Tag Archives: grace

Worship Wednesday – A Pilgrim’s Progress – Matt Papa

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.Hebrews 12:1

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:31

During a difficult period of life, Matt Papa wrote a song about our journey as pilgrims in this world. A worship leader, known for penning theologically rich modern hymns, Matt faced a time of emptiness when the Lord pressed him to “keep running”.

“The song arrived very late in the process of making the album (Look & Live). I was flying up to Nashville to record the rest of the vocals. This was January, and we just had our third child. Life felt as crazy as it had ever felt. The transition for us from 2 to 3 kids felt like a punch in the gut. I admit I have an artist’s temperament — my highs are high and my lows are low — so I’ve struggled over the years with depression. I was praying as I was flying up to Nashville and I kept hearing that phrase, ‘Keep running!’ I felt like the Lord was saying it, I felt like the cloud of witnesses was saying it, just put your head down and keep fighting. I had the overwhelming sense that I needed to finish the song and record it, and I worked hard over the next couple of weeks to finish it. I don’t know why, but my prayer for that song is this; I really want people who are contemplating suicide or battling depression to hear this song, and I pray that the Lord would use that in their lives to encourage them to keep going…to keep looking to Christ.”Matt Papa

Matt Papa – A Pilgrim’s Progress (Keep Runnin’) – Daily Play MPE

The Word of God is filled with encouragements for our heavy, dark times…when we just want to quit – to stop in our tracks, turn aside, and take an easier path.

During Jesus’ public ministry – a time of wonder and miracles – he lost followers because his way seemed too hard for them. Once (John 6) when he turned to his closest disciples, he asked them would they leave, too.  Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)

We all have suffered different losses, struggles, difficulties in life, and compared ours as less or more doesn’t really compute. Whatever is hard for me (or you) is just that…hard. When life pins us down and we struggle to get out from under the weight, Peter’s words always come to mind for me. “To whom shall we go?”

For me, there is nowhere else to run but to Jesus. That’s not to say I do always. Disparaging of my situation, I may fall to complaining or searching for a way out, any way out…besides through Jesus’ grace and strength.

For the days we find ourselves slogging through, almost to a complete stop, God promises he is for us (Romans 8:31-38). He will never leave us, and we will reap the harvest he has prepared for us…if we don’t give up.

Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. – Galatians 6:9

Photo Credit: Max Pixel

Today, if I had a literal race to run, it would not go well. Yesterday, I reached down to a low shelf in the refrigerator to pull out leftovers for lunch. In an instant, something happened in my back, and the pain was excruciating. This was my very first encounter of back pain the kind I hear others experience. It is still with me today – as I have to do everything carefully, at times in slow-motion. Whatever falls to the floor will have to stay there…today.

Fortunately, no literal footrace awaits my toe on the line. A journey does continue for this pilgrim. A race of faith and endurance still draws us, whatever our situation. Thankfully, the Lord’s call to “keep running” is never ever without His presence or His provision.

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.Hebrews 12:2

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. – 2 Timothy 4:7-8

Please worship with me (lyrics below)…and let’s keep running.

Lord I’m tired, so tired from travelin
This straight and narrow is so much harder than I thought
On this path, I’ve met both doubt and pain
I’ve heard their voices say
“Yeah, you’ve given all you’ve got”

But there’s a crowd of witnesses,
the ones who’ve run this race
and even louder than my fears they’re crying
“Boy, you lift your face. . .!”

“. . . .keep running, keep running
don’t lost heart, don’t you give up now
don’t turn around
you’ve got to find a way somehow
keep reachin’, keep fightin’
the pain cannot compare to the reward
that will be yours
that waits in store
for those who just keep runnin”

On this road, this fight for holiness
I’ve struggled and I’ve bled
through these dangers, toils, and snares.
And I have foes,
their siren voices call
saying “Boy, you’re about to fall,
with that heavy cross you bear”

I remember there was ONE who died to win this race
He took the cross, he crushed the grave
Oh I can hear my Saviour say . .

“Keep running, keep running
don’t lost heart, don’t give up now
don’t turn around
you’ve got to find a way somehow
keep reachin’, keep fightin’
the pain cannot compare to the reward
that will be yours
that waits in store
for those who just keep runnin”

Don’t turn aside
No compromise
Just lift your eyes
To the glory that’s comin’.
If you’re like me
you feel like you can’t go on,
you’ll never see the dawn,
and you’re just about to break . .
but don’t stop now
Know that every sacrifice
It’ll all be worth the price
when you finally see His face . . . . . . . .

Just keep runnin’
Don’t lose heart; don’t you give up now
Don’t turn around, you’ve got to find a way somehow
Dig deeper, run harder,
The pain cannot compare to the reward that will be yours; it waits in store for all who just keep…
So take my hand because we can’t do this alone
Until you hear “Well done”,
Until your race is complete
Find a way to just
Keep runnin’
Keep dreamin’
Keep darin’
Believin’
Keep workin’
Keep waitin’
Keep servin’
Keep prayin’
Keep movin’, keep tryin’, keep hopin’, keep fightin’, keep goin’,
He’s waiting
Arms open; He’s comin’
Keep runnin’*

Photo Credit: YouTube

None of this we do alone…we have God with us every step of the way. This is not a “do it in our own strength” thing. We are carried by His strength, and we run beside each other, encouraging and recalling the truth of His loving words to us…until we both reach the prize at the finish.

*Lyrics to A Pilgrim’s Progress (Keep Runnin’)

Worship Wednesday – On the Holiness of God – I See the Lord – Chris Falson

Photo Credit: Max Pixel

[The account of King David returning the Ark of God to Jerusalem]

They placed the Ark of God on a new cart and brought it from Abinadab’s house, which was on a hill. Uzzah and Ahio, Abinadab’s sons, were guiding the cart  that carried the Ark of God. Ahio walked in front of the Ark.  David and all the people of Israel were celebrating before the Lord, singing songs and playing all kinds of musical instruments—lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets, and cymbals.

But when they arrived at the threshing floor of Nacon, the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand and steadied the Ark of God.  Then the Lord’s anger was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him dead because of this. So Uzzah died right there beside the Ark of God.2 Samuel 6:3-7

What a story! For the casual Bible reader, this story can spark one’s sense of “rightness”. Even David who loved God supremely was angry briefly with Him…but that anger quickly turned to fear (2 Samuel 6:8-9). It took David seconds to remember the holiness of God and can happen when we treat the presence of God casually.

Cliff Jordan preached on this passage at Movement Church recently, and I finally understood the significance of Uzzah’s seemingly well-intended action. [Sermon podcast here.]

Throughout the Old Testament accounts of history, we see the justice of God play out in ways we might consider harsh in our grace-filled experience of Him today. We need to remember, though, that God has NOT changed. His holiness is as real and remarkable as ever.

Pastor Cliff reminded us that Uzzah was of the priestly tribe of the  Levites, a Kohathite. These were the ones who cared for and carried the holy instruments of worship. The Art of the Covenant housed the very presence of God in those days. It was never to be touched by human hands. Never. God had given detailed instructions on this, and Uzzah knew them.

In a moment, Uzzah, thinking he was acting, I’m sure, in reverence to God, reached out to steady the ark, laying his hands on it. The consequence of that disobedience was death.

The consequence of our disobedience is death.

We forget that sometimes, because our own lives are so bathed in the grace of God through Christ Jesus.

What was so bad about what Uzzah did? We are tempted to raise our tiny fists to a holy God and question His actions. Our own daily acts of disobedience seem trivial to us as well…until we look at the cost of our disobedience. The cross.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

We must not forget this tension: “God is graciously relational and unrelentingly and unyieldingly holy.” – Cliff Jordan

Creator God sets the terms for our relating to Him. He prescribes and He provides. In ancient days, He made Himself available to a sinful people – once a year, in the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle (and later in the Jerusalem temple), behind a thick curtain – to the high priest who would make atonement for the people (Hebrews 9:7). A holy and loving God protected the people from death in distancing Himself from them in this way.

When Jesus died for our sins, the curtain was torn apart, from top to bottom.

Just as in Old Testament history, God made Him home with us in the ark, Jesus made us home with us, in human form (John 1:14).

“The ark points to Jesus. Our point of contact to Holy God is through Jesus. He fulfilled every prescription, every obligation, every law. He passed the test, secured the A, and gave it to us – graciously. He made Him who knew no sin become sin for us.” – Cliff Jordan

When you’re studying the Word, you come on these hard passages like Uzzah’s death, remember the holiness of God. Remember also His incredible grace toward us through Christ.

I grew up singing Holy, Holy, Holy – my young life was transformed by a burgeoning understanding of the wretched nature of my sin and the glorious nature of God, holy and loving, just and merciful. As our culture has changed over the years, my sense of God’s holiness has grown reckless…dulled by the world’s pull for both self-serving and self-rule. What audacity to think we know better than God, to think we are good enough for God, to think we don’t need God!

Holy God, have mercy on us. Lord, continue to have mercy on us…because of what Christ did for us. In His name…

Worship with me, please, with Chris Falson‘s song “I See the Lord”.

I see the Lord
Seated on the throne exalted,
And the train of His robe
Fills the temple with glory
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled
With His glory

I see the Lord
Seated on the throne
Exalted, and the train of His robe fills the temple
With glory
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled with His glory

Holy (x4)
Holy is the Lord

Holy (x4)
Holy is the Lord of lords

I see the Lord
Seated on the throne
Exalted, the train of His robe fills the temple
With glory
It fills it with glory
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled with His glory
With His glory

Holy (x4)
Holy is the Lord of Lords

Holy (x4)
Holy is the Lord

I sing
Holy (x4)
Holy is the Lord

Holy (x4)
Holy is the Lord of Lords

I see the Lord
Seated on the throne
Exalted, the train of His robe fills the temple
With glory
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled with His glory.

Photo Credit: Slideshare

YouTube Video – I See the Lord – Chris Falson (with lyrics)

Lyrics – I See the Lord – Writer: Chris Falson

2 Samuel 6, Part 1 – Sermon Podcast – Cliff Jordan, Movement Church

YouTube Video – Holy, Holy, Holy – Jeremy Riddle

Holiness and Justice – R. C. Sproul

Why Did God Strike Uzzah Dead For Touching the Ark of the Covenant? – Got Questions?

Wednesday Worship – Exhale – Plumb

Photo Credit: Chintermeyer, Flickr

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Our saving is not by our own works! Hallelujah! How is it then, that we trip ourselves up on a daily basis with trying to please others when God Himself is already pleased? He sees us through a grace-colored lens…not that His vision ever needed correcting. From forever, we were made in the image of God and, as His forgiven ones, He sees us as Christ-redeemed and Spirit-filled.

Why then are we wooed into thinking that we must perform a certain way to be accepted? Even from the beginning, as complete and perfect and beloved as Eve was, the persuasive other-than-God message of our needing to be more has been driven into our flesh (Genesis 3:4-5).

God saved me as a young child out of the bondage, even then, of wanting to be good for my weary mama. She was raising four children on her own, and I thought if I could only just be good for her it would lighten her load. She didn’t require it of me; I required it of myself. The Gospel message of Ephesians 2:8-9 above was so winsome to me, even at nine years old.

Unfortunately, through the years, I have listened to my own flesh and those not-of-God messages (whether from Satan or the world or church culture). I have often struggled with needing the approval of men and women over God. Needing my own approval (as if mine was more substantive than God’s…sigh).

A concept that became very real to me in my 20s was performance-based acceptance. Measuring myself up against others (or my own evaluation of those others) was a struggle. Then when those others are also Christians, it can get even darker. These are my brothers and sisters. Our gains individually and together reflect the work of God. Full-stop. Any measure otherwise discounts Him.

Even the Apostle Paul who all-out raised the bar on performance understood the error of that and how meager it was compared to knowing and enjoying the love and grace of God:

“…although I once also had confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; regarding the law, a Pharisee; regarding zeal, persecuting the church; regarding the righteousness that is in the law, blameless.

But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” – Apostle Paul, Philippians 3:4-10

The glorious life God means for us to have is drenched with His love and grace. No safe or controllable grace here…it is the magnificent, sufficient grace of God that breathes out of us in every circumstance of our lives…in our response to Him in us.

Tiffany Lee (Plumb) writes about this in the worship song Exhale. The physical act of breathing is a new interest of mine. We can all forcibly exhale (to blow out a birthday candle or set dandelion seeds in flight), but it isn’t a natural state. To exhale is the response to inhaling. It follows. It always follows.

Photo Credit: YouTube

What are we breathing out to the world, including to those we most love? It follows what we’re breathing in. No guilting here. It is the quiet reality of our lives. What we take in informs what we give out.

Worship with me.

It’s okay to not be okay
This is a safe place
This is a safe place
Don’t be afraid
Don’t be ashamed
There’s still hope here
There’s still hope here

No matter what you’ve done or who you are
Everyone is welcome His arms

Just let go let His love wrap around you
And hold you close
Get lost in the surrender
Breathe it in until your heart breaks
Then exhale
Exhale

Spirit come tear down the walls
That only You can
That only You can
Reconcile this heart to Yours
Right now God
Right now

Just let go let His love wrap around you
And hold you close
Get lost in the surrender
Breathe it in until your heart breaks
Then exhale
Exhale

Oh God we breathe in your grace
We breathe in your grace
And exhale
Oh God we do not exist for us
But to share Your grace and love
And exhale

Oh God We breathe in your grace
We breathe in your grace
And exhale
Oh God we do not exist for us
But to share Your grace and love
And exhale

Just let go let His love wrap around you
And hold you close
Get lost in the surrender
Breathe it in until your heart breaks
Then exhale
Exhale
Exhale
Exhale
Exhale*

Too often God’s grace is communicated as something we enjoy for ourselves. His grace is not meant to be kept for ourselves. The deeper we understand God…the more we experience His grace for our lives…the more we naturally want to lavish it (Him) on others. Not to please Him by our performance, but in our pleasure of Him.

Closing with John Piper‘s message on this (from over 30 years ago):

For some of you these are the very days in which for the first time the beauty of the gospel of grace is beginning to shine on the horizon of your soul. But others of you look back months or years or decades, to a golden era of faith when Christ was powerfully taking shape in your life. But something has changed. There has been a kind of settling into the world, and the vibrant sense of being an alien and an exile in the world has faded. And the powerful shaping forces in your life are not coming from Christ within but from the world without.

The word of encouragement and admonition to us all this morning is this: the Spirit of the living Christ can be poured into us afresh today… Therefore, I urge you, take your amateur hands off the clay of your life and yield yourselves into the sovereign hands of God. Disavow the praise of men and all your efforts to achieve it. Turn your hearts to Christ and say: I am not my own; you have bought me; forgive me; be formed within me. Not to me, O Lord, not to me, but to your name give glory (Psalm 115:1). Amen. – John Piper

Breathe Him in, Dear Ones, and your exhale can refresh a weary world.

*Lyrics – Exhale – Written by Josh Silverberg, Matthew Armstrong, and Tiffany Arbuckle Lee

Behind the Song with Kevin Davis – Exhale – Plumb

YouTube Video – Plumb – Exhale (Official Music Video)

YouTube Video – Behind the Music – Exhale by Plumb

Performance-based Acceptance – Richard J.

My Performance-based Story – a Synchroblog

Breaking the Bondage of Performance-based Acceptance – Deb Welch

O, That Christ Would Be Formed In You! – John Piper

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.

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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

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“…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*
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