14 September 2011

Nairobi Music Society

As of Saturday 3 September 2011, I am going to conduct the Nairobi Music Society choir.  I'm not sure how I was chosen for it, but I know this:  I'm BALLER excited.  Would you like to know why?  Here you go:
  1. It's a community choir in Nairobi, Kenya.  That's awesome in itself.
  2. One of my dreams in life is to combine 3 of my life passions:  Coffee, Communities, and Choir.  I really didn't plan on all of those starting with C's.  Don't hate me for that.  Anyway, my dream is to start a coffee shop/community music center where people can come and be influenced in great ways.  Two of these C's are beginning right now, and why not bring in some coffee to rehearsals every once in a while and complete the third?
  3. It's such an awesome way to get to know people here in Nairobi...singing with them, being a part of an ensemble, and taking tea (soon to be coffee?) with them during a break in a rehearsal.
  4. We sing pretty challenging classical music.  Currently we're singing Puccini's Messa di Gloria, and I'll be directing a Christmas oratorio for the Christmas program.
  5. I have a chance to proclaim the Gospel through directing music to a group of people who are singing songs about Christ but may not know him.  Ripe for the harvest?  Not to forget:  This group of people will then be singing for an audience that will hear the message of these songs.  Awesome opportunity.
  6. I love this.  It gets me more and more excited as I think about it.
I ran first my rehearsal on Tuesday night, and thanks to God's grace, it went really well.  It's so much fun to make music with a group of people that love to make music together.  I've experienced conductors drawing music out of me, but this was my first time to be on the other side, drawing music out of the group.  So cool.  I loved it.  And I got to preach the Gospel.  Part of the section of Messa di Gloria says this:

Qui tollis peccata mundi, suscipe deprecationem.
- Who takes away the sins of the world, receive my supplication. -

It starts softly, with the basses singing the Latin line in a quiet, timid way.  The whole choir comes in a little louder next time with the same line.  The sopranos then take it back to a soft, quiet, heart-breaking way.  And then everyone comes in fortissimo - very loud - with that line.  After we rehearsed those sections, I read Ephesians 3:10-12.....
"His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Here it comes...) In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence."
I talked about how we can come before God with confidence (the fortissimo section), because of our faith in Christ.  We may start softly and timidly, but as we realize God's love for us and Jesus' purpose here on earth, we can come before God knowing that He sees us as pure and blameless.

I'm loving my opportunity with the Nairobi Music Society.  Pray that it's always for God's glory...that I give my life away for Him everyday and in every rehearsal with them...and that I can serve these people and love God with all that I am.

Amen.  :)

03 September 2011

Striving to Be a 3

Many of you might know about the Enneagram (AnnieAndGrams) personality stuff. If you don't, I'll give you a quick rundown:

There are 9 different patterns of motivation that give rise to nine different personality types. They have names that go along with them, but I'll just stick with calling them by their number (a 1 or a 7 or a 9, etc.) Now if you're thinking right now that you hate being placed in a box, please continue that thought process. The worst part about personality "tests" to me is that they tell me what I am and I feel either obligated to continue those patterns or try to do completely the opposite of them. The thing about the Enneagram is that it's all about motivations. Now, yes, it does happen and can happen that you place yourself in a box of "who you are," so just don't let it happen. :) Now, I would love to sit down and tell you all about the 9 types and help you figure out what you are, but it would take a long time to describe each of the 9 types, and I'm in Kenya so it's hard to sit down with you, so I'm just going to describe myself and what this post is ultimately about.

I am a 9 (with a 1 wing), and 9's are generally very easy-going, peaceful, like to be comfortable, enjoy resting, help others feel comfortable, and are very loyal. Those are great things...if I do say so myself...and I love being who I am - it's hard for me to even imagine other motivations sometimes - but they can also lend themselves to some not-so-great traits. 9's are awesome at being where they're at, which makes them fun to be around and good at staying in the moment, however you can imagine (or have experienced) what this means to people who aren't in a 9's immediate surroundings. 9's are also awesome at being comfortable and making others feel comfortable around them, peaceful, and calming to others. This is a great thing, especially for 6's who get very anxious (Grandma Moses is a 6). However all of this desire and motivation for comfort and peace doesn't always help to push a 9 out of his or her "box of comfort."

A 3 is a very motivated person who wants to make goals and accomplish tasks and work hard. 3's are also very loyal and responsible, and they generally are very successful at what they do. The thing that attracts me about a 3 is the way they are motivated. As a 9, I struggle sometimes to be motivated and do everything I know I should do. I'd rather sit back and let things happen and do what I need to do to get by. As anyone knows, that's not a good way to live. Now, at this point, if you're thinking, "So you want to switch numbers to a 3? That's not how personality types work...you can't just choose what you want," get ready, because this is where the Enneagram takes over and becomes boss. You have a main number - for me it's a 9 - but you also have other numbers that affect you and are incorporated into your motivations. Along with that, all numbers have a clarifying feature of three levels of how healthy you are...Healthy, Average, or Unhealthy. Healthy 9's, along with many other traits, help others to feel comfortable and use their peace to do good things for others. Unhealthy 9's, again this is only one part of a 9, are those who are stuck in being comfortable and are content to never move past where they're at now.

I'm striving to be a 3 while I'm here in Kenya. I don't want to be stuck in the same things I do every day. I want to try new things, get to know new people, be pushed out of my normal levels of comfort. Going to different churches, playing ultimate frisbee with a bunch of sweet people who do crazy cool things in Kenya but whom many of don't know Jesus, running in a 10k race, finding new and creative ways to teach (i.e. using the Braveheart speech to make better eye contact), being a part of and conducting the Nairobi Music Society...and working hard at all of these things.

But I'm also striving to remember that many of my family and friends are far away and could easily become a non-existent part of my life if I stay stuck in where I'm at and don't push myself to Skype and blog and email and share my life with them. I fail a lot, and I'm sorry about that, but I want to be better and am striving to be more of a 3.

Thanks for your prayers and encouragement as I've been here so far. I'm loving life and teaching and my roommate and friends and all the sweet opportunities I get. I love you all.

Hugs and hearts,

Mark (Alan)

p.s. Since I know you're interested in the Enneagram now, here are a few links to get you started...and I'd love to tell you more about it (we can try to sit down via Skype):
~A quick, 5-minute explanation of all 9 types: http://www.fitzel.ca/enneagram/index.html
~A little more in-depth look at the good and bad of each number: http://www.slideshare.net/ideasandrew/enneagram-summary
~A look at the 9 types as well as the way other numbers affect them: http://www.optimized-results.com/enneagram_types_abbreviated.htm