A number of years ago I was hired to care for a retired musician who at the age of 96 was still teaching new students and coaching former ones, most of the latter employed by the nation’s top symphony orchestras. Having served as principle harpist for 43 years in the Cleveland Symphony, she was a stickler for precision.

As a bassist and recovering piano student shamed by my first music teacher for ‘cheating’ by playing by ear, I felt a great sense of vindication one day while waiting for her at the harp. As I plucked out a simple melody, she walked into the room, sharp eyes upon me, and asked what I was playing–more of a demand than a question. I hardly thought my efforts worth the question, but politely responded that I was just making something up.  Just as matter-of-factly, with absolutely no compuncture she stated: “I can’t do that. ” I almost fell off the harp stool.

At any rate, she deemed by abilities worthy of taking some harp lessons. Beginning with some preludes and struggling to read notes dangerously perched above the ledger lines (a condition she referred to as ‘ledgerlinitus’) she looked me squarely in the eye and said: ‘it’s not difficult, it’s just new.’  Become familiar with it and it will become easy. She said her predecessor sounded like a beginner every time he practiced, playing slowly, simply and repetitively to become proficient, to develop the calm, unshakable confidence of craft.

What stands out to me is the aspect of relative ease afforded by relationship: whether with notes, with a fingerboard, with a person, with a job assignment or task of any sort, when we develop a relationship with whatever it is, it becomes easier. Opens the door to more.  Next time a task seems daunting, just remember: it’s not difficult. It’s just new. Take time to get to know it–whatever it may be–it may just contain the very joy it seems to be barring.

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It is easy to focus on a problem until it becomes all we see. To illustrate: hold a piece of paper up to your face until everything else is blocked from view. Now slowly pull it away until it is at arm’s length.  Notice how much smaller it looks in perspective with your full range of vision. God wants us to see that thing, that situation, that whatever-it-may-be with a viewpoint not limited to what is challenging us.

When we allow the only One who can shift our circumstances to invade our hearts with the truth of an abiding peace that can never be disturbed no matter what is happening, or what has happened, that which troubles us can no longer control us.  Perhaps more often than not this transformation takes place within us rather than in changed circumstances–but the end result is the same.

In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. We are ‘overcomers’ for one reason: the love of God. God is love.

Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.

God not only restores things lost, but perhaps the twice as much is the promise that He will restore the same thing in the life of another person who needs the hope that you carry: I will repay you for the years the locust have eaten–and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed. Restoration may come in a form we don’t expect or immediately recognize, but it will be greater in measure than what was lost.

Never again will my people be shamed. Sometimes the difficulties of life, whether through our own doing or what was perpetrated against us can carry great shame–and yet we have a promise that God will remove our shame, and restore more than we had before our loss, as we simply give it to Him, and agree with His plan for us in the midst of it.

What if things are actually not as bad as they seem? Not to minimize what we go through at times — but to remember that there is a very strong Someone working on our behalf, who will faithfully see us through to the other side of whatever we are facing. We are not alone.