Stand Up, Finish, and Win!

Recently a gal came into my life who has a major vocal talent.  I love the full alto robustness of her singing voice and the special emphasis she can put just about anywhere in a song to make a verse, an ending phrase come alive.  Very few musicians can go way beyond the sheet music and take you with them every note of the way . . . as if you are sharing in all of the emotion and beauty pouring out of the Creator’s expression manifest before you.  I love moments like this.  I love listening to her sing.  Her music gives me goose bumps now and always has done so.

I had the privilege of performing and competing in the top choir at my high school for all of my three years there.  Our teacher, Mr. Herr, was an accomplished tenor and pianist who occasionally shared his talent with us when singing the male solos; this included part of Handel’s Messiah one particular Christmas.  Before the concert he took a bus load of us teenagers to an old Catholic cathedral in downtown Detroit to sing the choral sections of the work from the balcony as the giant pipe organ accompanied us at full volume.  I will never forget that sound!  Our voices lifted high as if to touch the vaulted ceilings painted with Biblical scenes that I would not really understand for another decade.  My tender frame shook with the majesty, the magnificence of the moment when all the harmonies blended together in perfection.  The entire church swelled with the sound of music.  What a great experience to carry us through our concert at school shortly thereafter.  Well done Mr. Herr!

A fellow choir student told me early in my senior year that the only reason that I made the Chorale was my ability to sight-read written music.  The comment was a slam for sure.  So my talent wasn’t good enough but somehow my ability to read music made up the difference?  I didn’t understand but still was crushed.  Regardless, I made every early morning rehearsal, class session, and concert throughout the school year.  My mom sewed my blue maxi skirt and plaid outfit herself that all of the girls had to have made for the concerts.  And she did make it to the concerts, thankfully.  She made a point of telling me, however, that I could do better if I would just open my mouth more when I was singing.  Geez.  It’s a wonder I made it through my senior year of Chorale after all of that nonsense.

My interest in singing changed as I went off to college with my 3/4-sized classical guitar alongside me.  My experience got me two “easy  A’s” in beginner piano and guitar classes for creative arts requirements but little else.  Playing popular songs and sing-a-longs diminished from gatherings at the beach with girlfriends (who didn’t mind when the music always seemed to bring the guys around with a harmonica or their curiosity!) to sing-a-longs with groups of patients at various psychiatric hospitals in which I worked as an occupational therapist years later.  Within a decade I had practically stopped everything altogether and my skills, even my voice, eroded.  More recently the serious illness I have been battling has changed my breath volume and vocal cords such that my voice crackles when singing worship songs “in church.”  Although I will still crank the stereo and give it a go occasionally when the Barbara Streisand CD just happens to get turned up really loudly when my hubby is away!  No, no, ain’t gonna rain on my pa–rade!

So I do have a bit of an ear for quality and musicianship which brings me to the point of this discussion:  when a person DOES have a major talent I believe it is a gift from the Lord to be shared openly for His glory.  It really bugs me that my new friend has received “pukey” comments from non-talented, envious people around her.  I hope she can let them go.  We come to faith in Christ and are given spiritual gifts to be used for the Lord’s glory, often showcasing talents or even growing abilities already present in the life of the believer.  Whether we use our giftedness directly in ministry or just to inspire others as unto the Lord, I believe that we are to let that goodness shine!

Matthew 5:14-16New International Version (NIV)

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Especially today for all of us who have a creative ability that stands out from the crowd, my prayer would be that we would stand up, finish the performance out in front of the spaces we are given and win glory for the One Who has entrusted it to our care.  Delight in-and-develop our talent, have fun with it, and don’t let the pukeys, the naysayers get us down.  Going forth with boldness and confidence may just bring each of us the desires of our hearts which is a good thingy, eh?  The Lord may have placed those dreams there, waiting for us to take the next steps He will lead us to and through.  Oh how He loves us so . . . which reminds me of a song . . .

Winning through losing

Winning through losing is the title of an article by Pastor Sandy Adams in the Summer 2017 issue of Calvary Chapel Magazine that touched my heart and lightened my burden this day.  Pastor Adams told the story of the Apostle Paul of the Bible who, after coming to faith in Christ, never had a “thorn in his flesh” removed despite praying three times.  He describes it as follows with a passage from 2nd Corinthians, Chapter 12:

Paul learned to view his thorn as God’s gift.  He rejoiced in the weakness it caused; for it became God’s opportunity to demonstrate His supernatural strength.  Paul rejoices in verse 10, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake.  for when I am weak, then I am strong.”  He took pleasure in circumstances where he was no longer in control.  A weak Paul empowered by God’s grace was more effective than a strong Paul at peak performance.  Paul was confident that God’s grace was sufficient. (p. 52)

Pastor Adams goes on to encourage us that the Lord’s greatest work is in our times of defeat:  a work that He intends to do all along.  “Rest in this:  When we are at our weakest, God makes us strongest.” (p. 52)

It is my hope that my writings here will exemplify this teaching.  I have struggled greatly these past few weeks with episodes of physical and spiritual darkness too ugly to describe publically.  To think that I may never be free from daily convulsive episodes is a burden to great for me to bear in the midst of these setbacks.  At the same time, I continue to have a sense that perhaps soon they will stop.  Should I not hope that they stop?  I think not.  My calling is to remain faithful to the moments in which I find myself:  doing that which the Lord wants me to do, discerning the leading of the Holy Spirit, dwelling in the presence of my King often.  If that means being obedient to the Lord’s call to get off the couch to take a rescue remedy while my head is banging, my legs aren’t working right, and pressured vocalizations are emanating from deep within my loins then I will trust that my Heavenly Father will keep me safe while I do so.  It’s amazing how supernatural power overcomes my own inability to move my body correctly.  His power is real!

I recently completed a course of antibiotics to treat a gut infection that may have a connection to my brain symptoms.  The medication hurt me with damaging side effects.  After 10 days I called my Doctor and transitioned to the first of two herbal protocols that would follow next.  Tomorrow morning I will start the second of these two plans including dosing at an elevated level of an antimicrobial that I have largely tolerated in the past.  I am hopeful that recovery is possible with this new plan.  After reading Pastor Adam’s article today I will remain mindful that there is purpose and power in every moment of this journey no matter the outcome will be.  The power of Christ has indeed rested upon me in my weakest, most breathless states.  I have trusted Him completely albeit not perfectly.  He has ordained these days for me revealed in other levels of healing that I cannot disclose right now:  the longest held desires of my heart have been addressed, have been comforted.  Through seizures!

In time, the Apostle Paul saw his thorns as a gift.  “Imagine, a thorn gift” suggests Pastor Adams.  “When Paul accepted his thorn as a gift, God gave him strength.”  As I have come to my own level of peace with this serious illness, I have received many gifts as well.  Another great blessing has come from my beloved husband, Steve’s, unfailing love, presence in the darkest of times, prayers, and gifts of the spirit.  He is often my Jesus with skin-on, so to speak.  This morning he anointed me with oil as he prayed for me in the aftermath of incredible difficulties.  Oh Lord, please bless this man, this instrument of your peace!  Help me to love and serve him as you would have me do so with your strength, with words from You to encourage his heart.

You know I never really thrived when posed with a competitive situation at home, with my peers, at work, at school, or in most places in life even though I know that it is o.k. to strive for excellence in all of these settings.  I usually fell short before reaching the prize.  Perhaps my focus was on the wrong place?  Winning through losing brings us to the eternal finish line, the one that matters most, in second place behind the Lord, Jesus Christ who will share in the victory that He hath created all along the proverbial races of life.  These are the ones that truly matter.  The ones where we let Him carry us or infuse us with His grace, His power as we cross over into eternal glory.

Now that’s a medal I do want to take “home.”  Lord, in your mercy, help me to finish well!  JJ

2 Cor, 2 Corinthians, 2:9, weakness, grace, sufficient, Christ, power, overcoming trials, Bible verse, encouraging

 

 

Time to focus

Sick and tired of being the same

I digress into another rant . . . or shall I?

Would that honor the Lord who has sustained

Delivered me from near-death and brought me to you?

Oh if there could just be a happy ending already my dear

Would I still angst over my words or lightly dance over the keys?

These are questions that will not be answered this night or even the next

As my beloved returns home to my side from his travels, refreshed from lack o’ drama.

I must find some joy to carry me out of this funk for the path to recovery is becoming clearer

Glimpses of what may be come through the struggles amuck and late night appointments with my Doctor who works too much.

But is it more than I, just wanting to be well?  I think not for the rewards for victims are slim:  our fellowship better not be tainted by our woes!

Would you and I be friends if it weren’t for our life paths diverted?  Probably not so let’s not spend time there, just trust we were meant to be here now.

And I thank you for carrying me when I could not stand, liking my words when their worth eluded me in the dim of night, listening when most were asleep.

It is time to focus on the prize coming into view:  this possible final leg of the race that will take all my strength as Mr. Herx clears the debris that soured my inner places.

I might just win.  This life season just might end.  Stay tuned, Gentle Reader.  Please pray and I will do the same.  Of course you know me all too well:  I’ll be sure to letcha know…  JJ

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