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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!

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He Leads

The sky was cerulean blue, and the pear trees blossoms were in full bloom.  It was one of those days where all of nature seems to be in technicolor.

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There are some days that I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude- for everything-

Thankful that I have a car, and that I can drive anywhere I want!

Thankful for sunshine and all the things that come alive in spring. 

Thankful to be alive and breathing– even if it is pollen-laden spring air!

I spent the afternoon running a few errands,  and then decided to get coffee.  I found myself driving to an out of the way Starbucks- one that I don’t go to often.

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I walked in and there was an elderly man coming out of the restroom.  I couldn’t tell if he was trying to get around me to go to his seat, or if he was actually getting in line to order coffee, but he looked a little flustered.

“You go ahead of me,” he said, motioning for me to step in front of him.  I smiled, and got in line.

Then the oddest thing happened- he started talking to me as if he’d known me for years…

“You know, that movie Paul the Apostle of Christ– that was something else, wasn’t it?” Out of the blue, he started to tell me about this movie, which I wanted to see but haven’t yet-  “It was the most amazing movie.  You know how Paul talks about his thorn in the flesh?  They did such a beautiful job with that.  We’ve all got a thorn in the flesh, don’t we?”   He continued on to talk about the movie I Can Only Imagine… “And the whole symbolism between his earthly father and his Heavenly Father was just amazing…”

Wow.  A random stranger was talking to me- in the middle of the Starbucks line- about God.  I told him that I hadn’t seen either movie yet, but that they were on my to-do list.  I placed my coffee order and then went to the other side of the counter to wait.

Sure enough, he stepped beside me again as we waited for our cup of heaven.  I knew the Lord wanted me to ask him if he went to church.

“So, do you go to church anywhere?”  I asked him.

“I do, but I’m looking for another one.  This one’s so big, I can’t seem to form relationships with anyone. How about you?  Where do you go?”

I briefly told him where I went to church, and that I also lead the music there.

“Well, isn’t that something?” he says, “it’s a divine appointment!  Me meeting you here at this Starbucks!”  We chatted for a few minutes longer, and then I went on about my day.

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I’ve thought about the gentleman at Starbucks a lot over the last few days… and while he thanked me for encouraging him, he was actually an encouragement to me- reminding me that He marks every step of our path during the day.

A “divine appointment”

How many “divine appointments” do we miss out on every day because we aren’t looking for them?

I don’t want to miss a single one.

Open my eyes, that I may see
glimpses of truth you have for me;
place in my hands the wonderful key
that shall unlock and set me free.
Silently now, on bended knee,
ready I wait your will to see;
open my eyes, illumine me,
Spirit divine!

Open my ears, that I may hear
voices of truth you send so clear;
and while the message sounds in my ear,
everything false will disappear.
Silently now, on bended knee,
ready I wait your will to see;
open my ears, illumine me,
Spirit divine!

Open my mouth, and let me bear
gladly the warm truth everywhere;
open my heart, and let me prepare
love with your children thus to share.
Silently now, on bended knee,
ready I wait your will to see;
open my heart, illumine me,
Spirit divine!

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it- Hebrews 3:2 

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i sing

 

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It was just another ordinary day.

I got dressed and slipped a special necklace over my blouse.  It is a silver chain with an old silver spoon pendant with the words “I Sing Because I’m Free” embossed on it.  My mom had it made for me for Christmas a few years back.  It’s the name of this blog, and it is also a line from one of my favorite hymns- His Eye is on the Sparrow.

It’s funny, because I get asked more questions about that piece of jewelry than I’d ever thought possible!  It seems like everywhere I go, someone will notice it and ask me what it means.

Anyway, I drove to town and met a friend for lunch, and then had a bunch of errands to run.  I tried to plan them so that all of the stops were in order.  My first stop was the health food store to pick up some vitamins.  They are always friendly, but there’s not a lot of chit-chat in the check-out line.

I grabbed the one thing I needed and met the cashier at the counter.

I opened my purse and it took me a minute to find my debit card.

“I sing because I’m free?”  he inquired.

It’s a line from an old hymn, I told him.  Do you know it?  It’s called His eye is on the Sparrow…

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard that one,”  he said.

And I knew the Lord wanted me to just start singing it.  Without any hesitation, I broke out into the chorus of the song.

“Ah… that’s a really nice song,”  he said.

I am free because of Jesus, I said to him.  

And I could have cut the silence with a knife.  Can you say- AWKWARD!?!

“That’s real nice, m’am”, he says to me.  He never looked up at me as he tore the receipt from the register, handed me a pen, and asked me for my signature.  I signed my name and told him to have an awesome day.

I got in the car and something strange happened.

I wasn’t embarrassed.  

I didn’t want to hide.

I didn’t feel defeated.  

Although it might have seemed a little awkward in the store, I was obedient to do what God wanted me to do in that moment.

No regrets. 

You win some, you lose some-

But when you are obedient to do what He asks- no matter how big or small-

you always win!

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. 

Galatians 1:10 

 

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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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O Light of light, shine in!

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O Light of light, shine in!
Cast out this night of sin,
Create true day within:
O Light of light, shine in!IMG_1321

O Light, all light excelling,
Make my heart Thy dwelling;
O Joy, all grief dispelling,
To my poor heart come in!IMG_1287

O Joy of joys, come in!
End Thou this grief of sin,
Create calm peace within:
O Joy of joys, come in!
 

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O Life of life, pour in!
Expel this death of sin,
Awake true life within:
O Life of life, pour in!IMG_1292

O Love of love, flow in!
This hateful root of sin
Deal with, renew, within:
O Love of love, flow in!
 

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O Heaven of heavens, descend!
This cloudy curtain rend,
And all earth’s turmoil end:
O Heaven of heavens, descend!IMG_1299

My God and Lord, O come!
  Of joys the Joy and Sum,
Make in this heart Thy home:
  My God and Lord, O come!  

*Lyrics by Horatius Bonar(1808-1889)

The weather this week has been amazing!  Spring is FINALLY sprung and so have the vibrant colors of the season.  The other day I walked my favorite trail with a couple of friends.
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The sun was so bright, I borrowed a friend’s hat to protect my eyes.  Even with the hat, I found myself looking down at the ground to keep from squinting.  I began to get a headache and felt sick to my stomach as I watched the wooden slats beneath my feet moving back and forth.

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I can’t remember ever experiencing “motion sickness” from walking!  But the odd thing was that the moment I mentioned it, my friend said she, too, felt that same way.

IMG_1287“We must stop looking down and keep looking forward, ” spoke my wise friend! 

A simple statement, but a profound reminder to keep my eyes fixed on the path ahead, and not the ground.

And maybe a pair of sunglasses wouldn’t hurt next time 🙂

Let your eyes look straight ahead;
    fix your gaze directly before you.
 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
    and be steadfast in all your ways. Proverbs 4:25-26

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Breath of Life

O Breath of life, come sweeping through us,

Revive Your church with life and power;

O Breath of life, come cleanse, renew us,

And fit Your church to meet this hour.

O breath of life, come sweeping through us

O breath of life, come cleanse, renew us

O love of Christ, afresh to win us

fill us with Your holiness

O Wind of God, come bend us, break us,

Till humbly we confess our need;

Then in Thy tenderness remake us,

Revive, restore, for this we plead.

O Breath of love, come breathe within us,

Renewing thought and will and heart;

Come, Love of Christ, afresh to win us,

Revive Your church in every part.

(words by Bessie Head)

These beautiful words resonated with me years ago when I first heard them.  The Lord put a “new song” on my heart and I set these lovely words to a new melody and new piano accompaniment.  My heart longs for revival- for His Spirit to revive, restore, and renew us.  May His breath of life fill us with passion and equip us for His service!

*If you would like chord charts for this song, email me and I will be happy to send them to you

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Love

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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At the Cross

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 In the softly falling snow

to the wondrous cross we go

blanketed in pure snow white

Glowing with His heavenly light

These crosses sit on top of the hill behind our church. It’s easy to miss them if you don’t know they’re there. They blend perfectly into the background of the trees. I have taken pictures of them before, but the pictures never compare to the real thing.  On this day, as I sat in the foyer of the church and watched the snow falling, I couldn’t get these crosses off my mind.  Without a coat, and wearing shoes with no socks- I felt compelled to go out in the snow to see them.

I think about all the times I felt Him calling me to the cross and I didn’t go.  Before I answered His ministry call, before I fully gave my life to Christ- I can remember sitting in church and desperately wanting to go to Him.  Wanting to go to the altar to pray.  But I was afraid.  Afraid of what others might think- and of what might happen if I went!

We come to the cross just as we are.  We don’t need our coats… or fancy clothes…or our lives to be in order.  We come just as we are-  and by His grace, He changes us.

I felt like a kid again that afternoon- feeling the snow falling on my face as I gazed up at the crosses on the hill.   Whenever He calls me to come- I will go.  Even if that means listening to His whispers to go out in the snow- without my coat- to meet Him at the cross.  And as beautiful as this cross picture is- nothing compares to the beauty of knowing Him and allowing yourself to be clay in His hands. I am forever changed by His amazing grace.

Just As I Am/I Come Broken by Travis Cottrell

Chorus
I come broken to be mended
I come wounded to be healed
I come desperate to be rescued
I come empty to be filled
I come guilty to be pardoned
By the blood of Christ the Lamb
And I’m welcomed with open arms
Praise God, just as I am

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