This has been an extra special Advent season for me but not from the perspective of what you might initially guess from reading that statement. I’ve been the benefactor of God’s grace on so many levels this past year. The reference points are immeasurable and would require more accounting to tabulate than I have left on this earth. So I will not squander that time attempting to catalog all of 2013, but I think it may serve a purpose to at least summarize how God has been here with me; truly Emanuel (God is with us). Even at that I’m going to be relating things that are over the course of a year and musings of the year to come so this isn’t going to be a short commentary at all. (Just to let you know what you’re in for if you stay with this message)
About this time last year I felt convicted of a short coming in my walk. Yeah I was doing all the things that I ‘should’ be doing according to the numbers but, I heard that still small voice quietly prodding me to be more like the servant Jesus who provided an example to his disciples when washing their feet (John 13). I needed to also serve more than I had in the past. I needed to use those talents God has blessed me with for his glory. To hone and exercise them as best as I possibly could. I needed to step out on the water in faith with my arms out stretched and do something I’d not considered.
So, my prayer for the New Year last year was basic. Something on the order of ‘Lord, you are calling me to step it up, so use me. You have given me talents that I am not using to their potential or for your glory, help me not squander them and show me how to develop these to honor you. Finally, Lord, I’m not sure how you want me to serve you more, where, what, or even who, so I need you to guide my steps.’ I knew what I was sharing with God but it was a bit of an open ended proposition. Kind of like saying show me what you want and I will do it to the best of my ability.
I took reliance in this passage:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not depend on your own understanding. In all your ways remember him. Then he will make your paths smooth and straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIRV)
So I started taking inventory and found that perhaps the main talents I had at my disposal were vested in my writing ability, my voice, and my music. These things I offered up to the Lord then and there for him to direct as he willed; all I asked was to be clued in a little about what to do with them!
The writing: I had no real outlet (save Facebook) to place my writing and besides Facebook is not really a place for any substantial content. Short quips, pictures, and video, make up a good 95% of content if not more. So, first thing first Lord, we have to find a starting point and while I can use FB that really doesn’t seem to be the medium I should be using for serious writing. “Trust in the Lord” echoes through my mind “Do not depend on your own understanding” and then I met up with a Christian social networking site (ChristiansLikeMe.Net) where they have a blog section that seemed like an ideal way to share my writings. Sure as can be he made a path smooth and straight.
So I began looking at my daily devotional period and other things that caught my interest over the course of time and when I found something that inspired me I wrote. Now, some of what I wrote I think is a little lacking, but this was an exercise of an unused talent that was being developed as I had committed to. CLM is likely not the ultimate end of the path that God has in mind, but it is certainly been part of his plan for my heightened devotion to letting him use me.
This talent I had committed to service was/is uplifting others and based on feedback providing some inspiration to others.
The voice: Of the three things the one I have always enjoyed more than any of the rest is singing. God’s given me an ear for music but singing has always provided me an outlet for expression that has been impactful to me. And while I am finding that writing is also something that I’m enjoying as a means of expression, I will always fall back to song as that sing most thing that I cherish.
To put my voice more into service I joined up with the Praise Team at my church. This team of musicians and singers lead the majority of music in our ‘New Traditions’ worship services on Sunday mornings.
Today we had the ‘day off’ and were not required in the service and I can’t express how much I missed that today. Singing with the Praise Team has been a blessing beyond measure. Jesus said “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:30 NIV) And he wasn’t kidding! There hasn’t been one Sunday when I walked out of that worship service with heart that was floating with abundance of joy that is imparted to me as a result of this offering.
The Music: I used to write songs in my younger years. I wish that I had copies of the songs I wrote back then but I’m afraid they are long lost. As I mentioned I have an ear for music. I enjoy all kinds of different styles and presentations. I think it is natural when one enjoys music that there is a deep seated desire to create music and when I say music I mean playing instruments to produce the sound. Yes singing is music as well but it and entirely different set of talents.
My first exposure to instruments was with the piano when I was young. It didn’t last very long. I didn’t care to do the pieces that were in my work book the teacher provided me with. There was nothing fun about it. IT was worse that homework! So while I learned some basics, I managed to somehow withdraw myself from that activity. Ironically I still use that information to this day.
But from that start, was school band where we had the practice flutes (every one played the same thing), then French Horn, to percussion, and then trading in my drums for a guitar; which for the first time I blossomed in making music. Till this point I was only getting by and had not sense of mastery what so ever. And as I mentioned I played, sang, wrote and enjoyed it immensely in my high school days.
Somehow my guitar and I parted company in my twenties. If I remember correctly I sold it because some bill that had to be paid was more important to me at the time than the music.
Fast forward to this last year and over that course the guitar and keyboard came back into my life and I’ve been building up a studio in my home for working with my music that includes now not only a guitar and keyboard, but a bass, mandolin, and a ukulele. (I wouldn’t consider myself proficient on any of them at this point but progress is being made) This studio and the instruments in it now are giving me the ability to make music and layer tracks together along with vocals to begin doing some real creative things.
I have no real clear idea why I feel that I’m being lead in this direction but I am. I do know that I’m seeing improvement as I work on these things. The one thing I’ve managed to take away from the focus on music is twofold.
First, picking up the guitar again after many years of not playing of course I was rusty, but even more so I found that arthritis had infringed on ability to play. And even managing to play it I found that I could only play for a very short period of time before pain was coursing though my arm and shoulder on the left side of my body.
As a result the mandolin and the uke made it into my collection of musical instruments, to try and combat the arthritis. While I had limited success with both playing these instruments and minimizing the pain from my arthritis, I still most wanted to be playing my guitar more than any of these other instruments.
God has made that path straight again, as I’m having less and less problems with the pain and being able to play longer and longer, thus improve on my work product. I’m again blessed by the commitment I have made to this honing of a talent.
Year in summary:
The Prayer at the beginning of last year was basically here are these skills ‘use them Lord’ and use me! As I have endeavored to do that the promise that the yoke is easy and the burden is light is an understatement.
So it is in summary that I have to say that becoming more of a service to God over this last year has been rewarding beyond measure. I see God at work in my life more now than ever before. I see more joy. I see more satisfaction. I also see that God’s far from done with me, that this commitment needs to be renewed every year and I’m doing that. God, use me! Any way you see fit. Direct me in your ways. Make straight my path.
2014: What you might think would be the longest part of a topic reflective of the time past and the time to come might well be the time to come. All kinds of dreams and desires; plans and thoughts. But that’s not really the case.
No, I look to the year ahead with great anticipation in what God may have in store for me. How he intends on using me for his glory. And I am but a servant of the King and my core desire is to hear and obey his direction for me in this coming year. These things that he places before me to accomplish may be only things to influence me personally, or he may have a greater plan that these are components of. I don’t really care either way. All I care is ‘Not my will but thine Lord’. Because, it is when we are in the will of the Lord that they burdens of this world drop from us like shackles from the release prisoner. There is freedom in the service of the Lord. There is power bearing the load given to us by our master. There is pure joy walking in the light of the path that he makes for us.
Have a wonderful 2014. Make it so by being a servant of the Lord. Walking the path he sets before you. With the talents he has bestowed on you. No matter how great or small in our eyes, each ministers to God’s plan. And when we allow ourselves to be part of that plan, there is no greater peace and joy.