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

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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.

 

 

 

 

I Skipped Over Kindness

Kindness is oh so easy when people are kind to you but when they are against you, the very last natural thing to feel is kindness. Yesterday I had an incident that tested me on this. I implemented some new policies in my music studio and i had a parent protest. She threatened to maybe quit lessons. I tell you my first response was anxiety and defense. I had been preparing for a revolt. After a few professional  email exchanges I thought to myself, “I am being reasonable. Why can’t she get that?” Later that night, I was in bed doing some reading and I realized I had skipped “kindness” in the fruit of the Spirit blogs. I thought, “Lord are you telling me what I think you are telling me? This lady needs kindness?! But Lord……….she doesn’t value me, she is taking advantage of me. I can’t!

Then I thought about the fact that Jesus still set boundaries. Kindness doesn’t mean that you don’t stand firm or let people run you over. In Matthew 10 Jesus told the disciples go and preach and if they hear you, stay and if they don’t, leave. Jesus was saying we can’t control anyone’s response. We just have to send the message. The message is kind, it is looking for the person’s best interest. The gospel message is kind but it is also offensive. It inconveniences our selfish life.

My policy that I put into place was for the benefit of my students to get the very best from me as a teacher. I can’t control her response. I have to let it go. If she won’t listen and hear, I have to shake the dust off my feet and leave in peace. This is kindness. Trying to prove myself or defend myself is stirring up more strife and that wouldn’t be kind. Being gentle yet firm and respectful in my responses is kind. Letting go and not feeling resentful is kind. Letting her make her own decision and not manipulating her is kind.

Jesus loves us so much, He died for us. Jesus doesn’t force us to come to him. This is kindness, even though we miss out on the eternal benefits when we walk away from Jesus. It is still kindness when we allow others to make their own decisions. God didn’t create robots. He wants us to come to him willingly.

So in short, Jesus set boundaries. Jesus was kind in setting those boundaries. It’s not just good enough to set a boundary, we need to do it with kindness. Don’t skip over kindness.

The Redemption Story in 4 part harmony

As I listen to sacred choral music of the Renaissance period and read Isaiah 52:7(see at bottom of the page), it is fitting. The music has a soaring sound as if traveling from the top of a mountain and raining down on those below. Technically speaking the bass and soprano are on the outer parts of choral voicing. It has an encompassing, surrounding effect. The frequency that these voices create in and of themselves serve that purpose. The basses lay a firm foundation while the lofty sopranos have a lifting effect. They both surround the tenor and alto filling out the chord and complimenting. Music can make its most dramatic and full effect when its all working together. Random sounds and chaos don’t create a very nice sound.

This is how I hear it……..

The basses sing, “How lovely is our Savior that entered mankind walking the lowly path. How blessed are the feet of Jesus that walked in our place.

He brought good news when up to that point the news was tragic. Jesus died in our place laying the foundation but the story doesn’t end there.

The sopranos sing, “HE IS RISEN! HE REIGNS! This is the good news of salvation!”

The basses sing, Jesus’ sacrifice is our firm foundation!”  

The sopranos declare,  “His resurection is our hope and salvation.”

The alto and tenors sing, “Let us receive this blessed gift! He surround us, and we will follow His lead.”

What a glorious sound when we all together sing:

The bass, soprano, alto and tenor sing, We are His hands and feet bringing good news to a tragic world. How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news! OUR GOD REIGNS! OUR GOD REIGNS! FOREVER HE REIGNS!”

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Isaiah 52:7