Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Amazing Grace

My whole life’s dream has been to be a “professional Christian Singer/Songwriter”. That’s how I’ve phrased my dream. Since the age of 3. Just ask my parents.

A song came to mind as I was sitting outside in the quiet dark tonight at the age of 35, reflecting. “Amazing Grace”. Suddenly, my mind scaled back to a time about 7 years ago, when I was sitting at the Christian Coffee Connection in Mt. Shasta, CA. A band was playing. Some kind of really cool blues melody, though I honestly wasn’t listening, rather, hole-ing up inside of myself, as I can do so well. I felt very alone and broken. I was sipping my coffee, avoiding eye contact with people, and reflecting on all the craziness that was my life at that moment. I was newly divorced, and pregnant with a child (not my ex-husband's) who’s father had plainly informed me would not be a part of his child’s life. I’d opted against abortion due to the Holy Spirit’s leading… a story for another time, and had resolved myself to a life of unfulfilled dreams. Dreams that once included that stage and that mic and that sound system that the band was now playing on. Dreams which were dead. So I was not listening to them at all. Tuning them out. Loving the band's music, however, resenting the fact that the band represented all that I could never be.

Then there was an intermission, and I was glad. Not because the music was bad. It was a really good band, actually. I just hated the reminder of all my dreams gone awash. Then, immediately disintegrating my reverie, the lead-singer of the band was looking at me, walking off the stage, and bee-lining towards me. I turned around to see who he was looking at, but there was no one behind me. Yep, he was walking towards ME. “Hmmm.... They’ve finished their set, and I look like an easy target for conversation”, I thought. He strode up to me with confidence, and said, “Hi, my name is blah blah blah (I can’t remember), and I hear you can sing.” I stammered for a moment, then asked him, “Oh, really. From whom?” He then replied, “Well, your Aunt mentioned it to me. Then I remembered you’d sung at the ‘Day in the Son’ Festival last summer. I actually remember that performance. You had technical difficulties, but you’d never have guessed it by your poise. You are a great singer and have genuine delivery. I remember you.” I was flattered, but suddenly felt shy and embarrassed and wanted to run. I’m sure I turned 12 shades of red, as I often do, and thanked him and turned away (as I often do). He, on the other hand, was persistent. He kept trying and trying to engage me. I tried to be polite and make conversation, when he finally said, “Look, here’s my card. In addition to singing, I also own my own record label. I really think you should think about a career in Christian music. If you can come up with a portfolio and are willing to go on tour, I will sign you. You will get 50% of whatever you make in record sales and all of the profit you make in marketing. What do you think?” …..Uhhhh….. hello…. All my life dreams come true in one question!!!! Only one problem. I was 3 months pregnant! Plus, I had 2 other little babies to support too. All at once I had found myself a single mother of soon to be 3. I knew there was just no way. I demurely, and gracefully declined. I smiled sweetly and thanked him.

Next set. The band started playing again, only this time the lead singer (the one who’d cornered me earlier) stopped them to make a special request. From the stage and into the mic he said, “Monica. Hey, Monica, come sing ‘Amazing Grace’ with us. Surely you know THAT one!” … Oh, my gosh! I’m certainly used to being put on the spot by my ever-loving Pastor father, who perpetually and spontaneously makes me sing almost every time I visit his church, but seriously! Oh my gosh! I had a little 3-month preggo belly I was trying to hide, by an out-of-wedlock father who'd left me. I felt so embarrassed and ashamed, I just wanted to crawl under my table! I said "no" a million times (okay, maybe two or three), like I often do with my Pop, when he calls me to sing an impromptu special in church. Then, Finally! Mr. Religious Blues Man just let it go, and continued with his band’s amazing blues/rock rendition of “Amazing Grace”. I left that night with his offer on my mind, and his card in my wallet, which I, conveniently lost shortly thereafter.

My dreams of being a Singer/Songwriter died there that night. I knew life was taking a different turn, due to my wrong choices.

You know, somehow I am not sad anymore. I know I’ve said so many times before, “God can make beauty from ashes”. But, honestly, it is so true. Maybe my childhood dream will never come to fruition, but the heart of that dream; which is reaching out through my soul with honesty and genuine love for people (both Christian and non) is happening. It may seem an insurmountable task, but thanks to Jesus and His allowance of the many burdens I’ve endured, I can relate to many people on many levels, and am blessed by His Divine appointments. They are welcomed opportunities to minister and share God’s unconditional Love.

Maybe….. just maybe, despite all my past mistakes (including those which have turned out to be indescribable beauty from ashes), God can still reach some through me. That is my hope. No, not the way I’d planned when I was young, but hope, nonetheless. It's my desire to spread His hope in whatever way He sees fit. I really want everyone to feel loved after feeling unlovable. It's a great feeling. I know that the only reason I have any hope left in my heart is because Jesus saw through my muck and mire and loves a wretch like me. He can still use me. I've learned and grown from the past. I'm still growing. There is a reason I am here, despite broken dreams. And I'm comforted to know He still finds purpose in me. His amazing Grace astounds me.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

God's Compassion

"When we reach out to others, we share God’s compassion with them. We are His hands on earth. We can reach out and touch others by concentrating on what they are saying and not saying. We can make a difference in others’ lives by making ourselves emotionally available, by becoming vulnerable and allowing others to be vulnerable, by caring even when it costs us." (Gwen Weising)


I recently read this quote, and got all excited. I could not agree with it more!!! To hear it put so plainly and eloquently was, quite frankly, validating for me. There are people in my life who've chastised me for being so open, and chided me for seeing so many of my encounters with others as an opportunity to minister in some way. I call them "Divine Appointments" (I heard that term at a seminar once, and it stuck w/ me).

I often hear God's still, small voice telling me to give someone a hug, or a smile; a phone call, or a word of advice or encouragement; a listening ear, or sometimes a long and heartfelt email about how deeply God loves them. There are many ways and many opportunities to shed a little light in this dark world. I don't always hear, or rather listen, to His voice urging me often to jump out of my comfort zone, make myself vulnerable, and reach out to another in love. But I try very hard to be discerning and alert to His leading, and not miss these beautiful opportunities. After all, this is what life is all about... Love.

I chose not to listen to the closed-hearted, doubting, chiding voices that tell me to stop wearing my heart on my sleeve, and stop sharing my heart and baring my soul to so many. I feel it's my duty... My calling, for His Kingdom. I am aware my openness has caused me to be very vulnerable and has even opened me up to being hurt by those who didn't understand it, or took advantage of it. Yes, there have been times my "reaching out" has cost me. BUT, those were just more opportunities to grow and learn how to protect my heart while continuing to give of my heart for the purpose of spreading God's love and enlightenment. It does not mean I should shield myself, and stop being open and spiritually and emotionally generous! That'd be a slap in the face of my God, Who tells me to freely give... to love my neighbor just as much as I love my own self... to be the salt that's sprinkled about this earth, seasoning it for God's coming glory.

So my choice is to be humble about my faults, raw and real with myself and others about my awkward humanity, and accepting of God's grace and unconditional Love (which I STILL have such a hard time fathoming, though I trust and believe that it is). I choose to be, to the best of my ability, a distributor of God's compassion.

Monday, October 12, 2009

This Old Burden

Excuse me, I object.
I know You're not done yet,
But how can it be true
That I be loved by You?
It's unconditional?
I do not grasp the whole
Of how or why at all!
I feel unlovable.
I've lived my share of woes.
My word and deed, it shows
I don't always choose well.
Should I not go to Hell?
I'm sorry, it's just hard
To take You at Your word.
I'm damaged and unwhole,
Yet you cherish my soul?
With arms open so wide,
And Your heart filled with pride?
You really do love me!
Your blessings help me see
That You forgive mistakes,
As many as I make,
And find beauty in me
That I can't even see.
I've struggled years to grasp
A love that is this vast.
I'm tattered, torn and scarred,
But You see past that part.
You see the heart of me.
You long to set me free
From all my guilt and shame.
You call me out by name.
Yes, I'll stop arguing,
But God, I'll need your strength,
For I can't comprehend
A love that does not end.
I've known too much heartache.
My longing eyes can't wait
To look upon Your face
And know I'm home and safe.
I want to believe, God,
With all my mind and heart
That nothing I could do
Would make Your love untrue.
And so, I choose to trust.
It's very hard. I must
Let this old burden fall;
It's not mine, after all.