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

 

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.

A Conversation With a Friend- Religion and Spirituality

The word religion is not a popular one today. It seems many people look at it with a negative connotation. Even Christians want to steer away from using the word, saying things like, “it’s a relationship not religion.” There was a video that went viral a few years ago called by Jefferson Bethke called, “Why I hate religion, but love Jesus. I have even found myself trying to avoid that word when speaking of Jesus or Christianity. I hear people say, “she/he is very religious” another phrase I hear a lot is, “I am not religious, I am spiritual.

I had lunch with a good friend. We got into this conversation. She said she saw herself as spiritual but not religious. I asked, “what does that mean to you?” I really genuinely wanted to know because I myself did not know what that really meant to her. She said, “well religion had a negative association, and she felt “religious” meant rigid and set in their ways not willing to budge. This was a paraphrase from what I recall. Anyway she saw it as strict and unwavering. She also said she did not agree with being held to a man-made set of beliefs written out and using that as your only guide, and she mentioned the Bible. She did not like “organized religion.” I hear that term “organized” and never understood it. If you don’t like religion just say you don’t like religion. Why put the organized part in front of it? It sounds like you might consider chaotic or random religion.

My dad asked me the day before I met with my friend, “How do you keep from worshiping the Bible instead of the God of the Bible?” I thought for a minute, and I said, “prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to search my heart and worship in spirit and in truth. I mentioned this to my friend. A side note, my friend grew up in a very legalistic, religious home, they attended a church that is considered now to be a cult. She even admitted to having deep emotional ties to the topic and even having a distorted view of these things. Can you blame her?

So Back to the story, I told her it’s about spirit and truth. My view of when people say they are spiritual is they are really attracted to the spirit side, which is where longing and desire resides. We all have this deep within our spirits. We have a need to understand our origin, meaning, morality, and destiny. These questions as Ravi Zacharias  says, will have to be answered at some point in our lives. Our spirit longs for these things to be answered. Worship in spirit is only part of the equation, the other essential part is truth. I expressed to my friend to ask herself what she truly believes, and if what she believes is true.  It’s only rational to test our belief systems. She in essence said well, we can’t really know, because our perspectives are all skewed based on our experiences and our emotional attachments. I have heard this argument before, that we can’t know for sure. This doesn’t add up, I told her if we can’t know or if it is not possible, we should have never found out that it was impossible, we should just exist. CS Lewis said, “If the universe has no meaning, we should have never found out that it has no meaning. We humans have something different in us than every other species. We need the questions of origin, meaning, morality and destiny answered. This is essential in our human need. She is right when she says our experience and emotion can take over and lead us but I don’t think it’s impossible to see through it. I believe the Holy Spirit can knock the lenses right out of our glasses so we can see the truth. When we are really open to finding the truth and seeking the truth genuinely, I believe God honors that. “Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened.” At the end of the day, if someone asked me are you religious or spiritual, I would say both. Religion is simply a system of beliefs that we adhere to make our decisions on origin, meaning, morality, and destiny. I definitely think we are made for an organized system, because our origin is organized, our meaning and morality is organized and our destiny is organized. We aren’t made for randomness. The only organized set of beliefs that seem to answer these questions rationally, logically and experiential is Christianity. So am I religious? Sure. Am I spiritual? You bet. I am a spirit. This body is wasting away but my spirit is being renewed daily and preparing for eternity. My spirituality is how I commune with God. It is where my deepest longings and desires are. It’s how I can have a thriving relationship with Jesus.

What are your thoughts on this? I would love to know how you would respond in this context.

Blessings,

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.”

 

 

 

Whatever is True

One of my favorite verses in scripture is “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things” Philippians 4:8. I admit I would think of this verse with warm feelings, maybe even a bit shallow. I would think of this wonderful paradise a sort of utopia or even comparable to that feeling on Christmas morning. As I have been reading and studying it other ideas began to pop out at me–a very different idea than I have had in the past.

The first virtue that the apostle Paul states was “whatever is true.” This got my wheels turning. Is truth easy to think about? Does it even maybe give us pain at times? When Isaiah saw the truth of God in all His holiness, He began to see the reality of His sinfulness. He said “Woe is me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Isaiah was clearly in anguish over this revelation. He had been exposed. I don’t know about you, but I have encountered times in my life that I had to face the truth about something and it was painful and even sometimes traumatizing. This sort of puts a damper on the warm fuzzy feeling.

Can we really think genuinely of what is noble and right and pure, lovely and admirable if we don’t first come to know what is true? Truth is what gives reality meaning. If we don’t first define truth, we are left defining all the latter attributes by what standard? Without truth, you will have a false security in everything. I understand that the only way to genuine righteousness, genuine purity, genuine nobility, genuine compassion, genuine love, and genuine forgiveness is when I understand the very truth of my own brokenness. When we cross this threshold from death to self and walk into true life eternal within the person of Jesus, we will find the absolute blessed freedom that we longed for. He does not fail. He will not fail.

In His love,

Johanna

Jesus Doesn’t Care About the Easter Nod.

Well here it is again…….easter eggs, peeps, chocolate bunnies, lilies, and the biggest church attendance day out of the year. Now wait, I am not being cynical. Don’t yell at me. I like bunnies, and I like painting easter eggs. Peeps are great too, especially when you let them get a little stale. I am really NOT the Easter nazi. Here me out.

What is Easter about? We know it’s  about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, but what does this really mean? It’s about the power of the cross of Christ. It’s about fellowship with the Lord. It’s about being formed into the likeness of him. It’s about Jesus paying for our sins. It’s about Jesus giving new life. It’s about Jesus living in me. It’s about the love that he poured out on the cross for me. It’s about the fact that I am no longer condemned. I am free! I am forgiven.  It’s about having unending joy through Jesus. It’s about everlasting peace, by way of the Prince of Peace. It’s about my savior, my Lord, who I serve forever. THIS IS BIG STUFF! This is EVERYTHING! Jesus doesn’t look at a holiday and say, “why thank you for observing me this one day out of the year.” The true meaning of Easter is not about a single day of the year, that we decide to put on our Sunday’s best and pay homage to this man named Jesus. The true meaning of Easter is Jesus IS alive! He’s not just alive one day a year. NO! NO! NO! When we accept his gift by way of the cross, Jesus is alive in us everyday of every moment of the year. I want to start waking up every morning shouting “HE IS RISEN!” I want every normal day to be a declaration of the Risen Savior. I want the end of my life to have one message, his name is Jesus!

So no, God doesn’t give points for the Easter nod. God looks at the heart. He wants YOU! All of YOU! Once you taste this Water of Life, you won’t want anything else. You won’t just want to give an Easter nod, you will want to live your life for Him. 

 Will you declare with me not just this Easter but every day, HE IS RISEN! This old natural life is put to death by way of the cross. Keep coming back to the cross. I AM MADE ALIVE THROUGH JESUS! 

 HAPPY EASTER!