Category Archives: God

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

2014 Phone pics July-December 119

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

2013 Feb Valentine's Day 004

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

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

 

Blog - David Platt #2

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

 

 

 

 

Worship Wednesday – You’re Beautiful – with Phil Wickham

Blog - Worship Wednesday 1

The wonder of worship and the God we worship are difficult to describe and even harder to capture in a picture. Worship in a house church has some of the same elements of that in a larger congregational setting. When God draws near to us, we can experience Him in the love that wraps around a room, among His worshippers. In our house church, we usually project lyrics on a widescreen, but this time we had pages handed-out. As we started worshipping, I couldn’t stop watching the little ones…with their song sheets in hand…looking and smiling around the room as we were singing, “You’re Beautiful.”

I grabbed up my phone, wanting to get that image of these little buddies captivated – watching Nathan and Bryant leading us in worship, mouthing some of the words themselves, catching the looks of adults who love them around that circle. Adults who love them and love God. Little ones, who usually need to be corralled by their parents, were sitting quiet, together, enrapt in those few moments, taking in what was happening. With the sweetest smiles. I missed taking that picture, but the image of their little faces has stayed with me.

Baby worshippers. How lovely that is. We pray for these children of ours to know and love God from an early age. To see them with eyes wide, full of wonder…that’s exactly my experience of God, too…in worship. So beautiful – the Lord God, Creator of the universe and Lover of our souls.

Worship with me:

You’re Beautiful
I see Your face in every sunrise
The colors of the morning are inside Your eyes
The world awakens in the light of the day
I look up to the sky and say
You’re beautiful

I see Your power in the moonlit night
Where planets are in motion and galaxies are bright
We are amazed in the light of the stars
It’s all proclaiming who You are
You’re beautiful

I see You there hanging on a tree
You bled and then you died and then you rose again for me
Now You are sitting on Your heavenly throne
Soon we will be coming home
You’re beautiful

When we arrive at eternity’s shore
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more
We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring
Your bride will come together and we’ll sing
You’re beautiful

I see Your face, I see Your face
I see Your face, You’re beautiful
You’re beautiful
You’re beautiful

Blog - Phil Wickham

YouTube Video – You’re Beautiful – Phil Wickham

YouTube Video – You’re Beautiful – with lyrics

YouTube Video – Live Performance – Phil Wickham’s You’re Beautiful (with lyrics)

Story Behind the Song – You’re Beautiful

Phil Wickham website

Raising Up Worshippers

You’re Beautiful at Reform Worship

Worship Wednesday – How Great Is Our God – Chris Tomlin & the World

Blog - How Great Is Our God - Chris Tomlin

Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, You are very great: You are clothed with honor and majesty…O Lord, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all. The earth is full of Your possessions…May the glory of the Lord endure forever; May the Lord rejoice in His works…I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. – Psalm 104:1, 24, 31, 33

Yesterday morning, in the pre-dawn quietness, I was struck by the thought of the world in worship. Here in this suburb of Richmond, Virginia, my Bible open, and my journal page full of how God had spoken to my heart. Then it came to me how this was happening in some form or other in other homes in Richmond…across the state of Virginia…and then across every time zone around the globe.

Friends came to mind who live and work and worship in Morocco, in in the United Kingdom, in Egypt…Jordan, Pakistan, India, China…and countries in between. All across the world, there are people who worship God moved by His Spirit and through the Truth of His Word.

The glorious thought then came to me of all those who have come to know Him, truly know Him, across history. These dear saints populating Heaven right now, where their faith has become sight. That took me to thinking about today again, as the Day of Salvation. God tells us in His Word to choose this day whom we will serve. “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) I am enthralled at the wonder of people, all around the world, drawn by God Himself, coming into His Kingdom on this very day. Today.

Centuries ago, John the Baptist announced the arrival of the Messiah to those gathered that day, when he  said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) As the morning sun brightened my window yesterday morning, I thought of all those in the generations ahead who will receive that same Messiah into their hearts.  Glory!

Another John, one of Jesus’ apostles, recorded his vision of the end times and the Kingdom of Heaven.  After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” – (Revelation 7:9-10)

A multitude from every language, people, tribe and nation knowing and worshipping God, through the Lord Jesus Christ. How Great Is Our God.

Chris Tomlin performed the World Edition of this song in the 2012 Passion Conference. It was a glimpse of Heaven for me to see all those worshippers singing in their various heart languages. English, Mandarin, Portuguese, Spanish, Hindi, Afrikaans, Russian, Zulu, and Indonesian. Over the years, I have had the sweet opportunity of worshipping in other languages, alongside other Christ-followers (in Spanish, French, Arabic, and Swahili).

In Heaven…a multitude of peoples from all languages. Raising their worship to God, together. Such love…all of us for Him and for each other, because of God who loved us first and forever.

Worship with me:

The splendor of the King, clothed in majesty
Let all the earth rejoice
All the earth rejoice

He wraps himself in Light, and darkness tries to hide
And trembles at His voice
Trembles at His voice

How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, how great is our God

Age to age He stands
And time is in His hands
Beginning and the end
Beginning and the end

The Godhead Three in One
Father Spirit Son
The Lion and the Lamb
The Lion and the Lamb

Name above all names
Worthy of our praise
My heart will sing
How great is our God

How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, how great is our God

Writers: CHRIS TOMLIN, JESSE REEVES, ED CASH

Blog - How Great is Our God - cover

YouTube Video of How Great is Our God [World Edition]

YouTube Lyric Video of How Great is Our God with multi-languages

Chris Tomlin Talks About “How Great Is Our God” [World Edition]

Songfacts – Story Behind How Great Is Our God

Lyrics in English – How Great Is Our God

How Great Thou Art – great old standard performed by Carrie Underwood & Vince Gill – standing ovation – for them and hopefully for Him

Chris Tomlin website

Photo Credit

A Young Friend of Mine Turned 40 Today – and Because She Asked: 5 Bits of Advice

Blog - Beth Wayland

I have never seen anyone else take on the turn of a decade like my friend, Beth. Surrounded by friends and family, she danced and laughed and ate ice cream and danced some more. That was this weekend, then she jumped on a plane to spend her actual birthday, today, in New York City. Read more about that here.

Blog - Beth Turns 40 Ice Cream Bar

About six months ago, I received a letter from her. She wrote 40 women, older than her, about her fortieth birthday coming up and asked their counsel on these middle years of life. I am sure she heard back from all of them (us) because that was a small thing to do for someone as lovely as Beth.

I thought for weeks and weeks about what to write…What did I learn after 40? What could I tell her that might make a difference in an already amazing life? What could I say that she didn’t already know. Well, I gave it a shot…and finally sent that letter to her just before her birthday weekend.

Following are ___ of the bits of advice I gave to beautiful Beth.

1) “Love the LORD with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength”. This is key to everything. It was essentially the message of Jesus to Martha (Luke 10:38-42) which seems harsh except that we recognize how much He loved Martha. In ministry, we default to “love your neighbor as yourself”. We serve and serve and serve (like Martha did). Then there comes a time, if we’re not careful that we serve on empty. We keep those commands in right order because that’s what He intended for our sakes, and His glory. My nature is to be Mary, but the needs all around drives me to be a Martha. Folks around us don’t need a Martha; they need GOD.

2) Be a woman of prayer. Prayer is not a project or part of a program. It is meant to be our covering for every moment and circumstance of life. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thess. 5:16-18. Whatever our situation, we need prayer and perspective that comes with prayer. Brother Lawrence’s “Practicing the Presence of God” was a great help to me in those earlier years.

3) Don’t wait for “life” to happen. Some unmet longings are beyond our control – that “right guy”, the healing of a friend, reconciliation that didn’t happen yet, that opportunity that went to another. However, I think we struggle with hammering through this season, longing for the next. I find it a discipline requiring my attention daily to LIVE the life I want…and to which God has called me.

4) Have men in your life – fathers, brothers, whomever. There were both single and married women in the company of Christ & the apostles. It helps us with perspective. In the Christian community, we too often separate out by gender. I understand how that happens, but we should figure out how to be in company with each other in wholesome and holy ways. It makes a difference…for us…and for them.

5) Keep Writing. We can’t all be in your life every day, but when you write, we are there. Thank you for your transparency and generosity, your gentleness and humor, and your deep love. Keep writing.

Any who read this blog of mine know I offered more than 5 bits of advice, but this is all I will repeat today.

Happy Birthday, Beth. You are a prize!

Blog - Beth Turns 40 Blessed

By the way, if you have any counsel for all of us as we course through this life, feel free to share in the comments section below. You, too, Beth.

I will leave you with what Beth shared on this morning of her 40th.:

“When you enter in to the places you thought you would never recover from, you will find something solid. The lie is that there won’t be anything solid for you to stand on. Your fear will tell you to avoid, but when you “go there” you will find yourself more anchored and trusting.  You will learn about God and his heart for you and here’s the kicker, your heart for Him.  If you follow Jesus, he gave you a new heart.  This is the unshakeable foundation of your life – that no matter what does or doesn’t happen, He is trustworthy and has bigger dreams than you could ever dream for yourself, even in the midst of longing, loss, gains, and waiting.  Especially in the waiting.” 

Photo Credits – Beth Wayland

Beth Wayland Blog

A Saturday Too Quiet…Then Clarity: Room For God…Be Still My Soul

Blog - Sunset #3

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.           Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth! – Psalm 46:1, 10

Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down;
For the Lord upholds him with His hand. I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken…He is ever merciful…    – Psalm 37:24-25a, 26a

I love the ebb and flow of the work week. There is a rhythm in routine that soothes my heart. The weekends are another thing. Don’t get me wrong: I love the weekend. However, if I wrestle with depression, (and I do), it will be the most trying on Friday night, through the day Saturday, and then Sunday night. Sunday, during the day, there is a reprieve with church and people and the routine of afternoon nap mixed with whatever sporting event is televised.

This was a too quiet Saturday…or so my self-serving little heart was telling me. I WANT PEOPLE…people who I can feed and hear their stories and maybe make laugh… People I can serve somehow. In that, a Saturday is redeemed for me.

Sometimes we are insatiable…we can be busy, busy, busy (if that’s our drug, our path to some sort of significance)…and still our hearts betray our hunger…our hunger for what really satisfies.

Some Saturdays are all loveliness…this one was a struggle. Even with a birthday phone call from an old friend, and opportunities to help my daughter, take food to a new mom, and be a second set of eyes for my husband in the throes of a difficult project. It wasn’t enough. I was restless…for something…

After dropping off food to that new mom and her family, and holding the wee one for a moment, I pulled my car out into the sunset. It’s pictured above (captured poorly from my phone). Oddly, an old hymn I hadn’t heard in years popped into my head. It was “Be Still My Soul”.

As I half-hummed, half-sang the words I remembered, the glory of God filled my heart. His beauty captivated me – in that sunset, and in the newborn baby, and in the life we take so for granted. Stopping on the side of the road, I let the world stand still for a bit…until the sun burned out into evening.

Thank You, God, that You brought clarity to a busy mind and a longing heart on this too quiet Saturday. Too quiet for me…but only until You stop the ache and bring me back to Yourself. May I have the sense to be still, and know…You. It is enough. You are enough.

Be Still My Soul (traditional & contemporary versions – YouTube links below)

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heav’nly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hast’ning on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, believing, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well-pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.

2015 Jan Blog 011

Full Lyrics of Be Still, My Soul – Timeless Truths

Be Still, My Soul (In You I Rest) – Kari Jobe

Be Still My Soul – Selah

Hymn – Be Still My Soul – Traditional