 2011

Everyday vs. Every Day

I think that words have an intricate design and that we show them disrespect if we sloppily throw them together because it saves a character in a 140-character message or - worse - because we don't think it's a big deal to be precise in our message.

Take everyday, an adjective which the dictionary says means mundane, commonplace, ordinary, routine, unremarkable. For example, "She had everyday clothes, clothes for Sunday, and party frocks."

Every day, on the other hand, is an adverbial phrase that means each day. For example, "Every day she looked in her closet and sighed, 'I have nothing to wear ...' "

It's not that hard, really. But here's the reason I am scrutinizing everyday and every day more closely than usual:

Yesterday morning, even though it was Sunday, it felt like an everyday kind of day to me. I was to play the piano with the morning service's worship group at a local church. I woke up fairly early and hit the snooze button a couple of times. As I slowly came to bleary life - crawling out of bed, showering and dressing, getting ready for the day - everything felt blah. Mundane was the actual word that crossed my mind. I baked and cooked and marinated and cleaned and ate some cereal and drank some tea and thought about what to play for the offertory. It wasn't that I dreaded the day or resented the busyness of it or was concerned about any of its activities - it was just that nothing had a spark, nothing was making me feel like this was the Lord's day and I should rejoice and be glad.

I forgot to turn on the oven to bake the meringue on the coconut cream pie. "Great, I'm going to be late for the practice," I thought to myself. I tried calling Claudia and Don, the music team leaders, to let them know; but they had decided to walk to church and so had already left. I got to church about seven minutes late. Fortunately guitars were tuning and voices were being warmed up. "Here goes nothing," I thought to myself. "Just accept that it's going to be a routine day and write it off now."

I resigned myself to going through the motions, resigned myself to being slightly numb and disconnected for the day, settled back into the comfortable rut that runs right next to the path of my life.  I moved into the comfort-able zone.

The songs were all known to me by now. Nothing grabbed my mind or tugged at my heart strings. We started in on the first set - 'package', as Don calls it.

All Creatures of our God and King - check.
You're Worthy of My Praise - check.
What Can I Do - we started in on this one and I thought to myself, "Really? The song writer couldn't write more than four notes into the tune of the first ten bars? Talk about unimaginative. Talk about everyday ..."

Then Reg ruined everything.

Reg plays the electric organ, which sits sort of perpendicular to the grand piano with the low keys of the piano almost touching the high keys of the organ. He also sings tenor; but from behind the piano I can barely hear him, for the most part. Earlier I had requested, without much hope of being heard, that the sound man would turn Reg's mike up so that I might be able to hear him over the drums.

Suddenly, right in the middle of the chorus of the What Can I Do song, Reg's sound kicked in:

... Every day make everything I do
a hallelujah, a hallelujah.

I was startled out of my autopilot mood. The man's voice soared on the tenor, so crystal pure and so harmonious with every note, bringing depth and richness that I in my stupor had not even suspected was in the song.

I glanced over at him and had to do a double take. His always handsome, kindly face was transformed as he sang the words with sincerity, paying attention to them in a way that I had not. He was offering his music and his voice to God right there in the practice before the service.

In those moments, his face was a countenance.

I can't really describe what a countenance is, how it differs from a face. The dictionary says Appearance, especially the look or expression of the face. It's an intangible quality that for me evokes thoughts of Moses coming down from the mountain with the ten commandments; of the story of the Mount of Transfiguration, where the disciples Peter, James and John witnessed Jesus speaking with Moses and Elijah; of the apostle Stephen as he was being stoned to death.

I don't see it often; but when I catch a glimpse of it, it is indelibly seared on my mind.

I saw it on Bronwyn's face as she spoke on Mother's Day Sunday.

I saw it on Dr McIlveen's face when he preached in India this March.

I saw it on the face of a little boy named Alex the third time I got to visit him on my trip to South Africa in 2007.

Dad, as he gets older and closer to God, is now more countenance than face and sometimes I have to look at him through my peripheral vision in order to be able to look at him at all. At Martha's funeral, and at Mum's funeral, he was all countenance, the radiance of God all around and through him.

And now Reg.

I was jerked out of my rut, jerked into the privilege of the moment, reminded of why we were singing, Whom we were honouring and praising.

I lost my place in the music, lost my voice. I found my focus.

When church started, we as the worship team were not at the top of our game, frankly. Somehow we couldn't quite get into synch. It was hard to hear - I could hardly hear Reg again! - and there was no guitar to fill in the little pockets of empty space that a guitarist can cover.

But none of that mattered. The congregation sang and worshiped and the guest speaker reminded us that even the air we breathe is a gift from God.

There is one other countenance experience that shook me so much I can barely bear to dwell on it, much less write about it. The memory of it is so painful, so precious to me.

About a year after my friend Maynard died I was sitting on the couch in Dad's and Mum's house. The TH had not been closed for too many months and my life was in turmoil and transition. It was just Mum and me there and she was dusting the wooden ornaments in the little bay window. I asked her, "What do you think, Mum? I believe that Maynard truly knew God in his life. How would God - who is so pure, who cannot bear the sight of sin - view Maynard, view all that he had experienced and done?"

Her answer was swift and sure. "Through the veil of Jesus, Chris. When Jesus died on the cross He took all the sin onto Himself. And so for those who have accepted that gift, God sees them through the veil of His Son and He views them as spotless. If Maynard had accepted Him, that's how He sees Maynard."

I glanced over at her. She had stopped dusting and her body, which even that day was feeling so much pain, was standing completely upright. And her countenance shone. I saw God through the veil of her countenance, and I knew that I too was accepted by God.

Accepted by her.

Countenance moments change my life in ways large and small. I am deeply grateful for all of them.

Thank you, Reg, for yesterday. Everyday activity becomes a clarion call for worship every day.

*What Can I Do, by Paul Baloche


  1. Right now, I'm in awe at how you just took that intangible and painted it so eloquently with words. thank you for teaching me through this today.

  2. Thanks for that Karyn....
    On many occasions I played my Cornet accompanying Maynard on his Trumpet as he used the talents given to him to make music and brighten the lives of the people around him.

  3. Thanks for bringing me a little closer to God! And have a GREAT day EVERY DAY!!!!:);)
    Love, Chloe


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