But Mom, You Can’t Even HEAR Me!

Nightmares of a Young Musician

N0483660Musicians aren’t always the best at appreciating the whole picture. I remember as a kid learning to play the flute, how disappointed I was when I heard recordings of our early concerts. Why, I could barely even HEAR the flutes most of the time!! This wasn’t right! I had worked so hard on my part, and in my head the ever important flutes were always featured. The rest of the band existed to accompany us! This must be pretty typical because I’ve heard many kids (….and adults!) say similar things.

As important as it is for musicians to be skilled at playing their instruments, the truth is it’s the whole song the director is perfecting. The Christian life is no different. We hopefully love our times of solos and features but maturity is wanting the whole song to sound as the composer intended. That includes long rests and sometimes hidden harmonies or complete “tacets” (having no part at all for a song or section).

How boring music would be if everyone constantly played. How our ears would crave simplicity and new textures. I have always appreciated the unique sounds composers come up with blending different instruments. Perhaps a French horn and a flute, or maybe a clarinet and an oboe play together. At times I can’t even figure out how a certain sound was created because it’s so unique! It’s no different with the way God orchestrates our lives, sometimes having us play loudly, other times having us accompany with soft whole notes.

And if we refuse to do what the composer asks? The song doesn’t sound as beautiful as it may have. It’s not only those that refuse to practice that cause trouble. Sometimes the best musicians insist on playing too loudly, believing that will be impressive or cover up what they notice isn’t sounding good. How heartbreaking yet necessary it is to hear a judge say ,”Someone is sticking out or overplaying. You must BLEND.”

So we watch our director and trust the end result will be amazing, regardless of how much or little we are featured.

Humility is just as important as skill for musicians…and all people really! Life isn’t just about me – it’s about

all of creation bringing glory to God.

What I can do, though, is practice. Practice, practice, practice and be ready for whatever music God chooses to play today.

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Pride

I am always amazed at the connection pride has to so many of our problems. In younger years, I would have said, sure, pride is one of my many problem. Now I see it is THE problem.

I’m so sure my way isthe best way. Doesn’t the world revolve around me? Shouldn’t every person’s first concern be me, after all? I deserve to be happy! If this sounds a bit dramatic to you, you may not know yourself as well as you think either!

God knows me better than I know myself.

Why is it so hard to say this, much less believe it? God made me, after all! He knows my every thought, hope, desire, and fear – everything. I may try to hide things from him, but praise God, he loves me enough to point them out, forcing me to be honest with Him, and myself.

Not only does God know me, He knows what’s best for me, every moment of every day. That’s tough to always completely believe too, isn’t it? When he gives me an odd gift I don’t even want or takes away what I love, what then? Now sinful desires, ok I get that. But what about all the “good desires” God doesn’t grant? What about when we feel we are ready for his big and infinitely more meaningful purposes and instead we just continue to work our less than thrilling job and do our daily chores?

God is so merciful and gracious to each of us. That’s one thing I try to focus on if I’m in a huff about life – God is so kind. Hebrews 4:12–13 reminds us God is always at work in our lives and in the world.

12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

He is such an amazing surgeon as he deals with our struggles of sin and shame. He loves us too much to leave even the smallest bit of disease or infection to linger. He wants our hearts to be healthy, pure and full of peace. “I am fine, God,” we say. Just leave it – I’m sure it will heal. Can’t we just move on?

No, not yet, there’s still work to be done,” the master surgeon says. Then he uses his exquisitely sharp tool, the Word of God, and divides the sick tissue from the healthy. He removes what is harming us at just the right time, in the most kind away. Regardless of what it looks like or feels like, his way is like no other. He knows what is best. If we will just surrender to him daily, we will soon see, he’s a genius. He finds solutions we could not have even imagined. And when the solution is actually the one we‘ve dreaded most of all, we find he comforts us so thoroughly, we can make it through.

So, pride must go. There’s just no place for it as God’s children. It comes in so many shapes and sizes. It can look so wise and noble and sacrificing. No wonder it’s the root of all problems and sin!

Can we say, your way is always best, God? My life and dreams and hopes and fears and all I am are yours to do with as you please? You must become greater and I must become less? Your will be done, regardless of what that means for myself?

Let’s start each day reminding ourselves of our true position in reality. All we have we were given. Nothing we could do or say could earn us the position God gives us. We are incredibly blessed but it is because of God and His goodness. And if we don’t feel incredibly blessed, we need to ask God for a new and real perspective of life. God opposes the proud, and left to ourselves, that’s what we naturally are. It’s never hopeless with God thankfully. Let’s pray that he continues his amazing job of transforming us into people of truth and joy, servants that deserve nothing, yet are given everything. The lowest of all, yet somehow truly the most blessed and loved.

Your will be done, precious Lord.

The Life of a Marble

674047I feel like a marble rolling around quite often. Just unsure. Wishing for more, different paths, different places. I’m thankful that, at those times, God quickly brings close guardrails on either side of me to keep me from doing dumb things. Or maybe, good things done at the wrong time. If I consider turning back, behind me a barrier appears as well. I can stop and pout as long as I please, but eventually, on his course I go and as I get a better attitude and more  in step with his Spirit, away those guardrails go. I feel free, with so many possibilities again.

Am I free then, I wonder?

Becoming a Christian, this protection is what I asked God for. The world’s “freedom” is only imprisonment. “You’re free to choose,” we hear. “You’re the boss!” But time and time again we roll right into a deep chasm, or off the table completely, or get stuck in a rough spot. It’s not freedom. It’s our ability to choose our bondage, our jail cell.

I am free in Christ.

I ask for his boundaries and thank him for them. I trust he will remove them when it’s safe…and when he doesn’t, I believe he has me on the best, safest, most fulfilling path. Hopefully as time goes by, I no longer stop so frequently in protest. (When I do stop, it’s only me that misses out.) That’s my decision. It must be difficult not to tip the whole surface and force me to continue rolling, but God doesn’t. He gives me the choice.

I thank God for His love and care to guide me day by day. He helps me navigate difficult stretches, keeps me from spending my days hopelessly stuck and frustrated. I like the way this verse talks about God’s compelling love. And “compelling” means more here than I realized in the past2 Corinthians 5:14-15

14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

Compels…meaning what?

Controls us,

constrains us,

animates us,

moves us,

and impels us.

God keeps us rolling in the right direction!!

What About Tomorrow, Lord?

I read a really good devotional today that has been a reoccurring lesson for me.

God will give us what we need for today.

Therefore, we have all we need to live a godly life today. Today we can make good choices. Today we can say no to sin and temptation. Today we can serve as we are called and do what needs to be done. Today calls for a step to be made, and I will do it. It is do-able and possible.

God isn’t going to give me what I need tomorrow today. It’s the lesson of the manna. He provides for this day and we trust him for tomorrow. It’s tough for planners and worriers, isn’t it? We think, show us the whole path and I will be happy. I will know what’s coming up and have faith! Then I will have peace. God just doesn’t seem to work that way typically. We have so many questions….When will things get better? Will life get easier? Please tell me there’s less pain? Will those I love be OK? How long until I am with you, Lord?

Great questions and all can be given into God’s wise and faithful care. He is so kind and loving to us. Do we need to know any more than that? God allowed the most painful and difficult thing to occur to HIMSELF for us.…the separation and death of His perfect son. God poured all the wrath we deserve entirely on his son, Jesus, for that short time forsaking him. Because of that, we can choose to be forever together with this amazing God.

So, let’s collect our manna and choose to be content today. Pray for what we can pray for. Thank God for this day that we have a chance to glorify Him and be used to do His perfect will. We can refuse to worry about tomorrow because God has it all figured out and He will be there for each of us every time we need Him!

Psalm 119:68

You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees.

Addicted

N1201P22011KHow desperate we are for Christ! Do we know it? Perhaps one of the greatest gifts of God is being aware of our need for Him. Who likes to come face-to-face with his desperation? It’s frightening, isn’t it? How much we need God and how dire the situation is if we attempt to live without Him.

It seems most of us lean toward either numbing ourselves to our desperation or toward addictions that may, for a time, fill our emptiness. Either way, we feel we have control, for a while at least, and we think we can skip disappointment and pain. It can take extreme situations to shake us from these patterns and wake us up to reality.

The truth is, each of us was made for a deep, intimate, fulfilling relationship with God, our Creator. Until we realize have that, life isn’t going to feel right. Something will always be missing. I experienced this for many years, even knowing God but keeping Him at a distance from me.

We can’t numb ourselves enough to not feel the pain of our separation from God – there really is a hole in our hearts and it hurts! Neither can we find any temporary pleasure that will fill us enough. We will need more and more until either we are destroyed or we strangle the life right out of the people and things we grasp so tightly.

Only God is enough.

Good things, bad things, doesn’t matter….everything and everyone will eventually fail us if we take our expectations to them as if they were God.

We are meant to be addicted to Christ.

That’s no exaggeration. That’s the one place, the one being that we can ask for more of and hear, sure, as much as you want! I love that thought! We know moderation is the secret of so much in this life….but with God, just dive in and expect more of Him. We’ll never be disappointed.

It’s not hard to find this longing in the Bible. In just the book of Psalms, you’ll find these desires basically on every page.

Psalm 42:1 “So my soul pants for you, O God. “

Psalm 42:2 “My soul thirst for God, for the living God. “

Psalm 39:7 “But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you. “

Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord.”

Psalm 32:7 “You are my hiding place.”

Psalm 62:1 “My soul finds rest in God alone.”

Psalm 63:8 “My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.”

Psalm 90:14 “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love.”

Psalm 107:9 “For he [God] satisfies the thirsty and feeds the hungry with good things. “

Psalm 119:120 “My flesh trembles in fear of you: I stand in awe of your laws.”

So here’s the good news today – if you’ve usually numbed your heart because you’ve been hurt or disappointed, it really is OK open up and start living. God will never disappoint you! He loved you enough to die for you! You mean that much to Him!!

And if you’re looking for fulfillment in earthly addictions, you realize you do need something. So, look toward the only one that can 100% satisfy you – God. He has all the joy, hope and pleasure you are seeking. It may sound bizarre to you if you’ve never looked  at God this way. But, it doesn’t take long for most of us to know there has got to be something more than what we find on earth. He’s the One our hearts crave and He is waiting for you to turn to Him. Do it today, don’t waste another day!

No Room For Shame

I’ve really enjoyed studying Hebrews the past few months. It’s a challenging book because so much of it seems to deal with faith …. and lack of it, belief … and lack of it. I suppose it’s a book that has always stirred up anxiety in me. But it doesn’t need to do that. It can lead us instead to a wonderful security in Christ.

Way back when Adam and Eve first sinned, shame became people’s norm. Adam and Eve realized they were naked. They knew they had disobeyed God and deserved punishment and they hid from God.

Problem is, it’s still so easy to continue living with that shame even after we truly do repent and give our lives completely to Christ as our Lord and Savior. Grace and shame is an impossible mix, but we try to keep both, don’t we? I’m a child of God but I still feel I need to hide from Him. The two just don’t go together!

We mustn’t hide from our wonderful God. We only miss out on the love and freedom and joy He wants to bless us with. The blood of Christ really does wash away ALL our sin and shame. We must believe this and come to the throne of God for His mercy and help. There really is no other option for God’s children. God is the one that clothes us. We cannot clothe ourselves. We must stop hiding and walk up to Him in faith.

But I’m ugly, we think. No really, like, this body…no one wants to see this naked! And I am bad. I know Christ forgives me but perhaps He doesn’t know the extent of my issues. Even worse, I don’t want to give these things up! When I clean myself up, then I’ll come out from hiding. He could never accept me how I am.

This is not how God wants us to behave. God tells us to come to His throne and we will find mercy and help in our time of need. He doesn’t say, come when you are perfect, because we can’t make ourselves perfect. That’s just a lie of the enemy. There’s just one thing we need and that is faith- faith to stand up and walk, naked, as we are, full of problems and addictions, up to God’s throne. Faith to believe He really does forgive us and is truly there to transform us in His strength and mercy.

It’s humbling, no doubt about it. It is very, very uncomfortable, much like the nightmares many of us have of being caught unprepared, or without a crucial piece of clothing or before a judge. It takes faith to look past our physical shortcomings, our idols, our addictions to sin because they feel they are stuck to us like a nasty piece of toilet paper on our shoe.

But, friend, it’s worth it. He is who He says He is. Yes, He could condemn us to the pit of hell, and we would deserve it. But He doesn’t. He has mercy and grace instead. It’s not that He isn’t aware of all our sin but Jesus’ blood washes our sin away and He sees the beautiful child He made us each to be. He knows us even now in our perfect state in heaven in the future seeing Him face to face. He says even now, you are beautiful! Here is an elaborate royal robe for you. I am here to help you be a light in this very dark world you live in. I will help you overcome your sin and shame and fear….just ask me. Trust me when I say you are beautiful. Believe me when I say you are an overcomer. Refuse to hide from me and take hold of my hand, dear one, and never let go! I never let go of you.

Who will you listen to today? Will you listen to the father of lies as he says, hide. Dig a deeper hole, be afraid because you are so ugly to God.

Or will you listen to the words of life and hope and freedom spoken by the One that made you and knows you….and absolutely loves you. Let’s stop hiding. Let’s trust God and live always in humility at His throne.

Trust and Obey

Trust and Obey

1 When we walk with the Lord in the light of his word, 

what a glory he sheds on our way! 

While we do his good will, he abides with us still, 

and with all who will trust and obey. 

Refrain:

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way 

to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey. 

2 Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share, 

but our toil he doth richly repay; 

not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross, 

but is blest if we trust and obey. 

3 But we never can prove the delights of his love 

until all on the altar we lay; 

for the favor he shows, 

for the joy he bestows, are for them who will trust and obey.

4 Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at his feet, 

or we’ll walk by his side in the way; 

what he says we will do, where he sends we will go; 

never fear, only trust and obey. 

I remember this hymn well from many years ago. It’s so catchy and such a classic, but the truth is….I wish I would have let its word sink into my brain better back then!

It seems not much pleases God as much as His children trusting Him. Isn’t that why Abraham is often mentioned in the Bible as an example to follow so frequently? Or King David? People that please God have this in common – they chose to trust God. They chose to obey God, not always perfectly of course, but still that choice was made.

N1706P22004CTrusting God pleases Him….so what angers God? Well from the Israelites experience of wandering 40 years in the desert and never being allowed to enter the Promised Land, I’d say it’s testing God – not believing He is powerful enough to do what He says and that He loves us enough to take good care of us as He promises. Our unbelieving hearts that are always going astray….this angers God. (Hebrews 3:10 That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’)

When we don’t chose to trust God and obey Him, we spiral downward in our pride and stubbornness, in arrogance that we know better. Our hearts become full of sin and hard as a rock toward God. We become unable to hear Him or see Him and if we persist in our sin and foolishness, God may eventually give us over to all the consequences of a life lived without Him. Sure, it may seem we won, we got our way. But really we may lose everything.

Thankfully God often still grabs our attention to bring us back to our senses enough to repent. But then what? Where do we go from there? We either obey God and prosper in His eyes or we don’t obey God and stray from Him again, and again.  I see where He could get really tired of fickle and often unfaithful hearts. I’m so thankful for God’s patience and mercy.

Let’s trust Him today. Wherever we are, easy or hard, straightforward or completely bizarre, joyful or heart-wrenchingly sad and painful, His way is the way to go. There really is no other way that leads to good things. 

Keep our hearts soft today, Lord. Help us trust you no matter what. Help us obey, quickly and humbly.