I Sing Because I'm Free!

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take a walk

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take a walk with me 

see the landscape through my eyes 

become like children 

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clouds illuminate 

and direct my attention 

to our Creator

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glittering sunbeams 

highlight the snow’s afterglow 

and dance in the sky 

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the sun awakens 

ice crunching beneath my feet 

the only sound heard 

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take a walk with me 

see the snowscape through my eyes 

become like children 

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There’s a patch of old snow in a corner
     That I should have guessed
Was a blow-away paper the rain
     Had brought to rest.

It is speckled with grime as if
     Small print overspread it,
The news of a day I’ve forgotten—
     If I ever read it.

Robert Frost 

 

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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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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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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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eclipse

when clouds roll in

over a sky of blue 

and you can’t see the eclipse- 

what’s a girl to do? 

take a picture 

anyway! 

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I’m not really the best at planning ahead, so naturally I did not have a pair of “eclipse” glasses laying around the house.  But honestly, I wasn’t really interested in watching it… I’m just not that into you.

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Until I noticed the sky got all strange looking…and then I couldn’t look away.

 I admit it-  I was sucked into the eclipse obsession, trying my hardest NOT to look up, but still look around at all the cool clouds and colors.

 

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While the eclipse was a bust here in Charlottesville, I experienced my own personal “eclipse” that day.  It seemed as if a cloud were hanging over me when I woke that morning, and I was desperate to see the light of the Lord.  This was partly my own fault.   I’ve been spending way too much time watching the news and surfing the internet… spending time doing meaningless things that I could be spending with the Lord.  So I did everything I could to get my heart and mind completely focused on Him.

I turned off the tv.  I prayed.  I read scriptures.  I cried as I read through the Psalms…

Because your love is better than life,
    my lips will glorify you.
 I will praise you as long as I live,
    and in your name I will lift up my hands.  Psalm 63

I prayed that verse over and over. Because His love is better than life. And the more I prayed it, the more my heart felt it.  He is everything.  He gives me life.  And I thought- why would I ever choose to do anything other than praise the Lord when I have any “down time”?  It is through worship that He fills me up!

Then I watched church on youtube. The first service I clicked on happened to be a baptism service.  It was so beautiful- on one side of the stage, there were people leading worship, and on the other, a pastor was baptizing and praying with people.  You could hear the cheers as the people were baptized.  I was so moved- I cried tears of joy for these people I’d never even met!

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I mean- I was all wrapped up in worship.  Hands raised, crying, singing…

And then I moved on over to the piano.  Words and music flowed out of me effortlessly.

It was such an amazing God-filled day.

It made me really think about how I was spending my “down” time on a regular basis-

Are the things I’m doing bringing me closer to the Lord?

Or are they taking precious time away from Him?

His love is better than life.  

 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.  Philippians 4:8

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dream a little dream

 

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I woke up the other morning with JOY just flowing through my veins!  I mean, I was so excited, I couldn’t contain it!  I had the most amazing dream- it was one of those dreams that was so real, it was being in a movie!  I literally sat up in my bed and cheered- “Woohooo!!!”

The hubs was already awake, so I went into the living room to share the excitement with him, lol.

“Oh.My.GOODNESS!  I had the BEST dream EVER”, I tell my husband.

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Now, mind you, he’s not a morning person… so he smiled and said not now.  Go write it down and tell me all about it later.  He handed me a few pieces of paper from the printer and a pen and I sat down and tried to write fast enough to capture all the juicy details.

About 10 minutes later, he turned around to me and said are you STILL writing?!

Yep!  Almost done!

I won’t bore you with all the nitty-gritty details of my dream, but the main focus was that I had found something special that belonged to a stranger.  I tracked down the stranger and was about to give them this item, and then I lost it while I was in the mall.  I prayed and prayed that I would find it, and I had all sorts of shoppers and salespeople looking for it.

I remember the feeling of expectation I had in the dream- I just KNEW I was going to find this thing!  And sure enough, I did!  I was so overjoyed that I jumped up and down and raised both arms in the air and shouted “Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord!”

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And that’s how I woke up that morning!  I was on cloud nine!  I wanted to jump up and down and tell the whole world how much I loved the Lord.

But the coolest thing happened to me that day-  I had that feeling of joy inside me ALL DAY LONG! I started thinking about how awesome it would be to wake up praising the Lord like that EVERY DAY- simply because we have another day to enjoy life!

Life’s all about perspective.

How different our lives would be if we saw every moment as an opportunity to praise the Lord!

I will praise the Lord at all times.
    I will constantly speak his praises.  Psalm 34

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it’s the little things

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it’s the little things 

reminding me- 

Emmanuel

He’s here with me 

The girls are maturing by the day, and I can hardly keep up with their changing likes and dislikes.  In fact, just yesterday I lamented that this is the first year neither of them asked for a single American Girl doll accessory  or”toy” for Christmas.

  Gone are those special moments when they would crawl into Santa’s lap and take sweet pictures.  And much to my chagrin- gone are the days of fighting those crowded toy store lines trying to get them the hottest toys of the season.  (that I DON’T miss!!)

As I got into my van yesterday morning I was feeling a little melancholy thinking of how much they have grown, and a part of me longed to hear their giddy little girl giggles.

But then I looked up, and I saw my windows were covered in frost from the previous chilly night. The frost glistened in the sunlight and I saw a cross- clear as day- a “frosty” cross, I’ll call it 🙂

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And He reminded me again what the real meaning of CHRISTmas is all about.

There is no giggle, no toy, no present under the tree that could ever compare to the joy He has already given me.  And the longing in my heart will only ever be satisfied by more of Him.  

In the simplest of ways He shows me that He is here.

She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.'”  Matthew 1:23

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rejected

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While I was out running errands today, I had a conversation with a stranger who told me she had just quit smoking.  I asked her how long it had been since she had her last smoke.  Just yesterday.  I told her every single moment was a small victory for her to celebrate.  I encouraged her and let her talk about her smoking addiction.  After talking with her for quite some time, I felt the Lord nudging me to invite her to a special service we’re having at our church next week.  It’s something I am really excited about- 9 churches coming together to worship and give thanks… 9 churches in our community uniting as one in Christ Jesus!  With all the division in the world right now, this is the perfect time for this!

I waited until I knew it was the right moment to ask her… Do you go to church? I asked her, nonchalantly.

No- I don’t do that kind of thing.

Well this would be the perfect service to come to then!  I explained how a bunch of churches in our community were coming together…

No, I’m not interested in that.  

And immediately I felt that door slam shut.  She changed the subject quickly, clearly ready to end the conversation at that point. It was awkward, to say the least!

As she continued to make small talk, I started feeling a little sorry for myself.  I’d been rejected.  She didn’t ask me the usual “what church do you go to?” or even say the polite “I’ll think about it”… just a flat out NO. I hate rejection. It’s hard to put yourself out there…to be obedient to invite strangers to church.  Who am I kidding?  It’s hard to just flat have conversations and LOVE people.

I said goodbye and told her that I’d be praying for her as she continued to break the nicotine habit.  “You can DO it!” I told her. Then I then went to my car, feeling like a complete DORK and a REJECT.

And He brought to my mind this verse-

As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
1so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.- Isaiah 55

All He asks us to do is be obedient. We throw out the seeds… HE does the watering.

As I drove home, I started to replay the words of our conversation in my mind…and then I looked ahead of me and the license plate in front of me said it all.

On the license plate was this-

GD LOVS U

And in that instant, those feelings of being a complete nerd and a rejected vanished.  He loves you.  And He loves me.  And He loves that stranger I spoke to today.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Galatians 6:9

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contentment

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I took my youngest daughter to the bus stop one recent chilly fall morning, and as I pulled around the corner-  I saw a rose colored sunrise in the sky, dew drops glistened on amber colored tree leaves, and lots and lots of kids. Happy children ran back and forth across the quiet street, playing with a new puppy. Mommas were gathered with coffee mugs in hand, some with their dogs leashed up along side them.

As I sat in my van (honestly I was hiding in my minivan… I was still in my pajamas, lol) my daughter said goodbye and dashed crossed the street.  She began chatting away with the other kids at the stop, talking excitedly, grinning from ear to ear about something.

And in that moment, I fought back tears.  Because this was my greatest dream as a child- to have a family! 

I have been so guilty of seeking happiness in the wrong places…and thinking if only this or that would happen (insert any number of random circumstances), I would be so much happier…

But that morning it hit me like a ton of bricks how greatly blessed I am.

I have a wonderful husband who loves me, and he’s a great provider for our family.

I have two amazing, healthy, intelligent girls whom I have great expectations of doing awesome things in the future… and my greatest hope is for them to serve the Lord in whatever they choose to do with their lives.

Our greatest source of joy is found only in Jesus… not in anyone or in anything else!

I told my husband that I felt like an old mom that day.  I came in the house from taking my youngest to the bus stop wearing exactly what I had slept in.  My hair was all disheveled, and I didn’t have shoes on.  When I look in the mirror these days, I see a few more laugh lines and wrinkles on my face.  And you know what?

I’m ok with that 🙂

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  Philippians 4:12

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13

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