Monday, August 24, 2015

Darkness and Light


I wish I were wired to debate well and make arguments that win cases. Kind of. I admire people who do that well. I was a fan of Ally McBeal. My Dad loved Perry Mason. I'd like to make a case for my faith. But it feels wrong to approach it that way. Spirituality is mysterious, a matter of the soul and heart, not just a cerebral concept. I understand people who are wired that way. I just don't speak that language very well.

What I know is my story of faith. I was not raised to go to church. In fact, my Dad called the Bible "preposterous." He was referring specifically to the Virgin Mary bearing a child. How could God create a child through other than tangible human means? Well, to my thinking, if God created the heavens, the earth, and humans, the immaculate conception was in line with all of that. So I started seeking answers for myself.

I would have to say that I met the devil -- the darkness of life if you will -- before I understood about the good side. Our home life was not peaceful. My Dad was not a happy person. My early teenage years were rough. I was immersed in the culture and peer pressure of the 70s. I had a boyfriend who was mean to me. Alcohol and drugs were common pastimes. I just did not know what I did not know. And I wanted what I wanted -- all the things the culture encouraged me to want -- beauty, popularity, love, coolness. I did not want to hang with the geeky "Jesus" kids, and I sure did not want to go to Sunday School. Why would anyone go to school on Sunday?

Yet I had a penny with the Lord's prayer on it stuck to my headboard over my bed. I wore a cross. I prayed every night. I visited churches but did not really connect.

I noticed some people were different. My neighbor went to church. Her family was loving and close. A "Jesus" friend of mine, Brian, stood up against abortion in a group conversation. He made me rethink my opinion. I had seen what alcohol had done to my Dad's life, and I did not want to follow that path. I had several hurtful relationships that caused me to seek therapy. My therapist led me to the "Adult Children of Alcoholics" 12-step program, and I discovered what it meant to put faith in a higher power. That gave me hope and understanding of a more spiritual approach to life. Seeking highs, love, and pleasure can be an addictive way to live, because there's never enough, you're always chasing. I wanted peace, self-worth, contentment, and to feel okay about who I am. I had lived in darkness and I saw what it did to my family. I was drawn to the light.

I've had a long life -- so telling the whole story is kind of tedious! Let's just say that inheriting two teenagers whose mother passed away led me that much closer to God. I came to believe that Jesus is Lord and Savior. I've had some stumbles along the way. I have turned from God at times, but I always come back. My soul is at peace.

I don't believe it's my place to preach, explain, or persuade. But I do encourage everyone to seek answers. Don't let the "religious" bad apples discourage you. They're like the fruit in Ms. Pac Man -- just there to distract you. I will always accept you, and I will always pray for you -- that you find answers, for health, for love, for whatever you need. I believe in the greatest commandment -- love God and love one another. Loving you, be blessed.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Bridge to Faith


I read an article yesterday about the "watering down" of Christianity. It said, among other things, that many of today's Christians "pick and choose" what they like and disregard what they don't like, and that they choose the "feel good" aspects while ignoring the "rules." I wanted to agree, but my head was buzzing with authority rebellion. The tone did not invite introspection, rather the author drew a line in the sand and made a case for why those who think differently are wrong.

I was raised with zero spirituality. I was taught to work hard and accomplish something in life. Not bad lessons. But boy, when I failed, I had no sense of self worth. I thought failing and being a failure were the same thing. I had a sense that I was missing something -- and I looked for it. I found a "higher power" through the 12-step program, which gave me a rudder. I became a Christian in my 30s after a life-changing experience.

Before I understood about faith, many tried to "preach" to me, and all were unsuccessful. Churches made me feel like an outsider, like I wasn't truly "in the club," and I wasn't sure I wanted to be.

Yet I have a heart for evangelism. Go figure. I've communicated it mostly through songs.

Not worship songs. I still bump that church services begin with sing-along worship songs. Right away a visitor feels in the "out group" because they don't know the songs. And if they don't sing, it's even more uncomfortable. I see worship songs as something you grow into, not begin with.

To me, evangelism is all about hospitality. How do you help someone feel welcome in your home? You don't sit them in a corner and preach to them, right? Offer a beverage, a chair, give them a tour, show them where the amenities are, introduce them to someone, etc. Keep conversation light and go deeper gradually. I was raised to understand hospitality, so that is natural to me.

I like to share what led to my journey of faith. I was not perfect. I made major mistakes. I am human. What was my life like before my faith and what has changed since? If people ask questions, I answer them as best I can, but I do not close the sale unless I feel like that's where they are -- that they need to be asked these questions -- Are you ready to change your life? Do you want God to help you with that?"

I do not have exclusively Christian friends. I love people who "violate" the rules. I don't post dogmatic sayings or political stances on my Facebook page. Why? Because I don't think they persuade anyone, and they make me look like a preachy self-righteous person. I'd rather be approachable. Then God might choose to bring people to me who have questions and want to feel safe to ask them.

I think people find an answer to life and get excited to tell others about it. But it doesn't really convince anyone until you live the faith and the evidence is the new story of your life. And care about them. I agree with the saying that people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.

I like my church because I can invite people and they don't feel preached at or pushed. They get information and can make their faith journey their own way, in their own time. They are told they can "dial direct" to God.

Let them explore "the rules" and work that part out themselves. Build bridges, not walls. Peace out.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Creativity is Ageless


As a Renaissance Girl, I wear a lot of hats. The piano teacher/business owner has taken center stage. My inner artist has been applauding from the bleachers, and getting a little restless. "When is it my turn?"

I hear you patient artist, and I'm sorry you have had to be silent so long. Now that I want to coax you out of hiding, I find that you are shy and out of practice.

It's wonderful to be multifaceted. I miss creating. My creative self fights with my financial survival self. I'm quite sure every artist experiences this inner push-and-pull.

Teaching helps me encourage artistry in others, as well as share the artistry I've already accomplished.

I do not limit my students to pure music transcription. We learn from playing music created by others, but we take our learning deeper when we apply it to creating our own songs, expressing our own voices.

It's time to remember how to practice what I teach!

Dare I video and post my current songwriting efforts? The years have changed my appearance and my voice. I witnessed ridicule of Madonna's recent performance at the Grammy Awards. Yikes. She doesn't move the way she used to. I may not sing the way I used to. But -- do any of us do anything the way we used to? Why should that be a barrier to finding new ways to do what we are gifted to do?

I'm not the new kid, the ingenue, etc. I'm experienced. And it is a privilege to help shape a new generation of musical artists. I think I will serve them better if I'm still active in my own creativity. Even if it does not look the way it used to.

If it's true, it will look as it should. Courage is ageless too.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Balloons


A male friend of mine used to tell me he always dreamed of a "red balloon" relationship, but he discovered he could be happy with a "blue balloon."

Red was my favorite color when I was a kid, so I could relate to this.

I wondered if I had ever "settled" for less than a red balloon.

Some people never wonder about these kinds of things. I envy them. I can't seem to NOT wonder these things. And, because I've seen it, I believe it's possible to have both a "red balloon" career and a "red balloon" relationship -- to be true to yourself, and to resist believing you are greedy or ungrateful because you believe a "good fit" is possible.

The exercise in frustration is that it's all within our control. It's okay to say "no" to the wrong thing because you are waiting for the right thing. What I find really hard is living with the wrong thing (like a crummy job) because the right thing just isn't happening.

Stinking thinking will tell us that we don't deserve it, to give up, to be grateful for the crumbs we have.

"Being a realist" can make the waiting seem pointless.

Wait anyway. Pray for your desires and work toward your goals.

When you give up, the bad guys win.

I've felt stuck in unhappy relationships and oppressive work situations. And I've been unstuck.

'Tis the season for miracles. Keep believing in red balloons.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Live Beyond the Box!



Wow this video just hit me upside the head!

What makes us settle for a box of any kind?

This video reminds me of the life I used to say I'd never ever want.

Here's what I wrote in my journal at age 15:

"I have this wild idea to just be free of all the silly rules that just seem so stupid and live differently from other people. Have a definite originality to my life. The thought of a dull job and slaving at college, even continuing High School sounds so conservative and stereotyped the monotony would drive me crazy. But what can I do? I hope as I grow older these ideas will bet bigger and stronger instead of disappear because it's what I really want."

Well, I'm older! And I have felt like a ping-pong ball bouncing between the ticky-tacky box and the cliff of creativity. The creative life looks so cool from a 15-year-old's point of view. No rules. Freedom. Live wherever. Follow your muse. Override the dullness. I used to say "I don't want to live a doggy little life."

Then parents expect you to go to college, so you go. You're expected to pick a major, so you do. The gravy train runs out and you have bills to pay. I worked at an insurance company and lived in an apartment in North Hollywood, and I was burglarized. They took my jewelry and my electronics. They even left the seat up in the bathroom. Ewww. The drive to earn more and head for a safe box in Thousand Oaks was born of fear for my physical safety. Then I had kids in my life. They need structure, and boy do they need money! And so it went. But my muse called to me in the night, and during the daydreams of my cubicled 9-5 existence. And I've been a mugwump ever since. (a mugwump is an animal who sits on a fence with his mug on one side and his wump on the other)

Well these days I think the mug that is my muse is winning! I am somewhat counter-culture by encouraging young artists to honor their muse -- their music -- and to find their own voices. I'm not a boxy piano teacher. I am honoring that long-ago dream to make my life different -- and to support others in dreaming bigger than ticky-tacky. The wonder of living all these years is realizing that it's not just about me -- my dream gets more meaningful when I encourage others to honor theirs. I get to be a part of it, and that is truly magical.

So, 15-year-old Sue, I hope I have not let you down. I hope the maturity of years has broadened our dream beyond your youthful vision, and blossomed into an honest, soulful, original life.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Upgrading my Thought Life


Just for today

I’m going to believe I don’t need to buy anything to be okay
I will limit my TV viewing to one hour
I will limit my Internet surfing to specific tasks
I will cope without chemicals
I will have empathy for the haters and the uniformed
I will not engage in any debates
I will not give advice
I will refrain from posting advice
I will thank God for what He has given me
I will do my work
I will learn something new
I will do chores without bitterness or complaint – maybe even with joy
I will stay in the present
I will encourage each person I encounter
I will show love to my husband
I will pet and walk my dog
I will play music just for fun
I will move my body
I will eat healthy food
I will pray for whoever comes to mind
I will redirect troublesome emotions into prayer
I will sing

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Alcohol


I can make anybody pretty
I can make you believe any lie
I can make you pick a fight
With somebody twice your size

~ Brad Paisley, "Alcohol"

I have not had a drink of alcohol in 11 days. It's not like I was getting sloppy drunk or hurting anyone. I did not have the typical alcoholic's epiphany that I was out of control and must stop drinking for life.

I simply thought, "how will I feel without alcohol?" There are many answers to that question, and the revelations keep coming. They are so fascinating that I want to go without one more day just to see what else I might discover.

At first I felt deprived. Then I felt anxious. How do I settle down after a long day of teaching/traffic/pressure etc.? Answer: Find another way to chill. And after I do, I sleep better. And, I wake up feeling better.

I made some adjustments so that the deprivation does not overwhelm me. I made dessert and ate it. I'm eating more of the things I like and concerning myself less with calories. This is temporary, but necessary for balance.

The primary difference is how I feel spiritually. I feel more at peace, more connected to God, more open to receiving His guidance, and more available to my loved ones. I'm not "checking out." I'm more aware of what I did with the day -- the whole day -- rather than just the "working" part. I want to call people, go places, be with people, and experience more life. And this feeds on itself -- magnifying my engagement in life. Life is getting fuller, bigger, and more rewarding. There are more "sweet spots." And I remember them!

My memory is better. There are fewer embarrassing moments. I'm saying "did we talk about this yet?" and "did I tell you this story?" less. I'm hearing, "yes, you told me that before" less. And, because I'm more engaged, I have new stories to tell so I don't have to rely on the old ones. I believe this is a key to staying young at heart and not becoming like so many older people who bore others by repeatedly talking about the past.

I hope this reactivates my Jones to write songs again. I've missed it. As long as I'm alive, I must express the music inside me.

I'm also more aware of how much alcohol permeates commercials, songs, movies, television shows, people's conversations, and what many consider "a good time." The hope is that alcohol enhances a good time. However, like the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says, "...alcohol is cunning, baffling, and powerful."

Singer-songwriter Josh Wilson put it this way: "I'm thirsty, God I'm thirsty, from drinking what destroys me, I'm pouring poison in my cup. Everybody says we're oh so different, but everybody knows we're all the same, we're all looking for a pill to kill the pain."

Alcohol is tricky. It over-promises and under-delivers. It sneaks into your system like a worm that can eat away at your soul. When it wears off, you are still thirsty.

This is where I am on Day 11. More to come. I hope.