Corroded and Confused

Being without a computer is hard.  I had spent nearly four weeks waiting for my computer to be updated and it just wasn’t getting done.  I was trying to be patient, but when I was continually working through YLF deadlines and needing to get some writing done, it was a daily struggle.  I would go to my office as often as I could, but the never-ending winter weather and the fact that I would have to walk for almost a mile frequently put a damper on those plans.  I was desperate to get my thoughts down on paper, but I wasn’t about to resort to notebook and pen.  My neck just ached thinking about the amount of bending and strain that would take place for that to be effective.

So I got out my Tablet, hooked up my wireless keyboard, and got ready to write up a storm.  I knew it wouldn’t be as comfortable as writing on a computer, but mobile technology with its undependable quirks and tendencies would have to do.  But I had no idea that it would turn out to be as difficult of an ordeal as it did in the end. 

I put my fingertips to the keys, but nothing happened.  I flipped the switch on the keyboard off and on, turned the blue-tooth signal on and off, and looked at the keyboard inputs on the Tablet itself, but I was getting nowhere.  I simply couldn’t get any words to show up on the screen.  So as a last resort, I searched for the elusive battery compartment.  Perhaps the batteries were dead and needed to be replaced.  Wireless keyboards run on batteries, right?  I wasn’t so sure, but I was desperate enough to find out.

Finally, success!  I was able to pry open the battery compartment and remove three AA batteries.  I replaced them with new ones, closed everything up, and tried to type again.   Still, there was no success.  I grumbled under my breath as I gathered up my Tablet, keyboard, and the rest of my paraphernalia.  Someone had to know what to do, and I figured that person would be at the local hardware store.  I had gone into the hardware store several times before with odd requests for help and today would be no exception.  The employees had always been so good to me in the past: finding specific florescent light bulbs for my CCTV, a watch battery that would make my talking timer work again, and pair after pair of headphones since I am constantly breaking them.

I found my friend Betty Jo in the paint department where she typically works, and we greeted each other enthusiastically.  She asked me if I needed any help, and I told her about my dilemma.  She gathered up a few supplies and led me to a counter at the back of the store.  Armed with a four-pack of batteries, she proceeded to empty out the batteries I had recently replaced, finding a surprise along the way.  There had not been three batteries in the compartment, but four!  The fourth battery was wedged to the back of the compartment and had corroded there dangerously close to the terminal.  Betty Jo worked her magic with some electronic cleaner and soon had the fourth battery removed and replaced, cleaning everything out in the process. 

“Okay,” she said.  “Try typing.”

I unlocked my Tablet, clicked into a new document, and began to type.  I was elated to see words begin to appear on the screen.  I had been derailed in my writing that day, but in that moment, there was such sweet victory.

It reminded me of a time nearly four years in the past.  I had been battling through severe allergies that made it hard to breathe and sing.  I had been living my life with this idea that my voice was the only thing of value I had to offer to this world.  I was already blind, so I had to count on something I could do well and that was singing.  But when my voice was stripped from me, I cried out in confusion and fear.  I couldn’t lose my voice; that was my identity and purpose for life.  I was derailed and left without direction.  You might say, I was facing some real-life corrosion— a corrosion of the heart and soul.

You see, I was under the impression that I was losing my voice and my purpose, when in fact it was really His voice and His purpose.  It wasn’t until I gave my voice and my desires over to Him that I began to feel physical relief.  He wanted all of me, completely devoted to Him before He could begin the restoration process.  Much like Betty Jo and her electronic cleaner, Jesus came inside my heart and began to clean out the pride and selfishness that had driven me down into the abyss of sickness and despair.  When I began to see my voice as His instrument, I was drawn into worship with heightened passion.  I found myself leading corporately and finding a new purpose for this gift of music that God had brought into my life.  I was no longer derailed but set on the right path.  Although I would not wish those eighteen months of gut-wrenching pain on anyone, I would not trade the lessons I learned in the process.  I needed to come to the end of myself before I could move forward.

As for my computer, I am starting to move forward there as well.  I have just finished getting the settings customized and making sure I have everything I need.  I will be good to go for awhile.  But should I ever be without a computer again, a wireless keyboard is sure to work just fine.

Going Home

In my last post, I talked about imperfections and how my everyday trials are preparing me for the perfection of eternity. Consider this to be part two of that thought process.
Not too long ago, I read a fellow writer’s illustration of the Christian’s concept of eternal life. He recounted that so often we just want to be comfortable in this life. We know that eternity awaits, but we are so intently focused on the here and now. You would think that if we were truly eager to spend eternity with Him we wouldn’t be bogged down with the temporary things of earth. Yet, we hurry through each day, latching on to the newest technological gadget and pursuing any pleasure that money can buy. We are satiated but only for a moment. We hardly ever stop to process the fact that we are just passing through in this life. Greater promise and wholeness await in the Kingdom of Heaven, but our finite minds only process what is right here in front of us.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just long for home. When I take my eyes off the troubles and toils on this earth, I find myself eager for the day I can leave everything behind and embrace His holiness.
Sometimes I need an everyday reminder to bring this into focus, and such a reminder came this past summer in the Minneapolis/ St. Paul International Airport. I was coming back from a conference and felt secure in the fact that my new friend, Caroline was beside me. But the sense of security only lasted a few moments when Caroline informed me that she wouldn’t be able to help me find ground transportation; she had to make her connecting flight and she was already running late. We said goodbye hurriedly, and Caroline made certain that an airport personnel knew of my need for assistance. Then she was off.
I stood off to the side of the ticket counter for what felt like hours, my white cane propped at my side. Finally, someone made their way over to me and directed me to a spot where I could wait for one of those carts that would transport me to where I needed to go. The message must have been mis-communicated for some time, for one by one, I watched as carts filled with passengers whizzed past me without seeming to notice I was in need. At last, a cart pulled up with an empty spot in the front, right next to the driver. The tall, African-American driver asked me if I needed a ride, and when I said yes, he told me to hop on.
We hadn’t made it far when the couple sitting behind me asked if we could pull off at the lost and found counter. The woman had lost her wallet and they were hoping it had turned up upon their arrival in Minneapolis. So we pulled off to the side, and the husband went in search of his wife’s wallet. We waited for a long while, only to find out that the husband had not managed to track down the wallet.
So we moved forward, inching toward baggage claim where the couple would pick up their checked luggage and be on their way. But I should have known it wouldn’t be that easy. The husband wanted to check with the airline and see if his wife’s wallet could be found at their previous destination. So we stopped at yet another counter and waited.
At one point, the woman behind me apologized and asked if she and her husband were holding me up.
“No,” I said, forcing a smile. I was tired and just wanted to get home, but I wasn’t going to let the ordeal put me in a foul mood. “I’m just going home, so I can always book another shuttle if I miss my scheduled run.”
“Oh, dear, that’s so sweet of you,” she commented.
I shrugged it off. “It’s no problem,” I told her. “I’ll be praying that your wallet turns up soon.”
“Oh, thank you, honey,” she said. “It’s so wonderful to meet another believer. May God bless you.”
“My mama raised me to believe in Jesus too,” our driver interjected. “Isn’t it great to spend time with our brothers and sisters?”
We both nodded in agreement as the cart finally pulled away from the counter with the husband once more on board. It wasn’t long before the couple was dropped off, and the driver who now introduced himself as Roosevelt and I made our way on foot toward ground transportation. I was concerned that maybe I had missed my shuttle altogether. It was a long trek across the airport, and I only had a few minutes.
But Roosevelt proved himself to be a competent professional, and soon I was at the counter, giving my name to the representative behind the shuttle carrier counter. “Ah, Miss Lokker,” he said. “We’ve been waiting for you.”
I sighed with relief and sank down into a chair to wait for departure. Roosevelt seemed reluctant to leave me, but I assured him that I would be fine. As he walked away, I closed my eyes and smiled. I would soon be home, and the journey was certainly worth it.
In an odd-sort-of-round-about way, I had made it to the last stop on my journey, and although things hadn’t gone smoothly, I had a small taste of greater value. Instead of being allowed to hurry on my way, God had set plans in motion so that my progress would be halted by a sweet older couple and an African-American cart driver named Roosevelt. I lifted up a prayer for the woman and the safe return of her wallet. In some small way, I had received a taste of eternity. Four fellow believers had stopped in the midst of the bustling airport and simply reveled in their shared faith. There were more important matters than reaching a destination on time. It was all about reaching the destination when God’s perfect timing had come to pass.
In the end, I got home safely, but not before I was reminded of the journey and the process of reaching that end result. Yes, I am eager for my eternal home, but until then I need to live my life out on earth for the purposes of my Creator, not some menial task or scheduled event on my calendar. Some things are worth waiting for.

Unmistakable Beauty

Early in 2008, I found myself in a local recording studio, working on my first full-length CD. One by one, I played the piano parts for each song and everything was laid down on the computer so I could later come in and finish things up with my vocals. I can remember stopping a few times here and there to start a song over again. I would mess up on a chord here or there, and it would throw off my rhythm or focus. At one point, I began to play “When the Angels Sing,” and something remarkable happened.
I had only played the first few measures when my finger slipped and I played a strange, dissonant note to off-set the chord I had played. At first, I grimaced at the sound, but I kept playing. For some reason, I wasn’t willing to stop the recording after only a few minutes of play. I had paid good money for studio time, and I couldn’t waste minutes on endless corrections. By the time the song drew to a close, I had practically forgotten about the mistaken note in the introduction… until the recording engineer played it back to me.
“Do you think I should fix that?” I asked in reference to the mistake.
“Fix what?” the engineer asked. “I didn’t hear a mistake?”
“But the chord, the wrong note…” I said hurriedly. “It sounds bad.”
“No way,” he responded. “It sounded natural to me… like it was written and supposed to be played that way.”
I thought about what he said for few moments and then shrugged it off. “Okay,” I said. “Let’s keep it that way. It’s kind of growing on me.”
So weeks later, when it came time to finalizing the CD, the track stayed that way, mistakes and all. In fact, when I play it live now, I don’t even remember how I originally wrote the introduction to that song. The mistaken chording is now the “right” way to begin the song.
These circumstances came back to me as I finished up a Bible Study a few weeks ago. We had spent a few moments talking about the mistakes in our lives or one element that we would like to see changed if we had the opportunity to do so. Someone asked me point- blank if I would change the fact that I was blind. Tears filled my eyes instantly at this question. “No,” I said quickly. “I would not wish away my blindness. And here’s why.”
I proceeded to share about the opportunities that have come my way simply because I have a disability. True, I have faced many challenges, but the blessings of my blindness have carried the greater purpose and promise. Some might see my blindness as a flaw, a birth defect that occurred because something went wrong in the womb. Oftentimes, I am reminded that my blindness is not beautiful. My eyes are misshapen and underdeveloped, and I need a prosthetic to cover up a less-than-perfect cosmetic reality. I am imperfect in physical appearance, and my blindness has definitely cast a shadow over my life.
But as I said before, my blindness has been a blessing too; in fact, I might even call it a beautiful blessing. For like my song, imperfections can be turned into something beautiful. Through my blindness, I have built relationships with fellow individuals with disabilities and mentored teenagers who face a reality of challenges. I would like to think that out of my imperfect experience, I have brought some hope and community in the midst of struggle. I have also been pushed into living independently and building a life for myself. Blindness has taught me to lean on God for what I need and trust the path He has laid out for me even as I struggle to navigate life with a disability. And finally, my blindness has made me a more well-rounded musician. It is practically a necessity to memorize all of my music due to the fact I can’t see sheet music. It has been a stressful process with a lot of forgotten lyrics and fumbled chords, but it has been worth every nerve-wracking Sunday morning on the platform.
I don’t exactly know why God allowed this disability in my life; sometimes I get a brief glimpse of His plan in the little things each day. But even though I am flawed by physical challenges, there is something beautiful about living life through clouded eyes. I pray that my temporary trials and imperfections will bring me an increasingly greater appreciation for the beauty of eternal life where everything will be made new. But until that day comes, I will keep stumbling along until my imperfect progress is rewarded through Him.

Look How Far We’ve come!

Recently, my friend Vanessa and I attended a CD release show for a dear friend of mine. We were excited to have a day away and just spend some time together as friends. We lead worship together on many Sunday mornings, and we were eagerly anticipating some quality time to explore our friendship.
The concert spanned almost two hours, and as we made our way into the lobby outside of the auditorium, we marveled at how two hours had passed so quickly. We raved about the beautiful music and how we could have listened to the band play for hours on end. I told Vanessa that it was remarkable how far Anna and her band had come since their early days in the music industry. Anna had performed at our local coffeehouse a few times, and I remember catching one of her early shows with Erica. (Erica and I had been performing together quite often, and like my recent concert outing with Vanessa, Erica and I had taken the time to attend a concert as friends and fellow music lovers). I remember being inspired by Anna’s music even then back in 2008 and 2009. I never could have dreamed that her music could get any better than it already was at that time. But after attending her recent concert, hearing her Nashville-based band, and getting a taste of their new music, I was blown away all over again. “Look how far they’ve come!” I marveled to Vanessa. I was proud of Anna, her sister, and the whole band. I could see the progress made and that made the end result of the CD release show so incredible.
After the concert as Vanessa and I lingered over dinner, we began talking about our role as worship leaders and the ever-evolving structure of our ministry. Over the past few years, our congregation has been seeking forward movement— striving for growth and developing new ministries in hopes of carrying our church into the future generation. Vanessa and I have been leading worship throughout this process and have slowly but surely seen growth in our team, OneVoice, and in the church in general. We have felt the Holy Spirit move in our midst as we lifted up songs, and some Sunday mornings are far too incredible for words.
But it hasn’t always been this way. There have been moments along the journey where progression forward has seemed less than stellar. For the most part, we have been living in the moment, just trying to stay afloat in this time of transition. But as Vanessa and I took a moment to look back, particularly from four years ago to today, we found we had truly come a long way as a church. Four years ago, we never would have dreamed we would be leading worship and bringing the congregation before the throne of God with our humble songs of praise. But it isn’t just the worship ministry that has undergone change. There is a great sense of anticipation for spiritual renewal on the horizon, and week by week, month by month, we are moving toward a stronger and deeper ministry together as the Body of Christ.
Like the Anna Johnson Band, we had grown and changed. The progress wasn’t always visible, but in looking back on how far we had come, it was obvious. God has been working in our midst, and we feel truly honored to be a part of this journey. We stand in awe of His provision for our joint ministry through worship in the local church. Look how far we’ve come— God, OneVoice, and the church at large. To God be the glory, great things He has done!