Wednesday, October 17, 2012

On Being A Musician

Me, being a musician.
My job requires me to wear many different hats. Often, the one that is so fundamental to what I do and how I have defined myself throughout most of my life - the musician hat - gets short-circuited or even ignored. Sometimes I take for granted the fact that I can play music, and I fail to appreciate the privilege of playing.

Tonight we prepped music for Westchester in one of the shortest - and most effective - rehearsals I've ever experienced. I looked around and realized that I'd played music with three of the guys for the entire duration of my time at PCC. There's a comfort in that; not just the musical synergy that comes with knowing someone's style, but also the personal comfort that these people know me. We work together well; we've learned, over the years, to listen to one another, to fill in the gaps, to trust each individual's ability to not just play notes but make music.

Playing music in front of other people is a very vulnerable thing. Whether in a church or in a bar, it's a delicate balance. If people are listening, we often struggle with the internal challenges of wanting acceptance and affirmation and knowing that we're good enough...even when we're playing for God. You'd think it would be easier, that playing "church music" would remove those inhibitions and make things more sacred or holy or easy, but often it's quite the opposite. As worship leaders, we strive very intentionally to make it about God and not about us. We're very aware of our shortcomings and our egos. We depend on the presence of God. And yet, we're human, and we're often insecure. As Andy said when I walked out with him and Kevin tonight, "We're weird."

We are. We know it. And we're often misunderstood - by ourselves and by others - and too much in our own heads. We're sometimes easily frustrated and too hard on ourselves and too quick to judge others and too easily impacted by whether we think we're doing a good job.

We're broken.

The best musicians I know realize that they are broken. They - WE - realize that there's always going to be someone who plays better and faster. We know that no matter how great we play today, we could screw it up royally tomorrow. We know that regardless of our success as musicians, we are still messed up men and women in need of rescue. In our brokenness, we simply must do the best we can with what we've got. We work hard to honor God with skills that have often been honed by thousands of hours in practice rooms, in bedrooms and garages and lengthy rehearsals. We are diligent in improving our art and singing scales and studying videos and taking lessons and constantly, consistently trying to offer our very best to our God and our church.

The bar is high for me this week, but the grace of familiarity and trust is an undercurrent that I can ride. The hat I wear this week is the one that just says "Beth: Musician". That makes me smile. I know these people. They know me. I trust them with who I am and what I do. It's a unique configuration.

And the icing on the cake is to play for Lindsay while she sings "How He Loves", which brought us to our knees in rehearsal. And then the cherry on top of that (not to mix too many metaphors) is to play behind Kevin as he sings "Give Me Jesus".

I am Beth. I am a musician.

I am blessed.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Brokenness And Jesus

My view of Brian during the message
"You see, the truth is...I was broken.

"No..............I am broken."

I heard my pastor say these words Sunday, and my heart shook.

Actually, I heard him say them three days before, when we worked on this message and planned the service elements. I cried then. My heart shook when I heard it on Sunday, both times.

What is it about brokenness that is so moving, so emotionally compelling?

I think it is this: that we are all broken, and that to admit it comes from such a deep, vulnerable place that we are shaken to our core when that door is cracked open. Whether we watch somebody else reveal their own deepest broken parts, or are carried along in a moment of something sacred.

Reality shows give us just a taste. Is it any wonder that we are drawn to watch the lives of "real" people unfold, warts and all? We'll settle for the production values and the timed dramatic moments leading into commercials, because we get the small satisfaction of witnessing brokenness. Not our own, but something we can safely watch from a distance. We identify, because we know somehow it's in us, too; but we don't have to own it.

Every week I read the latest update of Post Secret. ( WARNING: SOME IMAGES AND / OR LANGUAGE ON POST SECRET MAY BE OFFENSIVE ) Since 2005, Frank Warren has posted secrets from random people who mail postcards displaying something that is "completely truthful and never before spoken". Each one anonymous, they are compelling and fascinating.

Each one reveals some sort of brokenness.

I received an email today that asked, "How?" How do you embrace brokenness and live into healing? How do you get to that place of being "not broken"?

I laid in bed tonight unable to sleep, thinking about brokenness and healing and the long journey of my own life. I would say that I am "not broken" - at least not so much as I was five years ago. Or a decade ago. Or twenty years ago.

And yet I am, like Brian, still broken. There are parts and places in me that will always be selfish and manipulative. I will continue to seek out my own gain. I will try to justify bad behavior. I will be lazy and waste time and resources.

I. Am. Broken.

And yet....this is a good thing. This is where all the elements of my spirit and my nature and my self and my soul intersect, this is where a spiritual life matters. This is why following Christ makes sense.

We are broken. 

We need help.


Jesus, who walked around as a man, who - by any accounts as you read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - really got people, who wasn't afraid to call us out for bad behavior, who offered grace and kindness, who loved the underdog...I think Jesus got our brokenness.

And then he was broken, not just in a figurative way, but literally.

I cannot claim to understand it all, but I know this: Accepting, understanding and admitting my brokenness is key to accepting, understanding and admitting that I need help. This is where it makes sense for me, even as it is supernatural and mysterious, as it requires faith. Jesus is that help. Jesus is our Savior - that word is so potent! For why have a savior if not to save?

I was a Christian for many years before I understood this. Oh, I knew the church words and how to behave and what verses to quote. But I didn't get it. The bottom of my life had to fall out before I got it. I think that's what it took for me, because I am selfish and manipulative and I can play a good game. I thought I had this Christian thing figured out. I believed in Jesus.

I worked at a church.

But the chickens came home to roost, and I fell flat on my face. In the muck of it all, with the taste of dirt in my mouth, I came face to face with this reality: I am broken. I need help.

These days, the solutions we jump to are Twelve Step programs; therapy; counseling. Self-help books. All good things, all things that helped me along the way as well.

But this is where Christianity has legs. This is where radical things can happen. This is where the light goes on. This is where freedom reigns. We are broken. Jesus saves us.

Sometimes, this is where it gets a little weird. Because it's supernatural. 

But this is where it's at. Accepting your brokenness is key, because you've gotta know you need something before you need it.

"Since we've compiled this long and sorry record as sinners and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we're in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. God decided on this course of action in full view of the public—to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Jesus, finally taking care of the sins he had so patiently endured. This is not only clear, but it's now—this is current history! God sets things right. He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness."  Romans 3.23-26, The Message

The cross represents Jesus...

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Submission And His Hand On My Leg

It's just cold enough for me to lean into him, my neck muscles taut as I press my chin to the top of his spine.

I can't see well; I wear my sunglasses to keep the wind off my eyes. It's dusk, and the shade is deeper behind my cheap Target aviators. Even behind the lenses, my eyes are watering.

He lets his left arm hang straight down, parallel to my leg. He clasps my ankle with his hands. I didn't think ahead and wore my imitation Sperry's, no socks. Not enough protection.

He squeezes gently, and I relax. I lean my head back and the wind hits me, hard. It's noisy and it's cold and I can't see and we're pushing sixty miles an hour down an open rode.

But his hand is on my leg, and I lean back. I close my eyes and all my senses take in are the rushing wind and the noise and the chill.

His hand is on my leg, and it's loud - so loud I don't even hear the whomp whomp whomp of the muffler over the wind. My head rests at a delicate angle, and all I feel is motion.

I let go. I relax and I lean away and I'm into the motion and the sound and I let go. In the midst of danger, twenty-four inches from pavement that would not yield were our two wheels to fail, I risk the relinquishing of control. I trust him. He controls the steering, he commands the acceleration, he maintains balance for both of us. I am only a passenger.

His hand is on my leg, steady, warm. He cannot look at me - his focus is ahead, on the road - but he reminds me that he is there. He reminds me that he's got this, that he is comfortable enough to navigate speed and balance and stopping and starting on this thousand-pound machine, all the while keeping one hand on me. Not for his balance, but to steady me.

I let go, and relax, and I feel the Spirit move in me.

And I get it. In the midst of my life and my work, in the middle of a calling that many would tell me can not be because I am not a man, in my own wrestling and questioning and all above and around the working out of my salvation with much fear and trembling, I get it.

I understand submission.

The man who navigates the chilly dusk of a Friday night steadies me. He makes a place for me to trust him. He shows me that he is trustworthy. And, of all things, in all places, this scripture becomes truth to me: "Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also should wives submit to their husbands in everything."

In a way I have never experienced before, on the back of a motorcycle, I see the image Paul painted here; the dependency and trust offered my husband as an encouragement for me to submit to Christ in the same way.  

This is not so much a thing that you can tell me I must do. This is not really a lifestyle, or a cultural norm. It is Biblical truth that comes through faith and through the power of the word and by grace. And it is positive, overflowing with the good that comes from a beautiful act of love; I cannot, for the life of me, read into these words any admonition for all that I must not do.

I am so thankful for this, the way God moves (in such mysterious ways) to invite me into submission on the back of a Harley.

With his hand on my leg.