Monday, August 24, 2015

Melodic Massacre or Masterpiece?

I plop down into the chair next to her, the first rehearsal of the new season already well on the way. She is studying the Orchestra Handbook, slowly turning page after page.  I am trying to catch up on my morning pages even though it’s late afternoon.

The screeching cacophony grating my ears makes it hard to focus. I shake my head in futile attempt to shake off the noise.

Good grief, they sound horrible!, escapes me louder than I wanted.

The look on her face indicates that she must be unaccustomed to hearing the ugly un-sanitized truth from the mouth of complete strangers.

We are new here…  She forces a smile, but it is obvious that there is more to this unfinished sentence left hanging in mid-air between us.

Oh! That’s wonderful! I am genuinely happy to meet a new face. Welcome to MAYS.  We are so glad you are here!

But I get a sense that the same sentiment isn’t quite reciprocated.  It’s more like,

Oh, my goodness!  What have we gotten ourselves into?!!!

I lean back in my chair, breathe in and breathe out.

Don’t worry about it. It’s always like this on the first day.  They sound like a bunch of riff-raffs dragging a horse tail over some rusty wires attached to a hollow wooden box.  But they will get better. In fact, by the time the concert comes around, you won’t even recognize them, they’ll be so good. It's like turning a musical massacre into a masterpiece. 

Her eyes pop wide open,


A mixture of disbelief, hope and relief light up her face like Forth-of-July fireworks.

Now, it’s my turn to feel out-of-place. For I am rarely the one to instill hope into a seemingly hopeless situation.  

Hope is an ill-fitting coat rarely worn by this glass-half-empty grouch. 

A four-letter word rarely escaping the lips of this seasoned cynic. 

But, this time, it burst out, almost against my will, like a geyser of living water.

For I know what I’ve seen and heard.

Absolutely! I have no idea how Mrs. M does it, but she does it every time. I’ve watched her do her magic with these kids year after year after year. They start a total mess, each doing their own thing, but by the time the concert rolls around they are transformed… this screeching noise becomes soul-stirring music even Mozart would be proud of.  You’ll see it for yourself…

We try to go back - she to her Handbook and I to my notebook, but we both sense the tickles of a tiny seed germinating inside which pulls our attention towards those riff-raffs of our kids with their eyes glued on Mrs. M.

For some reason their intolerable grinding doesn’t sound half as bad after all… 

It's almost borderline decent!

That is, for the first day of the new season.

Perhaps there is hope after all.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

Monday, August 10, 2015

Decipher This!

Soooo…. how did you like your Happy Birthday card?, I ask the profound existential question, trying hard to sound casual.

It was O.K.

O.K.? Just O.K.?!!!! The fire-breathing dragon is rearing her head about to roar:

What do you mean, ‘O.K.’??? Do you realize how long it took me, first of all to find that particular card? Do you know how many ‘obnoxious stinky teenager’ so-called ‘humorous’ cards I passed over? And all the sappy bad poetry dear-son-flower-rainbow-bunny cards? And all the corn-syrup dripping religious cards I put back on the shelf until I came across THIS particular one?!!!

Do you have any idea???

But, that wasn’t all!

After I came home and you guys were in bed and I cleared out the dishes and fed the piggy and cleaned his cage, I mustered all the effort of my exhausted distracted middle-aged-mom-fraying brain and actually PERSONALIZED it. I didn’t just sign my name. I sat down and thought about you and what I want to tell you and how much I love you. And I carefully chose all those beautiful words because I meant them and spelled them out one by one in my own handwriting!

And you tell me that the card was ‘just O.K.’????

The fire-breathing dragon wants to roar all that, but the only thing that actually comes out is,

Oh. Hmmm…. Did you read it?

I scanned it.

The fire-breathing dragon raises her head again, ready to consume all in her way.  But, instead, she just raises her eyebrow:

Scanned it? You didn’t actually read it? You just scanned it.

I tried. I honestly did. No offense, Mom, but your handwriting is atrocious.  I have really hard time deciphering it.

The fire-breathing dragon lowers her head sheepishly.

I am sorry. You are right.  My handwriting IS atrocious. Would you like me to read it to you?


I breathe out, emotionally spent and physically exhausted. I clear the wrapping paper, empty cellophane bags and piles of LEGO pieces to make room for my rear end and scooch next to him.

The card is open in my hand and I hear my voice articulating those chicken-scratch scribbles on the cardstock, making each syllable real as their sound reaches our ears.  

I stumble in several spots – even I have hard time deciphering my own handwriting! I know for a fact that the words are finding their way into his heart – he is squirming a little, like we all do when we are confronted with the enormity of this real-life, I-see-you-I-really-see-YOU day-in-day-out unchangeable love.

I pause there, thinking of my own life and how often God’s message of unconditional love in Christ doesn't seem to be getting through. 

I don’t know whether His handwriting is atrocious or not, but this frequently preached and talked about message seems rather unintelligible, far removed from my daily reality. So I shrug my shoulders and dismiss it, deeming it too hard to decipher.  

He may not be an easily-offended fire-breathing dragon like me, but He’s certainly equally, if not more dogged! 

He doesn’t give up on me and you.  

He wants to make sure we get His personalized message, that we hear His carefully hand-picked words of love. He clears our clutter and makes room for Himself until His word becomes real to the point of making us squirm, making us fidget like a teenage boy, because it’s just a bit too much love and care and affection to take in.