The next big thing is here!

Back in late July, I wrote about the “next big thing” on my horizon post-retirement. You can read Cloud Nine here. At that time, it was just a possibility. But today it’s a reality!! The “next big thing” is here!! Tonight, I teach my first painting class at our local community arts center. I am over-the-moon excited! And much too nervous.

I’ve painted several renderings of the piece I’m instructing tonight, and I feel confident. But this is all new to me. Don’t get me wrong… I am comfortable in front of a group or a class. I’ve taught Sunday school, bible school, choirs, private piano and voice lessons, classrooms full of kids, lead trainings for hundreds of people. Standing and talking in front of people isn’t a problem if I’m discussing music, or the Family and Medical Leave Act. But Art? Painting? ALL NEW!!!!

I feel like a little kid at Christmas. Too excited for words, wondering what’s going to happen, how it will all turn out, but knowing it’s all good!!! And so very thankful and grateful for the opportunity! It’s gonna be a long day, but I’m going to use the time to get some paint on canvas. And think about how God shows his love and goodness to us in our everyday, walking-around lives.

The song in my head this morning is a children’s song, but I’m hearing the voice of my friend, Steve Griffin, singing it southern gospel style. This one is a FUN piece to play!!!

YES! Jesus loves me.
Yes! JESUS loves me
Yes! Jesus LOVES me.
The Bible tells me so!!

God shows us his love in little ways, every day. Jesus loves us. The bible tells us so. Romans 5:8 says, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Featured image: Poinsettia, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20. Teaching my own work in November!

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Never-Ending Story

Adolescence can be a roller coaster ride for parents and child. Ups. Downs. Highs. Lows. Emotions running amuck. My mom and dad may have a different opinion, but from my perspective, my teenage years were relatively calm ones. I spent most of my time in those years on the piano bench accompanying a gospel quartet.

My mom sang alto in the Gloryland Way Quartet out of Round Top Baptist Church in the heartland of Kentucky. For a tiny church, there were some fabulous voices. The pastor (who was all of 22 maybe) sang bass. We had a fabulous tenor, another who sang lead, and my mom rounded them out with her wonderfully rich alto voice. I started playing piano at the church regularly when I was 13, so I played for them as well that first time they sang together for a Sunday service.

We “performed” all over the place in countless churches at revivals, homecomings, singings… Being a teenager, I’m sure I complained about something. Honestly though? I loved every moment of it! They had such a great time practicing that it was impossible to be miserable. They treated me with respect and kindness. They treated me as an adult, and they valued what I was doing for them. This is tremendous when you’re 14 or 16. While my peers were going to the movies, hanging out together at football games, or whatever they did, I was playing piano for this little group of friends who made me feel special. Important. Valuable.

I played for them and for the church until I went away to college. The pastor was called away to another church. My mom and dad moved away to their current home. The lead singer has passed on into Glory. The tenor remains there at that little church, serving and working. My mother still sings in her church choir. And I still sit on that bench.

Yesterday, I had a little taste of this memory. The quartet I work with now was invited to do the entire morning service at a little church in eastern Kentucky. It brought back so many memories! And it felt so natural to be there, in that little church, playing gospel music with my friends who love me, value what I do for them, and treat me with respect and kindness. We had so much fun! It’s hard to be miserable with friends who make you laugh.

We closed the service yesterday with the song that’s still in my head this morning. Loving God, Loving Each Other. “making music with my friends. Loving God, loving each other and the story never ends.” Because if we keep telling The Story of Jesus and his priceless gift, it will never end. Because once you have Jesus, you want to tell the world! We just choose to do it with music.

No Surprise

My niece had her baby girl yesterday, two weeks early. My daughter’s baby was due three days ago, and we’re still waiting for that precious new life to show his or her face. We don’t know what it is… They wanted to be surprised.

I love surprises, but I’m very hard to surprise (much to my husband’s consternation.) I’m a very intuitive person, and I usually know in advance what a surprise will be. Sometimes I wish it was otherwise, because it can take the joy right out of the whole situation.

That’s how God is… Impossible to surprise. He sees and knows the who, what, when, where, why and how of our lives long before we are aware of it ourselves. So why do we try to hide from God? We hide our true feelings at church and pretend our world is just fine. Isn’t church the one place we should feel free to express our sadness, loneliness, sorrow, grief, happiness, joy? With the body of Christ? Why don’t we freely express what we need to those in the family of God?

God is not surprised that I am lonely at church. He knows what’s in my heart. He sees me sit behind the piano during the sermon, trying to hide the tears in my eyes and look as though I’m intently listening to the pastor. God is not surprised that the only people on our prayer list are those who are ill or have lost a loved one. What about those suffering from depression or loneliness, even when there’s no explanation for it? I find it impossible to believe that every single marriage within the body of believers at my church is in perfect condition… That nobody is relationally challenged, at least occasionally.

Maybe, people feel as though they must hold some of that back or keep it locked inside because, if they let it out even a little, it will be impossible to stop the flood! I’ve been there. Keep it together, Keep it together, Keep it together, Keep it together… Maybe it’s because we don’t feel our personal situation is as important or as worthy as someone else’s. NOT TRUE!!!!

1 Peter 5:7 says to cast “ALL your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” ALL. It doesn’t say to cast SOME of our cares and worries on him. It doesn’t say “cast your important issues up here, but you take care of the rest.” ALL!!!! No matter what we are concerned about, no matter how petty we think it might be, God wants it all. Because when we bring it all, we bring ourselves. And that’s really what God is after, you know… Ourselves. Us. All of us. Not just the parts we think he needs to have.

We do it with our best friends or our spouses, don’t we? We make sure they’re aware of every little issue we are dealing with, or every feeling we need to talk through. That’s what God wants us to do. Cast it all on him. Bring it to him every day, all day. Lay it at His feet and know without a shadow of a doubt that God’s got this!

Click here to listen to the song in my head, God With Us by MercyMe. Emmanuel. God is WITH us!!

Just breathe

Breathing. It’s the one thing every human on earth does every day, all day long. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathing is intrinsic to human existence. Without the ability to breathe, we die.

A few interesting facts about breathing…

The lungs are enormous. The right lung is larger than the left lung to accommodate the heart. The left lung is made up of two lobes while right is made up of three lobes.

If you laid out the lungs flat, they would cover a tennis court ( about 70 square meters!)

When we breathe, we are either right nostril dominated or left nostril.

Breathing more slowly and taking longer breaths can reduce your appetite.

We naturally change sides in our sleep approximately every 30 minutes, mostly due to the balancing of the breath through each of the nostrils.

An average person breathes in the equivalent of 13 pints of air every minute.

So no matter HOW we breathe… through our nose or mouth, our right or left nostril, deeply or very shallow… WE BREATHE. My question is WHAT are we breathing in? What are we breathing out?

All these thoughts are brought to you by the song in my head this morning. Never Once by One Sonic Society.

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
Every step we are breathing in Your grace
Evermore we’ll be breathing out Your praise
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

One of my “coping strategies” has been to breathe deeply and imagine that I am breathing in the Holy Spirit with the good fresh air and breathing out all the negativity and bad feelings when I exhale. Breathing in God’s constant grace and mercy. Breathing out praise to God for his unfailing love. It never fails to turn my mood, my situation, my day completely around a full 180 degrees!

Click to listen to Never Once by One Sonic Society.

Featured image: Central Kentucky, first morning of Fall, taken by my friend, Dennis Wheeler.

Epic Fail

Sometimes? I wish the music would let me sleep! “Love like I’m not scared. Give when it’s not fair.” These words woke me this morning. And my brain being what it is, I went into analyzing mode. Is this a reminder? An admonition?

“Love like I’m not scared.” Am I scared? Who am I afraid to love? Am I not loving enough? Love even though I’m scared? Romans 5:8 says, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” If Jesus loved me this much, then why am I scared to love others?

“Give when it’s not fair.” What am I holding back, and from whom? Am I giving myself or just money and things? Jesus gave his everything so that I could have the privilege of giving what others need if I have it.

The lyrics are from Fix my Eyes by For KING & COUNTRY. If I’m going to fix my eyes on Jesus, then I have to look UP! I can’t look down, or behind me, or look to another, or look inside myself. Looking UP requires me to lift my eyes, to raise them higher. Isn’t higher where we all want to be? When we are little kids we want to be picked up, put on daddy’s shoulders so we can see better. We want to get a “raise” in salary at work. We want higher grades in school. When I bake, I want my cakes to rise higher. UP is better.

Loving like I’m not afraid to do so… Giving even when it’s not “fair”… These are things I can do through Christ who gives me strength. Honestly, if I try to do them under my own power, I end up hurting myself and others. Epic fail!!

Click here to listen to Fix My Eyes.

This song sticks in my brain. I hear different pieces of lyric at different times. Click here to read Fix My Eyes written earlier from a completely different perspective.

And another perspective… Memory full. Unable to complete backup.

Featured image: pencil on paper, 1999, Sharon at 14

Because of Mercy

My spirit sings when I’m sleeping. Sometimes it wakes me very suddenly, as though someone turned on the radio. Other times, like this morning, it’s a very gentle awareness. “You are beautiful. You are beautiful. Oh God, there is no one more beautiful.” These are the first words I heard this morning. Big Daddy Weave’s song, Overwhelmed.

I delight myself in You
Captivated by Your beauty
I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You
God, I run into Your arms
Unashamed because of mercy
I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

I feel like a little girl, twirling in a pretty dress before her Daddy, waiting for Him to tell her how beautiful she is and how special she is to Him. And when He does, she runs into His arms for a massive “Daddy” hug. That feeling of pure joy and love, safety and security, knowing that you are in the most special place on the planet… Your Fathers arms.

God, I run into Your arms, unashamed. Because of mercy, I can run boldly to your throne and lay my requests before you, knowing that I will find Your Grace to help me. Hebrews 4:16…

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Click here to listen to Overwhelmed by Big Daddy Weave.

Featured image: Little Girl Twirling Dress painting by artist Debra Hurd

The Words I Would Say

I have a dear friend who is hurting right now. And sometimes I think, “I don’t know what to say!” How often do we think it’s just better to not say anything? Maybe sometimes it is, but I think people in pain need encouraging words to bind up the hurt. Wrap it up tightly in love. Cover and protect it with prayer so it can heal.

In Ezekiel 34:16, God says “I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak.” Sometimes, God’s word is the only thing that can make sense to me when I’m hurting. Sometimes, I really need to talk to my friend… Get a different perspective. Sometimes, I want to be like a wounded animal and crawl away by myself until I feel able to handle life again.

If we were face to face
I’d tell you just what you mean to me
Tell you these simple truths

Two days in a row, the lyrics in my head upon waking have been about strength. Yesterday, Matthew West was asking God to be Strong Enough for the both of us. This morning, Sidewalk Prophets are telling me to “be strong in The Lord.” The song is called The Words I Would Say.

Be strong in the Lord
And never give up hope
You’re gonna do great things
I already know
God’s got His hand on You
So don’t live life in fear
Forgive and forget
But don’t forget why you’re here
Take your time and pray
These are the words I would say

“From one simple life to another,” I want my words to build up, not break down. I want my words to bind up wounds, not open them. I want my friend to know she is loved with an Everlasting Love. And I love her, too.

Click here to listen to The Words I Would Say by Sidewalk Prophets.

Featured image courtesy of Jesslyn Newhall.

Strong Enough

I know I’m not strong enough to be
Everything that I’m supposed to be
I give up
I’m not strong enough
Hands of mercy won’t you cover me
Lord right now I’m asking you to be
Strong enough
Strong enough
For the both of us

These lyrics from Matthew West’s Strong Enough have been stuck in my head since the wee small hours. Hours when I was supposed to be sleeping. Each and every word is SO true for my life right now. Because I’m not strong… Not by a long shot. I’m one of those people who can appear to be strong. In truth, people tell me all the time that I’m a “strong woman,” but I am not! I appreciate people putting their faith in me, and depending on me to be there for them, to be strong for them, but may I just say that I’m tired?

It would be so easy for me to withdraw from those around me, those I love, and escape from being needed so very much. I vacillate between wanting to hide from the next person who asks something of me and feeling like “if I don’t do it, who will?” And then there’s the argument that Jesus himself took time away. He knew when he needed to recharge. And he did just that by taking time to talk to his Father!

Today is Sunday, the sabbath day. A day of rest. A day holy to The Lord. I think today I will pull away from the world for a little while… Talk to my heavenly Father. Listen to what He has to say to me. Rest. Recharge. Unplug. Find the “strong enough” in me that can only come from God. Because “I know I’m not strong enough to be everything that I’m supposed to be” without God.

Click here to listen to Strong Enough by Matthew West.

Featured image taken October 2013, Rabat Morocco. These are the strongest women I know!!

Fuzzy Faith?

“Not that one… It’s blurly.” My three-year-old granddaughter has been using my phone to snap pictures early this morning. I told her that it was okay… “I’m kinda blurly myself this morning.” A little out of focus. A little fuzzy around the edges.IMG_0758.JPGI think that’s how our faith can get sometimes. Blurry. Out of focus. Fuzzy around the edges. We know we believe in God. We go to church. We pray. But maybe we’re on autopilot, just going through the motions. Maybe that’s why it’s called “practicing” our faith. Like this picture, we know what our faith is supposed to look like, but we have to squint to try to see it clearly. We fear that some of it is our imagination.

The Bible says otherwise!! Hebrews 4:12:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Romans 8:29 says that God’s children are “conformed to the image of his Son.” Somehow, I don’t think our faith can be “blurly” if we are made in HIS image. Jesus is not a fuzzy, out-of-focus, ethereal concept floating out there somewhere. He is real. He lived! He died, and He rose again. He will come back and bring us to himself!

Until that day, we must keep the lens of our minds focused and sharpened on God’s word. Live out our faith every day in the words we say and the things we do. Love above all things, so that our edges don’t have time to get soft and fuzzy. “Blurly, Grandmomma!”

The song in my head this morning is a very old choir anthem called With a Voice of Singing. “Declare ye this, and let it be heard, Hallelujah!!”

Make His praise glorious!!!