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Sunday Inspiration: Do You Have a Passion That Surprises and Delights?

Welcome to “Sunday Inspiration,” a bi-weekly devotional for those seeking spiritual encouragement in the pursuit of their passions. I hope these posts will inspire and motivate you in your life and career in addition to our weekly blog posts. Enjoy!

Meet Ed. Ed is a friend of mine I met about three years ago in an art class I took. He’s a retired guy who has a heart for helping other people make the transition from career to retirement.

Ed also has a passion for a rather unique skill he learned 40 years ago. This skill isn’t something he set out to learn. Instead he remained open to the idea of new things, and as a result found a passion that not only surprised him, but also surprises a lot of people. It’s a skill and passion he doesn’t earn money for, but instead uses to give back to others.

As you read Ed’s story, think about when the last time was you kept yourself open to learning something new. Do you have a skill or passion that maybe doesn’t earn you money, but gives you joy when you use it to give back to others? Does it serve as an outlet for you and give you purpose?

Ed’s Story

I play spoons. I’ve played spoons for over 40 years, ever since my wife surprised me for my birthday and took me, along with the friends she had invited, to a concert.

Two gentlemen representing the Smithsonian Institute were touring the country playing a concert of authentic American music—sea chanties, Dixieland jazz, blues, and a host of other music all born of the diversity we have in this country. The highlight for me was “Turkey in the Straw” with Jew’s harp, washboard, hambone, and, my personal favorite, the spoons.

At the end of the concert, we were invited to see the instruments and get a spoon lesson. Before that day, I’d never seen or heard spoons played. I was surprised and delighted.

Our party then headed back to my house for birthday cake. The guitars came out, we raided the silverware drawer, and we all tried to play spoons.

 
Here Bill, Lanette, Sheryl, and Carol all give the spoons a try in our living room.

Shortly afterward, my friend Earnie asked me to join a small group to play at a church gathering. Since I couldn’t blow on my clarinet and sing at the same time, he said, “Bring your spoons.” I spent that summer learning to play spoons—and sing at the same time. The effort has paid off with a lifetime of fun and meaning.

The group Earnie formed grew and became the Blakemore Boys Bluegrass Band. For 35 years we sang at church events around town, also for the infirm and homebound. We took our music to hospital beds, visited nursing homes, and did special fundraising concerts and caroling. One highlight was performing and recording a Christmas cantata that Earnie wrote.


Earnie, John, Earl, Kathy, Mary Ellen, Bob, and I surprise the neighborhood as we sing carols door to door, fundraising for a Nashville daycare center.

Bob, one of the band members, then invited us to form a new group that plays almost exclusively in nursing homes. September 2018 marked our eighth anniversary of playing at least three times a month. Our repertoire of gospel and old hymns is very popular among patients and staff; most everybody knows the words and many sing along as they are able.


The camera caught Earnie, Bob, me, Clare, and Jim by surprise.

Surprise and Delight

I tell you all this to offer a backdrop to 43 years of what I call surprise and delight.

One of the earliest things I did after learning how to play the spoons was to invent and use the “Happy Birthday Cha, Cha, Cha.” It’s pretty much the same as the original except that most lines end with “cha, cha, cha.” I lead the singing of that at most birthday parties I go to at home or elsewhere. But for me, the most fun is at restaurants. You see, I try to make it a surprise.

My favorite gambit is to solicit some volunteers to be a cha, cha, cha chorus. I like to find a table with two to four youthful guests. I’ll go sit down with them. By the time I’ve shaken everybody’s hand and introduced myself with, “It’s good to see you,” two are convinced they know me but don’t remember how.

I invite them to come sing cha, cha, cha backup and surprise my friend. So… off we go back to the table where the birthday boy or girl is usually very surprised—and once the embarrassment wears off—delighted as well.

I’ve done this so often and for so many years nobody in my family is embarrassed any longer. People do get wary, though. Our friend Lanette wanted no surprises at the Spaghetti Factory and asked whether I’d brought my spoons. I truthfully told her I hadn’t, but when it was time, my wife passed me the spoons we’d hidden in her purse. It’s all about surprise and delight.

I also like to show up and play impromptu with different bands. I have played with a Dixieland band on a Mississippi River paddle boat, a mariachi band in a restaurant, an Eagle’s cover duo on St Martin’s Island, and a Cajun band, as well as several street bands in New Orleans. I also got to play a solo with a jazz quartet in the swanky Court of Two Sisters in New Orleans at a Mother’s Day brunch. Very cool.

  
My wife and I play with a Cajun band, and I play with a street band in New Orleans.


I definitely surprised the jazz group on Mother’s Day!

As often happens after I play, two kids invited me over to show them how the spoons worked. They were surprised and delighted.

One time the table was turned on me. When I was leaving a restaurant where we’d celebrated my daughter’s birthday with my signature song, I heard coming from the kitchen the unmistakable sound of two spoons banging together. These weren’t just the usual kitchen noises! I found some of the wait staff trying to work with spoons to get the sound right. I took some time and gave them a spoon lesson. I was surprised and delighted that day.

I was surprised and delighted again one afternoon in a nursing home. We saw a mother and daughter on the sideline that afternoon. Mom had her head on her daughter’s shoulder most of the time, but she was singing along with her daughter. Afterward, the daughter came up to thank us for “bringing Mom back.” Mom had Alzheimer’s and hadn’t talked in over a year. The daughter told us that she had grown up singing those songs to her mother’s piano playing. For that one brief hour, we were able to bring Mom back for an encore.

I was surprised and delighted.

Singing in nursing homes is fun but also eye-opening. Some patients walk to the performance on their own. Many more have some sort of conveyance like a walker. Still, others are brought in a wheelchair or bed. It’s not uncommon to see people hang their heads and slump in their chairs. Some even seem asleep.

After the music one afternoon, I went out to meet and greet some listeners. I saw a head rise off the table; I stuck out my hand to shake his and said, “Hi, I’m Ed. Did you enjoy the music?” Straight away I felt his grip tighten on my hand and heard a whisper, “Oh. Very much. It was great.” I had thought he had slept through the whole concert. But no. I saw an unmistakable light in his eyes.

I learned a valuable lesson that afternoon, one that I hope you take to heart too: Surprise and delight are universal. I knew that kids could be surprised seeing spoons played. I knew that musicians could be surprised and sometimes delighted by hearing a well-placed burst of rhythm from what they thought an unlikely source. But… I hadn’t known that even if you can’t talk anymore or raise your head or clap, there is still room for surprise and delight in your heart.

Never give up on life. Take surprise and delight with you. You may one day be like the man who couldn’t raise his head off his arms but was still open to surprise and delight.

Ed Zinkiewicz
…the retired guy

Sunday Inspiration: Four Steps to Overcoming Fear

Welcome to “Sunday Inspiration,” a bi-weekly devotional for those seeking spiritual encouragement in the pursuit of their passions. Each post comes from an outside resource (as referenced). I hope these posts will inspire and motivate you in your life and career in addition to our weekly original blog posts. Enjoy!

“The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.”

Ps 118:6 NIV

First, be willing to take a risk.

Yes, you might be hurt or embarrassed—so what? To overcome insecurity and gain confidence you must allow yourself the freedom to take a chance.

Start writing that book, take those music lessons, stand up and speak at the meeting! Feel the fear and do it anyway!

“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe” (Pr 29:25 NIV).

Second, learn to laugh at yourself.

Get over your obsessive need for approval and acceptance and learn to laugh at your mistakes. We’re all human; stop taking yourself so seriously!

When you make a mistake, be the first to see the funny side, and you’ll find people more supportive than you think.

Third, start thinking realistically.

It’s time to drop the security blanket and realize it’s not all about you.

You are not the center of the universe, and your little faux pas don’t mean that much in the bigger scheme of things. Besides, mistakes are often better teachers than success.

Fourth, reward yourself for little victories.

When you complete a project, reward yourself. When you take advice or correction without retaliating, reward yourself.

Often the people we lash out at, are those trying the hardest to help us.

Get used to the idea that you’re valuable, talented, and skilled, and your worth in God’s eyes is inestimable. Stop scrutinizing yourself through distorted lenses and start seeing yourself with 20/20 vision.

Once you can do that, your fears will be replaced by confidence in yourself and in your future.

Source: https://www.jentezenfranklin.org/daily-devotions/four-steps-to-overcoming-fear-2

Sunday Inspiration: How to Have the Right Attitude

Welcome to “Sunday Inspiration,” a bi-weekly devotional for those seeking spiritual encouragement in the pursuit of their passions. Each post comes from an outside resource (as referenced). I hope these posts will inspire and motivate you in your life and career in addition to our weekly original blog posts. Enjoy!

“You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” 
Php 2:5 NLT

How many jobs do people lose every day because of poor attitudes? How many are passed over for promotion because of the way they approach their work and the people around them? How many marriages fall apart?

It would be impossible to calculate.

No one should ever lose a job, miss a promotion, or destroy a marriage because of a poor attitude.

Why? Because a person’s attitude isn’t set; it’s a choice.

Chuck Swindoll writes:

“Attitude, to me, is more important than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It’s more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company…a church…a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude…I’m convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. And so it is with you…We are in charge of our attitudes.”

Paul writes,

“You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”

He always approached people with love, grace, acceptance, and a heart to serve rather than be served.

So if your attitude hasn’t been as good as it could be, make this your starting point. Pray: “Father, give me a Christlike attitude toward everyone I meet.”

Source: https://www.jentezenfranklin.org/daily-devotions/having-the-right-attitude

Sunday Inspiration: How to Get a Vision for Your Future

Welcome to “Sunday Inspiration,” a bi-weekly devotional for those seeking spiritual encouragement in the pursuit of their passions. Each post comes from an outside resource (as referenced). I hope these posts will inspire and motivate you in your life and career in addition to our weekly original blog posts. Enjoy!

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” Hebrews 12:2 KJV

A vision is a picture of what “can be” rather than “what is”.

Your vision may be to bring health where there is sickness – like the vision Albert Schweitzer had for Africa. Or of education where there’s ignorance – like the one that motivated Gilbert Tennent to help establish Princeton University.

It may be a vision of freedom where there’s oppression – like the one that made William Wilberforce give up a life of privilege to eradicate slavery.

Or your vision may be smaller and simpler – like being the first one in your family to graduate from university, or becoming a great parent to your child even though you yourself never had one.

Or breaking a bad habit before it breaks you…or moving to a different country…or spending your t most-productive years traveling the world.

Thoreau said,

“If you’ve built castles in the air…put foundations under them.”

But having a vision isn’t enough; there has to be a commitment to act on it. That’s called a mission – and it requires setting specific, measurable steps to achieve it.

Those steps are called goals; they establish a plan for accomplishing your mission and thus fulfilling your vision.

You’ll generally have one vision, but many goals. And each goal you reach brings you a step closer to fulfilling your vision.

And here’s the really good news: when your vision comes from God, He’ll give you the strength, wisdom, connections, relationships, and resources to make it happen because He’s “the author and finisher of our faith”.

Source: http://w4u.ph/ask-god-for-a-vision/

Sunday Inspiration: Dare to Dream

Welcome to “Sunday Inspiration,” a bi-weekly devotional for those seeking spiritual encouragement in the pursuit of their passions. Each post comes from an outside resource (as referenced). I hope these posts will inspire and motivate you in your life and career in addition to our weekly original blog posts. Enjoy!

“I focus on this one thing.” Php 3:13 NLT

In order to move forward with confidence on your life’s journey, you need a reliable road map.

In the Bible this is called a dream or a vision.

For Moses, it was leading God’s people out of slavery and into the Promised Land. For Florence Nightingale, it meant bringing healing and hope to wounded and dying soldiers in Crimea. For Thomas Edison, it was illuminating the world with incandescent light.

The fact is, anyone who ever made a difference in life started with a dream, and eventually it became their life’s passion.

For the publishers of this devotional, it’s putting God’s Word into the hands of as many people as possible in every nation on earth!

How can you tell if your vision is from God? It will bless you and benefit others.

Now, if your dream is only to live in a mansion and accumulate a fortune for yourself, don’t count on God to underwrite it.

Furthermore, your dream is worth only what you’re willing to pay for it. Inspiration without perspiration is just a daydream.

Forty percent of the people you meet have great ideas, but all they do is talk about them. Another 40 percent work hard and would be willing to give their all for a great dream—but they don’t have one.

Only the remaining 20 percent have a dream and the faith to make it come true. And even if you’re part of that group, there are no guarantees you’ll succeed. But you have a good chance—better than 80 percent of those around you.

So go ahead—dare to dream.

Source: https://www.jentezenfranklin.org/daily-devotions/dare-to-dream