Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Coming Of Age

My husband signed us up to attend a senior luncheon. Although I am technically a chronological "senior," I don't do senior anything. You can call it pride if you want, but I don't order off the senior menu, even if it means I might save a little money or get a free coffee. I'm willing to pay extra to hold on to the last shreds of my youth.

On the other hand, my husband, who started turning grey in his 30's, takes pride in his seniorship. Hence the speedy sign-up for the senior luncheon.

I enjoy hanging out with youth and young adults. They're energetic and fun and--well--they're youthful! They represent everything I love, and I respect them for it. New ideas? Great! Bring 'em. Perhaps that's the reason for my conflict. Seniors seem set in their ways, slow to move, impatient and resistant to new ideas. On the other hand, they represent stability, experience and wisdom.

How can the gap be bridged between generations?

1. Hang out with each other. Share your stories and gain respect for each other. Do you know a Viet Nam vet? Ask him about his years of service. Do you live next door to a college student? Find out his life's goals and encourage him to reach for the stars.

2. Try some reverse mentoring. Seniors can struggle with technology. Younger people would jump at the chance to show us how our thumbs can quickly dance over the phone keys so we can increase our text speed and amaze our grandkids. Seniors can also enjoy a quick texting tutorial so we know what LOL, SMH and other obscure abbreviations mean. In exchange, teach a younger girl how to make a pie crust from scratch or how to can tomatoes.

3. Recognize and respect the different frames of reference. Seniors look at life through a scope of five or more decades. No matter how strong the scent of mothballs, the younger generation should not pooh-pooh the senior whose default is, "I remember when . . ." or "Back in the day . . ."  Remember, seniors have experienced wars (and many rumors of wars) and have lived under numerous U.S. presidents (I've lived under the administration of twelve of the forty-four presidencies!) However, we seniors should remember that we were young once. Our smaller frames of reference contained a lot of enthusiasm and love for life. The last thing seniors should do is quench the flame of creativity and excitement carried by the younger generation.

4. Be flexible with each other. You would think that the broader the frame of reference, the greater the amount of flexibility. Unfortunately, seniors tend to resist change. And, younger people tend to invite change whether it's needed or not. Change is not a bad thing if it's done in the right way and at the right time.Think of how healthy our generational relationships would be if we could capture the energy of youth and blend it with the wisdom of seniors.

Bottom line: It's all about honoring and respecting each other regardless of age. 

So, I guess I need to honor my fellow-seniors and attend the luncheon. I'll do my best to enjoy it. After all, everyone at the table will have a compelling story to tell from a broad frame of reference. I'll go and act my age. And then I'll tweet about my experience.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Making Memories

This past weekend, our church celebrated its 75th anniversary. My husband has pastored the church for 25 of those 75 years. Our planning committee spent over a year contacting former church members (who were still among the living, of course), designing a fun program, and putting together details.

For months, my mind has dwelled in the past. I was raised in this church and I have a TON of remembrances to sort through. The thoughts from the past became current realities as people I hadn't seen in years converged on one weekend to celebrate the history of the church. The evening would be like a stroll through a meadow of memories.

For the most part, it turned out to be a really great weekend. You might ask what made it not-so-great. The people who represented unpleasant memories. Let me clarify. The people were great. The memories they evoked weren't.

As a teenager, I tended to be a little cocky--sort of a snotty know-it-all. I enjoyed putting people down and my words carried a sarcastic edge. Some people found me humorous, and that made me feel really cool. The more they egged me on, the more sarcastic I became. In retrospect, I cringe when I think of those teenage years. How did my youth leaders ever put up with me?

So, when my former youth leader (now in his late 70s) showed up at the anniversary celebration, I felt a tinge of guilt. To make matters worse, he and his wife sat at my table, directly across from me. Talk about awkward.

Throughout the evening, various people representing different decades shared their stories. It was mentally intoxicating, and I found myself  drifting back thirty and forty years to see things and hear sounds long forgotten.

Maybe it was the fragrance of the meadow of sweet memories that caused my mind to shift. I'm not sure what happened, but I was struck with a new awareness: If left untouched, regrets from the past can lead to more regrets in the future. I decided to "touch" the regret and have a long overdue conversation with my former youth leader.

As he was getting ready to leave, I cornered him and, looking him in the eye, said, "Thank you for your wonderful years of leadership over our youth group. I was a cocky teenager and don't know how you put up with me all that time. I'm so sorry. You invested a lot in us, and I appreciate everything you have done." He graciously shook my hand and spoke a blessing over my life.

That's a memory I can live with.

  • What will you do today that will create a pleasant memory for someone else?
  • Instead of letting unpleasant memories become a stumbling block, how can you turn them into stepping stones by learning from them?
  • What regrets have you left untouched? What would happen if you decided to "touch" them?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Things I Learned from Thurlow Spurr

This year I am participating in a huge Christmas performance as a member of the 300-voice Michigan/Ohio choir, part of the ministry of Concert Ministries International. Although I love to sing and have been a choir director for years, I joined the CMI choir because I wanted to experience the leadership of a seasoned choir director. I have not been disappointed. Thurlow Spurr really knows his stuff.

This past weekend we were assigned our places on the risers. I'm in the top row, far right. As we positioned ourselves, Thurlow and his wife, Kathey, gave us instructions which I soon realized could actually apply to life in general. Here's what they told us:

1.  Find your window (so you can see the director and the stage clearly). - From the top riser, I had a clear view of everybody else's heads. Hmmmm, does she color her hair? Wow, I love that style. Oops, didn't realize he's bald in back . . . I had to check myself, because it was tempting to watch the dancers in front and lose sight of the director. The directors didn't move to make themselves visible to each of us. We had to position ourselves so we could see them. In life, it's vital that we take our eyes off anyone and anything that can distract us. God will make sure we have a "window" so we can always see Him. However, we have to intentionally change our position so we have a clear view of the One who remains constant.

2. Fill your space (with song). - After I discovered my "window," I realized that I had a lot of space to fill. When Thurlow directed us to "fill your space with song" I found myself stepping up to do exactly that. It was a big space, I discovered, and I tried to put as much into it as I could. In 1998, Lynda Ellis wrote a poem called The Dash, referring to the dash (-) on a tombstone placed between the year of birth and the year of death. The dash represents what happens between the time we are born and the time we die. That's our space. We need to fill our space with song, joy, laughter, encouragement. God gives us a big space to fill, but He also equips us to fill it. Put a lot into it and fill your space!

3. Know who's standing next to you (because you'll be standing next to them for a long time). As I looked at the altos to my right and to my left, I realized that I had been practicing with them for ten months but I hadn't taken the time to learn their names. We were just three members of the alto section. However, now that we were designated a place on the risers, we became altos on assignment. In life, we are more than just members blending into the human race. We are individuals on assignment. Besides that, if I forget my place on the risers, I just have to look for Nancy and Meredith and stand between them. Get acquainted with your team. They'll keep you in place.

4. Look like what you are singing (In other words, happy song, happy face). In Act I, we're singing some pretty poppin' songs, like "Boogie-Woogie Santa" and "North Pole Rock & Roll." I confess that we've practiced these songs so many times, I'm often on "automatic" when I sing. My body is present but my mind is elsewhere. Unfortunately, our faces reflect what's going on in our minds--and the looks on our faces can detract from the message. The Apostle Paul said, "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord" (Romans 12:11).  We should never slip into "automatic." Let's keep our excitement for life!

5. Don't sing with the soloists (so they can shine in their moment in the spotlight). The Bible instructs us to honor and prefer other people above ourselves, considering them better than us. This scripture goes against every grain of my flesh. I want to shine, too. Why do they get to be in the spotlight? It's very tempting to sing along with them--but why? Our soloists have incredible voices. They've practiced hard and they deserve their moment at the mic. Singing along is distracting to them and to the audience. The reality is that if we will polish someone else's silver, they will reflect back on us. The more we polish them, the brighter the reflection and the better we'll all look. I WANT the soloists to do great because it will reflect on the whole choir. And, the choir needs to do well because it will reflect on Thurlow and Kathey. Let's polish each other so we can ALL shine.

Being involved with CMI has been a great experience. I haven't just receive lessons in choir directing. I've gleaned some great stuff for life. Thanks, Thurlow & Kathey.

[By the way, visit www.cmichoir.org and plan to attend one of the six performances. Look for me on the risers - top row, far right.]