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

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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

 

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!

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

Eternity in our Hearts

 

Well this is another blog on eternity. This is one topic I can’t seem to stop talking about. I am forever talking about eternity. 🙂

It is hard to wrap our minds around the infinite. I remember as a kid talking to my dad about outer space and the universe. I was in awe over the fact that if you kept going up into space you would never hit a wall that says no outlet, rather you could keep traveling forward. WOW! I could see where the desire to be an astronaut would be appealing; to be able to study this incredible universe. Its amazing, but yet unfathomable all at the same time.

We trust a lot in things that will all eventually fail us and come to an end. We trust in money to keep us stable. We trust in the loyalty  and presence of loved ones. We trust in medicine, exercise to keep our health in tact. We trust in the intellect to help us feel in control. We can even trust in doctrine and theology. In Ecclesiastes we read, all of this is meaningless on its own merits without God. To everything there is a season, a time and a purpose. Why would we want to put our whole hearted trust in these things, without God these things have no meaning.

God on the other hand has no end. He is ever increasing. He will never fail us. I was thinking how so many don’t give any thought to eternity. It seems easier to live for the now, but yet all the same time we were created for eternity, so no matter how we try to escape the thought of eternity, it is written in our hearts. The trap is we try to substitute this longing in our hearts for eternity for finite things that come to an end. St. Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they can find rest in you.” This is an ongoing journey. On this earth we have to deal with the restless struggle, but we choose to respond to it by falling at the feet of Jesus every day. He renews us daily. We must be renewed daily. We can’t just store up for a week and think that is going to sustain us. It doesn’t work that way just like we get hungry for food. We could eat a huge meal if we wanted, but the next day we will have to eat again to be nourished or we will whither away. Our hearts and souls are no different. We hunger for eternity, for God who is never ending, who never runs empty, who never fails. Why fill this hunger with cheap substitutes that don’t nourish that don’t satisfy? Its a trap, the substitute might seem appetizing but its death in the end. Its like the irony of being on a boat thirsty, seeing ocean water all around, but knowing that if you drank of that water it would kill you.

It seems so simple, yet we can be so foolish. We have two choices, choose the finite or choose the infinite. Trust in everything that will eventually come to and end, or trust in the One who has no end. Trust in the thing that only leads to death or trust in Him who is the giver of life.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to hit a wall that says no outlet. I want to keep traveling forward discovering the wonder and awe of God and all the while being filled up with Jesus, the only one who can fully satisfy. I daily want to get on the rocket ship of my heart, and set out on the journey that He has set before me. I don’t want to just live a hum- drum Christian life only saying and doing all the appropriate things, but rather I want to live it with my whole being. Will you join me?

Eternally His,

Johanna

 

Know the Power of Forgiveness

God is a forgiver. I am so thankful he is a merciful God. In Psalm 51 the Psalmist is crying out to God continually over his sin. You can hear the sorrow in this Psalm. He knows the depth of his sin.

In the pulpits, everywhere, there is much talk about God’s forgiveness, and though this is true, we can not know the power and depth of that forgiveness and how that applies to us until we know the depth of our sin. This is nothing new, but it is something that we should never tire hearing. The reality of forgiveness comes with the reality of sin. There is no forgiveness if we know nothing to be forgiven. God delights in truth in our inward being, and that truth is we are unclean without Jesus. Rejoice in our brokenness because we know that life and forgiveness comes when we lay it down. Stare down sin in all of it’s fullness, so you can know forgiveness in all of its power. Don’t dismiss the sin and jump to forgiveness; that would be a grave mistake. Stare it down, realize it, know it, see all the ugliness of it. Then and only then can we know the the real blessing and joy of forgiveness. It will mean so much more. It will resonate to the inner being.

Every sacrifice that is made is worthless if we don’t first bring the sacrifice of a broken spirit. You can sacrifice your time, your money, your resources, your talents and gifts; it means nothing to God if a broken spirit does not precede it.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit for they shall see God!”

The vast ocean of forgiveness is given to us, but we won’t realize it or see it’s wonder working power until we stop ignoring the mountain of sin that stands between us and God.

“Create in me a clean heart, Oh God. And renew a right spirit within me.”

 

 

 

Are You Seeing Without REALLY Seeing?

Have you ever had a time where someone skilled at something attempted to show and explain something to you? The answers were right there in front of your face, but you just couldn’t see it–see it with understanding that is. I am a piano teacher and one of the duties is to teach sight reading. I watch these little kids try to make sense of what is on the page and make it sound like music. They have not been taught what the notes on the page mean, they surly see the notes, but they mean nothing but a big blob of black ink. If they only knew that the meaning behind the black blob of ink is beautiful music. To unlock the beautiful music you have to be able to see it, REALLY see it with understanding. How do we come to know how to read music? Don’t we need someone in the know to show us–someone who is wise to the truth of unlocking the mystery behind the big blob of ink? We don’t come to this knowledge from within ourselves, we don’t have the keys, no pun intended.

So it is with the things of God. We can see it but are we REALLY seeing it? Does it penetrate to the heart and do we see it with understanding to then be able to unlock the beautiful mystery behind the person of Jesus. We can’t see Jesus for who he really is until our eyes have been opened with understanding. The pharisees in the Bible-the religious group, claimed to see, but they were blind. The way to godliness and truth, is not through trying to show that we already know, but that we don’t know. Humility will lead us into the right direction. I think admitting we are pretty stupid is a great place to start when aiming for godliness and then ask questions. Don’t be contented to just stay in the dark. God will honor this, and always will answer and open our eyes when we come in humility, seeking Him.

I truly believe the way to deeper sight into the things of God is through trials. C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers in our pleasure, but shouts in our pain.” God doesn’t want us to be in pain, but he is able to use it. The true test to our faith is  in tough situations, through conflict, through adversity. The test to where our faith is truly placed is revealed in these circumstances. It’s easy to say we believe when all is well and things are going smooth, it is quite another when the boat gets to rocking and the storms start raging, when people start letting you down. These are times where real growth happens, when we are forced to confront what we say we see and what we REALLY see.

I don’t claim to know it all, but I do know the one who does, and I will continue to follow Him, so that my sight can become more keen. My vision is not perfect, but as I come in humility, the eyes of my understanding are opened a little more all the time and Jesus just gets clearer and clearer.

 

 

 

 

Love? Good? Define.

In Romans 12:1 the apostle Paul says, “Let love be genuine, abhor what is evil, hold fast to what is good.”

With the redefinition of words, we can’t be too careful to examine love and goodness, and whether or not we are seeing it by the biblical definition or the worldly definition. These are polar opposites but one is cleverly disguised and can be very appealing and tempting. If we don’t know what good is, how can we know what love is?

Isaiah the prophet warned, “woe to them that call evil good, and good evil. Even thousands of years ago people were trying to redefine what is good. So this has been an age-old problem. Satan’s cunning way to deceive us is to get us to believe that evil is not actually evil but instead good. The world has been painting a picture with the redefinition of marriage and if you aren’t on your guard and rooted in scripture you will be second guessing the truth about marriage. You will be painted a hater, a bigot, and the pressure could possibly get you to back down and give in. No one wants to be the bad guy, but the true Christian that stands up for scripture and Jesus will make you feel like the bad guy sometimes. If we aren’t careful, that feeling will make us think I am not loving or I am not good. It’s a lie from the pit of hell. The enemy wants to steer you far from the real meaning of love and goodness. He is clever, slick, and if you think you aren’t capable of being deceived, beware he already has you deceived by your own self-righteousness. We are all capable of being deceived. The only way to prevent this is to stay sober-minded, guarding our hearts with the truth of scripture and prayer.

Revenge can also look like “good.” In the movies, don’t we love to see the bad guy get beat, hit, and killed. It is not as popular to see  the good guy stand strong, set boundaries yes, but act mercifully and forgive. It is just not as satisfying is it? When that man opened fire in a Methodist church recently, the world was shocked at the response of the families to the killer. They were grieving, hurt, and I am sure angry, but they didn’t repay evil for evil, they chose to forgive and show mercy. This is not natural and it is only done by obeying what scripture says and going against your feelings. I am quite sure that they had feelings that were not as honorable. It would be easy to get a shot-gun, go hunt the guy down and kill him and then say loudly, this was good! He deserved it! I am a hero! It is a feeling that will not satisfy and will leave us empty. What is good? Not repaying evil for evil.

Goodness and fairness are not one in the same. This is a lie. Don’t be deceived by this. Goodness is not equality. We sure do hear a lot about equal rights. Philippians 2:6 says, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant being born in the likeness of men.” Almighty God humbled himself becoming one of us, he came not with crowns and material riches, but as a lowly servant. This is not popular by the world’s standards. The world says get what you deserve, this is good. You deserve it.

The biggest redefinition of good is when we stand before God after this life and He says, depart from me I never knew you.” …….But God, I went to church every week, I gave to the poor, I loved my family, I took communion, I was baptized, I WAS GOOD! Being good doesn’t get you into heaven. Jesus, who is perfectly righteous and good is our only way to heaven. If we try to get to heaven on our definition of good, it won’t work. 

Everything good comes from God. Jesus is the ultimate definition of good. We can choose to do a lot of good things but that alone doesn’t define goodness. All the good acts will mean nothing when we stand before God without Jesus. Don’t try to measure goodness without Jesus because it will never add up. The fact that we can even do anything good is through the grace of God. We need to be reminded of this truth.  Lets not get confused with the definition of love and goodness. When we view goodness as only coming down from the Father above, we are also seeing genuine love. Genuine love is in Jesus. It is not a feeling. Don’t be deceived and ruled by your feelings. You will come up empty every time.

Gentleness and Goodness Exam

Gentleness.

What do you picture when you think of gentleness? I think of words like, delicate, meek, humility. What’s the opposite of gentle? Careless, reckless, prideful, harsh. Gentleness is definitely a Christian characteristic. If you are a Christian, how does this fruit of the spirit fit into your daily life? Are you doing a good job of representing Jesus by being gentle?  Is there a sense of calm and humility that you show towards God and to others? Are you worried about equality or are you like Jesus, coming as a servant?

Goodness.

When I am sick, God is good. When I am well, God is good. When I am rich, God is good. When I am poor, God is good When I am alone, God is good. When I am not alone, God is good. When I am happy, God is good. When I am sad, God is good. I could name a million circumstances and feelings and God will always be good. God will always be perfectly righteous and holy making everything right no matter what my circumstance or feeling. “God works all things together for good of those who love him, to him that are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Feelings and circumstances come and go, but God is always good. I rejoice in this because in this upside down, fleeting world with so many changes, I can rest in knowing that God is the same yesterday today and forever.  There could be nothing good without Him. He is the creator of everything good. Every good gift is from the Father above. Goodness displayed in us would be  wanting what is right, honorable, and true, for God and others. Goodness can be demonstrated in all kinds of ways, but it always is up-right, true and honorable. Does your life show the goodness that comes through God alone?

We need Jesus everyday to display gentleness and goodness. It’s easy to fall into wanting our rights, equality first above everything else. Seek Jesus and when you do ask him for more of his gentleness and goodness so that more people would see Jesus and come to repentance.

Jesus, Give me more gentleness and goodness.