A few weeks ago I was driving from Waco to Dallas. As I headed north on Interstate 35, I looked from left to right and realized I had missed this Texas sky. That may sound strange for someone raised in north Georgia surrounded by tall pine trees. And now, we live in Rock Hill, South Carolina, where we enjoy the beauty of the Carolinas. (Even in the Texas years, Carolina was always in our minds!). On that lovely morning I remembered my West Texas friends who talked about Big Sky country. I always thought their pining for a place with no tall pine trees, a bit odd.
But on this morning drive, I got it.
Why does it feel like many days our horizon is too narrow?
It's true. There is plenty of stuff we have to do today; right now as a church musician, Advent worship and Christmas concerts consume every waking minute. We often are so focused on what’s right in front of us, we don’t look out at the horizon, the big picture, the big sky.
Begin with the end in mind” is the cogent advice from Stephen Covey in his classic book, The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.
But what is the end, the goal or purpose of your life and work? How do you figure that out?
Let me offer two thoughts:
Seek out a conversation partner.
Years ago I had the privilege of getting to know Bill O’Brien. Bill and his wife Dellanna were music missionaries to Indonesia early in their marriage. After Dellanna died in 2008, Bill began attending Wilshire Baptist in Dallas and even sang in the adult choir for a while. One day Bill and I were having coffee at Starbucks across the street from Wilshire. I was talking with him about some of the challenges of music ministry. He listened for quite a while. Finally he said, "Doug, it sounds to me like you really want to end well." (I did indeed and conversation with a trusted friend like Bill helped me to see the horizon and clarify what was important).
Find a coach.
Finding a coach is a step beyond a conversation partner. Coaching is a more formalized relationship you enter into with certain goals in mind. Early on you will clarify and outline what you want to get from coaching. You may need a coach to navigate a crisis—or you may simply consider a coaching relationship so you will thrive more and manage stress better. Most importantly, a coach will help you determine what you are moving toward and how you can actively pursue your goals. There are some very fine coaches in practice these days and if you need some recommendations, email me.
Especially in these days of rebuilding music ministries in this post-COVID post-Christian era, how do we see the big picture? How do we think about bringing the art and craft of church music to this moment in such a way it’s still infused with energy and enthusiasm and excellence? Whatever the answers are, they are best found in a community. A community of similar others.
May Polyphony continue to be that community for all.