Friday, December 30, 2011

Welcome Words

In my line of work, I have learned not to depend too heavily on individual feedback.  Rather, I try to rely on my personal satisfaction with a job well done.  As a Christian, I know that my validation comes from my Heavenly Father and His pleasure in me.  However, it's nice to receive some positive affirmation from people from time to time as well.  I have received two such affirmations in the past two days that were unexpected, unsolicited, and healing.

The first was a voice mail message from a fellow musician that I have avoided for years.  While I greatly respect his insight, skill, and talent, our personalities do not compliment each other at all.  Because of this personality clash, I have avoided working with him for several years and even turned down a position a few years ago in order to not have to report directly to him.   While I recognized that there was much I could learn from this individual, I was not willing to subject myself to what I perceived as his unchecked anger and relentless criticism.  

You can imagine my surprise when I received a call from this man yesterday morning offering me an opportunity to work with him on an upcoming project.  It was a last minute need and he even stated that he was "scrambling to fill the slot."  I wondered if that was his way of acknowledging that I could learn it quickly or his way of saying that he had no other option at the moment, but I decided to see the positive in the fact that my name even came to mind.  Due to prior plans and commitments, I am not able to participate this time -- to both my relief and my chagrin.  It would have been interesting to see if time has changed things and we might be able to work together, but I really did not want to walk into a potentially stressful situation.

The second affirmation was just as unexpected, but so touching.  My boss needed to pass some work on to me.  When sending the file, he attached a comment thanking me for my work with him over the years.  The cynic in me wondered if I was being let go as I read the email;  once I tossed that thought aside, I was reminded of how powerful a simple comment can be in someone's day.  I received this comment on my way out the door and found myself suddenly energized and ready to work full steam ahead.  It was just the energy boost I needed.  And the thought that is running through my mind now.......who can I give some affirmation that will give them a little boost to accomplish more than they thought possible?  

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Painful Stumble

Yesterday morning, I was helping my sister with some chores around her apartment and watched her lose her footing on the bottom step, taking a hard tumble to the ground. Having already experienced knee pains earlier in the week, Sis was obviously in pain as she suffered a blow to her knee.  As I watched her fall, everything seemed to happen in slow motion and I was completely helpless.  She was carrying a few things down the stairs;  if I tried to break her fall, I was afraid that I would either be taken down with her or cause her to hit her head on the metal railing.  Thankfully nothing appears to have been broken although she is extremely sore today and has abrasions on her knee and foot.

As I went through the rest of the day yesterday, I kept returning to her fall and her immediate response.  After the fall, my sister was extremely short-tempered with all of us who were trying to offer help.  She was focused on a singular issue:  nursing her wounds and putting the situation behind her.  (For the record, I don't think her reaction was any different from what mine probably would have been if I had been the one who fell.  If we're honest with ourselves, few of us handle painful situations with grace and dignity.)

For the past several weeks, I have been studying the book of James in my personal Bible study.  While I was focusing on my sister's reaction, I was reminded of James 3:2:  "We all stumble in many ways."  Falling is just as painful spiritually as it is physically.  Let's look at a few spiritual truths we can learn from the scene I witnessed yesterday.

  • Falls are embarrassing.  No matter how little damage was done to our body, the fact that someone saw our stumble makes matters worse.  As people who strive to display grace and maturity, we feel like an idiot incapable of simply getting through the routines of life.  We don't think in the moment that everyone else has experienced similar situations;  we are focused solely on our humiliation. 
  • Embarrassment leads to anger.  Those who witness our fall are rarely laughing at us -- especially when those who see it are members of the family of God.  As they attempt to minister healing and help to our pain, we push them away and lash out at them in anger.  Once again, our pride gets in the way of accepting the offer of help.  When my sister fell, it was important for her to stand on her own despite her pain;  many spiritually wounded men and women who have suffered a fall limp along in the hope that no one will truly see their pain or call attention to the problem.
  • Falls result in wounds.  As much as we would like to deny it, our tumbles result in wounded spirits that need attention.  We would rather attempt to treat the problem privately rather than allowing others to see our affliction and offer support, assistance, and ministry.
  • The pain continues beyond the stumble.  Each time we fall, there is pain.  While we often choose to get up, brush ourselves off, and walk on, too often we ignore the fact that the pain will not end until we apply a healing salve to the wounds.  It is when we stop, admit our pain, and allow the healing Balm of Gilead to be applied to our wounds that healing can truly begin.  Thankfully, healing for our spiritual wounds can be complete and we can be restored to full health again.
Are you hurting over a stumble in your own life?  Regardless of how long the pain has been present, there is healing for your wounds in Jesus' name.  Find comfort for your pain today in Him.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Another Christmas Celebration Done

Once again, I am proud to say that the Freeman family has survived another joyful celebration of the Christmas season here in Arkansas.  While some may have thought the festivities were rather stressful with all the cooking, planning, and preparation that has gone on here, it was actually really a lot of fun!  We were blessed to have all the members of my family here together to eat, laugh, and talk this afternoon.  The table was filled as normal and love was overflowing.

Many gifts were exchanged and we are all grateful for the thoughtful things we received.  The best gift of the year came earlier in the week and was especially wonderful for my sister and her two daughters.  After several years of misery, my sister's ex-husband has finally decided to leave the greater Memphis area!  There was definitely a loud cry of rejoicing when we finally got the news. My prayer is that their lives will now blossom in greater ways now that the tyranny and frustration has been removed from their daily lives.

I loved watching loved ones opening gifts selected just for them.  The laughter as Mom and daughter realized they both received Keurig coffeemakers was infectious.  I especially enjoyed sitting next to Jacqs as we shared discoveries about our newest toys:  our iPads!  (Jacqs' was a gift from her husband; mine was a gift to myself.  Ah, the life of a single man!)  

As I thought through the beauty of the day, I was keenly aware of the many friends who are so dear to me that I would love to celebrate the holiday with.  Don't get me wrong, I love my family and would never trade an opportunity to be with them on Christmas.  However, I have another family made over the years at my beloved Pepperdine.  From those men who shared apartments with me to those I have made music with and those guys with whom I have served the community, I am truly blessed among the blessed.  Even when we haven't spoken in recent times, the Pepperdine family is always close to my heart and will not soon depart.  So as this Christmas celebration of 2011 comes to an end, I simply must tell you all -- those who are near and far -- that I wish you the merriest of Christmases and look forward to making new memories with you all in the year to come.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Where in the World Have You Been?

Now that school is out for the Christmas holidays and my world has finally slowed down a bit, I began to reflect upon the past several months and sadly realized that I had not been blogging AT ALL!  I was frustrated that I had let another project fall by the wayside again, but thought that no one had actually noticed.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was wrong when a friend gently asked last week why I had stopped writing.  That became encouragement to get back at it and provide some explanation of what has occurred that hindered my writing.

In August, I was thrilled to hear of an adjunct position at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee as staff pianist.  I applied for the position and was honored to be hired.  What I imagined would be a slow start at a new job turned out to be a baptism by fire into the music department.  I'm loving it and wouldn't have it any other way.  Last semester, I played for 17 voice students each week while maintaining my own private piano students, my teaching at MSCC, and the church job.  Needless to say, my schedule became more hectic and I found myself having to let some things go.

One of the first things to hit the skids was my writing.  The addition of driving another 150 miles each week and needing to find more practice time simply meant that blogging was not an option.  I had to play catch up a bit -- learning new repertoire and figuring out how things were going to work at Union.  As the semester went on, I discovered that 2 of my private lessons each week were becoming a source of extreme stress.  These students were unable to come to the church where I am basing my studio teaching and opted to have me visit them in their home (for an additional charge, of course).  Suddenly I found myself at the mercy of their schedules as well as the challenge of getting to their house on time for a single lesson.  Since neither of the students were progressing as well as I had hoped, I determined that these students were not providing me with musical rewards and that the income from these lessons was not enough to justify the scheduling dilemma they presented.  With some sadness, I notified the students that I would no longer be able to teach them.  This was more difficult than I had imagined since they represented some of the first students I had taught in my piano studio.

Now you know where I've been and why my presence in the blogosphere has been missing.  I intend to begin writing again and sharing with anyone that wants to read it, but I don't anticipate as many posts as I have written in the past.  My plan is for one post a week on each of the blogs.  When time and inspiration allows, I'll do more.  I hope you are as excited to have me back in your world as I am to be back.