Talents

There’s this phrase I like to use to describe myself. It’s well known by many, but also misunderstood I believe:

“Jack of all trades, master of none.”

On the surface, this phrase seems a little poignant. You’re saying to the world: “I’m not really that great at any thing.” and that thought used to make me shy away from it. I was afraid that people would think I was looking down on myself, that I lacked confidence in what I talents I have.

When you start to dig deeper into the meaning though, something beautiful happens.

You see, I used to be jealous of the people out there who were great at something. They had this one thing that drove them further, this one passion, this one desire that kept them on track. They knew what they wanted out of life and they pushed toward that everyday.

And then there was me.

I’ve felt the call of music ministry from the age of 16, “This is it!” I said to myself. But I believe God had something different in mind.
At 19, in response to my love for art, I enrolled in art college for photography.
I kept my options open, I continued to learn what I could in the realm of music (A story for another day), and I continued to pursue the arts. I painted, I taught myself some graphic design and videography, I got involved in performing arts and discovered a love for musical theater, and I started writing. I loved it all. But where was my one passion?

I believe one of the hardest parts of life is choosing what to go after.

In fact, if there is one thing I’m great at, It’s probably self-awareness. The ability to not be able to lie to myself. To be able to see the harsh reality at all times without rose colored lenses. It’s more like a curse, really. 🙂

I look at every single one of those things I love and can truthfully say that I am not great at any of them.
Why? I would ask God over and over. Life would be so much easier if I just knew what I needed to pursue!

I slowly realized that maybe I wasn’t called to be great at any one thing. God began to challenge me… What was so wrong with that?
Did he promise me that ‘my calling’ would be one thing? Why should my calling happen like everyone else’s? Why shouldn’t I have many talents?

I’ve been so caught up in finding my calling, my special talent, seeking my passion, that I missed the point.

— — —

Today, I was thinking about the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30.

A master leaves money (talents) with three servants. Each servant knows their master is a certain kind of man. He values profit. Yet, clearly he values his servants enough to entrust them with his money. He gives one 5 talents, another 2 talents, and the last servant he gives one talent. He leaves for a while and comes back to find that the servants who had the 5 and 2 talents invested them and multiplied them. The servant with the one talent was scared that he would lose his money and be punished by his master, so he buried it.
The master returns and he praises the first two servants for taking what he gave them and multiplying it. But the third servant he scolds and throws out into the darkness for not having multiplied his one talent.
I’ll admit this story has always seemed a little harsh to me. I mean, he didn’t lose the talent, he could’ve went and spent it, but he didn’t. Was it so bad that he was scared that he would fail his master?

But I realized today that that’s not the point.
Multiplication of one’s talent is a side effect of one’s view of the master. The first two servants knew their master, knew that they had been given a lot of trust, and they knew the weight of what their task was. The third servant didn’t understand that. He let his misunderstanding of the master cause him to dwell on all the wrong things. He was more worried about the talent than he was worried about his master desires.

— — —

God has been showing me lately that I’ve had that one passion all along. That one passion is, and always should be, Him. He has given me many talents, and has entrusted me to use them for his profit, his kingdom’s profit.
I’ve felt that weight from the very beginning. But it’s so easy to become the servant with one talent. To get caught up in what I have to offer, maybe even comparing what I’ve been given with others, hiding my small abilities because they didn’t measure up.

God’s message in the parable isn’t that some people have more than others for any particular reason, his message is that no matter what abilities he has given us we should love him enough to want to use them for his gain.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that having more than one ability is better than having just one thing you’re good at. It’s all the same. As in the parable, it is not the amount of talents that mattered at all.

At the end of the story, The master tells the third servant that he doesn’t deserve his one talent, takes it, and gives it to the first servant. Then he says: “To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.”

I’m finding everyday that if my passion lies in my talents, then I am doomed to fail. But if my passion is for my master, the talents I have are just a tool to please him.
It’s a beautiful thing to be a jack of all trades and master of none. God has richly blessed me with abilities, entrusted me to gain interest for his kingdom. To be a master of nothing isn’t a poignant matter. It means that I’m ever learning, ever growing my abilities. And the truth is, I’ll never become a master of my talents. For my talents are not mine to begin with, they’re his. I am merely holding onto them, using them well, striving to increase them for my master’s hand.

Inspiratron.

____________

I am inspired by the little things.
The way a child’s eyes light up as they catch the first glimpse of their parent after an absence, or how lonely a mere moment can be whether in solitude or in company.

I am inspired by music.
That in our voices alone lies the potential to create sound beyond any instrument man can fathom, or that we can perceive one combination of notes as sounding ‘unpleasant’ and another combination as sounding ‘pleasant’.

I am inspired by nature.
How a worm will relentlessly work it’s way through an apple, or how the leaves on a tree will hold on with all their might before plummeting to their death in a pile of others killed in action by something that can’t be seen.

I am inspired by irony.
How you only get stuck behind the person with 10,000 coupons to scan in the check-out line when you are in a gigantic hurry, or how happiness makes us cry just as much as sadness.

I am inspired by failure.
The reason I cry every time I watch the music video for Garth Brooks’ “Standing Outside the Fire”, or how I get so motivated to do something when someone tells me it’s not possible.

I am inspired by tragedy.
How the most honest and open-hearted feelings can be exposed in the wake of adversity, or to experience the restoration process after a prolonged downward spiral.

I am inspired by hate.
To learn the way the individual mind takes information and twists it into their own understanding, forever branding the truth with falsehood; or examining the fight against our human nature to immediately criticize those around us.

I am inspired by love.
Witnessing the difference in the way a person looks at someone they deeply love versus the way they look at everyone else, or seeing an old man still continue to open the car door for his wife.

____________

What inspires you?

Winter.

Made this short video of a beautiful snow that fell in Nashville a few days ago. This is my first attempt at shooting and editing a video with my new camera equipment.

Shot with: Nikon D7000, AF-S Nikkor 70-300mm lens
Song: “Winter” by: Shawn McDonald

I used this edited clip of the song as a skit in the Christmas Eve service I directed last year. When I watched the raw footage I took, I tried quite a bit of music to accompany it, aiming to use a copyright-free song from a website I frequent. I just couldn’t get away from this song though. It has such a melancholy feel to it, and yet it’s beauty shines through with an odd expression of hope.
That’s the message I wanted for the video. I wanted to show the beauty of nature covered in snow, but also the desperation and loneliness that it brings. The covering of something that appears dead with something that is frozen and heavy… and somehow we call it beautiful.
The destruction of ourselves truly is beautiful, because in that destruction we are able to consider hope. Hope helps us to live again.

Keys.

As you know (or should know), I’m a lover of music. I love pretty much all of it. However, I have two favorite instruments. The violin and the piano. For this post, I want to talk about the piano.
It’s so versatile and emotional. It makes me forget about the world around me.

I was thinking about my favorite ‘piano’ songs today. I’ve always had this un-written list in my head of the songs I adore because of the piano in them…
I hope to increase this list, but this is what I could think of within a considerable amount of time. In no particular order, here they are. (with links!)

“River Flows In You” – Yiruma

“Clair de Lune” – Debussy

“River Waltz” – Alexander Desplat

“Journey Home” – Joseph Akins
“Keys to the Heart” – Joseph Akins

“Hoppipolla” – Sigur Ros

“You And Me Are Gone” – Jamie Cullum
“I Think, I Love” – Jamie Cullum

”Lullaby (Goodnight My Angel)” – Billy Joel
“And So It Goes” – Billy Joel
“She’s Always A Woman” – Billy Joel

“Nature Boy” – Nat King Cole
“Too Young” – Nat King Cole

“Have A Little Faith In Me” – John Hiatt

“The Music That Haunts This Town/Waltz” – Ian Axel
“Gone” – Ian Axel

“Whipping Post” – Mountain Heart

“Walking In Memphis” – Marc Cohn

“The Way It Is” – Bruce Hornsby

“The Ascent of Stan” – Ben Folds
“Cologne” – Ben Folds
“Landed” – Ben Folds
“Kylie From Connecticut” – Ben Folds
“Army” – Ben Folds (excuse the four letter word)

Leaving on My Mind.

This isn’t a blog about heaven.
It’s about leaving and never looking back.
Do you ever have an urge to do this? To just leave it all behind: the miles, the people, the problems, the past, the scenery, the person you’ve become?
I know I do. I think about it more than I probably should.

Sometimes I just want to burn the bridges. Give up on everything I’ve worked on.
To get away from here and take time to myself, see things I’ve never seen, do things I’ve never done, and go places I’ve never been. Part of it is just to be on the road, but part of it is a rebellious spirit too. I recognize that.

I don’t act on it for two reasons: I know God placed me here for a reason. And I know that running from my life will never work. It catches up.

And those are the reasons why I’m staying right here.

The Accompanist.

Ellis Larkins

“You have to have patience, that’s the most important thing — patience with yourself especially. (There’s) a tendency to go for yourself and you forget all about the other person.” – Ellis Larkins

I was driving home today and I turned on the radio to an NPR type station that, when it’s not broadcasting boring news or baseball games, plays the most amazing jazz music you’ve ever heard. Not new age or fusion jazz, but good ole hearty, soul jazz. Sometimes the songs have words, sometimes they don’t. But I enjoy listening to practice my scat, and when I just need some downtime background music.

I tuned in today just as a song was starting, beautiful piano music accompanying a saxophone. A woman came over the music and started talking. She spoke of the pianist in the song, Ellis Larkins, and how he proved in his youth, with songs such as this, that he could hold his own in first-class artistry, but still wouldn’t overpower the soloist. More songs came on and the woman spoke of his life, the artists he accompanied year after year, and how his career took off by being an accompanist.
And then the narrator said something that caught my attention. She said, “Because he was so talented at being an accompanist to other musicians and singers, he found it difficult to step into the role of a soloist.”

Just think about that statement for a while in a spiritual aspect…

Shouldn’t that be a goal for all of us? That we were so caught up in helping others along in their walks, taking part in a fellowship, and pushing others forward in hopes of them succeeding, that we found it hard to do the same for ourselves? What if everyone would do that? Couldn’t each person find their time to shine as a soloist if they were willing to accompany first?

Ellis Larkins didn’t succeed as a soloist in mainstream music. His small, but highly devoted following would most likely say that he shone on the stage like a beacon, lighting the audience up with each press of a weighted key. They would call him a musical perfectionist with a sensitive elegance towards the piano. But he never played in front of a large audience, he was never recognized as a soloist. He achieved success by being the smaller name on the front of a record, with larger names above his like Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Williams.
The fame didn’t matter, his talent mattered.

I drove along, listening to the narrative that would come in every so often and speak about Ellis, and the thought crossed my mind at how unfortunate it must’ve been to never have had his name in lights. Then I received correction in my spirit.
His legacy is that he was an accompanist. Ellis Larkins admitted to being more fulfilled by being an accompanist than he ever did being a soloist. He was willing to let others shine in front, not because he had no confidence or courage to step up, but because he was embodied with the amazing talent of blending behind others and building up the talents of others with his music. He did this because he loved music with a passion beyond having fame or recognition.

I challenge you today to love God beyond any fame or recognition. So, you have dreams, ministerial dreams, financial dreams, relationship dreams. How do you achieve them? Be an accompanist first.
Don’t you see? It’s an honor to be called an accompanist. What an amazing legacy to say that your talent was to build others up and not yourself.
Eventually people will get you. You will get your dream. You will get the recognition you deserve, but being humble before others, even in your astounding talent, that’s what it’s all about. That’s what God is looking for in a leader. God would never thrust you in the spotlight first, you’re head would explode. Instead he teaches you through accompaniment how to build others up and become the type of person you will eventually lead.

But what if he never calls you to be a soloist? Great. Then you, like Ellis Larkins, have the amazing responsibility of being a pillar for the people of God around you, blending with grace the talents of others with your own talents… For the big picture. Because If Ellis never decided to play, the ending sound would be awkward and incomplete, no one would like the music of Ella or Joe if it weren’t for Ellis.

Be an accompanist and complete the sound of music in God’s ears.
He hears you.


Listen to Ellis Larkin’s Jazz Profile Here.

Life Albums.

I was just thinking about music. (Big surprise, huh?) About how, down through my life, there have always been albums of music that got me through life. But not just a few songs off of it. No, an album that is entirely awesome.
There isn’t one song you’d leave off of this album. Each individual song speaks to you in a different way. In fact, you probably know every word, every harmony chord, every instrumental and vocal nuance… But every time you listen to it you get something different out of it than what you got before.
I bet you can name one right off the top of your head at this very moment.
I want to share with you my list of albums that got me through, and continue to get me through, life.
These are my Life Albums.

— They’re listed in my best attempt of chronological order, and the list will continue to grow as I remember and add new ones, so check back. I encourage you to list your Life Albums as well. Remember, it has to be an entire album, not just a few songs. and for the heck of it, go ahead and list why they’re your Life Albums if you want. Attached is a file with all of my explanations and elaborations to my Life Albums (I felt it was too long to post on here).
Thanks for reading!

“In Pieces” – Garth Brooks

“No Strings Attached” – N*Sync

“Jesus Freak” – dc Talk

“The Fallout” – Default

“Away From The Sun” – 3 Doors Down

“Where Do We Go From Here?” – Pillar

“Ocean Avenue” – Yellowcard

“The Beautiful Letdown” – Switchfoot

“Collide” – Skillet

“The Triptych” – Demon Hunter

“Testify” – P.O.D.

“End of Silence” – RED

“Live” – Alison Krauss and Union Station

“Disciple” & “Scars Remain” – Disciple

“Victory! Live” – Tye Tribbett & G.A.

“Deeper: A Live Worship Album” – Israel & New Breed

“Masterpeace” – Joseph Akins

“19” – Adele

“Thriving Ivory” – Thriving Ivory

“The Pursuit” – Jamie Cullum

When The Rain Comes…

When the rain comes it seems that everyone has gone away
When the night falls you wonder if you shouldn’t find someplace
To run and hide, Escape the pain
But hiding’s such a lonely thing to do

I can’t stop the rain from falling down on you again
I can’t stop the rain, but I will hold you till it goes away

When the rain comes you blame it on the things that you have done
When the storm fades you know the rain has fall’n on everyone
So rest a while, It’ll be alright
No one loves you like I do

I can’t stop the rain from falling down on you again
I can’t stop the rain, But I will hold you,
I can’t stop the rain from falling down on you again
I can’t stop the rain, But I will hold you till it goes away

When the rain comes… I will hold you.

I’ve had this song on my heart today. It’s made me highly emotional, and highly comforted.

I can’t describe how hard this past week has been. Something inside of me has broken loose, and not necessarily in a good way. But this song reminds me that he is there and even though I’ve screamed and thrashed about in the storm… he’s still holding me, keeping me still in spite of my instinct to lash out or just run away.

I told (or rather shouted at) God the other night, in a screaming fit I was having in the car that “No one would even know what my life was really like if I died right now. Everyone would say how great of a person I was or how talented or artistic I was… but no one would even know what struggles I face each day.”
Why wouldn’t they, you ask? Because I act.
It’s in my genetic make-up to pretend everything’s okay. I struggle with it everyday. When someone asks me, “How are you?” my automatic response is “I’m fine, How are you?” Whether I’m fine or not.
WHAT IS THAT!?
And when I’m saying that, I’m thinking of how I really am. And then I feel like I’m lying.
However, it’s also a thing of mine to not complain, so even if my meal’s wrong at a restaurant or my day is crappy, I’m not going to unload on the first unsuspecting person who asks me how I am. It’s rude. So I act.

The things is… I’m so sick of acting. I want people to know how the truth about the life I lead.
I do hope after reading all of that you don’t think I’ve gone off the deep end, my life is not something to be ashamed of or to hide. It’s hard and it sucks sometimes, but there’s absolutely no sense to me in pretending like my life is easy.

On the outside, I feel like everyone sees me as the one who has it all together, the “good girl” who has everything going for her and the world at her finger tips.
Hah. I have to laugh at that. If you think that about me, please tell me why. Because you see, I’m none of those things. Not yet at least. I know I have the potential to be, and I pretend to be those things because it’s what’s been expected of me my whole life… but this time around I’m finally going to shove “I’m fine” down the drain and be real with people.

Does that mean I’m going to word vomit on everyone how asks me how I am? Nah. Though sometimes I wish I could. In fact, I have no idea how NOT to pretend like everything is okay and still be a happy person. It seems that I link being a happy person to not being a negative burden or being enthusiastic and outgoing. In retrospect, being happy is none of those things. They might be a side-effect or a product of happiness, but being happy isn’t produced through them. I think what’s going on is that I feel like I have to be those things in order to be happy and instead of seeking out happiness to find them, I’m using them to try and be happy.
And you guessed it. It’s not working. I’m not happy.

I feel guilty even saying those last three words. I have so much to be thankful for and happy about. My mom was diagnosed with cancer and three weeks later we get the news that she’s cancer free! Isn’t that something to be happy about? Or that I have a bright future ahead, I’m breathing, I’m provided for, and I have a loving, supportive family? All of that is great, astounding, and makes me amazed at my Savior.
Why aren’t I smiling today? Why haven’t I been smiling for the past week?

I seriously think it’s time to re-prioritize. My life is running me. The above song speaks of storms, yes. But it also says, “So rest a while, It’ll be alright.” — I can’t tell you what “rest” is anymore.
I’m so overloaded with school, church, friends, and family that I’ve sacrificed my daily devotions. I read the bible today for the first time in a week and a half. My prayer time last night consisted of screaming at the top of my lungs, speeding down a dark road, not caring if I somehow veered into on-coming traffic or lost control of my vehicle. Now if that doesn’t scream CRAZY than I don’t know what does.
I don’t normally do things like that. I admit to having thoughts of suicide before, and I’ve even attempted it once when I was younger, but last night was different. I recognized it, let it sift for about a minute and then slowed back down to 60mph. Last night I was enraged beyond the reality of committing suicide. And for that split second that I didn’t care about anyone but myself, I realized something.

I get no rest because I can’t put myself above others. If you need something, I’m there for you. Always. If it puts me out, I don’t care, I will do anything (within reason) to help you. I can’t bring myself to tell you no. I don’t want to let you down. If I let you down, you’ll think lesser of me. I don’t want you to think lesser of me… So I constantly try to do things for you and be there all the time so I can be considered a good friend. I put everything I have into it. I want your acceptance.
It’s a blessing and a curse. Because my spirit says all of that. My flesh however doesn’t give a crap about anyone but herself. She’s pessimistic and cruel. She’s insecure and spiteful. She doesn’t care at all.

That being the case, I can’t just start telling people no, for it is then that my flesh takes over and tells everyone no, even God. But something has to be done. I’ve concluded that certain ministries, certain activities, and certain friends will have to take a back seat in my life. I’m going to have to bite the bullet and prune my spiritual tree.
If I could have a finger in every pie, and still be sane, you better believe I would. I love being involved. I adore it even. I love helping others, and feeling needed, and unfortunately, I also love to be recognized for good deeds.
Yes, another REAL fact you may not know about me. I’m severely vane. I don’t think I’ve ever stated that anywhere. I may have hinted at it or eluded to it… but this blog seems to be a coming out of sorts for the ugly me that no one sees… so why not?

Regardless of the fact that I’m no where near ready for finals in two weeks, or that I’m solely depended on by my family right now in my mother’s incapacitated recovery (despite being the youngest), or that I’m constantly helping out different ministries to the point that my heart isn’t in half of it…
Past the fact that my daily devotions have almost ceased majorly for the first time in three years…
Past all of this rain that’s falling down on me again…

When the rain comes… I will hold you.

The World Is A Thorn.

I’ve decided to listen to Demon Hunter’s latest album “The World Is A Thorn” as an inspiration for a blog. The lyrical analysis of their songs has always brought such amazing revelations to me.
So as I listen to each song I’ll write down my thoughts.

“Descending Upon Us”
The lyrics to this song is disarming to any eternal ignorance. People often wait until something bad happens to them to call upon Christ, but this song states the awful truth that you’ll have to save your excuses for the day that we must suffer the wake of our treason, the day of judgment. It’s sobering to say the least. It says, “They say that truth is found when hell is at your doorstep.” — It’s when we are at the point of no return that we see the truth from lies. When, even if you turned around, you still have to travel the same distance as if you kept going. No turning back.

“LifeWar”
A life of war. War from hate, war of hate. “Give me to the pain of LifeWar.” It’s a pain, oh yes it is. But that pain is where you get the strength to fight in the war. I love how is says “I will pass through, buried in the flag of my war.” Wow. What amazing imagery and a mind-boggling metaphor. You will be buried in your physical body that has battled the war of life, with it’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual scars. The “flag” of your war, to me, would represent the victories and triumphs of your life…because a country, no matter if it’s won or lost, still flies there flag high, proud of who they are (or were).

“Collapsing”
It’s hard to see a person beside you in your walk with Christ lose their way. It brings you anger and compassion, anguish and determination. You feel helpless, yet you want to do everything in your power to help them. You can only help them to a certain extent though. They have to make the decision themselves. But when you’ve done all you can to help and still they won’t change their mind… It hurts. And I know I’ve been in this position and have thought, “I don’t know why I try.” But I try. It’s our duty to try.

“This Is The Line”
This song reminds me of one of my favorite bible verses:

“My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war.” -Jeremiah 4:19

I feel my own heart start to thump wildly when I read that sentence. There’s such anguish and passion in it. This song does much of the same thing to my spirit.

“Driving Nails”
Painfully self-explanatory. Tears are pricking at my eyes as I type. I feel convicted. I’ve been there, You’ve been there. The things inside of us that drive God further and further away… We allow them. We are the ones driving nails that pierce our own souls.

“The World Is A Thorn”
“Let me breathe the truth.”
To breathe is to take oxygen into your body, it gives you life, it enriches the blood. The blood runs throughout the body with oxygen fueling it. So when you breathe, oxygen runs through your entire body, replenishing and restoring health. When oxygen is introduced to the body in condensed form, it heals rapidly and sustains the longevity your life.
Now, reread that last paragraph, only replace the word ‘oxygen’ with the word ‘truth’. =)

“Tie This Around Your Neck”
Don’t let the title “fool” you. It’s the words of what the world would have you do, to essentially kill yourself. Whether that’s in the natural or the supernatural is up to you.

“Just Breathe”
Plain and Simple. “Fight Back. This isn’t over.”

“Shallow Water”
Complacency Kills. Did you know that that phrase is written everywhere in the American military camps in Iraq and Afghanistan? It stands as a reminder to soldiers to never think they’re okay where they are, to constantly keep moving. When you stand still you are more apt to be targeted by the enemy.

“Feel As Though You Could”
“Rise from the ashes, screaming eternity.” — I can’t write about the rest of the song, because I can’t stop thinking about that line. Wow. My brain hurts. But in a good way.

“Blood In The Tears”
A sincere, heart-breaking plea. Once again, I’ve been there. And I’ll never forget how it feels to be far away from everything you know to be right and true. To fear that you’ll be left behind, forsaken. Oh, but when you learn that you’ll never be forsaken… A whole new attitude overtakes that feeling of being far away. Because you know that when you are far away, you are still under the eyes of God. That when you don’t feel him, he’s still there. And even sometimes he’s keeps you from feeling, the absence of him is what draws you closer. You then realize that when you are far away, you are simply making a journey back towards God.