Sunday, April 3, 2016

A Beautiful Song

Practice went very well. Other than the fact that performance was the next morning, and this was the first we had practiced together...let alone at all...we were able to get a pretty good feel for what we were aiming for and how to make it happen. The song was beautiful. A vocal solo accompanied with piano and violin, it was sure to hit the mark and speak a message of hope and comfort to the listeners. We recorded the last run through for reference, then enjoyed a little chit-chat before parting ways for the evening.

The next morning, arriving bright and early for the sound-check, we began to play it through. Everything was going well until half way through when all of a sudden the mode changed and something just didn't sound right ~ almost as though one of us was playing in a different key even. Being the violinist, I checked my music, quickly scribbled out the day before, to make sure I was still playing the correct notation. It was in an unfamiliar key with six sharps, but that shouldn't be the problem seeing I was still right on according to what was written. I quickly tried to scan the vocalist's part, not quite sure what was going on, but she was still moving forward and a little confused as well. The pianist, with calmness of demeanor and quick-wittedness worked to return to the written order of chords, and after a couple measures of "recalculation in route" met back up in the original chord progression just in time for the first key change. The rest of the soundcheck went alright, and we were able to end on a good note. But we definitely needed to run through it again and correct the mis-hap before it was time to present it...

In the back room, after a few other scheduled practices, we got together again to iron out anything that might be a "tripping hazard" during performance. And the most recent encounter was the first topic to be brought up. "What happened on the second verse?" I asked. The pianist replied in a humored, but self-corrective way, "I never do good for sound checks. But my pride got in the way and I got lost. It works like this, I sit down and think, 'I got this', then along with all the extra activity that is happening during that time, I get distracted which makes me lose my place."  

His comment struck a very familiar sounding chord in my own heart. "...pride got in the way and I lost my place..." That comment echoed in my heart for the rest of the day, and I knew the Lord was using this to remind me in a very tangible way of what so easily and commonly happens in our every-day lives. Prideful assumption that we can handle _______, producing a lack of focus on what really matters, therefore ending in a lost estate of a mess to try to find our way out of. So often we forget that constant vigilance is necessary to keep our heart focused on Christ and what He has set before us. Without our vigilant focus being on Christ, we then lose our place in one of two ways: either, we lose our place in the terms of we forget where we are and what we are supposed to be doing, or we lose our place of constructive influence or position in the lives of those who are watching and observing our lives, therefore becoming a disgrace to the kingdom of God. 

As children of the King, we are representing the King of kings and Lord of lords. What a shame when we allow pride to get between our hearts and our Guide. It distorts and corrupts that which God intended to be a beautiful song ~ speaking to hearts and entering into lives, drawing people to the Savior. We rather becoming a byword and a gazing stalk ~ repelling others from Him because of our distasteful and expelling attitude of pride.  

May the Lord help each one of us to stay humble and in the presence of mind to remain focused on Christ. As we keep our eyes and hearts on Him, He will lead us, shaping our lives into becoming a beautiful song for the glory of His name and the edification of those He wants to touch through our lives.

In closing, by the time we were to present the prepared message in song, we all were in a right state of mind, focused and attentive, and the Lord used it beautifully. It was smoothly presented without a noticeable glitch and we were able to support the message through compelling and confident presentation.  

 God is good to give us reminders along the way, even using real-life situations of lesser importance to reveal deeper truths that will draw us closer to Himself. My prayer is that as you journey through life, dear reader, you will be sensitive to the Lord in the everyday lessons He wants to reveal to you. Don't let a moment pass without recognizing His work in your own life, providing you opportunities, one after another, to grow in a more intimate understanding of Him and drawing nearer to His heart. His ways are past finding out, but He encourages us to seek Him, because He promises to reveal Himself to those who's hearts are truly searching for Him. But the only way He will be found of us is if we come in humility of heart, because He resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. 

"But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up." 
~ James 4:6-8,10 ~

Monday, February 1, 2016

Sister or Sergeant?

     How many of you have been blamed for "being so bossy!" We are right with you in that boat. It seems that the fingers are always pointed to the older ones in this area, but there are plenty of younger sisters who would admit that they have been the recipients of the blame as well. Of course, we know good and well that it's not our fault; we just know when and why and how and who and what everybody needs to be doing--right?? And, our calls are always made in good, sound judgment, and IF we sound upset, it is ONLY because the utmost cooperation needed to carry out the proclaimed orders has not been manifested. So, when the subjects of our domain are whining that we are sitting on the throne too much, well, what would they expect at bootcamp? After all, our duty is to whip them into shape--right??

     Woe! Hold on, now! Take a seat and sip some tea; it is time that we sisters discover the true meaning of what it is to be a--Sister. Let me invite you to remove your Sergeant hat and open your eyes to the wonderful beauty of what God designed in a sister's influence.

Sisters~struggles and sometimes tears,
Sisters and friends throughout the years.

     The term "sister" has such a charming, soothing sound. It speaks of a closeness beyond the best of acquaintances. It speaks of heart connections, and an unbreakable bond. Best Friends Forever often refer to each other as "sisters". But, what makes such a term of endearment ring the bells of alarm and cause a girl to run for the door when her own biological sister enters the room and "disturbs her peace"? Why is such a name viewed with distain when a little brother tells his buddy that he has a sister, and when he is alone at his desk, hidden from the commotion of household frenzy, draws his sister on his coloring sheet as a monster? If such a name carries such a precious sound, why has it become so distorted and, thus, despised?

     Could it be that we, as sisters, have marred the lovely word by our actions, dragging it through the mud by our example? We hold ourselves up as though we deserve a high position, and forget that trust and respect have to be earned through servant-leadership. We tend to assume that honor is a birthright, and are ignorant to the fact that respect and trust are not titles that can be automatically prescribed. It goes back to what Jesus instructed and taught His disciples in Matthew 23:10-12, "Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted." 

    So, what does a true, real sister look like? Here are a few descriptions that may help paint that picture for you. They may immediately remind you of your BFF, but try to put your own sibling's name in the blanks. Put yourself as "that sister" being described, and your little brother, or younger sister, as the "you/your". These quotes are taken from the little book Sisters as Friends, Friends as Sisters by Roxie Kelley. (This would make a great gift for your friend...or sister! :)

"A sister rarely sees our imperfections, but when she does, she somehow finds them to be endearing."

"You know you have a real sister when good feelings and kindnesses tumble out of her effortlessly in your presence."

"A sister is gentle with her humor. She laughs from deep within, and not just from her mouth."

"A sister never joins your inner critic; she is your most fearless defender against that foe."

"Sisters reserve time for each other...not just leftover time, but first-rate, first-pick, first-class time...and they look forward to this time together and hold it close to their hearts."

"A sister reminds us, no matter what the problem love is always the solution."

   A beautiful poem that we feel so accurately describes the endearing place of "Sister" is found in a unique book called Moral Lessons of Yesteryear. Written by an unknown author, it is titled, "Wanted, A Girl": 

The girls that are wanted are good girls--
Girls that are mother's right hand,
That fathers and brothers can trust in,
And the little ones can understand.

Girls that are fair on the hearthstone,
And pleasant when nobody sees;
Kind and sweet to their own folk,
Ready and anxious to please.

Girls that are wanted are wise girls,
That know what to do and to say;
That drive with a smile or soft word
The wrath of the household away.

The girls that are wanted are good girls--
Good from the heart and the lips;
Pure as the lily is white and pure
From its heart to its sweet leaf-tips.

   With that inspiration, here are a few tips we have gleaned along the way, learning by trial and error, yet which have helped us uncover the secrets to being true "sisters" in our home. As hard as it is at times, we must remember...

1.) Stop Sign vs. Police Man  
We are not our siblings' parent! As much as we feel that we are the ones to make the appropriate training happen, and even though there is a place to remind, give advice, warn (which is different from threatening, but that may be discussed at a later time) or even correct under the proper authority, we as sisters must remember that the ultimate responsibility of raising our siblings is not on our shoulders. Since the vast majority of us would agree that we seem to be quite practiced at dishing out orders and "ending unreasonable behavior", it will do ourselves, as well as our families, good to realize the importance of, and heed Proverbs 26:17 ~ "He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears." Most of the time, we end up jumping into a frey only to be tackled and bitten in the end, when it may not have been our responsibility to intervene in the first place. Yes, the Bible does say, "blessed are the peacemakers", but often we do not take enough time to really consider what would bring the most peace--us "grabbing the dog" and trying to solve every problem, or allowing them to grow and learn--even through a few hard knocks. 

So, what does all this have to do with stop signs and policemen? Glad you asked! Lets say you are driving down the road. You come to a stop sign. But, instead of stopping, you just drive right on through. Well, Miss Stop-Sign knows that such is against the law, so she decides that due judgment must be administered and takes off after you. With screeching sirens and glaring lights, she tracks you down, tackles your car and shoves a ticket in your face saying, "You just ran the stop sign, which is against the law--and worse yet, you did it right in front of the policeman!!" Most likely, you would be of the mind to shout right back, "Well, Missy, you're not the policeman!" (Sound similar to that common phrase which rings so often in our ears, "You're not my boss!"??)
Okay, that is pretty far out. No stop sign would be chasing after a trespassing vehicle. But why not? Because, it is only set there as a reminder, not an enforcer. In the same way, we sisters should not completely drop the ball in helping to encourage good behavior and right conduct in the lives of our siblings, but we must remember that we are only the "stop signs" if you will; our parents are the policemen so to speak. It is our job to hold up the standards set, but not our jurisdiction to perform the so-called-for discipline. (I am sometimes reminded of the verse in Scripture--look it up, it's Romans 12:19.) 

2.) We must let them grow!
I think this would probably be the hardest of all: letting them grow into maturity. If you are the oldest, or close to the top of the line, this is one thing that you did not have to wade through as a younger sibling, but it is something you still had to achieve--growing up. Often times, the process of growing into the shoes of adulthood can appear to be rather entertaining from a younger perspective. But when you are the older one, the up and coming younger ones may come across as a little threatening to your own place of prominent position as they grow in maturity. After all, they just might pass you up! (That's scary!) It is only when we recognize that we are a team--put together by God to accomplish a task with the different gifts and abilities that God has given each one of us--that we can learn to accept and receive the growing members of our family as fellow-workers and co-laborers. 

The hard realities and faults of micro-managing:
Sometimes the hardest thing to do is allow our siblings to fail. In desperation to see them succeed, most often we end up harming them more by trying to prevent them from discovering the results of their own decisions. We can encourage, and offer advice, but we must be careful to not take it personally when it is disregarded. If we offer our opinion from personal experience, we must remember that it is not against us if they do not heed it. We must show unconditional love regardless of whether or not our siblings choose what we think they should choose. The goal is to allow them the opportunity of coming to the conclusion, themselves, of what would be the right thing to do. When we consistently pour in our endless bits and pieces of opinions, we decrease their ability to think through decisions and come to wise conclusions on their own, and, ultimately, either turn them into programmed, obedient robots, or repel them off to "cut the apron strings" and find a life. Keep in mind that, most commonly, experience is the best teacher. 

3.) Be Genuine! 
"Don't walk in front of me, I will not follow; 
Don't walk behind me, I will not lead you; 
Just walk beside me and be my friend." 

Our younger siblings look up to us with great admiration. But, oftentimes they do not know how to express their admiration except by wanting to be just like us, walking hand-in-hand with us. The greatest devastation that happens between siblings is the mis-understanding of communication, especially in love (from the older ones) and respect (from the younger ones). It took a rock-hard knock for me to learn this lesson, and perhaps I will share it in a later post. But, our siblings are not crying out for a "nice big sister", they long with all their hearts for a true, genuine friend. One who knows what they are going through, yet is there to walk with them through it. One who is always there for them, yet allows them to be there for her--even in small ways. One who loves them as a person, not just viewing them as go-to servants, or even "her ministry". One who will talk with them as a friend, and who can listen without always having to give "the answers". They want you to be their sister!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Wait On Me

     A dear friend of mine sent me this message from her heart recently. As I was reading it, the thought crossed my mind, "So many young ladies face this same struggle--as myself--yet, so many are hesitant to share because of fear that they are the only ones in this boat." She has agreed to share this testimony with you, and I pray that, as you read it, your heart will be encouraged in the goodness, mercy, and loving sovereignty of our Heavenly Father. Indeed, sometimes His best answer of all is "wait". 

“Wait on Me”
     I was walking along the road one day with the Lord, grumbling about this and that, feeling so frustrated that He didn’t seem to be listening.  I had asked for so many things, and it seemed He’d given me none.  Nothing I’d hoped or asked for had come to pass.  “Why, Lord?!” I cried.  “Just wait,” He replied as He led me on a little farther.
   I tried to be content just walking along quietly, trying to smile to hide the pain and anger inside.  Finally, in desperation I cried out again, “Why, Lord?!”  He said, yet again, “Just wait and trust Me.”
     I kept on, silent for a while, telling myself I really was happy and preaching to myself all the right things I knew in my head.  Before long I felt the turmoil sweep over me again.  Unable to hold my peace I cried out again.  “Why, Lord?! I don’t understand Your plan!  I’ve kept on faithfully, walking close by Your side; I’m doing all the right things.  Why can’t I have what I’ve asked for?  It’s a good thing I desire, Lord.  Why must I wait longer?  Lord, I don’t understand!  You say to ask and I’ll receive.  So I’ve asked, but I’ve not received that which my heart longs for so greatly!  Have You not heard? Lord, I don’t understand!”  With which I crumbled to the ground in tears, filled with the pain and frustration of feeling alone and misunderstood.
     As I lay there weeping, I felt His strong arms wrap around me and lift me from my place of despair, defeat, and anguish.  He held me close and wept with me first, not saying a word.  He then looked into my eyes, and as my gaze met His, I saw within Him a pain that reached deeper than mine, a love that erased my fears and sorrows, a peace that wrapped my soul in unexplainable calmness.  In that moment I saw Him take my burdens and lay them upon Himself.  I looked up again into His face and took in the compassion His eyes held.
     With a smile He wiped away my tears and then spoke.  “My dear child, I’ve seen everything you’ve done for Me.  I’ve seen how you’ve faithfully stuck by My side through at times your heart seemed far away.  I’ve also heard your every plea, your every cry.  I see within your heart every dream and hope and desire.  You say I haven’t given you any of those things you long for so deeply.  My child, it’s not out of spite or anger that I withhold those things.  I say not, ‘Wait,’ to punish you but rather to give you something far greater.  I have a plan and though you cannot see it right now, I’ll reveal it to you one step at a time.  Day by day I will lead you through My perfect will for your life.  Trust Me though hard it may be to see through the clouds of despair and tears of disappointment.  I will never leave you or forsake you, and in my perfect time I will give you not only what you desire, but so much more.  I long to shower you with blessings and everything your heart desires, but first you must trust Me!”
     He took my hand and said then, “Follow Me,” and we looked back over my life.  “See how far I’ve brought you?  If I’d given you your heart’s desire then,” pointing to a time several years earlier when I’d earnestly prayed for the fulfillment of my dreams, “you would have missed so much!  For one, you wouldn’t have learned the value of leaning on my strength in your times of weakness.  You’d not know the comfort and peace I bring to a troubled soul.  I am preparing you right now for the fulfillment of your dreams and desires.  So, right now I want you to continue faithfully walking close by my side and trust my perfect timing.  Remember, I have a plan that’s far greater than anything you could ever imagine!  Though the enemy may plant seeds of despair in your heart, press on in faith, and someday you’ll look back and see the purpose of this time of waiting.  Rely on Me, and you will see that I’ll bring you through this trying time.  I’ve brought you through every other time, and I will continue to do so as you rely on my strength and walk close by my side.”
     I looked up at Him, my eyes brimming with tears of joy and my heart full of peace.  Ready to press on again, my hand in His, we turned to press forward on our journey through life.
     In time I did see the truth of what He’d said that day.  No, it wasn’t easy to be patient.  There were still plenty of days I lost hope, began to doubt, and cried out in despair, but He gently reminded me of all that He taught me on that day.  He’d take me on His knee with His arms around me, weep with me, and then remind me again of His love for me.  “I love you, my child, no matter what—my love is everlasting!  Nothing can ever change my love for you.”
     I’m beginning to learn as I journey through life that waiting on the Lord is a constant thing.  It doesn’t end as soon as one desire is fulfilled.  God does this to keep me relying on Him.  And every time I look back over my life I see, hard as it is at the time, His plan really is always best—exceeding abundantly above all that I ask or think and so much better than I could ever imagine!

~ Hannah