Why I Choose Jesus

I’ve been thinking about writing this for a long time. I’m going to do my best to express myself well, but I hope you will all be patient with me as I try to put a journey of  a “thus far” lifetime into a few words. This may actually take several installations, and I might have to back track more than once.

Many of my internet friends are curious about things of God and faith,  I’m hoping I can answer some of their questions as well.

Like many people, I have had a “sense” of God even from the time I was very young. Could it be because of the mention of Him by my mother? Probably.  My mom was the first person to introduce me to things of faith. She made sure to teach us the meaning of Christmas  and Easter, and the Golden Rule. But things of God were in general not topics of daily life.  Even so, I was raised with a strong foundation in that Jesus is the son of God, and his ways are to be modeled in our lives.

At the age of eleven I “got saved” as you hear many people put it. I was at the funeral of a friend of the family. He was my dad’s best friend and died suddenly of a heart attack. I remember listening to the message, which was a salvation message, and thinking about the brevity of life (although at eleven I’m sure I didn’t even know the word “brevity”). I decided then that I would much rather be in heaven than in hell. If you know anything about southern baptist preaching of 40 years ago (most of my growing up years were spent in the south) then you know that the sermon was “Hell, Fire, and Brimstone”. I now refer to my decision that day as my fire insurance!  This would be the first time death had a pivotal influence on my life.

My understanding of being a good Christian at that time was interpreted as being a nice person. Be nice to others, do things for others, don’t do bad things. Not that I always followed it, but I tried. Give people the benefit of the doubt, open doors for people, smile and say please and thank you.  Simple enough. Loving God has nothing to do with it, but I liked Him. And I believed He was good, because that’s what I’d been told, and so far, I hadn’t experienced anything to the contrary.

So the years went by, and I maintained my exclusive membership to the Christian club, believing that I pretty much had it down. I didn’t always behave as the good Christian girl should, but most people believed I did, so that seemed to count. And I was still very nice.

Then something happened in my mid-twenties. I’d been married for five years, with one child, and pregnant with the next.  I enrolled our son three year old son in a mother’s day out program at a local Nazarene church.  In short order, I got to know his teacher, who was also pregnant. We quickly became good friends, spending time in each other’s homes having coffee and watching out children play together, even long after our daughter’s were born.

This friend was a different kind of Christian than I was used to knowing. Of course, she was nice too, but she had something more.  Gentleness, kindness, joy…I was intrigued so one day I asked. Her answer perplexed me.  She told me she had a personal relationship with the Lord, meaning Jesus. Huh? What does that mean? A “personal” relationship with Jesus? How can that be? You guys hang out and have coffee too? I was full of questions.

She tried to explain this intimate relationship that she experienced through prayer and learning more about Him through reading the Bible. Now see, that was a new thought to me. I prayed, sure. But they were generic prayers of “thank you for this daily bread” and “keep us safe until the morning light”.  I really had no idea how to “talk to God”.  But I wanted what she had.

I waited until I was alone, and I felt pretty foolish at first. But I told God, if this is true about this personal relationship thing, I wanted that too. And I didn’t have a clue how to do it, so He would have to help me.  I didn’t start reading my Bible, but I did start to pray, and look for ways He may be involved in my life. I decided I wanted to attend this Nazarene church where this wonderful friend attended, so one day I told my husband my desire. I told him he didn’t have to go with me (wasn’t that nice of me?), but I was going to go.  He surprised me by telling me he wanted to go along with me. Could this be God showing up for me?

I would like to tell you how amazing life became at that point. Well, no, really I wouldn’t because in retrospect I can see how much the Lord did show up for me, I just didn’t know at the time.

My husband worked 16 hours a day in a tool distributorship franchise.  He was consumed with it. So me and our two little ones waited up late for some “daddy time”. Many times it never happened. I became lonely. Critically lonely. I will not go into details, but I came very close to blowing it, but by some miracle, was prevented from acting on my own selfish desires.  During this time I felt so distant from my husband. I’m sure many of you know what I am talking about.  But running his own business brought some characteristics out in my husband that I found very unlikeable, and soon I felt as if I lived with a stranger.

I cannot remember how I heard about this suggestion, seems like it was on a radio program. But the topic was strained marriages. And the suggestion was to find one positive thing a day to say to your spouse. Just one, but it had to be something different each day. My heart was so closed off by that time, I truly could not come up with anything.  So I prayed.  “God, show me something. I’ll do this, but You will have to help me, ’cause I can’t see anything good. ” All of the sudden I remembered how I loved his blue eyes when we were dating. They were still the same eyes, and they were still a beautiful blue. So that night, while going to bed, I took a deep breath and said, “You have beautiful, blue eyes.”  I could hardly squeeze the words out, but I did it!  The next night I told him I enjoyed his sense of humor. The third night, honestly, I can’t remember. My heart had already begun to soften, and I began to change.

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Making a Joyful Noise

Isn’t it funny how we can take a simple, meaningless event and turn it into a motto to live by? Where I work, (Shiloh Home of Hope for Women), we call that an ungodly belief, because it doesn’t reflect the authenticity of who God created us to be.  Today I had an opportunity to draw up from the deep well of the past a memory that started for me an ungodly belief about music. Well, about me and music to be more accurate.

Like many children when they are young, I enjoyed making up little songs.  On one occasion I remember playing at my cousin’s house, along with my sisters. I must have been 7 or 8 years old. I found a music toy, probably meant for a toddler, but it fascinated me! I would turn the little dial over and over and listen to the tunes it played. Although it only played music, I was sure I could “hear” the words to the song. I started making up lyrics to go with it, and even though my composition was incomplete, I braved to share it with the adults as they sat around chatting. What happened next went into my soul and eventually came out as an ungodly belief.

The adults did not seem to be impressed with my song writing abilities. I remember my aunt scoffing and saying “That’s not how it goes!”  And all it seemed my performance warranted were a few chuckles before I was sent off to “find something to do”.  But my spirit was cracked. And thus began the lie in my soul that the things I loved to do were worthless in the eyes of the world, and even worse, in the eyes of those I loved.

I understand that these kinds of remarks and attitudes are not to purposely set in ones heart a belief that will set limitations on what they believe they can accomplish, or even their own personal value. When we are young we do not know these things.  We  just believe them, and because we do, we live accordingly.

I continued to write simple songs through my childhood, and not all of them were scoffed at. On ocassion my mom would have me sing one for company and they would all show their delight. But I didn’t trust their accolades completely. Over time I shared some of my poetry with classmates, and was met with more scoffing, and even ridicule. I eventually kept all my poems and songs to myself. I also began to look at my other love, art, as frivolous and useless in the real world.

I was involved in chorus at every opportunity. I tried solo singing twice, maybe three times, but was always sure  that I had done poorly. Lack of confidence was a major issue.  I didn’t really begin singing publicly until I was 34 years old, at the urging of the pastor’s wife, who was involved in the music program at our church.  I can remember that first song so clearly, as if it were only a couple of years ago (it’s been nearly 20!).  Was I ever nervous!  Since then I’ve sang on the worship team off and on for many years, and done many solos.  I even wrote a few songs, but have never considered myself a songwriter.

Fast forward to the present. Something I’ve always wanted to do is sing with a band, so I started one last year. We’ve played for 2 venues thus far and have another coming up in June. I love it. Love, love, love it! I love singing, making music with others, sharing it, all of it!  And now I’m struggling with my voice.  Could it be related to the other issues (BEB and Meige)? I do not know. I’m trying everything I can to help my throat so my voice improves. Allergy medicine for post nasal drip, medicine for acid reflux to heal the esophagus, and flushing my nasal passages with saline via the Neti Pot. Still snap…crackle…pop!

Someone once called me “The Anne Murray of 12th Ave. Baptist” haha! Now I’m sounding more like Phyllis Diller, if she sang!   But here’s my point, I will keep singing. I will do my best. I will write songs, and even call myself a songwriter.  I will continue to live my life full on for my first love, Jesus!

I no longer believe the lies that what I love to do lack meaning and value. I know that no matter what I sound like,  or what others may think, the Lord hears my heart, and it’s making a joyful noise! ❤

“Shout to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets, and the blast of the ram’s horn- shout for joy before the Lord, the King.” Psalm 98:4-6

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Doctor My Eyes

I have long believed that life is a musical and there is a song for everything. If we were clever enough, we could actually sing our way through the days.

My case in point is a recent experience under the broom tree. Since the loss of my brother last October I struggled to “get back to my old self”. Something just wasn’t quite right, so with trembling hands and twitching toes, I went to the doctor with suspicions of Parkinson’s disease.  Multiple tests revealed that all systems appeared normal, but I was struggling with cognitive function and extreme fatigue. The doctor’s diagnosis was RLS, and inspite of my doubts about the accuracy of the diagnosis, the meds prescribed have really helped with the twitching overall. Consequently I sleep better and have more energy.

While going through this process of elimination I developed another strange symptom. I could hardly keep my left eye open. A visit to my optometrist revealed a possible explanation, BEB, or Benign Essential Blepharospasm. If you think it’s a mouthful to say, you should try having it in your eyes! BEB is a neurological condition that causes spasms of the eyelids, including eyebrow muscles. In the most extreme cases a person can be considered functionally blind if they cannot open their eyes. Fortunately, mine is not so advanced.

I decided to visit a local ophthalmologist to get his opinion, and it didn’t take him long to confirm that it was indeed BEB. I’d already done a little research on the condition and learned that although there is no cure, there is a fairly effective treatment  in the form of botox injections. As a “lady of a certain age”, I might have eventually been interested in botox for deepening signs of wisdom (okay, wrinkles!), but it turns out that I became desperate to just  keep my eyes open!

Well, a week ago I had 13 injections of  a low dose of botox, with mixed results. For a couple of days it was fabulous, then the eyes were up to their old tricks again. I’ve got a follow up exam tomorrow to see if I just need a little bit more poison next time around.

Anyway, back to the music. My band, Elijah Tree (read my previous blog for more about this), performed Doctor My Eyes (a peppy tune from the ’80’s by Jackson Browne) recently at a Music Fest. I originally selected the song tongue-in-cheek, because, hey! you gotta laugh, right? But the more I listened to the lyrics, the more I like the song. It’s not so much about poor eyesight as it is about poor vision, as in apathy toward the human condition and suffering that surrounds us.  So it turned out to be apropos for the Music Fest on many levels.

So while I’m still working on a solution  for my eyes, I find that it’s the eyes of my heart that need the most attention. Homelessness, child abuse, domestic abuse , drugs and alcohol abuse, sex slavery, and all types of violent behavior surround us to the point of desensitizing us.  Apathy sets in because we are overwhelmed when we see the magnitude of the problem. We just shake our heads, say “that’s too bad” and move on.

We need a song of boldness, of courage, to leave our comfortable safe lives for the sake of another. What if we could see them the way the Creator God see’s them? What if, just for a moment, we could see who Jesus sees?

What if the  song was “Give Me Your Eyes”by Brandon Heath. Even if my eyes are squeezed closed, may it be the prayer of my heart, and always, with a song  in my heart!

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The Beautiful Paradox of Joy and Sorrow

I suppose this is not the most exciting way to begin a new blog, but it’s not so much for the entertainment or enlightenment of others as it is a vehicle for me to process my own journey through grief. If you find it interesting and perhaps even helpful, then I am doubly blessed. If you find it intriguing and thought provoking, then perhaps even you may be blessed as well.

I’ve chosen the blog title “The Broom Tree” from reflecting on the story of the prophet, Elijah, from in the old testament. Elijah had, through the Spirit of God, just accomplished an amazing feat (read about it in 1 Kings, chapter 18). Because of this accomplishment, his life was threatened by a powerful woman; the queen. Filled with fear, he sought refuge under a broom tree, basically an overgrown desert shrub. There, in his despair, he prayed to die.

The Lord did answer Elijah’s prayer, but not the way he desired. Elijah wanted to be released from the pressure of running for his life, instead, an angel met him under the broom tree, fed him, and let him sleep…twice, restoring him for the rest of his journey.

Having recently come through my own intense task, the illness and death of my brother, I found myself struggling to return to normal life.  Sorrow and loss threatened my joy, zapped my energy, and left me apathetic.  Only in times of engaging fully in worshiping through music did I experience the joy and sorrow merge into one, synthesized into a harmony in my spirit.

Here, in the music, is my broom tree, where I am rested and restored for the journey.  In this renewal I am beginning to understand the beauty and usefulness of pain and sorrow, as well and joy, at least in context of my own life.  As I stood by my brothers hospital bed, I sang. I sang favorites from his childhood, and favorites since. I sang songs of hope, and faith, and love. I sang out, uninhibited, of Amazing Grace and It Is Well With My Soul, the words sometimes sticking in my throat. My brother loved music, and I found it an honor to sing for him. And there, in the room where his life would slip  into eternity, I experienced something I will forever treasure, a holy suffering.

And here lies the  paradox: That joy and sorrow, or pain, can co-habitate in a peaceful existence within ones soul.

I am changed. Deeper, maybe? More sad? Definitely. But not less joyful. I have a broom tree under which I can restore when sorrow, or fear, or overwhelm presses in. I have my Elijah Tree. I will keep singing!

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