Tag Archives: peace

Worship Wednesday – On Anxiety – My Anchor – Christy Nockels

Photo Credit: Flickr

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

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and steadfast. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. Hebrews 6:19

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

In my late teens and 20s, my mom endured a hard and painful-to-watch season. A few of my other friends’ moms went through what then was called “a nervous breakdown”. Somehow, my mom pushed through. She felt tremendous responsibility to get her four children grown and established in our adult lives. She worked hard at her job and served well in her church and community. Mom was unshakeable in her love for God and for us.

Yet the demons were real. I will never forget sitting beside her as she lay weeping on her bed. Deep, shaking, inconsolable cries. She was never able to say what the tormentors were – regret? worry? There were times she described how it felt like something was in her throat (that proverbial “lump”) that she couldn’t get down – literally like she couldn’t swallow (or stomach) whatever was going on.

In those days, holding my mama who I loved most in the world, I promised myself I would never let that level of misery happen in my life…I would figure out how not to be taken down by fear or the threat of the future…especially such that my children would not have to see me in such pain.

It was sometime in my 20s that my own tears dried up. After watching my mom cry so much, I just didn’t have any tears…maybe I didn’t want to go to that hard place…

Praise God there is always more to the story. My mom survived those years and lived more joyfully and peacefully after that, right through the day she went Home to be with the Lord. Thanks to my mom, I did learn how to cope with the stressors of life…not always well, but I know how.

Mom and I both learned through our lives how to cast our cares on God. There may have been times in Mom’s later years that she wrestled with anxiety just between God and her. There are times, as well, that I wrestle, especially in the night hours, before sleep.

Right now, anxiety seems to be gripping the hearts and lives of some dear friends of mine. I’m not sure how to counsel but am absolutely sure how to pray.

Anxiety is not the same as fear. It is an emotion characterized by an unpleasant state of inner turmoil…It is the subjectively unpleasant feelings of dread over anticipated events, such as the feeling of imminent death. Fear is a response to a real or perceived immediate threat, whereas anxiety is the expectation of future threat. It is a distinction between future and present dangers which divides anxiety and fear. Anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness and worry, usually generalized and unfocused. It is the mental state that results from a difficult challenge for which the subject has insufficient coping skills.

Photo Credit: SketchPort

God never meant for us to live in anxiety.

For clinical helps on dealing with anxiety, Debbie Hampton has written a concise and practical piece (linked below) entitled Four Steps to Take Control of Your Mind and Change Your Brain. She takes it from the book You Are Not Your Brain: The 4-Step Solution for Changing Bad Habits, Ending Unhealthy Thinking, and Taking Control of Your Life by Jeffrey M. Schwartz and Rebecca Golding. The 4 steps are written from more of a Buddhist mindfulness orientation, but they actually easily translate to Biblical wisdom.

For today, I just want to express my profound gratefulness for the God who meets us in the dark nights of the soul and reminds us of what is true and restores our joy and peace. He is faithful, and His Word never fails.

Worship with me through the song My Anchor by Christy Nockels and Jason Ingram.

You’re the Lord Almighty
Your every word is sure
And in Your love unfailing
I’m safe when oceans roar
Yes, I’m safe when oceans roar
My anchor, forever
My shelter within the storm
You’re my deliverer
You never falter
You’re the rock I stand on
Here within the struggle
And every crashing wave
You are more than able
Your hand is strong to save

Yes, I know Your hand is strong to save

My anchor, forever
My shelter within the storm
You’re my deliverer
You never falter
You’re the rock I stand on

I hold on to You
And You hold on to me
Jesus, I hold on to You
And You hold on to me*

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

By the way, I seem to have gotten my tears back, for which I’m grateful. Also, for those of you, like me, who struggle with anxiety, it’s a battle. We must be gentle with ourselves but, at the same time, disciplined in dealing with the lies with which our mind hammers us. For you who love us “sometimes anxious ones”, thank you…especially when you don’t default to anxiety…thank you for trying to understand, and for loving, and for guiding us gently to the truth, and for praying. You are the face of Jesus to us.

*Lyrics to My Anchor – Songwriters: Christy Nockels & Jason Ingram

Story Behind the Song My Anchor by Christy Nockels – Kevin Davis

How Do I Take My Thoughts Captive? – Interview with John Piper

Worship Wednesday – I Need You Now – by Plumb

Worship Wednesday – Listening to His Voice Through the Noise

12 Christian Songs to Ease An Anxious Mind – Victoria Rondinelli

7 Christian Songs That Help With Feelings of Depression – Crystal McDowell

Four Steps to Take Control of Your Mind and Change Your Brain – Debbie Hampton

Four Steps – Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz’s Four Steps – Hope 4 OCD – Dr. Ada Gorbis

You Are Not Your Brain: The 4-Step Solution for Changing Bad Habits, Ending Unhealthy Thinking, and Taking Control of Your Life by Jeffrey M. Schwartz and Rebecca Golding

Prescriptions Without Pills – For Relief From Depression, Anger, Anxiety and More – Dr. Susan Heitler

Worship Wednesday – Is It Luck or Is It Love? – To the Ends of the Earth – Hillsong

Photo Credit: Pinterest

“…Nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”Romans 8:38-39

Who wouldn’t love a surgeon who calls to  check on you himself after you go home from surgery? That was my experience this afternoon. He had just removed 6 lesions (creepy word) from my face. Too much sun exposure in my reckless 20’s. I will know next week whether each is cancer or not (hopefully the non-scary type).

Some doctors are almost too professional – aloof, reserved, choosing words carefully, but this one is excellent at his work and also very human and approachable. Before we went into surgery, he sat down with Dave and me to review my medical history. In a few minutes, he would be doing multiple cuts and wound closures on this old face of mine, leaving me a bit Frankensteinish in appearance. Temporarily.

In that talk, he puzzled out loud at how I got lung cancer not ever having been a smoker. “Just bad luck…” he surmised.

All afternoon, I have thought about that odd observation. He didn’t know the whole of that medical workup which delivered a lung cancer diagnosis and surgery (Stage 1, by the way…sigh of relief). He would have considered it “good luck” then.  Another health issue had driven that workup, which turned out to be nothing. The testing, however, had fortuitously revealed the lung nodule. Luck…if you believed in that. I knew it was something much more.

What this latest favorite surgeon of mine casually observed as bad luck, I see as a good God. A good and loving God. Even when the diagnosis isn’t Stage 1…even when our calendars are filled with way too many doctors’ appointments and our hearts full of fear…the character of God shines through all that…if we look for Him.

Whether life is good or not so good, God’s care for us is unaltered.

These last several months have settled that in my heart over and over again. When we go through difficulties, God uses them in our lives in at least three ways.

  • To show us His love and faithfulness as we cling to Him through the scary unknowns.
  • To deepen our grasp of and wonder at His purposes for our lives.
  • To embolden us to extend His love to those around us, as He’s purposed us to do. To be His hands and feet to others, as He’s multiplied grace to us in our own hard places.

Luck doesn’t stir our hearts to take the lives God has given us (and health restored to us) and pour them out in service to Him and for the sake of others. Love does that.

Worship with me to Hillsong’s To the Ends of the Earth.

Love unfailing
Overtaking my heart
You take me in
Finding peace again
Fear is lost
In all you are

And I would give the world to tell Your story
Cause I know that You’ve called me
I know that You’ve called me
I’ve lost myself for good within Your promise
I won’t hide it
I won’t hide it

Jesus, I believe in You
And I would go to the ends of the earth
To the ends of the earth
For You alone are the Son of God
And all the world will see
That You are God
You are God*

I go for followup next week to this dear plastic surgeon who took such good care of me. While he takes out all these stitches, I hope to share, even briefly (and not weirdly), the whole “not luck, but love” story of my life. Hopefully all the biopsy results will be nothing or not scary. Whatever happens, God’s love turns my heart to Him…and to those He’s placed in my life – who also walk through hard places but don’t have to walk through them without Him.

We are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.2 Corinthians 5:20-21

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.Isaiah 26:3Photo Credit: Kuyamac

*Lyrics – To the Ends of the Earth – Hillsong

YouTube Video – To the Ends of the Earth – Lyrics Video (Just Lyrics) – Hillsong

Worship Wednesday – Rest, the Lord Is Near – Reminder By Steve Green

YouTube Video – Even If – Mercy Me

Lyrics to Even If

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

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

Waiting

2015 Aug Blog, Clocks, Waiting 004

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.         –Psalm 27:13-14    

Waiting. Most of the time we take it as part and parcel of life. Waiting for the first tomatoes of summer. For the call to board the plane. For just the right moment when you pull the brownies out of the oven. For…and this is the best waiting of all… the phone call that the baby is on her way.

Waiting 2Waiting

Other times waiting is hard. Like waiting for the diagnosis. For the announcement of whether or not you still have a job. Waiting for the “I love you” or “I forgive you” or “Everything’s going to be alright.” Or the non-communication screaming that maybe everything is not all right. Waiting is hard.

We fill our calendars with work and play, appointments and dates. We don’t want to lose a moment of life to the unplanned. On this summer Saturday, the fatigue of a full week caught up with me, and I lost a gorgeous afternoon to sleep and sleepy reflection.

That’s when the waiting surfaced in my thoughts.

I don’t know about you, but for me, when life gets quiet, the waiting gets the loudest. With it are the answers my brain creates in the face of non-answers. I was at a conference this week where Brené Brown talked about this very thing.

Brown said in the face of non-communication, or being disconnected, our brains are wired to come up with the conversation that we haven’t had…our version of what that conversation would be. How those conversations (in our heads) go depend on how waiting has taken its toll on us.

We wait on that phone call, text, or email…and the longer it takes to come, the more we think ill of what’s happening with that person or our relationship or our work situation. In the waiting, we may panic, or we decide proactively that it doesn’t matter, we don’t care, he/she/it is not worth it.

The sooner I can move the waiting on a person or life situation to a different object, that being God, the faster peace is restored in my thoughts. That’s what happened for me this afternoon….

In the midst of my struggle, with waiting on so many things…God broke through. He helped me rein in my stampeding thoughts, through the quiet of our back yard…and the writing of Andrew Murray. 

 2015 July Yard, Flowers 0072015 July Flowers in the Garden, Blog 038

“The only difference between nature and grace is this, that what the trees and the flowers do unconsciously, as they drink in the blessing of the light, is to be with us a voluntary and a loving acceptance. Faith, simple faith in God’s word and love, is to be the opening of the eyes, the opening of the heart, to receive and enjoy the unspeakable glory of His grace. And just as the trees, day by day, and month by month, stand and grow into beauty and fruitfulness, just welcoming whatever sunshine the sun may give, so it is the very highest exercise of our Christian life just to abide in the light of God, and let it, and let Him, fill us with the life and the brightness it brings.” – Andrew Murray, Waiting for God

“Let waiting be our work, as it is His. And, if His waiting is nothing but goodness and graciousness, let ours be nothing but a rejoicing in that goodness, and a confident expectancy of that grace. And, let every thought of waiting become to us the simple expression of unmingled and unutterable blessedness, because it brings us to a God who waits that He may make Himself known to us perfectly as the gracious One.   My soul, wait thou only upon God!”   Andrew Murray, Waiting for God

“Father, teach us all how to wait.”   – Andrew Murray, Waiting for God

Teach me to wait on You, O God…and everything else will order itself in Your kind and loving hands. I determine to rest in You.

Goodreads Quotes from Andrew Murray’s Waiting for God

Waiting on God by Andrew Murray

The Waiting is the Hardest Part by David Mathis

5 reasons God Makes us Wait by Eric Speir

Waiting on God – How Do We Wait? – by Sylvia Gunter

2015 August Blog on Money, FLowers, Garden, yard 040

Worship Wednesday – Rest, the Lord is Near – Reminder by Steve Green

Blog - Holy Week Wednesday 9Photo Credit: Baptist Press

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.Isaiah 26:3-4

It was an early morning on the streets of Casablanca, Morocco. I was surrounded by other drivers headed for work. They were not in my thoughts – except to stay clear in the crowded intersections where merging and turning happen skillfully or magically.

My thoughts were centered on the car in front of me where two friends were heading to a hospital. The wife was prepped to have surgery that morning to see if the problem in her abdomen was cancer. I was going with them for the occasion that day that she would need extra help and a woman to stand in for her husband. It was the custom for such things there.

She was a dear friend in those overseas days – the other mother to my sons. Friends with her son, they loved eating at her guy-friendly table or taking over her salon to play video games or watch a movie. This woman was a rock in her family’s lives…and ours. As I watched her, from behind, so small, beside her husband, jostled in the crazy traffic…I prayed.

Troubled with the possibilities and prospects of a life-changing diagnosis, my mind ping-ponged all around, even in prayer. Then, a song came up in my playlist…and every other voice in my head went silent. It was this old song by Steve Green entitled Rest, The Lord Is Near. You hear people tell stories of hearing God speak to them, almost audibly. This was one of those moments for me.

After that, I knew, whatever the outcome of her surgery, that she (we) would be alright. Nothing would change in the larger story of our lives. Most importantly, in that moment, I remembered that God was the same. Loving Father, Great Physician, Tender Comforter, All-Wise God.

The surgery went very well. She would be fine. My boys still love to feast at her table…and we are still friends…although living worlds apart now. What I was reminded that day, in my car alone in Casablanca traffic, was less about healing…or answered prayer…and more about God’s call to us to rest.

Blog - Rest - Sleep - Baptist PressPhoto Credit: Baptist Press

Sometimes that rest is like the sleep of a child, safe in the care of a loving, watchful parent. Even in Steve Green’s song, he delivers it as a lullaby really. How often we just need an all-out separation from the stresses of life…either in a respite in God’s Word, or a change of place (in our garden or by a sea, any sea, for me)…or sometimes just plain sleep. They are all rest in their turn.

Sometimes the rest is more active, like it was for me that morning. I was still maneuvering through a sea of cars, still watching my friends’ car so I wouldn’t lose them, and still praying. Yet, my state of mind moved from an anxious attention to being “at ease”. The image comes to mind of the military command. It’s defined as “a position of rest in which soldiers may relax but may not leave their places”. Blog - Rest - At EasePhoto Credit: military.com

Sometimes, we can’t leave our situation, our place in the battle. We must be present. We, as believers, are “under orders” from our King. Yet, even in those daily duties, He calls us to rest. I pray today that, whatever you’re facing, you will have moments when you are able to let go and lean into the arms of almighty God…and remember He is just that near.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28

Worship with me:

Rest the Lord is near
Refuse to fear
Enjoy his love

Trust, His mighty power
Fills every hour
Of all your days

There is no need
For needless worry
With such a Savior
You have no cause to ever

Doubt His perfect word
Still reassures
In any trial

Rest the Lord is there
Lift up your prayer
For He is strong

Trust, He’ll bring release
And perfect peace
Will calm your mind

There is no need
For needless worry
With such a Savior
You have no cause to ever

Doubt His perfect word
Still reassures
In any trial

Call Him, if you grow frightened
Call Him, with loving care
He’ll lift the burden and you’ll

Rest the Lord is near
Refuse to fear
Enjoy His love

Trust His mighty power
Fills every hour
Of all your days

Rest the Lord is near
Refuse to fear
Enjoy His love*

Blog - Resting in Praise & Worship - Baptist PressPhoto Credit: Baptist Press

*Lyrics to Rest sung by Steve Green (Lyrics and Music by Phill McHugh And Greg Nelson

YouTube Video – Rest – Steve Green (official music) from Joy to the World album

YouTube Video – Jesus, I am Resting, Resting – Steve Green

YouTube Video – Trust His Heart with lyrics – Babbie Mason

YouTube Video – Like a River Glorious (Stayed Upon Jehovah, Hearts are Fully Blessed) – by Frances Ridley Havergal –  one of my favorite hymns growing up2009 April May Trip to Georgia 161IMG_0023 (2)

Worship Wednesday – Through It All – It Is Well With My Soul

Cairo Nile

For thus says the Lord: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river… As one whom his mother comforts, So I will comfort you.” Isaiah 66:12a, 13a

“Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him.” Psalm 62:5

Life and loss are inseparable. As beautiful as our lives can be some days, there are other times when darkness is thick around us. We can’t breathe. I have stood alongside friends in deep grief, and words don’t come for me to comfort them. Great losses have come my way as well…with no way to humanly understand or make sense of them.

Still…in the midst of terrible pain, I’ve experienced profound peace. It’s difficult to explain, even to myself. We get through. God’s grace, somehow, is sufficient…as He promises His children.

Over a century ago, a man, Horatio Spafford, wrote a poem, a prayer really, while going through the horrific loss of all his children. what he wrote was a bold declaration of faith and truth that has comforted people for generations. “It is well with my soul.”

When you read these words (below), you will notice that it is well with our souls because of what God did for us…and what He continues to do. Through every sort of circumstance, as we lean on God and believe Him at His word, He gives us the strength to

Stand fast and hold firm –

So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.  May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope,  encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. – 2 Thessalonians 2:15-17

Worship with me (verses 1-3, 6):

  1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
    When sorrows like sea billows roll;
    Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
    It is well, it is well with my soul.

    • Refrain:
      It is well with my soul,
      It is well, it is well with my soul.
  2. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
    Let this blest assurance control,
    That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
    And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
  3. My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
    My sin, not in part but the whole,
    Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
    Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
  4. For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
    If Jordan above me shall roll,
    No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
    Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
  5. But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
    The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
    Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
    Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
  6. And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
    The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
    The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
    Even so, it is well with my soul.*

*Original Lyrics for It is Well with My Soul by Horatio Spafford, 1873

YouTube Video – It is Well with My Soul – Chris Rice

The Story Behind the Hymn – It Is Well With My Soul

YouTube Video – It is Well with My Soul – Jeremy Riddle

YouTube Video – It is Well by Kristene Dimarco & Bethel Music – You Make Me Brave

YouTube Video – It is Well with My Soul – Gaither Homecoming, featuring Guy Penrod and David Phelps

Worship Wednesday – Stones of Remembrance – 12 Occasions Where We Saw God Act Mightily (Part 2)

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“…that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” – Joshua 4:24

As an end-of-the-year reflection on the work of GOD in our lives, I’ve looked back over the years. 12 recollections out of the many times He has moved on our behalf. The first 6 are found here.

7) We moved overseas to work almost 20 years ago. Our children were young and we felt terribly young ourselves with the language skills of a preschooler. On arriving in a beautiful capital city in North Africa, with survival Arabic and the grace of God, my husband needed to find a house for us to rent. It seemed a daunting task.  That first morning, we prayed together, and he left the hotel to begin the search…by faith, really. Even hailing a taxi requires some cultural understanding of how it’s done there, and it took a few tries for him to “win” a ride. Finally a taxi driver invited him in, and off they went. In a country of 9 million Muslims, there were many 30 Christ-followers. In all this huge city, the taxi driver who stopped for him was one of those few.  Over the years, we have known the friendship of many wonderful Muslim people, but on this stressful first morning, to have the company of a brother was a special kindness of God. Housing was eventually found; that encounter was a special grace.

8) After some time in this North African country, work took us outside the capital city to a distant town. Now my husband would have to purchase a vehicle which we had not needed in the capital. Again, like so many seemingly simple processes, this took on a whole new level of complexity when done cross-culturally. The used car souk only happened on Sundays, and the bargaining process was not readily comprehendible. He was unsuccessful for weeks. Knowing our move was imminent added pressure. Finally, one Sunday, he just gave up. He walked up the ridge to the highway to catch a taxi and looked back over all the business of car sales, feeling hopeless. A taxi pulled over for him, and he got in. The driver said, “Are you buying or selling a car?” When my husband told him that he was unsuccessfully trying to buy a car, the driver asked what kind.  It turned out that the driver had a friend selling a car, just the kind we needed. Random, crazy, love-filled act of GOD.

9) While we were overseas, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. It was a lymphoma and, by all rights, should have been cured, or at least arrested, by the treatment of that day. It was not to be so. For three years, Mom endured aggressive chemotherapy. The cancer was relentless. In the course of her treatment, she also had a severe Shingles attack that went into her nervous system and caused her pain for the rest of her life. We came back to the US for what would be her last year. My mom loved the LORD. She never prayed for healing, although we sure did. She only prayed for GOD to be glorified through this cancer. He answered her prayer…and ours, in a different way. Much of her life, she lamented that she didn’t hear GOD speak to her in ways she was sure he did with others. I asked her once, near the end, if He spoke to her now, and she smiled, and said, “All the time.” For her, the cancer was worth it.Fuji002 152a

10) Losing my mom was hard, a “severe mercy”*. Losing my older brother was strange and complicated for me. Robert had what I would describe as a self-imposed hard life. He could be rough with those he loved the most, almost taunting them to desert him. Yet, he had a kind heart that would often betray his attempts to be distant from us. He finally did move away from all his family, building a house way out in the country. When mom died, I think the sense of home for Robert died with her. Two things I prayed for him, during this hermit season of his: that he would not die alone and that he would be reconciled to his family. Although we lived far away, we saw at a distance that Robert began softening in his conversations with us. On our last phone call, he actually sounded happy. He talked excitedly about meeting up with one brother and working on a project with the other brother. At the young age of 61, piercing chest pain forced a call for an ambulance, and he, not many hours later, died on the operating table. He did not die alone, surrounded by the surgical team who sought to repair a shredded aorta…and many in his family praying for him outside. He died short of repairing all his relationships, but he was moving gloriously in that direction…by God’s grace.2007 SepOct 046

11) Our oldest son, Nathan, is a classical guitarist. In his last year of college, he was to perform a Senior recital as part of his requirements for graduation. In the process of preparing for this recital, he developed a tendonitis from the hours of practice. His doctor told him he had to rest his hands for the 2 weeks prior to his recital. This could have been devastating to his performance. Nathan was able to practice the day before and the day of his recital. He was a bit shaken mentally because of those days without practice, but he determined to continue with the recital. I may be his mom, but his playing that day was technically brilliant and incredibly beautiful. Especially given the stress coming into that day. There was a row of us, family and close friends, praying for him through the recital. With every piece completed, it seemed we were more in a worship service than a concert. I filmed his performance, and later as we watched the video, we saw something very interesting. There was a light artifact of some sort, and it looked as if a shaft of light beamed down through his right hand. It was a picture of GOD being  there with Nathan, and we knew He was by Nathan’s performance. Nathan had played for all of us, and for an audience of One. He told us afterwards that his hands ranged from feeling ice cold and difficult to manage to feeling on fire and exquisitely painful…yet he played so well…and so to the glory of GOD.

Nathan & Bekkah Wedding Slideshow Final 060

12) Finally, the last stone of remembrance for today: being present when someone receives the LORD as her own. Many of you may have that experience on a regular basis. For me, spending so many years in the Muslim world, I have only personally had this experience a precious few times so far. This year, I witnessed this once. A young woman I really didn’t know very well appeared at our women’s Bible study. There was an urgency about her…a quiet earnestness. She was there on a mission. The LORD had clearly been working in her heart and she wanted to settle things with Him. There was only a handful of women in the room, but the power of the Holy Spirit was so evident. While some of us explained how to receive Christ as Lord and Savior, the rest of us prayed…back and forth, as she talked, listened, cried…and then prayed aloud herself. Did one of us lead her to be a Christ-follower? No. We were merely and miraculously witnesses of a redeeming love. I wish you could have heard her pray…so full of humility, and longing, and finally peace. To witness the work of GOD in a life He drew to Himself…incredible.

As the New Year begins, what has happened in your life, even on this first day of 2015, that reveals the handprint of GOD?

“And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:13

*A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken – autobiography about losing his wife and finding God in the midst of the loss

YouTube Video of “Preludio” – one of Nathan Mills’ pieces during his Senior recital

Nathan Mills, Classical Guitarist

Taking a Stand – With Not Against

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Some mornings, quiet is obliterated by dividing words. This is one of those. I am troubled by the hatred, the divisiveness, and the sensationalism in the news today.  It’s sometimes more dehumanizing and dishonoring than it is culture-changing for good.

I really have no words…yet my heart rails against the wrong in our society. Still, what good will that do?

My mama used to say, “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” [This wisdom originated with others, attributed both to Peter Marshall and Malcolm X, but its counsel took root in my heart through a Godly mom.]

I do want to take a stand…but don’t sense that any stand I take will matter. It’s however not right for me to just do nothing. Therefore I stand with Jesus who stood for and died for all of us. He called us to love God and to love our enemy, to return good for evil, to forgive the unforgiveable, to care for the oppressed, to show both justice and mercy. He was no “respecter of persons”* and showed no favoritism to one people or another. He gave us the example of being wholly about the purposes of God and wholly about the good of humankind. These are not in opposition.  Standing with Christ is not about standing with a particular political or socio-cultural agenda. It is taking a stand on behalf of the One who holds love and truth in  perfect unity. It is taking a stand for the sake of us all – not dividing us, setting one against another, but somehow bringing us together. In this kind of life, I might could make a difference.

We all must choose where we stand – the high road, the narrow path, whichever way we course our lives. In fact, it is impossible to NOT choose. The way I choose is described in the essay below, a copy of which I found in my mom’s collected treasures. It reminds me of great oratories of such as Dr. S. M. Lockridge.

The Fellowship Of The Unashamed

(Author Unknown – Cited by Dr. Bob Moorehead, in his book Words Aptly Spoken)

I am part of the “Fellowship of the Unashamed.” The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of Christ Jesus. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future secure.

I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals. I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I now live by His presence, lean by faith, love by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by power.

My pace is set, my gait is fast, my goal is Heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, deterred, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed.

I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I am a disciple of Christ Jesus. I must give until I drop and preach until all know. And when my time is up, He will have no problem recognizing me. My colors will be clear.

I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ…(Romans 1:16).

Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.  The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all—  that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached:  how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.  And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree.  Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly,  not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead.  And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead.  To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” – Acts 10:34-43

YouTube Video of The Fellowship of the Unashamed

Precept Ministries blog on The Charge – The Fellowship of the Unashamed

Printable of The Fellowship of the Unashamed

*No Respecter of Persons

Ferguson and the Path to Peace – Dr. Russell Moore

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

Am I My Brother’s Keeper? Hey, What if He’s Not My Brother?! – On Neglect – Part 1

Blog - NeglectThen the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” – Genesis 4:9

We must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?…Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. – Hebrews 2:1-3, 17-18

Neglect/Neglectful – to leave behind, to omit by carelessness or design, to slight, to omit to receive/embrace, to disregard, to be inattentive, to become accustomed to omit what may or ought to be done.

I don’t want a life riddled with gaping holes of neglectfulness. Nor do I want to leave a heritage of neglect. Who does? Yet it can happen ever so subtly in our pursuit of safety and security, circling our wagons tightly around what personally matters most to us. And the rest of the world?

Not My Business

Not My Problem

Not My Family

Not My Job

Not My Call

Not My Responsibility

Not My Fault

Not My Gift

Not My Calling

Not Worth My Time/Money

Not Worth Saving

The most winsome thing I know of God is that He loves the whole world (John 3:16). I don’t want to line out my life…set boundaries… such that some around me are more deserving of grace than others…that some are worthy of aid or intervention but others are not…that some are outside of the Gospel and others, by “accident” of geography or opportunity, are not.  As citizens of the Kingdom of God, we have been given a great salvation – “so great a salvation” that we cannot neglect His intent of it, for our sakes, and for those around us. There is no such thing as benign neglect.*

We, individually and corporately, can’t save the world, as much as we would like. However, our humanity,  with whatever perceived limited capacity we have, was meant to glorify God by our nature and pursuits. We can determine to live lives faithful and pleasing to God – “to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with  God” (Micah 6:8).

If you look at the list of “not’s” above, you may, like I do, see phrases we’ve used before for decisions made and actions not taken. Look now at some of the antonyms for neglect – what it is to not yield to being neglectful – intentional, diligent, constant, loving, inclined, conscious, determined, caring, keeping, dedicated, patient, carrying through, preserving, mindful, attending, cherishing, conserving, celebrating, listening, nourishing, obedient, inspiring, giving, remembering, redeeming, watchful, purposeful.

With so great a salvation that we have received, how could we choose to be any other way toward others?

“To fail to exhibit that we take truth seriously at those points where there is a cost in our doing so, is to push the next generation in the relative, dialectical millstream that surrounds us. ” Francis A. Schaeffer

Denzel Washington, Martin Luther, and Our Strange Neglect of the Bible

Francis A. Schaeffer – a modern-day prophet, author of How Shall We Then Live?

The Age of Personal Peace and Affluence

Do Not Neglect the Weightier Matters of the Law

Charles Spurgeon’s Sermon on Neglecting Our Personal Work in the Kingdom

 Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit

Worst-Case Scenarios: The Problem of Neglect

*“Benign” neglect  – a noninterference that is intended to benefit someone or something more than continual attention would.