Choosing the Rhythm of Your Life




Music has always been a part of my life. It began in childhood with loving to sing and having parents who had lovely voices. Since my mother was our church’s children’s choir director even before I was born, that became a formal part of my musical background. But there was more.


My mother played the piano a bit and had played the saxophone in high school. Both of IMG_2871those had been set aside by the time I was old enough to remember, but she was a part of a ladies’ trio that I loved to hear practice. It was little wonder that she helped me and two other 4-H friends become a trio also that competed in 4-H circles and occasionally performed.


My mother’s encouragement and influence resulted in adding piano and saxophone lessons for me in addition to the children’s choir and trio while I was in elementary school. By high school I was also taking voice lessons from our exceptional high school choral director. Through his tutelage I started doing solo work, ensembles, and participating in a state honored a cappella choir. I also got introduced to a diverse range of music from classical to religious, musical theater and pop to classic rock and roll, swing and big band to blue grass.


I had fallen in love with music and the various rhythms and cadences it offered. At night IMG_1137 (1)I dreamed about being a part of musical theater. They were fun dreams, but not the path the Lord had for me. It didn’t change my love of music, however.


That love showed up in our two children who both sang and played the piano at levels far above my mother’s or mine. I savored every one of their recital and musical theater performances. My son was a keyboardist in a Christian contemporary band in high school and college and spent a period of his adult life working with Christian musicians and artists in Nashville. I know this love of music still thrives as I see him starting to collect vinyl and jamming to the music he loved.


My daughter’s love for music never diminished through high school and college in vocal music as well as piano. Her dad and I loved watching her talent and skills develop. One of the most significant memories for us was when she was a high school senior. She taught herself and played the Edvard Grieg Piano Concerto in A Minor with the high school concert band despite her piano teacher’s concerns. Her dad was on his feet leading a standing ovation as she played the last note. Then as she approached 40 she set and reached a goal to learn to play the violin.


IMG_2874All of our six grandchildren are music lovers as well. Among them we have a drummer, two pianists, a violinist, a cellist, and nearly all of them sing. I think you would call this a musical heritage!


Music accompanies most of my days in one form or another and helps set a tone or rhythm, but it is not the only rhythm that influences my day or helps me to stay salty. (I wrote recently about the importance of being salt in “What Kind of Salt Are You?”) To stay salty I need to be renewed in the truth of God’s Word in relationship with Him.


Yes, study of His Word is important, but if I stop there and miss time in the Word as an interaction with Him I am missing a key ingredient to the rhythm of my life and the source of my hope and confidence.


Have you noticed how the Bible shows us rhythms through repetition not only in poetic IMG_6225books like Psalms, but throughout the Word? The “music” reflects major and minor tones, sharps and flats (much as our lives demonstrate).


Recently as I was reading in The Burning Word by Judith Kunst, she noted an observation that made me smile:


“What I have called repetition in the Bible might most accurately be called rhythm: a carefully shaped set of recurrent stories and words that when studied closely erupts with meaning.”


 Judith would say that is transformative and I would agree.


Hear her words on that:


“A work of art. A song. An ordered repetition that provides the underlying beat on which we may play out the varied notes of our own unique, improvised, musical conversation with God.


In the end we are all…composing a song of deeds which only God understands. The song of our lives, brokenly yet rhythmically, mirrors the song of scripture to which we spend that life, gathered at the entrance of the altar listening.”


 Many things influence the rhythms of our life and affect whether they underscore a major or minor key. We do not control all of them. Age, illness, job loss, and many other things add flats and sharps to the music our lives are writing, but the recurrent stories, words, and rhythms of the Bible can impact what rhythms we choose to make our own.



What Kind of Salt Are You?




When I was growing up on a farm in Ohio I only knew about three kinds of salt: table salt, pickling salt, and road salt. Table salt was and is the most common type of salt that comes from salt deposits underground. Once mined it is highly refined and ground with all the impurities and trace minerals removed in the process. Then it gets treated with an AdobeStock_51940115-1024x683anti-caking agent to keep it from clumping and many times iodine is added to the salt to prevent iodine deficiency.


Late summer when the pickles had been picked, my mother would go through the process of brining the pickles in large crocks that sat in our basement. Pickling salt doesn’t contain any added anti-caking agents, nor many trace minerals.


In the midst of the snowy winters common for us, large “salt trucks” would add road salt to the roadways to help the snow melt. This salt reduced the slippery conditions so the cars could travel more easily. This type of salt is often called “rock salt” because its grains are much coarser than table salt. (We had a salt mine not many miles from where I grew up. You know its name: Morton.)AdobeStock_102006299-1024x683


Beyond these three types of salt there is Kosher salt, sea salt, Himalayan pink salt, Celtic sea salt, Fleur De Sel (“flower of salt”), Kala Namak (“black salt”), flake salt, black Hawaiian salt, red Hawaiian salt, and smoked salt. Each type of salt has properties that attract various uses in different regions of the world.


In recent years the Himalayan pink salt has grown in popularity. (I use this often now.) Its appeal stems from being the purest form of salt in the world. It’s harvested by hand Pink-Himalayan-Salt-736from the Khewra Salt Mine in the Himalayan Mountains of Pakistan. This salt is rich in minerals and contains 84 natural minerals and elements found in the human body. Due to its mineral content, it can have a bolder flavor than many other salts.


Beyond all that salt is spoken of often through the Old and New Testament of the Bible. It had multiple uses. It was used to season food, mixed with the fodder for cattle, used to season offerings offered to the Lord, and newborn children were rubbed with salt as a disinfectant in Ezekiel 16:4. In Numbers 18:19 and 2 Chronicles 13:5 the Bible speaks of a “covenant of salt” and signified a covenant of perpetual obligation.


In Matthew 5 in the message known as the “Sermon on the Mount” in verse 13 Jesus uses the word salt in a powerful metaphor as He speaks to His disciples and followers:


 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” Mt. 5:13 (ESV)


In the tangible world, sodium chloride (salt) is very stable, but it is readily water-soluble. AdobeStock_119724186-1024x611 (2)If it is exposed to condensation or rainwater the sodium chloride could be dissolved and removed and the salt could lose its saltiness.


But I don’t think this is what Jesus is referring to. Salt is not only a seasoning that enhances flavors. As a seasoning it balances sweetness and can help suppress other flavors such as bitterness. Salt also is used as a preservative to prevent spoilage.


As believers to be called “salt” speaks to one of our responsibilities and calling. We are to represent Him and be a seasoning in the place He has called us to be. In other words, we are to bring something to the environment…the flavor of Christ. We also represent Him and preserve His Word and move on His commission to us as His modern day disciples even now.


AdobeStock_70922369-1024x683His words in Matthew 5:13 make clear we could lose our savor or saltiness. When He describes what happens if we lose it, it is not a pretty or positive picture.


What might cause us to lose our savor or saltiness?


That can be a question to ponder.


I think we can lose it when our life in Him is not spiritually renewed and continually AdobeStock_109131210-1024x683refreshed. It can also happen when we drift away from remembering that we are His representatives wherever we go, whatever we do. We should look like Him, sound like Him. Our attitudes and character should be like His.


I wonder if we also lose our savor when we look more like the world around us, when we are no longer a seasoning and no longer preserving what He left to our charge.


As the world around us decays on many levels, I wonder if too many of us have lost our savor, our saltiness. We can point at so many people and things as the problem, but have we forgotten who we are to be and our responsibility?


What kind of salt are we?




What Is Your Heart’s Condition?




Earlier this week (on the very same day) two different individuals asked me if I had lost weight. Following the question before I could answer was the comment, “You look great!” I so wish the answer to the question about losing weight would be “yes”, but that is not the case.


Our environment seems to continuously remind us to be aware of how we look, what we weigh, and how healthy we are. In the midst of fast food ads and commercials, we are bombarded with ads for gym equipment and places we can go to workout or hire a personal trainer. And if that isn’t enough, there are all those ads and commercials for medications for all the things that appear to ail us.


There is no question of our need to be good stewards of our bodies since we only get one of them and need to take care of it and make it last as long as possible.


We all probably read more labels than we did 20 years ago and many of us wear some sort of tracking device to remind us of how many steps we have accomplished or even how well we are sleeping. It would be marvelous indeed if all of that translated into daily choices that produced toned, slim, muscular bodies.


We keep spending money trying to find a shortcut to that goal, but falling short much of the time. We also spend time trying to achieve the goals or at least thinking about going for a walk or a bike ride. We are tuned in even if no action steps are taken.


Some of the problem relates to what we see or don’t see when we look in the mirror and as 513d9a3a0275f2e2752f73faee197d4b--hope-quotes-bible-quotesa result, what we believe about what we see.


Perhaps the key question is this: Do we want to see?


It reminds me of the scene in a popular movie of the late 90’s, The Matrix, where Morpheus and Neo are conversing. Neo is frightened and given a chance to discover what the real world is. Morpheus gives him a choice between a blue pill and a red pill. It’s not an easy decision for Neo.


Ultimately, Morpheus says it is time for a decision:


“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and you believe…whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”


 Scripture asks us often what we want to see? Our answer is impacted by the condition of our heart. Is it open or closed, soft or hard, cynical or idealistic?


John Eldredge wrote a sobering statement in Waking the Dead:


 “We are losing heart. All of us. Daily. It is the single most unifying quality shared by the human race on the planet at this time. We are losing – or have already lost – heart.”


That commentary reveals a great deal about us. It also points to what we believe. And what we believe will point to whether or not we hope and what we hope in.


If our hearts are hardened, closed, or cynical we will not be able to see or believe in truth Billy-Graham-Christian-Quote-The-Wordand hope in the midst of the chaos and darkness that swirls around us. As believers, we will start to look more like the world because our hearts will be filled with fear, hopelessness, anger, prejudice, hate, bitterness, and all the things that pull us closer to the abyss. We will feel alone. We may feel lost.


After Jesus died though some celebrated, others were broken by sorrow and their hopes and beliefs were in tatters. Doubt was everywhere and it was hard for the disciples to see in the shadowy darkness and gloom. Their hearts were closing.


We see that as two of the disciples are walking along the road to Emmaus talking about what had happened. They were walking away (already seven miles outside of Jerusalem) from hope and from the horror of the cross. When another man joins them and asks why they are so downhearted, the disciples are shocked the person does not know about all that has just happened to Jesus.


As they recount the story of what they have just experienced, their eyes do not see who is walking with them until Jesus responds opening scripture to them about what the prophets of old had said would happen. Then their eyes and hearts are opened.


Things are not what they seem.


What is the condition of our hearts today?


The answer to the question is crucial. It will determine if our eyes are fully open and our hearts are fully awake and alive to see beyond the haunting headlines, the fear that would take our heart from us as the darkness swirls around us.


We have forgotten (if we ever knew) what we simply must remember.


“This is precisely what the Bible has warned us about, all these years: that we live in two worlds – or better, in one world with two parts, one part that we can see and one part that we cannot see. We are urged, for our own welfare, to act as though the unseen world (the rest of reality) is, in fact, more weighty and more real and dangerous than the part of reality that we can see. The lesson from the story of the Emmaus Road – the lesson the whole Bible is trying to get across – begins with this simple truth: things are not what they seem. There is more here than meets the eye. Far more. That is Eternal Truth Number One.” John Eldredge


Billy Graham Quotes On Hope Billy Graham Quote “The Hope We Have In Christ Is An Absolute









The Empowered



Trevor Black’s reputation for unusual gifts in identifying the dark side of the spiritual realm sets the stage for a request to investigate a mysterious voodoo death in Washington DC. The twists and turns of the investigation is the theme of Craig Parshall’s newest book, The Empowered.


Trevor’s life has been more than a little adventurous after he was disbarred as an attorney, but his faith in Christ and his gifts of discernment of the evil that lurks in the midst of the tangible world opens doors to be a light in the darkness.


The newest assignment happens in the midst of getting acquainted with his adult daughter, Heather. Trevor had hoped for a chance to explain his surprise to learn of her existence and hear more about her own story, but the urgent call he receives to help uncover the shadowy empire lurking in the midst of the death in Washington DC cannot be ignored.


Heather decides to accompany him when he leaves his North Carolina island home to begin the investigation. Trevor agrees somewhat reluctantly given her lack of faith. As the story unfolds, Heather becomes an assistant and uses her graduate school research skills to help while Trevor keeps a close eye out for her safety.


His concern is warranted when she comes up missing while they are in New Orleans and he is being interrogated for a staged murder in his hotel room.


Their investigation has confirmed the connection with voodoo to the death in Washington DC, but also uncovered a human trafficking ring that extends around the world.


Trevor becomes aware this is a higher level of evil activity than he has experienced previously and that he will need to rely on the Lord as never before if he is to uncover the truth and protect his daughter from being a target.


This latest fiction work reflects the real world truth of human trafficking around the globe that enslaves forty-six million people and also the “dark web” that feeds and sustains this industry. This “underbelly” of the Internet reportedly attracts 2.5 million visitors a day.


Most significant, however, is how Craig Parshall spotlights the truth of the two invisible kingdoms surrounding us, one of darkness and one of light, that we as believers can often forget.


As the world around us appears to become more dangerous and unpredictable each day, this spotlight is an important message for Christians to awaken to the real source of the division, chaos, and mayhem that is afoot. It is also time to awaken (as Trevor did) to our responsibility as “light bearers” in the midst of darkness.


To comply with new regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my review.







The Gift of Curiosity




When I mention the word curiosity I wonder what comes to your mind. It is one of those words that can have many attached experiences and feelings connected to it. By definition it is in itself neither innately good nor bad, but can lead to either of those poles. Perhaps that is because I think it is a God-given gift. As such, it has incredible potential and the enemy knows it well and also seeks to use it to draw us to “the dark side.”


A dictionary defines curiosity this way: “a strong desire to know or learn something.”


 At the very beginning of life we see an infant and later a toddler as a great example of curiosity. Their curiosity is what propels them forward to learn the most basic things. In that quest they sometimes get into danger or trouble, but without curiosity they would never learn.


curiosity-is-one-of-the-great-secrets-of-happinessCuriosity spurs our imagination and wonder. Can you imagine what curiosity and wonder filled Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden? Can you get a glimpse of how God allowed them to use it as they named the animals? We also see how the enemy used it to draw them away from trusting Him.


Early in our lives the risks of curiosity often result in attempts to control or box it in for the stated reason of protecting us. Sometimes formal education has left little room for it. Clay P. Bedford addressed the value of curiosity in education in these words:


“You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives.”


 We all know the expression that “curiosity killed the cat” and yet a closer evaluation should remind us that curiosity resulted in the discovery of penicillin that has saved hundreds of thousands of lives. (Just one example of so many)


Curiosity has provided the grist for every new discovery we know, every new place or peoples, each invention or medicine. It is spurred on by wonder.


“It would be very difficult to draw a line between holy wonder and real worship; for when the soul is overwhelmed with the majesty of God’s glory, though it may not express itself in song, or even utter its voice with bowed head in humble prayer, yet it silently adores.”  —  Charles Haddon Spurgeon


To lose our sense of wonder would be to lose some of the very essence of God’s listen-with-curiosity-speak-with-honesty-act-with-integrity (1)image imprinted on us.


Andy Stanley once said, “Everything in life conspires against our sense of wonder: age, experience, our jobs, and even our church.”


 It was curiosity that caused Moses to do a double take when he saw the burning bush that was not consumed. After he stopped to look, God called out his name in one of the most arresting moments of the Old Testament story of Moses.


How curious was Nebuchadnezzar when the flames of the fiery furnace he had sentenced them to did not consume Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? How did that speak to Him of God when not even smoke attached to them and a fourth man “like a son of the gods” was visible in the furnace with the other three?


When I consider the title of Judith Kunst’s book, The Burning Word, regarding scripture and how we approach it, how can I miss that the “burning Word” is a metaphor for the burning bush? God invites us to discover Him there.


“In his actions and in his words God continually holds out revelation, holds out wisdom, but it is hidden, and we must seek it out. If you seek me, you will surely find me, says the Lord. I will be found by you.


Moses had the burning bush, we have the Bible…If I want to come close to the God of the Bible, to step onto the holy ground of his presence, then I must wake up my curiosity and look for God in the strange, hidden, and burning places of scripture.” Judith Kunst


I think He hopes we will be intrigued, ask questions, and pursue Him to the depths of all of who He is. Our questions will not knock Him off his throne. When I consider the breadth and scope of his work as Creator and how little of it any of us can fathom in a lifetime, I cannot help but think He delights in our discoveries for they consistently prove He is God and greater than our imagination can conceive.


I love how Dallas Willard writes about this:


 “We should, to begin with, think that God leads a very interesting life, and that He is full of joy. Undoubtedly He is the most joyous being in the universe. The abundance of His love and generosity is inseparable from His infinite joy. All of the good and beautiful things from which we occasionally drink tiny droplets of soul-exhilarating joy, God continuously experiences in all their breadth and depth and richness.”


 As you seek to grow in intimacy with the Lord in solitude, silence, and opening His Word, let Him stir up curiosity to explore and mine the hidden jewels He has left for us there.


We are not used to contemplating an all-knowing God as one who is curious. But it is God who imagines freedom for us all, God whose faithful curiosity about the future of the world has set the text of the Bible eternally on fire.” Judith Kunst