I Sing Because I'm Free

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hurry up and wait

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hurry up and 

wait- 

what’s the rush? 

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lay down a while 

and feel the lush 

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fresh dewy grass 

beneath my feet 

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a  morning’s walk 

nearly complete

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perched under a kelly-green

foliage canopy

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that’s where you’ll 

be finding me! 

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I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.  Psalm 27:13 

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Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.  Psalm 27:14

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born to fly

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You can’t

keep a butterfly 

down

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born to fly- 

won’t stay 

on the ground 

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flitting and floating 

you’d think it was gloating

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that her post-cocoon

freedom 

was found! 

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“Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest”-  Psalm 55:6

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My girls went back to school this past week.  It spiraled me into a mini- midlife crisis, realizing that BOTH of my daughters are now in high school!   I started thinking about how few years they have left before they will one day “fly”.

That morning, I went to sit up at the cross on the hill behind our church.  It was a beautiful day, despite the extreme heat and humidity.  As soon as I got to the top of the hill, I noticed there were an unusual amount of butterflies flying around me.  One in particular was HUGE!  Bigger than my hand!  It was bright blue and reminded me of a peacock.  Every time it landed, I tried to get a picture of it- and as soon as I took a step forward, off it went again.  It stayed right near me the whole time I was at the cross, never staying in one place long enough for me to get a picture.

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The funny thing is that my girls have become like that, too!  I asked to take a picture of them on the morning before they went off for their first day of school-   “Mommmm…. PLEASE don’t “post” a picture of us anywhere!”

Gone are the days of making them pose for sweet smiley school pictures and waiting with them for the bus at our bus stop… gone are the days of controlling their every move!

They are preparing for take off, shedding layers of their childhood cocoons one day at a time.  And as the days fly by- they are needing me less and less.

It is a juxtaposition of feelings-

both bittersweet and overflowing joy.

“You may outgrow my lap, but never my heart”

– author unknown 

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but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.  

Isaiah 40:31

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Help Us Accept Each Other (a hymn remake)

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,  but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails-  1 Corinthians 13

If I have faith, but not love- I am nothing.

If I give to the poor, but do not do it out of love- I gain nothing

God is love.

I am nothing without God.

I am nothing without His love.

If I do anything that is not out of love– it is meaningless.

How many times have you done the right thing because you knew that was what you were supposed to do? I have done it for years!  But if I really love Him, I have to do everything out of love. Without love in our hearts, “doing the right thing” still doesn’t cut it!

For many years, I have “done the right thing” when it comes to certain situations.  But we aren’t supposed to just do the right thing- we are called to LOVE.  When we LOVE, when we love with God’s love– His love compels us to do the right thing- each and every time- without fail!

And without reciprocity.

No strings attached kind of love. Because that’s what His love is like.

We don’t deserve it.

We can’t earn it.

But when we accept His love, He compels us to give it- freely.   And His love changes people.  I know, because it sure has changed me!

Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.  1 Peter 4:8 

A dear friend showed me this hymn a while back.  These words have resonated with me for quite some time.  I set it to new music and also added a chorus to it.  May He give us a passion to love those who hunger for the kind of love only He can give!

 

“Help Us Accept Each Other”

Help us accept each other

as Christ accepted us

teach us as sister, brother

each person to embrace

be present, Lord, among us

and bring us to believe

that we are ourselves accepted

and meant

to love and live

to love as You have loved

to give as You have given

to die to our own desires

so we may do Your will

and love as You have loved us 

Let Your acceptance change us

 

so that we may be moved 

in living situations 

to do the truth in love 

to practice your acceptance

until we know by heart

the table of forgiveness 

and laughter’s healing heart 

Lord, for today’s encounters

for all who are in need

who hunger for acceptance

for righteousness and bread

we need new eyes for seeing

new hands for holding on

renew us with Your Spirit, Lord,

free us, make us one

*original text by Fred Kaan 

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no turning back

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I have always loved hymns, and in particular, learning the stories behind how they were written.  The story behind I Have Decided to Follow Jesus is one that I found particularly moving…

“I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” is a Christian hymn originating from India.

The lyrics are based on the last words of a man in north-east India, who along with his family, was converted to Christianity in the middle of the 19th century through the efforts of a Welsh missionary.

Called to renounce his faith by the village chief, the convert declared, “I have decided to follow Jesus.” In response to threats to his family, he continued, “Though no one joins me, still I will follow.” His wife was killed, and he was executed while singing, “The cross before me, the world behind me.” This display of faith is reported to have led to the conversion of the chief and others in the village.

The formation of these words into a hymn is attributed to the Indian missionary Sadhu Sundar Singh. The melody is also Indian, and entitled “Assam” after the region where the text originated.The fierce opposition is possible as various tribes in that area were formerly renowned for head-hunting.  

An American hymn editor, William Jensen Reynolds, composed an arrangement which was included in the 1959 Assembly Songbook.

SOURCE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Have_Decided_to_Follow_Jesus

Often when we sing these words, we think of leaving behind frivolous things- like selfishness, a life of partying, or other things like gossiping or gambling.  When I think of this missionary and the courage he had to sing these words as he watched his own family be taken from him- and then knowing that his own life would be taken, too- it takes on a whole new meaning.  Are you willing to give up everything for the sake of following Christ?  

So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.  Luke 14:33

“No Turning Back”

I have decided to follow Jesus

No turning back, no turning back

Hallelujah, hallelujah!

The world behind me, the cross before me

No turning back, no turning back

Hallelujah, hallelujah!

Though none go with me, still I will follow

No turning back, no turning back

Hallelujah, hallelujah!

9 Comments »

Hungry

If we're not hungry for Christ, we're probably too full of ourselves — via @MurrJohnson
You, Lord, are all I want!
    You are my choice,
    and you keep me safe.
 You make my life pleasant,
    and my future is bright.
Psalm 16:5-6 (CEV)

If you’re anything like me, when I start making good “diet” choices, those are the things that I begin to crave.  Like drinking water- that’s not really something I like to drink, but when I am intentional to get in my 6-8 glasses, I notice how much better I feel when I make those good choices.

It’s like that with seeking the Lord, too. When we get sidetracked with life, we can easily forget how desperately we need a steady diet of Him… but when we are intentional to read the Word, to pray, and to seek His presence- He faithfully fills our cup.

For He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.
Psalm 107:9

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he who began a good work in you…

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I am excited to share with you something awesome that happened to me recently!

After taking ministry prep classes for over 8 years, this past Friday I was ordained as an elder in the Church of the Nazarene!  Aside from my wedding day and the birth of my two daughters, it was absolutely the most joyous night of my life!

I told my husband I felt like I was getting married all over again- married to the church!  There was a special Ordination Service held this past Friday evening, and there were 8 other ministers from Virginia that also got ordained.

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My husband and daughters were there, and several other family members, and lots of people from my church made the trip to come to the service.  Then during our fellowship time at church yesterday, they had a lovely reception to celebrate.

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As I listened to the sermon during the Ordination Service, the Lord confirmed in my spirit once again that His timing is perfect and I am exactly where He wants me to be. The pastor made many references to the word “green” and “green grass” in his message that night.  I know it sounds a little strange- but the Lord used the word “green” to spark something in me about 10 years ago…

 I hid it well from people, but inside I was miserable- desperate for something to change.  I made every excuse I could why I wasn’t happy… but what really needed to change was ME!

I wasn’t very involved in church back then- I didn’t even sing during the services. But there was this one song that one of the college students would occasionally lead us to sing during worship that I liked.  It had a melancholy tune, vaguely reminiscent of a Simon and Garfunkel song.

As the months passed, I had forgotten about that song.  But the Lord brought it to my mind one Sunday afternoon.  I couldn’t remember the tune or any of the words to save my life!  It was driving me nuts!

And then out of the blue- I remembered one word-

green

I called my husband, who happened to be working that afternoon- and I asked him if he could remember “the song”… you know it, babe- it’s the one that sounds like a Simon and Garfunkel song?  It’s got the word green in it somewhere!  It’s THAT song! 

Yes, he remembered it, but like me- he could not remember the tune or any lyrics.  But sure enough, that evening,  he remembered some of the lyrics- enough to google them,  and find out what the song was.  He emailed me the words and immediately the tune came to mind.

I can’t explain it any other way- I was COMPELLED to sit at my piano and play that song.  Over and over.  Every time I walked past the piano, I’d sit and play and sing it.  In fact, that “green” song was the first worship song I ever played without having any sheet music to go by.

And then one morning, I sat on my old piano bench, and  I remember my youngest daughter was crawling around on the floor in the next room.  I began to play this song that I had been compelled to play for weeks on end… and for the first time, I tried to sing and nothing came out.  Tears flowed down my face as I realized all this time I had spent searching for the words of this song- I had been searching for Him.  And these words I was compelled to sing- He was doing that for me all along, and had already done this for me… He was simply waiting for me to see it.  You know that saying “fake it ’till you make it”?  After all that time of singing praises- finally in that instant, empty words were brought to life in my heart, and His presence was so real.

He was already with me…I had been blind, but praise God- that was the day that for the first time- I could see!

And my response? Total consecration of my life!  On that day, I promised Him I would do anything He asked of me.

My call to ministry began with the Lord giving me the word “green”…. and every time I heard the preacher during the Ordination Service Friday evening mention the word “green” over and over,  He reaffirmed in my heart once again that I am exactly where He wants me.

You turned my wailing into dancing;
    you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
 that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
    Lord my God, I will praise you forever.  Psalm 30 

And in case you are curious, here’s a link to the “green” song-“You Have Redeemed My Soul” by Waterdeep-

 https://soundcloud.com/julrayhar/you-have-redeemd-my-soul

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ-

  Philippians 1:6

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ice cream is a necessity

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Since I was a kid, I have had a love affair with ice cream.

A friend through thick and thin, ice cream was always there for me in my time of need.  Summer heat and need a treat? Ice cream to the rescue.  Boyfriend breakup and need a pick-me-up?  Ice cream always did the trick.   True story… when I was in college, I noticed that the roof of my mouth began to peel.  Thinking I had some sort of disease, I asked the dentist about my issue and sure enough- too much ice cream was the culprit!

Eventually, I realized that moderation was the key when it comes to enjoying my ice cream.  And it’s so awesome that we have tons of great options- even for those who are watching their carbs- like Halo Top ice cream!

 

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My personal favorite- Chocolate Covered Banana 🙂

I happened to be in the grocery store yesterday evening and like always, I bumped into someone I knew.  We chatted for a few minutes and caught up on life, and then I noticed a mom and her middle school aged son hovering around the ice cream.  Mom was looking for the staples- milk, eggs… while son’s eyes were glued to the hundreds of cartons of ice cream.

“Mom, WE NEED SOME ICE CREAM!”

I heard the desperation in his voice.

“Honey- we do not NEED ice cream.  Now come on.”

 “But mom.  We NEED ice cream!”  A brief second later, he looked in my direction and I could see it written all over his face.  He was losing hope.  He needed some help.

I did what any ice cream lover would do…

I looked at the mom and smiled as I said, “I have to agree with your son.  Ice cream is definitely a NEED when it’s 100 degrees outside.”

The mom paused for just a second, and then gave the go ahead.  Junior got him a carton of heaven… umm…I mean ice cream.

I think often about how short life is, and how we have to enjoy the little things.

Ice cream is definitely one of them.

 

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The Secret

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I remember years ago, when I first started taking piano lessons, how frustrated I would get.  I had been picking out chords and melodies by ear for several years before I actually began taking lessons.  It was so hard for me to train myself to follow all the new “rules” my piano teacher gave me.  The hardest one was keeping my eyes focused on the sheet music-

and not my hands!

When I taught myself how to play by ear,  I focused on watching my fingers. I didn’t care which finger did what- all that mattered was whether I hit the correct notes.  My piano teacher never missed an opportunity to correct me when I looked down.

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Eyes on the music,  he used to tell me.  But it’s too hard! I would whine in frustration each  and every time I was caught looking down.

And then little by little, slowly but surely- I began to have confidence in my playing. As I continued with lessons, I learned how to focus on making music– not just playing correct notes.

I have noticed that my walk with the Lord is a little bit like taking piano lessons.

Keep your eyes on Me.  Stop looking to the right and left. Stop looking behind you.  

Stop trying to follow rules and just follow Me.  

I am ashamed to admit how often I still get distracted, or discouraged.  Every so often, I catch myself falling into bad habits… especially during the summertime when the girls are home from school and there seems to be a huge shift in our routine.

I told my husband I had been feeling particularly “down” this past week.  I mentioned to him just this morning that my life verse is Philippians 4:12-  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

Well, have you learned that secret?” my husband earnestly asked me today.

Absolutely.  With 100% certainty I know the secret.

That verse has been my prayer for years now- to be like the apostle Paul.  To be perfectly content, no matter WHAT is going on around me.

The secret?  It’s not a secret– it’s a “SEEK”-ret-

to be constantly SEEKING Him!

to be constant in my pursuit of  His will…His way…His desire…His heart…

and His presence.

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    fix your gaze directly before you.
 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
    and be steadfast in all your ways.
 Do not turn to the right or the left;
    keep your foot from evil.  

Proverbs 4:25-27

 

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Amazing Grace (House of the Rising Son)

Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
T’was blind but now I see
T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear
And Grace, my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
When we’ve been there, ten thousand years
bright shining as the son 
we’ve no less days, to sing God’s praise
than when we first begun 
Several years ago, one of my friends from church mentioned that we should try singing the words of Amazing Grace to the tune of House of the Rising Son.  I sat down at the piano the other evening and that conversation from years ago came to mind…I finally tried it 🙂
I will sing a new song to You, O God;
Upon a harp of ten strings
I will sing praises to You
–  Psalm 144:9
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He holds the sky

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He formed the clouds within His hand 

He holds the sky

and sea 

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The very hand that holds the world-

it cradles

you and me 

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And when the distant storm clouds bring 

the threat of thunder

and rain

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In the shelter of His mighty wings

we can find peace 

once again 

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty-

Psalm 91:1

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I have always loved a good storm!  I watch the sky in absolute amazement… the clouds swirling, the wind howling…it is truly a marvelous site.  Weather patterns can be so unpredictable, and yet even when a storm comes- our daily routines still goes on.

He reminded me this morning that sometimes life is like that, too.  Many times we experience circumstances and storms that seem completely out of our control.  And yet, He is Lord of ALL creation, and He will be faithful to lead us through.

For the life of every living thing is in his hand, and the breath of every human being.  Job 12:10 

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He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.  Psalm 107:29

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Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.        Deuteronomy 31:6

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The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. Nahum 1:7

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