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Monday, February 23, 2009

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Stage, Pt. 4

The next day, I was studying our next passage in Esther. It's where the king calls his trusted advisor Haman (also the villain of the story) and asks how he should honor someone he delights in. Haman automatically assumes the king is talking about him and he's not. HA! It's so easy to see the arrogance when we read about someone else, isn't it? We were to look up several passages pointing out the ills of craving honor. This is the passage that stood out to me:

Whoever speaks on their own, does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth. John 7:18

How much of what was going on in my heart had to do with seeking my own glory? Was I really afraid of missing out on a position of honor and respect in someone else's eyes? Did I really want people to see what a precious gift God's infant son was to us? (The song was about the birth of Jesus.) Or, did I just want people to tell me what a gift I was? OUCH!!

As my pastor friend said, sometimes areas of sin or wrongdoing in our lives, even if it's deep in our hearts where no one else can see, can really hinder the fulfillment of our calling.  

I wish I could say that all this Bible study and soul searching and confessing and choosing courage led to a flawless performance. It didn't. I could count about 13 things wrong with each service and I had a hard time accepting any praise simply because it didn't turn out exactly how I wanted it.

But, I did it. I faced my fear and insecurity and I did it. Only God can truly judge if my heart was in the right place. In the end, He's the only one on the panel of judges that counts.

Being able to say, "I did it," is only part of the victory. The lessons I learned on my way to that stage mean a lot to me. 
  • Remembering who it is that deserves the honor. 
  • Remembering that He loves my willingness and obedience despite my insecurities. 
  • And remembering that when all is said and done, mistakes or no mistakes, God will take care of me.
Whew!  I'm worn out with all this "heart" work.  I'm headed to the stage where I'm never nervous....the shower!

P.S.  (Can you have a P.S. in a blog post?) The gal I was so envious of this summer was the first to call and tell me I did a good job and that she enjoyed it.

P.P.S.   I caught wind that my worship pastor reads this on occasion.  I know I sound like a basket case, but please ask me to sing again.  ;)


A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Stage, Pt. 3

In the meantime of all this rehearsing (my family is so sick of this song, I can't even tell you!), I'd been asked to help with the music for preschool one Sunday morning. Now THAT I can do. I turn on our very fun VBX cd and we dance and sing together. The kids love it and I love it. Here's the kicker: I asked Samantha if she wanted to help me lead music for the "babies" and guess what she said?

"No, Mama. I get stage fright in front of them."

It felt like someone took a hold of my heart and squeezed it. Of COURSE she had picked up on my rising panic. Of course she did. And I was crushed. Of all the things parents want for their children, chief of among them is NOT to pass on their own emotional baggage. Keep them far away from our own faults. "Whatever happens, don't screw up the way I did," we say. Don't do drugs, don't sleep around, don't lie to get ahead, don't literally (or figuratively) sleep through your college career. Don't be harsh or mean or sarcastic. And whatever you do, DON'T have stage fright!

With Sammie's words, I took a deep breath and became even more determined to face my fear.

Then rehearsal night came and I blew it. I cracked that one high note. My nerves totally stole my breath control at the end and my voice was trembling. I came in too soon on the tag one time and too late another time. I get so cold when I'm nervous, I keep my jacket on. I was holding onto the insides of my coat pockets so tightly that the worship pastor commented about it.

THIS was not how I wanted to come across. I didn't want people to be so distracted by my obvious nerves that they missed the point of this powerful song. And, of course, for my own prideful self, I didn't want to screw up. I got in the car and wanted to cry. Guess why I didn't? Samantha was with me and I didn't want her to see my fear.

(And, can I add that with American Idol going on right now, I feel like everyone has become an expert on how to criticize? Thanks a lot, Simon!)

So, I asked myself, "If this is really a calling, if this is a God-given gift, then why am I still so upside down?!?!"  How do I teach Samantha to face her fear, if I'm not sure how to face my own?

More tomorrow....


A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Stage, Pt. 2

So, I'd said yes to singing.  I couldn't back out.  (I let my fear do that once already a few years ago and I'm pretty sure they only let you get away with that once.) But let's say you feel like it's more than a talent and God has called you to do your "thang."  Say you're still shaky. Then what?

What we learned about Esther is that while she did what she had to do, she was NOT totally comfortable about it. Here's the paragraph the following week's study that fueled my courage:

Esther did what she needed to do, clearly the will of God, but not as one perfectly collected and confident. Do we believe that the only way to do something acceptably is to do it perfectly? Sometimes God is more aware than we are of just how much He requires of us. He knows how hard it's going to be for us. Perfectionism can be debilitating. After all, what would have happened if Esther had waited to go to the king until her hands stopped shaking and her heart stopped pounding?

I'm not suggesting we shouldn't do our best. I'm simply saying that sometimes just surviving certain tasks without falling apart IS our best and in those times God is not ashamed of our performance. He's proud of us for fighting overwhelming human emotions to do His will. God isn't interested in our stellar performance but in our hearts. He loves our willingness and obedience despite our insecurities.

Amen! So, at least in preparation to sing this song, I had a prayer to pray other than, "please don't let me screw up!"

She walked us through an exercise where we filled in our own blanks. Put our own deepest fears out there and play them out to the end. 

Let's say I did miss a note. Let's say I lost my breath control or forgot the words. What would really happen? I would get back on track with the words. I would probably sing the rest of the notes ok. The bottom line is, I would be embarrassed, which is so painful for vain people like me. I would feel like a failure. Ok. Then what? Well, then I'd go home and fix lunch for my family and still be embarrassed when I thought back on it. Ok. Then what? Well, then I'd get up on Monday and teach school or play with my kids. I'd think about it less and less. Would I be asked to sing again? Maybe. Maybe not. What would happen if I wasn't asked to sing again? I'd still sing in the pews and for my kids. What would happen if I was asked to sing again? I'd probably go through this whole cycle again and do ok again. The world would not stop.

That's the point: that the world does not stop, no matter what happens or how bad things seem.
I know my little insecurity is trivial compared to some other fears out there or what I'm apt to face in the future. Fear of your teenager not coming home one night. Fear of your spouse falling in love with someone else. Fear of dying with the latest prognosis. Fear of the physical pain of the treatment for the latest diagnosis. Fear of bankruptcy. As hard as they are, the world doesn't stop with those things either. If any of those things happen, God will still be God and He will still take care of me.

What are you afraid of? Do you think the God who raised His son from the grave won't be able to handle the one thing you're afraid of?

Powerful, huh?

I'm so weak....I was still afraid.

More tomorrow....


A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Stage

Boy, howdy, I have been worked over but good these last few weeks and my heart is pert near worn out!  My story is so long, I have to break it into several parts so as not to have you read a novel in one sitting. 

I was asked to sing again at church this past weekend.  Remember when I struggled so much last summer?  Click here if you don't. 

I said yes because I loved the song and really believed I could do it justice.  I knew about it for almost a month and the first two weeks of running through it, I felt so confident.  Then as time for rehearsal drew nearer, I started to feel a little shaky.  This note was really higher than I thought. This line takes a lot more breath control than I thought.  Is this where I hold for four counts or do I immediately repeat that line?  Are there really about 800 people at EACH service?

I've been working through Beth Moore's latest study on the book of Esther.  (If you EVER thought studying the Bible was boring, take one of her studies and you will be hooked!) The week before rehearsal I felt like she was preaching directly to me.  We looked deeper into how Esther could go from "Are you crazy?  I can't approach the King without invitation," to "I'll go. And, if I perish, I perish, " in about four verses. 

She talked about how none of us are born brave.  That if we want to face our fears, it's one difficult choice after another to do so.  No magic emotions will appear, no immediate release from a pounding heart.  It's choice after choice. It will be hard.  

Three main points were:
  1. Esther had to overcome herself in order to do what God had created her and positioned her to do.
  2. Esther faced the fear, she didn't run from it (even when it would've been understandable for her to do just that!)
  3. Esther took the courage she was offered. (Again, we're not born with it, we have to take the courage offered us.)
What she said in that lesson mirrored what a beloved worship pastor friend told me.  He said, "Sing out of your calling and not out of your talent."  

I want every time to say, "Thanks so much for thinking of me, but I just can't do it." You see, if I don't get on stage then there's nothing to criticize.  No notes to miss. No shaky voice or quirky nervous tick to bring under control.  Then Beth's words really hit home.  She added, "We can protect ourselves right out of our calling."  

Do you know your calling? Are you running from your calling for any reason? Are you meant to work with kids, but you're afraid of their parents?  Are you meant to be at home with your children, but afraid there won't be enough money for groceries?  Are you meant to be drilling wells, but are sitting behind a desk? Or, conversely, are you meant to be a leader in a corporation but hiding in the solitude of building a well?

Singing is one of the things I can do well, but I'm so afraid of screwing up, I want to protect myself.  I had to ask if God's calling on my life is more important than self-preservation. 

I'm afraid it shows the condition of my heart that the choice was not easy.

More tomorrow....


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Puritans

Can you imagine such a book title attracting my attention? My only knowledge of the Puritans is that they were a group of uptight people who took scriptures and distorted them so that there was no fun, no freedom and no peace in their daily life.  I thought they were another religious group who worried more about rules than relationships.

To begin with, it's the first in a series subtitled "An American Family Portrait."  I love series' book just whets my appetite and I always wonder what happens next. It was the last line of the brief description on the cover that made me give it a try.  

Trace this unforgettable adventure of one of America's first families of faith, the beginnings of a vibrant spiritual heritage that will span generations.

That was enough to get me to try it.  I really enjoyed it and hope you can find a copy.  A little bit of everything -- romance, adventure, intrigue and suspense.

What I learned, if this historical fiction tale is accurate in any way, is that the Puritans began out of a desire to follow the Bible more closely than what the Anglican church at the time was doing in England.  They didn't think it mattered where the communion table was railed off in church.  They didn't think reading a sermon someone wrote hundreds of years earlier necessarily spoke to the reality of the days' struggles. They felt there was power and life in the scriptures to speak to them directly, not through someone else. They wanted to follow what the Bible said and not follow the whims of the current king. (What the Puritans ended up like is a different book all together.)

I've simplified it greatly, so read the book, but I marked two passages that jumped off the page to me.  The story was all told through one young man's life.  He wanted adventure and the honor and glory of the king and the court -- like the knights of centuries before.  The first poignant moment for me came at the denouement -- the turning point of the book, when he got what he thought he wanted and it left him empty. He only recognized it as empty after he witnessed a family who had passion and love and energy in their daily lives, yet they were virtually penniless.  They had the respect of their friends and the deep loyalty of their families.  I read on page 211:

He had no cause and he knew not love.

Have you ever read anything so sad?  I felt empty for him.  Do you have a passion for what you do?  If not, MOVE ON!  You were created to fulfill a specific purpose and if you don't know what it is, please take the time to figure it out.  Live life abundantly, not without cause.  I want my children to be passionate about whatever their cause and to know genuine, selfless love.  I can't pass that onto them if I don't have it in my own life.

The next passage came a few short chapters later when his new-found love was sharing her hopes and dreams.  They were, in the context of this book, dreaming about the New World. Dreaming about it is, of course, easier than trying to build it or even coming to terms with what it is today. Here is part of what she hoped:

I dream of a place where people can speak without fear of being killed for expressing themselves. I dream of a country where honesty is the national heritage, where people spend more time amassing friends than they do amassing wealth.

That sure doesn't describe the America I know.  But that last line about amassing friends...that gets at the heart of life.   I'm honored to know a wealthy lady in town.  She drives a fantastic SUV and has a gorgeous in-ground pool in her lusciously-landscaped backyard.  If you ever hear her name brought up in a conversation, though, you don't hear people talk about the rich lady with a pool.  They talk about how sweet and generous and caring she is.  How she always smiles and has kind things to say about everyone.  She has wealth and yet the focus of her life has been amassing friends.  

A little selfish of me to desire both, I know, but if I succeed on one side alone, please let it be amassing friends.

I'm off to read the next book in the series called "The Colonists" by Jack Cavanaugh.  Read one and tell me what you think.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A-Sledding We Will Go

A few Saturdays ago, while there was still snow on the ground, Chase and I decided it was time to get out of the house for a little father-and-son time. We did a few different things while we were out, including a haircut for Chase, dropping off the recycling and the highlight of the trip – sledding behind Sherwood Oaks Christian Church. (I won't get into the one real downer of the trip ... Chase throwing a fit at Blockbuster and crying all the way home. I'm thinking it was some post-sledding fatigue.)

Sledding Saturday was such a blast. So much so that we loaded up the sled before leaving for church Sunday morning so the whole family could get in on action right after the 11 a.m. service. Here are some pictures from both days. We didn't send Ava to church in ski pants. If you look closely, you might be able to see her patent leather shoes!

Brian Signature copy

Sunday, February 8, 2009

When in Rome

I traveled to Rome, Italy recently for work. The European sales force of Cook Medical’s Aortic Intervention division was having its annual sales meeting there, and I was scheduled to give two presentations to a group of 90 or so colleagues. In all, it was a five-day trip: two travel days, one day for set up, one day for the event and a day of free time…a real whirlwind trip to and from a legendary city. Here’s a selection of pictures from the trip (top to bottom): Daniel Young, Pam and Dave Weaver, me and Phil Nowell at real Italian restaurant; the starting point (Piazza del Popolo) of the Angels & Demons tour I went on with Dave, Pam and Brittany Saturday morning; St. Peter’s Basilica; meeting room at the Sheraton Roma Hotel and Conference Center; the Coliseum; ruins within the city; me at Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Stairs.

Brian Signature copy

Thursday, February 5, 2009

I Give Up

I can't think of anything good to write, so I'm going with the 25 Random Things that's sweeping the Internet. (I'll be more surprised than anyone if I actually come up with 25.)
  1. I don't like to talk on the phone much anymore, though I could talk for hours at a time in college to my dorm mates down the hall.
  2. I was born on leap day, so I'm really only whatever 36 divided by 4 is.
  3. I'm not good at math.
  4. I plan on teaching all my children calculus.
  5. My first kiss was with a neighborhood boy named Brian.  How about that?
  6. I didn't kiss MY Brian until after we were engaged. How about THAT?
  7. I love any song that tells a great story -- which is why I lean toward country and broadway.
  8. I'd choose a third helping of meat and potatoes over dessert any day of the week.
  9. Unless dessert is homemade chocolate meringue pie.  
  10. I drank coffee all through each of my pregnancies and subsequent nursings.  
  11. My children have VERY short attention spans.  (Not really.)
  12. I wish I had a pool in the backyard with a built-in life guard.
  13. If it's not Coca-Cola Classic, then it's just not worth the carbonation at all.
  14. I have VERY weird neighbors.  (You know who you are.)
  15. I was the press secretary for the former Mayor of Bloomington. 
  16. All my best friends are exactly like my husband in their quirks and personalities.  It's very weird.
  17. I used to love deer.  
  18. I'd never been to the hospital or doctor with anything more sever than an ear infection, until I went into labor with Sam.  (There's really no good preparation, is there?)
  19. I thought Sam's labor was hard until I had Chase.
  20. I was scared to death the entire 9 months carrying Ava.
  21. I wouldn't trade them for anything on the planet.  (Well, most days, anyway.)  
  22. I love having company.
  23. I love to cook for people who love my cooking. 
  24. My children are primarily vegetarians.
  25. I can eat you under the table in BBQ ribs and hot wings. 
I'm supposed to "tag" 25 people to make their own list, but I don't know 25 people, so if you read this consider yourself tagged!


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Anyone Missing a W?

If you are, it's because Chase has stolen them all.  

He's a busy man.  He has swamwiches to eat, swecwet tunnels to build.  And, he chooses a dwiffwent movie as his fwavwite every day.

I'm sure he'll return all those "w"s unharmed soon enough.