Summertime, and the livin’ is…..

I think we get it wrong when we make all of our fresh plans at the New Year. January is cold and uninspiring. No wonder we never actually stick with any of those resolutions.

But Summer, ah summer. Summer inspires. Summer invites. Summer compels.

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F. Scott Fitgerald said it best in The Great Gatsby, “I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”

So if summer is a time of beginnings, or at least an opportunity for them, how many people can admit with me that you’ve let summers slip away from you in the past. It’s like you have all these plans; to relax, to read, to learn to play the ukelele, and then BOOM it’s September and you never really relaxed, you started 3 books but didn’t finish any of them, and as for the uke? Well, what you mostly have is excuses.   Those, and a really dusty instrument.

So before us lies this opportunity. This warm, sun glazed chance to make something new or to make something MORE.  As you meditate on that and before you read more listen to this little piece of summer.

 

 

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Duly inspired, I hope.

It’s now time to make your summer plans.   So what can lessons from a musical life plus the Word of God teach us about setting and keeping our summer plans? Here are three ‘To-Dos’ that’ll have you looking back over the summer with this Cheshire-cat grin come September.

 

1.  Write them down

In order to bullet proof your plans you need to write them down. Why? Well, the best advice-giver of all time, God himself, said writing it would make it easy to run with it.

Check this out, “The Lord answered me, ‘Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.” Why is writing it down so important? Because it will help clarify what you want to get done. It will help you START. Many times we accomplish very little because we do not have a clear focus.

  1. Get accountable

In the music world we have private teachers. On a weekly basis we are held accountable for what we’re supposed to be learning. When it comes to our spiritual and emotional life, we are much more likely to go it alone, making these goals for ourselves without anyone to ask us, “How’s it going?” or God forbid, “Did you pray today?” Whatever the goal, finding an accountability partner is key to your success. Trust me when I say accountability will not only keep you engaged, it will accelerate your performance.

  1. Don’t overplan

According to Forbes, “Many people…. make large bucket lists or attempt extreme makeovers, whether personal or professional.That’s a nice aspiration, experts say—but the average person has so many competing priorities that this type of approach is doomed to failure. Essentially, shooting for the moon can be so psychologically daunting, you end up failing to launch in the first place.”

So in the spirit of accountability and simplicity, I am picking 3 goals for this summer and I am encouraging you to do the same.  In line with this blog they are either musical or spiritual (or both). I have selected an accountability partner for each one.  If you care to read them you can find them below.  If you don’t care what I’m up to, skip that and just jump to the last paragraph.

  1. I am going to spend quality time with my spiritual mentor, an awesome woman of God in her 70’s. I’m going to ask her to talk to me on the phone weekly throughout the summer. (I hope she says yes!) For these conversations I am going to prepare questions so I can glean as much as possible from her wisdom and understanding.
  2. I’m getting real with my piano skills. It’s time to up my game specifically for church music. This will look like 20 mins a day 4 days a week.  That’s only a total of 80 minutes per week!  If I can’t do that, I should be fired from life!
  3. I am memorizing 1 bible verse per week.  My plan is to write it down on the chalk board in my kitchen and everyday erase a word.  My accountability partner for this one is my long-suffering husband.  What he doesn’t know is he’s about to get hoodwinked into memorizing with me.

So, this is me throwing down the gauntlet. It’s summer (almost). Time to begin anew, not because it’s a new year, but because it’s a fresh moment. Take this opportunity to seize these short months to propel yourself forward in your life goals and in your spiritual walk. And if you are bold enough, share them here with us.

Let’s make this a summer where the livin’ is more than easy.  Let’s make it a summer where the livin’ counts.

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s Not About Me

Maybe I’m the only one, but I’ve struggled my whole life to grasp that the universe doesn’t revolve around me.  Perhaps it is because every great movie seems to have an epic French horn solo, and because that’s my instrument I too felt like my life was epic.  I could almost hear my own movie soundtrack playing as I walked the streets of New York, living my seemingly grandiose life.

I mean, in theory I understand that I’m this infinitesimally small being living on a sphere orbiting a sun in a galaxy which is one of many galaxies, but the struggle of my self-involvedness happens in day-to-day life.  In those small moments, I’m really guilty of making it all about me.  And in the end, NEWSFLASH, it’s not.  I guess I’m in good company, since God had to say to Job, “Where were you when I Iaid the earth’s foundations?”  Clearly, we all have a propensity to lose perspective.

The more I get that, the more useful I find myself becoming.  The more I get that, the more selfless I find my actions.  The more I get that, the less offense I take when others do their thing.  So how do we cultivate a lifestyle that’s not all about us when our nature is to walk through life hearing our epic soundtrack and its swooping melodies?  Here are some tips.

1.  Give Your Day Away

GiveI’m sure your thinking, ‘What?  Give my day away?  I have to work, raise my kids, study…. I already feel like I’m giving it away and there’s nothing left for me.’  Trust me, before we give our day to anything, we need to first present it as an offering to the Father.  The thing I have found is that when I do this, I actually end up laying down the anxieties, the stresses, the concerns, the selfishness, and the fears.  In their place I pick up peace, joy, long suffering, gentleness, kindness, meekness and goodness.  I also seem to pick up this radar that helps me see the heavy load that someone else is silently carrying.  This radar helps me find opportunities to love, lift up, encourage and give.  It’s like that time in the morning is a time of refreshing, refilling and drinking deep from the fount of life.  Then, as the day pulls at me from all sides I am drawing from a deep reservoir within and I am able to meet whatever comes.

2.  Commit Yourself

commitWe are so guilty of thinking only of ourselves when faced with things that require commitment.  We’d rather not commit to being in the choir because sometimes we like our Sundays to ourselves.  We’d rather not commit to leading a small group because we aren’t that much of a people person.  We’d rather not join that club because then we’ll have to pay dues.  Here’s the thing.  When we start to consider that just our presence there each Sunday could encourage someone, that’s not pride.  That’s not making it all about you.  That, my friends, is accepting responsibility.  When we realize that committing to that weekly prayer meeting not only lifts you (because it increases your relationship with God), but it also encourages the others that pray because they see they are not alone, we begin to see a purpose in being a part of the bigger picture.  Servanthood asks first, what can I do for my God and for my fellowman, not what do I feel like doing today?

If you are like me, you will be more faithful if you commit to things.  Make vows.  Tell others.  Be accountable.  Commit yourself.  The radical, almost instantaneous growth you will see in your spiritual walk will astound you.

3. Pick Three People

pick 3What if all of us just found three.  Three disenfranchised.  Three hurting.  Three oddballs that are kind of odd like we are odd.  And I’m not talking about family here (though I know we all have lots of oddballs in our families).  I’m talking about three people in your life that are near you right now.  What if we committed to pray for them daily, reach out to them, love them unconditionally, and find little ways to pour into their lives selflessly.   What if we eventually even told them what they were to us, how we weren’t going to let them go, how we are praying for them daily, how they are significant to someone.  I think that if we did this, we could begin to change the world.  Here’s the thing though.  We’ve gotta love those three expecting nothing back.  We’ve gotta pray for those 3 relentlessly no matter whether we see quick answers or not.

Christ gave himself.  So if we are to be Christians – AKA Christ-like- we too must give ourselves.  First to him and then to others.  To me, this means laying down myself, my dreams and my plans at the foot of the cross daily.  It also means that I am asking God to change my worldview from one that sees everything through a Misty-lens to one that sees through a God-lens.  Every time we catch ourselves feeling put-upon or upset by a situation, let’s stop, look up and ask, “Is this really about me, or is there some larger picture here that I am failing to see?”  If we get in this habit, he is sure to adjust our vision and get our eyes on the things that matter and off of ourselves.

Today we are Going to Fail

My first horn teacher was named Dr. John Little.  He was a vibrant professor who radiated love for music.  Thinking of him reminds me of a great saying about teaching a friend of mine named Eric Booth coined: “80% of what you teach is who you are.”

Dr. Little was enamored with the horn and it was contagious.  His teaching studio was filled with brightly colored tacky music paraphernalia including a poster of an upside-down  French horn filled with scoops of ice-cream. Every time I walked down the stairs to the basement of Berea College’s music building for my lesson he was practicing, and every time I left he was practicing some more.   He seemed to simply love to play.

One of his favorite mantras was, “Today we are going to fail.”  I remember the first time he said that to us my dad (who sat in on my lessons) looked at him curiously.  Weren’t we paying him to help me NOT fail?

He explained, “Each time we are together we are going to push you to do something that you’ve never achieved before.  Whether it’s playing higher or lower than you’ve ever played or softer and louder than you think possible.   Whatever it is, this is a safe space in which failure must take place in order for us to succeed.”

So with this in mind, he would push me weekly to play higher and higher and when I would fall off that top note as I squeezed it out with all my might he would applaud and smile and celebrate.  Celebrate failing?  That’s exactly what he did.

What a concept!  Failure is necessary to success?  Failure is a part of the process?  Failure is to be expected, even anticipated?

In Jeremiah 8:4 the Lord says it this way:

 “…..when you stumble and fall, you get back up, and if you take a wrong road, you turn around and go back.”

He didn’t say IF we stumble and fall, he said WHEN.  So why is that such a foreign concept to us?  There is nothing in the Bible that says that once we turn towards God we are recreated into infallible creatures.   I think sometimes when we falter it makes us question everything, as if this salvation thing isn’t real because if it were we would simply and suddenly fail less.

Great hikers know that in order to scale the mountain there are times- sometimes long stretches of time- when one is traveling down rather than up as the trail winds it’s way through the passable terrain. As they scale downwards, it must feel like their target gets farther and farther out of reach, but that is not the case at all.  These ups and downs are an absolutely necessary part of the journey to the summit.

Dr. Little intuitively knew that failure was inextricably linked to success and spent our lessons teaching me to GROW from my failures rather than allow them to be debilitating experiences that ground my confidence into dust.

So what’s the life lesson here?  Let’s spend less time punishing ourselves, beating ourselves up, and belittling ourselves for life’s inevitable moments of failure.  Instead let’s take a lesson from a great teacher who said,  “Today we are GOING to fail.”   Some days we’ll fail in small ways and other days in larger ways.  The question is this: will we see these failures as opportunities to grow in ways that allow us to reach our dreams, both in life and in our walk with God?

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