Reassurance From Looking Back

Sometimes, when we’re struggling to accept our own value and worth as bearers of Imago Dei and dearly loved children of our Father, a look back will change things.

Lemmie ‘splain.

I’m a musician, so a big piece of my creative life is found in the pursuit of creating and performing music. 2 CDs of my own, playing on a number of others, part of the worship team at 1st Cov, as well as one of the organists – yeah, music is a big piece of my creative life.

A really big piece.

With fluffy topping.

But no sprinkles – that’d be silly. 

When someone close to us made a low-key, offhanded comment, they really didn’t know how deep of a hit to my core that was. I don’t know if they had inventoried just how few of my CDs had actually sold, or were basing this comment on the fact that I still didn’t seem to be working, providing income, taking care of my family, or otherwise justifying my existence. Whatever – they were prompted to speak.

And thus they spake:

“So… I guess you’re not going to be making any more CDs.”

(And yes, the host would say at the point, “Ooh – sorry. That wasn’t in the form of a question.”)

So, with that one statement that they did spake, lo my Ship of Battle was struck broadside, and verily did sink.

“C (for Calbert) 32.5.”  *pause for counting all the heck the way over to 32, then seeing that the little thing was indeed jammed onto the space between 32 and 33* “Hit.” *sigh.*

I guess putting my train transport on P-9 3/4 was a dead giveaway…

No, I’m not blaming the total tailspin in my musical world (and losing a lot of my creative output) on this one little comment. Nothing in the world is as simple as that. It’s just how gestalt** tends to work – a little something here, a little something there, a pile of CDs over here, no one coming to a coffeehouse gig there, etc. The whole weighs a lot more than the sum of the parts – it weighs enough to sink a battleship.

And slowly, things shut down. I stopped planning the new CDs (the hymn series), even thought I already had laid it out to four CDs, and had some arrangements slotted for each of them; I shelved the next Christmas album; and basically I walked away from creating my own music and finding places to perform it, just playing the occasional gig that shows up.

The biggie – at those few gigs I stumble across, I don’t play many of the songs that I put on my first CD. In other words, I stopped playing my own music.

This, then, indicates a problem.

Forward by a couple of years…

As the music world continues to turn, the idea of digital single releases comes into reality – being able to release not only an album, but singles digitally, avoiding some of the expense involved in producing a entire CD at once, and having it printed.

That can result in being able to release new music frequently, instead of waiting years (and years) for a whole new project, thus helping build your audience and spread the word about your music.

Unfortunately, that can also result in the music sounding like it was made in your back room, without taking the time to be refined, polished, and generally made presentable for public consumption.

Ain’t nobody got time for that…

It was always my intent to do a second Christmas album, called “Christmastide.” My “WhistleWonder: The Carols of Christmas” album about Advent – the time leading up to Christmas, and “Christmastide” was intended to be more of a celebration of the day itself. So the other day, I listened through the cuts that exist for that project – either as sketches or as full songs, thinking about the possibility of releasing some singles for the Christmas season.

And, with all modesty intended, the following thought thunked its way through my head…

“Some of these thingies are pretty darn good.”

If you know me at all, you understand how unusual it is for me to say something like that about my own music. If you don’t know me at all, well…

First – Hi, I’m Cal.

Second – my attitude about my own giftedness can be summed up in my life statement:

Never Believe Your Own Press Releases.

So, for me to find good, yea even joy, in listening to something I created? Pretty astounding. Pretty darn astounding. Pretty darn honkin’ astounding.

With sprinkles. Who cares if it’s silly – it’s worth it, dadgumit.

So this thought that thunked in my head opened a little window, let a little light into a dark place I had closed off, and reminded me that I am gifted, that God gave me these gifts for a purpose, and I really do love using those gifts to make refrigerator art for my Daddy.

If I’m able to polish some of those nuggets in time, I’ll get them out through my connection with Loudr, and you better believe my 4.78 peeps that read the blog will not only know about it first, but get a little special somethin’ before anybody else – because you guys ride this ride with me. And I loves ya more than my luggage. (That’s a quote from the Pioneer Woman – by the way, Ree, I’m still looking for that invite sometime to come play for your peeps there in Oklahoma. A man’s got to dream, right?)

So here’s the thing we can all carry home:

We can sometimes find affirmation, reassurance, or at least some hope from looking back.

(This, by the way, is why you hear me say a lot about “raising stones” – putting up those reminders of where God has shown up in undeniable ways.)

We can (and should) raise stones of places or times where we were so in His arms that the world seemed to go away for a while… Where we found such peace and delight that we were free to make refrigerator art without any inhibitions and bring them to our Daddy, saying “Look what I made for YOU!!”, seeing His delighted smile when He takes our finger painting and sees a masterpiece…

Like a couple of CDs, for example – “Angelica’s Waltz,” an album about restoration right on the heels of being laid off and having the wrecking ball take everything out from under me; and “WhistleWonder: The Carols of Christmas,” expressing a deep love of Advent, and the need to prepare for the King’s arrival all year long. They’re a couple examples of my finger painting, hung on His refrigerator with joy. Regardless of how many I’ve sold, or how many people know about me because of them, the main point is they are expressions of love for my Father, and that’s all they need to be.

So, my dear ones…

Feeling like your ship got blown out of the water? Having trouble seeing yourself as the wondrous, gifted bearer of the Image that you are? Forgotten that our Father loves His kiddos, and He loves it when they make refrigerator art for Him?

Take a look over your shoulder. Look where your Daddy has moved. And look at those times where you held up something less-than-perfect but filled with love, and said “Look what I made for YOU!”

Remember His delighted smile. And go create.

** Gestalt – “The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.” 

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