Thursday, October 23, 2014

31 Days Of Strength In Scripture: Perspective

Sometimes it's as simple as making the effort to get up and move to the other side of the bus.

How To Have A Positive Perspective

Other times it's not that simple, but we always have a reason to find hope in the life we've been given.

He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'” - John 7:38

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

31 Days Of Strength In Scripture: The Soundtrack To My Life - Songs For Every Occasion

I love music. Who doesn't, right? Surely only crazy people. Music has so much power to impact our moods – it's no wonder that it's so important to so many of us. But to be honest, you probably wouldn't know how much I enjoy music if you were to observe my daily life. I often forget to play it...I'm so busy with the daily grind that I tend to forget that it exists...which seems kind of ridiculous, considering how much it would probably help me out if I'd just allow it to work its magic.

I even recall one day a few weeks ago when I was talking to my husband about how I'd been feeling a little frustrated and overwhelmed with the house and the kids and the usual stuff, and how I'd been struggling to get through the day, and he casually mentioned, “Why don't you turn on some music?”

Well, duh. Why don't I?

For me this month has been all about finding strength in scripture, but I think that our interpretations of scripture often take the forms of songs and poetry. Many of the the lyrics in my favorite songs impact me on a spiritual level, and I don't doubt that they are often divinely inspired. And even when they're not, I can often find truth and substance in them anyway.

Some of these songs and artists include:

Josh Garrels, my new favorite lyricist. If you are not familiar with his music, go right now and make yourself familiar. Every single song of his has so much depth – I can't get enough of his music. These lyrics are from one of my favorite songs, 'Beyond The Blue':

Stand on the shores of a site unseen
The substance of this dwells in me
Cause my natural eyes only go skin deep
But the eyes of my heart anchor the sea
Plumbing the depths to the place in between
The tangible world and the land of a dreams
Because everything ain't quite as it seems
There's more beneath the appearance of things
A beggar could be king within the shadows,
Of a wing

And wisdom will honor everyone who will learn
To listen, to love, and to pray and discern
And to do the right thing even when it burns
And to live in the light through treacherous turns
A man is weak, but the spirit yearns
To keep on course from the bow to the stern
And throw overboard every selfish concern
That tries to work for what can't be earned
Sometimes the only way to return is to go,
Where the winds will take you

And to let go of all you cannot hold onto
For the hope, beyond the blue”

U2 has always been my all-time favorite band, especially old-school U2 albums with lyrics like these:

I have spoke with the tongue of angels
I have held the hand of a devil
It was warm in the night
I was cold as a stone
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for”

and

I wanna feel sunlight on my face
I see the dust cloud disappear without a trace
I want to take shelter from the poison rain
Where the streets have no name”

Mumford & Sons also has many quotable lyrics that are relevant to life in general:

Hold on to what you believe in the light, when the darkness has robbed you of all your sight.”

Tom Petty wins, hands down, for Best Road-Tripping and Feel-Good Music:

I know that look on your face
But there's something lucky about this place
There's something good coming for you and me,
something good coming, there has to be.”

I could go on and on, but of course, I certainly don't think music needs great lyrics to communicate from one soul to another. Some of the most beautiful, epic adventure music comes from orchestral movements and movie soundtracks. I think that through music God gave us a really unique, soul-searching, universal language, and we should tap into that more often. It certainly alters my day to have good thoughts running through my head, and one surefire way to do that is to have some uplifting music filling my space.

Kudos to the hubby for reminding me of this! I'm going to make more of an effort to utilize the power of music in my life.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

31 Days Of Strength In Scripture: On Trials And Testing

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” - James 1: 2-4

That's a doozy right there, isn't it? Consider our trials joy??? I don't like that. At all. I can think of many horrors on that 'trials' list that no one in his or her right mind would find very joyous. I think that if we're being honest, we have to admit that this is an uncomfortable verse for us. In fact, the only way I'm able to write about this right now is because I'm not currently facing a hard trial.

But I have before and I can say that I do understand what this verse says about the testing of faith producing endurance. Smaller trials prepare us for the larger ones, but also, the more we exercise our faith, the more natural it becomes to do so. And let's face it – it's not all that difficult to exercise faith when everything is going our way. How often do you hear well-meaning (but not suffering) people toss out phrases like, “it was God's will” or “He doesn't give you more than you can handle”? Sure, it might sound nice when you're on the other side of pain and suffering, but in the throes of it? Sometimes there just isn't a phrase or verse that will ease the hurt. Pain is heavy stuff.

The key is those verses point us to the One who has promised comfort and rest to us, who gives us strength and grace in our weaknesses, and in whom we can trust for the hope and peace that we seek. That's what we have to be joyous about. He never changes, but instead His promises stand no matter how much we waver and struggle, no matter what we're up against.

There are no throwaway moments in life. There is no waiting for the good part – because the present, no matter how good or bad it may be, is still an important part of the good.

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” - Romans 5:3-5

He understands suffering because He did so on our behalf. But what happened right after that trial of His? He rejoiced. In fact, there was much rejoicing because He overcame it and every other trial we would ever face. Though we may not feel like rejoicing today, one day all we will know will be joy...and love...and peace. That's the promise that keeps me going, that keeps me from giving up.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you, but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.” - 1 Peter 4:12-13

Monday, October 20, 2014

31 Days Of Strength In Scripture: Servanthood

Some days I just don't know what to do with myself. I wake up all ambitious and think I'm going to clean the whole house until it's spotless! And then I'm going to create meal plans and bake from scratch! And then I'm going to come up with fun activities for the kids! And then I'm going to write half a novel! One of my daughter's favorite phrases scrolls through the back of my mind – this is gonna be the BEST DAY EVER!

I don't think it has ever gone quite how I envisioned. Too many distractions, too much fatigue, and not enough perfection. I still have some pretty awesome days, though, so I can't complain. However, it's important to note that the days that are the greatest are always the ones when I have the right attitude. At the end of the day, what got done or what accomplishments were made are always of less importance than the mindset I had when I carried out the tasks.

I think that many times it boils down to having the mind and heart of a servant. Did I give my kids everything they needed today? Was I thinking about what was best for my family? Did I consider the impact my actions might have on someone else? Were my intentions good? Having the right mind and heart when going into the tasks we face naturally makes the outcome so much better.

After all, no one can serve two masters, right? I can't be both what the world wants me to be and also who God wants me to be. Their goals often don't line up. So I have to consider what purpose I want the day to have and which plans I need to let go of. We have to give up the illusion of control to which the world so desperately wants us to cling and seek the guidance that we so desperately need. It is when I'm being led, not trying to lead myself, that I discover grace.

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
- Luke 14:11

Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” - Luke 17:33

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?” - Luke 9:24-25