Tag Archives: rest

Jesus and Holy Week – Day 4 – A Day of Quiet Before the Storm – and We Worship

Photo Credit: Baptist Press

[Adapted from the Archives]

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” And all the angels…fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God. – Revelation 7:9-11

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”  – Revelation 5:12

There appears to be nothing recorded in Scripture of events surrounding Jesus on the Wednesday before his crucifixion. Nothing. After two difficult days dealing with his enemies and accusers, it is quite possible that he took a rest. A Sabbath rest. Given the terrible nature of what was ahead of him, starting just the next day, he could surely use a day to rest and reflect. To remember how the Father had sustained him through all the strains of his public life. To refresh himself in prayer and in the company of those on earth who loved him most – his disciples, his friends, possibly his family. We know no details of that day.

Since we also know what is coming for Jesus…and all for our sakes…we pause today, as well, to worship. He is the perfect lamb, without blemish, perfectly fit to be offered as a sacrifice for our sins. God provided a ram for Abraham to take his son’s place in that strange and amazing sacrifice on Mt. Moriah (Genesis 22:1-14). This was a foreshadowing of our own need for a Savior. We also can be saved by the blood of “the Lamb, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Jesus was not killed on that Friday, two days hence. His life was not taken. Not by the Jewish or Roman authorities. He gave his life…for us…there are no words adequate to respond…worship is all we have.Hispanic celebration at Central High SchoolPhoto Credit – Baptist Press

Worship with me:

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Holy, Holy, is He
Sing a new song to Him who sits on
Heaven’s Mercy Seat
[Repeat 2x]

(Chorus)
Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is, and is to come
With all creation I sing:
Praise to the King of Kings!
You are my everything,
And I will adore You…!
Yeah!

Clothed in rainbows, of living color
Flashes of lightning, rolls of thunder
Blessing and honor, strength and
Glory and power be
To You the Only Wise King,
Yeah

(Chorus)

Filled with wonder,
Awestruck wonder
At the mention of Your Name
Jesus, Your Name is Power
Breath, and Living Water
Such a marvelous mystery
Yeah…

(Chorus)

Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is, and is to come,
With all creation I sing:
Praise to the King of Kings!
You are my everything,
And – I – will – adore YOU…

(Chorus)

(Repeat a cappella)

Come up lift up His Name
To the King of Kings…
We will adore YOU Lord…
King of heaven and earth
King Jesus, King Jesus
Aleluya, aleluya, aleluya!
Majesty, awestruck Honor
And Power and Strength and Dominion
To You Lord,
To the King, to King
To the King of Glory

Chorus (Repeats)*Blog - Holy Week Wednesday 9Photo Credit – Baptist Press

*Lyrics to Revelation Song written by Jennie Lee Riddle

Story Behind Revelation Song – Jennie Lee Riddle’s vision of the Church wholly united in worship of God – here as we will be one day in Heaven

YouTube Lyric Video – Revelation Song – Kari Jobe – Passion 2013

Holy Week – Day 4: Silent Wednesday

How is Jesus the Lamb of God?

Easter and Hymns with Keith Getty – Rainer on Leadership

Holy Week Timeline Graphic

Photo Credits – Baptist PressFREEDOM TO WORSHIPCHINA RELIGIONBlog - Holy Week Wednesday 4Blog - Holy Week Wednesday 2BLog - Holy Week Wednesday 3

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 – Come To Me – The Village Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**Full Text of Weary, Burdened Wanderer – Hymnary

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

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

Blog - Holy Week Wednesday 9Photo Credit: Baptist Press

[Today I am in surgery – this from the Archives]

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)

Monday Morning Moment – Screen Time – Give It a Rest

Blog - Screentime - smart3508Photo Credit: SafeSmartSocial

Walked away from the computer at 8:00 last night…best night of sleep I’ve had in a long while.

Alex Cavoulacos, productivity expert and founder of The Muse, wrote a Fast Company piece on establishing the habit of turning off screens at 11:00pm each night. A night owl, Cavoulacos discovered, in forming this habit that she: 1) could actually do it, 2) prioritized her work better, 3) finally found time to read, and 4) slept better. “Turns out that I inadvertently stumbled upon a trigger habit: I was reading more, sleeping more, and spending more quality time with my husband. All of this led to me feeling less stressed and better prepared to start each day. All in all, a huge positive change in my life, all thanks to a single new habit.” Check out her whole article and fascinating video here.

Tanya Lewis, a science journalist, went even farther than Cavoulacos in restricting her screen time. She writes, for Business Insider, that, for one week, she avoided screen time from the time she got off work until she went to bed. That means no TV or Netflix, no checking her phone for directions or searches of other kinds, or just out of boredom, and no tablet time for any of the above. What she discovered was how hard it was and how dependent to screen time she had become. She did start reading books again during that week. She also found that when she avoided screens, getting to sleep was easier. The most fascinating thing she noted was how much more social she became without the distraction of screens.

Night time connection

Anybody remember the old days, before wi-fi and smart phones? And the cable went out because of a storm? We would actually light candles and snuggle together on the couch, play games together, be silly, and talk. Special times worth re-creating with a screen fast.

How about our health? Is there any evidence that all this screen time, especially at night, affects our health, over our lifespan? For sure. Read Power Down for Better Sleep by Heather Hatfield on WebMD. She quotes fatigue specialist, Dr. Mark Rosekind, “One of the most simple but important reasons technology affects our sleep is cognitive stimulation.” What we are watching on screens late at night revs up our brains and stirs us up physically. This stress (positive or negative) can create a flight/flight response, resulting in our body’s release of cortisol – bringing on a state of vigilance rather than the restfulness needed for sleep. Add to our body’s “high alert” status the blue light of electronics. Hatfield reports how this light passes “through the retina into a part of the hypothalamus (the area of the brain that controls several sleep activities) and delays the release of the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin.” To my sleepless, techie friends and family: it makes sense, right? Put it (screen time) to rest.

[Damon Beres in a Huffington Post piece, writes how “reading on a screen before bed might actually be killing you”. He points out the health problems that can result partly from inadequate rest (obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease). He also points to blue light filters that can help if we can’t imagine avoiding screen time at night.]

What about the impact of screen time on the brain over time? Debbie Hampton wrote a fascinating, sobering piece How Staring at a Screen Changes Your Brain (For the Worse). Hampton refers the reader to the findings of Dr. Michael Merzenich, author of Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life.

“Visual activities, like staring at a screen or even driving, continually narrow our field of view to a smaller box-like zone right in front of our eyes. Our brains learn to categorize everything outside of this box as a distraction not worthy of attention and get good at filtering out anything not right in front of us. By developing sustained attention in the central view, our peripheral vision suffers, and our view of the world slowly contracts. The field of view in humans decreases as we age. Over time, a person becomes immune to noticing life’s visual surprises, and their eyes move less often. As a result of these self-induced neurological changes, our brains and bodies get conditioned not to pay attention and not to react to the unexpected.”

What does that mean for us? You have probably already seen this in action. Our attention is drawn in, fairly fixed, on our screens. We miss what is happening around us. One day I’m going to write about situational awareness – as a personal safety issue as well as a sharpening discipline to appreciate life around us. This whole addiction to screens that is prevalent today will take the rest of the world out of our view, so to speak, if we’re not careful.

For our sake (at work and home) and for our family’s sake, consider: No screen time before bed.Blog - Screentime - mugmagPhoto Credit: MugMag

Speaking of the family…our children – I will just post these quick reads about little ones (and teens) and how so much screen time affects them physically, socially, and developmentally. We fall into these habits with our children, but we can also pull ourselves, and them, out of the same.

What’s your takeaway from this? I personally want to strategically narrow the screen use in my life. Writing makes screen time an occupational hazard but I love those screens way too much outside of blogging. Thanks to Chris Bailey’s A Life of Productivity and his book about his productivity project, I have already made some changes. No Facebook on my phone, as one change. Still have a long way to go.

Bottom line: I don’t want to miss the people I love, in the flesh, and I don’t want to miss the real world…and lastly, I don’t want to miss truly experiencing God…because of this surreal, burgeoning habit of screen time. So…I will leave you for now. Well-rested, hopefully. Sweet dreams.

Worship Wednesday – An Incidental Finding Opens a Deeper Experience of God

Lebanese male doctor talking with patientPhoto Credit: Telegraph UK

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.…The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; You hold my lot.”  The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shakenPsalm 16:1-2, 5-8

An incidental finding. You are referred to a specialist for something that concerns your family doctor. While you find out that the new problem is nothing for concern, in the testing the specialist finds something else that demands further testing. Then you go deeper and longer into the medical processes that eventually provide a diagnosis.

BLog - Incidental Finding - en wikipedia (2)Photo Credit: en.Wikipedia

All through this waiting and wondering, you process much of it alone. It could be benign so why trouble those who love you. Still, the weeks turn into months working through to a diagnosis, and you want those prayers and the closeness that comes in times of struggle. So you decide to tell a few what’s going on. Along with this guarded sharing with some close to you, a deep and sure awareness develops – you were never alone, after all.

I am always amazed how when you need Him the most, God appears in those moments – so real it is as if you can touch Him, feel His breath, lean into His consummately strong shoulder.

Just this past Sunday at church, every single song chosen by our worship leader was meant for me. To know the nearness of God in a stretching season – hearing His voice in these songs: On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand, Lead Me to the Cross, Oceans, To the Ends of the Earth. What a comfort and joy!

IMG_3544IMG_3547IMG_3557IMG_3567

This time, I am the one with the incidental finding. Even in the scary bits of the day, God has been so kind in pointing me to Himself and away from any future unknown. Besides, He is there in that future unknown. He carries me now; He will carry me then.

Just last night, a dear friend reminded me to stay on this side of the bridge, because that is where I am. Crossing the bridge is still ahead, after more medical testing.  So much good comes through those who love us.Blog - Incidental Finding - mhsystemPhoto Credit: Memorial Health System

Starting on my way to one more doctor this week, as I turned the ignition, the radio came on as well, right in the middle of the most fitting song. Casting Crowns’ Just Be Held. I’ve written about it before here. Reminded again that God is right here with us…in every circumstance of life.

Worship with me, as we celebrate in the midst of a hard place, that God is near to His children. In these moments, “Just Be Held“.

Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on

And when you’re tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There’s freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held

If your eyes are on the storm
You’ll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross
You’ll know I always have and I always will

And not a tear is wasted
In time, you’ll understand
I’m painting beauty with the ashes
Your life is in My hands

Lift your hands, lift your eyes
In the storm is where you’ll find Me
And where you are, I’ll hold your heart
I’ll hold your heart
Come to Me, find your rest
In the arms of the God who won’t let go.*

*Lyrics & Story Behind the Song Just Be Held

Birthday Week – 2016 – Making Memories and Treasuring Them – and the Winter Storm Jonas

 Blog - Birthday Week - Dad on phone (2)

My dad and I share a birthday week each year. His birthday comes the day before mine. After all, I tell him, he will always be older than me. That joke doesn’t register anymore for him, because he doesn’t remember now that it was funny to us…before. Before Alzheimer’s.

For most of my years, even with living either overseas or out of state, we’ve celebrated our birthdays together. This year we traveled to Georgia for his birthday but would travel back home on mine. That was one of the many differences of this birthday week.

When I captured this image (above) as he talked to one of his grandchildren on the phone, it reminded me of an older picture of him, from many years ago.IMG_0004 (5)Dad was often on the phone, answering calls from people who needed his handiness for one reason or another. He was always happy to serve others and he was quite good at it. I wonder, as his strength and memory have faltered in the last couple of years, if he misses those days. So many phone calls…so much purpose in his life. It’s different now, for Dad. He often doesn’t remember even who called a few minutes earlier. For us, though, his life still has purpose.

We have this season to show him love like he showed us for so many years. We are grateful for him…and for what we’ve learned from him. For the joy of just knowing him…and being in his life.Blog - Birthday Week - Dad, Steph, BarbaraBlog - Birthday Week - Dad, Dave, Debbie

Every time I visit, we go through his picture books to help him remember. We also make new memories together. I’m not sure how many he remembers, but I believe that he remembers that we love him.Blog - Birthday Week - DadBlog - Birthday Week - Dad and Pastor DavePhoto: Dad & his pastor, David Lyle, who visits him regularly.

Dad and I didn’t have my birthday together this year. Dave and I needed to get back home. This would be the start of a very different birthday for me. My computer crashed while we were away, so I wasn’t able to write for days. Then winter storm Jonas would wreak beautiful havoc on our city over the weekend. Family dinner with our kids was cancelled, as was the game night with friends I was looking forward to. No date night with Dave.

The pity party for one was just getting started…and then I came back to my senses.

Before the massive snowfall, on the evening we arrived back home from Georgia, we had our regular weekly gathering of our community group from church. It was all the more special this week because they surprised me by remembering the day – being with these sweet friends lifted my heart so much.IMG_3105

No matter how old we get, we have certain expectations about birthdays. Some may not like to be celebrated…and I’m not much for being the center of attention myself. Still, to be remembered by friends and family with gifts of words, kindnesses, time…it is really quite extraordinary…and it encourages me to want to be more like those friends and those family members.

Thank you for making this birthday, overshadowed by much travel and an enormous snow storm, one that I will treasure. It taught me the lesson all over again to take nothing for granted and all things as gifts from a loving God who lavishes good on us through all sorts of people and experiences.IMG_3173

Winter storm Jonas shut down the rest of this birthday week. So beautiful and at the same time paralyzing.Blog - Birthday Week - SnowBlog - Birthday Week - Snow - BerriesBlog - Birthday Week - Snow - Birds

I was reminded of a devotional from Streams in the Desert:

“There is no music in a rest, but there is the making of music in it.” In our whole life-melody the music is broken off here and there by “rests,” and we foolishly think we have come to the end of the tune. God sends a time of forced leisure, sickness, disappointed plans, frustrated efforts, and makes a sudden pause in the choral hymn of our lives; and we lament that our voices must be silent, and our part missing in the music which ever goes up to the ear of the Creator. How does the musician read the “rest”? See him beat the time with unvarying count, and catch up the next note true and steady, as if no breaking place had come between.

Not without design does God write the music of our lives…If we sadly say to ourselves, “There is no music in a ‘rest,’” let us not forget “there is the making of music in it.” The making of music is often a slow and painful process in this life. How patiently God works to teach us! How long He waits for us to learn the lesson!” —Ruskin

This lament of a “forced rest” may seem strange to those of you who love to sled or play otherwise in the snow… I love the snow also. My heart struggle came with the snow. It kept me from being with others whom I wanted to be with and had all sorts of expectations in that wishing…because it was my birthday. Right? Sigh….

The snowstorm affected us all differently. For me, it was that forced rest…a time to consider God’s goodness, in the quiet reflections of a snowy winter weekend. A time to reflect and a time to repent…of expectations misspent.

I am so blessed…so blessed. Thinking of my dad, at the winding down of his life…dealing with memory lost, with strength waning…and yet he takes joy in the smallest of graces. That is a prescription for contentment for all of us.Blog - Snow - Mariah KingPhoto Credit: Facebook.com

We share a birthday week…and my dad, and this storm Jonas, reminded me of all the good woven into every situation of life…if we quiet our minds and look for it…it can be found.

IMG_3220 (3)[Dave’s card to me…on this very different and blessed birthday.]

As the sun sets on the winter storm Jonas, what did you take away from these days of a different sort? I would love to hear about it…IMG_3254 (2)

If You Don’t Have the Answer You Need – Wait – Just Be Held – and Let God Sing To You

Blog - Just Be Held - Psalm 46,1Photo Credit: LifeHopeandTruth.com

You know that experience of being face down, not knowing what to do, wet with sweat from wrestling with questions that seem not to have answers. Sometimes, I’m on my knees, praying. More than not, it’s laying across my bed, hot tears down my face or too weary to cry.

When we lived in North Africa and it was in the hottest part of summer, I would just lay stretched out on the marble floor, cool against my cheeks. Then there comes that moment in prayer…I know you know it…when, whether the answer comes or not, the peace comes. I roll over on my back. Looking up, and finally resting in God’s love and strength.

Whether I know what’s ahead or not, He knows and He wraps His arms around us and  infuses us with His strength, His confidence, His grace, His love.

It is enough for today.

Actually, at some point, we all have to make that decision, take the next step, fill in the check, or whatever it is that sends us to our knees. It’s huge for me that the decision pales in comparison to the relationship we have with God. That is what turns sorrow into joy…always.

Casting Crowns does this beautiful song, Just Be Held,  written by Bernie Herms and Matthew Joseph West. Lead singer, Mark Hall, tells an audience that they had sung that song for over a year when he finally realized it was a word from God TO HIM.

The lyrics follow, but one line, in particular, resonates today and makes my heart glad:

“Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held.”

Whatever your decision today or tomorrow, I hope you’ll be encouraged by the words and truth of this song – Just Be Held:

Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on

And when you’re tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There’s freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held

If your eyes are on the storm
You’ll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross
You’ll know I always have and I always will

And not a tear is wasted
In time, you’ll understand
I’m painting beauty with the ashes
Your life is in My hands

Lift your hands, lift your eyes
In the storm is where you’ll find Me
And where you are, I’ll hold your heart
I’ll hold your heart
Come to Me, find your rest
In the arms of the God who won’t let go

Lyrics & Story Behind the Song

YouTube Video – Just Be Held – Story Behind the Song

Casting Crowns & the Album Thrive

Blog - Just Be Held - Casting Crowns

 

Worship Wednesday – Rest – The Unmistakable Presence of the Holy Spirit of God – with Bryan & Katie Torwalt

He said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14

There is nothing like the deep rest, the divine peace, that comes in the presence of the Holy Spirit of God. It is unmistakable because it is wholly unlike anything else we ever experience.

God was very present with us at the passing of our Mom – the rock of our family. Watching our friends recently walk through the Home-going of their dear wife, mother, grandmother, and friend was another picture of the drawing near of a merciful God – our shelter in that storm of life.

I’ve written before of our experience of Nathan Mills‘ Senior Guitar Concert. In preparing his pieces for the concert, he added hours of practice to an already full playing schedule. Out of that, he developed a hand injury that required him to “rest” his hands for 2 weeks prior to his concert. He still “played” in his head, as guitarists do, but he came into the concert with rested hands when practiced hands would have been better. Or so he thought.

He played so well, it was as if the hand of God Himself was on Nathan. Even as the pain broke through, he was able to come to a beautiful finish.

Afterward, in viewing some of video of the concert, there was some sort of artifact (light bouncing off the face of his guitar, or something) which appeared as a shaft of light tracing vertically down through his playing hand. Like the enabling power of God. Not intending to over-spiritualize, it was a reflection of our experience of that concert. Knowing of his pre-concert uncertainty and then the pain returning, yet watching him play and hearing that glorious sound. It was a God moment for us.

God does show up in our lives more than we allow ourselves to even imagine. Often, it is in a time of wrestling or a dark night of the soul.

An excerpt follows from the book The Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis and John Eldridge. Brent describes a crisis phone call from a counseling client, and the deep experience of God’s presence:

“Once we begin thinking of all the deceptions the enemy is about with regard to our lives, we have a tendency to become obsessed with him, fearful of what he is going to do next.  Once we take him seriously, he switches from his tactic of “I’m not here” to one of having us worry about him day and night, which is almost a form of worship.  God graciously showed me this several years ago while I was in the midst of an intense, three-year spiritual battle on behalf of a client who had spent years in the control of a satanic cult.

One night, David (not his real name) called me on the phone at three in the morning, in the midst of painful spiritual torment.  We talked and prayed and I began to read from the Psalms.  Finally, I could hear by his deep breathing that he had fallen asleep.  As I lay on my dining room floor, pondering whether to leave the phone off the hook and build up a huge phone bill or hang up and risk having the beeping of the phone-off-the-hook signal wake David, something wonderful and strange took place.

In my heart, I heard a voice say, “Brent, forget about the battle.  You’re here with me now.  Rest.”  I looked up, actually expecting to see God in some way, or perhaps an angel.  What I did see was the light in the room change.  I find myself wanting to say it grew more distinct, almost more personal.  I only know I discovered that my hand was raised in the air in worship.  I didn’t decide to raise it.  I am not, by any means, an expressive person in the charismatic sense of the word.  It was simply as if there was no other appropriate response and my hand acted accordingly.  For several minutes I basked in what I can only describe now as God’s warmth and love toward me.  The epiphany ended with me reading the Twenty-third Psalm and others it seemed the Lord had chosen to assure me that I was not alone in the battle.”

We are not alone. God’s Spirit is with us and brings us into His rest.

Worship with me with Francesca Battistelli’s singing of Holy Spirit (written by Bryan & Katie Torwalt):

There’s nothing worth more
That could ever come close
No thing can compare
You’re our living hope
Your presence, Lord

I’ve tasted and seen
Of the sweetest of loves
Where my heart becomes free
And my shame is undone
Your presence, Lord

CHORUS
Holy Spirit, You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence, Lord

There’s nothing worth more
That could ever come close
No thing can compare
You’re our living hope
Your presence, Lord

I’ve tasted and seen
Of the sweetest of loves
Where my heart becomes free
And my shame is undone
Your presence, Lord

CHORUS

Let us become more aware of Your presence
Let us experience the glory of Your goodness

CHORUS

Lyrics to Holy Spirit at K-Love – Songwriters: Bryan & Katie Torwalt

YouTube Video – Bryan & Katie Torwalt – Holy Spirit (Live @ JCEncounter 2013)

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song – Holy Spirit

YouTube Video – Francesca Battistelli – Holy Spirit 

The Sacred Romance (1997) by Brent Curtis & John Eldredge

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

The Sacred Romance Quotes at Goodreads.com

Notes and Quotes from The Sacred Romance

More Notes and Quotes from The Sacred Romance

My Favorite Literature – The Sacred Romance

The Sacred Romance: Quotes

Suffering

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)