Melodies

Melodies

I think my inclination towards music is probably one of my least known traits. I guess I’ve been too shy about it, until over the past few years. I’ve always been drawn to instruments for as early as I can remember. As a kid, I remember walking into different stores and gawking over the guitars and keyboards, with an irresistible urge to explore them. The first time I visited Guitar Center, I felt like I was in Disney World, surrounded by attractions. I remember watching Purple Rain for the first time when I was about 6 years old, which is NOT at all an appropriate film for a 6 year old (I actually wouldn’t recommend it at all at this stage in life). I recall being so intrigued with the powerful sound of the electric guitars. I mean, REALLY intrigued. My parents bought me my first electric keyboard from Radio Shack around this time and I would just play around on it. It took me no time to learn to play by ear. I can’t really explain how I caught on to it. I would just listen to sections of a song repetitiously and fumble around on the keyboard until I learned to form chords and mimic the sounds I heard. It has always come natural. I inherited the musical gene from my maternal grandparents, who were both phenomenal Gospel singers in the church. I also have cousins who are musicians. I have total confidence that, with sufficient time in practice, I can play almost about anything by ear.

One of my biggest childhood regrets is my lack of application and drive. As a kid, I was kind of lazy. I often ran from challenges instead of overcoming them. I lacked self-confidence, never really believing it could be me. Honestly, it wasn’t until my early adulthood that I really realized I had any talent at all. As a kid, my favorite pastimes were eating, tv, and video games. Unfortunately with this lazy complex, I didn’t apply myself to much at all, including music. I always had instruments in the house – keyboards and guitars (electric and acoustic). I even played trombone in my school’s band during the 4th grade, but there was no diligent consistency, so my full potential remained dormant. Retrospectively, I wish I had recognized my inclination towards music as true talent rather than just a hobby to play around with occasionally. I wish I would have fully devoted myself to the study and mastery of music. If I had done so, who knows where I’d be today.

The good news is it’s never too late, and as I entered adulthood I realized that. I looked over the course of my life and recognized that music (along with my other creative gifts) have always been with me. Always. When I was a teenager, my mom bought a new HP desktop computer (which was kept in her room for close monitoring). Somehow I stumbled across Super Duper Music Looper (music production software for kids) and it blew my mind. I was FASCINATED with the multitude of instrument sounds that the software produced. I quickly learned how to create various instrument tracks to form a song. This was my very first introduction and the catalyst to my love for music production. When I started college, I remember some of the guys who lived in my friends’ dorm would spend hours making beats on FruityLoops (professional music production software) and freestyling. This was my first introduction to professional music producing software and I had to have it. During the summer of 2006 right before returning to college for my sophomore year, I went to Best Buy and purchased Cake Walk music production software and learned how to remix some of my favorite songs. During my early adulthood, I continued to play around with music here and there, but a few more years passed before I awakened to the fact that music is a gift – a gift I needed to cultivate.

Around my second year of graduate school, I decided to enroll at Music Instruction for All Learners (MIFAL), founded and directed by Mr. Orlando Johnson. I had met Mr. Orlando a few years prior to my enrollment in the program and we always had conversations about music. He emphasized the limitations of playing by ear, suggesting that I enroll in lessons so I can gain classical training in theory and technique. Confident in my ability to play by ear, I initially resisted. I honestly didn’t think I needed it, but I decided that I didn’t want to just play around with music. I wanted to understand and eventually master it, so I enrolled in courses with Mr. Orlando and I am so glad that I did.

MIFAL is a wonderful organization that transforms people who play music into well versed, classically trained musicians. During my year and a half with the program, I learned many fundamental elements of music that laid a strong foundation that I am still building upon. I learned the many components of the music staff, notes, how to properly form chords, different types of chords, proper fingering techniques, and beats per measure, just to name a few. MIFAL sets a high standard of diligence and excellence, and I must say I was challenged. I once arrived to class with notes written out on the staff in my music book and Mr. Orlando was not happy to say the least. He made it known that such practice did not fit the core values of learning at MIFAL. It’s a moment that still tickles me, but it was a vital learning moment that reminded me that there are no shortcuts to mastery. In order to master music or any other craft, excellence, diligence and consistency is key. Though I was navigating a busy schedule in graduate school, Mr. Orlando challenged me to set aside at least 15 minutes a day for practice. Diligence and consistency strengthened my skills greatly, allowing me to power through the obstacles that once stagnated me from evolving as a musician. MIFAL inspired my transition from playing with music to actually playing music. Around this same time, I started making beats on GarageBand (music production software that I discovered when I bought my MacBook Pro) and I have grown significantly in that as well.

I highly recommend MIFAL to all who are serious about honing their musicianship. Excellence, diligence, consistency, and passion is what separates the average and mediocre from the professionals who recognize their gifting and strive to tap into their full potential. MIFAL is for those who are ready to take their skills to the next level. MIFAL is for those who have grown weary with remaining musically stagnated by the lack of understanding and training. MIFAL is for those who are aiming to achieve mastery. MIFAL is for those who are devoted to ascending as the cream of the crop. Mr. Orlando is a disciplinarian who will not tolerate laziness and apathy; however, he is a man of God who is devoted to magnifying Christ through his passion for music and he serves all who desire to learn music, regardless of age or background. Students at MIFAL will be embraced and supported with great love. All who come will not leave the same, unless they choose such a disservice. If you’re like me, musically inclined with the need to hone your craft, MIFAL is an organization that I highly urge you to consider. I am confident that you will gain musical knowledge that will never leave you. You will evolve into the musician that you were born to be, but the decision starts with you. Awaken to greatness because mediocre is not for you. Check out MIFAL today! Excellence awaits you. https://www.mifalinc.org/

Check me out employing some of the techniques I learned during my time with MIFAL. This is a random melody I had in my head and wanted to get out. Played on my Alesis V49 midi, recorded on Garageband.

Peace Be Still

HOLD ON TO YOUR PEACE. PERIOD. Let no one or nothing impede on the PROMISE of peace that God guarantees His children. It’s so easy to be more protective over our natural possessions than our spiritual possessions. When we get a new car, we don’t want anyone hardly touching it. When we a wearing new shoes, we guard them relentlessly to avoid getting them dirty. When many of us move into a new home, we establish a rule that shoes must be removed at the front door to preserve the floor and maintain its cleanliness. It is important to guard such possessions; however, it is far more important to guard our spiritual lives through our hearts and minds.

When we allow life’s circumstances to rob us of our peace, we are actually acting in disobedience, which is displeasing to God. We are not to worry or dwell in negative emotions. While we are human, we will experience a wide range of emotions, negative and positive; however, we are always to take our concerns, hurts, offenses, worries, etc. to God and by faith, trust that He is just and will answer our prayers. This is so much easier said than done, as is everything in life; however, it is important to remember that we do not draw from our own natural strength – it was never meant for us to. This leads to exhaustion because the carnal mind is not wired to operate in the holiness that God requires, which is only possible through His Spirit. We draw our power and strength from Him through prayer, worship, and the study and application of His word. Period. This is what it means to sleep through the storm.

Guard your heart. Guard your mind. Guard your peace. At all expenses, guard it all! As a wise man once said, get rid of everything that interferes with your peace. While we cannot always control and remove people, situations, outcomes, etc., we can always control ourselves by governing ourselves according to the Spirit, which always produces peace and joy. Tap into that higher power and soar high above the things that try to take your peace. Always.

Want to learn more about the peace available to every Christian by faith? Check out the books of Philippians, Romans, Colossians, Mark, 1 Peter, and 2 Peter (just to name a few). These are a few of my go-to books for reminders on the peace we are promised as God’s children.

Pray up, read, worship and stay connected!

The Greatest Invitation

The Greatest Invitation

The door is WIDE open. The invitation is extended to all. There is a global call for all of mankind to yield to the everlasting love of God through surrender, repentance, and worship. It’s simple. It’s not complicated. It’s not hard. It was never intended to be. God loves ALL. He hates sin because it separates us from Him (Isaiah 59:2), but He loves ALL. He wants ALL. He is calling ALL. He sent His son for ALL (John 3:16). Salvation is available to ALL. Don’t let anyone lie to you and convince you otherwise.

There is a global call to repentance because God’s kindness is indeed meant to draw us to repentance (Romans 2:4). He’s not this vengeful, tyrant king who just seeks to strike us down for every little mistake. I once had this misconception of God and I’m sure I’m not alone. Before truly understanding the nature of His love, my focus was simply trying to stay out of sin to avoid “punishment”. This is legalism and Jesus did not shed His blood as the ultimate atoning sacrifice for our sins for us to adopt a legalistic response to His love. Once we really accept Jesus into our hearts as our Savior, allowing His love to fill hearts, and His Spirit to fill ever fiber of our being, our love for Him drives us into righteousness and holiness (2 Corinthians 5:21), which are the characteristics God seeks to mature us in. In other words, His love makes us want to live our lives and conduct ourselves in a manner that is pleasing to Him, and when we stray from that standard, we feel deep conviction. We will never be perfect, but Jesus is perfect, and He sacrificed Himself to reconcile and reinstate us back into the place in which God originally (and always) intended for us to dwell – in His perfect will through relationship (2 Corinthians 5:16-20).

So many feel that they aren’t ready. I did at one time. In fact, I was scared that giving my life to Christ meant forfeiting all enjoyment and living a dry and boring religious life where nothing is allowed. Who would want that? I spent years with my focus on everything but God. I tried to justify myself by being “good” rather than trusting in the power of redemption that is able to change my heart and life. I experienced one of my greatest breakthroughs when I finally learned to stop depending on my own strength and depend on His. I stopped trying to fix myself. My focus shifted from merely trying to avoid sin to allowing the love of God to heal my soul. I learned to accept the freedom that His Spirit brings (2 Corinthians 3:17). I learned that repentance is not just about a vocal proclamation, but yet it is the position of the heart turned to allow God (through His Holy Spirit that lives in us) to help us turn from sin. A good way to describe it is this way: If you’re sitting in between two people and turn your head to the person at your right, the person to your left is out of your site. You cannot look both ways at the same time. It’s impossible. So, when we choose to turn to God, we turn from sin because God is the polar opposite of sin, which is evil. Because we’re human, we will mess up and make mistakes, but by the atoning blood of Christ, we’re acquitted of the wages of sin which are condemnation and death (Romans 6:23).

As God’s children, our commitment is to Him, not sin. Got weaknesses? We all do. I’m far from perfect. But I’ve learned to lean into the truth that God’s strength is truly demonstrated in my weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9). In other words, when I’m struggling, when I fail, when I’m weak, God’s strength will always fill the gap to complete me so there are no deficiencies. He makes me whole. I know that He can surely do what I cannot. This is what I aim to rest in each day, and His Spirit helps me (Isaiah 41:10). I have experienced the power of God at work in my life that severed chains of sins I simply did not have the power to destroy. If we could fix ourselves, addiction wouldn’t exist, nor would many of the other issues that plague humanity.

This is the greatest invitation: to ascend beyond our human nature into a divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4) through the ultimate relationship provided through salvation. Only Christ could have done this. Only Christ would do this.

This is the greatest invitation.

Keep up with me @diana_arlana on Instagram!

Lukewarm Like…

I’m so over weak, lukewarm, watered-down Christianity. Seriously. I know of no one who likes lukewarm coffee. Most of us also don’t like lukewarm, melted ice cream. Most foods and drinks are made to be served either hot or cold. Rarely, if ever, have I read serving instructions that state lukewarm as the best serving temperature. Usually it’s either hot or cold.  As Christians, we should really devote ourselves to being lit hot on fire for Christ. We live our absolute best lives on fire. We are our best selves on fire. We are most effective on fire. Being lukewarm or cold only leaves us in a place of mere survival and existence instead of fully thriving and living with purpose in the will of God. Settling on lukewarm does a major disservice to ourselves, to the world we’re called to serve and impact, and most of all, to God. 

I got saved at 19 because I wanted to be “safe”.  You know, I wanted all of the promises, blessings, and protection from God without the commitment. So I got a bit religious and went to church out of mere routine for years. I mastered all of the church culture –  how to clap and sing the songs, when to nod my head and holler “amen”  when the preacher said something really profound, when to hi-five my neighbor and all the other stuff we learned to do in church overtime. I got rid of (or cut down on) most of the “big sins” (or so I thought) and read my Bible every now and then. I thought I had it going on. I thought I was such the ideal Christian. Young and foolish me. I was so dull and lukewarm. There was no passion. No fire. God did not have my heart. I was just going through the motions. In fact, at one point in time I had a crush on my Pastor and was more excited to go to church to see him than to worship God. Ugh. So lukewarm. It took me years to fully understand the need to be on fire. As I grew in this revelation, every area of my life got better –  emotionally, relationally, creatively, etc. 

So exactly what does it mean to be on fire for Christ? It means to yield every part of our being to Him, devoting ourselves to an ever growing relationship through consistent Prayer (Colossians 4:2), study and application of His Word (Matthew 4:4), obedience to His Word and instruction (John 14:15),  and worship (John 4:23-24). To be on fire for Christ means that we unapologetically seek Him and live as His ambassadors. To be on fire is to be filled with his Spirit  (John 14:16-17;John 16:7), rejecting any and everything that is contrary. 

The world doesn’t need lukewarm, churchy Christians with no true relationship, no victory, no power, no authenticity, and no passion. What is gained through us merely holding the title of being Christian and congregating weekly in our churches with no fruit to show that we really belong to Him (Matthew 7:15-20; John 15:5). The world is looking for answers. The world is hurting. The world is looking for healing and health. If we bear the title as Christians, it is our duty to point the world to freedom set forth by the truth of a Mighty God (Christ) who is extending a global invitation into salvation, restoration, and redemption. So, it is our duty and privilege to live on fire for Christ.

All Roads to Peace

It is imperative to get rid of everything that disrupts our peace. Everything. Nothing exempt. This doesn’t mean that we can always remove or alter situations, circumstances, dilemmas, people, issues, or anything else less ideal that life brings our way, but it does mean that we can rid ourselves of the burdens that cause us to forfeit the peace, joy, and victory that God wants us to live in and enjoy.

What we must realize is that we do not have to worry or remain upset about anything. We always have complete access to the peace and joy in Christ. Always. He’s never-changing and He’s always available, so there’s never the need to wait for the relief through any other means of pseudo-remedy. The Lord is present with us…always. We must be ever more aware and cognizant of His consistent, glorious Presence with us. He wants us to lean on Him, withholding nothing. He who bore the weight of the cross is surely strong enough to bare the weight of our burdens. Though many Christian already have this knowledge, actually putting it into practice is far easier said than done.

I have wrestled with rumination for as long as I can remember. It’s basically a form of negative meditation where you get stuck in a loop of negative thoughts. It’s truly a form of self-torture and it’s completely illogical. Rehearsing the same negative thoughts over and over brings zero change. Zero. It only drains us, causing us to plummet to a low state of emotional agony and depletion, which effects how we function and live. We must identify faulty thought patterns and abolish them. This is where the mind renewal comes in to action (Romans 12:2). When we come to Christ and receive His Spirit, we are not necessarily given new minds; however, the Lord helps us to reform our thought life through the understanding and application of His word, prayer, worship, and faith.

As a very intellectual and logical person, I can get really stuck in my head sometimes and it can be hard to snap out of it. For some reason, sometimes it feels like the only way to get peace is to mull the issue over in my head until it makes sense. Funny enough, it never makes sense, and peace doesn’t come until I truly let go. One of the main ways I have learned to interrupt rumination and gain peace is by rehearsing scripture that combats it. Sometimes I’ll even speak it aloud. We have to know that God’s Word is powerful, and it is a weapon (Hebrews 4:12) that we can always use to combat the enemy (2 Corinthians 10:4), demolishing every lie and winning victory with the truth. This is how we make our thoughts bow to Jesus (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). We have to remember that Jesus gives us peace (John 14:27). Peace is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Such a wonderful gift. Through faith, we also rely on prayer, knowing that God hears our prayers and He will surely answer (James 5:18) and come to our rescue every time.

We are called to truly release our burdens at the feet of Jesus (1 Peter 5:7) and we are guaranteed peace when we do (Philippians 4:6-7). Once we release our issues and concerns, we are officially free of them! It doesn’t mean that our problems just go away in that instance, but it does mean that the worry goes away and we have peace in Jesus because, through faith and trust, we know that everything will be ok. Even when issues aren’t resolved as we would like, the Lord will give us the grace we need to endure and the peace and strength to persevere. This is part of the many privileges of belonging to Him. We can literally drop off burdens in prayer and stop thinking about them. What a relief…true relief. This is the ultimate anti-anxiety and stress relief.

Join me the commitment to worship God and not our problems. Join me in the commitment to get rid of everything that interferes with peace. If a thought is stealing your peace, you should not be entertaining it. Replace it with the truth set forth by God’s Word. If an experience or encounter is interfering with your peace, release it in prayer and trust that God will handle it best. Regardless of what we’re facing, we have an Advocate who’s for us and with us always. We don’t have to forfeit our peace for anyone or anything. Our peace isn’t predicated upon anything in our natural lives, but it is a supernatural gift from God that allows us to soar above the many dilemmas and issues of life (Isaiah 40:31). When keep our eyes fixed on the Lord, we are kept in peace beyond this world (Isaiah 26:3). That’s how we can rest through the storm.

Take a listen at this sweet worship song from Elevation Worship. I had this on repeat while I was writing this entry. Hope it blesses you. This is the stance we should always keep as believers and followers of Christ.

Keep up with me on Instagram @diana_arlana