The Great American Songbook

Posted on August 25, 2011 by Jeff

My wife Kristie ordered “The Great American Songbook” recently. She sings with a big band and bought this book as a way to brush up on all the old ‘standards’. Just to be clear for those of you in the ‘younger generation’, the ‘standards’ are songs by Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Sinatra etc, and NOT any songs by Ke$ha or P!nk… in fact if the artist uses any weird symbols to spell their name, they are instantly excluded from any discussions involving the word ‘standards’.

So as an end of summer project, Kristie and I have started spending some time each evening going through this songbook. She sings and I play piano. There are tunes we know and several that we’re learning. I enjoy time spent making music together. In any given week we do a lot of music for work related things, but this is just for play. (and also foreplay) I believe that there are tell tale signs that indicate when Kristie and I are really living life versus when we are just making it through – allowing life to ‘run’ us. Time spent each evening playing through the songbook is a sign to me that we’re doing OK.

Truth be told, I have everything I need really live my life and enjoy it – and so do you.

Life has a tendency to run us if we’re not careful or intentional about it. I’ve learned from experience as well as watching others, that you can get into a routine of obligations that fill up your day pretty quick and before you know it, years will have gone by and you’ll realize you’ve spent all your time on the stuff you had to do and that you’ve missed out on some other pretty important stuff.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of waiting for circumstances to change before you begin to really live. You may be thinking, “If had more time, I could really live.” Or “If I had more money….” That is an easy deception to believe. I imagine that there are people who have spent their entire lives waiting for circumstances to change, or things to break their way, so they can finally begin to really live only to find themselves at the end of life wondering if they shouldn’t have begun really living a long time ago.

You know those people that you see and you can tell that they are fully alive? Those people that you can tell that they are really living, and perhaps you wish you could live like them? Those people have the same number of minutes in every day as you do. It’s all a matter of choosing how to spend it. You don’t need to spend a half hour each day playing through the Great American Songbook. But you can choose to spend time doing the things that make you sing.

Are you operating under the belief that once you have more money you’ll be able to truly live? I believe that if you don’t know how to be fully alive now, you won’t be able to later, regardless of how much money you’ve saved up. Disney Vacations are awesome; I hope to take my kids there someday. But what a waste if I forfeit spending time with my kids, ignoring the memories I could be making with them NOW just because I’m waiting for the vacation fund to get filled. Plus, the money doesn’t create the memories (i’m sure it can help). Just because you show up at Disney doesn’t mean that everyone automatically is going to have a magical time. You still have a part to play.

I was recently talking to a friend of ours. She and her husband are making some significant changes to their lives involving their livelihood and their family. She was telling me the story of all that led them to make this decision. She told me about a family they met from another country; she told me “although this family was poor by the worlds standard, they were all FULLY ALIVE! You could tell that they were united as a family and were living life to the full”.  Seeing how that family lived caused my friends to realize that they USED to live that way – fully alive. But the schedules, obligations, and all the things they thought they were supposed to do had begun to erode the sense of family they once had. They realized that they had allowed life to run them, and thus the decision to change things up.

If I told you the specifics of what they’re doing, you may come up with a list of reasons why you’d never do that, but that’s not the point. The point is not in the specifics; the point is that you only get one life, so do something with it that makes you sing. I know there are times when you’re busy, I have no problem with work. (although the pace at which I’m moving today may say otherwise) But the truth is that you only get one life and it goes by pretty quick and the only person responsible for how you live it is you.

Here’s the thing, you have everything you need to do all the things that are really important.

I was reading 1 Corinthians chapter seven today, which deals a lot with marriage. But the larger point Paul is making this: Don’t allow your stage of life to dictate how you live your life. Whatever stage you’re in doesn’t matter, obeying God and growing in Him is what matters and you have everything you need to do that.

Jeremiah 9:23-24 says this:

This is what the Lord says: Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom, or the strong man boast of his strength, or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: That he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on the earth, for in these I delight, declares the Lord.

You have everything you need to live life to the full. You have the ability right now to do the things that God says are most important. And none of these things are dependent on time in the day, money in your pocket, or any other life circumstances. Wherever you’re at, you can love others, you can seek God and follow His direction and live for Him. And this is the number one way to really live. This is the highest calling. This is the thing at the top of the ‘to do’ list and you have all you need to do it.

So my encouragement to you is to LIVE. Make the most of your time by growing wherever you find yourself planted. And make time for the things that make you sing.