Justified

So, yesterday I sang an old favorite of my grandmother’s in church, “Justified” by Bill Harvey. I spent quite some time hunting it down, learning it, and all the things one does to make sure one doesn’t look like a fool.

I spent so much time doing all those of those things and worrying that the key was correct and the tempo wasn’t dragging and my voice was well focused that I forgot something rather intrinsic to good church music. I forgot to pray.

And, by “forgot to pray” I don’t mean I didn’t pray, I mean I prayed for selfish things like a steady, clear vocal tone.

It wasn’t until I was sitting behind the piano, waiting for the offertory to finish, that I realized what I hadn’t done. As I listened to the pianist play a beautiful medley on God’s grace, I started begging God to use the piano playing to touch hearts. The conviction I felt as a believer was overwhelming. I hadn’t been living in light of God’s justice. I hadn’t been living like one JUSTIFIED. And, I was about to sing about this?

This would not stand. Could not stand. And, I very well could not stand before God and His congregation singing of justification and joy in Jesus when my only concern until moments before had been for myself.

I bowed my head again and asked for forgiveness for my selfish concerns. “God, I don’t care if my voice cracks, if my vowels aren’t focused. I only care that I am in communion with you again. I haven’t been living like one justified and set free. I haven’t been living the life of one of your children. Forgive me.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not going around committing felonies, crimes, or misdemeanors. Shoot. I don’t even tell people that I don’t like them or want to talk to them when I’m annoyed.

All that aside, though. The greater crime is not living in light of the gospel.

Look at me! I’m saved, and absolved of all my sins before God. I am clothed in the righteousness of Christ. I am justified freely by His grace. (Rom. 3:22-26) Christ’s innocence is traded for my guiltiness, and I stand before the Great Judge acquitted of all my crimes.

I should be living in the full joy of this vindication!

When I stood behind the podium yesterday, I had a renewed appreciation for a song written before my mother’s birth. The amazing miracle of my justification by grace through faith should be a constant reminder to live accordingly: thankfully and humbly before my God. (Eph. 2:8-9)

Psalm 9:1-2
“I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works. I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High.”
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Is This the End?!

So I kind of did a thing.
A rather shocking thing.
A somewhat surprising thing.
A thing that only a few know about.
But, what the hay? All of the net may as well know.
Dear, anyone reading this, I have enrolled in school again.
Sincerely, Me

No, I’m not going to leave you hanging. I really did enroll in school again. You know, when someone you love nearly dies, things change. My dad had heart failure last February, died, was resuscitated, and ended up in surgery. He is now officially all better. At least, in my opinion he is so because I have been seeing to his vocal health, and the otolaryngologist just gave him the all clear. I have to admit that for the first time, I fully understand the beauty of perfectly formed and healthy vocal folds. I nearly cried when Dad’s scope showed everything working even better than before his surgery.

You may not believe that I can get ‘choked up’ over vocal anatomy, but I can and I did. So sue me. (I hope you enjoyed that pun because we can’t be friends if you didn’t.)

I’ve been studying music since I was six, studying voice since I was twelve, and professionally working in music since age twenty. I had my life skillfully transcribed well into the future: Bachelor’s, Master’s, and PhD in music; an established career on the operatic stage; and my hand in missions work. It has been a harmonious arrangement for me and very fulfilling, too. (Minus the lack of operatic stage, BUT I made my own. It’s a state of mind really.) Now, it’s time to put old orchestrations behind me, and look to the greater symphonic work.

What on earth am I saying? Giving up music? Giving up singing? Judy, it’s your WHOLE life!! Are you sure? Are you crazy?!

I’m saying I’m changing my career from strictly music to medicine and vocal therapy. I am not giving up music or singing. Those aren’t my whole life, though they have been my career focus. I AM sure, and I’m NOT crazy.

Something I learned when Dad got sick and couldn’t speak for weeks: I like the vocal mechanism and learning about it and understanding it and diagnosing it. I’ve never felt prouder than when I knew what was wrong before the doctor did (Bragging rights!) and gave the correct therapy based on my vocal training. When we got to the otolaryngologist, he confirmed everything I’d said and told the fam to listen to me (Again, woot!). I was so happy and pleased and glad that I had helped in a small way. When you look at someone who has lost the ability to speak… Lost their channel of open communication. Lost it. Poof. Gone… you will understand the utter sadness that I felt for my dad, and also the complete anger and frustration I harbored against the first otolaryngologist that Dad visited. Not gonna lie, that man said some dumb things that he couldn’t prove. *Still Fuming* Anywho, I really started to think about my present career and life and what I was doing.

“Do I really enjoy this?” All I could say was, “No. I don’t.” Private teaching is pleasant, but not fulfilling. I love my students, but I don’t want to teach them forever. I prefer to take the fork in the road. The road less travelled. And, for me that road is vocal therapy. I consider it a branch of what I’m doing at present, but it’s licensed, and I’ll get to help people like my dad heal. (It’s voice lessons without the piano accompaniment.) I like the constant challenges that working with the vocal mechanism presents. I like giving myself a hypothesis for healing, testing it out, finding out it worked, or finding it helped but didn’t fix it completely; and I like starting the process over again until I do fix the problem. Truly, I don’t just ‘like’ it. I love it.

To those of you who told me to do this years ago, who told me to pursue higher studies in vocal pedagogy and such, I know you are probably saying “I told you so.” (I give you permission to say that and dangle it over my head. Just not for too long.) Thank you. When God told me what I was going to do this semester and for the next few semesters to come, He used the memory of conversations with you all to give me the extra nudge I needed to hedge passed the fear that threatened to drag me down to despondency…”You’re too old. [I know I’m not old. At least, I don’t think so.] You haven’t had science since high school. And, don’t even get me started on math. Now you’re pursuing medicine? Whatever happened to sticking to your guns?” I’m sure you’ve all felt similarly about other things. I’m still scared of math and science, but God wouldn’t lead me here to watch me drown, and He still uses your words to buoy me out of my paralyzing sea of fear and failure, to pop me back onto the ship He has set for me to sail.

Aaaaaand, I may be sailing for quite some time. Forward to medicine!

II Timothy 1:7
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

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Nightmares

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” I Corinthians 13:11

We all understand and know this verse speaks of behaviors, both of actual children and spiritual children. But, for the last few days it has been in my mind in reference to something very specific.

Nightmares.

And, not just any nightmares that make you feel uncomfortable for a day, but real, miserable, horrifying dreams that haunt you for years. As children, we can all recall that one night we had a particularly terrifying dream. You know, the one that had you running from your room in fear, looking for the nearest source of comfort. Those types of dreams were the norm for me. I had several a week and was always found in my parents bed the next morning. These types of dreams plagued me well into my teens. Some would call them night terrors. I dreaded sleep most nights.

I would lie there and quote Psalm 56:3 over and over and pray until late in the night to dispel my dreams. This worked, much to my great relief. Eventually I grew out of those highly imaginative, highly improbable, highly frightening night visions. They say it comes with maturity, with the knowledge that not everything is out to get you or is real. I attribute it to a firm trust in God.

However, lately I’ve been revisited by childhood habits. After my normal routine of prepare for bed, pray, sleep, I’ve found myself caught in the most vivid, miserable nightmares I’ve had since I was a child. Some so alarming that I’ve awoken to my own strangled screams. Nearly every night for two weeks, I have had the most chilling nightmares of my life. Why? It’s been so bad that I realized last night I was unconsciously putting off sleep. I’ve NEVER purposely tried not to sleep…Except for in college when that paper was due…Anyway you get the point.

I haven’t been watching anything scary. I don’t do that for this very reason. I haven’t been overstraining myself mentally. (No one is allowed to argue my mental state.) So why?

I had a revelation last night. Or, should I say early this morning? I haven’t been spending enough time with God. In order to put away childish things, my nightmares, I need to replace them with something else, something mature, something holy. If I am not filling my mind with good things, bad things will fill it instead. And, whether or not I’ve been watching scary movies (I haven’t), I can still revert to what I was before I grew. Do you hear that? Even mature adults, mature christians, can and will find themselves back in old habits…Backsliding.

I never would have thought that God would use my nightmares to fuel my desire to spend time with Him. But, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” (James 4:7-8)

If you get as close to God as you can, He will drive Satan away from you. Satan loves to use your fear against you: The Devil loves sparking the kindling of your doubt. That old Thief will steal your peace if you give him a chance. It is our job to fight against Satan by pulling close to God and submitting. Seriously, what’s the best way to “resist the devil?” I used to think it was by saying, “NO,” but let’s get real here. You can’t just wag your finger at Satan and think that’s enough. You have to actively say no by actively running to God everyday and asking for His help. You HAVE to draw nigh to God in order to resist the devil. I can war with my thoughts, but I won’t win unless I fill my mind with God, the Word, prayer. When that fear, doubt, anxiety comes to me just before I drift off to sleep, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.” Psalm 121:1

Now, if I am going to actively seek God to actively resist Satan, I must “cleanse my hands and purify my heart.” We are sinners. (Romans 3:23) There is no way around that. We sin; we make mistakes; we miss the mark of God’s holiness. If you are saved, you need to air out your closet of your secret faults, you know the ones you think nobody knows about…God knows, and He’s waiting for you to make it right. He forgives so readily, so easily, and then He forgets (Psalm 103:8-17; Isaiah 43:25). If you are not saved, have not confessed your sins, believed on Jesus to save you, then I would recommend you do not delay. (Romans 10:9-10) Take care of it now. If you do, Jesus will stand as the payment for your sins (John 3:16; II Corinthians 5:21) and you are promised a home in Heaven (John 14:1-4). You also need to “purify you heart, ye double minded.” In other words stop being a hypocrite, admit that you sin and humble yourself before God just as you did when you asked for forgiveness. Humility is the first step to forgiveness. You cannot admit your sin if you have not humbled yourself enough to realize and admit that you do sin. And, you cannot be close to God if you do not admit you need Him to help you.

I’m saddened that it took vivid nightmares to drive me into God’s arms again. I mourn that I knew I was sinking back into bad habits and ignored it. I weep that I let slip the little spiritual maturity that I possess.

God, forgive me. I will draw close, I will repent, I will humble myself, I will resist the devil. For, “when I became a man, I put away childish things.”


 

Psalm 121
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

Good Success

I’ve been trying to adjust to my old but new surroundings this last month. It’s not been easy. And, just when I feel comfortable again, something is thrown in my way to mess up my equilibrium.

I can’t really say anything was thrown at me for real. No monkey wrenches, banana peels, or ill-timed dates.

Beside the fact that I can’t figure out how to flavor my coffee anymore! Curse the perfectly blended cafe-au-late served everywhere in Japan! You’ve made it impossible to blend the perfect Cup of Joe in the States.

It’s all my fault, honestly.

Business.

Work.

I am now a small business woman. It’s crazy.

No. I’m not selling nail wraps, oils, makeup, or room fresheners. Nothing wrong with any of that, but it’s not my thing.

I have decided to open a private music studio for lessons, voice and piano, to be exact. And, I’m hoping that, in time, I’ll be able to expand to other teachers for a full-fledged music school.

I don’t want to go only where my personal funds can take me as an individual teacher: forty students that I have to run all over creation to teach. That wouldn’t be fun. I want a school where anyone can say, “I want lessons,” and I don’t have to turn them away because I don’t have enough time, know-how, or gas to give them what they want.

I think everyone needs music in their lives, and I want them to have the ability to make it on their own.

Therefore, I have been asking God everyday to give me “good success.”

Did you know that the term “success” is found only once in the Bible? Joshua 1:8 says that to have success I must study, memorize, and obey scripture. It only makes sense. If one lives by the whole counsel of God, then one will have His blessing.

Let me take a moment and say, “This is not prosperity gospel. This is what the Bible says.” I am in no way saying that if you’re saved, you will have loads of money, a fancy car, and a perfect relationship. No. God’s blessings aren’t always material, and people need to know that the best blessing is His spiritual blessing. Moving on.

I want to be like Jesus. THAT is success.

However, I also think that the prosperity gospel mentioned above has made the idea of material success taboo. God tells us that “whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.”(Eccl. 9:10) We have to make use of our time on this terrestrial ball. Work hard at what God’s given us to do. And, not only that, we have to work hard because we are working for God. (Col. 3:23)

It may seem strange that I’m applying these principles to a secular field of work, but I firmly believe that “whatsoever” means precisely that. I’m going to work hard; I’m going to submit myself to God; and I’m going to immerse myself in the Word. And, I’m going to pray for success in the career God has given me.

P.S. Though the word “success” is only stated once in the Bible, I understand that there are many verses about Godly success in the scripture. It’s a good study.

Right-side Up?

I’ve been considering this particular blog post for a long time.

What should I write? I’ve had some great ideas and happenings, things ‘blog worthy’ as Charlotte and I like to say, but none of them really struck a chord with me.

Would I like to say something funny? Yes. Yes, I would. Funny is always better in my mind. I’d prefer a joke to distract from the seriousness of life. Am I a serious person? Yes. But, I’d just rather not draw attention to that fact.

To be honest, this thought has been plaguing my mind for some weeks: What happens when I’m not standing upside down anymore? What happens when I go home?

Does life go back to normal?

Do I find myself enlightened by the experience and just keep living?

Will I feel as if I am right-side up again?

Will God’s will be open for me to read like a scroll suddenly unfurled?

Let me answer these in order.

I have found that the comfort of home does not entitle me to a normal life. I am a stranger, an alien in this world. I am a citizen of a country, whose ruler and maker is God. So, no. Life does not go back to normal because it never should have been so.(Hebrews 11:13-16; I Peter 2:9-10)

Enlightenment. This term leaves me confused. I am thankful, oh, so thankful for the experience and chance to broaden my horizons and to understand that the world extends beyond my own land and people group. It may shock you to know that Americans aren’t the only ones able to go to Heaven. Now, most of you would say you already knew that, but how many of you actually stop to consider that the people you love the most aren’t the only ones God loves, that there are millions of people near and far who He wants to save? I have traveled before, but this simple realization always seems to slip my memory. So, I presumptuously assume it has slipped, at least, one other person’s reading this post. But, does this make me enlightened? No. This should have been all too obvious before I left, but I had to get to know people in a completely different country to realize that they have the some trouble as I, have the same hopes, need the same God. Enlightened? Not by a long shot.

I do not feel like my world has been flipped to the correct side again. I. Am. NOT. Right-side up. I’m still upside down. Aside from the dizzy spells, jet lag, and such that come with changing hemispheres in less than a day (Left side driving, anyone?), I still feel disoriented. Really, upside down, right-side up…It’s all just a matter of perspective. It took a full month before I oriented to the Eastern Hemisphere, and I suspect it’ll take me just as long in the Western. What next? I don’t know.

Which brings my next answer.

I have never, and likely will never, read the whole of will of God for my life. He reveals it little by little, step by step. Sometimes, I feel as if He is holding my baby-hand and slowly, ever so slowly, reading the next sentence in His greater will to me. He sometimes has to read a single sentence multiple times for me to understand, and by the time I do, I always feel like I could have listened better the first time. Even the work in Japan was hard for me to understand. It was even very simple: Buy your ticket and go. I think He read that particular sentence many times over before I really heard.

Despite all that, I think that I do know a bit of what He wants for me next. Maybe, I’m getting better at understanding, if only a little. All I know is that secure in His love for me I will proceed to stand upside down. It’s all I can do for now. After all, as a stranger sojourning in a foreign world, I think that it is my duty to remember that for all purposes I am upside down because I am not home yet.

Until the day I am truly right-side up, I will happily be Standing Upside Down.

Sincerely Yours,

Judith Morehouse

P.S. Oh, and yes, I ended that with a preposition…BUT it’s also a title, thus making it a proper noun…play on words for the win!

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Teach Me

I’ve found myself at a loss for words. As cliche as that sentence is, it’s true.

My time in Japan is drawing to a close, and God has been very quiet about what I should do next. I say “quiet” because I haven’t had lightning strike my brain and heart or had an emotional disaster to lead me down the right road. To be honest, I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful that God hasn’t decided it necessary to break me because I am too stubborn to listen. Not that I’m always submissive. I have felt myself wrestling with the decision of my near future. It will affect my life drastically…Choosing which hemisphere to live in is a big deal.

I’ve also discovered my own hypocrisy. Being raised in church, I’m very quick to recognize dual faces, even in myself. Call it cynicism if you will. I’ve just been exposed to it a lot, from non-church and church members to myself. We are human, after all.

So, here I am trying to find out what God wants me to do, but I’m not taking any of my own advice. I’m allowing my mind to run willy-nilly with ideas that seem to pop from my brain and run about like headless chickens.

I’ve looked at some of my past posts and realized that I’m not doing any of that right now.

How horrific is that? I’m so inconsistent that I can’t even remember something I said less than a few weeks ago; and I didn’t just say it, I emblazoned it all over the internet for the world to know my inner-most musings and struggles. (Yes, I tell everything; and no, I don’t hold back.) Yet, here I am just a little while later, unable to recall these easy truths that I just professed to learn.

What happened to being still? http://wp.me/p5HJT6-1a

What happened to overflowing? http://wp.me/p5HJT6-1f

What happened to why-ning? http://wp.me/p5HJT6-3x

These should already be well learned and in my back pocket, tools that I can pull out in times like these…Times when I don’t know what’s going on or what I’m going to do.

I guess, that’s what it means to be human. We must learn, relearn, and review every skill that we claim. I’m not perfect, and I’m not always able to do the exact right thing. I’m cynical, harsh, and I don’t like being wrong…ever.

Ouch.

But, that’s one of the many things that makes God so great. No matter how many times He has to reteach the material, He always will. He will always give me a second chance and come alongside me lovingly for review. It may be frustrating for me, the perfectionist cynic, but I do realize that it’s one of the many ways God shows me His love. God continuously is teaching me to be like Jesus, no matter how many times He has to make me flashcards, write memory songs, or fix my technique. Thus, He shows me how infinitely gracious and merciful He is.

He’s that one teacher we’ve all had. You know the one I mean. That teacher who made you want to do better, that teacher who inspired you when you were being passive, that teacher who loved you regardless of your tantrum, that teacher who was never upset that you couldn’t remember such a simple thing.

Thank God, that He is a Rabbi worth learning from, of infinite patience and mercy and grace. If I come to Him and ask for help, He will reach down and aide me because He knows my dusty frame and my troubles.

Hebrews 4:14-16
Psalm 27:11; 86:11-17; 119:33-40; 143:10-11

“Why”-ning

Do you ever find yourself asking, “Why?”

What an utterly useless, silly question. Of course, you have.

Right now I am faced with two why’s.

The first is: Why don’t the Japanese drink more water?

Seriously. It’s like they’re cacti. They take two sips, and they don’t need any more, while I sit in my chair, swigging down three glasses of refreshing aqua. During the day, I find myself at the strangely, but oddly conveniently placed drink machines. Oh, and when I say “strange” and “odd,” I mean it. For example, I’ve seen more than one vending machine in the middle of a rice patty (a.k.a. a rice field). Now you know. (I was told that the machines are around so that people won’t dehydrate. But, what ever happened to taking a water bottle with you? Uuuuuuuuummm…That’s not popular here. I’m bringing it into vogue starting now.)

Back on topic.

When I go out into society for longer than a couple of hours, I usually end up at one of these blue-call-box-like machines more than twice a day. If you tally up how much a drink costs, I can end up having spent between just ¥110 to ¥660 a day because I need to keep from dying of thirst. You may say the $5.40 is worth it, but, every time I go out? Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.

The Japanese somehow survive on just one of those Coke Mini’s full of tea or water and a couple of sips at dinner, but not this girl. I’ve gotta have that 64 oz. of sweet eau lest I perish. Case in point, yesterday. We had only been out of the house for 45 minutes when I felt the need to quench my thirst, but I had to wait for another 2 hours before I could do so. When we reached our destination, I took a well timed opportunity to buy a drink while no one was looking. I swear, it’s like it’s a crime to admit that your “mortal form has grown weak” and yell, “I need sustenance.” Naturally, I knew that I wouldn’t get another chance at water for a while, so I made that bottle last as long as I could…two hours. That took some serious self-restraint on my parched part.

At lunch, three hours after my last sip of water, I was portioned only one child-sized glass the life-giving beverage. I did my best to make it last.

Didn’t work.

Our friend only took three, tiny, polite sips from her glass, requested tea for us, and then said she had had too much to drink and excused herself.

Wuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut?

Charlotte and I looked at each other and both said the same thing. “How is that too much?!”

I am still baffled. Even with buying an extra drink on the way home, I was still so dehydrated that I had to go strait to bed after I finished off a huge tumbler of water.

I suppose this opens the opportunity for me to say, “Not ‘cool.’ Not cool.”


The second “why” on my list has to be this: Why is my asthma acting up?

For those who don’t know, I’ve had asthma since birth. Let’s not be overly dramatic…Hahahaha. For those of you who know me personally, and some who’ve figured it out, the latter statement is a joke.

I haven’t had a serious episode since well before I left home, and I honestly thought I would be able to get all the way through my first three months without one. But, asthma is funny and sneaky. It likes to wait until your nice and comfortable with your routine, and then, BAM! It jumps out of its dark corner and punches you in the gut.

This couldn’t come at a worse time for me. I need to be practicing. I need to be singing. The first performance of the concert we’ve been working so hard for is coming up in three weeks, and all I can do is sit here and ask God, “Why?”

Maybe I’ve been too complacent about my practice. Maybe He wants to spur me to work harder. I don’t know. I’m just a bit confused. Maybe I need to rely on Him more. What if it’s all three? I’ve been earnestly seeking His counsel and praying for His help. Is this what I get for that?

I’m sitting here chuckling at my own helplessness. Have you ever met a severe asthmatic, who sing’s for a living? Well, now you have. Hi. This happens to me sometimes, and each time I’m left wondering if I didn’t learn my lesson the last time.

And, now.

And, now.

And, now, I’m reminded of Paul.

It could be the influence of having a bajillion Paul’s in my family, but I always liked Paul’s testimony, but at this moment it seems a little more real. He asked God three time to remove the thorn in his flesh, and each time God refused.

Why?

Why?

WHY? Without it I could serve so much more fully, freely, frequently! I could sing without any worries that my next breath might trigger an attack. I wouldn’t have to worry about losing my voice so often. I wouldn’t have to stress out whenever a little humidity struck. Would I?

Actually, I probably still would worry about all those things regardless of the asthma. Such is the life of a singer. Should I worry? No.

Again, Why?

Because, “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (II Corinthians 12:9)

Even if I didn’t have asthma, I know that there would be something else reminding me of my weakness and helping me remember to rely on God. It’s not by my might nor by my power but by His spirit. (Zechariah 4:6) I have no power of myself. If God so wished, he could easily rid me of all my worries by simply taking my voice. Certainly, then I wouldn’t have to worry if my asthma disrupted another practice or performance. But…

He is gracious, and no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. He will guide me and protect me despite this thorn in my flesh that makes weak. I am blessed because I will trust in God. (Psalm 84:11-12)

So, though it is hard for me to experience the hoarseness, the dizziness, and the hacking, I will trust that God knows what is best for me. He knows what will bring Himself more glory, and I would rather be sick than to bring shame on His name because of my own pride. Like Paul, I desire to have glory and honor and praise heaped upon me (I am a performer after all.), but I will not be a fool and will tell you the truth. You should not think of me any more than the next person. (II Cor. 12:6) I just want to serve Jesus. I just want to please Him.

So, I shall say with Paul, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (II Cor. 2:9)