Friday, December 28, 2007

Creating Harmony

Psalm 133:1
“How wonderful it is, how pleasant, when brothers live together in harmony!”

In thinking about being in tune with God and others, I realize that I have to practice my part if the song is to be beautiful and harmonious. In the end, none of us are soloists but are part of a beautiful choir singing the new song of life in Jesus. Working on my part is important if the song is to be in harmony with others.

Just acknowledging the ideal of harmony with others is a big step. To be aware of its importance and understanding my relationship to others is key-to be in tune with Jesus so I can be in tune with others. Making harmony a priority is the biggest step anyone can take. To consciously set out to create harmony as a personal life goal is huge.

Cultivating the habit of noticing and paying attention to others helps create harmony. Self-centered people destroy the harmony of any environment. Unless everyone in that group wants to tune themselves to the selfish one. When I notice others in detail I am better positioned to understand them and what is happening around them. “Paying” attention is critical. The word pay is interesting to me because I find that real focused attention to others is costly. It many times comes at a price-usually to my own ego or selfish desires.

Learning to listen more deeply is one of my personal goals for the coming year. Empathic listening and “feeling with” people as they speak does much to harmonize relationships. The deliberate investment of my heart in others is what I’m talking about. To create harmony and live in unity is to give Joy to the world and I believe it puts a smile on the face of Jesus.

Romans 15:5-6 (NLT) 5 May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other—each with the attitude of Christ Jesus toward the other. 6 Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tuned to Middle "C"

“…then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose” Phil 2:2

I remember when I was a little kid (back in the 70’s) a commercial would play at Christmas time where people from all over the world came together to “teach the world to sing in perfect harmony”. There they are from Africa, Europe, Asia, and North & South America holding candles and harmoniously coming together in unity. What is this that has done what so many have failed to achieve. What is this that has broken down the walls of division and hatred and created such Joy? COKE! Yes its coke the “real thing”.

Harmony is a beautiful thing when it is achieved. I have a lot of experience trying to make it. In music, some of my most enjoyable moments have been in performances where I and others found our parts and perfectly harmonized to make something beautiful. I have also been in other moments where we made something altogether different and, well let’s just say, less than pleasant. If you think about it, your experience will bear this out-good harmony in music always produces a smile while bad harmony will almost always educe a frown (unless you politely fight it).

Life is like that as well. There are times when I find “my part” in relationship with others and harmonize to create something beautiful.

When we moved to Las Vegas, we loaded our piano on a moving truck and drove across the county. The 1000 miles of starts, stops, bumps, and climate change took a toll on the instrument. It had to be tuned. The first thing the man who tuned it needed to do was find “middle C”. From the orientation of middle C the rest of the keys find there correct sound. Then the piano can make beautiful music for all to enjoy.

We are told in the book of Philippians to “have this attitude in you which was also in Christ Jesus”. Apart from finding middle C (Christ) and tuning myself to Him, I will experience an unpleasant lack of harmony in life. In music there are major and minor chords that can be played. Apart from Christ people major on the minor. Pettiness, selfishness, pride, and rivalry win the day. Jesus teaches us how to major on the majors and in humility find ways of coming together to do beautiful things. We can bring Joy to the world as we “esteem others as better” and “look to the interests of others”. Our homes and places of employment can be transformed into harmonious environments of cooperation, effectiveness and great joy as we find “middle C” and adjust our hearts to him. Keeping Him at the center helps us to sing our part.

Jesus truly can teach us all to sing in perfect harmony. He is the real thing!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Stubborn about my Joy!

“But whether or not their motives are pure, the fact remains that the message about Christ is being preached, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice.” Phil. 1:18

When I look around in my life, I can see many things. My field of vision is broad, but my focus is narrow. I choose what to focus on. Yes there are plenty of things to distract my view and some times even obstruct it. But I can always reposition myself and fix my gaze where I choose.

In reading Philippians today I noticed the maintaining Joy is often a choice of focus. Paul had a focus on preaching Christ and making Him known. He could look around and focus on a lot of things. Many of them going in what most would think was a negative direction. But he disciplined his thought life and chose to see the best thing-Christ was being preached.

Paul seemed a little stubborn at times. You can follow his story and see where that was a negative trait at times. But you can also learn something very valuable from his stubborness. I am learning that I have to be stubborn about my joy. I cannot let circumstances, pettiness of others, or uncertainty about the future to steal from me my joy. I can stubbornly choose to focus on Jesus and the good things He provides in the now. I can count my blessing or rehearse my dissappointments. The choice is mine.

So today I choose to have Joy. AND I will continue to choose Joy!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

My source of Joy

The other night I was watching an interview on Lary King with Winona Judd. She was talking about her current victory over depression which led her to alcoholism. She said something that I may never forget: "Now days when I start to reach for a drink, instead I reach for relationships." She went on to explain that healthy, loving relationships was what she always needed and did not have. Now her happiness is found in love with other key people that she allows into her life.

I have found this to be true as well. Joy for me is found in relationship to others who I am exploring what it means to give and recieve true love. Nothing matters more than relationships. Those who devalue relationships lose out on much of life's joy. Paul recognized this in his letter to some of his friends. They had a "special place in his heart" and were a constant source of joy in his memory bank. He could simply think of them and experience joy. Listen to the message paraphrase:

"It's not at all fanciful for me to think this way about you. My prayers and hopes have deep roots in reality. You have, after all, stuck with me all the way from the time I was thrown in jail, put on trial, and came out of it in one piece. All along you have experienced with me the most generous help from God. 8 He knows how much I love and miss you these days. Sometimes I think I feel as strongly about you as Christ does!" Phil. 1:7-8 (MSG)

Jesus taught us that the secret to joy was loving each other the way that He loved us. To lay down our lives for each other and serve one another in love.

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.” John 15:11-14 (NIV)

My joy is ultimately found when I listen to Jesus who leads me to live an others-centered life giving myself away in loving relationships with those He loves. I am glad that Jesus is showing me this again. My joy is expanding as I obey Him in this. Like Winona, I too am reaching for relationships.

May the Joy of Jesus be in you today and may your joy be full!