Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life. (Prov. 4:23, HCSB)
For years, if you had asked me if I was thoughtful of others, I would have very quickly responded, “Yes!” I generally thought of myself as generous and kind. I’m sure there were moments that I was considerate and sympathetic, but an event in my life showed me that I needed some work!
It happened about 12 years ago. At this time in my life, I was mom to 5 children, struggling to make ends meet on a pastor’s salary from a small church. I faithfully combed through the racks of the second-hand stores to find clothes for my growing brood. One particular day, I was waiting in line at a local Salvation Army store and just ahead of me was a young girl who was about 7 or 8 months pregnant. She was tall, thin, and obviously poor. Her clothes were faded and torn in a few places. She had a bundle of baby clothes in her arms. She turned to me and said, “Aren’t these adorable? I’m having a girl and I’m so excited.” Her smile seemed to engulf her entire face.
I nodded and offered a forced smile in return. I was tired; I was in a hurry; I was going through a hard time personally. I just didn’t feel like engaging a stranger in conversation.
After the cashier tallied up the baby clothes, the girl realized she didn’t have enough money. She cheerfully said, “Oh, I’ll just pick out the best ones.” She turned to me and apologized for holding up the line.
I politely said, “That’s ok.” Inside, however, I was thinking, “Really? I don’t have time for this.” I was impatient.
We live in a rural community, about 40 minutes from the big city. I was halfway home, when I came under such strong conviction. I don’t know if I can accurately describe how I felt. I heard the Spirit whisper, “Why didn’t you pay for the rest of those baby clothes? She only needed $8 more dollars. You missed a perfect opportunity to be generous.” Part of Matthew 25:45 came to mind: “Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me either.”
I also thought of the verse in Hebrews 13:2 that speaks of being hospitable to strangers because they may be angels. As the full weight of my failure started to sink in, I began to weep and had to pull the car over. I begged for forgiveness and vowed to try to never miss an opportunity to show generosity again.
On that day, I neglected to apply the truths that I had been taught and have taught. In a moment of tiredness, I dropped my guard and gave in to self-centeredness. I was so wrapped up in my concerns that I didn’t even see the opportunity for obedience to the truth I profess right in front of me. It was just a brief moment, but a moment I can never take back. It was a hard lesson I’ve never forgot. I want to be a faithful servant, always – even when it isn’t convenient or easy.
Let me stand high above my petty problems
And grieve for men hell bound eternally
For if once I could see this world the way You see
I just know I'd serve You more faithfully. (written by Mike Otto)
Shhh…I have a secret. Come in closer and I’ll whisper it to you. I have discovered the secret to living a happy life.
If I began a conversation like that, you couldn’t help but be interested. We are all intrigued by secrets, and who doesn’t want to be happy every single day?
I do know what it takes to be truly happy and it isn’t a secret, but it is difficult. The difficulty is that it takes work – mainly on myself. Let’s take a look at the verse:
He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the LORD really wants from you: He wants you to promote justice, to be faithful, and to live obediently before your God. (Micah 6:8, NET)
Your first reaction might be: What? That’s it, your big secret? Already, your mind begins to offer excuses as to why that can’t possibly be the secret to happiness.
Yet, God says this is the definition of good, and this is what He really wants from me – not big acts of heroism, or beautifully crafted worship services. Just this! He wants me to seek justice every day, in every situation. That pursuit may cause me to be unpopular, though, because I live in a society that doesn’t value justice. I will certainly need to deny myself, because I can’t seek what pleases or suits me and seek justice at the same time.
Then, God asks me to be faithful. Wow! That’s hard too. We enjoy the mountain-top experiences in life. We enjoy the concerts, the trips, the adventures, but to just be faithful every day? That’s boring! That’s difficult - every day to follow the truth I know; every day to apply all the verses I’ve read; every day to live out the songs that I sing. Very quickly, I see that in order for me to be faithful, I will need to deny ME even more!
Finally, God asks that I live obediently. Some versions translate this phrase as “walk humbly”. In James 4:10, I’m told to humble myself. Again, more self-denial! I’m not to seek my pleasure, my comfort, my recognition, my _____ (fill in the blank)!
Ask me to do some great work! Ask me to sing a beautiful song! Surely there is some worthy cause I can pursue to bring glory to God! But to just live every day in faithful self-denial, shown by my obedience, and to seek what is just, no matter what? I certainly won’t get any “good job” or “well done” plaudits from my peers. But if I chase the praise of men, won’t I give up the ultimate accolade – a “well done” from my Lord? (John 12:43)
I know it seems counter-intuitive, but this is the life we are called to live. When we yield, we win. When we give up, we gain. (Mark 8:34-37) Then, we find true joy that is eternal!
Let me lose my life and find it, Lord, in Thee.
May all self be slain; my friends see only Thee.
Tho’ it cost me grief and pain, I will find my life again
If I lose myself, I'll find it, Lord, in Thee. (written by R. H. Minkler)
Other than the gift of salvation, I think the most amazing gift God gave to man was music. My heart finds its most beautiful expressions in song. I love the Word of God, and it is in music that the Word seems to dance, shout, or whisper to my soul. Music is so intertwined in our world that we cannot imagine life without it. Music was there at the beginning of everything. In Job 38, God said that the morning stars were singing when He laid the cornerstone of the earth.
Music soothes raging emotions yet gives courage to the timid. We know that babies respond to music while still in their mother’s womb. On the other hand, an elderly person struggling with dementia may not recognize their family but will start to hum along when a familiar song is played. Young lovers delight in songs that mirror their feelings. Couples who have walked life’s road for many years also turn to music to reminisce and to find new ways to still say “I love you”.
A precious memory for me just happened recently. On my last trip to see my parents, I found they were slow dancing to “The Keeper of the Stars”. Now my parents don’t usually dance, but there was something almost sacred about two folks married for 53 years dancing to the beautiful lyrics:
“I tip my hat to the keeper of the stars
He sure knew what He was doin’
When He joined these two hearts.” (written by Danny Mayo, Karen Staley, Dickey Lee)
So let music speak to your mind, move your feet, and soothe your heart. Most of all, let music help you find your soul’s best way to worship God.
My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you— I whom you have delivered.
My name is Lynn Pauley. I'm just a normal woman, with normal struggles. Any success I've found comes from following the Scriptures. I'll update this blog as time and inspiration permit.