Thursday, February 11, 2016

Conflicting Melodies

I love music.  Truth be told, I enjoy several different types of music and typically have some form of music playing throughout the day.  During my devotions, I enjoy soft, instrumental music that helps me reflect and meditate on God's Word.  While working around the house, there's nothing like good Southern Gospel or Contemporary Christian tunes to keep my toe tapping and my heart intent on worship.  At my desk, my music choice varies depending on what I'm doing.  If I'm doing intense writing, I need something soft and soothing (but not so much so that I fall asleep).  For less intense writing, I prefer instrumental music that is uplifting and bright, like Celtic melodies or epic movie soundtracks.  Every once in a while, I love to turn on classical pieces like Mozart, Beethoven or Rachmaninoff.  For other computer tasks, the music varies based on my present mood, but it's typically something lively and positive.

As you can see, I enjoy a variety of music, but one thing I cannot stand is to have two separate songs playing at once.  It drives me crazy!  For example, I play soft music when I go to sleep each night, and that music plays until I turn it off in the morning.  On Sunday mornings, however, I have my clock radio tuned to come on because a local station offers Southern Gospel music on Sunday mornings.  Sure enough, at 7:00, the radio comes to life, and I began to scramble.  I have to turn off the music that is playing on my phone because the two conflicting melodies wreak havoc in my mind.  I simply cannot stand it.

It doesn't seem to bother most people.  In fact, Jason can sit down and play his bass along with some music through his headphones while I'm listening to something else through the house radio.  The thing about his headphones is that they don't block out outside noise.  They keep others from hearing what he's listening to but are not designed to work the other way around.  That means he's hearing both pieces of music and playing along.  With what?  How could he possibly know what to play?  For the life of me, I can't figure out which melody to tune in and which one to tune out.  It's frustrating!

And do you want to know the most frustrating part of it all?  I have conflicting melodies flowing through my mind and heart all the time.  One melody proclaims, "Have thine own way, Lord; have thine own way" while the other serenades "I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway. And more, much more than this, I did it my way."  Yes, I constantly find my will at odds with God's will.  I don't mean for it to be that way.  I want to serve God and to fulfill His will for my life, but when it comes down to following certain orders, those confounded melodies begin to clash, and I find myself having to choose which one to tune in and which to tune out.  I wish I could say that I always make the right decision, but if I did, I probably wouldn't be writing this post.  After all, how many of you want to hear about the perfect little redhead who always follows the Lord's directions and never takes a wrong turn?  Yeah, that's what I thought.

The truth is, I'm human, and I make many mistakes along the way.  Fortunately, the God I serve is a God of grace.  He loves me in spite of my failures and somehow, He still finds a way to make beautiful music out of my life.  Knowing this doesn't give me an excuse to sin or to do things my own way.  On the contrary, it makes me want to serve Him more--to tune out the melody that is my will and to tune in to His.

Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. - Hebrews 13:20-21

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

What Are You Staring At?

I saw this experiment done a few days ago, and it nearly blew me away.  Looking at the picture with the four snowflakes, allow your eyes to focus on a single snowflake.  Stare at that one snowflake for several seconds and watch what begins to happen to the other snowflakes. (You may need to click on the picture to enlarge it for this to work.)  They begin to fade, blink or even disappear altogether.  Is that cool or what?

Why does this happen?  Basically, our brains process the information sent to us by the eyes.  We see something, and the brain processes exactly what it is we're seeing and then determines what to do with that information.  Because of limited storage space; however, the brain doesn't retain all of the information that it records.  Sometimes, it has to decide what to keep and what to throw away.  (We are fearfully and wonderfully made!)  When we focus on a particular thing for an extended length of time, the brain assumes that everything else is unnecessary and will actually move the information to the trash bin.  So, while our eyes can still see four separate snowflakes, our minds have forgotten that the other three are there.  I find that completely fascinating!

I also find it frustratingly familiar but in a different sense.  How many times have I focused on my problems to the point that I nearly forgot about God altogether?  How many times have I become so captivated by my situation that God practically disappears from my life?  How many times have I stared at my trials then found myself asking, "Where did you go, God?"  Like the other three snowflakes, He's still there, but it's been so long since I've focused on Him that my brain has categorized Him as unnecessary.

Life is hard and sometimes unfair, and it is all too easy to get distracted by the many things that weigh us down day after day.  But we must be careful that we never take our eyes off the one, true answer to all of life's problems:  God!  Not only is He a problem-solver, but He is also a Father, a Friend, a Counselor, a Guide, a Comforter and so much more.  He is all that we need, yet so often, He is the one thing we leave out.  And after a while, we begin to wonder if He was ever here to begin with.

Look to Jesus today.  Don't take your eyes off Him for a moment.  Yes, the problems are big, but God is bigger.  Yes, the situation is tough, but God is tougher.  Sure, the battle is tiring, but God can give you strength.  Cling to Him.  Call to Him.  And think about this:  if God fades from view when we stare at our problems, what will happen to our problems when we stare at God? To borrow the words from an old hymn, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace."

So I ask you, what are you staring at?

I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. - Psalm 16:8

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Worrier's 23rd Psalm

A few days ago, my Song of the Day choice was "The Warrior Is a Child."  There is a reason I chose that particular song.  You see, on Monday, I had a bit of an emotional breakdown.  I was extremely tired from a busy weekend, and as I faced the prospect of another hectic week, I lost it.  As I cried on Jason's shoulder, I tried to explain my feelings and frustrations but, to be honest, I didn't think I was making much sense.  Evidently, though, I was because he pulled out his phone, pressed a few buttons, then placed the phone in my hand.  He had pulled up a video of "The Warrior Is a Child."  As I listened/watched, I cried that much more.  The song conveyed the exact message I was trying to get across.  So many people look to me for answers and encouragement, and that's fine.  But some days, this warrior gets weary and needs some encouragement as well.

While I watched the video, Jason went out to the kitchen to fix me some breakfast.  (Is he a gem or what?)  When the video was through, I met him in the kitchen and tried to smile.  "That's pretty accurate," I said, "although right now I feel like the line should be the worrier is a child."  He laughed, and I did too, but deep down I was cringing because I knew it was too true.

This morning, as the Lord dealt with my heart about my tendency to worry, I wondered what Psalm 23 would sound like if David had written it during one of his downward spirals into despair rather than on one of his "up days."  (Yes, I know.  I wonder about strange things.)  Anyway, this is what I came up with.  I call it The Worrier's 23rd Psalm.

Anxiety is my shepherd, and I never have all I need.
It maketh me to lie down in sleepless frustration.
It leadeth me beside the tumultuous waves.
It exhausts my soul.
It leadeth me in the paths of despair for its name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear all the more.
For anxiety is ever with me.  The chocolate and caffeine, they comfort me.
Anxiety preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.
It anointest my head with devastating thoughts.
My frustration runneth over.
Surely, despair and sickness shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the pit of hopelessness forever.

I'm sure we wouldn't hear that passage quoted in many church services, now would we?  Unfortunately, it's all too familiar to some of us.  No, we may not put it in those words--or any words, for that matter.  But we display it by our actions and attitudes.

By adjusting this psalm to the worrier's viewpoint, I ruined it.  I turned something beautiful into something hideous.  Something comforting into something depressing.  I made it exactly the opposite of what God intended for it to be.  When we worry, we do the same thing.  We turn our lives into the opposite of what God has in mind for us.  He longs for us to focus on Him, but we're too busy looking at our problems.  We destroy the loveliness and comfort that we could have if only we would trust the Lord.

I was reminded twice recently that if you hold a coin up in front of your face in the right way, that coin can actually block out the entire sun.  Our worries do the same thing.  They block out the SON.  Let's be careful.  Worry is a drain on our time, energy, and health.  It is also a sin.  Trust God today.  He's earned it!

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him. - Psalm 28:7

Thursday, February 4, 2016

What's With All the Detours?

Yesterday morning, I left the house early in hopes of getting my errands done before lunch and, with that done, to be able to go about the rest of my day.  As I typically do, I decided to take the back roads to avoid traffic.  (I don't know about you, but traffic does not bring out the best in me.) Sadly, within two minutes of my drive, I came upon a road sign saying that the road ahead was closed at the railroad tracks.  With no place to turn around, I thought, Okay, no big deal.  I'll turn at the road just before the tracks and head down the road where it actually goes underneath the tracks.  Problem solved.  Never, ever say or think that!

I took the road under the tracks which brought me out right in front of the road I wanted to go down.  Guess what?  Yep, another sign.  It would seem that the road ahead was closed at that set of tracks as well.  Good grief!  No problem.  I would simply go down to the next road and turn there.  That worked until I arrived at the next intersection where I encountered another detour/road closed sign.  "You've got to be kidding me!"  I exclaimed in aggravation.  To be honest, I was running out of ideas of how to get to my desired destination and was seriously contemplating turning around and going home.  This was just too much work!

After a few more turns, twists and recalculations, I finally arrived at my first destination.  To say I was frazzled would be an understatement.  I finished my errands as quickly as possible, then sat in the car for a moment to see if I could remember which route I took so that I could get home without all the extra twists and turns.  With my plan in place, I headed toward home and was actually in my neighborhood when I spotted it. . .well, actually, I should say them.  At first, I noticed the ambulance and police car, but they were both pulled over to the side of the road, so I figured I could just go around them.  But as I swerved a little to see around, I noticed another stupid, orange road sign, this one bearing the words, "Road Closed Ahead."  That did it!  The camel's back was broken, and this little, fiery redhead was indeed fiery.  After another unscheduled detour, I finally arrived safe and sound at my beloved home.  And might I say, I haven't left the house since then!!!!

Doesn't life sometimes seem to treat us the same way?  We set off for an intended destination.  We have a plan.  We have the right motives.  We're doing a good thing.  Then, out of nowhere, we see the sign, "Road Closed.  Detour Ahead."  At first, it's an annoyance, but not much else.  We cope.  We work around it.  We find another way to reach our desired end.  But then, there's another detour and another one and another one.  Pretty soon, we find ourselves sitting on the floor and wondering if we'll ever reach our destination or if we really even want to anymore.

Let's face it, life can be quite frustrating from time to time.  When things are humming along smoothly, we're good, but when life starts throwing those detours in our paths, we're anything but good.  We're aggravated.  We're confused.  We're discouraged.  And we find ourselves wondering if it's really worth it.  May I offer you three suggestions?

1) Pray. -- It could be that God is placing the detours in our lives in order to set us on a different path. If we're encountering detour after detour, our first order of business ought to be to seek the Lord's will and direction for our lives.  Before we do anything else, we need to know if these detours are new directions for our lives.  If they are, then God will reveal what changes He wants us to make.  If they are not "signs from God," continue on to #2.

2) Don't give up. -- Yesterday, I was tempted to forget about the errands and go home.  My frustration got the best of me and encouraged me to quit.  But if we quit every time we come across a stumbling block, we'll never reach our spiritual "pot of gold."  God has great plans for each of us, but we'll never see those plans realized if we give up at every turn.  Keep going.

3) Encourage yourself in the Lord. -- Yes, road closures and detours are a huge pain in the. . . well, you know.  However, the primary purpose for such things is so that improvements can be made.  The multiple road closures I faced yesterday were the result of repairs on the railroad tracks.  The tracks were being made better, safer and more functional.  So while, yes, detours are a hassle, aren't you glad that someone is looking out for your well-being by ensuring that the roads and railroad tracks are safe?  God is doing the same thing.  If He is allowing roadblocks in our lives, it could be that He is working to improve a certain area of our lives that needs some work.  Instead of complaining about the inconvenience, we ought to be thankful that God loves us enough to help us be the very best that we can be.

What roadblocks are you facing today?

Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness. - Psalm 143:10