Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Lessons Learned in 2013

Yesterday, I wrote a little recap on what I have *done* in 2013.

Today, I want to offer a brief reflection on what I have *learned* in 2013.

1. It's good to take risks. When I quit my church job back in February, I had *nothing* to fall back on. There was no job offer. There was no call for a job interview. Heck, I had not even put in a job application. All I had was a sense of calling and some money saved up and a far-gone crazy hope that maybe, just maybe there will be a job for me in the right time.

Sure enough, seven weeks after my departure from the church, I was walking into a brand new job at Christian Community Health Fellowship that, funny enough, utilized none of my professional training. But hey, it was a job that kept the bills paid.

If you had told me that working for CCHF  would indirectly lead to a job with The Marin Foundation, then I would have called you crazy. And yet, this is exactly what happened when my boss at CCHF said to me in June, "Look, you're great, we love you, you're doing a good job - but you're not happy here. You need to be working to build bridges of reconciliation with the LGBT community. Our one conversation in the car from Atlanta helped me so much."

I kid you not - my boss at CCHF told me those words.
One week before I would go to Chicago.
To hang out with The Marin Foundation staff.
Who, as it turned out, were waiting for me to make a commitment to them.

Funny how risks can play out like that.

2. The familiar can become unfamiliar. Case in point - the Bible. Last January, I got on a Bible-in-a-year plan, and as of this publication, I'm four chapters away from finishing Revelation - the final book of the Scriptures.  Passages that were, at one time, very familiar have now become a rich treasury of mystery and, yes, frustration. I still don't quite get all the violent bloodshed of the Old Testament. Jesus and Paul said some very hard things, and I'm not sure how *literally* I'm supposed to take them (Romans 9? Matthew 25? I Corinthians 6?).

3. The familiar can still be familiar. Case in point - the Bible. I stumbled across words - some familiar, some obscure - that struck deep chords in my heart. Psalm 73 is the song of a conflicted, burdened man whose hope rests in the Living God. Malachi 3:1-4 reminds me that I'm not a finished product - the best is yet to come. Romans 8? There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus? Amen. John 8: I do not condemn you either - you are free to live *well*.   Psalm 139: you are fearfully and wonderfully made.

4. I get to keep learning. I'm going to start anew that same Bible-in-a-year curriculum. There's too much buried in those texts for me to simply close the Scriptures right now; I am convinced that the Holy Spirit has much more to teach me from the Bible. And as for myself, my being, my body, my mind, my identity - I'm asking myself huge questions. What does it mean to be a Christian? Who is God? What has God made me to be? What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be gay? I look forward to engaging those questions in 2014.

5. Time is so short. You only get so many hours a day and days a year, and I wasted more than enough time on things that just don't matter.

On arguments that don't end.
On relationships that have died.
On grudges that wear me down.
On a past that can't be changed.
On people who don't build me up.

Wasted time burdens the spirit. And in the words of a great prophet of YouTube this summer - H'aint nobody got time fo dat!

I've only begun to understand that you have to manage your time well in order to manage your well being. Calendars and rituals can help you spend more time on what's important.

On conversations that illuminate.
On relationships that thrive.
On laughter and joy and peace and forgiveness.
On a present that only exists for the moment.
On people who build me up.

So now what? 2014 is only a few hours away. On Thursday, I'll share with you my resolution for the new year, but in the meantime, I hope that you all ring out the old and ring in the new with loved ones tonight!

What did *you* learn in 2013?

Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 in Review

I'd like to take a brief moment to take stock of what happened in 2013. This was a challenging year, a restorative year, and a difficult year.

In February, I left my position as Director of Music Ministries at First Presbyterian in Hernando, MS for both personal and professional reasons. This was a massive leap of faith; I left the church with no job prospects. Nonetheless, I walked away confident that God would provide for my daily bread.

Leave that church job allowed me to return to my old house church with Christ Community, where I got to worship in my neighborhood with friends old and new.

In March, I got an opportunity to attend the national conference for the American Choral Director's Association in Dallas, TX, where I heard incredible performances of some of the world's best choirs, including the University of Louisville Cardinal Singers, the Tallis Scholars, and most impressively of all, the Dallas Symphony Choir in a performance of Benjamin Britten's magnum opus, The War Requiem.

With plenty of inspiration, I led the Rhodes Chamber Singers on a fabulous tour to New Orleans, LA with many standout performances.

When I came back to Memphis, I began a brief stint with Christian Community Health Fellowship as a part-time office assistant, where I helped a small but dynamic staff plan and execute their annual conference in Atlanta, GA. I had the opportunity to go to Atlanta for the gathering, where I got to hear Bob Lupton, Chris Rice, and other great speakers.

But my time with CCHF would be short, because in June, I went to Chicago to see my good friend Andrew Marin with The Marin Foundation, and join their staff for the annual I'm Sorry Campaign in Boystown. I came home from that trip with an exciting new venture: I joined the ranks of The Marin Foundation staff as Director of Community Relations, Memphis.

My work with The Foundation has consumed the better part of the last quarter. I officially began my duties in September, and I have already had opportunities to consult with pastors and community leaders as we seek to build bridges of reconciliation between the Church and the LGBT community. Our bi-monthly Living in the Tension gatherings grow in attendance, and through these shared dialogues, we are all challenged to examine our biases and pre-conceived assumptions about our respective Other - whomever the Other may be.

Of course, I'm still making music. The Rhodes MasterSingers Chorale gave a once-in-a-lifetime performance of the aforementioned War Requiem in November, and BealeCanto: A Professional Men's Ensemble has sung in front of several packed houses this past fall. Looking ahead to 2014, I'm eager to lead the Rhodes Singers on their annual tour, this year to Birmingham and Atlanta.

2013 by the numbers:

States visited: 6
Cities visited: 10
Performances given: 16
Choirs involved with: 7
Number of athletic events for which I sang the National Anthem: 3
Number of vocal parts I sang in concert: 3 (Bass II, Baritone, Tenor 2)
Books read: 23 + 1 unpublished manuscript
Number of miles biked: 839 (+/- 384)
Number of margaritas made: I lost count
Number of times I played the Justin Timberlake 20/20 Experience in its entirety, in one sitting: A dozen
Number of times I went to a Wait Wait Don't Tell Me taping: 1
Number of scratches Bela Copland left on my hands: 2,349,102
Number of words in this review: 588

Have a Happy New Year, friends!

Until next time,