NOTE: If you’re patient and read it through, this piece will make much more sense than I have been making lately. Rest assured of that fact, and enjoy!
My beloved readers, please to pull an overstuffed armchair toward a roaring fire on this blustery day we’re experiencing, hold in one hand your beverage of choice, and listen up. I want to tell you a story. And before you read it and come away thinking that I have simply become too eccentric for your further acquaintance and/or friendship, please do read at least two paragraphs beyond the section marked off by asterisks.
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Last Sunday, I did something that would have astonished many of you had you had the opportunity to witness it. It was late evening, and I was walking through a public place that now seems much too inconsequential to describe in full detail. Suffice it to say that this building was equipped with a piano, for the general use and enjoyment of passers-by. At that time, I was filled to overflowing with such indescribable joy that I felt I had to do something with the waves of delight coursing through me. Accordingly, there being no one about and I being in the mood to infuse some of this happiness with creativity, I sat down at the piano and began to play.
I’ve worked very hard to polish my piano skills, you know–shaped and honed that talent for God’s glory for many, many years. That wasn’t always the case–I used to be decidedly legalistic about music, insisting that any creative interpretation went against Scripture, somehow, and playing hymns and only hymns with a stayed calmness, and even that with only one hand, plinking out single notes like a beginning piano student. I’ve learned better, though–learned to fashion this gift to glorify my Lord, and found that musical creativity and spontaneity can be an important part of the process.
Back to Sunday evening. I did begin with hymns–though not with a slow and clumsy rendering of a classic. No, ’twas “Arise, My Soul, Arise” for me and my faithful instrument. I began by playing it traditionally, but then decided to take a few liberties–playing certain parts more loudly in order to emphasis their theological importance to my heart, inserting a few notes that didn’t strictly belong in the hymn just to accentuate the glorious nature of what I was playing, allowing my piano to do the exclaiming I was as yet not quite bold enough to do verbally. I tell you, if that piano could speak, it would have been crying out, “HALLELUJAH!” after every second line or so. Not perfect, not polished, not traditional–but so very necessary. From there, I transitioned–not so gracefully, I must admit–into “Sunshine in My Soul”. The segue was supposed to be seamless–in fact, had I been paying any attention at all, it would have been–but as it was, the whole thing was a bit clunky and uneven, with a few sour notes spoiling the performance, if I chose to call it that. But I don’t, for the only One for whom I was playing doesn’t really care whether I play a wrong note or two, just that I use the gifts He has given me to honor Him.
So, yes… “Sunshine in My Soul”. This is a difficult song to sing, let alone play, and there wasn’t a hymnal in sight. I cared not. I plunged forward anyway, making a few mistakes but so magnificently filled with joy that little timing errors and a few flat notes didn’t matter. Then, more songs. By this time, a few people had stopped to listen, some even sitting down to absorb the impromptu concert. I was too busy worshiping the Lord to pay them anything more than a cursory glance. Neither did I pay much attention to fitting tempo with tempo. Everyone knows that a slow worship ballad like “Jesus, Name Above All Names” shouldn’t be immediately followed up by something driving and exuberant like “Days of Elijah”–the effect would be too jarring. Ah, but I did it! By this time, polish and convention were both slipping through my fingers, which were too busy dancing over piano keys to grasp hold of societal norms. “This is the Day”. “Clap your hands, all ye people, shout unto God with the voice of triumph…”. “I Want to Be Where You Are”. “Shout to the Lord, all the earth, let us sing…”. “Here We Are in Your Presence”. “In Your presence, that’s where I am strong; in Your presence, O Lord my God…”. At some intervals, I was doing the kind of note-to-note glissando that is really much more effective on the harp; at others, I know I must have sounded a little like Keith Green, the way he used to pound those keys like an old-fashioned typewriter–although, unlike Keith, I really don’t have the training to pull that kind of playing off, nor the wherewithal to know when to use it. At some points, there really was one-handed playing, or long pauses when there wasn’t any music at all because I was raising my hands before the Lord…
This was a public piano, but there really wasn’t much going on that evening. A few people, as I said, had stopped to listen. Others would stop and stare, or avert their eyes–either because they sensed that what I was doing was semi-private or because they didn’t know how to handle it. I just played on. I had to do this; it was the only means of expressing myself for miles around, since I’m not nearly as good at expressing those same thoughts verbally. The Lord is still working with me on being a bit bolder in that area… So, all I had at that moment was the piano and a small group of curious onlookers. On I played, and probably sang, too–though I don’t remember clearly–until I was absolutely spent. Until a few hours had passed and my fingers, which had not played in a few months, could not stretch toward even one more key. And then, exhausted but so deeply, deeply satisfied, I got up and walked away, clothed in purest peace but leaving my observers without any explanation.
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Now, my precious readers, you’re all intelligent enough to know that the actual incident didn’t really happen. No public piano, no flawed and enthusiastic playing, no curious onlookers. Instead…
Last Sunday evening, I was, indeed, filled with joy inexpressible. I really am terrible at communicating some of my thoughts on the things of the Lord–which is why I write a blog rather than putting together a podcast! But that day’s delight in Jesus was so complete that I felt I had to do something. And so I wrote. I wrote without polish and certainly without any semblance of perfection, at times with gentle notes of worship and at times with rollicking notes of praise. Really, I’m not even sure I ran spellcheck that day. I just went back and tried to read the post, but I’m downright embarrassed by certain elements of it and couldn’t finish the thing.
But, do you know something? I’m going to let it stay. I will not delete that post simply because it was disjointed and made little sense. I know what I meant and I will keep that piece of disconnected writing as a tribute to a very special moment in my spiritual life. That was a private moment of worship–hence, the lack of convention–in a very public blog setting.
But why didn’t I confine that piece to my journal? Why put something out there if it isn’t perfect? Because, dear readers–and this goes back to writing philosophy established immediately after I received the Holy Spirit–writing really isn’t worth anything unless there is the possibility of having it read. Besides, I’m terrible at journaling–so caught up am I in the writing process itself that I can never put my true feelings on paper, so I have to make audio recordings of personal journal entries and house them on my iPod. No, if I’m to write, I must make it public. A unique ideology, I know, but it works for me.
Besides–and this may be a difficult concept to explain–perhaps that flawed post will actually be used by God, somehow. The writing I did on 16 February did resemble a jagged and broken alabaster box–no doubt about it. But perhaps someday, many years from now, someone will stumble upon it who has, like me, felt inhibited in worship at one time or another. Perhaps s/he will see that post and apply it to some other form of worship, will learn a little more boldness in the Lord and will be inspired to praise Him in some special way. Perhaps…
Now, please be aware that this post is not in any way designed to be a defense of last week’s post. I simply use the events of last week as a rather prominent example of a general philosophy. So, as briefly as I can, this is what writing means to me–why I do it, and how it relates specifically to this blog:
I. Writing: It is a form of worship–perhaps because, in sad truth, I really never did learn a musical instrument. So, a computer keyboard takes the place of an acoustical keyboard.
II. Syntax: Why do I write the way I do? It began in grade school, when I discovered that there was no way whatsoever to customize Braille; while other students practiced their penmanship, I sat making endless F’s and D’s and J’s and H’s–all letters that appear very similar in Braille–and determined that my syntax must do double duty as my voice and my handwriting. I shaped and molded it accordingly, complete with frequent British spellings and dates. Then, after I received the Holy Spirit, I really did become quite legalistic. Where I got the notion, I don’t know, but I do know that for three-and-a-half years I refused to use any vocabulary that couldn’t be found somewhere in some English version of the Bible. I didn’t use King James wording, though I could have if I had wanted to, but I did use wording from the NIV and NKJV extensively, and refused to incorporate either details or literary devices that weren’t found somewhere in Scripture. Never did I write about, say, the spaghetti I had enjoyed some evening and then connect it to a special event; instead, I mentioned “the evening meal”, if even that, and moved on, humiliated that I couldn’t find a more Scriptural way of talking about such a horribly mundane matter. And to think that I could have related my activities to my life in the Lord, without any form of legalism! Later, however, a few things happened in rapid succession–first, I joined a class whose instructor pushed me beyond that idea; then, Hannah received the Holy Spirit and maintained all the qualities I had admired in her prior to her renewed love for Jesus leading me to believe that, if she hadn’t lost her creativity, neither should I; and I did a little searching of the Scriptures and found that, as far as I could tell, attempts to improve one’s writing or singing or harp-playing or sculpting were not a sin! Armed with this new and beautiful knowledge, I worked on writing, crafting words and stringing them together like beads until I had something that I knew could glorify God if I chose to use it for that purpose. Why use it for anything else?
III. Sharing Policy: Writing is meant to be read. I’ve touched on this, but I thought I would reiterate it here–writing means much more to me if there is the POSSIBILITY of it being read. I don’t need the guarantee, just the possibility–perhaps because failing to share writing almost feels like hiding my light under a bushel.
IV. Blogging and Other Social Networks: If I’m so emphatic about sharing my writing, why am I not promoting Like a Weaned Child right and left? Well, my precious readers, it’s a delicate balance. My job is to put the words where they can be seen, but doing anything more than that is not at all right. No, God will bring to each post the people whom He wants to see it, be they many or few. I mean that with all my heart. My writing is the Lord’s; He gave me the idea for this site, and He will do with it what He wills. The same policy applies to my failure to spice the blog up with a different layout, pictures, music, etc. It seems that it would be a ministry tool with or without the multimedia experience, so keeping things status quo seems easiest at the moment. Besides, it goes along with my purpose (see below).
V. Blogging and Reciprocation: Is this, then, why I “don’t read any other blogs”? Ah, but you are mistaken if you think I don’t read your blog or any other, for that matter. The trouble is, I use JAWS for Windows, which is a screen-reading software package for people with visual disabilities. Now, JAWS theoretically reads all on-screen information, but the system isn’t perfect. Take “like” buttons on sites like WordPress. Unless I have sighted assistance every time I want to like a post, I have to read it and resort to LIKING it in my heart–which, if you ask me, is much better than merely pressing a little button, but then, you wouldn’t be able to relate to that since your blogs are the ones I can’t physically demonstrate enjoyment of. If I’ve found a post so magnificent that it has changed my entire outlook on life, I usually try to leave a comment. Consider your post thoroughly liked at that point!
VI. Length and Purpose: Back to posting in and of itself. I could write more briefly if I wanted to, but I seldom take that course because slow, careful, and often comprehensive writing teaches and reinforces something that I want all potential readers to know–quite often, especially in this harried cultures of ours and particularly as touches things of the Holy Spirit, it is important to slow down and rest. To throw off time constraints and busy schedules and just take time to worship. So, my lengthy writing–and even some of the shorter pieces–are penned that way deliberately in an attempt to get you to stop and smell the frankincense, myrrh, spikenard, lilies, and rain. Oh, and the roses, too.
VII. Joy and Peace: To that end, I have one hard and fast rule. I cannot, must not, will not write about anything blatantly unedifying unless there is a clear-cut purpose in it. I can describe in vivid detail the time when lab technicians tried repeatedly to access a vein in my hand until it felt as though the bones itself had become victims of some dreadful surgical operation, but ONLY IF I then describe the way in which a Christian CNA entered my room soon afterward and seemed to make everything right with the gentle love she demonstrated. Good Samaritan, who has only ever read one piece of writing but who knows me better than I know myself, has implored me to write about my experience in guide-dog training–the positive aspects, but mostly the challenging ones–because she says it will surely be cathartic. I will write the articles if the Lord wills, but they will only ever be used to frame trials in the light of His glory. So, know that, even if I do write something difficult, there is a purpose behind it–everything I write from here forward will be designed for encouragement rather than sorrow, even if pain or anxiety make an appearance.
So, that’s my writing philosophy. I can’t promise that I’ll never engage in a spontaneous worship session and then publish it for all to see–and I certainly can’t promise to warn my readers when I’m about to engage in such behaviour. I can commit to writing what I can in hopes of serving the Lord with what He has given me, and invite all of my beloved readers–whoever you may be–to come along for the ride.
This post should have been written last April–every good blogger needs a piece describing his or her writing philosophy, and preferably when s/he is just beginning the blog project. But what is the fun of beginning at the beginning? Isn’t starting in medias res much more enriching? Of course it is!–and so, for that matter, is a spontaneous allegory, and an even more unplanned “worship session” like the one I embarked upon last week. The spice of life, I say–the cinnamon and honey and other delightful spice of life!
Addendum: The title for this post is taken from Keith Green’s song, “Stained-Glass”. I encourage all my readers to find and enjoy this song, for it’s rather difficult to explain. Essentially, though, Keith compares our lives in the Lord to stained-glass windows, beautiful to behold when the Holy Spirit shines through us. That is who I want to be–both in writing and in day-to-day life. The tempo of the song is also reflective of the way I tend to write sometimes, upbeat and exuberant but with a purpose lingering beneath the layers of piano-driven percussion. Keith Green is the only musician I know whose piano sometimes did the job of a drum, but the effect was breath-taking. May I learn to glorify God in the same way, only with writing–and may my life be stained-glass through which the Lord shines with His brilliant, glorious light.