The Season of Springtime

 

rainspring-flowersApril showers bring May flowers.

This is a saying I remember from my childhood. Today these words help me to endure the spring rain showers (mostly snow showers this year) that prevent the weather from being as warm as I would like. It is near the end of April, so I cling to the promises of May. The flowers will soon bloom along with the blossoming of more consistent bright and sunny days. Since I cannot yet be out in my flower garden, I think I will plant some seeds in the garden of my heart and mind. I found the following quote at THEDAILYQUOTES.com.

Your mind is a garden.
Your thoughts are the seeds.
You can grow flowers.
Or you can grow weeds.

Just as there are many packets of seeds available in a garden store, so are there many thoughts accessible to be planted within my mind. Each day I choose which packet of seeds, or thoughts, I will allow to take root within my mind. My thoughts may be positive or negative. Either choice will produce fruit. Positive thoughts grow into flowers that bring a smile to my face and to those around me. Negative thoughts are like weeds that I must pull out of my mind. Weeds of words have a tendency to grow faster than positive posies! I need to follow the advice of Paul in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”  Since I have trouble remembering all of Paul’s words, I like to simplify his instructions by remembering the acronym that Steve Nicholes uses for THINK. T is true – H is honorable – I is innocent – N is necessary – K is kind. I like these seeds! Proverbs 23:7 NKJV states, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” This verse describes my heart as the fertile soil where the seeds of my thoughts grow producing either flowers or weeds.

If God wasn’t growing sons and daughters,
things would not take nearly as long.
But since He is more interested in our growth
than He is in our getting,
waiting becomes
a very essential and useful means toward the end.

At the beginning of this blog, I admitted that I needed patience while waiting for warmer weather. Pondering the place of patience within the garden of my life, I like the above quote by Jack Hayford from Moments with Majesty. Applying Hayford’s quote to gardening and to my life, I realize that spring is the growing season. Plants and seeds are growing whether or not I yet see visual proof. Just like seeds, thoughts are growing in the garden of my heart and eventually they will produce actions and reactions. I must remember that growing is more important than getting! Sometimes the seeds I plant are the prayers I pray. God hears my prayers the moment I pray them, but His answers may not be evident as quickly as I would like. God is at work in the garden of my heart before I am aware of the answer. Psalm 40:1-2 says, I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;” The soil of my heart may be muddy and need to be dried up a little bit before His best answer can grow within me and produce the best fruit or flower. The best soil for planting needs to be moist but not saturated with water. The mud of April showers needs to dry out to some extent before May flowers can be planted.

Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?”…
“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…”

I found this quote online at goodreads.com. It is taken from The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. During the month of April, there are days when I too ask if spring is coming. I like how the answer combines sunshine and rain. Both elements of weather are needed for flower gardens and gardens of the heart and mind. Spring, showers and sunshine all go together. Zechariah 10:1 says, “Ask the LORD for rain in the springtime; it is the LORD who sends the thunderstorms. He gives showers of rain to all people, and plants of the field to everyone.” Most likely, I would complain if there was no rain just as I grumble if I think there is too much rain. I must think about the words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3:1 NKJV To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” I will embrace the showers and the sunshine. I will acknowledge the possibility of flowers and weeds. I will allow growth to take place. It is springtime in my life and in the atmosphere!

My Reader, enjoy the special seasons of your life. Today is April, but it will soon be May.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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The Conductor of “Creation’s Concerto”

 

music-score-21400765966hkzi6

Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Psalm 96:1

music-group-8016385189_df6b4e1fb1Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD.
Psalm 150:6

My Reader, last week we thought about how we could fulfill Psalm 96:1, Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.” by composing our own song that is part of a larger musical work we entitled Creation‘s Concerto. Now, if our sacred selection is to be performed by a multitude of musicians orchestrated by the Lord, we need a conductor. Our Lord is the only maestro musician worthy of this honor! He is conducting His sovereign symphony and we, as believers, are part of His eternal orchestra.

According to Revelation 22:13, Jesus says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” He is the composer of the first note and the last note and every note in between comprising our Creation Concerto. He also conducts this musical masterpiece of miracles from the beginning to the end. Hebrews 12:2 says we are to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” To put this into musical terms, we need to keep our eyes focused upon the conductor of our lives because He is always orchestrating our song to become more perfect. Practice makes perfect! The Lord continues to compose situations in our lives so that we can grow is faith and play our song well.

The musicians of the Lord’s orchestra live lives that portray a variety of instruments. There are woodwinds, including such instruments as flutes and clarinets, that rely upon one’s hands pressing different keys to produce different sounds. Symbolically, these instruments remind me of active people performing helpful deeds for others. There are also brass instruments, such as as French horns and trumpets, where differing lip positions create the particular sound for each note. Symbolically, these instruments resemble those who preach and teach through words.  I also think about string instruments, such as violins and cellos, that can be played by either pulling a bow across the strings or by plucking the strings with one’s fingers.  Symbolically, these instruments remind me that tension can result  when a person may feel “rubbed the wrong way” or someone may know how to “pull the strings” of another individual.  Not such a harmonious sound. 

Not only is the Lord listening to and watching how we each perform our unique tune of life, but He is also building a melody of multiple musicians. You and I may wonder why we need to go through what appears to be unproductive times, but at these times God is allowing someone else to play the louder melody line. Harmony is important and our sovereign songwriter knows how to blend all life experiences together. There are times I must rest in silence because that time of quietness is ordained by God.

The Lord is conducting His concerto of creation with a complete score of all musical parts before Him. According to Romans 8:28, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Whether the notes of my life be played fast or slow, loud or soft, with harmony or with dissonance, God’s Mighty Hand holds the conductor’s baton that I must follow for direction. He cues in each part at the time that resonates the best anthem for His audience.

My Reader, your sacred song by itself is beautiful! However, a full orchestra produces a masterpiece of musical miracles that can never be performed by a soloist. Psalm 150:6 says, “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.” The members of the Lord’s orchestra includes every living being! When you are a member of any orchestra, sometimes you will be playing the melody, sometimes you will be playing the harmony, and sometimes you may not be playing at all. However, when your life is under the direction of the Lord, you will be contributing to His sovereign song that will be sung throughout eternity. Keep composing your own tune, but never take your eyes off the Conductor of all creation!

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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Composers of “Creation’s Concerto”

 

music-score-21400765966hkzi6

Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Psalm 96:1

music-group-8016385189_df6b4e1fb1

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD.
Psalm 150:6 

My Reader, do you know that you are the composer of a sacred song? This sacred song is commonly referred to as your life. Actually, your song is one line of a musical score being composed by you and the Master Composer, the Lord our God. Using a musical analogy, we can say that every person is created by the Lord with the intent that his or her life will be a part of a concert glorifying God. The Lord allows each of us to write our own composition under His direction and guidance. Each life is one line of Creation’s Concerto. Musical miracles and maladies are both part of the melody. I think the Psalmist may be encouraging us to write our personal part of Creation’s Concerto when he says in Psalm 96:1, “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.”

Let’s look at some of the options we have for writing our song.

1) Do I write in a major (harmonic) or minor (dissonant) key?
There will be times for both keys within your music depending upon whether you are experiencing positive or negative situations in your life.

2) Do I use whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes, sixteenth notes etc.?Consider each note as being a word or a thought or an action of your life. Words in a casual conversation may be like quarter notes receiving one count each. Some thoughts may be fleeting like quick eighth or sixteenth notes. Other actions may take a long time and require the full count of a whole note.

3) Do I always write notes or do I also include rests?
God knows you need rest as well as action in your life. Do not be discouraged by times of rest. These times will soon be replaced by more melodic notes.

4) What are triplets?
Triplets are three notes that equally share one count or beat. These three notes remind me of the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

5) Is the tempo allegro (quick and lively), andante (walking tempo) or largo (very slow)?Some days go by very quickly while other days may seem never-ending. You can include various tempo changes within your song.

6) What about a ritardando (gradually getting slower) for just a few measures?
Some moments of life will gradually grow slower for a short time and then return to a more normal pace. This is the function of a retard in music.

7) Do I need to include notations for forte (loud) and piano (soft) sections in my song?
All of life is not heard or spoken with the same dynamics. Think about the cries of a baby. If the baby is hungry, he will cry very loud! If he is content, you may hear a quiet cooing sound. Different messages come forth through different decibels of sound.

8) What about crescendos (gradually getting louder) and decrescendos (gradually getting softer)?
These are experienced numerous times! Words, thoughts and actions will always be increasing and decreasing during each day of your life.

4) Will there be repeat signs in my song?
Yes! The Lord allows you to repeat certain experiences, or melodies, until you learn a lesson, or get a message.  He is always teaching you throughout your musical melody and repetition can be a valuable tool.

7) Will I use bars lines and a double bar line in my composition?
Bar lines divide music into measures and I see each measure possibly representing a year of a person’s life with the notes within each measure being a day of life. The day will come when a double bar line is placed at the end of your sacred song. However, God will be the One to put that musical sign in place.

Psalm 150:6 says,Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.” We all have breath and the Lord desires us to praise Him through the songs of our lives. So, My Reader, what does your song sound like today? I said at the beginning, that you are the composer. That is true in the sense that you control your life by choices you make. However, you are not a soloist while either writing or singing your song. Remember, the Lord is your co-composer. (Next week we will think about how the Lord is also the conductor of a sovereign symphony.)

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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The Ins and Outs

Although we celebrated the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ this past Sunday, today I want to revisit the tomb where Jesus’ followers expected to find His body.

stone-at-tombAnd they found the stone rolled away from the tomb,
but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

Luke 24:2-3

While visualizing this scene in my mind, I focus my attention upon the open entrance to the tomb where Jesus had been buried. Not only was the stone rolled away from the opening, but the body of Jesus was no longer inside the tomb. The power of God would not have been hindered from raising Jesus back to life by a stone. However, a sealed tomb could have been a stumbling block for His followers and me.

I have always been intrigued by the statement that the stone was rolled away to let others in rather than to let Jesus out. Without visual proof, I would have been blinded from seeing that the tomb was no longer occupied by the body of Jesus. The rolled away stone was proof to Jesus’ followers and to me that He had risen from the grave. Jesus did not need an open door to get out but His followers needed to enter through this open door to experience the empty grave. Not only did the disciples discover that Jesus’ body was no longer there, but they also saw His grave cloths folded and left in the tomb.

stoney-heartI will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;
I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
Ezekiel 36:26

My imaginary journey now takes me from the entrance of the tomb to the entrance of my heart. Just as the tomb was the enclosure for Jesus’ body, my heart is the enclosure of my life. Physically, my heart pumps blood throughout my body so that I can live. Spiritually, my heart is the center of my being where my spirit dwells and where Jesus lives.

When difficulties occur in my life, I can allow my heart to become hardened to things of the Spirit. Consequently, I like the promise of scripture that God will remove my heart of stone so that His Spirit can live within me. Does the stoniness of my heart need to be removed to let me out or to let Jesus in? I am concerned if I look upon this stone removal as only an opportunity for me to be let out, I will become self-centered. I prefer that the hardness of my heart be removed to allow Jesus to live within me. I want out so Jesus can come in! We learn from Paul in Ephesians 3:17 thatChrist may dwell in your hearts through faith.” We often hear the phrase “I asked Jesus into my heart” articulated to describe what happens at the time of salvation. With this in mind, we can be assured of what scripture says in Colossians 1:27, “Christ lives in you.” It is not about me, it is about the Lord!

arrow-and-heart

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live,
but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh
I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
Galatians 2:20

As I near the end of my imaginary journey, I want to reiterate the comparisons I have made.

Last week we observed and celebrated the death and resurrection of Jesus. Today, in a sense, I have shared how a person is crucified with Christ whenever one chooses to put to death the desires of the flesh.

Last Sunday at church we most likely heard the scriptural account about the stone rolled away from the enclosure where Jesus body had been buried. Today, I have pointed out that a stone may need to be rolled away from the enclosure of a human heart, the center of life.

Jesus arose from the grave and through scripture we have been allowed to hear first hand accounts of those who entered the empty tomb. Today, we have the option of having our lives emptied of ourselves so Jesus can come into our hearts. Jesus is able to reside in our hearts because He is no longer in the tomb. Because we believe in the resurrected Christ and the empty tomb, Jesus lives in us. The rolled away stone made it possible for anyone on the outside to go into the empty tomb. Today, the removal of the hardened stoniness of our hearts allows Jesus to come into our empty lives.

In the burial garden, it was Jesus out and us in! Today in our hearts, it is us out and Jesus in!

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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Song for the Week: My Reader, would you like to join me in singing the chorus of the hymn He Lives, I Serve a Risen Savior, by Alfred Ackley today? I find myself singing this song today and it seems appropriate for the message of this blog.

He lives, He lives,
Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me
Along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives,
Salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart.

Crowding In

palm-branchLast Sunday we celebrated Palm Sunday and this Friday we will be commemorating Good Friday. Today I find myself in between these two sacred days of the Christian faith. I also can find myself between two crowds. One crowd shouts “Hosanna!” while the other crowd demands “Crucify Him!” In which crowd do I find myself?

 

First, I observe the “Hosanna!” crowd that congregated along the road Jesus traveled upon His arrival to Jerusalem. The complete narrative regarding Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem can be read in Matthew 21:1-11, but I am focusing upon only a few of the verses.

The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, and brought
the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on
the coats.
Most of the crowd
spread their coats in the road, and others
were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road.
The crowds
going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting,
“Hosanna to the Son of David;
B
LESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD
;
Hosanna in the highest!”
When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying,
“Who is this?” And
the crowds
were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus,
from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Matthew 21:6-11
(underlining is my emphasis)

The “Hosanna!” crowd included people who were not necessarily residents of Jerusalem. The majority of this crowd probably were people coming to the city for Passover. Very likely they had heard about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead and they saw the potential of Jesus being the Messiah. They expressed their enthusiasm by waving palm branches.

sword-mf

The “Hosanna!” crowd was a positive crowd and I would desire to be a part of it. In contrast, the “Crucify Him!” crowd was a more negative group. I do not feel that this crowd would be worthy of my attention. In book of Luke I read the details of Jesus being brought before Pilate and Herod. Again, I am only quoting a few specific verses.

but they (the crowd) kept on calling out, saying, “Crucify, crucify Him!”
And he (Pilate) said to them (the crowd) the third time, “Why, what evil
has this man done? I have found in Him no guilt demanding death;
therefore I will punish Him and release Him.” But they (the crowd)
were insistent, with loud voices asking that He be crucified. And
their (the crowd’s) voices began to prevail. And Pilate pronounced
sentence that their demand be granted.
Luke 23:21-24
(underlining is my emphasis)

Looking more closely at the scripture quoted above, I notice in verse 18 of Luke 23 that it says “With one voice they cried out.” An assembly of people in agreement regarding an opinion is more readily heard in contrast to the voice of only one person. Another thing I notice about this crowd in verse 21 is that they “they kept on calling out.” Persistence pays off and this becomes evident in verse 24 that says “their voices began to prevail.” Numbers and persistence can influence the outcome of a situation.

This particular crowd is first mentioned in Luke 22:47 as the crowd who came with Judas to the Mount of Olives when he betrayed Jesus. According to verse 22, these people were the chief priests, officers of the temple guard and elders of the people. These men were residents of Jerusalem and they had been plotting and planning against Jesus for a period of time. The “Crucify Him!” crowd was a contrast to the spontaneous travelers of the “Hosanna!” crowd. I notice that instead of waving palm branches, they carried swords and clubs in their hands.

These two crowds were not made up of unstable people who chose to praise Jesus one day and punish Him another. Both crowds had their own agendas and both crowds were present all week. I suspect each crowd became more convicted of their opinions as time went one. A crowd can be right or it can be wrong. In either case, a crowd is powerful and influential. The “Hosanna!” crowd proclaimed Jesus as a king while the “Crucify Him!” crowd portrayed Him as a criminal.

 

peopleAlthough I certainly was not alive over 2000 years ago when these crowds gathered around Jesus, I still encounter crowds today. On a daily basis, I may find the busyness of business crowding into my life more than I encounter crowds of people. Worries can crowd out the thoughts in my mind that should be occupied with Jesus. I say that I want to be among the “Hosanna!” crowd rather than the “Crucify Him!” crowd, but do I live my life according to this statement? Does my attitude show the crowd around me that I make it a priority to praise the Lord in all things at all times or does my behavior cause the surrounding crowd to think I crucify, or put to death, the plans and purposes of the Lord? These questions cause me to do some serious thinking!

My Reader, with which crowd do you mingle? What message is your lifestyle shouting to the crowd around you? Last Sunday we all were part of the “Hosanna!” crowd. By this Friday will we allow the circumstances of the past few days to influence us to join the “Crucify Him!” crowd? Will be ready on Sunday to join the “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today!” crowd and proclaim the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ?

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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