Eighteen years ago I stood on the pitcher’s mound at the old Milwaukee Brewers stadium. I was wearing a headset that was streaming the Beatles into my ears. With my pitch pipe in hand, I got my starting note and waited for the tech guys to turn off the music so I could begin the National Anthem.
Only they forgot to turn off the Beatles.
There was no way I could attempt to sing one song while listening to another and taking off the headset wasn’t an option since the mic was attached. So with two major league baseball teams and 15,000 spectators watching, I walked off the field.
I pulled off the headset and asked them to cut the Beatles. Then I pulled myself together, got my pitch, walked back to the pitcher’s mound and sang my song.
Saul and I were just dating at the time. He was standing near the dugout and when I walked off the field. He wrapped me up in a big hug and told me what an awesome job I had done.
I told him I would never sing again.
And I haven’t.
Previous to that Brewers game, I had sang in quite a few pageants, including Miss America. I had performed the National Anthem at hockey games, basketball games and professional soccer games. I toured the state of Wisconsin for an entire year and sang everywhere I went.
Every single time I sang, my body would turn cold. The fear would tangle it’s icy fingers around me and it was only by sheer will that I was able to open my mouth so that first note could escape.
I always assumed that if I just did it enough, I would eventually overcome the fear. But I never did.
Today’s memory verse is from 1Peter 4:10, “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” (NLT)
My voice was a gift from God. But I never looked at it that way. I never imagined it was meant to serve others. I always assumed it was meant to make me look good or give me entrance into a world that brought fame or fortune.
When I sang, I constantly worried if I looked good, sounded good, would remember the words. In short, Did people like me????
I never once thought, “God, you gave me this gift. How do you want me to use it?” or “God, let them see you through me.”
Friend, you have gifts given specifically to you from the Holy Spirit. The Bible mentions speaking, helping others, giving wise advice, great faith, healing, miracles, the ability to foretell the future or give people a special message from God, discernment, leadership, teaching…
There are others, but I hope you see yourself in at least a few of them, because they are there, inside of you.
Unfortunately, we have the ability to block the gifts we’ve been given by second guessing ourselves, wishing we had gifts that someone else has, or in my case, wrapping the gift up into too much ego and self-involvement.
I don’t miss singing. I don’t want to sing under a spotlight. And I don’t think that’s what God wants for me. But he has tweaked that gift in a way that includes still using my voice– this time as a speaker. And now when I get nervous to step onto that stage, I can do it with boldness because of the tiny prayer I whisper just before I grab that mic. God, please speak through me. Help people know you through my voice.
As you memorize this week’s verse, I encourage you to think about the special gifts God has given you. And how you might use them fearlessly to serve others.
My past week:
Tuesday: Arrive at the hotel in Cleveland and set the kids free in the pool while trying to stomp down the anxiety of beginning another season of March Madness as the wife of a Division 1 basketball coach.
Wednesday: Text the friend I met several years ago in another tournament. Her husband was a coach too. Now he is not. Go to bed grateful that my husband gets to do what he loves, even if it is giving me grey hair.
Thursday: Cheer like a maniac as the Bobcats win an incredibly intense game in the quarter-finals of the conference basketball tournament.
Friday: Hold a sobbing 6 year old who continues to wail “We are going to lose” with 7 minutes left in the game. Simultaneously pray the cameras are not catching this on their nationally televised program. (Ben was right. We lost. Still not sure if they showed him crying on TV.)
Saturday: Load four sad-faced kids and one sleepless-faced husband in the minivan and make the very long and somewhat silent drive back to Athens.
Sunday: Open the refrigerator and discover one bottle of ketchup and one cheese stick. Write up grocery list and try not to look shocked as the husband declares he would like to go along.
Leave kids home and go on a date to Kroger with the husband.
Return home amazed and full of gratitude for the people in the store who said things like, “Hey Coach! Tough loss, but you’ll get ‘em next year.” and “Way to go, Coach! You had a heck of a year.” and (my personal favorite) “We’re so lucky to have you here, Coach. You’re doing great things with that program.”
Friends, it’s been a roller coaster week. I was prepared for it, because I’ve now done this 16 times with Saul, but that doesn’t make it any easier.
What makes it easier is the kindness. Like the friend who texted as I was packing up the hotel room to tell me she hoped our day was filled with many bright spots of happiness.
Or the other friend who blessed our family with a hot meal because she knows I hate to cook.
Or our fellow shoppers at Kroger who boldly walked up to the coach and showered him with words of encouragement.
It may have added 45 minutes onto our shopping trip, but I’d say those minutes were priceless.
If I only sat down at my computer when I had something to say, I would never sit down at my computer.
I blog on Monday and Thursday mornings, so sitting down at my computer is kind of essential.
At approximately 6:53AM twice a week, God hears the exact same prayer. God, what do you want me to tell them? I don’t have any interesting stories or bombshell revelations. I haven’t had a deep thought in three days, God. I think you better pick someone else for this job.
And then something happens. I put my hands to the keyboard and start writing. I follow the tiniest vein of a thought, the tiniest whisper in my soul, and just let it out.
I know if I show up, God will show up too. So I continue to sit down at my computer, even when I don’t feel like it.
And you know what? Mondays and Thursdays are the best days of the week for me. Once I’ve teamed up with God in a tangible way, I feel lighter, joyful and more at peace.
These last two weeks, we’ve been memorizing verses from Matthew 11:28 and 29. I wanted to memorize the whole paragraph, but that seemed like overload for my brain, so I decided to take it verse by verse. Today, we’re going to add the last verse.
First, let’s review… “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Now the last verse… “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30 NIV)
I imagine a suitcase. We all have to carry one through life. Some of ours are filled with the heavy bricks of regret and shame and poor decisions and missed opportunities. Even if it has wheels on the bottom, it’s still difficult to maneuver, especially when you have to climb steep steps.
It’s too much to carry each day, every day.
So Jesus is offering us a swap. He’ll take that heavy suitcase we’ve been dragging and exchange it for one that is light. Instead of a hard armored suitcase filled with bricks, we’re offered a duffel bag. It’s got two handles, so you can hold one side while Jesus holds the other. Sharing the yoke… sharing the burden.
What would a duffel bag from God contain? I’m not sure. Maybe some heartache. It’s hard to escape life without it, but it’s a lot easier to hold when someone’s taking half the load.
I do know that the heavy bricks of shame, guilt and regret are gone. Totally removed; left on the side of the road. We don’t need to carry them because Jesus is right beside us reminding us that those words don’t get to define us or weigh us down anymore.
I think that duffel is mostly filled with light and airy hope: hope for today, hope for our future and hope for our eternal future… the knowledge that good things are in store in this life and the next one.
If you are new to this whole God thing, you might be asking yourself, “What does it look like to be yoked with Jesus? How does that play out in my day to day life?”
I think it means that we get to reach into that bag and pull out wisdom from a higher power when our kids need discipline.
We get to use the discernment of God’s best for our lives when we wonder if we should say yes to a future commitment or to having that second glass of wine.
And even when we don’t feel like doing what we know we should do (like sitting down to write at a computer every Monday and Thursday), we can pull out trust, knowing that if we show up, God will too.