Cherish what is true. Be about that which is eternal. Be able to name it both when life is easy and when the going gets tough. Some questions I have asked myself recently are: Does what I am doing have a purpose? Will this matter in 5,10 or 20 years? Do I spend my resources–time, energy and money–on things other than myself and is what I am doing worthy of my efforts? Do I surround myself with those who edify me–who lift me up and do I in turn lift up others? Am I sharing God’s love in all I do and say each day.
When I was in eighth grade, I liked a boy–okay I probably liked lots of boys in eighth grade–but I’m thinking of a particular cute cajun boy from Golden Meadow, Louisiana. His name was Jacob and he played eighth grade football. We had maybe three conversations and he let me wear his ID bracelet with his name engraved on it. I remember having it on, as my dad and I drove from our church in Golden Meadow to our other church in Grand Isle after school one day, my dad asked about the bracelet. As a parent, I am shocked that my dad even noticed it on my wrist, but I was probably paying close attention to it. I remember the loud silence in the car before I finally said, “I like him–I really like him.” My Dad smiled and said, “tell me about him” and I had nothing. After lots of “wells” and “ughs”, I said “he’s cute and well, ugh…” I realized I knew little about this guy. Within a week Jacob asked for his bracelet back and that relationship with that boyfriend ended. It wasn’t a true relationship–it wasn’t real. I loved the IDEA of a boyfriend, I didn’t love him. I loved the idea of his getting to know me–not that he knew me. As I reflect on it today, I’m reminded to cherish what is true, not what you wish were true. When the real deal came along, I could tell.
On a recent Sunday evening I sang at a youth gathering and I noticed a young couple near the back sitting with their arms around each others shoulders. As they left, I asked how long they had been dating. They laughed and said, a week. When I asked, “what do you love about each other,” he quickly looked at her and said, “she’s kind,” and as he looked into her eyes, I knew he knew. She looked away for a moment and thought, “well, ugh, I never thought, well, he…” I stood there. Finally she said, “I never thought about it, but he’s great.” I’m not saying that they are not a match made in heaven or even predicting that I won’t receive a wedding invitation in years to come, I hope to. I was struck by his quick response–he knew the answer, could identify it and embrace it on the spot. Like him, I love that I know what is true about the relationships in my life.
I remember having Max and thinking now that is eternal… that is real love… something true. I spend time and energy with things that do not really matter, but when I run into something that matters immensely–well I’m able to see it clearly. That is what I want to spend my life on–the real stuff. When you meet someone and they have IT–you might not know what it is, but you know it when you see it. When you find yourself in the presence of real–cherish it, soak it up, swim yourself in it, have a hefty dose of it, so that when you find yourself in a shallow, superficial, situation there will be no comparison–kinda like the prodigal son coming to his senses in the pigpen. I want to be about the light, about truth, about what is real. I am blessed to have experienced such a wide variety of situations where I have encountered real–where truth lights a single candle in the midst of darkness.
Recently, I experienced the real stuff–I was privileged to sing for some ladies from New Orleans who had been displaced by hurricane Katrina. I wish you all had been with me and with those ladies in the parlor of First United Methodist Church, Arlington, TX. We shared smiles, stories, music, tenderness, and love — an outpouring of love — we were sisters in the truest sense. I listened as they told stories of searcing for loved ones and of being far from home. I told them of the churches my father had served in their area and I sang a few songs for them. Several closed their eyes, sat very still and just listened. I gave them each a CD. One of them turned to me, held up the CD and said, “well, Celia you’re my music collection. I lost all my gospel music during the storm and am so thankful to have this music.” I felt like the boy with the loaves and fish. I wish I had more to give them, but the love seemed to be enough. I am so thankful for eyes to see and an awareness to recognize the people and the moments–the revelations where God shows up. To be honest I could’ve missed it. On that particular Sunday those ladies were the seventh group that I sang for. I started at eight o’clock that morning and I met these ladies in the parlor at eight that evening. I could easily have missed it something so true, so real and as simple as the 9 of us basking together in God’s presence. That evening, I could name real and claim real and claim what makes it real. What made it real, I believe, was God’s love.
I was once asked by a marketing person at a record label what size group I wanted to sing for. I thought for a moment and said, “anywhere there are people.” It was not the answer he was looking for, but it was my answer. He wanted to know if I really wanted to sing for arenas or for great big churches, but it was my honest answer. I have sung for 25,000 and it’s great; but some of my favorite concert memories are doing a concert for one person in a hospital room or for eight in a parlor or for ten in a juvenile center. I enjoyed the 25,000, but I wouldn’t want to miss the eight, either. So, I’m staying with my original answer–“anywhere there are people.”
Blessing friends. May our paths cross soon and until then may you recognize God’s presence in your life. Celia