“So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:16

“Pump up the volume, pump up the volume, pump up the volume – dance, dance!”  M.A.R.R.S.

I reached out and adjusted the volume on the car radio, turning the volume down.  My kids shrieked in objection, as usual.  My son asked, “Do you even want to hear the song?” Yes, I did but it was too loud – it assaulted my ears. In the words of Mr. Brown from Meet the Browns:  “It’s too murch, Cora! Too murch!”

This is a dilemma many of us find ourselves in – how do we walk that fine line between enough and too much?  Sadly, many of us decide to stay firmly on the side of just barely enough, giving our mediocre effort. Maybe that’s fine for your life but it’s not okay when it comes to your service to God.  He requires, he demands that you give him your all, your highest and best in all that you do concerning him. Frequently, I’ve been disappointed when I’ve seen how many people have yielded to the “that’s good enough” mentality when it comes to serving God. I think to myself, how can that ever be true? How can it ever be enough? For David, too much was not enough as he danced himself right out of his clothing while giving God his highest praise!

In being afraid to do too much, we sometimes cheat God.  He doesn’t deserve our mediocre effort, he deserves our best. God, himself, said to the Israelites through the prophet Malachi: Present your diseased animals to your governors and see if they will like it! In other words, try giving to your royalty, princes and dignitaries what you give to me.  Give them less than honorable gifts, less than perfect sacrifices and try to pass it off as good.  See if they will thank you for it!  Neither does God appreciate less than our best.

Love me – love me with your whole heart,
He wants it all today.
Serve me – serve me with your life now.
He wants it all today.
Bow down, let go of your idols
He wants it all today – so give it all …
(Forever Jones)

I recall the story of a conversation between Michael Jordan and his father.  Michael was having trouble being accepted by his teammates. Sure, he was scoring triple doubles and racking up all kinds of accolades for himself but his team wasn’t winning. They resented him for his talents and it caused him to hold back because he didn’t want to make enemies. So he asked his father for advice, “Dad – should I play like I know I can play?” And the answer came back from his father, “Play like you know you can play.” In other words, you shouldn’t have to squash who you are just to get along with others. If they can’t handle your talents and abilities, that is their issue.  Marianne Williamson put it best: Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. When you shine you give others permission to shine. And that is exactly what happened in the case of MJ and the Chicago Bulls – rather than continue to resent him, the other players had to step up their game and they went on to win six championships.

Patti LaBelle had a similar story of being asked to squash her essence, just to accommodate others.  Patti once appeared on the Oprah show with Gladys Knight and Dionne Warwick.  Just before going on stage to perform, Dionne pulled Patti to the side and asked if she could “tone it down” because she sang too loud. Patti was being asked to be less. But how would that keep her true to herself? God gave her a big voice and big talent to be USED. I think that when you use your gifts to the utmost, you honor the God who gave them to you.

When I first began to truly sing, I was so fearful.  I was afraid of how my best would be perceived.  Afraid that people would think I was doing “too much.”  Fearful that others would think I was grandstanding, showboating, or trying to outshine someone else.  So I squashed who I was, essentially, in an effort to keep and win friends. I was afraid that if I sang like I knew I could sing people wouldn’t like me.  As Helen Baylor sang, “We all wanna be loved!” I didn’t want to make any enemies. I squashed myself and kept my true talents and abilities hidden.  But one day I realized, people still didn’t really like me!  And I thought, “Since they don’t like me anyway, I may as well do what I want to do!” I decided to sing like I’d always wanted to sing. Something wonderful resulted from that decision. People respected me.  Then they actually liked me.  And I realized I did them a disservice all that time – how could they like me when they had never met the real me?

Now, I have a phrase I like to call, “Loria, on TEN!”  It’s me, only better.  It’s me to the 10th degree.  It’s me, without reservation, no holds barred.  It’s me, operating at my highest and best, using my gifts to the fullest capacity in a way that honors God.  It’s not me competing with you, but me competing with me to give God my highest praise in making the most of the gift he has entrusted to me.  This is one area where I have no problem cranking up the volume as high as it can go!

Sadly, when you operate on this level, it may not win you many friends.  Likely, it will create some enemies.  As the Fairy Godmother said to Cinderella, “They just can’t handle how fabulous you are!” But, I would like to think that more people are encouraged and empowered by the example of my life than those who are offended.  So then, why are people offended when you operate fully in your gifts?  I have a theory.  I think it’s due to two reasons: One, they are not comfortable in their own gifts.  They hold back out of fear and seek to put the same limitations on you.  The second reason may be that they are fearful of moving out of their comfort zone.  When you operate on a fearless level, it challenges them to do the same.  Some people react differently to that challenge – some rise to it and others attempt to hold you back so that they never have to come up to a higher level.  As my older sister put it, “Don’t ask me to dress down, YOU DRESS UP! Don’t ask me to come down to your level; come up to mine.”

My daughter once gave this testimony of a friend and fellow soloist.  When this young lady initially came on the scene, my daughter was a bit resentful and resistant.  But as time passed, she was so grateful for this young soloist because she challenged my daughter to elevate her own singing. Performing with this young lady made my daughter a better singer.  And so it is with all challenges.  If we rise to it, it can only make us better.  My daughter learned what my baby sister and I discovered long ago – that the true ability of a star is to shine among other stars.  So we don’t need to worry that another star will dim our own ability to shine.  Scripture exhorts, telling us that we are the light of the world and we are to let our light shine for all to see.  So I encourage you, I challenge you to crank your own level all the way up “on TEN.”  In the process, you may just elevate the people all around you.

Be blessed,