A Bubble Bursts

As a child I listened to my grandfather playing on his baby grand piano, and I thought, “I wish I could do that.”  I would look at the musical score and tried to figure out what it meant, but all I could understand were the letters ‘m’, ‘p’ and ‘f’.  Were they notes on the piano somewhere?  I tried to play them but it didn’t sound anything like my grandfather’s playing.

Then when I was seven my parents sent me to piano lessons.  The written music started to make sense.  This was something I loved to do, and I never had to be told to practise.  Unfortunately after about six months of lessons we moved and the lessons stopped.  Playing the piano became a dream once more.  I had to wait until I was nearly 12 before starting lessons with another teacher.  During the waiting time I borrowed other people’s piano books and figured out quite a lot on my own.  A piano teacher, who I hoped would teach me, frowned disapprovingly when I told her this, saying, “You’ll be picking up bad habits.”  Perhaps I was, but music was already an important part of me.

Once I started lessons again I worked hard, but was never a prodigy, just an above average amateur.  I played in church for the first time when I was 14.  At first I would have to practise for weeks before I could accompany the congregation.  I spent hours playing all the songs in the book so that I would be ready whenever I was needed.  I learned how to play using chords and later on, how to play by ear.

There were always others who were better than I was – one of my classmates who had started learning earlier, a younger girl who had learned using the Suzuki method, someone else who played the same pieces that I did, but so much faster.  There was an ugly envy in me.

I tried to get into the performance programme at university, but my application was declined.  I hardly talked about it afterwards, because I was so embarrassed that I had even tried.  I stopped playing anything challenging for a long time after that.

My husband and I met over a piano keyboard.  He was playing in church.  I didn’t know anyone, so I thought I’d talk to him.  I didn’t think much of him at that first meeting, but fortunately he was more impressed than I was.  🙂  Our first ‘date’ was playing duets.  We play at approximately the same level, albeit with different strengths.  It is in keeping with God’s beautiful design in bringing us together – ‘oak and ash in a dove-tail joint’.

When I was in my early thirties I decided to have piano lessons again, as I had never done any exams, and wanted to be able to teach piano.  Over the next few years I played lots of Beethoven and Bach, and was introduced to Scarlatti and Brahms, and learnt about cadences and what a second inversion meant (“Drama!” my teacher said).  It took a few years, because I had our fourth child during that time, as well as homeschooling, but finally I was able to sit the ATCL performance exam, and passed, at the ripe old age of 35.

Pierre-Auguste_Renoir_031

But I’m still only an above average amateur, and I still struggle with pride and envy.  I realised that last week when someone at church commented that she missed hearing my husband playing, as she had heard me playing more often.  She commented about his style being different from mine, and how he was ‘very accurate’.  The ugly green-eyed monster hadn’t died yet.  I was hurt and put out.  Something important to me was under attack.  Thankfully we sorted it out the same day, and she realised she had been making some wrong assumptions (she thought that I had been stopping him from playing, when I hadn’t).

But I got to thinking about how I had reacted.  The only thing that was hurting was my pride, and that didn’t deserve to live.  I had been congratulating myself on my excellent musical renditions, and someone had come with a sharp pin and *pop* burst my bubble.  And I was reminded of these words (the paraphrasing is mine):

“If I play the sonatas of Beethoven by memory, perform Bach with breathtaking accuracy, and my fingers fly like swallows over the keyboard, but I have not love, then I am only a sounding gong or a clashing cymbal….I am out of tune and they are only notes, worth nothing.”

Conversely, when I play with love and without pride, it doesn’t matter if my fingers trip up or I miss some notes.  My Father in Heaven loves to listen anyway.  🙂

Dealing with my own distortions…

I want to reblog this post because it is a powerful reminder of how mixed up our thoughts can be. I know God’s still working on me and transforming my thinking.

In My Father's House

Distorted_Mel2 In my last post (“Dealing with our distortions of God”), I attempted to lay a foundation about our distorted view of God and how that effects our relationship with Him and how we see ourselves and others. Now, I would like to  share what I have discovered over the years about my own personal distortions. I will also confess here that I didn’t realize that most of these were distortions before this discovery. Like you, I thought they were normal. I didn’t know what I didn’t know…Okay, here’s a few to start with…

My distortions about God:

I thought that God was still angry at sinners…
I thought Jesus was the merciful, graceful, loving, approachable friend who had to hold back a distant, too lofty, angry, wrathful Father from striking us all down because He couldn’t stand to look at us without His “Jesus glasses” on…

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Consider Your Ways – A post for the new year

One of the elders at our church presented the following questions to us this morning to help us reflect on our direction and how we can seek the Kingdom first.   He also read from Haggai 1, where God warns the people of Jerusalem that they cannot expect His blessing, because they are building their own comfortable homes when His temple lies in ruins.  The application for us is not necessarily to build beautiful churches for God, but to see that we are His temple.  Are we putting Him and His agenda ahead of our own comforts?  My answers follow the questions below:

1. What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?

2. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?

3. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?

4. What is the most helpful way you could strengthen your church?

5. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?

6. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?

7. What’s the most important need you feel burdened to meet this year?

8. What’s one new way you could be a blessing to your church family this year?

9. What’s one thing you could do this year to enrich the spiritual legacy you will leave your children or grandchildren?

10. To what need or ministry will you try to give generously this year?

My answers:

Heavenly Father, guide me as I consider these questions.  I don’t want to just make resolutions and try to change myself in my own strength.  May I walk by the Spirit and delight to do Your will.

1. How can I enjoy God more?

Sometimes it’s easy to praise Him and rejoice in Him; other days I am overwhelmed or grumpy and the praises don’t flow.  Father teach me to praise You and rejoice in You always, because You are worthy.

2. How can I improve my family life?

Be present when I’m present!  Enjoy my children and my husband and give them my affection and time.

3. What is the biggest time-waster?

For me it is the internet and computer (though of course I’m not wasting time right now…).  This is also related to no. 2 above.  I can ask God, “Is this what You would have me do right now?  How do You want me to use this time?”  I was recently at the swimming pool with my 5-year-old daughter, talking to God about something else, and then the thought came to me, “Play with her; enjoy her.”  So even though it’s really hard for me to play, because I seem to have lost the knack, I put the effort into interacting with my daughter in a playful way, helping her to float, playing catch, swooshing her through the air like a dolphin, and doing things I used to enjoy when I was a child at the pool.  It was great to see how her eyes lit up, and we enjoyed being together.

4. How can I help strengthen the church?

At the moment God is calling me to pray regularly for the church we attend and each person in our congregation.  I am sure He will reveal more as His plan unfolds.  I have lots of ideas but am not sure they are His plans.

5.  Whose salvation will I pray for this year?

I’m praying for lots of people, but one family in particular stands out at this time.  I have been praying for them at least once a week.  I could increase that to daily prayer.

6. How can I improve my prayer life?

It’s improved vastly over the last few weeks as I have been making it a priority over Bible reading.  I pray in the morning and read the Bible later in the day, usually in the afternoon or before bed.  I can also pray when I’m driving and when out walking by myself.  Making prayer a priority first thing in the morning seems to have made a huge difference.  When my husband wakes up early in the morning (6 am) to go to work, I can wake up at the same time and pray then.

7. What’s the most important need you feel burdened to meet this year?

I’m very disturbed and burdened by the problems of child abuse and exploitative materials that are being distributed on the internet.  I don’t know how I can help with these needs except to pray, and to support ministries like Hagar and Open Home Foundation.  I’m praying that God will expose those who are abusing children and producing porn; for the removal of corrupt officials and that police will not take bribes to turn a blind eye;  that children who are being abused will find help and safe and loving homes, and healing through Jesus Christ; for those that are addicted that they will find help to overcome it.

8. How can I bless my church family?

I can bless them by being faithful in praying for them, and encouraging them in other ways.  This year I will be helping in the children’s ministry and with music.  I will try to build relationships outside our Sunday meetings by having church members round for meals at our home, and by visiting those who are housebound.

9. What can I do to enrich the spiritual legacy I will leave my children?

Continue with our Bible memory programme, and spend time with the children one-on-one, praying and reading God’s word together.  Continue to point them to Him as the source of all goodness and life.

10. To what need or ministry will I try to give generously this year?

We’re giving to quite a few different ministries.  The one that stands out for me most is Asia Harvest’s China Bibles Fund.  This is a very cost-effective way of helping the kingdom of God to grow.  I would also like to support Hagar.