Where’s The Instruction Manual To Myself?

There was a TV show back in the 1980’s called Greatest American Hero.  It was not a well known TV show, but I enjoyed it a lot when I was a kid.

The basic plot was that this school teacher received a super suit from some Aliens and he was suppose to use it to help the world.  But when he took the suit home, he discovered that he had lost the instruction manual to the super suit, which meant that he was going to have to figure out how to perform the super powers on his own.

Do you ever feel that way about yourself?  Like you have lost the instruction manual to yourself and the inner workings of your life?  You know, deep down inside you, that if you could just find that manual, then you would be able to use your life to do great things.  So where’s the instruction manual?

I’m confusing, but so are you

Though I have not lived very long, I have realized over my small lifetime that I am confusing!  Just when I think I understand myself, that is precisely the time when I discover something else.

I have also discovered that life is equally as confusing.  So put both together and you can understand why a lot of people check into a mental hospital…  let’s face it, we’re all confusing, especially to ourselves.

Discovering yourself can be overwhelming

Instructions would be really nice, but sadly we don’t come naturally with a step by step guide to ourselves. Far from it.  We instead go about our lives trying this and that and slowly discovering more about the person we are.

For instance, over the coarse of the last few months I have discovered that I have been lying to myself, that my life struggles have really been a classroom that has taught me a lot, and one of my newer discoveries is that I have SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder).  That’s a lot of discoveries for that brief amount of time.  I am happy about finding these things out, but in the back of my mind I know that this is just the beginning.

I have tons of the things to discover about these new facets of me.  Finding out about SPD has been a freeing experience, but I still need to figure out ways to deal with this issue in my life; an issue that has been there for a lot longer than I knew.

Slowly, I have found that noise canceling headphones help me with my difficulties in restaurants.  Along with my Core Disk that allows me to fidget in my chair without being distracting to the other people around me.

There are tons more that I still have yet to discover.

The joy of the discovery

It would be so helpful to have an instruction manual, instead of wandering around in confusion, but, then again, there wouldn’t gain as much if we did have a manual.

When we are able to discover something knew, without an instruction manual, there is a feeling of accomplishment.  Usually when we discover something about ourselves it is partially because we have finally reached the place where we are ready to understand that puzzle piece.

It is like we’re fitting together a puzzle without the help of the box lid.  Often times we may pick up a piece that doesn’t make sense now, but if we work on the other pieces for a little while eventually we figure out where that piece needs to go.

The confusion is removed because we see how it fits with the other pieces.

It is the same way with our lives.  You may be confused now about a piece of yourself, but just hold off on that piece for a little while.  Sooner or later that piece will make sense and you’ll be able to fit it into the puzzle.  And if not, then perhaps that piece doesn’t belong in your puzzle after all.

Our super suits didn’t come with a manual, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be awesome!

“”For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”” ~ Jeremiah 29:11
Jesus know’s that we’re confused about this thing called life, but don’t be afraid, because He has everything in His hands.  It may not make sense now, but I know He will give you the strength to persevere in trying to understand and in the end do amazing things with your life.
I know He has been faithful in showing me where my puzzle pieces go and I know He will finish this puzzle in His timing.  My life is confusing, but I know He will take that confusion and make something awesome out of it.
Until then, lets try to enjoy the journey. Because, no matter what age you are, we are all on a journey of discovering ourselves and our place in this world.  We all need to focus on this journey and not on the destination alone.
You haven’t lost your instruction manual, it’s just still being written by you.

What about you? What are you discovering about yourself that you never knew before?  How do these discoveries make you feel?  Comment below about what you are excited to learn more about yourself.  Also feel free to post questions below, I will do my best to answer them. Thanks for reading and God bless.

Shove Me Into The Fire- Track 1 on Songstress

We are all naturally blind to this darkness.  We can’t see the things that need to change in our hearts and in the hearts of others, only God can.  That is why He and only He is the refiner of our hearts.

                                                                              Photo from http://pixabay.com, Words added.

As we grow up, from being a child to an adult, our eyes begin to open.  Not physically, but spiritually and mentally.  We begin to see things that we missed in adolescence. These truths become known to us through experience and observation.  Not at once, but gradually.

When I wrote this song, I had just been re-awoken to the reality of Jesus.  I saw truths that had been hidden from me and I saw that I had so much more to learn.  From this realization sprung a deep desire to see more.  To no longer push aside the reality that this is a fallen world that desperately needs a Savior.

A plea:

This song is a plea to be awoken to the truths that are hidden in the jumble of this world.  The same plea that many people cried out when they saw injustice and slavery.  The same plea that cries out  for a voice for the voiceless.

God uses many things in this world to refine us and open our eyes to these hidden truths.  Each person is different and prepared in their own special way by Him.  For some it is going to the mission field and feeling the call to make that a life long commitment.  For others it is experiencing a death in the family and learning that every day is precious.

For me, it was spending many years struggling with depression and my own health issues to be awoken to the reality that Jesus gives us life and life abundantly.

Every time we refuse to lie to ourselves and choose to face the reality of this world, our hearts begin to grow and we become closer to who He desires us to be.

The struggle:

But this isn’t easy.  This graphic image of being shoved into the fire is just as it sounds… painful.

But God uses each struggle to open our hearts to Himself more, because He is the one who is quenching the cry within our hearts, when nothing else is left to satisfy that cry.  He is the one who shows us what we cannot see for ourselves.

It takes time and energy, but it is worth every minute of the process.

I wrote this song more than four years ago, but I still return to it and continue to pray that God would shove me into His refining fire. Not because it is fun, but because I have seen wonderful things happen in my heart because of that fire.

So I urge you all to pray that God would shove you into the fire so that you too may experience Him more fully.

He will never stop refining us as we walk this journey through this crazy world… never!

Too long have I hidden my face from all I could see.
Too long have I dwelt in a blind society.
I can’t see the darkness inside my soul.
I long to be made whole.

*Shove me into the fire: so that I can be made complete
Shove me into the fire: so I can be your hands and feet
Help me know what to learn, deep inside me is a fire that longs to burn
Refine me in Your holy flame.  Make me feel more real everyday.

Now that I’ve awoken to this shadow world that I’m in.
I see so much missing, oh, I pray You would begin.
For I can’t see the darkness inside my soul.
I long to be made whole.
(Go to *)

Only You can shape my heart, my love, my Lord.
Only You can take me apart and put me back together again.
(Go to *)

What are some of the ways God has shoved you into the fire?  How has your heart grown through these?  Comment in the comments below a few lessons that you have learned through these experiences. 

Whether you have just come out of or are in the middle of the fire, each of us have gone through times of refining… so you’re not alone in this struggle.

Also, if you liked the verse above and want to read more about Gods refining fire, here are a few other verse to get you started: Isaiah 48:10-11, Daniel 11:35, Proverbs 17:3.

Thanks for reading and listening!  God bless!

The Unreachable Perfect

The old saying, “Practice makes perfect,” was wrong!

Photo from Pixabay.com

I am a born perfectionist -been that way ever since I was kid.

When I was young, I saw it in little things, such as in my sculpting projects or other little creations. But when I started trying to learn how to be a full time, professional, musician, my perfectionism began driving me crazy.  

Constantly trying to find the perfect sound, or the perfect way to record this instrument, or do this in a mix, was too much of a burden for me to handle.  

I read lots of books, listened to instructional DVD’s and kept saying, “If I only try harder then I will reach perfection.”

I soon realized that perfection is an unreachable mark.

Perfection sets the bar so high, that of course I am going to fail.  There is nothing left but failure.

Now, don’t get me wrong, my perfectionism isn’t always a beast; it’s often a blessing.  It pushes me to go beyond the “normal”; to look into creative ways to make things work and work well.  I wouldn’t be the artist I am today if it wasn’t for this trait, but even the best traits can be your worst enemies.

What you as a musician and an artist need to understand is that perfect is unreachable and that we should be grateful for this fact.

If perfection was attainable, we would be too scared to create anything beyond that perfect creation.  The unreachable perfection keeps us as artists striving  for better creations.  It keeps the creative juices flowing.

Perhaps, “perfection” shouldn’t be our goal anymore? Perhaps “growth” should take it’s place?

Because if you are growing in your art -pushing yourself to be better and think bigger than before- then you are accomplishing a lot.

-Keep in mind the fact that even those who, in our minds, have “made it” in their art, still consider their work imperfect and in need of improvements.

We are naturally our worst critic.

So stop chasing the elusive perfect and start giving yourself some credit for what you are accomplishing right now!

“I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.” ― Michael J. Fox

 Perfect is like tomorrow: it can never be reached, but better, that is a goal we can obtain.  Excellence, that is something we can achieve.

So the question is this: Are you going to continue striving after something that you can’t obtain or are you going to start working towards the reachable “better”? It is up to you.

How about you? Have you been running after the unreachable perfect?  What steps can you take today towards growing in your art?  How can you stop striving after perfection and starting shooting for growth?

And don’t forget to tell me about it.

Comment below one thing that you want to grow in… not be perfect at… but to be better at.  Then go out and do it!

Music, Out Of The Box

I have heard a lot of Christians say that it is a sin to enjoy secular music.  Or that it’s ok to listen to it, but the music that truly satisfies your soul and uplifts you is Christian music.

I have a confession to make.  The vast majority of the music I listen to, on a daily basis, is secular music.
And I’m ok with that…

For the longest time, I bought into this lie and all I listened to was artists that had a Christian label.  At that time, music wasn’t a big deal in my life.
It hadn’t come alive to my soul.
I discovered the guitar when I was about fourteen years old.  Up until that point I had only played the piano and just listened to Christian music.  But after I discovered my guitar, my heart was introduced to the true beauty of music.

Music was let out of it’s box and I saw that it was more than what I had ever imagined.  However it wasn’t just my guitar that did it…surprisingly it was a secular artist that showed me what music can truly be.

It was while my dad and I were driving down to Chicago to visit my sister at college.

As we were driving down the country roads that eventually hooked up with the interstate, Dad suddenly turned to me and asked, “Would you mind if I put in on a CD of Simon and Garfunkel?”

I sat quiet for a minute, thinking.  I had listened to these strange singers before, when I was much younger. I had found their music kind of creepy at the time, but instead of saying no, I heard myself saying, “Sure.  I’ll give them a try.”

The CD was then inserted and my life was changed forever.  As I listened to the words of Paul Simon like, “Hello darkness my old friend” or “and a rock feels no pain, and an island never cries.”  I felt like my heart had awakened to a whole new world.

As I listened to the simple arrangements, complex harmonies and the finger picking of Paul’s acoustic guitar, music was let out of it’s box and began feeding my hungry soul.

You must understand that previously that year I had been experiencing some deep depression.  I felt confused and lonely.  God seemed far away and I didn’t know Who He was anymore.   My life had no purpose, no meaning for me to live.

I was literately too scared of death to kill myself, but too depressed in life to live anymore.

My world was trying to face the hard questions of life, but instead of understanding, all the music I listened to just tried to cover all my pain with perky words and lyrics.

But this time around, the words that Paul Simon wrote expressed exactly what I was experiencing.

Of coarse I had found the words creepy before.  I hadn’t experienced the utter wretchedness of life yet.

These words told of a world of emptiness and a desperate need for love.

That first listening was the beginning of thousands. Paul Simon is still, in my opinion, one of the greatest songwriters.

But that CD was just the beginning.  The more I dug into music, the more I was exposed to great musical arrangements and unique vocal styles.  Singer/Songwriters such as Carol King and John Denver taught me that great music wasn’t made from writing a song that mentions God a lot.  Great music has great arrangements, compelling lyrics, and original melodies.

These were artist who wrote music for music’s sake.

Now I know what you are thinking? Doesn’t Christian music have great songwriters and arrangers?  Well, to be honest, not so much.
Yes, there are a few people such as Rich Mullins and the first couple of albums of Andrew Peterson and Sara Groves. But I have noticed that most Christian artist have lost the magic of music.  They settle for simple melodies and lyrics that don’t even rhyme.
It seems to me that Christian artists have become so obsessed with having their music be “Christian”, that they have forgotten what it is to write a song that is truly musically good.

They have put music into a box and they don’t even know it.

The day I first listened to The Moody Blues was the day I realized that we don’t need to settle for normal arrangements.  Listen to Justin Haywards songs, Who Are You Now and I Dreamed Last Night, and you’ll know what I am talking about.

Too many Christian songs have the same basic melody line, the same type of electric guitar, even the same drum beat.

I’ve actually been able to sing a song, while listening to a completely different song, and the chords were EXACTLY the same!  We as listeners and as musicians need to realize that music is more than this!

I say with Larry Norman, “why does devil get all the good music!”. 
Modern, secular music isn’t perfect, but you would think that christian music should be the best music out there, not the worst.  We are serving an awesome God!  We are the ones who should be shaking this generation!

As a musician, I am passionate about making my music be rich in melodies and arrangements.  To not settle for the same old same old, but to reach beyond the mold of Christian music and make music be beautiful again.

To let music out of the box and worship God by creating the best I can possibly create!

When I hear a great arrangement or melody, I feel praise for the Lord well up within my heart… even if that song is being sung by Lincoln Park or Cold Play.
We don’t need to say Jesus’ name in order for our music to be good.  Just making great music that reaches into the hearts of people glorifies God enough.  God is a great creator that touches the hearts and minds of His people through His greatness.  Shouldn’t we?
So I call all my fellow musicians, painters, writers, and listeners.  Let’s stop settling for mediocre creations and start creating out of the box and with everything that God has given us.

I want to end this post by sharing some lyrics from an Air Supply Song that has always touched my heart.  I hope it will touch yours as well.

Well it doesn’t happen everyday,
But it happened to me once before.
Those early years I threw away,
But I only have to hear your voice to make me feel so sure
That your love is why I want to give it all!

What about you? Why do you listen to what you listen to?  What about their music draws you in or feeds your soul.

Have you been creating the best you can create or settling for mediocre?

Write below your answers or comments and lets start teaming together to create great creations for the Great Creator!