PLAYING SECOND FIDDLE

A reporter once asked the celebrated orchestra conductor, Leonard Bernstein, to name the most difficult instrument to play.

Bernstein replied, “Second fiddle! I can always get plenty of first violinists, but to find one who plays second violin with as much enthusiasm . . .  now that’s a problem. And yet if no one plays second, we have no harmony.”

People with a passionate desire to master an instrument, an art, or a sport want to be best.

But the word best, by its very definition, is limiting.

Think of well-known characters who played second to a best:

  • Ed McMahon to Johnny Carson
  • Vicki Lawrence to Carol Burnett
  • B. J. Hunnicutt to Hawkeye Pierce
  • John Watson to Sherlock Holmes

Carson, Burnett, Pierce, and Holmes might never have achieved “first place” in their fields without the help of their sidekicks, their so-called “second bananas.”

But let’s look at these duos in a different way.

Maybe McMahon, Lawrence, Hunnicutt, and Watson were playing first in what they did.

Not everyone could have played their roles. They were the best at what they did.

People sometimes yearn to be best in something when they have no chance of even being good in that area.

How ridiculous would it be if I set as my goal, at age 67, to become an award-winning LPGA player or a world renowned chess champion?

The sooner I recognize my abilities and opportunities and work toward being best in those areas, the higher are my chances of success.

I won’t lie to you.

I would love to be the next Erma Bombeck.

In the field of writing homebased humor, she was the best.

I would even like to be the next Max Lucado.

But why stop there? What if I could be the next C. S. Lewis?

The truth is this: I will never be the next anybody.

I am the first and only me. (Grammar purists, forgive me.)

I must not make it my goal to achieve other people’s successes.

Their successes do not diminish my success.

God’s Word instructs me to strive for excellence in whatever I pursue.

It is up to me to decide what I will pursue.

This is an area in my life to which I must apply the truth laid out in God’s Word.

1 Peter 4:10 (TLB) reads: God has given each of you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other, passing on to others God’s many kinds of blessings.

Though I sometimes fight against accepting this truth, I preach it to my grandchildren. I even found a graphic I intend to include in their scrapbooks.

 

 

But my grandchildren are not the only ones who need this reminder.

I have printed this and posted it near my laptop, where I do my writing. When I read it, I substitute the words “person and people” for the words “kid and kids.”

I have been a Christian for over 50 years, but Satan still attacks me. He knows where I am vulnerable. He targets my soft spots.

He targets your soft spots too.

Print and post this wherever you feel a temptation to outdo, outshine, outachieve, outcook, outdrive, outclass, outwrite, or out-whatever other people.

Life isn’t a competition.

You have been given an instrument and a position in life’s symphony.

Play well and in harmony with others.

———-

(The Bryan Skavnak quote “Some Kids Are Smarter Than You” message can be purchased as a wall plaque, canvas hanging, or desk sign at www.etsy.com.)

I WANT EDEN

 

I want Eden.

 

A place where no one ever gets sick,

Where fragrant flowers grow lush and thick,

Where birds soar freely, and mountains loom high,

Where only white clouds float in the sky.

 

A place where babies arrive without pain,

Where dew wets the ground, so there’s no need for rain,

Where bear cubs and kittens and baby lambs play,

Where a spouse fully trusts that the other won’t stray.

 

A place where no weeds grow up through the ground,

Where sadness and heartache and grief are not found,

Where words like goodbye never have to be heard,

Where hatred or injustice isn’t even a word.

 

A place where families live and love all day long,

Where sunrise and sunset are accompanied by song,

Where no one gets injured or lonely or lost,

Where good food and clean water come at no cost.

 

A place where sweet children can play without fear,

Where grownups and babies shed never a tear,

Where you share with me, and I share with you,

Where everything heard is one hundred percent true.

 

We had it but lost it, this Eden of ours.

Now everything rusts or grows old or sours,

And despite all our effort, we can’t get it back.

All this the result of Satan’s attack.

 

Eve and Adam succumbed to the tempter’s big lie,

And as a result, we all now must die.

But I can’t be too angry. I’m no better than they.

I bite at the bait Satan throws out today.

 

But God in His mercy will make all things new.

He has a new Eden for me and for you.

And we don’t have to fear. This one Satan can’t touch.

How blessed we all are that God loves us so much.

THE POINT

A minister cautioned his listeners to look for the point of each of Jesus’ parables.

To read a parable and ask, “What is the point?”

Notice he did not urge his listeners to ask, “What are the points?”

Most parables were spoken and written to make a point.

Sometimes we try to force a parable to make more points than it is intended to make.

Luke 15:11-22: 11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

(Thank you, www.biblegateway.com, for making it easy for me to insert this passage into this post.)

If I chose to do so, I might read this parable and force it to make these points:

  • A parent should give his children their inheritances when they ask for them.
  • Since the father put a gold ring on his son’s finger, this parable teaches that it is not wrong to wear jewelry.
  • This parable endorses the eating of meat.
  • The father in this parable held a celebration, so the parable encourages us to party.

I am being ridiculous.

LIES, ALL LIES

I am efficient. 

I am inefficient.

 

I am successful.

I am a failure.

 

I am a generous giver.

I am a thankless taker.

 

I am 100% honest.

I am a complete hypocrite.

Every one of those statements, when taken as an absolute, is a lie.

Each lie could be turned into a truth by the addition of the word sometimes.

Sometimes I am an efficient, successful, generous, and honest person.

But sometimes I am an inefficient, failing, thankless, and hypocritical person.

My adversary wants me to define myself by my performance.

If he convinces me I am always an efficient, successful, generous, and honest person, I will become prideful.

A prideful Christian is not an effective Christian and not a threat to this adversary.

If he convinces me I am always an inefficient, failing, thankless, and hypocritical person, I will become defeated.

A defeated Christian is not an effective Christian and not a threat to this adversary.

This adversary’s goal is to disable Christians.

He accomplishes his goal by telling us lies.

He is wily, this adversary.

Sly as a fox.

A roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

I’m guessing he whispers lies to you, as he does to me.

Fortunately, we have an effective weapon in our arsenal.

That weapon is the Truth.

The Truth is this:

  • Sometimes we succeed. Sometimes we fail.
  • God loves us all the time.
  • God loves us because He is love.
  • God forgives us based on Christ’s performance, not on our own.

When Satan whispers lies to you, shout the Truth to him.

VORTEX

Yesterday, I was having a vortex kind of day.

You know the sort of day I mean. I felt caught in a force that was sucking me downward.

I wanted/needed to do many things.

I have obsessive compulsive disorder, as well as attention deficit disorder.

These conditions make time management difficult.

But I work hard at it.

I plan. I make lists. I use sticky notes.

I  anticipate, contemplate, create, and recreate, but mostly I agitate.

Yesterday I was going nowhere but crazy.

On such days, I seek out Dan.

In tears, I try to tell him how I feel.

But I can’t find the words to express the desperation in my soul.

Dan holds me. I cry.

He says, “Deb, it’ll be okay. Calm down. You’re trying to do too many things. Let some of them go.”

He is right. I am always trying to do too many things. I can’t let even one of them go.

After talking to Dan yesterday, I sat down to pray.

Sentence after sentence poured out of me.

“God, I’m so tired. I’m pedaling as fast as I can but getting nowhere.

I’m aiming to earn an A in life but getting a C-.

I can’t finish one project because another one calls louder to me.

I want to use my gifts to bring glory to You.

But I’m just spinning my wheels.

I’ve got lessons to prepare, articles to write, emails to answer, cards to send.

I want to finish my Bible study on the book of Matthew, but I can’t get past chapter two.

The scrapbooks I’m making for my grandchildren are barely started.

I’ve got books to read, online courses to complete.

My website needs to be updated.

I can’t get my online newsletter off the ground.

I have things to say, Lord. Things to write. Things to share.

But today I wonder if any of them are worth saying, worth writing, worth sharing.

I’m not getting any younger, Lord, and ‘I’ve got miles to go before I sleep.’

I’ve got to work harder, move faster.

I’m caving in upon myself.

I’m splintered.

Failing.

Going down for the third time.

What is wrong with me?

You didn’t create me to live a life of chaos and frustration.

Where is the peace I am supposed to find in You?

Where is it?

Where?”

And then, perhaps from God, came an answer.

“You’re not trying to find peace in Me. You’re trying to find peace in yourself, in your accomplishments.

Look at how many of your sentences begin with the word ‘I.’

When will you learn, Child, that peace will never be found in you? It’s found only in Me.”

My tears flowed harder, and I answered, “I don’t know, Lord. When will I learn that?”

 

CANDY

Our two-year-old granddaughter, whom I call Glitter, sparkles.

Hers is a world of Lift-the-Flap books, bubbles, and baby dolls she covers with Band-Aids.

(Her grandmother is one of her chief suppliers.)

Glitter enjoys good health and a keen intelligence that are gifts from God.

Her parents love her unconditionally and provide for her everything she needs.

They give her many things, but not everything, she wants.

I was at her house the other day when she said, “Grandma, I want some of the c-word.”

“What?” I said.

“She wants candy,” her older brother said.

“We didn’t want her to know when we were talking about candy, so we started calling it the c-word. Now she calls candy the c-word too.”

The candy in their house is on a high shelf, out of Glitter’s reach.

Sometimes her parents give her candy, but sometimes they say no.

A parent who never says no is not a good parent.

As Glitter grows, her parents will continue saying no to many of her c-word requests:

No, you can’t . . .

  • Color on the living room wall.
  • Cross the street by yourself.
  • Cut your own hair.

 Later they will say, No, you can’t . . .

  • Cook on the stove when you’re home alone.
  • Copy your term paper from the Internet.
  • Consume alcohol when you’re in middle school.

After that they will say, No, you can’t . . .

  • Consume alcohol when you’re in high school.
  • Cheat on your SAT.
  • Continue living in our basement until you’re 35.

They will say no to many other things.

But one day, Glitter will decide for herself what she can do.

Her parents pray she will say no to herself, when no is the appropriate response.

Some adults never develop an inner voice that tells them no.

With no outer voice telling them no, they become self-indulgent junkies, living for the next fix.

Junkies abuse, steal, and even kill to get what they crave.

And they crave the very things that made them the sick people they are.

God anticipated this tendency in people.

That is why His Word emphasizes the importance of developing and practicing self-control.

Consider the pain suffered by these self-indulgent Bible characters, and the pain they inflicted upon other people in their lives.

  • Adam and Eve
  • Cain
  • Esau
  • Jacob
  • Moses
  • Samson
  • King David

With that epic last example, I will stop, though more names could be added.

I confess to having damaged myself and others through a lack of self-control.

You probably have too.

Don’t succumb to Satan’s temptation to be self-indulgent.

Learn to tell yourself no.

 

 

 

BLONDE LEADING THE BLIND

Hawaii is beautiful.

Gorgeous when explored by land, sea, or air, it is one of God’s many masterpieces.

Wealthy people have homes (estates) here. Yesterday we saw a house owned by Julia Roberts.

Hawaiian sites were used in the filming of many well-known movies: Pirates of the Caribbean; Six Days, Seven Nights; Donovan’s Reef; Jurassic Park; The Descendants, and too many more to name. 

Things are expensive here. A glass of iced tea, had I chosen to drink one at a restaurant tonight, would have cost us $4.50.

Dan’s mediocre side salad cost $12.99.

Soft drinks and snack foods are about twice the price of the same items at home.

Gas prices hover around $4 a gallon.

All those things you probably already knew.

But you may be blind to lesser known facts about Hawaii. Allow this blonde to lead you through some of these.

  • You will need only casual clothes unless you’re going to a formal ceremony.
  • Leave early for every destination. Parking spaces (narrow) are hard to find.
  • Expect restaurants to offer outdoor seating only. Don’t count on air conditioning.
  • Wear “reef-safe, coral-friendly” sunscreen if you plan to swim in the ocean.
  • Don’t be surprised if events you booked months ago are cancelled after you arrive.
  • Keep your phones charged. Internet signal comes and goes as you drive.
  • Plan on getting wet. It once rained 59 inches in three hours here on Kauai.
  • Island stores offer few items. You may search for Crest but settle for Colgate.
  • Speed bumps abound.
  • Chickens roam everywhere, giving “free range” a whole new meaning.
  • It’s all about ecology here. Walmart provides no “free” bags. Think Aldi.

Visitors tend to be treated well because tourism drives Hawaii’s economy.

But there are exceptions to every rule.

Our restaurant hostess tonight had the personality of a Styrofoam cup.

Aloha

For friends who share common interests with me and enjoy reading lighthearted, inspirational, and entertaining articles, many with spiritual applications.