Applause!

Last month, I enjoyed the band concert of a lifetime. Steve and I were in Ashland, Oregon. On the third night of our stay, we went to a concert performed by students of the American Band College of Central Washington University. Imagine a stage filled with band directors who’d come from all over the country to earn a Master of Music. We’re talking about a lot of talent! The music was beautiful and powerful, but here’s what struck me—the applause.

We, the audience, applauded after each piece, of course. But those accomplished musicians did a wonderful job of applauding one another as well. In most cases, they had to use their feet. Their hands were full of trumpets and violins, flutes and cymbals. Their feet, tapping back and forth on the stage floor, stood in for the hand clapping they couldn’t quite manage as their fellow band members completed solos.

  • They appreciated one another’s efforts in spite of their own expertise.
  • When inconvenience stood in their way, they just found another way to applaud.

The recipients of such odd, foot-tapping encouragement seemed truly touched, reminding me of the documentary I’d watched in a vintage Ashland theater just one night earlier. It was Pavarotti, a documentary about one of the most famous tenors ever to have graced our planet. Scene after scene showed him ending a performance to ear-splitting applause. Yet every time, he looked relieved and delighted, surprised and almost tearful.

Despite riches and fame, Pavarotti never lost the need for appreciation and encouragement.

A few days later, I hopped in an Uber to the airport. The driver and I chatted a bit. My nearly-last words were, “This was a five star ride. Thank you.” I was a little surprised by how much that comment mattered to him. (And it wasn’t just about earning a tip.) I’m ashamed to say that I usually just say, “Thanks,” as I’m handed my bag and head into the airport terminal. What does it really cost me to add a few words of commendation?

Appreciation matters, even in the small things.

Yes, we serve a loving Lord, and his approval is all we really need. Yet band leaders, famous tenors, Uber drivers and the rest of us find our spirits lifted when we’re appreciated by another human being. Thus it falls on us to look for ways to dole out applause wherever we can, in whatever form is available to us at the moment.

Not long ago, I challenged you to add enthusiastic greetings to your daily habits. Today, I’m asking you to add applause!

And just for good measure, here’s an interesting quote from Jan Karon’s lovely book, “A New Song,” page 29. “The old man [who had just told a joke] heard the sound of applause overtaking the laughter and leaned forward slightly, cupping his hands to his left ear to better take it in. The applause was giving him courage, somehow, to keep on in life, to get out of bed in the mornings and see what was what.”

 

Were You Friends First?

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Many of you already know my story. (You can read a longer version here.)

Steve and I met in our high school library at the end of our freshman year. Sadly, I made no impression on him whatsoever. He still swears we didn’t meet until the first day of Mr. English’s chemistry class the following year. What we both agree on, though, is that we became fast friends and weathered the good and bad together from then on.

Romance wasn’t part of the picture until we were juniors. And that was a good thing.

Steve and I learned how to be friends first. If you were blessed with the same scenario, then you know what a terrific start it is to a life of marital bliss. Our deep friendship helps carry us through the less-than-blissful bits. If you dove right into romance, or have forgotten how to be friends, allow me to give you a few refresher points, taken in great part from last Sunday’s sermon. (Thanks, Matt!)

  • A friend shows up.
  • A friend sticks around.
  • A friend pays attention, takes the initiative in meeting a need, and goes the extra mile without being asked.
  • Friends pursue a common goal, and, for believers, that means—most of all—they pursue the Lord together.

And here’s a quote to ponder: “It takes great courage to be a friend.” Marriage—and all true friendships—require a willingness to be second, to love to the point of sacrifice, to open oneself up enough to speak the truth (with kindness!) and, as Proverbs 17:17 says, to “love at all times.”

Married? Be friends!

Single? Be a friend to at least a few who need your friendship and bring you joy.

Have a little extra time today? Take a moment to read all of Proverbs 17. It’s packed with good advice. You can find it right here.