Sunday, August 20, 2006

Church

1994 began my 10 years of music ministry in the church. Most of those years were happy ones as my church was a place for healing and connecting with others who walked with God.

Spring of 2004, God began to awaken my creativity in a way that motivated me to work harder than ever. He expanded my accompanying jobs to include greater challenge and I learned to understand music deeper; I craved more.

Fall of 2004 the choir did a production of Handel’s ‘Messiah’. Rehearsals were unproductive; the choristers were undisciplined, unfocused, lazy and rude. They would talk through rehearsal and didn’t retain what was asked of them. Come performance time, I was so embarrassed for them and for me to be a part of such shoddy workmanship (and people paid admission!). My standard had changed and they were the same choir they had always been.

I was leaving rehearsals angry and knew that I needed some space to sort out my emotions before they escalated beyond my ability to blow off. I requested a sabbatical of 1 month after the annual Christmas production and was denied. My embarrassment and anger grew. I felt like I was being a fraud. I was offering something to the Lord that I was ashamed of and I had no control to change it. My attempts to sort it out were met with disdain; I was blown off as being moody and selfish (there's truth to that). Needless to say, by the time the end of the season arrived, my emotion and anger was beyond anything rational and I resigned my position of chorus accompanist.

My desire to participate in church anywhere was long gone. I didn’t have clarity about the correctness of my decision; I just knew I couldn’t commit to another year with my heart the way it was. I believed that I needed to be involved in service as part of the Body of Christ. I believed that God had gifted me musically to contribute to the Body of Christ. I was confused.

Fall of 2005 I asked God for permission to not attend church for a season. I felt His approval in my spirit with the condition that Sunday was His and I was to spend it with Him in solitude. OKAY!!! In addition, God opened up an opportunity with the Calgary Philharmonic to accompany their chorus. I auditioned and was offered the position on the spot. Every week I would go to CPO rehearsal and play the finest music history had to offer with the finest musicians in the city. The work ethic was in line with my own and they pushed me beyond what I believed myself capable.

My Sundays with God were amazing. He spoke to my heart; He gave me rest from a busy week and He taught me Himself. I learned what the word Sabbath meant and He revealed my inability to earn His love; I already had it. He blessed me at a time when I thought He would punish me. He loved me when I felt I was a disappointment to Him. He affirmed me when I felt I had failed Him. He taught me that He cared more about me than getting the job done.

Spring 2006 I found myself missing church. I attended a service and the music drove me nuts. I heard bad vowels and tuning; poor color choices and diction and on top of all that…it was amplified. There are some things I just don’t want to hear through a microphone! However, I knew in my spirit it was time for me to return; and I did return. I returned every Sunday just late enough to miss the music.

God has been convicting me of my anger towards the church. He never said they were right; He just said ‘forgive’. I have repented of my anger and continue to repent of my anger, a process I will continue until my anger is completely gone. I have asked Him to replace my anger with compassion and understanding, love and patience.

Today, I was on time for church. I didn’t love it, but I love the people. Yes, I am still distracted by wonky vowels and disparity in color, but it didn’t make me want to run out of the room screaming (progress!). The message was great and I was surrounded by people who loved God. I enjoyed their presence and I can honestly say that I love them. God is changing and healing my heart.

I do believe we, as the Body, have much work to do. I want to be beautiful for my Lord Jesus. I want Him to have the very best Bride. I have a longing for the Body to experience excellence. I long for the highest standard of music that was written by the Body of Christ, to be on display in the Body of Christ, for the Body of Christ. The finest music history has to offer came from the Body of Christ. I long to use my skill in the context it was designed for; I long to come home! I am home; but not all of me.

8 Comments:

At 7:23 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

About your experience with the choir rehearsals for Messiah: The tares are still mixed in with the wheat.
The Lord is working regardless of what you may see or hear (we went through a long time of music and other ministries that were much less polished than we were used to at our church). Many said the Holy Spirit had left, that there was no annointing there. As I reflected upon those comments later, I know that they were wrong. They were looking in the wrong places, they had their spiritual antennae tuned to the wrong frequency for that moment in time. I had a time of tremendous spiritual growth during that time and so I know the Lord was present and was working and was blessing. I agree with you that the Lord (and his people) should be given (and should give) our best. I also think we tend to overwork and underpay our church's paid staff. We also overwork our volunteer staff. Perhaps we run too many programs and need to listen more closely to what the Lord wants us to actually do. Perhaps the clergy need to do more equipping of the saints to do the work of the ministry rather than hold on to everything so tightly. Perhaps we need to allow the clergy to do what they do best and not call on them to hold the keys to the restroom, and boiler room, and storage areas and ... Perhaps paid time for prayer and reflection and listening to the counsel of the Lord is in order for our pastors more often than we might like. We recently granted a 40 day time period for one of our associate pastors to go to International House of Prayer in Kansas City because he was burning out.

 
At 8:57 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing this part of your journey. Your openness and honesty is certainly inspiring! My prayer for you is that you continue to see God's heart in the people who sing with "wonky vowels" and that you realize that, despite lack of talent, these folks are making a joyful noise unto the Lord.

 
At 11:24 PM, Blogger Colleen said...

Hey Ruthie! Are you back at the same church or a different one? I'm with Amanda ... I liked reading this because of how real you wrote. Thank you, friend.

 
At 2:20 AM, Blogger Cheryl of the Wilds of C said...

Thank you all for your comments. I am encouraged and I agree!

Amanda, I will remember the 'joyful noise' reference and stifle my laughter when I hear it.

Colleen, I am back at the same church. My membership is there and I don't agree with the trend of 'church hopping'. I'm invested there. Are you home?

Thank you, Inheritor for your wisdom, as always.

 
At 10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! I love this post. I think because I can relate to it in so many ways. I'm certain that I'm not as accomplished a musician as you, Cheryl, but I know that I, too, have a different standard (and "flavor", I suppose) in music than my church. It drives me crazy sometimes, and I often find myself getting there just after the music part is over. However, I'm committed to the relationships that I've built there, and I suppose, in the end, it's community that we're called to and not the music. It certainly is a source of conflict within me, though. Thank you for being so honest about it, Cheryl.

 
At 10:45 PM, Blogger Colleen said...

I'm still at my parents' but my mom came home today so that's good. :D

 
At 11:02 PM, Blogger Cheryl of the Wilds of C said...

Mindy, I would expect any professional musician to share our struggles. For most people music is a right brain experience; for professional musicians it is also a left brain experience. The critical analysis is always on. I can't shut it off for 30 minutes on Sunday and it isn't worth the frustration of trying.

By the way, I think you are a highly accomplished musician! I can't write music or play by ear. Your skills are very different from mine. I really enjoy your 'flavor' and I appreciate the skill and the hours you poured into each piece. Your CD is one I will be purchasing.

 
At 11:03 PM, Blogger Cheryl of the Wilds of C said...

Colleen, so glad to hear that!!!!!

 

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