I Sing Because I'm Free

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*warning* may spontaneously break out in song

despite the occurrences of the day

I find there’s never a better way

to lift the spirits and brighten the mood

and shift one’s southbound attitude

than an outburst of song, no matter where

it quickly melts away every care

Oh, the unspeakable joy it brings

when we stop everything and sing!

 

*warning*  may spontaneously break out in song

I have this weird disease.  I think in song.  Pretty much every single interaction, every conversation I have- reminds me of a song or a song lyric. Like a CD on repeat, songs play through my mind- all day long.  It’s like the soundtrack of my life.

I had the pleasure of watching the Lego movie with my girls and their friends the other day.  I am not a huge movie lover, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one!  And the song that will NOT leave my head is “Everything Is Awesome”.   I admit, the lyrics are rather silly and do not make any sense, but the techno beat and the absurdity of the title is just way too enticing for me to not sing along.

My oldest daughter is getting to that stage where I easily embarrass her.  It doesn’t take much, I assure you.  This gem of a song has left her mortified.  Because every time I hear the word “awesome”- I have to sing this song and do a little dance. My youngest chimes in with me.  So it is like a mini party every single time we hear the word “awesome”… one girl singing and dancing with me, the other covering her ears, rolling on the floor in mortifying pain.  The best of both worlds.

Well, one gorgeous evening, I took the girls to get ice cream.  We got to the drive thru window to pay, and I asked the cashier how her day had been.  Surprisingly, she flashed me a huge smile, and said “Awesome!”

Right on cue, I  turned back to look at the girls.  “Noo!”  I heard my oldest beg me not to embarrass her.  My youngest giggled with glee from the back.

I turned to the cashier and burst out singing “Everything is awesome…” and as soon as I started singing, the cashier began to sing along.  Oh yes!  She knew it too… and she belted it out right along with me.   The best part was that both my girls joined in.  And my easily embarrassed daughter- even she couldn’t resist the sing-a-long.

A spontaneous outburst of awesomeness, right in the McDonald’s drive thru=

priceless!

 

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Chasing Sunsets

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Spectacular sunset from our weekend

Driving long distances can be grueling at times.  This particular evening, the girls were contently settled in the back seat-  watching Star Wars in our mini van as my husband drove us home.  My mind drifts off… thinking of millions of  things- like what’s the meaning of life and all that deep kind of stuff.  My husband tells me I have to talk to him to keep him awake.  So, naturally, I mention the peculiar looking clouds.

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The sun is breaking through

 

As I discuss the conditions of the sky, my husband reminds me, “You know, it’s the first day of summer- the longest day of the year.”

“Oh, that’s right! That means even more time for sunset watching!”  And we watched as the clouds rolled in. The sun shone through them ever so slightly, giving way to little beams of light shooting up through the sky.  I  mused about how  hard it must be to be a “real”  photographer… waiting and hoping for the perfect sunset shot…(go ahead- try to say sunset shot 3 times fast…)

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The clouds continue to break away

My hubby kept saying we’d never see it because of the dense trees that lined the highway, but I refused to put away my phone and its camera.   Waiting…expecting it to happen… At every turn of the highway, I was hoping for a better view… Even as we waited for a clearing in the trees, we talked about how beautiful it must be- despite not being able to fully see it. It never failed- as soon as a clearing came, the road would curve and the sun-glittered clouds were hidden again.

One thing I ask from the Lord,
    this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek him in his temple.  Psalm 27

When we earnestly seek Him, He is faithful to show us His goodness- through His daily presence in our lives.  Even though sometimes we may fail to see His beauty in front of us, we know He is still there-working ALL things together for good.  As I watched the sky, I thought about how odd it was over the past week, many of the evening skies were crystal blue-without a cloud in sight. When evening came, without the clouds- the sunset was anti-climactic.

Each cloud makes the sky even more beautiful at sunset.  The same is true in our lives- without the clouds, we would not know how sweet the sunshine is.

  And as we continued to drive, we began to see the vibrant colors of the sky changing.  We conversed about God, His creation, and all things bright and beautiful while the straight and narrow road lead us right into the setting sun.

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And there it was.  Right smack in the middle of the sky.  I told my husband we were Sunset Chasers that night.  The evening sky was beautiful- but it didn’t compare to the fellowship we had together in the car.   When we anticipate His goodness, He is always faithful.

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The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him  Lamentations 3:25

And you know what the best part of the evening was?  Instead of talking about how long the drive was and how tired we were, we spent time in worship. Keeping our eyes firmly fixed on the open road in front of us- with a front-row seat to His magnificent painting.

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Help Us Accept Each Other

I woke early one morning and gathered my thoughts.  I took a deep breath and tried to remember where I had last put my Bible… and then realized that my handy phone contained every good Word that  my printed Bible carried.  So, I googled a scripture site that I often use, and this verse came up in the search bar-

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

It most certainly was not by accident.

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.

Like a child wanting to please their parents, I want to please my Father in heaven.  This verse hit me like a ton of bricks.  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 here, He’s telling me that 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.

Slowly He is opening my eyes.  Showing me the things inside my core that are not of “love”.   He is teaching me how to see through His eyes.  How to feel through His hands.  How to love with the heart of my Father.

For many years, I have “done the right thing” when it comes to certain situations.  But , I felt His awesome presence and love as I read the Word.  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, we can give it- freely.   And His love changes people.  I know, because it sure has changed me!

You know that phrase “fake it ’till you make it”?  Well, I’ve done my fair share of that.  But on this particular day, as I read those words about God’s love- I had a realization.  All this “faking” it that I’ve done for so many years?  In that instant I felt nothing but love for those who have disappointed me, or hurt me in the past.   God has been weeding my heart of any bitterness or resentment… all these things that I have felt in the past are withering away… and are being replaced with His deep roots of love.  The truth is, it is so much easier- and it takes far less energy to love people than to hold on to past hurts and regrets.

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

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

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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JOY in the Journey

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‘Twas a beautiful evening indeed!

 all is right 

on this perfect night

as we stroll along 

at twilight

one daughter holds my hand

the other does handstands

as we stroll along

at twilight

talking about nothing

chatting about everything

as we stroll along

at twilight

these are the miles

I’ll think of  and smile

as we stroll along

at twilight 

I have enlisted the girls to join me in my fitness quest.  I jog one lap around the neighborhood with my oldest daughter, and then I take my youngest and the dog on the second lap.  Last night, both girls were quite tired from a busy day, so they both wanted to walk the second lap with me.

My first inclination was to say no, because at times it is more enjoyable to have one-on-one time with them…but I agreed.

My youngest (who can be quite whimsical) did handstands and cartwheels along side of us as I held my oldest’s hand.  We did short mini-races to the next mailbox.  The dog flopped in the grass countless times to roll around.  I’ll be honest, there wasn’t a lot of “fitness” going on during this second lap…

Some days, this would have frustrated me.  But not tonight.  He’s reminding me that the goal isn’t necessarily to finish first, but to enjoy the journey.  There was much JOY to be had!

And on this particular journey, I was getting a glimpse into the people my girls were becoming.

They were being patient with each other.

They made me laugh as they told funny jokes.

They were thoughtful as they took turns carrying our tired dog.

And we encouraged one another.

Oh, when did they become independent thinkers?  Real people?  It seems like only yesterday I was wearing one in a backpack and pushing the other in the stroller… searching for juice cups and goldfish to bring along for these walks.  And here I am- actually having real-life, thought-provoking conversations with them.  I want to soak up every minute of it.

So, on this fitness quest of ours, I am allowing Him to be our coach.  May He teach us to enjoy the journey, not just the finish line- and may He teach us endurance of the heart!

 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  Romans 5:3-4

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When We Used to Sing

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“When We Used to Sing”

Memories, they flood my mind

I haven’t been here

in such a long, long time

Some things, they stay the same

Our outsides may waste away

But the heart will never change

I never thought I’d feel

a connection so real

after all this time

And I’m singing on a mountain top and

praying it would never stop

and treasuring the bond the music brings

The passion rushes back to me

of all the sweet, sweet melodies

that used to ring

when we used to sing

harmonized and unified

we raise our voices to the sky

in perfect time

praises raised and stories told

lyrically they all unfold

in perfect rhyme

I never thought I’d feel

a connection so real

after all this time

I wrote this song last night about our reunion last weekend.  It is about reconnecting with friends and celebrating the bond we all create when we make beautiful music together!

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Full circle

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 Monday was the 1 year anniversary of starting this blog, and also my birthday. This past weekend was probably one of the most wonderful I’ve ever experienced, and so I’m left standing on a mountain top. For the first time in my life, things have come full circle.

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be-Psalm 139:16 

After the first half of my awesome weekend , I had another wonderful experience. I was visiting my hometown, and felt led to go with a friend to her church.  You see, I don’t get the opportunity to visit other churches because of doing ministry in my own church.  So, it was a joy to be there- and it was as if God used everything in that service to minister to my spirit in a deep way. I cried when I saw my friend- just the excitement of seeing her for the first time in many years, and having the opportunity to worship with her was so wonderful!  As we sang, I realized that I actually knew the worship leader.  She was one of my very first piano and voice students! She even babysat my oldest daughter when she was an infant!  I cannot tell you what a joy it was to see how God was using her as she led worship.  She had the voice of an angel.  Simply wonderful to witness!  I hadn’t seen her in 10 years and my heart was overflowed with joy!

When my girls were babies, I felt like I was a failure for not following my dream and becoming a high school choir director. I had the degree to do it, but I knew that I wanted to be home with the girls… so I taught piano and voice lessons from my home.  I loved it, but I always knew I’d only do it for a season. I can’t tell you how many times I questioned whether I really made a difference in my student’s lives when I taught lessons. So, seeing this former student was truly a God incident- not a coincidence!  I truly felt that He was reaffirming that He was, in fact, the one in charge of my life- every little step of it!  Even down to the young girl that would babysit my daughter 10 years ago!

And that my “dream” of being a high school choral director was my dream- not necessarily His plan for me!   

And if that wasn’t enough, here’s another God-incident that morning- one of the people I hoped to see there was one of my former college professors. My friend informed me that she probably wouldn’t be there that day because the choir she directs was taking a break for the summer.  But sure enough, in the middle of the worship- led by my former student, my former teacher gets up from the far corner of the church to share a Word from God.  I would never have known she was there if God had not led her to share that morning!  I literally jumped over people to find her during the friendship time!

 I hadn’t seen her in probably 10 years!  When I went up to her, I asked her if she remembered me, and she said “Julie! You’re my daughter!” and she wrapped her arms around me. When I told her that I was a worship pastor now, we both shed joyful tears- and she prayed the most lovely prayer over me.  I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing.  Every song that was sung, the message, the Spirit…was as if God had made a special appointment just for me right in that place.

God was bringing my life full circle.  He was in every little detail. No, I’m not a high school choir director, but I have the wonderful privilege of serving Him in my church and ministering through music, and through many other ways.  His plan for me has been more wonderful than my plan ever could be. It is awe inspiring to look back on all the little details of your life and see how He has been in it all.  Being in that church service- one that I almost didn’t go to- reaffirmed that I am exactly where He wants me.

When we say “yes” to God, we open the door for Him to do amazing things!

 I’m still standing on a mountain top- and the view is magnificent!

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It’s not just notes and words

One of my dreams came true this weekend. I got to go back to my old high school and sing some of my all-time favorite choral songs again with all of my old friends!! (ok, we’re not really that old, are we??)

This year marked the 25th anniversary of the opening of our high school- and Dr K, our choral director, has been there since the beginning.  So to celebrate, he invited anyone who had ever been a part of his top ensembles to join together for a reunion… except it was so much more than that.  I reconnected with my awesome high school choral director and some amazing friends- many of whom I haven’t seen in 15-20 years!

When I was in high school, the only thing that brought me joy was singing.  Chorus was everything to me.  All of my good friends were the ones I sang with in the Madrigal group.  We did everything together.  During my 3 years in high school, most of my day involved counting down the classes to my Madrigals bell.  My senior year, I took 3 music classes… and I also ate lunch in the choir room… so technically I spent half a day EVERY SINGLE DAY in that place- and I wouldn’t have traded a single moment of it.

I really can’t put into words how my chorus teacher changed my life. His love for music was contagious.  He said over and over throughout the years, “It’s not just notes and words.”  Anyone can sing the right words and notes on a page but it doesn’t make it music.  He taught us that music comes from the heart… and that good music must be sung with passion!  When I graduated high school,  “It’s not just notes and words” was my senior quote in the yearbook. Music was my life.

So, I went to college and got my degree in Music Education and even had the amazing experience of going back to my high school to student teach under him!  Again, he was a wonderful mentor and a friend.  I was so blessed to have that opportunity to reconnect with him as a college student, and to learn more about his craft of conducting and transforming notes and words into the most moving pieces of music I’ve ever heard.

So this past weekend, we sang many of our favorite songs together- again!  As I walked into the chorus room, I could already hear the harmony floating down the hallway.  I fought back tears as I looked around me.  It was overwhelming.  The sound of everyone singing again… the room looked like it had been frozen in time…we didn’t skip a beat.  Every breath, every ounce of emotion was there.  The memories, the smiles, the music, everything seemed as if no time had passed.  

And the most wonderful part of the whole thing was to see the impact Dr K has had on so many students over the years. I looked around at all the teachers, doctors, professionals, musicians, pastors…and I saw the incredible bond that we all share- one that will never be broken.

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.  Ecclesiastes 4:12 

This is the song that every Madrigal group at our high school has sung at the end of every single concert for the past 25 years, and this is all of us singing together this past weekend.

May the Good Lord bless and keep you, till we meet again…

 

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Choices

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Morning Glory fills the sky

I look up to Him and say

You’re the only One I want to serve

on this beautifully splendid day

We can see the glass half-full

or choose to see the things we lack

and the moment we take our eyes off Him

the enemy will attack

choose today whom you will serve – Joshua 24:15 

Don’t you know that within 10 minutes of writing this little poem, everything that could go wrong did? I was praying early this morning, and thinking about how every choice we make during the day- no matter how big or small– either serves the Father, or serves ourselves.  As I was getting ready to head out for the day, the girls began to bicker back and forth- spewing venomous words from their mouths at each other.  I lost my keys and my “cool” at the same time.  Where was that calm, peace, and joy I had 20 minutes before?

It’s not a feeling… it’s a choice

every action

every reaction

every thought

every deed

  I have to choose Him.  The glass is still half-full…and He wants fill it up today!

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  –Hebrews 13:5

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