"A Little At A Time"

This morning, I stopped long enough to do something that I know I need to do more. I lit candles and incense, here at my writing desk, and wrote in my journal. It dawns on me much of what I wrote was probably worth saying publicly. So here goes…

Fridays are supposed to be sacred days for me. Days of “rest.” Days where I can exercise, journal, write/play music, renew.

It doesn’t always work out that way. In fact, over the past year, I’ve had very few consecutive Fridays that have actually been the time of renewal and/or music-creation that I hope them to be.

I have a busy, busy job/ministry. I have a family that needs my love and support. In the midst of this, I try to find time to foster my own creative side…to write music, to perform…not just with the band, but my own stuff too.

I am at a place in life where what I know is this: music will always be a part of it. To feed my own soul, to heal my own soul, I must always be playing, writing, performing music. I know this. I know it deeply.

I’ve been yearning to release a second CD of my own music now almost nine years. Things happen. Life happens. Church happens. Blah, blah, blah. I wouldn’t change any of the major decisions of life. But for every thing that gets decided, for every Friday that has passed during the past seven years, I am reminded in some ways of how that CD still hasn’t come out.

Every week, a Friday rolls around and things happen. In summer, it’s a schedule of The Divine Miss M, The Judge, and important things we all agreed to do together. (You know, like vacations…)

Many many other Fridays, it’s ministry. It’s somebody in the hospital. Or, somebody who was in the hospital on Tuesday…which made me put off things I was supposed to do then until Thursday…which means I am doing Thursdays things on Friday…you get the idea.

Then, there’s the band; which is, of course, awesome. But it’s another pull on my time. Rehearsals really mean nights away from family (for all of us in the band, let us not forget…) which means less time for them…less time for my music…less time in ministry…more time I need to do all those other things sometime later…you get the idea.

Even with all this, when I step back, the reality is that all of this is the incredible grace of having a full and busy life. I don’t know that I’d want it any other way, really. But it’s incredibly tiring at times. And the juggle act –the constant worry about not spending enough time with family, church, personal renewal, music– it’s a broken record that is, quite literally, playing in my head all the time. Just about every moment.

Even on Fridays.

For example, on so many Fridays, I find that instead of taking the time I have, I waste it. I get stuck inside the mind-suck of Facebook. I get stuck watching TV. I get pulled into some non-urgent ministry task that could probably wait until the next week. I say I’m going to walk/bike, but I sleep instead.

Or sometimes, literally, I just sit and watch the clock tick, and feel vaguely like Brian Wilson during his lost years.

On Fridays, I find that the second Dennise leaves the house, it’s as if some countdown timer starts rolling in my head. And the message I hear is: “In just a few hours more, The Divine Miss M will be out of school, The Judge will be home, and another Friday will be gone.”

And the still deeper message inside this is: “Even if I use every second of this day, it will not be enough. It’s already too late. Why bother?”

Which makes me recall the awesome Mark Heard song, “Nod Over Coffee”:

“All the unsaid words that I might be thinking
And all the little signs that I might give you
They would not be enough
No they would not be enough

So we nod over coffee and say goodbye
Smile over coffee and turn to go
We know the drill and we do it well
We love it, we hate it
Ain’t that life

Ain’t that the curse of the second hand
Ain’t that the way of the hour and the day”
(Thank God for Pierce Pettis, whose recording of this song gave it to my soul years ago…)

These are the thoughts that hit me, mid-morning, just about every Friday.

The good news is that, for each of the past five Fridays, I’ve managed to spend some quality time recording. Five new songs in five weeks. Including two that are redos of songs lost when my other computer was stolen. The even better news is that, moments after I hit “publish” on this blog, I am headed to see my friend and coproducer, Clark Findley, who still has all the old recordings we were working on seven years ago.

We’re gonna “export” a ton of old files out of an old program (Cubase) so that I can reuse them in the new program (Logic).

And, as those of you on Facebook probably know, I’ve also managed to exercise most of the summer, on long and incredibly renewing bike rides. All this is good. GREAT, really.

But even after a long and productive day, I am often left those voices (“But it won’t be enough. It cannot be enough. It’s already too late. Why bother?”)

I know. I know. Get rid of that voice. At least I am a little farther down the road, and if I do not sit, frozen like Brian Wilson, then at least I have done something more. And this stuff the past five weeks? The exercise this summer? Real progress. I need to not forget that.

One of these days, this CD will be done. I have a growing sense, sooner rather than later.

And something else strikes me: Fridays matter to me so deeply, I get depressed about wasting them, or how quickly they fly, precisely because this is how life is. Life passes too quickly too.

These days, I’m not just worried about a single Friday, I’m worried about the almost 50 years of them that are already gone. How many are left? Have I wasted all the chances I’ve had?

Duh, I realize this morning, it’ really not about Friday. It’s about life.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This morning, as I sat down to write, I lit candles and incense. I struck a single match from a book from the Balcony Club, and lit the first candle. But, then, I then found myself frozen between lighting a second candle, and lighting the incense. In my indecision, the match burned down, and I didn’t get to light any of the other candles/incense with that match.

After putting down the hot match, it suddenly dawned on me that if I had just worried about lighting the one candle, I could have lit all the rest from it. In fact, now that one was lit, I could absolutely still light all the rest. The incense. The other candles. All of it.
No, I couldn’t do it all at once. But, yes, I could do it step-by-step.

Which reminded me of another truth I heard years ago, from my friend, Pastor Gessner Paul, now the head of the Methodist Church in Haiti. At the time he told me this, he was pastor in Petit-Guave, Haiti, and he and I were walking through town. I was finally comfortable enough with him, and we were good enough friends, that I could ask him, “How in the world will Haiti ever get to the place it needs to be?”

He paused for a moment, and then said, “There is an old Haitian proverb: ‘The bird builds its nest a little at a time.'”

That’s all he said. He left me to figure it out.

Obviously, from what you are reading today, I am still figuring it out.

The bird builds its nest a little at a time. No, the bird can’t do the whole thing in one moment. But the AA people are right: “One day at a time.”

No, you can’t achieve all your dreams on any one Friday. But you can put one foot in front of the other, and work toward them, whatever they are. And any distance you go gets you farther than you were at the start of that day.

No, you can’t light every candle at once. But you can light one. And if you light one, you can light all the rest.

I know this. I really do. I just forget.

Now, off to see Clark.

(As always, if you like this post, then “like” this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too…)

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He has been Senior Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas since 2001. During his tenure, church membership has grown almost 30 percent, and a completely new church facility (sanctuary and education building) has been constructed. Northaven is a leading progressive Christian congregation in the Southwest. Northaven is an eclectic collection of gay and straight families, artists, musicians, theater folks, academic theologians, lawyers and judges (go figure), socially conscious community activists, people who don't "check their brain at the door," and a wide array of others who either see it as their "last chance" inside the "institutional church," or their first trip back in decades. Eric is an avid blogger and published author.  Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's an engaging live performer whose first CD was released in 2000. His songs have won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. (As always, if you like this post, then "like" this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too...)

2 thoughts on “"A Little At A Time"

  1. My husband has a song about this very thing. I'll try to figure out how to send you the link.Good stuff. I'm the world's worst at making time for myself. Right now I'm just trying to remember to breath deeply. And then I tell myself to smile, even if I don't feel like it. It some how makes things a little better. Who would think that breathing and smiling would be so difficult a task!Enjoy your FRY day!

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