I Sing Because I'm Free!

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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.

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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.

 

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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!

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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 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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Jesus Our Lord is Crucified

Jesus Our Lord is Crucified

O come and mourn with me awhile, 
O come ye to the Savior’s side 
O come, together let us mourn, 
Jesus our Lord is crucified.

Seven times He spoke seven words of love; 
And all three hours His silence cried 
For mercy on the souls of men; 
Jesus our Lord is crucified.

O love of God! O sin of man! 
In this dread act Your strength is tried; 
And victory remains with love; 
Jesus our Lord is crucified!

A broken heart, a fount of tears, 
Ask, and they will not be denied; 
A broken heart love’s cradle is: 
Jesus our Lord is crucified.

lyrics written by Frederick Faber – 1849

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Moved by these beautiful words, I took the lyrics of this old hymn and set it to a new melody and piano accompaniment.  I would be happy to share the chord chart with anyone who would like to have it.  Be blessed!

Jesus Our Lord is Crucified

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Whiter than Snow

Lord Jesus, I long to be perfectly whole;
I want Thee forever to live in my soul;
Break down every idol, cast out every foe—
Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Whiter than snow, yes, whiter than snow,
Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Lord Jesus, look down from Thy throne in the skies,
And help me to make a complete sacrifice;
I give up myself, and whatever I know—
Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Lord Jesus, for this I most humbly entreat,
I wait, blessed Lord, at Thy crucified feet,
By faith for my cleansing, I see thy blood flow—
Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

The blessing by faith, I receive from above;
Oh, glory! my soul is made perfect in love;
My prayer has prevailed, and this moment I know,
The blood is applied, I am whiter than snow.

Written by James Nicholson in 1872

 

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Be Born In Me

This has become one of my favorite Christmas songs.  Written from Mary’s perspective, it so beautifully captures the range of emotions she felt when realizing she was carrying the Son of God.

One of my favorite lines is this –

“I am not brave, I’ll never be- the only thing my heart can offer is a vacancy.  I’m just a girl, nothing more,  but I am willing- I am Yours…” 

May we all make room in our hearts for Him.   Be Born in me.

Be Born in Me (Mary’s Song)

Everything inside me cries for order
Everything inside me wants to hide
Is this shadow an angel or a warrior
If God is pleased with me, why I am I so terrified
Someone tell me I am only dreaming
Somehow help me see with Heaven’s eyes
And before my head agrees, my heart is on it’s knees
Holy is He. Blessed am I.

Be born in me, be born in me
Trembling heart, somehow I believe that You chose me
I’ll hold you in the beginning, You will hold me in the end
Every moment in the middle, make my heart your Bethlehem
Be born in me

All this time we’ve waited for the promise
All this time You’ve waited for my arms
Did You wrap yourself inside the unexpected
So we might know that Love would go that far?

I am not brave
I’ll never be
The only thing my heart can offer is a vacancy
I’m just a girl
Nothing more
But I am willing, I am Yours

*written by Nichole Nordeman

*originally sung by Francesca Battestelli  

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Your constant love is better than life itself…Psalm 63

IMG_0657O God, you are my God,
    and I long for you.
My whole being desires you;
    like a dry, worn-out, and waterless land,
    my soul is thirsty for you.

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Let me see you in the sanctuary;
    let me see how mighty and glorious you are.
 Your constant love is better than life itself,
    and so I will praise you.

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 I will give you thanks as long as I live;
    I will raise my hands to you in prayer.
 My soul will feast and be satisfied,
    and I will sing glad songs of praise to you.

Psalm 63

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