Melody and Harmony

I read a blog recently by a Christian musician. He was talking about the challenges of serving God in a music-based ministry. He said that sometimes he felt like he was always playing harmony and never melody. This made me think about how life goes sometimes. We think we’ve heard God’s call and we’re trying to be obedient but sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we can’t seem to see how what we’re doing is making a difference. It’s like we are playing the harmony and can’t identify the song.

When I was in middle school the band director tried to teach me to play the bassoon. Aside from the fact that it was a huge instrument for a thirteen year old to lug home for five blocks every weekend, it also required great effort to play. And it wasn’t exactly a solo instrument. Most of the music was the harmony and rather boring to practice. I only played the bassoon for one year. I just didn’t get much satisfaction from the experience.

But as I read the musician’s blog I saw things from a different perspective. When a composer writes a piece of music each part is important. While the melody is meant to stand out, it isn’t meant to stand alone. The richness of a piece of music is in the way each part is combined together. It reminds me of the verses in 1 Corinthians 12 about the body and how each part needs the other.

But back to the music for a moment. In life we can’t all play solos. We aren’t all created to play the melody. But our parts are just as important. A pastor, for instance, may play a solo on Sunday but even he doesn’t always get to play the melody. The beauty is in the way the melody and the harmony flow together. It’s the countless hours that faithful Christ-followers put in just doing their part…just playing the harmony to the best of their ability… that’s what makes the difference.

We may not even be aware, on a conscious level, of the harmony that is being played but if it our part is missing we’d know it. If the musicians suddenly just quit because they were tired of playing the same boring tune the entire piece would suffer.

When we grow weary of playing the same notes, when we can’t even recognize the tune, that’s when we must determine to remain faithful. Our part is important; our harmony is what makes the melody rich. Maybe we are just asked to play the bassoon to the best of our ability. We can be sure that the song the Lord hears is pleasing to Him even if we can’t recognize the tune from where we sit.

Psalm 33:3 “Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully with a shout of joy”

What are You Becoming?

A while back I wrote in my journal this phrase that I believe the Lord spoke to my heart.

“Stop being what you were and look forward…to what you are becoming.”

Our faith walk in a process. When we come to Christ we are a new creation (according to 2 Corinthians 5:17).

But 2 Corinthians 3:18 tells us that we are being transformed into Christ’s image. I believe that Romans 2:12 ties this all together: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

The good and perfect will of God is that we become like Jesus.  If we keep seeing ourselves as we were before our rebirth then we can get discouraged. The renewing of our mind involves shifting our focus from what we were to what we are becoming.

I started a list in my journal that I simply titled “My Becomings.”  I’ve added to this list as the Lord has brought concepts to mind. I look at this list often and my prayer is this:

“Thank You Lord that, by Your strength, I am becoming wise, kind, patient, loving, hopeful, courageous, teachable, discerning, steadfast, thankful, prayerful, joyful, disciplined…” The list goes on.  I’m sure my list will continue to grow as God reveals the character of Jesus to me day by day.

So, what are you becoming?  Maybe it’s time to start your list.

The Masks We Wear

If we’re honest, we have to acknowledge that we all wear masks at times. Even our closest friends only see what we want them to see. We hide our true selves for many reasons, but the root is usually fear of what others might think if they knew who we really were.  The risk of rejection is just too great so…we hide.

I wish that was as far as it went but I don’t think it is. At times, I find myself even trying to hide from God behind one mask or another.  I’m not alone in this….Eve actually did it first…hiding from God in the garden. Of course, she hadn’t read Psalm 139 so maybe she didn’t know that God was intimately acquainted with all her ways, or knew her words before she said them.

Once, many years ago, I was required to participate in a children’s costume party. My costume included a mask and when I was dressed in the complete outfit no one could possibly guess it was me inside. I found a certain freedom to act in any way I wanted since no one knew it was me and wouldn’t judge me for anything I did.  But it was an artificial freedom. Because I wasn’t perceived by the children as “real” they interacted with me from a distance, unwilling to get too close . They instinctively knew that what they were seeing wasn’t the whole picture. I felt freedom to act as I chose but I also experienced a sense of isolation. Several of the other adults knew who I was inside my costume and were the ones who would draw closer and interact on a more intimate basis.

Isn’t that how it is in life? Don’t we avoid people who seem “phony”, keeping our distance? Don’t we feel more comfortable with people who have earned our trust by being real?  How effective can we be in ministry if we can’t be real?  Who will allow themselves to risk a relationship with us if they sense we aren’t what we seem?

One final thought…who knows what’s inside the masks we wear in our daily lives better than the Lord? Who is more willing than anyone to draw close to us? Who has seen everything there is to see in us and still loves us? Jeremiah 23:24 says, “Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill the heavens and the earth? declares the Lord.

We don’t need to pretend to be something we’re not. We can be real with God. He knows all about us and loves us anyway.

Is God Good?

“Is God Good?” That is what we call a rhetorical question…like “do birds fly?” Our response is instant. “Of course birds fly.”

Is God good? Our affirmative response comes just as quickly. But the real question is – do we believe it in every instance? Do we believe Psalm 119:68 ? “You are good and do good.” Period.

I think we are quick to say we believe that God is good and we’d like to believe that everything He does is good. The problem is that life is full of circumstances which, from our limited perspective, don’t look so good. Our question to  ourselves during those times becomes “Is God still good?” His Word has already told us that He is. All the time. In every circumstance. Our lousy circumstances don’t turn God into a lousy father. Our Heavenly Father turns our lousy circumstances into good!

No matter what situation we find ourselves in, we must resist the temptation to evaluate God in light of our trials. He doesn’t change. He is always good and everything He does is good. He can’t go against His own character. We need to adjust our perception.

Four of my seven sons are color blind. When they look at an object they don’t see what I see. When they look at a cardinal in the pine trees in our backyard and the bird blends in with the branches because they can’t distinguish red from green they can make a false assumption that what they see is correct. However, if I tell them the bird is red and the tree is green – highly contrasting colors to a normal eye, they have two choices. They must either believe me even though their perception is different, or argue that their point of view is correct. But whether they see red or not doesn’t change the facts.

We do the same thing every time we doubt that our circumstances can be used for our good. I would never lie to my children and toy with their color deficiency – pretending to see colors that they cannot see. God would never lie to us. He would never tell us something that looks bad to us is really good – unless it’s the truth.

Our problem is that we look at our circumstances the same way my sons look at the bird and assume our perception is the correct one. We need to take our eyes off the circumstances and focus on what we know to be true.

Is God good? Take a good honest look at your circumstances for a moment and then lift your eyes to the heavens, above your circumstances, and gaze into the face of your Heavenly Father and ask the question again. “Is God good?” God’s response to your heart’s cry will be a  resounding “YES!”