Life Builder: John Nelson

When I first began writing these Life Builders posts, I made a silent decision not to write any about my students. It wasn’t that I don’t see the students as Life Builders. I am one of those who, like my father before me, believes that you can learn from anyone. My father was the one who told me that he learned more about electronics when he had to teach it (at Army electronics school) than he ever learned before. I do learn from my students, and they are a steady source of income for me.  Even though they give me the opportunity to try and perfect my methodology, I decided that I would not write about them as Life Builders.

The reason for this decision has nothing to do with them, and everything to do with misunderstandings I’ve encountered in the past. I remember the day I mentioned to a colleague that I believe each student has at least one thing they can do better than I can. The man’s reaction was to say that I had no business teaching if I believed this to be true. He, and many others I found out later, believe that a teacher must be all knowing, and superior to his students in every way.

So I keep these types of thoughts to myself. And yet, I find myself making an exception for one student, John Nelson.

John Nelson

John is an adult student who began taking lessons with me several years ago. Most of you know that I am a goal oriented teacher and that I help my students achieve their own goals, not the goals that I set for them. It has been John’s goal to become a jazz trumpet player, specifically a jazz trumpet player who plays in the style of Chet Baker.

To that end, John was one of the first to use my new beginning jazz method. He was one of my guinea pigs, one of the students whose progress helped me tweak the method along the way to what it is today. Although he hasn’t reach his ultimate goal yet, if you heard him play, you would not know that he was an adult beginner only a few years ago unless I told you.

John Nelson TrumpetSweet Return

So, as I’m sitting here writing, I’m listening to Woody Shaw on my computer, diggin on his angular melodies, breakneck technique, and extremely advanced harmonies. I’m thinking how sweet it is to be able to enjoy this music again. But I cannot enjoy this music without thinking about John Nelson, because it is John who brought this music back into my life.

This is the first reason why I am making a Life Builders exception for John. Let me explain…

For many years I was a heavy listener to art music. It started the day I bought my first CD player and I continued to listen, almost every day, until November 16th, 2004. That was the day my ex told me she was leaving me. From that day forward, I could not tolerate to have music on in the house.

This distaste for listening to music continued long after I had emotionally recovered from the divorce. It went on for years. In fact, when I began teaching John, I still wasn’t listening to music yet.

Listening Assignments

I am a firm believer that students must listen to the music they want to learn how to play. In fact, I have something of a rule that I often repeat in the lessons, “listening is more important than practicing.” To that end, I actually give listening assignments for the students to do each week. I give them a CD and expect them to listen to the entire CD before they return it at the following week’s lesson.

Yes, it was a bit hypocritical of me, in that stage of my life, to require music listening when I knew that I wasn’t doing any listening myself.

When John began doing his weekly assignments, he had this great idea to offer me a CD to listen to in exchange. He had no idea that I wasn’t listening to music at that point in my life. He had no idea that just the thought of listening to music literally repulsed me. I would squirm and get irritated and never made it through a track or two before turning it off.

But then I was confronted with listening assignments of my own. At first I dreaded listening to the CDs he lent me. I didn’t want to listen to jazz, especially NOT jazz. Of all the music I could listen to, jazz irritated me the most. But I forced myself to listen to the CDs he brought me every week.

Cured!

Thanks to John, I have been cured now for a few years already. I listen to music just fine again. No irritation. No disgust. Nothing like that.

I will admit that there are some very ugly recordings I used to listen to in the past that I probably will never return to again. The truth is that I never liked those recordings to begin with. I used to force myself to listen to that stuff for educational purposes.

But yeah, having to listen to a new CD each week finally brought me around to where I needed to be in that area of my career.

And I owe it to John Nelson. He probably never knew it, but he was something of an accountability partner for me at that time of my life. I always ask the students what they thought of the assignment. With John, he would always turn the question back to me and ask me what I thought of the CD he lent me.

You know I don’t like to lie. I wasn’t going to say “yeah, it was nice” if I hadn’t even listened to it yet. Right?

And that’s the main reason why I wanted to write a Life Builders post about John.

Very Intelligent Adult Beginners

Aside from just the listening, John is one of the very intelligent adult beginners that I wrote about in my post titled My Favorite Beginners. When we teach the younger beginning trumpet players, it is often very difficult to get feedback. The students don’t typically have the communication skills it takes to tell us what is working and what is not. This makes it hard for the teacher to get into the head of the students.

But John is highly educated…emphasis on “highly.” So when I see that something is not working the way I had expected it to, John can tell me what’s going on in his head. He can tell me how he practiced the previous week and can articulate his overall attitude and approach. We don’t get that with the younger beginners!

I already mentioned that working with John has helped me tweak the jazz method, but he’s done a lot more than just that. He has provided a sounding board. I tell him all of my crazy ideas and he puts them into practice. Then he comes back and tells me how it went.

Because of this type of feedback, my teaching skills and my overall methodology has improved more in the last few years than any other period in my life. No exaggeration!

John Nelson Trumpet

Programming Insights

John makes his living as a programmer. You could say that his life is something of an inversion of my own. He programs for a living and plays trumpet for fun. I play trumpet for a living and program for fun. Only lately, John’s skills as a trumpet player have long surpassed my skills as a programmer.

So it’s nice to have someone in that industry to talk to about some of my projects and ideas.

I am not formally trained in software development. I don’t know how things get done. I don’t know the standard conventions or anything outside of what I’ve read in books. So hearing John talk about how things are done really gives me ideas of how I want things to be in our projects.

Summary

As with every other person I’ve written about in these Life Builders posts, this is just a basic summary. There have been other things that John has done to make my life better. He has been to more of my live performances than any other current student. He is an impeccable dresser and has shared some of his thoughts about that with me (like “never be afraid to be the best dressed person in the room”). My father was right, we can learn from everyone, and from John I have learned a great deal.

Thank you John. Thank you for being a good student and for bringing more to the lessons than just your horn. You are appreciated.

 

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2014 Christmas Message – Living the Story

Do you feel like your Christian way of life is threatened? Do you believe that Christmas is under attack? Do you think it’s time to put Christ back into Christmas?

How many times have you heard the Christmas story and how the angels told the shepherds, “be not afraid”? Don’t you know that you are part of the Christmas story? So I ask you, what are you afraid of? What is it that you fear in this world that will take our beloved Savior from you?

Christmas Message 2014

Living the Story

The Christmas story is the story of the birth of Jesus Christ. And as Christians, we are each members of the body of Christ. If you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and savior, then YOU are now a member of that body. So the Christmas story is our story! It’s not just ancient history. It’s not just some fairytale. It’s a story of God’s grace and mercy and today all of us as Christians are living that story in our own lives.

We live the Christmas story when we honor God with our behavior. Jesus was once asked what was the greatest commandment and this was His answer:

Matthew 22:37-40
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

When we love, when we obey these two most important commandments, we then become active characters in the Christmas story. There is as much of a connection between us and Jesus, that very same Jesus who laid in the manger and died on the cross, as there is between Jesus and Kind David, or Jesus and Abraham:

Matthew 3:9
And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

You are a child of the light. You are an heir to the throne. And yet, you concern yourself with an attack on Christmas?

Be Not Afraid

The Christmas story continues! It is far from being over. So I will say to you what the angels said to the shepherds:

“Be not afraid!”

Really, what are you afraid of anyway? Why do you behave as if Christmas is under attack? No one can ever take Christmas away from you. God gave His only beloved Son…GAVE…past tense! It’s a done deal. Game over. Who can take that away from you?

Romans 8:38-39
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

No, Christmas is not under attack. The whole “attack on Christmas” bit is a sociopolitical thing, not a spiritual thing…not a Christian thing…not a biblical thing.

So be not afraid when the politicos cry “attack on Christmas, attack on Christmas.” The enemy is powerless. He was already defeated when Christ died on the cross (Heb 2:14-15). So do not be distracted from obeying the commandment to love.

It’s Just Politics

The only power the enemy has is the power you give him. And one of the ways you give him that power is through fear. That’s why politics is such a bad thing for Christians. People will deny it, but you cannot be politically active and “love your neighbor as yourself.” When you allow yourself to be motivated by fear, you stop loving. And fear is the currency of politics.

1 John 4:18
18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Ask yourself – “Why didn’t Jesus seize the throne?”

Here’s another way to look at it. Ask yourself, “why didn’t Jesus wrest political power from the world when he had the chance?” If God really wants us to meddle in politics, then why didn’t Jesus Christ take his rightful place as “king” of the Jews, removing Herod from  that throne?

I’ll tell you why… because Christ Jesus knows the impotence of earthly political power.

Who was more powerful, Herod or Jesus Christ?

Easy answer, right? Jesus did not need to sit on a meager, earthly throne when He knew He already had a mighty throne in Heaven. What politician has any power against the Lord of Lords and King of Kings?

How is it any different now? If Jesus did not come to take political power, where does it say in the Bible that this is what we are supposed to do? On the contrary, we are told not to mingle in politics (but that is a subject for a later post).

Live the Christmas Story

So I encourage you to focus on loving people this Christmas season and forget about the politics. Do not become distracted by those who would have you “take a stand” for their political agenda. No one is taking your Christmas away from you unless you let them.

So live the story!

Bless people.

Bless as many people as you can bless!

Do as our Lord and Savior commanded and love those who hate you.

Share the grace God has blessed you with and watch to see exactly what kind of Christmas you will have this year! Something tells me it will be a lot better Christmas than anything some politician might secure on your behalf.

Merry Christmas everyone!

With love from the Lewis family in Houston Texas.


Previous Years’ Christmas Messages:


 Related Scriptures:

I had originally written another half a dozen pages, editing this message down to the few pages you see here. But I didn’t want to leave these scriptures out of the message. So here are a few related scriptures that didn’t make the cut…but still play an important part in the overall message.

Ephesians 6:12
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Psalm 146:3-5
Do not put your trust in princes,
    in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
    on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God.

Matthew 20:25-28
“But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

1 Samuel 8:4-22
So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah.
They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”

But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”

10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”

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Introduction to Boasting

So far, in the Love Is series, we’ve looked at Patience, Kindness and Envy in great detail. As an introduction to Boasting, I want to share a story that I have shared a few times before, in the past.

This is a painful story to share. I am made vulnerable every time I share it because I am admitting something that most Chrsitians would not. I remember one time someone used this as an argument against me, in an attempt to discredit anything I had to say on a totally unrelated topic.

But I am a teacher at heart and my teaching style has always been centered on my ability to share my experiences. I help others learn by sharing my faults and past mistakes and then also sharing what I ended up doing about it. And people have been learning from me this way for 35 years. So I have no intention of stopping. Being vulnerable is just part of how I teach.

aguirre_spring

Boasting About My Faith

The story starts one morning after I finished returning emails. I try to follow the same schedule every morning and checking my facebook account usually comes right after I’ve responded to any emails that came in over night.

On this particular morning, I ended up writing something on facebook about how I would never deny Christ. I even went as far as to say that, even if someone had a gun pointed to my wife’s head and threatened to kill her, I would never deny Christ.

After I wrote that on facebook, the Holy Spirit told me to get up from my desk and tell Pearl that we were going out for lunch. And I did just that. Pearl wasn’t happy about it. She doesn’t like having last minute plans thrown at her. But we went and I was dedicated to listening to the Holy Spirit to let Him tell us where we should go and what we should eat.

If you are a Holy Spirit believing Christian and you have never tried doing this, I strongly recommend that you consider living your life this way. The Bible says the Holy Spirit is our Counselor. I have heard some Christians resist this idea, saying the God doesn’t want us to include Him in our mundane, day to day activities. But the Bible says otherwise.

So on that day, I was listening to the Holy Spirit about where we would go for lunch.

Denying Christ

So we ended up going to one of those cheap Chinese fast food places. We ordered and sat down at a table. As I was eating, I looked around and noticed a team of yard workers taking their lunch break. The Holy Spirit then instructed me to look at one of the workers in particular. I did. I noticed he wasn’t wearing a watch.

Then the Holy Spirit told me, “Give that young man your watch.”

WHAT?

Surely I did NOT hear Him right. Give him my watch?

Yes, I knew deep down that this is what the Holy Spirit wanted me to do.

I squirmed in my seat a bit and then almost cried. I couldn’t do it. My watch was a gift from Pearl. She bought it for me for my birthday and I couldn’t just give it up like that.

That’s when the conviction set in. By choosing not to give my watch away to a stranger, I had actually done what I said I would never do only minutes earlier. I had denied Christ.

Love Doesn’t Boast

I had committed two sins that morning. First I boasted about my ability to stand firm in my faith no matter what. Then only minutes later, I refused to follow what the Holy Spirit told me to do.

You can see how sharing this story can make me vulnerable. I am telling you that I’m not a very good Christian. What sort of Christian man refuses to do what the Holy Spirit says? And yes, people have already tried to use this against me in religious discussions.

But I’m sharing it with you because it is the best example from my own personal life of boasting.

What is boasting?

When you look at other occurrences of the word “boast” in the Bible, a pattern emerges. You see clearly that it has to do with the things you say. And most often, the biblical use of the word involves talking about what is to come.

1 Kings 20:11 (NIV)
The king of Israel answered, “Tell him: ‘One who puts on his armor should not boast like one who takes it off.’”

That’s what I did that morning on facebook. I boasted about what I would do before I went to battle. Then, on the battle field (in the Chinese restaurant), I was not able to deliver on my boasting.

When It’s Okay

The Bible says that there is only one time when it is okay to boast.

Jeremiah 9:23-24 (NIV)
23 This is what the Lord says:
“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
    or the strong boast of their strength
    or the rich boast of their riches,
24 but let the one who boasts boast about this:
    that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
    justice and righteousness on earth,
    for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord.

In an ignorant sense, I thought I was doing that when I boasted on facebook. I thought I was boasting that I knew God. That’s what gave me the sense of false confidence. But really, it is not our own strength that we are supposed to be boasting in this context. It is HIS strength that we should boast about.

I sinned because I was boasting about what I would do for God, but not what God would do for me. He likes it when we boast in Him. But when we go around, shooting our mouths off about our own abilities, we miss the mark.

Exploring Boasting

In the next posts in this series we will explore boasting in greater detail. We will look at what boasting is, learn to recognize it and then look at what we can do to stop doing it.

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March of the Republic of the Rio Grande

Eddie Lewis Writing Music photo by Pin Lim at Forest PhotographyI updated my resume at EddieLewis.com today to include our latest Jazz Forever CD (Spiced Eggnog). Then decided to proof the whole thing again. When I got to the section about past commissions, I decided to google “March of the Republic of the Rio Grande” just to see if they had ever done anything with it.

Well, as it turns out, the man who commissioned the work submitted it to the city council of Laredo and suggested that it be made the official march of the City of Laredo. The council voted unanimously to approve it.

Now I can say that I composed the official march for a Texan city. That’s not the sort of thing just anyone can claim! Makes me wish the guy would have been willing to spend more money on the project. I scored it for a very reduced sized band in order to stay within his budget. But it would have been a lot nicer if he had spent the extra money.

Well, from what I’ve read online, the people like it. So that’s what matters.

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Jacqui Sutton Tonight at Mucky Duck

Just a heads up for all of my Houston readers. I am performing tonight with Jacqui Sutton and her Frontier Jazz Orchestra. We are at the Mucky Duck, which I haven’t played at in at least fifteen years. (I think my last time at the Mucky Duck was with now defunct, Planet Soul.) We hit at 7:00 and finish up at 8:30.

Here’s the address:
2425 Norfolk St
Houston, Texas

Jacqui Sutton - Notes from the Frontier - CD CoverReminiscing The Recording Session

For the past two weeks I’ve been thinking about the recording I did with Jacqui, her recent Notes From the Frontier CD. It’s kind of funny because what I remember most is that I had bronchitis and was peeing blood (from a kidney stone that had just passed).

I remember sitting in the closet sized room, coughing up a lung, praying to my Father in Heaven that the coughing would stop when I needed to play.

I believe that when we have righteous reasons for what we do, God gives us what we ask for. So I prayed in confidence that God would pull me through those sessions without letting the coughing become a problem.

I knew that I was there to sub for Dennis Dotson, who’s shoes are far too big for me to fill.  My reasons for wanting to do well were not self serving. It wasn’t an ego thing or anything like that. I knew I was going to have to be at my best to come anywhere close to what Dennis would have done for them.

So yes, I prayed for God’s favor in the recording sessions. And my prayers were answered. I was able to deliver some of my best recording work to date, even though I was fighting bronchitis and kidney stones in the process.

Your Personal Invitation

If you have not heard this group yet, then you are in for a treat. Come on out tonight and enjoy some of the most interesting music you’ve heard in years. And if you can’t make it, I strongly encourage you to buy Jacqui’s recordings. They are available on CD Baby and other places online.

Maybe I’ll see you tonight. If so, please stop by to say hello!

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Recognizing Self Worth

In continuing our study about envy in the context of 1 Cor. 13, “love doesn’t envy,” I feel it is important to at least spend a little time talking about how to stop envying other people. Knowing that envy is bad, knowing that it is hateful (if you see the absence of love as hate) is not enough. Sometimes we need a road-map to help us stop doing something that we’ve been doing wrong for so long. Old habits are difficult to break. So let’s look at changes you can implement in your life to help you recognize your self worth…which will then prevent you from envying.

Franklin Mountains

Self Worth Prerequisites

First, I want to say that I believe the words in the famous “love is” list are in a specific order for a reason. Patience is a prerequisite to knowing your self worth. So is kindness. Without being able to “endure hardship without complaint,” you will always have difficulty recognizing your own self worth.

Yes, I know that seems backwards. On the surface it may seem like it is more important to recognize your own self worth first, before you have the strength to endure hardship. But I do not believe it works that way. Same is true for kindness. Most people assume that you need to have a sense of self worth before they can “give what is not deserved.” But this is self centered, self worshiping, new age philosophy – to love self before we love others. It’s not true. It is impossible to love others if you are putting yourself first. Loving others requires selflessness, not selfishness.

Patience, the act of enduring hardship without complaint, is what takes us out of the hateful relationship dynamic that blinds us from seeing our self worth. For as long as we have our attention focused harm people are inflicting upon us, we cannot see ourselves the way we should.

Another very important thing that happens when we learn true patience is that we begin to have a hint of an understanding of how God feels about us. When we show kindness to those who do not deserve it, when we endure abuses without complaining, we then begin to see other people from a perspective that is a little closer to God’s perspective and the way He sees us.

If that sounds arrogant, please take a moment to think about what I’m saying. I am not saying that we are God. I’m not saying that we can be as perfect, or righteous or holy as God. What I’m saying is that we can, if we choose, stand on the other side of the love vs. hate line. When we stand on the love side of the line, looking at others from a perspective of love, even when they continue to hate us, THEN we experience just a slight HINT of how God sees us. And that is crucial if we ever want to understand our own self worth. Because the only true way to comprehend our own self worth is to understand that God values us.

Our Self Worth Is Rooted In God

I recently had a discussion with a good friend of mine about loving one’s self. He was saying the words and I understood what he was trying to say, but I told him that I could not agree with him in the way he was describing it. I do not believe it is okay to say that we must love ourselves simply because, according to the Biblical definition, loving ourselves means putting ourselves first before others. And I have seen far too many people live this way, ruining their own lives the lives of everyone around them in the process.

So no, I do not believe in “loving oneself” if that is how we are going to say it. What I do believe in is recognizing the value of God in us. Myself, without God, without the Holy Spirit that is within me, I am nothing worth loving. Without God, I am flesh. And flesh fends for itself and loves no one.

But, praise God! I am not just flesh. I am a tripartite human being, body, soul and spirit. The part of me that is worth loving is not me, but God in me.

Joshua Forest

But How? How Do We Recognize Self Worth?

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice evermore.
Pray without ceasing.
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

The best way to recognize self worth, thereby helping us to become less envious of others, is to become more thankful. Once again, to the world this is going to sound backwards because the world says that we should only be thankful after we have what we want. But notice my wording here. I did not say that we have to feel thankful. I said that the key to recognizing self worth is in being more thankful.

You do not have to feel thankful to be thankful. Something happens to us when we behave more thankfully. It is a Biblical principle that has been “proven” by modern day science. Being thankful transforms the way we think and that then transforms our entire lives.

There are many articles online about how living a life of gratitude can lead us towards greater happiness. If you have been reading this blog for long, you probably already know that I care very little about happiness. I do not believe in the “pursuit of happiness.” I believe that happiness is a fleeting emotion that you should enjoy while you have it, but not go seeking it when you don’t have it.

That said, the way we should work towards being more thankful is the same whether you are seeking happiness or trying to be less envious of other people.

Six Ways to Cultivate Gratitude

There is an article on psychcentral.com that outlines six ways to cultivate gratitude. Like I said, I do not believe in the pursuit of happiness, but this article does a great job of addressing practical ways to develop thankfulness in your life. I have practiced all six of these ideas for most of my adult life (long, long before I ever read any articles about thankfulness by the way – as I said earlier, living a life of thankfulness is a Biblical principal, so none of this was new to me). Let’s look at those six ways here:

1) Keep a gratitude journal
Journaling helps you explore your thoughts. I journaled from about 1983 to 2004. My journal covered a wide variety of topics, not just gratitude, but yes, gratitude was one of those topics I explored often.

The process of writing about the things we are thankful for causes us to “call into remembrance” the ways that God has blessed us. At first, it seems difficult to write about the things we are thankful for because we don’t see it yet. We sit there, staring at a blank sheet of paper with nothing to write about. When we get caught up in the selfishness of the world’s ways of doing things, all we see is all the things other people have that we do not.

But as we spend more time collecting our thoughts in this context, the truth of our own “favor” becomes increasingly more evident to us. Remember that the definition of envy is “a painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage.” But when we keep a gratitude journal, writing regularly about the things we are thankful for, we begin to recognize how God “favors” us. We begin to realize that, even though we do not have what so and so has, what we do have is something even better.

2) Use the right words
Prov. 18:21
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

No one who constantly speaks enviously will ever experience the benefits of a life of gratitude. With the words you speak, you are choosing one or the other. You cannot choose both.

I can attest that it’s not always easy. I experienced a lot of envy as my career got started. I envied those who went to prestigious universities, earned multiple degrees, toured with famous bands and were appointed prestigious teaching positions. It took me a long time to appreciate what God had given me. I was so fixated on what others had, fixated on what I had wanted for myself all along, that I could not see how God was blessing me in ways that those who did have all those things would never have access to.

But I made the effort to change my language. To be 100% honest, I had to change my language. I knew from reading business literature that no one wants to hire someone who believes he deserves more than what he has. So, in all of my business communications, I forced myself to emphasize the good in my career. I say “forced,” but it was only forced in the beginning, when I was still so fixated on envy. Those words I spoke (and wrote), just like the journaling, transformed the way I saw myself and after a while they became less forced.

So yes, I am proof that speaking the right words does indeed go a long way towards helping you to become more thankful.

3) Remember
When Isreal was about to cross the Jordan into the promise land, God charged them to always call into remembrance the things He had done for them. You see, Isreal struggled a lot with envy (and nostalgia). They envied other nations. That’s why they asked God for a king. They saw that other nations had kinds, so they wanted a king too.

I believe God told them to “call into remembrance” the things He had done for them as a defense against envy. When we forget how God has blessed us, that’s when we begin to think that we don’t have as much as we deserve, like Isreal wanting a king. Just like Isreal, we fail to realize that what we already have is better than what we want.

4) Write thank-you letters

Personally, I’m not much of a talker. Part of that is perhaps because of my hearing loss. I dread talking on the phone or having conversations in loud areas. So when I desire to express to someone that I appreciate something they’ve done, I like to do it in writing.

And yes, I have seen what this can do in a person’s life. When you thank people for what they’ve done for you, in your life, it helps you to see the value of what you have. There is something about writing, instead of just thinking about something, that forces you to explore the details of what you are thinking about.

In that sense, writing thank-you letters is much like the first point on this list, keeping a gratitude journal. The difference is that a gratitude journal tends to be less specific than writing a thank-you letter to someone who actually helped you in some way.

5) Hang with the winners

The people you hang out with can influence your moral and ethical values. If you only ever hang out with people who are ungrateful, who only ever complain about the haves and the have-nots, these people can infect you and the way you think.

When the Bible instructs us to “separate from sin,” it is for the purpose of protecting us from outside influences. A lot of people get this part wrong, and Christians have grown a bad reputation for it. Instead of separating themselves from sin, they separate themselves from sinners – which was never God’s intention for us in the way we are supposed to live our lives.

So no, I am not suggesting you should get all “high and mighty,” looking down your noses at everyone who is beneath you! Absolutely not! But if spending all of your time with hateful people starts to change you into becoming one of those haters, then it’s time to hightail it out of there.

6) Give Back

This point is in line with what I said earlier. In the beginning of this article, I said that patience and kindness were prerequisites for growing a sense of self worth. Kindness is a type of giving.

If you haven’t made that connection yet, please consider it now. You cannot be a giver if you believe you have nothing of value to offer. The truth is, we all have something of value to give. By becoming more of a giver, you get better at recognizing what you have to offer.

Summary

That’s the problem with most people who envy, is it not? They simply don’t know yet what their value is. Something in their lives is preventing them from comprehending their own self worth.

By putting these daily habits into practice, you create an environment where you are almost forced to recognize your worth.

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Not Afraid to Feel Stupid!

Ha! I’m always telling people that I’m not afraid to be wrong and look stupid. Well, today was one of those moments. I have been going on CD Baby every day waiting for A Not So Distant Pass to come up on their listings. Days have passed since our last communication from them and I was beginning to feel like they were waiting for my approval for something before they posted the listing.

Well, don’t I feel stupid!!! (I like feeling stupid because it means I’m still growing!)

It turns out that the reason they weren’t listing the new CD yet was because I set the official release date for September 15th. He he he…

Of course, that makes sense! If I was making a big deal of the release date, I’d actually be really pissed if they made the CD available before that date. So they did the right thing.

It was my first time doing this sort of thing through them and I just hadn’t thought about the significance of the actual release date.

The point is, there’s nothing wrong with feeling stupid now and again. We learn better when we are made painfully aware of our ignorance. And, not being afraid to screw up and feel stupid puts me in a position to communicate with genuine humility. I told the CD Baby people when I emailed them that it was probably something I did. I just wanted to make sure. It would have been a lot different if my attitude was “Hey, where’s my CD listing? You guys are screwing up!!!”

Ha! That would not have gone over very well. But I know people like that. They will never admit they are wrong, even when you can see that glimmer in their eyes that says “Oh, I just screwed up.”

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