Christ Gone Cruising
Christ Gone Cruising|
Cute, dark haired grinning Steven Schroder entertains passengers aboard the Mississippi Queen River Boat. His powerful tenor voice sings melodious harmony in the Mississippi Queen Ensemble. His enchanting solos hold listeners spellbound and his musical theater performance leads every woman to imagine he is singing directly to her.
During the day, the Mississippi Queen Ensemble helps with games. I have never been particularly fond of the game Bingo, but Steve’s humor was just the touch needed to make Bingo fun (well almost) as I sat through it with my Aunt Ka Ka. I groaned as he shouted, “I could have had a B8.” For some reason, Steve can tell a corny joke and get away with it. I suspect it is the twinkle in his eye that says, “I know this is corny but I dare you not to laugh.”
Many and possibly most people are star struck and Steve’s visibility on the cruise makes him a steamboat star. His charisma combined with stardom must make timely arrivals an exercise in futility as people clamor for an opportunity to talk with him. I wondered if he was tempted to spend all his free time in his cabin. OK, I’ll admit I’m as star struck as anyone but I like to pretend I’m above that kind of nonsense. I wasn’t going to be one of the many people standing in line for a brief moment with this star.
I did find myself watching Steve. The warmth of his smile for everyone seemed genuine. Feeling a little cynical, I wondered if he was acting or did he really enjoy these conversations. It wasn’t so much the attention that he seemed to enjoy as the interaction with the people. Unlike other “stars” I have observed, he actually took his time, looked at people, listened, and responded. Never once did he demonstrate that haughty arrogance that the gifted seem to think is their birthright.
On the last night of the cruise, Steve and I went downstairs at the same time. I was still dressed in my cruise dinner finery. He had obviously been to the workout room. Guiltily, I realized the cruise was over and the workout room was the only place I hadn’t visited.
As we passed, I thanked him for the music. Knowing he was probably anxious to enter his room and take a needed shower, I kept it brief. “I’m a music teacher and I enjoy watching talented people.” I suppose I thought being a music teacher made my compliment a step above the others that had gushed over him.
While it may be hard to believe, I didn’t plan an extended conversation. I signaled I was letting him off the hook by turning to open my door when he smiled and asked, “Did you enjoy Mark’s show tonight?” Mark is one of his fellow Mississippi Queen Ensemble members. On the last night of the cruise, Mark performed an exciting solo cabaret.
OK, I thought. You asked for it. I leaped at his opening. “Yes, I enjoyed it. Do you ever plan to do a solo show of your own?”
“I’m working on one,” Steve said wistfully. “The hardest part is deciding what music to use. A solo show is so personal.”
“I understand,” I said, making lame conversation. “I’m currently helping a piano student select music for his senior piano recital.” Being a teacher at heart, I wanted to encourage him to work on his show and assist him over the hump of selecting music. I began asking probing questions about what was important to him.
I found out that Steve has a degree in musical theater. He loves his family and after the death of his mom, he moved back in with his dad for his portside time. He spends most of his free time with his girlfriend. While he joked about an unwanted divorce in his life, I could tell it had hurt him. His girlfriend understands and accepts his lifestyle and love of music. Steve enjoys his job, feels appreciated, and is grateful for his financial compensation.
He asked polite questions about me and I gave him one sentence about my journey. “I travel across America talking to people about their spiritual stories. I’m a writer (I love saying that) and often write about the people I meet.” He didn’t comment and we continued talking about him.
About that time, lovely blond Heather walked up. Heather is another member of the Mississippi Queen Ensemble. She looked questioningly at Steve and I could tell he was late for something. “I’ll be there shortly,” he said. Taking the hint, I smiled, and turned to go into my room.
As Heather walked off, Steve said, “I would love to talk to you about my spiritual story.”
Aha, I thought. He was listening. Recognizing a spiritual opportunity, I turned back to him and asked, “Are you a Christian?”
“Absolutely,” he said.
“I am as well,” I told him. “I share stories of hope and faith with my readers. I try to offer hope to those I talk with.”
Steve’s eyes glowed. “I keep my Bible in my room. I read it every night. God is with me on this boat.”
“Do you go to church?” I asked.
He nodded. “When I am in town. We don’t have much time on the boat. I grew up Lutheran but didn’t get close to God until I was older. I was too hard on the church when I was younger. I expected perfection from the people and became cynical when they weren’t perfect. Now I know that church is just made up of people who are doing their best. Now I enjoy church.”
“I love church. We have a right to expect a higher standard from church,” I commented. “Church is as close to the kingdom of God as we can get while still on earth. Having said that, I recall the old line that hospitals are full of sick people and yet they are doing their job. Some churches do better than others at representing the Kingdom of God.”
Changing the subject I asked, “Aren’t there temptations on this boat for a Christian?”
He smiled. “We are like a close family. Everyone knows everything. We could never get away with cheating. I have dated an ensemble member and we remained close friends after we broke up. She is friends with my current girlfriend and I am friends with her boyfriend.” My mind wandered back to Heather and he must have read my mind. “I haven’t dated Heather. She is like my sister and we have always just been friends. She also reads her Bible. Besides, I’m older than I look.” I had guessed late 20’s and was surprised by his next statement. “I’m almost 40. Most people here are kids. I have a responsibility to be a good influence for them.”
As I talked to Steve, I realized that the warmth I was seeing in his smile was Jesus Christ. Like in 2nd Corinthians 3:2-3, his life is like a letter that anyone can read just by looking at him. Jesus Himself wrote the letter with God’s living Spirit.
2 Cor 3:2-3
Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it — not with ink, but with God's living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives — and we publish it. (from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)
Ego rules many talented musicians. Steve’s talent has earned him the earthly right to an ego yet this ego apparently doesn’t control him. Crucified with Christ, ego is not central to Steve’s life. The life I saw him living in this brief week is not his, but Christ’s. (Gal. 2:20-21) Through Steve, Christ has gone cruising and is on board the Mississippi Queen.
I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not "mine," but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 2 (from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)
No wonder the right selection of music is so critical for Steve. The music he selects for his solo show must represent who he truly is, a Christian, while being appropriate for a steamboat. How do you go about selecting music that represents Christ? For Steve, the music has to demonstrate his endearing boyish charm and his impish sense of humor. It must be fun, lighthearted, tender, and yet serious. It must be about faithfulness, romance, family, and love and would include his love of God, Jesus, the Bible, and the church. Not all of his music would be happy. His music must demonstrate his disappointments with life and the wisdom he found in overcoming and learning about unconditional love.
I hope Steve does a solo performance. I would love to be his song consultant. I suspect the audience will never know what hit them as their lives are changed through a show that delights and entertains them in true riverboat fashion. Isn’t Christ clever?