The Broken Piano

“Great musicians should have only the finest instruments in their homes.”

The caustic comment from the piano tuner who had curled up his nose at my old spinet piano has bothered me for fourteen years, though I’ve had a hard time figuring out why.

I thought maybe it was the man’s attitude when he entered my home. I had been desperately searching for a tuner willing to take on my pawn shop find but from the moment this guy laid eyes on it, his annoyed smirk told me the piano didn’t meet his criteria. Maybe it was the chipped places around its edges. Or perhaps the slightly yellowed keys. I don’t know. But before he even sat down to play it, he judged it and found it lacking. 

Looking over the brim of his glasses, he shot me a scolding glare. “You are a musician, aren’t you?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You should be asking me to tune a baby grand then. Or least a piano with some kind of merit. But this…,” he shook his head sadly, “this piano is not fit for a musician.”

He then launched into a sales pitch about the wonderful pianos he had for sale in his store and grew agitated when I wouldn’t bite. Needless to say, that was my one and only experience with that particular tuner.

Great musicians should have only the finest instruments in their homes…

I thought perhaps his statement bothered me because it was the lead in to his sales pitch. But no, that particular comment has circled around and around in my brain for fourteen years. It bothers me. It shouldn’t. That piano has been long gone and I haven’t seen that tuner since the day of his barbed comment yet it nags me. Why? broken piano keys

I finally figured it out.

Recently a friend sent me an email about a little boy who somehow escaped his mother at a prestigious concert hall and crawled up on stage plunking himself right next to a world renown pianist just before the man was beginning his concert.

boy at the piano

The little tyke clumsily tapped around on the keys before looking up to the famous pianist with a grin. The poor mother was horrified and jumped out of her seat, preparing to retrieve her wayward son but the pianist only smiled down at the little boy and begin to imitate the toddler’s finger strikes. Then something amazing happened.

As the little boy squealed with delight and pounded the keys harder, the pianist began to improvise melodies over the boy’s tapped notes. The entire audience was spellbound. When the little boy finally tired of the game, he hopped down and the musician stood and applauded him, causing the entire crowd to cheer and smile.

I love that story. And in a flash, I finally understood why that tuner’s comment bothered me.

Great musicians are not great because they have the finest instruments in their homes. They aren’t great because their fingers and ears are only trained for the best the world has to offer, or because they have sold X number of CDs or because they fill up concert halls. A real musician can make music out of the hardest situation. It doesn’t matter whether the keys are chipped, whether it’s a Bosendorfer or a dusty spinet, whether the action is smooth like honey or stilted, or even whether a little boy interrupts their Rachmaninoff moment.

The sign of a great musician is not in owning the finest instruments, but the ability to make the most broken instruments sing once more. broken keys

From this perspective, God is the greatest musician of all. He takes our broken strings, chipped edges, places His hands on those battered keys and coaxes out a song. A melody. An unspoken story. And the more broken the instrument, the more amazing His ability to make it sing.

Do you feel broken, chipped or used up? Don’t let the enemy’s lies discourage you. You are valuable and treasured. God doesn’t have a room full of glistening new grand pianos. He prefers the spinets.

Under his touch, they make the sweetest melodies.

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Hot Air Balloons, Fence Lines and Lies: Why does God Have Rules?

hot-air-balloonImagine a man slowly sailing through the clouds in a bright, striped hot air balloon. The air is cool, save for the spurt of fire keeping the balloon bellowed and full. As the current toys with his hair, he studies the tiny images below…rectangles of green and brown grass, houses and snaking highways. Everything seems so small, and from his vantage point, he feels so very big.

His hand cups the canvas edges of the basket wall and he frowns. Everything is perfect except for the stupid walls keeping him in. He wants to feel like a bird, to fly, to soar and be free. How can he do that with the ridiculous barricades in place?

What kind of morons would create this beautiful balloon and trap its passengers in a cage underneath? The walls were ruining his fun. Heat burned his chest at the thought. No one could tell him what to do. He was his own man.

He pulled himself over the edge and jumped, no longer bound by restrictions.

man-falling

Tell me, do you think the man made a wise decision?

Welcome back to our series Liar, a look at the enemy’s most frequent lies, how to identify them and replace them with truth. We’re up to lie number seven: God’s rules are too restrictive.

Some people have the mistaken idea that when you give your life to Christ, God plops a big manual in your lap filled with a list of “don’ts” and “thou shall nots”, all with the expressed purpose of making sure your life from then on is miserable.book-of-rules

This is a lie.

Unfortunately, this is a lie even some Christians believe because they have failed to understand the true meaning of grace, or are caught up in the controlling cycle of legalism.

God does give us some boundaries to follow. A fence line, if you will, with clear warnings of what will happen if we go beyond the property lines. He doesn’t do this to ruin our party, or make us miserable. Please hear me. God gives us boundaries to ensure we have the best and happiest life possible.

It’s no different than pulling a toddler’s hand away from a hot stove, or yanking a child away from an oncoming car. You tell them ‘no’ because you don’t want to see them hurt. When a child chooses to ignore a warning, what they perceive as making them ‘happy’ for the moment could actually lead to their destruction.

But, boy, the enemy is so sneaky at making us think what’s beyond that fence is the very thing we can’t live without.

It’s not a new tactic. He’s been trying it from the very beginning. Go to the Bible and look all the way back in Genesis 3.

I still scratch my head, wondering how good that fruit must have looked. After all, Eve was literally living in paradise. Perfect weather, perfect beauty, perfect body, no cellulite, perfect food, perfect husband and a beautiful bond with the God who’d created her. What more did she need?

God told Adam and Eve, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 3: 16,17)

God basically said, “Look around you! You can do whatever you want, except eat from this tree. That’s all.” It was a pretty sweet deal. But instead of thinking of all the things she could have, Eve became fixated on the one thing she couldn’t have. She ate and plunged the entire human race into a spiral of death, disease and decay.

apple

Just like Eve, when we throw aside God’s instructions, we discover instead finding freedom, we actually end up in bondage. Satan promises life but gives death. Always.

This lie, that God’s rules are too restrictive, is closely related to another lie: God really isn’t good.

The enemy knows that once we doubt the goodness of God, we will feel justified in rejecting His will and making our own decisions about right and wrong. And once we’ve shoved Truth out of the picture, our life becomes a hasty spiral into a toxic mess.

“So the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear [and worship] the Lord our God [with awe-filled reverence and profound respect] for our good always and so that He might preserve us alive, as it is today.” Deuteronomy 6:24

God only has your best in mind. No matter what you’ve been told, or what earthly examples you’ve been shown, He’s a good Father. There’s no need to learn the hard way.

Know your enemy. There’s nothing better waiting beyond the fence. I promise. Life, beauty and joy waits inside with Jesus.

“Buzz Lightyear Did It”, “I Can’t Help the Way I Am” and Other Ways We Stay Stuck

I stared at the Hot Wheels car submerged at the bottom of our toilet and frowned. I arched my brow and turned to spear my wide-eyed three-year old son with “the look”. He stood in his under-roos, clutching his Buzz Lightyear doll in his chubby arms, blinking those big brown eyes up at me with the innocent look of a deer.

“Nate, did you throw your Hot Wheel car in the potty?”

He swallowed, his eyes darting side to side. When his gaze landed on his Buzz Lightyear, he offered a hopeful, lopsided grin and pointed to the toy with his free hand.

“Buzz did it.”

 buzz-lightyear

Ah, the blame game. It’s nothing new. Adam and Eve tried the same thing in Genesis 3. As soon as they got busted for eating the forbidden fruit, Eve said, “The serpent tricked me.” Adam told God, “The woman you made for me offered me some.”

Welcome back to our blog series Liar, a look at the enemy’s most common lies and how to recognize them. We’re up to lie #6: “I can’t help the way I am”. 

How many of us are tired of messing up? How many of us find ourselves falling back into the same cycle of mistakes over and over again? We tell ourselves we should stop our bad behavior and it might even work for a while but then we find ourselves right back at square one. Sometimes in worse shape than how we began.

true-false

Let’s stop for a moment and ponder a vitally important truth here: Every sin in our life, especially when it comes to an habitual sin, comes about because somewhere along the way, we’ve fallen for a lie.

A lie is only harmful to us if we believe it.

If I had actually believed my son’s lie that his Hot Wheels ended up in our toilet because Buzz Lightyear did it, then I’d have a real problem. Paranoia would be an understatement. I didn’t believe his lie, so therefore, it didn’t bug me.

But for a lot of us, we have believed the lie that screams, “I can’t help the way I am”.

I’ve always been stubborn, even as a baby.

Everyone in my family is fat. Guess it’s just hereditary.

Look how I was raised.

My dad was an alcoholic. I never had a chance.

I come from a poor neighborhood.

This is just my personality. I can’t change it.

My family never supported me.

History repeats itself.

The problem with the whole “I can’t help the way I am” philosophy is that it’s rooted in a victim mentality, which leads us to think we are helpless, forever a part of the system. It’s a subtle form of keeping us locked in bondage.

Isn’t the enemy sneaky? prison

Think of it this way…if our circumstances, or how we are raised, or any other condition around us makes us who we are, then we are all victims. We have no choices, no input, and no reason to even want any.

But the truth is we do have choices. Sometimes, it’s just easier to play the victim.

“I can’t help the way I am” is another way of saying “It’s not my fault” or, to quote my mischievous son, “It’s Buzz’s fault that the car is in the toilet”.

If the enemy can make us feel trapped, if we never question the cage he’s put us in, then he wins. He has us right where he wants us…defeated.

Don’t get me wrong. Some of us were born and thrust into some tough stuff. The sin curse has permeated everything, rippling down through generations, pooling deeper in some families than others. But you are not doomed to flounder in its sticky mire forever. As Nancy Leigh DeMoss has wisely stated, “Circumstances don’t make us who we are. They only reveal who we are.”

Just like Adam and Eve, it’s easy…wonderfully easy to blame someone else, our family upbringing, our circumstances, our hormones, Mondays, the idiot driver who cut us off in traffic, or any other thing for our issues but ultimately, we are responsible for the decisions we make.

If  you’ve spent your life pointing a finger at the unjustice of your upbringing, the system, or any other blame shifter, then you’re stuck, forever chained to a life of a misery. But on the other hand, there is good news with sin. Yep. You read that correctly. If you sin, that means there is forgiveness. A way out. A way has been made to break free from those cycles that keep pulling you back down.

The lie: “I can’t help the way I am.”

The truth from God:

We know that our old self [our human nature without the Holy Spirit] was nailed to the cross with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin. For the person who has died [with Christ] has been freed from [the power of] sin.” Romans 6:6,7

Jesus died to free you from your families’ bad decisions, from your chains, from your broken way of thinking, from yourself. We may not be able to control the circumstances around us, but Jesus died and rose again to guarantee that those circumstances no longer have to control us.

Replace that lie with God’s truth and then walk in it.

And make sure Buzz Lightyear isn’t hanging around. woody-and-buzz