Forcing the Changes

Forcing the Changes December 19, 2014

Around my living room, one child is sitting very smugly sucking on a candy cane and reading 39 Clues, because he called his new friend this afternoon, “Just to talk” and ended up with an invitation to go play. He’s happy. I’m happy for him, even though I wasn’t excited about making any plans yet. He risked his trump card, and he won. I have respect for that.

And my oldest son is on the phone with a toy company, trying to get a replacement for the RC helicopter he bought with his own money. The copter didn’t work, which was no surprise, but he’s called the company religiously every day this week, irritating the hell out of them, I’m sure, like he did with me when he was two and wouldn’t go to sleep. I’d lay him down, he’d pop back up. He needed milk. He needed a blanket. He needed…his Bible–so he said once. He could carry on for eons. He just wanted to be heard. And heard again. He’s never known when to quit. And now that very attribute is serving him well as he harasses The Man on the telephone. Better The Man than me.

photo-544My daughter is playing piano. She’s been practicing for an hour, which is more or less a miracle, since practice has never been her favorite pastime. But she wants to play the theme song from The Giver movie, and found a tutorial on the internet that teaches you how. She’s committed.

The six-year-old just said, “You’re beautiful!” when I told him to stop throwing his slinky in the house. It was an unexpected response, and kind of weird, but I liked it, so he didn’t get in trouble.

And I’ve been going through my mid-life crisis, which is becoming a bit of a regular thing with me, as in possibly, a habit of being.


As my cousin once pointed out to me: while men have terrible mid-life crises, buying fancy cars or dating younger women, women’s mid-life crises are usually awesome. Women take up pottery or painting, reconnect with old friends, get healthy and self-esteem-y. A woman becomes more accepting of her intrinsic self which has been obscured over the years by self-imposed martyrdom and good intentions gone haywire. Martha, you have been anxious and worried about many things…

I’ve started exercising again, have actually made some real sweat this week on the elliptical trainer, and have been taking online guitar lessons.

The guitar lessons, I started several months ago (With JustinGuitar–which I highly recommend). I am making slow progress, but I’m happy with that. I practice at least five times a week, about ten or fifteen minutes at a time, all while sounding pretty horrible. But maybe hearing me stink has contributed my daughter’s newfound practice ethic, because in the past she’s been frustrated that she can’t sit down and play something perfectly the first time. Her reference for success, prior to now, has been tempo. How fast can she get through it?

But it’s the rhythm of the thing that really matters, the dailyness, the consistency, even if the tempo is very…very…slow.

In learning to make the changes between chords on the guitar, there’s a concept that Justin calls, “forcing the changes.” In short, the goal is to never stop strumming. The rhythm must be constant, the strumming hand always counting out the time, even if your left hand is playing the wrong notes for a moment.

Listeners will hear if the rhythm is off for certain, but if you’re missing one note in a chord, the ear might not pick it up. So keep the rhythm, and eventually, you can trick your left hand into being on time with the next chord, “forced” to conform to the rhythm. It’s a Pascal’s Wager for your hands. Behave as if you’re going to make the change, and soon enough you will.

Kids seem to come to this concept rather instinctively. It requires a little belligerence to keep acting as though you’ve already received your mother’s forgiveness or gained her permission, or even to keep bombarding her with requests until she caves. She always gets with the program soon enough.

For grown-ups, sometimes the change isn’t one you want to make, but it’s inevitable. Or it’s just the truth, though you don’t buy it yet. Maybe it’s to accept the reality of who you are in God, to believe without reserve in the power of Christ’s blood, that it has absolved you of your mistaken need to outdo it or improve upon it. Practice believing that in the birth, death and resurrection of the Lord, it really is finished, and all that’s left to do is to grow continually into that mystery and receive from it graciously. Believe that all that comes from the Father’s hand is good, that He pours out blessings on us while we sleep, even if that means, to my constant bewilderment, that today, at least, I won’t suffer as much as others apparently suffer.

What will I do if I’m not trying to earn my salvation, or to be finished prematurely with something I’ve only just begun?

Keep the rhythm, mark the time, play the next chord in the sequence as well as I am able. Eventually it begins to sound like a song, like something I can play with my eyes closed, from the gut because it’s true.

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