I Sing Because I'm Free!

This WordPress.com site is the bee's knees

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.

Advertisements
5 Comments »

make the time

FullSizeRender

on a weathered

bench I play 

minutes…hours…

half a day!

How I wish 

to pause the time 

play the day away 

on this piano of mine!

Every year when the Christmas season is over, I always wish I had spent more time playing through my favorite Christmas piano books.

Not this year!

I am determined to set aside time daily to play my favorite carols.

There is something special about sitting down with a good piano book, lit by Christmas lights, and just letting my hands dance across the keys.  It’s like meeting an old friend for coffee and a little conversation.  The piano books come to life as I read and play and reminisce about all the years I practiced and learned to play these old songs.

The first Christmas carol I ever learned to play was God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.  It was from a Muppet Christmas book with Kermit the Frog on the front of it.  I played and played that song so many times that I thought I’d never want to hear it again.  And yet, even now, when I play it- it’s like a home movie running through my mind.  I remember what the keys felt like on my old piano and I can see the dimly lit dining room where I sat as a young girl.

fullsizeoutput_21a2

I’ve still got my first Christmas piano book!

When I sit at the piano and play, I feel like a kid at Christmas again.

So, what’s that one thing that is sure to get you in the Christmas spirit? 

Whatever it is- make time for it this year-

and DO IT!

FullSizeRender

“Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music.” – Sergei Rachmaninov 

“Music is the shorthand of emotion.” ― Leo Tolstoy

“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.” ― Maya Angelou

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.” ― Aldous Huxley

“Where words fail, music speaks.” ― Hans Christian Andersen

“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.” ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.”  ― Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

“Music is like a dream. One that I cannot hear.” – Ludwig Van Beethoven

4 Comments »

hands

dsc_0511

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

fullsizeoutput_20b7

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.

FullSizeRender

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 

fullsizeoutput_2178

2 Comments »

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

1 Comment »

he who began a good work in you…

fullsizeoutput_1768

I am excited to share with you something awesome that happened to me recently!

After taking ministry prep classes for over 8 years, this past Friday I was ordained as an elder in the Church of the Nazarene!  Aside from my wedding day and the birth of my two daughters, it was absolutely the most joyous night of my life!

I told my husband I felt like I was getting married all over again- married to the church!  There was a special Ordination Service held this past Friday evening, and there were 8 other ministers from Virginia that also got ordained.

fullsizeoutput_1777

My husband and daughters were there, and several other family members, and lots of people from my church made the trip to come to the service.  Then during our fellowship time at church yesterday, they had a lovely reception to celebrate.

IMG_6571

As I listened to the sermon during the Ordination Service, the Lord confirmed in my spirit once again that His timing is perfect and I am exactly where He wants me to be. The pastor made many references to the word “green” and “green grass” in his message that night.  I know it sounds a little strange- but the Lord used the word “green” to spark something in me about 10 years ago…

 I hid it well from people, but inside I was miserable- desperate for something to change.  I made every excuse I could why I wasn’t happy… but what really needed to change was ME!

I wasn’t very involved in church back then- I didn’t even sing during the services. But there was this one song that one of the college students would occasionally lead us to sing during worship that I liked.  It had a melancholy tune, vaguely reminiscent of a Simon and Garfunkel song.

As the months passed, I had forgotten about that song.  But the Lord brought it to my mind one Sunday afternoon.  I couldn’t remember the tune or any of the words to save my life!  It was driving me nuts!

And then out of the blue- I remembered one word-

green

I called my husband, who happened to be working that afternoon- and I asked him if he could remember “the song”… you know it, babe- it’s the one that sounds like a Simon and Garfunkel song?  It’s got the word green in it somewhere!  It’s THAT song! 

Yes, he remembered it, but like me- he could not remember the tune or any lyrics.  But sure enough, that evening,  he remembered some of the lyrics- enough to google them,  and find out what the song was.  He emailed me the words and immediately the tune came to mind.

I can’t explain it any other way- I was COMPELLED to sit at my piano and play that song.  Over and over.  Every time I walked past the piano, I’d sit and play and sing it.  In fact, that “green” song was the first worship song I ever played without having any sheet music to go by.

And then one morning, I sat on my old piano bench, and  I remember my youngest daughter was crawling around on the floor in the next room.  I began to play this song that I had been compelled to play for weeks on end… and for the first time, I tried to sing and nothing came out.  Tears flowed down my face as I realized all this time I had spent searching for the words of this song- I had been searching for Him.  And these words I was compelled to sing- He was doing that for me all along, and had already done this for me… He was simply waiting for me to see it.  You know that saying “fake it ’till you make it”?  After all that time of singing praises- finally in that instant, empty words were brought to life in my heart, and His presence was so real.

He was already with me…I had been blind, but praise God- that was the day that for the first time- I could see!

And my response? Total consecration of my life!  On that day, I promised Him I would do anything He asked of me.

My call to ministry began with the Lord giving me the word “green”…. and every time I heard the preacher during the Ordination Service Friday evening mention the word “green” over and over,  He reaffirmed in my heart once again that I am exactly where He wants me.

You turned my wailing into dancing;
    you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
 that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
    Lord my God, I will praise you forever.  Psalm 30 

And in case you are curious, here’s a link to the “green” song-“You Have Redeemed My Soul” by Waterdeep-

 https://soundcloud.com/julrayhar/you-have-redeemd-my-soul

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ-

  Philippians 1:6

fullsizeoutput_1766

 

11 Comments »

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
3 Comments »

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

____________________________________________________________________________________________

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

IMG_1507

Leave a comment »

i sing

 

Image 1

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 

 

8 Comments »

All In

excuses wearing thin

tired of hiding in my sin

Your Spirit stirring from within

I’m all in

no more wasting time

with this fleeting life of mine

I’m signing on the dotted line

I’m all in

I’m all in

head over heels

I’m all in

wanna give my life

for something real

I’m all in

sold out for You

I’m all in

I’m living proof

no more scattered thoughts

I’m clinging to the cross

everything I count as loss

I’m all in

knowing what is true

want to honor You in all I do

fall helplessly in love with You

I’m all in

Last Sunday, as I played the piano at church, I watched  two people come forward to receive the Lord and embrace the cross of Christ at the close of the service.  It was a powerful, beautiful moment!  All of the congregation was invited to join them at the cross, and we came together and prayed as a “family”-  brothers and sisters in Christ.

That night, I woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep.  I thought about what it means to embrace the cross- to be “all in” for Him.   I wrote this song that night as I thought of the two courageous people who stepped forward to “embrace the cross”, and also reflected on my own moment of surrender.

I thought of all the times I felt quickened in my spirit to go to the altar to pray, to raise my hand, to publicly declare my need for Him… and I held back for so long.  But there comes a moment when you can’t hold back any longer.

And once you go “all in”- it becomes a daily decision… daily seeking Him, laying down your own will and desires for His.  Acknowledging that His ways and thoughts are far better than yours could ever be.

Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ  and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death…

Philippians 3:8-10

 

2 Comments »

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

 

3 Comments »