Thursday, August 12, 2010

Swinging for the fences

I've been going through a period of second-guessing and self-doubt. It's what has kept me from writing about the reunion and some other topics that have been on my mind and heart, including issues about singing and insights about the bunny in the neighboring backyard (I observe him often because there's no fence between us).

I need to remember that the best part of this blog for me is that I can write through the writer's block or whatever it is. I don't have to have a strong lead or theme going in. I have all the space I need to write until I find out what it was I needed to write about. Now, whether I have all the time I need is another matter, and it's a major source of second-guessing and self-doubt. Many times when I sit down to write, I think I should be doing something else. Many other things should be more important, shouldn't they?

Perhaps. But as the guest preacher at church said Sunday (this is me poorly paraphrasing her paraphrase of a prayer she learned in college): Lord, please help me know what you would have me do in this situation. And if I choose the wrong thing, I pray that you can use even that for good.

One of the things I tend to waste time doing is watching sports on television. Last Saturday, I happened to catch some of the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Dallas Cowboy great Emmitt Smith's speech was filled with examples of faith and gratitude for others, but also amazing clarity in setting goals and achieving them. He almost came across too perfect to be real. The next day, I heard him in an interview, where he was asked how he did that without having it written out or using a teleprompter. He said he wanted it to be from the heart. But he admitted he forgot something important, because he had not mentioned his college team, the Florida Gators. Now, some commentators said they thought it was intentional (some lingering resentment about something), but I just don't think it could have been. But for me, it was a good reminder that even someone who is so confident, goal-oriented, successful and faithful (interesting that humble does not come to mind as an accurate description) also isn't perfect.

Emmitt's speech was sandwiched between some Texas Rangers baseball games for me. I don't remember whether they won or lost on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, but I know they are in a pennant race, and it's hard for me not to get caught up in the frenzy, although teams I follow always tend to fizzle before the finish. Even now, this team can be so good on hitting, pitching and defense, but sometimes they make mistakes that just seem stupid.

Sometime during the past week, I realized that I can relate baseball to me and singing. Josh Hamilton is my favorite player, and I always want him to at least get a hit, and it's awesome when he gets a home run. But you know what? He usually strikes out, flies out or grounds out at least once or twice a game, and often more. And yet I, an untrained singer, expect to hit a home run every time I sing for church or family. What's up with that?
(I was talking to a friend about this, and the question came up: What would be a home run regarding singing at church? I said that would be when I'm just totally trusting God and singing to His glory, and not worrying about how I sound or what people think, although somehow in such moments, I do also feel connected to those who are listening. It comes from preparation that includes choosing, learning and practicing a song, eating right, resting, praying. And then just trusting. I guess it's often what seems to me a lack of preparation that keeps me from fully trusting, even though I've seen over and over that God is able to use even those situations to his glory.)

Sometimes when I watch the Rangers, I think they're too relaxed. Sometimes Josh comes up to the plate, and they really need a home run, and he just hits the ball to second base or strikes out. But I've also heard athletes and coaches say that a key for them is to not get too high about a win (or a home run) or to low about a loss (a strikeout or error). That's something I struggle with greatly, whether watching a sports team or taking part in my own game of life.

As I continue to ramble and try to wrap this up, another thought comes to mind about something the guest preacher said Sunday. She was talking about a church member who felt certain the world was going to end on Dec. 31 one year, and the woman had prepared for that. And when it didn't happen, she didn't know what to do. The pastor asked her what she did before Dec. 31. Did she love God with all her heart, mind, soul and strength? Did she love her neighbor as herself? Did she walk humbly with God? (There were others, I know they are in the Bible, but I wasn't taking notes and can't remember and am flat out of time -- beyond out of time!) She told the woman she should just keep doing those things. (The pastor also offered a quip that I'm sure I've heard before, but it sounded fresh, that maybe the reason the world hasn't ended yet is because people keep making predictions, and God has to cross those dates off his list because He said in His word that no one will know the time in advance. It got a pretty good laugh.)

P.S. One other thing I gotta mention: I wasn't thrilled with my singing at my parents church, the church I grew up in, the previous week. Practice went well and it was a song I love to sing and share the message of, but when I sang during the service, I seemed disconnected. I don't know what that was about. I prayed before and during. It was more like the old confusing times of singing. And people didn't respond the same. I have continued to pray the same prayer: It's about God; it's not about me. But it was interesting. And then a woman I don't know said that I had such a youthful sounding voice. At first, I thought she might have said beautiful, but as I was trying to decide, she said I sound like a teenager. I told Mom I'm not sure what she meant by that. I know now that I probably didn't sound very good when I was a teenager. My voice was weak and undeveloped; what I heard inside my head didn't get very far beyond my mouth. But I can think of some aspects of a youthful voice that could be complimentary, especially for a 51-year-old. So why can't I just focus on those?
It made me realize that I still don't have much confidence in my singing. That singing for me is about words and feeling. And when for some reason it doesn't seem as if the feeling is there, I fear the singing isn't very good.

As usual, I just continue to lift it all up in prayer. (Is that like swinging for the fences?) I'm still hoping that writing and "publishing" will help me clarify or get rid of some of these words crowding my mind and thoughts. Unfortunately, right now it looks as if the more I write, the more I think. I know that not writing is not the answer. So, God willing, I will continue to write as I live and learn.

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