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"No matter where I am, your teachings fill me with songs." - Psalm 119:54 (CEV)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

$1.25

Those of you dear, dear friends searching my homepage looking for my usual Wednesday post,

(Or any visitor who did not expect a post about poverty)

Read through this one first and you will find it right below.

I posted on Tuesday this week because I will be busy Wednesday (speaking of which, don't get your hopes up for a post next week),

And I was given a prompt from Compassion for Tuesday also,

So there are two Tuesday posts,

And I posted this one second so it would be seen first

Because I consider this to be very important

And didn't want it to be hidden.


I saw it in my email inbox this afternoon,

The last message received,

With the subject line:  "Blogger Assignment:  Can You Survive on $1.25?"

I didn't have time that very moment to work on a post,

So instead I spent my lunch thinking about how much money I spend.

I'm a big fan of shopping,

And a bit of a health food nut.

(By that I mean that I avoid high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and hydrolyzed oils, although I allow myself to splurge every now and then . . . like on that Rollo McFlurry I got from McDonald's a couple of weeks ago . . . it is "limited edition", after all.  Anyway, the point is that foods that don't contain those ingredients tend to be more expensive.)

The two pieces of leftover pizza I ate for lunch had cost about a dollar each when we bought them at the restaurant last night.

That's over $1.25 right off the bat.

That also doesn't include the glass of milk I drank,

The roasted chickpeas I snacked on,

The strawberry I popped in my mouth,

The piece of homemade bread I ate.

I probably spent somewhere between three and four dollars on one meal.

Granted, I don't know how much food costs in other countries,

How much I'd need to spend on other expenses like shelter and clothing

But I can't imagine how I could possibly live on only a dollar and twenty-five cents a day.


I finally sit down to read the email I received.

It directs me to a game:

"Survive125"

I click on a link, hit the start button.

I make decisions -

Imaginary decisions, but terrible nonetheless.

I will live in a slum so that I can earn an extra 64 cents a day.

I can't heat my home because firewood is so expensive.

We eat moldy food in the rainy season because I can't afford to buy more fresh food.

My child becomes sick from the dirty water.

I miss three days of work to take care of her.

It costs me 96 rupees - a dollar and seventy cents.

I manage to earn enough to keep my oldest daughter from working at a factory,

Knowing the factory owners may be linked to human trafficking,

But I can't pay for medicine for my mother, who is very ill.

I have to pay a 300 rupees ($5.31) to bribe some thugs.

Reporting the thugs to the police would've cost 50 rupees more.

I accept a ten rupee bribe to vote for a particular candidate in the next election.

I have to remove my son from school every three days

In order to get clean water for my family to drink.

I am sexually assaulted on my way home from work one night.

I don't have enough money to be tested for HIV.

When my sister dies in childbirth and her baby is orphaned,

I send the child to an orphanage.

I can't afford the extra expense.

I have to leave my home when my estranged husband threatens me and my children.

A kind friend takes me in and tells me about HOPE International.

I meet with someone in the organization,

Hoping that they will help me better provide for my family.

I have to pull my son out of school because he's outgrown his uniform and I can't afford the 500 rupees for a new one.

Some kind person sponsors him through Compassion International.

Now he has the opportunity to get an education.

I make it seventeen days -

Nineteen -

Only once do I make it through an entire month.

For me, it's just a game.

For 1.3 billion people in the world, it is reality.

Will you play the game?

How long can you survive?


The email also contained a link to a video -

"The Poor Will NOT ALWAYS Be With Us".

We have the ability to make a difference.

When Jesus said "The poor you will always have with you", He was talking to Judas,

Not us.

Watch it?

Please?

Prayerfully consider how you might help?

Maybe support one of the organizations in the 58: Alliance -

Part of an initiative to end extreme poverty in our lifetimes

And fast the way God told us to in Isaiah 58.

Isaiah 58:6-7

New International Version (NIV)
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter —
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

God has given us everything we need to end poverty.

The question is, will we do it?

Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion



The Name of God


I'd forgotten that I was supposed to do it,

That I'd volunteered to teach Sunday School that Sunday,

Until it was too late to print the pages I'd thought about,

Too late to make a cute bookmark or something -

Something to help them remember.

Still, when she told me I didn't have to teach on what had been planned,

I didn't want to change.

It was part of the reason I'd chosen that week.

We were looking at each line of the Lord's Prayer.

The line I'd signed up for was "Hallowed be Thy Name".

I told her quietly that the Name of God was one of my favorite topics

And that I could do it just fine with a quick trip to the church office,

A quick trip to print off just one sheet of paper.


I took that paper -

The most comprehensive list of the characteristics of God I'd found -

And I wrote all twenty-seven attributes in two columns on the white board

Here, in the church I grew up in,

The church that talks about some of these while completely ignoring others.

After all, everything around us tells us that it's so much better to make God into what we want Him to be,

Worship an idol because the real thing's just not beautiful enough,

And people who think of love the way the world does can't see the God of the Bible as loving,

Not with all that wrath and justice in there.

They've forgotten that love rejoices with the truth,

And that the truth can hurt.

I can't follow their example, though,

Can't make Him less that who He is.

I won't.

So I write out the two columns,

Get out the church's NLT kids' Bibles,

And open all of them to Luke 11.


The children come up,

Bringing their offering change and smiling eyes.

One even has a notebook and a pencil.

They sit down at the table.

I pray for us,

Pray that God will be the one speaking through me,

Thank Him for this opportunity,

For His Name.

I call their attention to the Bibles in front of them,

Have to point to the three verses in each of their Bibles.

One girl has managed to flip to Acts.

"Is this it?"

I quietly flip the pages back.

"There it is."

I get one volunteer for each verse.

"This isn't the Lord's Prayer," they tell me.

"It's not how we say it in church, is it?

This is a different version, but it means the same."

I point to the other words I've written on the board.

These are the words that we speak each Sunday in church:

"Hallowed be Thy Name",

Ask them what "hallowed" means.

They don't really know.

I tell them the dictionary definition I'd found:

"To honor as holy."

"What does holy mean?"

They don't really know this, either.

I say it's cut,

Separate,

That God is not like us,

Not like anything but Himself.

Then I get to the part I've been waiting for:

"Thy Name".


I tell them that, when we speak of God's Name, we are talking about who He is.

Then I point to the twenty-seven attributes of God on the white board.

I take the attributes one at a time,

First asking for a defintion,

Then giving the correct one,

Searching my mind for comprehensible examples,

Going far too fast,

Wanting to slow down and look up Scripture references

So they'd know it's more than my words, but His,

Knowing I don't have the time to flip to and point out verses in so many Bibles.

I try to explain things that seem contradictory,

Tell them honestly that we don't like to talk about some of these things in church,

But I do not skip any of the terms.

I know that the time I have to teach these children -

To try to tell them what no one told me until this past year -

Is quickly passing,

I leave a lot out,

But I refuse to ignore any attribute.

I give as complete a picture of God as I can in thirty minutes.

One by one, children bored with my endless talking notice the coloring supplies on the table,

Pick up papers and begin drawing beautiful pictures.

I say nothing, because, really, I don't mind.

They're young.

I was that young once.

Two, however, are still staring at me -

Staring at me intently -

Giving whatever answers they have to every question I ask.

Maybe someone is still listening?


When I finally finish, the girl with the notebook is writing,

Pencil scratching out one very long column of words on a page.

As I move around to compliment children on their beautiful drawings,

Pass out supplies for the craft we're supposed to do,

She holds it up to me,

Shows me the words she has written,

Twenty-seven of the most beautiful terms I have ever known.

"I wrote them all down.  See?"

And I see.

Oh, I see.

  
Counting reasons 1535-1574 today,

Never giving up this fight to see God as He is,

To worship His Holy Name:
  1. Not a word that he has spoken will fail (2 Kings 10:10)
  2. People are destroyed according to the word He spoke (2 Kings 10:17)
  3. He allows the descendants of those who accomplish what is right in His eyes to remain on the throne to the fourth generation (2 Kings 10:30)
  4. He reduces the size of His nation (2 Kings 10:32)
  5. His anger burns against His nation (2 Kings 13:3)
  6. His anger burns against His nation because the king of His nation does evil in His eyes (2 Kings 13:2-3)
  7. His anger burns against His nation because the king of His nation does not turn away from the sins of his predecessor (2 Kings 13:2-3)
  8. His anger burns against His nation, and He keeps them under the power of an enemy king for a long time (2 Kings 13:2-3)
  9. He listens to those who seek His favor (2 Kings 13:4)
  10. He sees how severely the enemy king oppresses His nation (2 Kings 13:4)
  11. He provides a deliverer for His nation (2 Kings 13:5)
  12. He sends an arrow of victory (2 Kings 13:17)
  13. His arrow of victory promises victory to His people (2 Kings 13:17)
  14. He allows the bones of His prophet to bring a dead man to life (2 Kings 13:21)
  15. He is gracious to His people because of His covenant (2 Kings 13:23)
  16. He shows concern for His people because of His covenant (2 Kings 13:23)
  17. He is unwilling to destroy His people (2 Kings 13:23)
  18. He is unwilling to banish His people from His presence (2 Kings 13:23)
  19. He sees how bitterly the people of His nation suffer (2 Kings 14:26)
  20. He does not do what he has not said that He will do (2 Kings 14:27)
  21. He does not blot out the name of His nation from under heaven (2 Kings 14:27)
  22. He saves His nation by the hand of one whom He has chosen (2 Kings 14:27)
  23. He afflicts those who do right in His eyes with leprosy (2 Kings 15:3-5)
  24. He fulfills the word He has spoken and allows the descendants of Jehu to sit on the throne to the fourth generation (2 Kings 15:12)
  25. He sends people against His nation (2 Kings 15:37)
  26. His anger is aroused when His people do wicked things (2 Kings 17:11)
  27. He warns His people (2 Kings 17:13)
  28. He warns His people to turn from their evil ways (2 Kings 17:13)
  29. He warns His people to observe His commands (2 Kings 17:13)
  30. He warns His people to observe His decrees (2 Kings 17:13)
  31. He warns His people to live in accordance with the entire Law that He commanded their ancestors to obey (2 Kings 17:13)
  32. He warns His people to live in accordance with the entire Law that He delivered to them through His servants the prophets (2 Kings 17:13)
  33. He orders His people not to imitate the nations around them (2 Kings 17:15)
  34. His anger is aroused when His people sell themselves to do evil in His eyes (2 Kings 17:17)
  35. He removes His nation from His presence (2 Kings 17:18)
  36. He rejects all the people of His nation because of their evil deeds (2 Kings 17:20)
  37. He afflicts all the people of His nation because of their evil deeds (2 Kings 17:20)
  38. He gives all the people of His nation into the hands of plunderers because of their evil deeds (2 Kings 17:20)
  39. He thrusts all the people of His nation from His presence (2 Kings 17:20)
  40. He removes the people of His nation from His presence as He had warned through all His servants the prophets (2 Kings 17:22-23)



Counting 10,000 Reasons to worship Him:

(Take the challenge with us!)

<a href="http://maryschieferstein.blogspot.com/search/label/10000%20Reasons" target="_blank"><img src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8zkGH23srZ8/T2i3Bun0O9I/AAAAAAAABSw/8giPvnJmCPI/s320/10000ReasonsButton.jpg" /></a>
Counting in community,

Leaving the link open for two weeks this time,

Not sure if I'll be able to post next week (so don't get worried if I don't):



Wednesday, June 20, 2012

When You Just Can't Take it Another Second . . .

(fair warning: this is a little ugly . . . and very long-winded . . . but it should have a decent ending)


You who live in heaven,
Hear the prayers of those of us who live on earth . . .



I don't think I've ever felt so dead.

Some might say, "Well, before I met Jesus . . ."

But I can't,

Can't remember any time "BC" in my life,

Can't remember what it felt like then,

Can't remember ever feeling as soul-dead as this,

And I hate it.

I just plain hate it.


It must seem like an oxymoron,

Not feeling anything and hating it,

But it isn't - it's just something that defies explanation.

I feel emotionless and I hate feeling that way.

That's the only way I can describe it.


Last week -

It must've been last Thursday -

I just hated it so much

I was sure I couldn't stand it for one more second.

I sat at the computer,

Thoughts miles and miles away,

Yet as close as my own heart,

And I just thought -

Maybe it would be easier -

Easier if I just ran away,

Just ran away . . . from God.

It must be one of the ugliest thoughts that's ever popped into my head,

Not completely serious,

But more serious than thoughts like this have been before.


You know,

In that moment there,

It just seemed so much simpler.

This following,

This pursuing,

It's such an exhausting fight,

And to be battling with this for months and getting nowhere,

It makes anything else sound appealing,

Especially the idea of doing whatever I want,

Wasting my life in whatever way I please.

For about two-tenths of a second, that option sounded so good . . .

Until I realized it wasn't an option.



Jonah, he tried to run away once,

And God just pulled him right back where He wanted him.

I -

I have tried this, too,

More times than I can count.

I try to mask it with excuses,

Excuses about not having enough time,

Excuses about how other people - Christian people - do it,

Excuses about anything and everything I can think of to keep myself from realizing that instead of finishing the TV series I've been watching before it's not available on Hulu anymore,

Spending hours on end watching TV or reading a book to "relax",

Exercising my imagination,

All along, what I've really been doing is running from Him,

Betraying Him to go and follow other gods, 

Worshiping myself.

And He's spent years teaching me that I can try to run all I want,

But something that ought to be done in moderation ought to be done in moderation,

And He's not fooled by my excuses,

And every time I try to run away, He's just going to bring me right back again.

So, this running away,

It's not an option,

Not because I'm not going to make it an option,

But because He doesn't make it an option,

And praise God He doesn't make it an option,

Because my desperately sick heart sure would.


The next day, my Charles Spurgeon devotional arrived in my email inbox,

And this is what it said:
The Christian should never think or speak lightly of unbelief. For a child of God to mistrust his love, his truth, his faithfulness, must be greatly displeasing to him. How can we ever grieve him by doubting his upholding grace? Christian! it is contrary to every promise of God's precious Word that thou shouldst ever be forgotten or left to perish. If it could be so, how could he be true who has said, "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I never forget thee." What were the value of that promise--"The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee." Where were the truth of Christ's words--"I give unto my sheep eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand." Where were the doctrines of grace? They would be all disproved if one child of God should perish. Where were the veracity of God, his honour, his power, his grace, his covenant, his oath, if any of those for whom Christ has died, and who have put their trust in him, should nevertheless be cast away? Banish those unbelieving fears which so dishonour God. Arise, shake thyself from the dust, and put on thy beautiful garments. Remember it is sinful to doubt his Word wherein he has promised thee that thou shalt never perish. Let the eternal life within thee express itself in confident rejoicing.
(Oops.  Definitely shouldn't have thought that.)

But that verse -

Oh, my mind knows it's true,

But then why do I feel so forgotten?!

I can't understand this,

I can't take this,

I can't live like this,

Feeling this dead and alone all the time.

I don't know how to survive without Him.

I just don't.

And if mountains melt into valleys,

Don't valleys rise into mountains,

And where is it?  When is it coming?

Because I'm dying to be out of these shadows and back in the light.


I put The Jesus Record into my CD player,

Listen to the songs,

Most of which I am only vaguely familiar with.

Someone's singing "Hard to Get",

And suddenly I realize that what he's singing about is how I've been feeling lately,

Pull out the booklet to read the lyrics,

And the last verse catches my attention more than the other two:
. . .And after I figured this, somehow
All I really need to know
Is if You who live in eternity
Hear the prayers of those of us who live in time
We can't see what's ahead
And we cannot get free of what we've left behind
I'm reeling from these voices that keep screaming in my ears
All the words of shame and doubt, blame and regret
I can't see how You're leading me unless You've led me here
Where I'm lost enough to let myself be led
And so You've been here all along I guess
It's just Your ways and You are just plain hard to get
"Lost",

And I've been feeling so lost lately.



Driving home from church Sunday night,

Still feeling nothing, despite my prayers to feel something - 

Anything -

I slide in the "car copy" of the CD and seek until I'm on the track I want.

It gets to the third verse,

And I can't even remember what the words are,

All I know is that they mean something to where I am right now,

And does He who lives in eternity hear the prayers of those of us who live in time?

Because, just that day, it'd felt a whole lot more like talking to a brick wall than praying,

And I know the answers to all of these questions,

But everything about where I am right now makes me doubt everything I know,

And I just need to be sure of it all again,

And my voice gets caught in my throat

As tears form in my eyes.

Lost.

I feel so lost.

 
I go back to the beginning of the song,

Because I just have to hear it again,

And then it's the second verse that's what I need to hear,

Then the bridge . . .
You who live in radiance
Hear the prayers of those of us who live in skin
We have a love that's not as patient as Yours was
Still we do love now and then
Did You ever know loneliness
Did You ever know need
Do You remember just how long a night can get?
When You were barely holding on
And Your friends fall asleep
And don't see the blood that's running in Your sweat
Will those who mourn be left uncomforted
While You're up there just playing hard to get?
And I know you bore our sorrows
And I know you feel our pain
And I know it would not hurt any less
Even if it could be explained
And I know that I am only lashing out
At the One who loves me most
And after I figured this, somehow
All I really need to know
Is if You who live in eternity
Hear the prayers of those of us who live in time . . .
And this loneliness,

This need is all I've been feeling lately,

And I'm just so sick of feeling this way,

And also so sick of trying to get out,

And are You hearing me?

Are You really seeing me?

You said You wouldn't forget me.

You said . . .

Get home,

Slip the demo disc into the CD player,

Turn over the box to find which track to skip to,

But it's already playing -

The first song on the disc.

Keep reminding me.

Please keep reminding me.


Last night, I came home exhausted,

Gathered my things, took a shower,

Was just about to brush my teeth,

When I really couldn't stand it another minute,

And I collapsed face-down on the floor. 

"How can You call me 'Daughter' now,

Now, when I've spent the whole day thinking about myself rather than You,

Making self my idol yet again,

And, God, I just can't do this.

I can't make myself into what I ought to be.

I'm just not capable of bringing my own heart to life,

Not capable of making it feel again,

Not capable of loving You and meditating on You the way I ought.

I have tried and tried and tried

And I just can't do it."

So I gave up.

No, not gave up as in "gave up and ran away"

Or "gave up and stopped fighting",

Just "realized I'd been trying to be in control

That I can't be in control,

And surrendered that control to the One who has really been in control all along . . .

Again."

And I don't know if my dead heart was in it or if it was just words,

If it's really going to make a difference or not,

But it's what I needed.

I couldn't take it another second.

I needed to be able to give up,

Never thought I could. 

But I can.

I'm not sure I know how to stop playing god and start letting Him be God, 

But I do know it's what I need -

All I need.

And I know I should've learned this lesson the last time . . .

Or the time before that.

Why am I so forgetful?

At least I know He's not giving up on teaching it to me.


I logged on today to post about what an ugly mess I am,

How I've never felt so dead before,

And an indicator tells me I have a comment awaiting moderation.

I can't imagine who it could be,

Don't feel ready to deal with a comment,

Having been steeling myself for teary-eyed typing of thoughts I regret,

Trying to make sense of my last week and put it into words,

And she just says everything I need to hear.
The Holy Spirit's working, or you wouldn't be struggling with the intensity you have! The Holy Spirit's working, or you simply wouldn't care. There'd be no up and down, just nothing. This is the name of the game... well, it's not a game, but you know what I mean. It is a fight, and one well worth fighting. Our feelings don't tell everything.
 And I am just blown away by the Holy Spirit's work in her,

And this wonderful reminder that He hasn't forgotten,

That He's still doing something,

That it's a fight -

And important one -

And that the feelings come and go,

But He remains constant.

Even when I feel abandoned,

I can trust in His faithfulness,

In His promise to never abandon.

And -

Thinking about Ann's prompt for Walk With Him Wednesday -

Isn't this part of what it means to be a citizen of heaven,

Even here, even now?

To trust Him, no matter what,

To let Him be in control when we can't be, and even when we think we can,

To live as though He's the only thing that matters

Because His kingdom's what we have to live for -

It's the only thing worth living for,

And the only way to truly have anything else.

The "Easter People"?

They're the ones whose hope is never in themselves,

In their own ability,

Because they know that they are powerless,

Powerless to know even one single fact,

But God? -

He rolls away stones to reveal empty tombs -

And how can we ever claim to be in control

When we can't even take our next breath?

The Easter People know this in the marrow of their bones,

Place all their hope only in Him,

And the world looks and that and knows their citizenship.


He sings it honestly,

Doesn't hide his anger or his hurt,

Voices all the questions I'm afraid to ask,

And maybe it's not right to ask them,

But it's not right to pretend to hide, either,

To delude ourselves into thinking we can keep God from seeing where we are.

It's better to admit where we are and let Him help.

He gets to the last two lines,

And I try to wrap my head around the truth I know he's saying:
And so You've been here all along I guess
It's just Your ways and You are just plain hard to get

"All along."

All along.


Reasons 1474-1534,

Counting and discovering why He is the One who ought to be in control:
  1. He is God in His nation (2 Kings 1:3)
  2. He sends fire from heaven (2 Kings 1:10)
  3. He sends fire from heaven to consume fifty-one men (2 Kings 1:10)
  4. He sends an angel to tell His prophet not to be afraid (2 Kings 1:15)
  5. He punishes those who consult other gods (2 Kings 1:16)
  6. Those who turn from Him to consult other gods die according to His word, spoken through His prophets (2 Kings 1:16-17)
  7. He takes the master from the servant (2 Kings 2:3)
  8. He parts the Jordan for His prophets (2 Kings 2:7-8)
  9. He sends a chariot of fire and horses of fire to separate the master from the servant (2 Kings 2:11)
  10. He takes His prophet up to heaven in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11)
  11. He heals water (2 Kings 2:21)
  12. He heals water so that it will no longer cause death (2 Kings 2:21)
  13. He heals water so that it will no longer make the land unproductive (2 Kings 2:21)
  14. The water He heals remains pure (2 Kings 2:21-22)
  15. He sends two bears to maul forty-two boys whom His prophet cursed in His name (2 Kings 2:23)
  16. He fills the valleys with pools of water (2 Kings 3:16)
  17. He needs neither wind nor rain to fill valleys with water (2 Kings 3:17)
  18. It is easy for Him to fill the valleys with pools of water, using neither wind nor rain (2 Kings 3:16-18)
  19. He delivers every fortified city in a nation into the hands of the kings (2 Kings 3:18-19)
  20. He delivers every major town in a nation into the hands of the kings (2 Kings 3:18-19)
  21. He enables the kings and their armies to cut down every good tree in a nation (2 Kings 3:18-19)
  22. He enables the kings and their armies to stop up all the springs in a nation (2 Kings 3:18-19)
  23. He enables the kings and their armies to ruin every good field in a nation with stones (2 Kings 3:18-19)
  24. He causes water to flow from the direction of Edom (2 Kings 3:20)
  25. He fills the land with water (2 Kings 3:20)
  26. He causes the sun to shine so that the water He sent looks red like blood (2 Kings 3:21-22)
  27. He confuses His people's enemies (2 Kings 3:21-23)
  28. He causes oil to flow from a small jar into many jars, filling every one (2 Kings 4:2-6)
  29. He provides for His people in miraculous ways (2 Kings 4:1-7)
  30. He gives a son to the childless woman (2 Kings 4:14-17)
  31. He allows the given child to die (2 Kings 4:18-20)
  32. He chooses to hide some things from His people, even from His prophets (2 Kings 4:27)
  33. He answers prayer and brings the dead to life (2 Kings 4:32-35)
  34. He causes dead bodies to grow warm (2 Kings 4:34)
  35. He makes stew safe to eat (2 Kings 4:39-41)
  36. He uses twenty loaves of bread to feed a hundred (2 Kings 4:42-44)
  37. He feeds many with little, and some is left over (2 Kings 4:42-44)
  38. He can kill and bring back to life (2 Kings 5:7)
  39. He restores flesh (2 Kings 5:14)
  40. He makes flesh clean (2 Kings 5:14)
  41. He makes flesh that was sick to be like that of a young boy (2 Kings 5:14)
  42. There is no God in all the world except Him (2 Kings 5:15)
  43. He gives leprosy (2 Kings 5:27)
  44. He makes iron float (2 Kings 6:6)
  45. He tells His prophets the words that enemy kings speak in their bedrooms (2 Kings 6:12)
  46. He sends horses and chariots of fire to protect His people (2 Kings 6:17)
  47. He opens eyes to see the horses and chariots of fire He has sent (2 Kings 6:17)
  48. He strikes entire armies with blindness (2 Kings 6:17)
  49. He restores sight to those from whom He took it (2 Kings 6:20)
  50. He ends famines (2 Kings 7:1)
  51. He does the impossible (2 Kings 7:2)
  52. He causes enemy armies to hear the sounds of chariots and horses and great armies (2 Kings 7:6)
  53. He causes enemy armies to believe they will be attacked and flee destruction (2 Kings 7:5-7)
  54. He causes enemy armies to drop everything and run away for their lives (2 Kings 7:7)
  55. He does as He had said, and those who doubt live to see His great works but not to enjoy them (2 Kings 7:17-20)
  56. He decrees famines (2 Kings 8:1)
  57. He decrees famines that last seven years (2 Kings 8:2)
  58. He reveals to His prophet who will die (2 Kings 8:10)
  59. He reveals to His prophet what the one standing before Him will do to His people (2 Kings 8:12-13)
  60. He does not destroy for the sake of His servant (2 Kings 8:19)
  61. He keeps His promise to maintain a lamp for David and his descendants forever (2 Kings 8:19)



Bold, italicized words are lyrics to the song "Hard to Get", written by Rich Mullins.  Many thanks to this incredible artist for his honest words. 

Also, many, many thanks to Sylvia for her encouraging comment.



Linking up at A Holy Experience today, discussing citizenship - "how to live here when your home is in heaven".




Also, please look at some of the other beautiful posts found at the bottom of this one.  Maybe bless the author with a comment?  It's a blessing to know that God has used your imperfect words to bless another.



Counting 10,000 Reasons to worship Him:

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Friday, June 15, 2012

The Joys of Music


I love music.

I really do.

Sometimes it's just hard for me to see -

Like now.

Something about recording,

Snatching ten minutes at a time to capture one take of a song,

Doing that eight to - yikes - ten times

Spending hours working out chords -

It's just not very fun for me.

I want to get to the part where I can just play,

Sing,

And enjoy it.


At times like these, it's hard to remember

That, just a couple of months ago, I would get so excited at the prospect of a song,

Literally jump up and down (yes, like a little kid) in anticipation.

(Kind of like I did when I got Invisible Empires at the Christian Bookstore)

I forget that I'm obsessed with music.


But, oh, I get so terrified sometimes.

Just the idea of giving a concert -

Knowing how I shake and tremble when I perform for others,

How last summer I thought I forgot the lyrics,

That overwhelming fear I felt -

It scares me.

Even just practicing with someone else around, I get insecure,

I worry.

"What if they don't like it?"

"What if they don't think it's any good?"

Then, of course, the root of it all:

"What if they don't like me?"

I probably shouldn't care,

But I do.

With time, it's gotten better,

But I think that,

To some degree,

I will always feel like this.

It's just part of being human.



I've been questioning, too.

Maybe I shouldn't be doing this at all.

Maybe it's not worth it.

It's so difficult,

And I know so little.

I haven't the slightest clue where to begin,

How to give a concert,

Promote a CD,

Tour the country,

Be a starving artist.

It's scary.

It's risky.

It's intimidating.

Yet just a few months ago, I was sure that this was where He wanted me -

Writing,

Singing,

Doing music -

Whatever that would end up looking like.

I don't think that's changed.

I've just gotten more scared.

Maybe it's because,

With everything else going on,


It's been hard to keep my eyes on Him.


It's quite a wonder how I got to it,

Sara Groves leading me to Christa Wells,

Christa Wells leading me to Ann Voskamp,

Ann Voskamp's Delicious linkroll leading me to a random Shaun Groves post -

Not even about music -

Then I think I kept browsing through some of his other non-music-related posts

Until I came across one with a cute little button at the bottom:

"Re:Write Online Songwriting Workshop"

One was for Thursday morning,

And I asked,

Volunteered to pay for the class,

And Dad agreed.

I don't think Mom was too happy,

But she didn't say anything.

(Other than "paid for", that is.)

So, having gotten about five hours of sleep,

I sat through a three-hour songwriting workshop.

Honestly, I wish it'd gone on forever.

(Well, maybe not forever, but you get the picture.)

A lot of people said they would never write the same way again.

I'm not sure I can say the same,

Though he offered a lot of helpful insight.

A lot of people said they learned a lot.

I definitely learned from his advice,

But a lot of what he'd said I'd already figured out on my own,

Learned in the music theory class I took fall semester,

Or done and then abandoned long ago to better express myself.

Yet, when I was asked about the class, I said it was amazing -

And it was.

Going through his rewrite (proofreading) checklist,

Starring one or two things I need to watch out for,

Looking at all the others thinking, "I do this . . .

Maybe I'm not so bad after all?"

Listening to him talk about how we shouldn't be too quick to say we're finished,

How good it is to be humble and accept criticism,

How much we need someone to rip our songs apart,

Help us make them better,

And I'm sitting there thinking of how much I'd appreciate someone to do that for me,

Someone to be brutally honest with me,

And how overly critical I am of myself.

The songs are never finished, just "finished",

Always works in progress,

Always open to change.

If I'm honest with myself, though,

My problem is, I don't change them.

One, because I write them as well as I can in the first place, change a few lines, then have absolutely no ideas for how to make them better than they already are.

Two, because no one rips my songs apart for me and tells me how to make them better.

Three, because I'm scared that if I change too much, not sure that what I'm changing will make them better, I'll just make them worse.

I knew the moment I saw it that "Re:Write" was something I needed to work on.

So, in the future, I'll definitely be rewriting more.

What was truly amazing about the workshop, though,

Is that I felt motivated again.

I could understand why I love music,

Why it's so much fun,

Why I keep doing this -

And I wanted to keep doing it.


Dad and I were up late last night,

Coming up with chords for the song I currently consider to be "my best".

(Of course, others might disagree . . .)

It was amazing.

I started with D and Em chords . . . through the entire song.

I was told that was an interesting progression,

But any progression gets boring when you listen to it for five whole minutes.

Dad hummed a bass line as I played,

Came up with major-minor sevenths,

Major-major sevenths,

Added in the second scale degree . . .

And, if none of that makes any sense to you,

The point is, it sounded awesome!

I knew from the beginning that this song deserved an awesome piano accompaniment.

I think it's going to have it.

Now I need to record it,

(Which is going to be difficult, as the subject makes it emotionally tough to sing.)

And once I do that,

Someone's going to rip it apart for me.

In fact, Shaun Groves himself is going to rip it apart for me,

As part of the class.

And, honestly, I'm terrified, . . .

(It's hard, as an artist, to let your work be exposed, especially when you've put so much of your soul into it.  What if someone really hates it?  What if you aren't really any good?  What if . . .?)

But I'm also excited,

Because I want to get better at this,

Because I love this,

Because it brings me joy.


If anyone's interested in taking Shaun Groves' online songwriting workshop,

There's still one session available tomorrow.

More may come up on his store in the future.

I highly recommend it! - Totally worth the time and money for any songwriter.

Updates on the CD:

I got two more songs recorded,

The accompaniment for the bonus song was pretty much finished last night (pending suggestions),

And I'm ready to record two more.

Three more after that need some work on the accompaniments,

And then I have four more that need major, major work on the accompaniments.

As to whether all thirteen (technically fourteen) tracks will get done by the end of August, that's still up for grabs.

I've been envisioning concepts for cover art, but haven't gotten too far yet with that,

Especially since I can't put too much together until I know how many tracks I'll have.

So, making progress . . .

Rather quickly, actually, this week . . .

But still a long, long way to go.

(Which reminds me of a Christa Wells song . . . sorry, phrases do that to me.)

Dad and I did get one song mixed, though.

I have to say that, even though the piano sound wasn't recorded stereo (two channels, right and left speakers),

Having my voice line up with the accompaniment was awesome!

Then with the bass line and the reverb -

It was almost like a real studio recording, but obviously not as good.

Still, I'm getting pretty excited!

That's one part of doing this CD-making thing that's good.

The closer I get,

The more excited I get.

Maybe more of that joy in music will be returning soon?

(Hopefully some joy in God will be returning, too . . . I'd take that over joy in music any day.)

Well, that's all I have for now.

Thanks for reading!


 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Writer's Block


The last week has been so crazy that I've barely had time to breathe -

At least, that's how it seems.

I think I've just been wasting a lot of my time.

Whatever the case, I feel like I've had no time,

Yet I have nothing to write about.


The light at the end of the tunnel I was seeing last week has since vanished,

Probably due to my inability (not perceived this time, either) to have any real alone time for five days,

Which I think I might be just starting to recover from.

I'll have to wait and see.

I've posted so much about these struggles

That, at the moment, I have nothing more to say.


Then there's the e-mail I opened this morning,

Which dealt a painful (but much-needed) blow to my pride and ambition,

But those two lines are sufficient to describe that experience,

Not much more to say about it,

Other than it drew me to my knees.


I could tell you about my attempts to record one song yesterday.

Finally succeeding,

Although noises and distractions caused it to take most of the day.

Now doesn't really seem like the time, though,

And it isn't that interesting of a story.


I could tell you about the wonderful book I listened to recently,

How true it was,

Share the stories from my own life that go along with it,

But it's a sensitive topic.

My heart isn't ready for that kind of effort right now,

And I have so much work to catch up on that I feel I don't have the time to spend the hours it will take to write that post well.

In fact, I have so much to say on the topic that it might take a series,

A task I'm definitely don't feel I can handle in my current state.


So I guess I'll do what I do when I sit down to write music

And no idea seems quite right,

The words just won't start forming,

And I can't find the slightest hint of inspiration:

Open my Bible.



Psalm 143

Contemporary English Version (CEV)

(A psalm by David.)

A Prayer in Time of Danger

143 Listen, Lord, as I pray!
    You are faithful and honest
    and will answer my prayer.
I am your servant.
    Don’t try me in your court,
    because no one is innocent
    by your standards.
My enemies are chasing me,
    crushing me in the ground.
I am in total darkness,
    like someone long dead.
    I have given up all hope,
    and I feel numb all over.
I remember to think about
the many things
    you did
    in years gone by.
Then I lift my hands in prayer,
because my soul is a desert,
    thirsty for water from you.
Please hurry, Lord,
and answer my prayer.
    I feel hopeless.
    Don’t turn away
    and leave me here to die.
Each morning let me learn
more about your love
    because I trust you.
I come to you in prayer,
    asking for your guidance.
Please rescue me
from my enemies, Lord!
    I come to you for safety.
10 You are my God. Show me
    what you want me to do,
    and let your gentle Spirit
    lead me in the right path.
11 Be true to your name, Lord,
    and keep my life safe.
    Use your saving power
    to protect me from trouble.
12 I am your servant.
    Show how much you love me
    by destroying my enemies.


Oh, this is my prayer today!

If I were writing a song, I would look at this Psalm a little at a time,

Rephrase the ideas to make it rhyme, fit a melody,

But I don't need that right now.

I just need to read these words over

And over

And over again.

He knew what I needed today,

And this -

This was it.

My words can wait for another day.

His words are better.

So much better.


I didn't have access to a computer last week,

Slacked off the last two days,

So the list is much, much shorter than usual.

Still, counting,

Because I need His words so much more than I need my own,

Need to know who He is so much more than I need to know who I am,

Because when my focus is on Him,

Everything is as it ought to be.

I can stop worrying about me

And just focus on Him,

And He is all I need.

He is all I have.

Reasons 1448-1473 this week:
  1. He gives vast armies into the hands of the king He has chosen (1 Kings 20:13)
  2. He gives vast armies so that the king will know that He is the LORD (1 Kings 20:13)
  3. He knows who will do what He has said will happen (1 Kings 20:14)
  4. He declares who will start the battle (1 Kings 20:14)
  5. He rules over both the hills and the valleys (1 Kings 20:28)
  6. He delivers vast armies into the hands of the king He has chosen to show the foreign nations that He is the LORD (1 Kings 20:28)
  7. He causes lions to kill those who refuse to obey Him (1 Kings 20:35-36)
  8. He punishes those who set free those whom He has determined should die (1 Kings 20:42)
  9. He promises the death of the one who murdered a man and seized his property (1 Kings 21:19)
  10. He brings disaster on those who have sold themselves to evil in His eyes (1 Kings 21:20-21)
  11. He wipes out the descendants of those who have sold themselves to evil in His eyes (1 Kings 21:20-21)
  12. He cuts off from those who have sold themselves to evil in His eyes every last male in the nation (1 Kings 21:20-21)
  13. He destroys the houses of those who have sold themselves to evil in His eyes (1 Kings 21:20-22)
  14. He brings destruction upon those who have sold themselves to evil in His eyes because they have aroused His anger (1 Kings 21:20-22)
  15. He brings destruction upon those who have sold themselves to evil in His eyes because they have caused the nation to sin (1 Kings 21:20-22)
  16. He delays disaster for those who humble themselves before Him (1 Kings 21:29)
  17. He sits on His throne (1 Kings 22:19)
  18. The multitudes of heaven stand around Him on His right and on His left (1 Kings 22:19)
  19. He sends spirits to entice kings into attacking (1 Kings 22:20-22)
  20. He sends spirits to entice kings into going to their death (1 Kings 22:20-22)
  21. He sends spirits to be deceiving spirits in the mouths of all the king's prophets (1 Kings 22:20-22)
  22. He grants success to the spirits He sends (1 Kings 22:22)
  23. He decrees disaster (1 Kings 22:23)
  24. He decrees disaster for those whom He chooses (1 Kings 22:23)
  25. Events happen as His word has declared (1 Kings 22:38)
  26. His anger is aroused by those who serve and worship other gods (1 Kings 22:53)


Thanks for putting up with me this week . . .

And always . . .

It is truly appreciated.



Counting 10,000 Reasons to worship Him:

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