Today I woke up with the resolve to pursue piano performance opportunities. It is my new mission.
But as I hooped, walked, and bused, I pondered.
I let my mind travel back in time to my first church pianist position. It was the beginning of the end of my stage fright. I had visited a small church in the neighborhood, at the suggestion of a woman I worked with up on "the hill" at Portland Center for Hearing and Speech. I was a single mother, with a baby girl. She told me her little church was just a few blocks from my apartment. And they had free neighborhood potlucks every Wednesday.
Free food, a loving community, and a path back to God.
As a struggling, single mother this sounded appealing to me. I bundled up my baby girl that week and walked to the church.
The ladies of the church fussed over us like mother hens. They ooed and aaahed over my baby. They fed us. And they invited us to worship. Which we did. They were a sweet community. Mostly older. Very kind.
And when I told them I played piano, the pastor asked me to play for a Sunday service. I was petrified, but I did my best. I expected criticism, overly sensitive woman that I am.
But only received loving compliments.
Soon I was employed as a church pianist. I was still there when my baby boy was born. I was still there when I married his father, and when we divorced only a year later.
I found that I could worship through my music. It was like musical prayer. I could lose myself, And just be a vessel. A vessel through which my music flowed through me to praise God, and through which the Holy Spirit flowed back through me. When I played the piano prayerfully, losing myself in the music, I could feel a divine presence.
I was no longer afraid to perform.
I loved working with the pastor. His wife was about my age, and she had a girl about my daughter's age. But soon the pastor and his family were transferred across the country. And I started having misgivings about my work.
It was then that I started noticing hypocrisy in the church. Backstabbing. Gossip. Many people left when the beloved pastor was transferred.
And spiritually, I felt a bit empty. I didn't hear enough about God, Jesus and prayer. It was still a loving community. They still had potlucks and game night. But I wasn't being fed spiritually. .
Church felt like a bowling alley.
But I didn't sign up for a bowling league. I craved depth and reverence. A closer connection to God. Deeper understanding of scripture and how to apply it to my life.
Thus began a long journey to find the right church home. I never really found it.
(At least not then, as an employee. In recent years, I have found spirit filled congregations overflowing with God and Jesus to fill me. In particular, Relevant Life Church in Salem, St. Ignatius Church in SE Portland, and now my current church home at Portland Bible Church.)
Everywhere I went, there were lovely people. And always a few mean people. Critical, judgmental. And not enough God. Not enough Jesus.
Not enough Matthew 22:36-40:
Matthew 22: 36-40
New International Version (NIV)
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a]38 This is the first and greatest commandment.39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
I certainly was not the model Christian. I had many questions. I had a lot of baggage from my childhood. But I truly sought God, a relationship with Jesus and application to my life. Especially being a young, struggling, single mother.
And still not really knowing who I was and what my purpose on this planet was.
I had many difficult conversations, a few confrontations, wounded pride and many hurt feelings.
Me being the common denominator, I figured church musician was not my calling.
I have had part time and temporary church pianist jobs over the years. Those work better for me, so as not to form attachment.
And to be truthful, I, hypocrite that I am, tend to judge the churches. For how they treat each other, how they welcome a newcomer, and how they spread the Good News of the Gospel.
I need to stop that.
I thought of the sign at the little church where I hold an office job. Every week the pastor has a new message. Always thought provoking. We have a volunteer who comes in and puts up the letters. He is my friend. He always takes a picture of the message and posts it on Facebook.
I was thinking this morning, what if the signs in front of churches put up what people actually say, what they think, or how they treat each other?
And what we each had a sign above our head that spoke of our interior thoughts?
What a scary idea!
A church sign from one of my past jobs might say: "Zita, we do not need Jesus to come to our church, we need new people in our programs!" (ARRGG...I still cringe when I remember this comment!)
"Doesn't the state have programs for THOSE kinds of people?" (When there was a conversation about the homeless sleeping on the church porch at night)
"Why can't we just keep things the way they were? We don't like that NEW music!"
"Give them an inch, they'll take a mile!"
I could go on all day!
But what about my own thoughts. Lately I have been catching myself with not so nice thoughts about others. I try to divert as soon as possible. But when my feelings are hurt, I do dwell. My new system, is to think of the person that hurt me and then identify what the hurt is. Then say out loud, "I pray for them".
So, considering going back to a church job does present a dillema.
However, it seems to be the path for me. And I would like to enter the church musician arena this time around with a new kinder, humbler, more loving spirit.
I have had the conversation so many times with employers that a church musician is not a performer. We are servants. To assist with worship.
That was hard for me to learn. I had several churches where the congregation would applaud my preludes, postludes and special music.
And I need to walk my talk. I despise gossip, backstabbing and mocking. I also do not like to here people talk badly about other religions, groups and denominations. I have witnessed this way too many times.
I have also been in places where Jesus is mocked!
My intention, is to go into an interview, interviewing the Church. I do have employment. I do not NEED a church job, although it would help. I will seek a spirit filled place of worship, that follows Jesus. That loves God, and neighbor. And is not merely a community center. But a place for people to pray, study the bible and grow spiritually.
I am not going to compromise this time around. I have in the past. For a paycheck.
The sign I want to hold up is: "I love God. I follow Jesus. I am not perfect, but I am trying in every way."
I know. Hokey.
But this is me. This my life. And even as I type this, precious moments are passing by.
I started this blog 830 days ago. Because I was not happy with my quality of life.
Not physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually. I have made a lot of progress. But more is to be made. I am getting to the core of my being. Like the onion I mentioned in earlier posts. I am peeling off the dry, scaler outer layers that have shielded my inner being from the world.
As I get closer to exposing my true self, I become more vulnerable. But I also become more fully alive.
I have longed for complete authenticity for as long as I can remember conscious thought. I remember as a little girl, seeing adults behave hypocritically. (I did not know the word then, but I knew the feeling when adults were phony or two-faced).
And I vowed not to become that adult. It has been a difficult battle.
But I continue the fight!
On that note, I wish you a happy, authentic Sunday!
Don't forget your eclipse glasses tomorrow!
Talk to you then.
The Real Zita