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

and

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.

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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.

 

 

I’m a Five

I’m a five.   I’m definitely a five.   And it’s kind of painful.   I thought I was a 9 which I really loved.   I want to be a peacemaker.   And I am definitely an avoider of conflict.   But I am private, introspective, curious, and quiet.  I spend a great deal of time thinking, studying, and preparing to do.   I want to be capable and competent.

I just finished reading (for the first time) the book “The Sacred Enneagram” by Christopher Huertz.   I am forever transformed.    The book is brilliant in defining each type and various components of how we relate and retreat.   The second part of the book connects our type to specific challenges to encounter God through contemplative practices.    This is the part I am just embarking on and I already know it will be quite challenging.

CONSENT TO SILENCE

My mind is never quiet.   And sitting in quiet where I choose to turn off the noise in my brain seems not only impossible, but also willfully giving up control.   Yes, God is on control, not me.   But willfully choosing quiet seems self-destructive, scattered, impulsive and nonproductive.   Why would I choose to be nonproductive?

Less of me, and more of Him.   I am not in control.   If Jesus is to shine in and through me it is because Jesus is in control and using His voice through me. 

I have talked before about how Philippians 4:6-7 seemed impossible to me.

Philippians 4:6-7 New Living Translation (NLT)

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Until somehow it didn’t.   I could at least TRY.   And peace has come to me.  Not from anything I have done, except for a willingness to try and pray.   Thank you Jesus.

And now, I see my new challenge.

Romans 12:2 New International Version (NIV)

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.

I need to stop.    Just stop.   Stop searching for my own answers.  Stop my willful desire to be in charge and find my own solutions.   It feels burdensome and overwhelming.

This is my prayer.

Psalm 139

You have searched me, Lord    and you know me.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!

    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

 

and this……

Isaiah 55 New International Version (NIV)

Invitation to the Thirsty

55 “Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;

…. Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live.

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.

11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;

……This will be for the Lord’s renown,
    for an everlasting sign,
    that will endure forever.”

Thanks be to God.

And for more clarity about the HOPE that I see as I grow in my faith and understanding, I am grateful for the words and music of sleeping at last that has artfully communicated the enneagram 5 in music form.  Only after reflection in the scripture do I see the beauty of surrender and consent.

And now I want to generously lose
This energy that I’ve been hanging onto so desperately
I finally feel the universe expand—
It’s hidden in heartbeats, exhales
And in the hope of open hands

Your Servant is Listening, Speak Lord to my Soul

Now that I have three adult child, and they all made it to adulthood without me killing them, I am at a new stage in life, wondering how God will call me.

For a repressed introvert, there has been an explosion of fire crackers going off in all different directions of interests, desires, and inquiries.   I feel like I’m juggling so many things, but I don’t want to drop any thing because they are all pursuits that I want to develop.

Physical Health – Eating well and moving more.  I am learning and changing my lifestyle.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20:  Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought aa price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.\

Personal Development – Childhood Messages, Enneagram (Coming to know myself as a 5).  and relation to my faith development and God’s calling for me.

Genealogy – Learning about my family and roots of dysfunction, and God’s calling to rise up and persevere.

Spanish – I found a free program available from my library and by dang it I will pursue!

2 Peter 1: 5-8:…….make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

None of these things are worth pursuing if God does not abide in me.

Romans 8:6  ….the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

Romans 8:14:  For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.

Lord, in all things, may you shine and reveal what I need to live in your will.  May I continually be tuned in to Your voice, Your desires and Your calling.   Nothing else matters.

 

A Broken Mess

Have you ever noticed someone who is a broken mess?  And while you are judging their brokenness, you are inspired by the hopefulness they express?   I am a broken mess, and yet I see how God loves me as I am, but is preparing and propelling me onward and upward.  And there is no time to waste!

At Staff Chapel this week, we had the amazing privilege to be inspired by Dr. Robert Tuttle.   What a jolly man of God, and a Spirit-filled vessel of wisdom. As a Seminary Professor for 50 years, he has educated and inspired multi-generations on the Word of God.   He spoke to us from Romans, Chapter 8.

Romans 8:1-4 New International Version (NIV)

8 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh,[b] God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.[c] And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Then to demonstrate this Scripture, he testifies how this text means we are free.  There is nothing keeping us from living a full and vibrant life in Christ Jesus.  No condemnation.

John 8:36  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Hallelujah!   No more average. Life is extraordinary. And to seal the deal, our on-fire Worship Leader, Corey Shores, led us in this hymn:

You are My Peace by Housefires

I lay my burdens at Your feet
I’m letting go of all the things I can’t control
In my frailty Lord I find your strength
I am depending on a love that won’t let go

Chorus:
I trust You
I trust You
I trust You
Oh You are my peace…..

I may be a broken mess, but I am richly blessed.  The sky is not gray.  I just couldn’t/wouldn’t see the colors.  I was blind, but now I see. Moving forward the agenda is to trust in the goodness of God, and set priorities to be a part of life changing renewal and revival in the name of Jesus.  

Pastor Glenn Ray brought it all into perspective for me. “I truly believe if you get your priorities in order, you will want to make a positive mark on your world. You will want to leave a legacy of service to others and to change the life and the outlook on life for those around you.”

Life is difficult.  But I don’t have to live in fear and loathing of my next trouble.  My Lord and Savior has my heart, and this girl ain’t going anywhere.  

John 16:33 New International Version (NIV)

33 “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.”

If I truly believe there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus, then I need to live like I believe it.  As my friend Lauren Daigle says, “The darkness should have known…..He’s still rolling stones.” Watch out world!