Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Where's My New Song?

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;
He set my feet on a rock 
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
A hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord 
and put their trust in him. 
Psalm 40: 1-3

When I was in college my roommate and I were sort of scripture memory buddies.  We would work on our selected passages and then we would meet and check to see how the other was doing on their memory work.  This passage was one that I chose and it has become "my verse" simply because as a believer in Christ this IS my testimony.....well, I don't know how patiently I wait.... but over and over again, no matter the circumstance the Lord has faithfully turned to me and He has heard my cry when I have been in need.  Through his redemption I have been lifted out of the slimy pit of sin and His word is a firm bedrock foundation upon which I can stand. 

Yet despite all that the Lord has done, I often find myself asking, where is my new song? Where is my hymn of praise?  Where is my heart filled with grateful worship?  Have I grown so entitled and unaware that I forget all that the Lord has done? Have I become too busy to notice? Sometimes.....I do forget.... and often I find myself to be too busy...Those times are usually accompanied by a time of self righteousness and exasperated impatience that God is not working according to my plans and on my time table.......

However, when I remember, when I am convicted to pray, when I wait patiently......which I wish were more often...... THEN my heart is filled with a new song and my soul is over-full with hymns of praise and I cannot keep from singing in worship.  I find it amazing and very true in my own life that when my heart is filled with a new song and a hymn of praise, others are persuaded to trust in the Lord.  As believers our praise is our very best testimony of who God is and our most convincing call to follow him.  

Sunday, September 23, 2012

How my animal print wardrobe reminds me of God

Please excuse my extended absence from my "caveats" blog.  Over the last several months all of my blogging efforts have been directed toward developing my music teacher blog called melodysoup@blogspot.com.  Since I teach music all day sometimes it's easiest to write what is on my mind and I almost always have school running in the back of my brain..... So I've been writing a TON for that blog and none for this one..... But I miss this blog because here, I can write whatever I want.   It's kind of like taking a vacation and I LOVE vacation.

Since school has started back I've realized something about myself that I never knew...... Did you know that it is entirely possible for me to wear a different animal print item of clothing each day for a little more than a week without ever having to repeat the article of clothing?  I didn't either!  I was truly surprised because ......I suppose I like animal prints ok, but I would never claim them as my favorite choice.  Plus, I would never choose an animal print for my home decor.....So when the school theme was announced as "Wild About Learning" and we were told to find some animal print for the first day of school.... I never dreamed that I would be the one left out of the shopping frenzy.... I REALLY didn't need to purchase anything..... I just had to walk to my closet.  Some of my teammates were rather worried because they didn't own any animal print at all, but they needn't have worried because if you are in the market for animal print clothing THIS is your year..... It is possible to buy all items of clothing from head to toe and from underwear to outerwear all in animal print......You don't even have to limit yourself to clothing.  You can get curtains, bath towels, bed sheets, dishes and furniture ALL in the animal print of your choice.  It's a virtual safari.  

Animal prints look nice on people with my skin tone because God made those prints to blend in and folks with really fair skin and a ton of freckles need a little blending to help them show up.  As it turns out, when the prints are on animals rather than people, the prints help hide the animals either from predators or their prey.... Well unless you are a zebra..... in which case, God may have decided to just make you pretty and quick.....so RUN! .......but I digress.....  

I love the way that God can use seemingly random unimportant parts of our lives to teach us and remind us of who He is.  So for weeks now as I've been proudly proclaiming my "wildness" about all things learning by regularly wrapping myself in whatever animal print suits my fancy that day.  It wasn't long before the Lord brought my attention to the beauty of the patterns themselves and then I realized, THESE are God's creation! He is the artist!    He painted all these detailed and intricate patterns just to hide some animals so they could stay safe and hunt food....to help them hide.....Here I am, resting in His love, a redeemed child of God, .hidden in Christ and the Lord is my hiding place. 

Psalm 32:7 says, "You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Onion.....by any other name would still smell like onion.

I hate onions.

Ironically, my relationship with onions began quite early.  You see, I was blessed to know my great grandmother Mabel Clara Hooper.  We all called her "Maw".  I don't remember this, but I'm told that when I was a baby, she gave me a large hunk of raw onion to suck on.  Seeing as I'm still bothered by the idea, I have no idea what my response actually was, but in any case the experience and the retelling became part of the infant "back story" to the life I lived as a child.

Mabel Clara Hooper (Maw)
Maw cooked with onions and ate onions for snacks.... Personally I think that by the time I was a baby all of her taste-buds were probably dead because she also salted her oatmeal......  She never tolerated personal tastes at her dinner table.  If there was a dish that you didn't prefer, she would simply state that you must not have had said food the way that "Maw makes it."  Of course if you had her black eyed peas, or collard greens or whatever else she was cooking that day, of course you would like it!  She made it!

Later when I was in grade school, my parents found themselves in possession of what must have been several bushels of green tomatoes. So they decided to make Chow Chow as Christmas presents for everyone they knew.  ..... I never actually ate any of their infamous concoction, but I know that they worked on it for FOREVER!  While they worked they spent what seemed like hours on the phone with Maw in Abilene who must have been the only one in their acquaintance who had actually made it before.  At the time, my bedroom was directly off of the kitchen, and since it was cold outside there was absolutely no way I could escape the overwhelming stench of way too many onions. Apparently Chow Chow has more onions than tomatoes in it.....In terms of tear production the only thing worse than chopping onions with a knife is using a hand grinder bolted to the table..... THAT will make you cry!   Everything in the house smelled like onions for what seemed like forever.  The funny thing is that the smell did go away and all that was left to prove that our house had ever been taken over by onion stench was a set of nice and neat mason jars filled with Chow Chow.     From that Christmas on, everyone in my family asked for more Chow Chow....apparently all of the adult taste buds enjoyed it immensely.... I wouldn't know.

Although you'll never catch me eating an onion ring, I've actually come to appreciate the culinary attributes of your average onion.  Maybe my taste buds are dying off like Maw's.....I even cook with onion if I think that they will add to the recipe.  At Thanksgiving I am the official maker of all things "non-turkey".  I start with the cornbread dressing.   Once the onions and celery are in the pan, Thanksgiving has begun!  LOVE that smell as much as pumpkin pie because it smells like Thanksgiving.   At moments like that, even I have to admit that a little bit of good onion gives good flavor to everything that it touches.

The problem with liking to cook is that I'm single.  I cannot possible consume or share all that I would enjoy making.  I do my best to grocery shop conservatively but it's no secret that most of the time buying single servings of anything is a really expensive way to shop.  So I have been known to keep an onion or two on hand in case I get the urge to cook something.  There I go hauling my stash of fresh produce up the stairs before my arms break.  I put everything away with lofty plans of all of the cool and nutritious meals I will make.  For days after my shopping trip I smile every time I go into my kitchen where I have the pretty lemons, onions and garlic all displayed on my counter..... not to mention the veggies "crisping" in the fridge..... Look how pretty, how domestic, I AM a kitchen diva!

Then one day I come home from work and open the door and a wave of yucky smell hits me and I know that something in my apartment has gone bad before I could cook it..... I immediately start the hunt and once I locate the offending rotten onion, I'm moving as fast as I can to get it out of my place before I start to gag.  GROSS!

Enough about onions!

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ's triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.  For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life.  And who is equal to such a task?  Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit.  On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God - 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 

I've always loved this passage of scripture.  In this passage we are told that WE are the "pleasing aroma" of Christ!  Right away I want to ask myself, or maybe I should ask someone else, how do I smell?

However,  today as I was reflecting, it occurred to me that perhaps it's our response to our circumstances that give us this "pleasing aroma".  Certainly an onion in the grocery store has a smell, but NOTHING compares to the aroma of an onion when it is pressed, ground up or when heat is added.  Pretty much the only onions that are unusable are the ones that have to be thrown out because they are rotten.

We've all been through times when because we were pressed through circumstances we've seen the real content of our hearts.  If we find rot/sin, we must confess it and throw it out and repent.

Could it be that our testimony of God's faithfulness through rough days is more pungent and carrying in light of our suffering?  Of course!  We each know folks who through their darkest days, when they were really ground down by circumstance, they were able to praise God and attest to His goodness.  Their testimonies carry more weight because we know that that ONLY God could have seen them through! Their words are life giving!

I have friends who are currently going through some pretty heavy stuff at this very moment who feel pressed on all sides.  There are jobs that are needed, there are adoptions that have come to a standstill, there are sick loved ones and broken hearts.  In each case, because of their utter dependence on God, these folks  are living as a "pleasing aroma".  They are smelling wonderful as they rest in Him to carry them through.  None of them know what the outcomes will ultimately be, but they each have unshakable certainty that Christ is leading our triumphant procession.  For they hold within them the reality that:

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  2 Corinthians 4:8-10

Somehow I think  these same folks also have beautiful feet because what is a sweet aroma if not the good news of Christ?

And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! Romans 10:15a

Dear Lord,
Thank you for your many blessings that are too numerous to count.  Please help me to cling to you when we are pressed by my circumstances I can share your life giving love with those around me.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Good morning song!

I bet there are songs that you just know that you have no earthly idea where they came from.

Well, in my previous  post about getting up in the morning, I wrote about a song that my daddy used to sing to me when he was waking me up in the morning.  I don't know where he learned it or who wrote it, but I bet he might know.  Maybe since he follows my blog he can tell us more about the song.

In any case, my good friend and fellow music teacher, Gina Dixon wanted to know how the song went.  I was glad she asked because I had thought about including it in my original post, but felt that it was too much information?


 I went over to a website called noteflight which is a cloud based music notation program, typed in the song and viola! The song goes like this! If you've heard it before or if you can share with us who wrote it, please do so!  I love to give proper credit for great work!

Noteflight isn't QUITE as easy to use as FINALE, but it is infinitely more share-able.

FLAWS - I told noteflight  that I wanted the song in 6/8 so it gave me 6 beats to a measure, but I couldn't figure out how to get the 4/4 to VISIBLY change to 6/8.....weird!   I also couldn't figure out how to get the song to simply start at the pick-up note.  I was asked if I wanted a pick-up note and when I checked "yes" I thought that the site should behave as FINALE does and just start on the pick-up...... Noteflight may have the ability to start on the anacrusis , AND it may have the ability to change the visual meter of a song, but if so, it is not simple.... and I'm all about simple.

Without a membership fee you can create and store about 25 scores....Great for when you need to share a quick musical idea, but not so great if accuracy and clarity are the goal.  Nevertheless,   I hope you enjoy this song  as much as I have!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

I gotta get up in the morning!

This week has been unusual because on Wednesday I took what I thought would be a nap after work..... I woke up well after midnight with my tennis shoes still on.....very disoriented.  I also took a nap this morning, so that's 2 naps in one week!  I've got sleep on the brain.  Please bear with me.  This blog entry may seem like a history of Bonnie's sleep habits, but there is another more important point....... 

I have never been good at waking up.  My brother and I neither one even woke up early on Christmas morning.  We never got to watch morning cartoons because we slept through them.  I was sometimes late to my afternoon kindergarten class that started at noon because I slept late.  For most of the mornings of my childhood I was literally hauled out of bed, set on my unwilling feet and pointed toward the bathroom before the rest of the household could continue with their morning routine. 

Sometimes when my parents were feeling patient, my dad would wake me up with singing, 

“Good morning to you,
Good morning to you,
We’re all in our places
with bright shiny faces,
what a wonderful way
to start a new day!”

But more times than I would like to admit, my mom, the wake up “heavy” would be called upon to lay down the morning law which usually involved the loss of all of my warm and cozy covers as well as a loss of quiet solitude that made it so easy to slip back into slumber.  As it happens, my mom’s favorite scene in the movie “Hope Floats” is of the mom waking up her daughter Sandra Bullock by vacuuming in her bedroom. 

By the time I was in high school, I had waking up and sleeping late down to an art.  For my first two years of high school when we still lived only a few blocks from the school, I would wake up at 6:00 a.m., rush around and get totally primped and ready for school and then at 7:00 a.m. I would carefully take a 57 minute nap on the couch, so as not to mess up my fresh hairdo.  THEN, we’d run to the car, and after stopping by my locker, I would stroll to my first class and be seated before the tardy bell at 8:05. 

Imagine my horror when I moved to Katy and realized that without a car, I’d have to catch the bus at 6:40 every morning!  I HATED being at an early school!  No self respecting school I’d ever heard of would open it’s door before 8:00!  No worries, I just walked to the bus stop and then fell asleep on the ride to school each morning.  When I finally got to drive my brother to school my senior year, things improved dramatically because I got to sleep for about 40 minutes later each morning, 20 minutes were shaved off by not having to catch the bus and 20 minutes were shaved off by putting my make-up on in the car........ while I was driving.  My brother would helpfully hold the lids to all of my make-up paraphernalia and make-up bag.  He thought it was the least he could do to ensure that we didn’t have a wreck while I was barreling down I-10 each morning with a mascara brush attached to my eyelashes.      

I feel sorry for my college roommates who had to put up with me when I became the sole owner and operator of an alarm clock because my favorite button was the snooze button.  I also discovered that once I entered that “half asleep” state between the first alarm clock and the time when you HAVE to get up, the steady beep of the alarm clock would be just enough inspiration to allow me to compose music in my sleep.  I wish I had a dollar for every time I was late to class because I was writing some stupid totally forgettable dream song…… 

By the time I got a real job I was again horrified to discover that my first "real" music teacher job was at an early school!!!!!!  I faithfully commuted to a job where I had to leave my house at 6:15 in the morning for exactly as many days as it took to move out of my parent’s house and into my own apartment 3 miles from school.   In my early days as a music teacher, when I thought I'd only teach for 2 years max.......I was decent at getting to work on time, not perfect, but not dreadful. I compensated for the early report time by  rushing home at 3:15 to take a nap  before going out to do whatever I had planned for the evening.  It’s amazing the kind of 2nd wind you can get from an afternoon nap!    THEN, about the time that God answered my prayer to help me love the children I taught, I started working with an acknowledged workaholic named Pablo AND we got a fine arts integration grant.   Gone were the days of the afternoon nap and for the next 7 years I struggled every single day to wake up on time so that I could get to work on time.  I did everything I knew how to do except go home at a reasonable hour.  Instead, I struggled with perpetual 5-10 minute tardiness while I stayed late and worked 13-14 hour days. 

I'm now about half way through my 3rd year at my second school.   Now that I love my school I can honestly say that at the time of the move, it was a change that I didn't seek or look forward to.   However, I will admit that my non-commuting heart leapt at the thought of living even closer to school!  I now live as close to my school as I did when I went to school in McCamey.  I love it!  I still can’t sleep later, because this school is also an early school AND I have breakfast duty this year so instead of reporting at 7:15 a.m. I report at 7:00 a.m..  BUT, for the most part my constant struggle to wake up is solved.  I am occasionally tardy, mostly prompt and regularly early to work.  I often bribe myself out of bed by offering to go and get iced tea for myself from Whataburger…. I don’t have a Starbucks nearby and the iced tea at Whataburger is cheaper and I can get a GIANT cup!  Sometimes the bribe works and other times I just have to hurry to school.   
I still work 13-14 hour days…. But because of laptops, clouds and web-based services I can take most of my work home, so now most days I’m only at school for 11-12 hours so I’m home more and typically go to bed earlier.

So now to the point..... what does Bonnie's sleep history have to do with anything at all.  

Since my struggle to wake up has literally been a lifetime battle, I never suspected it could change.  Like most people, this particular struggle is only one of many, and when I compare it to other struggles in my life, it feels relatively minor.  But as we are called to be obedient even in the small things, this area of oversleeping has been a battleground of faith for me. You see, I never thought that I’d be someone who could conquer waking up. I'm not someone who can conquer anything at all.... but God is! 

As a child and college student my inability or unwillingness to easily wake was an annoyance at best and an act of defiance at worst.  As an adult, it was unattractive, inconvenient, and unprofessional, not to mention stressful.  Especially as an adult, I would pray that God would help me wake up because the thought of experiencing the stress that chronic oversleep has caused me over the years is well….. STRESSFUL!     

But now that I look back, I can see marked improvement and this improvement has not been of my own doing! I feel blessed to be able to testify about how God is working in this seemingly small area of my life because while I constantly struggled for years, God's grace was sufficient, and now that the burden is not as heavy I can see that even when I lack the faith to surrender even these small moments to God, He is faithful.  God is also not finished with us! He hears and answers our prayers!  He loves us enough not to leave us the way we are.  Struggles and habits that we NEVER think we will be able to defeat are defeat-able.    

When Paul speaks in 2nd Corinthians about a “thorn in my flesh”, I bet it wasn’t something as silly as oversleeping, but it was an issue that caused him to plead with the Lord, so whatever it was I’m sure that you can relate like I can.  There are things that we deal with, those “everyday thorns” that if we don’t depend on the Lord can wear us down.  Here is what the Lord said to Paul. 

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 

To which Paul said,

  “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.

All of this talk about sleep reminds me that God never sleeps! 

Psalm 121
I lift up my eyes to the mountains -
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.  
He will not let your foot slip - 
he who watches over you will not slumber;

Indeed, he who watches over Israel 
will neither slumber nor sleep. 
The LORD watches over you-
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm-
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore. 

 He is always aware, never befuddled or confused and He always sees.  He knows our name, He knows our needs and He knows our hearts. 

I'm so grateful that my God who humbled Himself to become a fully human man, familiar with fatigue, hunger and pain, is also the God not limited by my human frailties.  Not only is His strength strong enough to sustain me, but His redeeming power is redemptive enough to change me.  His love is boundless and His blessings are limitless.  

My prayer today is that the Lord would continue His transformational work in me.  

Sunday, January 22, 2012

minutes to hours, hours to days, days to years

One Life ..... in minutes.

I've only ever fully written a song start to finish, top to bottom in one sitting once in my life.   "One Life" was a song that I wrote for the funeral of a dear friend and colleague Eva Crespo.  I wrote the song on a Tuesday afternoon in about an hour.  I wouldn't have been able to finish it at all if not for the help of my friend Pablo.  He graciously transcribed what I came up with pretty much as I was singing and playing..... since then I've become much faster at music dictation, but back then I was super slow.... He also translated the chorus into Spanish so that it would be bilingual.  The very next day we rushed over to Tallowood where Gary helped us record it in the sanctuary so that we could give Eva's daughter a copy of the song.  I then pretty much played the song constantly as many times as I could before the memorial service.... I'm a rather poor accompanist and as Pablo was on his way out of town, I either had to play it for the memorial or it wouldn't be played..... of course, ever since I've been able to play it in my sleep.

The great irony is that since it's rather hurried and thrown together inception, I've spent hours editing it  because I've used the song for several different settings and since it was my prerogative to do so, I changed the words each time to better suit the occasion.  So far, in various forms this song has been sung at a memorial service, a missions benefit concert, a GA /Acteen recognition service and at a 5th grade graduation.  Each time with verses that fit the needs of the event.   Being able to tailor songs for specific events is my absolute favorite part of writing music.

"AWAKE!".... VERY slowly! 

AWAKE! is a song that I started right after graduating college in the spring of 1999. For all this time, I've had the basic harmonic structure in place, the lyrics were fully formed and I'd even notated what I had, but it didn't feel finished.... still doesn't really....Every few months since beginning this song, I've dragged it out of my journal, tweaked this adjusted that but the song remained virtually unchanged until this summer.   This past 2011 summer I was able to come up with a contrasting B section that feels right to me and now the song feels closer to being finished than ever before.    The biggest hurdle in the way of finishing the song at a this point is that I think it needs real orchestration rather than just piano.  So now I've got find time to re-learn and learn for the first time everything I need to know in order to try orchestrating.  Guess I know what I'll be doing summer 2012!

"More Than We Ask For".... song writing is like quilting, sometimes all you need is the right  little piece to pull the whole thing together.

2007 feels like a million years ago!
Sometime after 2000 and before 2007.... (meaning that I really don't remember when)..... I wrote a verse that sat in my music journal just waiting to be musically sewn to something that would tie it together.  Then one afternoon in  2007 when I was preparing for the Coffee with a Cause concert I composed a chorus that I REALLY REALLY liked.    I pieced it together with those verses that were getting dusty in my journal, added scraps of an accompaniment from an entirely different song written in 1999 whose accompaniment I'd recently reworked and voila! In one afternoon I was able to take a song fragment and a spare accompaniment, throw in a new chorus and suddenly I had what I would consider a song with a working title called "More than we ask for" One more song was ready to be heard.  I was pleased enough to include it in the Coffee With a Cause concert.... and THEN time passed.....

Since the Coffee with a Cause concert in 2007, I've become increasingly unhappy with that "More than we ask for" song.  It seemed to me as if the ideas in the chorus didn't tie the verses together as well as I would have liked after all. Plus when I had more time to dwell with the theology of what I'd written, I didn't think that I had really said what I meant to say.  Once you've got theological issues in your songs, they unravel and fray at edges to the point that they are unusable.......

So I pondered and waited.....practicing, writing other things, studying theory, and always reading and listening to more music.

Then lo and behold, last week right in the middle of an ordinarily exhausting week of school  I was able to write new verses which make the piece more directional and cohesive.   LOVE the words...... but  NOW  that I  like the verse words so much better I find that the melody although serviceable doesn't make me as happy as the rest of the song........I don't love it.... I think I can do better.

So I'm pondering and actively waiting...... practicing, writing other things, studying theory, and always reading and listening to more music.

Sometimes it's hard to remember why I write songs. At this point in my life both because I'm so busy being a teacher, and because I've had so many recent vocal health issues, no one is actually hearing the music I write.  Especially when writing music is so laborious and often such a frustrating process.  There is always one more detail that needs attention.  Then there are the times when in weakness I begin comparing my skills to those of other musicians. Huge mistake!

It's at times like this when the Lord is faithful to give me purpose.  He is faithful to remind me of His calling on my life.  He is faithful to remind me that His calling doesn't waver in light of my circumstance..... Whether any song is ever heard, I am ALWAYS called to obedience.  So I will write.   This week, he gave me these verses to remind me of who He is and therefore who I am.

Proverbs 16: 2-4
All a person's ways seem pure to them, 
but motive are weighed by the LORD. 
Commit to the LORD whatever you do, 
and He will establish your plans
The LORD works out everything to it's proper end
even the wicked for a day of disaster. 

Colossians 3:16-18
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.  

Colossians 3:22-24
Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.  Whatever you do, work at it with all of your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 

My prayer is that I will daily remember who I serve.

Monday, January 16, 2012

More than enough

As a girl, when I would go shopping with my momma, I'd inevitably find myself asking for one more thing to be added to our basket already filled with items intended for me   Sometimes my mom would give in, and sometimes she would hold firmly to our planned purchases but almost always she would say, "There's nothing wrong with your "wanter"!  Obviously,  I'm one of those folks who tend to want lots and lots of things......  

All through my life, I've found that as much as I like doing all the things that I do, and as much as I seemingly appreciate all that I have been blessed with, I don't have any trouble at all finding multiple things I'd like to do, and things I'd like to have.  

Here is the short list of things I'd like to do:
1. I'd like to write more music
2. I'd like to go to graduate school
3. I'd like to be debt free
3. I'd like to get married
4. I'd like to have children
5. I'd like to lose some weight
6. I'd like to travel....pretty much anywhere comfortable :) 

and those are just the things I'd REALLY like to do..... the things that keep me prayerful, hopeful and busy......although not always in that order..... None of them bad, some of them noble, all of them thought consuming and effort-ful. 

Here is the short list of the things I'd like to have: 

1. A new car
2. my own really cool website
3. A full time teaching partner - (half time isn't enough)
4. I'd like to have my own family..... see above
5. new books
6. new clothes
7. new stuff for my classroom

Some of these might be considered necessities, (just ask my dad about my 12 year old car)  some may even be reasonable, but generally they are just a list of things that my heart dwells on instead of focusing on the Lord.  

The thing is, as a follower of Christ what I should want and what I actually want do not always line up.  If my attention is not focused on Christ, how am I to know what I'm to be about? How am I to discern which endeavors are led by the Holy Spirit, and which are imagined by my "wanter"..... 

How else am I to find the wisdom and self control to confront my own pride and greed?   

I'm so glad that the Lord is not a distant god who leaves his followers alone to figure out how they will live.  Instead He is our Emmanuel.  He is with us.  He guides us faithfully and when we seek Him, He is found.  

My prayer today is that I will be able to evaluate ALL of the things that I think I want to do and things I believe I need in light of His plan.  He tells us exactly how we are to live.  My pastor is currently leading our church through a daily devotion .  He has started with the "Sermon on the Mount" in Matthew Chapter 6.  It's always a good place to start when you need practical advice because it's all in red, meaning that Jesus himself said it! 

Matthew 6:19-34

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The eye is the lamp of the body.  If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness.  If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!  

No one can serve two masters.  Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and money.  

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  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?  Can any one of you by worrying ad a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes?  See how the flowers of the field grow.  They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you - you of little faith?  So do not worry saying, 'What shall we eat' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.  

Philippians 8:4-9

Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  

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.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.  

NIV - Bible Gateway

All I know is that these scriptures have encouraged me today.  Knowing these things, how shall I live?