Singing an Off-Key-Spirituality

Hello friends! I recently was reading about a favorite photographer that so many of us “shutter-bugs” admire, Ansel Adams. What a storied life with his knowledge of the west and how to best share it with his “eagle-eye” photography! For Ansel, being in God’s creation meant the whole world was just fine. However, here is something I learned that many folks may not know about this famous man—he did NOT start out as a photographer!

His story goes like this. Early on in his life, Ansel showed quite a bit of promise as a classical pianist. One evening he was invited to a party and asked to play the piano. One of his favorites was Chopin’s Nocturne in F Major—a well-beloved musical piece. Ansel’s rendition, however, was not quite up to par with this beloved melody! In his own words, he described it like this: “In some strange way, my right hand started off in F-sharp major while my left hand behaved well in F major. I could not bring them together. I went through the entire nocturne with the hands separated by a half-step.”

Even one of his best friends wondered what had gotten into him. After the party he cornered Ansel and said “Friend, I have to be honest, something was very wrong tonight. I guess I could say that you never missed a wrong note!” The two men laughed and Ansel admitted he definitely was ‘out of harmony.’

Since I am a life-long musician, harmony is a great part of my life in music and I’m blessed with “perfect pitch” so when a song is sung that is slightly out of tune it’s an ouch for me. Alas, harmony often isn’t a part of my life outside of that music. Ever have a day where everything sounds like “discord?” No harmony—just discord—or call it disconnect. Sadly discord is also very common in our spiritual life. For instance, we go to church and talk of faith with all the right Bible verses, hymns, piety, etc. But outside of the church, our practical side takes over and harmony quickly goes out the door.

How do we sync that harmony with our faith and our daily lives? Or put it another way, how do we reconcile the discord between what we preach and what we practice? The Apostle Paul  has powerful words on this from his letter to the Philippians, where he encouraged them to continue in harmony and unity even if he was no longer present with them. Using the Message translation of Philippians 2:12-13, Paul says

“What I’m getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on
doing what you’ve done from the beginning.
When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience.
Now that I’m separated from you, keep it up.
Better yet, redouble your efforts.

Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God.
That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you,
God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.”

Seeking a life of harmony takes patience—just like it takes patience and hard work to master Chopin’s music! Life has a process wherein each day God is molding us and teaching us.

Now it is our turn to listen, trust and obey and it’s worth it because, unlike Ansel Adam’s F#-major/F-major discord, we will have learned to sync our spiritual life with our daily life. We’ll be in the same key—becoming a beautiful masterpiece testifying to God’s greatness in our lives!