Monday, February 6, 2012

Practice Your Arpeggios!

One of the fun things I do every year is play the piano for the musicals at my daughter's school.  I do not have time to practice.  So when the week of the performance comes up, I am reminded of EVERY recital I prepared for when I was growing up.  This is how it would go:  I would practice, practice, practice, memorize, memorize, memorize - the day before the recital.  For those of you who know me - you are not surprised.  I was born this way.  This method of practicing didn't work out for me so well in college.  The literature I was playing actually required that I sit down every day for at least an hour and practice....not just to memorize or pull off a performance - but to actually learn how to do certain things automatically.  One of those things was arpeggios.  I remember hours and hours sitting in practice rooms trying to get arpeggios in every major and minor key perfected.  

Well - those hours of practice paid off!  As I was playing the piano for the 2nd grade musical this year, I noticed that even though I hadn't practiced as thoroughly as I should have for this performance - there were certain things my fingers automatically did without any extra practice.  One of those things, you guessed it, was a D major arpeggio throughout one of the songs.  That D major arpeggio wasn't something I had to think about - because it had simply become a part of me.  As it turns out, consistent repetition is not only a good way of practicing for the short-term - it is essential to learning life-long skills.

The same thing applies to our lives of faith, of course.  I've always found the question "What faith do you practice?" to be kind of odd.  But it's very true - we do practice our faith.  We practice it so that in times when everything else in life has run dry - we can remember exactly who God is and we can draw on those tools of faith that are deep in our bones.  When a friend is hurting, we can pray for them - because we have practiced praying.  When a word of encouragement is needed, we can open scripture to just the right place, because we have practiced studying God's Word.  

This idea of practicing our faith is never more evident to me than when I'm visiting people in the hospital. Take Lori for example.  Lori was heavily sedated and could not carry on a conversation.  But every time I went to visit Lori, I would say the Lord's prayer and Psalm 23.  Lori couldn't talk - but she managed - with no small amount of effort, to mouth almost all of the words to those two gifts of faith that she had practiced throughout her life. 

My mom tells the story of an alzheimer's patient she visited who couldn't recall the names of her closest family members, but she could always sing "Amazing Grace."

The way the church year is laid out even allows us to practice our faith in different seasons of our lives. 

  • Advent helps us in those breath-holding moments of waiting for what's next.  
  • Christmas teaches us that God is with us in this miracle called life.  
  • Epiphany asks us what it means to follow God even when it doesn't make sense.  
  • Lent gives us tools for the wilderness times of life. 
  • Easter reminds us that - "In this world you will have trouble - but do not fear - I have overcome the world!" (and that God likes a good party too!) 
  • Pentecost shows us that even on ordinary days - we should expect the Holy Spirit to show up in a mighty way.

So - question for you.  Are you practicing your faith as though you have a big performance coming up?  Or are you practicing your faith in a way sinks deep into your heart and flows out of your life right into the world because it has simply become a part of you?  

I guess what I'm saying is this:  Practice your arpeggios!  You won't regret it.


  1. Unconscious competence - I find it a very helpful concept - hadn't thought about it in the faith context, but yes.