Restoreth

The shadow of a looming mountain darkened my face as I crumbled to my knees, little did I know the mountains I would face. Subconscious battles raged of what might and might not be. Seeking the Lord for peace, for wisdom, for direction, my heartstrings drew me to the book of Job. A difficult read, long winded dissertations which challenged an already weary mind for focus and lucidity.

Job was a man of great wealth and respect in the region. He revered God and was so righteous the Almighty spoke of him to angels.

“Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” Job 1:8 NIV

Satan challenged that had Job not been so blessed, he would have surely cursed God. The Lord allowed such a test up to the point of death. Job lost all his possessions, his family and was stricken with illness and great pain.

Job said, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. Job 1:21-22 NIV

In suffering constant pain, through frustration and anguish, he never blamed God, for good and evil falls upon the good and the evil alike. No matter his plight nor the day his suffering would cease, he held to the hope he would see God.

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! Job 19:25-27 NIV

When Job’s time of trial had ended, the Lord was pleased with his faith and restored his health and wealth two-fold.

The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away, the Lord restoreth. The only constant in our lives is the immeasurable Love of God and His Abundant Grace. Our hope is in Him for only He can restore us as with Job.

If you are in a season of plenty, of ease, of strength, trust in God for it could be gone in an instant. If a season of little, of hardship, of weakness, trust in God all the more for you could be restored just as quickly.

Our Hope is in the Lord for He and only He restoreth.

How my heart yearns within me! Job 19:27 NIV

 

If these words have been a blessing, pass them along to another who needs to hear. Reach out to me at John@LiftedKeys.com and tell me your story. I would love to know where and in what way God has guided His words through my pen.

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‘Preciate it

Sunday morning, second pew is one person lighter than last week. One of the strongest men I know sat in his forever spot as if the world would stop spinning if he did not, even though his world stopped spinning when his better half of 60 years found her way Home. Friends shook hands and fumbled through words with one saying it would feel a bit strange today. I sat down and said, “that’s okay, I’ll fill this space today” though it would take more than me to fill those shoes. He patted my knee and said ‘Preciate it. Children, grandchildren and great-grands snuggled up and the earth began to rotate again, if just a little.

Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4 NIV

As is usually the case, there was more wisdom in this gentleman’s words that I first perceived. He could have said “Thank You” or said nothing at all, but instead, it was ‘Preciate it. A man of few words who speaks volumes.

When I am lost in myself, feeling unseen, or unheard, my better half snuggles up as to say, “I’ve got you.” When I’ve got nothing left, friends are there to cheer me on. When empty, the Lord draws close enough to whisper, “I’m here.” I do not appreciate it as often as I should.

My offering of kindness was returned with a dewdrop of wisdom. Don’t let life or those you love simply pass by. Appreciate them. Don’t let a kind gesture go unnoticed, no matter how deep in a valley you may be. Appreciate it.

The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 NIV

‘Preciate it.

 

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Time Well Spent

My day job requires visualizing blue lines on white paper into what a project will be and what it will cost (I hope). I am a professional guesser by trade. Some would say educated guesser, but at times more guess than educated. A professor once said, “If you are good, you will pick up 10% of what you bid so for you math-e-letes, that is a 90% failure rate.” It has proven to be true. A career of time wasted?

Recently I spent an afternoon with a young estimator, teaching him tricks of the trade. Life has come full circle as an older gentleman did the same for me when I was starting out. Standing on his shoulders, it turns out I have learned a few tricks as well.  No projects bid that afternoon, but time wasted? This young man works for a good client so it may bear fruit, but the day he passes any wisdom on to another will prove it was time well spent. The legacy of my mentors took a lifetime, but life is more than your legacy. The next moment, the next step, the next breath is a legacy in the making.

A kind word or a hug emoji, that soothes today and is forgotten tomorrow leaves echoes of kindness, of knowing someone cares, even for a moment. “One more story, Daddy” gave my baby time to relax and a chance to dream. “One more song, Daddy”, a chance to sing. One more early morning to shoot hoops or load a band bus. One more trip to College Station or Waco (again to hoop), to chase her dreams. As she has grown and moved too far away, it was one more quick note to reassure there is a place she can call home, and she can call home anytime.

This moment, this step, this breath, this prayer.

A legacy in the making.

Time well spent.

 

If these words have been a blessing, pass them along to another who needs to hear. Reach out to me at John@LiftedKeys.com and tell me your story. I would love to know where and in what way God has guided His words through my pen.

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Re-Joyce

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 NIV

Yet in the time of a loved one’s passing, there never seems to be enough time, one more day, one more dance, one more hug, one more goodbye. There are things to do, to be respectfully cared for, funeral arrangements, family arrangements, food, flowers and logistics, everything but a time to mourn. To agonize, anguish, grieve, hurt, bleed, remember. Not until dirt is sprinkled, grandchildren hugged, and black clothes put away does the gravity affect the all too quiet rooms which used to be filled with laughter.

Everyone grieves in different ways, and you may not know the trigger that causes tears to fall.

For me with my father, it was a Cowboy’s game. Now Cowboy fans do tend to weep with the current rosters, but this was in the Troy Aikman days. Though my father and I had not watched a game together in years, the kickoff of the first one without him broke me. I had grieved and stored it away, or so I thought.

My mother’s time was different. She passed during the pandemic. Funerals were not happening, and families could not travel. The arrangements were drawn out over eight months, time to grieve and re-grieve with every step. A graveside gathering, “Amazing Grace” and it was finished.

Fast forward a full year and I was asked to play at the funeral of a dear church member. I had known her for many years, and we shared a kinship as we alternated piano duties in church. Playing for her was an honor, yet I walked away crushed, completely spent. She and my mother were certainly cut from the same cloth. The church was full, stories were told, old hymns were sung. On this day, it was “My God and I”. For my mother, it would have been “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” As I sat, paper in hand, uncontrollable tears staining the pages, I realized I had just played for my mother’s funeral, again.

A time to grieve and re-grieve.

A time to mourn and re-mourn.

And as my mother’s name is Joyce,
A time to Joyce and Re-Joyce.

 

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Manna Mañana or Taco Tuesday?

The Israelites wandered the desert complaining to Moses about having nothing to eat.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. Exodus 1:4 NIV

In the morning, the dew faded leaving a layer of flakes like frost to gather, grind into flour and bake. The word “Manna” came from their response “What is it?” The Spanish word “Mañana” is similar but has no etymological connection. Though meaning “tomorrow,” it is derived from “early morning” so perhaps there is more connection than we thought.

Manna was the Lord providing bread from heaven, but it came with strict instructions.

Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the  has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an Omer for each person you have in your tent.’ “Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning. Exodus 16: 15-16 NIV

Those that obeyed had just enough for the day. Those that gathered more found the extra would spoil. The only exception was the day before Sabbath where they gathered two days’ worth, that they may rest on the seventh day. Their “daily bread” was all they needed for the day, no more, no less.

Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34 NIV

One day’s worth of manna, of bread, of blessings, all that is needed. Tomorrow will worry about itself. Not to say that planning ahead is a bad thing. The Lord leads us to provide for ourselves and family; however, we should do so financially as well as spiritually. In storing up earthy treasures, we should first store up treasures in heaven, where moth and thieves may not destroy.

Do not look past the manna in your hand while hungering for the bread of mañana, that may or may not come. Today is enough for today.

“I’d rather fight you for something I don’t really want than to take what You give that I need.” Hold Me JesusRich Mullins.

As I was posting this link, I received a call that at dear friend had passed.
Playing at her funeral will not be easy. Hold Me Jesus, Indeed.

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Find Your Pace, Find HIS Peace

I have never been a fan of coffee. If sour grapefruit juice doesn’t get you going, nothing will. I have had my share of highly caffeinated, high fructose laden soft drinks and sweet tea on scorching South Texas afternoons. But as my metabolism slows like how I pry myself out of bed, sugar and caffeine has given way to water and unsweetened tea (okay, half and half). I’ve also heard chocolate has sugar and caffeine but let’s not get crazy now.

Adrenaline comes in many forms, whether ingested, by roller-coaster, or jumping out of a perfectly good airplane (yikes!) Athletes train their bodies for strength and stamina and feel the rush of game day, the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat. My adrenaline comes from multitasking throughout the workday. I get a charge from unscrambling a puzzle into a reasonable solution. I learned early on the more I can do, the harder it is to replace me. As I approach 40 years in the business and eyeball retirement, “hard to replace” is becoming more apparent.

Prior to a recent long weekend away, my doctor told me I need to put vacation in my vacation. “But if I don’t do it, who will?” My name is John, and I am a workaholic. Collapsing in bed, I prayed for guidance, for wisdom.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5 – NIV

I awoke before the sun, forging through the darkness to an early morning workout. Still unsure of the night before and the day ahead, I breathed in and out silent prayers and waited for some clarity to an otherwise foggy mind. Then right there, amid push-ups and ab crunches, our trainer’s voice broke through, “You’ve got this! This is your journey, your speed. Find your pace.” Angels unaware.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30 – NIV

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27 NIV

This is your journey. Find your pace. Find HIS peace.

 

If these words have been a blessing, pass them along to another who needs to hear. Reach out to me at John@LiftedKeys.com and tell me your story. I would love to know where and in what way God has guided His words through my pen.

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The Rest

Dropping a dime in my virtual jukebox spun “He’ll Take Care of the Rest” by Keith Green. A funny and clever song with amazing piano rifts. There is a verse about Noah where his neighbors would laugh at his pet giraffe. Anyone who can rhyme “giraffe” is fine by me. Then the Lord said He would take care of the rest, “He’s the weatherman!”

(The Lord said to Paul), “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I (Paul) will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 – NIV

(Jesus) said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31 – NIV

Everywhere I look the word “rest” shows up; a heavenly hint that I need more of it.

This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”  Jeremiah 6:16 -NIV

There it is again, “Rest”.

Rest – a period of inactivity, to sleep, perchance to dream
Rest – peace of mind or spirit
Rest – a rhythmic silence in music
Rest – Sabbath, sabat, to cease

Rest – the other stuff I can’t control
Jesus takes care of the rest.

Rest – accept my weakness and rely on Christ’s power.
Jesus takes care of the rest.

Rest – Stop, cease, breathe, walk ancient paths.
Jesus takes care of the rest.

Rest
Jesus takes care of the rest.

 

If these words have been a blessing, pass them along to another who needs to hear. Reach out to me at John@LiftedKeys.com and tell me your story. I would love to know where and in what way God has guided His words through my pen.

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Gently Weeps

A small-town sidewalk deep in the smoky mountains, with the hand of my precious bride in tow, we dipped in and out of mom-and-pop antique shops after breakfast at the local cafe’.  As my wife sat in at the quilting shop, one of the ladies suggested I step next door so they could “talk.”  The front door creaked unveiling a hand-full of guitars on the wall and a prized Les Paul under glass. At the far end stood an older gentleman, long grey beard, and dusty overalls. It is said if you find an old man on the porch, cutting apple slices with a pocketknife, you might want to stick around and hear what he has to say. This was one of those times.

The man offered a kind greeting while changing strings on an old guitar. He asked if I played and the safest response was, “a little.” You never know when you are in the presence of a master and they hand you an instrument and say, “Let’s see.” I have found myself in impromptu jam sessions where my lack of talent was way too apparent and “a little” was about right.

He asked about my guitars, and I knew make and model, not top of the line by any means, but nice. I asked what brand he preferred, and he said, “Son, makes little difference.” He reached behind the counter and pulled out an old handmade guitar he was fixing so it would hold tune. He held up crooked fingers with surgery scars from when he used to play. He grabbed a pick and tore into some nasty bluegrass. Yeah, he “used” play. “Wood and strings are just tools. The music’s up to you.”

Memories resurfaced of an empty chapel, no lights, no amplifiers, pouring my heart into an old upright piano, slightly out of tune with a chipped ivory or two. Way too appropriate yet comforting at the same time.

Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. Romans 8:26-27 ESV/NIV

If you pass by a chapel and hear a piano gently weeping or sit in church as I play nothing and everything, pause and listen, for there is music with groanings too deep for words.

“Son, makes little difference. Wood and strings are just tools. The music’s up to you.”

 

If these words have been a blessing, pass them along to another who needs to hear. Reach out to me at John@LiftedKeys.com and tell me your story. I would love to know where and in what way God has guided His words through my pen.

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Gladiator

4:45 am – 85 degrees – 90% humidity. Instead of snuggling with my precious bride in the air conditioning, I am joining a dozen other crazies in a parking lot to get a good sweat on. Such is the life of a gladiator. My first step into this venture was a 5:45pm exercise session one steamy South Texas afternoon. As triple-digit temperatures crept into June, late day outdoor excursions were more than reasonable minds should contemplate (though I still question 5am-s).

Despite aching knees and an aging back, strength and stamina returned to muscle groups somewhat dormant since I wore a younger man’s clothes. Blood pressure and stress levels reduced with each hour’s worth of push-ups, sit-ups and agility cones. Healthy blood flow strengthening my heart.

Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord. Psalm 31:24 – KJV

I have no doubt that God has led me to this early morning parking lot, to strengthen my heart both physically and spiritually. As my time on the blacktop sweats toxins out of my body, fervent prayer removes poisons from my soul.

Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. Luke 22:39,44 – NIV

As our exercise regimen is completed, we are left with high-fives, sweaty clothes, and fatigue. Yet after a shower, grit and grime down the drain, I emerge refreshed, ready to take on the day. In the same way, after a session on my knees, I rise restored, cleansed, strengthened and ready for the journey ahead. The true heart and soul of a Gladiator.

I rise from my knees restored, cleansed, strengthened and ready for the journey ahead. The true heart and soul of a Gladiator.

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Forgiven Heart

Staring through a windshield between bug splatters and bird droppings, storm clouds gathered, and thunder rumbled. As the first raindrops fell, they carved pathways through a layer of dust I have apparently been looking through for the last few weeks. When the rain came in earnest, wipers engaged chipping away at the baked-on mess along with the gray road mud from passing trucks. Beyond the relatively cooler 85-degree breeze and being grateful for the long-awaited rainfall, there was more to my view than the slightly obscured highway. Recently read verses came to mind.

If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:  Psalm 66:18 – KJV
If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. Psalm 66:18 – NLT

The reminders of bugs and birds of days passed were easy to see, but the covering of dust I peered through unaware clouded my eyes and my heart. Had the fervency of my prayer been limited by the screen of filth I was praying through? I approached the Throne of Grace with a humbled heart:

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 – NIV

Even before a word is on my tongue, the Lord knows it fully and if we humbly confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive and cleanse us. Tears fell like raindrops as scales seem to fall from my eyes. Exhausted from the weight I had carried, I found a new strength and breathed a refreshing, forgiven breath.

Some dirt will be washed away by gentle rain, some will take scraping, in repentance and forgiveness of others as well as ourselves. But in the Eyes of God, as soon as we approach Him in humility, He sees us as clean as the windshield when a rain shower turns to sunlight.

 

If these words have been a blessing, pass them along to another who needs to hear. Reach out to me at John@LiftedKeys.com and tell me your story. I would love to know where and in what way God has guided His words through my pen.

And if you prefer to read on real paper as I do, check out the first in the “Echo” series:

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