Rooted and Grounded

Does every wind knock you down? Does every valley that you face overwhelm you?
Or are you like tree roots that stretch deep and wide? Rooted and grounded.
Are you like a tree that is thriving and getting the water and nourishment you need? Are you planted with access to streams of living water?
Or are you trying to live in the desert without good soil no living water, isolated, barren? What kind of life is this?
It would be very hard to survive these conditions without the help of our Lord.
If we have to be in the desert for a time the Lord will supply our needs.
Never quit doing good, in due season you will bear fruit.
God blesses and prospers those who delight in Him.
How do we delight in Him?
The answer is submission to his will no matter what, loving his law and letting it make a home in our hearts and mind.
The Word should not be a vacation destination for when we decide to visit, it must be a our very bedrock home that we live in every minute, every hour, of every day.
Jesus never said I’m your good luck charm to be hung on the wall or your trinket to collect dust on the shelf or your self motivation coach, or your vacation tour guide, or your professor giving you some kind of mental stimulation. These are not options he gave us. If you stoop to try to fit Jesus into anything except his rightful place which is Lord of All, the resurrected Christ, the only Way Truth and the Life, it won’t fit. You can’t put Jesus into the box of your liking. This would then not be Jesus but some created idol.

Jesus IS all and all. “Before Abraham was I am.”
“In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.”

We don’t choose him he chooses us!

I have had a lot of winds and valleys in my life recently, but I am learning to trust in Him more and more. Its not on the mountain top that our faith grows, but in the valleys. I want my roots to go deep and wide, so that I may stand firm in every circumstance.

 

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God’s Calling Card – Heavenly Hints this Thanksgiving Day

It’s no secret about my love for the holidays, there is a feeling that comes around once a year. You can sense it with the music, the laughter, the smells, the overall more generous tendency. Like Andy Williams said, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year! It’s the hap-happiest season of all.” The holidays for me are like a home calling card, a heavenly hint. We are the only species that experience this.

Me and my husband were in the living room watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade, and our dog decided to get out of bed and join us in the living room. When she came down the hallway to the tune of pitter-patter on the laminate floor, we exuberantly exclaimed, “Happy Thanksgiving Sadie!” We love our dogs as you can tell. They really are a part of the family. Then my husband said sensitively as he patted her head, “This is just another day to you, isn’t it?” It is the truth, Sadie doesn’t experience that nostalgia, or longing the way we do. God placed in us something exceptional. He made us in his image.

After watching a bit of the parade, I decided to go for a jog in our neighborhood before I digest a weeks worth of calories. As I walked, taking in God’s beautiful creation, I  began to give thanks for all his bountiful blessings, I became overwhelmed with that home calling card.  I usually take my walks around this time everyday, but today was different. As I walked down the streets, there were kids riding their bikes, laughing and playing; adults waving, and wishing me Happy Thanksgiving, families in their driveways playing games.  I could feel my eyes welling up with tears; the heavenly calling card was giving me a ring. I thought to myself,  this is what we long for, this is what we hope for. We long for unity, genuine goodness, unconditional love, togetherness, no more division, no more discord, no more dysfunction, no more derision.  The beauty and the longing are not IN THE holidays themselves, or the music, or the smells or the feelings, it just coming THROUGH it. It’s a calling card to home! The beauty is in Christ. The oneness is in Him! The harmony that we long for is in Jesus. He is the source.

As you go about your Thanksgiving today, take notice of the heavenly hints,  God’s calling card and give thanks for He loves you with an everlasting love!

Happy Thanksgiving,

Johanna

“These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.” C.S. Lewis

Forced to Slow Down

I am always going 90 to nothing.

My day doesn’t start as early as most people but I also work a lot later than most people.

I teach piano and voice  privately and currently I have 43 students. In the hours that I am not actually conducting lessons, I am preparing for lessons, studying, and doing my own piano practice and then just normal book work that comes from running your own business.

I love what I do, but I have to tell you, I load a lot of pressure on myself to do and be the best I can be–with this comes a certain amount of fatigue and anxiety. I am sure you gathered from my last post that I am a perfectionist.

As I write to you now I have been forced to slow down and take it easy. I have come down with some kind of upper respiratory infection. I had to cancel students yesterday and today, and I had to just take a break and lay on the couch. This is really hard for me to do. I think about all that I need to do and all the make-up lessons I have to give. I have a really hard time just resting. In the  middle of my attempts to rest today, you know really quiet my mind,  I remembered “OH!! ITS THURSDAY! I have to write my blog! I committed to Thursdays!!”

Well folks I don’t have a great blog for you this week, all I know is these are the moments that I realize I am not invincible. So with this sickness I was forced to lay it low and not keep pressing through. I literally couldn’t. Why is it so hard for me to just rest? My busy mind gets me in trouble sometimes. I wrote a blog not that long ago about “being still.” This is one of the hardest things for me to do. I have such an overactive mind. I do believe I am learning through these experiences. God is working it all of it for His good, even in the midst of my neurosis.

A verse I always rely on is, Mathew 11:28-30

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

We need rest, but I think it’s not just physical rest, it’s mental and spiritual rest too. The mental rest is what I am trying to learn.

I know this– I know who my savior is. My soul rests in that truth! There’s no question or denying that one.

Blessings and rest to you all!

Now I am going to go eat some soup and curl up on the couch.

Johanna

 

Two Things We Can Boast in: Weakness and the Cross

It’s been quite a week since last Thursday. I have had several sleepless nights, I have had a mental war. I have worried. I have fretted. My digestive system has suffered. Why you ask? Fear!

I am going to crack open my heart and soul with you. I struggle with worrying too much about what other people think. I also simply take myself too seriously much of the time. I struggle with anxiety. I worry I am going to appear a failure.

My story this last week began when me and my students performed at a retirement home last Thursday. I got up to perform and well I basically fell flat on my face. I lost where I was in the music, got distracted by my thoughts and was overwhelmed with anxiety. You would have thought in my mind that the world came to an end. I did not externalize my feelings. I acted as if nothing happened, but the inner war was tremendous and for a week straight I worried and fretted over that. I assumed people’s thoughts. I was not thinking rational, and I even told myself that, but I was still tortured by it.

In my Psalm study I have been reading through Psalm 64, the first couple of times I read it, it didn’t resonate with me in any particular way, and then I felt compelled to read it again last night, and it jumped off the page and into my heart! The Psalmist in the beginning says, “deliver me from my fear” He didn’t say deliver me from the situation. This is what I was pleading with God, deliver me from this dread! The Psalmist sounded just like me tortured in his mind. He continues on to say “hide me from the secret plots of the wicked.” Now for him it was external enemy, but for me, I resonated with wanting to be hidden. I wanted to go hide. I felt humiliated. Then the Psalmist says, “they hold fast to their evil purpose” I just thought about how our enemy, satan, can use this as an opportunity to try to overcome us, discourage us, condemn us, ensnare us. This is a perfect opportunity for him to get a foothold on us. In verse 7, the Psalmist says, BUT GOD! I just stopped here, because really we needn’t go any further. Everything that preceded this is not the final analysis. GOD is the one who has the final say. God is my deliverer. It says in verse 10, “let the righteous one rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in Him. Let all the upright in heart exult.”

I was humbled by this situation. God allowed my to fall. God knows my struggle with perfection and people pleasing, and the only way for me to overcome it is through the fire. How can I expect to be refined and to grow to be more like Him if I don’t go through some discomfort. It really has been a thorn in my flesh. I have to learn that it isn’t about me and there is noting like going through something like this, to humble me.

“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts the Lord is safe.” Proverbs 29:25

Being a Christian does not mean perfection, or no struggles, and I think of the verse “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” The word fear here is not anxiety but a reverence and respect for God’s authority, and trembling is admitting our weakness, and submitting to our dependence solely on God. This is an ongoing sanctification process to bring us into more of HIs likeness. To do this, God has to test and try our hearts. We have to be humbled, and this is not comfortable, but it must be done.

I have hanging in my hallway as a huge reminder from 2 Corinthians 12:9……..

“My grace is sufficient for you, for MY POWER is made perfect in weakness.”

We have nothing to boast in except our weakness and the cross. It is a truth that I am still learning every day. The layers of of my own self focus are being pulled back. God is gracious with me and he is gentle. I am being refined. I don’t want to remain the same. I want to be more like Him, but I have to be willing to go in the fire, be uncomfortable. I have to deny myself and take up my cross. I have to also remember this is a daily process. Every morning his mercies are new, and I have to come to the feet of Jesus to be renewed every day. Like the old hymn says…….

“Fill my cup Lord, I lift it up Lord. Come and quench this thirsting  of my soul. Bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more. Here’s my cup, fill it up and make me whole.”

A final thought — You might have heard that joke/story about the kid who was in church listening to the sermon. The minister prayed, “Dear Lord without you we are but dust.” When the child heard this she leaned over  to mom and said, “Mommy, what is butt dust?”  haha!

I  was sent this joke by my childhood piano teacher and friend before she passed away this past February. We laughed so much about that.  She texted about a month before she died, and the text read simply, “We are SO butt dust!” 😛

Don’t take myself so seriously. Depend on him. Boast in my weakness. Boast in the Cross. I have to beware that just when I think I am something, I will find out pretty soon that I am nothing.

He’s still working on me! He began a good work in me, and he is for sure going to see it though to completion!

God gets the glory!

Blessings,

Johanna

In the Midst of Our Lot: Seek and Remember

We will all go through the wilderness in this life. We will all face affliction, and sometimes correction. We may not know the reasons why we experience this lot in our life. As in the case of Paul and his thorn in the flesh, he asked for it to be removed, and God did not grant that. Paul gave reason enough, it might not have been detailed, but God’s power would be shown through weakness. No one wants to experience pain, and yet this life is full of it.We can experience pain through the physical, mental, vocational, relational. We cry out to God, WHY?! I can’t imagine what Job felt like.  Much pain is from sin but some is not, and yet God in his providence allows it.

C.S. Lewis said in the, “The Problem of Pain”,

”Not all medicine tastes nasty: or if it did, that is itself one of the un-pleasant facts for which we should like to know the reason.”

There have been loads of books on pain and suffering and I am not going to get into the knitty gritty of that in this post maybe another time.

Just because we would like to know the reason, we may not get it on this side of heaven, but we do know that God is good and all things are being worked together for the good to those that are called according to his purpose. We also know that the power of Christ is made seen through weakness. God is gracious through it all.

So what do we do with our afflictions, our pain, our weakness, our correction sometimes?

What does Psalmist do?  Here is Psalm 63 I have made bold the actions the Pslamist is taking.

You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
6 On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
7 Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
8 I cling to you;
your right hand upholds me.

Seek Him. Praise Him. Remember Him. I think the “remember” part is really important. We need to remember that the Lord is good, remember his promises, and he makes earnest on them, remember the times the Lord has delivered us in the past, remember all the ways God is good and gracious to us. One sure way we train our minds to remember is reading his word and meditating. This is a must. Think on it.

Whatever your lot is, it is surely well with your soul because God is good and he has his hand on you. He has his hand on me. My afflictions do not define me and yours don’t define you. He is being lifted up through it all and this is reason to praise him.

Seek and Remember Him!

 

 

Psalm: Prayers to Curse Enemies?

As you know I have been going through the Psalms, and to be quite frank there are some tough passages sometimes. We  mostly think of King David with what is called imprecatory prayer. This is a prayer to invoke judgment, calamity, or curses upon an enemy. I did a little searching trying to understand how we deal with these passages. My immediate thought was these verses are proving that God hates evil. God is holy. God is just. God is righteous. God is sovereign.  God is in control. Evil will not win. These verses can be viewed as prophetic as well to what was to come.

While I do think its ok to pray for God’s judgment such as in the case of ISIS and the like, imprecatory prayers should be taken with caution.  It’s ok to ask God to bring justice.  There is a fine line though between asking God to have his way and will and quite another when we are praying from a feeling of revenge and elevating ourselves above God. Prayers of asking God to pour out his wrath on evil is a prayer not against a certain person, but on the spiritual enemy, and this is an appropriate prayer.When we are dealing with our personal enemies, Jesus was quite clear on how we should deal with them,  He said to love our enemies and we should pray for them. This, I know is not easy, and we can ask for God to give us the strength and help we need.

One thing for sure David is very raw and honest about his enemies. He speaks the truth about them and the evil they are doing and how it is affecting David emotionally and mentally. I think we should be real and honest with God. He understands.  We can express our emotional anguish and our mental state. It’s ok to express what we are feeling to God, and then ask for his help in being Christ like, and ultimately pray for his will to be done.

Jesus shows us how we are to act towards our enemies. This doesn’t mean we don’t have feelings of hate, hate for evil, and injustice. It is not flesh and blood that we are in battle with, and when we recognize that our little feelings of revenge towards our enemies are directed in the wrong place, we can then shift our focus to elevating God and submitting to his will and trusting that He has it all under control and HE DOES! God knows exactly what he is doing!

Blessings to you all!  Let not your heart be troubled!

P.S. To keep me writing, and not letting it go by the wayside by busy schedules, I have decided to pick a day out of the week designated to blog- so Thursday it is.

Be Still

Hi Everyone!

Its been almost a month since my last post. It’s been so busy. It’s a lame excuse though.

I have been going through the Psalms for a quite a while now, and this morning, Psalm 46 jumped out to me in a new and fresh way. This is a famous Psalm that speaks of God’s sovereignty, strength, mightiness and holiness, and we have all heard “Be still and know that I am God.” I have to be honest, I have a real problem being still. My mind is always going 90 to nothing. I am thinking of 1400 things that need to be done, even when I am trying to sleep I am bombarded with thoughts that won’t stop. I even get to thinking on theological things sometimes to where my brain starts hurting. Ever been there? In a way I kind of feel like a 3 year old, you know how toddlers squirm, and want to touch everything, and don’t want to listen. Well yeah thats me a lot of the time. I can’t sit still, I need to be doing something. And if I am sitting still, my mind is not sitting still. My mind is squirming and swirling and yes sometimes I don’t want to listen.

I wonder if God, is saying, “sit still child!” Well he is! It says it in Psalm 46. Too much busy-ness and preoccupation can get in the way of our communion with God. This is what I jotted down in my Bible in the margins that was a blessing to me, and I hope you can meditate on this and it is a blessing to you as well.

Be still; He is my refuge

Be still; He is my strength

Be still; He is most high

Be still; He is my help

Be still; He is with me

Be still; He is working

Be still; He is holy

Be still; HE IS GOD

Try putting “Be still” in front of whatever your facing, and then follow it with a truth and promise of God.

He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He will never leave you or forsake you.

Blessings to you all!

Johanna

 

 

 

Worship and Fullness

Dear readers below I have a guest writer, my dad. This subject is something we can all relate too. I found it very helpful, as I can be a worrier and this can consume me sometime if I let it. Here is the antidote. No matter the circumstance we are going through this should be our response. Enjoy and be blessed!  –Johanna

 

WORSHIP AND FULLNESS

In Ephesians 5:18 we are told to be:
FILLED with Holy Spirit,
SPEAKING to one another in Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,
SINGING and MAKING MELODY in our hearts TO THE LORD

In other words we should be a walking, talking, singing worship service. Why? Because we are the temple of God.
What I am finding is that prayer without ceasing is worship without ceasing. This brings an impenetrable peace and joy because praise and honor to the Lord drives out every evil. Nothing can break through the WALL OF PRAISE and THANKSGIVING!

Our minds never stop! Even when we are thinking about one thing it is always undergirded by some other thought–attitude–worry. Let the foundation of your mind be intentional in the praise and all the other thoughts will be established on a firm foundation The superstructure of your mind will be filled with glory!

Ask the Lord to perfect praise from your heart! Remember, He said, “out of the mouths of babes God has PERFECTED praise!

Ken Harris

 

Priorities.

I was with my cousin Lindsey a few days ago hanging out at the mall, we were ooh-ing and ah-ing as we were looking in all these expensive stores that we would in no way be able to afford. My cousin and I love to shop!  Every year on New Years Day we meet up and go to the huge Dillard’s sale. We wait outside in the line with all the crazed shopaholics, just waiting to score that great deal! Anyway, we are walking around the mall and I am saying how I want this and want that, and then my cousin started to tell me a story. She said, “well I was just humbled recently.” My ears perked up, “Really? What happened?” She began to tell me about this young family that she knew through her husband. The parents were in their 30’s and they had two young children. The wife’s father had died several years earlier from a rare form of colon cancer. Lindsey went on to say that they found this rare cancer in the daughter. She was diagnosed and only lived a few more months. She died leaving behind her husband and young children. Lindsey said this family was active in their church and faith and just all around a family to admire. Here’s the clincher!  Lindsey then went on to say that on her death-bed, the last thing she told her husband was,

“Run to Jesus, cause that’s all that matters.”

She didn’t say walk, she said, “run!” There was urgency. I stood there in the mall feeling humbled myself. Priorities.

I thought about my good friend Donna who just died of ovarian cancer. Her last words to everyone, that I was honored to sing at her memorial service at her request was,

“Give me Jesus, you can have all this world, but give me Jesus.”

Priorities.

Not long ago my brother was at home and he witnessed a fatal car accident right outside his house. He told us the story, he heard the terrible crash. Emergency crews were on their way, but the young driver didn’t make it. My brother told us he bent down over the body and said,

“Look to Jesus.”

This tears me up just thinking about it. Priorities.

A couple of weeks ago I was at Goodwill, a local resale shop. As I was browsing one of the clerks and I started chatting, just small talk, but the small talk soon turned into something more. Robyn, the clerk started opening up to me and telling me of her anxiety and how paralyzing it was, she worried about something catastrophic happening all the time. As she was telling me this, her eyes started to well up with tears. I started to feel my eyes tearing up. I reached out and gave her a hug. I really did understand, because I deal with anxiety too. I shared my own sufferings with her, and how I could empathize. I told her I would be praying for her and I walked off. I prayed silently, “Lord, Oh Lord, what do I say to her? What should I do?”  I went up to the cash register to check out and she was standing there. I told her,

“Look to the Lord. Nothing else will fill that space but Him.”

I gave her another hug and left. Priorities.

It’s easy to get our priorities out of whack, but here recently I have had several incidents that keep shouting, “JESUS!”  I know when you put him first everything else falls into its rightful place.

Blessings,

Johanna

 

Loving Your Neighbor in the Public Square

I have never understood when a person says they aren’t political or they don’t care about politics. I have seen so many times people turning a deaf ear to anything having to do with current affairs. They just can’t be bothered with any of that. How can they not see that by not caring they are literally giving up their rights and freedoms by just not doing anything at all. They are in a sense handing over their lives to the state. The corrupt group are hoping that more and more people won’t care that much or won’t want to be educated on history and our constitution and our roll as “we the people.”

I was talking with a friend and she said “they are all corrupt, I don’t care anything about politics. All politics are corrupt.” My first thought was this is exactly what the corrupt would have you believe, so you will just go on with your life so THEY can take over your life. My second thought was how do you know it’s all corrupt? What do you mean it’s all corrupt? I believe there is corruption most definitely, but I also believe there are people in political office that are sincerely wanting to uphold the rights of the people and do the right thing. Let’s say that even if every person in  political office were corrupt, does that give them the right to take over my life? Do I just resign myself?

Our founding fathers knew all too well about what too much power could do and that corruption is inevitable in fallen man. They knew we needed a checks and balance system. No one man or group of people should have too much power. Everyone should be held accountable.

So my next question is, if you don’t care about politics, you must not care about life, about liberty, and about the pursuit of happiness. These three things are our natural rights given by our creator. You cannot say you care about those rights if you say you don’t care about politics and don’t vote and simply want to hide under a rock. By taking this stance, you are in contradiction and quite frankly disingenuous.

This is exactly how the nazis took over Germany. The people didn’t speak up, they let it happen by their silence. I hate to say it but they played a part in the Nazi take over. Martin Luther King Jr. said,

“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

We the people, have a voice and we can use it or we can abuse it or we can even worse, be silent!

This brings me to the church. I am appalled at how many Christians don’t vote. Think of the impact and the good that Christians could do if they pulled their heads out of the sand, and got involved in the public square. The argument I hear is that these matters are not what we should be worried about, we just need to be worried about the Kingdom of God, and souls being saved. Of course this is our priority, but this does not mean that we ignore the things that are happening here on earth. How can you not speak out about millions of lives being killed through abortion? How can you not speak out against religious liberty being taken away. It matters very much who gets in office. Yes God is in control ultimately, but God doesn’t ask us to be irresponsible. God uses us as a vessel, we need to make ourselves available and ready to speak for the things that God cares about. What if those that spoke out and broke the chains of slavery said oh I can’t be bothered with that?

If there is outright evil acts going on, is it not the right thing to speak out, to make my voice known. Oh I hear, well what can just one voice do? For as many times as I have heard that, and if those people decided to be proactive, that one voice turns into multiple voices really fast! On a side note, who are you to say that your voice won’t make a difference!? God has used one voice many times throughout history to make huge impacts. More and more our liberties are being taken away, we can’t afford to be silent.

I plead especially with Christians, if you truly love and care about your neighbor as we are instructed to do, please think about the importance of your voice and take action. This does not mean you have to run for office, but maybe that might be your call. We need more Christians in the local offices and in the school boards, but even if this is not what your called to do, we are ALL called to love our neighbor and loving our neighbor includes helping to protect their life and liberty. If you saw someone stealing from your neighbor, would you not immediately speak out? Well the government is stealing from you and your neighbor, so what are you going to do go back inside your house, bake a pie and take it to your neighbor?

Please don’t turn a deaf ear!

 

Prayerfully,

Johanna