Category: Alone

Chosen and cherished . . . are you?

Remember times on the playground when you waited on tiptoes to be chosen for a team?  Since Ifriends‘ve always been a bit sports-challenged, I was generally one of the left-overs.  I don’t remember being particularly upset about it.  It was just the way it was.  Other memories of being chosen for a desired job, or a scholarship, or a nice dinner out or other special occasion, bring a smile to my face, because I cared very much.

.I have never been chosen by anyone as a life partner, though – a husband. (Wow!  Did I just write that for all to see?)  I wanted to choose someone a number of years ago thinking we were on the same page – but he didn’t choose back.  Ouch!  That crippled my soul for a long time as I fell into the trap of “What’s wrong with me?”  It took years for God to rescue me out of that “slimy pit,” “to set my feet on a rock,” and “put a new song in my mouth.”  (Psalms 40:1-3)

Webster says of the word “cherish:”  deeply loved and valued; to treat with tenderness and affection; to nurture with care; to protect; to hold dear.  That raises a couple massive questions.

“Who do I get to cherish?” and “Who cherishes ME?”

Being cherished, in my single experience, is spending time with another in deep conversation which speaks soul to soul.  It includes things like soft touches on the arm or shoulder as you walk by someone in a group of people.  It includes hugs and friendly hand holds and warm eyes.  It includes someone you love saying your name in a caring manner.

It also includes limits when the other person is married.  “Emotional mistress” is never a term I want to apply to myself!

 In 2001, one of my brothers was very ill with liver failure.  Our every-third-year family reunion was in June, and we all gathered at another brother’s home in Iowa.  Dear Wally and my sis-in-law drove from Florida, and even though he ended up in a couple of hospitals on the way, his smiling face is etched in my mind as he helped spread joy and laughter at being together.  Even though hugging and calling each other endearing names was not something my family particularly did as I was growing up, that reunion was full of both.

In July, 2001, I traveled to China as accompanist for a community chorale, singing the Mozart Requiem and a number of American songs for very responsive and friendly audiences in Beijing, Suzhou, and Shanghai.  When I returned home, one of my first calls was to my brother who was in a Florida hospital waiting for a liver transplant.  I told Wally I loved him, and his instant words, “Thank you, sweetheart,” are as clear in my mind now as they were then.  Those words are a cherished and much treasured memory for the rest of my life as I imagine his smile in heaven now..

Of course, since my focus here in this blog is as a Christian single, I choose to go to Scripture to know the ultimate answer of Who cherishes and chooses me.

  •   * God chose us before the foundation of the earth to bless and glorify His name.  (Ephesians 1:4)
  •   * God lets His chosen ones live with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience [cherishing] for one another.  (Colossians 3:12)
  •   * God equips His chosen ones to work in faith, labor in love, and stand firm in hope.  (I Thessalonians 1:3)
  •   * The clearest earthly expression of choosing and cherishing is meant to be in marriage.
  •   * Marriage is meant to reflect Jesus’ future relationship with His chosen, the Church.  (Ephesians 5:25-33)
  •   * God’s love is everlasting and His choice is unfailing kindness.  (Jeremiah 31:3)

I confess, however, that sometimes the ultimate answer doesn’t quite seem to satisfy the “I want someone with skin on” itch.  How about you?  .

So what in the world is “good” these days?

“Good” is one of those words we use in a great variety of ways:  good day/night, good food, good girl/boy, good job, good vibes, good hair day, good sex . . . well, you get the picture.  Most of these give the idea of fulfilling and refreshing times which make you feel – well – good.

I was glancing through the TV schedule this week, and saw these movies:  “The Good Sister,” “The Good Mother, ” and “the Good Teacher.”  Hmmmmm, let’s see.  The “Good Sister” pretended to be a long-lost identical twin who seduced her husband, finally killing him, and returning to her original identity and a new life.  The “Good Mother” demonstrated Munchausen Syndrome by making her daughters ill so she could play the part of the perfect caretaker.  The “Good Teacher” seduced at least one high school student.

Now, I do understand that the point of these movies was to demonstrate the opposite of “good.”  But, too often in conduct these days, the meaning of what is “good” does get mixed into a crazy quilt of “what makes me feel good,.” but which may demonstrate the opposite.  Sometimes, having a “good” day may come from having seen someone fail which made us feel superior – or “good.”  Eating “good” food may include eating less than healthy stuff which admittedly makes us feel “good,” but which is not so beneficial for the body.  Having “good” sex may be in the context of a couple of high school students having an experience for which they are not really prepared.  But, if it feels “good” it must be OK.  Right?

What is “good” anyway?  Webster says:  “possessing desirable qualities, promoting success, welfare, or happiness; kind, benevolent, gracious, polite, and friendly; clever, skillful, adequate, sufficient, competent and sound.”

Other definitions:  “possessing moral excellence; real and actual; full and complete; honorable; unblemished.”

A man approached Jesus one day saying, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus’ first response was, “Why do you call Me good?  No one is good–except God alone.”  He didn’t define “good,” nor did he deny that this adjective actually correctly applied to Him.  He just went on to demonstrate how the goodness of God might apply to this inquirer by listing some of the 10 Commandments:  no adultery, no murder, no stealing, no false testimony, do honor father and mother.  The man said he kept all those.  Jesus then told him to sell all he had, exposing the man’s heart concerning the commandments He had not mentioned:  no coveting, no gods before God, no idols, no taking God’s name in vain, and keeping the Sabbath holy.  This very wealthy man went away sad because his real heart attitude and understanding about what is “good” was revealed for all to see. He had not kept all the Commandments after all.   (Luke 18:18-23)

Now, of course, the question I often ask myself is “What is good singleness – as opposed to what is good about singleness?  I have to admit that while I want my life to reflect the character of God, I do covet once in a while – especially when I go to a wedding and hear the words, “to love and to cherish.”  While I do not have any carved idols in my home, there are times when my wants control my thoughts and actions as strongly as if they were idols.  Frankly, there are times when I have not viewed singleness as “good” because it has not felt so good!

Well, here’s what I’ve decided.  Good singleness is based upon the unwavering belief that God is the ultimate of goodness – far beyond what I can possibly describe.  Even when I grieve over losses of what I’ve never had, or ache with the tension of unfulfilled desires, God is still good!  It is my assignment from Him to pursue contentment and joy – in the condition I find myself – for the good set before me.  Good singleness comes when I celebrate the life He gives to me.

Paige Benton writes in Singled Out by God for Good:

“His goodness is not the effect of his disposition but the essence of his person–not an attitude but an attribute. . . I am not single because I am too spiritually unstable to possibly deserve a husband, nor because I am too spiritually mature to possibly need one.  I am single because God is so abundantly good to me, because this is his best for me.”

Bulls eye – right in my gelato!

It was a very warm day in Venice, and I was enjoying a delicious cup of gelato with friends on a stone bench outside St. Mark’s Cathedral.  Our community chorale was waiting to sing a vesper service in this historic place.  I think I just had one spoonful, and suddenly – SPLAT!  One of St. Mark Square’s numerous pigeons doo dood right in my gelato!  Laughter erupted, of course, as I looked sadly at a treat never to be enjoyed.  I’ve never quite thought the same about gelato since. 🙂pigeons st mark

Pigeons had been a matter of concern at my little abode, also.  The noisy, filthy little critters built little condos on top of my porch.  They sat under the eves of my roof and splattered all over the outer walls.  Money spent to pigeon-proof my house was money well-spent.  Three-inch spikes kept them from roosting under the eaves and netting on the porch roof served to foreclose on their several-storied nests.  For several days they lined up on the edges of the front of the house when I came home from work, voicing their displeasure as they swooped en masse at me when I went out for the mail.  Finally, they accepted their fate and moved on.  I have to say, though, that I did not find the Italian cooing versions any more attractive than the Colorado ones – especially when one ruined my gelato!

Isn’t that the way with life at times?  We’re in our comfort zones, enjoying a pleasant day, and along comes something which changes the course of the whole day – perhaps the whole life.  We have a neat little plan all in place and – SPLAT!  Well, I know you have your own stories to tell, right?

I have to admit that as this Christmas approaches, I again struggle with the realization that my life has turned out differently from my plan.  My plan included husband and family and personal traditions as a result.  Well, there was just one thing which which complicated my plan.  It needed someone other than me to complete it.  Well, Mr. Other-than-me has not shown up yet.  So much for that plan. 🙁

Several years back, there was a strong trend of choosing a life-verse from the Bible.  I sort of flitted from verse to verse depending on what mood I was in, or what I thought would answer my heart’s cry.  Somehow, I never seemed to be as blessed by “my verse” as those around me.  And then, I read the story of Daniel and was riveted by the absolute commitment of him and his friends to God.  Daniel 3:17-18 tells about three men who were just about to be thrown into a blazing furnace because they refused to bow down to worship a golden idol.  Here’s what they said:  “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.  But even if He does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”  (NIV)

And then, it happened!  Don’t get me wrong.  I have absolutely no desire to be thrown into a blazing furnace.  It’s just that the words, “even if He does not,” stood out to me.  “Even if He does not deliver us from this blazing furnace, we will still trust in Him!”  It was as if God said to me:

What if you are to spend the rest of your life unmarried?  Will you still trust Me?

I’d like to be able to tell you I was like the much younger Mary in Luke 1 when the angel told her she was to be the mother of the Savior of the world.  She placed herself totally in God’s hands even though she did not totally understand the impact of the words the angel spoke to her.  (Luke 1:38)  Scripture does not record much of the day-to-day realization which grew in her heart.  My guess is that there were many tears as she daily committed herself to this incredible plan.

I certainly know it has taken an ocean of tears for me to finally accept that God has an incredible plan for me as a single woman.  Along the way, I have asked God to show me how to be a contented and joyful onesome for however long that will last.  Finally, I accept that the whys and why nots are not mine to understand – at least yet.

So, dear single friend – and any others reading this post – my prayer for you is what God said in Jeremiah 31:3 to His chosen people:

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”

May you have a joy-filled day in celebrating the birth of Emmanuel – God with us – Jesus!

Appetite, hunger, AND celibacy in singleness . . .

It’s the week after Thanksgiving, and if you are like the lion’s share of the country, you ended your Thursday with a full tummy and the thought that you wouldn’t need to eat for 3 days.  By the way, “lion’s share” is a term meaning “the most of.”  Watch any wild life documentary, and you’ve probably seen lions growling and biting and groveling for every bit of food they can get without concern for their furry family members. Of course, most of us didn’t wait 3 days, but were happy to see breakfast the next day.  Hopefully, most of us also stopped to ponder things to be thankful for in 2014.

Celibacy is often put into the same category as appetite and hunger.  Our body signals when it’s time to eat.  Our body also signals when it wants physical intimacy.  Just as hunger pangs increase the longer we do not eat, physical desire also increases when it does not receive release.  There’s just one gigantic difference.  One hunger leads to physical death if we do not eat again.  The other can lead to a variety of different places – frustration, anger, despair, or even contentment and self-control.  No matter how strong the urge,no one dies if they never express their sexuality in physical intimacy.

Not expressing sexuality in physical intimacy, however, has become a laughable, irrational, unreasonable concept to the lion’s share of the country.  And, too many of the lions are those who say they consider the Bible to be the faithful transcript of God’s mind in rules of conduct, yet they also agree that it is not reasonable – or even possible – to save physical sexual expression for marriage.  I have to admit that I have never seen a really good answer to “how does a single deal with intense sexual feelings without giving in to them?”  The church in general has opted to keep repeating, “Just don’t,” “Wait,” and “Take cold showers.”  None of these responses even begins to touch the core of the depth of desire many onesomes experience.

I admit that at times I am baffled by the lack of specific instruction in Scripture for the single person, especially the onesome in unwanted protracted singleness.  I have often read I Corinthians 7:9 with puzzlement.

  • *  KJV – If a man cannot contain, let them marry, for it is better to marry than to burn.
  • *  NIV – But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
  • *  NLT – But if they can’t control themselves, they should go ahead and marry.  It’s better to marry than to burn with lust.
  • * AMP – But if they have not self-control (restraint of their passions), they should marry.  For it is better to marry than to be aflame [with passion and tortured continually with ungratified desire].
  • * MSG – But if they can’t manage their desires and emotions, they should by all means go ahead and get married.  The difficulties of marriage are preferable by far to a sexually tortured life as a single.

A cursory reading of this verse makes it sound as if marriage was sort of like a peach on a tree available for the picking.  It speaks to the “unmarried and the widows,” so men and women were addressed alike.

But, what happens to those who “burn” with nary a future spouse in sight?

I admit to a few flames at times.  How ’bout you?

Well, this is where the whole area of self-control, restraint, and management of desires and emotions comes into the picture.

Thought and physical desire become partners.

  • *  Jesus speaks of lust and immorality beginning in the mind.  (Matthew 15:19)
  • *  Taking part in things not glorifying to our Holy God leads to sin.  (Acts 15:20)
  • *  Alcohol can lead us to drop our normal boundaries.  (Romans 13:13)
  • *  The body is meant for sexual morality.  (I Corinthians 6:13-18)
  • *  Sexual immorality is idolatry.  (Colossians 3;5)
  • *  Flee immorality!  (I Corinthians 6:18)

Are restraint and self-control feasible in terms of celibacy even in a sex-crazed society?  Absolutely!  We have to make difficult choices every day.  Why not in this area?

NIV – Titus 2:11-12   For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.  It teaches us to say “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age . . .

 

Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve . . .

. . . and don’t even get me started on Valentine’s Day!single bells

There are so many online articles about singleness and the holidays:

  • “18 reasons being single during holidays is great.”
  • “I hate to admit it, but being single during the holidays sucks.”
  • “Scared of being single during the holidays?”
  • “A single’s survival guide during the holidays.”
  • “You’re single during the holidays.  So what?”

Well, you get the message I got as I hopped around a search engine and chose titles from 166,000 possibilities.

In her book, Revelation of a Single Woman – loving the life i didn’t expect, Connally Gilliam relates a story to which a good many onesomes can relate.  She attended a thoroughly enjoyable New Year’s Eve party, and was in the midst of warm loving friends.  Then, the countdown came:  five, four, three, two, one – kiss your spouse.  Suddenly it crashed in on her that he was the odd one out in a party of an odd number.  The host eventually stopped kissing his wife to come peck her on the cheek and wish her a Happy New Year.♥♥

One of the most challenging things for me personally during holidays is that each of them signals the fact that my life has not turned out as I anticipated.  Marriage and family were always in my hopes and dreams.  Planning traditions with a spouse was always included.  The arrival of each holiday tends to chime loudly that another year has passed with no husband in sight.

Now, when I was younger, an uncle used to regularly ask me on holidays – “so when are you getting married?”  Well, as if I knew the answer to that one!  Thankfully, he stopped asking.  In fact, the last time I was asked anything resembling that question was a few years back when I was on a chorale trip to Greece.  The setting was a train on its way from Athens to Thessaloniki.  A very attractive young man from the isle of Crete sat in a seat facing me, and after a long conversation he suddenly asked me if I was married.  When I said, “no,” he looked at me intently for a few seconds and said, “There’s still time.”  I do not even remember his name, but his face remains in my mind – and my photo album – and he will never know just how I have savored those words.

Let me hasten to say that, for me, Thanksgiving and Christmas are two of the most delightful holidays I have now.  I spend 2-3 days with a brother’s family, and am totally engulfed in love and laughter with him and my sis-in-law, their two children and niece/nephew-in-laws, and a couple of great-nephews.  Participating in Christmas Eve services in my church, driving to Denver on holiday mornings and being welcomed with hugs and a steaming cup of coffee are just the beginnings of the sort of love which drives away the “what-ifs” and “if-onlies.”  We draw names, and I love being able to concentrate on what special thing to get for my name.  Even during the rare times when bad weather messes up plans, I can fall back on any number of invites.  A few times, a host of singles have gotten together to share dinner and a grab-a-gift time.  I remember one Thanksgiving when a bunch of us gathered around a very eclectic meal which included tuna casserole and chips and dip because deep snow kept the people with the turkey and dressing snowbound just a few miles away.

New Year’s Eve is not so much of a struggle for me personally these days, either.  Sometimes the evening is spent with friends, sometimes as a quiet evening at home doing cross-stitch, sipping something hot, movie watching, and hearing fireworks and hooting and hollering at midnight, and thanking God for another grace-filled year.

Now, Valentine’s Day generally brings more vulnerable and poignant memories and reminders that my life simply has not turned out as it was “supposed to.”  I no longer romanticize what I’m sure marriage might have brought to my life because I have many close friends who keep my ideas realistic even in the best of relationships.

My guess is, however, that there are many areas of relationship which are taken for granted by my married friends.  Conversations, meaningful glances, even slight touches, jokes.  Things which they would miss if they didn’t have them, but which they don’t necessarily take special notice of at the time.
Having someone to do things with spontaneously, traveling short or long, spending time doing home repairs/decorating with someone with the same vested interest, having opportunity for deep conversations, sharing spiritual values, taking care of and being cared for.  These are things which many singles long for which are just out of reach.  At least, they are certainly on my list of longed-for things which has not changed over the years.  What have changed are my responses to these things and an ever-deepening confidence that God knows and cares!

(NIV) Jeremiah 29:11-13:  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

♥♥ Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., page 12

A question for Christian singles: Is sufficient, enough?

Kalambaka, Greece monastery Picture from a 2009 trip

In my last post, I mused:  “There have been times when I have said to God, ‘You’re sufficient, but it just doesn’t feel like You are enough.'”  Please tell me I’m not the only long-term single who has thought that? 🙂

The words mean pretty much the same – yet for me they express a big difference.  Back to my friend, Noah Webster:

  • ♥ Sufficient:  Equal to the end proposed; adequate to wants; enough, ample; competent.
  • ♥ Enough:  Satisfying desire; giving contentment; adequate to meet the want; sufficient.

When it comes to God’s being sufficient, the main Bible verse has to do with the Apostle Paul’s pleading with Him to remove some sort of ailment, perhaps a problem with his eyes.  He asked God three times to heal him.  God’s reply:

  • ♥ “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (II Corinthians 12:9 – NIV)
  • The Message says:  “My grace is enough; it’s all you need.  My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

I am reminded, though, that when God created Adam, gave him the incredibly fascinating job of naming all the creatures, AND having God’s total attention as they walked the depths of Eden – that He saw there was a need in Adam’s heart which no animal could satisfy.  And, instead of filling that heart-hole with Himself, He created Eve.  As I’ve Googled© my way through a myriad of subjects, I discover that there is a common prayer for those of us who experience protracted singleness.  “If marriage is not Your plan for me, please take this desire away from me.”  For most, God in His grace and goodness does not say, “OK.”  Instead, He comes to us as He came to Paul, showing that He wants to use our vulnerability as a work of art reflecting His sufficiency and power.

Our vulnerability is like the dark outlines of a cross stitch which suddenly bring depth and definition to the crafted piece.

I’m also reminded of a set of verses read during many wedding ceremonies:

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12:  It’s better to have a partner than go it alone.  Share the work, share the wealth.  And if one falls down, the other helps, but if there’s no one to help, tough!  Two in a bed warm each other.  Alone, you shiver all night.  By yourself you’re unprotected.  With a friend you can face the worst.  Can you round up a third?  A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.  (MSG)

Most refer to God as the third strand in that marriage rope.

When I think of my life, I often see myself as one of those strands with God being the other one.  Now, that’s a good thing!  But, there’s a third strand just out of reach.  I sort of twist and turn and stretch out to reach for. . . what?  A companion; a best friend; a spouse to grow older with; a life partner; someone to care for and to care for me; someone to laugh with?  Well, you get the picture.  That third strand blowing in the wind.  And God has not filled that desire with Himself – or a husband – at least for me.

Now, God has heard this soliloquy many times – which just means that I talk to myself a lot – and He listens.  I have become very aware that He does know the tenderest desires of my heart, and rather than ignore them, He provides ways to live with them in the tension of lack of fulfillment.  His grace is indeed sufficient – and enough – even when – or more specifically, especially when it does not feel like it.

So, I live on daily, sometimes telling God that I feel like I’m doing all the work when out in the yard pulling weeds, or cleaning house, or making repairs. . . I truly appreciate having Him to talk to any moment of any day.  I’m sure my neighbors think I’m a bit dotty because I sometimes talk to myself and to Him while doing these tasks outside.  I also continue to wish there was a flesh and blood person to greet the day with and to debrief every so often in the evening over a cup of coffee, and to travel with, and to . . . Well, again, you get the picture.

He is indeed equal to providing the needs and wants of my life.  Now, I’m on my way to another refresher life experience course called “Satisfying of Desire and Giving of Contentment” inspired by Webster’s definition above.

So, where are you in all this?

Fall in love with – – – your vacuum cleaner? What???

I thought perhaps I had heard it wrong, but when I heard the advertisement a 2nd time, I realized they really were talking about falling in love with a certain maker’s vacuum cleaner.  Hmmmm.

We “fall in love,” “fall asleep,” “fall short,” “fall to pieces,” “fall in place,” and “fall apart.”  Usually, “fall” is something which happens by accident or unexpectedly.  Now, in terms of “falling in love,” most of us can understand exactly what that is without really being able to define it.  Perhaps it happens unexpectedly, but most often it is a sought after commodity.  Matters of the heart are often understood without putting words to the meaning.  But, I’m not quite sure what to say about “falling in love with a vacuum cleaner,” other than saying it takes a term which is fraught with tender, sensitive meaning and demotes it into a meaningless phrase.

“Love” is a word which is also used in a variety of ways.  We love color, food, spring, and favorite clothes.  We elevate it when we love our pets.  It becomes even more precious when we love our family and friends.  It is even more cherished when we love God with the realization that He loved us first and draws us to Himself.  And then, we “fall in love” with someone who really meshes with our souls.  The depth varies according to the number of shared interests or level of attractiveness.

So – there it is.  When I reread “we fall in love with someone who really meshes with our souls,” I realize that is a sort of given in our hearts from childhood on up.  At least for girls.  Can’t say just when guys begin thinking about having a family.  It continues to inhabit our hearts through college years and early 20s+.  For most, a significant other walks into our lives.  But, for some, it just doesn’t happen quite like we expect.  And then, if years stretch out into decades, our expectations may wither.

One of the biggest challenges for me was the decision to buy a house.  I was living in yet another apartment near a college campus, the first floor of a small house this time.  Then, one night I was awakened by loud bangs next door and my first instinct was to look out the window.  Not the smartest choice, because reality was that there was a real, live gang fight going on within yards of my apartment.  Time to find another place to live!  I called a realtor from my church and told her I wanted to look at houses mainly for my own education.  I did not think buying was anywhere near possible.  To my great surprise, I discovered that it was quite probable that monthly house payments would be less than rent would be in a less gang populated area.

And so, I took the big step thanks to an FHA loan for first-time home owners – and actually made a lower down payment than would have been necessary to buy a car!  It was not an easy step.  Buyer’s remorse set in big time at taking on the biggest debt of my lifetime.  And, buying a home in my ideal daydreams always included walking hand in hand with a husband.  Doing it on my own just didn’t seem right.  It truly felt like the close of a life chapter.

I’ve discovered, though, that through the process of dealing with things like new roofs and water in the basement – just two of the joys of home ownership – God is utterly faithful.  Somehow, funds have been available for needed repairs on a house which is almost 100 years old.  That is definitely a God-thing!.

Still, the biggest challenge I face is having to make every decision alone!

There have even been times when I have said to God, “You are sufficient, but it just doesn’t feel like You are enough.”  I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful.  It just seems that living life alone is not the ideal situation, especially when the deepest heart’s desire is to grow older with a spouse – a companion – a best friend – a lover.  Christian onesomes live with the tension of unfulfilled desires AND knowledge that God knows every nuance of our lives.  His responses just are not what we always expect, are they?

I believe that everything in our lives is meant to draw us closer to God, whether unmarried or married.  We make a choice to follow Him – or not – in every circumstance.  We “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.”  New Living Translation says it this way:  “Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.  For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.”  (Philippians 2:12-13)

Hmmmm.  Perhaps the “sufficient but not enough” idea is the seed which will blossom into another post.  What do you think?

And then, the pedals fell off ! ! !

Time to grab a cup of coffee and reminisce a bit.

In my time as Instructgrand pianoor of Music at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, I was accompanying a vocal recital for a woman named Julia who had an incredible soprano voice.  I noticed that the pedals on the grand piano were wobbling a little – and then – they fell off onto the floor with a clunk.  The rest of the concert was a bit of a challenge – and a blur.  While uncomfortable at the time I’ve chuckled over it many times over.

On a sunny – and windy – day in a different city, I was accompanying The Greeley Chorale as they sang for a summer festival in the center of a small collection of stores.  A gust of wind blew in and carried my music round and round and finally right over the top of a restaurant called Potato Brumbaugh’s – named after a character in James Michener’s book, Centennial.  “Chinga Ring Chaw” by Aaron Copland had a somewhat different accompaniment that day, but I think he would have approved under the circumstances.  Makes me smile today.

Another time as this same Chorale was singing for a July Arts Picnic outdoors, that same mischievous wind showed up again and kept turning the pages at the wrong moments.  An Arts Picnic “helper” ran up and duct taped my music to the music rack on the piano amid my frantic protests.  He totally ignored me!  Every page of music that day was ripped to shreds as I had to grab and tear at every turn.  Grrrrrrr.  Sigh.  Smile.

Same Chorale.  A winter festival concert which included groups from the community and area schools.  Chorale was on stage to sing between other acts of music and drama.  We were sequestered between numbers as the heavy curtain was drawn.  A junior high girl was to sing “O Holy Night” in front of the curtain as I accompanied her with the help of a monitor behind the closed curtain.  All was well – until the stage manager gave the order to the lighting crew:  “Cut all the lights except a spotlight on the singer.”  Everything went pitch black and a collective groan went up from me and my astonished friends.  I heard the conductor bumping into things as he groped his way to the stage manager, who was totally oblivious to what his words had brought forth.  Playing by ear was a blessed gift that night!  The audience never knew, but there are those in Chorale who still laugh with me over the “playing in the dark” incident.

A different instrument this time.  I was subbing for the church organist on a Sunday morning, and suddenly, about an octave of organ pipes decided to cipher all at once during the intro to a hymn.  (“Cipher” is the term used when organ pipes get stuck open and air flowing through them plays continuously much to the dismay of the poor organist who has no control over it.)  I felt all eyes – and ears – turn my direction.  The off switch was my next destination, but it seemed to take hours for all the air to leave those naughty pipes.  There was laughter and clapping as I made my way across the chancel to the king of instruments – the PIANO!  What can I say?  It makes me smile.

I’m nor sure why these amusing incidents have been on my mind this week.  They do serve to remind me that there are so many things which make life totally different from what was planned or expected or hoped.  And, often, they pay homage to the marvelous gift of laughter and a sense of humor – something we all benefit from, but especially good for the single who is pondering the “whys” and “whens” and “wheres” of life.

King Solomon wrote of the value of a merry heart contrasting the sharp difference in having and not having.  I’ve chosen to share the “having:”

  •      * Proverbs 15:13 – A cheerful heart brings a smile to your face. . .

  •      * Proverbs 15:15 – . . . a cheerful heart fills the day with song.

  •      * Proverbs 17:22 – A cheerful disposition is good for your health. 

Well, those are some of the amusing things in the life of an accompanist.  There are incredible moments, too, which I’ll share as they fit into more of my thoughts as a seasoned single – like the time when . . . .

Blessings to you, my friends. 😉

References all from The Message.

What Shenanigan taught me about life.

cocker spaniel puppyA number of years back, while wrestling with the tough stuff of life, I spent nine days totally alone at a cabin in the mountains.  The days were gorgeous; the nights cool; the smell of pine was refreshing; the sunsets were dazzling wonders of God’s imagination.  I’m sure the sunrises were equally as dazzling.  But, not being an “Oh boy, it’s morning.  Let’s get up at the crack of dawn” person, I didn’t see those. 🙂

One day as I was reading, I heard a soft whimper, and looked into the eyes of the most adorable tiny cocker spaniel puppy which had appeared seemingly out of nowhere.  Then, I could hear voices calling and calling for “Shenanigan.”  The cabin was in the midst of dense forest, and I knew this little fur ball had picked his way through a gigantic maze of trees and tall grass looking for adventure.  His adventure backfired, though, and now he was lost and afraid.  I tried to coax him back toward the voices calling his name.  But, he was having none of that.  I was having none of it either, since I didn’t want to get lost in a sea of trees after locating his owners.  So, we set off along the winding roads.  Poor Shenanigan was torn.  He knew he had come through the trees, and now this person was leading him away from where he had come.  After a few false starts, though, he decided to trust me and began to follow right at my heels.  It took about 20 minutes of walking to find his frantic owners, and with a little lick on my hand, he bounced back into his people’s arms.

Then, as God often does, He gently prodded me into realizing that I was much like Shenanigan.  I was wandering around in a dense emotional forest.

The job I loved as Instructor of Music at a state university had simply disappeared when spoken promise of tenure was rescinded on the last day of school with a very terse letter.  Suddenly my teaching and piano performance were not satisfactory after several years of praise.  Since their notice was so late, they gave me another year’s contract – teaching honors classes – which made no sense to me whatsoever.  No amount of questioning brought answers as to what had happened to change their minds.

A young man I dearly loved had simply walked away with a “Well, bye,” as he melted into a crowd of people, leaving me with a gaping wound in my heart.

A hurricane of broken dreams.

  • *  God, I’m totally alone.  What do I do now?  (Psalm 39:7)
  • *  God, where are You in all this?  (Psalm 63:1)
  • *  God, do You love me?  This doesn’t feel like love!  (Psalm 109:26-27)
  • *  God, both of those things were the deepest desires of my heart.  What happened?  (Psalm 37:4)

It was during this time that I discovered the relevance of the Psalms.  When I simply did not have words to pray anymore, I could pray those words aloud.  There were prayers of –

Sadness – and joy

Anger – and peace

Storm – and refuge

Confusion – and clarity

In the midst of these emotional words were constant reminders of God’s provision and care – especially when I didn’t feel it.  And, in the midst of these words were assurances that He does indeed hear the deepest heart cries.  His responses often come, though, following those times when there’s nothing around but tall trees and deep grass – or a dusty and hot, or snowy and cold wilderness.

Solomon wrote:  “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”  (Proverbs 13:12 NIV)  God and I began to have loooooooooooong conversations about the hope deferred part, begging for the longing fulfilled part.  Slowly, the truth of Paul’s New Testament words in Romans 5:1-5 began to sink into my soul.

(NASB) Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.  And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

And God’s hope does not disappoint!

During those days at the mountain cabin, I could not know there would be many fulfilling years as a professional accompanist, deep, lasting friendships, and joy in sinking deeper into God’s grace and mercy.

So, dear reader, my prayer for you is that you experience more and more of God’s hope fulfilling your deepest longings!

 

Polyfidelity??? Polymonogamy????? Polybaloney!!!!!!!

question many directionsSome time ago I watched a Dr. Phil show in which a married man loudly and boldly defended his activity with a mistress using a word, polyfidelity.  His wife of 19 years sat mostly in silence while her husband declared his love for her – and for the other woman.  He ignored the pain in his wife’s eyes which was evident to all who were watching.  He was convinced that his “faithfulness” to both these women would last a lifetime.  Dr. Phil’s marvelous comment was something to the effect of, “I have another word for polyfidelity.  It’s called cheating!”  Score one for Dr. Phil.♥

Now, polymonogamy is another oxymoronic term which has been around for several years.  Online definitions are a bit hazy.  It seems to describe someone who is convinced he/she can have multiple sexual relationships with more than one person and say they are monogamous since their attention is completely on whomever they are with at the time.  Another thought I find is that while one person in a marriage is faithful to their spouse, the other wants to have multiple partners.  The oxymoron part comes out with the prefixes, “poly” and “mono.”  “Poly” means many; “mono” means one.

Let’s see what Webster Dictionary says about fidelity, monogamy – and baloney:

  •        * Fidelity:  Adherence with faithfulness to the marriage covenant.
  •        * Monogamy:  Marriage with but one person at the same time.
  •        * Baloney:  Nonsense; foolishness.

As our society gets increasingly defiant about acting within the confines of faithfulness, we see multiplied increase of terrible body, soul, and spirit injury.  No matter how much people talk about freedom in all areas of morality, we see the same people being terribly wounded in the process.  I believe it is because in their heart of hearts, they still see value in faithfulness to one spouse.

Now, where does singleness come into this?  Let’s face it.  The general opinion and action is that singles can be as sexually active as they want with little thought to the consequences because there is no commitment – covenant – in short-term relationships.  While we see some semblance of commitment when an unmarried couple chooses to live together for a longer period of time, the avenue of escape remains if it doesn’t work out.  It’s still a tough breakiup, but there are no particular legal ramifications – unless there are children.  In that case, many of the consequences fall upon the little ones’ shoulders.

Living out life as a single Christian who practices self-control in a whole host of things is not an easy stance.  Foolishness abounds.  Temptations abound.

But God’s promises abound as well!

Hebrews 4:14-16 – Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to emphasize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.  Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (NIV)

I Corinthians 10:13 – No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (NIV)

  • *  Faithfulness as a single person is the best preparation for faithfulness in marriage.
  • *  If unmarried, there is still faithfulness to God and to one’s own person.
  • *  This does not diminish fulfilling relationships with men and women which include far more than physical intimacy.
  • *  Setting appropriate boundaries in all areas of life is important – for unmarried and married alike.

So, stand firm, my friends, whatever your life holds!  God is in charge!

♥  drphil.com – “Twisted Love”