It’s funny how pieces of life point to the greater whole, the core of the story. When life is swirling around you, through you, you don’t always see the central plot. You miss the forest for the trees. But somedays, you look at the trees and suddenly see a mighty forest.

Cello and piano. These two instruments have been the recent metaphor of my life, pointing to the greater story. Five years ago I took up cello, poured hours and energy and money into something I so desperately wanted to do, wanted to be. The cello voice captured in air a sound that mirrored my heart. Aching, haunting, longing, beauty. But when my fingers met the strings, the haunting wasn’t lovely- it was ugly. And frustrating. And painful. And disappointing. And too much like life.

For the next five years, I wrestled the desired result with reality and decided it just wasn’t worth it. While a gutting decision to make, the day I chose to sell my cello was the day I felt I could breathe again- and be me. Not an image of me I had concocted.

And then there is the piano.

Touching piano ivory feels like home to me. Even sharp notes and sour keys make me smile. I can’t explain it, but it just feels right. Six years of childhood lessons, two cross-country moves, decades later- it all comes back in seconds. There is no pressure to perfect- just joy and play. And an old friend rediscovered.

And so it is with God and me. He has always been the piano, but for years I made Him the cello. Something perfect, demanding, other worldly. So beautiful and ethereal- but which I could never reach. And in truth, God is all these things. But He never expected me to be them. He knows I am thoroughly flawed. That’s why He came to save me. It just took me twenty-five years to understand.

God is not my baggage. He is my piano: my joy, my delight, my childhood love restored. When I fumble and trip over keys, He just laughs and smiles and says, “No worries. We get to start over and play that part at the beginning again, the part we like so well.” What a rediscovery- this Love, this Friend. And the best bit is knowing that He will be my life’s companion to the very end.

Capturing You

Halls of Van Gogh.
Scores of scrolls.
Loads of odes.

All in response.
Response to the grandeur.
Echoes of the infinite.
Straining to capture and reflect the Uncapturable One.
Every attempt falling short.

But still we try.

We, the artists and poets and music-makers.
Striving with every stroke, every line, ever midnight-oil-burning.
Striving to get it just right.
Striving to capture.

Capture You.

Play the Sunset

Why do you do what you do?

Obligation? Fear? Trying to make up for the deficiencies in your soul?

To be praised by people and loved by man? To show them that you matter?

A squeaking cello and an old movie helped me answer this question.

For fourteen days, I had been slaving over Bach’s Minuet No. 2. Pounding the metronome and playing the notes until my head, back, and soul ached. And yet all the progress I made seemed to disappear- on the very morning of my bi-weekly lesson.

The idea of practicing anymore was sickening- but the chasm between how I played and how I wanted to play drove me on like a tyrant.

In the middle of all this, I called my mom to cancel our morning workout, deciding more cello practice was what I really needed. Before hanging up, my mom and dad reminded me to play from my heart.

As I put down the phone, I pondered the idea. Since when had I played from my heart? The last weeks of cello had been like an organized exercise in torture. Squeaky notes, calloused fingers, and that darn metronome (I think my head started to nervous-twitch in time!).

At that very moment, I hated the cello.
I had lost my love.

Flying across my memory, a picture popped into my head. I ran off to the computer and furiously typed into the search bar “Mr. Holland’s Opus Clarinet Scene”.

And there it was. Filling my heart and soul.

This simple scene of Mr. Holland, giving a student the courage to play from her heart, reminded me of why I play.

I don’t play to be perfect (like that would ever happen!).
I don’t play to please other people.
I don’t play to be loved or to be told I’m good enough.

I play because I love.

I love music, I love joy, I love beauty.

I love the sunset.

Why do you play?