Tag Archives: hope

Worship Wednesday – Even If – MercyMe

Photo Credit: Into Weakness

“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – Daniel 3:17-18

Any one of us who grew up in church has heard the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Three young Jewish men exiled to Babylon. Three young men who were tasked to serve King Nebuchadnezzar in his palace. Three young men who worshiped the Creator God and Him alone.

In the historical account (Daniel 3), the Babylonian king ordered all in his realm to bow before a golden statue. Anyone who did not bow would be thrown to his death in a fiery furnace. These three would not bow. Their answer to the king (stated above) was a proclamation of their God’s ability to save them from death…and even if he did not save them, it did not matter. He alone would they serve.

What If the Worst Happens? – Desiring God – Vaneetha Rendall Risner

This past Sunday morning after the early service at Movement Church, we drove a few blocks away to attend the worship service of Patterson Avenue Baptist Church.Photo Credit: Patterson Ave. Baptist Church, Bill Nieporte

That day we visited with a congregation who would gather two more Sundays and then disband as an organized church. We sat under the inspired and powerful preaching of Dr. Bill Nieporte. Dr. Nieporte didn’t flinch as he talked about their church “dying…but dying well”. He, nor any of the sweet believers we met that day, had been able to turn around the seeming inevitable. As an older congregation, their numbers continued to fall even in the midst of committed ministry to their community. They knew they would too soon get to the place they wouldn’t be able to manage the expenses of the facility itself.

With what Dr. Nieporte called “courageous faith”, they have given this magnificent old church building to Movement Church. Movement is rapidly growing out of our rented space, and you can imagine what an incredibly generous gift this is.

Historic Richmond Church Closing – Bill Nieporte

The congregation of Patterson Ave. Baptist Church is essentially passing a torch to our church to continue to be a light of God’s love to the community they have loved for so many years. One dear man we met, in his 70s, had been a part of this church his whole life (since “cradle roll”).

I’ve been so personally overwhelmed by this generous gift of those fellow believers…strangers until this past Sunday. Many shook our hands, some with tears in their eyes…welcoming us to what would become our own church gathering place. How humbling for us and how challenging as well.

As the pastor gently guided his church through their grieving, he talked of how God, throughout history has moved His people. In two Sundays, they would be “moved” from that location. He even soberly spoke of how a time might come, just as it did for them, when Movement Church could also be called by God one day to relinquish that property. The sanctuary was silent in the gravity of his words.

The place where we call home is far less important than the Person with whom we are home.

The most beautiful part of his message was that God moves His people, but He never leaves us. He is always with us wherever we are. Whether a palace or a furnace situation…He is with us.

“The next stage of our journey begins in two weeks. Stay on the path. Remain in the journey. God will walk with you every step of the way.” – Pastor Nieporte

[Your prayers are much appreciated for the dear church family of Patterson Ave. Baptist Church. Also for their pastor, Bill Nieporte, who not only loses his church family, but his work as their pastor, too.]

Now…back to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego:

When Bart Millard, lead singer of the Christian band MercyMe, wrote the lyrics to Even If, he had to have been inspired by those young men who went through fire, believing God alone was worthy of their worship. That story is riveting because God did save Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (in fact, He, in some form, walked with them through the fire). However, God did not save them FROM the fire but THROUGH the fire.Photo Credit: YouTube, MercyMe

Millard’s own life and family experiences have at times been a saving “through the fire”.

“God is worthy long before any of those circumstances even showed up. In fact, what Christ has already done on the cross is probably the only thing we need to get through those circumstances. It’s a foundation that was built long before those difficulties came to be. This song is a declaration to God that even if He went silent and never said another word, He’s still worthy to be praised and that He’s our greatest hope in the midst of the trial.” Bart Millard

Worship with me, please.

They say sometimes you win some
Sometimes you lose some
And right now
Right now I’m losing bad

I’ve stood on this stage
Night after night
Reminding the broken
It’ll be alright
But right now
Oh right now I just can’t

It’s easy to sing
When there’s nothing to bring me down
But what will I say
When I’m held to the flame
Like I am right now

I know You’re able
And I know You can
Save through the fire
With Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Good thing
A little faith is all I have right now

But God when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Give me the strength
To be able to sing
It is well with my soul

I know the sorrow
I know the hurt
Would all go away
If You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

You’ve been faithful
You’ve been good
All of my days
Jesus, I will cling to You
Come what may
‘Cause I know You’re able
I know You can

It is well with my soul*

YouTube Video – Even If – MercyMe – Heart Behind the Song

*Lyrics – Even If

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

Photo Credit: Amazon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Wide Open Country

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worship Wednesday – I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day – Casting Crowns

Blog - I Heard the Bells - Worship Wednesday

Photo Credit: CastingCrowns.com

Adapted from the Archives

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord… And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” – Luke 2:10-11, 13-14

In December, 1863, American poet and scholar Henry W. Longfellow received his wounded son home from battle. It was Christmas time, and the U.S. Civil War raged on. Having already lost his wife years earlier, Longfellow nursed his son, Charley, back to health. His own thoughts, in turmoil over all that was happening around him, he poured out in the poem “Christmas Bells”.

Longfellow clearly took comfort from God as he wrote, ending the poem with this stanza:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
        The Wrong shall fail,
        The Right prevail,
    With peace on earth, good-will to men.”*

I Heard the Bells is a Christmas carol, not a worship anthem. Yet, given the continuing wars and hardships of our day, we must tend the fires of our hope. God is the “lifter of our heads” (Psalm 3:3). He is the One who gives strength to our “weak hands and shaking knees” (Isaiah 35:3). He will do as He’s promised. He is faithful. When you hear the bells ring where you are this Christmas season, take heart in that. We must continue to pray for His peace on earth…and in our own hearts.  We can be vessels of His good-will toward our neighbors, both very near…and far away.

Worship with me…

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (Lyric video)

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth good will to men

And the bells are ringing (Peace on Earth)
Like a choir they’re singing (Peace on Earth)
In my heart I hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men

But the bells are ringing (Peace on Earth)
Like a choir singing (Peace on Earth)
Does anybody hear them?
Peace on earth, good will to men

Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep (Peace on Earth, peace on Earth)
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men

Then ringing singing on its way

The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men

And the bells they’re ringing (Peace on Earth)
Like a choir they’re singing (Peace on Earth)
And with our hearts we’ll hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

Do you hear the bells they’re ringing? (Peace on Earth)
The life the angels singing (Peace on Earth)
Open up your heart and hear them (Peace on Earth)
Peace on earth, good will to men

Peace on earth, Peace on earth
Peace on earth, Good will to men

YouTube Video – Casting Crowns performing I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Casting Crowns’ Mark Hall On Christmas (Teaching Vignettes)

Christmas Carol Soldier – Story of Charley Appleton Longfellow & the occasion for H. W. Longfellow’s writing of the poem/lyric

The Story Behind I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day – Tom Stewart

*Longfellow’s poem Christmas Bells

Worship Wednesday – You Are Faithful – From David Crowder’s Neon Steeple Album

blog-you-are-faithful-cardensdesign-saved2000Photo Credit: CardensDesign; Saved2000

Let them praise His name with dancing; Let them sing praises to Him with timbrel and lyre. For the LORD takes pleasure in His people. – Psalm 149:2-3

And David danced before the Lord with all his might. – 2 Samuel 6:14

The last time I danced in public was with my son at his wedding…but there are times when I’ve come close to just letting loose…and here’s why.

The seriousness and sorrow in this life can draw us down without our even being aware. Then…when our attention is drawn back to God, and the wonder of His beauty and love and constancy…even the hard of life takes on a different hue.

Joy in knowing God and the truth of His Word sometimes just takes us out of ourselves and into worship. Our arms go up, hands raised to Heaven. Our bodies sway maybe. Our feet throw their own party.blog-dancing-in-the-church-fred-luterPhoto Credit: Blog.al

When worshiping with the gathered church, I’m pretty reserved…not wanting to draw attention to myself in any way. Still…unbridled joy might make us come outside of ourselves at times.

Yet Jesus himself said “the very stones would cry out” in worship…if we are silent (Luke 19:40). For those who observe a jubilant gathering of God’s singing church and think it odd, we are just trying to stay ahead of nature. Declaring and reveling in His magnificent glory.

David Crowder‘s music and how he (with writers Cash and Bentley) describes God resonate with my heart so much…it makes me feel like dancing!blog-david-crowder-godtubePhoto Credit: GodTube

Worship this great God with me.

Never moving like a mountain
Never ending like the sea
Like a sunrise, bringing blue skies
Your light is all around me

Though I’m prone to leave Your side
You chase me like the tide

You are constant in my wandering
You are brighter than the dark in me
You are the love that sets me free
You are faithful, You are faithful, You are

Ever waiting for the weary
Ever wanting them to see
There’s ransom, there’s forgiveness
Your hope is all around me

Though I’m prone to leave Your side
You draw me like the tide

You are constant in my wandering
You are brighter than the dark in me
You are the love that sets me free
You are faithful, You are faithful, You are

Never leaving or forsaking, You are
Holding me when the waves are crashing, You are
Pulling me like gravity into Your arms
Into Your arms, into Your arms

You are constant in my wandering
You are brighter than the dark in me
You are the love that sets me free
You are faithful, You are faithful, You are*

Joy…overflowing in my heart! Thank You, God.

*Lyrics to You Are – Written by Hank Bentley, Ed Cash and David Crowder

Crowder Music

Album Neon Steeple by David Crowder of Crowder Music

My Favorite 10 Crowder Songs of All Times by Elise Cleary

Saturday Short – Refugee Olympic Team – #Rio2016

BLog - Refugee Olympic Team Rio 2016 - abcPhoto Credit: ABC News

Ten athletes. 4 women; 6 men. The 2016 Summer Olympic Games, in Brazil have begun, and for the first time ever there will actually be a refugee team represented.

“These refugees have no home, no team, no flag, no national anthem,” IOC president Thomas Bach said. “We will offer them a home in the Olympic Village.”ABC News

The Refugee Olympic Team is a group of young people that have endured war and all the loss that comes with it. They are:

  • Yusra Mardini and Rami Anis – Swimmers, Syria
  • Popole Misenga and Yolande Bukasa Mabika – Judoka, Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Yonas Kinde – Marathoner, Ethiopia
  • James Nyang Chiengjiek, Yiech Pur Biel, Paulo Amotun Lokoro, Rose Nathike Lokonyen, and Angelina Nada Lohalith – Runners, South Sudan

To get to know them better, read Christopher Zumski Finke‘s fascinating article on how they survived their adversity and all came together (including video of the athletes themselves telling their stories). Some of the stories are chilling.

We all have our favorite teams and athletes, and the Refugee Olympic Team is now on my short list. #Rio2016 – a hashtag full of hope satisfied and dreams fulfilled.

First Ever Refugee Team to Compete at the Olympics – Christopher Zumski Finke

Blog - REfugee Team - Uplift ConnectPhoto Credit: Uplift Connect

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

Worship Wednesday – My Story – Big Daddy Weave

Blog - My Story CoverPhoto Credit: YouTube.com

Stories of people’s lives are so fascinating – the journey itself, the intersections of chance and providence, the losses and gains, and all the faces…all the faces and places along the way.

Mike Weaver, of the band Big Daddy Weave, and Jason Ingram have written this beautiful song My Story that illustrates something of how our story gets woven across time. There is actually very little “chance” involved. Even our failures and missed opportunities become priceless threads in the finished texture of a life.

If I told you my story it would include the bewilderment of a little girl abandoned by her daddy while still at home with us. I was second of four children, the only girl. My mother was beautiful in every way a child could understand. She loved us fiercely and cared for us alone…for what seemed a forever, for a child. Then my step-dad entered our lives, and I understood the love of a father for the first time.

Not long after that, we were welcomed into a circle of neighbors who invited us to their church. This was an altogether different experience for us, and it was among those people that I was introduced to God. It was then that something new and yet strangely familiar came to me…still a little girl. A God-love, an other-world kind of love that pulled me close…closer than even the tender protective hug of my sweet mama. A love that I recognized was present with me even, especially, in the years of hard. God.

He was there all along…and He didn’t give up on us. He will never abandon us.Blog - Worship Wednesday - My StoryPhoto Credit: YouTube.com

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).Ephesians 2:4-5

…and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:6-10

My story, like that of the song My Story, is infused and bubbles over with a love that has altered my life forever…

Blog - My Story - mrsandyrossPhoto Credit: MrsAndyRoss

Worship with me:

If I told you my story
You would hear hope that wouldn’t let go
If I told you my story
You would hear love that never gave up
If I told you my story
You would hear life but it wasn’t mine

If I should speak then let it be

Of the grace that is greater than all my sin
Of when justice was served and where mercy wins
Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in
To tell you my story is to tell of Him

If I told you my story
You would hear victory over the enemy
If told you my story
You would hear freedom that was won for me
If I told you my story
You would hear life overcome the grave

If I should speak then let it be
This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long*

Blog - My Story - Beautiful Offerings AlbumPhoto Credit: YouTube.com

What is your story? My prayer is that you also see that God has etched Himself into every circumstance of your life. He is here with us…always. I would love to hear your story…

[Postscript: The last line of the song My Story comes from the song Blessed Assurance, a great old hymn all our kids know and sing along with us. Don’t miss that one, if you don’t know it – in links below.]

*My Story – Behind the Song with Kevin Davis, New Release Today

YouTube Video – My Story (Lyrics) – Big Daddy Weave

To Tell You My Story Is To Tell You Of Him – Mrs. Andy Ross

YouTube Video – Blessed Assurance – CeCe Winans and Terrence Blanchard – Cicely Tyson Kennedy Center Honors

YouTube Video – Blessed Assurance – Third Day with lyrics

Worship Wednesday – I Am Yours, and You Are Mine – Oceans – Revisited

Blog - Kari Jobe - OceansKari Jobe, singing Oceans

[Adapted from a blog I wrote here.]

Thus says the Lord:  “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God…” Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea and a path through the mighty waters.Isaiah 43:1-2, 16

“Fear not” is the most frequent command of God found in His Word. “Fear not” – over 200 times. It’s not that hard to understand how it is He calls us not to fear but to trust Him in our circumstances.

There are times we just can’t see above the waves of our life…maybe it’s not our own storm but the storm others we love are passing through. The critical need to make a decision. The (re-)entrusting of work into the hands of God…or the hands of another. The walking into a future that’s shrouded from our sight… It always has been an unknown, but it seems more so today.

The truest reality is that there is still nothing to fear, really. God is with us. He went before us, preparing for where we are today. He will prepare for our tomorrows. He calls us to keep our eyes on Him.

My husband and his work team are going through such a glorious season (if I may call it that). There is nowhere to look but to Jesus.

It is such a season where God’s call to not fear and have faith stills our heart and steadies our resolve like no other time.

Dave wrote his team this email recently:

“I keep thinking of the account in Matthew 14 of Peter walking to Jesus on the water.  It is pretty amazing that Peter got out of the boat and walked to Jesus.  He actually got all the way across the water to Jesus.  As he was walking on water in the midst of that storm Peter must have been intensely focused on Jesus.  When he got to Jesus, it seems that he momentarily lost focus, turned and looked at everything around him.  At that point, his fear overwhelmed him and he began to sink.  As Peter cried out for help, ‘Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him.’  When Peter’s faith failed, Jesus grabbed him and pulled him back.  In recent days, I have been thinking a lot about that story.  Like Peter, when I am looking at Jesus, I’m good to go.  When I look at what is around me, I become afraid and distracted.  When I call out to Jesus, He rescues me.  So the stresses and challenges make me recognize my dependence on the Lord and push me closer to Him.  For that I can be grateful.  Let’s keep encouraging each other to run well (Hebrews 12:1-2).  I thank God for all of you and for the privilege of running with such great brothers and sisters.”

I was also reminded recently of the Apostle Paul’s letter to his “son” Timothy where he encouraged him to be confident in this:

“It is He who saved us and chose us for His holy work not because we deserved it but because that was His plan long before the world began — to show his love and kindness to us through Christ.” – 2 Timothy 1:9

We are in a time of making hard work decisions. In an organizational downsizing, some will be retiring soon. Many leave a work they love and face a very different future – both which they will  entrust to the God who will show Himself trustworthy. For those staying on the job, these may also see their work change. The phrase, “there will be lots of holes to plug” is something meant to comfort those remaining. It’s more how does anyone “fill the shoes” of those leaving? Those seasoned, revered “old” ones…

Tempted to fear…No, fear not.

I love words…and was delighted when my friend, Alicia, gave me a piece of art she made just for me. It is a line from the song Oceans sung by Kari Jobe. I didn’t know that song until we, together with other close friends, attended a night of worship featuring Jobe.

“When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace.”

Blog - Kari Jobe - Oceans 2

Lord, give us ears to hear You even amidst rolling waves and raging seas. Fill us with Your faithfulness.

Worship with me:

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

(Chorus)
And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

(Chorus)

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

(Chorus)

“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”Jeremiah 29:11-13

Oceans Lyrics – song writers – Matt Crocker, Joel Houston, and Salomon Ligthelm

YouTube Video with Lyrics – Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) – Hillsong United – Lyrics – Zion 2013

YouTube Video with Lyrics – Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) – Hillsong United – with Lyrics – with powerpoint of ocean waves

Worship Wednesday – You Are Everything – by Matthew West with an Amen from Priscilla Shirer

Blog - You Are Everything

His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:3

For us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.1 Corinthians 8:6

Don’t you love those nights when you fall into bed, snuggle into sheets, and, close your eyes, satisfied with your day? Then as seems right, sleep comes immediately. That is usually my experience, with a bit of roll-call prayer to God.

Last night was my other nighttime experience. Eyes wide open. Mind on alert. Whether I needed sleep or not, it would not come until so many people, situations, concerns, and fears rolled through my consciousness. My Mom would tell me of many nights like this…she was a worrier. She also taught me how to pray for such times. So I did.

For that dear friend whose cancer is raging. For parents with health issues. For children with job issues. For Muslim friends in Ramadan. For leaders at work. For my country, and this strange culture. For myself. Oh, God, am I tracking with You or off doing my own silly thing?

Somewhere between sleeplessness and morning, God’s peace fell on me. On waking, the few hours of sleep seemed enough, and I woke with Him on my mind.

I heard a long time ago that “if you can’t sleep, pray. The devil would rather stop disturbing your thoughts than have you find God there.” Whatever happens in those nights when sleep doesn’t come, I have found something extraordinary can follow. The situations that keep me awake are still real in the morning, but God is even more real. His presence is the sweetest thing I have ever known.

He is everything to me. It doesn’t always seem so, as I busy myself with the activities of the day. It may not feel so as self-centered thoughts push to the forefront. Still…a moment of quiet. A Bible verse remembered. A friend’s speaking truth to my heart. God draws near.

Missing a little sleep is nothing compared with His presence in those moments. His love in the battle.

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:37-39

Priscilla Shirer knows:

Worship with me through this song by Matthew West:

I am the one with two left feet
Standing on a lonely street
I can’t even walk a straight line
And every time you look at me
I’m spinning like an autumn leaf
Bound to hit bottom sometime

Where would I be without someone to save me
Someone who won’t let me fall

You are everything that I live for
Everything that I can’t believe is happening
You’re standing right in front of me
With arms wide open
All I know is
Every day is filled with hope
‘Cause You are everything that I believe for
And I can’t help but breathe you in
Breathe again
Feeling all this life within
Every single beat of my heart

I am the one with big mistakes
Big regrets and bigger breaks
Than I ever care to confess
Oh but, You’re the one who looks at me
And sees what I was meant to be
More than just a beautiful mess

Oh, where would I be without someone to save me
Someone who won’t let me fall

You are everything that I live for
Everything that I can’t believe is happening
You’re standing right in front of me
With arms wide open
All I know is
Every day is filled with hope
‘Cause You are everything that I believe for
And I can’t help but breathe you in
Breathe again

Feeling all this life within
Every single beat of my heart
You’re everything good in my life
Everything honest and true
And all of those stars hanging up in the sky
Could never shine brighter than

You are everything that I live for
Everything that I can’t believe is happening
You’re standing right in front of me
With arms wide open
All I know is
Every day is filled with hope
You are everything that I believe for
And I can’t help but breathe you in
Breathe again
Feeling all this life within
Every single beat of my heart
You are
Oh, You are
Jesus, You are
You are everything

Lyrics to You Are Everything – Writers: Linda Creed, Matthew West, Thom Bell, Sam Mizell

YouTube Video – Who’s Your Daddy? He Is. – Priscilla Shirer

YouTube Video – That’s My King – Dr. S. M. Lockridge [Official]

YouTube Video – You Are Everything – Matthew West (with Lyrics)

YouTube Video – Matthew West’s Testimony and Acoustic Rendition of You Are Everything

Matthew West

Priscilla Shirer

Photo Credit: Sparrow Records, en.wikipedia.org

Cancer, Hospice…and All Those Beautiful Moments

Blog - Hospice - Kara TippettsA good writer does more than draw you into her story. A good writer can illuminate parts of your own story, as you resonate with hers. Kara Tippetts is a young woman I only know through her writing, but, because of her writing, my understanding of God and life and love has become even richer. It’s improbable that we will meet this side of Heaven, but I know her as if she were a good neighbor…or even a close friend. She is that transparent…and more. Kara is luminous; she is full of light and shines that light into a dark place.

For you see, Kara has a breast cancer that will not let go of her. Still she will also not let go of God. She was diagnosed not long ago, just in 2012, but not two years later, and all the treatments have been exhausted. Barring a miraculous touch from God, she will die of this disease. Yet, Kara is one of the most alive women I have ever encountered. Read more of her story for yourself.

Where I resonate with her story, at this moment of my life, relates to her experience with hospice. When you think of someone needing hospice, you might not think of a young mom, deeply in love with her husband and four children who is still writing and squeezing every bit of good out of life. However, this is where Kara is…needing hospice.

My mom, only in the last 3 days of her life, had hospice support at home, and we were so thankful. Even after many years as a cancer nurse, it meant everything having those good and kind people around us. We leaned on them, especially I leaned on them. No matter what competency I had in care-giving…it was my mama this time, and my mind was numb. Now, years later, my dad has his turn with hospice. His cancer, diagnosed 10 years ago, has returned, and no more tests or treatments are planned for our dear 92 years young dad. Hospice is again our (and his) strong support.

Back to Kara, I want to leave you with her beautiful insight about having no more treatment options and fully supported by hospice:

It felt like a huge blow when my oncologist said it was time for me to enter hospice care. It felt like quitting. I felt like my body had failed and I was being pulled from the team and being benched. Benched in an awful permanent way…I was wrong. Hospice care has been truly amazing…It’s just an adjustment. A hard adjustment to go from treatment, tests, and fighting to not knowing and comfort…Now my fight is a passive one, now I’m fighting for good moments. My fight is for time and tenderness with my loves. My fight is to embrace the good moments hospice is giving me and loving my people well. It’s important – these moments.

Pray with us all for Kara and her family. She even signed a contract recently to write another book (or two). I so want to read that book. Also I want to express gratitude for all you who care for patients and families “in the midst of life’s hard“*. For many years, it was my joy to work alongside you. You extend the hands of God to those who need His loving touch.Blog - hospice - hero - from Survive and Thrive Cancer Support Groups

Photo Credits – Kara Tippetts’ Blog & Survive and Thrive Cancer Support Groups Facebook page

Kara’s Breast Cancer Story

*Kara Tippetts’ Book The Hardest Peace – Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard

Survive and Thrive Cancer Support Groups – a life-affirming cancer support system in Kingsport, Tn. Many, many years ago, I helped lead a support group called Take Time…to Help, to Heal.  Really, those patients, families, nurses, and friends taught me so much more than I did them. The Survive and Thrive groups came out of that earlier group, under the continuing leadership of Kathryn Whitt Visneski.

Blog - Blessings & Hospice