The Songwriter's Journey: A Real String of Pearls

Last week I may have had my 15 minutes of fame. 

While I hope that isn't the case ('cause that might mean my career as a songwriter is finished), what I find most interesting about last week's 15 minutes in the spotlight is not that my name was plastered on a popular website alongside artists such as Michael W. Smith and Switchfoot (though that was pretty fun), but that I realized fame for me doesn't hold the luster that it used to. 

Did y'all catch the New Release Tuesday feature last week? 

For those that have been following my little journey, remember those posts last fall where I was struggling to find affirmation and just really wanted people to *like* me (as an artist)?  Well, then you remember that out of that struggle came the call to be a positive presence in people's lives rather than just another voice striving to be heard.  That music and songwriting, like any other gifted-ness or passion, can and should be a means to live out the gospel in our lives and communities.  To love God and love others. 

Then something else happened...there was a change in me. 

At NewDay's Good Friday Tenebrae service, just a little over a month ago, Pastor John DuBall shared a story.  It's a story floating around the internet and while it verges on being a bit cheesy it is still fairly profound. 

Here's the short version:  A little girl saves her money to buy a string of cheap, plastic toy pearls.  She wears her pearls everywhere for weeks on end.  At night while tucking her into bed, her father would ask, "Do you love me?" 
The little girl would respond with an enthusiastic, "Yes!" 
"Then, may I have your pearls?"
Of course, the little girl was unable to part with her pearls.  She couldn't understand why her dad would ask her to give them up.  I imagine she even became upset with her dad because he asked her to give up something she'd saved and saved for and valued so greatly. 
But then, one evening when asked to give up her pearls, the little girl relented and gave them to her father. In return, he gave her a beautiful string of real pearls.  The kind that would never fade or tarnish. 

Just like that little girl, I had to give up my desire for fame, for notoriety, for "likeability" in order to be given something real and something lasting in return.  And, believe me, I gave it up kicking and screaming. In return, I've been given the gift of contentment.  Now, contentment may seem pretty trite in comparison to fame and notoriety, but think about it for a moment.  At the core of who we are, do we not function best when we are content?  Do we not see things more clearly?  Are we not able to love better and deeper?  Instead of fear, anxiety or worry motivating us, can we not be motivated by compassion, mercy and justice?  The earlier being internal protectionist motivators, the later being outward life-giving motivators.  In a spirit of contentment, I can look at fame and notoriety, not as an end, but as a means.  That I have the privilege, and maybe someday a broad platform in which to tell the story of God's great redemptive work in this world through the lives of those he is restoring - in my community, in my church and in me. 

Now, don't get me wrong, the desire for affirmation remains.  I think it is a God-given need in my life that needs to be met in healthy ways - just not self-seeking, narcissistic ways.  My friend and songwriting mentor-type-person, Sally Barris, asked me earlier this year, before I'd even mentioned my struggles, where was I getting my need for affirmation met.   As a performer, she just knew and recognized there is something in us that needs that affirmation.  It helps us write good music!  So, I'm finding I'm able to get "filled up" when I visit detainees at the ADC, or when I lead worship, or when I sit down to write and I know that someone somewhere might relate to the words/music I'm putting down on paper. 

Though, I must admit, it felt pretty good to receive affirmation last week that I am, in fact, a songwriter.  Its funny how we can't truly believe we are what we really want to be unless someone else affirms that in us.  My publisher, Stephen Bock @ Fred Bock Music Company, posted this on Facebook last week: 

Oh, and last week, as a result of the NRT feature, "Beauty From Ashes" was played over the air waves IN AUSTRALIA! Who would've thought my first time on the radio would be somewhere other than the U.S.? Four online radio stations here in the U.S. have also picked up "Beauty From Ashes" as well. 

Another feature on NRT is tentatively scheduled for this fall in which we'll focus on the work I'm doing with detainees at the ADC.  People, I cannot tell you how excited I am about this program.  I've been stretched beyond my comfort zone in the past month, but its been powerful to hear the stories of the detainees with whom I working with.  More on this in the coming weeks. 

For now, the journey continues.  Writing, listening, responding, working, waiting, hoping, balancing the check book (with bated breath) and being grateful. 

And, as always, thanks for journeying with me.  People and community are what matter most in this world.