Thursday, July 5, 2018

Out of Tune

In the years since I first sat on a piano bench in our living room and learned to play the brand new spinet piano my parents had purchased for me, I have had opportunity to play many pianos. Large ones and smaller ones. Brand new ones and older ones. Concert grands and small spinets. 

I have played in living rooms and practice rooms. In churches, large and small. In gardens and under tents. In grand concert halls and in much smaller venues. And even though I am no longer able to play as I once did, I am still aware that all these places and all these instruments have something in common. For a piano to sound its best, no matter who is playing it, it needs to be in tune.

When our younger son was about three years old, he began learning to play the violin. Although he has since abandoned the violin in favor of the guitar, I still have very vivid memories of those early days with his tiny violin. The first song he learned to play was Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, followed by five variations on that theme. From the beginning notes of Twinkle to the Bach minuets that came later, all of us within earshot of Brandon's violin learned early on the importance of an instrument that is in tune. In fact, I would venture to say that nothing sounds quite as bad as an out of tune violin!

Any musical instrument needs to be in tune to sound its best. The writer of the hymn Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing used that analogy in this hymn line:

"Come, Thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy praise."*

For us to live life the way God intends, for us to praise Him as we should, for us to be reflecting Jesus and letting our light shine for Him (see Matthew 5:16), we need to be in tune.

However, the reality of life is that sometimes we are out of sorts. Out of tune. It happens because life happens. We are tired or insecure or frustrated. Our feelings have been hurt. We've been offended. We're discouraged.  We're angry.  We're sad. We're jealous. There are any number of reasons or events or emotions that send us over the edge, and those differ from person to person.  What sends me into an emotional puddle and puts my life out of tune is likely different from what would do the same to you.

During this year and a half since I had a stroke, I have occasionally found myself a bit out of sorts.  Out of tune. Perhaps it's all part of the natural course of things following such a major trauma. Perhaps it's the fatigue that is part of stroke recovery. Perhaps it's the frustration when I can't remember things or can't do what I was once able to do. Whatever. The reality is that sometimes I'm out of tune.

Perhaps you may find yourself occasionally out of tune. The circumstances of my life are not the same as yours. You may be out of tune because of a personal relationship. Or a financial difficulty.  Maybe you lost your job or your spouse was laid off. Maybe there's an issue with one of your children or your grandchildren. Maybe you were falsely accused of something. Maybe someone you thought was your friend turned out not to be. Maybe your best friend is being anything but friendly.  Whether finances or relationships or something entirely different, you may find yourself a bit out of sorts. Out of tune.

There are as many reasons for being out of tune as there are people. Perhaps more. We all have different life circumstances. We all respond differently.

Whether we have a major meltdown or we are just a bit out of sorts, the reality of life is that from time to time each of us is a bit out of tune. When those times come, and they will, what are we to do?

1. Read and Remember.

I am a big advocate for writing things down. (I have always been a big believer in writing things down, but especially in this post-stroke season of my life when remembering is such a challenge.) Writing down your prayer list. Writing out your prayers. Keeping a gratitude journal and writing down all the reasons you have for being grateful. These out-of-tune-times prove the value of those lists. When you are out of tune, when you are discouraged, when you are frustrated, when you feel you've hit rock bottom.......these are the times you get your journal out, not so much for writing as for reading. In these out-of-tune-times you read back through your lists and you remember.

When you refresh your memory with all the good things about your life, with all the ways God has blessed you, and with all the good things that have happened to you, then you are encouraged.  Reading the list helps you remember God's goodness to you. When you remember how good God has been and remember all the ways He has blessed you, your focus is turned away from your negative circumstances.

"This I recall to my mind, and therefore I have hope.  The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning.  Great is your faithfulness."  (Lamentation 3:21-22 NASB)

2. Change your focus.

Often we are out of tune because we are spending so much time thinking about everything that is wrong with life. This focus only causes us to be more out of tune. Turn your focus away from yourself and your circumstances, and toward God. This requires a deliberate act of your will. Choose to think differently. Choose to change your focus. Think about God, about His character and His ways. Think about the names by which He is called in Scripture. Make a deliberate effort to focus your attention toward Him and away from your circumstances.

"Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith."  (Hebrews 12:2 NASB)

3. Talk about it.

I don't mean talk about it to your friend or your neighbor or to the entire social media community.  Rather, I mean talk to the Lord about it. Tell Him exactly how you feel, and why. Pour out your heart to Him. In the words of the old hymn, "Are you weary, are you heavy-hearted?  Tell it to Jesus."**

Spending time in prayer, being honest with God, is the best way I know to get your heart back in tune.

"casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you."  (1 Peter 5:7 NASB)

4. Choose joy.

Make a deliberate choice, as an act of your will rather than your emotions, to choose to be joyful in spite of your circumstances. It may take a while for your circumstances to change. Just like a piano, the more out of tune your life is, the longer it will take to tune it. But no matter how long it takes for circumstances to change, and even if they never do, choose joy.

Make the choice. I've often heard Kay Arthur say we should "Philippians 4:8" everything. It's good advice.

"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."  (Philippians 4:8, NASB)

 Remembering and refocusing and talking to the Lord always helps get me back in tune. If you're feeling a little out of tune today, I'm praying these suggestions will help get you back in tune, too.

"Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."  (Hebrews 4:16 NASB)

 * Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing:  words, Robert Robinson; music, John Wyeth
**Tell It to Jesus:  words and music, Edmund S. Lorenz

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