The most important resolution

Pipe OrganIt’s the end of December. Christmas paper and ribbons have been torn and tossed, children are enjoying the days off from school and the workforce is thankful for the easy morning and afternoon commutes. In just 2 short days we’ll welcome another year with all the glitz and glamour normally afforded the calendar change. There will also be countless television shows dedicated to keeping those fleeting New Year’s resolutions.

This year I’ve been inspired by the song, Nearer than the Air, by Michael Gott. You can listen to the song here (go to time marker 29:46). I also encourage you to purchase his songs on iTunes or at his website (www.michaelgott.com)

“It’s like the air around me; it’s like the sunlight on my face. 

I feel the love of God surround me – I am touched by amazing grace. 

All I’ve ever wanted and all I’ve ever needed – is already there.

Closer than the sunlight – nearer than the air.”

In 2015 my resolution is to be open, receptive and to acknowledge the omnipresence of Spirit. I had an interesting prelude to this task a week or so before Christmas, but telling that story requires a little background.

Back in the Summer of 2001 I was a single mother, had just graduated from my Master’s program and was ready to settle into a reasonably-comfortable life. By “reasonably-comfortable” I mean that I was not going to have to work all day and go to school 2 nights a week and stay up til all hours writing endless research papers. I had pulled myself and my kids out of the cycle of poverty that so often consumes single mothers: we would not be statistics. I had a good job with even better prospects now with a graduate degree. And then it happened. My former husband called to let me know that he had quit his job and no more child support would be coming my way.

It doesn’t quite work like that. He was ordered to pay support for our 2 children until they graduated from high school, and in 2001, one of them had just entered high school while the other was in middle school. I knew two things: 1) he would have to pay because the state doesn’t accept phone calls in lieu of court orders, but that it could be months or even a year until we saw another check, and 2) when my student loan payments kicked in, my kids were going to suffer,…unless I did something.

High school years are expensive years. Class trips, prom, homecoming, FOOTBALL, cars & insurance… you get the picture. My oldest had a part-time job, but I still needed to supplement our monthly income until the child support debacle was worked out. I didn’t want a part-time mall job for several reasons; not the least of which being the time factor. I wanted, NEEDED to be around for my kids. I’ve always said you can almost leave an 8 year old home alone more safely than a 15 year  old,… (almost). I needed a different Plan B.

Luckily, I come from a family of church organists, and growing up I had played the piano for Sunday School, Vacation Bible School and then worked as an Organist in 2 small churches when I was married. I actually had options that paid decently and only took me out of the house on Wednesday evenings and early Sunday mornings. On Wednesdays, Grandma could keep an eye on the kids, and on Sunday mornings – no teenager I have ever met got into mischief while sleeping in. I’d be home long before they had eaten a 2nd bowl of Lucky Charms.

I was grateful for the opportunity and quickly found a number of small churches whose needs fit with my skill set and time constraints perfectly. I enjoyed the work, and loved the music. I made friends, was welcomed into church like an old member and relished the warmth that can be abundant in church families. I worked for one church for 2 years, another for 3, subbed for several churches on a quasi-permanent basis and then took another permanent position at a church closer to home. By then my kids were grown and my youngest was living off-campus while he was in college. I liked having the extra money, but I was beginning to burn out. I wasn’t feeling it like I had in the beginning, and I’ll admit I was less grateful for the opportunity than I had been.

On top of that, the church I was working for had some internal issues. The full-time pastor had “checked out” (disengaged) a long time ago as his family life was in turmoil, and a small group of members was actively trying to run him out of the church. Those who supported the  pastor were then “at war” with the anti-pastor crowd and one of the regular visiting ministers was a rabid anti-Muslim who made no bones about it from the pulpit, while suggesting that the new president was himself, “one of them”. At this point I was really “done” with the politics of the Christian church and after 2 hard years of struggling to remain quiet when I heard crazy things in the sermon, I knew I needed to leave. My decision was supported by the fact that it was getting harder and harder to get up and go on Sundays. I felt as though I was just “going through the motions” with the choir, and on Sundays. As a musician – this is ALWAYS a wake-up call to take a break. I resigned my position and left the church, saddened by where it had all gone wrong for me, and for that church.

The other day I was driving past the church and I guess I was in a fairly negative frame of mind, because I started to beat myself up:

“Who did you think you were, trying to pretend to be a church organist? You can’t hold a candle to {current music director] or most music directors for that matter – you weren’t there for the right reasons and EVERYONE KNOWS IT,…”  and so on. I was beating myself up pretty good and I felt awful. To make  matters worse, some things in other related areas of my life weren’t working out as I had hoped, so I was really questioning my ability to do anything right.

By the time I got home that day, I was crying. I was frustrated, and I felt like a large portion of my life had been a huge mess, punctuated with bad decisions and short-term fixes that caused more problems than they solved. I grabbed the mail, shut the front door and sank into the couch with a sigh. I had received a few cards; one of them – interestingly – from a woman I knew from this same church. She had been in the choir and like others there, I had remained in contact with her and her family. She signed the card and included the following note at the bottom.

I just wanted to let you know that in all my years in the choir, I enjoyed singing for you most of all. You always made it meaningful and fun. I hope all is well with you and your family.

It’s hard to explain to non-spiritual people how this stuff works, but just as Michael Gott explains in his song (above),…”closer than the sunlight, nearer than the air” I knew in that instant that I was not a miserable failure and my time with that church had not been the abysmal mess I remembered it to be. I had done SOMETHING right – maybe even a couple of “somethings”…

 And so it is with Spirit – quietly nudging us when we are not expecting it. Gently awakening the Divine within to acknowledge our worth; to remind us to be still and know that we are Good.

I’m still no concert organist, world-class choral director, or Music Minister extraordinaire. I Am someone who loves music, cared for the members of my choir, and the musical desires and needs of my congregations; I worked to bring music that touched peoples’ hearts and resonated in their souls each week. So, in 2015 instead of succumbing to frustration, feelings of failure and other negative emotions, I will remember that the power in the Universe that breathed life into me (and you), that warms the earth after long Winters and lays crystal snowflakes on the eyelashes of small children, has not abandoned me. It never left. It is omnipresence; the ever-present Good; the Alpha & Omega that is closer than the sunlight,…nearer than the air.

And so It is.

gregorian

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