It all started a few days before our church’s annual Christmas cantata when a good friend shared a humorous post on my Facebook timeline poking fun at altos. The post was just a short video of a woman singing the alto part all by herself. It wasn’t pretty, but not because she couldn’t sing. The problem—-the melody was missing. A melody can stand alone and create a simple song, but harmony alone is just not appealing to the ear. However, if you add harmony to the melody, a stronger and more beautiful sound is created. The song is made complete. The friend that shared the video with me summed it up well in the commentary that followed that post. She said, “Without an alto it’s just a melody. How boring.”
Earlier this month I spent a large part of one weekend at my church singing alto in the annual Christmas cantata. We performed it once on Saturday and twice on Sunday. In the midst of it all, God delivered a very timely and special message through my current reading plan in YouVersion. It’s called “The Magic of Christmas” and that Sunday’s devotion was written by Cory Draper. He says, “A melody is what gives a song its body. A harmony is what gives that body a soul.” When I read those words, I had to pause a moment and let them sink in.
Think of each of us as individual songs, a collection of notes strung together one after another. We were created by God, but without Jesus we are incomplete. Sin entered this world when Eve bit into the forbidden fruit and has run rampant ever since. Sin separates us from God. Because of His unparalleled love for us, God the Father put His redemption plan in motion by sending God the Son, Jesus, to earth. Through Jesus’ birth, sacrifice, and resurrection, we are brought into harmony with God. This (re)union of notes makes for a more full and beautiful sound. Our songs are made complete through faith in Jesus Christ.
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room….
Are you singing it yet?
May Jesus bring joy to your world as you make room to receive Him in your heart this Christmas!
(adapted from my Christmas letter)
Facebook reminded me just yesterday that I had written a post about Mary on December 7, 2013. Hmmm…could it have anything to do with this time of year? I think it just might! I bring her story to you again, but with a little different perspective in 2017.
Just a little background information for anyone not familiar with the story—Jesus came to see Mary and Martha at their house. It was a big deal! Martha got all caught up in the preparations—cooking, cleaning, etc., only to find her sister Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus taking in His every word. Martha was a little miffed with Mary’s lack of help and brought it to Jesus’ attention…
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”” Luke 10:41-42 NIV
Are you more like Mary or Martha? Chime in by leaving a comment below if you don’t mind. I would estimate that I’m about 90% Martha and 10% Mary. That’s not something for which I’m proud. My imbalance tends to rear its ugly head most in December. I am a taskmaster. Though I generally don’t have a written “to do” list, I can assure you that when my feet hit the ground in the morning, I have a pretty good idea of what I hope to accomplish that day. It brings me great pleasure to check things off, even if only in my head! The combination of introvert and taskmaster only magnifies the Martha in me.
It takes a concerted effort on my part to turn off Martha and reach for my inner Mary. There have been countless times that I have gotten caught up in my own agenda and failed to do what was better all because I was more concerned about checking something off my list. Those times I actually get it right tend to stand out. There were three such occasions in the past week and God blessed me incredibly for choosing people over tasks. I came away with a joy-filled heart that energized me to complete my tasks!!
When questioned by a Pharisee about the greatest commandment—-
“Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:37-39 NLT
It seems loving others trumps getting things done. Does that verse cause you to take a closer look at your priorities? It does me. There are plenty of things to do that are good, important, and even necessary. In fact, completing many of those tasks is a demonstration of love for those God has put before us. Let’s not be too hard on Martha. Her preparations were an expression of love for Jesus too. BUT, Jesus says Mary chose what was better.
Let’s commit to filtering our “to do” lists through the great commandment so that loving others well is a recurring theme. May we each follow Mary’s example and choose that which is better.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must go and revise my list….
Earlier this week I had a rare day with nothing on the calendar and decided that would be a good day to write, especially since I haven’t done that for quite some time. The only problem—I had no material floating around in my head. I took that concern to God that morning and never gave it much thought the remainder of the day. When I woke up the next morning, I was pretty much hit right between the eyes with writing material. You see, I’m currently doing a small group study with a friend titled “Watch Your Mouth” by Tony Evans. In addition, the Bible App sends me the Verse of the Day each morning and that particular day the verse was Proverbs 13:3—
Those who control their tongue will have a long life; opening your mouth can ruin everything.”
As soon as I let that sink in I went to my current reading plan in that same app. I am about a week into a plan called “Joy for All Seasons” by Carol Burton McLeod and the reading that day was all about controlling the tongue. Gee, do you think God is trying to make a point? I’m a slow learner so it is not surprising that it took three different strategies to get my attention.
The tongue is a small, but mighty, muscle located inside our mouths about halfway between our brain and our heart. It seems our brain and heart have much to say about what rolls off our tongue. What we think and feel determines what comes out of our mouths. That little one pound muscle can pack quite a punch! My husband can vouch for that as he is often on the receiving end. Unfortunately, the one who deserves the best version of me, often gets the worst of me instead. I’m not quite as reserved within the walls of my own house as I am in public. I imagine my kids would second that. Can you relate?
I suppose this is normal, but that doesn’t make it right. James is in agreement. He says,
“People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!” James 3:7-10 NLT
More than a week has passed since I started writing this post. During that time I seem to have developed a greater awareness of my words and how I use them. James says our tongue can be used to both bless and curse. I don’t know about you, but using my tongue to bless others sounds far more appealing to me. In one of his letters, the Apostle Paul urges the Thessalonians:
“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLT
Encouragement—what a great way to bless someone with our tongue!
For many, Thanksgiving presents an opportunity to gather with family and friends to celebrate God’s bounty in our lives. That, in turn, presents us with another opportunity—-the opportunity to control our tongue. Let’s choose wisely and use it to bless rather than curse.
I know just where to start—-rather than our annual heated discussion on gravy that involves questioning just who is in charge of making it, I vow to give my husband total gravy control and keep my mouth shut this year. I might just even tell him that it’s good!!