Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Tyranny of the Barline

Memorial dayAs a college music student, I learned about the tyranny of the barline. Composers used bars to organize music – a very useful invention. But when the bar line, or rather the beat associated with the downbeat, the first beat of the bar, became all-controlling, musicians began to rally against the very rigid sense of rhythym. The tyranny of the barline was born.

I thought about this today, on Memorial Day, because I decided over this weekend to rally against the tyranny of the to do list. For most people, that’s where we desperately need to overthrow the oppression in our lives. The overscheduling, the unkept promises, the taking on more than we can handle and of course, the ensuing depression that come from balancing an unstable house of cards, mostly one of our own making.

This weekend, I decided to live an oxymoron – to tackle my to do list while relaxing! At first, the task sounds daunting, something that not only can’t be done, but shouldn’t even be tried. This weekend taught me that’s not necessarily true. It all depends on what items you place on your to do list and your attitude towards them.

I’m not telling you to stop taking out the garbage, going to the grocery store or doing your laundry. All are necessary, even noble things. But this weekend, amidst all that, I asked God to change my heart so He became my first priority. In eternity, God doesn’t care about how many loads of laundry I do, or how many times a month I mow my grass – thank goodness! He wants me to love Him, serve Him; to go out to love and serve others.

In between the loads of laundry, I took time to call a few friends – just to chat. After completing some gardening, I took Lily to the doggie park and thanked God for the beauty in her powerful strides as she ran and romped with her dog friends. I wrote some long overdue letters and cards and on the way to the post office held the little stack in my hand praising God for giving me such loyal friends. And at night, instead of just watching a rerun, I got out my journal and told God how much I enjoyed the day walking beside Him. How excited I was to feel His hand in mine as I tackled the items on my to do list together.

And while many of us are in a season where there is little we can eliminate from our lists, I firmly believe there is always something we can add. Time with God. It doesn’t have to be hours upon hours. The presence of God joining us, opening our eyes to His gifts and awakening us to our dreams lightens everything we must complete. Practicing the presence of God throughout our day is not always easy. Inviting God into our to do lists makes us more aware of what really matters to God. And with that, we can make beautiful harmony with our Creator.


House-CleaningOn days like today, my mind wonders to places it should not go. All I have on my plate is household chores and despite my resistance, I’m being sucked into the vortex of cleaning. Comments from my past haunt me since my mother was a neat freak. Despite three active children in her house, you could eat off her floors any day of the week. There was never any mess, never anything waiting to be put away; never anything to be straightened – it was always spotless.

Every Friday was a deep cleaning day. For as long as I can remember, each of us was assigned certain chores to be accomplished that morning. Before my sister, brother and I could move on to our own activities, we had to get my mother to inspect and approve our work. And she did – with military precision. With my attitude of indifference towards housekeeping, my mom would inevitably find something lacking with my efforts.

“You missed a spot.”

“Did you even vacuum? I can’t see any evidence that you did.”

“Why can’t you wash dishes as well as your sister?”

You’d think I’d have learned, changed my attitude and worked to meet her exacting standards. But even to this day, my attitude is: there is always something more exciting to be doing than cleaning. I like the finished product, so I force myself to clean, but I will never reach my mom’s pinnacle of spotlessness.

And despite in some ways being proud of walking under that bar, on cleaning days, her comments return, only unfortunately now I own them.

“Why can’t you do more?”

“Can’t you do things a little better?

“Haven’t you learned how to be more disciplined?”

When I beat myself up like this, I stop to remind myself that only one opinion really matters. And that is God’s. When I view myself as a failure, as a lousy cleaner, as a terrible friend, I must recall that to label myself as anything other than the daughter of the King is limiting. I am stronger than the dust. I am stronger than my faults. With God, I am victorious.

That’s because there is no greater success in life than being a servant who brings joy to her Master. With God’s extravagant grace and unfailing love, I do that every day, even on cleaning days! And rest assured, you do, too!