The 4 Ingredients in My ‘I-deal’ Life

ideal life 1

Someone asked me an important question when I told them I was going on a sabbatical to seek direction for my life. Looking me in the eyes with great earnestness, they said, “What makes you happy, Jim? That’s what you should be doing.”

My reply probably surprised them, for many people would have cited romance or worldwide travels as their expected source of happiness.

“The thing that makes me the happiest is to have an impact on others,” I said without hesitation. “And the more impact I’m having, the happier I am.”

Although I don’t really think life is all about “the pursuit of happiness,” this conversation really got me thinking. What, exactly, would my ideal life look like?

I encourage you to ask yourself this “happiness question,” because your answer probably won’t be the same as mine. If you’re not fully satisfied with your present life, what are some things that would bring you greater fulfillment and joy?

After some soul-searching, I’ve identified four primary ingredients necessary to bring me the greatest joy in life. They all start with “I,” so I’m calling this my “I-deal” life.

  1. INTIMACY with God and people. The Bible says “fullness of joy” can only be found in the presence of the Lord (Psalm 16:11), so that must be the starting point in my ideal life. But it’s also clear that close relationships with people are necessary in order to experience lasting joy. By “intimacy,” I’m not referring to romance or sex, but simply the ability to open your heart to others on a deep and vulnerable level. Do you have relationships like that with family and friends? I do, and it’s a blessing I’m profoundly thankful for.
  1. IMPACT. As I told the friend who asked about my happiness, impact is very important to me—perhaps even too  important. I believe we’ve been put on earth not just to be “successful” or just to “hang out” with people. We’re called to make a tangible difference  in the lives of others. Of course, we each have different ways to bring about impact. My personal mission statement is “To change the world through the written and spoken word.” That means I love to write and preach, and those are two of the ways I can touch people’s lives. In my remaining years, I also want to find more ways to pour myself into the next generation. But you may have completely different gifts and passions. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to find your own God-given calling in how to make the world a better place.
  1. INCOME. I’m not retired yet, so income is still an important part of the equation for me. It’s easy to talk in glowing terms about such lofty objectives as intimacy and impact, but we all must find ways to pay the bills as well. If you’re making lots of money but falling short in things like intimacy and impact, I challenge you to make some changes. However, some of my friends have been so intent on their spiritual and social pursuits that they’ve neglected the basic necessity of having adequate financial provision for themselves and their family. Financial stress can really undercut your pursuit of a happy life.
  1. I-CARE. Sorry, but this is the only “I” word I could come up with to mean self-care. Of all the ingredients in my ideal life, this is perhaps the most difficult one for me. Although I’m passionate about impacting others, in the process I often neglect taking care of myself. In the coming season of my life, I must give a much greater focus to my health and fitness. I also need to take more time for rest and recreation, and I must reassess the margins in my work-life balance. As I was departing for my sabbatical, a friend told me, “Have fun!” Sadly, I had to admit that “having fun” is an element of self-care I really need to work on.

Identifying the elements of your ideal life won’t automatically answer all the questions you face concerning your future—but it’s a great place to start. So set aside some time, find a journal to write in, and get started in the process of defining what the life of your dreams really looks like. And don’t forget to solicit the input of trusted friends who can help you deal with any blind spots.

Your ideal life awaits! But you’ll have a much greater chance of experiencing it if you know what it looks like.

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Avoiding Overdrawn Relationships

overdrawn account 3

Many decades ago, I discovered the reality of Jesus’ teaching that it’s more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). So I became a giver, and I’ve received many blessings as a result.

But, as with most truths, there’s another side to this principle: Healthy relationships are reciprocal.  When one person in the relationship does all the giving and the other does all the taking, the bond inevitably becomes twisted and toxic.

Sadly, I’ve been rather slow in learning this. Giving has always been a natural part of who I am, but receiving is much more difficult for me. I don’t like asking people for their help, even when I need it. And the thought of being a burden to someone else is horrifying.

So, when I give, I seldom expect anything in return. Based on Jesus’ words in Luke 6:34-35, I’ve always thought this was the godly way to relate to people. But once again, I’ve often missed another important component of the relationship equation. Too often, I’ve been willing to continually give and give, while the other person received and received. Although this made me feel good at first, it was a prescription for codependency, certainly not a healthy relationship.

The apostle Paul seemed to face this kind of situation with the Corinthian church. He had poured his life into them and opened his heart wide. While this kind of imbalance was fine in their infancy, he said it was now time for them to grow up and open their hearts to him as well (2 Corinthians 6:11-13).

Monitoring Your Account

If we don’t ever monitor our checking account, we run the risk of overdrawing it from time to time. Our relationships need to be monitored and assessed in much the same way.

I’ve found that when our emotional bank account is full and overflowing, it’s very easy to be a giver. But if the other person never puts anything back into the relational bank account, we eventually discover that the account is empty or even overdrawn.

Have you ever experienced this? If you’re a chronic giver like me, I’m sure you have. And then you find yourself resenting the very people you joyfully gave your life to for so long.

If you are willing to do all the giving, you’ll have no trouble finding people willing to do all the taking. Even with that imbalance, everything is likely to seem fine until the relational bank account finally runs dry.

This is a hard lesson, but you’re not doing people any favor if you allow them to become a leech instead of a healthy contributor to the relationship. They may not be able to contribute as much as you do, and that’s okay. But they need to contribute something.

Making Changes

Recently I’ve had to say “NO” to several people who wanted to make a withdrawal from my emotional bank account. Why? Because, over the course of time, they had never put anything into the account.

When people face times of crisis, it’s natural to want to help them. But what about a situation where someone always seems to be in crisis mode? And how should you respond those who never make any deposit into your account even when times are good for them? It may seem harsh, but sometimes the imbalance is so great that the wisest thing to do is to shut the door on the relationship altogether.

In contrast, I’ve found that it’s always a great joy to give to those who’ve taken time to make a deposit of some kind into my life. Whatever they need, I’m happy to give it if I can.

So I hope you’ve discovered the joy in being a giver. But I also hope you’ve learned to develop healthy, reciprocal relationships, where both of you are putting something into the account.

If, like me, your relationships have often been off-balanced, perhaps it’s time for some frank discussions with your friends and family members. Don’t wait until the account is totally overdrawn to request some changes.

One More Thing…

Even as we learn the importance of cultivating reciprocal relationships, where both parties make contributions into the account, there’s another vital principle we must never forget: The ultimate source of love is God Himself, not any human relationship.

“Let us love one another,”  we’re told in 1 John 4:7, “for love comes from God.” If we look to any other source, we’re certain to face disappointment.

You see, we’re much more likely to be hurt by our human relationships when we allow our love relationship with the Lord to run dry. When His love is overflowing in our lives (Psalm 23:5), we’re far less likely to be offended by the failure of people to make deposits into our emotional account. That doesn’t let them off the hook, but it means we can abide in God’s peace and joy even when people let us down.

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It’s What’s Under the Hood That Counts

Sonata

My 2011 Hyundai Sonata looks exactly the same as it did a month ago. On the surface it’s the same 100,000-mile car as it was then.

Yet here’s the strange story of why my car is worth more now than it was several weeks ago…

I got a big surprise when I took my Sonata to the dealer for some routine recalls. “You need a new engine!” the service rep told me, to my shock.

In the seconds that followed, I groaned at the thought of having to pay around $7,000 for a new engine.

But then came the amazingly good news: “The new engine is at our expense, with absolutely no charge to you,” they assured me.

As one more fortunate outcome, they said it would take about a month to get the new engine to the dealership. In the meantime, I got to drive a free, brand-new Toyota Camry from Hertz. And this was great timing, since I was about to embark on a weeklong ministry trip in Ohio.

When I got my car back, I found myself looking for the spiritual lessons in this story…

My Sonata is still a 2011 model, five years old. The body still has 100,000 miles of wear and tear, but overall is in pretty good shape. With a new engine, the car can be expected to run at least 100,000 miles more, probably a lot farther than that. The odometer hasn’t changed, but my car has a new lease on life.

I think there are some parallels between my Sonata and the contrast between our outer body and our inner spirit, which is the “engine” or driving force of our lives. Although people tend to dwell on outward appearances, it’s really what’s “under the hood” that counts (1 Samuel 16:7).

The apostle Paul contrasted the aging of our bodies with the renewal of our spirits: “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16 NIV). In other words, even though we may not be able to keep our body from aging, God can renew our spirit and give us a new “engine” on the inside.

We’ve all met elderly people who are full of youthful joy and vitality on the inside. But there also are many people who have allowed their internal “engine” to age prematurely. Even though their body is still relatively young, they have lost their joy, their creativity, and their zest for life.

Are you a candidate for new engine—a new heart and spirit? If so, God offers a stunning “recall” you should take advantage of: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26 NIV).

That’s an offer too good to pass up, don’t you think? But as with my Hyundai Sonata, the new engine is only offered by the manufacturer. The One who made you in the first place is the One who now offers to renew you (Psalm 51:10-12).

And all you have to do is ask.

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Whatever Happened to My Inner Child?

Jim touched up

I once read a book by a psychologist who said we all need to get in touch with our “inner child.” I never really understood what he meant by that. But I thought it might help to hang this picture of me on my office wall.

Although that solution hasn’t helped me much yet, I haven’t given up the search for my inner child…

As you can see by this picture, I was a free-spirited hell-raiser as a child. You probably were too, if you’ll be honest.

When people see this picture, with my hands lifted high, I tell them I was just worshiping the Lord. But I think you can see that something much different was going on—something mischievous and out of control. Cameras don’t lie, after all.

And when I was in preschool, the teacher sent a note home to my parents, saying, “Jimmy is too free with his hands.” Hmmm… I’ve always wondered what she meant by that.

Lately I’ve found myself wanting to regain some of the unshackled aspects of the Jimmy Buchan in this picture. Fun-loving. Carefree. Emotionally expressive. Outside the box.

Whatever happened to that inner child? I guess he “grew up” along the way. Aided by college and law school degrees, marriage, kids, car payments, mortgages, and job transitions, I became more serious and sophisticated. I learned to keep my spontaneous outbursts to a minimum and was no longer “too free with my hands.”

But this new maturity came at a price. The carefree Jimmy  was replaced by a burdened-down Jim—dealing with the cares of life, concerns about the future, and worries about what other people think of me.

And this grownup Jim became a lot more “religious” than Jimmy the toddler, and I don’t mean in a positive way. On my good days, I’m convinced that Jesus loves Jim. But sometimes I think He might like Jimmy even better.

The Gospels describe the Pharisees as people who thought they could enter into favor with God by being more circumspect, serious, and “under control.” It must have been quite shocking when Jesus told them the door into His kingdom was to become like little children again (Matthew 18:1-5, 19:13-14).

My daughter Abbie once had an experience that illustrates this. When she was four years old, she had a dream in which she was in heaven, “playing with Jesus.” Through the eyes of a child, it makes perfect sense that Jesus would be playful and fun-loving. But through the eyes of a religious person, that makes no sense at all.

So please pray for me to rediscover my childlike faith—the fun-loving, uninhibited inner child who delights in life and enjoys the simplicity of knowing Jesus.

And I’ll be praying for you too.

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Moon Walking (& Other Life-Changing Discoveries)

moonwalking 2

For those of you who feel like you’ve tried everything to lose weight, I have a solution I bet you’ve never considered: Move to the moon!

I’ll admit, it’s not a great environment there. Restaurants and other amenities are sorely lacking at this point.

However, because the gravity on the moon is only 16% of the earth’s gravity, you would immediately experience an amazing drop in your weight. No crash diet necessary. No personal trainer required. While maintaining the same strength, you would be carrying around far less weight.

Pretty awesome, right?

Perhaps you’ve seen the old videos of astronauts walking on the moon. They skip around like giddy gazelles, amazed by their suddenly lightness of being. Even saddled with their bulky spacesuits, they move around like little kids on the playground.

I’m convinced that a trip to the moon would do us all some good. We would soon conclude that we’ve been carrying around lots of unnecessary weight on earth.

And there’s a spiritual point to all of this…

I recently talked to a friend who said his girlfriend seemed to be “carrying around the weight of the world.” That’s a lot of weight!  I thought to myself.

But we’ve all done that at times, haven’t we? We shoulder concerns about our health…our finances…our spouse…our children…our career…our future. Little by little, these weights increase until they’re unbearable, even back-breaking.

Fortunately, God has a solution that doesn’t require migrating to the moon. He says we can cast the weight of the world upon Him! Why? Because He cares about us (1 Peter 5:7). And as the old song says, “He’s got the whole world in His hands.” No need for us  to carry it on our backs.

Jesus made a very important offer to those who are struggling under earth’s gravitational pull, “heavy laden” with the cares of this life:

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).

When I read these beautiful words, I feel like doing some moon walking, don’t you? I want to cast off life’s unnecessary burdens and concerns, learning to frolic again like a little child. And when I do, I know I’ll rediscover an astonishing fact: This is exactly what it feels like to experience the unencumbered joy of God’s kingdom (Matthew 19:13-14).

Moon walking will surely feel odd at first, especially when you’ve lived your whole life as an earthling. But I’m betting we could get used to it. Will you join me?

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Decaffeinated Coffee & Other Oxymorons

I woke up this morning craving a good cup of coffee. Not the decaffeinated kind, but REAL coffee. You’ll never convince me decaffeinated coffee is legitimate. After all, they’ve removed the most important and most valuable ingredient. How can they still call it coffee?

That got me thinking…

Fill in the blank: “Coffee without caffeine is like _________________.”

Lots of things could be put in the blank, I suppose. Bread without gluten. Milk without lactose. Or what about sugarless ice cream?

What a weird world we live in. Some days I feel like I’m living in an Alice in Wonderland culture, where nothing is real.

It’s one thing to change the composition of our food products through the magic of modern chemistry, but many of the extractions today have far more serious consequences:

  • Loveless marriages
  • Fatherless homes
  • Christ-less Christmases
  • Churches and Christians with no evidence of the Holy Spirit

These are all quite grievous—never God’s plan. Marriages just aren’t the same without love and passion. Families without fathers are precarious at best, needing an extra dose of God’s grace and a mother’s love.

And what can we say about churches and Christians that have an absence of Christ and the Holy Spirit? Nothing could be a bigger travesty than that.

Yet we’re living in a day when there seem to be lots of decaffeinated churches and professing Christians. At first glance they may look like the real thing, yet they’re lacking the most important ingredient.

And one more word picture…

Perhaps decaffeinated Christians could be compared to a helium balloon that has lost its helium. There’s still some hot air, but no lift. Instead of rising high and victorious, the forlorn balloon languishes on the floor. It’s hard to have much of a party with balloons like that.

What about you? Have you allowed life’s most important ingredient to escape? If so, there’s still time to get it back.

And here’s the good news: You don’t have to put up with the agony and frustration of Christ-less Christianity (2 Timothy 3:5). It’s not too late to regain the joy and wonder of Christ living His life through you by the power of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 2:20, Colossians 1:27, Acts 1:8, Ephesians 5:18).

Friend, let’s not settle for empty substitutes. I don’t know about you, but I need as much “caffeine” as possible.

 

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4 Indispensable Ingredients for Holiday Happiness

Seems like everyone is wishing each other a Happy Thanksgiving, but few people stop their hustle and bustle long enough to consider what a happy holiday entails. We pull out our recipes for pumpkin pie, sweet potato casserole, holiday Jell-O, and eggnog, sure enough. But seldom do we take a similar look at the indispensable ingredients for positive time with our loved ones.

You may want to add some additional items to this recipe, but here are 4 ingredients I believe are vital to holiday happiness:

  1. LOVE. People have many different definitions of love, of course. One of the most accurate definitions is “seeking the highest good of other people, even at your own expense.” This sets the standard pretty high, doesn’t it? Love isn’t just a warm feeling, but rather a choice to give away part of your life to others.

The holidays usually provide a real test of whether your love is unconditional or merely reciprocal. Reciprocal love means loving someone back who has already shown love to you. That should be pretty easy! Someone send you a greeting card, so you send them one back.

However, the test of unconditional loves comes when some of the people you’re celebrating the holidays with have hurt you during the year. Can you forgive and keep loving them? Or will your attitude be icy and callous when you get together?

  1. JOY. I am well aware of all the WORK involved in putting together a Thanksgiving meal—both in the preparation and in the cleanup. But hopefully the work can be joy-filled work, complete with some frivolity and outbursts and laughter. The Bible says a “merry heart” is like medicine for the soul (Proverbs 17:22). A person who cultivates that kind of joyful heart will have a continual feast”—never needing to wait for a special holiday to celebrate (Proverbs 15:15).

But let’s be honest: Sometimes the holidays give us special reasons to be sad rather than joyful: the death of a loved one, a marriage breakup, medical concerns, or family members who now live far away. However, that is even MORE reason why it’s so important to tap into God’s supernatural joy, enabling us to dispel any grief or sorrow with a spirit of gratitude and praise.

  1. PEACE. Who wouldn’t like drama-free holidays this year? Yet, since people are involved, you can pretty much bet there will be some measure of drama. The question, then, isn’t whether you’ll be surrounded by some drama at times (you surely WILL be!). The question is whether you will be able to maintain your own peaceful heart, even while many things are swirling frantically around you. If you’re struggling with this, I recommend the prescription found in Isaiah 26:3: You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Keep your heart set on Jesus!
  1. PATIENCE. Lots of things can conspire to test your patience during the holidays. Kids misbehave. People show up late. Turkeys take longer than expected to bake. Husbands seem more intent on watching the football games than helping with the preparations and cleanup.

Since there’s a high probably that your patience will be tested, you might as well take a deep breath and realize there’s no big hurry, after all. And it’s not worth losing your cool just to put someone else in their place (see Luke 10:38:42 if you don’t believe me).

Perhaps you’ve noticed that these 4 vital ingredients are also the first 4 components of “the fruit of the Spirit” described by Paul in Galatians 5:22-23. I point this out as a word of encouragement. For even if you aren’t feeling much love, joy, peace, and patience so far, God offers you an infinite source for finding more. The Christian life is meant to be a supernatural life, and God’s Spirit can fill you will all the missing ingredients you need for a happy holiday season.

Let me leave you with this paraphrase of Galatians 5:22-23 in The Message:

What happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

Friend, I pray you have a Spirit-filled Thanksgiving this year. When that happens, your day will be full of love, joy, peace, and patience. What a great new holiday tradition!

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Finding the Fountain of Youth–at Any Age!

Grandpa Buchan

It has been nearly six months since my dad passed away at age 94, and I find myself reflecting on his amazing ability to stay young at heart his entire life. Meanwhile, I’ve been noticing lately that people’s chronological age is often quite different from how they seem. Some people already seem quite old in their 40s and 50s, while others have youthful zest for many decades after that.

Here are 5 of my dad’s secrets to uncommon youthfulness—secrets for experiencing the Fountain of Youth no matter how old you are:

  1. Keep active (Don’t neglect your PHYSICAL health). In his 60s, Dad was still playing handball, tennis, and golf. And in his 80s he would go to the local Walmart or Sam’s Club, not to shop but to walk around and get some exercise. He understood the old maxim, “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it,” and he did his very best to take care of his body.
  1. Keep learning (Don’t neglect your MENTAL health). If Dad were still alive today, we would be having lively conversations about the latest news on the Presidential candidates or the economy. And he would be absolutely ecstatic that BOTH the Ohio State Buckeyes and Carolina Panthers are undefeated at this point in their seasons. You see, Dad was a lifelong learner, never tiring of reading another book or newspaper to find out what’s happening in the world.
  1. Keep dreaming (Don’t neglect your EMOTIONAL health). One important lesson I gleaned from Dad was that he always made sure to have something to look forward to. It might be a cruise, a trip here to Charlotte or back to Ohio, or simply a concert or musical he wanted to see. Even on the days when not much was going on in his life, he found hope and excitement as he contemplated the coming events on his calendar. So here’s a new maxim I’ve come up with to explain this wise practice: Life is DREARY when you quit DREAMING! God says He has plans to give us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11), and that perspective is a critical component of our emotional health.
  1. Keep loving (Don’t neglect your SOCIAL health). My dad’s last 25 years turned out to be some of the happiest, most joy-filled times of his life. There may have been a number of reasons for this, but number one on the list would surely be the love he shared with his wonderful wife Delores. Their relationship was a fantastic testimony that you can still be “in love” even in your final decades. Countless medical studies have proven that if you don’t have anybody to love, you’re bound to age more rapidly. In fact, if you’re no longer loving, you’re already dying. But what if you don’t have a spouse to share your love with? In addition to his relationship with Delores, Dad continually reached out in love to my brother and I and the grandchildren—and he was still offering us his wise counsel until just weeks before his death.
  1. Keep praying (Don’t neglect your SPIRITUAL health). Dad was puzzled that so few of the seniors in his community had any interest in spiritual matters or church. He and Delores rarely missed a Sunday, and their deep faith was an important ingredient in their vitality. Whenever I have birthday, I find myself claiming the Bible’s promises in Psalm 103:4-5 MSG: He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown. He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal. He renews your youth—you’re always young in His presence.”

I encourage you to take another look at this passage in Psalm 103 and claim its promises for your  life today. No matter what you may have gone through in the past, God wants to crown you with love and mercy. And although He wants you to take good care of your physical body, He also offers you something much more important: “beauty eternal.”

So, my friend, there really IS a Fountain of Youth available to you. God can renew your youth each day, because “you’re always young in His presence.”

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Unchaining Your Lost Melody

Have you ever found yourself humming a song from the distant past—a song that illuminated a timely issue in your life? That happened a few days ago, when God dropped the old Righteous Brothers song “Unchained Melody” into my heart.

I think this was sparked when a friend texted me to ask if I could help him write a book on how to be set free from addictions. I told him we could discuss this in a few days, but I was inclined to turn him down. After all, there already are countless books about how people can overcome drugs, pornography, smoking, alcoholism, codependence, and all sorts of other forms of addiction. I couldn’t see how one more book would do much good.

A few hours later, however, I found myself thinking about Unchained Melody, and it entirely changed my perspective.

Here’s why…

God has put a unique song (i.e., a melody) in the heart of each one of His children. But let’s be honest: Very FEW people seem to actually be singing the special, God-giving tune they’ve been given. Most seem to be living lives of drudgery, singing someone else’s song instead of their own.

What’s the problem here? If God has given us a special song to sing, why is it so rare to meet people who are truly “living out” that song?

I’m glad you asked…

A good starting place to answer the question is Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32. You probably know the story of the wealthy man who had two sons. He greatly loved both of them, but each son had something blocking his ability to experience the father’s love.

The younger son took his share of the inheritance and quickly squandered it in wild living. Not until his money ran out and he spent time in a pigpen did the young man come to his senses and return home.

The amazing part of the story is that instead of scolding and punishing his wayward son, the father threw him a huge party. Do you see how ironic this is?

The son probably would have returned home a lot sooner if he knew the love, acceptance, and blessings that awaited him. He spent all his money on PARTYING that could never satisfy, when all along, his father had been ready to throw him a PARTY that would change his life forever.

You see, once upon a time, the younger son had a Melody in his heart. But because of his sinful, addictive, wanton lifestyle, the Melody had become chained. Eventually the bondage became so oppressive that he totally forgot there had ever had been a grand Melody and purpose to his life.

When the young man witnessed the joyous music and dancing coming from his father’s house, something resonated in his heart. His song came back to life, and he finally experienced the joy of the Unchained Melody he had always been destined to sing.

Sadly, the older brother didn’t experience such a happy ending. While the Melody in his young brother’s heart was chained because of SIN and WORLDLINESS, the older brother’s Melody was in bondage because of RELIGION and SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS—often much more difficult chains to break.

Do you see how this applies to you and me? God wants each of us to sing our Unchained Melody—unhindered by sin and uninhibited by the stubborn pride of self-righteousness and religion.

So if I decide to help my friend on his book project, I hope the book can do more than just focus on addiction. The truth is, addiction feels good on some level (Hebrews 11:24-25), so we have to point people to something BETTER—the joyous Unchained Melody that God desires for them to sing.

And one more point…

Notice that the song is about Unchained MELODY, not Unchained HARMONY. While it’s a wonderful thing to harmoniously support other people’s dreams and visions, don’t forget about your own dream and vision. Although there’s a time to sing in the “choir,” perhaps this is the season to sing your own Unchained Melody.

But let me ask you…

Do you still even remember the song God placed in your heart many years ago? Or has it become a distant memory, needing the fresh wind of the Holy Spirit to rekindle the fire and remind you of the lyrics once again?

My friend, your Father has scheduled a party in your honor. Don’t let anything keep you from attending.

Can you hear the sound? Then go ahead and put on your dancing shoes!

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Regaining Your Lost Song

When our family moved from Florida to North Carolina, we realized after a few days that our blue Parakeet was being awfully quiet. Tweety, as we called him, had always been a joyful chirper while we lived in Florida—but now it seemed he had lost his song. For a whole month, Tweety’s silence continued, to the point that we wondered if he would ever be the same again.

I missed the cheery atmosphere that Tweety had previously provided, something I had taken for granted and not appreciated like I should have. It appeared that the trauma of moving 10 hours away and adjusting to a new climate was more than he could bear. When days past without a song from Tweety, I became concerned that he might even die from the strain of our move.

Then, as suddenly as it had disappeared, Tweety’s song returned. Once again, his happy chirping filled our kitchen and lifted our spirits.

Tweety’s resilience is a lesson for us all. Resilience is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.”

Birds aren’t the only creatures that can lose their song—people can too! In fact, I’ve experienced this myself numerous times over the years. Sometimes, like Tweety, I’ve experienced traumatic events that temporarily robbed me of my joy and my sense of purpose. At other times, my song disappeared amid sheer boredom or fatigue. I just didn’t feel like singing anymore, or even living, for that matter.

During these times when I lost my song, it seemed as if it might be gone forever. Life is pretty dreary when you’ve lost your vision, and that happens to me from time to time.

Thankfully, God has always restored my lost song in time. Sometimes He does this instantaneously, but at other times I’ve had to wait for weeks or even months.

During my “lost song” episodes, I’ve had a surprising epiphany: Often when my song returns, it comes in the form of an affirmation of some dream or vision that God had already put on my heart years before. But at other times, I’ve been blessed by unexpectedly receiving a “new song”—some fresh insight into the Lord’s future plans for my life (Psalm 40:1-3, Jeremiah 29:11).

If you’ve presently lost your song, as has happened to Tweety and me, recognize that you aren’t alone. This is a universal human experience, and if you’re a visionary, creative type like me, you’re likely to get hit the hardest.

Time is on your side in the restoration process. Make sure to surround yourself with loving friends who can help you regain your equilibrium and perspective. And a brisk walk or trip to the gym might help you get rid of the cobwebs too.

Don’t believe the lie that your joy will never return. Instead, turn your heart fully to the Lord. Spend time in His Word, where you’ll see how some of the Bible’s greatest heroes lost, and then recovered, their vision and their song.

Some of your most valuable lessons will be discovered in the midst of life’s storms. He is in the restoration business, and He knows exactly what you need to get your song back.

Can’t you hear the music begin to play in the distance? When you hear heaven’s irresistible serenade again, you can’t help but sing. You might even want to put on your dancing shoes.

 

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