Blessed!!

I am a blessed woman. For more reasons than I can count, I know that God has His hand on me. Little every-day ways and great big ways. And sometimes I have so much joy in my heart… My cup runneth over!!! Sometimes, my heart and my head respond with a chorus from Beethoven’s Ninth or the Hallelujah Chorus. This morning I woke up with Mr. Beethoven’s Ninth stuck on repeat…

Joyful, Joyful we adore thee, God of glory, Lord of love
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness, drive the dark of doubt away
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the Light of day!

I guess my brain is stuck in the classics right now, which is funny because I don’t sit at my desk listening to them all day… Most of the time I don’t listen to music at all. Odd for a musician, or maybe not. When I’m listening to music, I can’t do anything else. I have to stop and hear it, analyze it, sing along with it.

Not so in the middle of the night. When I wake up with music in my head, I just listen. I feel so blessed that God is singing over me! I just listen until I fall asleep again… Usually excited about the possibility of hearing that song in the morning and writing it all down. Most of the time, though, I wake up and the song is different. Not the same one as the middle-of-the-night song.

True story. My husband tries to “plant” songs in my head. He knows I’m writing this blog, and he tries to give me songs to write about, sometimes singing them right before bed. All in good humor, but to no avail. I tell him that only God can give me the songs. And no matter what he tries to plant in my ears or my head, God always has other ideas. He blesses me with music while I sleep, in the morning, all day long, everywhere I go. I carry it with me, inside me.

I AM a blessed woman. Blessed beyond measure. Thank you for letting me share my thoughts here. I would truly love to hear yours!!! Leave a comment and let me know how you are blessed!

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Peace

I think sometimes God changes the station in my head while I sleep. Otherwise, how could I have trouble going to sleep because of one song on repeat in my brain, but wake up smack in the middle of a completely different one? To be honest, I prefer the one I fell asleep hearing! But this morning, I hear a full choir singing the Easter hymn, Christ The Lord is Risen Today... Mostly this verse.

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids him rise, Alleluia!
Christ has opened paradise, Alleluia!

I love how these words fit right in with yesterday’s song, Redeemer. But “death, in vain, forbids Him rise” are the words I’m honed in on this morning. In my tiny little human mind, human existence, death would the end of life, the end of everything I know. The ultimate finality. Not so for Jesus.

I was reading John chapter 20 this morning where Jesus appears to his disciples in the locked room. He just came and stood there with them, in the flesh. And the first thing Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Savior of the World, had to offer them was peace. Peace. Not great words of wisdom, not riches, or fame, or great power… Just… peace.

Isn’t that what everybody wants? I remember when the kids were little, scrapping and fighting… I didn’t really care who was right and who was wrong so much as I just wanted peace. A little “peace and quiet.” I can’t imagine how UNpeaceful the disciple’s hearts would have been at the time Jesus showed up in that locked room. To hear “peace be with you” from Christ himself? Yet, He speaks peace to me every day. If I’m listening.

Right now I am hearing the birds outside waking up in the predawn light – peace. The sweet sound of my husband having breakfast downstairs, noisy as he is – peace. Waking up in the middle of a song of praise to The Lord, not of my own choosing – peace. Because, once again, I know that God was with me in the night, singing over me – Peace.

Peace be with you!

REDEEMER

The song in my head this morning is Nicole C. Mullins singing I Know My Redeemer Lives… one of my favorites! Have a listen here. What a voice!!! I’ve been listening to this song for many years, and every time I hear it, I have to sing with her. Only trouble is, my voice range just can’t get there anymore. So, like any self-respecting musician, I try to harmonize. Either way, it’s the words that speak to my heart.

Who taught the sun where to stand in the morning
Who told the ocean you an only come this far?
Who showed the moon where to hide ’til evening
Whose words alone can catch a falling star?

Well I know my Redeemer lives
I know my Redeemer lives
All of creation testify
This life within me cries
I know my Redeemer lives

The very same God that spins things in orbit
He runs to the weary, the worn and the weak
And the same gentle hands that hold me when I’m broken
They conquered death to bring me victory

Now I know my Redeemer lives
I know my Redeemer lives
Let all creation testify
Let this life within me cry
I know my Redeemer, He lives

To take away my shame
And He lives forever I’ll proclaim
That the payment for my sin
Was the precious life He gave
But now He’s alive
And there’s an empty grave

And I know my Redeemer, He lives
I know my Redeemer lives
Let all creation testify
This life within me cries
I know my Redeemer lives

MY Redeemer lives! My REDEEMER lives! My Redeemer LIVES!!! This word can be one of those “churchy” words… We use it and don’t think about what it sounds like to someone who hasn’t heard it before. The word redeem comes from the Latin redimere – to buy back. My Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, paid for my life with His own. Period. He redeemed me. Bought me back. Cancelled my debt. And because He did, I owe Him my life.

So I will continue singing with Nicole at the top of my lungs (in harmony when I have to) that My Redeemer Lives!! Because if I fail to praise Him, “even the very rocks will cry out.” ALL of creation testifies. Hallelujah!!

Friends

I stayed up too late last night. I was on the phone with a friend and it was one of those times when we would say goodbye but keep talking, having just one more thing to say. At my age, those kind of conversations don’t happen on a regular basis, which is probably a good thing. I’m a little bleary-eyed this morning, and I need to be able to see those little black notes on the music in a couple of hours.

Good conversations with a great friend are so special. Learning more about each other and listening to thoughts, opinions, and hurts. Supporting each other and reasoning through a tough issue. Laughing over something that happened to one or both of us. I feel blessed to have good friends… People I know will be there when I need them – or even when I don’t.

It is Sunday morning in the bluegrass, and it’s the Sunday after Easter. It can be a let-down after all the excitement of the Easter celebration. This morning I was reading the story about Jesus’ friends as they walked on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24. Boy, did they have some tough things to talk about! Their leader had been crucified and buried… I can’t even begin to fathom how that must have felt to them… And some of the women had found the grave was empty that very morning. Then Jesus himself came up and was walking with them! Of course, they didn’t recognize him. But the conversation continued with Jesus explaining everything about himself beginning with Moses and the prophets.

I love making new friends, and that feeling when you’ve only just met someone and talked a little while but feel like you’ve known each other forever. I think these men felt that same way about Jesus on that road. They had talked and walked until they came to a parting place. But the men invited Jesus to come and eat with them. So He did. (He always does.)

When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.

And just like that, Jesus turned their sorrow into joy.

That’s what the music in my head does for me. When I wake up with words like “Christ is risen from the dead. Come awake! Come awake!” in my head, like this morning, it’s as though Jesus is here with me, and in an instant, He turns my sorrow to joy, my pain into passion, my hurts melt away.

They say a person can’t truly know someone unless they spend time with them. Jesus spent time with His friends and they knew Him. Or rather they spent time with Jesus and HE knew them… If I spend time with my friends, even if it’s on the phone too long at night, I know them. If I spend time with Jesus, I know Him. And just like my friend last night, He is there when I call Him, waiting for me to call Him back, anxious to talk with me about a couple of big issues in my life… Happy to laugh with me over some funny things that happened, and willing to hear me out.

DECISION MADE!

Saturday. Sunny. Perfect temperature. Breezy… Just exactly the right breezy for my perfectly tuned wind chime to be singing to me as I sit here in my front porch swing. This is one of my very favorite places to be, and I can spend hours here writing, drawing, reading, praying, sleeping… The music from the wind chime matches the music in my heart and head today. Happy. Peaceful. Bright. Cheerful.

I actually slept late this morning, which is a VERY rare thing for me to do. I am a morning person, up at 5:00 or 5:30 every morning. And even though I got up late, I still made my cup of coffee and headed to my studio and my desk… My other favorite place. God waits there for me every morning, meets me there. And He is patient if I sleep in.

It is unusual that there are no words with the music in my head today. Just happy music. I am in a heightened state of happiness and peace today. Yesterday was pivotal for me, a day of decision. And I feel as though I’ve made the right one, the good one.

I have felt for a long time that God was leading me away from some things and toward others. Writing this blog was a first step in that direction. It has brought me closer to The Lord, and helped me sort out some things in my mind and heart. Working through the music in my head every day has shown me how The Lord is with me, even through the night. How he sings over me and loves me enough to be with me even when I’m asleep. I love how the Holy Spirit stays with me all day.

I am excited to see where God will take me during this next phase of my life. To see how I can serve Him and those He places in my path to love and care for. Because that’s what I want to do in any phase of my life, or through any endeavor… Glorify The Lord who gives me the songs every morning.

Don’t Deserve You

My thoughts are all over the map this morning. We are having a much-needed rain and I can hear thunder in the distance… Drumming across the sky behind the sound of the birds waking up, singing their song to whoever will listen. My husband is awake downstairs, having breakfast, making his lunch, feeding the dogs, getting ready for work. Behind all this, or maybe in the middle of it all, I hear Plumb’s voice singing, “And when I walk away, You take off running and come right after me.” Only this line, on repeat.

I couldn’t even recall the song this line came from and had to look it up. It’s from the song Don’t Deserve You off of her Need You Now album. You can hear the full song here, but the words to the chorus are:

I don’t deserve Your love
But You give it to me anyway
Can’t get enough
You’re everything I need
And when I walk away
You take off running and come right after me
It’s what You do
And I don’t deserve You

God must have tired legs if He takes off running after me every time I walk away. I’m so thankful that He does, but why DO I walk away? And HOW do I walk away? I am the faithful one, the girl who had a “job” at church from the time I was 13, and have stayed faithful to whatever church I served and to The Lord most of my life. And the older I get, the less wandering I do. But I do wander…

I trust other things when I should be trusting God alone. I go with my emotions when I should be going with the truth and promises in God’s word. I harden my heart against what or who I think may hurt me. I stock my refrigerator for an army when there are only two of us in the house. I watch the bank account like it will disappear any minute rather than depending on God to provide.

It is absolutely pouring right now… There is not a dry spot left out there, and the ground is soaking up the water like a dry sponge. That is what I want to do with my heart… Soak up God’s word, God’s love, God’s grace and mercy with my dry heart, and let it swell full and heavy with all the He has to give.

Still humming

I’m still on an Easter high! Still humming with resurrection joy in my heart, even though it is spring in Kentucky and I’m battling allergies like crazy. Still so thankful the stone was rolled away from the tomb and Mary found it empty. The song in my head this morning fits right in…

Christ is risen from the dead,
trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake,
come and rise up from the grave.
Christ is risen from the dead.
We are one with Him again.
Come awake, come awake.
Come and rise up from the grave.

O death, where is your sting?
O hell, where is your victory?
O church, come stand in the light
Our God is not dead
He’s alive! He’s alive!

This is a Matt Maher song from his album Alive Again. I love the way this song begins…

Let no one caught in sin remain
Inside the lie of inward shame
But fix our eyes upon the cross
And run to Him who showed great love
And bled for us
Freely You’ve bled for us

I love to play with words, to take a phrase an out emphasis on a different word each time to see how the meaning changes. It also helps my heart to hear it better.

CHRIST is risen from the dead.
Christ IS risen from the dead.
Christ is RISEN from the dead!
Christ is risen FROM the dead.
Christ is risen from THE dead.
Christ is risen from the DEAD!!

It happened. It’s not a fairy tale or a myth. It is one of the most documented facts in history. And if He is risen from the dead, then He is alive. And if He can open that sealed tomb, then He can open a sealed and bruise heart.

Beneath the weight of all our sin
You bowed to none but heaven’s will
No scheme of hell, no scoffer’s crown
No burden great can hold You down
In strength You reign
Forever let Your church proclaim… CHRIST IS RISEN FROM THE DEAD!!

I am the church, I am part of the body of Christ, I am His bride. And my heart is singing this morning that Christ IS risen from the dead!

Listen to Matt sing this song at the K-Love studios.

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Raise Your Hands!

This morning when my eyes popped open, my mind was immediately in the middle of this verse, a contemporary mezzo voice (not one I recognize) with full orchestration. I grabbed my phone to capture the words in a note. Mornings with fresh, new verse… Fresh, new music are rare and special to me.

Lord I lift my hands to You
For the love You brought me to
And I lift my hands on high
For the love I can’t deny
Lord I lift my hands in praise
Of the love You give always
I lift my hands to God above
And I thank Him for His love

I’m not sure what else there is with it… Maybe it will reveal itself as I write. And as I write, I stop to lift my hands to God and thank Him for another day of life, for the words He’s given me.

This verse is floating through my mind, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. And another, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us.” 1 John 3:16. A love like this deserves hands raised in thankfulness and praise.

I have always tried to take care of my hands. It goes with being a pianist, I suppose. I can’t stand for them to get rough or dry or damaged, though they have been often, and I do have some osteoarthritis in them. My hands have become even more important since I began working in the deaf community and learning American Sign Language. So now, lifting my hands has a whole new meaning. I’m not yet fluent in ASL, but I can hold my own and rarely need an interpreter.

I think in sign often, especially through music. I sign it in my mind, and sometimes I drive with my knees so I can sign during a song. (Maybe I shouldn’t say that!) I’ve never interpreted music for others, only for myself. My lifelong favorite way to worship God is through music at the piano. I love to sing, but don’t get much opportunity to do so. Playing piano has given me a way to express my love for my Lord. But through the gift of sign language, I have another way.

Sometimes words just cannot express what I’m feeling or thinking, but a word or phrase in ASL fits perfectly. And sometimes I wonder if God’s ears get tired of hearing my voice… Of hearing requests, and repetitions. When I express myself in sign language, God can SEE me, see what I feel, see what I think, see what I need. Of course, our God sees and knows all… But when I can express it to Him with my hands, I feel as though I’m expressing a part of me that nobody else but God can see or understand.

Special People

It’s throwback Tuesday in my head…

Jesus, Jesus, He is the son of God
Jesus, Jesus, the precious son of God
Sweetest Rose of Sharon came to set us free
Jesus, Jesus, He’s everything to me
Yes, He’s all the world to me

I can’t hear this old song without thinking of Houston, Texas and Greenridge Baptist Church. Thirty years ago. Wow… It looks like more when I write it that way. I was the pianist there, mostly by default. We had moved to Houston for the work, and began attending that little church because it was closest to our apartment. I was a young wife and mother of only one small child then. We showed up one Sunday morning and there was no one available to play, except the organist who was our Pastor’s wife, so I volunteered.

The bench was mine for four years… Until we moved away. Those were four of the most blessed years of my life. I loved that little group of believers, and the pastor and his family became my family. So far away from home, raising a family, a girl needs someone to count on, and they were there for me. Brother Joe Stevens would preach, and Miss Joy and I played organ and piano every service. Their son, Rodney, lead the music while their other boys, Greg and Barry, sang in the choir or played “specials.”

Barry was 16 when I began teaching him piano lessons. He was a natural and already played by ear some… Loved to play the music from the band, Journey. We worked and practiced in between basketball, youth group, another child for me, going off to college for him. And one day everything changed.

We had come home to Kentucky on vacation that summer, but never left. We found jobs here, close to family, and stayed. I was working and couldn’t go back to Houston to pack up the house or say goodbye. Those were some of the darkest days of my life. I grieved the loss of my Texas family almost as if they had truly died. But God is good, and He is faithful to bring joy from the pain.

Because I was gone, guess who ended up on that piano bench every service… Barry! He took over because he had to, and played for years with his mom at the organ. He left there and went on to form a contemporary Christian band in the northern Houston area, wrote lots of his own music, and continues to play every chance he gets.

The song in my head is one that I used to play and sing at that tiny little church, and it’s one of Barry’s favorites. It’s funny (and awe-inspiring to me) how God used my grief at leaving a place I loved, to fulfill His plans for a young man who loves music and loves The Lord. Had I stayed, BJ may never have become the musician he is now. My closed door was his open window!! I still look for those opportunities. When the door is shut, and the window’s not open yet, I try to praise Him in the hallway.

The cover photo is Barry at the piano and his brother, Rodney standing.  @1986