Thursday, August 29, 2013

Are Christians Hypocrites?

   For as long as I can remember,  I've absolutely loved the game of American Football. It's by far my favorite sport. In fact, I love the game so much, I've been known to watch three entire games on Sundays, and then another on Monday night. I simply can't get enough.

   The athletes who play in the NFL are an extremely rare breed. Not only are they exceptionally gifted athletes, they have also spent countless hours, days, weeks, months and years training to play the game. Their continual commitment and dedication to the game is rarely questioned. After all, nobody can reach that level of performance without it.

   Without boring you with the many complexities involved in each play, I have to say that as we watch at we see the quarterback take the ball, hand it to the running back, and then see a cloud of dust that doesn't appear to have accomplished much, we're usually completely unaware of what we've just seen.

   For this play to work, the center has to shove the ball into the quarterback's hands, then spring up to block the 290lb beast in front of him. The two men on his left and right have to block the men in front of them. The wide receivers have to make their defenders believe they're running downfield, then block those men once they bite. The quarterback has to spin, hand the ball to the running back very quickly, then run off in another direction as a decoy. The running back has to put the ball under his arm safely, then navigate his way through the mayhem of at least 9 extremely large men who are fighting each other for leverage directly in front of him. If he makes it through that mess, there are three more men.........linebackers from the other team.......all of whom are exceptionally fast, strong, and who are looking to hit him so hard his helmet pops off.

   Every play you see is choreographed by both the offensive and defensive coaches - men who have spent their entire lives learning the game of football, and who have designed each and every play in a way they believe will best confuse and beat the players on the other side of the ball.

   When it works flawlessly, the running back takes the ball, a hole opens up in the line, he breaks through, all of the other defensive players are either being blocked or are outrun by the running back, and the end result is a touchdown.

   Does the running back score a touchdown on every play?.........No.

   Does he gain huge chunks of yardage on every play?..........No.

   Is he sometimes stopped for no gain?..........Yes.

   Is he sometimes tackled for a loss?...........Yes.

   Are there times when he has the ball knocked out of his hands, and it's recovered by the other team?.........Yes.

   If you're watching a game, and see that he doesn't either gain huge chunks of yardage or score a touchdown on every play, do you question whether or not he's a football player? If he fails to gain a yard, do you then doubt his ability to play? If he fumbles the ball, do you call him a hypocrite? Would you say things like "He pretends to be a running back, but clearly he's not......because anyone who claims to be a running back should know that the first thing you do is hold onto the ball?"

   Of course you don't. Why? Because you understand that the game is very complex, and within every play, there are many factors involved, most of which are completely out of his control.

   What's more complicated - life, or the game of football?

   I think we'd all agree that life is far more complicated than any game.

   Why then do people assume that a Christian is a hypocrite when he fails?

   Why do we sometimes expect others to act flawlessly when we know that we ourselves fail so very often?

   We've all seen it countless times.........A Christian man or woman can go an entire year, saying and doing all of the right things..........But they're being watched with an incredible amount of scrutiny by those around them.........and if they fail.......even if just for a moment........You'll hear the "AHA!!!" coming from others who - while they don't hold themselves to the same standards - will immediately pounce on them. They'll say "See?!?.......I knew it!!......What a phony!!!......What a hypocrite!!!"

   When I was a teenager, I was attending a church in Chicago. I really wanted to believe what I was being taught there. I began to buy into it. Then, at some point, I began to notice that the people who attended this church acted very differently outside of the church. That led me to believe that they were all hypocrites, and I turned my back on the church because of it.

   But here's what nobody explained to me: Just like me, these people were all human........and they would all fail at times. Those failures didn't make them hypocrites any more than a fumble would make a running back a hypocrite.

   As for me, my focus should never have been on how many times these people failed to live up to some perfect standard I was holding them to. A standard, by the way, which was far higher than God Himself was holding them to. My focus should've been on how well I was living up to that standard.

   You see, God knows we're human. He knows we'll all fail.........repeatedly and continually. He never has, nor will He ever, expect absolute perfection from us. All He asks is that we trust Him, believe Him, love Him, and follow Him to the best of OUR ability. How well anyone else does this shouldn't impact how well we do it in any way. Just as our faith......and our a personal one between God and us, so is the faith and walk of those around us.

   If we look around at the people in our churches and we see where others have failed, it's not our job to label them as hypocrites.........It's our job to humble ourselves before a loving God.......knowing that we too have failed on countless occasions........and pray for guidance so that we might fail less often.

Monday, August 26, 2013

As they hated me, they will also hate you....

   Social networking is an peculiar animal, is it not?

   It can be a wonderful thing in that it allows us to speak our mind at a moment's notice about whatever we might be thinking about at the time. It also allows us to read whatever others may be thinking in real-time. Updates come streaming across our newsfeeds on a constant and continual basis, immediately making us aware of what any number of our "friends" might be thinking at that moment.

   It can also be a horrible thing in that many people post some very angry, hostile comments without taking the time to think through how what they're saying might impact others. Add to that the complexities of trying to decipher the mood, emotion and intent of the authors of these posts through nothing more than the written word, and misunderstandings can run rampant.

   I'm fairly active on Facebook, which has given me the opportunity to voice my opinions on a number of issues, as well as being able to read what many others have to say about the same issues. There have been many misunderstandings between myself and others while doing so. People have assumed the worst of me at times, as I have done the same of them.

   In all of this, the most troubling thing I've seen is the incredible polarization that's occurring across our country. Many people seem far less interested in truly hearing what others have to say than they are in constantly carpet-bombing the masses with their opinions on what is wrong with everyone who doesn't believe what they do.

   As a Christian man who believes very much in the teachings of the bible and who tries to the best of his ability to live his life in accordance with those teachings, I've been very much alarmed at the amount of anger and hostility I've seen directed at those who share my beliefs. I've been equally alarmed at those who share my beliefs, and then use those beliefs as a platform from which they attack, insult, and degrade those who don't share them.

   I've seen a very rapid growth in the number of people who - once they learn that someone believes in the teachings of the bible - immediately disregard anything that person may have to say from that point forward on any issue. I've also seen large numbers of Christians who - once they learn that someone rejects their beliefs - immediately conclude that this person's beliefs hold no value.

   As I was growing up, people who stood firm in their religious convictions were actually looked up to. They were respected and admired for their convictions........But these are very different times, aren't they? How did this happen? While the answer to this question is complex, there are also some obvious explanations.

   We live in a world where people have witnessed countless examples of people who have claimed to be Christians doing some very horrible things to those who don't believe as they well as to people who do. They've seen phony televangelists who take advantage of the poor and hurting, promising them God's favor if they send money. They've seen countless examples of high-profile Christian leaders being caught in lies, sexual affairs, and even horrific acts of molestation. Who can blame those outside of the church for being disgusted by what they have seen when these examples of absolute degradation within the church have been relentlessly reported upon world-wide?

   In contrast, they will rarely see examples of the countless numbers of Christians who don't do these things..........People who give their entire lives to the betterment of others.........People who feed the hungry and clothe the poor..........People who visit prisons, nursing homes, and orphanages, wanting nothing more than to be there for those in need. People who work with the abused, the rejected, and the neglected.

   For every one person who's story is displayed on the news after being caught doing horrific things in the name of Christianity, there are hundreds of thousands of Christians whose entire lives are dedicated to doing what's right............... But these stories will never be seen on "60 Minutes."........Why?............because it isn't sensational news. 

   We are currently living in the midst of what can only be describes as a "Post-Christian" America. The trend in this country is moving rapidly away from the Judeo-Christian beliefs we grew up with, and without some sort of divine intervention, this trend is certain to continue.

   We, as Christians, are being increasingly mocked, insulted, and rejected due to our religious beliefs. It's becoming more and more perilous for us to speak openly about these beliefs. Religious institutions are being sued in our courts for standing up for their beliefs. Political careers are being ended. We can't speak of our faith or our God in our public schools. Christian valedictorians all over this country are being told that they cannot offer up a prayer or even speak of their faith during commencement speeches, even if their faith has played an enormous role in their determination to work so very hard to reach that level of accomplishment.

    Sadly, it's much worse in other parts of the world. All over the middle east, Christians are being beaten, tortured, imprisoned, and even brutally murdered due to their religious beliefs at an alarming rate.

   So, how do we react to all of this? How do we carry ourselves within a world that's becoming increasingly hostile toward those of us who hold these beliefs? Do we protest? Do we try to influence our government to return to a place where our beliefs are respected and our rights to express those beliefs are protected? I'm sorry, but in my humble opinion, that ship has long ago sailed.

   The early Christian church faced horrific persecution, not only from the government that ruled over them, but also from the church leaders who conspired to have Jesus crucified. There are countless examples of men and women who were arrested, beaten, and brutally murdered due to their beliefs in Jesus Christ.

   Oddly enough, in the midst of this relentless persecution, none of the early church leaders insisted that the government protect them. None of them demanded that their rights of free speech should be upheld. None of them protested against the Roman government, insisting that they pass laws forcing everyone to live by their standards. As they wrote letters to other believers, they never told them to insist that those outside of the church live by their beliefs. Their entire focus was upon encouraging these early believers to stand firm in their own faith.........within themselves........within a personal, internal relationship with their God..........A faith that was to be followed from the inside out, and one which - when lived out from that perspective - would draw in those who saw that their lives had truly been spite of the spite of being rejected, and in spite of being hunted down, arrested, and killed due to those beliefs.

   In Philippians 2, Paul offered the following:

   "Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,  then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 
 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others."..........

   And further.......

   ..................."Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,  for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing,  so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life."

   You see, our calling is not to force others to live and believe as we do.........Our calling is not to force our government to pass laws that agree with our faith...........Our calling is to simply live out our faith in a way that is worthy of the calling we've already received, and in doing so, to become a shining light in the midst of an increasingly hostile world........

   As a very dear friend once said to me; "Our very lives should be our Facebook wall, upon which those who don't share our beliefs can gaze...........and truly see God."


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Hearing Through the Grapevine

   A young man stands at the place where his journey is to begin and gazes upon the path before him. As he looks ahead, he can see a wide variety of landscapes unfolding in the distance. He can't see too far down the path with any real clarity, but he can see enough to know that there will be challenging times ahead if he is to continue moving forward.

   As he begins his journey, he's struck by how the path seems to change a bit with every bend, and how some obstacles which looked daunting in the distance become easier to navigate than he initially expected. On the other hand, some areas that appeared to be smooth and easy to navigate become far more dangerous when viewed closely.

   At times he finds himself climbing rock walls, with barely enough space between the rocks to gain a foothold. He can feel his muscles aching, his breathing becoming far more labored, and he wonders at times if he'll reach the top. He sometimes looks down as he's climbing and allows his fear of falling from such heights to cause him to stop climbing and simply hold on as he regains his composure.

   Other times he finds himself walking calmly through smooth, soft valleys without a care in the world. His pace picks up, he feels calm and confident, and he's able to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

   On either side of this path, he notices large, thick grapevines growing along the entire distance. When he stops walking and remains completely silent, he can hear whispers coming from behind them.

   His curiosity gets the better of him, and he moves closer to the grapevine on the right, putting his ear to it to see if he can make out what these whispering voices are saying. As he does so, he can hear voices encouraging him - saying things like "Keep moving forward.......We're with you.......There's nothing on this path ahead you cannot overcome........Do not fear.......We will lead you, guide you, and direct your steps.........With every new bend, you will see beautiful things........Things you never even knew existed.........If you grow weary, listen to our voices........We will strengthen you.......And when you reach the end of this journey, you will be in paradise."

   Puzzled by this, he moves over to the grapevines on the left side of the path and puts his ear near to them. As he quiets himself to listen intently, he hears these voices speaking to him in a very different manner. "Give up." they say........."Who do you think you are?........You'll never be able to make it through the next bend.......You don't have the strength........You don't even know if you're heading in the right direction.......Why are you even trying to move forward?.........What good will it do to make it to the next bend?.......What will you find there?.......You may be eaten alive, or fall from the rocks to feel your body crushed upon the jagged terrain below.........Stop here and make a home for yourself........There is nothing good beyond this point."

   He returns to the middle of the path and continues to move forward. As he does so, he comes across others who are also on this path. Some continue to move forward, offering words of encouragement to those behind them, warning them of dangers ahead they cannot yet see.

   Others are sitting on the side of the path, mocking him for being foolish enough to believe there is anything worth finding at the end.

   This path is our journey through life

   We struggle to move forward at times, wondering if there's any point to any of it. We come to places where we feel as though everything is going smoothly. We are energized by the beautiful things we see, and other times sometimes we become discouraged by the rock walls and pitfalls. We sometimes doubt that we have the strength to take one more step.

   Throughout this journey, we have two distinct voices that continually speak to us.

   On the one hand, we have God, who is always there for us if we seek His voice - always eager to guide us, direct us, encourage us, and give us His strength. In addition to this, we also have His people..........People just like us who have already made it through some of the pitfalls we've yet to face, and who are more than willing to help us through the hard, rocky places.

   On the other hand, we have the enemy, who wants nothing more than to destroy us, discourage us, lie to us about who we are and what we can or cannot accomplish. He also has his people........People who - without even knowing they are doing so - will influence us to give up on our belief that paradise awaits us if we keep moving forward.

   So these questions remain: Who will we listen to? Which grapevine will we hold our ear to? Who will we choose to believe?

   Our answers to those questions are not permanent..........They are not decisions that are made one time, then forgotten. These decisions need to be made on a daily, if not an hourly basis, and the manner in which we answer these questions at that very moment will determine how far we move forward within that hour or that day.

   Which voices are you hearing at this very moment?



Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Where American Christians Fail

   A few days ago, I spoke with a very dear friend of mine who is in the midst of quite an incredible journey. She packed some belongings a few weeks ago, loaded them into her pickup truck, and headed west from the Chicago area all the way to the west coast of California.

   While she has seen many beautiful things on this journey, the purpose of this trip was not for pleasure or mere sight-seeing.

   While she is taking care of some very important business on the way, this is not a business trip.

   She didn't have a finely tuned itinerary in place before she left.........She had more of a general list of places she would camp out for the night.......or two......or three, before leaving for her next slightly vague destination.

   Her master plan?........To simply follow wherever she felt that God was leading her, and in doing so, to visit the lowest of the low wherever she might find them, showing them love, compassion, acceptance, empathy, an ear to listen, and a heart to share.

   Along with her, she brought a bag of smooth, flat rocks. Upon these rocks, she had inscribed various words such as "Faith,"........."Hope,"..........."Peace,"........."Love,"............ Sometimes there'd be entire bible verses written on them, featuring words of encouragement or examples of God's love for all who might look to Him in their time of need.

   Throughout this journey of hers, she has sat and talked with countless people.........Complete and total strangers...........The homeless.........The addicted........The hungry.......The forgotten.......Those who have been completely rejected by society as a whole.

   After engaging these people in genuine, heartfelt conversation..........After showing them that she truly did care..........She'd reach into her little bag of rocks and pick one to leave with them.......One that had written upon it a word or verse that pertained to what they had said to her.......One they could reach into their pocket for and pull out.........whenever they felt the remind them of this beautiful, kind woman who God had somehow sent to them to speak the words they desperately needed to hear on that day.

   She wasn't invited to sit down next to them..........she simply did.

   She didn't wait for a team of board members to plan her itinerary..........she simply left.

   She didn't put the comfort of being in her own home, being safe, dry, and warm ahead of her desire to go where she believed she was called...........she simply followed.

   You see, my friend Katie is a rare breed. She is one of the few people I've met over the course of my life who lives life intentionally - with a purpose - firmly believing that every day is a new opportunity to make a difference in the world around her, and who actively watches for the opportunities God places in front of her on a daily basis.........Many times on an hourly basis.

   She is one of those rare individuals who, just by being who she's called to be,  makes me wish quite often that I was as committed to the cause as she is.

   We, as American Christians, more often than not become so very comfortable in our beautiful homes, driving our beautiful cars, and living our fairly private lives with our healthy, well fed families, that we forget there's an entire world of people out there who are hurting desperately, and who would just love for someone to sit down next to them, talk to them, and let them know that somebody cares.

   Don't get me wrong.........we feel bad when we see others who are hurting. We want things to work out well for them. We want them to heal, to recover, to become whole again.........But do we care enough to go 5 minutes out of our way to help?

   From the outside, this is how many people outside of the church view Christians:

   We're very quick to condemn their lifestyles.........We're very quick to tell them what they're doing wrong.........Often times - and to our own shame - we're very quick to feel that we're living lives that are blessed by God because, well, we're just good people............while looking down upon those who don't appear to be blessed in the same ways, and silently wondering what they did wrong to bring that upon themselves.

   When I look at what true faith, true belief, and true religion should look like, James 1:27 comes to mind........

   "Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world."

   In those days, orphans and widows were among the poorest of the poor. They were the homeless, the hungry, and the forgotten ones.

   I know that my friend Katie would probably shy away from the idea of me writing a blog which compares her life and actions to the rest of the church, and finding us lacking while praising her for her efforts. She would say that God, not her, deserves all of the credit, honor, and glory for whatever small task she may accomplish while here on earth...........But in doing so, she would be simply proving my point once again.

   If we, as the church, spent as much time as we could find being there for others who are hurting..........If we simply sat down next to someone and listened.........not merely reciting memorized bible verses..............not giving them generic answers for genuine, heartfelt questions which arise from horribly complex, painful circumstances..........not condemning them in our hearts before even knowing their story.........If we looked for opportunities on a daily basis to be who God has called us to be in the lives of people who have been rejected by society..........How much more interested would people outside of the church be in what we might have to say about our faith? How much more weight would they place upon our words? How much more willing would they be to step inside of our churches?   

   You see, what we've done wrong is that we've allowed ourselves to become far too comfortable within our clean, predictable, relatively affluent little worlds to be of any good when it comes to being light, salt, and life in the midst of a cold, dark, bitter world.

   Before we can be anything to the world around us.........We must first be there for the world around us.


   If you'd like to learn more about Katie, I'm sure she'd love it if you stopped by her website and said hi. She can be found at

Monday, August 19, 2013

Imperfectly Perfect

   Standing backstage, just before the curtain came up for what would be an experience that could be best described as surreal, a musician paced back and forth, his mind racing through the multitude of significant milestones that had led to this very moment. He found it very difficult to express in words how much this meant to him on a personal, emotional, and psychological level.

   Throughout the entirety of his youth, he never felt as though he measured up. He always felt lost, confused, and somehow less valuable than everyone around him. He never felt as though he had ever been one of the cool kids. He was just a guy trying to figure out where he fit in. More often than not, he felt as though he didn't fit in anywhere.

   The people who were closest to him had often criticized who he was, how he looked, what he said, how he thought, felt, and performed. He was quite often told that he wasn't smart enough, good enough, talented enough, attractive enough.

   As he grew older in years, the criticism he'd faced so often made it's way into the deepest parts of who he believed he was. It wasn't something that was in the forefront of his mind. It was more of a nagging doubt in his own self-worth that always left him second-guessing his value in the eyes of others.

   But here he was............

    The venue was on the stage of his high school auditorium. He hadn't been back to this place - where he once roamed the halls feeling completely out of place and out of sorts - for nearly 30 years.

   But here he was............

    His band had been invited to play on this stage - in front of what could be over 1,000 people - for a benefit concert to help pay for musical equipment for the students who now attended. Most of the current students lived at or below the poverty level. None of them knew him personally. All they knew was that he was there to help raise money for their dreamers, their artists, their musicians, all of whom had dreams of their own, but had no ability to purchase the gear necessary for them to pursue their dreams.

   In some ironic twist of fate, he had returned to the stage where he had once felt completely rejected, isolated, and ignored - now feeling as some sort of a conquering hero, there to make a difference in the lives of those he didn't know, and who he probably never would.

   The curtain began to raise.......

   He threw an encouraging smile back at the rest of his band mates, mouthed the words "Let's boogie," and ran out onto the stage as the adrenaline pumped it's way through every inch of his body.

   He gave it everything he had.............and yet.........when all was said and done.........he left the stage disappointed in his performance. There was a missed note here..........another one there.......

   People approached him after the show, complimenting him on what they thought was a stellar performance, as well as an incredible accomplishment. They praised him for the good work he had done, and for the amazing gifts this would bring to this very poor community. But as hard as he tried to accept that, as he looked back upon that performance in the years that followed, he would quickly shrug it off and say "I wish I would've played better."

   Why was it that he couldn't see the beauty in what had just taken place? Why was it that - instead of allowing himself to live in the moment, enjoying it for all it was worth and for all that it had meant to so many others - he looked back upon the events of that night as a failure?

   It was because everything about that neighborhood........that school......that history.......reminded him of everything he had been told about who he was many years ago..........That anything short of perfection was failure.

   The man in this story was me, and it was something I experienced about 6 years ago.

   So, what makes it different for me now? Why did I take the time to write this story?

   Because I've recently learned something very important about myself, and it's something I'm certain that many of you have experienced and deal with on a daily basis..........The illusion of perfection.

   I was raised to expect perfection of myself, and if I don't speak the perfect words, act in the perfect manner, or perform in ways that are absolutely perfect given the circumstances, I find it impossible to see the value in what I've said, how I've acted, or in how I've performed. I simply see that moment in time as a failure on my part.

   What I've been forced to come to terms with recently is - not only are none of us perfect, but we rarely perform perfectly under any circumstances. There will always be something we could've done better, said more profoundly, or acted upon more appropriately. If we allow ourselves - as I have many times - to see our words or actions as failures because they weren't flawless, we will never allow ourselves to truly enjoy life as it was intended to be lived.

   The desire to strive for perfection is a gift from God Himself..........The belief that anything short of perfection is a failure is a lie, straight from hell.

   We are all imperfect people, living in an imperfect world. There's nothing wrong with striving for perfection, as long as we can - at the same time - live life to the fullest, knowing that we did our very best given the circumstances.

   We were all created by God Himself to use our various gifts and abilities in ways that help, encourage, bless, instruct, and lift up others. If we look back upon our efforts to use these gifts in those ways, and we see nothing more than a long list of failures on our part, we call God a fool for putting us in the position to use those gifts, at that very moment, in front of those very people, to be used by Him in ways that are extremely significant.

   After all, if we truly believe that we weren't the best person to perform in that place, at that time, for those people, then the only conclusion we can draw is that somehow God must've been confused for sending us into that place.

   Believe in who you are - which is who God created you to be...........Perfectly imperfect...........and live in that moment. If we can all live by that belief..........we will look back a few years from know that we did our very best.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Perfect Harmony

   I've been a musician since I was a young boy. Due to my intense love of music, I suppose it makes perfect sense that I would become one.

   The emotional impact music has on all of us has always intrigued me. We've all found ourselves moved by music at various points in our lives. We can be anywhere when it happens. At work, in our car, walking through a park, or even in the middle of a conversation. It really doesn't matter what the circumstances are or what our surroundings may be. We hear the first few notes of a familiar song, and distant memories we haven't thought of in years come flooding back instantly. In fact, if we close our eyes and allow our thoughts to drift, we will sometimes feel as though we are re-living a distinct, meaningful moment from our past.

   Sometimes we'll hear a song for the very first time and we'll find ourselves being swept away with emotion. The type of emotions we feel can range from despair, to love, to joy, or even anger. The amazing part of this is we don't even have to hear any words within the song to feel these emotions. The music itself creates that within us.

   But how does this happen?

   When broken down to a scientific level, music is nothing more than vibrations within various frequencies that somehow combine in predetermined harmonies with each other. As these vibrations reach our ears, they immediately impact our emotions. How is that even possible? How can anyone possibly explain this in a meaningful way? We can't. We simply know it's true, and we accept it for what it is. We hear the various vibrations resonate in perfect harmony, and we react emotionally. We don't try to understand it. We simply enjoy it.

   But what happens when there is no harmony? What is our immediate response when a musician hits a bad note, or when a vocalist falls flat?.......We cringe. We lose interest in the music. We change the channel.

   Before any group of musicians plays a song, the instruments must be tuned. The strings on each instrument must be in tune with each other, and each instrument as a whole must also be in tune with all of the other instruments being played. If not, there's nothing but chaos, disharmony, and noise. If the instruments are not in tune with each other, it doesn't matter how skillfully the musicians play. The end result will be horribly distracting, and difficult for anyone to listen to. The laws of harmony, whether we understand them or not, always apply. They have always existed, and they always will.

   Within all of this, there are lessons we can take from music when looking at our faith, and how our faith may or may not impact the world around us. As is the case with music, there are specific laws that govern the amount of harmony we feel between ourselves and God. These laws also apply to the sense of harmony we may feel between each other.

   When I speak of these laws, I'm not talking about some long list of rules that need to be obeyed. I'm not speaking of a bunch of legalistic requirements or regulations. I'm not speaking of some 12-step program that will ensure our success. I'm speaking about harmony.

   Just as every instrument needs to be in tune in order for a song to be as beautiful as it was originally intended, our hearts and minds need to be "in tune" with God for our lives to create a song as beautiful as God intended our particular "song of life" to be. The more "in tune" we are with God, the more deeply others will be moved by what they see in us, what they hear from us, etc..

   So how do we do this? How do we "tune up?" That's the easy part. We take time to pray, to read scripture, and to ask God to speak to our hearts, aligning our hearts and minds with Him in perfect harmony. If we ask this of Him, and seek this alignment in faith, He will respond. And if we can just stay there.......silently........allowing Him to tune us........just as it happens to us with music, the harmonies we hear deep within us during that time can move us so very deeply it's as if our very souls are singing out............without even one word being spoken.

   Is this a one-time deal? Can we do it once, then walk away expecting to be "in tune" for life? Of course not. Just as musicians need to tune up repeatedly and continually, we need to do the same. Will we find ourselves hitting bad notes at times? Absolutely. But just as is true when playing with other musicians - it's not whether you'll hit an occasional bad note that matters - it's how you recover when you do.