Jen’s Gem: Use your gifts to glorify the One who gave them to you.
Yesterday I saw “A Star Is Born” with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. I couldn’t wait to see this movie as I fell in love with its previous remake featuring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. The music in both movies blew me away. However, seeing Lady Gaga belt out tunes while tickling the ivories of a massive black grand piano triggered a memory I’d long forgotten.Throughout elementary until early high school, I took piano lessons. Every week, my mom would drive me to my instructor’s house and I’d learn the likes of Mozart and Beethoven. These weekly jaunts were transformed into a yearly recital. It was the single most terrifying moment of my life, other than getting called down to the principal’s office in third grade. (It wasn’t me! It wasn’t me!)
You see, my teacher was an accomplished pianist. She demanded excellence. Recital pieces had to be memorized – no music sheets on the piano. I begged her every year to allow me to have the music to which her response was “Do you ever see famous pianists with music?” Honestly, other than Elton John and Billy Joel, I’d no idea there were any other famous pianists. Alas, she was right. They never had the music in front of them.
I purchased the sheet music for “Are You Watching Me Now?” – the signature song from the 1976 version of the movie. It starts out with a slow tempo and then escalates into a rock ballad. I brought the piece to my teacher and asked her to help me play it. While it was out of her comfort zone, she agreed.
After some time, I asked if I could play it in the next recital. Whoa! A popular song at a classical music recital? She said yes. To say I did the happy dance was an understatement. For the first time ever, I looked forward to my recital. “How surprised everyone is going to be when they hear me play this!” was the thought that pushed me to practice the piece every day.
On the night of the recital, I wore a pair of boots. While I performed my obligatory classical piece, I struggled to use the pedals since the boots were wide and had a chunky heel. I knew they had to come off before my “rock and roll” debut. After my first tune, I declared to the audience that the boots had to go. I suspect my teacher was having palpitations at the distraction I caused. I’m sure she thought that my going rogue by speaking to the audience and removing my shoes would cause me to falter on my next song.
Feeling much more at ease with boots removed, I began to play the song. The notes on her Steinway grand piano were magnificent. I nailed it. I walked back to my seat, boots in hand, with a sense of accomplishment and pride I’d not had the pleasure of experiencing – ever.
As an early teen, being confident was not my MO. The likes of braces, glasses, acne, and few extra pounds stole whatever miniscule amount of self-assurance I had. Like most middle schoolers, my value was rooted in what I looked like. Even my straight-A report cards were not enough.
During my bouts of fear or insecurity, my Dad would always say to me, “What’s your name?” I’d respond with my mile-long last name of “Lamendola” to which he’d say – “Don’t ever forget that.” Here’s the rub. That last name worked for my Dad – a rock star musician and music teacher. Of course he could rely on it as practically all of Long Island knew of his accomplishments. But me? Uh. Not so much.
Today I rely on another name for my security and confidence – Jesus. Without Him, I can do nothing. I couldn’t play that piece decades ago had I not been given the gift of music from Him. I couldn’t write this blog if He didn’t bless me with a writing talent. I couldn’t raise my kids as a mostly single parent if He didn’t give me the strength to persevere through some pretty tough times.
As my faith continues to grow, I am learning that any accomplishment on my part is because of God – what He’s given me and what He does for me each day. In 1 Peter 4:10-11, the apostle Peter confirms this:
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”
This week I’d like to encourage you to think about the gifts and talents you have been given from God. Are you using them to glorify the One who gave them to you? Are you using them to bless someone else?
If not – it may be time for a spiritual remake.