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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Keep playing

There was a little more doubt and discouragement behind my last post than maybe was apparent. I have been frustrated and confused musically lately. It occurs to me at 35 that I'm probably not going to be anything more than a mediocre keyboard player for a worship band. I'm long past that window of opportunity to study and be great musically. There have been many times lately that I've wondered if the time in the band, away from my family, unavailable for many other ministry opportunities - if that's selfish. If it's selfish for me to pursue my passion. If in my hunger to meet my need for music, I am neglecting other things. Especially if there is not a future there for me.

And yet the music will not stop. It plays louder and louder in my head, desperate to escape. It had been years since any lyrics came to go with the music, but I can sit for hours and play. Just playing my emotions - playing the depths of my soul back to God. For me it is by far the most honest form of prayer. I am most naked and vulnerable with God through the keys on the piano - much more so than any words I have ever prayed. I can't imagine life without it.

This whole workout journey actually even began as a result of me asking God about my musical future and Him saying I had not been obedient yet in the last thing (exercising) that he told me to do. So I became obedient, honestly expecting musical miracles. And still there is silence about what is next in my future.

I have realized that I have no clue what God has planned, and it may be that I retire old and gray as a first grade teacher, but at least tonight He spoke. At band practice tonight we were going through the worship set. I was playing through "Heart of Worship" when God said "don't give up. Keep playing."

I've blogged the story before of how 9 years ago I was frustrated and unable to play with chord charts instead of notes. One night after another miserable practice, I cried myself to sleep, planning to quit the worship band because I was just that inadequate. The next day, I sat down at the piano, ran my fingers across the keys, and the notes and chords and runs of "Heart of Worship" flowed freely into the air. It was a God gift. Not my ability or talent at all. I took it as a sign to just keep playing.

Now I find myself many years later still playing and exploring and finding God in my music. It was a neat moment tonight to hear God speak again that same message from many years ago. "Just keep playing."

So I have no answers, I cannot see where I am going, but it was nice to hear God reassure me that I can continue to play without guilt. It's not selfish. It's obedience. And that was good to hear.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mr. Holland's Opus

Mr. Holland's Opus struck a chord deep inside me many years ago in college when I watched it for the first time. It's the story of a musician who takes a temporary gig teaching to pay the bills. The temporary gig turns into a long term career as his son is born, a house is bought, and his son has special needs that require a private school tuition. He finds his way into becoming a master teacher, but is greatly reluctant because his greatest work lies unfinished for years on his piano.

I have seen it many times over the years, but tonight I watched it again for the first time since I have been back in the teaching profession. It was an emotional event as I found many similarities. I find myself becoming a master teacher, able to engage children and push them to levels they never dreamed existed, and yet I longingly run my fingers across my piano keys at night as I pass by... like a lover gently brushing her fingers against her lover's skin. Music runs deep within my soul. It is a hunger that I cannot explain.

I rarely sit down at my piano any more, presumably because I lack the time to do so. But in honesty, I rarely sit at my piano because the hunger becomes a fire that consumes my mind and my heart. I lose myself in the music as it twists and twirls around in my head. I forget that anyone or anything else exists.

I have recently considered that life is slipping away from me. There is much greatness that I had planned to do and achieve, and instead I find myself teaching small children to read year after year. That is greatness, I guess, just a very different life than I had ever imagined. I had pictured teaching as a temporary gig on my way to doing big things. I am waiting to see what God's plan is. Will He teach me to love what I do and allow the hunger and passion for music to lie dormant so that I am able to be content with my life, or does He plan to open up doors for something different?

So tonight I find myself teary eyed, watching Mr. Holland's Opus, wishing for what might have been, but at the same time finding the beauty in what is.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I can dance

10 years ago, unable to lift my feet to walk, I shuffled into physical therapy for my back. Three pregnancies in as many years had aggravated my scoliosis to the point where I was no longer able to move without crazy severe pain. It was the kind of pain that made childbirth feel good. Well, maybe not really, but it sure seemed that way at the time.

After studying the x-rays, and watching me attempt to twist and turn and bend, the physical therapist asked me to help set some goals for the therapy. Weeping, I said, "I just want to be able to dance in the kitchen with my babies without any pain." It was always one of my favorite things to crank the music up loud and just goof off with the kids on my tile kitchen "dance" floor. The physical therapist showed me the x-ray of my gnarled, twisted spine and with sympathetic eyes, gently chuckled. He said that I could probably learn to walk without severe pain, and lift my kids again, but I would never be able to run, mop, and most certainly never ever dance pain free.

For many seasons he was correct. With his help, I regained most of my mobility, but survived in constant, horrible, severe pain. I continued with the stretches and modifications that I learned and gradually resumed most of my normal life, with the occasional need for a muscle relaxer when my pain became more than I could bear.

Tonight as I was gyrating my way through zumba (a Latin aerobic dance class), I remembered his diagnosis and prognosis. It has been many years since I have even worried about how I am moving my back. It is true that my back is stiff and doesn't have total and complete movements, and there are several of the rolling, twisting moves that I have yet to master. It is true that when the rest of the class is doing sit ups, I flop like a beached whale because my lower back only bends to the side. It is true that I am not polished or smooth or even good at the dancing... but dancing I am. I am jumping, and leaping, and running, and lunging, and squatting, and rolling, and pumping, and well.....moving. With basically no pain at all. With no thought to whether or not the next movement will be the one that pushes me over the edge into the abyss of unbearable pain.

So tonight as I was watching myself in the mirror, I was not contemplating my size like I normally am, I was rejoicing that God chose to go the extra mile and give me my wish. My wish to be able to dance in the kitchen with my kids without pain. I would have been satisfied with just walking. But He gave me dancing.

How awesome is it that our God is like that! When all we need is to walk - but he gives us the pleasure of more. He lets us dance with absolute joy. I am glad that He is generous and allows us to experience the depths and pleasures of life and that He takes delight in us being delighted. Of course, I am talking about more than actually dancing in the kitchen. I am talking about food having flavors, and colors being vibrant, and music being lovely, and children being precious, and so much more. God gave us beauty. And tonight, I remembered to be thankful.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Abby, age 3, prayed a beautiful prayer tonight, tattling on everybody she knew.

"Dear God, please let James not put his feet on me, and please help my friends not tell lies, and please help Daniella find the secret passages (on a game?), and please help me to always go to school tomorrow, and help Daddy have a good day, and help my friend not bite Jamison, and Grace not to yell, and Alec to feel better, and..... "

On and on she went, praying sweet things for our friends and family, but also tattling to God about all the bad stuff other people have done that she could remember. It made me stop to think. What if we tattled to God about things other people were doing and asked God to make them better people? And meant it. Without malice.

But I also noticed that she didn't pray about hitting Katie, or throwing her flip flop at James. It is easier to pray for the sins of others than to confess your own sins. I am so guilty of that.

It is amazing how much I've learned about God by watching and listening to my children grown in their relationship with Him. Even tiny little Abby.

Monday Morning Update 4/18/10

Relationships. Church planting is all about relationships. Maybe traditional church should have been all about relationships, but it seemed like it was more about committee meetings and business meetings and administrative busy stuff that there was not a lot of time for relationships. I let the stuff of ministry keep me from finding time to really dig in deep into people's lives. Maybe my experience in church planting would make me a much better traditional pastor's wife now that I grasp that relationships are the key to growth in Christ.

Today I basked in relationships. I spent my day hanging out with tons of different people. Each one very unique in their personality and giftedness, and yet together we form the body of Christ. During set up, I get to hang out with the band - these are most definitely some of my favorite people. Playing worship music together creates a unique bond of friendship, and I can't help but enjoy hanging out with them.

Before and after services, I had the opportunity to visit with several people. Many of them were old friends, but many of them were brand new. I love to see and hear the excitement of first time visitors. I love to hear them say, "I always dreamed about a church like this, but did not believe one really existed." It is beautiful to hear their stories of how they ended up at The Crossroads and how God has led them on incredible journeys that made our paths intersect for worship together this morning.

After church we were invited over to visit and eat with some new friends. I love to make new friends, and I know I've said it before, but for me it holds a very special meaning of love and acceptance when people invite me into their home. I don't know why that is exactly, but it does. I guess maybe it's that universal feeling of wanting to be wanted, and needing to be needed (Oh wait, isn't that a song?) Or maybe it's that the past dies a slow painful death. Being the last chick picked in gym in school leaves me forever surprised that people would purposefully want to spend time with me. I guess being invited makes me feel valuable - wanted.

There's a lesson there. How many people are around me, waiting to be invited? Invited for a cup of coffee? Invited for a workout? Invited for movie and dinner? Invited to a concert? Invited to do a service project with me? Invited to come to church? Invited to get to know my Jesus? What if instead of assuming that if people wanted to be with me, they would initiate that contact - what if I assumed that I could make others feel valuable by inviting them into my life? What if we all lived life that way...... Asking instead of waiting to be asked, ministering instead of waiting to be ministered to, loving instead of waiting to be loved.

Well, that was a long rabbit chase. Circling back to services today at The Crossroads - yeah, it was good stuff. But my favorite part? Learning more what loving others really and truly looks like. Do I get it yet? Absolutely not. But am I learning? You bet!