Free and Clear

In my prayer time over the past few week, a phrase continues to haunt me. I’m praying some Jericho sized prayer, and the phrase just keeps popping into my brain.

When I think of free and clear, I think of ownership. But this Easter, perhaps I think differently.  Perhaps “Free and Clear” really means what we are through Jesus.  Because of the price that Jesus paid for us on the cross, we are “free and clear” of sin.

Free and clear. In Christ Jesus

Blessings,

SB

Copyright 2018 Journey For Life. All rights reserved

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One-Two-Three-Thumb!

I told my piano students tonight that I would have to write a book called “one-two-three-THUMB!”  In practicing scales, I have noticed that, for some reason, the most common mistake that I see in my piano students is in the fingering of their scales.  With their hands separate, and only one hand to focus on, it goes fine.  As they play up the scales, their fingers play on the keys:  1-2-3-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-1-2-3-4-5.. and back down again.. 5-4-3-2-1-3-2-1-4-3-2-1-3-2-1…   but for some reason, when they put both hands together… and one of them is supposed to play 1-2-3-1-2-3-4… while the other one plays 5-4-3-2-1-3-2-…  they lose their minds and play 1-2-3-4 instead of 1-2-3-1.   I find myself continuing to holler “one-two-three-THUMB!”  With the latest students to whom I taught scales, I began their scale lesson by simply having them practice C-D-E-F using their right hand: 1-2-3-1 fingering over, and over, and over again, and C-B-A-G with their left hand: 1-2-3-1 fingering over, and over, and over again, until I thought it would be possible to do it together.

Over and over and over and over..  that’s how they need to practice it in order to develop the muscle memory for their fingers to go where they need to go when the time comes.

Scales are important to a piano student (even though relatively few believe they are “fun”) because they build dexterity in our fingers, and help to prepare us to play more complicated works.  Developing good scale habits positions us to play very complicated pieces of music with ease.

With only one hand to focus on, we can get it right.. but when we add another hand, our mind gets distracted, and if we haven’t committed our fingering to memory, it is likely that we will get it wrong.

As I thought about this tonight, I realized that it’s a little like focusing on Jesus.  When we’re away at a spiritual retreat, or with friends or families who believe like us, it is easy to focus on Jesus.  But when we add “the other hand” and the distractions of life, if we haven’t committed to the things of Jesus, when the distractions come, we may get it wrong.

With my students, the lesson that I teach them is to do it over and over, thousands of times, until it becomes like second nature.  That’s what we need to do with Jesus, too.  Spend so much time focusing on Him that it becomes second nature to us.   Then, and only then, can we focus on Him when the distractions come our way.

I challenge you tonight, to repeat your spiritual scales over and over and over again, developing the spiritual dexterity needed to navigate busy lives.  Developing our spiritual dexterity so that it becomes second nature positions us to be able to do more complicated works for the kingdom.

Blessings,

SB

 

 

 

Now you know

There are many choices in life, but only two in eternity. You choose.

Last summer, my husband and I attended a wedding. The groom was the son of a man my husband hunts with, whom we got to know nearly thirty years ago while we were dating. The officiant for the wedding was a friend of theirs that they called, “Cuddy”. I had met Cuddy for the first time nearly thirty years ago, just one time. He was a little rough around the edges and he liked to party, so years later, when my husband told me he was a pastor, I thought, “ok, he probably got a license off the internet so he could perform the wedding”. I wasn’t expecting very much. The friends that would be at the wedding also liked to party so, as I got ready for the wedding, I wasn’t expecting much.

We arrived at the wedding, which was held in a barn. It was a unusually hot September day in Western Pennsylvania and the seating for the ceremony was in the hot sun. My husband and I sat on the right hand side and our friends all sat near us. Shortly before the ceremony began, Cuddy went to the front of the makeshift alter and asked everyone to pause for a moment to pray for the day, the event, the guests, attendants and the couple getting married. I’ve played for many weddings, but never have I seen a pastor stop the prelude music to pray for the wedding couple.

The music resumed and the attendants made their way down the aisle toward the alter. After they were all up front, and the sweat began to bead on their brows, Cuddy began. He welcomed everyone and said that he knew it was hot, but that he had a short message that he knew he needed to share. He said that he knew, as soon as the couple asked him to perform the ceremony, what he wanted to share.

He began by talking about how, when he was a little boy, his family lived across the street from a church. He attended the church for years, but never really heard the message. He grew up, and married, and had children. His wife would take the kids to church and Vacation Bible School when they were little. His children came home from VBS all excited to share the songs that they had learned with him. As they sang about the stories of the Bible, he was embarrassed because they sang about things he didn’t know, even though he grew up in church. He said, “I didn’t know”. He didn’t want his children to know he didn’t know, so he waited until they went to bed that night, and shared with his wife how embarrassed he was. He opened a Bible and began and began to study the stories, and as he did that, the Holy Spirit got ahold of his heart and began to change it. He developed a passion to know more, and as he sought, God shaped him into who He wanted him to be. It wasn’t instantaneous, but God began to shape his thoughts and his life, until he got to a place where he surrendered his whole life to Christ. He went on to share a salvation message to all of the people who were there, and gave an open invitation for them to accept Christ as he had done.

When he learned of the opportunity to perform the wedding ceremony, he knew immediately that he wanted to share his testimony with his friends, many of whom had known him, like I did, before God got ahold of his life.

By this point, I was sitting beside my husband, dumbfounded, trying to hold back tears. Then he said this: “There are some of you here today who didn’t know. Now you know”.

See, we have a choice of what we do with the words that we hear. There are many choices in life, but only two in eternity. Now you know.

Copyright 2018. Journey For Life. All rights reserved.

My Everything

On Sunday evening, our church hosted a musical event – kind of a “talent show” of our musicians.  I was blessed to be able to accompany my twelve-year-old daughter, who sang a couple of songs.  One of them was a song that I had prayed at my keyboard nearly five years ago, the night before the funeral of an eleven-year-old boy.  I truly believe that God gave us music to help us pray.

Trent was a normal fifth-grade boy, doing normal fifth-grade boy things.  When he got sick with the flu, his mother took him to the doctor. They watched his symptoms for a few days, and they seemed to get worse instead of better before he was admitted to the hospital.  Both his mother and father are colleagues of mine, and I was shocked when Melissa told me that the doctors were concerned that Trent might not live.  I prayed hard, and believed that God would save this boy –  I mean, what perfectly healthy boy dies of the flu, right?

Sadly, Trent died a short time later.  I know that God is not obligated to answer our prayers the way we want Him to, and that He ultimately has a plan for all of our lives, but I will tell you this was a hard pill to swallow.  His parents were devastated.  Our co-workers were despondent.  I was crushed.

I sat at my keyboard, very, very late the night before the funeral and wept.  My heart was broken for them.  I knew that their lives would never be the same – that they would need each other more than ever, and that they would need God to get through.   I thought, too, about all of the other people who have experienced such loss and sadness, and how they, too, needed God to help them get through.

As I sat and played notes, eventually the notes turned into a tune, and words began to fill my mind.  The result was the song that we shared on Sunday.  I had played it instrumentally during communion several times, but it had never been sung.  When I asked my daughter if she would sing it for me, her willing heart immediately said, “yes”.  When we sat down to rehearse it for the first time, I handed her the words (no music, for I’ve never actually written it out), she sang it absolutely perfectly, as if she knew the tune already.  Dumbfounded, I asked her how she knew it.  She said, “I’ve heard you play it lots of times here in the house”.    Although that may be true, I never even told her it had words, yet she was able to hear the exact timing of every word as God had written them on my heart several years before.

My Everything

Sometimes the road seems empty

Sometimes the road seems long

I have to keep believing in what keeps us strong.

At times the path is crooked

At times the world is cruel

All I can do is hold on to Truth

You’re my everything…. My everything

You’re the strength that carries me when I can’t go on.

You’re my everything…. My everything

You’re love keeps me strong

When our hearts are heavy,

And we just don’t understand,

God still holds us firmly in the palm of His hand

When our hearts are troubled,

And everything seems wrong

He heals the brokenhearted and He brings a new song

He’s my everything…. my everything

He’s the strength that carries me when I can’t go on.

He’s my everything…. my everything

Gets me through night til dawn.

Holding on when I can’t let go, carrying me,

He breaks the chains that bind me and sets me free

Everything…. my everything

He’s the strength that carries me when I can’t go on.

He’s my everything…. my everything

His love keeps me strong.

This is the message  the book Masquerade attempts to share with its readers.  Psalm 147:3 says, “He heals the brokenhearted, and He binds up their wounds” (NIV).  I cannot pretend to understand why God took Trent home.  I only know the experience in my own life is this: God will never waste a hurt.  He will use every tear and every sorrow to mold and shape us into who He wants us to be.

He’s my everything.

Blessings,

SB

Copyright 2018 Journey-For-Life – All rights reserved.

Through the noise

Lord, help me to hear your voice through the noise of my thoughts. Each though clamoring for attention, some pulling in opposite directions, I pray for Your wisdom to fill me. I pray that You would guide my steps, at least the very next ones, until the steps after that become evident. Shine your Light through me that others would see your glory.

Humbly I pray, in Your Holy and wonderful name.

Blessings,

SB

Copyright 2018 Journey For Life. All rights reserved

Watching for miracles

During this Holy Week, I pause in prayer to thank God for the awesome sacrifice He made for me, just because He loves me. We’re coming up to Good Friday, the day that felt like Heaven had lost because Jesus died on the cross. At that time, no one expected the miracle that we now know as The Resurrection of Christ. Jesus’ loved ones felt despair because they thought their world had collapsed, and, in fact, it had. The future they had believed in was certainly not going to be what they thought. But they didn’t know what God had in store.

Some of you may be at a crossroads like this. You may be seeing your world crumble around you because something you thought was going to happen didn’t, or something you didn’t think would happen did.

I am in this crossroads as well. I’ve shared with you that I am praying Jericho sized prayers. There is a possibility that something or someone may come along and threaten that prayer, what I’ve been praying for might change. What I believed was about to happen might not be about to happen at all. I don’t know.

Here’s what I do know. The God of the resurrection is still the God of the universe. He knows our hearts. He knows our limitations. He has provided a way for us to spend eternity with Him.

Watch for the miracles about to happen: the miracle of the resurrection, and the miracle of your life.

God is still in the miracle business!

Thank you for your support!

Copyright 2018 Journey For Life all rights reserved.

No category for a castle

In his book, If, Mark Batterson recounts a blessing God gave him for which he didn’t have a category.

He ends the chapter that recounts this blessing with these words,” what if everything in your past is preparing you for the future God has for you?’

“God wants us to get where He wants us to go more than we want to get there and He’s awfully good at getting us there”. Even when we make a wrong turn, He has ways of getting us there, and He’s using everything in our past to prepare us for the blessings He has for our future.

He’s got blessings for us for which we don’t even have categories!

I am still praying Jericho prayers and trusting God for His blessings. I believe He has a castle waiting to be used for His glory.

Blessings,

SB

copyright 2018. Journey For Life. All rights reserved