Monday, July 29, 2013

Taking Care


[Photo of a frazzled woman]

I played the French horn in college, but the price of the horn prevented me from having my own instrument. Therefore, in order to play in the orchestra and wind ensembles, I needed to use a school owned horn. So, my professor assigned me one which played well, though sported enough dents to reveal that it had been around for a few years.

At my first lesson, the professor said, “Did you know you could wash this thing in the bathtub?” He proceeded to tell me how to take it all apart and run water through it in order to get rid of the putrid smell within. So, I followed his advice, and took it back to my dorm for “a bath.”

Now, the French horn isn’t the only instrument that needs special care. I learned, as a music teacher in public schools, that oboe reeds crack, dry trumpet valves stick, mouthpieces get stuck in trombones and flute keypads fall out. All need attention from time to time.

What would happen to the music from these instruments if the player did not maintain them? The music would indeed suffer. A stuck key, or a squealing reed, would obviously influence the sound and the ability of the player to do his or her best job in producing music.

Christians tend to have the same problems as well-used musical instruments. We have a “song to sing” so to speak, and need to have our instruments in tip-top shape in order for the music to come out. When we live with our bodies tired, or malnourished, or out of shape, we cannot give to God our very best.

However, I know that our schedules often become unbalanced, because other’s expectations of us box us into a corner, or family demands make us feel obligated to sacrifice even healthy patterns of living in order to meet them. The lack of balance keeps our bodies ill-maintained and unable to do our best for Him, for our families, for our employers.

God even rested on the seventh day! He was showing us His pattern for living. You all know the third Commandment found in Exodus 34:21:

“Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest.”

But do you remember the rest of it?

“Even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.”

Said another way, even when we are busiest!!

In our society, we tend either to make too much of our bodies, or too little. Balance requires us to maintain good habits for healthy bodies, but to also make time for our spiritual selves as well. That is the other side of the coin.

Where do you see yourself? Too occupied with your physical needs, or careless and dangerously forgetful of them? Take a good look, and commit yourselves to the balance required for healthy bodies that can readily serve God when He calls. Like the French Horn, learn to take proper care of yourself in order that, with your whole being, you will remain able to play beautiful music for Him.



Monday, July 22, 2013

I See You!


[Photo of a child peeking through his hands]

We’ve all played with a baby and asked, “Where’s Joey?” Babies love to hide behind their hands so we “can’t see them.” It seems that children enjoy hiding, even through elementary school when they say to the rest of the class while waiting for their teacher, “Let’s hide!” They all scurry under their desks or into the closet.

Truth is, even adults get into the hiding game with God. We try to forget that He sees all we do, what we say, and even knows what we think. Or, maybe we think as long as another person doesn’t see us, God will forgive us. In that case we’ve traded presumption for faith.

We call this characteristic of God, this ability He has to know all things we do, omniscience. He studies us, has known us before the foundation of the world, and no matter where we go, He can find us.

King David, the Psalmist, captured this truth best when he said in Psalm 139:3, 7-12:

“You are familiar with all my ways…Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you;”

If you find yourself hiding from God, ask why, and then determine to go to Him and confess to Him what He already knows. Like Adam and Eve, who hid in the Garden, as recorded in Genesis 3:8, it is no use. He sees all, knows all, and will forgive all, once you come out of hiding and face Him with a repentant heart.



Monday, July 15, 2013



[Photo of woman on phone being interrupted by kids]

Maaaaaaahm!! I can hear the child yelling and tugging at her Mom as she tries to make sense of the phone call that she has just answered. It always seems that children have an urgent need just at that moment when Mom has to give her attention to something else.

I think God often feels that way too! More often than I can count, when I sit down to read my Bible or pray (intending to earnestly and fervently do so!), there come a hundred thoughts bombarding me at that moment. Some have real urgency like, “Oh! I forgot to take the garbage out and I hear the truck coming” or “Will Dad live to see another day?”

Some distractions simply have to do with tasks we have to accomplish, or fears of a dreaded medical test or surgery. My rabbit holes often come from new creative ideas I have for some project I’m doing.

Now, I do believe some of these “distracting thoughts” can actually be the Holy Spirit bringing His will to our attention, and I, for one, have had His interruptions of my reading or praying with an idea or a prayer burden that I know He has placed in my head.

Largely though, the interruptions we experience come from our own sinful, self-obsessed natures. Thomas Manton in his Puritan Sermons 1659-1689, lists six causes for haunting distractions that carry us away from the prayer life God wants for us. These six are:

  1. Satan is at our right hand ready to resist us in prayer.

  2. We are restless creatures. It is difficult for all of us to concentrate on one object for any length of time.

  3. We are distracted by practical atheism… Things we see have a greater force upon us that the true God who is Spirit and invisible power.

  4. Lust rooted in us will also distract us when we go about any duty.

  5. Fancy and curiosity offered us by the senses or memory, will be an occasion for diversion.

  6. Sharp worries will hinder our faith and draw away our attention from prayer.

He goes on to say that

“We must be like the priests, who went on with their sacrifices as the Roman troops broke into Jerusalem.”

Next time you give yourself to prayer and Bible reading, remember the enemy of distraction which seeks to bring you away from what God wants to say to you and through you. Satan knows the power behind what you are doing. Pray for God’s grace to shut him out!



Monday, July 8, 2013



[Photo of  women arguing]

 Molly, my sister, and I fell out,
And what do you think it was all about?
She loved coffee and I loved tea,
And that was the reason we couldn’t agree.
 —an old Mother Goose rhyme

I had a sister close in age with whom I had plenty of arguments as a child. And, the reasons for the arguments were usually as silly as the Nursery Rhyme above. Much of that arguing promotes a means for a healthy growing up, as siblings learn to negotiate and live with others.

Within the body of Christ, we have been admonished to treat each other as brothers and sisters and to live in unity. Many a church fight has occurred because Christian siblings disagree on very trivial matters. Disagreements over the type and color of the carpeting for the church parlor, or whether to hold a full-size brunch after church or a light reception.

However, not all arguments between brothers and sisters in Christ result from juvenile issues. Some come from disagreements over important doctrinal beliefs or from sinful power plays. These types of problems need genuine spiritual counsel, repentance, or even separation.

However, when matters really don’t require anything but humble submission to one another, confession of prideful selfishness, or a heart-to-heart talk, God expects us to work it out ourselves.

Even in St. Paul’s day, he knew two church women who had locked horns. He said in Philippians 4:2-3:

“I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel.”

Imagine what such a schism between sisters does to the unity and peace of the church. Can either give effective service to Christ with such a rift between them? In so many places in Scripture, God shows us His high regard for unity in the body, even saying to Titus through Paul, as recorded in Titus 3:10:

“Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.”

Wow! Christ wants His church to demonstrate the same unity that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit show us. Through the display of a unity like this, so dissimilar from the world, people will be drawn into the Kingdom.

God help us to not allow the “little foxes to destroy the vines.” (Song of Solomon 2:15). Small things have big effect in the Kingdom of God.



Monday, July 1, 2013

The Steinway 1


[Photo of the inside of a Steinway grand piano]

 “…I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on My name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’”
 —Zechariah 13:9

My business career has been as an owner of an advertising agency. Over the years, I have had the privilege to work on many different and prestigious accounts. One of those accounts was Steinway Pianos, the make of the world’s finest pianos. Each piano has always been made from scratch; it takes over a year to make one Steinway.

The most impressive scene as I toured the manufacturing plant was the place where the soundboard is stretched to its maximum tolerance and allowed to sit for an extended period until it remains in the curved design. This was done in an off-to-the-corner part of the plant. If the wood were alive, it would be crying out for mercy.

After an extended time of stretching, the wood will never spring back to its original state. It is permanently changed. The piano is becoming a fine-tuned instrument. After this process takes place, the next step requires another point of stress. It takes 11 tons of pressure on a piano to tune it. Each step in the process moves the piano closer to a finished product that will ultimately be played by the world’s finest musicians. These musicians desire a particular sound that only a piano like this can make.

God looks at each of us as a fine-tuned instrument. However, we begin as rough wood that He desires to transform into gold. Tuning us requires certain experiences that will stretch our faith, our frame, and our very life.

Sainthood springs out of suffering. If we stand the strain of this intense process, we will come forth as gold—as a sweet-smelling offering to our Maker. When we are in the midst of these times, it feels like fire. It is painful to be stretched beyond our perceived limits, but the Lord knows this is necessary for us to become an instrument that can play a beautiful song that others will seek after.

Let the master Craftsman have His way in your life today. You will be pleased with the instrument He fashions.


1 from a piece by Os Hillman ©2002 as quoted by Francis J. Kong in “Business Matters,” a column that appeared in The Philippine Star.