Thursday, May 31, 2007

Praise Night Fiasco

It has been two weeks since our junior camp, and only now have I found sufficient composure and patience to write about this...and to ask the question out loud, "What happened to praise night?"

I was the music coordinator for our camp and was told to handle the last night's praise event. I was excited from the moment I received the task. I've always loved leading special events, and I wanted to do so many innovative things with this one.

There would be four groups of children doing choreography, there would be a god-glorifying atmosphere the whole evening, there would be impeccable coordination for our dual-songleader experiment, and there would be perfect musical chemistry with my mom as our pianist. I was extremely excited. I was praying everyday for the event. I knew it would last long in my memories.

It will last long in my memory, but not in a positive way.

That night, the camp children were all rowdy, disobedient, inattentive, and stubborn. The choreographies became self-glorifying, worldly special numbers. The technical support struggled. My co-songleader and I had horrible coordination and almost zero command. My mom did not have enough time to practice with us.

It was a living nightmare.

After the event, the kids were shouting at the top of their lungs and comparing their programs. Some camp leaders told me I did a good job, but I knew I didn't.

I wanted so much to cry after praise night, and I would have blubbered if I could have found a place to be alone with God. My dream of a wonderful god-centered evening had turned into the campers' popularity contest. I don't know what went wrong...I really, really didn't know...

During the rest of the camp and for many days afterwards, I cried out loud to God. What went wrong? I had prepared, prayed, and searched for a pure heart...but still, something went wrong. What? Why?

It would be easy to blame it on the kids' lack of discipline. I could say it was the fault of immature leaders. I could also blame the inexperience of our music team together. Yet I knew I couldn't do that, I knew God was telling me something else.

Then it came to me as tears were brimming in my eyes.

Even though I had always thought about the event as a god-glorifying event, even though I had started out with god-centered motives...that dream had become my own. Something like what Phil Vischer said about Veggietales, I had taken a godly dream and made it all about my own vision. I was excited about glorifying God that praise night, but I was more concerned with successfully making MY OWN event glorify God.

And as could be expected, it didn't.

I am sad over this, very sad. Just the thought of the entire ordeal brings me pain. It is a lesson hard-learnt. I am sad in particular that I actually deceived myself into thinking I had a pure heart, when I had a selfish one.

Still, I thank the Lord for His graciousness in pointing this out to me. It is a lesson that I might have to apply again as I continue to serve Him. I pray that He help me remember this lesson, and let my example serve as a warning to my fellow servants.

It must be all about Him, and really all about Him. Teach us, Lord, to remember this.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Wait on the Lord

What is so difficult to understand about those four words? They are simple to say, and I have said them to others before. Yet when my turn comes around to learn this lesson, the challenge proves to be far greater than I had expected.

Ten years ago, life was the same everyday. In fact, I would find myself actually wishing that life be the same everyday. I was just enjoying my childhood. I didn’t want things any other way.

When the teenage years arrived, I began to look ahead. I wanted more thrill, more excitement, more heartbeats. Life became more dynamic. Yet still, it was predictable. Grade 8 comes after Grade 7. Age 14 follows 13. Next Sunday, next month, next year would follow their counterparts with everything remaining more or less the same.

Then all of a sudden, the future is more uncertainty than stability. Within the last two years, my house changed, my lifestyle changed, my interests broadened, my acquaintances grew in number, my ministries matured…and my whole life is caught in a whirlwind of unpredictability.

At the moment, I do not even know where I will be and what I will be doing six months from now. With changes impacting both childhood and new friendships, I do not know who will be by my side to witness the experiences I will have in the next few years.

Will I continue to build upon and try to excel in what I’ve been doing all my life? Or will I be exploring uncharted grounds all alone? Will I have time to process a student visa? Will I apply for correspondence college instead of university? Will I lose friends? Will I gain friends?

There are so many uncertainties. I’m confused…scared too, at times…

My mother shared something to me this morning, a phrase from her devotional reading. “The Lord is never too late, but He is never too early.” He will wait until I have learned total reliance upon Him before revealing His will. He will not allow me to even think I planned things on my own. It is His plan.

This afternoon, someone texted me a simple forward. “Wait on the Lord. There are times when GOD asks nothing of His children except silence, patience, and tears. You’re never late when you wait on the Lord.” I guess God really is trying to tell me something.

Wait on Him, Wenslyn, wait on the Lord.

It won’t be easy, but I get the picture. Lord, help me wait upon You.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Passing of the Touch

I love the piano. It is wonderful to produce rich harmony while letting my fingers dance along the ivory keys. I love practicing to achieve "the touch," as my musician mother puts it. I love the instrument, and I love to serve God with it.

Over the years, I've had opportunities to be a pianist for camps, fellowships, and worship services. There would be challenges, but I enjoyed living up to them. I practiced everyday, I did my best. I was determined to shine in this skill as much as I could.

Then all of a sudden, somewhere along the line these last two years, I realized that I was near the other words, I was the leading pianist for our fellowship, an assistant pianist for our choir, and a seasoned pianist for our praise team. Wow, I was so impressed with myself.

I was now something of an authority in the field. People would come to ask "Achi WenWen" what to play. Friends would tell me that they are very confident whenever they have me as their accompanist. I now had the responsibility to be teacher to younger pianists. Oh, I loved it.

So I trained younger pianists. Some of them were great, some of them were lazy. I felt so proud to be the musical mentor of the great ones. I loved it when they thanked me for tuning up their skills.

We were all growing for the glory of God, and that was all that mattered...well, until I realized I wasn't thinking about that most of all.

One particular trainee of mine, the most patient and determined and talented of them all, became better and better as the weeks progressed. I loved it; I was proud of him...then, he started to outshine me.

I could hear it clearly with my own ears. Those techniques, those patterns, and that strong undercurrent of pure talent were nothing I could ever have for myself. He was too good, so good that I could hardly imagine him to once be my student. That talent and affinity for a pianist's "touch" were what I could never attain through grueling practice or sheer determination. My potential as a musician is less than half of his.

I was upset, though I did not show it. True, I was still proud of him, but this realization that the student could be higher than the teacher bothered me. I selfishly felt that I was not receiving the proper recognition as his tutor whenever people praise the young man for his skills. I thought it was all unfair. Why should he, who owes so much to me, be better than I am?

Ouch! God hit me once more. I messed up many sessions of playing the piano. My heart was no longer right.

I still practiced the piano like crazy for church ministries, but mostly out of a desire to prove myself better. But, better than what?

God does not require me to be better than all pianists. He does not want me to outshine everyone. He only asks for my best from me...that's it, my best. It was I who was not satisfied, not Him. If I was lacking in my music ministry, then it was only because I lost a pure heart.

I thank God for helping me realize these lessons. I do not need to fret that my efforts seemed to go to waste. No, they are not wasted. I should live up to the talents God has given me, the same way my student should live up to his.

Instead of pouting that I am not as good as others, I should celebrate that God has used underserving me to train better servants for His kingdom. I should be thankful, not discontent. I should rejoice with those who rejoice, not wallow in self-pity.

My piano skills may be just enough to serve a certain purpose in practicality, but God also used them to teach me a lesson on purity of heart. Thanks be to Him.