And So We Sing!

prairie-dog-1470659_1280 sing pixabayHave you seen the movie “Sing”?  I smiled throughout that whole film. Perhaps I was simply amused by the thought of Matthew McConaughey as an entrepreneurial koala bear, but I think it was the music that lifted my spirits. My brother has been a worship leader for years, yet I am just now beginning to grasp the power of music, and the importance of music in the Bible. Check out these verses:

“I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving” (Psalm 69:30).

“Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:18b-19).

Those verses don’t treat music, and singing in particular, as something we are meant to do once in a while, under our breath, when no one is listening, or sometimes in the shower. The Israelites appointed music makers and singers to full time positions! Music must be important to God. Those verses make me think it is important to all of us.

Pandora’s Box

I was the last in my family to get a smartphone. A fan of pocket-sized flip phones, I made the trade when I knew my grandson was on his way. (I wanted a way to watch him grow via photo and video and chatting apps.) I never dreamed that Pandora would become such an important tool in my life. My two favorite stations are (‘probably dating myself here) “Instrumental Praise Radio” and “Michael W. Smith Radio” (unless I’m with 1-year-old Nick, in which case “VeggieTales Radio” wins.) If I’m a bit down or weary, the music encourages and energizes me. If I’m simply in need of a background reminder of who is in control of my day, Pandora does the job. And if Nick is cranky? Yep, Veggietales helps! Most of the time the music is simply a delightful way to spend time praising God.

Music. Singing. I’m adding more of it to my day as I work, rest, or play. I see now that this is yet another way to obey our Lord and glorify him. Won’t you join me? (And if you have a favorite station, let me know, and I’ll give it a try!)

Never Forgotten

mom cartoonWe all have times when we forget things. At my age, we call them “senior moments.” I like to say that I have a photographic memory. The thing is, most of the time I forget to take the lens cap off. And my husband Bert? Poor thing, sometimes he forgets my birthday, our anniversary, and who’s boss.

I wonder if we sometimes think God has forgotten us. Anytime we feel far away from God, we’re the ones who have moved, not God. Maybe we haven’t gone years without thinking of God, but have we gone months or weeks without acknowledging him or praying? Robert Robinson wrote these words to a hymn in 1758, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.”[1] Why would we do that? I don’t know, yet some of us have. We’re especially prone to setting God aside in our lives when things are going well. Then we come back to him when hard times hit.

God has lovingly provided words we can use when we want to cry out to him for help. These verses are from Psalm 25:6-7(NLT). “Remember, O Lord, your compassion and unfailing love, which you have shown from long ages past. Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth (I add “and my old age” here). Remember me in the light of your unfailing love, for you are merciful, O Lord.” After our cry for help comes confession of sin, asking for forgiveness, and hopefully a new commitment to stay close to God even in the good times.

We may forget God, but rest assured, he doesn’t forget us. Not ever. When the Israelites declared that the Lord had forgotten them, he answered, “Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for a child she has borne? But, even if that were possible, I would not forget you.” (Isaiah 49:15-16 NLT). One version of the Bible goes on to say, “Your name is “tattooed” on my hand.” That means that nothing is going to wash it away.

The Bible is full of affirmations of God’s love for us. The greatest, of course, is that Jesus died for our sins. He gave his life for us so that we may follow him while we’re on earth and have life in heaven with him hereafter. When my children were young, I’d ask them, “How much do you love me?” They would open their arms wide and say, “I love you this much.” Christ opened his arms wide on the cross saying, “I love you this much.” Can we imagine that picture? Do we see our names on his hands? If we’ve come to trust Christ and accepted him as Lord and Savior, our names are there, tattooed forever. He doesn’t forget us, even when we ignore him.

If I open my arms wide and say, “Come on!” to my grandson, he runs to me for love, security, and comfort. I intend to do some running into God’s arms today, for I am prone to wander from him and to forget so easily all he has done. Won’t you run there with me?

Let’s remember him. He never forgets us. He loves us this much! And he says, “Come on.”

[1] “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” by Robert Robinson, 1758.

Another Battle

Last November, a courageous young woman named Erica was told that a tumor occupied 25% of her brain. I’d like to share her story with you via condensed versions of her Facebook and Instagram posts.

November 27

Here’s where we began just 13 days ago:

“A brain tumor? You are kidding, right?” I asked this of my doctor and certainly of God. I just had a baby. I was supposed to enjoy my maternity leave. How is this fair? Why and how is this happening? We don’t know exactly what kind of brain tumor I have or how it will be treated. What we do know is:

  • My son was born before I was diagnosed, sparing me any decisions regarding treatment before giving birth.
  • An amazing circle of family, friends, and church family are blessing us with prayers and encouragement.
  • Overcoming any obstacles ahead will require my/our best effort, positive attitudes, and positive actions.

Going forward, I/we will NOT recount the negatives of my diagnosis, the way I feel each day, the lows of the path.  I/we WILL talk about our blessings, our adventures, our families and the joys of each day. I choose to not invest time and words on a condition that I seek to quickly and permanently leave my body.  Please join us in our positive outlook, the moment to moment appreciation and joy-based approach to what awaits.

December 1

I already know there will be times when I get frustrated and will ask God, “Why me?” or “When will this end?” or some other unanswerable questions. At those moments, I will do my best to climb back out of that hole, get back to a positive outlook and continue to rely of God, His plan, and my incredible support group around me.

I know that I CAN decide how to conduct myself and act: positive thoughts, a loving attitude, my eyes and heart focused on what God wants for me. I am eager to get going on my next steps.

While change itself can be difficult, accepting it can be even harder. It is an act of trust. Funny how things come about in our lives that change our entire path. I have always loved fashion, hair and being different from the crowd…… Now I am different from the crowd. I’ve gained 50 pounds because of steroids, I’m bald, and I have cancer. But I’m proud to be alive, and one day I will tell my children that I survived this.

On May 27, Aaron and Erica, who is still undergoing treatment, had a beautiful wedding in their backyard. Erica is a courageous example of one who has chosen to leave her battle in God’s hands, fighting, yes, but letting him be the One in charge and drawing peace from the assurance of his love. I encourage you to follow her example and to join me in praying for her progress.

 And do you have a story of faith and courage that you can share with me? If so, just message me here:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Questions from a Traveler

IMG_1348

Spring of 2017 brought great adventure. Steve and I left home for weeks, enjoying the world, our “kids”, each other…and taking time to re-think how the next season of our lives should look. Here are four questions I’ve found myself asking as I reflect back on the experience:

What is home? For ten weeks, I rarely slept in the Houston house that I call home. Furthermore, we’ll be moving from that address before the summer ends. Even though I am a homebody, I’ve been able to remain sane. I’m finally learning that particular walls and windows aren’t that important. When I have Steve with me, work to do, and a quiet place to pray, I can settle in. (Okay, having a kitchen helps, too.) Maybe home isn’t where the heart is, but where the Lord is. And since he’s everywhere, he can make us feel at home wherever he sends us.

How much stuff do we really need? I’m usually limited to one small suitcase and a backpack when we travel. I pile what I want to take on our bed, then start putting things back until I have a collection of items that will actually fit. When I’m finished packing, I’m always amazed at how much is still on my shelves and in my closet (and in the whole house, for that matter.) I rarely miss any of those items when I’m gone. This will be an important lesson to remember as we decide what goes with us to our next home. Furthermore, it’s time for me to think twice about how much time and money I ever need to spend adding to my belongings. There’s generally a better place to allocate those resources.

Do we keep the Story before us? I’ve spent countless hours in art museums lately. Many are chock full of tremendous paintings and sculptures that tell the story of Christ—his birth, his death, his resurrection. Each one evokes in me a moment of worship, of thanksgiving. But we can’t spend all our days in art museums. We need to be about the business of living—at the office, at home, in the car, out on errands. Even on those days, we need to keep the Story before us. As we attempt to keep our minds on Christ, art—perhaps in the form of music, pictures, or printed Bible verses—can help.

Do we grasp that Story with elation? I was in Germany on Easter Sunday. At 10:50 a church bell began to peal. Another joined it, then another. Soon the whole city seemed to be exploding in melodious proclamation. “He is risen!” I imagined the elation of the disciples as they shouted the discovery to one another. I need to recapture that elation every day.

On the easy days, on the hard days, the truth remains: He Lives! We have a good reason to rejoice!

Old Testament Surprises

snake of moses

Each time I delve into the Old Testament I’m struck by its relevance, even when my reading falls within the historical accounts of kings and tribes. If we met for tea today, and you asked what I’ve been studying, I’d tell you 1 Chronicles. Would you yawn? Perhaps, but let me share what I’ve been learning.

1 Chronicles 22

In this chapter, David charges his son Solomon with the Herculean tasks of assuming kingship over Israel and building a temple for the Lord. His primary advice?

  • Be careful to observe the decrees given through Moses.
  • Be strong and courageous, unafraid and never discouraged.

And to the leaders of Israel, ordered to help Solomon, David says, “Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God” (1 Chronicles 22:19a).

There it is, the essence of a believer’s walk once again: trust and obey!

Moving back a few chapters to 1 Chronicles 5:20-22, I find God working for his people in the heat of battle. He “delivered…all their allies into their hands, because they cried out to him during the battle. He answered their prayers, because they trusted in him…The battle was God’s.”

All our battles belong to God. We may be called to fight, but he is the one who does the winning.

While the Old Testament is chock full of encouragement, it warns us as well. Moving back just one book to 2 Kings 18, I was surprised by the passage condensed below:

“Hezekiah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan.)”

Wait, what? God used that bronze snake as a means of rescue for the Israelites. They turned it into an idol? Yes, they did. Anything can become an idol, even something that started out as an instrument of good. I asked myself, “Am I in danger of making something an idol?” The answer for all of us must surely be yes. 1 John 5:21 cautions, “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.” We must always be on our guard, asking God to keep our perspective and our loyalty in line with him.

What have you been learning? Whether from the New Testament or the Old, has God used his Word to surprise you lately?

Lovely Day

Levites siteThe sign at the corner said “Gospel Brunch.”

Steve’s take: “I wonder how much gospel vs. how much brunch. Maybe this is just an Austin start-up band looking for a place to play.”

My take: “I’ve been wanting to try Threadgill’s anyway, so let’s give it a try.”

And so, on a sunny Sunday during our month of “Let’s consider Austin,” we walked down the road to a vintage BBQ joint, wondering if we should have gone to church instead.

Oh, my goodness! (And I’m not talking about the omelets.) We were in for a treat.

The Levites ( http://www.levitelab.com/bio )sang their sermon with hearty helpings of encouragement, conviction, and just plain fun.

  • “Keep Your Mind on Jesus.”
  • “Lay Your Burdens Down.”
  • “Don’t Worry. Be Happy.” (Because you trust the Lord).
  • “Lovely Day”

That last one surprised me. It’s clearly a romantic love song, yet it has become a worship tune for me  now. Its message is this:

Sometimes I wake up with my mind burdened by the seemingly impossible challenges ahead of me. Then, once I’ve looked at you, I know everything will be okay.

Doesn’t that pretty much cover how our best days begin? We rarely wake up to face a day free of all difficulties, but we always wake to a chance to remember Who is really in charge. We have a choice, each morning, as to what our focus will be. And when we make the right choice, many of our days can be lovely.

Because I take copyright laws seriously, you’ll have to go here  to read or here to listen to the full lyrics written and performed by Bill Withers in 1977. I hope you’ll take the time to do so. Then I hope you’ll take yet another moment and post an answer to this question: What “secular” song has become a song of worship for you? I would love to know!