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Archive for the ‘Matthew’ Category

Reflecting God’s Love

Mount Hood reflected in Mirror Lake, Oregon.

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As water reflects a face,
so a man’s heart reflects the man.
–Proverbs 27:19

 

When I see a reflection of myself in the mirror – especially in the early morning when I first get up – my appearance is disheartening – especially to me.  I don’t like what I see – it means I am getting older.  My face reflects what is going on inside of me – the aging process that never ends – and I am part of it.

And yet – my age, wisdom and knowledge can benefit others so much – as I encourage and help those around me and use that ‘aging’ to bring perspective to others – concentrating on the positive aspects on middle age.

Mostly what I want others to see – is God’s love in my life, in what I do, what I say. I want to reflect His tolerance, forgiveness, grace and  unconditional love.  Because I have lived it – and understand it fully.  I fail miserably at this most of the time – because my own self gets in the way and I’m afraid I become a rather poor reflection of His love and unlimited mercy in my own life.

When I fail – I am acting out of my own selfish desires and motives and it leaves a rather poor reflection of the nature of the God that I serve and that I live for.  Instead it reveals what kind of person I really am – on the inside.  Just like my face in the mirror – I cannot hide it.

And like you – I am still on that never-ending journey – I’m getting older, I’m learning valuable lessons about life and people on the way – and I have a great many things to share with others about God’s love – His grace – and mercy – and I am still taking steps toward that incredible stubborn love – to be a better reflection for others.  Less of me – much more of Him.

God Bless

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Finding Balance

The canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke &...

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Matthew 11:28 (The Message)

28-30“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Long before we were born – in ancient days of old – man was struggling with the same things that we are today.  His sin nature.

From the beginning – we were all subject to the human condition – because of the ‘fall of man‘ – and like King Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the sun’.

Today’s temptations and stresses are nothing new.  Man has been facing them since the beginning of time – and just about any sin you can think of – is listed by example in the Bible.  No one is immune to temptation and his sinful nature.

Jesus promised to bring rest from ourselves. He brought it in a new way.  He gave himself.  As long as we ignore and deny Him – His rightful place in our lives – we will forever be slaves to our dark sinful natures.

I’m not talking about religion.  Religion is ritual and duty.  Born out of guilt about our condition – and as a way to ease our bruised conscience.  That sounds very motivating to me.  NO WAY!  The more you push – the more I’m going to pull – again the sin nature rearing its ugly head.

But Jesus came to bridge the gap of ritualistic religion for religion’s sake.  He came to bring Himself – to offer forgiveness because He Himself IS God – and He came to offer relationship with Him by offering that forgiveness.

You want to live a life of balance and of joy? – then He is the key.  He promises a life of rest and promise. Nothing too heavy will be hoisted upon you.  He will carry you in the tough places.  And He will bring the ‘lightness’ to your everyday world.

There is so much heaviness today in our world.  Those of us that have that relationship with God through Jesus – have a different world perspective.  We have a hope that others do not.  We have a life of meaning and purpose while others live lives of quiet (and not so quiet) desperation.   All sorts of issues today, politically, relationally and economically.  And because it seems that the real enemy of our souls is busier than usual to get us to trip up – just remember this:  Satan has been around a long time – spinning the same lies.  There’s nothing new here.

It comes down to a life of balance. When I am off-balance – this is when temptation and trouble can find me – and I can find it.  A life built on the Word of God and a relationship with Jesus will help to protect me from that temptation of just following  my own sinful nature – that lurks in my heart.  And we all have the ability to be off-balance.  It’s very easy to do. We are stressed, busy, lonely, prideful, independent, etc.  These all can lead to unhealthy habits in our lives.  And take us down a road of temptation that starts out in an innocent way.

This is why we need Jesus to help bring back the balance to our lives.  And He promises to do that.

So walk with Him today – listen to what He is calling, ‘unforced rhythms of grace’.  The many things He allows as part of your journey – and the many times He covers you with much-needed grace and mercy.  And if you’re tired and ‘burned out’ – this is the place you need to be.  Bringing balance and order back into your crazy life.  Walk with Him – watch how He handles it.   Learn from Him.  Watch how he transforms your hard unforgiving heart – into something soft and pliable – and shows you how to apply grace to your life with others.

He will bring that balance back into your worn-out and weary life.  Teach you how to live lightly and freely.

God Bless

 

 

Are You Happy?

The Sermon of the Beatitudes (1886-96) by Jame...

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Heard another great message from our pastor, Stephen Collins yesterday morning.  He has begun a series on “The Beatitudes”.  This question was asked:

Are you happy?  Is this really what you want?  Will that alone satisfy you long-term?  When feelings change and emotions are fickle?

The most profound statement came in the middle of the message.  ‘When we settle for just being happy – we aim too low’ – missing out on God’s blessing in our lives’. Sometimes, God doesn’t want us to be happy.  Sometimes there are lessons in the ‘gift’ of pain and hardship in our lives.  The most significant changes in our heart and character come when life is not ‘happy’ – but dark and sad.

For me – I know this is a true statement – and sums up just what I have learned and lived through over the past 2 years – as I grew and discovered God’s ‘gift’ of hard times, both personally, in my relationships  and spiritually.

If we accept the ‘gift’ in the way it is intended – then God can do His greatest work in us – bringing us more than just ‘happiness’ – but a blessed and meaningful life And sometimes what may feel like the end of the world – may only be the beginning of a great and rewarding life.

Are you happy?  Is that what you really want?  Or do you want more?  Do you want God’s rich blessing poured out in your life.  I know I do.  I want to reap the reward of choosing to do the right thing – when doing that goes against everything I may be feeling.  It means doing right by people and relationships – and being the right person. Living by character and integrity – rather than emotions.  And when I do stray away and don’t choose what is right – at least initially – then knowing how to get back on the right path – hard as it is – to reconcile and fix it – and keep my heart open.

I am more than happy.  I am blessed. I understand this now – but it took a couple of hard lessons to really believe it.  I’m blessed with a wonderful family, a man who loves me with everything that he is –  and friendships that mean everything to me.  What I lost – God has richly replaced – and has taught me a great many lessons in the process.  Things I could not have learned – just by following my heart and emotions because I ‘wanted to be happy’.  When we see life as a journey – and know that there is a much bigger picture than just personal happiness – we will not want to aim so low.

Are you happy?  Are you wishing for more than that?  I invite you to share in some hard times – and think of them as a ‘gift’ – an added blessing to enhance your character and integrity.  I wish you more than happiness, my friend.  I wish you a life of blessing and purpose – a holy calling in which you give up ‘personal happiness’ for something richer and deeper.  To see people the way that God sees them.  To understand there is a lost world out there – and your unique gifts have placed you right where you are – to influence those that He has entrusted to you.  Use them today.

Be more than just ‘happy’ – be blessed and be a blessing to those in your life.

 

God Bless

Reflections in the Glass

Mirrored self-misidentification

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Windows are designed to look through.  Especially in the daytime – and we don’t notice the flaws, imperfections and plain DIRT on them unless the light hits them a certain way.  Clear enough most of the time to look through them at others.   We don’t notice the flaws until the light is just right – or when there is an absence of light.  And when the angle and light is just right – we are able to see our own reflection in that glass.  And glance at our own imperfections.  It is sobering.  It is humiliating.  But it is also  necessary.  Sometimes I get so focused on the ‘out there’ past the flawed glass – that I don’t notice what’s up close and personal – like my flawed reflection.  The real me. It is easy to take my attention off of me – and on to other people – silently criticizing or rebuking in my thoughts – and sometimes voicing them, spreading hurt, distrust and disillusionment around in a way that cannot be fixed.  Anything to hide my insecurity and my flaws.

The Bible talks about this kind of judgment  in the book of Matthew chapter 7:

3“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Take care of your own reflection, my friends.  Clean the dirt from your window – then you will see clearly to  remove the plank from your eyes.  Then gently, very gently go to your brother or sister and ask for  permission to remove the speck of dust from their eye.  Remember that those you have heavily criticized – for having many flaws – you also have many of the same flaws and MANY more that they don’t.  You can be sure that with the same lack of grace and mercy you have judged – you will also be judged.

I want my plank out for good.  I want to see through my window knowing that I can see others with an unselfish and pure motive – free of any hidden agenda.  To see them as Jesus sees them – and how Jesus sees me.

God Bless

Releasing The ‘Control Freak’ Inside

It starts when we’re babies – it is a very small world.  We have needs and our cry can upset the whole house and have everyone running to find the thing that will silence our cries – fill the need – change the diaper – ANYTHING!   We learn at a young age that we are indeed the center of the universe – and everyone will cater to my every whim.  We find our ‘control freak’.

Unfortunately as we grow – we find out that we are not the center of the universe – but we still try to ‘have our own way’ by exerting our will – exercising our ‘control freak’ – and often times dealing with the consequences from Mom and Dad.

After we’re grown we carefully cultivate our ‘control freak’ –  that selfish part of us that feels the need to manipulate our circumstances and the people in it – especially if we feel threatened – or not safe – we feel the need to exercise our right to be heard – all in the name of  Christian love.   All in the name of ‘self protection’.

The ‘control freak’ in me may not look the same as yours.  I’ve never been classified as a ‘typical’ controlling personality – quite the opposite in fact.  But it’s still in there.  It’s in all of us.  It’s called self. And I have a great deal of it – and so do you.

As life goes on and things happen to ‘rock my world’ – the ‘self’ part of me goes into protective mode.  Each time I am ‘jabbed’ or ‘hurt’ I want to lash out uncontrollably.  I want to redirect my control – order my own steps – manipulate my circumstances to move around the hurt and pain.  But I have learned to control that beast that is inside me – I’ve learned to hold him down.  I have learned self-control over my ‘control freak’.

And with eyes tightly shut and my grasp on my iron will firmly situated – I proceed through life – quietly controlling what lies beneath.

I am so carefully controlled that I won’t realize the ‘control freak’ inside of me is really there – until something happens to rock my world – or someone comes along to challenge me.  And then I realize I have my fingers tightly grasped around the ‘safe place’ deep down inside.  With each incident in life – I push down hard against my ‘carefully guarded’ heart – so that no one sees what is really there – and what I’m really capable of  thinking, doing or saying.

I want my way.  I want to control my life.  I want to feel accepted.  I want to be safe, happy and loved.  I want – I need –  me, me, ME!!!!

This is such a learned and ‘safe’ approach to life – that soon I feel justified and even self-righteous for feeling this way.  Aren’t I supposed to be safe and happy?  Loved and accepted?  Of course.  But what if God is asking me to step away from my ‘controlled’ environment and tight grasp on the ‘freak’ inside – and do something where I will feel I have no control? What if something happens to me and I have absolutely no way of resolving the situation? What if I  have to do something really scary – and let go of my firm grasp of my ‘world’ and everything in it?  What if He asks me to open my eyes – and release my ‘control freak’ to Him?

I’ve been asked to do this – not once but several times.  There are no easy answers for life’s big mysteries involving friends and family.  I do not have control over my circumstances.  Oh – I can close my eyes again and try to hang on for dear life – while things swirl around me and hope and pray that I will not be affected – but in reality my trying to grasp whatever control I may think I have – will be stripped from me in the end and I will be left in a big heap on the floor trying to figure out, what happened?

When I release the ‘control freak’ inside of me – to God – He has a way of handling my stress – way better than I can.  He does not want us to carry any of the control.  He gently whispers to me, “let it go“.   And though it is a scary prospect – I know I must do as He asks me.  But does God really know how to handle my situation?   I mean can God really do it the right way?  The way I want Him to?  What if He doesn’t?  What then?  Can I trust Him?  Can I completely let it go?  I mean – completely take my fingers off and just – let go?

Sometimes I think I understand.  Sometimes I think I even come close to really ‘getting it’ – and then it will happen again.  Another hurt, another jab – and –  Whammo – I’m back in that hole of self-protection – trying to figure out a way to have a great ‘come back’ – to lash out and explain myself – to try to figure it out on my own. My default setting.  My much learned – and carefully protected human response to pain and confusion.

And then the gentle words of Jesus come to me:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

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.

For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”   Matthew 11: 28-30

Is your load heavy today?  Are you carrying around the ‘control’ in your life?  Do you self protect – even to the point where you are unafraid to give the control over to God –  ever?  Afraid He won’t do something the way you want Him to?  Afraid He will ask you to ‘release’ something in your life you don’t want to?

I want to encourage you to release the ‘control freak’  inside – take Him at His word – He can handle it – He will do it right.  His way is the best way.  It will be all right. Trust Him.

Go ahead.  Let go.  Release your ‘control freak’ today.

God Bless

Ask, Seek and Knock

” “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”  Matthew 7:7,8

This scripture brings comfort to us when we are hurting – grieving or in expectation for something.  Our God is gracious to us – walking with us through many storms of life – cheering us on in times of triumph and holding us like a small child when we are in pain.

I am glad that I can turn to Him anytime I feel my heart is broken – or so full with joy I can’t contain it.  He is my source.  He is my reason to carry on.

I feel His love carrying me when I’m worn out from life – or weary from trying to make sense of things on my own.  His peace covers me when I feel another storm threatening me.  His strength sustains me when I feel weak and useless.

I find that there really IS an answer when I “knock” on the door with all my questions.  Sometimes not right away – but silence is also an answer and I’ve learned to be content with that.  I also find that when I ask – He is working behind the scenes to bring it about – not as soon as I would like that answer sometimes – but it does come eventually. You see, it says that everyone who asks – will receive an answer – whoever seeks – will find – whoever knocks – the door will be opened.

I am praying God’s blessing on you today – as you ask, seek and knock.

God Bless

A Light Load

In Matthew 11 we read:

28-30“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

I am worn out.  Not just physically – but emotionally and mentally too.  I think everyone is around this time of year.  We have so much to do – so little time to do it in – and our list from day to day seems to grow.  This season I’ve had a recital to prepare for – music to direct for a theater production – and open house for my dear husband – who turns 50 on Sunday.

Yesterday my computer crashed THREE software programs as I was trying to use them – and in the midst of that I lost all my music too – my fault – NOT the computer – and finally when I didn’t think anything else could happen – my son fractured his pinky finger playing basketball at church with some friends – leaving his hand immobile for basketball – and he is one of the starting players for his varsity team this season.

I’m done.  Stick a fork in me.  So I was contemplating this verse that Jesus was saying in Matthew – and I love what the Message Bible had to say.  Maybe I just need to “get away” with Him for several days (or weeks) to recover my sanity and feeling of being overwhelmed.  Jesus promised a sense of renewal and refreshing from life’s busy demands and pressures – that we have put on us – or put on ourselves.

I also love what He says about not giving us anything “heavy” to pack around – in fact – He tells us to “cast our cares” on Him.  We need to leave them with Him – lighten our load and trust Him to carry them for us.  This is a hard thing to do.

Last August I remember exactly where I was on my walk when I “gave it” to Him – the “thing” that I had been carrying around for months – and said firmly – “I’m leaving it here with you – and I’m NOT picking it back up again – it’s too heavy”.  If you’re like me – you do things that are similar.  It sounds good at the time – and I’m even good at leaving it there for a while – but then worry sets in and I’m right back AGAIN picking that heavy pack and hoisting it on my back – feeling the weight on my chest.  I don’t know why I do this.  It would sound so spiritual to say I am never tempted to do this – and that I always trust and leave everything with Him after praying about it and giving it over – but I would be lying.

I want to be able to live by faith – and I’m on a journey to do this.  I want to learn His ways – watch Him work – feel the unforced rhythms of His grace – but I fall short every time.  I want so much to be that trusting child – being so confident in my Heavenly Father.  I want to breathe a prayer like Mary in the song “Breath of Heaven”  – “Help me be Strong – Help me be – Help me”

Perhaps acknowledging where I am weakest – is where I truly find His strength.  I need to live in that place all the time – and not let my independent spirit take over – so that I don’t miss His blessing – as He carries me.

What thing do you have that is heavy on your chest?  Can you truly give it up and give it over to Him?  Do you trust Him to work things out better than you can?

I am praying that you can.  And that your Christmas will be lighter this year.

God Bless

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