Tag Archives: grace

Worship Wednesday – I Will Rise – Chris Tomlin

Photo Credit: YouTube

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”Revelation 5:11-12

“I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” – Jesus – John 16:33

Chris Tomlin is a songwriter and worship leader. He writes for worshipers…and has since he was 14.  My own worship life with God has been strongly influenced by Tomlin and his collaborators.

The song, I Will Rise, is a lyric that personalizes the experience of a Christ-follower laying this life down for the next. When our dad died recently, we were comforted by the truth of this song as we thought of what Dad must be experiencing entering Heaven. No more sorrow. No more pain.

Just as Chris Tomlin’s song I Will Rise gives us a sweet glimpse of Heaven, Ann Voskamp’s books point us to the beauty of life here…even when broken. Author of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, she has written another very different book. Raw in its honesty and transparency, this book The Broken Way: A Daring Path Into the Abundant Life delves deep into brokenness. Uncomfortably deep. Yet, that is where we find healing.Photo Credit: Ann Voskamp

At the age of 16, Ann was broken…grieving the little sister who died suddenly, missing her mother in her own world of mental illness, and her father, though near physically but far into his own dark thoughts. To even feel anything, Ann….this exquisitely beautiful girl with the brightest of futures on her horizon….sank into harming herself, through cutting. The Broken Way reveals all this brokenness and more…yet with the loveliness of God’s provision in brokenness…His own good brokenness.

Years later, a long way down the road from her own childhood, Ann writes about a dark day as a mom. Her farmer husband drew her close to him and responded in this way:

“You know – everything all across this farm says the same thing, you know that, right?…The seed breaks to give us the wheat. The soil breaks to give us the crop, the sky breaks to give us the rain, the wheat breaks to give us the bread. And the bread breaks to give us the feast. There was once even an alabaster jar that broke to give Him all the glory…Never be afraid of being a broken thing.” [p. 25, The Broken Way]

Photo Credit: Melanie S. Pickett

We all have some measure of brokenness…as I turn the pages of Ann’s book, I realize we can’t compare our broken with another’s. God meets us in the darkest places…I know that from my own experience and seeing it, over and over, in the lives of others. Like Ann Voskamp. Reaching up our hand, we find God reaching down.

Watching Dad in the last year of his life…his Alzheimer’s taking more and more of his memory, and his cancer roaring out of remission…God was there. To experience the grace in those days…with Dad…and to watch family members and friends rally around him…was seeing God move in close to him…and to us.

In the brokenness of Dad’s life in those last days, we saw God’s glory shine through the cracks and imperfections of age and illness. In our brokenness, serving Dad in our weakness, God gave us more love, more grace, more strength…than we ever had before.

Back around to Tomlin’s song, I Will Rise. In death…and in life, we have this anthem.  What confidence, joy, and peace are ours in Him. Hallelujah!Photo Credit: The Gingham Apron

Worship with me.

There’s a peace I’ve come to know
Though my heart and flesh may fail
There’s an anchor for my soul
I can say “It is well”

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

[Chorus:]
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

There’s a day that’s drawing near
When this darkness breaks to light
And the shadows disappear
And my faith shall be my eyes

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

[Chorus:]
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

And I hear the voice of many angels sing,
“Worthy is the Lamb”
And I hear the cry of every longing heart,
“Worthy is the Lamb”
[x2]

[Chorus:]
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise*

*Lyrics and Chords to I Will Rise – Songwriters: Chris Tomlin, Jesse Reeves, Louie Giglio, and Matt Maher

YouTube Video – Chris Tomlin Talks About I Will Rise

YouTube Video – I Will Rise – Chris Tomlin (Live)

YouTube Video – Laura Story – Open Hands (Lyric Video) ft. Mac Powell

YouTube Video – The Broken Way – A Daring Path into the Abundant Life – Take the Dare

Worship Wednesday – Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise) – Hillsong – DebMillsWriter

Saturday Short – When Hard Gets Even Harder – God

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When you get an early morning text from your sister-in-law who is caring for your dad, and the message is “Call me”…you think the worst.

This morning…it was the worst…for her.

Not anything related to the dad she has cared for for weeks now, with the help of hospice and family…not our dad this time.img_9580

…but her dad.

Last night, her full-of-life, golfer dad – who had just dropped by for a visit earlier in the day – had a massive stroke.

This father of daughters…barbara-with-dad-and-sisters

…now surrounded by his daughters…in a hospital with nothing but bad news.

My sister-in-law and I have talked on and off through the morning…and we (and many others…thank you) have prayed since the news of his stroke.

Will God ever give us more than we can handle? How are we to manage when hard gets even harder? We know from God’s Word that His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9)…yet the temptation to despair can be overwhelming sometimes. Then we’re given 1 Corinthians 10:13 to comfort us through those temptations. John Piper writes kindly and plainly about that situation where God gives us more than we can handle (here).

I’m reminded of a saying: “God may give us more than we can handle, but He will not give us more than He can handle.”……I cling to that…the saying less so than the truth I know through His Word and experience of going through hard, with Him.

Then…an incredible coincidence happened as we reeled from the news of this gravely stricken father.

A dear friend messaged me on Facebook and said that I had come to mind when she was reading this morning…it was a passage from Streams in the Desert by Mrs. Charles E. (Lettie Burd) Cowman. This is one of my favorite devotional books (other favorites are linked below).blog-streams-in-the-desert

Christianity.com posts online the daily devotionals from Streams in the Desert. The December 3 devotional which my friend sent me follows in total. So led by the Holy Spirit of a completely good and wholly loving God.blog-stream-in-desert-sharing-horizonsPhoto Credit: Sharing Horizons

Is it well with thy husband? Is it well with the child? And she answered, It is well (2 Kings 4:26).

Be strong, my soul!
Thy loved ones go
Within the veil.
God’s thine, e’en so;
Be strong.
Be strong, my soul!
Death looms in view.
Lo, here thy God!
He’ll bear thee through;
Be strong.

For sixty-two years and five months I had a beloved wife, and now, in my ninety-second year I am left alone. But I turn to the ever present Jesus, as I walk up and down in my room, and say, “Lord Jesus, I am alone, and yet not alone–Thou art with me, Thou art my Friend. Now, Lord, comfort me, strengthen me, give to Thy poor servant everything Thou seest he needs.”

And we should not be satisfied till we are brought to this, that we know the Lord Jesus Christ experimentally, habitually to be our Friend: at all times, and under all circumstances, ready to prove Himself to be our Friend.
–George Mueller

Afflictions cannot injure when blended with submission.

Ice breaks many a branch, and so I see a great many persons bowed down and crushed by their afflictions. But now and then I meet one that sings in affliction, and then I thank God for my own sake as well as his. There is no such sweet singing as a song in the night. You recollect the story of the woman who, when her only child died, in rapture looking up, as with the face of an angel, said, “I give you joy, my darling.” That single sentence has gone with me years and years down through my life, quickening and comforting me.
–Henry Ward Beecher

E’en for the dead I will not bind my soul to grief;
Death cannot long divide.
For is it not as though the rose that climbed my garden wall
Has blossomed on the other, side?
Death doth hide,
But not divide;
Thou art but on Christ’s other side!
Thou art with Christ, and Christ with me;
In Christ united still are we.

Thanks for reading…hopefully you are also encouraged by the words above…they were a balm to my own soul. Appreciate your prayers for these I’ve mentioned. God is with us…through every joy and every sorrow.

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

Morning & Evening with Oswald Chambers – Devotions for Morning and Evening With Oswald Chambers Complete Daily Devotions of My Utmost for His Highest and Daily Thoughts for Disciples

The Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall

Joy and Strength for the Pilgrim’s Day by Mary Tileston

Daily Strength for Daily Needs by Mary Tileston

Worship Wednesday – Come To Me – The Village Church

blog-come-to-me-youtubePhoto Credit: YouTube

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Jesus – Matthew 11:28

Ever have one of those days when it feels like you’ve just got nothing? Nothing to bring to the discussion…or the relationship?

There’s this amazing group of young women in my life who gather weekly to fellowship and to open God’s Word together. We sit in a loosely shaped circle to give space for lots of children to meander through. From babies crawling around to toddlers and up weaving through us from one side of the room to the other.

These young women enrich my life more than I can say. Those years of small ones were tough years for me…challenging and fraught with the fears of not parenting well enough.

Being in this group allows me to remember the grace of God in my life in those years as I see His grace reflected in them. In fact, even on the hardest, most tiring days, I see Jesus in these women.

Today, when we gathered, I had nothing. Tired from so much travel. Way too much catching up to do for this distractible me. Lists written and rewritten. The desire just to sleep….winning.

Then an hour with sisters…and the experience of “got nothing” was profoundly changed into rest for my soul and a rallying for what was on the schedule today. Hugging babies, funny stories, resonating with each others’ situation, and praying for each other…energized and normalized.

What is that “normal” for a believer? Normal includes those days that are going to take all we’ve got and then some…and there’s grace. Normal is also remembering God early, seeking Him often, and trusting Him always. 

Today, because of friends and sisters, I faced the reality that my early morning quiet times with the Lord have frayed with travel, and fatigue, and (I’m calling it) poor choices. Not beating myself up over it…but grateful to come to the end of myself…and still find God there.

On Sunday, at Movement Church, we sang a new adaptation of an old hymn by Elizabeth Akers. In worship, in that moment of singing an unfamiliar hymn, God began opening my heart to a renewed longing for Him. Nothing else can satisfy…or give us the deep rest we so desperately need. Just Jesus.

Today, in a circle of women who love each other in a way that reminds us of how God loves us, I was held…as if God Himself was doing the holding. Be held, Dear Ones.

…Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ Himself, who is the head. From Him the whole body is fitted and held together by every supporting ligament. And as each individual part does its work, the body grows and builds itself up in love.Ephesians 4:16

Worship with me to this beautiful old hymn made new by the group The Village Church:

Weary burdened wanderer there is rest for thee
At the feet of Jesus in His love so free
Listen to His message, words of life, forever blessed
Oh, thou heavy laden, “Come to Me, come and rest.”

There is freedom, taste and see
Hear the call, “Come to Me.”
Run into His arms of grace
Your burden carried, He will take

Bring Him all thy burdens, all thy guilt and sin,
Mercy’s door is open, rise up and enter in.
Jesus there is waiting,
 patiently for thee
Hear Him gently calling,
 “Come, oh come, come to Me.”
*

There are two more verses in the original hymn. One of those follows:

Linger then no longer,
Come just now to Him;
Ere the shadows gather,
And thy light grows dim.
Thou hast long been waiting
For some better time,
But today He’s calling,
Come and claim Him thine.**

On days, when it seems we’ve got nothing…the truth is in Christ, we have all we need. Our part is to come to Him…and rest in Him. His strength is displayed perfectly in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). For those other days, when we feel pretty good about what we bring to the table and maybe we don’t have to be so brave…we can rejoice in the same way as on the “got nothing” days. The same good God equips us, and strengthens us, and cheers us on. Truth! Hallelujah!blog-burdened-i-will-give-you-rest-pinterestPhoto Credit: Pinterest

*Lyrics to Come to Me – written by Elizabeth Akers; adapted by The Village Church (Chorus and Melody by Jeff Capps and Michael Bleecker)

YouTube Video – Come to Me – (Original: The Village Church) – Sunrise Bible Church

**Full Text of Weary, Burdened Wanderer – Hymnary

Worship Wednesday – Rest, The Lord Is Near -a Reminder from Steve Green – DebMillsWriter

5 Friday Faves – God, Zelda’s Lullaby, Tommy Emmanuel, the Long Goodbye, and a Beautiful Fall

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Friday, again! This will be a fast one. I am actually finishing writing this on my phone today. Between travel and more meetings than usual, there’s been little time at my writing desk. So here are my favorites this week.

1) God – Courage….. Every day I am grateful to know God…There are weeks, like this one, that I am even more grateful for the sovereignty of a good God. Margaret Nyman writes a beautiful blog on getting through whatever hard we find ourselves. In “Hand in Hand“, she talks about the reach of God into our lives and circumstances. A widow – who also, with her husband, endured a terrible economic loss – writes about the presence of God with her.blog-michelangelo-god-and-adam-getting-through-thisPhoto Credit: Michelangelo, Getting Through This

“When I [the apostle John writing here] saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.’ ” (Revelation 1:17-18)

God is not surprised by our situation.  As we look to Him, He will give grace…and make  a way through the hard.

2) Zelda’s LullabyNathan Mills this week posted his latest arrangement on YouTube. The Legend of Zelda: Zelda’s Lullaby Classical Guitar Cover is another beautiful entry for me into the surprising world of gaming musical themes. Blog - Guitarist - Nathan Mills - beyondtheguitar - TwitterSo lovely. Great for helping babies (and the rest of us) relax into a sleepy state. His latest is linked below. He performs these live on krue.TV.

3) Tommy Emmanuel – Speaking of guitar and live music, my husband’s favorite guitarist (after Nathan) is Tommy Emmanuel. We are so excited that he’s coming to Richmond, Va. in March 2017. If you ever have a chance to hear him perform, don’t miss it. blog-tommy-emmanuel-guitarPhoto Credit: WFPK

4) The Long Goodbye – These days, I travel a lot to Atlanta to spend time with my dad. Between Alzheimer’s and cancer, he is winding down. Very thankful for his caregivers there, as he has moved from assisted living into the home of my brother and sister-in-law. Dad sleeps a lot, but when he wakes up it is such a delight for all of us to see the spark in his eyes and hear his intelligence, humor, and sweetness break through the cloud of his illnesses. Thankful for this long goodbye…which gives us the opportunity to enjoy him more and spend time with various of our family members in ways that will galvanize us as family when he enters Heaven.

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5) A Beautiful Fall – Words aren’t needed here. So glad for the opportunity to live in a place of four seasons.

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Hope you have a restful and reflective weekend. Would love for you to post some of your favorite finds in the Comments.

Finally, just for fun…

 

Monday Morning Moment – Uncommon Courtesy in the Workplace

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My mom raised me to be courteous…thoughtful towards all…civil in every circumstance…extending grace. Recently, I have become aware that my behavior in the company of others has become less courteous overall. Not in an intentional way, hopefully, but in a careless neglectful way. This is disconcerting because it makes me wonder how long has this been a part of my demeanor and deportment. Not necessarily with those closest to me…but with “the others” in life – the stranger, the coworker, the customer.

blog-common-courtesy-quoteaddictsPhoto Credit: Quote Addicts

Yesterday, not at work, I interrupted the conversation of three people. Not overtly, maybe, but it was a quiet drawing away the attention of one of them. Without even thinking, I was rude.

We don’t really mean to be rude or discourteous probably…but in the neglect of practicing courtesy…we can become “those people”…rude, disingenuous, self-serving people.

What does that look like in the workplace?

John Kyle describes rudeness at work:

“It can range from subtle things like eye-rolling to outrageous things like berating a colleague in a meeting.

Here are some common examples:

  • Gossiping and talking behind someone’s back.
  • Giving colleagues the silent treatment.
  • Interrupting someone when they are speaking.
  • Leaving trash and food containers in public areas like the office kitchen.
  • The work around – excluding colleagues from projects or meetings even though they should, by role and responsibilities, be included.
  • Being late for meetings or in other ways not respecting someone else’s time.
  • Speaking to people in a condescending way.

All of these examples of rudeness are forms of disrespect. A pastor-friend of mine once said that giving someone the silent treatment is the relational equivalent of saying, ‘I don’t respect and care enough about you to talk to you.'”

John Kyle, Chief Operating Officer for The Institute of Faith, Work, and Economics, also delivers some simple advice on how we might overcome rudeness at work. One of his tips is to make a practice of greeting people…just saying hello (using their name if you know it). How simple is that?! Yet, too often, we walk quickly by, head down, lost in our brilliant and important thoughts, or hanging on every word of that one we’re accompanying. Is it so hard to smile and nod our head at those we are passing by? Those who work with us, have the same vision, hope for the same outcomes, wrestling with the same struggles at work or home.

What Kyle reveals in his article on being courteous at work is that we expose our lack of regard for those around us by not taking the time for them…to say or do the small graces for each other that communicates that “there are no ordinary people”.

blog-courtesy-no-ordinary-people-c-s-lewis-pinterestPhoto Credit: Pinterest – WitandWisdomofCSLewis

His counsel echoes a book I recently read by John Maxwell – Intentional Living – Choosing a Life That Matters. Maxwell, like Kyle, talks about adding value to people…communicating that if we are not intentionally adding value to people then we show that we devalue them.

What do you think? It would be such a gift to have your comments on stories where you were treated with uncommon courtesy at work. Do you have examples of how such actions and attitudes are rewarded in your workplace? Do your bosses display this sort of worldview? Please share your stories…even the negative ones that might have given you pause about your own altered attitudes over the years.

As I described in the story earlier, this has certainly given me pause. I want to be a load-lifter at work. An encourager. A respecter of all persons…not just the ones who can help me get ahead with my career. It’s possible that I might have become a bit more curmudgeonly over time…and that’s not really the kind of coworker I want to be. My mom would be glad to see that I’m climbing out of this insufferable ditch – resolved anew to make a habit of uncommon courtesy.

Bringing Courtesy Back to the Workplace – Harvard Business Review – Ron Ashkenas

Why Is Common Courtesy Increasingly Uncommon at Work? Rudeness on the Rise – John Kyle

How do You Practice Common Courtesy at Work?

Workplace Etiquette – 4 Ways to Show Courtesy to Coworkers – Rachel Wagner

Uncommon Courtesy – Blog

Slideshare – Courtesy

How To Become a Curmudgeon – WikiHow – just for a chuckle!

Worship Wednesday – Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise) – Hillsong

blog-i-will-rise-rescue-squad-bakersfieldbside-shutterstockPhoto Credit: BakersfieldBSide, Shutterstock

“…I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days…” Deuteronomy 30:19-20a

I’ve ridden inside an ambulance as a caregiver and family member, but never as a patient…until this week.

Take one perfectly normal evening. Getting ready for bed. Last items of the day…and then…I can’t get my breath. Literally… Coughing and breathing hard and feeling like I just can’t get air.

For any of you with asthma or other lung issues, you may have experienced this. I now know how terrifying that can be.

Then you add a husband, already in bed and half asleep, who, in an emergency, can turn on a dime (i.e., move and think quickly and well)…and I was getting help.

Could I make it to an urgent care center? Yes…no! Feeling like I might lose consciousness, I had to sit down just as we were going out the door. Then he called 911. How many times have any of us ever even done that?

For me, I was just trying to breathe. The “what if’s” fly. What if this is it?…actually came to my mind in those moments. Sitting, sucking in air, I told him I loved him, and he said, “Let me pray for you.” …and God was near through it all. Did I feel Him near?…not every moment, but I knew it just the same.

Somewhere in those seeming seconds before the rescue squad arrived, some of the panic started subsiding. God. When they arrived, they took action, and my hope rallied.  Surprisingly, it actually took quite a few minutes before we drove off.

I could see Dave through the back window of the ambulance, in his car ready to follow us. Seriously, between him and them, it was like being attended by a host of angels. All I had to do was keep breathing.

The EMT’s were busy, too. Assessing, assessing, assessing. They fed me oxygen and encouragement, and finally off we went. Yet, the longer I lived, in those moments, with these professionals doing their job, the less it seemed I would die from whatever this was.

blog-emergency-room-i-will-rise-medscapePhoto Credit: Medscape

By the time, we were settled in the emergency room, the terror of not getting enough air had passed. It seemed everything the nurses, techs, and doctors did was magical. They were still searching for a cause all through the night, but the labwork, x-rays, and such were narrowing the field of possibles. They continued to assess and apply their knowledge to whatever was wrong with me – breathing treatments, more tests, antibiotics, more tests.

Finally, the scariest stuff was ruled out. It wasn’t a collapsed lung from cancer, or pulmonary edema from congestive heart failure, or bleeding from an aneurysm .

It was pneumonia…as best they could tell.

Admitted to the hospital, in the care of another set of angels…er, nurses, I began the process of getting better.img_8984

The better came quickly and I am so grateful. We all have had and will have dark days. What takes my breath away (in totally a good way) is that we never have to be alone in it. Either God sends angels…or God sends people. I have experienced that this week, and know it has happened in lives of others near me. Including my older brother’s situation…the day he too swiftly went to be with the Lord (that story is for another day).

Across our lifetimes, we have experiences of the severe mercies and tender graces of God. Sometimes, they come through the kindnesses of both strangers and loved ones. Sometimes, it’s in the quiet of a heart, through breathing hard in the back of an ambulance. We know we can count on Him from His Word…and from all these brushes with real and serious.

Just the day before I couldn’t breathe, we sang the following worship song during when gathered on Sunday at Movement Church. Over the last two days, the words and truth of God in the words have settled in my heart and mind.

Hillsong‘s Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise) is a strong declaration of life knowing God through Jesus Christ. The songwriters took some of their ideas from the verse in Romans: “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans6:4)

“I will rise” is my song today because what felt like a near-death experience two nights ago has just added my awareness of that “newness of life” we have in Christ. There will come a day for all of us that we won’t rise any more on this side of eternity…but because of Him, we will rise to be with Him, in Heaven…if we believe. Hallelujah!

Worship with me.

This is my revelation
Christ Jesus crucified
Salvation through repentance
At the cross on which He died

Now hear my absolution
Forgiveness for my sin
And I sink beneath the waters
That Christ was buried in

I will rise
I will rise
As Christ was raised to life
Now in Him
Now in Him I live

I stand a new creation
Baptized in blood and fire
No fear of condemnation
By faith I’m justified

I will rise
I will rise
As Christ was raised to life
Now in Him
Now in Him I live
(x2)

I rise as You are risen
Declare Your rule and reign
My life confess Your lordship
And glorify Your name

Your word it stands eternal
Your Kingdom knows no end
Your praise goes on forever
And on and on again

No power can stand against You
No curse assault Your throne
No one can steal Your glory
For it is Yours alone

I stand to sing Your praises
I stand to testify
For I was dead in my sin

But now I rise
I will rise
As Christ was raised to life
Now in Him
Now in Him I live

No power can stand against You
No curse assault Your throne
No one can steal Your glory
For it is Yours alone

I stand to sing Your praises
I stand to testify
For I was dead in my sin

But now i rise
I will rise
As Christ was raised to life
Now in Him
Now in Him I live

I will rise
I will rise
As Christ was raised to life
Now in Him
Now in Him I live
(x2)*

PS – For those few of you who knew what was happening with me these last two days, thanks for praying. For those many who don’t know me or my situation, thanks for reading…and for praying for those going through a challenging situation…and if you’re in the one going through that situation, believe that God sees and reaches in. Please comment, if you’re willing, about your own experience….

YouTube Video – Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise) – with subtitles/lyrics

Song Story: Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise) – Scott Ligertwood

*Lyrics of Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise) – Writers Brooke Fraser Ligertwood & Scott Ligertwood

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Worship Wednesday – Oh God, You Never Leave My Side – Citizens & Saints

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“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”Romans 8:37-39

“I don’t know how anyone can get through____________ without God.”

What fills that blank in your life right now?

Sunday was my first time back with my church (Movement RVA) since surgery. It was a great normalizing experience. To have friends come up and give gentle hugs of welcome was surprisingly moving for me. All through this health scare, family, friends, and neighbors have been the hands of God to us.

Last week a huge storm came through Richmond, Virginia, with thousands of us losing power for four days. That first night, when the lights went out, it was weirdly quiet. Then, one by one, generators clicked on throughout our neighborhood. For days, we had this post-apocalyptic buzzing sound all around us.

Finally we got power back, and it was quiet again. Beautiful ordinary quiet.

I’ve become more and more thankful how we can sense God’s presence both in the noise and in the quiet…

On Sunday, our worship team led us in singing the Citizens & Saints song, Oh God. It was a quieter version than that band does, but I recognized the deep heart-cry to God. Those lyrics resounded what we have experienced lately of the nearness of God.Blog - Movement Church - Worship

These days are full of the graces and mercies of God. In the storm that took out our lights, in the journey to a cancer diagnosis and treatment, in the birth of a new grandchild, in the loss of an old friend, and in the difficult journey of loved ones going through miscarriage and divorce…we have seen and experienced the nearness of God. How else could we go through?

“I don’t know how anyone can get through____________ without God.”

We don’t have to….

Worship this great and loving God with me – to this song by  Zach Bolen inspired by Romans 8:

In the valley, Oh God, You’re near
In the quiet, Oh God, You’re near
In the shadow, Oh God, You’re near
At my breaking, Oh God, You’re near
Oh God, You never leave my side
Your love will stand firm for all my life
In my searching, Oh God, You’re near
In my wandering, Oh God, You’re near
When I feel alone, Oh God, You’re near
At my lowest, Oh God, You’re near
Height nor depth nor anything else
Could pull us apart
We are joined as one by Your blood
Hope will rise as we become more
Than conquerors through
The One who loved the world
Oh God, You never leave my side
Your love will stand firm for all my life
Oh God, You never leave my side
Your love will stand firm for all my life
Oh God, You never leave my side
Your love will stand firm for all my life*
Blog - God will never leave you - bibleinspirationsPhoto Credit: Bible Inspirations

One More Sleep Until Surgery – Staying On This Side of the Bridge

Blog - staying on this side of the bridge - harry w. nice memorial bridge - alpsroadsPhoto Credit: AlpsRoads

Tomorrow I have surgery…a biopsy. One more sleep, and then finally (hopefully) I will know what it is that we’ve been following for six months now. Your thoughts can go all sorts of places during a time of waiting. My dear friend, Kathy, who has now been in cancer nursing longer than I comforted me with this wisdom:

“For right now, you need to stay on this side of the bridge.”

She is so right. Bridges… As helpful and beautiful as they are, bridges stir up my fears of heights and deep water. There’s this one bridge we cross going to and from visits with our family in Delaware. Located  on Hwy. 301 in Maryland, it’s named the Governor Harry Nice Memorial Bridge. The bridge itself is not so nice if you struggle with bridges. It’s steep and narrow. As you ascend, you can’t see really where it’s going.

If your imagination runs wild, you could envision cars ahead of you (and you eventually) drop right off the top into the Potomac River… Of course, once at the pinnacle of the bridge, you see, with great relief, what seems an easy downward slope of the bridge and the other side of the river…and all will be (was always going to be) well.

It’s best to stay in the moment on the ascending side of the bridge, because the “unknown” other side of the bridge wreaks havoc in our thoughts. Experience helps, of course, because the presumed “unknown” is no longer, and you can rest, knowing, you’ve been here before, and it works out fine.

For several weeks now, I have had to discipline myself to stay on this side of the bridge. Knowing God as I do, and seeing Him at work in the lives of loved ones who’ve known their own bridges, this journey is not supposed to be scary. It’s meant to be from beautiful to beautiful. God even redeems suffering…and I know that…but my thoughts betray my struggle.

How gentle God is with His children! Just hours ago, I walked out to a sun-drenched morning, and stood with my coffee looking out the kitchen window. There’s this small dedicated space over the sink which reminds me, even doing dishes, of the grander more beautiful life experience that is ours. The shamrocks Mom Julia gave me are flourishing in the sun this morning. The Blessings plaque from friend Kay reminds me to count mine. The little pile of stones are my Ebenezer – ”I raise my Ebenezer” (from 1 Samuel 7:12) – my stones of remembrance that say to my heart, “thus far the Lord has helped us.” IMG_6106

Then in my quiet time, in the reading for today, the Prophet Samuel speaks to a sinful but repentant people of God. He reminds them of the great faithfulness of God and how he will not forsake His people (1 Samuel 12), nor will Samuel stop praying for them.Blog - Samuel's blessing - surgery

How grateful I am for a faithful, faithful God…and for all those followers of His, faithful to pray. No wonder Samuel tells the people not to be afraid.

Whatever comes tomorrow, I know, from God’s Word and experience, that He will be with me…and with all those dearest to me. Whatever the outcome, we have nothing to fear. Nothing.

As this day unfolds, one sleep from surgery, my fear is dissipating, and peace is restored. I’m not saying there won’t be bumps in that experience over the next hours…but the most rock-solid object of my faith remains immovable. God has our lives in His hands, and “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Full stop.

Like Kathy advises, clearing my thoughts regularly, I “stay on this side of the bridge.” Tomorrow, I will wake up after surgery and hopefully will find out that it is “either nothing or early”. Whatever the outcome, God’s grace will be there for me…for us.

Blog - staying on this side of the bridgePhoto Credit: ParentingThatHeals

For now, I will trust God, rest in His care and the love of family and friends, and…just breathe.

*This song comes up all the time on the radio right now…probably not just for me, but it feels sweetly personal.

My prayer for you and for me today is that whatever the situation, we stay in the place where He has us, and by His grace, and the love of those He’s placed in our way, we will get to the other side…it its time.IMG_6107Postscript – that early morning coffee came with banana bread and prayer from my friend Harriet. So many graces in life.

Mother’s Day – Not the #BestMomEver Nor the Worst – Didn’t Mother Alone, and Then They Were Grown

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Happy Mother’s Day. Seeing that in print often brings that saying to mind, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”.  I never liked that saying and don’t want to put such a edict on my family. Motherhood does seem to carry its blessing and burden of emotions. Stores and restaurants are as crowded as Christmas this weekend with families doing what they do to celebrate their mothers.

With my own mom already with the Lord, and my other mom in another visit, this weekend, my thoughts are tuned onto these three kiddos – the ones who made me a mom in my 30s. They were a blessing come late and cherished all the more for their timing.

Blog - Christie, Nathan, Daniel - first days of schoolDan, Christie, Nathan in Egypt

Courtney Reissig writes a thought-provoking and freeing piece entitled Don’t Call Me the Best Mom Ever. She calls out our tendencies to go to extremes in lauding the praises of moms or, on the flip side, in lamenting the bad mothering we received…or feel guilty of…

Take a minute to read her article and be gentle with yourself, and those moms in your life today. Making Mother’s Day some sort of competition or guilt fest doesn’t honor the gift or the giver. If I get to see our children sometime during the Mother’s Day season or get cards from them where they’ve written their own words…that is huge. I know loving moms who may not have either this year. We also all know women who would have been wonderful moms…if they had had the opportunity…this gives me pause on such a day as this.

I don’t take these three once-little people for granted…nor do I want to heap huge expectations on them. My hope is that the errors of my ways mothering them through the years did not leave a mark.Blog - Christie, Nathan, Daniel - Cairo Covenant SchoolBlog - Christie, Nathan, Daniel - 2002

Reissig closed out her piece for moms in a way that resonates with my own heart.

“I simply need to be the mom God made me to be, to the children God created for me. Instead of striving for the best or embracing the worse, I hope to be the kind of mom who repents when I sin, admits my limitations, and asks God for more grace the next day.” – Courtney Reissig

We have this brief time with our children growing up. We will counsel well, and keep them well-fed and nurtured (heart and mind), and, for sure, we will make mistakes. The most important thing to remember is that we don’t mother alone…or we don’t have to… Redeem the time with them and soak in God’s great grace.

These precious children are in our keeping for a moment, it seems, with their own foibles and sharp edges (like ours)…

…and then they were grown.Blog - Christie, Nathan, Daniel

Happy Mother’s Day, dear ones. Be gentle with yourself and each other. I am grateful and filled with joy to think of you.

Worship Wednesday – With Hope – Steven Curtis Chapman

Blog - Heath Funeral - Grieving with hopeWe do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.    –            1 Thessalonians 4:13

It’s been quite some time since I attended a funeral. Not that we haven’t lost dear friends in the last few years…but we lived far away at the time and just didn’t go. This time…when Heath died…we went.

Death is something no one wants to have to look on full-face. There’s no way really to polish it up. It is our final enemy. Our temptation is to remove ourselves as far from suffering and death as we can. When someone you love is on this path, then how can we do anything else but enter in…?

Heath lived 15 months or so with a devastating, killing cancer. That in itself was a miracle. When he died, a small loving family is left to figure out a new normal for their lives. They won’t be alone in this.

How thankful I am that God draws close to His children in the daily and in death. Heath’s wife and children will have what they need to face what comes next. God is faithful. God is good.

When a gifted, lovely 42-years-young man dies, leaving a wife and three little girls, can we say in this that God is good? If we cannot, then we never can. We cannot see what God sees, but we know from experience and from His Word that He will work good out of every situation in His children’s lives…every. single. situation.

Heath understood that, and he lived it. His family does as well.

You might not think that a funeral can be a joyous thing. I don’t cry easily. Maybe after so many of our own losses, maybe after years of cancer nursing…tears just don’t come at the usual times. During Heath’s funeral, I couldn’t stop them from rolling down. Out of love and out of loss…but also out of wonder at the beauty of God’s care and character.

With Hope is a song written by Steven Curtis Chapman in 2008 after the accidental death of his 5 y/o daughter, Maria. The tribute video for Heath at his funeral featured this song as the soundtrack and it was so right. Somehow, especially in times of loss, God weaves a deep hope into our faith. I saw it in Heath’s family…and I experienced it myself. God is good…always.

Worship with me.

This is not at all
How we thought it was supposed to be
We had so many plans for you
We has so many dreams
But now you’ve gone away
And left us with the memories of your smile
And nothing we can say
And nothing we can do
Can take away the pain
The pain of losing you

And we can cry with hope
We can say good-bye with hope
‘Cause we know our good-bye is not the end
And we can grieve with hope
‘Cause we believe with hope
There’s a place where we’ll see your face again
We’ll see your face again

And never have I known
Anything so hard to understand
And never have I questioned more
The wisdom of God’s plan
But through the cloud of tears
I see the Father smile and say ‘well done.’
And I imagine you
Where you wanted most to be
Seeing all your dreams come true
‘Cause now your home
And now your free

[Chorus]

We have this hope as an anchor
‘Cause we believe that everything
God promised us is true

[Chorus]

We wait with hope
And we ache with hope
We hold on with hope
We let go with hope*Blog - HeathPhoto Credit: Facebook

Postscript: Toward the end of Heath’s funeral, a solitary musician with guitar began to sing Come to Jesus We, in that gathering, were all suspended in our thoughts of Heath, sad in our loss of him and full of joy that he was Home with the Lord. In the emotion of that moment, the singer, just into the first verse of that beautiful, soulful song, faltered. He willed his voice to continue but couldn’t. Even as his voice gave away, soft voices in the congregation took up where he left off. He strummed the guitar, and we sang…quietly, full of reverence at the meaning of all before us.

It is what we find in the truest experience of the Family of God and the grace of God. We all falter sometimes…we all fall. He lifts us up – either through the hands and voices of others, or by His own hand and word. He carries us. He helps us see beyond the pain and wretchedness of an unbelievable loss…to the glory of that life, of our lives, and His glory reflected in them.

Hallelujah!

*Lyrics to With Hope by Steven Curtis Chapman

Steven Curtis Chapman

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” – 1 Peter 1:3-9