Leading from Legacy

The Gift of Music
Musical ability runs deep in our family.  Family history on my mother’s side says that around the turn of the century my great-grandfather, a music teacher by trade, courted my great grandmother with an autoharp.  I vividly remember my maternal grandmother using that same instrument to play hymns, though she could’ve also played on the piano, the organ and the guitar.  She and her husband passed on that love of music to their eight children, of which my mother was one.  Each of them learned to play an instrument for the family radio program which included hymns and gospel music followed by a sermon by my grandfather.  Six of the eight grew up to use their talents regularly for Sunday morning worship and one even graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education.  Many of the 28 grandchildren, including myself, studied music and still play.  Our family reunions seemed more like mini-recitals for the grandchildren followed by a hymn sing for the adults.

Whether it was practicing piano, singing with my mom, or studying music education in college, music was a big part of my life.  The day I met Harold, he was leading worship at my grandmother’s church.  Even before our children were born, we envisioned music to be important to our family.  It was only natural that we pass on our passion and heritage to our four daughters.  While we gave them opportunities, we did not force their participation.  Their musical gifts and talent led them to include music as a part of their lives.  All four play piano, three play a second instrument, two have sung on the worship team at church, and one has recorded a CD (Read more…) and is now studying worship full time.  Music still continues to play a major role in my life.

A Family Call
I believe that family lines often have a common destiny and that God gives gifts to achieve that call.  In the Old Testament, God set the precedent and called the family of Levi to a common destiny—to care for and serve in the tabernacle.   Throughout history, businesses and trades have been (and continue to be) passed down to the next generation in the family.  History is replete with examples of families who governed—dynasties in China, monarchies throughout Europe and Russia.  Although we in the United States have the privilege of voting for our leaders, there is often a pattern of generations of families who serve in governmental leadership.  Generation influence is also strong in the area of acting, Olympic participation, professional sports, military service, missionary work, and even pastoral ministry.

Both my maternal grandfather and my father were ordained ministers; Harold’s maternal grandmother was an ordained minister and evangelist.  The day Harold was ordained, his mother came into his office and began to pray fervently for him with tears streaming down her face. She later explained to us that she felt compelled to pass on the anointing of her mother.  It was an incredibly powerful moment.

Leading from Legacy
At some point, every child struggles to find their place.  What am I good at?  Where can I excel?  What should I major in?  What job should I get?  What is God’s plan for my life and my future?  Here are some ways to lead from the legacy God has given your family:

Consider your family tree.  When guiding children of any age, study past generations.  Do you see a common passion or gift throughout the generations?  Is there something that God has called your family to accomplish?  Ask God if your child is part of that legacy and listen to your child’s areas of interest.  Our girls are inspired when they hear of how God has used their grandparents and honored when they think about following in their footsteps.

Broaden your focus. For instance, though our family has a legacy of music, the gift of teaching has also been passed down from my great-grandfather.  Two of my aunts and several of my cousins are professional teachers.  I combined the two and became a music teacher.

Think outside the box. God doesn't always follow the same path; sometimes he does something new.  In our family, two of our four are passionately pursuing music as part of their daily life.  One daughter is pursuing education and another is pursing medicine.  To my knowledge there is no gift of medicine in our family, that doesn't mean she can’t or shouldn't pursue medicine.  God sometimes skips a generation or even establishes a new stream.

Be intentional. Before filling the schedule with more activities, be intentional.  Strengthen the strengths of your child and help him or her choose activities that grow skills or talents.  At twelve Victoria gave up ballet so that she could spend more time on the music she loved.  Her time was well spent.  Ask questions and help your child focus on what is important for today and for the future.

Redeem the gift. Maybe your family isn’t full of great examples of Christian life or ministry.  God’s gives gifts, but it’s up to us how we use them.  You can still discover hidden treasures in your family line, but God may call you to use them differently.  For instance your may be from a family of successful but unethical businessmen, but God is calling you to use that same business acumen to multiply wealth for missions or ministries.  Redeem the gift.

Search out the legacy of your family and walk in the blessing that God intended it to be.

The Family Orchestra

More than twenty years ago, I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education.  Today my musical teaching is limited to helping my daughters with their private lessons, but my mind still thinks in musical terms.  Recently I’ve been thinking about the similarities between a parent and a music teacher or an orchestra conductor. Music teachers, the first instructors for beginning instrumentalists, teach the basics and endure hours of repetitious and often out-of-tune practice.  Parenting young children is often like being a beginning music teacher—you build the foundation and repeat the same instructions though the process is sometimes tiring and you may see little progress.

On the other hand, orchestra conductors direct instrumentalists who have mastered the basics and are ready to perform with other accomplished musicians.  It is quite similar to the role of parenting during the teen years.  If we parents do our job in the early years, our children won’t need the same level of instruction during their teen years.  Instead of being music teachers, we become more like an orchestra conductors.

We make sure everyone is on the same page.  You can imagine the cacophony of sound that would emerge from a symphony if only one  player was reading music from the wrong page.  Similarly, the beautiful melody of a family can only be achieved if we are on the same page.  When the girls were very young, we tried hard to communicate what was important and why.  We talked about what it means to follow God.  We explained why we chose certain activities and didn’t choose others.  Today, Harold and I try hard to communicate our goals and expectations not only for the girls personally, but also in regard to our schedule—what family commitments we have (We keep a master calendar.) and how each person can best serve our family during a certain period of time.  Our children can’t read our minds.  If I don’t communicate, I can’t expect that we’ll be on the same page.

We set the tempo of our home. As the girls have grown, so have the number of activities and opportunities they have opportunity to be involved in.  When the girls were young, Harold and I discussed which activities were beneficial for the girls and for our family.  Today, the girls come to us with requests and together we discuss the commitment and all of the ramifications to our family life and to our schedule.  As a pastor, my husband has many responsibilities and commitments so we try to look at the calendar and set a reasonable pace for our schedule.  We live in a fast-paced world that seems only to speed up with each passing year.  We try to set a reasonable family pace, balancing busy days and busy weeks with times of Sabbath and refreshing.  Some Saturdays we declare a family day—we disconnect our home phone and Harold turns off his cell phone.   The world has much to offer to fill our days, but it’s our job as parents to set the tempo.

We direct entrances and exits. With two drivers who are very committed to church and attending college, I sometimes feel like we have a revolving front door.  Our culture tends to accept the division of children and their families—children of all ages are involved in sports, music lessons, school activities, church activities, youth group, part time jobs, etc.  None of these activities are bad in and of themselves; however when activities become a “drop and shop”—drop the kids off so you can do what you want—it can divide families.  Give thought to the “entrances and exits” in your home.  All too soon your precious ones will be exiting the front door to start their own home.

We control the volume. In a house of four girls, this one is pretty tough.  Those who know our family well know that there is a certain level of excited chit-chat that accompanies our daughters.  (Some call it noise; I call it happy sounds.)  It is sometimes easier to live a life full of noise and activity than to take time to be silent and alone.  It is important that we teach our children to choose moments of solitude so they can think, process, create, and most importantly, hear the voice of God.  If the volume is turned up too loud, we may miss the still small voice of our Father.

We encourage each one to listen to the other. In an orchestra no one instrument should stand out louder than another, unless they are playing a solo.  Each player needs to carefully listen to those around them.  Listening can be a challenge in our home.  It seems there is never a lack of response to any comment made by one member of our family.  Most certainly at least one other member has an opinion or suggestion about the topic at hand.  More often than not, I hear overlapping layers of conversation interspersed with laughter.  I believe that all individuals, no matter their age, have a desire to be heard and understood.  I sometimes feel that my job is to be the “conversation traffic police”—stopping conversations that don’t build each other up, encouraging one speaker at a time, and reminding speakers to slow down so I can understand.  Monologues are like solos, but dialogues allow the beauty of each individual to shine through so that each one feels heard and understood.

If you are a parent, you are like a music teacher or orchestra conductor.  You may not be capable of teaching piano lessons or conducting a large group, but God has given you, and your family, the ability to create beautiful music that will bring honor and glory to Him.  Soli Deo Gloria.