Saturday, March 28, 2015

Give a Standing Ovation This Instant!

Sing, I cannot.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t know a great singer when I hear one.

It’s actually quite impressive how many of my good female friends could be making a living off their voices. I have one friend in particular who I’ve known just over a year now. I’d been aware of her love affair with singing because she speaks of it often. I could even vouch for her voice because we often worship together in church. But I had not known of her standing-ovation-worthy stage presence and particular gift as an opera diva until I witnessed it.

She invited me to a local talent show where she’d be one of several acts. It was an enjoyable evening showcasing many unique talents. The performers earned warm rounds of applause when they were through. But when my friend took the stage, everything shifted. The entire room froze. With only her accompanist at the piano, she began to reel the audience in with one impossible note after another. She had a glimmer in her eye and a hint of mischievousness in her presence. Her voice rang out and literally stunned the crowd. She was inspiring. She was mesmerizing. She was in her element, causing jaws to drop like dominoes.

She was absolutely phenomenal. The standing ovation proved it. I was radiating with pride; I could claim I was her friend before she became famous!

The truth is, though I spent a lot of time with her, I had not spent any time with her in this capacity – witnessing the very precious gift God has given her. And it blew me away.

I then thought about what it would be like to be with her regularly as she practiced. That is, I imagined what it would be like to be her accompanist. She would practice with my friend day in and day out, week in and week out. This woman was not moved to jump off the piano bench and join the crowd in applauding. Not because my friend didn’t earn it but because … because she was used to it. My friend’s voice, though amazing, had become a part of the accompanist’s everyday world. It didn’t diminish my friend’s gift, it just didn’t move her to the same speechless reaction the audience had.

Have you been blessed to be in relationship with someone who is completely astounding? Maybe it’s not a particular talent, but rather the many layers of their personhood that make them so unique and special. Do you fail to notice, let alone celebrate, their awesomeness on a daily basis? Have you begun to take this person for granted simply because you are their accompanist?

What if your admiration for this person wasn’t dulled by the dailyness of life? Would you faithfully stay by his/her side, at the piano, but be willing to jump into a few “standing ohs” every now and then?

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18

“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  Ephesians 5:1-2


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Saturday, March 07, 2015

Get Your Nose Out of That Book This Instant!

My love for reading was born when I was just a kid. Nancy Drew, The Babysitter’s Club, Sweet Valley High … oh, I loved them all. Summers in the library? There was no better place to spend those long, hot days. That then led to my first paid job, of course, at the public library.
There’s nothing like getting into a good book, no matter how old you are. You enter into the scenes, you fall in love with the characters. The plot takes a twist and your heart beats faster, your palms break a sweat. Or – you can admit it – if it’s a love story, your heart flip-flops when you think about the characters’ budding affection for one another. When you’re forced to put the book down and carry on with daily living, you fail to be present because you’re constantly wondering what’s going to happen next. In all, books cause you to lose yourself in another world … one that’s all in your head.
Now, get your nose out of that book and go with me to another place. In this setting, things are dark and dismal. Everything is negative and harsh. Nothing goes right, there are no breaks, and the monotony of it all repeats day after day, night after night. A sense of hopelessness permeates the stale air. You want out of the dungeon, but the fluorescent lights above the exit door are just as black as the walls caving in around you. Others try to guide you out, but they can’t. So you flounder, and you sink deeper.
What is this detestable place? It’s depression. And the non-readers among us would equate it with the plot of an engrossing, fictitious book – they would say, “It’s all in your head; it’s not reality.”
I’m not going to argue with that. Depression is a mental illness so, yes, the chemical imbalance actually literally is in your head. But I will argue with those who discount it, saying it’s not reality.
The book lovers among us know the truth – that even if the plot is fictional, the feelings I feel when I flip open to my bookmark are real. The characters may not be alive, but they make me laugh, cry, and dream. The street the protagonist is walking on may not exist, but I have a vivid experience of feeling the cobblestone through the soles of my sandals.
The life of the mind is powerful. The mind makes reality. And while a world may exist only on paper, the reader has a tangible experience. Same with those who are depressed. Reality may not be so bad, and she may have her makeup on, but in her inner world she is literally shriveling up and dying.
Have you ever known someone who is depressed and written them off, or wished they would just “get over it?” Have you ever ached when witnessing the great divide between someone’s decent circumstances and their miserable internal reality? Or maybe you have been depressed yourself and you know what I mean all too well. Did you know that physical realities and mental realities are just the same to God as His spiritual reality? Did you know that He willingly goes with you into those deep pits and sits with you, cries with you and stays with you, so you are actually never, ever alone?

“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord,
    I wait for God my Savior;
    my God will hear me.

Do not gloat over me, my enemy!
    Though I have fallen, I will rise.
Though I sit in darkness,
    the Lord will be my light.”  
Micah 7:7-8
“Answer me quickly, Lord; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit. Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.” Psalm 143:7-8


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