Thursday, July 2, 2015

Nobody Sees? Think Again!

You have dreams in your heart. 

Ideas in your mind. 

When no one is looking, you imagine the way things could be if you were given the chance.

You think nobody sees.  

The truth is, Someone knows AND sees.

He created you. He knows how you were formed, before you were even born.

I was driving to Ohio years ago to visit a couple of radio stations playing a current single we had just released. I drove for six hours without listening to anything. I so desperately needed to hear from God about my music career. Things were shifting and I needed some advice. Perhaps if I just listened He would speak.

"You are trying to put on Saul's armor".  That's all the still small voice said.

I went home from that trip and started to study the life of King David from I Samuel in the Bible since that's the story from which the phrase originated. I'm still gathering wisdom from it and writing music as a result of my studies, and still searching for how that story applies to my own life.

As I was studying one day, I read the part of the story where the prophet Samuel was choosing who the next king would be from a family of boys.  When none of them met God's approval, Samuel asked Jesse if he had any other sons.  As if David was an afterthought, Jesse replied, "yes - there is David, but he's out tending the sheep".

"Go get him!" was Samuel's reply.  David's day had come. As soon as David appeared, Samuel knew he was the one.

But how many years had David spent minding his own business out in the fields? Protecting the lambs from lions and bears. Developing his musical skills, his courage, his prayer life.

Finally, somebody saw.

Hang in there.  Somebody sees you too.

What to do while you wait:

1.) Focus on what you have in your hand right now. Your current job and your abilities, no matter how small.
2.) Pray daily that the Kingdom of God will come into your life and prepare you for what He has in store for you.
3.) Be faithful with every opportunity you are given, even if it's not what you imagine it should be.
4.) Seek Him in the quiet place.  Frequently. Wait on Him. Keep focused on Him and nothing else.
5.) Commit your way to Him and open your hands before Him representing a posture of surrender.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Embrace The Suck

"Does it ever get any easier?" I asked the two runners I had just met on the trail as we stopped to exchange greetings.

I'd been increasing my exercise routine weekly and was now up to running 35 minutes straight.  I was huffing and puffing as we talked.

"If you never push yourself, yes, it will get easier.  If you just continue at the same pace though, you won't gain much", said the one who looked like she was an experienced runner.

"It sucks no matter what you do", said the other girl who seemed to be sweating and huffing, like me.  I could relate to her.

"JUST EMBRACE THE SUCK" she finally said with a sigh and a frown.  We all laughed.

Yep.  Anytime we try to reach for our dreams, calling, desires...whatever we think we were created to do, there are times when it just sucks.  

Using the running analogy, it's rarely 'fun' to get up at 5:00 a.m., pray, eat some protein and then head out to the trail by 6:00 a.m.  I feel like I'm going to die most of the run.  Every day I feel like I just can't make it but I keep going. I sweat like a rainstorm and breathe heavy like a dragon minus the fire coming out my nostrils. I've never been a long distance runner so it's taking me a while to build up stamina.

When I am finished with this self-inflicted torture, the pay-off is worth it.  My mind is having a hay day and the good chemicals in my brain are being released.  I write songs, blogs, plan concerts, design merchandise and get new marketing ideas - all while I'm dying in my body.  

There's another payoff to all of least when it comes to exercise.  I am losing weight.  My clothes are fitting better AND I'm heading toward reaching one of my many goals for the Christmas show in December.

Do I love getting up early to work on my goals?  Nope.
Do I love sweating a flood worth of water when I run? Nope.
Do I hurt when I get back? Yep.
Do I like when my jeans fit better? Yep.
Do I like the creativity my mind engages in while I exercise? Absolutely!

Do you want to win at what you think you were created to be and do?'re gonna have to...ya know...embrace the suck.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Are Your Privacy Settings Safe?

None of us like the idea of our lives being available for the public to see.  We like our privacy.  I meet many people who still don't want to participate in Facebook because of the fear they have of their privacy being violated.  

A close neighbor was robbed while she was out on her daily walk...right in prime daylight. How did they know her schedule? I found this very unsettling!

There is a distinct difference between someone knowing everything about you without your permission and slowly lifting the veil of your life in front of a friend, allowing them to peer into the depths of your heart.  

In Psalm 139, David opens a conversation with God by saying "O Eternal One, You have explored my heart and know exactly who I am; You even know the small details like when I take a seat and when I stand up again.  Even when I am far away, You know what I’m thinking."

Part way through this acknowledgement that God knows exactly who he is, he continues....

"You see all things; nothing about me was hidden from You as I took shape in secret, carefully crafted in the heart of the earth before I was born from its womb."

But right near the end of the chapter, he invites God to know him.

"Explore me, O God, and know the real me. Dig deeply and discover who I am. Put me to the test and watch how I handle the strain. Examine me to see if there is an evil bone in me, and guide me down Your path forever."  (The Voice)

I find it interesting that sandwiched between an opening acknowledgement of being known by God and closing permission granted to be examined by God is a listing of all the things God knew about David.  Why then, does he give God permission to know him at the end?  Doesn't God already know him? Didn't he just spend a lot of breath stating the obvious?

I believe it's significant.

Yes, God knows every detail of our lives.  Our birthdate, our death date.  How many hairs we have (or don't have).

When I choose the "public" option on my Facebook settings, I am agreeing to let everyone see everything I post.  I am opening myself up to their compliments and scrutiny. If I don't want that kind of vulnerability, I need to choose "private".

Giving God complete access to every area of our heart is like choosing the "public" option.  Oh yes - He already knows us.  But giving Him permission to really know us means that we are agreeing to let Him in.

So here's how I often pray......"Father, you know the hopes and dreams I hold inside.  You see the plans I am making based on desires I believe you have placed inside me.  But today, I give you permission to oversee them.  To put them in order according to Your plans.  Look inside me and see everything there is to see.  Search my intentions...and then show me.  I open my hands to You as symbol that my heart and life are completely open."

Your privacy settings ARE safe with God.  Giving Him permission is like choosing the 'public' setting though.  You are now taking everything to a new level of trust with Him.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Everyone Needs A Set of These!

We all need them.

You can't grow in faith and courage without them.

I call them hearing aids. But not the kind you might be thinking of.

What kind of hearing aids?

They can come in the form of podcasts, audible books, paper books, mp3 players, movies, CDs and radio waves, etc.

They are tools that produce words that help us 'hear' better.

"So then, faith comes to us by hearing the Good News. And the Good News comes by someone preaching it." Romans 10:17 New Life Version.

What do you hear?

All day long I hear things.  Positive words.  Negative words.  They are inside me and also come from outside of me. Twenty minutes of listening to the news and I can instantly feel depressed, or elated. It depends on the message.

Over time, I'm learning how to tune into stations broadcasting words that bring faith and hope. I wish I could say that I don't need help with my thoughts and that my faith was always strong and steady. Truth is, I'm just not there yet, though I am improving.  I am learning how to choose what I will listen to, think on and ponder.  Both on the inside and from the outside.

Choosing good hearing aids.

It's easier to control my thoughts and feed my faith when I listen to uplifting things.  So I choose them often.  Music, podcasts, books...things that always leave me feeling like I CAN instead of I CAN'T.  Left to my own devices, I will tend toward thinking I CAN'T.  

So I'm not ashamed to say that I need hearing aids.  

When my Mother was being fitted for a pair of high-tech hearing aids, I was intrigued by the testing they did on her to find out what frequencies she couldn't hear.  Everyone is different.  Some lose ability to hear bass frequencies first. Others lose the mid-range.

Many people put off getting a set of hearing aids until they can't function in society anymore and realize they need assistance.  They miss out on so much because they won't admit they need help. But how many of us go through life emotionally or mentally deaf and wait until we are too far gone to get help for other kinds of hearing.

Everyone is different in the aid that they need.  Some tend more toward negative thoughts when it comes to fears.  Others have a deficit in the area of love or joy. 

Do you have ideas about leading a group of people toward healing from past relational issues?  Then listen to things that teach you about leadership and be inspired to lead others.

Do you need help getting your life organized?  Listen to books or podcasts that teach you how to manage your time.

Do you need an overall better outlook on life?  Listen to positive, upbeat music. Change the playlist until you find what feeds you!

If you would spend any amount of time with me, you would quickly learn that I am almost always listening to something.  I invest plenty of time in being quiet too, but when I'm exercising or driving or even working in the yard, I will be listening and learning.  It feeds my faith.  It helps me be a better leader.  It helps me dream and sustain those dreams.

It's my own tailored set of hearing aids.  

Want to grow in your faith?  You have to hear the right things!

Go get yourself some hearing aids.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Mrs. Snappy or Mrs. Hopper (which one are you?)

From Creature Control website
I delicately grabbed the mucky shell of the turtle. It must have come from the creek. I didn't want to see it get hit by oncoming traffic, but I was not prepared for its reaction to my sacrificial offering of help. It flailed it's legs, claws extended, and quickly turned its neck around toward my hand.  I screamed and dropped it.

The man heading toward his mailbox about 50 yards away from me now stood and watched me. I tried again. After all, I was trying to help the turtle. Surely it wouldn't harm me.  How long IS its neck I wondered as I prepared to try again.  All I wanted to do was carry it across the road and put it in the tall grass so it could arrive safely to wherever it was going. Snappy was obviously done swimming in the creek and headed toward the alfalfa field.

Same thing happened again.  I lifted.  It lurched.  I screamed and dropped it. "Do-nothing-neighbor-man" had to be getting a good laugh at me now.  I looked at him in distress.  "That turtle crosses the road every morning and night.  She has a nest up in the alfalfa field", is all he said.

Nice of you to offer to help me, I thought.  Do you stand and watch it come close to death every morning and evening?

Just then a big black pickup truck came barreling over the hill and around the curve. I suddenly burst into bionic woman mode and put my arm up in the air with a "STOP" kind of gesture. Don't you dare come near Mrs. Snappy.  I named her since I now knew she was a her.

He stopped and I felt proud.  I liked this kind of power.  He jumped out of his truck while "do-nothing-neighbor-man" continued to stand there at his mailbox.

Finally, someone is coming to help me.  I exhaled.

Wrong.  He was carrying a large camera and intended to capture this adventure. I suddenly realized that I was standing there drenched in sweat from running and jump roping. I panicked. Of all the moments to be photographed! Did I mention it was Saturday morning around 6:15?

I started giving the"do-nothing-neighbor-man" some credit.  I'll call him Mr. Red because he was wearing a red shirt.  At least he was up and out at his mailbox early enough to see Mrs. Snappy and know her habits, even if he wasn't offering to help me.

Mr. Pickup wasn't turning out to be much of a help because he was focused on taking pictures. It only took about 5 seconds and I realized he was interested in Mrs. Snappy and not me. After shooting a few pics, he called to Mr. Red: "Do you have a shovel?" "Well...I do up at my house" said Mr. Red.  "I'll have to go get it."  He turned around and marched up his long, steep driveway probably mumbling to himself.

While this exchange was happening, I went looking for a stick.  If I could just give Mrs. Snappy some encouragement, we could get her across safely.  I couldn't find one.  Meanwhile I was dragging my jump rope around with me.  Duh!!!  I can use my jump rope I said to myself.

I began to wrap the rope around Mrs. Snappy.  She lunged at it with her mouth.  I retreated.  Pickup man saw what I was thinking and said "is that a jump rope?"

(A-hem)....."Is that a CAMERA?".... I was starting to feel a bit snappy myself.

He took the rope and began to wrap it multiple times around the shell of Mrs. Snappy. She was NOT HAPPY! She bit the rope and hung on as he lifted her (well...more like dragged) her across the pavement.  I felt a big sense of relief, even though he was now flipping her upside down into the grass.  At least she was safe.  By now Mr. Red had arrived with his shovel.

I walked away from that experience pondering the story of the tortoise and the hare . On my way back, I looked to see how far Mrs. Snappy had progressed in the tall grass.  About 2 feet.  Not much. But she was determined and feisty.  The kind of tenacity it takes to finish a race.  Not win it, perhaps, but finish it none-the-less.

Mrs. Hopper (Peter cottontail's momma), on the other hand, is so unpredictable that I believe she is the one who created the Pennsylvania roads.  I think she hopped around setting the course and the paving companies followed her.  One minute you are going North and the next moment you are going South.

So often I feel like Mrs. Snappy.  One small step at a time.  Day after day.  I routinely try to keep working away at my dreams and ideas. My ideas are as frequent and unpredictable as the path of Mrs. Hopper, but I will only accomplish them as I take on the habits of Mrs. Snappy.

I once heard someone say that the musicians who usually end up succeeding are not the most talented. They simply hang in there the longest. That gives me a sense of hope.  I have so much to learn.  But if I stick with it, day after day, I will make progress.  I don't have to be big and flashy like Mrs. Hopper.  Just steady.  Committed.  Tenacious.

P.S.  As I was preparing to write this blog, I decided to do a little research on snapping turtles because when I told Tom (my husband) about my morning activity, he was alarmed and told me I could have had my finger permanently removed! I should NEVER do that, he said.

I guess he was right....this is an excerpt I found from a website about turtles AFTER I tried to help Mrs. Snappy.

"Under no circumstances should you attempt to pick up a snapping turtle; they have an extremely flexible neck capable of reaching around and biting the hands of the person holding them, even if they are being held by the shell. In fact, snappers can reach their heads all the way to their hind legs to bite. Their jaws are extraordinarily powerful and capable of completely severing a human finger. In addition to the danger posed by their bite, the claws of the snapping turtle are quite sharp and can lacerate the flesh of a person attempting to handle them. One reason put forward for why snappers are so belligerent is because, unlike other turtles, they are too big to hide inside their own shell. Their powerful bite, sharp claws and aggressive attitude compensate for this deficiency." Creature

Yikes. I was very fortunate to come home with all my fingers!!!

What are you working toward? Weight loss? Bachelor's Degree? Running a marathon? Starting a non-profit? A better marriage?

Take a lesson from Mrs. Snappy.  She might not be quick and flashy...but she arrives at her destination.  One step at a time.

Take a lesson from me. Always carry a jump rope.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Icing or Cake?

When I choose a cupcake, it's about the icing. In fact, when I went looking for an image for this post, there were lots of great colors and images to choose from.  But I saw this chocolate icing and of course, I chose this one.

I feel like dreams are like cupcakes.  The icing is the delicious part.  It's what we think about when we have a spare moment.  We go for the icing!

The cupcake is what it takes underneath the great ideas.

When I started dreaming of doing a Christmas show, my original idea was to build it in my home area and then take it to cities across the U.S.  That was the icing on my cupcake.

There's one thing I forgot about cake.  It's made of things that take a lot of work to produce.


Think about where they come from.

Someone bought a farm, bought chickens and started gathering eggs. They have to feed the chickens, build a home for them and keep them from foxes.

Somewhere someone is growing canes of sugar. It takes months to grow and lots of care. Hard work.

What about chocolate?

"First, the pods must be harvested, which is usually done twice a year. Because the trees are too fragile to climb, harvesting is accomplished by workers on the ground, who wield either a machete or a long pole with a machete on the end. Then, workers open the pods by hand, taking care not to damage the beans inside.

Next comes one of the most important steps in the process – fermentation. The beans, still sticky with pulp, are placed in earthen pits or wooden bins and covered with banana leaves, then left to ferment. The heat of fermentation changes the bitter flavors in the beans into something more edible, more chocolatey. 

The sugars in the bean turn into acids, the color changes from pale to dark brown, and the pulp residue melts away. The length of the fermentation process depends on the type of bean; the higher quality beans may need only a few days, where others may need a week or more.

After fermentation, the beans are dried in the sun for about a week. The flavor continues to develop during this time. Some manufacturers try to speed this process along by drying the beans over a fire, which gives them a smoky, inferior flavor.

Once the beans are dry, they are ready to be shipped to a factory, where they are turned into chocolate."  Taken from "Facts About Chocolate".

We haven't even touched on how to get flour.

Now that I know what's involved in doing a big Christmas show (the icing) I have a much more realistic approach to that dream (the cupcake).  Right now, it's all I can do to pull of ONE show.

So here's what I'm thinking.  The icing keeps me going.  The cupcake underneath - that's the hard work.  Put them together and it will be quite tasty!  Most days I'd rather sit and lick the icing....forget the rest. But I can't. I will need both!

Hmm...I'm feeling kinda hungry for chocolate.  Better get busy growing a chocolate tree.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Bird Song.

My father loved birds.  

I have grown to love them too. 

They make me feel at peace. 

I awaken early in the morning to their songs.

I listen to them sing when I go for walks.

I talk to them.

They chatter.

They are a lesson in how much God cares for me.

"There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, 
more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. 

Look at the birds
free and unfettered
not tied down to a job description 
careless in the care of God
and you count far more to him than birds."  

Matthew 6:26 The Message.