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Monday grace

Exhaustion seeped into my bones after a week of busy tasks, one after the other checked off the list, my effort to keep myself on track.

Recitals, piano students, celebration, music that thrills me proves holy in the deep part of my soul. And how is it that I get to be part of these young growing musicians? It is too wonderful to express.

Remembering almost twenty years ago to the position that was eliminated due to budget cuts, how the shock of loosing my job, my career, sent me packing boxes from the nice office and title on the door. My staff and I were numb as I tried to keep smiling for morale sake.

Holding back the tears, the sounds I heard were dissonant and without reason or rhythm.

Yet, I see it was good for me to be released, set free to fly and sing a new song.

The desire of my heart, surely put there by my Creator, began small. I put up a poster and paid for an ad in the local paper: “Piano lessons.”

Today, this weekend, these many years later, my students flourish, and I rejoice in what God has done.

What was meant to hinder my progress became a new path, and I found a calling I had faintly heard as a whisper.

God takes the difficult, the painful, the broken and remakes, reforms, and restores to bring forth beauty from the heap.

It’s what He does most excellently. And He does it beautifully in perfect timing, creating a song of praise.

Monday grace.

Monday grace

Waiting. I’m not a fan.

I usually run tight with my schedule, doing last minute tasks before I leave for an appointment. Consequently, sometimes I make others wait for me. That’s a problem.

Sweet William often threatens to break into song with “Waitin’ On a Woman.

Waiting rooms are on my list of least favorite places. I always bring something, a book, a magazine. I can update my planner or return text messages. Don’t waste the minutes. Never let it be said that I sat with nothing but my thoughts.

And perhaps herein lies my issue, listening to my own internal talk.

Waiting is a necessary part of life, common to all humanity. I waited for Christmas as a child, waited for the birthday when I’d turn 16, then 20. I waited to get married, to get pregnant. Then waited nine months for that sweet baby boy to be born.

I wait for the cake to bake, the soup to simmer, them needing time for flavors to mingle and textures to form that please the taste. In the waiting, the recipe becomes what it was meant to be.

Soul, are you listening? In the waiting, you become who you were meant to be.

In the quieting of my frantic soul and the calming of my fretful mind, I learn to wait with hope. I remember I am not alone on this journey.

The Psalmist breaks into his own song as he waits:

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
(27:13-14)

Waiting in confident faith, waiting to see the good things of God, here is where my endurance increases and courage rises for the days before me. I learn to trust the One who knows the end from the beginning, who patiently waits for me to become who He meant me to be.

Waiting can be a good thing. Maybe I could even become a fan of it.

Monday grace.

Go tell it on the mountain . . . and everywhere

Flash mobs have become a twenty-first century phenomenon, people popping up in malls or on the streets, beginning with one and then becoming many doing something creative as a group.   I’ve watched a few videos myself and wondered at the thought and preparation it must take to pull off something like this.   And I am amazed at how the crowd stops what they are doing, busy as they are or rushing to complete their tasks, to stand and watch.

It makes me ponder how I am living out my Christ-likeness.   Am I wearing it, showing it, singing it, shouting it enough to a world so that it will stop to look and see?

I think of the shepherds who were shown a great light and proclamation from the heavenlies.  They stopped their watching of sheep and went to see, to gaze upon and wonder at this baby who was laid in a feeding trough.

Afterwards, the shepherds told it, this experience of being in the presence of the Christ.  How could they not?   How can I not tell it, after coming into the Holy of holies, after having the new birth ignite new life in me, after being covered in the costly and precious blood of my Savior?

Do I shine like the stars that reflect the glory of their Creator?  Do I bear the fragrance of Christ because I have touched Him and He has touched me?  Are my hands and feet an extension of the very person of Jesus?  Is His love so filling me so that my love reaches the hearts of those close by and far away?   Do my words and actions imitate the One who is continually molding and making me into something I could never be on my own?

If I burn with the blaze of God who is a consuming fire, people will stop and look.   Just like the flash mobs grab attention and hold people’s gaze long enough to hear the Good News, I truly want my daily activity and the words of my testimony to constrain people to pause and hear the hope that is in me.

Prepare your heart to be moved as you follow me to this amazing mob of believers who are willing to shout their holy message in unholy places so that the world can hear, “Jesus has come!”   Please stay to the end.   It is well worth it.

Christmas Flash Mop:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Vnt7euRF5Pg

If you watched to the end, tell me if you teared up, like I did.

Blessings?

So many people have written wise words about suffering.  I read them and find I have nothing new to offer on the subject.  Enduring suffering is part and parcel of being alive.  The longer I live, little by little, I understand suffering’s purpose.

I think for the unbeliever it must be to draw the attention toward a God who loves and wants to offer grace and mercy.  To the believer it must be the same, to draw the attention toward a God who loves and offers grace and mercy.  Moments and months of suffering come to everyone.  And God offers Himself to us.

Instead of trying to give you my words, I submit to you a song I heard only about two months ago.  It’s message rings loud in my ear, humming its melody to my soul, speaking truth to my spirit.  It is called simply “Blessings.”  It’s composer, Laura Story, has endured her own stuggles and speaks from her experience.  I appreciate that.  Here it is: 

BLESSINGS

We pray for blessings.  We pray for peace, comfort for family, protection while we sleep.

We pray for healing, for prosperity.  We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering,

And all the while You hear each spoken need, yet love is way too much to give us lesser things.

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?  What if your healing comes through tears? 

What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near?

And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear.  And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near.

We doubt your goodness.  We doubt Your love, as if every promise from Your Word is not enough.

And all the while You hear each desperate plea, and long that we’d have faith to believe.

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?  What if Your healing comes through tears?

And what if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near?

And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win, we know that pain reminds this heart

That this is not, this not our home . . . It’s not our home.

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?  What if Your healing comes through tears?

And what if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near?

What if my greatest disappointments, or the aching of this life,

Is a revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy?

And what if trials of this life, the rain, the storms, the hardest nights are Your mercies in disguise?

Beautiful thoughts from a wise young women who has know her own suffering.  Hear her story at this site.

Some birds sing in the dark

I’m an early riser though I have not always been. As a teenager, I could easily sleep until noon on any given day during the summer. When I was married with children (or with an only child), I relished sleeping in on Saturdays when no one had to go to work or to school.

These days, I usually rise before dawn. Actually I like it, having the first hour of the day in quietness. Please, don’t ask me questions or require me to do chores. Make no demands of me. It is my “quiet time” to spend with Bible open and coffee cup full.

I sit where I can open a window, weather permitting; and this time of year, the weather permits it daily. I listen to the silence of the predawn. And I listen for the bird that sings in the dark. He sings before the breaking of day. He sings with the hope of morning even before a glint of first light.

I have wondered at that bird. Why does he sing alone when it is still so black outside? I realize his Creator made him for such a task. He is the one who wakes first and begins his warble. Later, others will join him. By the time the first glow of pink-orange sun rays show in the east, a cacophony of bird songs echo through the window.

Speaking of singing while it is still dark . . .

I met Mary Lou at Sunday School class when Sweet William and I first “found our place” at Little Flock Baptist Church.

Shortly after we began attending the class, Mary Lou discovered she had cancer. The dreaded C-word wrecked havoc on her body, causing her to suffer much and to lose her hair. There were weeks she didn’t have the strength to come to church. But when she came, she smiled her faith. I was drawn to her.

I know there were days when she didn’t feel like smiling or couldn’t smile. But each time I saw her, she smiled with a hope that her God was faithful even during chemo treatments.

As hair loss set in Mary Lou came to Sunday School with pretty scarves tied on her head or wearing a saucy hat that matched her outfit. And she wore that signature smile.

Mary Lou and I exchanged emails on occasion during those trying days. Hers were faith-filled and God-honoring. While I tried to encourage her, inevitably she ended up encouraging me. She was singing in the dark.

Mary Lou’s hair has grown out now, and she is a cancer survivor. Her smile still warms my heart. She is a warrior, and I have witnessed her courageous song.

More recently another friend, Sharon, heard her cancer diagnoses and expects surgery in the coming weeks. When she told me about the test results, a smile graced her lips and peace countenanced her face. Every day via email she sends me and many others a “good thought for the day.”  She is singing in the dark.

Yet another young friend is enduring the heartache of brokenness that won’t be mended.  I feel helpless as I see her world crumbling beneath her.  Still she smiles, she laughs, and she sings to the glory of her Savior’s praise though her darkness is long and unrelenting.

I am reminded of many Biblical characters who sung in the dark: Job when everything was taken from him; Abraham as he walked toward the mountain of sacrifice; Paul and Silas after a severe beating and imprisonment.

All these knew the song of the dark night.

I ponder those night singers. One sings before the break of day, then others  join in. Does the first song encourage another song, and another and another, until the air is filled with praise and worship for the God who made both the day and the night?

I want to be a night singer, one who can make melody through tears, one who can see God when it is too black to see anything else. 

The night singers encourage me to sing.  To sing when the night lasts too long.  To sing though the dawn is not in sight.  To sing because weeping may last for the night, but joy come in the morning.

Sing on, sweet singers.  Sing on! 

Sunday and the stormy sea

This Sunday morning Pastor Rodney Alexander began a series on “Navigating the Storms of Life” at Little Flock.

Storms are a part of life.  Don’t we all know that from experience?  Pastor Rodney said we are either heading into a storm, are right in the middle of a storm, or we were moving out of a storm.

One friend asked me recently if there were ever a time in my life when things were just going good, without any problems to worry about.  I said when those short periods come, I begin wondering what problem is just around the corner.  The calm before the storm doesn’t last long.

The message this morning touched a place in all of our hearts, I think.

The good news is, as Pastor Rodney admonished us, Jesus is in the boat with us.  We may think He is sleeping, not aware, or that He doesn’t care, like the disciples did.  That is far from the truth.  He cares.  He knows our every need.  And He is working all things for our good and His glory.

The service ended with a worship song, Our God.  Here are the words.  May they ring in your ears this week as you navigage your stormy sea.

OUR GOD by Chris Tomlin

Water you turned into wine, opened the eyes of the blind. There’s no one like You, none like You!
Into the darkness You shine, out of the ashes we rise. There’s no one like You, none like You!
Our God is greater, our God is stronger, God You are higher than any other.
Our God is Healer, awesome in Power, our God! our God!

And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us?
And if our God is with us, then what could stand against?
And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us?
And if our God is with us, then what could stand against us?

Rest in your God this week.  He is the Captain of the ship, and He will bring us safely to the shore.

 

Leave a comment, dear readers.  Are you in a storm, cominging out of one, or like me, heading into the darkend clouds?

The privilege of worship

    I am continuing my thoughts on worship today, having written about Epiphany and the gift of worship in a previous blog post. 

    On a typical Sunday morning, Sweet William and I will be found at Little Flock Ministry Center on Sundays at 8:45 am.  Bill likes to arrive early, take his seat and chat with our friend Bob who always sits behind us.  Even in a large church, we find our small group, our community of believes and familiar faces.

A little before 9 am, the band begins to play the prelude.  The worship team walk out on the stage and “worship” begins.  At least it begins in form.  How often have I stood up for the songs only to be distracted by thoughts of last week, plans for next week, questions about what is for lunch today, or observations of people coming in the sanctuary and finding their places.

I may be standing up on the outside, singing songs with my voice, but where is my heart?  Is that really worship?

One such Sunday, I had an “epiphany,” an insight into the meaning of worship, a moment of  revelation.  I began to wonder at this amazing privilege called worship.  How marvelous it is to enter into the very presence of God with my praise and adoration!

My understanding of the Jewish rules of temple worship tells me the place for the Gentile was far off from the center of it all, not in the closer arena of the chosen people of God, and definitely not near the sanctuary where the priests were serving.  The opportunity to enter the Holy of holies was zero to none.   Only the high priest entered that special place on the one day of the year set aside for the Day of Atonement.    

I let that thought sink in and then consider where I am standing today.  I am being led in a worship experience by singers and band members, proclaiming loudly and in harmony that we are in the presence of Jehovah.  And I am in awe.  The Almighty God, Creator of Heaven and earth, the One who holds the universe and all of time in His hand, has extended His heart to me and invites me to come in.  The invitation is written in Hebrews 4:16.  It reads:

” . . . let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time.” (HCSB)

Boldness is interpreted as being fearless and confident.

Take in those words. You and I can come to our Father’s throne room without fear and with complete confidence of being accepted because we are His children, purchased with the precious blood of Jesus.  We are members of the family, and family doesn’t need another invitation.  They are always welcome around the Father’s table.

The Jewish law instructed the people to come into Jehovah’s presence with an offering or a gift.  I read in places like Exodus 23:15 and 34:20 that God told them not to come empty-handed.

As a new covenant believer, I don’t bring the blood of bulls or goats, I don’t bring a meal or a drink offering.  What I do bring is my sacrifice of praise.  That is my gift to Him, my worship.  Just like the wise men, it should be what I offer first.

Standing there in the pew at church I realize I am afforded the greatest benefit, the most enviable of all invitations, “Come unto Me.”

I answer that request and I come, bringing my heartfelt praise, my adoration, my thanksgiving and worship. May I never take this precious privilege for granted.

Tell me about your worship experience.  Please leave a comment.