Can you rejoice in Me?

Lying in bed, earlier than I want it to be.
The sound of children’s voices when I want quiet.
Grumbles rise to the surface, discontentment chafing.
If only I had a bigger house, quieter children…

Recognising the path my thoughts are taking, reining them in,
Offering thankfulness for this house, these children, this life.
And then His whisper in my mind:

“Can you rejoice in Me?”

Not just thanking Him for His blessings,
But basking in His presence,
Opening my heart to the rays of His love,
Looking past the changing circumstances, good or ill,
And seeing the One who never alters.

I will rejoice in You!

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A Bubble Bursts

As a child I listened to my grandfather playing on his baby grand piano, and I thought, “I wish I could do that.”  I would look at the musical score and tried to figure out what it meant, but all I could understand were the letters ‘m’, ‘p’ and ‘f’.  Were they notes on the piano somewhere?  I tried to play them but it didn’t sound anything like my grandfather’s playing.

Then when I was seven my parents sent me to piano lessons.  The written music started to make sense.  This was something I loved to do, and I never had to be told to practise.  Unfortunately after about six months of lessons we moved and the lessons stopped.  Playing the piano became a dream once more.  I had to wait until I was nearly 12 before starting lessons with another teacher.  During the waiting time I borrowed other people’s piano books and figured out quite a lot on my own.  A piano teacher, who I hoped would teach me, frowned disapprovingly when I told her this, saying, “You’ll be picking up bad habits.”  Perhaps I was, but music was already an important part of me.

Once I started lessons again I worked hard, but was never a prodigy, just an above average amateur.  I played in church for the first time when I was 14.  At first I would have to practise for weeks before I could accompany the congregation.  I spent hours playing all the songs in the book so that I would be ready whenever I was needed.  I learned how to play using chords and later on, how to play by ear.

There were always others who were better than I was – one of my classmates who had started learning earlier, a younger girl who had learned using the Suzuki method, someone else who played the same pieces that I did, but so much faster.  There was an ugly envy in me.

I tried to get into the performance programme at university, but my application was declined.  I hardly talked about it afterwards, because I was so embarrassed that I had even tried.  I stopped playing anything challenging for a long time after that.

My husband and I met over a piano keyboard.  He was playing in church.  I didn’t know anyone, so I thought I’d talk to him.  I didn’t think much of him at that first meeting, but fortunately he was more impressed than I was.  🙂  Our first ‘date’ was playing duets.  We play at approximately the same level, albeit with different strengths.  It is in keeping with God’s beautiful design in bringing us together – ‘oak and ash in a dove-tail joint’.

When I was in my early thirties I decided to have piano lessons again, as I had never done any exams, and wanted to be able to teach piano.  Over the next few years I played lots of Beethoven and Bach, and was introduced to Scarlatti and Brahms, and learnt about cadences and what a second inversion meant (“Drama!” my teacher said).  It took a few years, because I had our fourth child during that time, as well as homeschooling, but finally I was able to sit the ATCL performance exam, and passed, at the ripe old age of 35.

Pierre-Auguste_Renoir_031

But I’m still only an above average amateur, and I still struggle with pride and envy.  I realised that last week when someone at church commented that she missed hearing my husband playing, as she had heard me playing more often.  She commented about his style being different from mine, and how he was ‘very accurate’.  The ugly green-eyed monster hadn’t died yet.  I was hurt and put out.  Something important to me was under attack.  Thankfully we sorted it out the same day, and she realised she had been making some wrong assumptions (she thought that I had been stopping him from playing, when I hadn’t).

But I got to thinking about how I had reacted.  The only thing that was hurting was my pride, and that didn’t deserve to live.  I had been congratulating myself on my excellent musical renditions, and someone had come with a sharp pin and *pop* burst my bubble.  And I was reminded of these words (the paraphrasing is mine):

“If I play the sonatas of Beethoven by memory, perform Bach with breathtaking accuracy, and my fingers fly like swallows over the keyboard, but I have not love, then I am only a sounding gong or a clashing cymbal….I am out of tune and they are only notes, worth nothing.”

Conversely, when I play with love and without pride, it doesn’t matter if my fingers trip up or I miss some notes.  My Father in Heaven loves to listen anyway.  🙂

Why my blog is called Isaiah 41 verse 10

I was about 10 or 11.  I was staying with my parents who were missionaries in the kind of country where people don’t usually go for a relaxing holiday.  I never felt like I belonged anywhere.  Not in that culture, because I couldn’t speak the language, and I looked different and was foreign, and not at the boarding school for missionaries’ children, where the other kids often picked on me or disliked me. At an early age I had stopped believing in my mother’s love for me, and the lie that I was unloved was causing me to grow up crooked, like a tree that overcompensates for an early injury.

But I had heard that God loved me.  I also had heard that He would speak if one listened.  One day, when I was by myself in the room I shared with my sister, I took my Bible and sat on the bed, and asked Him if it was true.

“Is it true that you love me?  Do you care about me?”

I waited.  Then a verse reference popped into my head: one that I didn’t know.  I looked it up.

Isaiah 41 verse 10

So do not fear, for I am with you;

Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you; 

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

 

Then I knew that it was true.  He does speak, and He does care, and He is not only the one true God, Creator of the universe, He is my God, the one who watches over me.  He is Love.

He has kept His promise to me.  With Him I am strong.  He is always with me, and He holds on to me.  I’ve wandered off the pathway lots of times, and got distracted, and disobeyed His instructions, but He has not given up on me, and He never will.  Some songs say, “I will never let you [Jesus] go.”  I always change the words when I’m singing to “You will never let me go,” because the truth is that we often let go, but He doesn’t.

I’ve found that if I hold onto His love, I can love other people, and not be afraid of them hurting me.  It’s hard to unlearn old habits of mistrust and criticism, but slowly He is making the change.  If I ask Him to show me how He sees a situation or a person, it’s like He changes the perspective, making clear what was blurry, changing the colours, and sometimes revealing details I did not notice before. 

Sometimes I look back and wish I had pursued Him earlier, when I knew this from an early age, but for a long time it was about following rules and being a ‘good Christian’.  I was too busy trying to fix everyone else, and swinging from self-hatred to pride and back again.  But they say that nothing is wasted with God, so I will trust that He is making something beautiful with the mess. 

Radical Obedience

I would like to recommend the audio book of What Happens When Women Say Yes to God by Lysa Terkeurst.  It is available free this month from christianaudio.com.  Lysa talks about her journey of learning ‘radical obedience’ to God.  This is familiar to me, as God has also been graciously leading me on this uncomfortable but joyful path.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Psalm 23 v 3

What does obedience look like?  Many of us want to ‘do great things for God’, hoping that He will call us to do something extraordinary and wonderful.  But what if the path of obedience is more mundane, such as washing dishes for Jesus, or learning not to lose my temper, or being honest when no one else is?  What if it means choosing not to respond in anger with my children when they disobey again, or are careless?  What if it means choosing not to complain or grumble about people who don’t pull their weight at work or at church, but being thankful for them and blessing them instead?  What if it means getting up early to pray rather sleeping for another hour?

I’m starting to see that the life of radical obedience that God is calling us to is made of many choices, day by day, but that these often trivial matters point back to one choice we must make – will we live to please Him or to please ourselves?  The little things matter.

Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much.

Luke 16 verse 10

His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy!”

Matthew 25 verse 21

Lessons from Daniel

As a family we have been re-reading the book of Daniel.  The story opens when Daniel and three of his friends are among the captives taken from Jerusalem to Babylon.  The best-looking, fittest and most intelligent young men are chosen to receive the finest education the Babylonian court can provide, and Daniel and his friends are among this select group.  They are to be fed on the choicest foods and wines from the king’s own table.  However, this is a problem for Daniel and his three friends.  They are forbidden by the Law given to Moses to consume certain animals, and may not eat meat that has not had the blood drained from it.  Daniel asks that they be fed vegetables instead.  The officer over them is reluctant, because he thinks that they will not fare as well as the other young men who eat the king’s food, but Daniel asks for a ten day trial.  After ten days the four young men who are obedient to God’s law look healthier than all the others.  They are allowed to continue eating their plain diet rather than the king’s food.  God blesses them with understanding and wisdom above all their fellows, so that they rise to prominent positions in the king’s court.

How many young men from Judah were in that court?  There must have been many more than four.  However, only Daniel and his friends were willing to be different from the rest.  What words may have been thrown at them?

“Why are you making a fuss?  We’re in Babylon now.  When in Babylon, do as the Babylonians do.”

“You’re making the rest of us look bad.  I suppose you think you’re super holy or something.”

“Why are you bothering to obey God when he couldn’t save us from Nebuchadnezzar’s armies?”

It was only a ‘little thing’, but it mattered in God’s eyes.

Taking a break from blogland

For the next month I am taking a break from blogging and from visiting other people’s blogs.  It seems to be what God is asking me to do.  In fact He’s been asking for a while, but I’ve been struggling to stop.  However listening to Lysa’s book has encouraged me to take this step.

Some things I’m hoping to do in my blog-free month:  gardening, spending more time with my family, craft projects, praying, writing songs and poetry, cooking and reaching out to others.   Who knows what else God has planned?

Jo.

What Happens When Women Say Yes to God by Lysa Terkeurst

– See more at: http://christianaudio.com/free/#sthash.dVOS37dS.dpuf

What Happens When Women Say Yes to God by Lysa Terkeurst

– See more at: http://christianaudio.com/free/#sthash.dVOS37dS.dpuf

Beggar for Love

I was a beggar for love until you found me,

Clutching my filthy rags around me,

Scrabbling in the dirt for scraps left behind,

Holding tight to what I could find,

Until you found me.

 

I was a beggar for love until you found me,

The longing for love a festering wound within me,

Scorned love turned to passionate hate,

Loathing myself more than anyone else,

Until you found me.

 

I was a beggar for love, but you stooped in the dirt,

Picked me up, washed my wounds, healed my hurt.

In your perfect love, Jesus, I find

A well so deep I can never drink it dry.

Not just one in a crowd to you,

But a beloved child lost and sought,

You never relented until you had me safe in your arms

Nestled near your heart,

A beggar no more.

I am yours.

A letter from China

Written by an evangelist in Shandong province:

When the gospel was first shared with us in 2012 we did not have any Bibles but we felt such a hunger to know more about the Truth.  We cried out to the Lord with burning desire to know more about Him.  In May 2013 the Lord answered our prayers and all our fellowship leaders and evangelists have received Bibles.  We fell down on our faces before the Lord weeping with joy as we thanked the Lord for providing us the Bread of Life. 

It was explained to us that God’s Word was provided by Christians around the world who sacrificed their hard-earned money so we could have Bibles.  We are just peasants from the countryside, so we don’t understand much about the world outside of China.  Everything outside China seems so foreign and strange to us; but we now feel a strong connection to God’s people around the world that provided us with Bibles even though they have never met us.  Although we don’t know you by name, we thank you from the depths of our hearts for providing these Bibles to us.  We believe that in heaven God will introduce us to those who provided Bibles and we look forward to worshipping the Lord with you!  Until then may God’s grace and peace be with you.

There is a critical shortage of Bibles in China today because of the massive growth of the church in rural areas.  Tens of millions of Christians are still without God’s Word.  Asia Harvest is partnering with house church networks throughout China in a long-term strategy to print Bibles for these new believers.  They are distributed to all parts of China, helping establish new believers in the faith and adding fuel to the revival that continues to burn throughout the world’s most populous country.  Each Bible cost just US $1.80 to print and deliver.

Information and evangelist’s letter from Asia Harvest’s March 2014 newsletter.

Dealing with my own distortions…

I want to reblog this post because it is a powerful reminder of how mixed up our thoughts can be. I know God’s still working on me and transforming my thinking.

In My Father's House

Distorted_Mel2 In my last post (“Dealing with our distortions of God”), I attempted to lay a foundation about our distorted view of God and how that effects our relationship with Him and how we see ourselves and others. Now, I would like to  share what I have discovered over the years about my own personal distortions. I will also confess here that I didn’t realize that most of these were distortions before this discovery. Like you, I thought they were normal. I didn’t know what I didn’t know…Okay, here’s a few to start with…

My distortions about God:

I thought that God was still angry at sinners…
I thought Jesus was the merciful, graceful, loving, approachable friend who had to hold back a distant, too lofty, angry, wrathful Father from striking us all down because He couldn’t stand to look at us without His “Jesus glasses” on…

View original post 1,258 more words

Dear Moppet

In January we had visitors from Germany come to stay with us.  They were friendly and fun, playing swing ball and jumping on the trampoline with our children.  However their stay also highlighted for me some problems in our family that needed to be dealt with.  It was painful at the time, but I’m grateful for the work God did….

Dear Moppet,

You have long blond hair, a sweet round face, and sturdy limbs.  You love to sing and dance.  I watch you on the trampoline and I laugh at the big words you use and your decided opinions.  You act tough, but can suddenly crumple at a harsh word or angry tone.  Sometimes you use words as weapons, lashing out at your three older siblings, and I wonder how you learnt that and why you want to hurt them.  You are growing fast and will soon be too big for my lap, and I suddenly want to put brakes on Time and keep you little for longer, and make up for the moments I did not cherish earlier.

I’m sorry to say that I resented you when you were little: the years of waking up every night for no reason I could make out, the annoyance of trying to keep everyone else quiet during your naps, the ‘inconvenience’ having a baby or toddler caused.  I even spoke the words, “I wish…..”  I don’t want to finish the sentence now because it is too painful to remember.  I didn’t realise the treasure God had given us in you.

I saw the damage my attitude had caused, when we had visitors in January and my little 5-year-old girl clung to a stranger, wanting to hold her hand and sit on her lap, things you never did with me.  God forgive me for my blindness.  That night I lay awake and wept because of the wrong I had done you and the words I had spoken many times, though never to your face, “I don’t want another baby if it is like M.”  I take them back.  I love you, Moppet.  It doesn’t matter how much disruption you cause.  Nothing changes the fact that you’re my treasure.

Your Daddy and I prayed together and repented of our words and attitudes.  God gave us His peace and I know that He will heal our relationship and make it beautiful.  I’ve been holding you more, and expressing my love for you, praying with you and playing with you.  I know things are changing and I’m grateful.

Love you forever,

Mum.

What can I give God?

“God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best.”

from On His Blindness by John Milton

What can I give God?  Everything I have comes from Him.  There is nothing of mine that He did not give me.  Anything that I lack, I only need ask Him for it.

I used to think that God needed my talents and my gifts for His kingdom.  Now I see them as pitiful offerings.  Without the Spirit’s fire they are fool’s gold.

What does He want from me?  Not sacrifices, not gifts, but my love and obedience.  He wants to be my Father, and for me to be His child, loving Him, running to Him when I am hurt, trusting Him, obeying Him.

Father, I give you my heart, and ask that the love You have placed there will increase day by day.  May each day be full of praise and adoration for You, as I rest in You.

What our Lord want us to present to Him is not goodness, nor honesty, nor endeavour, but real solid sin; that is all He can take from us.  And what does He give in exchange for our sin?  Real solid righteousness.  ”

Oswald Chambers