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I’m trying to Listen, Lord

Does anyone else struggle with the concept of prayer?  Does it make you feel less than “spiritual” because you may have doubts in this department?  Do you believe God always answers?  Even when He answers against what you are believing and praying for?  Do you believe that His will is always done here on earth?   I do.

Somehow when I have doubts as to how I believe things work out (or don’t work out) – it feels like it goes against the way I was raised to feel or believe.  My husband has called me a Calvinist because of some of these doubts and struggles.  It is not that I don’t believe we should pray, rather I believe that God answers even when we don’t specifically pray for something.  I believe that God created, sees and knows the bigger picture of our lives – and His ways and thoughts are so much bigger than ours.  I don’t believe in using prayer as a “rabbit’s foot” – pulled out when we feel we are in serious crisis of mind, body and soul – but rather it should be an ongoing journey to listen and develop the mind of Christ.

Help me not to cry out just when I need something from you.

As Christians do we really believe that God is good all the time?  – has our best interest at heart even though we cannot see it?  Even if we haven’t prayed specifically for it?  Yes.  I believe that.   Is prayer for God to change His eternal plans already set in motion?  Or rather, is prayer for me?  Certainly God does not need me to send my shopping list of requests to Him.  He knows everything already, right?  I believe prayer is a discipline for me that takes years to develop.

Today I found this today on Sandi Patty’s Blog:

Dan Rather, former CBS anchorman, once asked Mother Teresa what she said during her prayers.  She answered, “I listen.”  So Rather turned the question and asked, “Well then, what does God say?”  To that, Mother Teresa smiled with confidence and answered, “He listens.”  Rather didn’t know how to continue.  He was baffled.  “And if you don’t understand that,” Mother Teresa added, “I can’t explain it to you.”

Such a profound thought.  You mean I don’t need to say or do anything?  Yes.  Listening to God’s voice is enough, but often times we cannot quiet our own thoughts to do this.  I believe that prayer changes us.  I believe this is why Jesus told us to pray.  So that we might have understanding and insight.  So that we might have quiet acceptance and resolve.  Even when things don’t go my way.  Even when He doesn’t give me what I want.  Even when my bad choices produce difficulty in my life.  Even when I am unhappy.  Even when I live right and do everything by the book.  Even when I follow all the rules and things still go wrong.  Even when people die.  Even when family members go the wrong way.  Even when nothing happens when I pray.

Change me.

 

I believe that by spending time with Jesus in submission to His plan and wisdom – we become bendable and pliable.  It allows us to look at our circumstances differently.  Maybe not at first – but spending time with Him eventually changes us.  Even when it looks as though we are doing nothing. Even if it makes us look and feel weak, wimpy and submissive.  Even when others around us urge us to be more aggressive in prayer.  How are we going to get an answer if we aren’t willing to go there?  What happens then, when after we are “aggressive” and exhausted from prayer – God does not answer.  Is it our lack of faith?  Is it our inability to “pray through”.  Were we not aggressive enough?  Did we do it wrong?  What about those we pray for that do not get well?  We didn’t pray enough?  Or long enough?  Such thoughts are contrary to the Bible.

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.  Matthew 6:7,8

Take away my guilt.

Prayer is listening.  Prayer is developing trust.  Prayer is an open invitation for the Father to know us – and us to know Him.  It is about relationship – not a shopping list of requests – prayed by anxious people.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.” Philippians 4:6

I’m sure I will continue to struggle with this – even though as a believer, I should not.  Having faith is believing that no matter what happens to me or those I love in this life – He has it under control.  Nothing surprises Him or escapes His notice.  Like a loving father who wants to protect, hurts when I hurt and wants so much to reassure even when I don’t understand that he loves all the time – He gets me.  He has a plan bigger than I do.  And even though I doubt and wonder if there is something more I should be doing or praying about – He still has it.  All the time.  This simple truth takes years of trust to develop – and I’m still working on it – one day at a time.

So in the meantime – I’m believing and trying to listen, Lord.

God Bless

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The Power of Addiction

I watched a special last night on Oprah Prime.  The topic was substance addition, prescription drug usage and street heroin.  I had no idea that heroin addiction has doubled in the last 5 years!  The statistics are alarming.  Drug addiction doesn’t look like it used to.  Addicts can look like your next door neighbor, the clerk at the store, a middle aged homemaker, a nurse at a hospital.  Sometimes it starts with a medical procedure and prescription pain relievers and then when that is no longer affordable or available (depending upon insurance and refills) there can be problems.  One alternative:  Buying drugs on the street where they are cheap and available.

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There is a problem in our community with addition – all kinds, from alcohol to meth.  It is so sad to see what it does to families.  The addiction takes over – nothing is more important.  All common sense and reasoning goes out the window.  Simple things like grocery shopping and paying rent become second only to the drug of choice.

What I found interesting in all the stories told from last nights episode was this:  All have an emptiness that needs to be filled.  Some expressed that it is a spiritual emptiness.  And by “spiritual” they don’t necessarily mean a relationship with God (although I believe that is what would help the addiction problem) but an emotional/relationship emptiness and void that needs filling.

We often enjoy watching Hoarders and have remarked that all these people with this condition of “hoarding” seem to also have an emptiness or void that they try to fill through shopping and accumulations of “things”.  It is a very real and growing problem in our world today.  And every one of them – almost without exception,  had something traumatic happen to them at a young or impressionable age.  Sometimes it was even something later, like the death of a child or loved one – a financial reversal or loss of job.  Whatever the reason, there are common elements to addiction and disorders such as hoarding.

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Self loathing, hatred, feelings of helplessness and unworthiness are also a common theme.  Last night in the interview, Russell Brand confessed to his years of struggle with drug addiction.  Now more than 10 years sober – he says every day is still a struggle.  As he explained how the drugs – particularly heroin makes you feel – it is no wonder that it can pull people in and set them up to fail.  It is an unending cycle of dependency and abuse.  He has seen many senseless deaths of friends caught in the trap of addiction and understands all too well how it happens.  But I was struck most by his comment, “There was a voice in my head that wanted me dead”  That made me sit up and take notice.  Do I believe that voice is demonic in nature?  Yes.  Absolutely.  It’s just like Satan.

” The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  John 10:10

Crazy scary stuff!  But it also makes sense.  People lose themselves in the feeling that takes over their lives and nothing else matters.  It is a form of suicide, just like anorexia.  A self loathing of immense proportions.  And I recognize that this is evil and demonic.  Satan wants us all dead.  That’s his agenda, and he’s not good at hiding it.

This makes me very sad.

As a Christian I can see another side to addiction.  I can see life, health, purpose, prosperity of the soul, forgiveness, common sense, kindness, honesty, giving, graciousness and most of all…love.

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Christianity is not just a crutch – like so many out there looking for something to fill that empty void.   Christ is the filling.  The freedom He gives us is not just a temporary “fix” – it is a way of living.  It lasts.  It endures.  It lengthens life and relationships.  Not just in this lifetime – but the next one too.  It does not rob.  It gives.  When we don’t have to just depend on ourselves for “things” to fix us or fulfill us, but instead can give ourselves over to a loving God who not only created us – but has a plan for us – it changes things.  It takes the pressure off.  Gives purpose.  Gives life, a clear and sober mind, health of body and most of all – fills the void inside.  Because He loves us – it doesn’t matter what others may have done to us – His plan and purpose for us is always healthy, always reassuring and always builds us up rather than tearing us down.  When we are full of love from Him – we are free to love others and give to others out of that love.  It is a release from the prison that others find themselves in.

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Those of us who find ourselves free from addiction are very fortunate.  But being fortunate does not give license to be judgmental or critical to those who are.  Instead of looking at people with addictions as weak, stupid, or even hardened criminals – we need to look on them with compassion and the love of Christ.  As a Christian this can be the hardest thing of all.  The “I’m OK – you’re NOT OK” seems to fit most of us with a healthy lifestyle.  The “how stupid” or “what a weak person” comments are never far from our thoughts.  If only “they” were just like me.  If only they had real resolve and will power they wouldn’t be in this fix or lifestyle.  We say these senseless things without having any idea the journey others are on.

Dear Jesus – soften our hearts to accept others with their addictions and problems – just as they are.  Help us to see them as you see them – broken but wonderful creations loved by you.  Help us live in such a way that those that are bound by things here on earth will see YOU in US.  And by seeing YOU – they will want what you offer – hope, freedom, peace, forgiveness, love, acceptance, purpose and health.  Help us live in such a way that you are attractive.  That You would be a real solution to a huge unsolvable way of life.  I pray that the inner void would be filled by something that will last – a relationship with you.  And that I would be aware and take an active part in bringing about real change.  This is my prayer. Help us. Humble us.  Teach us.  Break our hearts.   Amen.

LIVETH

It’s Nice To Know

I have been saddened by some recent events surrounding social media.  You may have seen some things too.  Maybe you smile when you see these controversial things and say “YES!  Finally someone agrees with me!”  Or maybe you are more like me – and it makes you uncomfortable and even sad.

There is not one thing in particular in which I am referring.  It’s more about the spirit in which people go to make their opinion known.  Those who know better – or at least should.

As a Christian I am fully aware that everything that comes out of my mouth and everything written down – or passed along carries a heavy weight.  I represent the King of Kings.  His opinions, character, integrity, love, grace, forgiveness and yes – the other cheek.

Am I always aware when I have crossed that invisible line of being right – and yet at the same time – being judgmental?  No.  Not always.

Do I always admit when I’m wrong?  No.  I like being right.  But at what cost?

So when my husband received something forwarded to him in an email yesterday – it troubled me.  It was from someone we respect and look up to.  At first glance it had all the “rightness” that all of us calling ourselves “Christians” feel justified to pass along and pat ourselves on the back to say – “Wow – can you believe how wrong they are – and how right WE are?”    But the more I pondered it and chewed on it – actually for most of the night last night – it did not feel very good.

So you can imagine how wonderful it felt when Greg received an apology from this same person passing along this forwarded email.  He said “I felt convicted and had to apology – even write an email to this person whom the email is about and apologize for forwarding it”

It may not be a big deal – it’s not even anything that will change much.  But for me it was HUGE.  True conviction.  Unsolicited.  Unsung.  Insignificant.   Except – that it was.  It is a lesson for me.  To think first, be slow to react out of opinion and “rightness”.  To be open, ready to admit I’m wrong – when so often I am.  I am humbled that there are still men and women of true character – not afraid to look foolish in order to bring relationship.

And more than anything else in this day – it’s just so nice to know.

God Bless

 

Letter To Younger Self

 

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Today I came across an article about an eleven year old girl who died.  Among her things was a letter written to her “future self” to be opened in the year 2023.  Because her mother was curious about the letter she decided to open it, read it and publish it for all to see.  An invasion of privacy?  I’m not sure.  But the letter was so encouraging and uplifting – it is easy to forgive whatever motive the mother had.  I read it and smiled.  It is much the same kind of letter that I would have written to myself when I was eleven.  Curious about the future, and wanting some kind of assurance that life, things, people and opportunities would not change who I was and who I would become – seems like the kind of letter I would write.  And so would you.

However…

Much of what I see floating around the internet (and especially celebrities) is a letter to their “younger self”.  The kind of letter you would write if you could somehow transport yourself back in time, 20, 30, 40 years – or even longer.  If somehow we had time travel at our disposal and could magically appear to ourselves, like “Back to the Future” with Michael J. Fox.

But let’s be reasonable.  Much like the younger versions of Marty McFly’s mother and father in that same movie – who were not very open to glimpses of truth and wisdom from the future – probably neither would we.  I do see it as an interesting topic, however and would love to stay here a little longer.  Would my younger self have listened to me at this mature age?  Especially if I seemed to posses knowledge that only a “future” me would know about?  Would it them be clear to my younger self that I was trustworthy and knew what I was talking about?  I’m not sure.

And since events in our life – choices we make determine our natural course and make us who we are maybe the only answer to this is – let it be.

As I pondered this – a thought occurred to me.  God knows our past, present and future and chooses not to tell us about it.  He could.  But He does not.  He does not try to influence our decisions, but asks us to trust Him when we feel Him speaking to us in times of great darkness, sorrow pain and loss.  I’ve come to the conclusion that He knows all those decisions we make, good and bad will shape us into the man or woman we are today.  Oh He could give away some of the secrets of timing, people and choices – but He does not.  There is a lesson in this.  And I don’t want it to be lost on me  especially when I cry out to Him, “WHY???????”  Ultimately I would have to admit that even though some of those stupid choices I have made over the years were painful, humiliating and MAN I wish I could have a DO OVER!!  But this is not how life works.

So if I had the chance – like God to go back and whisper some things to my younger self – I would not.  I would stand and observe.  And be thankful.  And let things run their natural course.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.   Jeremiah 29:11

That is good enough for me.  He knows – and gives a glimpse into my future – plans for welfare and not for evil – hope and a future.

Be encouraged today.  The choices you have made, situations you have found yourself in – good and bad have given you character and maturity.  And God knew all along.

 

God Bless

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Just a short note to wish everyone in my blogging world a very Happy Thanksgiving!  May the food that you eat today be eaten in true thanksgiving as you count you blessings and not your calories!

Today it is just Greg and me in the new town we moved to last month.  I am excited to make my good friend Deanna’s Sweet and Spicy Cornish Game Hens with Cornbread Stuffing recipe.  Here is a picture of how it should look when it is done 🙂

sweetWell I better get started!

What are you having today?

Take care and God Bless!

What is Life?

You don’t know what will happen tomorrow. What is life? You are a mist that is seen for a moment and then disappears.

James 4:14   God’s Word Translation

 

Years ago we saw the movie “The Grinch” based on the beloved old story we all grew up reading and watching on TV.  This movie brought the animated characters to life.  But it was the beginning and ending of that Ron Howard movie that captured my attention.  It started off by showing millions of snowflakes falling to the ground, and then the camera zoomed in on just one of the many – closer and closer, until magically a whole city is revealed.  This teeny tiny little town on a teeny tiny snowflake, was the land of Who-ville.  At the end of the movie, the camera fades back after following the story to completion – showing again the very small town on a tiny little snowflake – one out of millions of snowflakes.  Mind blowing.  It was hard to wrap my brain around it.

Last week when watching one of our favorites, “The Big Bang Theory” – we saw an episode where Larry is explaining to Penny the holographic images he is working on.  He has her put on special glasses then shows her how objects appear to fly.   Then he brings a holographic 3 dimensional world spinning around and he says something like this to her, “we may all be just someone’s holographic world on another far away planet – it’s an interesting thought”.

I remember years ago having a discussion with my Dad on the subject of “seeing through a glass dimly” from 1 Corinthians 13 and how what we have always assumed was the “real thing” – may only be an illusion.  The real life is something we have not had a glimpse of – yet.  We may be the illusion – the holographic image – the existence that seems so grand, large, and profound.  But what if the things we thought and truly believed are wrong.  Not just wrong – but hugely exaggerated.  Our own importance – the things we do, what we think about and  spend our energy on – what if we’re misguided and sadly off base?

This last week we mourned the life of 16-year-old Teagan McGinnis who was killed in a car accident.  Who can make any sense of this?  If you are like me – you have struggled with it, even while realizing that God is still God.  Even good people die.  Death at any age is no respecter of persons.  And yet…if the Bible is really true – then the verse at the top brings great hope.  If you are like me, and no doubt the family members of Teagan, hope brings comfort, helps to lessen the sting of loss and even begins to bring clarity to the great mystery of death.  Not only death – but what is beyond death.

If our life here is a “mist” here today and gone tomorrow – then we do have that great hope!  Our real life begins after we die.  The many things we plan for, struggle to buy, takes years to cultivate and think are so important – if they are really just a “breath” of time – just IMAGINE what is in store for us beyond this life.  This beautiful life that God made for us – complete with family to love us, friends to sustain us, health and purpose, laughter, tears, joys, music, scenery that takes our breath away, babies, puppies and the many other unexplainable wonderful things that happen every day – and over a lifetime,  if God took that much time on this temporary mist of a life – that is here today and gone tomorrow – how much more will He take care of you when life is denied?  When we lose something or someone?  When we struggle with health, age, troubles, love and finances?

For those of us who understand these things – we understand that for those of us who have a faith in Jesus Christ – there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God – and each other.  Even in death.

That is my hope.  That is your hope.  For every motherless child, for every parent who has lost a child, for all those alone and suffering – it can be your hope too.  And someday, like Teagan – we will have the eyes to really see.  We will start living our life.  After this one is done – and we will mourn no more.

God Bless

Learning Curves

We moved last Tuesday in what seemed like an endless whirl of exhaustion and lack of focus for DAYS!  Not only did we prepare our home that we own in Renton, WA for new renters by cleaning and painting, but we also moved to a different city.  We planned, packed, rented a moving truck and spent two nights with just our mattress on the first floor to better clean and organize.  By the time we got the truck, loaded it up and made sure everything was in pristine condition behind us, we hardly knew our own names.

Moving is not for the faint-hearted.  In fact, I do not recommend it for everyone.  It takes enormous amounts of strength, endurance and quick recovery.  So much easier to do when we were in our 30’s and 40’s.  I don’t think I’ve ever been this exhausted in my whole life.

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And so we arrived last Tuesday to a beautiful little home, with new paint and carpeting.  And we hurried to get things unloaded and unpacked.  Because we are brand new property managers here, we had to quickly learn how to do that.  We will be learning it for a long time.  Rent had to be collected, new applications for residence taken, a new lease signed for a home in our community – all in a week’s worth of time.  Then there’s a software program to learn, hours to set, phones to be answered deposits to be made and files to be set up.

I feel as though we have been preparing for this new learning curve for a long time.  Having our own businesses from our home taught us many of the things that could not have been learned any other way.  Setting ones own hours, priorities and ways to organize an office – we already had learned long ago from just living day-to-day.

And we will continue to learn it.  If you want to follow our journey with property management – we have a page on Facebook.  Just type in “Union Gap West” and you’ll find us 🙂

Life is a journey – and if you are open to it, many strange and wonderful new learning curves.

God Bless

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