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.

 

Advertisements

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

A Fairy Tale Truth. What?

 

I just recently finished a journal by a wonderful Christian author, John Eldredge, called the “Journey of Desire.” If you want to awaken your heart to depths that you didn’t know possible this is the book for you. It was not an easy journal to go through. It’s not one you can rush through by any means, but it is so worth it! I started it back in the spring and I just finished it. I am sure I will do many blogs in the future based off my expedition through this book, but for today it’s fairy tales.  Who doesn’t like a good fairy tale? If it’s not a fairy tale, maybe it’s your favorite movie. I remember my dad and I always talking about movies after we saw them and how it touched our hearts, and what about the story moved us.

I love fairy tales. They evoke longing in my heart. My heart comes alive when I read or watch these stories. I am going to give 4 examples of stories that have touched my heart and why.

CINDERELLA – This is a favorite of many girls. For me, what stands out and calls to my heart, is here we have a girl who is forced in slavery, she remains true and loyal and comes out victorious having all her dreams come true. She is singled out by the prince himself. What is so amazing and pulls at my heart as being noble and something to attain is even in her slavery she remained content. She had a peace and joy about her that no one could steal from her even her wicked step mom and step sisters. This bothered them so much. Wickedness can hardly bear that kind of peace and joy. They tried so hard to rob and steal her of it, but despite her circumstances she remained good-hearted Cinderella. Doesn’t this sound familiar? You can draw many biblical passages to go with this. What comes to mind for you?

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST – For Belle(Beauty), she shows the human capacity to be able to see under the mask and see a person for who they are not what they look like by outward appearances. This is a noble quality–not to judge a book by its cover. The beast on the other hand has a different story to be told. The beast has to learn to get over himself, stop looking in the mirror with judgment and disgust, so that he can allow people to love him just as he is. He has to let go of his ego and pride. For me, I do so often want to try to see the good in people and not judge them by their cover, and yet I relate with the beast more than anything. Yes I’m a bit of a beast. I will look in the mirror and quite honestly see a beast. I want to isolate and hide and this makes it very hard to accept love from anyone. Alas God is breaking down those barriers in my life.

FRED AND GINGER – When I was a teenager something drew me to this fantastic silver screen couple. I was so captivated by the way they were so in sync. Every move they made dancing together was if they were one not two. I was hypnotized by it. It really was like perfection. What does this sound like to you? The truth that comes out for me here is we long for total oneness, perfection, paradise. This in a way shadows that for me. When we are in Christ we desire to be more and more perfected to be fully in sync with him and one with him. As He moves we move in sync with him. No battle, no struggle. Just effortlessly following his lead!

WIZARD OF OZ – Lastly is one of all time favorites! I watched this so many times as a kid and as an adult that I can literally recite the movie line for line. Just ask my husband! He has heard it maybe not to his delight. LOL! Anyway this movie is about a girl seeking adventure, wanting more, her heart is bursting with desire, and she is going after it. You know the story. Once she gets out on her adventure, she soon realizes that her desire is for home. She longs for home. Her adventure and what she was looking for was not somewhere over the rainbow. As you know most of the movie is trying to get home. How many times are we trying to seek out adventure to fulfill our happiness and longing only to find out that it doesn’t suffice and we are left with a void, saying just get my home. We as Christians,  this life is a little like wandering around in Oz, it’s not home, and we long for our real home. Jesus is our guiding light through this alien land. He is helping us through it and soon and very soon we will be home.

What is speaking to you? Fairy tale? A movie? A song? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Blessings to you all! Have a blessed weekend!

Johanna

 

 

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

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