Thursday, October 6, 2011

...grace and a tune

Ships at rest in Kinsale Harbor.
Float. Confluence of wind and current: sail.
Wait. Fusion of Spirit and discernment: move.
Then, only then.

...a few things I want to share 
mostly for me, because I keep forgetting this stuff.
but first, hear from the gentleman in this video.

Tom Kimmel, singing "Ships" at Highlands House in Denver, CO
An early morning FB post brought to mind a much-loved song, "Ships", written by Michael Lillie and Tom Kimmel. A second visit in as many days. I thought of it yesterday when I read Steve Jobs’ commencement address to the Class of 2005 at Stanford University.  I have marinated in it since dawn. So, ramble with me, please, through "Cece’s Bulleted List of Random Thoughts".
  1. Know that you are loved. And know that you can’t earn this shower of blessing and humility. I wish you could see yourselves through the eyes of those who know and love you. Haven’t gotten it all right? Well, then, welcome to the club. In response to a comment a few months ago, I labeled myself “the author of all my consequences”. I am grateful that I can take responsibility for my mistakes without being defeated by them. Mr. Einstein said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” Equally important is a quote from John Luther Long: “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make all yourself.” Case in point.  This quote is frequently attributed to both Eleanor Roosevelt and Grouch Marx. I always double-check the source before publishing. In doing so, I discovered the origin. John Luther. Wait, though. This attribution left out one word. The man’s last name. Long. John Luther Long. An American lawyer who penned a short story, “Madame Butterfly” (yep, the basis of the opera)...based on the letters from his sister, a missionary in Japan. I read more. This gentleman who died in 1927 was described in his obituary - in his own words - as a "sentimentalist, a feminist, and proud of it.” A few mistakes by others and now I’m a scooch smarter. As a recovering alcoholic friend headed to a speaker meeting said, “I’m going to listen to someone make my slip for me.” As for Mr. Long...or is it John Luther after all? The quote, thankfully, predates John Luther Adams and John Luther, the British actor. Doesn't really matter. Nothing is original with any of us. All any of us can do is give credit as best we can...and be grateful for the gift.
  2. Know yourself. And know that learning this is the work of a lifetime. I love Mr. Kimmel’s spoken words BEFORE he sings “Ships”.  A grace-filled moment. He says in conclusion, “This is not work...this is just fun.” Like him, like the runner/missionary in “Chariots of Fire”, when I do what I am created to do, when I develop the gifts received, I feel God’s pleasure. When I do otherwise, I do not. When I accepted that I am wired a certain way and quit trying to be all things to all people, I was, overall, less trying. Sadly, I learned this only after being a pain in the rear all too many times. 
  3. An oldie but a goodie.  How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice. Practice. Practice. “They” don’t call it work for nothing. I daresay before Tom Kimmel sat and played this song, long before he wrote it, he practiced chords. Endlessly. At university, in art class, I practiced drawing straight lines. Without a ruler. An early assignment: bring fifty drawings of an egg to class the next day. Just an egg. The eye has to be trained just as the fingers of a musician do. Writers listen to conversations, paint word pictures of what they see and fill countless journals. Photographers shoot. And shoot. And shoot. Discipline may not sound appetizing but, without it, the dish served later will suffer. Daily bread, daily efforts produce what grandiose thinking can't. Trust me on this one. Have stumbled here myself. 
  4. Play well with others. Mr. Kimmel credits other musicians in his introduction. Introvert or extrovert, you do not make a productive journey alone. I listened to an interview with Steve Jobs last night in which he cited The Beatles...the genius of the music when they brought their differences to the table. They did good work alone but never to the level of their shared creativity.  Take responsibility for your actions and DO NOT BLAME. Victimhood doesn’t feed the soul and makes for a lousy companion.
  5. Say thank you. How gracious Mr. Kimmel's words and demeanor to his audience. Wow! Years ago, a friend invited me to go to hear Roger Williams in concert at Samford University in Birmingham, AL. I really wanted a night out. But Roger Williams was not at the top of the list. This changed as I learned the value of moving beyond first impressions that night. Wright Auditorium is large with spacious rows that allow one to pass easily through the seats. While waiting for the music, I realized someone was walking slowly down our row, speaking to people. Didn't want to crane my neck so imagine my surprise when Mr. Williams paused in front of me to shake my hand and thank me for coming. He shook every hand in that auditorium before going on stage to play. And when he played...well, trust me, there was much more to this man's talent than "Autumn Leaves." Later, when I was going through a rough patch, a wise friend told me to go the gratitude list one better. She said to write a thank-you note every day. Not to the obvious suspects. She actually wanted me to think about my life, about the people who have made a difference, often without knowing this. Then she added this. “Mail it or email it if you know how to reach them. If you don’t, put it in a folder. The anonymity will humble you. Either way, this is guaranteed to out-do a pity party.” She was right. A few people who received notes probably couldn’t remember who I was. And some may have wondered what took so long. I sent one to a fifth-grade Sunday School teacher, "Miss Camilla" Curry. I told her that I often think of her, those lessons, and her hats. [I’m a hat person. Hope that the deeper words sunk in as well.] Weeks later, I received a reply. Her handwriting was shaky with age. The back flap bore her embosser’s seal. This crooked, faint mark suggested hands weakened by time. I loved her gesture, born not of pretense but of humility, a whisper of grace that said, “I choose to send you my finest greetings”. She thanked me for my note, ending with, “All these years, I never knew I made a difference to anyone. Thank you for letting me know that God was able to use me.” I wish I had written Mrs. Tanzine, too, before her death...too many unspoken “thank-you’s.” Pour out the best perfume, bring out the good dishes. We all need an anointing. I’ve unpacked too many boxes from the dear departed only to discover beautiful things carefully wrapped and never used. Encounter the Christ in all who sit at your table, rest under your roof, pass you on the street. A Methodist minister friend shared memories of a visit to the Mother House in Calcutta before Mother Teresa’s death. He said that when the sisters opened the door to anyone, they called out, “Look, the Christ is here!” I may have mangled the exact quote (refer to No. 1) but the essence remains vivid in my heart.
  6. Think before you speak. I love this singer's uplifting words. Careless words are disrespectful. Today I responded to a post flippantly. Totally avoidable had I taken a few minutes to think and give an intelligent response. Abusive words strike the soul. Spend time with an angry person and have a very long evening. Ever had a good conversation with someone who shoots from the lip? Let me think. I’m trying to recall one. Nope. Not a single one. Feelings are temporary. They are indicators of where I am at a given moment. I try to acknowledge them but  I don't invite them in to spend the afternoon. (Not an original thought, attributable only to the ubiquitous Anonymous.)  Whether toxic or lovely, emotions can seduce as easily as they can destroy. Give them control and you will choose an all-too-often permanent answer to a temporary problem. Joyce Landorf wrote a little book called Balcony People many years ago. She divides people into two camps: Balcony People and Basement People. The Balconies pull us up. The Basements drag us down. Aim high and help yourself and others.
  7. No excuses.  It is never too late to become what you might have been. These words are often attributed to George Eliot but wait! More coming soon to a blog near you. Don't have a college degree?  Neither did Steve Jobs. Teacher didn't believe in you? Einstein was told he'd never amount to anything. Your [fill-in-the-blank here: mother, father, sister, brother, third cousin twice removed] totally misunderstood you. So what makes you special? I've worked for people who could multiply their National Merit or SAT scores by two and not match mine. Notice, I worked for THEM, not the other way around. Refer to No. 4 above. Find a mentor. Work. Get quiet and listen. Do the things you don't want to do...even the work you love has chores attached. Be grateful for small opportunities.
Back to the music: after the opening, he sings. 
Oh, how I love this melody. The words. His voice.

All is quiet on the water
and the wind across the sand whispers through our quarters 
that the morning’s close at hand. 
Our love’s in perfect order as we fold our sails in sleep 
but the moon is falling starboard and we have promises to keep. 
We rest here while we can but we hear the ocean calling in our dreams. 
And we know by the morning the wind will fill our sails to test the seams. 
A calm is on the water and part of us would linger by the shore. 
For ships are safe in harbor but that’s not what ships are for. 
So we head for open water. 
Set a course for distant land. 
Out here there are no borders. 
And the truth is in the chance. 
We fill our sails with purpose. 
Find direction in the stars. 
Pray the dark and deep won’t hurt us. 
And sail with open arms.

Sail, my lovelies. 
Know your True North and chart your course. 
Look at me and learn from my mistakes. You will make your own. 
Accept this with humility and light the way for others.
Live so that others can heal and understand "Because He first loved me." 
Listen. To those who have gone before. To the heavens. To your heart.
And the question in No. 7: so what makes you special? 
You are loved. 
KNOW that you are loved. 
The Alpha and Omega. 
You are loved. 
Pass it on.

I like the song so much, I want to listen again. Thanks for the visit.

words & music Tom Kimmel & Michael Lille
©1994 Marada Music/Drala Music (admin. by Criterion Music Corp.)/Global Music (admin. by Chrysalis Music)(ASCAP)
Visit Tom's website:
And buy a cd! I don't even know the man...just like to support the arts!!!
With money when possible.

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