Empty Spaces

“You love when I’m empty…”

I heard this line recently when I was listening to a new worship song, and it slapped me in the face.

How can God love it when I am empty?

I thought about the idea of emptiness and what that means to me. When something is empty, we immediately want to fill it up. I know when the paper towel roll is empty, I want to run downstairs to get a new roll to fill the dispenser. When we are almost out of dog treats and the jar begins to look empty- I know I’m going to be in trouble the next day when I bring my dogs inside from a walk unless I fill up the jar again.

And yet, there are some things we keep “full” that don’t necessarily need to be filled. Like my stomach, lol.

The idea of emptiness gives me a sense of longing… that something is not complete.

But that line struck me. Does God love it when I’m empty?

I thought about Jesus feeding the 5000 people with only 5 loaves of bread and two fish. I bet that basket looked pretty empty to the disciples that day.

And yet, that emptiness gave God room to do a miracle.

When we are empty, we long for more.

When we are empty, we have nothing left.

When we are empty, we are completely dependent on what He has to give us.

Where can you make an empty space in your life for God?

You love when I’m empty…”

that is all

Simply trusting every day;
Trusting through a stormy way;
Even when my faith is small,
Trusting Jesus, that is all. 

Trusting as the moments fly,
Trusting as the days go by,
Trusting Him, whate’er befall,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.

Brightly doth His Spirit shine
Into this poor heart of mine;
While He leads I cannot fall,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.

Singing if my way be clear,
Praying if the path be drear;
If in danger, for Him call,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.

Trusting Him while life shall last,
Trusting Him till earth is past,
Till His gracious advent call,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.  

– Edgar Page Stites (1836- 1921)

I am learning to trust Jesus more every day.  I am learning to trust Him in big things and in the small things too.  And every time I have handed over a worry or a concern to Him- I can look back and see how He has always, ALWAYS worked things out!

Yesterday, as I was preparing to lead worship for the service, I set my binder with the worship order and the chord charts for the music on the piano.  As I began singing, I realized that the folder was NOT the same folder I had used earlier in the week… in fact, by the time I got to the third song, I realized that the song was not in this particular folder.

It was a song that had lots of words to it, and I had even decided at our practice to change the key to another one- one that I had never played or sang the song in before.

I had a very brief moment of panic set in… and then I remembered all the times I had led worship before- and how He had always provided what I needed- ESPECIALLY the times I felt the weakest.

So I began to play and prayed He would give me words…. and the words just flowed right out of my mouth.  It was like my fingers were dancing across the piano keys.  I was so grateful for all the days I have sat at my piano and worshipped just because.  I play and sing every day- not because I’m “practicing”- but because I want to be close to Jesus.

The more I worship, the closer I feel to Him.

The closer I feel to Him- the easier it is for me to hear His gentle whispers, and the more I can trust and obey Him-in ALL things!

“While He leads, I cannot fall; trusting Jesus, that is all.”

The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.  Psalm 28:7

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Distractions

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I spend a lot of my time feeling distracted.

Being a creative person- there’s always some song I am compelled to play on the piano, or an amazing sunset I want to take a picture of… or I am inspired to read my Bible, or write.   All of these things require my undivided attention, but with two teenage daughters, a husband, two dogs, and a home to take care of- there is always something else that needs my attention when I’m at home.

And this has, at times, led me to being very frustrated.

But He is really opening my eyes to something…

In my quest to focus on my creative outlets, my ultimate desire in doing this is to have time with Him.  That is when I feel closest to Him- when I am quietly and focused, in my creative zone, with no other distractions around me.

But His presence never leaves me, and my fellowship with Him is continuous- no matter if I am alone or in a room full of people.  No matter if I am driving with my daughters to school, or cooking dinner with two dogs barking underfoot. He is helping me to live in the moment, and to recognize that He is using ALL things- even the things that distract me- to strengthen my walk with Him.  In fact, I will say that this is a huge “aha” moment for me- that I am able to see distractions as part of His will for each moment of my day.

One of my dogs will sit at my bedroom door in the morning, and he whines until I get up to let him out.  He is waking up earlier and earlier, and  I am not always a happy camper when I roll out of the bed at 5am to let him out.  But the other day, as I leashed my dogs up, I realized what a blessing it is to be up so early- and to have all that quiet time.

I sat down on the couch that morning,  and as I reveled in the peace and quiet-  I noticed an eerie glow coming through the dining room window and the kitchen.  Distracted from my “quiet time”, I got up and looked outside, and the clouds were absolutely stunning- it was like they were on fire.

It was such a beautiful moment for me, because I felt that little nudge from Him-

He is there in the quiet moments

and He’s right there in the distractions, too.

Fix your eyes on Jesus- Hebrews 12:2

this only do I seek

One thing I have asked 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 27:4

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

Then Moses requested, “Please, let me see the dazzling light of your presence.”
-Exodus 33:18

For over a week now, Psalm 27:3 has been playing on repeat in my mind and heart. That has been my greatest desire- to see Him.

Not at some time in the future– but NOW- to be aware of His presence and to see how He is at work all the time, all around me.

It might sound a little strange, but I think a lot about heaven and what it will be like. I can’t even wrap my mind around it, but I know the joy I experience when I spend time in His presence… and to experience joy like that for eternity- well, that’s going to be nothing short of AMAZING!!

But you know what else I’ve been thinking about? How desperately I want EVERYONE I know to experience that same joy.

So I need to keep an ear out for His voice,

and an eye out for whomever He puts in my path,

and I’ve gotta be prayed up when I see them-

so He will tell me what to say.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect- 1 Peter 3:15


in sickness and in health

I woke up this past Sunday and I didn’t have much of a voice. But after leading worship for over 9 years now, I have learned to let go of any anxious thoughts about my own “performance”, and watch Him work! As I prayed that morning, I heard Him impress these thoughts on my heart-

It’s not about you. Worship is never about you… it’s about giving all you’ve got to Me. I don’t need your perfection- I just need your heart.

It might sound a little strange, but mornings like those make me love Him even more. Because I know that He is always always faithful. The weaker I feel, the more I press into Him… and the more I press into Him- the greater I sense His presence through worship.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

I Wonder as I Wander

1. I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die.
For poor on’ry people like you and like I…
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

2. When Mary birthed Jesus ’twas in a cow’s stall,
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all.
But high from God’s heaven a star’s light did fall,
And the promise of ages it then did recall.

3. If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing,
A star in the sky, or a bird on the wing,
Or all of God’s angels in heav’n for to sing,
He surely could have it, ’cause he was the King.

This is one of my favorite Christmas hymns.  The lyrics paint beautiful pictures in my mind, and the melody is in a marvelous minor key.  I recorded my own version of it today.

The story behind this song is fascinating.  It was written by John Jacob Niles, an American folk singer, in 1933.  However, the original idea came from a young girl that he met while attending a fundraising event.  Here is Nile’s account of that meeting-

“A girl had stepped out to the edge of the little platform attached to the automobile. She began to sing. Her clothes were unbelievable dirty and ragged, and she, too, was unwashed. Her ash-blond hair hung down in long skeins. … But, best of all, she was beautiful, and in her untutored way, she could sing. She smiled as she sang, smiled rather sadly, and sang only a single line of a song.”

“The girl, named Annie Morgan, repeated the fragment seven times in exchange for a quarter per performance, and Niles left with “three lines of verse, a garbled fragment of melodic material—and a magnificent idea”  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Wonder_as_I_Wander

Niles went on to write two more verses and it was performed for the first time in North Carolina on December 19, 1933.

The song is just as beautiful now as it was then.

think of these things…

You know that saying-

you are what you eat?  

Well the same thing applies to our thoughts and the things we think about.  We all have good and bad days, but we really can make a conscious decision to focus on the positive things…. which brings me to a couple of my favorite scriptures-

Philippians 4:8- Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.

Psalm 19:14- May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
    be pleasing in your sight,
    Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. 

This is my prayer-

God help me to focus on those things which are good and praiseworthy, and may the things I say AND do be pleasing to You and bring You glory!

Here is a song I wrote, based on those scriptures.

 

hands

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Do you ever wonder 

if God has hands?

And how He formed the face

of this beautiful land?

How He carved the mountains

and the valley below?

Did He hand-pick every green thing

and tell them all to grow?

Do you ever wonder?

Do you ever wonder if God has hands?

Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands! Psalm 90:17

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Do you ever marvel over the simplest things?  Like hands, for instance….

We totally take them for granted!  It’s AMAZING the things we can do with our hands!  The fact that I can sit here and type all these letters out, and all 10 of my fingers can work together independently is a miracle!

And how about-

Tying our shoes?

or lacing your fingers through someone else’s hand?

how about painting… or coloring?

or playing piano?

I am so thankful for the hands God gave me!

I have often thought back to my early days of taking piano lessons.  I was about 12, and my teacher was in his early 20’s.  I clearly remember him saying this during one of my early lessons-

“You know, you don’t really have “piano hands”…your fingers aren’t long enough…”

And I remember feeling a lump in my throat and a sinking feeling in my heart.

Because playing piano was the ONLY thing besides singing that I loved doing! So what that my fingers are short and stubby?

I didn’t let that stop me from doing what I loved.

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As I continued playing piano, I improvised when I needed to- like omitting those crazy chords that had over an octave span.  I learned that it was ok to not play every note on the page and that playing piano with passion could make up for any technical skills I was lacking.

And honestly, I hated playing piano in front of people.  Extreme “stage fright” came over me whenever I had a recital, or even when someone asked for me to play for them.  I have often said it felt like I was a pet being asked to do a “trick”.  So besides teaching lessons, I only played for my own enjoyment.

Until I completely gave my life to Jesus.  I told Him that day- even the music I played would be His!

That was a life-changing moment for me. Within a few months, I began leading worship.

And the most amazing thing happens to me every Sunday when I lead worship-it’s almost like He puts gloves on my hands.  I don’t even have to think about what I’m playing.  The worship music just flows-it’s like my fingers are dancing across the keys!   It is the most wonderful miracle that He allows me to play in such a way that I am able to be 100% focused on Him and worship when I am leading music at church.

So, no- I’m not the best pianist.  And singing? There are better out there.  But when we say YES to God, He takes whatever our limited talents are and He makes up the difference.

Our ability to be used is not limited by our short comings (or short fingers, in my case 😉

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me-  2 Corinthians 12:9 

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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!

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