Owe It All

“But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” ‭Psalm‬ ‭130‬:‭4‬ ESV

Psalm 130:4 ends with the phrase “that you (God) may be feared”. Other translations interpret “feared” as “reverence” (NIV), “awe” (GNB), and “worshipped” (MSG). Frequently, I find myself in awe of others. Although it is natural to revere people who have accomplished great things in their live, I remind myself that these great minds and leaders of history are but small images of God (Imago Dei).

Consider the engineers who pioneered the first railroad through vast mountain ranges. As magnificent an accomplishment as that was, I am reminded of the verse: “Were you there when God made the mountains?” (‭Job‬ ‭15‬:‭7‬ GNB). And consider the great minds of the academy or creativity in the arts. I am reminded of the Psalmist words: “You created me, and you keep me safe; give me understanding” (‭Psalms‬ ‭119‬:‭73‬ GNB). Without the Creator, we could never appreciate great art or intellectual discoveries. And lest we forget, “all of us come from the dust, and to dust we all will return.” (‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3‬:‭20‬). We owe it ALL to Him.

One of God’s purposes for us is to discover and utilize the gifts we have been given. The key word being “given”. When we are prideful, it is all too easy to claim ownership of our accomplishments. Let’s instead view our achievements as mile markers on our journey through this time on earth. Our destination is heaven with our Father, Creator, and Savior.
Reflection Question: When have you claimed an achievement as your own? How did you authentically give credit where credit is due?

Prayer for Peace

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Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

Truthful Identity

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Having just witnessed the absolute demolishment that was Germany-Brazil got me to thinking of the assumptions we make and how, in the final analysis, it is our inner quality that wins the day.

As I mentioned in the previous musing, I’ve been playing at St. Francis Center, a Denver-based homeless shelter. Being in close proximity to those of whom the world expects very little is, in all honesty, awe inspiring. Imagine being in their position: you are generally viewed as being filthy and worthless, surrounded by abject poverty and brokenness (spiritual and physical). I’ve met so many guests at St. Francis Center who are intelligent, lucid individuals who are caught in a negative cycle, identifying themselves with their situation.

Stepping into the very different environment of World Cup soccer, is it any wonder that the five-time world champions would also identify themselves with their situation? They were playing in their home country in front of adoring fans. It was only natural to assume the odds for success were heavily in Brazil’s favor. And yet, their actual quality didn’t match their aspirations, and they were embarrassed by a much more solid German side.

The conclusion here is that, for better or for worse, we often identify ourselves by our situation. How do we break out of this? By reaching towards an ideal or goal that is disconnected from one’s circumstances. Trusting in the grace of God who gave the gift to make music and by adding excellence of effort to realize the potential of that gift.

Reflection Question: How do you find yourself identifying with your circumstances today, for better or for worse?

Today’s Prayer: Dear God, help us understand that praise of your gift should properly be directed to the gift-giver, without which hard work amounts to nothing of significance. Let us be a transparent window onto the benevolent power of you, the triune God.

Music at St. Francis Center

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Homeless and displaced people are one of the most marginalized communities in our society. Within classical music culture this is particularly apparent. Inside the concert hall, homeless people are persona non grata. However, they are certainly in need of the gift of music, which has the capacity to restore dignity and beauty to every human’s experience.
Since writing “Making a Musical Difference” a month ago, I connected with St. Francis Center in Denver. St. Francis offers a safe haven, day services, and employment programs for homeless people who congregate on the 16th Street Mall and surrounding parks in downtown Denver. The local non-profit “provides a place for transformation,” welcoming between 700 people on an average day and up to 900 on their busier days.
On Wednesday, I gave my first official performance at St. Francis. While many of the guests don’t have much exposure to classical music, they received my performance graciously, expressing their appreciation through scattered applause and words of thanks. I believe, given time, music will work its restorative magic.
I look forward to performing bi-weekly at St. Francis Center throughout the summer. I believe that music can transform lives, offering hope, beauty and dignity to those whom our society often overlooks. I am reminded of the words of Peter Maurin: “Modern society calls the beggar “bum” and “panhandler” and gives him the bum’s rush. But the Greeks used to say that people in need are the ambassadors of the gods.”

We Are Qualified

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Exodus 3 presents a wonderfully inspiring discussion between Moses and God. When God calls Moses to deliver the Jewish people from Egypt, Moses doubts what he is hearing saying, “Who am I? I’m not qualified.” God is the one who is qualified, and He works through us if we allow Him to. God spoke into Moses’ doubt and inadequacies. In the passage from Exodus, He makes that clear saying, tell them (the Jewish people) that God sent you. God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.

Reflection Question: What doubts do you have today and how are you letting God speak into your situation?

Today’s Prayer: God, you speak into our hearts when we are facing challenges. Help us to hear your voice over the doubts that so often seem to drown it out. Amen.

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