Music – Instant Sanctuary

 

How do we find sanctuary in this busy world? Some people have plenty of places to get away from it all, a spare room, a basement, a patio, a closet (yes a closet), or a porch. Some, not so many choices. When you live in a home with children, pets, spouses, to-do lists, work, writing, the amount of sanctuary time can be challenging. We must set aside time for decompressing and peaceful sanctuary. Just as we exercise our bodies to maintain health, so must we do the same for our mental and spiritual well-being.

Our brains have to maintain a constant barrage of emotions, negativity, worry and cognitive function. How can we allow it to rest? Even in sleep, our brains are actively telling us stories, solving problems, hashing out the days events in a dream state. Giving the brain a rest allows the spirit to take over and renew. Music can do that, if we let it.

A Nature.com article (1) I came across shows research on music and the brain. It’s a bit technical and physiological, however, the premise is that music changes your brain connectivity, and with MRI imaging, the study shows the outcome. Whether you are listening to your favorite song or a genre you enjoy, you brain function “shoots sparks” in different areas. The level of connectivity allows people to tap into emotions and memories. The Veterans Administration is even funded a study for music therapy as one of the options for treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.(2) So, God designed our brains to respond to music? I believe so.

Music is crucial in my healing process and continues to be a daily necessity.  I listen to it while working, cleaning house, and especially working out. I have a playlist on my Amazon Prime Music with Christian artists. I used the 37 minutes of tracks to get on the treadmill. The beat of the music taps out a march that ranges from 2.2 mph to 3.5 mph. The arrangement gives me a good workout. The music is joyous, worship-filled, and all about Jesus. It takes me over. My spirit sings, my muscles work, my heart pounds, and my mind rests in sanctuary.

 

For the extra nerdy part of our brains….

Reference:
(1) “Network Science and the Effects of Music Preference on Functional Brain Connectivity: From Beethoven to Eminem” R. W. Wilkins, D. A. Hodges, P. J. Laurienti, M. Steen & J. H. Burdette
Scientific Reports 4, Article number: 6130 (2014)
doi:10.1038/srep06130
Download Citation
Cognitive neuroscienceHuman behaviour
Received: 24 April 2014 Accepted: 16 July 2014 Published online: 28 August 2014
Erratum (22 October 2014)
http://www.nature.com/articles/srep06130, Accessed 4/06/2016
(2) PPO 10-075Guitars for Vets: Evaluating psychological outcome of a novel music therapy
Timothy R. Dillingham MD MS
Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center, Milwaukee, WI
Milwaukee, WI
Funding Period: September 2010 – September 2011 
http://www.hsrd.research.va.gov/research/abstracts.cfm?Project_ID=2141700403 , Accessed 5/18/2016

 

Under the Speed Limit: An RA Story

Going under the speed limit, that’s annoying. When someone else is slow, it becomes a frustrating game of patience and self-control. What if the slow person is you? Something’s wrong with your vehicle, you feel terrible, and embarrassed. You wave those behind you to go around and mouth “Sorry” as they pass.

When I get a Rheumatoid Arthritis flare up, I go way under my speed limit, and I make apologies to those around me for what is happening. My body goes into slow motion, there is no energy, lots of pain and then, boom, out of gas – pushing a broken down car uphill. I now have to rely on others to take over.

Getting my mind in gear to get through the flare-up is a challenge. I go from working 8 hours a day, tending the garden, housework, errands, pet care, exercising, and to a halting stop. People have asked, “How do you deal with that?  That would drive me crazy. Doesn’t that bother you?”  Yes, yes it does. I allow myself to feel defeated, depressed, saddened, mournful, frustrated and sometimes, even grumpy. My emotions run the gamete and come back around to acceptance.

God reminds me that I must listen to my body, rest and work on acceptance – but most of all trust in Him. I turn to scripture, especially Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 (NIV) in which he speaks of the pain he asked God to take away, yet the thorn in his side remained. God responded by saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 

In my weakness, I trust in God to show me His perfection. I am learning to treasure these moments of respite and immersion in His grace. Learning, mind you because I am a work in progress. God reminds me to stop pushing, leave the broken down car at the side of the road, and walk with Him. And so I do.

The Broken Vessel: A Believer’s Story

I was a broken vessel with pieces scattered. I had broken what He made long ago. I could no longer see parts of me. Pieces chipped, fell away. Completely shattered. I asked my Creator to take me over. I surrendered each fragment. I gave Him all my brokenness. He was there in the midst of the mess picking up my pieces.

God gathered me. By His own hands, God pieced me back together. He reformed me and placed me in the fire. He cured me to live a life through Jesus Christ. He filled my empty vessel. Whole, complete, reborn, renewed, filled. Cracks and flaws still show to allow His Light to come through and shine.

My husband, Greg, and I went to a beautiful concert last Friday night in Hershey, PA to see JJ Heller, Jason Gray, and Josh Wilson. It was an intimate setting of around 300 people. The artists shared their stories and struggles, the reasons behind their songs, and gave stellar performances.

One of the songs from Jason Gray is “Glow In The Dark”.  Our flaws and cracks allow the light of Jesus to shine through. Enjoy and remember, God uses our brokenness to allow others to see Him.

Writing My Truth: A Writer’s Story

My truth, raw and unfiltered. It pours out like water. My truth may not be what others want to know. My truth may be taken and examined under a microscope. I pray it does. I pray for inner reflection, to find the commonality, to see the possibilities. I want my truth to mean something to someone, anyone, even just one. It needs to mean something – or else it is not worth speaking. To tell my truth means telling God’s truth.

Now I am writing my truth, in a book. I take it a day at a time, and break when it gets too painful. I honor the hurt and the healing. I focus on the mistakes, the corrections, and then the changes in me – God’s changes.  To write my truth means reliving all that has happened, and revel in the Glory of God and His work in me – truly, truly unfinished and perfect.

 

Pain in 402 Words: A Writer’s Story

My writing goal is a 1,000 words a day. Some days are productive and I reach beyond. Some days, not so much. Writing is my pouring out. It is my time machine back. It is my mirror. Today, only 402 words came.

I pray before beginning asking God for guidance. Whatever He wants me to write, I will. As usual, He answers my prayer. I begin. I transport back to a time of betrayal, deceit, and utter despair. Chapter 4 in the book. I write. I feel it, the ghosts haunting me again, those little devilish imps. I pause for a moment, overwhelmed.

My husband encourages me to battle on. We watch one of his favorite scenes from “Star Trek V”. Captain Kirk talks about his pain. He wants his pain, it’s what makes him who he is and he doesn’t want it taken away. It gives me insight, broadens my understanding. It shows me I was not alone, not then, not now. It gives me courage.

I relive the moments, write the feelings, describe the impact on my thoughts, my actions, my choices. I wrestle with the ghosts. I finish. The ghosts float away. The pain was real, it is poured out in 402 words. I did what God asked, I wrote through the pain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Drive-Thru Salvation: A Believer’s Story

After accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I wrote a short fictionalized story of how I envisioned God offering me a new life. Time and time again, I refused. My own hardened heart and unhealthy thinking gave me a life filled with the same old outcomes – broken relationships, bad self image, depression, and on and on. One day, at my lowest of lows, I finally chose God.   Here is my story of “The Drive Thru Salvation”

The Drive Thru Salvation
I am sitting in the drive thru at my favorite fast food joint and its pouring down rain. Seems to rain every time I pull up to this place. I roll down the window just enough to hear a voice come through the speaker, “May I help you?”

I order the usual, no big deal, nothing special, simply what I can afford and is predictable. I drive forward to the first window to pay and get my cash out for the purchase.

“What do you think its worth?” asks the man. “How much are you willing to pay?” I am confused, but give him a few bucks, just enough, the typical payment, what I’ve always paid.

“Alright,” he says, “If you think that’s good enough, drive up and get what you ordered.”

I think, “That’s strange, why would he say that? It’s what I’ve always ordered and what I’ve always paid. Why would this time be any different?”

Pulling up to the next window, the order is ready and the same man who took my order and my money passes the meal through the window.

Smiling, he says, “You can take this, drive away, and come back another time to get the same thing OR you can listen to what else I have to offer.”

“Something else? Really?” I think. “I don’t have time for this. I am good with what I always get. What else could he possibly offer me that I don’t know of already?”

I am curious, “Ok, I’ll bite. What else do you have?”

Eyes shining, he says the following, “Your order is what you like, it’s what you are used to and it’s predictable. You pay and pay and pay for the same thing over and over and over. What I have to offer you is so much more than that. A meal you have only once and one that is so nourishing and satisfying that you will choose nothing else. It is unlike anything you’ve ever had before. You will never be the same again.”

“Yeah, right!” I retort, rolling my eyes, “What’s the catch? How much is this incredible meal going cost me?”

He smiles again, with a look of knowing I would ask that exact thing. “It’s free. Already paid for. How about it? Do you want in?”

I sit in my car staring at the man and all the while the rain outside continues to pound the parking lot and everything in it.

“Who am I,” I think, “to be offered this? Too good to be true, there has to be a catch.”

He read my thoughts, “There is nothing you need to do but accept it.”

Still smiling with glorious sparkling eyes, his voice pierces through my mind and heart, “My beloved, I have been waiting. This is what I have always wanted to give you. Today, will you accept or will you drive on through?”

I Surrender, Lord, but… A Believer’s Story

Playing video games with a four-year-old is quite an experience in patience and cooperation, both for me and my step-grandson. Our “scheduled” sessions of operating game controllers with our thumbs is contingent on his good behavior, eating all of his dinner, and minding his Mommy. During game time, he must share, take turns, be nice (not say, “I got all the pieces and you didn’t.”), and not get angry when things don’t go his way.

Here’s how it typically unfolds. He picks one level for us to play and when we complete our mission, I pick the next. Every four-year-old is on the cusp of learning to take turns, to surrender their desire to be first, be the best, have the most, and allow others to “take a turn”. So when we play, there is typically a point after completing his chosen level when he either will accept that it’s my turn to pick the next level or he requests (fervently) to pick again. Progress has been made over the gaming sessions and he relents on most occasions.

Two nights ago, however, when we completed the level he initially chose, the defining moment came and he says, “Ok, it’s your turn, Grandma Shell, but could you pick a level that I want to play?”
We enter into the new territory of explanation of what “taking turns” really means.
“When it’s my turn, I get to pick the level I want to play, and when it’s your turn, you pick whatever level you want to play, ” I clarify, “I can’t pick what you want or it wouldn’t be really  my turn.”

He understands, looks a little defeated that his request didn’t alter my decision, and settles into a happy showdown between superheroes and bad guys. Feeling good that I helped him understand the true meaning of sharing, taking turns, and relenting expectations, little did my four-year-old gaming buddy know, but that lesson was for me.

When we choose God’s will for our lives, how easy is it to NOT make our own request?
“I will follow Your will, Lord, but would you…”
“I want to live my life Your way, God, but I would like to….”
“Lord, I am all Yours, but could I just have….”.
To completely surrender all to our Father may be one of the hardest things a Christian has to do. God clearly gives us all free will, freedom to choose our own path, and He expects us to make our own choices. I believe God guides us to follow the actions of His Son, Jesus Christ, and surrender to His will completely with full faith and trust.

Jesus knew following God’s will was so significant and emphatically important that He included it in The Lord’s Prayer, “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthews 6:18 NIV
Jesus prayed about it in the Garden of Gethsemane before His arrest, “He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” Matthew 26:42 NIV

Jesus never followed, “your will be done” with except, but, however, although, or any other adverb or conjunction indicating our Messiah wanted anything other than His Father’s uncompromising and perfect plan. Having a “Jesus mindset” takes purposeful awareness of my own motivation and thoughts. I ask God to help me fully surrender to His plan and leave the “buts” out of it. Does it always work? Of course not, as I continue to be His work in progress.

My prayer for you is to receive a fuller understanding of God’s plan for your own life and know that His will is perfect. Surrendering fully and completely is a huge step in walking in a relationship with our Creator. May God give you guidance on His perfect will and plan for your life.

♥ Michelle

Prayer: “Heavenly Father, let Your will be done in my life. Let my mind and spirit be pleased with Your plan. In Jesus Name, Amen.”

 

 

Upcoming Book, “Finding My Damascus”

Join me on the journey of “Finding My Damascus” to see first hand how God’s love and grace through Jesus Christ transformed me from a depressed, unhealthy,  and broken woman into who He created me to be – all His.

Coming July 21, 2017, available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle, and through other retail, online, and e-book outlets.

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