Wow! What an exciting time of year. Back to school excitement (and dread) abounds! Why would I throw in that "dread" parenthesis? Simple. A whole bunch of folks love the routine of school year scheduling, but dread the piling on of things to do — homework, dance, band, cheer, soccer, football, fund raisers, PTA (whatever its equivalent is called in your area), and special projects. It reminds me of the great line in the movie about Mozart called Amadeus. When "Wolfy" asks the Emperor of Austria, Joseph the II, how he liked the opera Mozart had written for him, Emperor Joseph said, "It is beautiful, but it has too many notes!" (See YouTube video.)

I don't know about you, but that is sure what my life feels like sometimes — there are just too many notes! You add to our busy schedules what we are asked to do at church, the needs of our broken world with famines, earthquakes, hurricanes, wars, droughts, and AIDs orphans and you simply feel OVERWHELMED. With so many big things that no one can do anything about, how are you supposed to make a difference in anything? ... Especially when we have so much to do in our own lives?

So we tone it down, turn it off, and tune it out. We cocoon. We hide. We shut down. We avoid. We simply can't respond to any more requests to help and we for sure can't add anything else to our cram-packed schedules!

But then there is Jesus ... the Lord who finished his work (John 4:34;   John 19:30) and who calls us to follow in his steps (Matthew 7:12;  Matthew 22:34-30;  John 13:12-17) — both in terms of caring for our neighbors and in terms of finishing the work God has given us to do.

So how do we finish the work God has called us to do? Better yet, how do we even know the work we are called to do — what we'll call our "One Tune" — our life's mission?

There are lots of books out there on this subject and there are many folks who are happy to offer their advice, but as followers of Jesus, let's do something that shouldn't be so surprising. Let's look at Jesus to see how he did this!

So take a minute to read  Mark 1:29-39. Come on, don't cheat on me. You can click the link and it will help you read the verses and then you can make sure this isn't something I'm making up!

Now notice a couple of things. After an incredibly busy day of healing and helping broken people — a busy day that went well into the evening (Mark 1:32) — Jesus got up early the next morning and went off to a secluded place and spent time with the Father in prayer. Before long, Peter and his posse found the Lord and told him the great news: "Everyone is looking for you!" You can feel the expectation behind Peter's words! "It's working, Lord. They're flocking to you. In fact, we've got a whole bunch more folks who want to come hear you and be blessed by you! Come on, let's go help them!"

In almost every circumstance I know, everyone would rejoice and make every effort to make sure the "everyone" was accommodated so they could be blessed by Jesus. But notice what Jesus said and did! He reminded his followers of his mission ("that is what I came for") and leaves behind the "everyone" looking for him to go to the nearby villages and cities to preach the good news. Yes, you read that correctly: Jesus left behind a big crowd of people who wanted and needed his help. He left behind these folks who were looking for him. And Jesus did it so that he could do the mission God had given him for this time in his life!

So here's the principle:

Jesus couldn't do everything, even everything that mattered. So he regularly spent time with the Father to have his life tuned to the will of God so he could do the things that mattered most to God.

This means something very important to you and to me. Something we have to admit to ourselves and before God:

"Lord, I can't do everything, even everything that matters. So I commit to do what matters most to you. Please show me my "One Tune" and conform me to your will so I can do what matters most to you!"

We need our lives tuned by God so that we can live out our mission, our "One Tune," for this time in our lives. Then, we need to live it as our first and primary priority, learning to walk away from many good things, so we can do what matters most to God.

Okay, Phil, so how do I hear what God wants me to do? How can I find my "One Tune" that I'm supposed to live at this time in my life?

Here's a great place to start. I call it "tuning time." Like Jesus, begin the day in the presence of God sharing your heart and asking him to tune your life to his will — "tuning time" can be in bed before you get up, in the shower as you get ready for work, it can be during your commute, it can be some quiet moments as you settle in to your office at work or school, or it can occur any place you can pull away from the press of the moment and retreat to be with the Father. The key is to start having dedicated tuning time on a daily basis.

Confess to the Father that you have been distracted by many sounds, notes, requests, demands, projects, needs ... and you want to know your "One Tune" for this time in your life. I encourage you to use something like the following four daily spiritual exercises to open yourself up to God's call in your life (download this PDF file). This takes a few minutes each day and a heart open to God.

Okay, I know what some of you are thinking, because I've had people say it to me:

"Does that mean God is just going to whisper it in my ear? I'm not Jesus, and I'm sure that's how God did it for him, but I'm not sure he will do that for me."

O Lord, what is my "One Tune" you want me to play with my life?
God can reveal it to you however that he wants to reveal it to you. My experience, however, suggests it often comes as a repeated, emphasized, redundant message from the Holy Spirit experienced in a variety of ways, including some of the following:

  • a strong conviction placed on your heart.
  • a repeated message you hear in church songs or songs on the radio or in the words of a friend.
  • a message you receive when you are reading Scripture, listening to a message from God's word, or reading a book tied to Scripture.
  • a message you receive when you are talking to your spouse or parent or child.
  • a note you receive by email or on a card or in a letter.

Whatever way you receive this repeated message, the important thing is to begin to notice it and then live it out as your "One Tune" — the mission God has given you for this stage of your life's journey. And as you live it out, learn to say, "NO!" to many of the good and not so good opportunities, so that you can say "YES!" to the most important ones, the ones that are aligned with the "One Tune" God has given you to sing with your life!

Next week we will focus on responding to those occasional special opportunities to serve and what to do about them. We'll call it our "One Note" and how it fits with our "One Tune." Until then, keep listening for God's music in your life, and I am confident he will help you find your "One Tune"!