Thursday, July 31, 2008

Enough to make a change

Some days the strangest things capture my attention…today it was the dish sponge.

I picked it up, turned on the water and watched it magically expand in my hand.

Forgetting the dishes I took out a new sponge for comparison and, although it was subtle, there was a visible difference. And of course there’s a functional transformation; have you ever tried to wash something with a dry sponge?

So what was the cause for this metamorphosis, from flat to full, from useless to useful?

A very little bit of water.

One-third cup, six tablespoons, a scant three ounces – an amount that wouldn’t even start to quench your thirst but it was enough to make a difference, a big difference, in this area…

“A word fitly spoken…” such a great phrase isn’t it? The right word at the right time, mere syllables compared to great speeches but something that could be powerful and make a difference.

A listening ear and a closed mouth.
A hug.
Silence when it would be easy to criticize.
A small task that wasn’t your responsibility but quietly done.
A note.
An email.
A phone call.
A helping hand.
A willing spirit.
A smile.
A kind word.

All of these very small, simple, seemingly minuscule acts but as it only took a little liquid to transform a sponge, what could a little thing do for the heart and spirit of another?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

5 a.m.

The alarm went off.

It was pitch black outside: it was 5 a.m. but it could have just as easily been midnight or 3 a.m. from how things looked.

By 5:10 it was suddenly light outside the window and by 5:40 the sky was filled with bright light from a newly risen sun.
What a difference a very little amount of time made...

Hold on.

If it is dark in your world it may feel like midnight but it may already be 5 a.m.
Perhaps the darkness will vanish sooner than you think.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Playing Catch with God

We have many expressions in our language that link life with throwing and catching.

We "juggle" our schedules.
We "try to keep all our balls in the air".
And life often "throws" something at us.

The question is, when something is thrown at us what do we do with it?

Let's talk about trouble or pain or difficulties, when suddenly we find them "in our court" what is our response?

Scripture gives a very clear answer in I Peter 5:7 where we are told we are to be "casting all your cares upon Him for He cares for you." The whole idea is that of tossing whatever life has thrown at us, back to God.

I notice in my life, as I've gotten more experienced (shall we say instead of older) that some of the things "thrown" my way are things I've had to deal with before. I've also found that when I've eventually stopped worrying about them and trying to solve them myself and tossed them back to God that His hands are capable to catch and handle them easily.

It makes me wonder, since God's plan for our life is for us to be more like Christ, if some things are repeatedly thrown to us just so that we will become more adept at tossing them back to God.

When trouble comes our direction are we getting quicker about casting our cares on Him?
How long does it take to let go of what's just come your way and turn it over to Him?

There's the simpler stuff of our lives which is easier to toss back, like those brightly colored big rubber balls; but then sometimes trouble comes at us like a line drive and knocks us flat on our backs with the really hard or unexpected. After we've pulled ourselves back to our feet, how long do we toss that ball back and forth in our hands, worrying, wondering, mulling, obsessing...?

Could it be that some of the other stuff was merely warm up for this hard thing we now toss about in our hearts?
Can God really be trusted that He knows what is happening to me and that He cares about this in my life?
Do the eyes that see the sparrow fall, care that my life feels as fragmented as a window that has had a baseball thrown through it?

There is an amazing verse in Psalms that says "The Lord's delight is in those who honor him, those who put their hope in his unfailing love." (Psalms 147:11). We actually please our God when we give back to Him those things that trouble us because we have hope and confidence that He is able to take care of them and of us.
But you must recognize that tossing a ball is an extremely personal thing, no one can do it for you; you must do it yourself.

So what balls are currently in your court?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Just Step Right Up!

A room is full of church musicians who are participating in a reading session. In their hands is the newest of church music from a variety of publishers.

The director says “Let’s take a look at Just a Closer Walk with Thee” and everyone pulls out their music and sight reads through it both for enjoyment and a bit of research in thinking of what new anthems can be added to the church library.

Then there is a piece that says at the top, “For flute or C instrument” and all of a sudden the person in the second row, who was only a singer a moment before, reaches down, takes an instrument from a case and as the singing begins, so does their flute accompaniment…!

The first time I saw this happen I was totally floored – it was so amazing to see someone who saw a need and saw that they had the ability to fill it and so just stepped up and did it.

Would that we could be more that way in our lives and our churches: to see a need and respond by unpacking our gifts and abilities or wallets or sometimes just our physical selves and step up and step in a make the difference that we can.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Continuum of Praise

Let me see if I can draw you a picture.

A beautiful summer day, a cool auditorium, 200 people intensely focused in a choir rehearsal.
“Magnificat, Magnificat anima mea Dominum. Et exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo.”

Quick outside coffee break, strong summer sun, fretted instruments ensemble with banjo, ukulele, and assorted guitars
“Some glad morning when this life is o’er; I’ll fly away. To my home beyond terrestrial shores; I’ll fly away”

Can you see it – this obvious contrast?

A magnificent text of praise in ancient tongue.
A song of hope in the simplest of language.

Yet both raise their notes to God: both please Him.
For when in our music God is glorified neither the melody, nor the text ascends to His throne as predominantly as the voice of praise that is ringing out from our hearts.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tens of Thousands of Notes

(especially written for the attendees of the Conference for Church Musicians in Green Lake Wisconsin)

The choral anthem, My Shepherd Will Supply My Need, has exactly one thousand three hundred sixteen notes: add to that the number from the improvisation of the accompanist and any additional instrumentation and there were easily over two thousand.

Okay, thanks for sharing, but so what?

During a conversation with composer Mark Patterson he shared that all this music we hold in our hands is the culmination of hundreds of revisions.

So, the anthem you heard today, that stirred your soul and lifted your heart to God, was not some random scattering of ink across the score but the result of purposeful placement.

And if we, as mere mortals, can craft such cadences that glorify our Creator, is not the Master Composer supremely capable to orchestrate every detail of your week here and the tens of thousands of notes you will hear to draw your heart to Him?

So that as you return to the place He has called you to minister, you will bring back not only more techniques and ideas but also a heart that is more deeply in love with Him.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A Set of Bowls

I have read repeatedly that God never wastes a hurt and never discounts an experience.Psalms 56:8 says that all of our tears have been gathered in a bottle and that God has made a record of them.

If each of our experiences is like a component that makes up the structure of our life, we have been promised that “all things work together for the good of them that love the Lord and have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28)

It is a comforting thought that there is a reason for all that I go through and for all the things that happen to me, if I perceive the reason for each particular thing or not.

Yet I still find it difficult to take that knowledge from a believing heart to understanding and acceptance in my day to day living.

Last summer I bought a glass bowl at a thrift shop.It had a particular shape around the top that was unique.I was thinking it would be great for salads and perhaps even a trifle.

Yesterday I came home, from a thrift store, with a set of four small glass bowls. When I’d unwrapped and washed them I realized that these small bowls were the same peculiar style as the large bowl I’d gotten last year. “Wow,” I thought, “they’re actually a set that goes together.”

These two individual purchases would have each served their own purpose but now together, it expanded the possibilities.

I don’t know what you think but in my humble opinion, if God could work it out for me to unknowingly buy a particular shaped serving bowl one year and the matching smaller bowls the next, I think I have a glass reminder that He is perfectly capable of taking every hurt and every experience of my life and working them together according to His purpose for my good.