It was just after sundown, a perfect 78 degrees with the western sky, chalk painted a beautiful French blue. As I glanced up, the only thing on display was a brilliant “Thumbnail” moon in the planet Venus. Not another planet or star had shown up yet. So far away yet how bright and clear that even a tiny sliver of the sun’s light, reflecting off the cold, barren moon can show itself so brilliantly. I stood there in awe, in this powerful and thought provoking moment. This question came to me as I looked on. As I live each day, how often do I really display even a “Thumbnail” of light, any “divine spark” to the people in my life? If I was perfectly honest, I’d have to admit that more times than not, what I probably show the world is the “new moon” me. The cold, dark and barren me, the absence of any light me. But any light that might possibly be in me would simply be a loving reflection of the Son’s light, the light of the world. All that I’m able to do is to you for and seek after some of that spark, every day.
I guess I’m speaking of my very soul or spirit, when I try to make the comparison to that “Thumbnail” light. Certainly, a huge stretch, but there are some similarities. Our light, our spark, can shine brightly even in the darkest of places and situations. From the deepest spot somewhere submerged in our being arise all of our desires, pleasures, joys, self-worth, laughter and jests, as well as our questions, fears, sorrows, pains, griefs and tears. The soul is rich, thick, pure, powerful, endearing, inviting, warm, invigorating, epic, intangible and eternal. Try as you may, you can’t really touch the soul. But the soul can touch you. Sometimes it drives and lifts you to unthinkable heights.
And if you were able to touch it, it would feel more than perfect, whatever more than perfect feels like. And if you could see it in it’s purest form, it would be more than the most dazzling light ever seen. But you can’t do that either.
And it’s pretty safe to say that you probably won’t see an actual light, but others may. Or they may simply be benefiting from your radiance, your brilliance at the very moment, your “Thumbnail” light that God has revealed through you. You may not be vital to all mankind, but you alone are important and vital to someone, perhaps to many others you will encounter in your lifetime. If you realize it or not they could be marking time right now, waiting for you to just do what God has called you to do.
Col 4:17 “Take heed to the ministry to which you have received in the Lord, that you made fulfill it.”
Try to imagine where our emotions take up residency. The soul or spirit, that most meaningful spark or fire, is deeply embedded, common to all mankind. There’s nothing we have to learn, practice, or get better at. We just need to know that it exists within us. We need not obsess over it, probably won’t ever talk about it much, and don’t really understand it. But just below the surface and totally unspoken, we long for that “divine spark” to appear everyday… today… right now. There are no words that can begin to really describe it. And when it shows itself it can be an overwhelming experience. Furthermore, it doesn’t need an audience. In fact, many times it is a solitary encounter… just you in this dazzling light.
I believe the times when my soul would most reveal itself over the years was whenever I had the chance to sing. I remember hearing it said that the actual act of singing was one of only a few experiences that uses both sides of the brain at the same time… the creative, artistic side and the logical, memory side. That would explain why it just feels good to sing out loud. Your brain is in perfect harmony, even if your singing isn’t! I really believe there is some truth to that claim.
Singing has always been almost sacred to me from the very start. I quickly realized that the world of music was much bigger than me, something I could look up to. It was tangible, real, and maybe, just maybe within my reach. As a child, I was never really shown much that I could really look up to, things bigger than me. So rather than looking up, I would simply look straight ahead to things that showed up in front of me. Singing for me then became cathartic. It was as if songs would fill up the room like a calming fog. The songs were in the air and I was drawn to them. Then I got to walk in among them and be part of them. In turn, some songs became a part of me. I always felt it was such a privilege to just be able to sing. I remember I would close my eyes and escape into my perfect world, one song and one note at a time. When I owned the moment, when all the parts were working, I didn’t want it to end. But in about 3 minutes and 30 seconds later I was back in the real world, so thankful for a glimpse how things could be yet so sorry that they are not. I would somehow hear my voice above the music and would humbly become a part of the audience. It was almost an out of body experience. It didn’t matter if there were 10 people or 3000 in front of me for the adrenaline in the adventure were the same every time… every time. It’s amazing but about 10 seconds after the song would start, all was right in my universe. Then about 10 seconds after the song ended, I wanted to sing again, right then, right now… only better.
Singing was where I was allowed to or maybe, required to, display my most intimate, personal emotions through words and tunes I loved. If you think about it, that is the true nature of the beast. In its best form, it is exactly what singing to a room filled with mostly strangers is all about. A song can be a healing melody, simple but powerful, allowing the listener to reach inside to remember, to forget, to be sad, to be happy and everything in between. A song well done and well placed can stir up a litany of emotions. That is what I miss the most, the therapy part… my therapy.
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t sing. As early as 4 or 5 years old, I pretty much knew every song that played on AM radio and would always sing in along… loudly. I still remember many of those songs 65 years later! I would sing while riding in my dad‘s truck, sing for my cousin Kathy and Arlene, a girl from the neighborhood, or sing sitting in the bathroom. I’ve been told that my older sister, without me knowing, would invite her friends to stand outside our bathroom to hear me sing. I even vividly recall my very first solo which I was duped into doing! Let me explain… it was in front of the whole congregation at the Methodist church on one Sunday when I was about 5 or 6 years old. A few times a year the kids in Sunday school would get up as a group in the “big church” and sing a song we supposedly learned. Our teacher would sit in the front row and direct all 10 or 12 of us. She would always write the words to the songs in big letters on a poster board just in case we might forget. We would pretty much always forget. On this particular Sunday, with the kids acting their age, waving to their parents and the boys squirming and punching each other in the arms, we sang our one song. After the polite applause, our teacher motion to me to stay put as the other children went to sit with their parents. She pulled out another poster board with words to a song in titled “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam.” I remember slowly looking all around and realizing that I was the only one left up front, standing up there on the second step. She didn’t tell me I was about to sing a solo. It simply happened in a rather matter-of-fact way. The piano started to play, so I started to sing. At the end of the song I noticed the teacher‘s face was beaming as the whole congregation broke into thunderous applause. At first I didn’t realize that it was for me. Bewildered, I stood there for what seem to be an awfully long time. Not knowing what I should do, I quietly sat back down in the front row next to the teacher. After the church service concluded, the Pastor actually shook my hand for the first time ever, and scores of people told me what a good job I did. That was probably the first “Thumbnail” moment of my life. Some light, a “divine spark” showed up that day and helped to form my future in a most dramatic fashion. From that day on, I sang songs in front of people almost every chance I was given, always yearning and striving for that spark to be present in every note.
It’s now a few years later, in 1957 when I was eight years old. Every week I would watch the “Ozzie and Harriet show” which was probably the first “reality” show to ever air on TV. They were actually a real-life family of four, with two sons, David and Ricky. For no apparent story line reason, that year 17 year old Ricky began playing guitar and singing pop songs with a band at the end of almost every episode. I watched as the girls at the “sock hop” at the gym would sway and swoon with every song. He was actually very good and quite handsome and went on to become a major recording star, selling millions of 45’s and albums. I started to look forward to the end of each show, because that meant that Ricky would probably sing. That became the favorite part of the whole half hour show for this 3rd grader. As I watched and listened, one night, something “locked in” deep within me and I knew at that very moment I wanted to do just what he was doing more than anything else in the whole world. That night my course was set for the next 50 years or so and it never wavered.
My first “show-biz” rejection occurred that same year. My 3rd grade class was combined with the other 3rd grade class to put on a Christmas program for the parents. My teacher pulled me aside and asked me if I would like to sing a solo in the program. My first big break! She told me to let her know what song I would like to perform. Feeling totally confident, I told her I would like to sing a song that I kept hearing on the radio. It was Ricky Nelson singing “Be Bop Baby”. I remember the puzzled look on her face as she stood there in total silence for a lingering moment. She finally found the words to agree to my song choice, then slowly walked away shaking her head. We had a slightly chaotic rehearsal that day for all 50-plus kids. The teachers told us where to stand, when to walk on and off, what songs the whole class would be singing and told me where in the program I was to sing my solo. I went straight home right after school and started to practice my song. But my solo career was to be short-lived. The next day my teacher called me out in the hallway and told me that the Principal didn’t approve of my song choice. She had taken me off the program. Seeing the disappointment on my face, she said I could sing in the “choir” with all the other kids. Adding insult to injury, they placed me in the back row, right in front of the blackboard. It’s a jungle out there in the elementary school musical world!!
Over the years no matter what ever job I held or what else I was ever involved with, in the back of my mind I always held the thought (or maybe the delusion) that I was not through yet. I still had some singing to do, no matter what the Principal said.
“[Growing up] is a terribly hard thing to do. It is much easier to skip it and go from one childhood to another.” (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
Play music is exactly what it says… “playing.” And for me, going from one band experience to another over the years was just that. And in doing so, part of me was never really obligated to ever grow up! I’m also quite sure a part of me wanted to somehow finally show my 3rd grade teacher what she had missed.
I truly hope you too have found your “Thumbnail” light somewhere along the way. Something that, at times, kept you up at night for all the right reasons. Something that was the reason for a pleasing, constant, soothing harmony in your life, the best of yourself. In the 1981 movie, “Chariots of Fire” Eric Liddell, Britain’s Olympic runner declares his “Thumbnail” experience. “I believe God made me for a purpose but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel his pleasure.”
May you feel His pleasure as your journey continues…