Thursday, August 30, 2007

Singing with the Dogs

I have nothing against myself. And I don't think I'm being harsh.

But -

I can't sing worth a flip.

Years back someone came up to me and told me that I sing alright, but that I just don't have a very pleasant voice. Later on, out of curiosity I recorded myself just to hear what others hear (since the voice in MY head is not the voice you get to hear). Sure enough, my voice sounds like a third graders voice. Not in the sense that it sounded young and innocent and sweet, but in the sense that it sounded as though it had not yet formed into a real voice yet and was still a work in progress.

I have nothing against myself though. I play the piano, no matter how well I play I know that I've been called into it and give it my focus. Singing, especially once I discovered the woman was right, just hasn't been high on my list of things to do (publicly at least, privately is an entirely different matter).

I sing for myself, and I sing for God because nothing can hurt Him. :)

My neighbors dogs start barking and howling at three things: the train, the ambulance, and my singing. I'm not kidding either. I'm loud and heartfelt and it goes through my walls, my windows, and into my yard where the dogs begin howling. At some point I wondered briefly if it was Gods way of reminding me that even rocks could cry out and praise Him. But, I digress.

For the last three services at my church, I've ended up being asked to sing for my poor (though thankfully somewhat hearing impaired) congregation. I had a choice to make during each and every service. No one ever stomped up to me and said SING NOW. I was asked. Most importantly, I was asked by a leader (I'll get to that part later) and so I could choose to either say "yes" or allow my own opinions of my singing -ok we can call it pride - to get in the way and say "no".

I said yes. I might not have said yes a year ago, but a couple of months back I had a conversation with a woman that truly impacted me. She is the woman I don't want to be like. Oh she has good qualities I wouldn't mind having (the word genteel fits her quite nicely) but I learned something from her weaknesses.

This woman told me several times how much she would love to teach, but she was afraid she would be too nervous to actually teach. The few times she opened her mouth during Sunday morning classes, she always had something stimulating to say. She made me think about scriptures in ways I didn't initially think of a scripture. She told me she felt teaching was something God had called her to do.

Shortly after she had mentioned to me privately about how much she would enjoy teaching, our pastor happened to ask her publicly if she might like to teach the next Wednesday night.

So the woman quit the church.

When I went to talk to her later all she could say was that there was work to be done at our church (we were needing Sunday School teachers, and children church workers at the time) and she just was too scared to step into any of the roles. And she was being asked.

Even now, months later I wonder about her. I know enough about hiding away because of fear, and stepping away from what God wants of you because of self-doubt. I know enough to know that it isn't a pleasant life.

From that point, rank and order in my mind was formed. God has placed those above me, specific people to be above me. Leaders lead because they're in front of you. They know what's ahead. Math teachers tell their students to buy protractors and compasses and bring them to school. Not because they know how to use them, but because they don't know how to use them. You're going to learn something. You might not be comfortable using your compass. Maybe you don't have a clue even what it's good for. Maybe you're baffled at the idea that multiplication and division has turned into triangles, circles and letters.

It doesn't matter.

You buy the compass anyway because the teacher said to.

I'm not saying to give leaders ultimate authority over you. That could lead you into trouble since every leader/preacher/teacher isn't necessarily always doing the right thing. But that's a different subject. What I'm talking about is submission. Trusting that your leader isn't just asking you to do things willy nilly, but by direction from God. And sometimes it doesn't matter if you're afraid; if you don't think you can teach very well, sing on key, play the right notes, or say the right things.

What does matter is that God needs to be in charge.

And that means, to a great extent (but of course there are obvious exceptions) your church leaders, teachers, directors, and pastors are all operating under a direction of God and maneuvering the people of the church around like chess pieces. Unfortunately this is one arena where if you ask a chess piece to move, he may very well say no.

I've said it a couple of times already this week to others, but I'll tell it to you too. It's an old saying that you may have heard before. "God won't lead you TO something, that He won't lead you THROUGH." If God lays on your heart a passion and a desire to teach like He did with my friend.... sure you may be nervous but God will lead you through. It may very well be that the first words out of your mouth (spoken in self-giving obedience) will calm your nerves and the anointing will begin to just flow.

Trust me, if God can use MY singing... He can use just about anything.

Though I have to confess something... I love to sing. I just thought a merciful God would never make anyone listen to it. :)

Let GO and let GOD.


SLW said...

You weren't practicing about an half hour ago were you? The dogs up here in Pennsylvania were going hog wild! :-D

I can't sing a lick either, but have had to throughout my time in ministry. Never got any dogs howling, but I did attract a mouse once.

I like the old saying. Don Argue would often say during chapel services at Bible College, "where God guides, He provides." Love those pithy sayings.

Mark H said...

"I love to sing. I just thought a merciful God would never make anyone listen to it."

crying with laughter over here :-D

Seriously though. The fact that you LOVE to worship is so powerful.

Do you think the lady who left would have responded differently if she'd been asked in private?

One Sided said...

When my wife sang in the chior, I would sit and wait through practice. Months and months of declining invitations to join the chior, I at last with a final warning relented. THree months later I was asked to take my place back in the auditorium waiting for my wife to complete practice.
I have even had the pastors wife move from in front of me in service.
Yet I open my mouth and let forth a joyful noise on a regular basis.

Anonymous said...

singing is good!

flyawaynet said...

slw - another one for your collection?
"If it's Gods Will, it's Gods bill."

Spoken by a preacher concerning God telling them to buy something they didn't have money for.

I liked that one, personally. And unfortunately for the rest of the world, there are countless people that love to sing regardless of their vocal cords abilities. God help us all.

Mark - she was asked privately afterwards concerning teaching a smaller class, and it didn't help. She specifically stated that she wanted a church where she could just sit.
I just don't imagine that she'll ever be truly fulfilled doing that when God has given her a desire to teach. Someone once told me that a person is whatever they are, whether they do it or not. Such as, if I stopped playing the piano right now, the music the melodies, the songs would still be burning within me. I would still be a musician. I just wouldn't be a fulfilled one. I hate the very idea of letting fear stop you.
Oh, and you can laugh! You don't have to listen to me!

One-Sided - Ironically enough I've got a story much like that. Except it was regarding my cooking. I was asked to bring macaroni and cheese (simple right?) to the church fellowship. After a disasterous morning with the whole recipe (a BOX of mac and cheese for cryin' out loud!) she took one look at my mac and cheese and told me not to worry about it, others had made plenty. From that day one, she treated me just like she did the men when it came time for fellowship dinners. She asked me for financial contributions rather than culinary ones.

It was her sad compassionate face that I'll always remember though. It's one of the few times in my life I distinctly knew I was being pitied. :)

Anonymous said...

you are a very good sport, and you make me laugh. God bless you, sister j.

flyawaynet said...

Nancy :) It's easy to be going, I sound pretty good in my head. It's the poor people with ears that have to work at being good sports while plugging your ears.

J. W. Poteet II said...

All of you listen to me. Listen very carefully. The person who told her that she doesn't have a good voice? It would be better if that person had never been born. I am certain on judgement day God will call them in to answer for that. First, it's just not true. I mean it's beyond being wrong or a mistake it's a flat out LIE! She has a GREAT voice. You would pay money to hear her sing. Second, she was told this when she was young. I can't remember how young exactly, but I'm thinking around that awkward age when we're all a little self concious anyway. Anyone who says such a thing to a child should be brought up on abuse charges. Finally, Net, maybe you should record yourself again. And try to listen with an open mind. Maybe you'll finally hear what the rest of us hears when you sing.

flyawaynet said...

Good thing you don't feel too strongly on the subject.

It'd certainly be interesting to get a new foster child whose parents had been charged with telling their kids they don't sing well. They could come in my house and we could just sing together and be happy. :)

And just so you know, you're pronouncing a pretty stiff judgement about someone you don't know.

It's nice to be ranted over occasionally though. Thanks.

Sista Cala said...

I heard a true story once about an elderly lady and a guitar that was short one string. Basically, some talented folks had been "doing the praise & worship" but the audience was unmoved. For a mid-week service, the pastor decided a change might be good. He asked an elderly sister( that had long long ago led worship) if she would do so that week. She began to strum the guitar and a string broke. She just kept on singing and playing. People began to join in. Some even came into the altars w/tears. There was no preaching that night, but souls were saved and set free. The difference was the anointing of God's servant. She wasn't 'doing p&w' she was praising and worshipping her King.

flyawaynet said...

Absolutely and AMEN Sister Cala.

There is a solid clear difference between 'doing' praise and worship as you said, and praising and worshipping.

And that difference, makes all the difference in the world.

Anonymous said...

all the difference
i like that