Monday, March 27, 2006

American Idol Syndrom

Are you amazed what we see sometimes on TV? American Idol is no exception. There is amazing talent. There is also amazing deception. It's the deception that we all struggle with that can do us in. It's what I call the American Idol Syndrom.

We like others to think highly of us. Really. We all do. Many of us like to "wow' others with what we do or a knowledge about things most common people wouldn't know or do. It makes us feel confident. We rarely talk about things we are unsure of about ourselves.

In the end, we all want to have a positive positive self-regard of ourselves. That means we seek self-respect, self-worth, or some call it self-esteem. The danger in this is that we sometimes hang our hat (self-worth) on things other than where it should be.

As musicians or technicians, we tend to base a lot of our self-worth on our talent/skill ability. We are encouraged by others when we do a good job. We walk out of the service and others say, "You did a great job when (fill in the blank)." But somewhere along the way, people have failed us. They've failed to be honest with us.

Most Christians rarely tell you the truth. Really. When was the last time you had someone come up to you and say - you know...that really wasn't the best. You need some improvement before you try that again. It's rare. We somehow think that if we say only the positive things or just keep our traps shut when there are not any positives that we are doing them a favor.

Let's ask "what would Jesus do" if he heard me play a horredous trombone solo. Would He do the nice Christian thing and say, "Oh thank you Bryan for giving a sacrifice of praise," then turn around and drive home and say to His disciples, "Man, that was a sacrifice on My part to listen to that." Maybe it would be better for Jesus to say, "Thank you for giving your best...that was your best, wasn't it?" Or, "Bryan, you have a lot of potential...I'm looking forward to hearing what you'll do in the future when you improve even more." Speaking the truth in love. And yes, sometimes the well meaning truthful Christians forget about the LOVE part.

Unfortunately, most of us simply don't want to hear the truth. We may even say we want the truth, but end up justifying why we did a poor job. Or we reason that the evaluation was political, biased, unfair, etc. Back to American Idol...some of these people are just downright terrible - but when they place themselves in front of a panel to be evaluated and then are honest, they don't believe them. Why are they there to begin with? Are they there because they've placed self-worth on what they do? Or is it because they really want honesty from the panel?

We get in trouble when we somehow think we are "owed" positions because of our skill/talent, our attitude, or how much we've contributed in the past. Once I begin thinking, "So and so doesn't sing like I do," or maybe, "Why does so and so get to play the solo, I've been here longer than they have," we are in danger the American Idol Syndrom (thinking too highly of ourselves that we feel we are entitled to something).

The bottom line is that we aren't entitled to anything. I'm not entitled to a job, a family, good health, wealth, talent, or anything. God freely gives you and me these things.

The solution to the problem is to replace our self-worth as (musician, doctor, teacher, fireman, ... fill in the blank) with the knowledge that God loves us despite who we are. He doesn't care I'm a musician. He cares about the relationship He and I have together, though. And He cares about how our relationship impacts "who I am" (musician, blogger, father, husband, friend, etc.).

God, be honest with me. Tell me when I'm not following You. Show me when I'm not giving my best. Share with me when I can improve. I want to honor You with our relationship. I want You to be the sole place where I place my worth.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Off-Stage Lives

Our lives are just as important off-stage as they are on-stage, maye even more important. Why? You never know who knows you from the stage. More importantly, to God, there is no "on-stage" or "off-stage." Allow me to explain...

Last night after rehearsal my wife and I made an ice-cream run to McDonald's (my favorite resturant). After ordering at the drive-thru window, I pulled around to the first window to pay. I handed him my credit card, to which he asked, "Do I know you from somewhere?" I said, "I'm not sure…where do you think you've seen me?" He asked, "Are you from a church?" He recognized me as the 'guitar guy' (as he called it).

I was floored. How did this guy remember me from such a short time three days prior? He obviously was paying attention in the service. Or he really likes guitars. Or he really remembers how bad my singing was. No matter…my life off-stage at that moment was being compared with my life on-stage by this employee. I asked him how he ended up at Grace last Sunday. He said some friends of his invited him. I asked if he usually attends another church. He replied that he had gotten away from attending church. (obvious next question). I asked if he was thinking of coming to Grace this next Sunday. He replied he was planning on it. [Do you really think he'd reply "no."]

We exchanged names and I pulled forward to let the line of cars behind me get their grub. I grabbed our ice-cream and drove away. I was excited to hear that someone who didn't regularly attend church came to Grace. And it was great to have a chance meeting with him. But it reminded me that people know who we are on-stage, and they'll compare and judge us with what they see off-stage.

God, search my thoughts and know my mind. Point out anything in me that is inconsistant in my life off-stage. I want to be the same no matter where I'm at. I want to point people to You no matter if I'm on-stage or off-stage.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Cow Songs

I'm grateful Grace is far past what some call the "worship war." Really, the war isn't about worship, it's more about music styles than lyric content (which is far more important than music style). So here is a funny story that someone shared with me. Enjoy!

A Funny Little Story About Hymns and Praise Songs
(Author Unknown)

An old farmer went to the city one weekend and attended the big city church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was.

"Well," said the farmer. "It was good. They did something different, however. They sang praise choruses instead of hymns."

"Praise choruses?" asked the wife. "What are those?"

"Oh, they're okay. They're sort of like hymns, only different," said the farmer.

"Well, what's the difference?" asked the wife.

The farmer said, "Well it's like this ... If I were to say to you, 'Martha, the cows are in the corn,' well that would be a hymn. If, on the other hand, I were to say to you,

'Martha, Martha, Martha,
the cows, the big cows,
the brown cows, the black cows,
the white cows, the black and white cows,
are in the corn, are in the corn, are in the corn,
in the CORN, CORN, CORN,

then, if I were to repeat the whole thing two or three times, well that would be a praise chorus."

As luck would have it, the exact same Sunday a young, new Christian from the city church attended the small town church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was.

"Well," said the young man, "It was good. They did something different, however. They sang hymns instead of regular songs."

"Hymns?" asked the wife. "What are those?"

"They're okay. They're sort of like regular songs, only different," said the young man.

"Well, what's the difference?" asked the wife.

The young man said, "Well it's like this ... If I were to say to you, 'Martha, the cows are in the corn,' well that would be a regular song. If on the other hand, I were to say to you,

Oh Martha, dear Martha, hear thou my cry
Inclinest thine ear to the words of my mouth.
Turn thou thy whole wondrous ear by and by
To the righteous, glorious truth.

For the way of the animals who can explain
There in their heads is no shadow of sense,
Hearkenest they in God's sun or his rain
Unless from the mild, tempting corn they are fenced.

Yea those cows in glad bovine, rebellious delight,
Have broke free their shackles, their warm pens eschewed.
Then goaded by minions of darkness and night
They all my mild Chilliwack sweet corn chewed.

So look to that bright shining day by and by,
Where all foul corruptions of earth are reborn
Where no vicious animal makes my soul cry
And I no longer see those foul cows in the corn,

then, if I were to do only verses one, three and four, and change keys on the last verse, well that would be a hymn."