21 Days of Posts – Day 13 – Give Me Perspective…

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

This is day thirteen of twenty-one days of posts between January 10th and January 30th of 2021. Hello again to those who read previous days, and hello to those of you who may have stumbled across this post “out of order”. You should go back and read from Day 1, for a few reasons. It explains why I am doing this. It is the first one, and I may make reference to something in it in this post or a later one. It also has a list with each day’s post (once they are available) and you can jump to whatever topic you are interested in. Thanks for reading!

I realized as I was about to start writing this post that I had neglected to publish my post from yesterday. It was waiting for me, complete, edited and ready to go, but I failed to push the button. It was late when I finished it, so I guess that is why I missed that last step. Oh, well. It is published now and through the magic of WordPress time travel, it shows as being posted yesterday. Cool.

I might have been far more disturbed about that failure in times past, especially when I have been attempting daily posts, but this time-nah, it’s OK, no one lost anything from it not being published. It’s a good perspective to have.

We all need perspective. Whether it is on our failures, other people’s failures, our successes or other people’s successes, or something else, perspective can temper our response to events, to people, to life in general. Where do we get this perspective? This ability to respond, not react, to understand, not condemn, to be open, not closed. Some argue it comes from life experiences, but I believe that is just part of the story. Proper perspective comes from having equilibrium, from dwelling in peace, and from a sense of balance. Where does this come from?

I believe it comes straight from God. I believe that there is no other place to get this proper perspective, this ability to look at the wreck of our day, sometimes, and say “It is well”. How can we do this? It comes from knowing that this life is not the most important thing. It comes from realizing that the eternal is more significant than this temporal existence. I’ll admit, that is hard to do. We are reminded over and over in the Bible that this is the case, that suffering here in this life is temporary and expected, and we really shouldn’t freak out over it.

But…if you are like me, you like comfort. You don’t like conflict. You certainly don’t like circumstances putting you in a place where you don’t have enough money to pay the bills, or buy food, or get to work. You don’t like the idea of job uncertainty, or failing health. If you are really like me, you dislike change of any kind, to some degree. The familiar is comfortable, even if it is challenging. Change is…uncomfortable. Disaster is…catastrophic.

But we are told repeatedly in the Bible that in this life, there will be trouble. John 16:33 is Jesus speaking to his disciples, telling them this very thing:

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Jesus is telling them, straight up, that they are all destined for trouble, but to meet it head on and realize that He has overcome the world. If you are a disciple of Christ, this applies to you also, especially in these times. Standing for what is right is quickly condemned by the world, labeled as evil, hateful, and not welcome in society. However, this is not new. We just have so many ways to find out what is going on in our world now, and delivery of this information doesn’t take days or weeks as it used to, but milliseconds. There have always been people who prefer to destroy, plunder, hate, and propagate evil and lies. They are just more visible now in our modern technological society.

Which leads us back to perspective. We have to see events and people as God sees them. Broken and expected. People…we are broken by sin. Nothing happens that God did not know about. He isn’t surprise by the chaos in our world. He wants us to push back against it, with love and understanding. It won’t be easy, but that is the call.

Lord help me to have perspective on the events and people in my life. Help me to love my enemies, help my friends, be kind to everyone, and realize that no matter what happens, You are in control.

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21 Days of Posts – Day 12 – My Favorite Music

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

This is day twelve of twenty-one days of posts between January 10th and January 30th of 2021. Hello again to those who read previous days, and hello to those of you who may have stumbled across this post “out of order”. You should go back and read from Day 1, for a few reasons. It explains why I am doing this. It is the first one, and I may make reference to something in it in this post or a later one. It also has a list with each day’s post (once they are available) and you can jump to whatever topic you are interested in. Thanks for reading!

We’re now at a post I have been looking forward to writing. I could fill pages with my favorite music, because I like lots of music, but I’m going to put some restrictions on this favorite list.

The first restriction is that I have to be specific. Nothing simple like a list of artists; no, I want to share specific songs. I’ve been doing this to some degree with my classical picks, but not my pop/rock/jazz/blues/whatever lists. I’ve been lazy and just naming artists. No more. For this edition of “My” music, it is specific songs and artists, as some songs are <gasp> covered by other artists, who either totally blow it, or create something even more amazing than the original or more popular version.

The second restriction is the number of entries. I am limiting myself to 20 non-classical songs and 10 classical pieces. This is why I have started this post as early in the day as possible, so I don’t miss some critical piece of music that has shaped my life in some way.

On that note, I want to mention that these pieces are not just the “best” as far as their sound or lyrics, but the “best” as far as how they have affected my life, whether good, bad, or ugly. Some of them are significant because of when I first heard them. Some are significant because they are associated with other cherished things, like favorite shows or movies, people, or life events. Some helped me cope, some lifted my spirits, and some provided catharsis. While I won’t provide backstory for any of these now, I may pick a couple and provide some context in later posts (after the fast ends).

Finally, these are in no particular order, which is why there are no numbers beside them, just bullets. Finally-finally, favorite music lists change over time, of course. These are my favorites for right now. I probably missed something that is “even more favorite” than another on the list, but this is pretty accurate, I think. I guess a more apt title for this post would be “Some of My Favorite Music, At The Moment”.

Pop/rock/jazz/whatever-everything except “classical” music. If there is an “E” at the end of the item, it contains explicit lyrics <gasp> .

    • Teardrops – Joe Satriani – from “Shapeshifting”
    • C.S. Lewis Song – Brooke Fraser – from “Albertine”
    • Lights of Heaven – Joe Satriani – from “Crystal Planet”
    • Room To Fall – Marshmello, Flux Pavilion, Elohim – single
    • Without You – Avicii, feat. Sandro Cavazza – from an Avicii EP – E
    • Rearviewmirror – Pearl Jam – from “Vs.” – E
    • Indifference – Pearl Jam – from “Vs.”
    • Shoot To Thrill – AC/DC – from “Back in Black”
    • Breathe (2AM) – Anna Nalick – from “Wreck of the Day”
    • Before It Breaks – Brandi Carlisle – from “Give Up The Ghost”
    • King Of Heaven – Hillsong United – from “Zion”
    • #41 – Dave Matthews Band – from “Crash”
    • Homesick – The Cure – from “Disintegration”
    • The Same Deep Water as You – The Cure – from “Disintegration”
    • To Wish Impossible Things – The Cure – from “Wish”
    • Trust – The Cure – from “Wish”
    • Celestial Soda Pop – Ray Lynch – from “Deep Breakfast”
    • Your Mercy – Vertical Church Band – from “Frontiers”
    • Dark Road – Sarah Jarosz – from “Build Me Up From Bones”
    • A Sky Full Of Stars – Coldplay – from “Ghost Stories”

Now for the “classical” music.

  • Vespers, Opus 37 – Sergei Rachmaninoff
  • Requiem, Opus 9 – Maurice Duruflé
  • Requiem, Opus 48 – Gabriel Fauré
  • The Planets, Opus 32 – Gustav Holst
  • Gloria, FP 177 – Francis Poulenc
  • Carmina Burana – Carl Orff
  • Glassworks – Philip Glass
  • Electric Counterpoint – Steve Reich
  • Symphony No. 3, Opus 36 – Henryk Gorecki
  • Color Music – Michael Torke
  • …and one bonus item – Trois Gymnopédies – Erik Satie

That’s it. That is my favorite list. Music, as I’ve said again and again, has a profound effect on my life. I am so thankful that God gave us music to praise him with, and to simply enjoy. He has gifted so many through the ages to create moving, resonant pieces of music that can be enjoyed still today.

Thank you, Lord for providing us with the gift of music, both to praise you directly and also indirectly. Your gift of music can be universally shared among all the people.

Featured Image: Photo by Simon Noh on Unsplash

21 Days of Posts – Day 11 – Journaling is Hard

Est. Reading Time: 4 minutes

This is day eleven of twenty-one days of posts between January 10th and January 30th of 2021. Hello again to those who read previous days, and hello to those of you who may have stumbled across this post “out of order”. You should go back and read from Day 1, for a few reasons. It explains why I am doing this. It is the first one, and I may make reference to something in it in this post or a later one. It also has a list with each day’s post (once they are available) and you can jump to whatever topic you are interested in. Thanks for reading!

Part of my 21 day fast includes entering thoughts into a journal every day. I’ve tried to journal in the past, but never did very well. I figured the best way to get into some kind of habit would be to make it part of my fast. So here I am, and I’ve discovered why I haven’t succeeded in the past with journaling.

Journaling is hard.

Part of the difficulty is the format I’ve selected to journal in. I have very specific items to record for every day.

      • My mood.
      • A verse of the day.
      • A daily affirmation.
      • A single thought for the day.
      • What would make today great?
      • What I am grateful for.
      • An amazing thing that happened.
      • How could the day have been better?

All of this, along with a free form section for actual thoughts is…daunting.

My mood usually changes throughout the day. I tend to only record how I feel at the moment I journal, unless there was a particularly sad, exciting, confusing or frustrating event during the day.

For my verse of the day, I usually fall back to a verse from my devotion or even just the verse of the day in the YouVersion Bible app. Unfortunately, there is not enough of the Bible in my head for me to simply choose a pertinent or appropriate verse. I’ll sometimes drop a partial verse into the search on the Bible.com webpage to find a good verse.

I pretty much despise daily affirmations and trying to come up with a single thought for the day. Most of my affirmations are silly, nonsensical, and apply only to a specific issue for that day. Narrowing down my thoughts, plural, to one single thought for the day is maddening. I usually put something related to my affirmation or maybe the verse of the day.

I usually have no idea what’s going to make my day great, which is good and bad. Bad, because I’m supposed to at least attempt to predict this, and good, because sometimes it is simply the surprise or novelty of an event during the day that makes it “what makes my day great”. I also usually have no idea what I am grateful for, or can’t narrow it down. This item gets the short straw a lot, as I am glad for all the things I have and some of the answers that come to mind seem either petty or trite.

Sometimes, nothing amazing happens. It’s just a fact of life. Miracles happen every day, but not always around me. My amazing thing is sometimes…pithy. Just as I don’t know what will make my day great, I also don’t usually know what would have made the day better. I have plenty of pat answers, like “didn’t have to go to work”, or “won a million dollars”, or some other thing that is just NOT going to happen. Truly knowing or deciding what might have made the day better is…an art, rather than a science.

After I have agonized over all of these items on my journal page, I then have the big blank space in the middle where I am supposed to fill in my thoughts, my observations, my stream of consciousness, or my rant. This is where the real journaling part comes in. This is what most people call journaling, especially if it is in some expensive notebook with an equally expensive pen. “Now that’s journaling,” they would say. They are not wrong. Filling this blank space with thoughts, usually fairly random thoughts at that, is hard. Everything or nothing tumbles out onto the page. As my typing skills are rough, when everything spills out, I am unable to keep up, so things get forgotten before they are recorded. It is what it is.

Hard. Journaling is hard. I’m sure some of you reading this are nodding your head. At least, I hope some of you are. I don’t want to be the only writer out there who can’t journal. I want to be able to pour out my thoughts, organized or random, and record them for my future self.

King David had no problem pouring out his thoughts in his psalms. Time after time you can see psalms that start out with him agonizing over some threat to him, but the end of the psalm displays his triumphant faith in God. The reverse is also true. Even better are the psalms that start out with beautiful language, praising God, but by the end of the psalm, the tone and tenor of the psalm turns dark and violent.

One of the best examples of this is psalm 63. David’s declaration that God’s “…love is better than life” is nestled among vivid pictures of how much he longs for God. Yet in the ninth verse of the eleven verse psalm, he is declaring that “those who want to kill me will be destroyed” and “given over to the sword”. Quite the change, but it is no more discordant than my thoughts in some of my journal entries.

Regardless, journaling is hard. Thoughts tumble out, or don’t. It’s kind of like when you are asked to pray in a group setting, right? You hope you don’t sound ridiculous, but the key to it all is to realize that God knows what you need to pray for.

Lord, thank you for knowing my thoughts, especially those that I need to pray about. Help me to order and express my thoughts with eloquence and coherence.

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21 Days of Posts – Day 10 – Give Me Faith…and Some Proof!

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

This is day ten of twenty-one days of posts between January 10th and January 30th of 2021. Hello again to those who read previous days, and hello to those of you who may have stumbled across this post “out of order”. You should go back and read from Day 1, for a few reasons. It explains why I am doing this. It is the first one, and I may make reference to something in it in this post or a later one. It also has a list with each day’s post (once they are available) and you can jump to whatever topic you are interested in. Thanks for reading!

Here we are at day ten and we’re circling back around to faith as the main topic. As you can see from the title, I sarcastically asked for both faith and proof. It is human instinct to want proof, evidence of something being true, but we as Christians are asked to live by faith. In fact, we aren’t Christians until we demonstrate faith by believing in the gift of salvation, for which we have only the proof offered by others of the faith, the words of the Bible, and that feeling we get when we know…really know, that the Holy Spirit is near.

Faith, like many things I’ve written about this week, is hard. Faith like a child, as is required for receiving the kingdom of God, is really hard. Mark 10:15 tell us:

Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.

Like a little child…that’s with no reservations, no doubts, no preconceived notions, no guile, no shame, no hesitance. I’ll say it again, that’s really hard. As adults we have all of these things, learned over years of life, dealing with other people, experiencing heartache, betrayal, hurt, pain, and disappointment. To sweep all of that aside and say, “Lord, I believe.” is the hardest thing some may ever do. But God wants it to be so simple. We complicate it with our human failings, our doubts, our fears. But He tells us:

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Matthew 6:26 (NIV)

We worry about paying bills, going to work, keeping up the house, keeping up appearances, and all of the deception involved in those things, that it is difficult to simply have faith. I’ll be one of the first to say, “give me some proof”. Give me something to touch, see, hear, taste or smell that proves God loves me and will redeem me. I don’t want to just read Bible verses, hear songs, or even see lives changed. I want more. Then I read the passage in Matthew 12 where the Pharisees ask for a sign. Jesus replied to them:

…A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign!…

Matthew 12:39

He goes on to explain that the only sign that will be given is that of Jonah, who was in the belly of the whale for three days and nights, just as Jesus would soon be in the grave for three days before the resurrection. As He further explained, something greater than Jonah was before them and yet, the Pharisees did not understand.

So while my flesh desires proof, I am reminded in scripture that all the proof I need has been given. My job is only to have faith, tremendous faith, the faith of a child, the faith of a mustard seed, at least, which is one of the smallest seeds there is, physically. If I do have such faith, I can uproot trees (Luke 17:6) and move mountains (Matthew 17:20), but most importantly, I can be redeemed and become a child of God.

That is the whole point of faith.

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21 Days of Posts – Day 9 – My Moody Music

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutesThis is day nine of twenty-one days of posts between January 10th and January 30th of 2021. Hello again to those who read previous days, and hello to those of you who may have stumbled across this post “out of order”. You should go back and read from Day 1, for a few reasons. It explains why I am doing this. It is the first one, and I may make reference to something in it in this post or a later one. It also has a list with each day’s post (once they are available) and you can jump to whatever topic you are interested in. Thanks for reading!

Day 9! Thanks for sticking with me! Today’s post is all about my “moody” music; the music I turn to when things are just not quite as they should be. I think I’ve mentioned the fact that music is a big part of my life. I have music for every mood, including when I am not “feeling right”. Some of my music transcends different playlists and emotional states, particularly between my calming music, which I babbled about on day six and my moody music, which I will detail here in this post.

I’ll try not to duplicate anyone on my list from day six and only mention those artists and pieces that were not on the calming music list. In the realm of pop and alternative music, my moody choices are  10000 Maniacs, Anna Nalick, Dido, the Editors, Sia, The Smashing Pumpkins, The Wreckers, and Toad the Wet Sprocket.

The precise and imaginative guitar playing of Andy McKee is also a part of my moody playlist, along with Mooncake, Carbon Based Lifeforms, Billie Ray Martin, Ludovico Einaudi, The Seraphim Project, and The Sleep Design. Don’t think I’m leaving jazz out of this playlist. Miles Davis, Nina Simone, David Sanborn, Edgar Meyer, Joe Sample, and the incomparable John Coltrane all make the list.

Some new-age-ish music also graces my moody playlist. Works by Jim Brickman, Ray Lynch, Vangelis, Jim Chappell, Adiemus, Renee Stahl, Michael Jones, and Greyflood are also on my list.

Not a lot of classical music makes it on this playlist, but Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, taken from the second movement of his string quartet, Opus 11 is at the top. Also making this list is Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring and even his Fanfare for the Common Man. Francis Poulenc’s Stabat Mater (FP 148) is a common choice. Claude Debussy’s Reflections in the Water, and Robert Schumann’s Dedication both rank highly on my moody playlist. Finally Alexander Scriabin’s Etude, Opus. 8, No. 12, in D-sharp minor tops the moody list on a regular basis.

Any of these artists and pieces will do one of two things. Either they will darken your moody mood just a bit, or, they might lead you to a less moody demeanor. It really all depends on how invested you get in the music versus how invested you are in your mood.

I use music to help me with my moody times and it works well. Some may not be able to do this, or music just isn’t their thing. What are they to do? If they are Christians, they can take heart in Psalm 42, particularly verse 5, which says:

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Yes, we are to put our hope in God to lift us up and take our faces from downcast to uplifted, glowing with the hope of the Lord. However, if you need to stew in your moodiness, the music above will very effectively allow you to do so.

 

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