KP's Music Rodeo has a weekly Pick-&-Grin session on Tuesday nights where anyone with an instrument - or a voice - is welcome to pull up a chair, join the circle, and jam with their neighbors. Gospel, country, western swing, a little bluegrass...guitars, mandolins, fiddles, harmonicas, banjos...it's a round-robin affair, each musician leading a song as they move around the circle.
Martha is eager to take advantage of this opportunity to master some new tunes and to learn a few new licks on the fiddle from Mrs. Judy. Last night, Helen boldly toted her little guitar onto the floor and sat slightly outside the circle, watching and listening and occasionally strumming a chord. Looks like Tuesday nights at the Rodeo is going to be a regular part of our routine for the unforeseeable future!
Me...I just perch myself at one of the tables and observe from the audience. I enjoy listening to the music, meeting new folks, and sipping a cup of hot coffee. After a few weeks of this, some of us "regulars" are beginning to seem a bit like family.
About an hour into last week's jam session, a fellow sitting in front of me stood up to stretch his legs and visit with folks at other tables. As he eventually headed back to his front-row rocking chair, he stopped behind me and placed his hands on my shoulders. "Since you've had to sit here looking around our heads all evening, I'm going to give you a free massage."
Whoa, Nelly! Stop right there! Anybody who knows me knows that I have a rather LARGE personal distance. I am prone to be shy and introverted, and, while I truly enjoy meeting and visiting with new acquaintances, I'm not quick to bring anybody into the bull's eye of my personal space. Maybe I'm just a little tactilely over-stimulated after birthing, nursing, and raising seven babies!
My shoulders tensed the second he touched my back...but before I had time to figure out a not-too-rude protest, this fellow had me undone. Three seconds maybe? I was almost in tears. He was softening the tight muscles in my neck and back into warm butter. I declare, that man had magic hands. This Shrinking Susan had to confess, "I don't know what you're doing, but that has to be absolutely the most wonderful thing I have ever felt in my life."
His wife turned around from her seat in front of me, laughing. "We're certified massage therapists, honey. I specialize in doing feet. It is wonderful, isn't it?!"
Which led to a conversation about muscles and how they work and about the purpose and benefits of professional massage. Mr. Stone explained that muscles can only contract - it takes deliberate physical manipulation to stretch them back out into a fully relaxed condition. (I guess this is why serious athletes do so much stretching, hmmm?) Once contracted, a muscle's blood/oxygen supply is somewhat restricted - which causes the muscle to contract further - which causes greater restriction - which causes...you get the picture. Anyway, the purpose of massage is to relax and stretch the muscle so that it is able to receive improved blood flow, and therefore more oxygen.
Which got me to thinking (I know, it's weird how my mind works)...this is kind of like faith. When I've "got it", when I feel like I understand what God is doing and I'm on top of things and comfortable with where He has me, I'm kind of like a firmly-contracted muscle. I'm strong, powerful, able to lean hard into the harness and get some work done. But, if I stay in that strong, sure, comfortable place, my faith begins to atrophy, to suffocate. God has to stretch my faith muscles out, make them take in new blood and fresh oxygen.
When He does, my initial response is to recoil, to resist, to tense up even more. If I am determined to not be stretched, this life becomes frustrating, painful, and less productive - just like my sore neck and shoulders compromise my ability to work productively and to enjoy life. But, when God does reach down and stretch me (even against my protests), I find that He gives me an abundance of grace and strength and energy.
And sometimes, He sends a messenger with magic hands to remind me of just exactly that.
3 weeks ago