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A Whale of a Reminder

Honored to have this blog post selected a Top 3 finalist in the 2019 OCW Cascade Writing Contest.

This is an article I wrote which originally appeared in April 2018 on The Restore Movement website (http://www.therestoremovement.com/)

I press the accelerator and pull away from the shallow water, leaving the shore and all that is on it behind me. The cool, salty air rushes against my face and pulls at my hair. I take in deep relaxing breaths. I see other jet skis in the distance doing giant circles and spraying high pillars of water, but all I want to do is glide over the undulating water and head straight towards the horizon. Escape.

If I go slow, I slide smoothly through the swells. With some speed, I bounce over them – the rate of speed determining how out of control the feeling is. I choose fast. There is an island not too far off in the distance. I’ve never ridden all the way out to it before and decide that today is the day. Usually the open water brings a slight, underlying sense of fear in me, but I easily shake off the thought of the deepness and darkness of the sea beneath me and break away into adventure, leaving the worries of the day behind me.

As I go, a prayer wells up inside me unbidden, “Oh God…” but I stop it abruptly because I am afraid of what His response might reveal. Life is in a rough patch at the moment and I don’t want to think about it. I want to hide in the great openness of my surroundings. But it still comes to me. Against my wishes I begin to think about what I do not have: a place to live, a job to pay the bills, someone to understand the complexities of my fears, and how I have lost the passion to follow my dreams. I also think about what I do have and can be thankful for: a car, a friend’s couch, a small amount of savings that covers my minimum needs. As for my dreams, there is a very small, very slim, very vague sense of hope. But it’s nothing that I want to disturb. I’m afraid that if I try to even touch it, it will disappear in a puff of smoke. My need weighs too heavily, I can’t think of losing more.

Prayer wells up inside me again, “Oh God…” comes to my lips. The great aloneness that surrounds me causes the great aloneness inside me to open up. “Oh God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water…” Psalm 63 burns up and out of me. I’m saying it out loud, fairly shouting it over the sound of the engine and the spray of the water and the rushing wind. I finish with a personal postscript, yelling “Oh God, my hope is almost gone and I am about to perish!”

At that moment, less than fifty yards away and running parallel with me, I see a large, dark mass rise out of the water. Someone had mentioned earlier that there were some humpback whales that had been seen in the vicinity. The massive creature breaches silently, smoothly, glowing in the wet. I freeze for a moment staring at her majestic beauty. I think, “How absolutely amazing. Oh, please please please, don’t come any closer.” She does three more dips and then disappears, leaving no evidence of her presence behind.

I continue on my circuit around the island thinking about the huge creature now hidden beneath the water. My body flexes in remembrance. A thought bursts into my mind: she is like my big, overarching dream that God has given me. It runs down deep beneath the surface – living, moving, growing out of sight and not revealed except for rare moments that spark awe and wonder. I think about all that God has for my life and the moments I am allowed to see the big picture, so overwhelming it almost makes me want to run. My spirit flexes in remembrance. I also realize that my humpback is most certainly not alone. Others of her pod are near. They too are below the surface, unseen and unknown, along with a great quantity of smaller sea life like the seals, dolphins, and fish. They all lurk there too – like smaller, more easily understood and handled dreams and goals. I am gliding along heading for the island, a clear destination I can see. They are gliding below me in deep, smooth currents as well as in rough waters. They are always there, just not always seen. Then a phrase I have often used to encourage others comes to me: “God is always hard at work behind the scenes on our behalf, even when we can’t see it or sense it.”

I don’t know when I will see a whale emerge from the depths again, but the seals and fish I do see remind me she is out there. I don’t know when I’ll see my big dream again, but I see small things that remind me of it. And just like that island in the distance I’ll keep heading in the direction God has me going and trust that He is always at work behind the scenes – and beneath the surface. His purpose will rise in my life.

Stirring It Back Up

For three long years I have been performing a balancing act on the ledge of indecision. Up for grabs was whether the passion that had provided the momentum for my life’s purpose would be be allowed to die a slow and uneventful death, or whether I would fight to stir it back into being.

November 2014 was my last blog entry and all my other writing (except for a random journal page now and then) ceased shortly after that. I’m not able to chalk this development up to the hardships of life, since Burn Bright Coaching and Consulting was originally birthed from the complications of displacement, discouragement and distress. This time was different. It went past the intellect and the emotions. This time it went to the dividing point of joint and marrow. If that sounds familiar you may be acquainted with Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow… (NIV)” Yes, this time it was spiritual.

While I never despaired about the status of my relationship with God (although the quality of it was in question at times), it was never a given that there would be a come back for my passion or this blog. But there came a particular moment on a particular day in this rather long journey that I made the choice to bring life back to the Burn Bright blog. Not because friends encouraged me to do so, not because I have any urgency of “God told me to,” or even that my passion has completely returned. I have come back here and am writing because I have a God story to share, and God stories are always too good to keep to yourself. Each time one is shared it stirs something up in both the narrator and the listener, the writer and the reader. So I hope that in the days and weeks ahead, as I share the details of my return journey, it will stir up not just a passion in you but also your God story.

maybe it wont work out

When You Know the Notes to Sing…

For 25 years I have been part of a singing ensemble. Different members have come and gone but the group has continued on in one form or another and I have remained a part of it, until this year. This year the group finally came to an end. It’s quite odd not to have regular Tuesday night practice, not to be in the holiday mood early because of working on Christmas songs in September, and not to have a reason for a new holiday outfit this year.

To keep from missing it too much, I chose to begin lessons with a vocal coach – not only to continue to have music in my life but also to keep me in front of an audience on a regular basis (if I have too long between public appearances, whether speaking or singing, I tend to develop a touch of stage fright). Right now I am preparing a piece for a recital. While it’s strange to be working on only one song instead of fifteen, it’s fun to be laser focused on making that one song completely mine – crafting it to take advantage of my abilities.

It’s an interesting process. First I found a song I liked. Then I searched the internet and listened to 38 different artists to find a version that suited me. I found two I liked equally well and couldn’t decide between them. My vocal coach and I decided to combine them — take the best pieces from each and splice them together. In order to do that I needed to learn to sing the parts of the songs EXACTLY as the original singers do: their notes, their timing, their inflections. Once I mastered that, only then was it time to work on folding them together. And after that, I was finally able to put my own spin on it and make it MY version.

That’s pretty much a basic formula for anything one wants to do well in life:

  • find something you enjoy and for which you have a natural aptitude
  • find someone to mentor/coach you
  • find someone to model who does something similar with excellence and study them – duplicate their movements toward success until you know what you are doing very well; then step away and put your own spin on it.

It’s similar to learning to write in cursive in grade school. At first it’s all about holding the pencil exactly right, then following the patterns of each letter perfectly, row after row after row. Then in the end you’re free to write any way you choose, with your own personal flair.

vontrapp family
photo courtesy of Internet Movie Database (imdb.com)

Remember the Von Trapp children from The Sound of Music?  Once they knew the notes to sing, they could sing most anything!

It’s true professionally. There are hundreds of financial experts. All of them have the purpose of increasing their clients’ financial portfolio. But each one has their own variation on it. Suze Orman, the Motley Fools, Clark Howard, and Dave Ramsey are all people who are in tune with the same basic principles and do what they do very well, but very differently.

It’s also true personally. Whatever your purpose is, take advantage of the people out there who are doing it well now. Don’t be too proud to ask for assistance – ask questions and try out their methods. Read books, visit websites, go to seminars, or plays, or concerts, or sporting events and watch and learn.

Why start from scratch when you don’t have to? Get the basics down, establish a foundation, and then move out and find your own style and make your own kind of music.

You can read about networking on one of my previous posts:  Stirring the Embers