Monday, September 24, 2012

Um...Yeah...I Can Work With This

I have shared my personal testimony only a few times over the past ten years.  I do not share it just for the sake of sharing; for it is painfully personal and a journey that I am still, after ten years, trying to reconcile.  But today I want to skip to the pivotal moment along that painful journey because I want to focus on that, not everything that led up to that.

I had been falsely accused of something and the repercussions were more than I imagined.  I had lost everything but my family.  My entire identity had been taken from me and in my absolute despair, in that moment in my life when I could not possibly go any lower – I had a vision.  I’m not a man of visions but this one was very clear to me.  I saw God sitting, leaning forward, his forehead resting in this right hand, and his head was shaking back and forth slowly.  This is what He said, “no no no…my dear son believe me this is not what I wanted for your life but I promise you, if you give me some time I will work with this”. 

The miracles that have happened since that time have been far too many to count.  The life I lead today is one that is free from any type of bondage be it spiritual, emotional or physical.  The pain of the event is something I am still processing through but the outcome – well, I’m here to say that God did, indeed, work with it and much has been achieved!

I know another man who sits in prison.  He, like thousands of others, claim he is innocent and the truth is – he is innocent.  But the laws of the land and the hearts of the wicked prevailed to the degree that he is now in prison and may very well be there for a very long time.  I talk with him often and his spirit remains strong.  He is a powerful witness to those around him, he leads worship in the prison, he writes, he is a wise counselor to many and the list goes on.  You see, God worked with it.

When you encounter something unexpected that has a negative impact on your life, can you work with it?  Can you allow God to work with it?  If your best friend, brother, sister, mother, father or lover betrayed you somehow and caused you pain would you be able to work with it?  Would the two of you be able to agree that time heals and that God CAN work in and through all things?  Would you just surrender and decide that there’s nothing that can be done, cut your losses and go? Moses led his people in to the middle of nowhere but God worked with it, didn’t he?  Daniel was stuck in the middle of the hungry lions, no escape, no light at the end of the tunnel, hardly a hope…but God worked with it, didn’t he? 

God doesn’t purposely send wicked your way.  It happens.  But God can work with anything if those who are in it will focus on Him. 

What did you do today to focus on Him while he is so intent on focusing on you?  While things are being put in to place to bless you and to make your life, yes, even you very soul – jump with joy…what are you doing in return?  Are you saying to God, “yes, you better work with this!” or are you saying, “Really, God?  Wow!  I didn’t know You saw that…thank You…I will continue to praise You and recognize You through all things and I will wait patiently on You while You work with this”.

They that wait upon the Lord SHALL renew their strength; they SHALL mount up with wings like the eagles; they SHALL run, and not be weary; and they SHALL walk, and not faint…Isaiah 50:31

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Not Now, Lord - It's Too Scary

One of my business clients kicked my butt this morning.  Ok, she’s much more than a client.  She is one I have come to call a friend and I appreciate her authentic call to ministry.  She posted a blog entry today (assisted by her virtual assistant from, me) that moved me to action. 

First, I want to invite you to read her blog entry and then come back to mine.  Go ahead…I’ll be here when you get back….go…

So what did you think?  As I mentioned, I was moved to action.  The Lord has been nudging me to do something all week long and I put it off.  I’ll be brutally honest as to why I up it off.  I was scared and did not want to confront the possible outcome.  Yes, I said it.  I was scared of something that may or may not have occurred as a result of my action.

Do I make the pot of coffee this morning knowing full well that something could go wrong?  The pot could break, coffee will spill everywhere, the cat gets burned by the hot water and I cut myself on the glass, and then run to the hospital for stitches.  Meanwhile the coffee pot is still on and the grounds are now all over the burner plate, filling the house with the ‘wonderful’ aroma of burnt coffee, and then someone hits me on the way back from the hospital and of course it starts to rain so we’re all wet…the list of possibilities is endless.  It’s just a lot safer for me to not make the coffee this morning.

So maybe that’s a little far-fetched; but I use it to make a point.  If fear of a possible negative outcome prevents you from doing the thing you KNOW you should be doing, then that fear is put there by someone other than God; someone who doesn’t want you to do it.  But listen to your hearts’ prompting.

My Dad has wonderful advice about situations where we need to act but are afraid to or our reaction is out of anger and may be made too quickly with dangerous consequences.  He says to write it down.  Put it away for a day or two.  Come back to it. Chew on it if you need to, edit it, add, delete etc.  Then you’ll know when you have found the right words to say.  That is great advice whether it is homework or a letter or mere thoughts to be spoken later.  Sometimes it takes a little searching to find what you need.  I think that’s why they made ‘save as draft’ an option in email programs!  Just don’t hit ‘send’ before you are actually ready!

I have iTunes on my computer.  Sometimes I want to listen to the radio portion and I want to hear classical chorale works.  There is a station for that but I can never find it on my initial scroll.  I always have to scroll down, then go back to the top and suddenly it appears half-way down the list.  I have to do a little searching before I can find what I want.  And so it is when it comes to finding the right words and way to do that which brings us a little fear.  We need to practice; we need to scroll through the options before we find the right one.
Those things that you KNOW you need to be doing and yet you are putting off…you know what I’m talking about, right?  God is bringing it to the forefront of your heart and mind just because you’re reading this and it bugs you just a little bit.  Do it.  

I Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of sound mind!

Thank you, Jesus, that we can trust you with our today and with our tomorrow and with our right here and right now.  Lord, when we feel our spirits tremble at the idea of some unknown looming threat or event, we can trust in your faithfulness.  Help us to embrace that trust so that we have no need to be afraid of uncertainty.  Help us to denounce this fear which is not from you.  Help us to turn this fear in to first falling to our knees in prayer, and then following through with that which we know we must do, with the knowledge that you are always there to protect us even through the darkness when we cannot see the actual outcome.  

Monday, September 10, 2012

Today Is Your Best Day So Far

My mother, as many of you know by now, is my hero and my role model of strength.  Two days after she had major brain surgery to remove a very large cancerous mass, she had one goal.  To walk that day.  She wasn’t focused on what just happened or what may or may not happen tomorrow.  She wanted to get out of that bed, walk to physical rehab and walk up the three steps.  Nothing else truly mattered to her that day (except, as always, that Dad had something to eat for lunch and didn’t get lost!). 

I was with her the day she climbed those stairs.  It was the same day they gave her a walker to help her along (which, after her death, we gave back for someone else to use).  It was difficult to walk those steps.  She was slightly confused and very overwhelmed but she was determined and focused.  What mattered was now…this moment that she was given…this blip on the timeline of her life…this is what mattered the most.

I am accused sometimes of being too positive. It has been difficult to remain positive since Mom’s passing but I give it my best.  What really drives me crazy are people who are negative based on what has happened in the past and what they perceive will happen in the future.  I don’t understand that way of thinking.  When I’m negative it’s about the moment right now – something is happening right now that is giving me reason to feel not so positive.  But I tend to quickly pick myself up because I realize there is nothing you can do about the past.

When I taught voice and piano lessons there is a lesson I learned from my voice professor that I carried to my own teaching (tone of lessons, actually, but here is a great one).  His name is Dr Craig Maddox and I am proud to say that I studied in his studio.  I learned so much about myself and there are so many tidbits of information from within his studio that I absorbed and use still today.  He taught me that once I made a mistake it was not my business to get upset about it.  Learn from it and move on.  There is nothing, absolutely NOTHING I could do about a wrong note sung or a technique I dropped on a note.  It’s out there for the world to hear – they heard it – it’s done.  You can’t grab it and say, “oh never mind”.  You can’t erase it – you can’t do anything about it so move on.  Don’t waste your energy worrying about what just happened – learn, grow, stand proud, and work on right now.  Don’t worry about that phrase that’s coming up in two measures – the note you are singing right this very moment is the most important and once it is sung you move on to the next.

Most of my students figured it out quickly.  Move on and focus your energy on what’s happening in the moment.  Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “with the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future.  I live now.”

Bill Waterson, author and cartoonist of the famous series Calvin and Hobbes, said it well when he wrote, “We're so busy watching out for what's just ahead of us that we don't take time to enjoy where we are.” 

Look, the point I’m trying to make here is that perhaps you spend too much time worrying about what you did and how it will affect your future.  You are missing the point of living.  The point of living is right NOW.  This moment…what are you doing today?  Get up out of the darkness you wrapped yourself in, move away from the sharp objects that you placed around you to cause you pain, and wake up from the sadness that you invited to take over your being…there’s a whole world out there and it’s your responsibility to yourself to live today.  Prepare for the future by living today and the future may very well surprise you.  But live in your current present and behold your future is already here. 

“I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn't arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I'm going to be happy in it.”
Groucho Marx, The Essential Groucho: Writings For By And About Groucho Marx