What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.   This is the ultimate lesson I have experienced this Lenten season.

It started out with me deciding to pursue fasting on Wednesdays.   This was a huge deal.    I don’t skip meals.   But fasting for my relationship with Christ is about letting go of my need to control, and relying on my dependence on God.    This purpose has stuck with me since Pastor Kelly Brumbeloe led staff chapel in a message about fasting where she explained the purpose of fasting is “to increase our awareness and reliance on God.”

So this Lenten season it seemed like a good idea to try.  Plus I had been reading about the health benefits of intermittent fasting so it became a bonus two for one deal.

On Ash Wednesday, I was able to stay busy and fasting went fine.   I went to bed early to take my mind off my routine of nightly dinner and mindless tv watching.    On non-fast days, I had been following a 16:8 schedule (eating in an 8 hour window), usually 12-8pm.    But Thursday morning I felt entitled to eat breakfast.    The remaining weeks were easier.  I derailed one week when I battled a stomach bug.   Even though I didn’t focus too much on my reliance on God, I did feel His power and presence at work.   I knew it was only due to God working in me that gave me determination, stamina, and focus.

Throughout Lent I was practicing to sing in the choir for Good Friday and Easter Sunday services.    The heavy music of highlighting Jesus’ suffering and death was somehow a comfort to me.   I totally connected with “sorrow and love flow mingled down” from the hymn “When I survey the Wondrous cross”.    Extreme sadness is felt along with extreme passion and conviction.

During Holy week, I felt a personal attack of betrayal in my family.   Strong personalities, young adults, wanting what we want came crashing down in a crushing blow.   The pain in my heart felt unbearable at times.    Staff Chapel during Holy Week was a personal journey through the stations of the cross.    It was a time to take your mind off your own pity party, and focus on the one who experienced the ultimate suffering.   Part of the stations of the cross experience is recognizing our own pain, and giving it over to God.

The prayer at station 12 highlighted my exact need and pain:    “Be present with us when others betray us or forsake us that we may find ourselves in your eyes and not theirs”. 

Praying this prayer turned my feelings for revenge and anger, into a change in direction.   Suddenly it was just me, looking at Jesus for my sense of self.  In Christ I find my identity.   In Christ, I know that I am fearfully and wonderfully made.   In Christ, I can sow love even among those who betray me.

Easter is the celebration of all things being made new.    This Easter I felt that renewal in my heart and soul, and I take joy that God will continue to work in me.

I have many stories I have had the privilege of hearing and watching about things being made new.   As we speak, my prayer partner is recovering from a 12+ hour surgery to once again repair an open wound in her intestines.    This has been a battle for several years, and often difficult and painful.   But this time the prognosis is quite good, and each step forward is a victory.

My dear, dear friend who has been my concert buddy and confidante for almost 30 years has been battling lymphoma since December.   She has endured chemotherapy with some intense but mostly mild side effects.    And it’s working.  Her latest scans showed shrinkage.

A beloved Pastor was hospitalized in crisis with heart failure and was put on the heart transplant list.   He and his family waited days and weeks, hoping for new life.   They were aware and humbled that for him to get a new heart, someone else had to die and donate their heart.    This is week number 2 with a new heart and they do not take this opportunity for granted.

A father of one of my kids’ former basketball team has stage IV liver cancer.   He has been battling it well with a positive response from chemotherapy.   But he is not yet cured.    Later this summer he will have the opportunity for a cure by one of his children donating up to 70% of their own liver.    The liver can regenerate.   And donation from a family member has the best prospects.    The son is a young adult and healthy and he can regenerate a full liver with just 30% left.    The father can have his cancerous liver removed, and grow a full healthy liver from his sons’ donation.

God is so good.    He continues to work with me and show me that He makes all things new….even me.


Mingled down

Practice has begun for singing in the Easter choir, which also includes music for the Good Friday Tenebrae service, described as:

Tenebrae (/ˈtɛnəbreɪ, -bri/—Latin for “darkness”)  – a religious service of Western Christianity held during the three days preceding Easter, and characterized by gradual extinguishing of candles, and a “loud noise” taking place in total darkness near the end of the service.

The music gets intense, as it should be, to remind us of that dark day.   This year, I have a new understanding for the words of the hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”, written by Isaac Watts in 1707.  He writes vividly about the crucifixion, and describes it as “sorrow and love flow mingled down.”

Jesus knew that the only way to accomplish what he had been called to do, was to suffer immensely and die for our behalf.   Extreme sadness is felt along with extreme passion and conviction.

I have dear friends who are battling health challenges, and facing a difficult period of getting sicker, in hopes of ultimately getting better.    Who would willingly choose a time of pain, sickness, possible complications, and long periods of feeling lousy?    What if that were your best choice?

I feel both sorrow and love for my friends.  I hate the suffering.   The only thing that makes sense is if something good can come from it.   And that is our hope in Jesus.   He suffered for our sake, so something good, wondrous, miraculous could happen to each of us.    We are freed from the bondage of sin and forgiven so that we can live restored and whole.

For my friends, I pray that they are fully restored, and that they endure the transitional stage with the hopefulness to come.

“Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.”  James 1:12 (The MSG)

Life itself can be a testing challenge.   But because of what Christ has done, and because His “love so amazing, so divine, demands our soul, our life, our all.”

This year, Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection, is my opportunity to “embrace the moment that changes my destiny”.   I know a terrific book that talks all about this.  It’s called “Pivot” by Dr. Jody G. Ray.

I began the Lenten season with an expectant hope that God will work in me to make this years’ Easter celebration a new beginning for a new season in my life.   I prepared with prayer, fasting, and meditation.   I take great comfort in the wisdom from Dr. Ray:

“God is love; He is not the author of the evil in this world. God doesn’t make bad things happen, but God can use our worst moments to do great things in and through us. God is the Great Redeemer. God can take our pain and turn it into our gain.”

The ultimate bad thing happened when Jesus died on the cross.   Sorrow and love flowed mingled down, and now that understanding is my pivot moment to change my destiny.   Today, because of Jesus, I can  

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  James 1:2-3

The best part of the Easter music is ending in the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah.  What a wonderful expression of praise and honor.   What better way to embrace the victory of Jesus’ resurrection than to belt out with full conviction our praise, joy and thanks.

What an honor it is to share the joy of Easter by singing the best music that proclaims our love and understanding of a gracious and loving God.   But even better, is the opportunity to move forward and live my best life because of Jesus, and invite others to do the same.   Thanks be to God.




Place Your Life before God

Mahatma Gandhi:
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”

 Your thoughts matter.  How we think and respond matters.  Where you end up is determined by your thoughts.  Inner dialogue matters.  You are the person that you listen to the most. Our thoughts can lead to downward spiral, and rarely spiral upwards.

Romans 8:5-6   Set your mind on the things of the spirit.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace

Romans 12:2. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Over the past year God has transformed my thinking.  I have finally been able to put desires to action with better eating and exercising.  I was opened up to the power of persistent prayer.  I learned to focus my thoughts and absorb reading material for knowledge and enrichment.   Reading became a love of mine at an early age, but it took a hiatus during active parenting years where I never could relax and focus without feeling I was shirking my duties. Over this past year I have become strongly aware of God’s presence and His desire to have a personal relationship with me.   Thank you, Jesus!

Pastor Jody Ray tells us that it is not the content of what we face, but how we respond that matters.  And that begins with our thinking.   Do we feel defeated before we even face a challenge?   A person of faith knows that God is always with us and we do not battle alone.

2 Cor.  10:3  …our weapons are not of the flesh but of divine power to demolish strongholds.

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

We have the Armour of God.  Don’t let the devil or fear or negative thoughts hold any power over what God can do.   Remind yourself daily, even hourly if necessary of your intentions:

Jesus is first
I exist to glorify God
I love people
I am disciplined
I am growing closer to God
I am anointed and empowered and equipped

Replace lies.  Too much is at stake for the devil to get in to my head.  Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

The Message version of Romans 12:2 says:

Place Your Life Before God

12 1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Let it be, dear Lord. Let it be.

I was made for this

Last night I got a no-doubt in-the-flesh confirmation that I was made to Praise the Lord.  You might think I got caught up in the moment, but I see it as clear confirmation of all that I have learned on my faith journey this year.

How great our joy!

I have been practicing for Carols for Christmas for nearly 12 weeks.  It really took all that time to learn not only notes and melodies, but also relearn breathing and tone and stamina.

And it hasn’t been easy.  Two hour practices are a workout.   Sunday afternoons are best for “plopping”, but there was no time with Carols practice.   Sunday nights became hectic with meal prep and laundering for the week.

But the music nourished my heart and reminded me of the hope of the season.  In early November I attended an evening healing service where I prayed for healing for a dear friend. As I was driving home, listening to my practice CD, I found myself half singing and half still praying.  The Advent hymn “Come thou long expected Jesus” became “Come thou long expected healing” as my friend has been on a long journey of illness and recovery.   And I realized that the hope of Christ’s coming is in all the things He does and teaches.  He is our healer, our redeemer and friend and on and on.

The Christmas songs we sing become our expression of faith and hope in the Lord.  It’s a simple revelation but one that I have unknowingly fought against for years.   I don’t like hustle and bustle of the season.  I don’t like the “requirement” of Christmas decoration, holiday extravagance, and hoopla.  There never seems to be enough.

And there is truth to that.  Because when it comes to expressing our joy and hope in the Lord, there can never be enough.

Psalm 150:1-5 New International Version (NIV)

Praise the Lord

Praise God in his sanctuary;

    praise him in his mighty heavens.

Praise him for his acts of power;

    praise him for his surpassing greatness.

Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,

    praise him with the harp and lyre,

praise him with timbrel and dancing,

    praise him with the strings and pipe,

praise him with the clash of cymbals,

    praise him with resounding cymbal


Colossians 3:16 New International Version (NIV)

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

And after all those weeks of practice, the message of Christ began to dwell in me.   And the closing song of the Carols for Christmas concert became less about notes and rhthyms that I had committed to memory, and more about rejoicing in the Lord.

   Good people now rejoice

   With heart and soul and voice

   Give Ye heed to what I say

   Christ is born this Christmas Day!

   How great our joy!

John 16:33 New International Version (NIV)

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Thanks be to God.

Even So Lord Jesus, Quickly Come

I’m singing in the Carols for Christmas Choir this year.   Even though I’m a bah humbug, holiday hoopla curmudgeon, I can’t help but be inspired by the HOPE that is Christmas.  But it is the more solemn messages in the Christmas story that speak most to me.  Last Sunday, our Choir Director, Suzanne Tucker, explained to us that one of the songs is like it’s own movie script and we, the singers, must paint the picture that tells the story of Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem.  It’s a story of trial and tribulation and near desperation, and then triumph and joy and hope.   I love that story.

It reminds me of a very dear song I learned years ago in my younger choir days.   The song has stuck with me because it is so beautiful and mystical.   But the story behind the story is even more beautiful.

A Christmas hymn created by a Minnesota composer years ago grew out of the life and death struggle of his three-year-old son. The good news is the child survived, and the hymn went on to become a big favorite.

The words are inspired from Revelation. While Ruth and Paul Manz kept vigil over their ill son, they pondered words from Revelation 22:

Peace be to you and grace from Him who freed us from our sins. Who loved us all and shed his blood that we might saved be. Sing holy, holy to our Lord, the Lord almighty God, who was and is and is to come, sing holy, holy Lord

The song is called ‘E’en so Lord Jesus,  Quickly Come.”  It speaks of the longing of the coming of the Christ.  Paul Manz, an accomplished organist and musical composer put the words to music and it was and is a big hit in the choral world.  It speaks to my heart and soul and the true spirit of Christmas.

I would prefer to skip the shopping frenzy, the ridiculous sugar invasion and the crazy Christmas sweaters.  But I will wait in prayer and praise and hopefulness for the birth of our Savior and the hope of the world to come.

Privileged to Pray

Be careful who you make friends with.   I made friends with the coordinator of prayer ministry at my church, and the next thing I know I’m on the prayer team.  Actually it has been a very humbling experience.   To read and hear the cries of many people, it becomes clear that we all need God in our painful, joyous, conflicted lives.  I have heard that prayer may not change the issues, but it can change YOU (the pray-er).   Prayer has definitely changed me.  But I recently had a crisis as I was guided by this scripture in prayer for dear friend.

Philippians 4:6-7 New International Version (NIV)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I’m not good with pain.   I can endure it, but mostly i want to do whatever to stop it.   I gave birth to three children and I never got an epidural.   Not because I didn’t want one.  I was trying to focus on getting the end result (childbirth) and didn’t want anything to hinder my goal.   Each time, when I was finally ready to surrender to pain relief, I was told there was no time, and I would need to press on.   By the grace of God, I did.

My struggle with raising my children was being able to let go of my worry and give my concerns to God in prayer.   Surrender is a difficult thing.  But I was encouraged by this Philippians scripture because it talks about a pathway to peace.   Your choice is to be balled up in a fit of worry (sometimes quite literally), or give your concerns to God, and thank Him for what He has already done.  Leave it at that.   God promises He will never leave you.   Whatever you go through, God will be with you.   I take great comfort in that.

But what about when you pray for someone who is in pain?   There is no promise to relieve that pain.   There is no guarantee of an end in sight.   I have searched the scripture and cannot find a magic prayer that assures God will instantly cease and desist pain and suffering.   I know that He CAN.  And I pray that He will.   But how can I be a successful pray-er for someone who is in pain?

My rational self wants to research pain relief methods, look up medications, google remedies and find practical solutions that even advanced medical doctors don’t have.  Surely there has got to be a specific answer.   Lord, have mercy.

I know God will heal my friend.   I don’t know when.  Still, I will pray.   I will surrender.   I will trust.   I will beg for mercy.   I will pray that God will guide her doctors and medical team.  I will thank God that He gave His only son so that my friend is forgiven.  She is a precious child, worthy of healing.  All glory and honor goes to God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

James 5:16
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. 

I cannot cure my friend.   I cannot take away her pain.   But I sure can pray to my loving and gracious God of hope.

Psalm 25: 1-7

In you, Lord my God, I put my trust.

I trust in you;
    do not let me be put to shame,
    nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one who hopes in you
    will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those
    who are treacherous without cause.

Show me your ways, Lord,
    teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are God my Savior,
    and my hope is in you all day long.
Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
    for they are from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth
    and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
    for you, Lord, are good.


And we will wait on the Lord.

Psalm 27:14

Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.

A Night of Encouragement

It was a dreary Friday…cloudy, drizzly, and kind of chilly.   It was the kind of day where you wanted to stay in your pajamas and make soup.   But I had chores to do, and a few errands to run.   I returned from errands in the afternoon, just in time to fix something for dinner and get ready to drive to the Ladies Night of Encouragement, where I had signed up to be a greeter.

Most Friday nights I’m at home, keeping up with local high school football that I can now watch on Public Television or casting from Youtube to the home television.  So it was fun to get ready for a night out, and look forward to sharing the evening with other women.

I arrived early enough to listen to the sound check and know we were in for a real treat from the Worship band.   The kitchen staff had a fabulous set up of little desserts, decorated cookies and an apple dipping station complete with warm chocolate or caramel and an assortment of toppings.   What a fabulous spread designed to delight and nourish.

During the briefing for all the volunteers who would be greeting or praying, I began to feel how blessed I am to be at this special night to encourage women.   God continues to walk with me right where I am, while encouraging me to be the best I can to honor Him and express my love for Him.   In this past year God has prepared me to be in tune with my own mind, body and spirit, so I can recognize His grace in my life.    And I became convicted that I have encouragement to share about how God has not forgotten me, even when I don’t give him my full attention.   I have understanding for other moms who feel overwhelmed and inadequate because I often felt that way.    Now that my kids are grown and forging into adulthood, I can hear God’s whispering that I often ignored or tuned out.  It was not intentional, this tuning out.  I was just a fearful parent, trying to be vigilant in my duties to protect my children that I failed to include God.   I knew God was “around” and watching over us, but I didn’t pause much to lean into Him when I needed Him most.    I pretty much coped by “putting on my big girl panties” and dealing with life as it came along.    Like footprints in the sand, I see the times where God walked right beside me, and even carried me at times.

So these days I have a greater appreciation for seeing God shine in my life.    I park farther away from buildings and enjoy fresh air and time to be thankful for my health, my family, inspiring co-workers, and opportunities to explore and grow in my faith.

So even though I have heard about this One with One Discipleship Program for 2019 at Mt. Bethel, I had decided to pass it up due to other interests and busyness in my life.    But once I had a chance to pause and be grateful for all God has done and is doing in my life, I think it would be a blessing to share and encourage another Christian.  It’s a year commitment that runs January through December, 2019, that will push us in our faith and challenge us to a higher standard of living in every area of life as together, we pursue Jesus.  It’s important to share your time, talents and love for the Lord to encourage others.

1 Thessalonians 5:7-9

For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

I may have been asleep in my awareness of God’s active presence and work in my life.  But today I am awake and abundantly glad for his grace and mercy.    I have Good News to share.

All of this insight and blessing came to me BEFORE the Night of Encouragement even started.    But that was only the beginning!

The worship music was truly spectacular, largely in part due to my nephew-in-law being the keyboard player!   He is incredibly talented, but playing music is a side gig for him.   After working all day, he left his very pregnant wife at home in their brand new house.  While my sister and niece are unpacking and setting up a baby room, Jeff is working hard to help cover these new expenses……even if it means playing for a packed room full of multi-generation women.  Now that is dedication!

The worship music for Night of Encouragement was a pure and firm calling for the presence and power of the Lord Almighty to come shine in that room and lift up each and every heart toward heaven.    Whatever burdens walked into that room were commanded to be dropped on the floor as we were led to call on Jesus as our Savior and Redeemer.    Truly, it was a powerful and uplifting offering to praise the One who is our only Hope.     It was a blessing to be engaged in awe and wonder.     I am continually truly grateful for Harvest Bashta sharing her talent and love for the Lord.   She has a way of wrapping you up in to her love of Jesus and lifting up a beautiful gift of praise.

And there is still more to tell.    And it is humbling because I just showed up for my assigned duty thinking I was going to contribute my small portion to serving on this night, and yet God filled my cup…..again, without me stopping to ask or listen from Him.

The speaker was Rev. Ashley Mathews, Education pastor at Trinity Anglican Church in Atlanta.   Her message carried us through the Bible, literally from Genesis to Revelations.  Her topic was based on a specific word spoken to me about a month ago that i did not fully understand, and it all became clear to me.    The word is inheritance.  And we all have an inheritance coming to us as sons and daughters of Christ.    What a blessing on top of blessing.

I have much more to discover and explain, but to have this clarity handed to me feels like just an over abundance of grace delivered to my undeserving self.    But this gift should be honored and explored and put to use.

Pursue your inheritance.

Galatians 3:29  

 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.