Rain on a Tin Roof

Mayhem and Music. A paradox of sound. Sad, yet hopeful. Always beautiful.

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Location: Mississippi, United States

Broken . . . Mended . . . A work in progress.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

God's Will - Chapter 3

I've been thinking about the whole "Simple Will" deal, and the more I think about it, the more I want to explain it. The reason why is because I never want anyone to get the idea that if something makes sense, that's what you ought to do. For instance...

Money. More times than not, I've had to make a decision in favor of something when I didn't have the funds to carry it out. Bad financial planning, or dependence upon the Holy Spirit? Not that I am a great financial planner - or that I exhibit that much self control with my spending - but sometimes, I knew there was something I had to do that didn't make sense.

Example - The music this blog is named after, and the CD that my profile picture came from, was published when I didn't have a dime to my name. But this was one of those cases of God's Specific Will overruling my common sense understanding of how recording an album would take place. I knew I was supposed to record. I knew when. But I didn't know how. In prayer, I felt pointed by scripture and by the Spirit to do it without creating any debt. Not knowing how it would pan out, I asked friends and family to buy their copies of my album before I ever set foot into a studio. Once I had some money coming in, I recorded as I had money to do so. I had some things donated - artwork, time. And when it was all said and done, the day the check was due, I had the exact amount in the bank that I needed to cover it.

Knowing what I needed to do, namely record, I had the three-part decision making paradigm work itself out in the process. God told me in Scripture that I didn't need to create debt by living beyond my means while making this project or by taking out a loan. God told me Specifically that the time and way to record was immediate, making the commitment to do so with musicians and getting my artwork done before I knew I would be able to finish the project. And God told me through Simple Will to time out my recording project according to the steps he had provided for in the way people's donations and purchases came in. There were times when my Simple Will thought "God, is it really going to come together? Everything seems so iffy." But God absolutely came through in awesome provision.

Now, I have the "itch" to record again. I've made more friends in the business, and musical talents that I would like to have record with me. I have written more songs, and been given more opportunities to grow through past struggles. My Simple Will, common sense mind says, "God did it before. Go for it again." But I don't feel that I have been released by the Specific Will of God to start yet. But in the meantime, I am writing more songs, writing this blog.

Carrying out the paradigm described in the first chapter, I have this idea. And I still don't have money to pay for it, so I am at God's mercy for fulfilling it. I can either save the money myself, make it with extra guitar lessons, get donations again, take out a loan....whatever. Nothing in here is unscriptural. But 1 Chronicles 28:9-10 tells me that God is weighing my motives. Why do I want to record? What do I want to do with the recording? The first one didn't become the big launching platform I had hoped for. Now I don't want to be launched anywhere. I just don't want to forget my own music. And I just like the process of getting into the studio. So I don't feel like I've got any ulterior motives. I just want to play music. So I am going to move in that direction. And if God doesn't want it to be completed, He will stop me. That's how this plays out, if my 3D decision-making paradigm is followed.

This is kind of a weird place to end a chapter, but I can't think of anything else I want to say right now on the subject, so....

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

God's Will - Chapter 2

Simple Will is problematic for one reason - Common sense isn't "common" anymore.

Our judgment calls will be influenced by our circumstances and cultural norms. The only problem with that is - what if your culture is going to hell in a handbasket? This was the case of folks in places like Sodom and Gamorrah, or in Noah's day and age. It made sense to act in a certain way because "everyone else is doing it". So the funny illustration before about what to wear in the morning can take on a very different personality depending upon the culture.

Living in Mississippi means dealing with intense heat, and dressing appropriately. I wear shorts to go to the mall, to eat out, even to church on Wednesday nights. But while on a mission trip to Venezuela, we were instructed not to wear anything that didn't cover the knees. Showing too much leg would be a sign of ill repute. On the other hand - there was no limit to how tight or low cut a top could be, at least when judging by the apparel we saw out in the communities. They had their markers of what was appropriate and what was not, and they were completely different from ours.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians that God makes a habit of confounding the wisest people by the simplest means. Meaning - sometimes things just don't make sense in God's economy. He can act, and usually does, contrary to our culture, our worldviews, and our interpretations of circumstances and events. When making a decision, scriptural principles must always take precedence over cultural norms. Going back to the case of how to dress, scripture instructs us to be modest - both in the cut and the quality of our clothing. We are also to be sensitive to how our behaviors edify others or cause them to stumble. And scripture tells us to clothe ourselves in some specific spiritual garments which are of more value than the physical - humility, the armor of our salvation, purity and righteousness.

Brother Lawrence, as he has been immortalized in the devotional classic, "The Practice of the Presence of God", was a wonderful example of someone who thoroughly integrated his spiritual life into the everyday exercises of his natural life. And this is because he saw even natural daily activities as opportunities for spiritual reflection and growth. It should be natural for a Child of God to consider His instructions in making everyday decisions. Oswald Chambers has said, "Just as you cannot take a day off morally and still be a moral person, so you cannot take a day off spiritually and be a spiritual person."

Simple Will does not stand alone as a decision making paradigm if you are a Christian. The reason for this is inside of us. The Holy Spirit guides us in ways we do not see, calling to mind scriptural principles [The Scriptural Will] that play into how we interpret daily tasks and events, and how we perform them. And this is important. Apart from the Spirit's intercession and interruptions, we will not know God's Specific Will for a situation, should He need us to act in a particular way. But in daily walking with God in wisdom and all truth, we will be better prepared to hear a still, small voice, to react to a closed or opened door, or to take a leap of faith that exceeds our human wisdom.

Monday, May 14, 2007

God's Will - Chapter 1

I have been talking about this subject and teaching students these principles about knowing and doing the will of God for the past ten years. Let's get it on "paper" (e.g. the computer screen) and see if it actually holds water.

Often, when making a decision, we will pray to know "God's will", a mysterious and direct revelation of some sort that makes the way crystalline. A revelation frequently accompanied by well-timed events, billboards, flocks of bird, etc.

But if you read through the book of Acts, of Paul's missionary journeys, only occasionally were his travel plans so well laid out - for instance, the Macedonian call. Other times, Paul would journey somewhere and find a closed door. Did this mean he had misinterpretted the direction of the wind that drove his ship? (Like when it was driven against rocks?)

Here is what experience and the study of scripture [rant: which do not ever need to be divorced from one another: end rant] have revealed to me. I see God moving in and around us in these three ways to direct us in certain paths.

1. The Specific Will of God - Macedonian calls, dreams and visions, nearly audible discernment of the Spirit's leadership through prayer, usual or unusual lining up of circumstances or provisions for the fulfillment of a pending decision, fleece, open and shut doors. Sometimes, when it suits Him and we'd otherwise miss the way, God gives very clear direction about certain things.

2. The Scriptural Will of God - "Hate what is evil, cling to what is good." "Love the Lord. Love your neighbor." Great Commission. Ten Commandments. God sometimes reveals His will through His word. Situations may call for a discernment of biblical principles to know whether it is wise or profitable to act or choose in a certain way. Through the application of scripture, these choices can be made.

3. The Simple Will of God - Some decisions are "no brainers". If it's cold outside, wear a jacket. No one ever stands in front of the closet and says, "O God, because Thou hast seen this day before the foundations of the earth were laid, reveal to me Thy will concerning my clothing. Make the selection Thou hast chosen leap forth from the closet and adhere itself to my body that I might walk in accordance with Thy will." God has given us common sense. And James 1 also says that we are to ask God for wisdom. Believing that the prayer for wisdom has been answered, and knowing that no scriptural principle or specific direction will be violated, some decisions are just a case of making sound judgment calls. This is the realm in which the whole world - believer and nonbeliever - operates daily.

Where most believers get tied up is in knowing what kind of Will a certain decision calls for. Marriage? College? Major? Job? Mission? We get to certain crises of faith and "wigg out", not knowing how to make a decision. We want to have the answer revealed Specifically, rather than taking the time or operating the faith it takes to make our own, or operate our own spiritual giftedness of discernment.

Here's my suggestion, which has never steered me wrong thus far. Having listed your options, check the scriptures to rule out what you can, pray for wisdom and use common sense to sort through what's left. Determine to act in a certain way, and if God has not revealed any variation to your decision, ask Him to bless you, and ACT. If it's in a direction He does not want you to take, He'll shut the door, as He did at various times for the disciples.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Lessons learned in time

I guess since my blog hits have doubled in the past two weeks - due to a common friend in ministry, and his health update blog - I better get back in the swing of blogging....not that I ever really gave it a fair shake. It kinda sums up most of my hobbies and resolutions made and started in the past year.

Speaking of - here's what has gone on of note since the last blog.
We moved to Mississippi. Back to the hometown. Taking care of mom and dad in their advanced age continues to be a blessing. New jobs and ministries are fun and flourishing. I feel like that previous July post about "just over them mountains" realized itself in this move. We crossed one major bridge in our life, and one more at (hopefully) the near future remains to be crossed.

Of course, I am speaking of the infertility roller coaster. We began seeing a reproductive endocrinologist who gave me the same medication (just a more nauseating and life-interrupting dosage of it) and the same advice - relax, and try to lose some weight. Ain't THAT an oxy, and isn't she a MORON? How do the two go together? Still working on that part. The result of all the tests, though, was about what I expected. No good reason why we shouldn't be able to conceive. Like everybody has said, "When God's ready..."

In my study, I came across this verse:

"I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things." Isaiah 45:7

...which is especially poignant in my circumstances as I consider the context [Rant: ALWAYS look at the context: end RANT] that God was speaking to Cyrus, king of Persia who would restore the Israelites to Jerusalem following their Babylonean captivity, saying all this through Isaiah - get this - ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY YEARS before Cyrus was even BORN!!!

That whole Hallmark-ized sentiment of "When God's ready..." began to take on a totally more important and spiritual connotation. There really is a purpose in all this. God really is sovereign. The children I have [if any - I can say that now without grieving for a couple of days at a time] will be exactly the people, the threads of precise weight and color, that he needs to weave into the tapestry of his designed history.

...So there you have it. I'm a Baptist with Reformed Prebyterian leanings, working for a Methodist ministry. But I feel more clear about everything going on because of a renewed confidence in the complete sovereignty of a God who could use a pagan king to carry out history-changing events that would bring us a Savior, who would issue a commission that would penetrate the heart of a family, who would give birth to a daughter, who would be raised to love the Scriptures that tell the story of a God who....

Well, you get the idea.

Don't you love Jesus?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

What's bugging you?

I'm paralyzed lately by this crazy need to make an itinerary before I do anything. In school, before I studied, I had to have my room clean. And before going on a trip, I have always made a list of the clothes I might want to take. But I mean, lately, it's been borderline obsessive-compulsive. I make schedules for the day in ten minute increments. I make a menu of what I will eat for the day and how each meal breaks down in servings of protein, carbs, dairy, etc. I flip to my day planner every few minutes or so as though I'm about to miss some important meeting or task.

I have read that people deal with interruptions in their lives in one of three ways: they super-organize; they let things lapse and get really chaotic and messy; they roll with it without getting too flustered. Guess which one I am.

But the list making, which is supposed to keep me on task and aware of things I should be doing, is actually getting in the way of my productivity. I curl up behind some scrap piece of paper and dream of how the day ought to go. I make budgets for our home expenditures on a daily basis because there's always something we forgot to account for, or something that costs more than we expected, or I was too optimistic in how we'd spend our gas money. (Ha!)

So what do you do? How do you cope with the unexpected? I don't really live according to my schedule or budget. But I am compelled to keep making them. Why!!!

That's just something that's bugging me lately.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Songs in the stillness. . .

I didn't have the time, but I took the time this week to "Be still and know that [He] is God."

I'm fully aware that there is more to this verse, about God making Himself known among the nations. I'm not so vain or ingnorant to read the Bible like a high school yearbook - only interested in the pages that make me look good.

Anyway, I regularly read through a book of the Bible. But on this particular morning, I was drawn away. My favorite verse has always been Psalm 63:3. "Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you." My friend Dawn (pickinguppebbles.blogspot.com) and I used to sing in a traveling ensemble. And our prayer before performances was, "Lord, if we start singing for our own glory and forget about yours, make us mute." Funny how He answered that prayer sometimes.

Yesterday morning was a day for being mute, just listening to what God the Father had to say.

I've gotten that kicked in the gut feeling again. (cf "The Positive Negative") I'm now at 60 days and counting in this cycle. Other than on my birthday, I haven't really let myself "feel" all the disappointment this long wait and the negative pregnancy test results mean for me. I guess that's why I felt like being quiet. But in that stillness, God spoke. I wrote in my journal as fast as I heard. It's kind of a weird thing. I'm not thinking up the words. But they come. And because I don't believe life happens in a vacuum, you may need to hear the words He said to me.

"Joanna, look at these blank pages flipping under the breath of the fan. To you they are unwritten. And yet, when I delay in answering your prayer for a child, you presume to fill in the lines with a disappointing story. But you don't know the ending. It is, from your perspective, unwritten. Haven't you sung the words - "I knew you before you were born. And your days are in my hands. And a future you cannot conceive. Don't be anxious. Just believe." Am I not that same God, the same Father who knows your times and seasons, who sees when you sit and rise? Where can you go from my Spirit? Where can you flee that my hand can't find you? Believe."

[to what my rediculous response was - believe what?]

"In me! Trust me! Children are a gift from the Lord. There are a million little complicated things that must happen for a child to be conceived."

[But what about unwed mothers and teens who don't want or need to have a child...but you give them one anyway... (translation- that's unfair!)]

"What did I tell Peter about John [see John 21] - Let me worry about what I'm doing and why. Your job is to trust. Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. Do the good you know you ought to do. [That means preparing physically, financially, spiritually, and mentally for bearing and rearing a child.] That's part of the believing. It's faith. And it's the wisdom you've also prayed for."

After that prayer, I worshipped and prayed and claimed the following scripture.

May God be gracious to us and bless us;
Look on us with favor, so that Your way may be known on earth,
Your salvation among the nations. . .
The earth has produced its harvest;
God, our God, blesses us.
God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear Him.
Psalm 67: 1-2, 6-7
God bless all of you who are walking on this path with me.
For more, listen to the song "Just Believe" at www.cdbaby.com (Artist Search, Joanna Miley)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Happy Birthday

I share this day of birth with a few friends. One of them is turning 16. I'm turning 30. I wrote this in her birthday card, and wanted to save it and share it with the rest of the beautiful women in my life.

For Sabrina

Young women are like flowers,
Adorned by God with beauty and strength.
They need roots to ground them during life's strong winds,
To give them life during depressing drought.

As you go throug life,
Whatever ups and downs God has planned for you,
May you at once feel your roots grow stronger,
As your beautiful face turns up toward heaven.