Sunday, October 11, 2009

When the Music Fades

The Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Word:
Wisdom 7:7-11 (King Solomon recalls his prayer for wisdom, and gives its attributes)
Psalm 90:12-17 (Fill us with your love, Lord, and we will sing for joy)
Hebrews 4:12-13 (The living word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword)
Mark 10:17-30 ("It's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle")

Some loosely connected thoughts...

A week ago, a member of my extended family posted on Facebook that she was 'trying out' for some upcoming community theater project - and when she didn't make the cut, was notably upset because she had been given the impression that everybody who shows up basically gets a part. (That's a pretty interesting thing to consider for a combined population area of nearly 200,000 people - what kind of production could be managed if everybody showed up to audition and was guaranteed a part?) Add to this some confusion on my part. Somewhere in my memory banks I get the impression that there was a fee involved to audition. I can't confirm that, or what the fee was, or if you only had to pay it if you made the cut.

Flashback, forty years ago. An impressionable child is blessed with a decent (trying to be modest here) musical talent. His limited exposure to the entertainment scene gives him the impression that he could make a career out of this.

While the landscape may look more populated these days, not much seems to have changed in the last forty years, with the possible exception of seeing more people create more opportunities to push an envelope for the proverbial fifteen minutes of fame. This in turn has more young folks thinking this is their potential future, only to find out that the chances of 'making it,' let alone big, are measured in light years.

Meanwhile, my son made his debut last week singing in the church praise team at services. He was thrilled. He had practiced for months, observed for years. Both my wife and I had spent time coaching him. My schedule between two churches (as a musician) lengthened the process - but at last he made it.

Now, he's not the type who would get past Round One on American Idol. Just the same, three people came to him after the service, encouraging him to keep up the good work. I know this - I was there. Then, Friday's mail brought a hand-written card from the pastor, addressed to my son. He was also encouraging. This is truly a breakthrough - one I hoped for but dreaded might never come.

I've seen church after church, one congregation after another, come to near begging for young people to volunteer. I can't help but wonder why there aren't more. I don't know if it's kids' busy schedules or parents who insist on their kids doing things they wouldn't do themselves. There's probably a lot more to this than I am considering at the moment; but all I see is much disappointment and anger when aiming high fails. God calls us to do big stuff, to be sure; but there's plenty to do and there's a better chance of it getting done if the target is a bit more within reach; and we're working in collaboration rather than in constant, high-stakes competition.

I am proud of my son's accomplishment. I am even more appreciative that there are people who care enough to encourage him to continue. And continue he shall - I will see to that.

Having said this, I'll turn tables just a bit. Everyone indeed has their moment to shine. However, not everyone will shine in the same thing. Don't count on me to pull a big play in a sporting event. And some, no matter how well-intended, should never be allowed to sing in public, as indicated in the video clip that follows. (Feel free to turn it off the second you've had enough...)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Let The Children Come to Me (The Adults Aren't )

The Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
World Communion Sunday
The Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi
(October 4)

The Word:
Genesis 2:18-24 (Adam's rib becomes Eve, man's 'suitable partner')
Psalm 128:1-6 (Your wife is like a fruitful vine...your children like olive plants)
Hebrews 2:9-11 (The one who consecrates and those who are consecrated have the same origin)
Mark 10:2-16 ("Whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it")

There are several threads of thought running through my head, any of which would make good starting places for reflection. I'll likely get to them before the month gets away from me. The one that seems to be sticking at the moment is the one that just connected two dots.

If there ever was a soul who continuously appeared to accept the will of God as might a child, it was Francis of Assisi (1182-1226). Perhaps the one person who is seen as a holy man by Christians and non-Christians alike; yet Francis also grasped a couple of spiritual concepts that require much reinforcement and explanation for folks like me just to wrap arms around, let alone understand.

As children we had many 'WOW!' moments. Many things were larger than life to us then. Then we experienced the challenges; the stuff we had to wade through with difficulty. Stuff from the loss of a beloved pet to trying to understand math and proper sentence structure - things that elude some but not others. And suddenly, those 'WOW' moments became fewer and further between.

As adults we try in so many complicated ways to find those moments - or should I say, create them. The more we attempt to create this, the harder it gets. Nothing seems to fit quite right.

Maybe, just maybe, it's our perception. We dream big. That's good in the world of dreams, but is a tall order translating into everyday life.

Like everyone else, Francis had moments where perception translated in an unusual way. When he was urged to "repair" the Church, his first thought was to rebuild La Portiuncula, a small church in ruins. Little did he realize what rebuilding God had in mind.

Francis ultimately founded the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscan priests), yet wept near the end of his life because the rule of poverty he had himself embraced was too harsh for those who would follow him.

In his zeal to deepen his relationship with Jesus, he saw God's hand in everything, and even referred to death as a 'sister.'

He "lived simply, so that others could simply live."

I don't know if this quote is attributed to Francis, but it certainly describes him. If we were to live more in the spirit of that quote, our perception might just snap into clearer focus. Then we would fully appreciate and live in the hope in which God has called us.

And all I can say when I consider that is...WOW.