Sunday, August 13, 2017

Super Sorry Sunday: Let's Focus on Garrison Keillor

I am a big fan of the radio show A Prairie Home Companion. I love the music, skits, stories, and jokes. 

I always wanted to go see a live show up in St. Paul, but I never did, and then Garrison Keillor retired in July of 2016. 

I've enjoyed the new show with Chris Thile very much, but I've missed Garrison's voice and Lake Wobegon stories.

When I heard that Keillor was going to go on tour this summer with some of the regulars from A Prairie Home Companion, I asked Gary if we could go.

He wasn't interested, but he said I could go. I decided to splurge and get a front row seat in Sioux Falls (with Gary's blessing, of course).

The big night finally arrived. Before I left, Gary told me to just have a good time. "Don't let anything ruin your night," he warned me. He knows me so well. Sometimes I can get disappointed when things don't go the way I plan. 

I got to the Washington Pavilion and found my entrance.
Heading for the front row from Orchestra Right.
I was just about in the very center of the row and I sat there alone for a few minutes, just taking in the stage and the people milling around getting everything ready.
A self-conscious selfie before the fun begins.
Finally, more people arrived. The lights dimmed and the house broke out in applause as Garrison Keillor took the stage. He stood about ten feet from me and started telling a Lake Wobegon story. It was awesome!
In this picture, he's actually farther away - I didn't dare take a picture when he was right in front of me.
The time seemed to fly by as we heard music from Garrison and Heather Masse:
We listened to a funny skit about Dusty the Cowboy, with sound effects and other voices provided by the talented Fred Newman:

During the intermission, Garrison led a sing-along of old folk songs, patriotic songs, and hymns. It was fun harmonizing with such a big makeshift choir.

It was a wonderful night which I enjoyed immensely. 

I only felt a bit uncomfortable a couple of times. 

During his Lake Wobegon story he got a little graphic about a dating experience. 

In another part of the story someone lost their Speedo and flew naked above a lake while strapped to a parasail.

Probably the worst moment was during one of the songs when he asked us to sing along with the chorus: "I'm an aging, progressive democrat." I smiled, but I just couldn't open my mouth. (I hoped he wouldn't notice and have me removed from the theater.)

So, my Friday night was enjoyable...but I started to overthink it on Saturday.

When I told people I was going to hear him, most of them said, "Who?" ...and I started to feel kind of odd for liking a show no one had ever heard of.

When I told someone I had seen him, they commented about how political he was...and I wondered if it was bad that I liked him when our politics differ so much.

When I heard the graphic and naked parts of the Lake Wobegon stories...I squirmed a bit and wondered if I should be there.

When Gary teased me about being so excited that Garrison Keillor was "right there!" as I flung my arms in front of me to show how close he was...I wondered why I don't get that enthusiastic about other things in my life. 

So I couldn't write yesterday. I was mulling all of this over.

I haven't completely figured it all out, but I've been talking to God about it and I think He's okay with me liking Garrison Keillor and A Prairie Home Companion

It doesn't matter if other people have never heard of him. It doesn't matter if he's a democrat with different morals than me.

Now, I realize that anyone could take this the wrong way. I'm not saying that we should embrace anyone and everyone no matter what they say or do. 

We have to be careful to obey and honor God as we live for Him. We also have to try not to judge others for what they choose to watch or listen to. Maybe they get something special from a certain show or program that we don't understand. Maybe God will show them later that it is not something they should be watching or listening to. We just don't know. 

My faith is strong. I love my LORD. And listening to A Prairie Home Companion brings me joy. It makes me laugh, it introduces me to interesting musicians, it makes me think, and it has enhanced my life. 

It may not be for everyone, but I'm glad I discovered it years ago and was able to see Garrison Keillor in person.

"Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4 ESV)

Is there anything or anyone you like that might seem a bit questionable to others? How can focusing on God help you to be discerning in your choices and have freedom to enjoy a variety of entertainment?

Friday, August 4, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Music

I love music.

I love to sing and play instruments, but I also love to listen to other people making music.

I did that tonight.

Cedar Valley Acoustic Guitar Association (CVAGA) has some awesome members that share their talents as the crowd gathers at Overman Park for "Movies Under the Moon." 

Families come and spread blankets on the ground. Kids turn cartwheels in the grassy area in front of the stage. Cute dogs are everywhere. I like to watch all of the interactions going on as people greet each other, but I'm pretty focused on the music. 

Some acts are pretty good, but not exactly my style. Some are amazing and I have to concentrate extra hard to try to figure out what they're doing on their guitars.
(Not tonight, but a picture I found online of a typical night at Movies Under the Moon)

I noticed one lady tonight because she kept walking around talking to people. I heard her say a couple of times, "Oh, the music could go on forever for me! I just love it!" 

The funny thing was, it didn't seem like she was listening to the music much at all. I just saw her walking around talking to people. I didn't see her so much as glance at the stage (maybe she did when I wasn't watching).

Now, I realize that the guitar music is mostly meant to be background noise that people can ignore if they want to, but something seems wrong about that. Those people are up there playing their hearts out and it feels rude to not give them my full attention.

But I'll bet it doesn't really bother them. It's what they signed up for. They know that some people will listen and appreciate their music while others will continue talking to their family or friends and just clap politely when everyone else does at the end of every song. It's okay.

As I think about tonight's event, I ponder my own life. I think too often I expect everyone to listen to my life's song with rapt attention and applaud loudly. I sometimes feel neglected and get upset when I feel ignored.

How much more freely I could live if I just changed my expectations for this life "gig." 

Everyone has their own lives. 

Sometimes they might tune in to my "song" and appreciate the things I'm singing about, but sometimes they'll be busy with family and friends and my music will just be background noise for them.

I can keep singing my heart out, doing my best and not worrying so much about my audience.

There's a line in a song by Sara Groves that says, "I live and I breathe for an audience of One." 

That's how I want to live, singing my song faithfully for my Lord.

"My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music." (Psalm 57:7 NIV)

Do you love music? Have you ever thought of your life as a "song"? How can focusing on God help you to sing faithfully and not worry about how others respond to you?

Friday, July 28, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on The Wave

I don't have any pictures this week, so you're going to have to use your imagination.

First, I'll show you a short video:
The Wave at Water World (Colorado)

No, really. Click on it and watch at least a few seconds.

Now, imagine a 51-year-old woman riding that wave.

Actually, imagine a woman of that age pushing off uncertainly from the edge...then getting almost immediately swooped up into the wave and getting spat out on the other side.

She gets back in line and waits for one of the park's boards. 

Several people have their own boards and when they ride The Wave they make it look easy. They stay out there for several minutes, doing tricks and having a blast.

The second time the woman actually stays out there for a little while, thanks to advice from other riders. "Lean left and keep the edge of the board out of the water."

"Hey, I think I'm getting the hang of this!" 

But the third time, she gets a little cocky and gets swooped up by the hungry wave after just a few seconds.

She loses track of how many times she rides it as she keeps jumping back in line. She can't seem to stay out there as long as that second time. What is she doing wrong?

She asks advice from the pros around her and tries not to seem too creepy as she tells them how good they are. They seem glad to hear the praise even though they're too cool to acknowledge it with more than a slight nod.

She has a chance to go back to the water park again the next day and she rides one slide, wanders around the park a little and considers waiting in line for other slides, but nothing really interests her.

The Wave is calling her name.

So, back she goes, even though her knees are a little bruised from the tumbles she took the day before.

This time she does better the first couple of times. A kid even offers to let her use his board if she wants. (She is touched, but declines. "What if I crease it?" she tells him after hearing people talk about someone big getting stuck at the beginning and creasing park boards.)

Then she has some short runs and keeps getting back in line, determined to do better.

By the time she is done, she has gotten pretty good at staying out on the wave for a little while, and on her last run she dares to lift both arms up for a few seconds, and ends with an attempt at a "belly spin." (She got a little ways around and then the wave got her.)

Of course, you're smart enough to figure out that this woman is me.

I keep thinking about The Wave.

Why was I so willing to spend about three hours on the same ride for two days?

It was fun, even when the wave swept you away.

It was challenging.

The ride had a different feel to it. It wasn't just a bunch of people enjoying a simple slide. There were people there who were invested in this ride. They brought their own boards. They seemed to know each other. They encouraged each other when they tried a new trick and failed. They didn't laugh at a 51-year-old woman as she attempted to be a part of their world for a couple of days (at least not to her face).

I'm wondering why I can't be that tenacious in other areas of my life.

Why don't I keep diving in and trying, instead of quitting when I try once and something doesn't go the way I'd like?

Why don't I watch closely how others do it, ask lots of questions, cheer others on, and keep getting back in line to try again?

Why don't I accept the bumps and bruises of life and point to them proudly as proof that I'm attempting something difficult?

Boy, am I glad I don't have any pictures or video of me on that ride. I can hang on to the picture I have in my own mind, having fun and learning to ride The Wave.

"You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised." (Hebrews 10:36 NIV)

Have you ever been obsessed with a certain challenge? How can focusing on God help you to keep trying and not worry about how you look to others?

Friday, July 21, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Where We Are

I'm at the beautiful YMCA Camp in the Rockies near Estes Park, Colorado, gearing up with about 150 other staff people for the arrival of 3000 high school students and youth leaders tomorrow afternoon for Rocky Mointain High.

This youth event touches many lives, but I have to admit I was feeling quite afraid on the way out here and the first day or so. "What am I doing here?"  I thought way too many times.

I reasoned that someone else could serve better. Someone else would connect better with the kids. Someone else would be more outgoing and relaxed.

As we've been preparing and worshipping, God has gotten through to me. "Don't be afraid. You can't do this, but I can do it through you."

So I'm starting to relax and trust that I'm supposed to be here.

No one else can serve like me.
I can't connect with every kid, but I can connect with some of them.
I can be myself and not worry about being the most outgoing person (and try to relax!).

Rocky is going to be great. Would you please pray for all of the students and leaders on their way to Colorado tonight? Please pray that the Holy Spirit works in amazing ways in the hearts of everyone involved before they go home on Wednesday.

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9 NIV)

Do you ever wonder why you're doing something and think someone else could do it better? How can focusing on God help you to throw aside the fear and trust that God wants you in that situation for a special purpose?