Tag Archives: Jesus

Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day Forever Marred by School Shooting – One Mom Reaches Out to Comfort

Photo Credit: John Ragai, Flickr

Guest Blogger: Carrie McKean

[The image described in the post below appears to have been taken down by the Associated Press. This Facebook posting below was so beautiful, I reached out to the writer and she gave permission to post it here. McKean begins by talking about this lovely visibly distraught mother comforting another mother. My hope is that she did not lose a child yesterday. She is wearing a silver heart (for Valentine’s Day) around her neck and the ashen cross on her forehead from a visit to her parish church that Ash Wednesday morning. The rest of the post is easily understood given the school shooting yesterday in Florida, leaving 17 dead and a dozen or more injured. News outlets and social media today are slammed with public outcry and political jockeying. McKean, the writer of the post below, eloquently speaks her response to this devastating loss.]

I can’t get her face out of my mind. Sobs wracking her body as she stands outside her child’s school, clutching a friend as though they have discovered the only truth there is to know: The only way through this war zone is if we carry one another. Her head is smeared with ashes. From dust you came, to dust you return.

I saw the picture when the ashes were still fresh on my own skin. And I thought about the moment my pastor drew his thumb across my head – reminding me of my mortality and my security in the no-matter-whatness of God. Despite the somber words I certainly didn’t consider, as little specks of ash fluttered down and brushed my eyelashes, that I might leave the church and end up in the ER or in an accident or getting a phone call that takes me to my knees. And this mama, with her pretty white-flowered shirt and silver heart necklace, certainly didn’t consider that she might leave the church and end up on the front lawn of her child’s school with her heart broken apart, begging God for one more day with her baby… for more life out of this dust.

We need a savior, and as we start the long march of Lent that leads us to the cross, we know Jesus is coming to break the shackles and the bonds and restore all that’s broken. But you don’t need a savior if nothing is shackled, bound or broken. So Lent starts in repentance. Did the shooter know the day he chose? Did he choose Valentine’s Day for a reason? Was his heart so broken that he felt like the only way through the war zone was to take others out? Oh God, we need to repent… for not recognizing our own part in this tragedy.

Talking heads are already starting to argue. Is it mental health or gun control? Hurry, pick your side. We retreat into corners and start pointing fingers. Thoughts and prayers sound hollow when these shootings have become so commonplace that they are just another blip on a relentless cycle of terrible news. We wring our hands and sigh and then we forget. It doesn’t even come up at dinner. Ashes. It’s all ashes. We’re going down in flames. Screaming louder and louder at one another as if we think the only way through this war zone is to pull someone else down so we can climb on top. Oh God, we need to repent… for being so afraid that we won’t be heard that we can’t even listen.

As bullets ricocheted off classroom doors and lockers in Florida yesterday, I walked down the locker-lined halls of my daughter’s school. A first grade Valentine’s Party is pure sweetness and light and sugar. We had the kids do an activity where they each drew the name of a classmate and listed out some of their favorite things about that child. As they exchanged cards, I saw eyes light up and broad smiles spread across frosting-smeared faces. One little girl said reading the card she was given made her feel happy and bubbly inside. I looked around the room and wanted to freeze time. To keep these little kids little – tender and eager and open-hearted and bubbly. In 10 years, which one will be the loner? The misfit? The outcast? The popular one who uses his or her platform to push someone else down? Oh God, we need to repent… for letting kids fall through the cracks.

I returned from the party to our church which is positioned across the street from one of our city’s high schools. The day before, the same high school was on lockdown because someone brought a gun to school. A trigger away from a tragedy. Each day after school, hundreds of students – maybe even the one who brought a weapon to school – traipse through our building to the free soda fountains. A ministry of carbonated beverages. I sat down at a table and played UNO with some kids whose stories brim with sadness and mistakes and bad choices and loss, covered in a veneer of bravado and toughness. How close have I been to a kid who is screaming to be seen and known and loved and valued and is a hair-trigger away from exploding their grief outwards and propelling us to the national headlines? For all their toughness, I can’t help but wonder if anyone gave them a card when they were seven that listed out all the best things about them? Oh God, we need to repent… for being too busy to engage the hurting and the lonely.

We may be mere dust, but we are each dust formed into the image of a living, breathing God. We may be returning to dust, but we each know this life is precious and deserves protection. God forgive us for forgetting our own worth. Forgive us for forgetting the worth of those around us. Forgive us for failing to see your reflection in the eyes of the stiff-shouldered, clouded-eye high school kid whose hoodie is pulled up, guarding him from the world but not containing the pain metastasizing-into-anger that is seeping out of his soul. Forgive us for giving into polarization and assuming that since “they” aren’t doing anything to solve the problem, we can’t do anything either.

Father, forgive us.

And help us remember: The only way through this war zone is to carry one another.

Carrie McKean

These Are the Victims of the Florida High School Shooting – Alexandra Ma

At Least 17 Dead After Troubled Former Student Allegedly Opens Fire on Florida High School – Nina Golgowski, Sebastian Murdock, and Carla Herreria

Worship Wednesday – O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus – a Valentine’s Day Reflection

Photo Credit: Gauton Photography, Daily Mail

Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
    your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
    your judgments are like the great deep;
    man and beast you save, O Lord.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
    The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.Psalm 36:5-7

I love Valentine’s Day. Maybe, more than anything, it is a bright red, shiny day that punctures the many gray ones of winter. Being married now for many years, the season of longing for love should be long forgotten. It is not. I remember.

The funny thing about the years of singleness – the many Valentine’s Days spent more with great girlfriends than with a guy – was the weathered joy in them. The loneliness and seeming “not belonging to someone” brought keen awareness of the contrasting actual truth that I was NOT alone. Indeed, I was loved more deeply than ever possible by another human as needy as me.

On this Worship Wednesday, on Valentine’s Day, I’m drawn back to an old hymn. One actually that only became familiar to me during our years in Egypt, worshiping with British expats. They brought their beloved hymns into our collective worship experience.

Englishman Samuel Trevor Francis penned,  in King James English, a beautiful hymn extolling the love of Christ. The lyrics are so powerful and life-giving. You can just hear the great church organ of the past pounding out the beat and breadth of the melody…and the message of love we find in Jesus.

Please worship with me. The Christian band Selah has prepared an updated version for us, retaining the feel of the old hymn. The lyrics and music to accompany are found here.

1 O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
vast, unmeasured, boundless, free,
rolling as a mighty ocean
in its fullness over me.
Underneath me, all around me,
is the current of Thy love;
leading onward, leading homeward
to my glorious rest above.

2 O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth,
changeth never, nevermore!
How He watcheth o’er His loved ones,
died to call them all His own;
how for them He intercedeth,
watcheth o’er them from the throne.

3 O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
love of ev’ry love the best;
’tis an ocean vast of blessing,
’tis a haven sweet of rest.
O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
’tis heav’n of heav’ns to me;
and it lifts me up to glory,
for it lifts me up to Thee.*

The trappings of Valentine’s Day will leave you a little empty… unsatisfied, no matter your situation. Find the great love of God the refuge and shelter He means to be for each of us.

He will cover you with His feathers; you will take refuge under His wings. His faithfulness will be a protective shield. – Psalm 91:4

Photo Credit: Kensington Gardens

*Lyrics to O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus – S. Trevor Francis

Postscript: Another favorite hymn of mine is How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – below find Selah’s version of this one as well.

How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – Selah – YouTube Lyric Video

Worship Wednesday – Anxiety, Holding On, & Reclaiming Perspective

Photo Credit: The Blue Diamond Gallery

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame!
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me, and save me! Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. – Psalm 71:1-3

Throughout my career in nursing, I have cared for people in pain and crisis. That care was guided by an undergirding definition of pain as “whatever the experiencing person says it is, existing whenever and wherever the person say it does” [Margo McCaffery]

The same can be said about anxiety…except that anxiety can spiral wildly out of control away from what may be true at the moment to the worst possible expression of that thought or reality. This makes the pain of anxiety both poignant and problematic for the one experiencing it and for those who care for that person.

[I’ve written about anxiety previously here.]

For any of us, anxiety can present as a dull dread or a fearful fret that robs us of sleep and solace. When unchecked (and even when we try to rein it in), anxiety can expand to full-on panic. We struggle to think clearly, bereft of our normal control. We can’t get our breath back…or our mind.

Then with the comfort of a friend drawing near, speaking truth into our jumbled thoughts, or just being there with us, praying…light punctures the darkness and the fog lifts. If not altogether, some better. At times, especially in the night, God himself wraps His own arms around us and helps us recall what is true in the noise of what is not.Anxiety, Fear, PanicPhoto Credit: Azzah B. A., Sketchport

Sometimes anxiety requires clinical intervention for a season (either counseling or medication). I know what helps me, but I wouldn’t presume that what I can advise is what you need right this minute.

Dave Radford‘s piece What Would God Say to Your Anxiety? did strike a chord for me this morning. He reminds of the importance of perspective. That said, I know how hard reclaiming perspective in the midst of panic requires incredible resolve and clarity. Hard in panic. Still, if you can, reading his counsel might prove helpful.

[One caution: He seemed to be preaching to himself when he used the expression “navel-gazing”. I have not seen much navel-gazing in loved ones in the grip of anxiety or panic. Fixation on trying to get your breath or warring against destroying thoughts is NOT navel-gazing. So except for that…wise counsel:]

  • Look Behind You

When it comes to hope in the midst of struggle, God calls us to be a remembering people. If you spend even fifteen seconds gazing into your own past, it will begin to sparkle with ten thousand mercies reflecting off the waves of those memories (Lamentations 3:22). The sea of past grace dwells here, and welcomes us to come and drink, and remember as often as we need to.Photo Credit: Kate Nasser, Twitter

  • Look Before You

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for” (Hebrews 11:1). Though we can only see it “in a mirror dimly” (1 Corinthians 13:12), our future is, to put it very mildly, mind-blowing. We may not have every detail, but we have more than enough here from which to draw joy and confidence for today.

  • Look Back Down to Your Life Now

Look back to your life now. See your current set of troubles through past and future lenses, and add these other promises to the mix. This is what Scripture says is true of you now. Inside of you is “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). The power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in your being (Ephesians 1:19–20). You have the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23). You cannot lose your standing with God. You are an adopted son or daughter of the King (Galatians 4:5–6). God’s lavish grace has been measured out for you according to God’s infinite wisdom, in just the right proportion and scheduled perfectly to meet your exact needs, whatever they may be (Matthew 6:33–34). God is weaving all things together for your greatest good, and equipping you with all that you need to accomplish his will (Romans 8:28; Philippians 4:19).*

*Dave RadfordWhat Would God Say to Your Anxiety?

Anciety, Perspective, Sacha ChuaPhoto Credit: Sacha Chua, Flickr

Worship with me, if you can, to a song written by Dave Radford.

If I took all that I got
And spread it out on this table
It might not seem like a lot
A once glimmering joy
Slowly fading from view
All the change in my pockets, not enough
And this picture of you
Still I’ve heard all that I have
In the moment is hardly a sign
Of everything coming my way
I believe when I need it, it will be mine

So let’s take this slowly
All I need is coming
But it’s just beyond what I can see
So if my eyes press forward in fierce alarm
Just turn my head back to see
To see how we got this far
And I’ll be alright

I’m not asking for mountains of riches
No silver or gold
Don’t need fame or fancier things
I can’t take when I go
I’m just asking for grace
Grace to carry on
Grace to take joy at my place at the table
And the rock that it’s standing on
Still I’ve heard all that I have
In a moment is hardly a sign
Of everything coming my way
I believe when I need it, it will be mine

So let’s take this slowly
All I need is coming
But it’s just beyond what I can see
So if my eyes press forward in fierce alarm
Just turn my head back to see
To see how we got this far
And I’ll be alright

And even when I’m broke down
Even when what I’ve got now
Is falling faster down beneath the cracks
And I don’t know when it’s coming back around
Even then I’ll be calling out louder
Loud enough to wake ’em up
Believing I believe I will see it done
I believe what I will hold
What I hold will be enough
Will be enough

So let’s take this slowly
All I need is coming
But it’s just beyond what I can see
So if my eyes press forward in fierce alarm
Just turn my head back to see
To see how we got, got this far
And I’ll be alright
It’s gonna be alright
It’s gonna be alright
It’s gonna be alright**

Praying peace and joy for those struggling with anxiety today…knowing it’s not a simple thing.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

[Postscript: If any of you care to comment below on what your experiences are and what helps/doesn’t help, we who read them will learn and be grateful.]

Worship Wednesday – On Anxiety – My Anchor – Christy Nockels

**Lyrics to Take This Slowly – The Gray Havens

YouTube Video – Take This Slowly w/ Lyrics

The Gray Havens

 

 

 

Worship Wednesday – Come to the Table – Sidewalk Prophets

Photo Credit: Flickr

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” –  Revelation 19:9

That experience of being on the outside looking in can be excruciating. You know what it is…when someone draws a circle that shuts you out”. What Jesus does for us is as opposite as it’s possible for us to be – He invites us in. He “draws a circle and takes us in“.

Sunday, at the end of our church service on “Race and the Gospel“, the worship team led us in Chris Tomlin‘s song Even So ComeThe lyric line below really gripped my heart.Photo Credit: YouTube

“Like a bride waiting for her groom”. One day, Scripture states that Jesus will return for us. He is coming as a bridegroom for His bride. What will he look like? Well, he will definitely look familiar to us – a person of color that somehow we will all be able to relate to. And what will we look like – this bride he is coming for?

After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were robed in white with palm branches in their hands.Revelation 7:9

We will, as his bride, be a people of many colors, tribes, and languages. Dressed in white with bouquets of palm branches.

All invited to his banquet table. A place for each of us. A place for all of us who respond to his invitation…yes. No one is lesser. No one is greater. None of us more deserving, none less. All sinners made beautiful again because of what Jesus did for us.Photo Credit: Pinterest

Yesterday, in the car again, listening to the radio again, I heard a song for the first time…again. It’s Sidewalk ProphetsCome to the Table. The lyrics remind us that “we all start on the outside looking in”. Whatever you think of the Jesus as bridegroom and the church (each one of us) as his bride, there is nothing like having a place. Belonging. Being invited in. No longer an outsider.

That is what Christ has given us. He has restored us to Himself and has united us together in that bond of reconciliation as well.

Worship with me please. Come to the table He has prepared for us.

We all start on the outside
The outside looking in
This is where grace begins
We were hungry, we were thirsty
With nothing left to give
Oh the shape that we were in
Just when all hope seemed lost
Love opened the door for us

He said come to the table
Come join the sinners who have been redeemed
Take your place beside the Savior
Sit down and be set free
Come to the table

Come meet this motley crew of misfits
These liars and these thiefs
There’s no one unwelcome here
So that sin and shame that you brought with you
You can leave it at the door
Let mercy draw you near

Come to the table
Come join the sinners who have been redeemed
Take your place beside the Savior
Sit down and be set free
Come to the table
Come to the table

To the thief and to the doubter
To the hero and the coward
To the prisoner and the soldier
To the young and to the older
All who hunger, all who thirst
All the last and all the first
All the paupers and the princes
All who fail you’ve been forgiven
All who dream and all who suffer
All who loved and lost another
All the chained and all the free
All who follow, all who lead
Anyone who’s been let down
All the lost you have been found
All who have been labeled right or wrong
To everyone who hears this song

Ooh
Come to the table
Come join the sinners you have been redeemed
Take your place beside the Savior
Sit down and be set free
Oooh
Sit down and be set free
Come to the table
Come to the table
Just sit down and rest a while
Just sit down and rest a while
Come to the table*

Sometimes you get messages of “you don’t belong” from the world, and occasionally, sadly, from those in our family or the church. Remember what God says about you, and listen to truth (like what author Kristen Strong writes) –

Remaining still and receiving what the Lord wants to give us right now.

Remaining calm and refusing to feel anxious about our abilities or worth.

Remaining quiet in our own spirit as we lift up the spirits of others who need encouragement.

Because here’s the truth, dear ones:

You don’t have to try to move inside because you were never out.

You are in.

You are in.

You are in. – Kristen Strong

When we are secure in God’s invitation to “be in”, we can give grace to those around us figuring it all out as well. Even those, in the church, who don’t receive others not like them as “in”. If they are in Christ, they are in, too. Let the Lord sort it all out, and “come to the table.”

Lyrics to Come to the TableWriter: Dave Frey, Ben McDonald, Ben Glover

Sidewalk Prophets Website

Something Different Audio CD – Sidewalk Prophets

Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom, Past and Future – John Piper

On the Outside Looking In – Kristen Strong – (In)Courage

Photo Credit: Flickr

Saturday Short – This Blood – with Rachel Chapman

Photo Credit: Flickr

Probably the greatest offense of Christ to a disbelieving world is the cross. Why? Surely, the God of the universe could have orchestrated another way…a gentler, more palatable way to reconcile a wayward people back to Himself. How can we, mere mortals, prescribe to Creator God, a better way? God have mercy.

In our small understanding of the costly nature of sin and the priceless redemption available to us through Jesus, we are undone. A sinless savior. Paying our debt that we had no way to do it. To a holy God. God the Father, restoring us back to Himself, through the death of this precious One, Jesus.

Songwriter Rita Springer wrote a song entitled This Blood that exquisitely describes what Jesus did for us. There is something about this song that also brings together generations. Don’t miss how Springer describes the inspiration of this song and her personal experience of God in the process (here). She also talks about her heritage of parents and grandparents who loved God deeply and raised her up in the tradition of choirs singing of this great love.

Get ready for goosebumps. This song. This choir. This girl. This God:

There is a blood
That cost a life
That paid my way
Death its price
When it flowed
Down from the cross
My sins were gone
My sins forgot

There is a grave
That tried to hide
This precious blood
That gave me life
In Three Days
He breathed again
And rose to stand in my defense

So I come to tell you He’s alive
To tell you that He dries every tear that falls
So I come to tell you that He saves
To shout and to proclaim that He’s coming back for you
This Life, This Price, This Blood, This One

There is a Blood
That sights the blind
That Heals the sick
The lonely finds
It has the Power
To free the bound
As chains they fall
Upon the ground

So pour it out and
To cleanse my soul
And let’s liquid Glory flow
Because it lives
To make me whole
I owe my life
I owe my soul

So I come to tell you He’s alive
To tell you that He dries every tear that falls
So I come to tell you that He saves
To shout and to proclaim that He’s coming back for you
This Life, This Price, This Blood, This One

What can wash away my sin?

Nothing, nothing, nothing,

What can make me whole again?

Nothing but the blood of Jesus (x2)

There is a grave
That tried to hide
This precious blood
That gave me life
In Three Days
He breathed again
And rose to stand in my defense

So I come to tell you He’s alive
To tell you that He dries every tear that falls
So I come to tell you that He saves
To shout and to proclaim that He’s coming back for you
This Life, This Price, This Blood, This One*

[Postscript: I LOVE choirs. Grew up with them, singing in them. In recent years, praise teams have also affected for me an avenue to worship God. The thing is: it’s easy to just be caught up with the singers, the sound and the solace…and stop short of worshiping the God who inspired such singing. May we never stop short. Hallelujah!]

*Lyrics to This Blood – Songwriter Rita Springer

YouTube Video – Rita Springer – This Blood Song Story – listen to Springer’s testimony of how God gave her this song and how it resonated for her with the generations before – the hymn-singing generations – her parents and grandparents who loved God so.

YouTube Video – This Blood – First Baptist Church, Minden, Louisiana (this video features Rachel Chapman (embedded above)

YouTube Video – This Blood – First Baptist Jacksonville – with Soloist Terette Mitchell

New Year’s Eve Reflection on Auld Lang Syne

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Happy New Year! As this year winds down, we all look to the next with anticipation and hope. For many, tonight will be a partied out with friends. For us, it’s quiet…intentionally so. Pajamas, snack supper, fire in the fireplace, books, football, maybe a movie.

We’ve already reflected back over this past year…we’ve written out resolutions for the one coming…and now, we mark the few hours remaining until this year is finished and the next begins.

When the clock strikes midnight, a song will ring out, for sure in the English-speaking world. That song is Auld Lang Syne. We don’t even know all the lyrics or its exact origin, but it stirs our hearts to remember the gift of old friends. What a gift they are!

Old friends…including the one I’m spending this New Year’s Eve with…

Auld Lang Syne: Should Old Lyrics Be Forgot…What the Song Means, and Eight Things You Didn’t Know About It – Alice Vincent

Auld Lang Syne celebrates those relationships that get us through whatever a year brings. Old friends. Sometimes we find those friends in our families…and sometimes across oceans.

One thing I love about this song is how the melody also lends itself to different lyrics…especially when the lyrics call to remembrance the finest friend it is possible to have in one’s life.

Our lives can take a myriad of turns that take us far from the friends we love. Fortunately, wherever we are…no matter how peopled or solitary our seasons are…there is a friend who is near to us always.

Two Christian bands have put lyrics to this melody and those songs follow. Take heart in these words in a familiar tune. Celebrate with me – as this year closes and a new one begins, there is One unchangeable in His love for us. Constant. A friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Happy, happy New Year.

1) For All That You Have Done by Rend Collective

Your grace will never be forgot
Your mercy all my life
Will be my source forever song
My story and my light

From mountain top to valley low
Through laughter and through tears
Surely the goodness of my God
Will follow all the years

For all that You have done for us
For every battle won
We’ll raise a song to bless Your heart
For all that you have done

You know our failures and regrets
You always led us home
Redemption’s arm has raised us up
Our triumph in the storm

For all that You have done for us
For every battle won
We’ll raise a song to bless Your heart
For all that you have done

(You’re faithful through the ages)

In unity we’ll stand as one
As family we’ll go
Shoulder to shoulder
Hand in hand
Into the great unknown

For all that You have done for us
For every battle won
We’ll raise a song to bless Your heart
For all that you have done*

Lyrics to For All That You Have Done – Rend Collective

2) All Glory Be to Christ – Kings Kaleidoscope

Should nothing of our efforts stand
No legacy survive
Unless the Lord does raise the house
In vain its builders strive

To you who boast tomorrow’s gain
Tell me, What is your life?
A mist that vanishes at dawn
All glory be to Christ!

[Chorus]
All glory be to Christ our king!
All glory be to Christ!
His rule and reign we’ll ever sing
All glory be to Christ!

His will be done, His kingdom come
On earth as is above
Who is Himself our daily bread
Praise Him, the Lord of love

Let living water satisfy
The thirsty without price
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet
All glory be to Christ!

[Chorus]
All glory be to Christ our king!
All glory be to Christ!
His rule and reign we’ll ever sing
All glory be to Christ!

When on the day the great I Am
The faithful and the true
The Lamb who was for sinners slain
Is making all things new

Behold our God shall live with us
And be our steadfast light
And we shall e’er his people be
All glory be to Christ!

[Chorus]
All glory be to Christ our king!
All glory be to Christ!
His rule and reign we’ll ever sing
All glory be to Christ!*

*Lyrics to All Glory Be to Christ – Kings Kaleidoscope

Worship Wednesday – How Many Kings? – Downhere

[From the Archives]

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

Two out of so many favorite December experiences are Christmas songs on the radio and Christmas cards in my mailbox. For some maybe, all that Christmas music on various stations gets old…but for me, it’s a continual feast. Then those old-fashioned cards in red or green stamped envelopes transform our mailbox from bill and junk mail holders to a wonder of news from friends and family.

[Most of the images you see on this blog are from treasured old Christmas cards.]

The song How Many Kings, out since 2009, by the Canadian Christian band Downhere is one of my Christmas favorites. I’m so thankful my favorite radio station is playing this one lately. The lyrics allude to a visitation of some number of wise men from the Far East. Through their knowledge of both the ancient Scriptures (Micah 5:2)and the stars of Heaven, they were able to chart a course right to the baby Jesus, in his home in Bethlehem. How Many Kings speaks of their amazement and wonder…and ours…at the coming of the Christ Child. It is the story of such love as God had…has…for us in that even His own son He would not withhold from us…to make a path for us back to Him.IMG_0048

God sent His son to us. Our triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – perfectly One in unity through the ages – would somehow include 33 years of life on earth to bring Himself close to us. God with skin on – that we might understand better what love looks like and how we can live because of that love… Glory! Blog - Worship Wednesday - What KingsPhoto Credit: Quotesgram.com

Worship with me:

Follow the star to a place unexpected
Would you believe, after all we’ve projected, A child in a manger?
Lowly and small, the weakest of all
Unlikeliest hero, wrapped in his mother’s shawl – Just a child – Is this who we’ve waited for? ’cause…

How many kings step down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
And how many gods have poured out their hearts to romance a world that is torn all apart – how many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Bringing our gifts for the newborn Savior All that we have, whether costly or meek because we believe.
Gold for his honor, and frankincense for his pleasure and myrrh for the cross he will suffer Do you believe?
Is this who we’ve waited for?

Only one did that for me
All, all for me…
All for you…

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The band Downhere is currently on hiatus, but I want to thank you, Brothers, for this song…and thank You, God, for giving Your Son for me…for us all.Blog - How Many Kings - DownherePhoto Credit: Downhere.com

Lyrics to How Many Kings – Songwriters – Marc A. Martel and Jason Germain

Story Behind the Song How Many Kings

Bethlehem Skyline – album including How Many Kings

When Christmas Is Hard – the God of Comfort & Joy

On this predawn Christmas morning, my thoughts are heavy remembering a year ago when Dad died about this time. He died after a long goodbye with cancer and Alzheimer’s. He died under the tender care of my brother and sister-in-law who had already lost her own dad just days before.

Dad is in Heaven, and joy comes thinking of seeing him, Mom, and others there one day. The heaviness of my heart is just to be endured for now…I can’t seem to fix it. It’s been a year of not quite what it should be. Hard to even write those words because I am deeply grateful to God for even being here, in front of this keyboard, able to reflect on His goodness and provision.

Dad, in his sweet and generous heart, was one of those provisions. The only dad I ever knew, even though he wasn’t our biological father. He loved Christmas and brought to it a gleefulness that I can’t find this year.

Maybe some of you are struggling with Christmas this year. Away from family or with them in the shadows. Or there is something else going on…I don’t really want to string a series of possibles here. You know for yourself what is making Christmas hard.

If this is not your situation, just be glad in it. Most years, I have known that kind of Christmas and will again.

Sadness makes it hard to reach out to others (although I have a friend who today, pushing through her own sadness, will serve in a hospital hospitality house). I have struggled to reach out this year.

Still, we will hold to the comfort and joy that is ours through Christ Jesus. What he did for us…what he continues to do in the greatest love known to us.

If you are having a hard time reaching out, and getting the help you need, just please be gentle with yourself. There are resources for us in the depth of our despair (links below). God is near. He desires to comfort us and restore our joy. He will pierce the dark cloud of our sadness as we turn to Him. He will be with us right where we are.Photo Credit: Holley Gerth

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3–4 

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

Postscript: We have known a lot of airports in our long life of travel – and watching folks arrive to family and friends has always been a marvel to me. I think of Dad’s Homegoing and smile, in spite of this morning’s sadness, at the welcome he received in Heaven. Sweet.

“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. it seems to me that love is everywhere. Ofte, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.” – from the film Love Actually

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 800-273-8255

Celebrating Christmas with a Broken Heart – Brittany Salmon

What Suffering People Wish You Would Do at Christmas – Vaneetha Rendall Risner

A Sorta Gift Guide for the Overwhelmed & Broken Hearted This Christmas – Ann Voskamp

How Having a Little Charlie Brown Christmas Gets You into the Best Christmas Spirit of All (About Fears & Heartbreak & Hard Families at Christmas) – Ann Voskamp

This Christmas – Our Little Clark

Worship Wednesday – Jesus Is Alive – Josh Wilson

Photo Credit: Wikipedia; Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622

And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:9-11

“Do not be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here! See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you.”Mark 16:7

When you think of camp songs, which ones come to mind? You remember those songs you learned as a child or teen. Those songs that stuck with you all through the years…either because of the message or how you felt singing them. Over and over, night after night at camp, and then over again with your friends after.Photo Credit: Flickr

A group of us were talking about camp songs tonight, and I actually couldn’t keep my mind off of singer/songwriter Josh Wilson‘s Christmas song Jesus Is Alive. It’s getting major radio play this year. I thought it was a new song, and then the Facebook memories function popped up a memory of five years ago. My friend Alicia had pointed this song to me as her new favorite…five years ago.

What makes this song remind me of beloved camp songs of old is that its lyrics, and the way Josh sings it, is like telling a story around a campfire. I can just see the fire, large before us, warming our faces, popping and crackling, brightening those in the circle and casting shadows beyond. Sparks flying up to the sky.

Josh’s song celebrates that baby born for us, and his song also points us to a blessed redeemer, a risen Savior. As I write, there’s a little figure of the Christ child on my work desk. Wrapped in swaddling clothes as recorded in Scripture (Luke 2:7). Something about this figure reminds me of Jesus’ death also (John 19:40). Jesus, as an infant, was briefly swaddled before he grew up and became a man like no other. After the briefest of ministry, he died a horrific death…for us. Let that soak in again. His body would be wrapped in grave clothes but would not be bound by them.  He rose to life again, right out of those burial cloths. Hallelujah, Jesus is alive!

We have so much to pause and consider this Christmas season. Allow this simple song take you into the great scope of all Jesus did for us…and continues to do.

Worship with me please as we tell this great story in sweet song. Let’s warm ourselves by the shepherds’ fire. Let’s walk with the Savior as he teaches about the Kingdom of God. Let’s run into the tomb to find it gloriously empty. Jesus Is Alive!!!

Wish that I was there,
On that silent night,
When your tiny heart started beating for mine,

I wish I couldn’t seen,
The star in David’s town,
When you turned a stable into Holy ground.
I sing along, the angels song.

(Chorus)

Noel, Noel, Jesus is alive.
Emanuel, hope is here tonight.
So go, and tell, the world that death has died.
‘Cause Jesus is alive. Yea Jesus is alive.

The God who made us all,
With these two little hands,
Is bringing us his kingdom quiet as a lamb.
Oh such Amazing Grace!
A divine conspiracy.
This Savior in a manger changes everything.
That’s why we sing.

CHORUS

Sin you have no sting.
Hell you have no power. (Jesus is alive)
Curse you are no more.
This is your final hour. (Jesus is alive)
Because the son of God
Has not left us alone. (Jesus is alive)
He’ll live and die and rise again, and then he’ll bring us home. (Jesus is alive)
The old will pass away
And we will become new. (Jesus is alive)
This baby boy is making all sad things untrue.

CHORUS (X2)

Jesus is Alive!!*

*Lyrics to Jesus Is Alive – Josh Wilson

Worship Wednesday – That Was Then, This Is Now – Josh Wilson’s Song of Jubilation – Deb Mills Writer

Monday Morning Moment – Is What We Do Enough? Are We Good Enough? No Matter. Jesus Is Good…and Good Enough

[Adapted from the Archives]

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable [unspeakable] gift!” – 2 Corinthians 9:15

The countdown to Christmas can be both exhilarating and exhausting. Last shopping trips. Last online ordering. Lists checked off. Presents wrapped or bagged.

Is it enough? Is it good enough? If there is any holiday that coaxes out our need to please people or to perform well, it’s Christmas. Our motives are well-intended. We love those whom we shop for…otherwise we wouldn’t spend all that time and money searching for that special something to put under the tree for them.

The dilemma comes when we look back over our lists and look under the tree and wonder, is it really enough? What would be enough anyway? There’s always one more thing that would just be the perfect gift…one more thing that would make you the best. mom. ever. Or not….

Thanks be to God for His unspeakable, indescribable gift in the Lord Jesus Himself! Brooding over whether I’ve sufficiently displayed my love for family and friends through these Christmas gifts adds nothing to what we’ve already been given.

What fun to see the joy a wisely-chosen treasure brings to someone I love on Christmas morning. Yet that is nothing, less than nothing, compared to the glorious gift of Jesus…His very nature God, His human birth, His perfect life of love, His sacrificial death for our sins, and His amazing resurrection. He is the Best. Gift. Ever.

2014 Phone pics July-December 118

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  – John 3:16

God gave…God already gave. It is enough.

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! – Matthew 7:11

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. – James 1:17

What God gives is good, and what God gives is enough. Even Jesus bore witness to this, when He said, from the cross, “It is finished.”

It’s enough, Friend. Take a deep breath, and let Christmas wash over you with the peace of God. Jesus is good. Jesus is enough.

2014 Phone pics July-December 023

Image – Christmas card front – Anton Raphael Mengs’ Nativity Scene

YouTube Lyric Video of Indescribable written by Laura Story and performed by Chris Tomlin

What does “unspeakable” gift mean? 

10 Reasons Jesus is Enough by Jarrid Wilson

God’s Unspeakable Gift – Sermon by Charles Spurgeon, January 8, 1893

YouTube Lyric Video Christ is Enough by Hillsong Live