God is My Strength....

          What do you do when you fail yourself? What do you do when the brain that usually solves every problem and cracks every riddle, suddenly comes against an impassable wall?

   Readers, at this point, I am very ready to be done with school. I've got a few more papers to write, which will be relatively simple, but the final big project I have to complete is my capstone, a final large thesis project which is to be the culmination of my two years of study.
    For two weeks or so, I have been thinking, researching, studying, trying to come up with some topic on which I can write a giant thesis paper. Something relevant to my interests and degree. If this were theology, make no mistake, I'd be in fourth heaven, but music, the category in which I have a succinct answer for everything, I've found myself grasping in vain, day after day for some topic which would be suitable which I can complete in twelve weeks with the limited resources, and  people I have at my disposal.

           Today, I found myself getting frustrated to tears over the fact that I couldn't think up a good topic to write on. Usually this is not an issue for me. My brain is teeming with new ideas and concepts which I could research to death, but now, I find myself in a rut that is extremely foreign to me. And it was today I realized that I was trusting in myself and my own limited brain capacity to solve this puzzle. I realized that as a Christian truly walking out my trust in Christ, shouldn't I be relying on Him to provide the answer? Shouldn't I be praying instead of beating myself up because I haven't met my level of perfection?

       Those of you who know me well, know that I'm constantly saying 'sorry' for every little blunder I make. This isn't necessarily to apologize, as many of you have pointed out that it wasn't my fault, but simply as a way to demonstrate how peeved I am over my own mistake. I realize this is just another tentacle of my pride in my own abilities to accomplish.

      It is this that has really hit me recently. I really haven't had to trust God to get me through an intellectual problem so far because I've always felt that my brain has been sufficient to get me through. Of course God grants the thoughts and inspiration every time, but it's easier to credit it to myself when it always comes easily.

        What do I do when I come to the end of myself? There's only one thing I can do. Turn to God.

        How do I do that? I'll confess, I'm not completely certain. What does it mean to rely on God for  our inspiration when we're so used to relying on ourselves or thinking that the ideas God gives us stem from our own cleverness? After years of confusing the two concepts, I guess I'm not sure when I'm trusting myself and when I'm trusting God, but hey, I'm not supposed to have all the answers, right? It's my pride that thinks I need to know it completely before I try which, in itself, rather defeats the purpose, which is to stop focusing on self.

         Even if I don't know it all yet, there is a practical step I shall attempt to implement. I seriously need to stop getting upset over my own inability to find the answers, instead I need to pray. Prayer should be my go to. One of my all time favorite quotes is by Thomas Watson who says, "Prayer is the Christian's gun which he discharges against all his enemies."

       Why is it that we run to google or another person before we run to God? That's something I want to change in my life. If God is my strength, I'll go to Him first. If I really believe that God is the source of all wisdom and knowledge, why not bypass all the ones with limited wisdom and knowledge? God uses people, and ..... google, but He wants our hearts first and foremost and will render google ineffectual if that's what we're trusting in.

       In the end, my friends, I want to do all for the glory of God, and that includes relying on him for everything.


     Alright, lecture concluded. I thought I'd share with you, in light of this resolve of mine, the song I sang to kick off my senior recital. I sang this song at the beginning because I wanted to remind both my listeners, and more importantly myself, that I was singing for God. Let me know what you think. I am so thankful I got introduced to this rather obscure song by Don Hustad.


    So, do any of you all ever struggle with putting way too much trust in your own abilities? What do you do to snap yourself out of it?

        I hope you all had a great celebration of Independence day!

    Until next time.....Oh, by the by, I think God just sent me my thesis topic!

    ~ Christianna

Thus Far...

             When I was younger I had a premonition about caps and gowns. When I put the gown on a few days ago, I understood why. Something about my body type and the way the gown was shaped made me look like a dumpling when I put it on. I'm still not completely past cringing when I see those pictures. However. I'm going to post some anyways, because I know the rest of you don't mind as much as I do. In fact, if you get a laugh out of any of them, let me know. ;)

            Well, it's almost done now. Senior recital is marked off, graduation is over...all I have to do is finish my final requirements for my degree, a couple more months of work due to deadlines, but it's great because I know what I have yet to do, and it's a clear course now until the end.

            Things are going to change around here, I hope. First off, I intend to write more. No more of this "once a month if you're lucky" nonsense, I'm going to see if I can't do at least twice a month. Also, I want to start experimenting more with music and singing, and I'll be posting some of these experiments on this blog, poor thing, I hope it can endure all my musical messing around. In all honesty, however, after having some very insightful conversations with friends, I've realized something about myself, that I've refused to admit for several years. I've always thought I was very good at doing things that were right and showing my true self no matter what other people thought of me, however, I realized last week, that more and more things have been creeping into my life over my teenage years, that were merely a facade, a calculated one, but a facade nonetheless, a well thought out veneer over my personality, displaying only that part of me which I wanted the world to see.

            I want to stop.

           You may see things start to change(I really hope you do, in fact). I'm going to stop trying to make something picture perfect before I post it, as though I am perfect and have a perfect voice, which I definitely do not. I'm going to stop talking like I know it all, because, as a friend of mine wisely pointed out not to long ago, we can probably safely assume going into an argument, that eighty percent of what we believe is false....imagine getting to heaven and discovering that half of what we built our lives on was sand simply because we believed in our own ideas like they were the gospel truth.

           This does not mean that I will be less firm in my convictions, start advocating relativism, or be any less bold in stating the truth. However, it does mean that I will be more careful that when I state opinions, they will be clearly qualified as such, and I will be far more careful when challenging the opinions of others, understanding that not only do they believe theirs as strongly as I believe mine, but that it's a prideful assumption to believe that somehow the opinions I generate are closer to the truth than theirs.



             What brought this on? Well, I met, or rather got to know more thoroughly, a few individuals while on campus for the past two weeks, who not only defied all my preconceived notions of them, but stood up to me and my ideas in a way no one had done with me in a very long time. I'm thinking seven years, at least. Well, not only do I admire people who stand up to me rather than back down, but I also learned a few things from them, such as one of them telling me that I was bad at arguing because I made it sound like  I was always right and anyone who disagreed with me was going to hell. It was hard to hear, but I needed to hear it.

            So, I'm going to try to be a lot more gracious in my opinions, but the other thing that I hope will change, is that I will try to be a little less preoccupied with my appearance in other people's eyes.

             I'm going to post videos of me that sound horrid to me, pictures of myself that might not be flattering by my own standard, but if I'm able to bring others a little joy or blessing through them, then I'm going to post them, and I can jolly well like it or not for all I'm going to do about it.

            
             I'm going to try to be a little more vulnerable, since I've discovered I'm good at it, because, guess what, we all struggle with inadequacy and feelings of falling short, and the last thing I want is to plaster myself up there like some vision of perfection and discourage the loner, the limping and the laboring(among whom I am the most so) into thinking that they're the only ones who struggle with sin and general imperfections.


           So, the first thing I'm going to do to dispel this aura I feel I have created around myself is that I am going to share a video which, technically wise, was pretty bad, and visually isn't the most stunning. However, I'm posting it because I think you all will enjoy it and because I have promised that I would post more of my singing  endeavors.

       The song I'm posting is "The Prayer," a duet which many of you might recognize. I first sang it at my senior recital the weekend before last, and when my friend and I sang it then, it was pretty perfect. The few mistakes we made were nearly unnoticeable. Well, it so happened that we got a full recording of every song in my recital except that one. At first I was pretty upset. It was almost perfect, I wouldn't have been ashamed to post it up all over the internet. What I got instead was a full recording of my friend and me singing it at the senior showcase last Friday, where not only did I not have a chance to warm up properly before hand, but God contrived to get me nice and out of breath right before I started singing! Not only that, but the dress I was wearing was not flattering in the camera. I realize now that I should definitely have worn a solid colored outfit....well, I think you all are going to enjoy it anyway, so, here goes.

             Wasn't my friend great, though? God was good to give me the chance to sing with him....we had a lot of fun doing it!

     Anyhow, I'd love to hear from you all. Am I completely crazy? Can you relate with the thoughts I shared? Did you enjoy the video? Would you enjoy seeing more of my singing and musical experimentation on this blog?

  

Thus far has the Lord brought me, and by His grace alone shall I continue. If any of my classmates are reading this, I want to extend a special thank you to everyone of you, graduated or not, who spoke into my life over the past two weeks and convicted me to this change. God used everyone of you all, and we are the class of 2017!

          Look forward to more unusual updates, dear readers. May God be with you until I write again.


  

         All my love.

           ~ Christianna

Sweetly Played in Tune

     February has always in someway been considered the lovers month among Americans for several generations. After all, when we think about holidays in February the first one that pops into most of our heads is certainly not President's day. I had intended to to write this for Valentine's day, didn't get around to it, and consoled myself with the prospect that it would be just as good as long as it stayed in February.
  
   I don't know about you all, but I don't have a special someone in my life yet, so there wasn't any romantic surprise or candlelit dinner with my one and only to look forward to on Valentines, however, it was still extra special for me because it gave me an excuse to saunter about singing my favorite romantic folk songs.

    We could quibble that the day was not originally hallowed for lovers but for St. Valentine an extraordinarily generous man in centuries past. However, it has morphed into something entirely different but not absolutely bad in this day and age. I can't imagine that St. Valentine would object to us using his day to celebrate love, the most wonderful emotion which any being made in the image of God will ever experience, and the beautiful virtue which out shines the rest in its selflessness and thoughtful humility.

   Since this is a blog on music, and music is the language of lovers, it's an exciting moment for me as I get to share with you my all time favorite romantic song; My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose by Robert Burns.

   
O, my love is like a red, red rose
That's newly sprung in June
O, my love is like a melody
That's sweetly played in tune

So fair art thou, my bonnie lass
So deep in love am I
And I will love thee still
My dear till a' the seas gang dry

Till a' the seas gang dry my dear
And the rocks melt wi' the sun
And I will love thee still, my dear
While the sands of life shall run

And fare thee weel, my only love
And fare thee weel awhile
And I will come again, my dear
Tho' 'twere ten thousand mile

    Yes, it's rather pedantic in terms of actual depth but my heart just melts at the first stanza, as the writer first describes his love as a red rose which is newly sprung in June, and then to a melody that's sweetly played in tune. Of course after that, what girl doesn't want to be told by her sweetheart that he will love her until the seas dry up and the rocks melt in the sun? Well if there are a few out there who wouldn't smile at such a proclamation, I'm not one of them. ;) 
   
   Then of course the tune is so melodic, and beautifully fits the swing of the words, it's enough to make me cry at the sheer beauty of it when sung by the right person. 
 
  So, enjoy this lovely rendition of this traditional Scottish tune and it's stirring melody sung by Scottish Tenor Kenneth McKellar.

    
When I sing this song, I imagine that in some way, unsuspecting of course, Burns was attempting in some way to put into human words the love God has for us. However, as another poet so aptly stated, 
 
        "The Love of God is greater far, than tongue or pen can ever tell, it goes beyond the highest star, and reaches to the lowest hell."

  What a comforting thing that is to remember on Valentines day. No matter where we are, no matter what hell we find ourselves in here on earth, that inexpressible love of God will still reach us. As a reminder to all of us, that all our love here on earth should be modeled after the greatest Lover of all time, allow me to close with the lyrics of this beautiful hymn penned by Fredrick Lehman.
 
The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell.
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hell.
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled
And pardoned from his sin. 
 
When hoary time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.
 
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
 
Indeed, The skies and the oceans couldn't contain or express God's love for us. When we sing songs like "The Red, Red Rose," let us remember the love of God which is even more grand than any poet's acclamation.  And someday may we all have love who is like a melody that's sweetly played in tune.













 

     

All Praise to Thee My God This Year



         Time. So precious, yet how relentlessly it marches on, never heeding of the weary feet and anxious hearts it leaves in it's wake. On it drives us, bidding us spend every moment while we can, lest we lose it forever. Yet,in the deal there are also wonderful things this soldier brings. Memories sweet and haunting accumulate, like silver snowflakes on a frosty hill. Time brings healing from old wounds and a comforting whisper that all will be well once more. Time brings changes where no one thought the stony ground could sprout another miserable shrub; a magnificent flower grove will bloom if only time is aloud to pass.

       My friends, if only we could spend every single moment as it ought to be spent. If only we live our lives with no regrets for wasted hours and squandered minutes. If only....and we could let our words dwindle to a sigh as we all admit the painful truth, we aren't perfect...we will always waste precious moments, but let us not pause too long on that thought for, time brings us chances, lots of them to try again, and with each attempt, my friends, we waste a little less, we bless a few more souls, we sow a few more seeds of joy, we accomplish a few more acts of kindness. This is our hope that God is with us, He gives time and His strength to take each knock in stride, each blessing in season, and each moment as He gives it, with faith that He will see us through it, and He will see us through victoriously.

       I've always been a perfectionist, albeit a lazy one at times. I think for many years as a Christian, I strove to follow Christ not necessarily out of a love for Him but because He was the key to making me perfect. When people said that one would never be perfect until he died my only response was to wish that I'd die early so as not to live eighty long years of inglorious imperfection! One day last year, I even tried an experiment. I set everything up and decided to try and see if I could have one perfect day. Setting aside the ever present reality of my constantly erring thought life, I decided I wanted to see how it felt to have one day where I did everything pretty much right. God helped me out I'm sure. The day ran like new wheels on a well greased track, but at the end of the day it really struck me, that if day after day followed the way that one had, productive and practically perfect, even then I would feel empty without God, like a snobbish rich lady who possesses and has the power to possess everything money can buy but has not a soul to love or who loves her. It was then that the realization struck me. It was a golden one and one I could do well to be reminded of often. That this life isn't about us....new revelation, I know, don't laugh at me my friends. Seriously though, God doesn't need us to behave flawlessly in order to carry out his "bright designs or work his sovereign will," and He doesn't just clean up after our sinful trails of wreckage and dirt. No, he actually uses our flaws, our blemishes, our terrible, awful, heart wrenching evil, to carry out his beautiful, magnificent good. He uses it all, like the grand artist who makes a careless assistant's accidental brush swipe across his already magnificent work into a still more magnificent rainbow flung out over the sparkling scene.

     I think that may be the biggest lesson God taught me over the past year, and this year, I want to focus on putting it in practice. I want to spend less time thinking about myself and agonizing over the mistakes I made. Confess and repent, yes, but then forget, move on and focus so much on God and others that my flaws don't become so monst'rous any more in the light of God's mercy and grace.

    And now, allow me to share some highlights from this past year.

      Probably the first big thing that occurred in  2016 for me was the Spring ball...I love ballroom dancing, my friends, and enjoy every opportunity I get to waltz away the night with friends!



The next happening was my Junior recital. I got to go up to Indiana for that and my classmate and talented pianist, who also, incidentally, shares my name, was my wonderful accompanist. The recital was so much fun, but not at the level most recitals are so, in spite of my best intentions to stop thinking about myself, I am not going to share any of my performances...my dear readers, you will have to be content with a picture.



Maybe for my senior recital I'll be brave enough to actually share something with you all, but until then, I think I'll keep my singing to myself. :) 

 During the Summer was my annual Violin recital....it felt good this year as I felt I had finally started to reach a new level in playing....no, I don't have a recording of that, though if I did, I might be more willing to share it. ;) 


 The next occurrence was getting to go up to Indiana again for my College's Harvest Fest in late October. I don't have any pictures but that was wonderful from start to finish, topped off with a wonderful session of singing in a stairwell with a few of my talented colleagues. My friends, if you have never sung a-Cappella in four part harmony in a stairwell, you have missed out on a seriously magnificent pleasure in life. It was a memory for me that I will treasure for the rest of my life as I rarely get to sing with others and the stairwell was the closest I could get to the Cathedral tone.

  Finally, the year culminated in my wonderful Sister, Arianne getting married to the love of her life, Brian, in early December. It was a beautiful wedding and a lovely close to a full year.

And that, my friends is my year in a nutshell. Of course there were my studies and my growing number of violin students, not to mention getting my driver's license and a very long, and adventurous bus trip which I have sworn never to repeat if I can at all help it. :)


   I have a lot of hopes and aspirations for this year. Dreams, ambitions, goals. I'm sure we all do whether we've made a list or not, and, trust me, I didn't. In the end, however, it comes down to living each day, each moment in the light of God's presence. A whole year looks daunting from this end, we wonder how we'll get through it. The answer, as it often is, comes rather simply, we do it by living each day as it comes. And with Christ we don't have to live it alone. A friend of mine recently reminded me of this when she reintroduced an old favorite of mine, the hymn, Day by Day.  If nothing else, my dear readers, take the time to read through these beautiful verses penned by Lina Sandell in 1865.
Day by day and with each passing moment,

Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father's wise bestowment,
I've no cause for worry or for fear.
He whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best--
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.
 Ev'ry day the Lord Himself is near me
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me,
He whose name is Counselor and Pow'r.
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
"As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,"
This the pledge to me He made.
Help me then in eve'ry tribulation
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith's sweet consolation
Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
E'er to take, as from a father's hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till I reach the promised land.
If you have some more time, enjoy this lovely rendition by talented singer Ben Everson who sings all the parts himself. 







       Remember that no matter what we face this year, be it tragic or be it magnificent, that "He whose heart is kind beyond all measure gives unto each day what He deems best." Also that, "The protection of His child and Treasure, is a charge which on Himself He laid."


  May this be a year of Praise and Thanksgiving to the one who has given us so much, and may we say as Christ before us proclaimed to Pilate, "It is for this I was born and for this reason I have come into the world, to testify about the truth."

 Let this be our goal this year if nothing else, my friends. Welcome to 2017 A.D.


The Ninth Carol of Christmas

     And here we are on Christmas Eve. Time does pass us by so quickly. You all probably noticed how I harped on one theme and exactly one throughout this entire week and a half. That of the absolute Greatness of God in coming down to become flesh for us. I'm hoping that writing about it so many times has helped it sink in to my own life this Christmastide.

  To wrap things up this season, I am doing something unusual for me. I am sharing a very modern song which isn't necessarily a Christmas song and definitely not a carol.

 However, there's always room to break the mold, and this song really beautifully sums up what Christmas is all about.

The Authors of this song are an Irish couple who have written a lot of really beautiful hymns and tour America very often. Let me know if you guessed who I was referring to simply by reading that sentence.

     My friends, I had a commentary all prepared for this song, but then I realized the song doesn't need a commentary...the words say it all.

 Enjoy this beautiful song, Fullness of Grace, by Keith and Kristyn Getty, and Stuart Townsend.


Fullness of grace in man's human frailty;
This is the wonder of Jesus.
Laying aside his power and glory,
Humbly he entered our world.
Chose the path of meanest worth:
Scandal of a virgin birth.
Born in a stable,
Cold and rejected:
Here lies the hope of the world.

Fullness of grace, the love of the Father,
Shown in the face of Jesus.
Stooping to bear the weight of humanity,
Walking the calvary road.
Christ, the holy innocent,
Took our sin and punishment.
Fullness of God, despised and rejected,
Crushed for the sins of the world.

Fullness of hope in Christ, we had longed for;
Promise of God in Jesus.
Through his obedience we are forgiven,
Opening the floodgates of heav'n.
All our hopes and dreams we bring,
Gladly as an offering.
Fullness of life and joy unspeakable:
God's gift of love to the world.


Most of us will probably receive gifts tonight and tomorrow. Many of us will give them. However, the greatest gift ever bestowed was God's gift of love to the world. That babe the son of Mary. 

   I Wish You All a Merry Christmas 
 
   And an Equally Joyous New Year!
 
       ~ Christianna