Worship Wednesday – You Love Me Anyway – with Sidewalk Prophets

Blog - You Love Me AnywayBut God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8

“…and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” – John 8:32

Not knowing what is ahead can be a very uncomfortable place to be. Sometimes, it could be better than knowing, but the uncertainty of not knowing sits like a rock in the pit of our stomachs. Will I have a job after this company reorganization? Will I pass this exam? Will our church survive this downturn? Will my struggling friend find her hope again? Will we ever know that we did enough…that we were truly faithful in loving God and our neighbor?

What a morning! As I was wrestling with God through these actual right now situations, and looking up the song I had planned to use for today’s Worship Wednesday…You Love Me Anyway came up in the search list.

“You love me anyway.”

David Frey and Ben McDonald of the Christian band Sidewalk Prophets wrote this song about how our sin, that of every single one of us, was borne by Jesus on the cross. Such love! He loved us knowing us completely –  every impure thought; every selfish act. He loves us anyway.

As I listened to that song, it wasn’t condemnation that brought tears to my eyes; it was the amazing truth of His love…a love that sets us free…in Him. Though we struggle with situations facing us that seem more than we can bear, what He bore for us should give us enormous confidence…and peace.

The not-knowing about jobs, exams, church, relationships is still in front of us, but peace has returned to my heart right now. The puzzle of have I done enough or will I do enough isn’t meant for me to solve. The answer to the question I didn’t ask is that “He’s done enough.” He loved us always and He loves us still…no matter what. It is the love of God through Christ that lifts our heads (Psalm 3:3).

Now…in this moment, with perspective restored, “I count it all joy” (James 1:2), and “we do not lose heart” (2 Corinthians 4:16) Beyond the cloud of these days of uncertainty shines an every-present Light – the glorious Person of God who speaks the truth of His love into every dark place of our lives. Hallelujah!

Worship with me:

You Love Me Anyway*

The question was raised
As my conscience fell
A silly, little lie
It didn’t mean much
But it lingers still
In the corners of my mind

Still you call me to walk
On the edge of this world
To spread my dreams and fly
But the future’s so far
My heart is so frail
I think I’d rather stay inside

(Chorus)
But You love me anyway
It’s like nothing in life that I’ve ever known
You love me anyway
Oh Lord, how You love me
How You love me

It took more than my strength
To simply be still
To seek but never find
All the reasons we change
The reasons I doubt
And why do loved ones have to die?

Chorus

I am the thorn in Your crown
But You love me anyway
I am the sweat from Your brow
But You love me anyway
I am the nail in Your wrist
But You love me anyway
I am Judas’ kiss
But You love me anyway

See now, I am the man that called out from the crowd
For Your blood to be spilled on this earth shaking ground
Yes then, I turned away with this smile on my face
With this sin in my heart tried to bury Your grace
And then alone in the night, I still called out for You
So ashamed of my life, my life, my life

Chorus

You love me, You love me
You love me, You love me
How You love me
How You love me
How You love me

YouTube Lyric Video – You Love Me Anyway

YouTube Video – You Love Me Anyway – Sidewalk Prophets

*Lyrics to You Love Me Anyway – Writers: David Frey & Ben McDonald

Story Behind the Song – You Love Me Anyway

Sidewalk Prophets Website

YouTube Video – Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir – Thou, O Lord

Photo Credit: maxresdefault.jpg for YouTube Lyric Video

Blog - Sidewalk Prophets

Satisfaction & Contentment – a Journey and a Destination

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You open your hand; You satisfy the desire of every living thing.
 The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on him in truth.
 He fulfills the desire of those who fear Him; He also hears their cry and saves them. – Psalm 145:16, 18-19

Godliness with Contentment Is Great Gain – 1 Timothy 6:6

A summer day in a good book can change the course of your life…at least, your mind’s course in life. That morning, I was sleeping in a bit while our two-year-old slept on in her bed upstairs. Mine was a fitful sleep sorting through the conversation Dave and I had had the night before. Weeks away from having our second child, the CEO of our medical center had given me the opportunity of a lifetime. He offered me the directorship of the cancer center of our hospital. My husband and I had already made the decision together months before that I would stay home with our children. Having continued to work for the first two years of my daughter’s life, I was excited to dig into this new season of life. Then…the offer of an altogether different job…

Our conversation that night didn’t go well. How could I argue for a job that would take me away from our children not just during the day but into the night with other responsibilities pulling at my attention? The children are grown now, and I was with them growing up, but in those days, cancer nursing was my professional world with all that went with that. Purpose, capability, accomplishment…it was deeply rewarding and gratifying work. Mothering was still so foreign to me. Being a stay-at-home mom was a whole other life and I was afraid of it, really.

That morning, I came wide-awake, when Dave touched my arm. He was dressed and ready to leave, but he had a book in his hand. He asked me to read the chapter he marked in it, then he kissed me bye for the day, and was out the door.

It was Jerry Bridges’ book The Practice of Godliness. The place marked was a chapter on contentment. Bulls-eye! Right on the strained condition of my heart. On that sunny summer day, reading that chapter, the Lord helped me wrestle through the struggle of discontent and the idols that separated me from peace with God.

[Sidebar: This has nothing to do with whether a woman should work or stay-at-home with children. My circumstances allowed me a choice in that. We as a couple, he and I together, decided that this is what we wanted and could make happen for our family. It is possible I could have become the director, hired a nanny and a good administrative assistant, and still be on a Godly course in life…but I knew deep down that the struggle was a heart issue and a faith issue.]

Discontent was my problem and it would become my family’s, if I didn’t deal with it. Jerry Bridges wrote, “In all of the areas in which we are called upon to be content – whether possession, position, or the providence of God – the grace of God is the ultimate solution for our discontent.

I didn’t take that position, but stayed with the job of stay-at-home Mom. It was one of the most challenging, glorious undertakings of my life.  I am glad that Dave had the love and the courage to speak truth to me through that book that day. Cancer nursing is still a great love of mine, and my colleagues of those days are still heroes of mine. Still, having had these years with my children growing up, me with them, has been so much more valuable to me than the “what would have been.” I learned to be content in that and still have all kinds of impulses through life to remind me that content is where I want to stay.IMG_0068

Contentment is a destination. It applies to whatever situation we find ourselves. Satisfaction, as an experience somewhat different than contentment, is a journey. Beth Moore, in Living Free, talks about a soul hunger in all of us, created by God. She says, “The most obvious symptom of a soul in need of God’s satisfaction is a sense of inner emptiness. The awareness of a hollow place somewhere deep inside – the inability to be satisfied – ought to be a flashing caution light to every believer.”

We are meant to find our satisfaction not in possessions or position or even the providence of God*, but in God Himself. When we try to satisfy our longings in anything but Him, the emptiness continues to gnaw at us. The search for something, besides Him, to fill that void is never satisfied. A friend of mine shared with me just today how satisfaction is to contentment as joy is to happiness. It’s mining the deep riches of the Person of God. The more we know Him, the more we want to know Him. He fills us completely. He satisfies our souls. We don’t have to “chase after the wind” or try to “feed on ashes“. In times of spiritual hunger or thirst, it is God Himself who satisfies. Nothing else is ever enough.

Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:11-13

Blog - Satisfaction - Beth MooreBlog - COntentment

Living Free by Beth Moore

The Practice of Godliness: Godliness Has Value for All Things by Jerry Bridges 

*Notes on Contentment from Jerry Bridges’ The Practice of Godliness

Satisfaction Versus Contentment from Watchman Nee’s book The Normal Christian Faith

Contentment Vs. Satisfaction from Seriously? No, SERIOUSLY blog by a young mom named Kas

Snow Days – Sledding & Snowcream & So Much More

 2015 Feb 16 Winter Storm Octavia - Snow 014 “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.” – Isaiah 1:18

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” – Isaiah 55:10-11

The one great snow storm of 2015 in eastern Virginia has run its course. What a fine run it was, too. No school all week.Snow Days - Teachers

I love the snow…and the snow days it brings. Maybe if I endured it for months on end and had to slip and slide through it to work all winter, I wouldn’t love it. For all of us, though, there is something wondrous about fresh-fallen snow, sparkling in the morning sun, or brightening the colors of a gray winter world. Sledding and snow cream* were made for this kind of snow…new and unmarked.

My husband says shoveling snow is the adult version of playing in the snow.Dave Shoveling Snow Feb 2015

I’m not sure our sons would agree.2010 January 011

2010 January 116

Because of our Southern US family roots and our years living in Africa, we haven’t had many snow days. Once while we were back in the US with my husband doing graduate studies, we had a huge ice storm in North Carolina. Our youngest son had prayed for snow…and he got more than he prayed for. Fuji002 024

Pine trees heavy with ice dropped limbs all over the yard. One actually pierced through our roof on its way down. We heard the hit and searched out the damage. Opening our daughter’s closet door, the branches from that limb whooshed out with that beautiful scent of pine and the wet cling of ice melting on the clothes. It was straight out of C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Blog - snow days - Narnia

One winter just a few years ago, we knew the snow was coming, and we preemptively gathered our young adult children into one place for a few days. It is a sweet, sweet memory for me. Those days of “together under one roof” are rare and special, and snow days made it possible. They played and laughed together, and we drank hot chocolate and told stories in front of the fireplace.   2010 January 033

That year a beautiful young friend joined us to make snow angels and would later become part of the family.Snow Days 15 Snow Days 16 SNow Days 11

Another thing I love about snow is its whiteness. Even the Bible talks about how God makes the dreadful darkness of our sin white as snow. The white of the snow reminds me of those verses and God’s promises in those verses, fulfilled through Jesus. The sunlight glitters like diamonds on the snow in the early morning. That snow whiteness seems to highlight and sharpen all the other colors around it. 2015 Feb Phone Pics 215 Snow Days 3 Blog - Snow Days 19 Blog - Snow Days 2 Snow Days 8

Then there is the quiet of snow. Only the crunch underfoot disturbs the silence of a world stopped by the soft white lightness of snow. The shovels will come out, by necessity, and the plows will scrape and clear. The families of little ones will make all kinds of happy noise outside .  All those are welcome sounds, but there is something altogether other-worldly in the sunrise-quiet of a snowy morning.Snow Days 4

Snow Days 6

Lastly, the birds in snow are such a mystery to me. How they fluff up their feathers to stay warm, how they forage for food in such a seemingly hostile environment.  It seems a small kindness to feed the birds but in that I am reminded of how the Lord Himself cares for them (Matthew 6:26). 2015 Feb Snow & American Idol 002

Tomorrow, the highs will soar to the 50s, and rain is predicted. These snow days of 2015 will be finished. It was a great run. Now, Spring, come.2015 Feb Phone Pics 213

Snowcream Recipe

Six Best Bible Verses About Snow

Photo Credit for Lucy Entering Narnia from the Wardrobe

2009 Christmas 249

Worship Wednesday – Ash Wednesday – A Lenten Devotional by Jim Denison

Blog - Lent - Ash Wednesday - from article by Jim Denison“An evil spirit of this kind is only driven out by prayer and fasting.” – Matthew 17:21

It wasn’t until I was six years old that church became any sort of meaningful in my life. My mom worked all the time in those days, and finally, after a last-resort divorce, she settled us into a better life of meager means and lavish love. It was then that we responded to an invitation of neighbors, and a weary single mom and four eager children met the welcome care of a loving church. Our experience was small town Bible-Belt Baptist, and that set the foundation for my understanding of God. In fact, when I signed up for a World Religions course as a college freshman, I thought it would only be about Christianity.

My first experience with Lent was seeing my best friend on a Wednesday long ago, after she had disappeared from our usual routine. We met for lunch and she had this mysterious, ashen cross smudged on her forehead. I resisted the urge of just lovingly wiping it off for her, thinking she was unaware of it. Pointing it out instead, she taught me my first lessons on Lent – on repentance, fasting (sacrifice), the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ. All of that was gloriously real for me already, except for setting aside 40 days of resolve prior to the celebration of Easter.

For years, I still didn’t take Lent very seriously and still don’t know quite how to incorporate it into my life…except that my thinking is changing. In this world gone mad, I am more convinced than ever that we as the Church need to stand together for the sake of the nations and for the glory of God. If in Lent, I can find elements that help me see God and my own need for Him more clearly, then I want to integrate Lenten practice into my life.

That said, Jim Denison has written a beautiful 40-day devotional for this year’s Lenten season. It’s entitled Transformed – How Stories of the Cross Are Changing the World*. A dear friend gave me the paper copy, but I encourage you to take advantage to the free download and start reading, praying, and fasting (as God leads) today.2015 Blog on Easter Lenten Devotional & American Idol 004

Corporate month-long fasting has never been a draw for me, as I was always completely sure it would be a fail for me. While we lived in North Africa, and especially in Egypt, fasting was very much a part of my Muslim and Christian neighbors’ lives. Even those Christians who were evangelical (from Coptic backgrounds) saw the importance of fasting. Their awareness of the evil of sin in the world and the need for drastic measures lined up solidly with Jesus’ own life and teaching on this.

For the past several years, during Lent, I read Adrian Plass’ book The Unlocking – God’s Escape Plan for Frightened People. It was also a gift from a good friend. There’s a lot in this world that’s frightening these days. Yet God is still God and is at work in the midst of so much crazy. I believe Him at His word. Full stop. We have a role in dealing with what we see in the world. As Jesus told His disciples (Matthew 17:21), there is evil that we can only battle, from our side, with prayer and fasting. This is a strength in a true observance of Lent.Blog - Lent - Easter (3)

As we grieve so much death around us in these days, and as we look to Easter, I would like to close with a prayer from Adrian Plass’ book:

“Loving heavenly Father, I want to try to tackle this business of loving enemies. First of all I’m going to sit quietly here and go through a mental list of the folk who I would call my enemies. Help me to be really honest…I don’t want to leave anyone out….I’ve done it, Lord. There are rather a lot, and some of them I really hate. But You made it quite clear that You can’t forgive me if I don’t forgive them, so I’ll start the process, even if it takes a long time to mean it. Love them for me, Lord, and please accept my prayers for their welfare and safety. Soften my hard heart as the days go by, until I begin to see them through Your eyes. Thank You for forgiving me. Amen.”

For these forty-plus days before Easter, I will be reading Transformed; referring back to the book-marked portions of The Unlocking; reflecting on God and the goodness and wisdom He displays through Jesus’ life and teachingresisting (fasting from) those money- and time-stealers that distract me from larger issues; repenting of the sins of neglect and indifference; and remembering to pray and reach out to God and those around me as His vessel for His purposes among the nations.

Denison Forum

*pdf 2015 Lenten Devotional Transformed – How Stories of the Cross are Changing the World by Jim Denison

Why is Lent Relevant for Evangelicals? by Jim Denison

Evangelicals Embracing (and Rejecting) Lent by Trevin Wax

Lenten Observances – Eastern & Western Traditions

The Coptic Church and Worship

A Catholic Homily for this Ash Wednesday in memory of the Coptic Christians killed last week [Beautiful blog – I do not believe in praying to anyone except God; still I appreciate the call to all of us to remember others caught in the cross-fire of evil in this world. Praying for their families and for those who are unfortunately enemies of the church.]

Photo Credit – Ash Wednesday – Jennifer Balaska via en.wikipedia.org

Valentine’s Day-Owning It

Blog - Valentine's Day & Love

Valentine’s Day, as a holiday, is ripe with all sorts of possibilities…and potential frustrations. It’s a day that picks at our contentment and whispers in our ears, “is this enough? this love I have? these loves I have?” I say we take this holiday, turn it on its head, and totally own it.

What do you love about Valentine’s Day? Most probably, you are women reading this blog, because men seriously don’t want any more information on how to celebrate this day. We women have this totally lovely day thrust upon us once a year to do with it how we want. ..so let’s get after it.

Here’s what I love about this day:

1) I can be as effusive and gushy as I want on this one day of the year. It’s allowed…tolerated…appreciated even. Cards, phone calls, and social media shouting out to those we love…there’s a lot of relational muscle pumped on this day…wouldn’t hurt to keep this going through the rest of the year. Words. Are. Powerful.Blog - Heart & Love Much

2) It’s a golden opportunity to hang with our best buddies. Not just husbands or boyfriends, but moms, grandmoms, the widow neighbor down the street. Those glorious women in our lives… Valentine’s Day is a fine excuse to have lunch together, cake together, movie night together. Whatever. How thankful I am for the great women in my life…from lots of places in the world.Blog - Morocco friends

Blog - Friends

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3) This day lends itself to a total indulgence (guilt deferred) of sugary delights. My favorites are Hershey’s kisses, strawberries dipped in chocolate, conversation hearts, and heart-shaped Peeps. I know, right? Valentine’s Day blesses all excesses. [This particular love has sort of flattened for me because I haven’t eaten chocolate in over a year…that’s another story.] Whether I eat those foil-wrapped happy little candies or not, they still generate lovely thoughts for me on this day.Blog - Valentine Goodies

Blog - Valentine Hearts

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4) I love how cheery people are toward each other related to Valentine’s Day (kind of back to the gushy/effusive side of this day). Whether it’s decorating a colleague’s cubicle wall or lavishing gifts on your child’s teacher…it can make for a sweet day. Whether there’s a dear man in our lives or not, we can use this day to bless others…just for the fun of it (for them AND for us).Blog - Valentines on a cubicle by Heather TeaterPhoto Credit: Cublical Decorating – Heather Teater2013 Feb Valentine's Day 001

 5) Last thing I love about Valentine’s Day is its celebration of love itself. The history of Valentine’s Day is far from the romance and roses we expect today. Yet, if there is something worthy of setting aside a day, it is love – real, deep, sacrificial and satisfying love. Maybe it’s a stretch to consider that sort of love on a day that’s been riddled with commercialism, but that’s where I would like to end. Today, more than anything I celebrate the God of love who teaches us best how to love. First loving Him and then, because of Him, loving each other as we love ourselves. Blog - Valentine #2

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:37-39

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;  does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;   does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;   bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Happy Valentine’s Day, Friends.Blog - Friends - Valentines #1

Worship Wednesday – He Knows – Jeremy Camp

Blog - Jeremy Camp - He Knows

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:14-16

Alone. No, we are not alone.

In our grief. In our fear. In our frustration. In our anxiety. We are not alone. The temptation is to feel alone, to feel the gnaw of loneliness, the panic of helplessness, the clinching fear of failure. We are not alone in these desolate places. God knows…He knows.

He knows because He put on skin for our sakes. He came so close to the human experience that He endured all that we endure…He was tired and hungry and misunderstood. He lost people he loved; he was betrayed by closest of friends. He disappointed those who wanted more from him, different from him. He was between worlds, at home with those he loved here, and, at the same time, missing Home. He can wholly sympathize in the deepest possible way with our struggles and our longings.

When singer/songwriter Jeremy Camp’s first wife, Melissa, was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer, they were not yet married. During their honeymoon, she began experiencing pain again. The cancer had returned, and they began a very different journey than the one they had planned. Still, their faith remained strong, and deepened as God drew near to them in those difficult days. He knew and lavished mercy and grace on these young children of His. Melissa was 21 when she went to be with the Lord, whom she loved more than life.

Whatever we are going through, God knows and is deeply attached to us in that circumstance. I reflect on the losses we have endured – people we love, places we’ve lived where we won’t again, the tough goodbyes our children especially endured as we moved with work. We can’t even say we have suffered, because the unfathomable nearness of God penetrated the darkness and confusion of those days.

One of my favorite authors, Marilyn Gardner, wrote recently about suffering that resonates with our experiences:

“There is something about suffering that longs for someone to sit with us, to sit with us through the pain. It’s the fellowship of suffering. It’s the unspoken words ‘you are not alone’ put into action. The sitting bears witness to our pain.” – Marilyn Gardner, Toward a Fellowship of Suffering

Take heart, Dear Ones, if you are facing something that feels so much bigger than you can carry.  The seemingly relentless waves of trouble in our lives break on the rocks of His mercy.Blog Oualidia - He Knows (2)

Jeremy Camp knows that from his own experience and shares that with us through his songs:

“There will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, and no more fears. There will be a day when the burdens of this place, will be no more, we’ll see Jesus face to face. But until that day, we’ll hold on to You always.”*

He KnowsWorship with me:

All the bitter weary ways
endless striving day by day
you barely have the strength to pray
in the valley low

how hard your fight has been
how deep the pain within
wounds that no one else has seen
hurts too much to show

all the doubt you’re standing in between
And all the weight that brings you to your knees

HE KNOWS, HE KNOWS
EVERY HURT AND EVERY STING
HE HAS WALKED THE SUFFERING
HE KNOWS, HE KNOWS
LET YOUR BURDENS COME UNDONE
LIFT YOUR EYES UP TO THE ONE
WHO KNOWS
HE KNOWS

we may faint and we may sink
feel the pain and near the brink
but the dark begins to shrink
when you find the one who knows

the chains of doubt that held you in between
one by one are starting to break free

every time that you feel forsaken
every time that you feel alone
He is near to the broken hearted
every tear
He knows…**

YouTube Video – He Knows (Lyric Video)

Jeremy Camp – He Knows – Story Behind the Song

Testimony of Jeremy & Melissa Camp’s Brief Lives Together for God’s Glory

YouTube Video – There Will Be a Day (Lyric Video)

*Lyric from There Will Be a Day -KLove

** Lyrics from He Knows – KLove

Jeremy Camp – Bio

Love Notes – A Family Tradition – Started by Our Mom

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Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. – Hebrews 3:13

Our family has never lived close to the grandparents. This was never easy…for any of us. Before I married, I did live close to home, and my mom was my best friend. She died several years ago, and I often say to people who knew her that “when I grow up, I want to be just like her.” Still working on that.

Mom and I shared a weakness for words…they are probably excessively important to us, delivering both positive and (sometimes) negative weight. She was an amazing encourager. She rarely missed an opportunity to lift another’s spirit or to speak loving truth to someone desperate for God’s touch.

When I moved away to take a teaching job, she and my dad helped me move. New Haven, Connecticut was a 2-day drive from Georgia. It’s the farthest I had ever wandered from home. She stayed a week to help me settle in.  While there, she was such great company. We explored the city together and laughed over a new culture and cried at the missing that was ahead for us.

She filled my freezer with her baking, and, while I was at work, she wrote notes. Then she hid them everywhere. After she flew home, I began finding them. In my coffee mug. Under my pillow. In the pocket of my coat. Among my reference books. Behind my music on the piano. She was with me in the love notes she left, and it made the distance between us…less.IMAG2720 (2)

My mom and I also had a weakness for bits of paper. I kept every one of her notes. These from that move over 30 years ago are fading…red ink on pink paper. There are a lifetime of notes between my mom and me. The tradition she started on that first move has become a life-long tradition for our family. Our visits back and forth, across the US and then the globe, have been papered by these little notes.

Our children, from the time they could write, entered into this tradition much to the joy of their grandparents. Before we would leave again, these three young ones would write of their affection for their grandparents and hide them all over their houses. I delighted in their cooperation in this conspiracy of love.

Mom always wrote notes…not just to us but to so many. She and her Sunday School Class ladies would send cards every week to the sick ones or the sad ones. She had a special burden for the elderly, for widows (including functional widows, deserted by husbands) and for fatherless children (again including those “orphaned” by still-living fathers). She inspired me by her humble ambition .

Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. – James 1:27

I am so thankful for my mom’s bits of paper…for her love…and for her perseverance in encouraging and serving others. Her generation is aging, and it is for us to pick up these traditions and pass them on somehow to the next generations…Maybe there won’t be bits of paper or love notes like in the past. I do hope we still take the time to write. Definitely, the call to serve and to encourage is as current as today. My life continues to be rich with those, young and old, who reach out to those around them with words of affirmation and kindness. Written or not, they are love notes to my heart.

Thanks, Mom. Thank God for you.

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The 59 “One Anothers” of the New Testament

We Were Made for Worship – It’s What We Do – Because of What He Did

 

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Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You.  Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. – Psalm 63:3-4

Last week, David Platt was in town during the launch of his latest book, Counter Culture. I was in a big auditorium, with my copy of that book in my hands, waiting for him to speak. It was mostly an older crowd, but then some of the attendees caught my eye. The hair was different – more interesting than I was expecting on the older people around me. There were these hip young people scattered about. Knit caps, plaid shirts, skinny jeans, cool boots.

It turns out there was a song-writers conference in town, and many of these guys were at this event. When Matt Papa, Aaron Blanton, Shelly E. Johnson, and others took the stage, I knew we were in for a colossal treat. We weren’t just going to hear an intro to David’s new book, we were going to worship together.

Blog - Matt Papa & Aaron Blanton

Corporate worship must look strange to those who do not worship God as Christ-followers. A group of people who may not even know each other that well, singing to God. As the worship continues, we sway, raise our arms up, closing our eyes…oblivious to those around us. Worship is taking in and savoring God in His fullness. It is remembering, reflecting on, and repeating what we have experienced of the glorious love of God.

Isn’t it amazing when someone does something for you totally unwarranted? We’ve had that experience of others doing kindnesses for us completely unexpected. Imagine if someone did something for you that only he could do. Wouldn’t you tell everyone about it? You might even want to sing about it, or write a song about it, if you had that gift.

In Jesus’ day, in the culture of what is now the Middle East, when someone went to debtors’ prison, the authorities wrote those debts over the door of their family’s house. What shame this must have brought on that person and the family. What hopelessness he must have felt imprisoned, with no way any longer to pay that debt…to make things right. What undeserved grace to have that debt paid by another.

If and when someone did pay the debt for the imprisoned one, the phrase “It is finished (paid)” was written across the debt notice. This is the exact same phrase that Jesus spoke from the cross as He gave His life for us – “It is finished (paid)!”

Our debt of sin must be reconciled to be in relationship with a holy God. Who can help us with it? No other human, because we all have the same debt of sin. Only Jesus, the sinless One, can offer Himself in our place, paying what we owe with His own perfect life.

That is something to sing about, and we who know the glorious experience of being redeemed by the Father can’t help but sing.  Matt Papa and the other song-writers led us that day in several songs, two of which were Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery and It is Finished (see links below). We sang our hearts out to the Lord right there, not in church, not caring how we sounded.

Matt Papa, later last week, posted a blog on worshipping God. He said, “When we worship God first, we finally start to hear that sweeping, captivating music sung by the Great Composer himself. Hear Him whisper to your soul today, “I have set My love on you.””*

[We did get to hear David Platt talk about his book, and I’m reading it now. To have the opportunity to worship in that group that day was a great grace…another undeserved kindness of God in the life of His people.]

Counter Culture by David Platt

*The Score of Our Lives by Matt Papa

YouTube Video – Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery by Matt Papa (with lyrics)

YouTube Video – It Is Finished by Matt Papa (Official Music Video)

YouTube Video – It Is Finished by Matt Papa (Lyric Video)

The Seven Last Words of Christ – Reflections for Holy Week

Photo Credit of Counter Culture cover

Blog - Counter Culture book by David Platt

 

Worship Wednesday – Through It All – It Is Well With My Soul

Cairo Nile

For thus says the Lord: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river… As one whom his mother comforts, So I will comfort you.” Isaiah 66:12a, 13a

“Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him.” Psalm 62:5

Life and loss are inseparable. As beautiful as our lives can be some days, there are other times when darkness is thick around us. We can’t breathe. I have stood alongside friends in deep grief, and words don’t come for me to comfort them. Great losses have come my way as well…with no way to humanly understand or make sense of them.

Still…in the midst of terrible pain, I’ve experienced profound peace. It’s difficult to explain, even to myself. We get through. God’s grace, somehow, is sufficient…as He promises His children.

Over a century ago, a man, Horatio Spafford, wrote a poem, a prayer really, while going through the horrific loss of all his children. what he wrote was a bold declaration of faith and truth that has comforted people for generations. “It is well with my soul.”

When you read these words (below), you will notice that it is well with our souls because of what God did for us…and what He continues to do. Through every sort of circumstance, as we lean on God and believe Him at His word, He gives us the strength to

Stand fast and hold firm –

So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.  May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope,  encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. – 2 Thessalonians 2:15-17

Worship with me (verses 1-3, 6):

  1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
    When sorrows like sea billows roll;
    Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
    It is well, it is well with my soul.

    • Refrain:
      It is well with my soul,
      It is well, it is well with my soul.
  2. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
    Let this blest assurance control,
    That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
    And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
  3. My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
    My sin, not in part but the whole,
    Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
    Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
  4. For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
    If Jordan above me shall roll,
    No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
    Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
  5. But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
    The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
    Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
    Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
  6. And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
    The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
    The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
    Even so, it is well with my soul.*

*Original Lyrics for It is Well with My Soul by Horatio Spafford, 1873

YouTube Video – It is Well with My Soul – Chris Rice

The Story Behind the Hymn – It Is Well With My Soul

YouTube Video – It is Well with My Soul – Jeremy Riddle

YouTube Video – It is Well by Kristene Dimarco & Bethel Music – You Make Me Brave

YouTube Video – It is Well with My Soul – Gaither Homecoming, featuring Guy Penrod and David Phelps

Resolved: Whenever Possible, Be All There

Blog - CrowdsThe LORD looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race. – Psalm 33:13

Seeing the people, He [Jesus] felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.Matthew 9:36

When was the last time you looked a stranger straight in the eyes? Or even lingered on a friend’s face? When was the last time you looked long enough in someone’s face that you saw her heart or sensed his struggle?

I grew up in the South during a time that everyone made eye contact to wave or say hello. It was unthinkable to look past a person…whether you knew them or not. There was a shared sense of community – a familiarity that brought people close, closer than just their geography.

For many years, we lived in the Arab world. My friends there would coach me as a woman not to be too familiar in encounters outside of family or close friends. I should divert my eyes, or just acknowledge them formally. Making eye contact was just too intimate. This didn’t apply to women, but in public situations, I had begun to change even with them.  I just didn’t make eye contact much at all…with anyone I didn’t know. Daily outings, doing errands, were completed with my thoughts elsewhere, pretty much on auto-pilot.

When we came back to the US after the 9/11 attacks, we returned briefly to our old ways of making eye contact, smiling at strangers along our way . This didn’t last long, because we saw more and more people didn’t really look at each other. It was as if a whole country had become more guarded, more isolated. Safety and security mattered more than the common space we shared and the common courtesies that came out of noticing need.

Not wanting to remain in this insular frame of mind returning back to the Arab World, I made the decision to really look at people…really see them, and notice their lives. Those were some of the richest years we spent overseas. It become easy to catch the eye of women, to smile at them, or greet them, or help in some small way. With men, less so…but my encounters with women became much more real and intentional and neighborly.

Back in the US now, I really don’t want to miss people. We are separated by so much – not looking at each other, ear buds in our own private soundtracked worlds. Our cell phones make it so easy to choose to focus on those not in front of us. We can miss that chance encounter – that divine appointment.  All our mobile devices, in fact, draw us to news being made by other people, entertainment to fill our times in between, and fantasy worlds of smiling people on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat (or whatever will come next). People (some real friends, some not) whose lives we try to match with our own. It makes me tired.

Resolved – to see people as Jesus saw them. To not be so distracted that I miss in-the-moment opportunities to serve or encourage others. To learn from them. People I may never see again. People who won’t necessarily give anything back except that momentary shared community. Oh, and the possibility of seeing them through the eyes of God…wow!

Many, many times, people have come to my aid…as if they were angels in disguise…through whom I’ve known the mercy of God. If they only knew how often they were a hand-up for me, a rope to hold onto, a real friend, even for a moment. They make me ambitious to be like them…to see the need…to notice those around me…whether it be another stranger…or a friend…and to be aware enough to respond.

I am resolved to put my phone away and to look up…to see your face…to listen for what’s really going on…and to respond with kindness. I am resolved.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about for awhile – this whole attending thing. Then a song came up on the radio by the Sidewalk Prophets entitled Save My Life, and my resolve was fueled. I’ve posted the lyrics below (and the links to the YouTube videos).

Save My Life by Sidewalk Prophets from Live Like That Album

We’ve met half a dozen times
I know your name I know you don’t know mine
But I won’t hold that against you

You come here every Friday night
I take your order and try to be polite
And hide what I’ve been going through

If you looked me right in the eye
Would you see the pain deep inside
Would you take the time to

Chorus
Tell me what I need to hear
Tell me that I’m not forgotten
Show me there’s a God
Who can be more than all I’ve ever wanted
‘Cause right now I need a little hope
I need to know that I’m not alone
Maybe God is calling you tonight
To tell me something
That might save my life

I’m the pastor at your church
For all these years you’ve listened to my words
You think I know all the answers

But I’ve got doubts and questions too
Behind this smile I’m really just like you
Afraid and tired and insecure

If you look me right in the eye
Would you see the real me inside
Would you take the time to

(Chorus)

Save my life

I am just like everyone
Jesus, I need You, I need Your Love
To save my life*

Blog - Sidewalk Prophets

*Lyrics

YouTube Video – Save My Life [Official] – Sidewalk Prophets

YouTube Video – Save My Life with lyrics – Sidewalk Prophets

Story behind the song Save My Life

Sidewalk Prophets website

Love Does by Bob Goff 

 Does Anybody Hear Her? by Casting Crowns

Photo Credit – Crowded Street

Photo Credit – Band