Sunday, February 27, 2011

Happy Unendings

Yesterday two middle school girls had a sleep over at our place.  So I guess it was me that had the sleep over.  We watched a Japanese drama.  There is so much kindredness to be felt because you share a TV show with someone, it becomes a much more dramatic feeling when the show is a subtitled JDrama few others would like; even more noticeable when it's a 30 year old woman sitting down with two 13 year old girls (hilarious girls who have great sass and character!).

It's intimidating, other women tell me, to talk to teenagers.  Is it?  Most of them are just people; just younger; just sweeter (mostly); just more open hearted and tender with their words, although biting words are also used as loosely, too.  I stayed up late with two 13 year old girls, chatting about dreams and hopes and crushes and sometimes the mommy banter popped out.  But was it mommy-ish to remind them of the same things I prayed over and over and over at the same age?   I don't think it was, it was just me now, and then: The same scared little girl trying to remember her heart's priorities.

Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, 
   for everything you do flows from it.


Song of Solomon 2:7 Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.

I suppose it was mommy-ish when I told them how I had been lucky, blessed, annointed (take your pick);  to never have loved (in the ultimate romantic sense) anyone besides Husband.  (My heart had been tender to others, even hurt by others; there has been more than enough drama but it was never given away in love.  I think the girls LOVED hearing that a guarded heart doesn't mean missing out on drama, at least, I know the 13 year old me I would have been quite relieved to hear I wouldn't miss out on the tears and intensity!)  God answered those fervently prayed scriptures.  Acknowledging Him was--and is--knit into every syllable as I would sing the lines from "Come Thou Fount" that say, "Prone to Wander, Lord, I feel it; prone to leave the God I love. Here's my heart, Lord, take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above."  In the end, there is no heavier reality than the future beyond the life we're living now.  It is hard to see, it is hard to remember, but the soul is always tugging in the direction home.   

In the end, we laughed equally over each others' dramas, and ooed our pains and concerns.  I didn't give most of the conversation a second thought, which is probably why it was so easy and real: nothing was distracted with the concern: Do I awkwardly interject with grown-up wisdom?  

To my lovely friends, amazingly enough (not really amazing, is it? It's how things are meant to be), my added bit of mommy-ness experience recounting was true romance, beyond looking for Edward Cullen,or Mr. Darcy, and sudden happy endings in general.  We laughed over the quotes from hilarious fights; Toddlers mishaps, and stories of how our happy ending continues.  And I think we all needed to hear and know that there is such a thing as a sweet and simple Happy Unending. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

I Was in the Mud When You Were There (Stagefright Worship Pt. 1)

A friend recently wrote what she had been doing during Cornerstone 2000.  The year that it rained I was there, too.  Her mention of the rain brought a slew of memories I have been trying to simplify enough to make sense of.   I don't know what the meaning of this post really is.  Maybe it is just a story.  It's not written wonderfully, but it is solid enough and not terribly confusing at least.


I was wearing my favorite boots and favorite pants; standing in front of the stage of a band I don't remember.  It had rained and rained and there was a large six ft. wide/half ft. deep puddle in front of the stage.  Someone pulled me into the mud and I was mad enough to cry over my favorite boots, but then we laughed and laughed and laughed and those boots were paid for in laughter. I ran down to the lake in a parade of mudlings; laughing with my friends until they informed me they were, in fact, not my friends and didn't know me at all.  I had been running and chatting with strangers.   Looking hard at them I still couldn't distinguish them from my own friends --we were coated from head to toe.  I laughed harder.

We jumped into the lake and it was brown, rapidly thickening with mud.  I looked and looked over the water but none of my friends were there among the hundreds of other kids trying keep the mud from drying and caking.  I scrubbed my clothes and willed the mud out of the boots I was still wearing.  All day I stayed damp in my stained cargo pants and muddy hair, sitting by our camp site, rinsing my boots in the kiddie pool my brother's friend had bought, keeping an eye on the lines for the showers to go down.

I didn't even think I wanted to go the night P.O.D. played.  Was it on the same day as the mud?  I was tired, I had finally gotten a shower, my ears ached and my heart was confused from the chaos.  My big sister and I had slept in the back of our "Woody Wagon" to the sound of late night billings night after night.  Cornerstone was exhausting, and fun, and expensive.  I went to see P.O.D. anyway, it was to be an unimportant yet unforgettable night.  Sonny (lead singer for P.O.D.) gave this speech:

I wondered how he could speak in front of a crowd and remember himself; even more, how he could remember Christ in light of the crowds and yelling. Shortly after starting up the song after Sonny's speech someone  in the mosh pit was badly hurt and Sonny stopped the music to call an ambulance and call for prayer.  The nearly wild crowd fell silent.  We were all damp with sweat and water (from being sprayed with a fire hose) the night was warm.  We all stood still, in bundles of prayer and nerves.

After prayer, Sonny called for worship "Can anyone sing?" he called out.  I felt lost, couldn't Sonny sing?  Had something happened to him, too?  I'd never realized: Sonny doesn't sing.

Then, I heard my name yelled loudly, "ROLLI GROVE CAN" (Rolli Grove=Pseudonym) my dearest friend, then several other friends, scattered in front of the stage, were yelling "Rolli Grove can sing!" their voices sounding warm and excited.

I wanted to gag and ducked slightly, surely he couldn't have heard something so clearly as name. Then Sonny yelled into his mic "ROLLI GROVE? Where is she?"

"Right here" yelled my friend excitedly from behind me, his voice was sudden and loud and brilliantly clear as a bell.  I couldn't understand why he could speak that way so clearly when I could barely stand with the sudden onslaught of stage fright.  I forgot to breathe, my eyes felt crossed, I was amazed my shaking legs could even stand and I wasn't even anywhere near the stage.  I felt suddenly like I could lay down on the grass and wake in an empty field in the sunshine; pass right through that moment and keep it from happening.

The crowd ahead of me looked back and stared. They parted to create a path, like atoms cooling and condensing suddenly, making room where there had been seemingly none.  Weak-kneed, trembling, I went down the aisle of humanity, strengthened by warm hands roughly patting me on the back, assisting me the 15 feet to the stage.  Strangers linked hands and I stepped (ok, I shook and was pretty much lifted) up to the stage on a stair of enlaced hands and arms.  The stage was so so high (ok it was just five feet off the ground at the most), I thought I would fall off, it felt so narrow (It was QUITE wide, actually),  I sat down (ok, leaned the ground and gently crumpled) cross-legged on the stage floor immediately next to two boys, relieved that they shared the only handheld mic.  We sang two or three songs.  Someone gave me a mic.  It was the first time I felt worship leave me, the first time I had to say, "My heart does not feel like a fount overflowing, I feel dry and empty and afraid, God.  Please let this be an offering to you, as weak as it is."  I kept praying to be an offering because I could not feel His presence in my voice, I couldn't stop worrying whether or not my voice would crack or sound weak.  I kept wondering how any musician could ever stand before such a crowd and remain themselves, or really, forget themselves and pour out praise.  I was shaken and I wanted to cry.  "You looked like you were going to cry up there" a friend said later.  He was right.

The next day I learned there were over 27,000 attending Cornerstone that night (as for the P.O.D. concert specifically, I don't know how many, more than half that, I'm sure).  But the numbers didn't overwhelm my heart with joy.  Wouldn't a normal person be elated?  Strangers all that day approached me and said "You were amazing!  You can really sing in front of a crowd!" and "I love your voice!"  And I was grateful, but felt no relief from the distress in my heart.  The reality is: Anyone can sing in front of a crowd, truly. Whether badly or well, it is actually an easy thing to do: Stand and make noise.  However, not everyone is equipped to offer praise and utterly forget themselves in front of such a large crowd.  I'll admit I was crushed for a bit to feel I was not among those  built to praise openly; that maybe I will never earn a living doing what I felt made for: Worship in Song.  I learned the vast difference between performing a song and worshipping in song and felt I could do neither.  

John 4:21-24   21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

Worship is unearthly.  Worship is beyond what my eyes see and ears can hear.  Whether in hardship or wealth, beyond illness and health, alone or before a crowd, worship focuses not on us, but on the God who is infinitely greater than us and deserves adoration.  It focuses on unwavering Truth, it requires the essence of our being, our soul, beyond our human distractions.  Through forgetting ourselves we move on to remember Truth, ground that is so solid that our worries and distractions are blown away as loose, fine sand.  It frees us to make ourselves fools in the eyes of men 1 Corinthians 1:18: "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." because worship is an act (in any gift be it music, art, craft, or labor of heart, mind and hands) that holds meaning well beyond our own small lives.  None of this comes without the hand of God on our minds and hearts.

Still, no man is an island. We are a body of Christ;  I can't help but remember the young crowd with such a warm feeling.  For a long time that mud and that crowd was all I could remember.  Teenagers are always on the receiving end of harsh judgements, but the truth is there was worship, and kindness (unarguably true kindness), even should it be muddy and young and obnoxious by most social standards at times.  I left Illinois smiling and dreaming of the people and the mud and the lake and the sudden, unexpected kindness and warmth more than I remember the "awesome on stage experience" I had.  I am grateful that sometimes people are just lovely even in a mob, I'm sure the love of Christ helps.

Instinctively, I tried to forget that moment of fear and expand the memories of the mud and the kind crowd.  Willfully, I am now hanging on to that moment of weak offering on stage in order to remember that whatever I offer never belonged to me in the first place.  It is so much easier to give that way.