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Posts Tagged ‘learning the piano’

piano-1655558_1920I wonder if you have ever been thanked for something you truly had not even thought twice about—something that perhaps came easily to you or was almost automatic? This happened to me on two occasions recently—and, with each one, it had to do with playing the piano, something I have not done seriously for many years.

The first occurred just before I was due to accompany our Village choir for their Christmas presentation in the nearby nursing home. Before the program started, I decided to play some carols softly, more for my own sake than anything else, to get my fingers working. I did not think many were listening—but I was wrong. Later, as I was about to leave, a lady stopped me.

‘I truly enjoyed your soft playing before the choir came,’ she said with some emotion. ‘It was so beautiful—it made me cry!’

I was quite shocked—but also extremely humbled.  I had not really thought about those residents sitting patiently waiting—I was just running through some simple carols. Yet somehow God used my playing to bless one other person at least.

The second occurred a few days later at a Christmas gathering for our particular area of the Village, when a lady I had only vaguely seen in the distance prior to this approached me.

‘I want to thank you so much for playing those carols in your unit!’ she said. ‘My husband is not well at all and can barely get out of bed. But he wanted me to tell you how much he has enjoyed lying there, listening to you play. So thank you!’

This time, I was very shocked. I am always aware when I play my piano in our lounge area that nearby residents may hear me, but I did not think the sound would reach as far as the unit where this lady and her husband live. Yet in this case, what I thought might annoy someone intensely turned out to bless them deeply instead. Once again, I had underestimated God. Once again, even when I was not trying much at all and not producing any sort of polished performance, God used my playing to bless this sick man.

At first, these events almost made me feel guilty. I should have tried harder. I should have put more thought into my playing. But then I stepped back and decided instead simply to be grateful that something I could do relatively easily could bless others so much. And I remembered too my old music teachers of many years ago who schooled me so well in sight-reading and music theory. As a result of their efforts, I had much less trouble swapping from one key to another for each carol!

It’s kind of like the story of the loaves and fishes, don’t you think? An insignificant offering—yet the end result was something I bet that young boy whose lunch it was could never have envisaged (John 6). So in the new year, let’s continue to offer up and use our God-given gifts, even without thinking too much about them, and watch God do the rest!

Each one should use whatever gift he (or she) has received, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various ways. 1 Peter 4:10

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Jo 17I am always amazed at the power of memory. At times, only a slight aroma of something or the sound of a particular piece of music or even the atmosphere in a room can thrust us back in time to places and events we thought we had forgotten forever.

I cannot smell the distinctive perfume of the yellow and white blossoms on our frangipani tree without remembering the two frangipani trees in the front yard of our grandparents’ home in Brisbane and the fun we had as kids, making leis from those fragrant flowers. I cannot eat black grapes without remembering the delicious, old Isabella grapes our grandfather grew. And occasionally towards evening, when I go to turn on the lights in our kitchen, for a fleeting moment I am back the dimness of our grandparents’ dining room as I remember how our grandfather would leave the lights off until really necessary, in order not to waste electricity.

Whenever I handle a ball of wool, I remember with almost painful clarity how beautifully my grandmother knitted and how patiently she would unravel those mistakes I made as a child or pick up my many dropped stitches. And whenever I sit down at the piano I inherited from her and play those old Scottish and Irish ballads my grandfather used to sing, even the musty smell of the sheet music brings the memories flooding back. In an instant, I am a twelve-year-old again, sitting at that same piano in my grandparents’ dark lounge room, trying my best not to ruin those same beautiful, old melodies.

If all these childhood memories can return so readily, why is it not the same with God’s gracious workings in my life over the years?  Why are those times when God spoke to me so clearly or rescued me from some situation or was just there so close for me in such power and strength so easily forgotten?

Yes, I well remember the night as a fifteen-year-old when I was blown away to discover God is real and alive and that God knows and loves me. I remember too that morning as young mum when Jesus challenged me to walk more closely with him. I remember the clear picture years later one New Year’s Eve when I saw Jesus holding me as a baby, gazing at me with such delight, loving me before I had achieved anything. But how easily I forget those many, many other times God has spoken or reached out to me in some way or intervened in my life! How often the enemy, I believe, snatches away these memories so that we lose sight of God’s gracious and ever-present hand on us!

Recently, I came again to Psalm 136, which pans through Israel’s history and includes in each verse the refrain, His love endures forever. Yes, I realised, that is what I need to do constantly too. I need to remember—really remember—and be so thankful for God’s amazing love and for what God has done for me in so many ways. Is that your heart too?

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of gods.  His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the Lord of lords.  His love endures forever. Psalm 136:1-3

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Jo 17I almost did not go to the service that Sunday. It was a cold morning and the church where my husband was to speak was some distance away. On top of that, we knew many would be absent, given it was school holiday time. Still, I should go, I decided in the end.

When we arrived, the young woman who greeted us seemed harassed, so we asked if we could do anything to help.

‘I think we’ll be right,’ she smiled. ‘I’ve organised most things—the music’s ready and someone’s rostered on to play guitar at least.’

‘Well, I haven’t played the piano for a service for years, but I probably could if you were desperate!’ I laughed.

And yes, you’ve guessed it! Just before the service was to begin, a text message came through that their one available musician could not come. I gulped. I had meant my comment as a joke—but it seemed God had other plans!

In the end, I was no match for the pleading look on our young friend’s face—or for the tempting prospect of playing on this church’s beautiful grand piano! Besides, I would have felt mean, letting the congregation flounder along without any music.

‘Um … well, I’ll do it—as long as I know the songs,’ I heard myself say.

And we made it, by God’s grace, which certainly worked overtime, given I had only the top line of music or guitar chords for most songs—and nothing for the final one! To my amazement, as I began playing, it was as if those twenty years since I had played for a service melted away. I certainly muffed a few notes and chords, but it was as if some reliable, old ‘default setting’ took over inside me—and I was back playing as I had when our children were the age our grandchildren are now.

‘It’s like riding a bike,’ my husband said later. ‘You think you can’t do it, but then you get on—and away you go!’

Later, as I reflected on my unexpected and very public Sunday morning challenge, I began to wonder about my responses in those more private spiritual challenges of life. What might my ‘default settings’ turn out to be there? In difficult situations, was my default response one of worry and fear—or calmness and trust in God? In prolonged times of disappointment, did I automatically hold onto my hope in God and persevere? Or did I moan and complain and think of giving up? In times of achievement and success, did I forget all about how God had strengthened and led me and instead, default to taking all the glory for myself? Had I truly changed enough deep down so that my default settings were God’s and not just my own?

I want my roots go down deep into God, constantly tapping into that spiritual wellspring, just as the person mentioned in Psalm 1:3 did as he meditated on God’s law:

 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.

I want God to transform me on the inside as we spend time together so I can respond to those unexpected challenges in the best way possible. Is that your heart’s desire too?

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