I haven't posted for a while and must humbly admit that the cause has been a lack of blogging inspiration and focus, in addition to dealing with some personal issues, about which I'd rather not be too specific. Today though, I am feeling spiritually cleansed, inspired and refreshed after a particularly excellent service at my church, Trinity Church International, in Bayside, NY.
God willing, I'll be heading to the GodBlog'05 conference in La Mirada, California, this coming Thursday, and will receive much-needed vision and motivation during my time away.
One thing that has been distracting me from blogging, however, is not necessarily a bad thing-- my love of music. I attended a Paul McCartney concert here in NYC at Madison Square Garden last Saturday evening. Mr. McCartney, or Sir Paul, as he is sometimes referred to these days, is now 63 years old, but he put on a tremendously energetic three-hour+ show. The set list included songs that ranged over his entire illustrious career, Beatles songs as well as selections from his own extensive post-Beatles catalog. He also played some tunes from his latest album, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard (see my earlier album review and a related article). McCartney and his band were in fine form, and Paul seemed very relaxed and at ease on stage.
In the weeks leading up to the concert, I listened to a lot of Paul's solo music, and in the process, I was awed by the sheer volume of material he has released since leaving the Beatles in 1970, which includes 20 studio albums and a number of other albums. He has even composed pieces of classical music and had them performed by a major symphony, and, since taking up painting at age 40, he has created over 300 works and had these works in a major art exhibit.
Probably my favorite thing in the world to do is to create something new, especially songs. I envision myself as a creative communicator, and have longed to use my talents in music and writing in a greater way. Yet I know I have been held back to a degree by my own lack of focus, and I have allowed "inner demons" to keep me from being as productive as I could be. So seeing a guy like Paul McCartney, whose music I greatly admire, was an inspiration, but also a bracing slap in the face. How does he manage to be so productive? What drives him? And what am I waiting for? When will I finally record my songs for a CD?
Another thing I witnessed and was reminded of at that concert is the unique power of music to communicate. While blogging is certainly a wonderful medium in which to communicate thoughts and ideas, music is much more a transcendent language, so unique in its ability to communicate powerfully, memorably and universally. People from all different types of backgrounds can share in the feelings and messages music transmits, somehow connecting to each other through the magic of the shared experience of listening to music.
So I am burning again with a desire to write songs, and to not spend all of my free time blogging. Nevertheless, the two pursuits don't have to be mutually exclusive-- the key will be for me to have a driving vision from the Lord that will help me maintain focus, supply crucial daily strength and fresh inspiration, and help me to be disciplined and productive. I must remember too that ultimately, it's not about me, it's about the Lord, making His glory known. The closer I get to Him, savoring His glory and experiencing it for myself, the more I believe I will be touched by that glory, and this in turn will anoint my creativity in a way that nothing else can.
It all comes down to worship. Who or what am I worshipping? Will people be able to look at my life both now and in the future, and say, here is a man who made an impact on the world, for the glory of God? Or am I instead trying to make a name for myself?
Will I strive and discipline myself to greater productivity because I am driven by pursuit of my own fame, so that I will be known as somebody? Or, will I view myself as a steward of God-given gifts, on loan to me for the purpose of communicating His message that alone saves and transforms?
My songs and communications don't all need to be gospel tracts, but will I make statements and bring out truths that bring honor to God, that have the ability to touch peoples' hearts with His transformative power? Or will I settle for being admired for whatever cleverness and talent my artistic endeavors may convey?
I read recently a brief article by pastor and teacher Charles Stanley, adapted from his book "Living the Extraordinary Life". In the article, Mr. Stanley challenges Christians to consider what legacy their lives will leave behind. "When God created you, he writes, "He had a very specific purpose in mind for your life, and He endowed you with all the talents and abilities you would need to accomplish His plan." He goes on to explain that the number of years we live is "less important than how that lifetime is invested".
For example, Mr. Stanley recalls the lives of people, such as Oswald Chambers, who lived briefly here on Earth, yet nevertheless left behind a legacy of great spiritual impact. And of course, the Lord Jesus Christ, "our ultimate example", "altered history forever" in his short life.
Whether my impact is made as a well-known figure, or as a person who lives and dies in obscurity, I will leave behind some kind of legacy. What kind of a legacy do I want it to be? What do my actions each day reflect about my real priorities? I don't yet have children, but if I did, would my example inspire them to dedicate their own lives to love and serve Christ?
Today, it seems the ambition of may is to get their "15 minutes of fame". "Reality" television shows turn people into instant celebritities, celebrated not for accomplishment but merely for being known. There is, I think, a legitimate longing in the human heart for significance (there is eternity in the heart), but the quest for mere fame or celebrity turns that noble impulse towards a base end. Achieving notoriety any way you can is a cheap, ultimately empty substitute for leaving behind a legacy of real and lasting impact. The advent of multiple media technologies makes it more and more possible to shout out to the world I'm here! But will my voice merely stop at saying that? Or will I use my voice to communicate more substantial truths, with all the intelligence, eloquence and talent I can possibly bring to the endeavor? Will my blog (which, after all, is just a extension and a reflection of who I am) be "blah, blah, blah" about "me, me, me"? Or will I purposefully strive to make it a rich coversation about who God is?
The wise man Ecclesiastes' great reflection on the purpose of life (which was derived, not only through careful and studious lifetime observation, but by actual participation in all the wayward ways of men), came to a pointed close with this final admonition:
Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil (Eccles 12: 13-14). Charles Stanley's grandfather advised him, "Obey God and leave all the consequences to Him." And tonight, I say to myself, "Use the gifts, talents and opportunities God gives you to leave behind a legacy in the name of Jesus Christ that will last-- by helping bring souls into heaven."