Beulah Land

My040 Beulah Land

Beulah Land

Written by Edgar Page Stites

Beulah Land, I’m longing for you
And some day on thee I’ll stand
There my home shall be eternal
Beulah Land – Sweet Beulah Land

I’m kind of homesick for a country
Where I’ve never been before
No sad goodbyes will there be spoken
For time won’t matter anymore

Beulah Land, I’m longing for you
And some day on thee I’ll stand
There my home shall be eternal
Beulah Land – Sweet Beulah Land

I’m looking now across the river
Where my faith is going to end in sight
There’s just a few more days to labor
Then I’ll take my heavenly flight

Beulah Land, I’m longing for you
And some day on thee I’ll stand
There my home shall be eternal
Beulah Land – Sweet Beulah Land

One of my favorite versions is sung by Casting Crowns: https://youtu.be/12OWe8bC30w

~jdoe

Living Consumed

My wife recently sent an email with a quote she found on the internet (she always sends me great quotes and scripture!).  The quote reads:

“What consumes your mind controls your life” – unknown

My040 Living Consumed

I’ve been on a trip of life changes and so I took time to ponder how I measure myself against this quote.

On the surface it is easy to say that the wisdom within this quote is obvious, and perhaps it is.  It was when I was honest with myself that I found I wasn’t consuming my mind with the best things.

I’d allowed myself to let anxieties and fears over the future to replace much of my time in God’s Word.  I haven’t been keeping my promise to God to read his word every day.

I chose other compensatory behaviors:  Reading western novels (Hey don’t judge me Ha! Ha! Ha!) and ‘napping’ for hours.  Both allowed me escape the relatives of my exile.  Instead, I should have been losing myself in scripture to reinforce God’s love and protection.  If you’re going to distract yourself with something, be sure it’s a healthy something, right?

I’m not saying that I shouldn’t lead a balanced a life as possible.  I still read novels (I’ve now branched out into thrillers and mysteries!) and nap (for 20 to 30 minutes) but I find that bringing God’s Word back into my daily life brings a comfort I’d forgotten.

I’ve also begun to consider daily how I measure up against that quote and I’ve been surprised at how easy it is to become consumed with life’s little things.  For me, some of life’s little things here in prison can be daunting.  Things like guys spitting on the sidewalk instead of the grass and not holding doors open for the physically challenged and talking loudly in the library and and and… Things that in reality are annoyances that I can deal with by ignoring.   Those behaviors, after-all, they don’t directly impact me.

The most surprising thing to come of living by that quote is how much more pleasant and easy life is.  Eliminating the negative and replacing it with the positive is empowering.

Be empowered!  Join me in living consumed by the Spirit.

~jdoe

Raise Your Voice

My040 Raise Your Voice

I’m in the Catholic choir.  I love to sing and my praises to God.  I find singing to be the form of praise I best relate to.  I joined the choir about a month after arriving here.  We’re not professionals by any means but we do a pretty good job.

But I struggle with motivation when it comes to practice.  I go but I don’t want to.  It’s not that I’m so good that I don’t need the time to polish up the hymns either.

I feel almost petty when I talk about my reasons for wanting to skip practice.  Yet I feel there’s some validity in what I’m thinking and feeling.  It’s not just one thing either, it’s a list of issues that, when added up, push me to my limits of patience.  Practice becomes something I endure rather than something immersive I float within.

So what are a few of the issues?

We waste a lot of time.  In addition to the singing done every mass (Amen, Alleluia, Our Father, Agnus Dei, etc) there are only four songs to practice yet it takes three and a half hours to get through them.  Anyone who attends Catholic mass will tell you that there’s a limited number of songs to choose from so songs are constantly ‘recycled’.  This means we’re practicing songs we’ve sung dozens of times before.  The director will have us practice songs we’re not going to use – ever.  If I wanted to participate in a sing-a-long I’d join one of the prison bands.

There is a power struggle between the actual choir director and an individual who thinks he’s the choir director.  This leaves the singers caught between the two men when trying to follow directions given during practice.  We then wait while the two guys iron out what we are going to do.

The thing that bothers me most though is the inappropriate language and humor.  Just once I’d like to get through practice without sexual jokes or innuendos.  Just once I’d like to get through practice without the ‘F-bomb’ being dropped a dozen times.  After all, aren’t we a Christian choir?  Shouldn’t we respect God in His house?  Can’t we rise above these things for the time we’re together?

I could go on for another ten issues but I think you get the point.

“So, why don’t you quit?” may be what you’re thinking.

I feel like I’d be throwing away one of God’s gifts to me – an ability to sing.  I’ve thrown away so many of the other gifts He’s given me that I realize I can’t keep doing that – He gives us only so many, right?

I feel I’d also be turning away from the way in which my praise affects me the most – in song.  It’s said that when you sing praise it’s like you’ve prayed twice.  I like that.

Finally, practically speaking, there are only so many things to do in prison.  Finding ways to fill your time is not easy.  One can only read or write so much.

I wonder if I’m the only choir member to feel as I do.  I’ve not approached other members because I don’t want to cause issues.  On the surface, based upon others’ behaviors, I’d guess I am alone.

So I prayed and meditated and I was lead to two bits of scripture.

The first is the parable of “The Widow’s Offering” in Luke 21:1-4.  In this parable we learn of a poor old woman who gives her last two copper coins to the temple treasure as her gift.  She does this without regard for how she will live except in faith that God will provide.  I figure that if she can give everything she had then I can give my time and my voice and put up with the frustrations.  After all, I’m still better off than that poor widow.

The second is Romans 5:3-4 which tells us that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  I look at this as a lesson I have to learn.  Perseverance, character, and hope are all worth cultivating, right?

Beyond scripture, Lent is upon us.  During Lent we are to fast.  Fasting is sacrifice.  Most people associate fasting with giving up food or some other enjoyable thing or bad habit.  This year Pope Francis gave us other ideas – a list of eleven actually.  Two of these suggestions fit my situation perfectly.

The first is to fast from complaints and instead to contemplate simplicity.  How much simpler would my participation in choir be if I could put aside my complaints?  How much less emotional energy would I expend without concentrating on the negatives?

The second idea from Pope Francis is to fast from bitterness and instead to fill our hearts with joy.  This reminded me of my mantra – to find Joy In The Tribulation.

So I look for joy and I find it in the tears that well up in my eyes when I sing an especially moving hymn.  I also find joy in the choir’s combined voices while in mass.

So for me the message is clear:

Use Your Gifts

Give All You Can

Persevere and Have Hope

&

Fill Your Heart With Joy.

Won’t you join me?

~jdoe