Two weeks ago Thursday I dropped in on a songwritters’ workshop at the Folk School of Chattanooga. I love folk music, enjoy hanging out with Folk School musicians – they play cool tunes and they’re fun people, too. I was already curious about their songwriters’ class, so when they advertized the first week was free with no commitment, I figured, “why not?”
Problem is, I’ve struggled since then with my desire to take the class for the next seven weeks. Its so easy to justify: I’d be honing music skills I can use in Ukraine, building friendships with other songwriters, its a great networking opportunity, its only seven weeks, etc. Yet two friends I talked to questioned whether I should add something else to my plate.
I didn’t make a decision then, but the night before the second class I stayed up late writing a song using the phrase the teacher had assigned. The phrase, “I walk along this side of blue” had me stumped all week, though I’d only though of it in free time like while driving or washing dishes, until my lunch break that Wednesday, when I decided to write a song about writer’s block, since that’s what I had. Wednesday night while ironing shirts I came up with the melody, and then worked on the piano part until late (poor quality recording, but you can listen here). So Thursday evening I went to the songwriters’ forum again. I enjoyed hearing the ideas and directions of two of the students songs, but I still had this sense that I probably shouldn’t commit the time now, but I really, really wanted to take the class…
“We find a way to do what’s most on our hearts.”
Sunday morning my pastor was in the middle of asking us if we feel that church is one more thing we have to juggle in our busy schedules. Perhaps, he suggested, perhaps this shows we are more devoted to our consumerism than to Jesus. Our hearts drive our actions. Would I let my love of music side-track me from mission? After the service a discussion of vocation in 1 Corinthians 7 at our Sunday school class reinforced my need to remember my calling.
I have a calling to serve in Kiev, passion to serve there, to see the church strengthened and the culture-crossing power of the gospel at work in the hearts of Ukrainians and in my own heart. But I still really wanted to take the songwriters class…
Today I talked with a good friend over lunch, and another good friend after work. Both of them affirmed my calling to Kiev, to missions, to calling people’s attention to how God is building his kingdom everywhere, by his grace. Both friends used different words to call me to set aside something good for something better, to follow God’s call in my life. One friend spoke of not taking the class as a small sacrifice.
Sacrifice, giving something up, is hard but good. I’m reading Ezekiel and seeing constant glimmers of the gospel in the refrain that they will know the Lord through his judgment. As a follower of Jesus the judgment through which I know the Lord is cross-shaped, where justice and mercy meet. I need to be reminded that the gospel is cross-cultural at its center: by his blood Jesus ransomed from every tribe and language and people and nation people for God (Rev. 5:19). Jesus sacrificed everything for me, for us, for the joy before him, that the peoples may rejoice in his salvation. Let the nations be glad and rejoice!
“We find a way to do what’s most on our hearts.” I still want to take the songwriters class, but my gut and four friends’ counsel is that I need to stay focused on my current ministry raising support to serve in Kiev. Rivers flow freely only when they stay within their banks. Pray that my heart will thrill again at the dynamic, culture-crossing gospel of the Incarnate One. I long to say with the writer of Psalm 16, “The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places, I have a good inheritance,” to know in my bones that fullness of joy is found in his presence, by obediently following his call.