Spot

The first step in writing is finding a favorite spot, a creative corner, a place to escape the trappings of the world where your muse feels bold enough to peek out. Artists willing to reveal their secret garden find it like trying to explain your view of the ocean or a star lit sky, words do not do it justice. There is a certain “feel” in the space, a smell in the air whether that be an old piano in an empty chapel or a guitar in a dorm hallway when the rest of the world is asleep.

A men’s retreat in the Texas hill country provided the backdrop for my first realization of a “spot.” An old guitar in hand, alone at the fire pit, the smell of smoke lingering as the day’s festivities had long since come to a close. With a cool breeze, expansive skies, and crickets lending harmonies, I played. Music flowed and my soul sang. I played. Years later dropping off+ our daughter at summer camp, I glanced over at that spot and remembered.

In years since, I’ve collected piles of inspiration on church bulletins and fast-food napkins, waiting for a chance to return to my spot to figure it all out. Such whispers of wisdom collecting dust in a forgotten guitar case is a waste of words meant for more than just scribbles on a page. In prayer and reflection, I found my spot was so much more than time and space but resides between my ears. It is not halfway around the world, but when I am there, it might as well be. My wife sees it in my eyes when I am a million miles away, struggling over some rhyme, or lesson or just poor use of grammar. The world continues around me as I focus on a whisper of wisdom or a random thought that may hold a secret to a lesson yet to be learned.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7.7-8 NIV

Find your place to ask, to seek, to knock. As you learn to listen, realize a true prayer garden is not always a time or place, but deep within, an empty spot at the fire pit awaiting a visit.

 

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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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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Withering

There stood a tree, shrouded in the garb of winter, waiting for Spring to flourish, alone with a background of towering oaks, alive as if winter never happened. The lesser, a kindred spirit for I too have suffered from the ravages of colder weather, emotionally spent from too little time in the sun, my roots reaching to great depths seeking nourishment yet finding only parched places. Unable to rise with my own strength, I sway in the wind, bending but not breaking.

With only the resolve to roll out of bed an opportunity arose to wash feet (scrub toilets actually). There is value in serving, in humility, yet in completing my tasks, I felt less like a scrubber and more like the scrubee (read into that metaphor, as you will) and my feeble branches continued to wither.

Reading my journal entries, you may discover a consistent theme; my writer’s muse tends to be more active in my darker times, when the pressures of life have weighed me down, noise gathering into a single roar, drowning out the good in my life. This is very fertile ground and I must be wary as whether acorns or sticker burrs take root. Withering trees seek the closest water source yet at times find it salty and unfit. Thirsty souls seek as well, finding an oasis but end up drinking sand. As I suffered in thirst, a song from days past echoed in my ears:

Plant me by streams of living water
My soul is dry and begun to whither
Wash me with water from the well that won’t run dry
Make me whole again; make me whole again, Dear Lord.
Peter’s Lament – john g. adams 2009

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14 – NIV

As the Samaritan woman said, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty” and Peter at the Passover table “Then, Lord, wash not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” John 13:9

That person is as if a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers. Psalm 1:3

As a cup overflowing, living waters rushed through the driest deserts of my soul. Drinking deeply, in that very moment, another thirsty soul was in need and I passed it along.

Lord, may You be praised in the thirsting and Glorified in the quenching. Amen…

If these words have touched your heart, reach out to me at John@LiftedKeys.com and continue the conversation. I would love to know where and in what way God has guided His words through my pen.

Between Pulpit and Piano

A pastor once said, “Everyone has one good sermon in them.” I am not sure if it was to encourage thought or because he wanted to sit in a pew and listen every once in a while, but the story resulted in a gift of a journal which led to these stories, so there is truth in the statement.

“One great rock show can change the world!” Dewey Finn (Jack Black) – School of Rock

When you ask for wisdom it may appear in the literary masterpiece that is School of Rock, yet there it is. If one great rock show can change the world then one good sermon could as well, if not more. My words in song or story may not be profound, poetic or grammatically correct, but they are honest, unfiltered and written as God grants me His whispers to ponder.

I have offered stories from pulpit and piano, yet mostly writings of others. What could I write better than “Amazing Grace” or can you sing “How Great Thou Art” too many times?  There were songs I thought would touch a certain churchgoer, only to see them slip out before I could find out. I too have left the church broken, my meager talents failing what I thought needed to be said. Perhaps I will find out about both one day, sitting at the feet of Jesus next to those that were changed, if any.

This world has its own ruler to measure success, and in the literary world, it is books sold or blogs read. My brother asked if only one heart was changed, was my writing worth it? “Absolutely.” He responded, “Then keep writing, all the rest is in God’s hands.” Though my readership numbers are not astounding by any measure, my words have made it from Russia to China, Europe to Africa reaching around the world, not by my efforts, but the Almighty Hand of God, at the time and place of His choosing.

Jesus said, “Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” Matthew 7:16-20 – NIV

As I learn to write, publish and extend the Kingdom of God, my focus is to produce good fruit, not just in my writing, but in everything I do, every effort I make. In my deepest prayers, I ask:

Does my life reflect Your Glory?
Does my heart respond in praise?
Search until you weed out all the hidden parts
And nothing’s left there but Your Grace
.
Be Glorified – John G Adams

Lord I pray Your Grace would abound in me and through me, that I may be a reflection of your great Love that others would draw nearer to Thee.

Amen …

If you have been blessed by my meager ramblings, send me a note at John@BlessedInGreatMeasure.com. I love to hear good stories.

Keep an eye out for the release of my upcoming book Echoes Intertwined, a collection of parables, lessons and God whispers.

Soundtracks

Rainy Days and Mondays by the Carpenters provides the backdrop as summer showers trace windowpanes; dropping quarters in my inner jukebox to replay over and over. Karen Carpenter’s sweet voice conveys feelings in my soul as she has done many times. Tears well up as my life’s soundtrack recounts bluer days of my past, but also for such lost talent, poetic embers that faded too soon. Young girls longed to be Karen; I emulated her brother Richard, the musical genius that fueled the songs that warmed my heart through colder days.

Soundtracks of my life run through many landscapes: tender songs of Barry Manilow and James Taylor, arena rock of Styx and Rush, buckle shining waltzes of George Strait and Charlie Pride, and Christian music from Amy Grant and Keith Green, to Petra, Third Day, Casting Crowns all the way to Skillet. Each song found me where I was and drew me to where I am, or needed to be.

Soundtracks play in the background, creating a mood or accentuating some event or emotion. Thoughts of my own recall days of peace and angst, joy and sorrow, hearts broken and hearts restored.

Music may drive my mood or be driven by it. Some days need guitar driven, face melting screaming at the wall, others are floating on peace like a river. Days in-between lean toward the purest of praise from Steven Curtis Chapman, Phillips Craig and Dean, Chris Tomlin and Lauren Daigle.

“But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.” Psalm 22:3 KJV

I am in great need of the Lord inhabiting my praises, my music, my words, whether spoken, sung or written. May each breath be a soundtrack of praise that the Lord may inhabit all that I am, so that others may know all He is.

Amen…

If you have been blessed by my scribblings, send me a message, I love to hear good stories. And subscribe so that you will be notified each time my ramblings make it to paper (or this site).

Keep and eye out for the release of my upcoming book Echoes Intertwined, a collection of parables, lessons and God whispers.

Slow Down

holding-child-hand

A few years back, Nichole Nordeman wrote a song called “Slow Down” all about kids growing up too fast. Lines about pulling tiny fingers from my hand because you can do it on your own. Quite the tearjerker as we sent our babies off to college. Now that they have conquered college and press on as adults, the lyrics remain just as poignant. This morning, I heard a new recording of the song with Nichole singing alongside her daughter, even more precious than the original. These past weeks though, it took on different meaning.

Lately, I have been busier than normal. Work has been crazy and has been pouring over into my home time, a big no-no in our house. After a recent health scare, the doctor said my body just wants me to slow down. Not taking time for a Godly pause has left me vulnerable to mistakes. I have seen more of the man I have been, instead of the man I should be.

My mother has a saying, “Don’t run faster than your Angels can fly.”
Lately I’ve been out running my angels.

“Slow down, won’t you stay here a minute more?
I know you want to walk through that door.”

I too often try to pull my tiny fingers from God’s hands because I can do it in my own. Yeah, not really.

Slow down, He says. Don’t work so hard. Read more. Write more. Sing more. Rub your wife’s feet more. Breathe.

A recent “Jesus Calling” devotional said: “Do not let unexpected problems distract you from My Presence. Instead, talk with Me about everything, and watch confidently to see what I will do”.

Slow down.
And be Blessed in Great Measure

 

If you have been blessed by my meager ramblings, send me a note at john@blessedingreatmeasure.com. I love to hear good stories.
And subscribe so you will receive an email when the Spirit moves me to scribble thoughts again.

I Drop My Sword

I drop my sword and cry for just a while
Deep inside this armor
The warrior is a child. – Twila Paris -1984

Most days, my shield can cover the chinks in my armor. Today, the shield was heavy, my arms strained from the weight. Flanking arrows tested the chain-mail that normally deflects glancing blows. The foes that I face daily were reinforced by every little “supposed crisis” that came along.

I have leaned that the more you are able to do, the more indispensable you become, yet, it comes with a burden of more responsibility.

In the Parable of the Talents, the servants that returned a profit from the gold they had been entrusted with heard:

“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.” Matthew 25:21

Sounds familiar. But just because “I CAN do all things through Christ who gives me strength” Philippians 4:13 does not necessarily mean I NEED to do all things.

Tasks began to gather in my path, some warranted, others simply a result of apathy or foolishness. Adversaries to the left of me, jokers to the right, gathering like some Saturday morning cartoon villain, transforming into a Goliath beyond my control. Not having the strength to gather stones, nor the faith to wield a sling in battle, I retreated to a quiet place.

“I dropped my sword and cried for just a while.”

As I implored the Spirit to intercede on my behalf, because I did not know how to pray, I heard:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

 “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Well rent me a blimp! I’ve got weakness to spare and a lot of boasting to do.

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5:16

If the Son of God, the Almighty in human form, needed to withdraw to reflect and recharge, then I am in good company, stealing away moments in my busy day to breathe, and breathe in the breath of God.

I do indeed “go running home when I fall down”.

“Deep inside this armor the warrior is a child”, but the child of the Almighty Father.

Boasting in weakness
Patiently waiting for His perfect power
And Blessed in Great Measure

 

If you have been blessed by my meager ramblings, send me a note at john@blessedingreatmeasure.com. I love to hear good stories. And subscribe so you will receive an email when the Spirit moves me to scribble thoughts again

 

Clay Doesn’t Get to Choose

Clay

Jeromy Deibler and his wife Jennifer shared lead singing duties for the group FFH, sometimes known as “Far From Home”. They have been a favorite for many years. Their piano and guitar driven music with deeply heartfelt lyrics appealed to my aching heart on many occasions.   Their songs are relatable and fit well into my vocal range and musical style. They have been transparent about their journey from independent projects, to record deals, to solo shows as well as personal hills to climb in family, illness and truly trusting God for their next meal.

Through various social media platforms, they have shared stories of coffee shop writing sessions in Tennessee, life in the mission fields of Africa and wonderful stories of their children. Those stories caught my attention, because my daughter and theirs share the same passion for life and all of God’s wonders.

Recently in self-quarantine, Jeromy began a series of daily inspiration sitting at his piano, sharing music, scripture or just the words placed on his heart. One of these offerings was about frustration that events did not always turn out as they had hoped. He sang a song called “What if Your Best” which his wife usually sings, but this time, it was just him and his piano. He did say she was lying down on the couch and he did not want to disturb her (another reason I like him).

I had heard the song before, but never really consumed the lyrics until the background music and production was stripped away, leaving raw emotion. The premise echoes the prophet Jeremiah:

“Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, ‘Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?’ declares the Lord. ‘Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.’” Jeremiah 18:5-6

The song asks if God’s best is less that what we hope for, is that good enough? Then a profound line hit me.

I am only clay and clay doesn’t get to choose.”
“I am only clay and clay probably shouldn’t speak.”

A sobering thought when I feel God could use the benefit of my opinion.

Running into a friend at lunch, we spoke of how some aspects of business succeed and some fail. It is all in God’s plan so we keep moving forward and changing.

“I am only clay and clay doesn’t get to choose.”

Then a blessing came my way that I was not expecting nor deserving, but that is why it is called a blessing.

“I am only clay and clay doesn’t get to choose.”

In the bible story, God sends Jeremiah to the potter’s shop where the piece he was working on was marred, so he took the clay and molded it into a new shape. We are but dust and water, mixed into mud, being molded into a new creation. When our molding becomes marred by sin and stubbornness, the Master Potter’s hands can take the pieces and refashion formless clay into something beautiful as He sees fit. For clay to be shaped, it must remain malleable, ready to be worked with.  We must focus on being clay, allowing our hearts to be re-created by The Creator.

Clay does in fact get to choose: Whose Hands we allow to form us.

Simply being clay in The Master Potter’s hands
And Blessed in Great Measure

If you have been blessed by my meager ramblings, send me a note at john@blessedingreatmeasure.com. I love to hear good stories.
And subscribe so you will receive an email when the Spirit moves me to scribble thoughts again