I Sing Because I'm Free!

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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

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Only Jesus

It has been bitterly cold lately.

How cold is it?

So cold, that my semi-damp hair freezes in chunks when I walk the dogs!

So cold, that I think I have gotten a little bitter myself.

I really despise that about me. I see how easy it is for me come up with excuses for why I am in a bad mood. After it snowed a couple of weeks ago, I slipped and fell down the front porch stairs while holding a dog leash in each hand. My tailbone hit every step on the way down and then smacked against the icy asphalt. I laid there on the ice and cried because the pain was so bad. And there was no one home to help. Thankfully I didn’t break anything, but it left me in a lot of physical discomfort.

Sitting, standing, walking…getting in and out of the car… all the normal daily things I did brought me constant discomfort. It took a solid two weeks for me to be able to walk around without being in constant pain. I was GRATEFUL to wake up yesterday and hop right out of bed like my usual self!

But this morning, I see how easy it has been for me to allow myself to wallow in my own misery, and to make excuses for it. How quick I have been to complain and become frustrated with little things. How I have been snappy with my family and have thought of every excuse to justify my attitude.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5

What would Jesus say about my bad mood? I think He would tell me no one owes me anything for falling down those steps that day. I think He would tell me to be grateful that I wasn’t more severely injured. I think He would tell me to lean into Him more and not expect anything from other people. I think He would tell me how incredibly blessed I am.

Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past- Isaiah 43:18

He would tell me to stop focusing on my circumstances, and start focusing on Him.

The moment I begin worship and focus on Jesus- I am free from my selfish ways.

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. –Philippians 3:13-14

Keep your eyes on the prize!

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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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Anticipation

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For a moment, I thought the zombie apocalypse might have come.

I had just returned home from running  a few errands, and the girls were no where to be found.  When I was out shopping, I had called both girls on their cell phones, and also tried texting them.  It was very strange for neither of them to respond to my messages.

So when I entered the house, I called their names.  There was no response.  I was a little concerned.  The dogs followed me from room to room as I looked for them.

As I entered my bedroom, I saw that all of the blinds had been raised.  The sunlight was streaming in through the windows, revealing the last of the golden leaves on the trees.

And then I heard it-

Was that really the sound of my two teenage girls outside?  laughing together? 

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I peaked outside from my bedroom window and saw both of them twirling broom sticks, throwing them in the air and laughing as they practiced together.  My oldest has been in marching band for the last 2 years, and recently both girls have taken an interest in learning how to twirl flags (color guard). I breathed a sigh of relief and then thanked the Lord they were enjoying one another’s company- and that they were NOT on their cell phones, arguing,  or watching tv!

About a half hour later, they came inside- giggling and being silly together.

Then my oldest asked if she could use my fancy camera to take pictures.  “Mom, you never even use it!”

“But you’re not going to know how to work it,” I tried to reason with her.

And sure enough, she picked it right up and clicked a few buttons and was well on her way to understanding the settings and all the other bells and whistles.

As I cooked in the kitchen, I watched Katie sneak  around on the floor- taking candid pictures of our dogs, of Sophie, and of our Christmas decorations.   And then it happened- she popped my favorite movie into our DVD player- Elf!

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It was such an awesome afternoon.

It brings me great joy in this season of motherhood any time my two teenage daughters get along and laugh together.

No arguing.  

No cell phones.  

No hiding out in bedrooms.

Just me doing mom stuff, and the girls, enjoying life together-

 anticipating all the joys of the coming holiday season.

I think Thanksgiving Eve may be my favorite day of the entire year 🙂

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!  Psalm 27 

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Windows

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Separate 

inside from out 

behind curtains 

we peek out 

 illumination 

cannot hide

the life that carries on 

inside 

I have been thinking a lot about windows.

I have always loved glancing into windows of the homes we pass by when we drive through neighborhoods.

Shakespeare said it best- “Eyes are the windows to your soul”.

We had a family picture taken recently at church.  It’s nothing short of a minor miracle that both girls and hubby agreed to sit for a photo. As a mom of two teenage daughters, we have reached the stage where no pictures are taken without lots of preparation.  Of course, I tell my girls how beautiful they are all the time… how they don’t need makeup.  I tell them they could wear brown sacks and still be beautiful!

But I can sometimes be such a hypocrite.

Because the first thing I said when I saw the picture was how un-photogenic I am.  I always have some strange expression on my face, I’m not looking in the right direction, I have a weird, “fake” smile, or my eyes are half-way closed.  Any combination of those things is what I usually see when I look at a picture of myself.

And this photo brought out the same reaction in me.  I actually laughed out loud at what my husband said to me when I showed the picture to him.

I said, “Look babe- it’s such a great pic of you and the girls!  Not so great of me- I am always un-photogenic.”

Without skipping a beat, he says “what kind of super-model expectation do you have of yourself? It is a perfectly fine picture of you!” 

Good question.

Why can’t my eyes see the things that other people see in me?

I think social media is a huge culprit.  Instagram and snapchat have these lovely filters that make you look like a million bucks. And then when you see pictures of other people online, many times we are looking at these same filtered photos- masking what people really look like.

That, along with all of the anti-aging ads for women doesn’t help our self-worth.  There are literally hundreds of wrinkle creams- for your eyes, face, neck, lips… you name a body part,  and I’m sure you can find the perfect cream to improve it.  And hair- I have finally settled for the hair color with the least maintenance- highlights a few times a year.  Low maintenance appearance is my goal!

What makes a house a home?  It’s the love of the family that lives inside.

What makes a person beautiful? It’s not how few gray hairs you have, not how smooth your skin is, not being the perfect size.  It’s not even about having the perfect smile, or outfit.

For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7

It’s what’s in your heart.

I want to see the world through His eyes.  I want to see YOU through His eyes.

And in order to do that, we have to begin with seeing ourself the way He sees us.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.  Psalm 139:14

Let the light of Christ shine through your windows!

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May our “windows” reflect the Son!

The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light-  Matthew 6:22

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Happy Thanksgiving!!! 

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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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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 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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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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