Category Archives: Lives Full of God

Worship Wednesday – the Faith to Believe

Photo Credit: Flickr

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.Ephesians 2:8

For the first twenty years of my professional life, I was privileged to have close encounters with five life-changing realities. It was a season of caring for cancer patients and their families – when their diseases were raging and in the final days of life. These experiences galvanized my faith in God and how his image is embedded in us – his creation. These realities are:

  1. Courage in exceedingly hard places
  2. Deep enduring love across a harsh illness and when time is fleeting
  3. Hope mingled with humor
  4. Death isn’t final…our spirits go somewhere (for sure, they leave the body)
  5. Faith to believe

Caring for patients receiving chemotherapy and other treatments for life-threatening complications can prompt an intimate caring relationship. To watch patients (and families) deal with such hard and to be in a position to help them through it gave me a window to extend love and honor to dear ones in crisis.

Was there always courage? Was love always expressed between us all? Was humor or hope or faith a constant?

No…but remarkably, more often than not, this was what I observed… especially in those sustained by a relationship with God.

In the last couple of years, I personally have experienced a cancer diagnosis and a couple of respiratory emergencies that brought those same realities into my life. In such times, much in life gets clarity…a sharper focus, a deeper understanding.

Breathe has been a theme in my life for over a year now…put that together with the title of a film starring Andrew Garfield…and it caused me to NOT “skip the ad” on YouTube.Photo Credit: Breathe, YouTube

I was unaware of Robin Cavendish until I saw the trailer for the film Breathe. Cavendish was a Brit who developed polio at the young age of 28. He was paralyzed from the neck down and required a ventilator to breathe. In those days (1958), he would have been confined in a hospital for the remainder of his days. However, he nor his wife, Diana, would hear of it. After a year in hospital, he went home and adjusted to this very different life, as only Robin would. They had a child and he would be able to see him grow up (in fact, son Jonathan Cavendish produced this film). Robin was a pioneer in advocating for the disabled, especially those like him needing more extreme measures to live a more normal life. He died at 64.

[Since my years in graduate studies in rehab and cancer nursing…the courage I saw in so many patients and families…courage in struggle…never ceased to inspire me.]

I am always intrigued about “based on a true story” films. Reading up on Robin Cavendish’s story, my heart soared and then sank…fullstop at the short statement below:

Cavendish was an atheist.Wikipedia

I have never understood atheism. Even during spiritually flat and confusing times in my life, the existence of God has never been at question.

Especially watching beloved patients at the moment of death…their faces relaxing and their bodies emptying of who they really were. We don’t just stop existing…life here stops and starts at exactly the same moment…There.

Now that I know Robin Cavendish, he has my admiration and respect at how he took back his life and helped others do the same. I wonder if, before his life was done…if he had the faith to believe. One line in his obituary reads:

It is a strange irony that, though professing to be an unbeliever himself, he had a capacity for making other people feel closer to God.*

*Obituary – Robin Cavendish – Alice and Tim Renton

What a great gift is faith to believe. We don’t conjure it up. God Himself presents us the faith to believe…it is ours to reject or receive.

Worship with me. Below you will find two songs – Faith to Believe by Shane & Shane and Jesus Is Better by Austin Stone. Choose either or both in celebrating the God who gives us the faith to believe. [Then scroll down to the prayer at the end.]

YouTube Video – Shane & Shane – Faith to Believe – (with lyrics)

Give me the faith to believe You
When I’m stuck here in my fear
Give me the strength to trust You
When my vision’s blurred by tears
Give me a hope for tomorrow
Because today has gone so wrong
I’m on my knees
Give me the strength to believe

Even when I cannot see You
You’re still shining, You’re still shining
Even when I cannot hear You
You’re still calling out my name
Even when I cannot see You
Your arms are open
Always holding on to me
Give me the faith to believe

You say You’ll never leave me
Your love will conquer fear
You say Your day is coming
When You’ll wipe away my tears
Give me a hope for tomorrow
Because today has gone so wrong
I’m on my knees
Give me the faith to believe

Give me the faith to see the invisible
Give me the faith to believe the impossible
Give me the faith to receive the incredible
Oh give me the faith to believe it**

There is no other so sure and steady, my hope is held in your hand
When castles crumble and breath is fleeting, upon this rock I will stand
Upon this rock I will stand

Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all
Raise the anthem, our loudest praises ring
We crown Him Lord of all

Your kindly rule has shattered and broken the curse of sin’s tyranny
My life is hidden ‘neath Heaven’s shadow, Your crimson flood covers me
Your crimson flood covers me

Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all
Raise the anthem, our loudest praises ring
We crown Him Lord of all

In all my sorrows, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

In all my victories, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

Than any comfort, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

More than all riches, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

Our souls declaring, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

Our song eternal, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all

Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all
Raise the anthem, our loudest praises ring
We crown Him Lord of all

Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all
Raise the anthem, our loudest praises ring
We crown Him Lord of all***

Photo Credit: Flickr

Maybe this is the first step for atheists, too (it was for me)…so thankful for the faith to believe…to see the truth and beauty of Scripture. The Word of God walks us right up the staircase to be with Him – now and forever.

Thank You, God, for the faith to believe. With my whole being, I’m sure you daily, moment by moment, extend grace to all of humanity to know You, through one witness of Yourself or another. Help us to receive this grace. God, give us all this faith to believe.

**Lyrics to Faith to Believe – written by Shane Everett & Phil Wickham

***Lyrics to Jesus Is Better – written by Aaron Ivey & Brett Land

Monday Morning Moment – Remembering 9/11 – and the Day Before – a Story of God and a Girl

Genessa & April

[From the Archives]

Today marks the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 bombings in the US, and we all have our stories of where we were when we heard that terrible news. I heard the news as an elevator door opened in a hospital emergency room in Cairo, Egypt. The surgeon watching for us to deliver the patient walking into the elevator, saying, “I am so, so sorry.” I thought he was referring to the precious one on the stretcher beside me, so small and injured from a terrible bus accident the day before. It turns out he was talking about the news that traveled instantly from the States about the bombings. I’d like to go back to the day before. For us, it would help to go there, before I can ever process the grief of this day that we all share.

It was like any other Monday, that bright, warm September 10th in Cairo, Egypt…until the phone call. Janna was on the other end of the call, telling me that Genessa and April had been in a bus accident on the Sinai. April had called her and relayed their location, at a hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh. These were girls in our Middle Eastern Studies Program, and they were finishing their time with us, taking a vacation together. They would re-trace some of their experiences in Bedouin villages across the Sinai and then enjoy a few days on the Red Sea. They were to return that Monday, traveling in on one of the over-night buses across the desert.

Details will have to wait for another time, but with this information, my husband, Dave, left immediately with Janna and a local Egyptian friend who was also one of our language coaches. He took these two women because of their relationship with each other and with all of us. He also understood that there were two injured friends hours away in a hospital who would need women to minister to their needs. I would be praying and on the phone the rest of the day with families, other friends, US Embassy people, and our other young people in the program. I can’t begin to describe the emotional nature of that day…not knowing, hoping, praying.

When Dave and our friends arrived at the hospital, he was directed to April. She had painful, serious injuries, but none life-threatening, praise God. Then he was escorted into the critical care area to see Genessa. To his horror, it wasn’t Genessa. It was another young woman, unconscious – an Italian tourist, who rode in the same ambulance with April. April, lucid and still able to communicate, had tried to comfort her on that long dark ride to the hospital. Personal belongings were all scrambled at the wreck site, and the authorities made the mistakened decision that because April was speaking to her, she was Genessa.

Then Dave went on the search for our dear one…somewhere else in the Sinai. He back-tracked toward the site of the accident, checking other hospitals where other injured were taken. At this point, he was also talking to US Embassy staff, as he drove through the desert. Just shortly before he arrived at the hospital where he would find Genessa, the staff person told him they confirmed her identification from a credit card she had in her pocket…in the morgue of that small village hospital.

Dave and Janna, that friend who received the first phone call, stood beside this precious girl’s body, to make the formal identification…to know for sure that this was Genessa. And it was…and yet not. She, the luminous, laughing, loving girl we knew, was gone. It was more than any of us who loved her could take in on that Monday evening in Cairo, Egypt…the day before 9/11.

Genessa with team

As they left the hospital to return to April, two more friends joined them from Cairo to help. For any of you who have been completely spent in every way by such a day, you can understand what it was for them to look up and see Matt and Richard getting out of a car. God in His great goodness alerted them, stirred their hearts to drive all those hours…and then to arrive…just when they were most needed. So many arrangements had to be made…and most importantly, at that moment, to get April back safely and quickly to Cairo for surgery.

She came into Cairo on a plane near the middle of the day of 9/11. By the time we got her from the airport in an ambulance to the specialty hospital to get the further care she needed, a series of horrific events had begun taking place in the US. We would hear of them from this caring Egyptian surgeon…who had no idea how numb we were from losing Genessa and how concerned we were that April got what she needed as soon as possible. We were already so drenched by grief, this unfathomable news about the bombings washed over us without understanding the scope of it…the pain of it…for all the rest of America.

Later in that day, with April receiving the best care possible, and me watching by her side, I could take in some of the loss coming at us on the small t.v. mounted in the hospital room. Egyptians were telling us how so, so sorry they were for us (as Americans). If they only knew, they were our mourners for our loss of Genessa, too. In the din of world-changing news, and a country brought together in grief…we grieved, too, a continent away…for the losses of 9/11 and the day before.

That was 16 years ago…April healed from her injuries (only she and God know what all that took on the inside), the other young people in our program have gone on to careers and families across the US and around the world. We have also gone on…back to the US for now, and to other work.

Two things have not changed…a beautiful girl, who fell asleep by the window of a bus in the Sinai night and woke up in Heaven… and the God who welcomed her Home. There is so much, much, more to this story, but I have to close with this. As her family back in the US were pulling the pieces of their lives back together, and going through Genessa’s things, they found a little cassette player on her bed…there left by her, two years before, as she left for Cairo. In it was a cassette where she’d made a tape of her singing one of her favorite songs, I Long for the Day, by Dennis Jernigan. If we look at Genessa’s life through the lens of some American dream, then we would think how tragic to die so young, so full of promise. Look through the lens of how much she loved God, and knowing Him was what mattered most to her…and all who knew her knew His love through her.

This God…and this girl.  Genessa

 I Long for the Day by Dennis Jernigan

I long for the day when the Lord comes and takes me away!

Whether by death or if You come for me on a horse so white

And anyway You come will be alright with me

I long to just hear You said, “Now is the time. Won’t you come away?”

And I’ll take Your hand, surrendering completely to You that day!

And no, I can’t contain the joy that day will bring!

Chorus:

When I get to see You face to face

When I can finally put sight to the Voice I’ve embraced

It will be worth all the waiting for that one moment I’ll be celebrating You!

When I get to feel Your hand in mine

When I can finally be free from this prison called time

When You say, “Child, I’ve been waiting for this one moment of celebrating, too!

For this one moment of celebrating you!”

O Lord, while I wait, I will cling to each word that You say.

So speak to my heart; Your voice is life to me, be it night or day.

And anything You say will be alright with me.

You see my heart’s greatest need

You and me, walking intimately.

You’re my only love, and I am waiting patiently for Your call.

When You call me to Your side eternally.

(Chorus Repeat)

Lord, I celebrate You!

Forever with You! No crying there.

Forever with You! No burden; no more worldly cares.

My heart is anticipating eternally with you celebrating You!

Forever with You I long to be;

Forever worshipping, knowing You intimately!

When You say, “Child, no more waiting” [No more waiting, children]

I’ll spend forever just celebrating You.

I’ll see all my loved ones gone before

I’ll get to be with them, laugh with them, hold them once more

There’ll be no more separating! [No separating]

Together we will be celebrating You!

Together we’ll worship You and sing.

Forever praising Lord Jesus, our Savior and King.

When You say, “Child, no more waiting” [No more waiting, children]

Enter your rest, and start celebrating, too.

Forever Lord, I’ll be celebrating You.

Chorus Repeat:

When I get to see You face to face

When I can finally put sight to the Voice I’ve embraced

It will be worth all the waiting for that one moment of celebrating You!

When I get to feel Your hand in mine

When I can finally be free from this prison called time

When You say, “Child, I’ve been waiting for this one moment of celebrating, too!

For this one moment of celebrating you!”

Dennis Jernigan, from the album I Belong to Jesus (Volume 2)

5 Friday Faves – Joni’s 50 Years of Quadriplegia, Lord of the Rings Guitar Cover, a Low-Carb Surprise, Blindspots, and Taking Responsibility

Friday! This time of year, it’s squeezing out those last vacation days before school starts again (after Labor Day in Virginia). Many of our friends in other states have already shut down their summer as kids  returned to school this week. Can’t you just smell the fragrance of new school supplies? For us here, it’s still making hot August day memories with little guys.

While you finish your cup of coffee or break from work, let’s get down to this week’s Friday Faves.

1) Joni’s 50 Years of Quadriplegia – A woman who has taught me much about living through hardship with grace is Joni Eareckson Tada. She is a writer, speaker, artist and advocate for persons with disabilities. More central than all of that is her deep faith and dependence on God…especially in the 50 years since a diving accident, at 17 years old, put her in a wheelchair for life. I discovered her through an old feature film and her autobiography – Joni: An Unforgettable Story. The testament of her life points always to a God who gave her the grace to “count quadriplegia joy“. She is an amazing woman empowered with His love and that of those by her side, especially her husband, Ken Tada.Photo Credit: Joni and Friends

In Awe of Her God – Joni’s Fifty Years of Counting Quadriplegia Joy

Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of My Diving Accident – Joni Eareckson Tada

Joni and Friends

2) Lord of the Rings Guitar Cover – One of the feature films with the greatest impact on our family is The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The stories are gripping; the heroes are the stuff of legend; the villains are loathsome; the music is spectacular. Nathan Mills, Beyond the Guitar, has finally given us an arrangement of one of the great themes: Riders of Rohan from The Two Towers (second film of the trilogy). You can hear the theme in context with the story here (music rises after minute 5).

Nathan’s arrangement is here…and all us LOTR fans loved it (126,000 views and counting).

3) A Low-Carb Surprise – Earlier this week, we had a big supper with friends. A regular event where we take turns bringing food to share. This amazing cook in the bunch made loaded mashed potatoes. Having just finished a sugar detox, I have minimized carbs in my diet for over a month. Those mashed potatoes were so yummy. Not really ready to dive into unrestricted carb eating, I’ve been doing something very different (and appalling for me). Substituting cauliflower for potatoes and rice. Here’s the surprise. I’m shocked to confess that cauliflower is actually good…enough. With a lighter carb load and other nutritious qualities as well. Last night I made Shepherd’s Pie with a cauliflower topping. I don’t food-process the cauliflower; just steam it and then either mash it or crush it a bit with a fork (to use as rice).Cauliflower takes on the flavors added to it. Just as with mashed potatoes, butter and a bit of milk completed the substitution. Cheese on top and…hello!

Still…the next time it’s my friend’s turn to cook, that mashed-potato queen, I will not be slow to take my serving. Low carbs, not no carbs.

YouTube Video – This Is Why Eating Healthy Is So Hard (Time Travel Dietician)

4) Blind Spots – Life coach and writer Martha Beck defines blind spots as psychological “aspects of our personality that are obvious to everyone but ourselves“. She even prescribes a way to discover them.

“I know how valuable honest feedback can be, how much precious time it can save in my struggle to awaken. I still have to force myself to go looking for it, but when I do I almost always benefit.

Try this: For a week, ask for blind-spot feedback from one person a day, never asking the same person twice. Just say it: “Is there anything about me that I don’t seem to see but is obvious to you?” You’ll probably want to start with your nearest and dearest, but don’t stop there. Surprisingly, a group of relative strangers is often the best mirror you can find. I’ve worked with many groups of people who, just minutes after meeting, could offer one another powerful insights. Like the emperor in his new clothes, we often believe that our illusions are confirmed by the silence of people who are simply too polite to mention the obvious. Breaking the courtesy barrier by asking for the truth can change your life faster than anything else I’ve ever experienced.”Martha Beck

As hard as negative feedback is to stomach, it is a great help to avoid continued odd responses from people or the distancing that can happen when our blind spots get in the way of intimacy and care in relationships.Photo Credit: Vimeo

Now blind spots and “buttons” are different and yet connected. Buttons – those things people do that make us crazy – actually point to some of our blind spots in the way we respond to people pushing those buttons.

For instance, one of my buttons is when someone treats me like I’m stupid, or gullible. Like when a person tries to help me understand a decision he/she has made as if it’s a good thing when I know, and he/she knows, it’s not necessarily a good thing for me. This sort of thing makes me really burn (standing in the need of prayer here). OK…that’s a button, but my response reveals a blind spot. My blind spot is that if I take a stand in some area then it means that I am totally right in that stand. Sort of the same as the button but from a different direction, you know what I’m saying? It’s helpful to know our blind spots and our buttons so we can work out ways of being more honest and honoring in our communications.

What do you think?

Seeing Your Emotional Blind Spots – Martha Beck

What’s Your Blind Spot – Jane Taylor

6 Career Derailing Blind Spots and How to Overcome Them

How Successful People Cure Their Blind Spots – Kevin Kruse

How to Watch Out for Blind Spots in Your Leadership – Lolly Daskal

5) Taking Responsibility – You may be starting to expect in pretty much every Friday Faves that you’ll see a guitar arrangement by Beyond the Guitar and a life hack by Benjamin Hardy. You could be right. This week, Hardy posted an article on taking responsibility – What Happens When You Take Full Responsibility of Your LifePhoto Credit: Lakenheath

He talks about the hazards of indecision. Taking responsibility for our lives means to make decisions based on where you are and where you want to be at some future time. Life isn’t meant to happen haphazardly. Yet, because of our fear of failure or insecurity about making good decisions, we default to not making the decision. Then we languish in our current situation, losing ground even…rather than taking hold of our life and moving it in the direction we believe it’s meant to go.

Commitments are important to make and to keep. When we commit to something publicly, we have even more impetus to do what we’ve said we will do. This isn’t shaming or guilting…this is operating as a mature and responsible individual. These kinds of commitments also grease the tracks for success in that expressed decision.

Making a commitment means you’re seeing it through to the end. It means you’re leaving yourself no escape routes. You’re burning any bridges that might lead to lesser paths of distraction. Your decision has been made. There’s no going back. You’ve passed your point of no return.

Where decisions are made in a single moment, commitment is seeing those decisions into the future. Especially when life gets difficult. – Benjamin Hardy

A friend made the statement “You fake it until you make it.” I’ve heard that spoken before but never by her. “Faking it” is something that doesn’t fit this incredibly wise and reasoned woman. What she further explained though brought the meaning. So what if we aren’t sure of ourselves in the decision. What if our desire is to commit to something but we aren’t sure we can actually follow-through. Then we “fake it”, or really, in her further explanation – “You walk the talk until the talk becomes your walk”.  Make the decision; execute the decision.

Make the decision you want to. Eventually, you grow into that decision through your commitment and personal resolve. Your goals are something you grow into.

This isn’t faking anything.

It’s living with intention.

It’s living with definiteness of purpose.

So what’s the challenge?

Publicly commit to something to TODAY.Benjamin Hardy

Thanks again, Benjamin Hardy…and Nathan Mills…and all of you have a safe and restful weekend. Live with intentionality, and be kind to yourselves. That kindness will splash out on others.

Worship Wednesday – Blessed Assurance – Fanny Crosby & Third Day

2014 May Blog 002

[Adapted from the Archives]

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith… Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.Hebrews 10:22a, 23

America’s Hymn Queen. Fanny Crosby (1820-1915) was an American songwriter. In fact, she’s considered American’s “hymn queen“. She wrote the lyrics to more than 8000 hymns. Many in church today do not sing the hymns of old, but even my millennial era children know all the words to Crosby’s Blessed Assurance.

The history of the hymn is a quick glimpse into Fanny Crosby’s life. She was visiting in the home of a composer friend who had just written a melody. The friend, Phoebe P. (Mrs. Joseph K.) Knapp, asked her what came to mind upon hearing the melody, and Fanny responded immediately, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.” She then completed the rest of the lyrics shortly thereafter.

Fanny wrote both secular and sacred music and taught school. She was also profoundly concerned for the urban poor and lived most of her life in and around the poorest neighborhoods of New York City. She was a vocal protestor against slavery and testified before the U.S. Senate in support of education for the blind.

Blind all her life.  Her physical eyes were dark but her spiritual vision was crystal clear.  She commented often how if she’d been sighted she might have missed the depth of awareness of God and His nearness to her. [Autobiography of Fanny Crosby]

Her songs communicate strong emotion and deep devotion. I am thankful to have grown up attending summer revival meetings and church camps where these hymns were regularly a part of the program.  Some of my favorites are: I Am Thine, O Lord; Jesus is Calling; Praise Him, Praise Him, Jesus our blessed Redeemer; Redeemed how I Love to Proclaim it; and To God Be the Glory. Just remembering the titles of these great old hymns takes me back – to warm summer nights; women fanning themselves with paper fans advertising the local funeral home; preachers making passionate appeals as if a matter of life and death; singing “one more verse” of one of those Crosby hymns.

benevolence-ga-randolph-county-baptist-church-interior-funeral-home-fans-folklife-picture-image-photo-brian-brown-vanishing-south-georgia-usa-20121

Or at church camp, by a lake, around a huge crackling fire popping and sending sparks up to the dark night sky; all of us circled around, singing and praying…for our sinful teen-aged selves or for the friend on either side of us. Those were experiences deeply imprinted in my life’s story – those experiences, Crosby’s hymns, and the God of those hymns.

Some of my contemporaries write about those “contrived” experiences as emotional ploys to bring some weak soul to a public profession of faith. All I know is that God grabbed hold of me in a very real way through the music of those old hymnists like Fanny Crosby.

She was one who knew God – who saw Him with eyes that couldn’t see anything else. And at some point, early in her life, she became one who only had eyes for Him…and that intimacy is reflected in her hymns. God Himself is marvelously magnified in her hymns. Blessed assurance.

Worship with me (Third Day‘s rendition of this great old hymn):

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

Refrain:
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest;
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.*

*Lyrics to Blessed Assurance – Fanny J. Crosby

Blessed Assurance by Third Day (with Lyrics)

Blessed Assurance by Third Day (Live)

Blessed Assurance by The Angelic Choir

In Christ Alone – a contemporary hymn by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty

Fanny Crosby: America’s Hymn Queen

Fan Photo by Brian Brown

Worship Wednesday – Why Singing Matters – with an Early Chris Tomlin Song

Photo Credit: BP News

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” – Colossians 3:16

“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…” – Ephesians 5:18-19

Okay…be honest. Do you ever get distracted during the singing portion of a worship service? Maybe you’re looking for a friend who hasn’t arrived yet. Perhaps, your attention has turned to those with their hands up, sweetly swaying to the music. Or, the song is new to you, and you are wondering who else is struggling with the lyrics.

Singing songs out loud in public (even among friends) is awkward for some. I totally get that. Still, it seems the comfort level of many in congregational singing has to do with growing up in a worshipping culture that they embraced early in life. [Now, don’t get me wrong – this is a totally casual observation. It does not include people who came to faith later in life and who can’t contain their joy because of it.] If you agree, or disagree, please respond in the Comments.

Our children had the privilege of participating in worship singing since they were tiny. Even living overseas for so many years.

I went through a season that children’s church choir programming was a benefit of larger more privileged congregations. That season was short, and now I’m over it.

Teaching children and youth to praise God in singing Biblical songs is essential to raising up worshippers. It’s not about performance; it’s about the heart-mind connection between us and God.

Although children’s choir programs may be right up there with elementary school piano recitals, think about the outcomes. Kids who love Jesus and express that love together, and for the encouragement of all the church…and beyond even.

My heritage is lots of choirs and lots of church events with singing. I will never forget the many times God met me at a youth camp bonfire, with someone with a guitar leading us in singing. We must have known those songs. No projected lyrics onto the nightime sky. No songsheets. We knew the songs.Photo Credit: BP News

In 1998, a young singer/songwriter Chris Tomlin released his second album, Authentic. He was just 26 years old. Just the year before, he was asked by Louie Giglio to join Passion Conferences where he continues to minister.

In those days, worship songs often looped or repeated the lyrics, so that’s one way we all learned them so well. Many worship songs also included Scripture verbatim, or the lyrics were essentially Scripture. Both (repeated Bible verse lyrics) were the case with Tomlin’s song Romans 16:19 on his Authentic album.

That song came to mind just yesterday…after all these years.

I remember that verse to this day because of Chris Tomlin and all the times singing it, dancing around with youth at bonfires or in crazy Friday night church rallies. Contemporary worship music has evolved and matured in many ways. Still a lot of the “old” early standards continue to minister to our hearts because they are in our heads.

For all of us, it is wisdom then to teach our children to worship (in other ways but also with singing). Why? Because we remember those songs the same as we remember Bible verses we learn as children. They go down deep in our minds. Also, and most importantly, worship should be as natural as breathing for God’s people. Learning to worship young helps us to seek Him in that way our whole lives…even, and especially, in the times when worshipping is not so easy.

7 Biblical Matters Why Singing Matters – Unlocking the Bible

Worship with me, please…to this great old song by our great brother Chris Tomlin. [I bet my kids still know this song.]

Romans 16:19 says!
Romans 16:19 says!
Be excellent in what is good
Be innocent of evil
Be excellent in what is good
Be innocent of evil
[Chorus:]
And the God of Peace will soon crush Satan
God will crush him underneath your feet!
And the God of Peace will soon crush Satan
God will crush him underneath your feet!
Be excellent in what is good
Be innocent of evil
Be excellent in what is good
Be innocent of evil[chorus 2x]Romans 16:19 says!

Next time you’re in worship with the church gathered, I hope you sing. Please put some of your favorite early worship songs in the Comments for us to enjoy reminiscing about…or to learn anew. Also I would love to know what songs your little ones are singing in your church’s children’s ministry…or what songs you’re teaching them.

[Below you will find a published playlist for this summer’s Fuge Camps. These could be the songs your youth will remember into adulthood.]

Worship Wednesday – All These Babies – Raising Up Worshippers – Lullabies – Deb Mills Writer

Leading Children in God-Centered Worship – Pam Grano

Teaching Our Kids to Be Worshipers – Kevin West

Worship Wednesday – Take My Life – Here Am I – Chris Tomlin

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Romans 12:1

Don’t you love answered prayer? Even if it’s surprisingly different than what you were thinking. A week ago, in our community group (home group of Movement Church), I shared a struggle during the prayer time. My request was for God to restore a season of influence in my life…that I might influence others for good as had been my experience in times in the past. I was looking back and not forward, and my sense of what a life should be at my age and situation was different than how I saw it at present. Different and lacking?

Sigh…God have mercy…and…He did.

Those dear friends of mine listened, empathized, loved and prayed.

Then Sunday, at our time of corporate worship, there was great singing…and great revelation. The songs included How Wonderful, How Marvelous; Take My Life/Here Am I (which I’ll come back to); and To the Ends of the Earth. These were the kind of songs that call a people to revival…to hearts and lives poured out to God and for the nations.

On Sunday morning, I wasn’t thinking about that longing of my heart to be an influence for good, but God must have been. When our teaching pastor, Cliff Jordan, preached, I sensed the movement of God in my heart so strong, it was as if the message was just for me.

Cliff preached out of John 21 where Jesus appeared to His disciples during the days after His resurrection. Sitting around a cook-fire, Jesus ate fish with His friends, fish they had caught in a miraculous fashion (John 21:3-6). In a tender moment, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him…to which Peter answered in the affirmative. Three times Jesus asked, and three times Peter answered. The awful memory of his previous three denials of Jesus must have burned in Peter’s throat. Each time, Peter answered yes that he loved Jesus, and then Jesus told him to feed His sheep. No fanfare, no illusion of Peter’s excellent abilities to do so. Just a simple command, in the end, to follow Him.

In those quiet moments of intimate fellowship between sinner and Savior, Peter had to have felt the love of Jesus. Still in his impetuous, striving nature, he posed a question to Jesus about His will for another disciple (John 21:20-22). Again, Jesus drew Peter’s attention, not to what that disciple would be about, but what Jesus’s call was on Peter’s life. “You follow Me.”

Through Cliff’s sermon and those three words, the answer to my prayer rang from Heaven. It doesn’t matter my season of life or even what others, in my age or situation, are doing or how they are being used by God. I am to be about loving and following Jesus.

Even tonight, a friend reminded me of the story of the Apostle Paul’s incarceration which he entrusted himself into God’s hands. In Paul’s letter from prison to the church at Philippi, he spoke these words:

I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill:  The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains;  but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.Philippians 1:12-18

That friend who spoke truth into my heart has also struggled, as have I, with a season where it seems God has put us on some sort of shelf, or on the sideline. Oh, glorious truth, in every season, He calls us to follow Him. Paul, for months, chained to a prison guard, saw the truth. His ministry was not diminished in the least. It was only different…and his focus? Ever on the Lord. That is the key…for me.

Since Sunday’s gathering of our church right through tonight, I have been in revival. That old time revival where God’s Spirit would shake the rafters of a building or the folds of a big tent with the prayers, singing and preaching of His people. Where, of course, we would “sing another verse” until He had finished whatever work He was doing in the lives of every person present.

Photo Credit: Milanoapi

My children do not have revival meetings as part of their heritage. I wish they had…and maybe they will sometime in their future. I am thankful for growing up in the South when protracted revival meetings broke up hot summers into joyous returnings of hearts to follow Jesus.

Hymn-writer Frances Ridley Havergal wrote the lyrics to Take My Life and Let It Be in 1874. She along with Fanny Crosby and others wrote the hymns that stirred our devotion to God. In fact, these hymn-writers’ lyrics flamed the fires of revival across our world. The deep prayers of the faithful and the strong preaching of the churchmen in the 1800s and 1900s were all part of that.

Chris Tomlin and Louie Giglio adapted the lyrics and melody of Take My Life and Let It Be for the worshipers of this generation.

Worship with me.

Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to Thee
Take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise
Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love
Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee

Take my voice and let me sing always, only for my King
Take my lips and let them be filled with messages from Thee
Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold
Take my intellect and use every power as You choose

Here am I, all of me, take my life, it’s all for Thee

Take my will and make it Thine, it shall be no longer mine
Take my heart, it is Thine own, it shall be Thy royal throne
Take my love, my Lord I pour at Your feet, it’s treasure store
Take myself and I will be ever, only, all for Thee*

*Lyrics to Take My Life/Here Am I – Songwriters: Chris Tomlin & Louis Giglio; adapted from the hymn composed by Frances Ridley Havergal

Hymn Stories: Take My Life and Let it Be – Tim Challies

Songs & Scripture: “Take My Life (And Let It Be)” (Chris Tomlin, Frances Ridley Havergal, Henri Abraham Cesar Malan, Louie Giglio) – Scriptural foundations to hymn lyrics

Photo Credit: Baptist Hymnal, Hymnary

Worship Wednesday – At Your Name, God – Phil Wickham

Photo Credit: Lisa Delay

Praise the Lord! Praise the name of the Lord,
    Give praise, O servants of the Lord.

Your name, O Lord, endures forever,
    Your renown, O Lord, throughout all ages. Psalm 135:1, 13

So I will praise You as long as I live; at Your name, I will lift up my hands.Psalm 63:4

Ten years ago, a father raised his arm over his son’s high school graduating class and spoke a blessing on them. In this American school, the program was made fit for all the students in this diverse setting – a Quranic reading, speeches from student-picked favorites, an address from a US Embassy representative, and a benediction from this parent.

As this father beamed, looking at the class, he quoted the poet Hafiz, “This place where you are right now, God circled on a map for you.” He offered for these young graduates the blessing God gave Moses to bless His people:

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26

There is so much noise in the world today. So many opinions spoken as truth. So much gossip and name-calling. So much harkening to the latest and greatest wares – to satisfy our pleasure, our longings. The noise is deafening.

We lived for many years in places where a call to prayer rose above the noise in the streets. Although I believed differently, it was a call for me to pray as well. To remember the great God of Heaven who condescends to enter the experience of His children.

Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery – Matt Papa

Sometimes I felt like shouting the name of Jesus where we lived. Off our balcony and on the streets. With all the noise of city and village life…no sound of that name…Jesus. Shouting his name would not be the answer…living and loving like Jesus would…and speaking his name as I could.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Where we now live in the States, there is no call to prayer ringing from a loud speaker. No call to prayer. In a nation where we still have religious freedom, too often the name of God is spoken in our streets (and through our media) in the form of an expletive…a curse word. God have mercy on our souls.

May we be people who bear the name of God in all ways meaningful – in our speech and through the reach of our hands.

What extraordinary power exists in God Himself, absolutely, and even in His name! I remember one time, while living in North Africa, a friend asked us for money for her mother to have surgery on a badly broken leg. The fracture was complicated and she needed surgery not available in the public hospitals reserved for the care of the poor. Dave expressed his willingness to help with the hospital expenses, but he then asked if he could pray, in the name of Jesus, over this dear mother. As we stood around her bed, Dave touched my shoulder as I touched her casted leg. He prayed for healing. In the days and weeks ahead, the doctors determined she would not need the surgery, the healing completed with what they had already done.

Was it the good doctoring of the team in the public hospital? Maybe. Was it Dave’s faith and prayer? Possibly. Was it God moving in love for this mother and daughter…with pleasure at His name being called by a mere man in simple faith? Absolutely.

At Your name, God…

We live in a world where a vacuum exists…a vacuum that begs filling with the love of God…with the name, the life, and the teaching of Jesus.

God calls us to speak his name over our world…in both word and deed.

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples!” “I tell you, He [Jesus] answered, “if they remain silent, the very stones will cry out.” … And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it. (Luke 19:39-41)

Worship with me.

At Your name
Mountains shake and crumble
At Your name
The oceans roar and tumble
At Your name
Angels will bow
The earth will rejoice
Your people cry out

(Chorus)
Lord of all the earth
We shout Your name, shout Your name
Filling up the skies
With endless praise, endless praise
Yahweh, Yahweh
We love to shout Your name, oh LordPhoto Credit: Pexels

At Your name
The morning breaks
In Your glory
At Your name
Creation sings Your story
At Your name
Angels will bow
The earth will rejoice
Your people cry out

Chorus

There is no one like our God
We will praise you, praise you
There is no one like our God
We will sing, we will sing (X3)

Chorus (X2)*

Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place, and gave Him the name above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:9-11

*Lyrics for At Your Name

YouTube Video – Phil Wickham – At Your Name – Story Behind the Song

10 Things “Yahweh” Means – John Piper

30 Days of Praying the Names and Attributes of God – pdf – Navigators

Worship Wednesday – Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery – Matt Papa

Explore God

Saturday Short – Give This World Back to God – Reba McEntire

Photo Credit: Amazon

Whew! Just had my coffee and was fixing to get up from the computer and getting on with the day…and an intriguing video came up. As I watched the video and listened to the words, my heart felt like it went up in my throat, and tears flowed. This is no sentimental, puppy dog, country music song. It was a commentary on our lives today…and what the solution is for the what’s wrong with our world.

I may be buying my first Reba McEntire album. Sing It Now – Songs of Faith & Hope (Release February 2017) is McEntire’s first Gospel album. 2 CDs. One is described as songs from her childhood – hymns she sang in church growing up. The other CD is comprised of new songs from various songwriters. Back to God, written by Randy Houser and Dallas Davidson, is mesmerizing. View it right here:

Have you looked around, have you heard the sound
Of Mama’s cryin’
Or do you turn away when you see the face
Of the innocent dyin’
In these darkest days are you not afraid
That it’s too late?

You gotta get down on your knees, believe
Fold your hands and beg and plead
You gotta keep on praying

You gotta cry, rain tears of pain
Pound the floor and scream His name
‘Cause we’re still worth saving

We can’t go on like this and live like this
We can’t love like this
We gotta give this world back to God

Have you lost a love? Do you feel like giv’n up?
Has your heart been broken?
Are your kids okay? Will they come home safe?
And do you lie there hoping?

You can make a wish, you can knock on wood
It won’t do no good

You gotta get down on your knees, believe
Fold your hands and beg and plead
You gotta keep on praying

You gotta cry, rain tears of pain
Pound the floor and scream His name
‘Cause we’re still worth saving

Can’t go on like this and live like this
We can’t love like this
Gotta give this world back to God

You gotta get down on your knees, believe
Fold your hands and beg and plead
You gotta keep on praying

You gotta cry, rain tears of pain
Pound the floor and scream His name
‘Cause we’re still worth saving

Can’t go on like this and live like this
We can’t love like this
You can hope the best, make a wish, the only answer is
We give this world back to God

Gotta give this world back to God
Give this world back to God*

Photo Credit: Wide Open Country

I did struggle with one line, at first: “We’re still worth saving”.

There is too much emphasis today on us and me…rather than He. God. I watch the mean-spirited attacks on one another in media today (“social” and mainstream)…and am dumbfounded. Especially when the attacks are Christian against Christian. Not how Jesus taught us. However…and it’s a big however – God has placed value on us…on all of us. It’s not what we think about ourselves (our significance, our political ideology, our messaging eloquence…whateva). It’s what He says about us…and what He is willing to do for us.

It is rare indeed for anyone to die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Therefore, since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from wrath through Him! – Romans 5:7-9

This is the magnificence of the Gospel. This is what brings tremendous hope to any struggle…including the struggle that we, in this world, find ourselves at this time in history.

Now…on with the day with this reminder that our battle won’t be won in social media or the pain and bitterness of our hearts…but on our knees with hearts of faith…in a faithFUL God.

Postscript: It would be easy to just get on out the door, with hearts resonating with the message of this song…without taking the words not just to heart…but to our knees. I needed that P.S. and am on it.

*Lyrics to Back to God – Songwriters: Randy Houser & Dallas Davidson

Reba McEntire Turns ‘Back to God‘ In Breathtaking New Music Video

Reformation Day – A Halloween That Changed the World

blog-martin-luther-reformation-day-prae-huPhoto Credit: Prae.hu

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9

On October 31, 1517, Catholic priest Martin Luther nailed a document known as his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg church. In this public stand against the Catholic practices of that day, he would divide Christianity into at least two camps – that of Protestants (the Reformers) and the Catholics.

Now we are on the eve of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Today, October 31 is known as Reformation Day…and, of course, Halloween.

October 31, for most, is a family/community cultural event (very different from the historical Halloween). Parties, dress-up, spooky decorations, and sweet treats.blog-halloween-2016

For those of us who are Christian, identifying more Protestant than Catholic, we wouldn’t want to miss the historic significance of this day as well.

Justin Holcomb‘s piece on the five solas lists the fundamental elements of the Christian faith (as put forth by the Reformers) and the substantiating Scriptures. Below are the five (see article for commentary and Bible verses):

  1. Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”): The Bible alone is our highest authority.
  2. Sola Fide (“faith alone”): We are saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
  3. Sola Gratia (“grace alone”): We are saved by the grace of God alone.
  4. Solus Christus (“Christ alone”): Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Savior, and King.
  5. Soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”): We live for the glory of God alone.*

[See links below for articles/resources on the full relevance of this day for us personally, for our families, and for culture, in general.]

Something else happening today that is redemptively newsworthy is the visit between Pope Francis and Bishop Munib Younan, head of the Lutheran World Federation. They are meeting today for an ecumenical prayer service in Lund, Sweden.blog-reformation-day-radiovaticana-munib-younan-and-pope-francesPhoto Credit: Vatican Radio

Pope Francis calls Christians, Catholic and Protestant, to lay down the division between them. He recently even commended Martin Luther for rebelling against a Catholicism that, at that time, was “no model to imitate”. He called for unity for the sake of peace-keeping efforts and humanitarian work and for the benefit of those experiencing religious persecution.

In all you might savor in this day, this 31st day of October, consider how Martin Luther changed a world, by taking a stand… Some of our children will choose to dress-up in super-hero costumes – taking on larger than life personas for the good of those around them. They are more like Martin Luther, in that, than they may know.

blog-halloween-martin-luther-costumeblog-martin-luther-legos-pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest; Pinterest

*5 Points From the Past That Should Matter to You – Justin Holcomb

5 Bible Verses to Read on Reformation Day – Andy Rau

October 31 – Halloween Dress-up and Reformation Day Stand-up – DebMillsWriter

Reformation Day: Resources to Help Us Remember – Desiring God

Man Between God and the Devil: Martin Luther and the Reclamation of Halloween – William E. Flippin, Jr.

Worship Wednesday – If We’re Honest – Francesca Battistelli

Blog - If We're Honest - behappyPhoto Credit: BeHappy

This is the message which we have heard from him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. . . if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. . . . If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:5-9

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.  James 5:16

I’ve always tried to be pretty much a “what you see if what you get” sort of person…and my husband is the same. We tried to raise our children the same. No pretenses. No false fronts. Fully human with both its strengths and weaknesses. This can backfire on occasion when an opinion or action rankles a developed sensibility on the part of another family member or friend.

Fortunately, if that loved one also determines to live with transparency and understanding, there can be great grace. My sister-in-law and I have been friends for all the years we’ve known each other. Marrying brothers, we became sisters ourselves. She gave me the Willow Tree statue below. It reminds me of us.Blog - If We're Honest - Willow Tree from StacieWe talk about everything…all the good stuff and all the hard stuff. For years we’ve laid our lives bare in front of each other, knowing, completely confident, that we’re both safe. I pray that never changes. No matter what is going on in our marriage, or our parenting, our friendships, or our faith, we have determined to love each other always.

This friendship is like others I have been fortunate to have. Clearly, God meant for His children to have these sorts of relationships. Open, accepting, deeply caring, and loving no matter what. These kinds of relationships foster confessional living.

W. David. O. Taylor is a pastor and educator.  In his blog, The Discipline of Living a Confessional Life, he talks about this. He writes to artists but his observations apply to us all.

What does it mean to live a confessional life? It means that we live in a way that trusted others are always being invited to know our deepest weaknesses and failures. Dallas Willard puts it this way: in the discipline of confession “we lay down the burden of hiding and pretending, which normally takes up such a dreadful amount of human energy” (Spirit of the Disciplines, 188).

Anything we keep hidden is a breeding ground for Satan-manipulating, flesh-arousing dysfunction: self-pity, self-aggrandizement, self-protectiveness, self-indulging, self-destructiveness, the very stuff that fights against all our best [artistic] efforts.

What we need, then, is a mechanism to get us un-hidden. We need to get ourselves out of darkness as quickly as possible and back into the light. That is a Christian definition of sanity. That is also often the most difficult thing for us to do. Yet it is in the light that God does his best work of freeing us from the sin that entangles and distorts.W. David. O. Taylor

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.”
Ephesians 4:25

What is there to gain by showing a false front to those around us? There is so much more to be lost in not being real with ourselves and each other.

When Kevin Davis, of NewReleaseToday, interviewed Francesca Basttistelli about the take-away message of her song, If We’re Honest, she had this to say:

“Writing songs for the first time as a mom for this album showed me where I was at that time. There were no pretenses, and I wasn’t trying to be anyone that I’m not. Once you are a parent, you get a taste for what really matters. You’re not as worried about what people think of you. 

I was also going through transitions of personal and business relationships, and I saw how a lack of transparency and honesty can really harm relationships and holds back all that God can do in a partnership or friendship. I was desperately crying out for that and wanting to challenge myself and others to live a life with more transparency, to quit putting up facades and walls with each other.”

She further talked about how Satan uses our secrets to isolate us from each other…to divide us…and to keep us from being the bold witness that we can be when we lay our lives open before God and each other. Life is too short and too precious to withhold who we really are…no matter how broken, or wounded, or small…we all share in this…this need for a Savior; this need to be known and loved as we are.

God completely understands that about us…and loves us…as will others who love Him first.

Worship with me.

Truth is harder than a lie
The dark seems safer than the light
And everyone has a heart that loves to hide

I’m a mess and so are you
We’ve built walls nobody can get through
Yeah, it may be hard, but the best thing we could ever do, ever do

(CHORUS)
Bring your brokenness, and I’ll bring mine
‘Cause love can heal what hurt divides
And mercy’s waiting on the other side
If we’re honest
If we’re honest

Don’t pretend to be something that you’re not
Living life afraid of getting caught
There is freedom found when we lay our secrets down at the cross, at the cross

(CHORUS)

It would change our lives
It would set us free
It’s what we need to be

(CHORUS)

Blog - Francesca Battistelli - If We're Honest - myact4HimPhoto Credit: MyAct4Him

Postscript: Can I just comment on the kindness and sweetness of God in His relationship with His children? I wanted to write about this song this week and struggled with how to talk about it. Then with Francesca Battistelli’s help (through the interview/video on “behind the song”), it dawned on me that this was about confessional living. This was a delight for me because this sort of life is one I’ve lived without knowing what to call it. I searched on-line for confessional living and found the blog by W. David. O. Taylor. In researching where his confessional life has taken him, I discovered he is the one Nathan Clarke worked with to film the Bono and Eugene Peterson conversation. I wrote about that here. How fun is that?!

*Lyrics – If We’re Honest – KLove – Songwriters: Francesca Battistelli / Jeff Pardo / Molly E. Reed

Behind the Song with Kevin Davis – If We’re Honest – Francesca Battistelli – NewReleaseToday

YouTube Video – If We’re Honest – Francesca Battistelli

YouTube Video – Francesca Battistelli – Behind the Album, If We’re Honest

The Discipline of Living a Confessional Life – W. David. O. Taylor

Confessional Writing – Wikipedia